About one year ago, Keith Drury an associate professor at Indiana Wesleyan University authored a compelling commentary about John Newton’s song, Amazing Grace. (See Saving Wretches Like You, January 30, 2007 at http://www.tuesdaycolumn.com/) He writes, “It is hard to sing some songs the way they were written. They just go against our grain. Few folk today want to sing John Newton’s Amazing Grace the way he wrote it: God “saved a wretch like me.” Or, how about Isaac Watts’ hymn, Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed, “for such a worm as I.” It isn’t nice to call people wretches or worms. It’s not good for their self esteem.
“This is why we change the lyrics to make songs more palatable in our culture of self-esteem. We substitute “that saved and set me free” or “for such a one as I” for the outdated wretch-and-worm references. We have removed the wretches and worms from our theology. While we might agree that the whoring-raping-slaver, John Newton was a wretch, none of us will volunteer for wretchedness ourselves, and we know for sure we’re better than worms. To be quite honest we don’t believe we were ever wretches—even before getting saved. Basically we think of ourselves as fairly nice people who became Christians and added meaning to our lives. We were told “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” So we signed up for this wonderful plan. Sure, we had sinned, but we had done no sins that God didn’t “understand” or that are not done by church folk now. Our sins were mostly sins of ignorance or immaturity—nothing that deserves the label wretch or worm. [Those are terms best used to describe addicts, homeless, bums, hobos, gypsies and other types of losers]