Guest / Limited Access /
Love the Lord with All Your Voice

We eat because we are hungry; we sleep because we are tired. But there are many other things we do without a clear sense of why we do them. Each year I teach a course on theological aesthetics, and one of the questions I pose at the beginning of the semester is, "Why do human beings sing?"

Many answers are given: We sing to mark important occasions, to pass time while working, to simply enjoy ourselves. We could also give rationales based in history, sociology, psychology, or biology. But my students answer with a fair degree of unanimity. "We sing," they say, "to express how we feel."

In the fourth century, the church father Athanasius (293–376) articulated a different understanding of singing. It includes self-expression, but Athanasius believed singing is centrally a spiritual discipline—an important practice in Christian spiritual formation, and a means of growing in the life of faith.

In a letter to his friend Marcellinus, Athanasius enthusiastically commends the Book of Psalms and provides guidance for reading the Psalms devotionally. Of course, Athanasius recognized that each portion of Scripture is valuable and makes its own contribution to the life of faith. The Book of Psalms, however, has a unique place in Christian devotions, something that was true in Athanasius' time and remained so across centuries of monastic practice and worship. Athanasius suggests that the Psalms are so spiritually significant precisely because they are not simply read or spoken but sung. But why is singing valuable?

The Art of Imitation

For most of my students, singing is a means of expression—a way of drawing out what is in us (the ex in expression). Athanasius very nearly ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this IssueYou Probably Won't Be Sent to Egypt…
Subscriber Access Only You Probably Won't Be Sent to Egypt…
But one way or another, God will point you to the place where your gifts can serve his people.
Recommended5 Surprising Spiritual Benefits of Owning Less Stuff
5 Surprising Spiritual Benefits of Owning Less Stuff
Minimalism was meant to help our finances. Here’s how it helped our faith.
TrendingNicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life
Nicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life
I had no untapped, unanswered yearnings. All was well in the state of Denmark. And then it wasn’t.
Editor's PickKen Starr Fired? Baylor Reviews Investigation into Football Sex Scandal
Ken Starr Fired? Baylor Reviews Investigation into Football Sex Scandal
America's biggest Baptist university expected to announce changes next week.
Christianity Today
Love the Lord with All Your Voice
hide thisJune June

In the Magazine

June 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.