Recent Posts
A good theologian once drew me a diagram of the progress of Christian doctrine and [more]
We began this series by making the claim that Pentecostalism has quietly (or not so [more]
Pentecostal worship places great emphasis on intensity. By intensity, they mean a strongly felt experience [more]
A polarized debate goes on between different stripes of Christians over the place of experience [more]
I am very pleased to announce that I have accepted a position with G3 Ministries  [more]

Charismatic worship?

In the most recent issue of In the Nick of Time, Kevin Bauder warns against the dangers of even the recent, more mild forms of charismaticism. He points out that such beliefs affect a number of important doctrinal and practical matters.

WorshipOne of those areas is worship. In fact, I would suggest that it is in the worship issue that charasmatic theology has been most influential, even among those traditions that do no themselves hold to charismaticism. Many non-charismatic evangelicals have adopted a worship theology and musical forms that were birthed from within charismatic movements, and they somehow assume that such theology and music have remained uninfluenced by the theological traditions that formed them.

You might ask how charismatic theology could influence something like one’s philosophy of worship and music. Grant Wacker, a historian writing sympathetically about the Pentecostal movement, answers that question:

And then there was congregational singing, one of the most notable and remarked on features of Pentecostal worship. . . . Music offered leaders a ready means for managing the intensity of the service. They could ratchet up the tempo until worshipers broke into ecstatic praise, or tone it down when things seemed to be getting out of hand. Either way, music gave leaders a tool for regularizing the expression of emotion.1

Robert Godfrey, commenting on Wacker’s observations, notes the following:

What Wacker sees as true of early Pentecostalism is even truer with the Contemporary Christian Music phenomenon. Praise songs, which originated in charismatic circles and spread widely in other Protestant churches, seem often to express rather spontaneous waves of emotion. But their use is carefully planned with an eye to the emotional effect on the worshiper. In such a session of singing one can predict exactly when the hands will be raised and when other emotional responses will be exhibited.2

You might object that while this is certainly true of some of the “crazier” wings of the Charismatic movement, surely it isn’t true of the more thoughtful developments of men like Bob Kauflin, right?

I would answer in a similar way that Kevin did: while there is no doubt that men like Kauflin are more theologically astute and thoughtful than other charismatics, they nevertheless operate under the same theological and philosophical presuppositions. While many of their lyrics are more theologically rich than typical praise songs (and even many gospel songs!), their charismatic worship philosophy shapes the musical forms they wed with those lyrics.

What’s more, these charismatics are the ones driving the most of the worship discussion in evangelicalism today. Do we assume that their theology of the Holy Spirit does not influence what they say about the nature of worship?

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies 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. Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture, 109 []
  2. “Worship and the Emotions,” in Give Praise to God, Philip Graham Ryken,, 369 []