An Article Showing the Division in Churches of Christ

I felt like this was an interesting article dealing with the divisions that exist in the Church of Christ over the issue of mechanical instruments in worship. I am also somewhat relieved to see that there are folks who call themselves Churches of Christ who are less judgmental, condemning, and dogmatic than our local TV folks. That’s a relief.

Max Lucado is a pastor of a Church of Christ assembly, too, I recently found out. I wonder what the local TV folks think about him? Probably not much.

That’s one of the big beefs I have with Norm, James and Johnnie – this stubborn sticking to the “my way or the highway” doctrine. If you don’t check off the exact same boxes they are checking off, you are in sin and bound for hell. The idea of interpretation is meaningless, as their interpretations are the only correct ones.

I do appreciate, however, their willingness to discuss the issues, even if they do sometimes take a while to answer. 😉


10 thoughts on “An Article Showing the Division in Churches of Christ

  1. I can tell you with certainty, that Johnny, Norm and James do NOT consider Max their brother in Christ, nor do they consider the Collinsville church of Christ as their brothers and sisters. They consider these people to be “walking disorderly” ( James Oldfield’s words ). If you disagree with them or don’t understand scripture as they understand scripture, you are lost. I have corresponded with them for over 6 years, and visited them at tent meetings and at the Martinsville church, so I have a pretty good idea how they make each argument, and why they “believe” as they do. For example: They forbid worship with musical instruments, because of what they call “silence of scriptures” ,i.e. the law of silence, or as you might hear them say “ speak where the bible speaks and be silent where the bible is silent”. So when they come to a scripture that states “sing and make melody in your heart” they conclude that the silence here prohibits musical instruments and “commands” SING ONLY. For starters, the passages they use to teach “sing only” is not even directed to a worship service as you might see if you attend their meetings, and if you really follow this flawed principle of interpretation “the law of silence” that they use to forbid one from using mechanical instruments, then you must also NOT use song books, song leaders, PA systems, pitch pipes…seeing the bible is SILENT about these also. Here, they will say, “but none of these things replace singing, they just accompany singing”. They will argue that musical instruments replace singing, and claim they can use other things that the bible is silent about, because they assist or accompany singing. I could argue the same point and say that musical instruments assist, accompany, or aid the singing. If someone ask me to come and sing ‘Amazing Grace’ and I used song book, PA system, and a guitar…..have these replaced singing or aided the singing?? If the church of Christ are to follow their flawed hermeneutic and teach that silence commands SING ONLY….they need to drop ALL things that are not mentioned.

    If God hates musical instruments so much, wonder why he would have them in a parable of the lost son…they were dancing and playing music upon his return, and in Johns vision… music is seen in heaven. Does God hate mechanical instruments or do some people in the church of Christ hate mechanical instruments??

  2. You make good points, Randy.

    The very first subject that drew me into wanting to discuss things with these folks was when I saw Johnny Robertson discussing the use of musical instruments in worship. I fell right into his trap, though, and used the argument everyone uses, quoting Psalm 150 as my example. Of course, at that time, I didn’t realize that they didn’t care so much about the permissions given in the Old Testament.

    The argument about “speak where the Bible speaks…” is a house of cards the way they utilize it. For example, I asked James Oldfield about Romans 16:16, where Paul tells his readers to “greet one another with a holy kiss”, which sounds pretty much like a command, and he said that was just a cultural thing.

    Isn’t the Bible speaking on that occasion? Picking and choosing, sounds like.

  3. Yeah, when I read your statement regarding “gretting with a kiss” I knew what their reply would be. They say we shake hands today and not kiss and say its a cultural thing. They also will use arguments by suggesting some things are “matters of judgement”. Trust me, they have an answer for everything you can throw at them…not saying they are right, but they are several steps ahead of most people, because they know each argument, and already have scriptures for each one. I hope you can address other subjects like “false teachers” and things too. They consider anyone and everyone false teachers or false brethern, that do not hold to what they teach and believe.

  4. Look at the verse from Romans 16:16 it says to greet each other with a holy kiss. Then it says the churches of Christ salute you! This is the banner verse many have used to say the church of Christ is the only scriptural name, but ignore the command to kiss each other. By the way this same kissing command appears five more times in the New Testament from three different writers. So by what consistent hermeneutic do we say one half of this verse is to be taken literally as a binding command for all churches to be named unto eternity, and the other is just a cultural thing that can be adapted to pop culture or ignored if needed? Why would God put a command in scripture five times that was just cultural and can be ignored if so chosen? The answer is the hard-line traditional cofC is inconsistent and therefore wrong in most its conclusions. “We speak where we want the Bible to speak and we are silent where we want the Bible to be silent”; is a much better way of describing the method of Biblical interpretation of so called great brotherhood.

  5. You are correct Joe–they have no real hemeneutic. When I say “they” I refer to the guys on TV-addressed in this blog, not everyone in the Church of Christ. All Church of Christ people do not teach as these men.

  6. I’ve brought this subject to them before. The “cultural” thing is such a cop-out! It says “salute one another with a HOLY kiss”, not a “CULTURAL” kiss. Holy? That means “set apart” – something very special. And yet the fundamentalists like our TV hosts don’t do it? Shame, shame, shame.

    Also, “church of Christ” is NEVER mentioned in Scripture. Romans 16:16 says “churchES of Christ”. And yet, modern fundamentalist “churches of Christ” don’t believe in being in any sort of official relationship with each other. So, Scripturally, “church of Christ” has no more “authority” to exist than a “Baptist” or “Presbyterian” church. Now, if they banded together to form “churchES of Christ”, then maybe so.

    Their hermeneutic just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

  7. They might ask: do all denominations belong to Christ or of Christ? They say they are of Christ meaning Church of Christ or Church that belongs to Christ and they say if your Baptist–you are of the baptist church and not of the Church that belongs to Christ….this is a bit of how they will argue this. Then they will ask: since you believe that denominations are of God, how about the Mormans and JW’s?? This is their trap to get you to say that the Mormans and JW’s are a cult or lost and then they turn that back to man-made denominations such as the Baptist and Presbyterian and ask, how can you say you are heaven bound in a man-made church and say the Mormans and JW’s arent….

  8. I agree with a holy kiss (so long as it is Holy) I wonder God never said not to have instruments . You know it is a beautiful thing to play music to God . Even Elisha played music before he prophesied. I think music is a great thing solong as it exalts God and liftes God highly. But, i also love just singing with out music in which we do in our church here in california but, we do have instruments.

  9. The Church of Christ response (from a non-Church of Christ person – since they are unwilling to defend their own doctrine here):

    1) God also never said not to serve jelly on communion bread. Do you do that?
    2) What covenant was Elisha under? What covenant are you under? If you are under the New Covenant, shouldn’t you have some authority for using musical instruments?
    3) Doesn’t it “exalt God and lift God highly” to be obedient to His word? And if God doesn’t give us permission, isn’t it presumptuous for us to act as though he did?

    It’s too bad they are unwilling to come here and defend their doctrine, but you ex-Church of Christ’ers, how’d I do?

  10. Music this is an awesome subject i think reading the scripture really helps

    We could just go back to the Old Testament standards for music for the Jewish people. Certainly these standards were quite liberal. Psalm 150 encourages the use of the trumpet, the psaltery, the harp, the timbrel, stringed instruments, organs and various kinds of cymbals–something that sounds to me a bit like Alexander’s Ragtime Band. Many declare this as the standard for church worship today. However, if you carefully read this passage, you will see that it also encourages us to praise God with the dance. (Many churches are also beginning to do this.) Perhaps there is a reason that the churches of Jesus Christ have for 2,000 years rejected the national music of Israel as the standard for the New Testament church.

    Instead of listing instruments (the NT passages on the church never mention any musical instruments), God gives His churches a statement of purpose for music in this time. It is found in Ephesians 5:19 and again in Colossians 3:16.

    Ephesians 5:19 “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”

    Colossians 3:16 “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 hearts to the Lord.”

    There are 3Kinds of Church Music
    In these verses, God establishes three kinds of music proper for New Testament worship.

    q Psalms are God’s words (usually from the Psalms but not always) put to music.

    q Hymns are formal expressions of praise or declarations of God’s truth.

    q Spiritual songs are songs that deal with the spiritual life and are the most personal of the songs.

    English hymnody has emphasized these forms one at a time instead of balancing the three as God planned. The English reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries followed the lead of John Calvin and allowed only Psalms to be sung in the churches.

    Musical instruments are superfluous to proper New Testament church music. By that, I mean that church music can be just as pleasing to God without any musical instruments (other than the human voice) as it can be with a hundred-instrument orchestra. There is no inherent spiritual value in any musical instrument–including the piano.

    q Neither are musical instruments prohibited (as the Church of Christ and Mennonites teach). And, since they were used in the Old Testament, there is obviously nothing inherently evil in them.

    q However, the New Testament commands us to sing, not play. By the way, it also commands us to sing, not listen to others sing. The only required part is the singing (well, for some people God does allow “speaking” – Ephesians 5:19). God designed New Testament singing for all believers. It is not to be relegated to a few professionals.

    q Therefore, musical instruments should be used only inasmuch as they enhance the biblical purposes of music in the church.

    However, this is not to say that musical instruments are spiritually neutral in a total sense. Those who are deeply involved in music know the powers of specific instruments more than I. The drums can easily create a dance mood. This is much more difficult to do with a flute (though not impossible). The banjo has little capacity for sadness or meditative moods. The saxophone tends towards the sensual.

    Yet, much of the power of the instruments is found in how they are played by the musicians themselves. I have seen all three of the above instruments used in godly music–though not often. I think the banjo may be limited to happy, upbeat songs, but there is a place for that in the “spiritual songs” of the church. Some instruments have a wider range of moods than others. The piano can match any mood. Perhaps the banjo cannot. But that does not necessarily keep it out of the church.
    Let me mention some of the dangers concerning instrumental music in the church as I see it:

    Music has the ability to speak to every part of man: his spirit, his mind, his emotions, his will, his body and his flesh. I distinguish the body from the flesh in the biblical sense. My physical body is not evil in and of itself but my fleshly nature is. Music is fleshly when it makes me more open to sinful temptations and when it actually encourages me to partake of my lusts. It is possible for my body to react favorably to music without my flesh being incited to sin. However, the distance from the one to the other is dangerously small.

    Many churches defend the physical appeal of their music by making this distinction. The body likes it but that is not the same as the flesh so it is all right. But where in the New Testament does the church have a call to entertain the body? Perhaps the tapping of the foot is not sin but do we know how to keep the music from going on to the flesh? With spiritual insight, perhaps we can. But there are no scriptural grounds for reaching out specifically to the physical in our music. It should never be targeted in the music of the church.

    If music glorifies God and teaches good doctrine and incidentally, is a joy to listen to, perhaps this is fine. But we should always be wary of the danger of fun music becoming fleshly music.

    A second danger comes in the exaltation of talent. How many secular musicians got their start in the church? Modern church music tends to exalt the talented and not the godly. I fear that the average church and pastor is not strong enough to take a stand against a talented but unfaithful musician.

    Another danger I see is a longtime pet peeve of mine. Church music is more and more becoming a division between the spectators and the performers. As I said earlier, the New Testament emphasizes the singing of the believer, not the performance of an artist. We must get back to an emphasis on congregational music if we are to be biblical. Special music may have a place as a change in pace, but God wants to hear all His children sing praises to Him. Use instruments, but make sure that the message of the song and the singing of it by the congregation is king.

    The use of music in the church is very dear to my heart. This is one area in which I wish I had enough influence to start a movement–a movement back to the Biblical pattern of church music. Perhaps God will send a man.

    This is an insight of a man with only 23 years of experiance. Perhaps we will get ahold of truth. I use instruments and i also go with out but, i prefer to use what talent God gives me. (guitar and hermonica.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s