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Worship In Song:A Biblical Approach To Music And Worship 
Author: Scott Aniol 
(BMH Books)

Scott Aniol looks to be about the median age of an adult attendee of most any modern praise&worship gathering/concert. If he's over 30, it's doubtful to be by much. 

But you'd do well to not hold your breath looking for him at a Hillsong United or Chris Tomlin show. His understanding of Scripture, logic, aesthetics and human nature (the second two deriving from the first, of course) has led him on another path. If Christianity should be naturally counter cultural to the ways of the world, Aniol takes the further step of being counter cultural to the ways of the pop(ular) Evangelical church in terms of its music intended to honor the Lord. 

Aniol's outworking of his thoughts on the subject, Worship In Song, makes a strong case for singing more reverent, lyrically substantive psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in church. Much of his methodical approach, starting at the root of true biblical religion and tracing up to through the flowering of song from believers' mouths, holds up under scrutiny outside his fundamentalist-leaning perspective. 

In keeping with the name of his blog about aritstic matters in Christian worship,, Aniol argues that music in service to the Almighty should cultivate the affections, the heightened spiritual feelings that go beyond mere emotions and closer to devotion to God. An understanding of the Bible's comprehensive authority over a Christian's life and affirmation of a orthodox doctrinal base lay the foundation for that what's and why's of a proper approach to worshipful music. 

Aniol's recommendations of classically beautiful artistry in all forms echoes the sentiments of more prominent commentators such as Chuck Colson. The author, however, buoys his assertions regarding music with basic elements of music theory and psychoacousitcs. So far, so good.

Where his arguments will become difficult for some readers begins where he asserts that music outside folk and art (i,e., classical) contexts fails the test for that which is properly sanctified and godly. That means no pop, rock'n'roll, not even country nor Southern gospel. The lyrical expressions of and musical allusions to sexuality are one of the bugaboos for Aniol. To his credit, he quotes lyrics of general market hits (though I'd like to think Aniol knows by now that "Turn The Beat Around" was a biggie for the late Vickie Sue Robinson before it was one for Gloria Esteffan) and interview snippets. He takes one quip from Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant about how pop music is all about the kind of intimacy reserved for heterosexual married couples, and one wonders whether it was an instant of the disco singer's drollery or whether Aniol sometimes doesn't grasp that. I say the former as a hetero' Christian who has enjoyed the Pet Shop Boys music and wishes that Tennetn weren't the avowed homosexual he declares himself to be.  

Later, Aniol dismisses the use of drum kits, clapping along to congregational songs or "special" songs, and mid-service "handshake choruses." Though much of what he propounds in earlier pages is rife with godly insight, it appears that some is of his own denominational distinctives. Worship in both Old and New Testaments is often described in more demonstrative terms than Anoil appears willing to appreciate from his own perspective. 

For however overly conservative his inclinations may be, he nonetheless raises important issues. It should be a given that worship extends beyond the confines of the sanctuary on Sunday mornings and into the warp and weave of believers' lives; he solidly reflects upon that. His timeline of the church's musical history and its intersections with pop music and culture likewise prove valuable. His appendix of worthwhile classical music evidences an appreciation of music by composers who weren't exactly (sexually) straight, either, as it includes pieces by Tchaikovsky and Copeland.      

His arguments for musical forms appropriate for songs vertically directed to the Most High and the need for lyrics of doctrinal/theological richness strike close to the touchy-feely, poetically matrixed heart of so much praise & worship nowadays. And, too often, the quality of P & W tunes to merit cCm airplay bear out Aniol's allegations. And for whatever reason, it does seems that poppier musical forms are often wed to shallower lyrics.

Aniol has also contributed to more traditional church music with his wife, Becky, on the lovely God Himself Is With Us (reviewed elsewhere here). And though his meticulously researched scholarship may not resonate with every reader on every point, Worship In Song adds much to the literature on an often contentious subject. 

Jamie Lee Rake   


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