Book Review: Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship by Scott Aniol
Worship in Song, by Scott Aniol, is the best book I’ve read on music and worship. I have read many volumes regarding music and worship, because I have been perplexed for many years regarding what kind of music is appropriate for worshiping God. I have transitioned from the perspective of enjoying anything to being very restrictive in the kinds and styles of music. I have also tried to develop a system of rhythms of music for what is appropriate. I know I will continue to refine my perspective as I understand our infinite God and how to connect with people to worship God. Unfortunately, the music debate has caused too many problems in churches and created too many walls between Christians.
Scott Aniol insightfully developed a balance in explaining music in biblical worship. He puts the emphasis where it belongs: on God. His bottom line seems to be that God is most pleased with the process of people dependent on God to determine what honors Him, rather than merely choosing a particular style.
He begins by examining worship in its foundation. Worship is about God, not man. Therefore, “A Christian’s number one concern in life should not be his rights or his preferences. It should be the glory of God,” writes Aniol (p. 40). Offense is not whether my feelings are hurt or not, but whether my actions lead another into sin (p. 41). Additionally, he writes,
If you are not actively pursuing sanctification; if you are not daily in God’s Word, striving to know His mind and think His thoughts; if you not willing to give up what might be legitimately your right, then you cannot expect to discern what music styles are pleasing to the Lord. (p. 42)
Aniol continues by describing “affections” as a missing link (p. 45f). Love for God is not a duty, but something we choose to do. He writes, “Love in the portrayal of pop media is something we “fall into,” something involuntary, even accidental. But biblical affection is not that way. Biblical affection intricately involves the mind, the will, and the emotions.” (p. 54) Affections are a choice to focus on God and worship Him, not a response of emotions that we don’t control.
Aniol records an excellent synopsis on history of music, culture and the church. It was in the 18th century when the church was dethroned and secular culture and the Industrial Revolution became more influential to replace folk culture. This pop culture began to govern church music (p. 77).
He makes an excellent analogy regarding “beauty.” Most people would say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” However, beauty is not subjective according to what man likes. Some are so perverted, they think pornography is beautiful. True beauty rests with God, not man (cf. Pro. 2:3-6). The same is true with music. Aniol writes,
If certain forms of music draw a listener into a sensuous experience of physical pleasure only without deflecting its finite representation of beauty to the divine, they are not worthy of Christian use. In other words, music that merely stimulates the passions instead of uplifting the affections is dangerous. (p. 116)
There is clear distinction between what is beautiful and what is wicked. The middle ground of acceptability is large. So, where is the line? The issue can be made for music also. Aniol writes,
Recognizing clearly immoral music is fairly easy—any Christian can do it. Trying to determine where the line between good and bad music, is, however, remains difficult, if not impossible for finite man. Therefore staying away from the middle may be prudent for the Christian. (p. 140, author’s emphasis).
After an exceptional analysis of music and worship, Aniol summarizes with four statements:
- God created all things.
- God created all things for His own pleasure.
- God is worthy of our worship because He created all things for His own pleasure.
- God is worthy enough for us to consider carefully how we worship. (pp. 238-244)
This is a must read for every pastor, especially those leading with music. Scott Aniol provides a fresh, solid approach to music and worship. Aniol is a tremendous communicator and pastor, always thinking of how to bring glory and honor to the Lord.