Garrett’s third wish is —
Let us, in particular, repudiate our historic position of making instrumental music a test of fellowship and a cause of division.
Obviously, those who claim to stand in the shoes of Thomas Campbell while damning those who use instruments (such as the Gospel Advocate) never read Campbell. As shown in the previous post, Thomas Campbell saw the path toward unity as including a rejection of division based on inferences. And the teaching that instrumental music is sin is an inference. (If it’s not, where’s the command or the example?)
And yet, contrary to our heritage, we decided to divide over the instrument — not just into a new denomination, but into a denomination that damns those who use the instrument. Stone, the Campbells, and Walter Scott would have all disagreed. Indeed, Alexander Campbell would have declared such thinking heresy.
The views of these men on heresy are explained in article in the Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement. Simply enough, disagreeing with Campbell, for example, on doctrinal issues was not considered heresy — not even universalism — so long as the person confessed faith in Jesus. But if the person disagreeing were to make his disagreement a test of fellowship, well, that was heresy.
Thus, when John Thomas denied salvation to Baptists because they were baptized unaware that they were being immersed for the remission of sins, Campbell declared him a heretic. He was, in Campbell’s eyes, dividing the church by denying the salvation of believers in Jesus who’d obeyed the scriptures to the extent of their knowledge.
In short, our division over the instrument is wrong — heresy, really — not because we are wrong about music but because we are wrong to divide over the issue.
Now, I should add that we are also wrong. We aren’t wrong to worship a cappella. My own congregation is a cappella. We are wrong to argue that the Bible requires this. It doesn’t, for reasons I’ve explained here and here.
But we won’t unite by arguing over the instrument. Even if we were to agree on that, we’d just find something else to disagree about. People are like that. Rather, unity comes from extending to others the same grace God has extended to us. When we finally understand this, then we won’t have to fight over the instrument.