‘How great Thou art’ and the disconnect of ‘reality’
Published: 15 September 2016 (GMT+10)
Originally published in a CMI newsletter, March 2016.
The first verse and refrain from the commonly used English version of this classic hymn say:
“O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the works Thy hand hath made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!”
Although this grand old hymn has taken many lyrical forms over the years it is generally credited back to a poem written by a Swedish preacher, Carl Boberg, in 1885. I know that I can speak for my colleagues in CMI when I say that this is probably the most popular worship song played when we are invited to speak on creation in churches. Indeed, it was voted the United Kingdom’s favorite hymn by the BBC TV’s Songs of Praise program, and How Great Thou Art was ranked second (after Amazing Grace) on a list of the favorite hymns of all time in a survey by Today’s Christian magazine in 2001. The wonderful lyrics remind us to be in awe of the creation.
No doubt, when this poem and subsequent song was written, the authors had no doubt that all they saw in Creation was the handiwork of a Supreme Creator. Even in a fallen world there is incredible beauty, and the majesty of the Grand Designer is revealed. However, when I hear this song played before I get up to speak, it often crosses my mind that although many might be moved by the stirring lyrics and beautiful melody, there will be an obvious ‘disconnect’ for some. They want to believe it, but doubt that the lyrics can be fully true. How do I know this?
The most asked question?
Undoubtedly it is “Why does a loving God allow death and suffering?” The reality is that the overwhelming majority of us have been exposed to the teaching of the evolutionary worldview that says death and suffering and culling the weak over millions of years is the mechanism that ultimately brought about mankind. Being taught evolution as a ‘science fact’ can even cause Christians who’ve been brought up in the church their whole life to actually look at the world, and thus creation, with a non-Christian worldview. How can one sing hymns about beauty in creation, when there is so much death, and particularly if such death is God’s method of creation? Our nature documentaries display gory scenes of animals being eaten alive by predators, and it is ‘celebrated’ as a good thing because ultimately the ‘fittest’ survive. Such a wrong worldview causes a disconnect that can ultimately create a loss of faith due to a lack of confidence in God and His Word.
How can a Christian have a non-Christian worldview?
As I have said many times, our views about origins (where we came from) will ultimately determine our meaning for life and what happens to us when we die (the ‘3 Big Questions’). So a faulty, evolutionary view of origins can cause one to view God as a cruel capricious and uncaring Creator. If He can show so much disdain for His creation how can one believe Him at His Word when it comes to promises about eternity etc.?
However, if we take the Bible, and particularly the book of Genesis, as real, literal historical events, we can find great peace and understanding and can indeed pronounce “How Great Thou Art.” The book of Genesis (particularly chapters 1–3) describes how a loving God provided a perfect world for mankind to inhabit, and how our rebellion from God (sin) ‘fouled the nest’. So, taking this biblical view of history, when we see bad things around us, it should be a reminder that the world we inhabit is fallen. Bad things happen, and people and animals suffer due to the creation being cursed by sin. So, ultimately it is our fault, not God’s. And as Christians, we are not immune to the effects of the curse either. Jesus reminds us that “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45–46).
As mortal beings, humans should naturally ponder: “Where do we come from? Why are we here and, what happens after death?” But evolution causes many, including Christians, to view death as normal instead of the greatest tragedy ever to befall humanity. Death is not normal and Romans 5:12 reminds us:“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”
He created once before so He can do it again
But the Good News is that if God is the Creator described in Genesis, He can and will create a perfect, restored creation once again when the present one has run its course. And looking forward to that time the Apostle Paul writes: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26).
Subsequent verses of the aforementioned hymn recite:
“And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.”
He did indeed do something about all the death and suffering. The Creator Himself became our Savior. He did not leave us helpless sinners to suffer a cursed eternity without Him. Only through death now, if we believe in the One whom God sent, can we be restored to an eternity where there will be no more death and suffering.
Information to restore a biblical, Christian worldview
Our aim at CMI is to show the fallacious nature of the evolutionary worldview that masquerades as ‘real’ science. By presenting a viable and biblical scientific alternative, people will be able to trust God at His Word and perhaps sing “How Great thou art” and not be clouded by evolutionary thoughts when they do.