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Correcting Categories, Part 8 – Music and Emotion in the Church

A Radical Change

Protestants have historically been suspect of Dionysian forms of music, especially in sacred contexts, because they recognized that spiritual life resides in the affections and not in the physical feelings. They did not want to stimulate artificial experiences of the senses but rather nurture biblical affections through the mind and spirit. Presbyterians, Puritans, and Baptists especially warned of such dangers, which led them to formulate the Regulative Principle of Worship in order to keep extra-biblical Dionysian elements like icons and drama out of congregational worship.1

Charles Finney was

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.


  1. See Scott Aniol, Who Regulates Worship?

    (Greenville, SC: Religious Affections Ministries, 2008). []

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One Response to Correcting Categories, Part 8 – Music and Emotion in the Church

  1. Can I say, as a continuationist/charismatic, that I am categorically opposed to using any sort of emotional manipulation (including through music) to produce "spiritual" or "religious" experiences in a congregation. These experiences are manufactured, false and are not from God, period.

    There, I agree with with you, but I strongly disagree with your contention that popular (what you call "Dionysian") music produces such experiences but traditional ("Appollonian") music does not. Such a suggestion has no basis in fact, and fans of traditional/classical music will often claim that it is transcendent and they have "spiritual experiences" whilst listening to it. Likewise, despite the fact that I generally listen to modern music, the only experience that many items of popular/contemporary music (christian and secular) produce in me is the feeling of wanting to be sick.

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