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Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Keith Drury (Associate Professor, Indiana Wesleyan University) contributed over the past two days a compelling commentary on John Newton’s song, Amazing Grace. (See Saving Wretches Like You and Me, Part I & II, Monday, January 7 -Tuesday January 8, 2008). And so the following poll begs a response:

Is the term “wretch” only for the poor, homeless & addict? Should Christians take liberty to change lyrics making songs more palatable in our culture of self-esteem? Substitute Amazing Grace, God “saved a wretch like me” for ... “that saved and set me free?”

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Anonymous said...

That's a difficult question, which should not be answered without some thoughtful consideration of the hymn's author and its theology.

The lyrics of that hymn are somewhat of an autobiography, since John Newton was truly a moral "wretch," having been involved in the slave trade and indirectly responsible for the misery and death of thousands
of souls.

John Newton sang of the amazing unmerited favor that effected his own redemption and moral transformation. Changing his lyrics to correspond to our modern spiritual understanding of ourselves would be analogous to rewriting the Old Testament to have the Hebrews come into Canaan by peaceful persuasion and not by warfare.

No matter how discordant the Hebrew conquest of Canaan is with the understanding we have about God from Jesus, we really don't have the spiritual or intellectual right to change the scriptures to suit our own theology. The scripture is what it is, and the same can be said for John Newton's hymn.

Moreover, the theology of John Newton is really not far from the mark in reference to all of us. Certainly, none of us has been involved in the culture of slave trade. But, we have allowed ourselves to be carried by the culture of ruthless capitalism, or totalitarian socialism, or chauvinistic Americanism, chauvinistic Catholicism, chauvinistic Protestantism, chauvinistic Judaism, chauvinistic feminism, pagan environmentalism, etc. Each of us has fallen under the condemnation that comes from living under those cultural "powers and principalities" that stand against God's own rule or Kingdom. Each of us, therefore, is a slave to some "ism" or other and a "wretch" in his or her own way. We all stand condemned and in need of moral transformation, or redemption, just like John Newton.


Anonymous said...

I agree with MD. We have no right to change the language to suit our own likes and dislikes. John Newton used the word "wretch" because he truly felt he was one. I am a purist when it comes to language and hate to see words in the English language morph into words that mean the total opposite. History and language go together. If we change the language to suit our needs, we change history and lose the truth.