In Christ Alone

In my previous post, I ruminated on the song “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us”: a “Praise & Worship”-style song written by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, and one that our Praise Band back home would often play during Lent. As promised, here’s another Townend/Getty song, called “In Christ Alone”.

One thing I’ve found fascinating about this song is how many different interpretations of it there have been. I’d suggest that this is a result of the strength of its words and its soaring melody: like many of our favourite hymns, it can be applied in multiple musical contexts.

There’s this version, sung by Christian singer-songwriters Adrienne Liesching (aka Adie Camp, wife of Christian singer-songwriter Jeremy Camp) and Geoff Moore, which uses a fairly typical Praise & Worship setting. This recording is the one we used to teach the song to our Praise Band – it’s well played and well sung, if a bit bombastic.

And then there’s this simple and earnest version, recorded by pop singer Adam Young (who had a worldwide #1 hit called “Fireflies” a couple years ago, under the name Owl City). If I remember correctly, his version was my introduction to the song.

Finally, inspired by our wonderfully diverse discussion of Praise & Worship music last Sunday, I went looking for an even simpler one and found this fascinating A cappella choral version. I’ve always loved listening to and singing A cappella music, and I find that this version puts a wonderful emphasis on the dynamics of the song, complementing not just the melody but also the lyrics. Where the Liesching/Moore version went into full-on stadium worship mode, this really sounds like an old hymn:

I’ve seen this song referred to as something of a creed, which makes sense: the first verse is a declaration of faith, the second verse describes Jesus’ life and Crucifixion, the third verse describes the Resurrection, and the fourth verse ties everything together. Poetically, it maps fairly well to the creeds we say each Sunday in Eucharist.

But when we get to the part of the Apostles’ Creed where we say “He was crucified, dead, and was buried; He descended into hell”, Townend and Getty substitute “‘Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied, for every sin on Him was laid.” I’ll admit to being a bit unsure what they mean by this statement*. Are Townend and Getty suggesting that Jesus’ death and sacrifice is a sign of God’s wrath as opposed to His love? Or maybe they’re referring to the plan for salvation that God promised throughout the combative Old Testament years, or, more simply, to the way the ground shook when Jesus died?

Luckily, I think the rest of this song makes up for this lyric. I’ve been thinking a lot this Lent about why I do the things I do, and how they fit into who I want to be, so I find the last few verse of this song encouraging: it’s a great reminder of our identity as Christians and how we’re called to live differently through Jesus’ example.

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

–Jonathan Van Dusen

* Incidentally, we cut this problematic verse from our Praise Band’s version, as Owl City did with his. We had to cut a verse due to time constraints, and this line made it the weakest link – but I’d be interested to know what Owl City’s reasoning was!

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