Monday, December 07, 2009

To Raise, Or Not To Raise... That Is the Question (An Act of Worship for Some) -- Imported from Mod-Blog

This is an import from Mod-Blog.  After a discussion about the act of raising one's hand's I was preparing to blog on it... however, after reading Nomads post I am merely going to tout this post as something I cannot top or I would at the most equal.  So if it has already been done, why not give props where props are due.  Plus, I may be a bit lazy right now.


I come from a conservative background of the Protestant church tradition. My friends and family tend to be non-demonstrative lot at church, with little more than the occasional "A-men!" when we are REALLY moved. So, it has bothered me to see a particular phenomenon from the charismatic/pentecostal tradition starting to appear in church - the raising of hands. This action, usually done during singing, always seemed showy to me and distracting. But, it is important to separate "it bothers me" from "it is wrong." So, I decided to do some research into the phenomenon, and see what the Bible had to say.

First, I found an amazing number of defenses of the practice online. The best explanation of why people lift their hands in worship came from here.
- Lifting the hands is a symbol of surrender.
- Lifting the hands is a symbol of trust.
- Lifting the hands is a symbol of openness.
- Lifting the hands is a symbol of affection.
The "surrender" symbolism is especially significant, it seems to me. In my own observation, I have noticed that the lifting of hands is especially common among women in the churches I have visited. Surrender is something that is culturally-appropriate for women in America - giving oneself to your husband, to your children, to your church, to your friends - but is less culturally-appropriate to the rugged individualism which governs men in our culture.

In looking through scripture, there appears to be three classifications for the raising of hands:
1. Prayer (5 references): 1 Timothey 2:8, Lamentations 3:40-42, Psalm 28:1-2, Psalm 141:1-2, Nehemiah 8:5-6
2. Worship (2 references): Psalms 63:3-4, Psalm 134:1-3
3. Study (1 reference): Psalm 119:48

Going by the pure number of references, it is clear scripture favors the raising of hands as a posture of PRAYER over worship. However, it is equally clear that scripture does call for the lifting of hands in worship. One interesting note from the same article listed above may be significant in this.
The Hebrew word for hand is the word yad; yadah means to “throw out the hand” or to worship with extended hands.
Which may indicate that the extension of hands to an object of adoration is simply an assumption of Hebrew culture.

Another article noted one other aspect of the raising of hands - which C.S. Lewis also applies to kneeling in The Screwtape Letters - is that movements and positions of the body influence the attitude of the mind and heart.

But of note also is this article which makes the claim that all raising-of-hands references in the old testament are related to the sacrificial system, and thus are inappropriate to a Christian world where sacrifices have been fulfilled by the death and resurrection of Christ. The author dismisses the 1 Timothy 2:8 scripture as a figurative passage asking for "clean hands" of Christians.

Overall, the middle road here appears to be that the raising of hands is a Biblical practice. It is permitted and encouraged by Scripture, but is not commanded or required. This article does a good job of summarizing what I have come to: worshiping with lifted hands is appropriate and scriptural, but should be done with an eye toward its potential impact on others around you. If you are in a service with people who will find it distracting, or who will be tempted toward showing off, then keep your hands down. If you are in a service where people are comfortable or ambivalent to the practice, go right ahead.

For me, this study has been a comfort. It reminds me that my own prejudices should not rule how I view others, or their relationship with God. Surely, some raise their hands to be showy. But others do so with sincere hearts, looking to praise God and obey scripture.
Posted by Nomad

I, Papa Giorgio, like to raise my hands, but not lifted up all the way so as not to block the song lyrics or cause a distraction for those behind me.  I raise them as an act of reverence and worship to my God, and no other.  I would not kneel, lay prostrate,or praise verbally any other as well -- worship should be orderly and composed (1 Cor 14:26-40) and always directed towards God.  Good article.  1 Peter 2:8 has the Reformation Study Bible connecting it with Psalm 63:4 and 141:2. A couple of my favorite commentaries speak of this verse in 1 Timothy 2:8 not only as an image of raising hands physically, although in Hebraic and Christian practices of the First century this was actually done, this verse speaks also to the holiness with which one does this act.  That is, without contentions, malice, anger, and the like (vv. 1-15).  Now, through the Reformational fires of theology (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli -- all the way to today -- Packer, Sproul, Scott, Grudem, Erickson, and the like), we should all know that true "Holy Hands" raised are not made holy by anything we do, but whom we submit to -- Jesus.  His righteousness clothes us and we would never be able to raise them on our own accord but through what Christ has clothed us in, swapped out for our stead, finished on the cross in our place.  (Hebrews 8:8-13; 9:11-14).

But God found fault with the people and said:
“The time is coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.
9     It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
and I turned away from them,
declares the Lord.
10     This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
11     No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12     For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.... When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
 We are freed by Christ to what?  Serve him... worship is part of our serving him (intimately entwined in fact). Grudem has a great chapter on this (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, pp.1003-1015).  Erickson has this to say in one section

Another activity of the church is worship. Whereas edification focuses on the believers and benefits them, worship concentrates on the Lord. The early church came together to worship on a regular schedule, a practice commanded and commended by the apostle Paul. His direction to the Corinthians to set aside money on the first day of every week (I Cor. 16:2) intimates that they regularly gathered for worship on that day. The writer to the Hebrews exhorts his readers not to neglect the assembling of themselves together as was the habit of some (Heb. 10:25). Although worship emphasizes God, it is also intended to benefit the worshipers. This we infer from Paul's warning against prayers, songs, and thanksgivings that fail to edify because no one is present to interpret their meaning to those who do not understand (1 Cor. 14:15-17).

Worship, the praise and exaltation of God, was a common Old Testament practice, as can be seen particularly in the Book of Psalms. And in the pictures of heaven in the Book of Revelation and elsewhere, the people of God are represented as recognizing and declaring his greatness. In this aspect of its activity, the church centers its attention on who and what God is, not on itself. It aims at appropriately expressing God's nature, not at satisfying its own feelings.

It is important at this point to note the locus of the various functions of the church. In biblical times the church gathered for worship and instruction. Then it went out to evangelize. In worship, the members of the church focus on God; in instruction and fellowship, they focus on themselves and fellow Christians; in evangelism, they turn their attention to non-Christians. It is well for the church to keep some separation among these several activities. If this is not done, one or more may be crowded out. As a result the church will suffer since all of these activities, like the various elements in a well-balanced diet, are essential to the spiritual health and well-being of the body. For example, worship of God will suffer if the gathering of the body becomes oriented primarily to the interaction among Christians, or if the service is aimed exclusively at evangelizing the unbelievers who are present. This was not the pattern of the church in the Book of Acts. Rather, believers gathered to praise God and be edified; then they went forth to reach the lost in the world without.

(Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed, pp. 1066-1067)
I raise my hands to focus in on Him, to lift up my meager praise knowing that it is accepted only because of the work He performed... the only praise worthy even to be lifted on high.

In the concluding sentence (8) Paul returns to the theme of public prayer, drawing attention to three important conditions. First, the lifting up of holy hands suggests a believing approach, true holiness being attainable only through the righteousness of Christ. Secondly, true prayer cannot exist side by side with anger. Thirdly, prayer and disputing do not go together. Our attitude to others does affect our approach to God. (Wenham, Motyer, Carson, and France, New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, cf., 1 Tim 2:8)