Mixed feelings: Emotions in Worship
Scott Aniol has written a thoughtful article on Mixed feelings regarding the place of emotion in worship. Which sorts of emotions are appropriate in worship and which are not? He gives a good list of biblical examples of the expression of emotion in worship as well as a list of emotions that are inappropriate in worship. I agree with many of the items on the latter list, although it is more difficult to support from Scripture.
We must remember that Jesus was accused of showing improper familiarity toward God by calling Him “Abba” (Jn. 5:18) and yet He taught us to do the same (Mat. 6:9). Also, David’s wife Michal accused him of acting in an undignified manner in worship, and yet God defended him (2 Sam 6:20-23). So we must be careful about the emotions we condemn in worship lest we end up becoming like the Pharisees or like Michal. But having said that, we still need to reflect carefully on this topic to be sure that the thoughts and feelings that we express in worship are worthy of our Lord.
The article also draws on the distinction made by Jonathan Edwards between lasting “affections” and more fleeting “passions,” although I am not sure that this distinction can be supported by Scripture. But the other points that he makes about emotion are not really dependent on this distinction.