Home > 2 Peter, Bible Study, Christian Authors, church life, doctrines, hymns, S. Lewis Johnson > Bad Theology in Hymns: “The Earth Shall Soon Dissolve Like Snow”?

Bad Theology in Hymns: “The Earth Shall Soon Dissolve Like Snow”?


S. Lewis Johnson often pointed out the bad theology in the hymns we sing in church, observing  that hymn writers would “get to heaven as by fire.”  Expanding on this point, he would mention specific hymns and the wrong theology, including one song he especially disliked, “One Day,” which includes in the chorus, after the words “Living He loved me, dying He saved me, buried He carried my sins far away,” the phrase “rising He justified.”  As Dr. Johnson pointed out (as in this message from the Romans series), we were not justified at His resurrection:  I don’t sing that, “Rising, He justified,” because it seems to me that what the apostle teaches here is that the resurrection of Christ is the evidence that the justification has been completed.  We’re not justified by the resurrection.  We’re justified by His death. 

I was reminded of the bad theology in hymns again this last week when the local church sang Chris Tomlin’s version of “Amazing Grace” (“My Chains are Gone.”)  The last verse is from John Newton’s poem (the origin of the bad theology here), but not in the traditional “Amazing Grace” hymn:

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow;
the sun forbear to shine.
But God who called me here below,
will be forever mine.

That lyric has bothered me for the same reason SLJ mentioned concerning other hymns: it’s not biblical. The earth will be renewed and continue forever: a renovation of the earth, but the earth itself will not be destroyed or dissolve into nothingness.  Reference also this post here from a few months ago, Robert D. Culver’s exposition of 2 Peter 3.

Thinking about this lyric in “Amazing Grace,” I found this blog article, from someone else who sees the doctrinal error here.  Here is his suggested re-wording of that verse, a true expression of biblical teaching:

The earth shall be redeemed by God;
the sun will forever shine.
And God who called me here below,
will be forever mine.

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  1. Neil Schoch
    January 23, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    Hi Lynda,
    While a certain amount of poetic license may be allowed for hymn writers in order to rhyme etc, you are spot on as to doctrinal errors.
    There is the great favorite hymn: When the roll is called up yonder – I’ll be there.
    I once stood up to preach after this hymn had been sung and announced that I would not be there, and I trusted that none of the congregation would be either. I sure got some strange looks.
    The fact is that at the rapture there is no roll call as “His sheep know His voice.”
    When the (ascending) shout comes all believers will instantly be with the Lord in the air, whether dead or alive. No roll call needed.
    The only roll call mentioned in scripture happens at the great white throne judgement Revelation 20:11-15 where books are opened including the Book of Life.

    I have always made a point of using the word “saints” or “saved” instead of “roll” to ensure doctrinal correctness.
    I have been accused of legalism for this but I would prefer to be correct.
    It is still a wonderful hymn full of precious thoughts, nevertheless.
    God bless!

    • January 23, 2014 at 8:17 pm

      Thanks, Neil. Yes, that’s another good example of doctrinal errors in popular and familiar hymns and Christian songs. I realize more and more what others, such as S. Lewis Johnson, have said, that hymn writers often have terrible theology.

  2. January 24, 2014 at 3:27 am

    Good one! I didn’t even catch that part in the song, largely because our church still sing the Traditional version though I have heard the newer Amazing Grace around the time of the Wilberforce movie some years back. Do you know where John Newton is in terms of eschatology? Was he Post-Mill?

    • January 24, 2014 at 8:14 am

      Yes. Actually, the local church sings the traditional version on Sunday mornings, but the Wednesday night meetings sometimes include the newer contemporary songs including this one. Yes, John Newton was post-millennial, as referenced in this article; he was generally in the same time period (a few decades later) as Jonathan Edwards, another well-known post-millennialist.

  3. March 19, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    Great point regarding the earth not melting away. When we realize that we will live on the earth in Resurrected bodies as the Bible says, it motivates us to live right in this age and with the next age in mind more than a theology that says everything in creation will deleted by God at the “end of time” and we live in heaven forever. :)

    • March 20, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      Yes, very true, the practical implications of our right doctrine, with an understand of “material spirituality.” :)

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