Mere intellectualism. Mere emotionalism. I’m not a fan of either extreme over against the other. And those -isms are just that—extreme.
But you see, here’s the thing: I think genuine exercise of intellect leads to natural expression of emotion.
In other words, when we meditate on who God, sing of Him to one another (Colossians 3:16), and sing to Him (Psalm 104:33) songs of adoration (Psalm 115), confession (Psalm 32), and thanksgiving (Psalm 138), it is good and right for us to have emotional responses of awe at God’s bigness, sorrow over our sin, and thankfulness for His providence, mercy, justice & holiness.
If all we do when we sing songs of worship is merely take in information, and don’t actively pray that the Holy Spirit would apply the Word of Christ to our hearts, we will only puff ourselves up with pride (1 Cor. 8:1). We may become prideful thinking we are superior to those who have not beheld these truths.
At the same time, if all we do when we worship while singing is merely evoke an emotional response we’re not using all of the faculties God has given us with which to worship Him (heart, soul, strength, mind; Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37; Luke 10:27). We may worship a false god who exists only to satisfy our whims.
Biblical worship therefore has both theological depth and emotional engagement. Either element to the exclusion of the other will lead us to pride or idolatry. Or both.
Gracious Father, may we worship You in spirit AND in truth. May we be aware of our tendency toward pride and idolatry. Forgive us for the many times we have sinned against You by elevating our own selfish desires above the privilege of declaring your worthiness to one another and to You, as Your Word has shown us to do. Christ, may we be mindful of the humility You exemplified in Your ministry on the earth and seek to have this same mind among ourselves. Holy Spirit, help us to worship rightly and according to what Scripture has revealed. Amen.