My earlier post on the hymn, "Crown Him with Many Crowns" elicited a question from my sister, Wendy, which in turn has stimulated further thinking on the subject from me.
It's especially urgent for us Westerners, raised in a culture that no longer even recognizes the human spirit, much less encourages spiritual development, to learn what we weren't taught, namely, how to distinguish the spirit from the emotions. Being unversed in the cultivation of the spirit within us, we tend to mistake our emotional life for spiritual life. But there's a big and extremely important difference.
One way to spot the difference between “emotional” and “spiritual” is to take some emotion-inducing song and re-write it. Take all the phrases that sound good but have little or no meaning, such as “Shine, Jesus, shine!” and re-write them to say what they mean, in prose. Or just delete them if no actual content, no real meaning, can be found. And then take whatever is left and say the new words rather than singing them. For example, if we take the first verse of “Crown Him with Many Crowns”, and if Pastor Weedon is correct that it is an exhortation for all of us to acknowledge Christ’s kingship, then we could capture this meaning by simply saying this well-known little prayer (a Christianized version of Psalm 95:6):
O come, let us worship God our King.
O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ our King and our God.
O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ Himself, our King and our God.
Here, we are bowing down instead of crowning. There’s no stately tune. Our anthem isn’t drowning out anybody else’s. There is no sensory arousal, no hoopla. The feelings derive from the spiritual experience of prostrating ones heart before his King and God, rather than from carnal things such as romantic or majestic imagery, or rhythm, or catchy tune or soaring melody. And of course, it’s a very different sort of feeling, prostrating and emptying ourselves before God, from the emotion we get out of imagining ourselves crowning Him.
Or here’s another example of simply and humbly acknowledging the King:
O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who are everywhere and fill all things; Treasury of Blessings, and Giver of Life - come and reside in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.
Wonderful feelings there, if prayed with the whole heart, with attention! But it’s a sober prayer, devoid of bodily stimuli. No hype. It doesn't give you any urge to hold hands or start swaying. Your toes don't start tapping. Your chest doesn’t swell. Your spirit should, though, if you contemplate the meanings of those words! Those feelings are your spirit’s self-expression, rather than responses of your body/brain to external stimuli.
The trouble with the latter, with songs (or any other elements of worship) whose appeal is to emotions, is that these bypass anything truly spiritual. In this example, I can get rather a nice kick out of the imaginary (unbiblical) grand coronation scene, with myself crowning Christ - that part is really cool! - but to acknowledge Him King, well, isn't that to acknowledge myself the humble and unprofitable servant? "Crown Him with many Crowns" rather too conveniently skips over that uncool part. But that's precisely the spiritual point! That's an example of what I mean when I say if we lead with our emotions, we're just having fun instead of doing anything actually spiritual, such as renewing our unglamorous resolve to serve Him in our daily lives. Bodily things (especially emotional ones) are gigantic distractions. They distract us so thoroughly precisely because they are so highly enjoyable, while spiritual things - to pray, to repent, to forgive and love, to hope, to serve, to struggle against temptation, and so forth, are difficult. On the other hand, if we lead with the spirit, then appropriate feelings will follow and we shall be worshipping with our whole selves, body, mind, heart, and spirit. But spirit first.