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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Friday, October 14, 2005
At some point in the very recent history of the church, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs became "praise and worship" - and around the same time the music stand began to replace the pulpit as the centerpeice of the congregational assembly.

Perhaps this was around the same time that it became vogue to raise your hands over your head as you sang. I don't know why anyone would do it, but my suspicion is a misunderstanding of those verses that speak of lifting up holy hands. In psalms 28, 63, and 141 we read about hand lifting, and again in 1 Timothy 2. Here Paul commands Christians everywhere to lift up holy hands. My suspicion is that these people do not understand that in Jewish synogogs, men prayed by standing with raised arms. The call to lift up holy hands therefore is a call to pray - and not only to pray, but to pray with "clean hands" - that is, to be spiritually "right with God" when we do pray.

I could be mistaken, but I suspect that is was likewise around the same time that people began to shop for churches that either raised hands, or didn't raise hands - according to their preference.

What are we to think of all this?

That depends on where you are coming from I suppose. Every denomination presumes that the way they sing congregationally is "the most biblical" - at at least biblical. It seems that there are now two types of church - the hand raisers and the "non" hand raisers. There are also some transitional churches too - where there are some hand raisers and some non hand raisers who are engaged in a shunning contest.

The hand raising churches typically have louder music than the non hand raising - perhaps the hand raising began (and this is just my own take on it) because of the louder music; singing out loud when you can't hear yourself sing is somewhat pointless - ipso facto - I can envision someone in the front row trying to flag down the sound guy to tell him to turn the music down because he can't even hear himself singing - but the gesture is misunderstood by others, and interpretted as a sort of pious silent "worship." Not to be out-pioused, these in kind raised their own exceptionally pious hands - and butta-bing butta-boom: insta-zeal, no heart rending required.

The "non" hand raising churches are likewise divided, though both are usually quieter. In the one they are so stoic they are practically dour, such that the slightest raising of an arm is accompanied by a chorus of raised eyebrows, and much nudging and pointing. The other variety, and I believe this would describe my church - have some "would be" hand raisers who are held in check by some of the more dour non-hand raisers - such that no one raises their hands - but the common weal could care less - they just follow the crowd: "Look! there is music playing and words are being put up on the projector. I must sing now. They will sing anything as long as everyone else is. I wonder how many people sing "It is well with my soul" every Sunday, when what they really ought to be singing is, "I am a treasonous dog who refuses to humble myself day in and day out - yet I am singing here in the congregation because that is what we do on Sunday mooooorrrrnning."

Okay, that might be a bit harsh, but you get the picture.

Whatever posture we assume (or refuse to assume) the important thing is that we bring God glory. It seems to me however that we are moving more and more away from God's glory, and in part congregational singing - because it is such an over-stated part of many a church service, has become nothing more than entertainment (at worse) or transitional filler between each part of the service schedule.

(sing two songs).
(sing two song),
Communion (instrumental music during - closing song afterwards)

Then begins the worship part of the service:
The "song leader" talks about some verse that spoke to him this week
(sing two songs)
The song leader reads a psalm from scripture while the band plays softly
(Sing a song that has at least one line from the psalm just read in it)
(Sing another random song)

At 11:45 the pastor finally has the pulpit, and attempts in fifteen minutes or less to communicate the message God has put on his heart for the week.

(Sing two more closing songs)

I am only slightly exaggerating.

Wasn't there a time when people came to church to hear sermons- and (gasp) even to pray? When did the music stand take over the pulpit? Why do christians in general press themselves into the "godly" mould while denying the very power of God to change their lives?

posted by Daniel @ 1:51 PM  
  • At 5:14 PM, October 14, 2005, Blogger David said…

    Daniel, that was a ver insiteful peice. I think you are definitely on the right track with this. I have no problem with people raising their hands, but the Scriptural reference to lifting holy hands (1Timothy 2:8) emphasises holy, not lifting.

    Psalms 24:3-5 Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? 4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

    I'm afraid most of the uplifted hands are there because it feels good, and as you suggest, there isn't a lot of thought given to any aspect of "worship."

  • At 8:23 PM, October 14, 2005, Blogger Dan said…

    I agree with you. Your description is pretty close to what I've seen. You didn't include a repurposed secular song. The amount of time singing is accurate, but often 1/2 the number of songs are used, and the 4 line chorus is repeated over and over again for much too long.

    v-word: prtdyu.. as in, is it [im]prt't d yu? (is it important to you?)

  • At 1:25 PM, October 15, 2005, Blogger Daniel said…

    Doh! I forget the repurposed secular tune!

  • At 2:49 AM, October 17, 2005, Blogger Michael said…

    I noticed that you are cooler depending on how you hold your hands up as well.

    First there is the "single hand barely raised folks". They must be new to hand raising and not yet comfortable with it yet.

    Second there are the two-handed hand raisers that raise their hands like its a stick up (palms away from them).

    And finally you have the "palms towards them and aiming up" people. Having your eyes closed, and swaying a bit completes this look and makes you look very cool in a modern church.

    I'd like to go back to worrying more about what we're singing than how trendy we're looking.

  • At 7:49 AM, October 17, 2005, Blogger Daniel said…

    Fish Taco - now that you mention it I have noticed the various degrees of hand raising.

    I know that there are some genuinely spiritual "hand raisers" but I am convinced that they are the rare exception - much like the gift of tongues. I believe there is a genuine gift of languages (that is, speaking and being understood in known languages) though I have yet to see anyone speak in the way that is described in the book of Acts. I am not entirely convinced that the gift has ceased though I don't dismiss that possibility - but I do believe that every public demonstration of this phenomenon I have ever seen or heard of has either been disingenuous or a learned behavior founded on wrong information.

    likewise with the hand raising - people do it because other people do it.

  • At 10:39 AM, October 17, 2005, Blogger Michael said…


    I agree with you on both point (hands and tongues). I don't mind the genuine hand raisers, however around here it seems trendy for the kids my age to raise their hands and then complain about the "old fashioned" people that don't raise their hands. Which leads me to believe its not genuine.

  • At 10:00 AM, October 18, 2005, Blogger Daniel said…

    DbD - Thanks for the exhortation sister.

    I would point out, that all three verses you quoted regarding "raising hands" do not refer to singing but rather to praying, and none are a commandment regarding the assumed posture.

    My point was that the bible doesn't tell us to raise our hands when we sing, nor is it especially spiritual to do so.

    I was careful to reserve my comments to those who are disingenuous in raising their hands - that is, they are not led by God to do it, but by man. I liken them to the Pharisee who prayed poublically for all to hear thanking "god" that he was not like other men - the purpose of which was so that those around him might know how holy he was. Christ used this public display of personal holiness as the example of what "not to do" as a Christian. It is one thing to raise your hands because you love the Lord, and another to raise your hands because everyone else is doing it.

    I have no problem with singing in the congregation - we should! My concern is with those who make a show of puttin up their hands.

    I will watch my attitude dear sister, and do not hesitate to call me on it if it seems off. Thanks for being willing to say something.

  • At 12:39 PM, October 18, 2005, Blogger Daniel said…

    DBD - thanks for your further explanation. We all must stay vigilant lest our pride deceives us so that we pursue the reputation of humility rather than humility itself.

    I don't think Jesus lifted his hands while singing, and both history and scripture support that notion. I don't doubt that Jesus sang songs about prayer - Paul tells us that the purpose of our singing is as much to edify one another as it is to give glory to God.

    I do however hesitate to presume that Christ pantomimed the actions described in the psalm He was singing. It is a stretch for me therefore to presume that raised hands is an appropriate posture on the premise you have provided. Can you imagine Christ and a room full of disciples pantomiming thefinal verse in Psalm 137?

    I certainly allow that if a person is "praying the song" they can raise their hands while singing - so long as they normally pray with raised hands and the raising of the hands is not just something they are doing because they are singing. I hope that distinction is understandable.

    Please don't interpret my continued interest in this thread as a willingness to debate the point - I feel that there is "value added" to an original post when it generates a better definition of what was originally said. In this case, I really am thankful for your comments because they cause me to clarify exactly what I mean - and that is always better in the long run. Thanks again.

  • At 2:30 PM, October 18, 2005, Blogger Daniel said…

    DBD - I likely overstated my position when I said that history and scripture support the idea that Jesus didn't lift his hands. What I should have said is that neither history nor the bible suggest that lifting hands is a valid posture for singing.

    I can picture the apostles lifting their hands as they sang some of the psalms too; yet this ability to visualize it does not make it orthodox.

    I suppose we differ in that I see no reason to pantomime whatever comes out of our lips when we sing, be that bowing, dancing, lifting my hands or whatever. There is no command to do so and no suggestion that doing so has any spiritual value.

    I agree, when something is commanded we ought to, nay, we must practice it. In this case however, we have no command, just a personal preference.

    And here is the heart of the matter for me. We must always be on guard lest we elevate some personal preference or practice to the level of doctrine.

    In this case, raising hands while one sings is a personal preference and not a doctrinal requirement. If someone does it, let their heart be right with God and I am satisfied. I do not speak against those who raise their hands in genuine (albeit misinformed) piety - rather I speak against those who adopt the posture out of habit, tradition, or and (perhaps especially) because that is what becomes the expectation.

    Some congregations are trained and encouraged by the pastors to shout "Amen!" from the pews whenever they agree with something from the pulpit. After a time however, some people shout "Amen" just because others are doing it.

    My worry is that much of our "pious expressions of faith" are in fact learned behaviors that are entirely carnal in origin.

    I don't deny that some people raise their hands in genuine faith and from a right heart, I just think they are misinformed and entirely in a very, very small minority.

  • At 7:56 AM, October 19, 2005, Blogger Daniel said…

    DBD - you're certainly not annoying me! :-D

    I do hear what you're saying, and I agree that there is nothing wrong with clapping or shouting.

    My "beef" if you will, is with the hand raising - and more specifically with disingenuous hand raising.

    While a song can be a prayer, it is not always a prayer. Furthermore not every congregational song is directed at God ("singing to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs..."), some of our songs are supposed to be to encourage, exhort, and edify one another.

    I have no problem when a person raises their hands when singing a song that they are making a personal prayer to God assuming of course that the individual is doing so out of a genuine misunderstanding of the command to "lift holy hands" (that is, they interpret it to mean "assume this mechanical posture" rather than "make sure you're hands are holy when you pray"). In such a case the person is sincere, and worshipping, and I have no qualms about that.

    Again, my only concern is with people who imagine that the posture (raised hands while singing) is biblical - it isn't.

    We might call singing "praise and worship" but it is singing. Everything we do should be to the praise of God and an act of worship - from brushing our teeth in the morning, to laying out head down to sleep at night. If one insists that everything we do must be done with raised hands because it is all praise and worship - well, you see where that is going?

    The very, very recent "modern" church has taken the words "praise and worship" and redefined them as singing. We do praise God and worship God in song - but not especially so. It isn't the singing that is praise and worship - it is the "holy (clean) hands" that are praise and worship.

    I hope that clears up my position. :-?

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