On Ichthus, Amazing Grace and Theology

This weekend Ichthus descended upon Wilmore, KY. The sun was scorching, the dust was stirring and the masses were rejoicing. It is quite amazing to stand next to 15-20 thousand brothers and sisters in Christ out in a field in KY and hear them all exalting God.

Of course, it is no secret that music is a powerful force. In fact, in the Church, I would argue that it is through music that most believers develop their theology. What this means, then, is that when choosing songs for the Church to sing, we must choose carefully. Such careful choosing unquestionably entails critiquing. Yet, many of us are quite resistant to critiquing the songs we’ve heard and sung for years on end.

Lately, I have been writing a lot about the fallacies of the Left Behind movement (a.k.a. Dispensationalism) and trying to reveal to the congregation where I serve as a minister, the scores of problems with that belief system. I have consistently been amazed at how many people from all over the world (especially America) have grown up hearing about the rapture and Armageddon, etc. and have never questioned it. I think there are many reasons for that but one of those is: they’ve been taught that theology through songs…and they don’t want to give up their precious songs—which seem almost as sacred as the Scriptures!

Last night, during the worship session at Ichthus, the song leader talked about the infamous 6th verse of Amazing Grace. If you’ve never heard it, the lyrics are:

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.

Now, when this verse was put up on the screen for the crowd to sing yesterday, I refused. The scene it speaks of is not Scriptural (this could be argued about some of the other lyrics of the song as well)! The Bible speaks nowhere of the earth dissolving or melting away. However, the Bible does teach that when Christ returns, the throne of God will descend as well. Believers will go out and greet Him, meeting Him in the sky, and then escort Him back to this place (1 Thess. 4). After this, Christ will judge all and then He will transform this old earth from a state of decay and corruption to a state of newness—this includes the bodies of believers (1 Cor. 15; Rev. 22).

Yet, the Dispensationalists teach that this earth will dissolve or meltdown like snow (theirs is an image of a nuclear meltdown). But that is not what Scripture teaches! We will not sit in a celestial arena, as LaHaye, Van Impe and others teach and watch this place dissolve or burn up. No, believers will be right here amid the cosmic-proportioned transformation that will take place—they will be a part of it. The old earth will be met with a God of transformation and thus, be transformed by Him. This is the teaching of the Bible!

Not only does this have major theological ramifications but in a very immediate sense, it also has great ecological consequences. It reminds us that one day the Lord will transform this place and renew it. It also reminds us that right now, as believers, we get to be the ones who prepare this place for that great event. It is a privilege that God lets us participate in this. And while it brings us joy to nurture this earth and care for one another right now, preparing everything for that great and glorious day, when the time comes, will be filled with joy because we will see God carry out to complete the good work He began in us—thus, His promise will be fulfilled.

That is kind of the long way of getting to my point: As Christians, we need to be conscious of the words we sing! We needn’t sing some lyrics simply because other believers are and we shouldn’t sing them because they’re catchy or well known. What we sing needs to be in tune with the Scripture—a tune that produces sound…sound theology.

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