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Original Research

The 'cognitive' and the 'emotive' component in Christian songs: Tracing the shifts in traditional and contemporary songs

J. Gertrud Tönsing, Cas J. Wepener, Cas Vos

Verbum et Ecclesia; Vol 36, No 1 (2015), 14 pages. doi: 10.4102/ve.v36i1.1308

Submitted: 09 October 2013
Published:  20 May 2015


This research article is based on the author’s doctoral research into the question of quality criteria for Christian songs. In many Christian congregations today, the question of music is an emotive issue as the service and its music touch the heart of people’s faith life and shapes people’s theology. Of the many issues that were investigated in the dissertation, this article focuses on one question only, the question of the ‘cognitive’ and the ‘emotive’ value of the songs that are sung in a Sunday service. It will be argued that, in ‘good’ songs, there needs to be a good balance between ‘cognitive’ and ‘emotive’ value. The general question is how to identify songs that can nurture faith and sustain people through life. Characteristic of such songs is, amongst many other criteria, a good balance between the cognitive and emotive value of the text and the tune. In the discussion, the author focusses largely on her own Lutheran liturgical and hymnological tradition as well as on the ‘Praise and Worship’ movement which has a dramatic impact on churches all over the world. The author argues that finding songs that balance the emotive and the cognitive component is an effective way to bridge the divides on worship music within a congregation.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: Within the discipline of hymnological studies, the article opens a ground-breaking new way to analyse and critique music used in worship with objective tools for analysis. This is, as far as the author knows, new for this discipline, and it also has an effect on other disciplines.

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Author affiliations

J. Gertrud Tönsing, Department of Practical Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Cas J. Wepener, Department of Practical Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Cas Vos, Department of Practical Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa


songs; hymns; Praise and worship; emotive; cognitive; Christian contemporary music


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ISSN: 1609-9982 (print) | ISSN: 2074-7705 (online)

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