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

raising hands in worship
Screenshot from Twitter / @ScottAniol

A tweet from Dr. Scott Aniol regarding raising hands in worship has Christian Twitter all aflutter. Aniol, who is ​​executive vice president and editor-in-chief of G3 Ministries and Professor of Pastoral Theology at Grace Bible Theological Seminary, said when emotion moves us lift our hands in worship, that behavior is motivated solely by “20th century Pentecostalism.”

“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.”

When people pushed back on Aniol online, he repeatedly asked for biblical examples of raising of hands in worship that were not motivated by an individual’s emotions.

Raising Hands in Worship Tweet Sparks Debate 

Several people responded to Aniol by posting Bible verses that describe people raising hands in worship. One user quoted Psalm 63:4 and 1 Timothy 2:8. The former verse says, “I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands,” while the latter says, “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.” Aniol responded, “Prayer. Not emotional singing.”

Author Jennifer Greenberg replied, “Hymns are prayers. Worship songs should be prayers. I can’t sing Be Thou My Vision without tearing up, and I think if it didn’t move me emotionally, it would be a sign that I didn’t truly believe it or hope it. Doctrine without emotion, mind without heart; we need both.”

Pastor Joe Thorn replied to Aniol, “Raising your hands is [sic] in worship is adiaphora. If you don’t understand what that means then you shouldn’t be offering hot takes on worship practice or culture. If you do, then you know better and are trying to get a response from ppl you know will take issue. Just chill.”

One user posted what he said were images of Douglas Wilson’s Christ Church congregation in Moscow, Idaho, stating, “Every member with hands raised in worship as they sing the Doxology. Clearly this is a church heavily shaped and influenced by 20th century Pentecostalism.”

“This I absolutely support (and have joined myself),” Aniol responded. “It is a corporate act and not just an outburst of an individualistic emotional high.”

When user Eric Pazdziora asked if Aniol had read the Psalms lately, Aniol said, “I have! Where do you see an example of lifting hands at an emotional high point of a song?” Pazdziora quoted from Psalm 143:6, which says, “I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land.”

Pazdziora concluded, “There you go: A song (‘psalm’) with an emotional high point (‘my soul thirsts’) which an individual (‘I’) expresses by stretching out their hands. Delete your account.”

Another user quoted Psalm 134:2, which says, “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the LORD.”

Others saw racial implications in Aniol’s tweet about raising hands in worship. User Joseph Magara said, “Not making this a racial issue or anything like that [but] as an African, we are generally very expressive in all parts of our lives including when we worship (& when we sing & dance in other contexts). This is the same [for] middle eastern cultures from which Christianity emerged from. “

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Jessica is a content editor for ChurchLeaders.com and the producer of The Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast. She has always had a passion for the written word and has been writing professionally for the past five years. When Jessica isn't writing, she enjoys West Coast Swing dancing, reading, and spending time with her friends and family.