Article

History of Hymns: Praising God as source of wisdom, knowledge

by T. Wes Moore

“Praise the Source of Faith and Learning”
Thomas Troeger
The Faith We Sing, No. 2004

Thomas Troeger

Praise the Source of faith and learning
that has sparked and stoked the mind
with a passion for discerning
how the world has been designed.

Let the sense of wonder flowing
from the wonders we survey
keep our faith forever growing
and renew our need to pray
.*

Thomas Troeger (b. 1945), currently the J. Edward and Ruth Cox Lantz Professor of Christian Communication at Yale Divinity School, was commissioned in 1986 to write this text for Waldo Beach (1916-2001), who was then retiring as professor of Christian ethics at Duke University. The hymn is based on Duke’s motto, "Eruditio et Religio,” translating approximately as “Faith and Learning.” 

Published in 1987 and revised in 1989, this hymn appears in The Faith We Sing with four stanzas. Stanza one does not name God, but lists God’s attributes. The poet makes us curious about our faith and education because God is “the source of faith and learning.” Mr. Troeger reminds us that whenever we discover new places or ideas, we must remain humble and remember to feed our faith through prayer. 

In stanza two, the author states that even though we have learned much from the arts and sciences, the truth we learn from them is something deeper. God is the source of wisdom and knowledge. Our finite minds are unable to calculate God’s purposes for creation and the meaning of life. 

In stanza three, Mr. Troeger pleas that “faith redeem the blunder” that has led humanity to believe that we are on the same level with God. May our growing wisdom and knowledge diminish the fallacies of an “unthinking faith” such as hatred and violence based on “antiquated” and oppressive theological assumptions. 

Finally, in stanza four, the writer employs a powerful metaphor of two currents in a river: faith and learning. At first, the currents fight for control and suddenly, they unite and create a stable flow. Then, the last phrase in the stanza petitions God to do the same in us. May our faith and learning “blend . . . till they share a single course” so they may bond, and so that all honor, glory and praise return to God, “the source of faith and learning.” 

“Praise the Source of Faith and Learning” is paired with the hymn tune HYFRYDOL composed by Welsh composer Rowland H. Prichard (1811-1877). He was a worker in the textile industry and composed many tunes that were simple, but effective. Many of them were published in Welsh periodicals. 

The expansive nature of Prichard’s tune is a good vehicle for the sweeping phrases and longer sentences that characterize Mr. Troeger’s poetry. 

However, a tune used with this text in other hymnals is PROCESSION, written by William Hugh Albright (b. 1944). The composer was commissioned to write the music in 1992 for the 125th anniversary of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Ann Arbor, Mich. This tune appears in the United Church of Christ collection, The New Century Hymnal (1995), and the Universalist-Unitarian hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition (1993). 

Mr. Troeger, a native of New York, graduated from Yale University and Colgate Rochester Divinity School, and has received honorary doctorates from Dickinson College and Virginia Theological Seminary. He served New Hartford Presbyterian Church as associate pastor before teaching at Colgate Rochester/Bexley Hall/Crozer Theological Seminary in Rochester, N.Y. 

After serving from 1991 to 2005 as the Ralph E. and Norma E. Peck professor of preaching and communication at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, he was jointly appointed to Yale Divinity School and Yale Institute of Sacred Music. 

He is the author of 20 books in the fields of preaching, poetry, hymnody and worship. His hymns, published in several volumes by Oxford University Press, appear in virtually all major hymnals published since the late 1980s. 

Mr. Troeger is dually ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Episcopal Church. He is also a musician, having studied flute with John Oberbrunner at Syracuse School of Music. 

*© 1987 Oxford University Press. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Mr. Moore is a graduate of the Master of Sacred Music program at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, where he studied hymnology with Dr. C. Michael Hawn.

Categories: History of Hymns