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Instrumental music … in the news again

In my free time, I contribute to GetReligion.org, a Web site that critiques the secular media’s coverage of religion news. The popular site is run by Terry Mattingly, who writes a nationally syndicated religion column for Scripps Howard News Service and directs the Washington Journalism Center of the Council for Christian College and Universities (council members include Abilene Christian University, Lipscomb University and Oklahoma Christian University).
I bring this up because Mattingly posted an item yesterday titled “Instruments of worship warfare” in which he weighs in on a recent Page 1 story in The Oklahoman about the fallout from the Quail Springs Church of Christ in Oklahoma City adding an instrumental worship service.
Specifically, Mattingly asks whether “tradition” is the right word to describe a cappella singing in Churches of Christ or if perhaps another word — such as “doctrine” — might be more appropriate. He writes:

This is very important issue for these churches. Trust me on that.
More than a decade ago, a man I shall identify only as an intellectual who is active in the Church of Christ told me that, in the circles he runs in, it doesn’t really matter if someone believes in the Virgin Birth, the Second Coming or maybe even the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, “as long as you believe that the Bible says you can’t play a piano in church.” That’s overstating matters things, to say the least. But reporters and editors in the Southwest have to find a way to deal with style issues of this kind.
OK, folks in Church of Christ pews and pulpits: What think ye? What word was The Oklahoman supposed to have used in this case?

So there you have it: An invitation to voice your opinion. I’d encourage you to do so with a kind, Christian spirit.

  • Feedback
    It’s a tradition.
    1) If it is a truly biblical approach to congregational worship, then it would be part of the original apostolic tradition given to the church. The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Thes. 2:15 “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”
    2) If a cappella congregational worship is not a necessity for churches from a biblical perspective, then it is still a tradition. At this point, whether or not it opposes anything else God requires of his people comes into play.
    Just my two cents.
    Adam Gonnerman
    April, 30 2010
    In my opinion, there is nothing in the character of God or the life of Jesus or the life of the church in the New Testament that indicates this is anything other than a “tradition”.
    Larry Wishard
    April, 30 2010
    This is an answer I came across when reading “Traditions of Men Versus The Word of God” by Alvin Jennings, pg 215-216, pub 1996. It may be a little long, but it is Clear and Concise and answers this question crystal clearly.
    That the early Christians had music in their assemblies for worship goes without saying. Indeed, they had the very best. It was vocal music accompanied only BY THE HEART. There were no mechanical instruments to mar the beautiful melody of the early saints. Mechanical instruments were first used in church services about 700 years AFTER Christ.
    When God’s people sing praises to Him today in their assemblies for worship, they are carrying out the orders of the Holy Spirit. There is never any question about this. Christians need not apologize for, nor explain why, they worship God “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord: (Eph. 5:19). This is exactly what the apostle Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit, enjoined upon all Christians. And again: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your heart to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).
    If the Lord had wanted us to have ice cream and cake on the Lord’s table He would have told us so. In like manner, if He had wanted us to use mechanical instruments of music in our worship, He would have told us.
    In our efforts to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, we are not governed by what He did not forbid, but by what He has authorized. In that great Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt.7:21). We can only know the will of the Lord from the reading of His Word. When the Lord asks us to do something, then it is His will that we do it. But, if He does not, then it is presumptuous to make it a part of our worship.
    The fact that the apostle Paul specifically mentioned “singing” without generalizing upon the type of music we are to make to the Lord excludes any other kind. Had we merely been told to “make music” WITHOUT ANY MENTION OF THE KIND, then we would have been at liberty to sing, to play upon an instrument, or to do both. But when the New Testament specifically mentions the kind of music we are to make, then it would be presumptive on our part to add something thereto, just as it would be presumptive to add meat to the elements on the Lord’s table.
    When Paul said to sing and MAKE MELODY, did that imply the use of a mechanical instrument?
    It is true that the original word from which this term comes does signify an accompaniment. Etymologically, the term meant to “PLUCK”. I might have signified the plucking of a hair from the tail or mane of a horse, or from the head of a person, or the plucking of a flower. But we can only determine the thing that was to be plucked by the use of the term.
    Since no word is used with the “pluck”, the context makes it evident the thing plucked in Christian worship was not a mechanical instrument but the vocal chords, used to make melody unto the Lord. The early church thus praised God with their “lips” (Heb. 13:15).
    It is true that the early Christians sang with an accompaniment. But Paul was quite specific in naming the accompaniment. It was that of the HEART (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). The instrument that accompanies our singing in Christian worship today must likewise be the heart. If the heart is not in it, then it is not spiritual worship. Thus Paul could write: “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also” (I Cor. 14:15).
    Instruments were introduced into the worship not as an “aid” for the doing of what God commanded, but rather an excuse for our failure to carry out out Lord’s divine requirement, that of “singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
    Lisa Sullivan
    April, 30 2010
    I certainly agree with Lisa Sullivan’s opinion from Alvin Jennings. Also, with the verse Adam Gonnerman wrote,�So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.� It is not up to us to change anything the Apostles set down for us.
    Nita kirkland
    April, 30 2010
    Here is a link to a sermon video on A Cappella singing.


    April, 30 2010
    If I have been “crucified with Christ”–as the translators of the apostle Paul’s words phrased it–“it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
    The introduction of mechanical instruments into worship is unauthorized in New Testament scripture. Not only that, but it is also an addition that, if our heart is otherwise right, reflects the introduction into our worship of God the wishes of a “dead man”–one who claims his spiritual life comes not through his own desires, but the direction of Christ(Galatians 2:20).
    Our worship should be guided by the aim of pleasing God–not pleasing ourselves. If we focus on the goal of pleasing the Father, it gives us pleasure to do so. However, if we are guided by a desire to please ourselves, we are–at the minimum–distracted from “making melody in our hearts”.
    Russell G. Sharp
    April, 30 2010
    The answer depends on how you view the silence of the Bible. If you truly believe in being silent where the Bible is silent, then this is a doctrinal matter. If you believe that the silence of the Bible does not require our silence, then this is just tradition. But, if you believe that silence is binding, then toss your songbooks, church secretaries, youth and family ministers, mortgages on church buildings, family life centers, PowerPoint presentations, and many other things that we use in our churches. For me, this is just tradition. However, I will say that my personal preference is to leave the instruments out of worship for one simple reason. When I have been someplace where they are used, more people tend not to sing, and instead just listen to be entertained. I believe our heritage allows for a more participatory worship experience, and I am in favor of anything that gets the entire church singing.
    Jason Davis
    April, 30 2010
    It is disappointing that so many Christians are willing to bin a cappella music as “tradition” when the scriptures clearly tell us what to do: Sing! There is no confusion or ambiguity in what the spirit-guided word teaches us. Did God have to spell out all the possible unwanted sources of fire to Nadab and Abihu? No, he specified what he wanted. Brothers and sisters, let’s be people of the book and reject “strange” music from our worship.
    John Gentry
    April, 30 2010
    Some things to consider:
    Our usual proof text for acapella music is Ephesians 5:19, and nowhere in the immediate context is the worship assembly mentioned.
    The only instrument mentioned is the heart. Vocal cords are not mentioned at all. Quakers do not sing during their worship assembly, so their songs truly are songs of the heart, and not vocalized at all. If we truly want to press the issue that the heart is the ONLY instrument, then we should not vocalize our singing.
    As for Nadab and Abihu, their bigger sin was that they had been consuming alcohol, and were drunk while trying to serve. Perhaps that is the reason they were condemned. Our God is a God of grace, and He most likely would not have killed them had they been sober, solemn, and respectful instead of drunk and with a complete lack of reverence for their God.
    Jason Davis
    April, 30 2010
    How do we live out our faith in all the ages to the glory of God? With hearts that offer praise, glory and honor to God and give back to him the gifts he has given us. Do we have to be scholars of Greek to determine the acceptable way(s) to offer up such praise?
    If the New Testament was meant to be a book of rules not to be broken, our loving Heavenly Father would have given this rule book to his children from the start. As it was, the message of the good news and the encouragement and admonitions of the writers of the New Testament were transmitted orally and in a limited way in written form during the first three hundred years.
    The essential message of the New Testament is timeless: God became man and Christ was crucified and raised from the dead so that we could become new creatures, remade in the likeness of Christ.
    Henriette Baker
    April, 30 2010
    I am the associate minister at the Westgate Church of Christ in Dothan, AL. While we value the practice of a capella singing highly, we speak about it as a rich tradition. As a church family we seek to keep our focus on making our assembly time a point of encouragment and confession. My good friend and senior minister, Dr. Brian Magnuson, is in the middle of an excellent series of sermons on “Worship” right now. The emails and phone calls keep rolling in about how meaningful and instructive this series is. I know our sermon tomorrow will continue this series and will have some discussion surrounding corporate singing. Our website has the sermons in audio on the front page at www.westgatecofc.net
    Eric Greer
    May, 1 2010
    Jesus reserved His sharpest criticism for hypocrites and called them (Pharisees, Scribes, etc.) such. I was raised Catholic. I have worshiped at Churches of Christ ever since I married my wife in 1971.
    For six years my family worshiped at a large (by Churches of Christ standards) congregation numbering close to 400 members. One Saturday we had a talent night. Instruments were allowed. When I informed the leadership that I would be singing a song that I wrote that glorified God, I was told in no uncertain terms that I could not sing it with my guitar, but that I could sing a secular song instead. That was one of the most hypocritical things I have ever heard.
    If I sing Psalm 150 with all my heart to musical accompaniment, is there anyone who will condemn me for NOT making music in my heart through some pharisaical, legalistic twisting of law? If so, I say look at your own heart.
    Kenny Noble Cortes
    May, 1 2010
    Throughout the Scripture God is said to look not upon the outward person, but instead He looks upon the heart. Why do people think that musical instruments can improve what’s in the heart? God is not mocked…He knows exactly what is happening within us all, and “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” It’s not about tradition…it’s about what is genuine heartfelt expression toward God. An instrument of music is no more helpful in worship than using the Internet would be in praying to God! It’s all about the heart!!
    Don Wade
    May, 1 2010
    One said above we are told to “sing”. That doesn’t concretely imply that everything else is excluded nor is that even logical. If I had told someone I went to hear Josh Groban SING no one would infer from that that he sang without his band. I have letters from translators of a couple different translations that tell me they did NOT mean to exclude other things when they translated sing
    May, 1 2010
    We can all agree that God hears our hearts, right? I mean, surely God doesn’t care how in-tune our voices are. Or if we can hit the high notes. Or how far our voice carries. No…he wants a worshiper to give their heart.
    I believe the unchurched in full, and especially the unchurched of generation Y, are more comfortable with instruments than without. So if instruments can help people worship with their hearts, I say bring it on.
    Besides, is there not instrumental worship in both the Old Testament and Heaven (according to Revelation)? Would seem pretty odd for a never-changing God to have a period of instrument abstinence.
    May, 3 2010
    Instruments were <i>commanded</i> for temple worship by God (2 Chronicles 29:25), and non-instrumental worship came into existence in the Jewish culture only in synogogue worship. Instruments were always to be used in the temple.
    The New Testament worship borrowed from the synagogue model, which is why early Christian worship did not include instruments. We do things today that are not expressly “authorized” and we often try to justify those things with “expediency.” I am not sure that justification is always legitimate.
    Jason Davis
    May, 3 2010
    Where were synagogues specifically authorized in Scripture?
    Adam Gonnerman
    May, 3 2010
    There is no mention of synagogues in our Old Testament canon (as far as I know), so it follows that there is no authorization there, either. If the Jews started synagogue worship without authorization (based on traditional Churches of Christ “pattern” theology), then they were not worshipping according to whatever “pattern” was established under the Law of Moses.
    Based on that, one would think that Jesus would have condemned such worship as “unscriptural.” But He did not. Rather, He was involved in such worship. Could it be that God is more interested in our heart for worship more than whether we are precisely following the Church of Christ pattern theology for worship?
    Jason Davis
    May, 3 2010
    I’m not from a Church of Christ background but attended college for a degree in church music from an “instrumental” Church of Christ/Christian Church College. I truly enjoy a capella singing. In fact, I was referred to this page via a Facebook link from one of my friends who knows how much I enjoy it and invites me to periodic Area-Wide sings.
    I concur with those who mention that a capella worship does, in my humble opinion, engage the “heart” perhaps somewhat more than instrumental worship. In my own church, I know many people who think they “can’t sing” so they don’t. They stand and listen, or maybe mumble quietly under their breath. As a musician, I’ve often wondered, how do a capella churches handle tone-deaf people who can’t carry a tune in a bucket? I know there are people out there who CANNOT sing, although anyone is of course capable of “noise” (joyful or otherwise).
    I’ve never been able to figure out the disconnect between Old and New Testament either. I realize we are in the New Testament age and the New Testament church, but surely Paul did not view the Old Testament as being incorrect and the Old Testament is filled with passages about instrumental worship.
    Tradition v. Doctrine? I don’t know. I also wonder about the many things I see in Churches of Christ that are not specifically prescribed in the Scriptures either. How about buildings? My church tradition did not use buildings until the early 1900s – they met in homes. We also worshipped a capella until probably the 1940s and 50s because instruments were thought to be “worldly” – not because they were viewed as being unallowed by Scripture.
    I guess I’m not really making any points here, just expressing thoughts. Personally, I think the heart/attitude of worship within a congregation is the most important. I will say that the a capella singing I’ve experienced in Churches of Christ is heartfelt, and that warms my heart. I have experienced the same, however, in instrumental services too, although maybe not quite as consistently.
    Jon Stanton
    May, 4 2010
    there is no mention of instrumental music in the NT when Christ or the Apostles are speaking of how to worship. The scriptures say “Sing and make melody in your heart.” It doesnt say “sing and play” or “sing and clap.” it simply says “sing.” We are also commanded not to “add to” or “take away” from the items of worship. I believe a musical instrument or clapping during worship is adding to what we’ve been commanded to do, therefore, it is wrong to do these things.
    Dan Spencer
    May, 4 2010
    Dan, think about what you have just said. I went to hear Gordon Lightfoot sing 2 years ago. Do I HAVE to say I heard him sing and play? That is ridiculous, it is assumed. The texts which mention what you mention aren’t even speaking of the public worship assembly anyway. We aren’t told HOW to worship. IF an instrument is playing one is STILL singing. Clapping? Are we to stand? Sit? Can one leave to go to the restroom? Some of this just gets to the same old tired arguments which are shallow and don’t hold up.
    As I stated above the translators themselves say they did not mean to exclude instruments when translating psalm as sing as anything else is assumed. A lot of it depends on culture.
    May, 4 2010
    Dan, based on your comment, it would also be wrong to tap your foot or to use a song book, sheet music, or PowerPoint. Furthermore, where is the authorization for four part harmony? From what we know, singing in the first century did not include four part harmony, since music theory was not that advanced yet. And, as I posted earlier, if we really want to milk the verse you are referring to (Ephesians 5:19), the heart is mentioned, but not the vocal cords, so the song really should be in your heart, and therefore not vocalized, just as the Quakers do in their worship (silence).
    Out of curiosity, do children in VBS at your congregation ever sing “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands?” If so, and if you truly believe what you said, then you better enforce your pattern theology on the kids, too.
    Jason Davis
    May, 4 2010
    Jason – it’s interesting you mention 4-part harmony. This is another “question” I had when first exposed to this teaching. I’ve studied music history and you’re absolutely correct – 4-part, western-style harmony did not exist until at least the 1600s, and even then was relegated mostly to what is considered “classical” style music (even the masses of the Catholic church rarely incorporated 4-part harmony until much later). Handel’s “Messiah” is one of the first “grand works” written using the 4-part tonality we are used to hearing and singing.
    My experience in most Churches of Christ is that the songbooks and the singing are largely from the “gospel” era of hymnody, where 4-part reigned king. I have been in some meetings where praise choruses were also sung a capella, but most services used hymns from the late 1800 and early 1900s, many of which were “southern” in origin and written specifically with 4-part harmony in mind. This is clearly a reflection of the church’s tradition and the era in which the Restoration Movement had its beginnings.
    Jon Stanton
    May, 4 2010
    I have spent my entire life in a cappella COCs. I have no desire to use instrumental music in worship. That said, I have sense enough to recognize a tradition when I see one.
    I remember the first time I heard a preacher whip out the Nadab &amp; Abihu argument in a sermon, and even though (at the time) I held the same conclusion that he did about instrumental music I was repulsed at the sheer stupidity of that argument. It made me begin to examine “Is this why we believe what we believe?”. I knew if THAT was the strongest argument then I had better go back and do some more checking.
    The amazing thing about the Nadab and Abihu case is that it is shows exactly the opposite of what it is claimed by parroting preachers to prove. God was SPECIFIC about where to get the fire. God is SILENT about instrumental music in worship. How can the difference between SPECIFICITY and SILENCE be so misinterpreted?
    People who pose that argument will claim that God didn’t have to tell them where NOT to get fire b/c He told them EXACTLY where TO get the fire. And then they follow that with “See? This proves the Law of Silence. God didn’t have to tell us how NOT to worship”. Or as Mr. Gentry wrote above “Did God have to spell out all the possible unwanted sources of fire to Nadab and Abihu? No, he specified what he wanted. Brothers and sisters, let�s be people of the book and reject ‘strange’ music from our worship.”
    Yes, let’s be people of the book (or preferably children of God). The book is silent on this issue. I struggle to understand how they can not see the difference – in “the book” God WAS NOT silent about the fire for the sacrifice, but He WAS COMPLETELY silent about instrumental music in NT worship. Hmmm, opposites.
    It’s time for Nadab &amp; Abihu to be removed from the discussion of NT worship. They simply do not belong there, no matter how it’s twisted.
    R Fox
    May, 6 2010
    If you believe God is silent about the use of instrumental music in worship, then you have not read the bible from cover to cover. God is NOT silent about the use of instrumental music in worship. It is time for you to go to the Word of God and study more about singing (yes, it excludes (on purpose) the use of a mechanical made-made instrument in worship to God).
    Kevin Shimp
    May, 6 2010
    I find it interesting that your first response is to assume (make up) and state something about me that you couldn’t possibly know (that I haven’t read the Bible in it’s entirety). Unfortunately I find that reaction to be typical of the mindset and approach of many in the COC, especially preachers. To summarize it, “if you disagree with me well then you obviously must be uneducated or you just haven’t studied enough. Now go back and study more until you agree with me!”
    This type of argument is centered on the notion that everything is black and white and laid out in a perfect, clearly stated pattern to create cookie-cutter church clones. It’s also founded on the idea that if two people study the same Bible then they should come out of it with the only one right conclusion about everything, which just happens to be the conclusion that the speaker holds. This type of mentality doesn’t make for constructive disagreement and/or dialog.
    It is possible to discuss someone’s points without attempting to drag them down, especially when it involves making things up about them that you couldn’t possibly know. Let’s discuss the issue and the arguments for/against, not the background or credentials of each other.
    You stated that “God is NOT silent about the use of instrumental music in worship”. You are correct, He approved of it in the OT and later (in The Revelation story) indicated that instrumental music is part of worship in heaven. That is not silence at all, it’s acceptance. Good point.
    But what I had intended to communicate was that He was silent about the use of instrumental music in New Testament church worship. And I believe that is true. If it is not, please show me where His Word discusses this issue.
    Also please note, just to be clear, that I have not advocated it’s use. I have said, in so many words, that I believe using the Nadab &amp; Abihu argument to prove the case is ridiculous and needs to stop. I do not believe that God’s Word condemns the use of instrumental music in NT church worship at all, especially not in the way that you state “it excludes (on purpose) the use of a mechanical made-made instrument in worship to God”.
    R Fox
    May, 7 2010
    Mr. R. Fox,
    It is interesting that you take offense at my assumption that you have not read the bible cover to cover…have you? It is not intended to disparage. It is a question. It is a typical response of someone who may not have done so and is offended that he is called to defend his study of God’s Word.
    Please do attempt prove your point about the apparent lack of restrictive language in the Word of God concerning authority for instrumental music usage in New Testament worship. If you do, then your proof will justify the use of instrumental music in worship to God in the New Testament. Can you?
    In addition, a point of observation, the use of the word “psallo” is decidedly appropriate when discussing the “music” of the church. If you imply advocating the use of instruments, since it appears that you “intended to communicate was that He was silent about the use of instrumental music in New Testament church worship”, then please define the use of the word “psallo” throughout the centuries of worship in early church history. It is vital to your proof of authority for music in worship to God in the New Testament.
    You seem to have decided to lump all coC together (“typical of the mindset and approach of many in the COC, especially preachers”) and are prejudiced in your own assumptions. You seem to indicate that there is no effective way for two or more people to arrive at the same conclusion when studying the bible (I disagree). Since, as you presumptuously allege, “this type of mentality doesn’t make for constructive disagreement and/or dialog” there may never be agreement (in your mind) about the topic in question.
    I believe you probably hold to the thought process “we shall simply agree to disagree.” That being said, I disagree that the Word of God is silent concerning the implementation of mechanical instruments in worship to His Name in the New Testament (Please exclude the Old Testament and the book of Revelation as each does not apply to worship today – the past and the future, yes, but not today).
    For the cause of Christ, Kevin
    Study the Bible to be WISE
    Believe in Jesus to be SAVED
    Practice His Words to be HOLY

    Have a “Godly” day!

    Kevin Shimp
    May, 8 2010
    The reason many people cannot understand objections to instrumental music in the common worship assembly is that they, and most of the time we “acapellists”, do not start at the issue from the right place. The Restoration pioneers were first of all interested in unity. They reasoned that people could not worship together because of human-based additions to Christian faith and practice. Over the centuries many practices had been added. How could everyone agree? One either has a human-based reason for including various practices (monthly communion, quarterly communion, annual communion, incense, communion by intinction, communion under one-kind, bells, holy water, etc.); or one has a divine-based reason for his practices.
    The pioneers believed that most could agree on the Bible as a divine basis for worship practices. If one could ground all the common practices and doctrine on sola scriptura, then all could worship together in harmony. In looking at Scripture they found that they could find, in reference to the common worship assembly, grounds for singing, praying, the collection, weekly communion, and ministry of the word. They could not find grounds for quarterly communion, transubstantiation, consubstantiation, prayer wheels, prayer flags, etc. Nor could they find grounding in the NT for mechanical music.
    One may go anywhere in the world, find a congregation who follows this principle and worship in all good conscience. If one does not care whether one worships with human-authorized practices or not, one has many choices.
    I think we should retire the motto, “We speak where the Bible…” (it has been distorted and misunderstood) and replace it with something like, “We seek to ground all our common faith and practice in the New Testament of Christ.”
    Of course it can be, and has been, argued that the principle is not only unifying and wholesome, but it also honors a high view of Christ’s revealed will, the New Testament.
    Divine authorization or human? You cannot have it both ways.
    Frazier Conley
    May, 9 2010
    Kevin, you wrote “Please do attempt PROVE your point about the apparent LACK OF restrictive language in the Word of God concerning authority for instrumental music”. (emphasis mine)
    Are you serious? You want me to prove something IS NOT in there? You know good and well the only way to do that is to paste the entire Bible, well except the OT and Revelation that you claim are irrelevant (coincidental that they are in opposition to your stance), and then write “See, it’s not in there!”.
    Instead of diverting the issue to be about your presupposed superiority of qualifications in some Christian competition, assigning me positions I have not taken and taking my words to ridiculous extremes in an attempt to disparage one who disagrees with you, I ask again for you to please address the issue at hand.
    I’ll remind you:
    I said God’s Word, the Bible, is silent about the use of musical instruments in New Testament church worship assemblies. It neither permits nor prohibits. Silent.
    You said no it isn’t, it absolutely forbids them, and if I would read it then I would see it is there.
    If it is and I have somehow missed it, please enlighten me. No more red herrings, just “Book, chapter and verse” please. Just tell me where it is, and I give you my word that I will read and study it with an open mind. In fact I am looking forward to it, as it will once and for all settle an issue that Satan has used to divide Christ’s followers for over 200 years. I hope you are correct and I am wrong – I just need you to tell me where it is.
    R Fox
    May, 9 2010
    As for the question of silence of scripture as it relates to the question of music, I refer to my first post on this thread. There are many things we do in worship about which the New Testament is silent.
    If anybody is going to forbid instruments on the silence issue, then throw out your songbooks, multiple cups for communion, public address systems, large church buildings, PowerPoint presentations, four part harmony (after all, the verse says sing and make <i>melody</i>, not harmony), song leaders… You get the point. And please, do not use the “expedient” argument for some of these, either. Either you must be completely consistent about the silence of scripture, or you have to be honest and realize that you use that only when it is convenient for you to do so to prove a point.
    As I stated earlier, the silence argument would forbid youth ministers, family ministers, church secretaries, church buildings (the early church met in homes or in hiding places), and many other things that are part of our modern day churches. The time has come to realize that if the Bible is silent, then we have the ability to do anything, as long as what we do is not in direct violation of other passages.
    Jason Davis
    May, 9 2010
    Mr R Fox,
    My apologies for seeming to “set you up” so to speak. I knew you could not prove what is not in Scripture. Hence, the observation, if there is a “lack of” restrictive language concerning the use of the instrument in worship to God, then it clearly follows that there IS restrictive language in regards to utilizing a mechanical instrument in worship to God.
    The restrictive language can be illustrated after the following question: Can a mechanical instrument speak, teach, admonish, give thanks, praise, proclaim, confess or make melody on your heart?
    I believe you might agree that it indeed cannot?
    If the above statement is true, then these Scriptures may be used in formulating a “form of action” or “way of behaviour” so to speak, when engaged in worship to God in the New Testament. Since we are charged to handle Scripture accurately (2 Timothy 2:15), please review some relevant passages pertaining to (contextually) “musical worship” among Christians:
    And after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26).
    But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:25).
    And for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, “Therefore I will give praise to thee among the gentiles, and I will sing to thy name” (Romans 15:9).
    What is the outcome then? I shall pray with the spirit and I shall pray with the mind also; I shall sing with the spirit and I shall sing with the mind also (1 Corinthians 14:15).
    What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification (1 Corinthians 14:26).
    And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:18,19).
    Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).
    Saying, “I will proclaim Thy name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will sing Thy praise” (Hebrews 2:12).
    Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name (Hebrews 13:15).
    Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises (James 5:13).
    You may notice that in each and every instance, the music described emphasizes some type of verbal communication: singing, speaking, teaching, making melody in your hearts, confessing, giving thanks, and the fruit of lips. The absence of a reference to instrumental music is apparent in the passages noted.
    Now I am sure you may conclude that it does not say that we cannot use a mechanical instrument when performing each of these actions. To this end you would be correct – these verses do not say what not to do (and they never will). Thus, many people take on the obligation of providing more “actions” when worshipping God.
    These Scriptures do, nonetheless, indicate clearly what a person should do to be in harmony with what is stated that people were doing when worshipping God (and it should continue).
    Does God desire music that is both of the mind and the spirit?
    Can a mechanical instrument speak, teach, admonish, give thanks, praise, proclaim, confess or make melody on your heart? Are these the things God wants us to accomplish in our singing? If yes, then instruments of music MUST be included in each instance or we are not doing what God desires? If no, then it is possible our mind and spirit are enough to engage in what God desires by the means of our human body.
    Do these verses adequately describe the actions involved? I hope they do.
    I believe God did not accidentally leave out instruments in these passages. There must have been a reason. When considering the common use of instruments among pagan worship in the world at the time, is it shocking to read of Christians opposed to their use? It is not, and they did.
    Kevin Shimp
    May, 10 2010
    Quick question: What changed about God that he would accept worship that included instruments prior to Christ, but not after? And why will he flip-flop again and accept worship with instruments in Heaven? Doesn’t that strike you as inconsistent?
    May, 11 2010
    Yes God would seem inconsistent IF I ascribed to Him the characteristics of my humanity. Then He would indeed seem to “flip-flop” as you suggest. However, what if God is seeking those who obey Him in whatever “time” they live?
    What if He was seeking a person to leave the life he knew behind and travel to a far off land? (Abraham obeyed)
    What if He was asking a person to lead His children out of bondage, but not in a human way, rather, in God’s power? (Moses obeyed)
    What if He was allowing for the scruples of men to be tolerated and still choose Christ to enter the world through his seed-line? (David obeyed)
    What if God, at various times and various ways spoke in times past via prophets, but today has spoken to us through His Son? (Jesus obeyed)
    What if God chose to send His Spirit to guide some men in the truth? (Apostles obeyed)
    Yes, the Bible should be considered as a whole document (please see 2 Timothy 2:15). We live in time. God does not live in time. Because we live in time, God can seem inconsistent in some of the ways He established for worship. Personally, I am glad we do not worship God the same way as in the Old Testament. Sacrificing the blood of animals would not be pleasing to me, but at that time, it was to God. Yet, it was for a purpose. Obedience.
    God did not “change” – we change, and we need to change. Where are we in the “time line” of God’s wondrous creation?
    Did I answer your “quick” question acceptably? If not, I may have misunderstood it. Please try again.
    Kevin Shimp
    May, 12 2010
    First of all, to my original point, not ONE word in any of the scriptures you listed prohibits instrumental music accompanying the singing. They were SILENT on the matter. Well, not entirely silent – the one that mentioned Psalms could be considered to endorse instrumental accompaniment, since the psalms were written to be accompanied by instruments. But I won’t make a big deal out of that one.
    In the end, they were silent, and true silence can not be declared permissive or prohibitive without adding to God’s Word. You can’t forbid what he didn’t forbid without adding to His Word, of course. People who hold your view seem to get hung up on how bad it is to add something to the worship assembly (well, only music, adding a bunch of other stuff is fine) but have no problem adding a rule to salvation that God did not institute (forbidding music, but it was circumcision that the Galatians added that led Paul to declare them “fallen from grace” for making Christ irrelevant and teaching a works-based salvation.)
    You wrote: <cite>”I believe God did not accidentally leave out instruments in these passages. There must have been a reason. When considering the common use of instruments among pagan worship in the world at the time, is it shocking to read of Christians opposed to their use? It is not, and they did.</cite>
    So now you admit that the NT is silent on the use of instrumental music in the worship assembly? Nice, but it took a while.
    I join you in believing that God did not accidentally leave out the mention of instrumental music. If He meant to say that using them is a salvation issue and can lead to your eternal death, I believe He would have said so. I don’t believe He plays Russian Roulette with His children’s souls.
    I also agree that there must have been a reason that he was silent on the issue – because He didn’t INTEND to make a rule on it. It’s the only conclusion that can be reached without speaking where He didn’t speak.
    You stated that we can read of Pauline-Era Christians who opposed the use of instruments. OK, you’re going to need to back that one up since it conflicts with your earlier statement that “God did not accidentally leave out instruments in these passages”. Did He leave them out, or didn’t He? Where, exactly, is it?
    Time to make up your mind! 🙂
    R Fox
    May, 12 2010
    Mr R Fox,
    We seem to disagree on one specific point – silence. Have you ever heard the phrase “he who defines the terms wins the argument”? Well, the “term” for silence (true silence as you put it) may be slightly misstated. Not that there is such a thing as “false silence” anyway. Or is there? Hmmm.
    You defined silence (true silence?) by saying it “can not be declared permissive or prohibitive.” That appears to be our point of disagreement. The definition of the word “silence” in reference to “anything” (but, specifically the use of mechanical instruments) provided or used in worship to God in the New Testament is the issue.
    By “anything” I mean as general examples: using peanut butter on the communion bread (no!) or using a sound system to amplify the voice in services or using songbooks to aide in singing the same words (for orderliness?) or using pumpkin juice instead of grape juice for the fruit of the vine. I believe none of these are mentioned as items that need to be listed as “excluded” from the Word of God. Yes, it would be a ridiculous notion to specifically exclude each and every one of them (yes or no?) because there would be many, many more. The Bible would be very thick if everything that needed excluding (or prohibiting) were mentioned specifically. Do you agree?
    The definition you state about “true silence” seems to be quite different than the “Law of Exclusion.” Do you understand the “Law of Exclusion?” Simply stated, it says that when anything is specifically mentioned to be done (accomplished) then everything else is excluded (prohibited).
    It seems that you really believe “silence” on the issue of including mechanical instruments as “excluded” is really “permissive” to you. Otherwise we would not be having this extended discussion.
    There it is in a nutshell. You and I disagree on the impetus of “true silence” and what it means for the child of God when offering worship in the form of singing praises. Does utilizing an instrument truly constitute “adding to” the worship offered or is it merely an aide to worship? You seem say it is not “adding to” because worship is still offered with the heart (right?). Yet, the instrument must be played (otherwise, it is truly silent). Others say using a songbook is also “adding to” worship offered when singing (is it?). But I hope you agree that the songbook is an aide (right?). What about a microphone (aide or added?)? Or communion trays that hold the bread and fruit of the vine (aide or added?)? However, you may not agree at all.
    I believe that everyone can sing to God. I am sure you do too. However, the instrument is not necessary to fulfill the command to sing (and is thus excluded from the command to sing). Do you believe the instrument is necessary to fulfill the command to sing? No? I am confident you believe that because there is “true silence” concerning the mechanical instrument (i.e. not mentioned as being “permissive or prohibitive”) that it is “permitted” in worship to God (in addition to the singing being done because someone must play it).
    Because I say the mechanical instrument is not necessary to fulfill the command to sing you seem to say I am in error because I believe such. I may be wrong on this point and that is why I say you seem to say it.
    Because I insist on singing (without the mechanical instrument) I am in error by “not allowing” others to use it (the instrument) to worship God.
    Because I insist on singing (without the mechanical instrument) I am in error by “allowing” others to use it (the instrument) to worship God.
    Both of these statements are possibly the same to you. However, I simply seek to fulfill the command to sing…that’s why I sing (and I implement the Law of Exclusion when I do). I believe I would be going beyond the authority given me (to sing) when utilizing a mechanical instrument (sing and play) in worship to God.
    Kevin Shimp
    May, 13 2010
    To whomever wishes to read it… the following is a well prepared excerpt from an article “IS INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC THE DRAWING CARD WE’VE BEEN TOLD?” by Neal Pollard. The subject is music offered in worship to God.
    “The argument against its use in worship is not complex, confusing, or mysterious. In the New Testament, the covenant Christ forged by His blood that took the old covenant out of the way (cf. Romans 7:1-7; Ephesians 2:11-15; Colossians 2:13-17; Hebrews 8:1-8; etc.), the simple commands for worship in song are to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) and to “let the word of Christ dwell within you” (Colossians 3:16). The execution of these commands are explicitly to “teach and admonish one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16) and “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks” (Ephesians 5:19-20a). What God specifically, clearly calls for is fulfilled by the human voice in teaching, admonishing, speaking and singing. The making of melody is specific, too, being with the heart. To use mechanical instruments of music is to add to what God specifically commands. He is the audience in worship and it is to Him and for Him that we primarily offer up songs, hymns, and spiritual songs.
    The paragraph above explains the biblical rationale for rejecting the addition of instruments to worship in song. Some try to make biblical arguments against this position, but many other arguments justifying its use are more in the realm of the pragmatic. In other words, we are told that it will make worship more attractive, more meaningful, more spiritual, or more powerful. The premise is that having it as part of worship will make evangelism easier or make the return of non-Christian visitors more likely. Is that so?”
    In His Service
    If you desire to read the entire article please let me know.
    Kevin Shimp
    May, 19 2010
    Kevin, there you go putting words in my mouth and declaring me to hold a viewpoint different that I have stated. If you can’t back up your argument that I was wrong without changing what I said, then you have no case at all.
    To clarify, I wrote that the NT is SILENT (absence of comment) on the issue of instrumental accompaniment to singing in the 1st century church. You said that I obviously haven’t read my Bible cover to cover. I’m STILL waiting for you to state (BCV) exactly WHERE the NT discusses that issue. You said it’s not silent, so it must say something somewhere. Just post it man, for goodness sake.
    I am also asking you to refrain from ascribing to me beliefs that I have not declared, such as when you wrote “It seems that you really believe ‘silence’ on the issue of including mechanical instruments as ‘excluded’ is really ‘permissive’ to you. Otherwise we would not be having this extended discussion.” I have CLEARLY stated that I believe silence is neither permissive nor prohibitive – it’s just SILENCE. The ABSENCE of comment. I’m sure you can back up your arguments and claims without dishonestly representing my viewpoint or doctrinal beliefs.
    Now, BCV please, or I’ll consider your initial condescending remark about my (alleged lack of) Bible study to have been an erroneous over-reaction on your part.
    R Fox
    May, 20 2010
    Randall, Kevin,
    Really appreciate your comments, but we’ve reached the point where it’s just the two of you going back and forth, so I’m going to exercise our right to cut off comments at this point on this particular post. If the two of you want to continue to discuss this in a less public way, I’d be happy to share your e-mail addresses with the other, with the approval of both of you.
    — Bobby
    Bobby Ross Jr.
    May, 20 2010
    Agreed, Bobby 🙂 But I don’t see the point in continuing the discussion by email either. Thanks for the blog and the good work you are doing at CC.
    Kevin, wish you the best, brother.
    R Fox
    May, 20 2010
    Thanks for the ability to blog Bobby.
    Appreciate your moderating.
    R Fox, I hope I understood your point of view correctly. Sorry about the abrupt beginning. You have taught me to be more “positive” in posts.
    Jesus Saves!
    Kevin Shimp
    May, 20 2010
    Hey folks. Thanks for all the input on this topic. At this point we are not approving any new comments to this post. Thanks for reading.
    Erik Tryggestad
    July, 17 2010
    If you believe in the shadow of the old which required all temple worship items to be blood purified, and see its spiritual application in the new covenant then one would go along with the inspired scriptures that require spiritual articles of worship to be blood sprinkled as well. With temple worship alive and well the question is, “What’s the temple?” Since those same New Testament scriptures say that we are the temple then anything used inside the temple must be blood sprinkled. The Hebrew writer and others tell us that it is our heart that is blood sprinkled and the only instrument used in today’s temple worship. Therefore, to use a mechanical instrument and be scriptural would require it to be blood sprinkled and brought inside the temple. Good luck in getting that piano inside your body. You see, the shadow always explains the real!!!
    Stew Highberg
    January, 17 2011

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