I earlier wrote a post pointing out that it is inadequate for those in the conservative Churches of Christ to argue the following syllogism:
- Major premise: All doctrinal error damns.
- Minor premise: Instrumental music in worship is doctrinal error.
- Conclusion: Instrumental music in worship damns.
(I used different words.)
Now, in this series of posts, my argument isn’t that instrumental music is permissible. (I’ve made that argument many times before in this blog, and it’s clearly indexed and easily found.) That is not the question for today. This discussion is a challenge to the Major Premise.
There are three and only three possible positions to take as to the Major Premise:
1. In fact, all doctrinal error damns.
2. Actually, no doctrinal error damns.
3. Some doctrinal error damns and some does not.
I’m entirely certain that Robert and I agree that 2 is wrong – and in fact very wrong indeed. We need not waste breath discussing it.
I reject position 1. I certainly don’t think doctrinal perfection is required to be saved – not even for the mature in Christ. Romans 14 – 15 are really quite clear.
Even now, I do not know whether Robert accepts 1 or 3. I suspect his position is also 3, but as many of his arguments sound exactly like 1, I find myself uncertain.
So I honestly don’t know how to discuss this question with Robert, as he persistently refuses to take a position. (Worse yet, he accuses me of teaching many things that I do not teach. But I’m not going to take the bait and drift off point. We can come back to all that stuff later.)
Now, if Robert accepts 3, as I think is likely the case, I’ve asked him to explain by what scriptural principle he distinguishes those doctrinal errors that damn and those that do not. That’s where this conversation began.
Robert argues as some length that I shouldn’t even ask these questions as they indicate a desire to willfully disobey. It’s not so, and obviously not so.
There are plenty of righteous reasons we need to know God’s will regarding who falls away and who doesn’t. Here’s a start at such a list —
* It’s God’s will. If he taught it, it was for our learning.
* We have many brothers in Christ who believe they know where to draw the line. They readily damn the “denominations” as well as many within the Churches. If they are wrong, they are guilty of truly serious sin. How will we know whether they are right to damn the Baptists, the Christian Churches, and the progressive Churches of Christ unless we search the scriptures? Should we just take their word for it? Should I join them in their condemnation? Or work to oppose them?
* If these brothers are right, then I’m damned. I’m a progressive! And if I’m damned, I’d certainly like to be persuaded.
* As a Christian, I’m called by Jesus to seek and save the lost. Well, who is lost? How will I know unless I know the standard?
* As an elder, I’m called to try to rescue my church’s members when they are in jeopardy of falling away. Do I discipline members who disagree with me on hats? Or fellowship halls? Or instruments? Or the role of women? Now, I already teach on all these subjects. But what if I’m not persuasive? On what subjects must I demand agreement on penalty of loss of fellowship? All subjects?
I could go on. The point is that it’s wrong to argue that the question would only be asked by someone who wishes to disobey. There are plenty of obedient reasons to ask. Indeed, how could we not ask?
And yet every time I ask those who damn over instruments (or the role of women or divorce or whatever) how they reached their conclusion, I’m told —
* That all error damns.
* That instrumental music is error.
* Therefore, instrumental music damns.
When I ask whether all others errors damn, I’m told that God’s grace covers some error – but not all error. But error in worship surely damns.
When I ask whether all error in worship damns, I’m told that God’s grace covers some error in worship – but not all error. But instrumental music surely damns.
When I ask how we know that instrumental music is outside of grace but other error – even error in worship – is sometimes covered by grace, I’m told I want to teach people to intentionally violate God’s will.
In fact, many among my conservative brothers want the rest of us to accept their teaching without their having to bother to defend it from the scriptures. They can’t.
If they could defend their teachings from God’s word, they would. They don’t.
For new readers —
Robert’s and my earlier responses may be found here and here.
Robert’s most recent comments
I have cut and pasted Robert’s entire comment below, so that it remains available to the readers, as I intend to come back to it.
Jay, once again I thank you for your very kind and generous space you have taken up your blog to respond and answer my comments. Once, again, it is with deep humility and sincerity of heart that I respond to your words First of all, I would say that we have applied a much more consistent standard with regard to fellowship and unity than you lead people to believe. It is very quite common to hear liberal brethren who like to critize the more conservative members of the church by saying, “We’ve spit and divided so much.”
I challenge that assertion and demand it be proven by data reliable, experienced church growth experts. Carl Mitchell, long time Bible professor at Pepperdine and Harding wrote:
“….we often hear those promoting them claiming that churches of Christ have become just as divided and sectarian as have the denominations. In answer, I would say that our “so called” divisions are not true divisions in the denominational sense. The various exponents of the restoration movement do have points of difference which affect some aspects of fellowship, but do not equate to the organic divisions of the denomitional world. They are not organically different churches. Typically, churches in the restoration momvent have remained true to the basis tenets of scripture regarding the church (Eph. 4:4-6) They recognize Jesus as the church’s only head, that all Christians are to be unified in one church (neither mine nor yours but Christ’s), that scripture is their only creed, local autonomy under the leadership of elders and deacons, the New Testament plan of salvation and (with the exception of some how have chosen to use instruments, or have opted for unscriptural roles for women), worship after the new Testament order.” (Direction for the Road Ahead, p. 227-228)
Thomas H. Olbricht a brilliant and tremendous scholar from Pepperdine University has written, ‘Certain groupings within Churches of Christ have drawn lines over Para-church institutions, Bible classes, multiply communion cups, one preacher churches, and a few other distinctions, but these together comprise less than 10 percent of the total of churches of Christ.”
Frank S. Mead, in this universally accepted classic book, on “Handbook of Denominations in the Unites States” makes very favorable and position statements regarding the amazing unity that does exist in the Church of Christ – he says despite being a “fellowship with no central headquarters, creed books or confessions of faith to preserve and keep unity.”
Yes, churches of Christ are autonomous. Yes it is not unusual to find variations from congregation to congregation.
Now, Jay, for the me the issue and subject is quite clear even though I understand that you and I strongly disagree on its “clarity.” The fact remains from the Old Testament to the New Testament that changing the instructions of God in every age and in any circumstances is always sinful and condemned. That it not uncertain.
Jay, I think I can at least in my mind, summarize the great major difference in our approach to scripture as follows: Having faith that God will accept what we do is not the faith of the Bible. The faith of the Bible believes that God will do what He has said and that His word is the final and only authority. (Matt. 7:21-24; Rom. 10:17) To go beyond what is written and add such things into God’s worship is not having faith in God but in ourselves.
Jay, you seem to hold the position that since the grace of God covers the ignorant and all of our error in some way that a person can continue to enjoy the grace of God and continue in error. “Shall we continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!” (Rom. 6:1-2) Paul seems to disagree with your assumption (which you just take too far) that ignorance allows people to continue in sin. I fear that you have redefined the grace of God. Many today are simplying refashioning Jesus of the Bible into a different Being—one who is unconcerned about obedience and whose “grace” forgives everybody unconditionally. I fear you have “over reached” the grace position and fear it will lead you even further down a road of ecumenicalism.
We must know how to love God, and God teaches us in the inspired word. Keeping that word is an act of love in response to the grace of God. When someone dos not keep the commandments, he does not show the love to God. (cf. John 14:15-25; 15:8-10)
God has always regulated worship. He has never left it up to us to come before Him as we please. Jesus laid down two requirements for acceptable worship when he said they must worship in “spirit” and in “truth.” It simply cannot be an either/or choice as it sadly seems to so often be the case in Christianity today. Jesus said that the Father is seeking a particular kind of worshipper. Everything we do must always be in according to “faith” (Rom. 10:17) Take for instance the worship Cain in the OT. Whatever he offered to God, we know it was not pleasing to God because it was not “according to faith” as opposed to Abel (See Hebrews 11:5) It seems today that the attitude is that God basically “has to” accept anything I offer to Him in religion and worship just as long as I offer it to Him sincerely. Again, we need both “spirit” and “truth” in worship and in our Christianity.
Now, I know, it is correct to say that there is some inconsistency in all of us. None would be so bold as to claim perfect conformity to every principle we espouse. Our personal or collective failures do not, however, nullify the validity of correct principles. It is especially disappointing, therefore, that any would disparage the necessity of seeking Bible authority by pointing to what they suppose are our inconsistencies.
In the first place, human consistency is not what validates a spiritual principle. Our inconsistency (and/or hypocrisy) can be an adverse influence. It can cause others to violate the principle, but the principle will still be correct. For example, we reject infant baptism because it is not authorized by “thus saith the Lord.” Will the inconsistencies charged above mean that the principle upon which we reject infant baptism is no longer valid?
In fact, however, while we confess that we may not always be consistent, the issues cited hardly make the case. To put the issue of acceptable worship practices in the same category as youth minister, buildings, pews, etc., is mixing “apples and oranges” and fails to distinguish between generic (general) and specific authority. Some things are authorized by generic authority. “Thus saith the Lord” is implied for things which are incidental to the instructions given.
Again, I think this whole debate and argument about “is instrumental a salvation issue” or “which error condemns and which doesn’t?” is a diversion away from the real question. Perhaps the easiest way to defend that which is indefensible is simply to declare that it is not an important issue. The question raises a smoke screen. It takes the focus away from the practice itself and puts all of the emphasis on whether it really matters one way or the other. What is one to do if he practices something for which he has no biblical authority? How is he to defend a practice that he prefers, yet cannot justify scripturally? It seems like to me that you are simply seeking to minimize the practice. Make it seem marginal and unimportant. If one does not have scriptural authority for what he practices, yet the unauthorized practice is “not a salvation issue,” then it does not matter whether the practice is authorized. Therefore, the proponents have no need to furnish biblical authority for his practice.
I challenge you to either deny or affirm that instrumental music in worship has New Testament authority in the worship of the church. I challenge you in your blog to prove that instrumental music in worship is scriptural. Instead, the question is asked, “Is it a salvation issue?” and “where in the Bible does it tell us which errors damn and which ones don’t? Where in the Bible tells it tells us that we have the right of God to hold to, teach, promote and practice any error, certainly error that leads to disruption and division within the body of Christ?
Sin is practicing in worship what the Lord did not authorize. This principle seems the most difficult
for some people to understand and accept. Not all worship is acceptable to God. Jesus clearly taught that worship is vain if men teach “as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). The inspired apostle admonished us “not to go beyond the things which are written” (1 Corinthians 4:6 asv). “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God” (2 John 9).
One of the clearest examples is that of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10:1: “Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them.” The English Standard Version says they “offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them.” The passage is abundantly clear. When Nadab and Abihu offered what God had not authorized, “Fire went out from the Lord and devoured them.” They did not argue that “unauthorized fire” was not a salvation issue.
The point at issue is not and never has been whether instrumental music in worship or any other practice is a salvation issue or “which errors damn and which ones don’t? The real question is whether it is a sin to introduce into the worship a practice that God did not authorize. If we will focus on that question, and determine what the Bible teaches, we will not be distracted by side issues and smoke screens.
To ask, “Is it a salvation issue?” without examining whether the practice is sinful in the sight of God is to put the cart before the horse. Let it first be determined if the practice is scriptural. If there is no scriptural justification, does the practice represent an unauthorized addition to the Word of God? Is it a sin to bring unauthorized worship into the assembly of the saints? When we answer these questions, the inquiry about whether we are dealing with a salvation issue will answer itself.
Jay, even in recent years, many Evangelicals are sounded some alarms overing worship that is without Biblical authority. In his chapter in The Coming Evangelical Crisis, John MacArthur states, “My concern is this: The contemporary church’s abandonment of sola Scriptura as the regulative principle [i.e., its abandonment of worshipping only in ways that are authorized by Scripture] has opened the church to some of the grossest imaginable abuses – honkytonk church services, the carnival sideshow atmosphere, and wrestling exhibitions.” (The Coming Evangelical Crisis, p. 181)
I recommend if you haven’t already, read John Price’s book, “Old Light on New Worship” Price makes the statement, “The regulative principle demands that those who would brin any addition into God’s worship must prove that they have scriptural warrant for doing so. In this case, the advocates of musical instrumentation must demonstrate from the New Testament that Christ demands their use in His worship. The burden of proof rest upon them, and, apart from such proof, they cannot and should not be used. And if we bring unwarranted additions into Christ’s worship, we transgress His authority and prove ourselves violators of His prerogatives.” (p. 54)
Years ago a tract in favor of instruments had the title, “Does the Bible Teach That a Person Will Be Damned if He Uses a Musical Instrument in Worship?” G. C. Brewer reviewed the tract and stated clearly what is the real issue:
Those who practice anything that the Lord commands are on safe ground; there is no question about the destiny of the souls who do what the Lord authorizes them to do. . . . If a man is doing something that causes anyone to question his chances of reaching heaven, then he is, without doubt, engaging in a questionable practice; and if such a man resents the implication that he might possibly be lost, he himself shows that he is appealing to sympathy and not banishing the question and removing the doubt.
At the end of the day, I agree with the late radio and TV preacher, Adrian Rogers who said: “It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error. It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills. It is not love and it is not friendship if we fail to declaim the whole counselor f God. It is better to be hatred for telling the truth than to be loved for telling a lie.”
Bottom line, should those who worship with instruments forsake them, I would gladly seek to have full and complete fellowship with them. At this point, how can I do anything but speak out against a practice that goes beyond (in my conviction) against the authority of Scripture? My first loyalty is to the will of God. I can’t cooperate and have full open fellowship with those who I believe continue to act outside the will of God – that would send a mixed signal in my opinion and will encourage more congregations and Christians to embrace the unscriptural practice of instrumental music in worship. Now yes, we are to still treat our brothers as brothers, even when there is a disruption in fellowship (2 Thess. 3:14-15).
For love of Christ and His church,