"The controversial hymn 'It Was on a Friday Morning' will not be included in any future editions of the new U.S. military forces' hymnal, according to a statement released jointly by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the chief of chaplains. The hymn has generated thousands of letters of protest" (Christianity Today, December 17, 1976, pp. 39-40). It has been only months since the argument raged over the "controversial hymn" which attributed the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth to a Friday morning. But it has been long enough to evidence that the real difficulty in this "heretical" hymn — as the chief of chaplains of the Veterans Administration called it (The Christian Century, October 6, 1976, p. 827) will not be faced.
Since the days of Arius and Athanasius in the fourth century — and indeed before — theologians have argued the question of the provenance of Christ and the nature of His atonement. Some have said He was merely a man, and therefore, of course, His death did not atone for mankind's sins. Instead, according to this way of thinking, His death was at most an example, or it was merely a fulfillment of prophecy or a sacrificial type, or a necessity to allow time to go on, or to allow the miracle of the resurrection to occur.
Most Christians, on the other hand, have accepted Him as preexistent and divine, and have seen in His death a true propitiation of the wrath of God against all human sins. Being God, His death was of more value than the wages of all the sins (Rom. 6:23) of all created humanity put together, and more than paid the price.
Sydney Carter's hymn challenges this traditional understanding of the atonement by implying that man is not the sinner — that perhaps God was the sinner because He was the One who created mankind with the tendency toward sin and its resultant suffering. It was God who created Adam and Eve, that "apple," and even (supposedly) the devil. (Read our free booklet Did God Create a Devil? to learn the truth.) Therefore, so says the hymn, "It's God they ought to crucify," attributing the thought to one of the thieves on the cross as he addressed his fellow sufferer, the carpenter Jesus Christ.
The crux of the matter is that God the Son really did die. For Christ was God. (Read our free reprint article "Is Jesus God?" for more information.) Regardless of the question of whether it was because He was to blame, or whether He was lovingly fulfilling His great and glorious original plan for saving, revivifying and elevating mortal, fallible man to the very heights of Godhood itself, it was God the Son who died and paid the penalty of our sins. (Want more information about that surpassing plan? Reread "Just What Do You Mean... Born Again?" in the February Plain Truth, or read our free booklet on the subject.)
The implication of the hymn "It Was on a Friday Morning" was really not heretical, suggests the Century editor, but true. And truly it might be, depending on how you view God's responsibility. But two things you must not do: you must not impute to God blame in the sense of guilt; and you must not misunderstand so as to assume that the death and shed blood of Jesus Christ, who was Eternal God changed into flesh, has any efficacy except for those who willingly accept it and strive to qualify to receive ultimate salvation. This last rules out the baseless theories of universal salvationists.
The really blatant heresy in the questionable hymn, however, has gone unchallenged by the churches and clergy which unfortunately believe in that error. That is the assumption that the crucifixion and death of Jesus took place on the sixth day of the week. Did Jesus die on Friday? Is that what the New Testament teaches?
Christ stated repeatedly, and long in advance of that fatal Passover season, that He would be dead three days. He also stated that the only proof He would give that He was the Messiah was that just "as Jonas [Jonah] was three days and three nights in the whale's [or great fish's] belly," so He would be in His tomb (Matt. 12:40).
Can you count three days AND three nights between a late-Friday-afternoon burial and an early-Sunday-morning resurrection? I can't.
The New Testament does say that the crucifixion and death took place on "the preparation." But was that preparation on Friday? Or was it the preparation for the Passover — on a completely different day of the week? I'll give you just a hint of the answer here: see John 19:14. But read our free booklet The Resurrection Was Not On Sunday, and discover the real truth.