What happens if a worship song has a phrase that could be interpreted as heretical or problematic? Is it still OK to sing? We take a look at the popular Hillsong United song, “So Will I (100 Billion X)” and a questionable word that has led worship pastors to drop the song from their setlists. In this admittedly powerful song, the writers mention evolution. For some, the controversy is contrived and the discussion is nothing more than splitting hairs. The word could be easily be understood as a colorful way of discussing sanctification. Complicating matters is the outspoken support for evolution from the song’s writer. Is this just artistic license? Can worship leaders sing, “So Will I (100 Billion X),” or is it teaching false doctrine?
Why the controversy?
“So Will I (100 Billion X)” is a song by Hillsong United, written by Joel Houston, Benjamin Hastings and Michael Fatkin, on their album Wonder. While the album was released in June of 2017, “So Will I” was released as a single on January 5, 2018. In the year that followed, there was considerable controversy pertaining to three lines:
“And as You speak/A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath/Evolving in pursuit of what You said.”
Critics have taken this to mean that the song endorses evolution.
Background on Hillsong Church
We should first look at the church that the band is associated with and what they believe. Hillsong, pastored by Brian Houston, is a charismatic church in Sydney, Australia. Founded in 1983, the church boasts a weekly attendance of many thousands people. Its worship bands, Hillsong Worship, Hillsong United, Young and Free, amongst others, have gained renown across the world. Singers such as Brooke Fraser have parlayed their Hillsong roles into successful solo careers.
What Hillsong believes
Hillsong itself is closely associated with the Australian Christian Churches (ACC) and defers to them for more on their “Statement of Belief.” While the ACC does not mention beliefs about origins on their “About Us” page, the Assemblies of God (of whom they are a branch), is explicit in their rejection of evolution; including theistic evolution and evolutionary creation. Hillsong has an evangelical bent and is keenly able to appeal to young Christians. Christians in general don’t believe humans evolved, and younger Protestants, in particular, believe in young-earth creationism. Given Hillsong’s audience, it’s no wonder that this has been a subject of considerable controversy.
Is “So Will I” about evolution?
It’s important to put this question in context. The song is beautifully written and helps the listener put perspective on how much God cares for you in respect of the grandeur of creation. The whole song is about how our response should be worship. The “X” in the title means “times” and comes in at the bridge—“If the sum of all our praises still falls shy/Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times”—and at the end of the song—“If You gave Your life to love them so will I/Like You would again a hundred billion times.” These lyrics show that the mention of evolution is only peripheral and meant to be a reason to worship. One of the writers, Joel Houston, said that “evolution is undeniable,” but still affirms special creation.
Is evolution undeniable?
One worship leader, Brian Wahl, who has some background in science, agrees with Houston and says this is not a problem because evolutionary theory is true. “It has been proven over and over again through both scientific observation and experimentation.” However, Wahl seems to conflate microevolution—”accumulation of small genetic changes over time”—with macroevolution—small changes that lead to speciation. This is clearly a problem as microevolution can be studied using observation and experimental intervention while macroevolution must use other methods. Those who reject evolutionary theory only reject the latter.
Micro- vs macroevolution
To reject microevolution is on the scale of Flat Earth Theory. Microevolution may be undeniable, but macroevolution is not. Macroevolution attempts to explain profound historical questions about the origin of life, species, and humans using the mechanism of random mutation on natural selection.  This kind of evolution is certainly not undeniable.
Should worship leaders sing “So Will I (100 Billion X)”?
- “So Will I (100 Billion X)” features the word “evolving”
- The writer of the song believes that evolution is undeniable, but affirms special creation
- Therefore, the song is not necessarily heretical
- So worship leaders should review this song carefully
Rejecting this song because it includes the word, “evolving,” does not seem to be in keeping with Ratio Christi’s idea of thoughtful Christianity. We should not be afraid of a single word in the song. While there are problems associated with evolution and Christianity, this song is not about evolution. It does contain a very powerful message of how nature responds to God with praise. Psalm 19:1-2 clearly shows us that this is an acceptable refrain! Including this song may even generate conversations around Christianity and nature.
That being said, there does seem to be grounds for avoiding this song because of the impact on your congregation. If you are ministering to a very young congregation, either spiritually or physically, this song may create problems for your message. Even in mature congregations this song will likely cause some members to question your choices. Think carefully before using this song and prepare to lay the necessary groundwork for people to understand the concepts. As a result, Romans 14:13-23 applies to this situation – avoid making another stumble. The word could become a distraction for your worship set.
Who may have a problem
This is only a problem for those who 1) have investigated the subject and 2) were not able to reconcile the scientific consensus and their biblical doctrines. Only 18% of the public believes in the special creation of humans. So for most people, this isn’t a problem. Does this mean that most people have a bigger problem with their view of creation?
Reconciling faith and science?
Most organizations that attempt to reconcile science with biblical doctrine do not believe one can have macroevolution and special creation. Ratio Christi does not endorse young-earth or old-earth creationism, but it does deny theistic evolution. For those who are able to use this song as a means of worship with a clear conscience, that is their prerogative. That said, it would be advised that more people investigate the subject and come to their own conclusions. Those who attend church more often, and therefore have their mind more on theology, the more Christians hold to conservative views of special creation.
Creation, salvation, and practical wisdom
Doctrines related to creation are not a salvation issues; they are peripheral. It has the potential to have logical implications that lead to theological contradictions, hermeneutically. However, people hold all sorts of contradictory beliefs. I think it’s wise to try to avoid this where possible, but it is a fact that will persist this side of heaven. Hillsong attempts to vet their songs by theologians. That is better than most churches do for their worship music. Just bring an intellectual Christian with you to vet your church’s songs. They will gladly do it, and they have a lot to work with in Evangelical circles. This is not an endorsement of the song. Just a call to practical wisdom to take the log out of our own eye before we try to take the speck out of another’s.
 Ibid., CP. Houston is quoted as saying, “I DON’T believe in evolution as a theory of SOURCE […] The Word, comes before any kind of Big Bang.. ‘let there be light’!! BOOM!! And there WAS!!!”
 Leonard, J.E., and C.R.B. Boake. “Microevolution and Macroevolution in Behavior.” In Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior, edited by Michael Breed, and Janice Moore. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2010.”
 Gerald Rau, Mapping the Origins Debate (Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2012).
 Rice, Stanley A. Encyclopedia of Evolution, 2nd edition. New York, NY: Facts On File, Inc. 2015.
 Ironically this song comes out a year and a half after Doug Axe’s book on evolution, Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed.
 Ninety-eight percent of scientists believe in evolution. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/02/11/darwin-day/
 Organizations that hold this view are as follows. Young-earth creationism: Institute for Creation Research (ICR), Answers in Genesis (AIG), and Creation Ministries International (CMI). Old-earth creationism: Reasons to Believe (RTB). Intelligent Design: Discovery Institute. The only organization that does not hold to this is BioLogos. You can read AIG’s response to the song here: https://answersingenesis.org/culture/hillsong-united-lyrics-and-evolution/
 Ibid., Gallup.
 Ibid., CP.
LEARN MORE ABOUT
David Ochabski is the assistant Chapter Director for the Liberty University chapter of Ratio Christi. He has a Bachelors in General Ministries, a Masters in Apologetics, and is currently a PhD in Theology and Apologetics student. David and his wife Britnee currently lives in Lynchburg, VA where David works as a Community Apologist for Ratio Christi. They are both California natives and San Francisco lovers.
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