Should Churches Sing Stanza Two of "O Church, Arise"?

May 14, 2012

Stanza two of the song, “O Church, Arise,” begins by saying, “Our call to war, to love the captive soul, But to rage against the captor.” Are these words that churches should sing?

Peter warns about speaking evil against “dignities”: “Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord” (2 Pet. 2:10-11). Jude seconds Peter by declaring,

Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves (Jude 8-10).

This inspired teaching does not support the Church’s singing that its call is “to rage against the captor.”

Even if these words might have been intended to be a poetic way of saying that Christians should abhor all that is evil and do all that they can do righteously to oppose evil and the work of Satan in the world, these words are still problematic because many will likely understand them to be taken at face value in the sense of angry outbursts against Satan.

Churches, therefore, should not sing Stanza 2 of O Church, Arise as it is originally worded. Those who desire to sing the otherwise generally rich lyrics of this song should substitute some other scripturally appropriate phrase (e.g., “to stand against the captor”; cf. Eph. 6:11) in place of these seriously problematic words (“to rage against the captor”).

Rajesh

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4 responses to Should Churches Sing Stanza Two of "O Church, Arise"?

  1. I believe you are making a mountain out of a molehill, Rajesh.

    While I agree that his word choice might not be the best, it’s certainly not “seriously problematic.”

    There several reasons for this, I believe:

    Ephesians 6.12 says that we “wrestle…against the rulers…authorities…cosmic powers…present darkness…[and] spiritual forces of evil” (ESV). I participated in public school wrestling in my younger years, so I can attest that wrestling is definitely a two-person fight. It’s not just defending or standing, but actively pursuing and warring for the result of victory.

    And 2 Corinthians 10.3-4 seem to also indicate a forceful, active warring: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have *divine power to destroy strongholds*” (ESV, added asterisks for emphasis).

    Knowing the orthodoxy of Getty/Townend hymns, I’m pretty certain that Keith (or Stuart) would not be promoting a hyper-spiritual warfare mentality.

    Also important to keep in mind is the context of the song.

    In the first stanza, he states that we, the church, are putting our armor on, equipping ourselves against the attacks and lies of the devil. Should the second stanza have been the first stanza of the song, I could see your point, since it would have seemingly indicated an admonition to just go out and fight with out the context of the spiritual battle happening.

    The second stanza also shows contrast (as indicated in the word “but”). “To love the captive soul BUT to rage against the captor” indicates a contrast of loving the captive soul, and *not* loving the captor, instead to war and rage against him.

    I honestly do not think that people will think that they to have angry outbursts against the devil (the captor) as they sing the text in context.

    Lastly, be careful adjusting hymn texts to your own theological persuasion. While this has (unfortunately, in my opinion) become commonplace in older, non-copyrighted hymns, there may be some legal stipulations that keep you from changing a modern copyrighted text. For instance, I watched a Keith Getty/Adrian Warnock intervew in the last few months, where Keith admitted that he gets many requests for people to change the lyrics of In Christ Alone to “the love of God was satisfied” rather than “the wrath of God was satisfied.” He calmly responded that he would ask those who disagree with that theological position to either refrain from singing singing the song entirely or to refrain from singing that stanza.

    In your case, I would think that not singing that stanza would be the best option, since you seem to agree with the rest of the text.

    All this being said, I applaud you for carefully thinking through your hymn texts and not being a passive hearer, listener, or worshiper!

    • Thanks for your comments, Dustin.

      I appreciate your caution about altering the wording of copyrighted songs. If singing this stanza with different wording is not an option, I certainly would choose never to sing the stanza.

      Eph. 6:12 and 2 Cor. 10:3-4 do involve active participation but both specify that we are not warring against the flesh but against spiritual powers against whom the only effective weapons are not fleshly weapons but spiritual weapons (i.e., prayer, the Word of God). Neither passage supports raging against spiritual enemies.

      Here is further explanation of my rationale for assessing these words as seriously problematic:

      1. The writer purports to be giving teaching concerning the Church’s call, which raises the stakes immensely concerning the need for his statement to be sound teaching with no problems.

      2. In biblical usage, the word rage (in all its various forms) is never found in a statement commending a person for his actions or speech

      3. The word rage carries the connotation of uncontrolled angry action or speech, which is not appropriate behavior for the believer, who is to be controlled by the Spirit at all times, and certainly is not appropriate as a description of the Church’s call

      4. Scripture nowhere teaches that the devil is to be the object of human rage

      5. Two writers of Epistles (Peter, Jude) strongly warn about reviling angelic majesties and relate that the pernicious influences of false teachers, who themselves are characterized as “raging waves of the sea” (Jude 1:13), will lead many astray into ungodliness (2 Pet. 2:2), including their being “not afraid to speak evil of dignities” (2:10); (To prevent anyone from misapplying what I am saying here, I’m not saying that I regard Getty/Townend as false teachers in this regard.)

      Based on these points, to rage against the captor is not part of the Church’s call, and I maintain that these words, which will be sung repeatedly and therefore have great, lasting influence, are seriously problematic and should not be sung by churches.

  2. Well, an interesting discussion and I agree it is hard to find Biblical support that we should rage against Satan. Stand firm, resist, be watchful yes.

    But my question about the lyric is, first of all is the ‘captor’ meant to be Satan. And if so is he really a captor of souls? Frankly I don’t think he is. He is powerful and influential, but I don’t see in Scripture where he has captured unbelievers. Which would indicate a belief in the theory that Jesus paid the ransom price to Satan to free people from him? The Bible teaches we are slaves to sin and our sin nature, slaves under and help captive by the Law, but not Satan. Unless I am overlooking something.

    • John,

      Thanks for your feedback and questions.

      Stanza 1 makes clear that the song is talking about spiritual warfare with the devil. In the flow of thought, it is natural to understand “the captor” as Satan in stanza 2.

      Yes, Satan is a captor of souls. Scripture teaches that unsaved people are under his domination and blinded by him:

      Act 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

      2Co 4:3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

      Colossians 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

      Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

      2 Timothy 2:24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

      1 John 5:19 And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.

      I do not believe in the theory that Jesus paid the ransom price to Satan, etc.

      Hope this helps.

      Rajesh