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Thankfulness as a central worship affection

I have a theory I’d like to explore more at a later time, but I thought I’d offer some thoughts about it today considering the season.

My theory is that the affection most directly connected to worship is thankfulness. Here are some reasons behind this theory:

  1. I have an untested observation that the idea of thankfulness is among the most common affections connected with worship in Scripture, even more so than things like praise or adoration.
  2. Historically, the idea of thankfulness came to characterize the service of worship, especially the Table service. This is due to the fact that early Christians connected Christ’s giving thanks for the cup and bread directly to observing the Lord’s Table, so much so that they began calling the Table “Eucharist,” the Greek word for thankfulness.
  3. The affection of thanksgiving necessitates spiritual response to truth, the two elements essential to worship as expressed in John 4. In other words, no one experiences the affection of thankfulness without first acknowledging the thing for which to be thankful; there must be an active engagement intellectually before thankfulness occurs.
  4. The affection of thankfulness is an affection least directly defined by feelings. Unlike the affections of love or joy, which are often defined by certain feelings to the point where the feelings may actually replace the affection, thankfulness is never really associated with particular feelings. Ask yourself what thankfulness “feels” like (in contrast to what love or joy feel like), and you will likely come up empty. I think this is quite beneficial since if we define worship as thankfulness, we will be much less likely to define it as a feeling.
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Worship euphoria?

With these things in mind (which I hope to explore more deeply at a later date), consider this season of Thanksgiving as a profound time of worship–a season in which we respond with gratitude for who God is and what he has done for us.

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 Cutlure, 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 three children.

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