• Matt O'Reilly

Heterodox Hymnody – Who Crucified Jesus?


So, did the Father crucify the Son?  The answer to this question is a resounding “NO!”  The best place to go in the scriptures is Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2.  Peter says, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (23, emphasis added).  A few quick observations are in order.  Peter says plainly to his audience, the men of Jerusalem, that they crucified and killed Jesus.  Their “lawless hands” are the agent in the crucifixion.  They are responsible for his blood.  The crucifixion was an act of lawlessness.  God cannot be the agent of a lawless deed.  The crucifixion was a sin.  God cannot sin.  Yes, the crucifixion happened as part of God’s plan for human redemption, but this does not make him the agent in the crucifixion.  The thing to see here is that God can and does use sinful human agency within his providential plan for the salvation of sinful human beings.  To say to the Father, “you crucified your Son for me,” is to attribute wickedness to the Holy One, and is abject sin, even if unintentional and the result of muddy thinking.

Now someone might respond that this is a matter of artistic license and the song makes us feel good and its not that big of a deal anyway.  Who died and made me the doctrine police anyway, right?  I wonder, though, how we would respond to a song that included a line that thanked the Father for dying on the cross (the heresy of patripassianism) or one that thanked the Father for changing hats and coming as the Son (the heresy of modalism).  What if a song denied the dual natures of Christ or the divinity of the Holy Spirit or the Incarnation or the Ressurection?  Would we go on singing glibly and enjoying the tune of heterodoxy?  We might, since few present day Christians have much of an education in historic heretical positions. 

If our music is to honor God, then it ought to be doctrinally accurate.  I don’t care how hip the tune is.  We have substitued error and treacle for biblical and traditional orthodoxy.  If our music does not reflect the truth of God’s person and the holiness of his character, then it is neither true nor beautiful nor worship.  When people leave a worship service, they more commonly leave humming the tune of the music rather than reflecting on the thesis of the sermon.  Our songwriters must think of themselves as theologians of the most practical sort.  They have a great deal of influence in the thinking of the church. 

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