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"We want clearly discernible affection and expression."

WorshipBand4This from C.J. Mahaney in a discussion at the recent WorshipGod conference, talking about what he would see as an important qualification for someone to serve on a praise team.

This one sentiment illustrates a crucial difference in understanding about the nature of religious affections. It illustrates well points I have been making recently about a lack of differentiation within the category of emotion that is prevalent today.

I agree with Edwards that externals are signs of nothing. Things spiritual, like religious affections, may or may not demonstrate themselves externally.

Now Bob Kauflin a few moments earlier in the discussion is clear that someone who doesn’t “seem to demonstrate a response” may indeed be worshiping inwardly, “but that’s not someone I want to put in front of people to inspire them.”

This, too, is a significant difference I’d have with these good folks. It is not the job of someone up front to “inspire” or “motivate” people to worship. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job.

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.

3 Responses to "We want clearly discernible affection and expression."

  1. Re: "Externals are signs of nothing. Things spiritual, like religious affections, may or may not demonstrate themselves externally."

    Very thought-provoking. This goes right to the heart of any church's worship philosophy.

    It does make me wonder. I'm shaky on my Edwards, but this brings the soils parable to mind. Might it be better to say this?
    1) "External demonstrations are signs of nothing. They may or may not actually be signs of religious affections"
    and/or this?
    2) "Things spiritual, like religious affections, may or may not demonstrate themselves externally in predictable, easily identifiable ways."

    It seems that some kind of "external demonstration" is inevitable, if I may use that term so broadly. I'm sure it depends on how broadly that term is understood. I do believe, though, that someone will eventually be able to see religious affections in the lives of those who actually have them.

    As I understand it, it's not that you will ever know how people feel about spiritual things, it's that you can't force or demand every Certain Kind of demonstration you might wish (especially when certain Certain Kinds are so tied to a particular culture) from everyone everywhere all the time–or immediately.

  2. You're right; I think this is exactly at the heart of worship philosophy!

    I also readily agree that affections can be and often are accompanied by some kind of physical sensation, expression, etc. However, these important facts must be kept in mind:

    1. People show affections differently and at different levels. The extent to which someone shows externally what is happening internally is based entirely upon personality.

    2. Externals can be generated without any spiritual activity actually happening.

    Therefore, I do not believe that external prove or disprove the reality of true religious affections. I think that was Edwards' point. Some in his day were saying that the externals proved revival was occurring; others argued that the externals proved it was false.

    Edwards insisted that while religious affections are essential for biblical religion, no external, physical demonstration either proves or disproves their presence.

    I think the problem with folks like the Sovereign Grace people is that most of them are extroverts, which is fine, but they insist that others also be that way as proof of religious affections.

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