I came across this article a few weeks ago entitled ‘Sensual Worship – A sign of impending Apostacy‘ and read it but didn’t think about it too much, but it was published in the most recent Australian Presbyterian which does concern me. I’m thinking of writing a reply. I’d be keen to see what others thought of it. I read it as a Docetic spinoff – a denial of the gospel.
The article improperly defines ‘sensual‘ as anything appealing to the senses (clearly not the way Jude is using the word), then puts this in opposition to ‘the spiritual’ and goes on to suggest that to use music in church in a way that ‘produces’ emotion or appeals to people is the road to apostacy. Essentialy music should be boring or not there at all lest it distract from pure spiritual worship.
The thesis goes that it was appropriate in the Old Covenant to use senses such as sight and hearing in the worship of God but not in the new covenant which should be pure spiritual worship. It doesn’t go on to say, but I find it a logical inference, that we should not celebrate the Lord’s supper which is far too sensual for a christian, we would do well to be blindfolded on the way into church lest we be distracted from the Word of God by our sight, and all singing should be banned, even without instruments, for I am sure that some people may be tempted to a sense of joy by even acapella sining.
I like this footnote in the original article, which didn’t make it into the AP version:
He added ‘If you start clapping your hands or stamping or moving them in a rhythmic manner, you are the whole time dealing with this realm of the emotions.
So what do we do with a verse like James 5:13 that links happiness with a song of praise, or Colossians 3 that links singing with gratitude. Yes, the joy comes in response to the gospel, but isn’t the expression of that joy via singing entirely appropriate, indeed commanded, rather than dangerous?
I’m reminded of Colossians 2:20-23 “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”
These legalistic rules regarding no singing in church deny the Christian of the expression of joy, and indeed have no value in restraining real sensual indulgence, which is the slavery of sexual immorality, evil desires and so on – not singing!
I think as evangelicals if we have been handed a bad pass from those who came before us or our culture it is more likely to be a lack of emotional expression in our church meetings and Christian lives. cf Acts 16:25, Luke 7:32, Jas 5:13, Col 3:16, Eph 5:19, Ps 33:3, Ps 150.