John Calvin: lifting hands in worship helps "jolt us out of our laziness"

New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:


I’m thankful for this.

Without getting too deep into the history of how we came to leave a charismatic church we were a part of for nine years, one of the things I have been uneasy about for years is the way I’ve interacted with singing in corporate worship ever since.

There was a time when I could sing with the church with arms raised, a mind fixed on the truth in the words I was singing, a heart raised to the Lord. Over time, as more Hillsong / Jesus Culture type songs seeped in, I started to become suspicious of our worship (rightly, I believe). What are we actually doing here? I came to see that our “worship” was more about every man and woman seeking his own personal emotional catharsis than it was about anything else. I came to resent it. Over time, I stopped participating in it, and stood there more aloof, critically examining the words we were singing, and consciously – even prayerfully, deliberately – protesting in my own heart what we were doing.

Fast forward many years. We’ve now been part of a reformed baptist church for 3+ years. Hymns are sung. Worship is led by pastors and not women. There is a deliberate simplicity in our singing, which aims to minimize any element of showmanship and maximize the corporate voice of the congregation. From a cerebral standpoint, I am very thankful for the way our church interacts with music.

Yet at the same time, the default position of my heart has remained to stand there somewhat aloof. Most of the time, I’m singing the lyrics from a purely cerebral frame of mind. “Look at us, Lord, worshipping you aright. I hope you’re pleased with this thing we’re doing.” Rarely now do I get “into” what I’m singing – and I don’t mean “into it” in the sense that I really like the song. I mean into it in the sense that the words coming out of my mouth are actually coming out of my heart.

At the very same time, I don’t raise my hands anymore. While I know from the Scriptures (as this article points out plainly) that it would be wrong to associate hand raising with bad charismatic worship, I feel like my experience nonetheless brought me to associate hand-raising with that pursuit of the personal, emotional catharsis as the object and goal of worship – a thing which I do so despise. So it’s not so much that I don’t want to raise my hands as it is that every time I may feel the compulsion to do so, I begin to immediately assume that my inward motive for desiring to do so is merely self-serving and ought to therefore be repressed.

Speaking for myself, every time—and I mean, every single time—I lift my hands in worship, I feel quite immature and childish. Then I remember this is a discipline, and I am glad my hands are lifted. I remember our Lord warned us if we are to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, our faith must be childlike.

This is helpful.

Pray for me. I are damaged, and do want to repent in this matter where repentance is needed. I do long to return to a childlike singing.


I’m with you, dear brother. Very similar background. Came back to Lord through fellowship and ministry of charismatics, although thankfully Hillsong wasn’t selling it’s effeminacy yet. Then we entered cerebral unzealed reformed/presbyterian worship for couple decades, until our church repented of it all. I will pray. BTW, I think it may be a principle of the soul that zeal will out. It can’t exist w/out doing so. So says William Law in Serious Call to Devout and Holy Life using as his illustration the loud singing in every pub of his time. Today he’d likely use futbol fans. Merry Christmas!


“[The humans] forget that they are hybrids: what they do with their bodies affects their souls”.

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (slightly paraphrased).