Kurt Willems has written an interesting piece this morning on the song, Our God is Greater. His take is that it *might* make our God seem less great. Willems believes that because we live in a post-Christian society singing about how “our ‘cosmic dad’ can beat up everyone else’s ideological parent” could reinforce the stereotypes against Christians.
He argues that we must “find our voice in the margins” and not trying to “live out a Christendom shaped dream of yesteryear”. Such lyrics sound “coercive and arrogant” to post-Christendom trained ears. Willems argues that we ought to live out the Christian life and the world will know that our God is greater by our “Jesus-shaped Spirit-empowered communities” and we will not need to rely “upon verbally combative claims”.
I hear what Willems is saying, and honestly with a little more discussion I could potentially be convinced of his position. But I do what to push back a little bit and defend the song “Our God is Greater” and even in a missional context.
The Biggest Problem
The main problem that I see with Willems’ position is that the Scriptures that undergird the lyrics in the song were spoken by minorities living in a world similar to our own post-Christian society. Yes, the contemporary voice that these words are given may come with a Christendom-jaded perspective—but in their original context (I’m thinking numerous passages in the OT and obviously in Romans 8) Christendom wasn’t around.
How would a reading of Nahum fit with Willems’ position. The entire thing is basically a taunt of the nations and a proclamation that “our God is greater”. God Himself says in Ezekiel 38 (among other places) that he will make his name great and display his awesomeness and holiness in the sight of the nations. God seems to be singing, “I’m Greater, I’m Higher, to the Nations” and he is calling Israel to join him.
Only an OT directive?
It could be possible, though, that we are defending the theocracy of the OT and that in the NT our call is different. Is proclaiming “Our God is greater” before the nations a call that is reserved for the OT? While I don’t like pitting the OT against the NT, I do think that the mission is lived out differently. The Old Testament is fundamentally a “come and see”, whereas the New Testament is more “go and tell”.
So, is part of the “go and tell” a commission to proclaim “Our God is Greater”?
Isn’t this what Paul does in Acts 17? I can hardly make sense of Paul’s declaration, “The God who made the world and everything it it”, if he is not in part saying—This “unknown God” is greater than all of the others, He will judge, and He is today calling everyone out of ignorance and into repentance.
Therefore, I agree with Willems that we do not need to be needlessly confrontational or try to promote Christendom. I stand with Willem in declaring, “thy Kingdom come” and not the little one that we’ve tried to set up in its place. But I differ with Willem in that believe one of the means that God uses to bring His kingdom is to proclaim the emptiness of idols and the Lord’s greatness at their expense.
I will continue to lovingly and humbly sing “Our God is Greater” in the hopes that the sovereign Lord of the universe will display this power and continue to draw the nations to Himself. Let’s also not forget that part of this cry that “Our God is Greater” is a hope that He is overturning the works of the devil and that He is greater than all brokenness. Yes, some might be offended that we proclaim our God as greater, but it is not a needless offense. Eventually, if they are to come to Christ, their knee must bow and their tongue confess that God is Greater and Higher than any other god we’ve tried to erect in his place.