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Correcting Categories, Part 9 – the Church Today

Today, the influences of Modernism, Revivalism, and Charismaticism in the Church’s understanding of the purpose and function of music in worship cannot be overestimated. First, because of Modernism, most Christian fail to understand the nature of emotion in human spirituality and worship. Most Christians see no fundamental distinction between a response of the affections and physical feelings. They group these two separate concepts under the umbrella of “emotion” and either reject it or embrace it all as worship.

This lack of fundamental distinction allows for Revivalism and Charismaticism to define the function of music in a corporate gathering as a medium for creating physical experiences they interpret to be spiritual. They may even use words like “affection” to describe the experience, but they clearly understand “affection” to be inexorably tied to physical response.

For example, in an interview with Tim Smith of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Bob Kauflin of Sovereign Grace Ministries insisted that a mature Christian will have some kind of physical response if he is truly responding with his affections. If he is not responding physically, Kauflin argued, he is probably not “engaged” in worship.1 This is really not surprising since Kauflin is a continuationist, whom MacArthur argued link spiritual maturity with external, physical signs. Thankfully, Kauflin does insist that physical response does not prove true spirituality,2 but he nevertheless insisted that someone who is spiritually “engaged” will exert certain physical responses. He compares the kind of response we need in worship to watching a movie or sports event. The problem is that what is going on in those contexts is fundamentally different than what is supposed to be happening in worship. There is nothing spiritual about the reactions to a movie or sports event. Those media are intrinsically Dionysian. Kauflin’s argument represents the predominant thought amongst most Christians today — even cessasionists. But this way of thinking runs contrary to how Edwards and most Protestant Christians prior to the Enlightenment understood spirituality in the Bible.

This lack of distinction is not limited to Charismatics or Revivalists because unfortunately most churches have been at least somewhat influenced by the two movements to some degree, and all churches have been influenced by a modernistic understanding of anthropology and spirituality. Most believers today, I think, equate spiritual experience with some kind of feeling. This takes all kinds of shapes, of course, depending on the particular movement. Some define spiritual experience by “holy laughter” and “slaying in the Spirit.” Others define it by mystical trance. Others as exciting, “slap-happy” energy. But most people define spiritual experience by some kind of intense “enthusiasm” or “zeal” or “passion” for God.

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. []
  2. See Bob Kauflin, Worship Matters (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008), 171. []

3 Responses to Correcting Categories, Part 9 – the Church Today

  1. Scott,

    Thanks for the strong words. I appreciate you warning about Kauflin.

    Two things that are just really quick observations here.

    1. What about another "ism," that is, pragmatism? I'm writing on this over at Jackhammer, and I do believe that music is used also. You might relate that too modernity, in that part of modernity is the idea of success that gets taken into the church from the world.

    2. With regards to the physical response that Kauflin speaks of. Even if it were true that a physical response were necessary, it would seem that this would be something produced by the Holy Spirit without the contrived and choreographed means. That obviously is not the Holy Spirit producing that, but the music itself. I find this same kind of thing with the revivalists. They are revivalists, that is, they think that the work of the Spirit is the key, perhaps a fresh outpouring of the Spirit; so why do they need gimmicks and other human manipulations? They contradict each other.

    Remember that Jonathan Edwards got a physical response to his sermon, "Sinners in the Hands…," but he got that from sheer monotone, almost non-expressive communication of the Word of God, in 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 fashion.

    <abbr>Kent Brandenburg’s last blog post: Harvard Joins the Audience of Brandenburg and What Is Truth</abbr>

  2. That's exactly my point. I'm not against being emotionally and even physically moved. But it's the Holy Spirit's job to do that. That's where I see the connection between Revivalism and Pentacostalism.

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