Joel Houston, band member and songwriter with Hillsong United and worship leader at Hillsong NYC, drew numerous questions among followers last week in claiming that evolution, being pursuant to God’s authority and creative Word, “is undeniable” and was “created by God.” The matter has left some confused, and some remain unsure about what Houston meant by his remarks or what he was referring to in using the word “evolution.”
In seeking to sort out his various remarks, some have raised concerns, including the biblical creation organization Answers in Genesis, which deduced from Houston’s statements that the singer is asserting that “God started the universe with the supposed Big Bang and that naturalistic evolutionary processes followed” to bring about His declared will. Houston contends that he was trying to convey that “[s]cience is just catching up with what God said”—that God spoke “Let there be light” and “bang!”
The situation began on June 24 when a follower named Brian Peterson asked Houston, the son of Hillsong founder Brian Houston, if he has ever provided an explanation of the group’s reference to evolution in the popular worship song “So Will I (100 Billion X).”
“All nature and science/Follow the sound of Your voice/And as You speak/A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath/Evolving in pursuit of what You said/If it all reveals Your nature, so will I,” the lyrics state.
“Evolution is undeniable—created by God as a reflective means of displaying nature’s pattern of renewal in pursuance of God’s Word—an ode to the nature of the creative God it reflects—and only ever in part—not the SOURCE!” Houston replied. “Science and faith aren’t at odds. God created the Big Bang.”
As his response drew controversy, Houston posted clarification that he doesn’t believe evolution is the source of all creation—God is the Creator and spoke all things into existence—but that the reference was rather in regard to his view that creation evolves and adapts to catch up with what God authoritatively called it to be. In other words, Houston believes that evolutionary events continue to take place in nature to come into obedience to the Word of God spoken at the beginning.
While he did not provide specific examples of what he believes to be evolution, he agreed with a follower who said that they wanted to keep the discussion of evolution “micro and not macro,” so as not to confuse “bad philosophy with good science.”
“Context—things evolve, they change and adapt. I DON’T believe in evolution as a theory of SOURCE; I believe it’s merely a pattern of nature—created by God, reflecting nature’s desire for renewal, survival, new life—something-SomeONE—like God,” he said.
“I think what gets lost, strangely enough, is that in any case, the Word comes before any kind of Big Bang. ‘Let there be light’!! BOOM!! And there WAS!!!” Houston stated.
He also referred to the matter in a spiritual sense, outlining God’s transformative power, that “[w]e’ve been saved and called to a embody a different nature.”
“I think adaptability is nature’s way; the Spirit calls us to adapt to a different kind of nature—either way, we’re all evolving—towards what, and WHO, is the question for all of us,” Houston stated.
“[A]ccording to the Spirit-nature renewing us, we evolve counter-naturally to that of our earthen nature—ever in response to God’s Word,” he further noted.
When asked if he believes in the Big Bang or a literal six-day creation, he responded vaguely, “It means I believe God created everything and His Word came first.” Yet, when another reader took issue with Houston’s statement that “God created the Big Bang,” he replied, “And the earth was formless and void, darkness covered the earth, and the Spirit was hovering over the surface of the deep. And God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was … BANG! That’s all I’m saying. Science is just catching up with what God said.”
Houston also responded to another follower who asked about where he stands on ape to man evolution, advising that he believes God made man out of the dust, as stated in Genesis.
He opined that some were jumping to conclusions about his beliefs and not understanding his words or the words of the song.
“The entire premise of ‘So Will I’ is the redemptive, creative, authority and power of God’s Word. That at the end of the day, all our best theories, ideas, dogmas and best attempts at understanding will ultimately surrender to the ‘Word at the beginning,'” Houston said.
However, he additionally suggested that it doesn’t matter whether God created the universe in a literal six days or if it evolved over time.
“If God’s creative process was an easy working week, or finely crafted over six-ages of millennia, does it make Him any more or less God?” Houston asserted. “Or us any more or less created in His image? Either way, it was an unfathomably wonderful six-day process, however you think to see it.”
Another follower stated that he found a problem with the concept of “whatever your viewpoint, God controlled it,” because if natural selection occurred before The Fall, it would contradict the Scripture that teaches, “Through one man, death entered the world…”
“Well now, we could start going DEEEP!!!! Perhaps too deep for tweets,” Houston replied. “I wasn’t there (literally), so I can’t say … but I don’t believe any of it is a problem to God, when it comes to His redemptive plan for humanity.”
Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis was asked by the ministry’s supporters to comment on the matter, and he, along with Dr. Georgia Purdom, said that while “it’s hard to know exactly what Joel Houston is saying,” they concluded that “there’s enough in the tweets to convince us that Joel Houston did use the terms science and evolving in the second verse of the song to mean that God started the universe with the supposed Big Bang and that naturalistic evolutionary processes followed.”
“The terminology used here is common among those who compromise evolution with Genesis … who claim that God started everything with the Big Bang and built into that original creation the laws of nature so that by natural processes everything would unfold over billions of years to produce the universe and all living things as they are today,” Ham and Purdom outlined.
They said that the Big Bang, as it is known in scientific terms, is not biblical.
“Many Christians have argued that the way God created in Genesis could be described as God using a Big Bang as his method. However, the Big Bang model has the stars and sun coming into existence before the earth, whereas the creation account in Genesis clearly teaches that the earth was created before the sun and the stars. Many other contradictions make it clear that God did not use the supposed Big Bang to create,” Ham and Purdom stated.
They opined that if they understand Houston’s tweets correctly, they would not sing the song—especially considering his assertion that it doesn’t matter whether Creation was a literal six days or not—and are concerned about how the tune could influence others based on how he explained it.
“We think his response makes it quite clear that he’s saying a person can believe in evolution/millions of years or six days of creation, but it doesn’t matter, as long as you believe in and worship our Creator God. Now if this is so, would we sing this song? Not at all,” Ham and Purdom stated. “In fact, if our understanding is correct, then this song and what Joel has said about his composition, can, sadly, potentially influence thousands of young people with a compromised position on Scripture in Genesis.”
David Mathis, who also wrote about the matter for Desiring God, said that he wasn’t certain what the lyrics meant either, but remarked that at the very least, the use of “evolving” was a poor word choice, especially for corporate worship.
“Maybe the authors didn’t really mean ‘evolve,’ but only hoped to communicate that God’s hundred billion creatures ‘obey,’ or are ‘led by,’ or are ‘guided by’ what God says. That’s the best possible reading I can imagine, but the problem remains: ‘evolve’ does not mean ‘obey.’ ‘Evolve’ does not mean ‘guide,'” he wrote. “This ‘evolving’ line is either what many of us would view as a foolish compromise with unbelieving philosophy (masquerading as ‘science’), or it’s a very bad word choice.”
“Whatever was intended by the authors, I cannot see how a significant number of worshipers will not be distracted and confused by that word choice—which is disappointing since it’s such a good song otherwise,” Mathis said.
Answers in Genesis said that it would like to see Houston publicly denounce the Big Bang (as used by secular scientists) and evolution, and clearly state that he believes in the literal six-day creation.
“Also, I would like to publicly invite him to come visit the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum, and I would gladly give him a personal tour,” Ham said.
On Monday, Houston shared a link about a young planet that is stated to still be forming, writing, “Fake news?—or the ever-expanding wonder of God’s Word still creating evolving-things from whence it first spoke ‘little lights into the vault of the sky to help govern the day and the night, and separate light from darkness’?”