Is It Wrong to Raise Your Hands in Worship? One Theology Professor Thinks It Can Be

"Several people responded to Aniol by posting Bible verses that describe people raising hands in worship...Psalm 63:4 and 1 Timothy 2:8... Aniol responded, 'Prayer. Not emotional singing.'" - C.Leaders

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irvcobb's picture

I suspect that this practice has another root in the rock concerts of the '60's and '70's. They bore quite a resemblance to what is now called "worship."

(In the '80's, I heard CCM artists referring to hand-raising as a "wave offering." A little more sensible Bible interpretation might have been helpful back then.)

((I really wish the war for the word "worship" hadn't been lost. Its relatively new meaning - "song service" - is far too limited, not to mention disconnected from the Biblical meaning, and AFAIK we have no popular English word remaining that describes worship in the true Biblical sense.))

TylerR's picture


I had Aniol for a DMin class on theology of worship. He is well-informed on these matters, obviously. His written work discusses his views. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

dcbii's picture


TylerR wrote:

I had Aniol for a DMin class on theology of worship. He is well-informed on these matters, obviously. His written work discusses his views. 

He may be well-informed and educated, but he has a tendency to jump to conclusions he wants to reach.  I interacted with him a bunch on various music topics on SI back in the mid-2000's (2005-2008 timeframe), and he has very specific conclusions about music that he was never able to prove.  I've also read a number of articles from him since that time, and my view on his positions hasn't changed.

In this instance, even if it's true that every scripture that refers to "raising hands" is in prayer (and it's clear there's not 100% agreement on that point), there's nothing I can see in scripture that prevents raising hands in other contexts.  And then appealing to church history and older culture is most often only useful to determine what did happen, not why it must.

What's really interesting to me is that in many ways I would be in his camp musically, regarding which music is good to use, what styles are appropriate for church, how to behave while singing for worship, etc.  It's just that I can't buy his arguments that his positions are the only biblical ones, because he is very far from having proved that that is the case.

Dave Barnhart

AndyE's picture

The article title is a bit misleading, because Scott didn't say it was wrong, he said,

“The only reason you feel like raising your hands at a high point in a worship service is that your expectations have been shaped by 20th century Pentecostalism,” he said. “If you lived before 1900, it wouldn’t even occur to you to raise your hands while singing.”

I wish Scott seems he has found a home in this G3 Ministries group, which I don't really have any knowledge of. It was hard for him to find a hearing in today's Fundamentalism, so I wonder how it will go within what seems like Conservative Evangelicalism circles to me.  I hope he succeeds in at least getting believers to think through what they are doing in their worship services.



dcbii's picture


AndyE wrote:

I hope he succeeds in at least getting believers to think through what they are doing in their worship services.

On this, we can agree.

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

In Psalms 149 and 150, God's people are told to praise Him in dancing.  In the light of that, I am at a loss as to why it would be wrong to raise hands while singing. 

Regarding Aniol's claim that you'd never see raised hands prior to 1900, not exactly true.  For starters, try to sing black spirituals without a bit of movement.  I dare you.  Keep your feet nailed to the floor and try to do that.  Contemporary accounts of black churches during the slave era bear witness to the fact that singing was accompanied by bodily movement.

Going further, the roots of the Pentacostal movement really go back at least a century earlier to George Whitefield, a contemporary and sometimes partner of John Wesley.  One of the distinctives of Whitefield--which really has roots in the pietism of Spener a century before--is that of the necessity of a heart conversion and preaching and song appealing to the heart.

(side note; one hypothesis I'd offer is that the connection Aniol makes between Pentacostalism and hand-raising may actually be the fact that Pentacostals welcomed blacks as equals long before other Protestants--something that should cause us "others" to hang our heads in shame, by the way)

Besides, even if it were true that nobody raised their hands during singing until Azusa and such, all that proves is that European Protestantism was a no hands raised zone, and if we really want to crack down on things and hold to tradition, we'd go back to the Middle Ages Catholic tradition of no congregational singing at all.  

 But that's simply not what God's Word tells us.  Aniol is passionate about what he believes, but there is simply too much Scripture that tells us something different.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.