Intellectualism and sentimentalism

Liturgy makes the most sense to me when it is described as no more or less spiritual than self discipline:

Good liturgy and ritual guides and shapes our emotions into fitting responses to God’s self-revelation. An approach to worship focused on undisciplined spontaneity and individual self-expression can be problematic on this front, as the emotions can become feral. One of the benefits of singing and praying lots of psalms is that they are full of spiritually formed emotion. As we bring our emotion to them, our emotions are shaped by them. Our emotions are not crushed, but are house-trained. Such training is especially valuable for a society that can often be emotionally incontinent.

I  am not convinced, however, that emotional self-discipline must occur in a liturgical framework, or that it possible to remove the self-selection and self-definition from liturgy that inject it with self-worship. Alistair’s later points on the breadth of expression in the Psalms is pertinent here: scripture itself is not subject to intellectualism or sentimentalism, and so does not need correction or framing by liturgy. One who looks and listens may discover a liturgy in what God has done in the seasons of life.

On the whole, however, Alistair does a fine job explaining why sentimentalist theology can’t be the antidote to intellectualist theology, despite that turn of the popular pendulum.

By contrast, true worship is designed to produce the sort of deeply rooted passion that is fixed upon and committed to God. This sort of committed love is manifested primarily in action rather than in sentiment. A person who truly loves will manifest a commitment to the object of that love over many years in the ways that they act towards and concerning it. This love will generally be extremely understated by comparison to sentimentalism, which is pure surface and display.