It’s Back… Musical Instruments in Worship

I remember my first visit to a no musical instruments in worship church of Christ several years ago.  I was new to a certain city, and was visiting churches, looking for a church home.  This particular church of Christ looked nice enough.  On Sunday mornings there seemed to be plenty of cars in the parking lot.  So I decided to pay them a call.  

My first impressions were very favorable.  The sanctuary was air conditioned and brightly lit, the people were very open, warm, and welcoming, and I enjoyed participating in the singing during worship.  

But the service was just so… quiet.  I found myself to be terribly distracted by the silence during key moments of worship – Lord’s Supper, during the collection of offerings, etc.  

It’s not that I was used to a lot of noise, but instrumental music has always been a part of the worship experience for me, and so (for example), when the men collected the offerings and there was nothing but silence, it was very strange to me.  I realized that music (be it organ, piano, guitar) helped me with focusing my thoughts on God during times like the giving of offerings or the Lord’s Supper.  

It was the last time I’d visit an assembly with the name, “church of Christ” on sign outside for quite some time.

It’s not that I had any thoughts whatsoever that the people in that church were doing anything wrong by worshipping without instruments.  As Romans 14 admonishes us, if it is what God has led them to do, then I had no problem with it.  But I didn’t find their arguments against using instruments in worship (the “Law of Silence”) to be particularly compelling, it was not my conviction, and frankly, not my cup of tea.

But, since starting to watch our three local TV hyperconservatives, and subsequently starting this blog, I’ve been introduced to people who apparently think Romans 14 was written for other people.  They feel this incessant need (insecurity?) to condemn those who use instruments as part of worship.  And then they seem to be surprised when people respond strongly back.  

Here is an article I found recently about this issue, with my comments in red:

By Eusebio Tanicala

A Baptist author directs his diatribe against Churches of Christ preachers who believe that it is wrong to have instrumental music in Christian congregational worship. He calls our position as “Instrumental Insanity.”

It would be nice to have some context for this comment.  What exactly did this Baptist author write that qualified it as a “diatribe”?  Is the “insanity” he mentions connected to the fact that people don’t use instruments or that many condemn everyone else who does?

Many instrumental music practioners in congregational worship argue that the term “sing” in its modern meaning automatically calls for an instrumental accompaniment or at least the instrumental accompaniment is not prohibited. It is argued that “where there’s no expressed prohibition a thing or action is allowed.”

This is an incomplete argument.  It’s not just that “instrumental accompaniment is not prohibited” – but it is authorized in the Old Testament, and that authorization is never removed.  Never.  So, musical instruments were a part of past worship.

Not only that, but it’s bookended.  Musical instruments will be a part of future worship.  Thanks to the Apostle John for giving us Revelations 5:8,9; 14:2,3; 15:20 and 18:22.  

These Biblical truths negate Mr. Tanicala’s following argument, but let’s take a look.  Let me preface it by saying that this argument to come is what the hyperconservatives ALWAYS fall back on – that somehow allowing musical instruments in worship will lead to jell-o wrestling during prayer and hamburgers and french fries as a part of the Lord’s Supper, which is simply ridiculous.

The above axiom is a dangerous guide in interpreting the Bible. It opens the gate to virtually any kind of faith and practice in the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. I suggest that we confront this axiom with this illustration.

Step number one: Let’s tell the mechanical instrument user: “Let’s follow your line of argument. You appeal that the modern meaning of ’sing’ calls for an instrumental accompaniment and anything that’s not expressly prohibited is allowed. Since instrumental accompaniment is not expressly prohibited, there’s freedom to use it.”

Step number two: “Churches believe in celebrating the Lord’s Supper. The modern meaning of ‘Supper’ in the Philippines includes serving a plate of rice for each individual, and participants in the Pinoy supper may be served chicken tinola soup, lechon kawali, chopsuey, sinigang na bangus, a glass of water, and softdrinks. These are not expressly prohibited in the New Testament, do you grant freedom to some who believe that the Lord’s Supper may include these food items? May I know your categorical answer please. #

Article found here.

All of this stems from the church of Christ hermeneutical creed, CENI (which stands for Command, Example, Necessary Inference).  The idea that if you don’t have a specific command for something, you mustn’t do it.   You can read more about CENI here.

Friends, if you assemble with a church of Christ that doesn’t use instruments in worship, then I support you fully.  If God has laid that conviction on you and your congregation to worship with just the voice, then go for it.  I love a cappella music, and used to be a part of a choir that sang largely in a capella style.  

But, understand this.  You cannot find any Scriptural justification for judging your brothers and sisters in Christ who choose to worship with instruments.  None.  You can bring up Nadab and Abihu, but it is not a correct understanding of what happened to those two men, nor is it a correct understanding of what most churches who use instruments do.   See this article to understand what I mean better.

What you are doing is in direct violation of Romans 14.  And I realize that a post like mine comes dangerously close to violating Romans 14 as well, but I am not trying to convince you to use instruments or to violate your conscience.  Rather, I am trying to get you to see that you have no grounds to stand in condemnation of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

I leave you with a passage that is becoming one of my favorites.  I’ve posted it before, and I’ll post it again.  

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.  One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.  The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.  Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand….

For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.  You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  It is written: 

‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, 
‘every knee will bow before me; 
every tongue will confess to God.’ “  

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Romans 14:1-4; 9-12 

For more good discussion on this subject, visit this website.