More on the Instruments in Worship Debate

This is a fascinating look at how this subject is NOT settled within the Churches of Christ:

I suppose to Johnny, Norm and James, the churches that have decided to experiment with musical instruments in worship are apostate.

But, what about the point made in the article with reference to Calvin? James, Norm and Johnny, where is your biblical authority for singing songs that aren’t scriptural songs, like the Psalms? And for singing non-unison songs?

PS – let me just say this – I am not arguing against churches being “acappella-only”. If your church worships this way, then I think it’s great! My point is that people shouldn’t be using money given for the spread of the Gospel to purchase airtime where they are going to spend a great deal of time and energy telling others in the Body of Christ that they are going to hell for using musical instruments in their worship of the Lord.


11 thoughts on “More on the Instruments in Worship Debate

  1. I want to go on record and say I like a cappella more than I do singing with the aid of music. Coming from a drummer who played in a Christian band, that is still a bit hard to say, but it’s very true. I recall my first meeting with Johnny and the people from Martinsville, underneath the tent in Bassett, and I heard acappella for the first time and must confess it was something I loved from that moment. But, this does not mean I will slam on others, who use music to aid thier singing. The verses that are used to prohibit music would also prohibit any other aid to singing. I wonder why Col. 3:17 isnt read when people want to use Col. 3:16 as their proof text. It states that “whatsoever you do in word or deed, do it in the name of the Lord” Oh boy, we have a little problem here…seeing we have song books, song leaders, PA’s…all which are not specified to pratcice-in the name of the Lord. There seems to be a double standard here. On one hand, you can tell people that music isnt “specified” and it says sing only and then you can ADD other aids to singing which are also NOT specified. Anyone can see through this. In some churches of Christ, you best not even clap during a song, because they consider this something added to singing…when I was atending the church of Christ, I caught myself tapping my feet to the singing and was wondering then if this was even ok. Being a drummer, I was also tapping my hands on the bench, oops…that could be considered drumming, playing a beat to their singing. I guess I caused them all to sin and didnt even know it. If you dont think this to be a form of music, you havent heard the guys on the street play buckets and things…

  2. Let’s look at another aspect of music that is not detailed in the New Testament, but has very discoverable, definitive and observable patterns of practice within the New Testament Church. As we look into the actual singing that defined New Testament worship, we have already seen that they did have soloists and antiphonal choruses. But what about the characteristics that defined the singing itself? Instruments of music are banned because they constitute an “addition” to what is specified according to his governing principle.

    The first observation I have to make is that neither is there an instrument on the face of this earth (or certainly not one in use in worship services) that necessarily denies those virtues or qualities to the singing by their addition. But, in terms of abiding by the CofC own principle, the problem is deeper than this. Making musical “melody” is not the same thing as making musical “harmony”. By Scripture’s mention of making “melody” and “speaking with one voice” (Romans 15), harmony or polyphony would be ruled out as “unauthorized” according to his hermeneutic. In actuality, Early Christian music was monophonic chant influenced by the Jewish cantorial tradition. It was monophonic and did not use additional aspects of musical construction, such as harmony or counterpoint. Even by the time of the Middle ages sacred music was limited to the monophony of chant, which consisted of one note sung at a time without harmony. Medieval composers introduced polyphony much later with two or three or four parts to be sung simultaneously. Before polyphony, religious singing in the Church consisted of one melodic line, known as chant. Yet I have listened to many internet audio clips of Church of Christ congregational singing in beautiful 4 part harmony that would be utterly prohibitive according to a consistent application of their own doctrinal stance; an “addition” no less than accompaniment with a guitar in terms of going beyond what the Bible says explicitly. Melody only is mentioned, never musical harmony in parts. That is an addition to what is “authorized” according the Church of Christ doctrinal hermeneutic. And one may call it a “trivial” distinction, but, according to the Church of Christ Non Instrumental Music application of the principle of “authorized”, God wouldn’t think so!

  3. Just to chime in on Col 3:16; I just don’t see how instruments teach and admonish. There are many different Biblical principals and concepts that tend to point away from the use of instruments in worship. I haven’t seen a convincing argument that in the end wasn’t just an appeal to humanism.

  4. I’ve been in the Church of Christ all of my life. I am also a pianist and a lover of music. As a child, I always had the doubt that the Church of Christ was misinterpreting the scriptures pertaining to this topic. I still believe so today. I’ve “dabbled” and played piano for Baptist and Presbyterian churches. If it were up to me, my Church of Christ congregation would have a Steinway concert grand and I’d be playing it!

    One of the Churches of Christ in my area has mentioned that they will soon “experiment” with adding instrumental music to one of its worship services. I am so excited! I can slowly see the Church of Christ moving in a different direction. The church where I worship is very non-traditional.

    Ephesians 5:19 says, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs…” The definitions (of a psalm) that I’ve found indicate a psalm is a song sung to a harp or played on a stringed instrument. Hmm…..

  5. 1 Corinthians 14:7 says, “And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?”

    According to this verse, musical instruments are “without life giving sound,” however,

    Proverbs 18:21 declares, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”

    So what are you going to offer to God in your worship? Lifeless sounds? Or life-infused sounds?

  6. Two points, Jeff:

    1) You are taking those verses out of context, and making them make a point that they aren’t trying to make. Only the first verse is dealing with worship, and the point of the verse is not musical instruments vs acapella singing. The first verse is talking about the gifts of the Spirit – specifically speaking in tongues. This makes me ask the question – do you obey that series of verses by practicing the gifts? The second verse is talking about using the tongue wisely in the way you speak, and has nothing explicitly to do with worship.

    2) Even if what you are suggesting was correct, I’ve heard plenty of singing that was pretty lifeless, and plenty of instrument playing that was filled with life. I think you are talking about an opinion here, and that is what this whole argument is, at the end of the day – a Romans 14 opinion discussion that the anti-instrument crowd carries past the point of Biblical justification.

  7. Ah nothing like scripture out of context to prove a point, the fact that Jeff even went there only shows his bias in his attempt to prove he is right.

    Why does God allow music except for the New Testament Church? He allows it in the old, he allows in in Heaven and Jesus himself tells the story of God throwing a party for his lost son who has returned to him! The Story of the Prodigal Son tells us that Music was used in celebration of his son’s return.

    So when someone returns to God he is throwing a party in heaven to celebrate it that includes music, but at the same time we as believers are not allowed to do the same????

    Tell us Jeff why Jesus would illustrate using music in his example of the Prodigal’s return? Let me guess it isn’t really a story about God and the return of a lost son, but just a nice story right?!?!

    Luke 15:24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

    25Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.

    26And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.

    27And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.

    28And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.

    29And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:

    30But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

    31And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.

    32It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

    One interesting point is the elder son is upset that he held all the commands of his father and he is offended that his son returned, now under the stretch and bend rules of scripture I have seen done I should now equate the elder son to the CoC! After all it really sums up what will happen if anyone else except the CoC are allowed into Heaven is it not?

  8. I beleive the passage is Revalations 22;18 that says he who taketh away from or addeth to the word of God shall be condemned. By adding instrumental music to the singing that God has commanded us to present him with in the bible, we are doing exactly that; adding to the word of God.

  9. Here it is in a nutshell, ChrisG, you can look at past posts to see Scripture references:

    1) God permitted instruments in worship in the OT. In fact, God allowed it to be spoken of in very high esteem.
    2) In the NT, God never revokes this permission.
    3) God tells us about the way instruments will be used as a part of worship in heaven.

    The person adding to the Word of God is the person who insists that God has said that we can’t do something that He has said that we can do – the person that claims to speak for God out of silence on this issue, but then ignores the explicit commands of God in other issues, which I will list again:

    Feet Washing
    Greeting one another with a holy kiss
    Christian communism
    Selling earthly goods to donate to the church
    Meeting every single day
    Meeting in houses rather than buildings
    Women’s head coverings
    Elders anointing the sick with oil
    Laying on of hands

  10. Wow, the debate for both sides of the issue are very interesting. The only thing I can add to this is how I feel when I hear the leaders (elders) of churches go at each other on this and other issues.

    1) If so many men who have studied these issues and still have differing views can’t agree to disagree and love and respect each others views, how am I as member to “know” what elder to follow???

    2) If the only problem is that of being “right” and the fear of getting it “wrong” then the play it safe christian will follow blindly.

    Being raised in the non-instrumental camp and hearing this debate ALL my life, I have had to make up my own mind since I sure can’t pick one side over the other. Then I am saying one is “right” and the other is “wrong” so for my own peace of mind I have come to the conclusion it doesn’t matter to me.

    I can worship with or without the instruments and I feel fine about it either way… lucky me. I understand some people my be uncomfortable with or without and they need to do what is best for their own worship to be pleasing to the Lord. The heart of the matter is just that the heart.

    I see both sides and in the end find the whole thing a waste of time and energy. So now that I have upset both sides by not picking a side… I just don’t get why people feel they have to pick.. I will not.. not an important issue to me…

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