A Systematic Look at the Connection Between Emotions and Singing for Christians

MusicIf you are involved in the music ministry print and read this article carefully and give it serious, prayerful thought. If you are not, print it anyways and share it with your music director and pastor. This is a valuable and thoughtful analysis for us all to consider.

This excellent article was just published in the Themelios Journal over at the Gospel Coalition titled- Music, Singing and Emotions- Exploring the Connections written by Rob Smith.  Rob Smith lectures in Systematic Theology and Music Ministry at Sydney Missionary & Bible College in Sydney, Australia.

First, a sample of a couple of gems from the article:

…singing not only helps us to engage the emotional dimensions of our humanity, but that singing truth helps us to engage with the emotional dimensions of reality, thus helping to bridge the gap between cognitive knowledge and experiential knowledge. (From point 2.2 Singing and emotions)

In terms of the implications for church life, it should be clear that music and singing whilst not of the esse(i.e., essence or being) of the church are vital for the beneesse (i.e., the health or well-being) of the church. So we would be foolish to neglect them-particularly when Scripture commends them so strongly. At the same time we must also be careful to protect them-for there is always the possibility of misusing music and song. As Jeremy Begbie astutely observes: ‘If the orientation is askew, or the emotion inappropriate, then manipulation, sentimentality, and emotional self-indulgence are among the ever-present dangers.’ (from point 5.2 Implications for Church life)

Smith points out that the Old Testament

reveals a profound link between the joy that results from experiencing God’s salvation and the making of music and the singing of songs. We see this first in Exodus 15 where after the LORD has rescued the people of Israel from the Egyptian army, Miriam takes a tambourine in hand (v. 20) and as all the women follow her with tambourines and dancing...

where there is salvation there is joy and where there is joy there is singing. They follow one another as night follows day and day follows night. For as people are taken from an experience of slavery to an experience of redemption, from an experience of God’s anger to an experience of his comfort, from a place of fear to a place of trust, they have every reason to rejoice. And out of their joy they sing and make music.

In the New testament he points to role and the fruit of the Spirit and it’s correlation to emotions:

When we come to the New Testament, the first thing to note is the emotional dimension of the Spirit’s fruit and the Spirit’s role, therefore, in bringing us to emotional maturity. That is, most (if not all) of the fruit of the Spirit listed by Paul in Galatians 5, whilst clearly not being exclusively emotional in nature, and profoundly practical and relational in their outworking, nonetheless have an irreducible emotional component to them. Furthermore, learning to bear such fruit is part and parcel of the process of being transformed into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18) or growing up into Christ (Eph. 4:15). And this clearly involves growing up emotionally as part of the package. Jeremy Begbie puts the point well: ‘Through the Spirit, we are given the priceless opportunity of-to put it simply-growing up emotionally: having our emotions purged of sin and stretched, shaped, and reshaped.’

But does this have anything to do with music and song? Begbie certainly thinks so. In fact, he immediately follows the preceding statement with this one: ‘It is perhaps in worship and prayer, when we engage with God directly and consciously, that this will be (or ought to be) most evident.’ In a more recent essay he makes his thought even more explicit: ‘[M]usic is particularly well suited to being a vehicle of emotional renewal in worship, a potent instrument through which the Holy Spirit can begin to remake and transform us in the likeness of Christ, the one true worshipper.’

Read the entire article at the Gospel Coalition – Music, Singing and Emotions- Exploring the Connections written by Rob Smith

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