Robert Prater wrote a lengthy, thoughtful comment to my earlier post on elision (skipping steps of logic). As I hate typing in those little comment boxes, I respond by means of this post. His comment is restated here in italics. I interlineate my replies.
Jay, I think it is you who have skipped some steps and really are “out of step” with your understanding and reasoning on this point and how the BIble teaches. First of all, Grace is dependent on faith. (Eph. 2:8)
I entirely agree.
At issue is approaching God faithfully by reverencing and obeying his word that he has spoken.
I know of no one in the Churches of Christ who disagrees. Have I said something that suggests we should disobey God’s word?
The argument is hermeneutics—how can we faithfully read and understand and obey scripture.
Again, I quite agree.
Music comes into play at the specific point at which we read and understand in God’s word where He said how He wants to be approached in the assembly. In so far as music (worship) is attached to faith, and the willful disregard of the evidence of God’s Word on this subject, it can become a grace (salvation) issue.
If someone were in fact willfully disregarding God’s word, their salvation would be in serious jeopardy. I’ve often cited Heb 10:26 for this very proposition. We agree.
Concerning this question that you and others like to ask which is: “Is this is a salvation issue?” Let me say the following. I believe this question on this subject and many others like subjects to be an illegitimate question. I don’t think a person committed to God even asks that question, “Well, is it a salvation issue, if I do or not?”
I really can’t agree. Now, if I were saying, “I won’t obey this unless it’s a salvation issue,” I would certainly not be penitent, and I would not be true to my confession of Jesus as Lord. My salvation would be in jeopardy.
But I don’t know anyone who asks the question with this motivation. Rather, the question comes up in terms of whom I need to try to convert and with whom I may have fellowship. I mean, when Quail Springs Church of Christ added an instrumental service, some ministers bought an ad in the local paper to condemn their minister as apostate. Isn’t important to ask whether they are right? It was important enough to spend tens of thousands of dollars to publicize their unhappiness (and Phil Sanders defended their decision). Why isn’t it important enough to defend their doctrine? How can they announce to the world that this man is lost in his sins but consider the question of whether he is apostate illegitimate?
Just so, countless congregations have split over issues they considered salvation issues. And others have separated from other churches in town over salvation issues. Don’t we need to know how to tell which issues are salvation issues and which are not?
The question is: “What did God command?” Read Nehemiah 8 sometime for example or any of the Reform kings (Hezekiah, Josiah, etc. With Nehemiah, they read the Bible, and as they do, they make a discovery that during the Feast of Tabernacles, they are supposed to be living in little huts made out of trigs. And it said nobody had been doing it since the days of Joshua (1000 years!) And I can only hear people now if they were back then, saying, “Wait a minute, before we do, is it a salvation issue? I mean, nobody’s done it for a thousand years, surely it don’t matter anymore! It was probably even just a culturally thing.”
Again, who is saying that they’ll only obey a command if it’s a salvation issue? I’ve never said that. This is a strawman argument. You are arguing against a position that I don’t take. Yes, we need to obey God’s commands even they aren’t salvation issues.
You read Nehemiah chapter 8, they didn’t even ask that question. They stopped the Bible study and went and got the trigs. This just isn’t a question to a person who is committed to surrender themselves to total obedience to the will of God.
No, because God tells us to be unified with our brothers — to accept one another (Rom 15:7). To honor this command, we need to know who “one another” is, at least in principle.
Now, I do hope that a lot of people who worship with instrumental music are in heaven with me. And yes, I will leave that to God.
Very good, but a great many of thought leaders in the conservative Churches of Christ are quite happy to declare those who use instruments as damned. This is the editorial position of the Gospel Advocate. And countless Churches of Christ have acted on this theology by refusing fellowship with those churches that use instruments.
But, what we have to do as Christians and members of the body of Christ is whatever God commands I’ll do. I’ll leave the salvation issues to Him. Stafford North has written and made the following points: “We are to judge whether a teaching or practice is in harmony with the scripture. IT is not our role to be the judges of the souls of those around us……While we must judge whether a teaching or practice is in accord with the scripture, we do have the to predict anyone’s eternal destiny. There is much we do not know about the Lord’s judgment and much we do not know about the heart of another. Christ will judge the secrets of men, according to His Word. (John 12:48)……We do not have to condemn to hell someone we believe is wrong about an essential doctrine. We should teach what the Bible says on the point and should, in an appropriate way, contrast it with false teaching on that point.” (Directions For the Road Ahead, “How to be Undenominational in a Denominational World”)
It’s a noble sentiment, but very few among the conservative Churches of Christ live by that principle. I mean, if we really aren’t judging, then why aren’t we cooperating with the independent Christian Churches? If they are saved by grace, well, so are we. But most Churches of Christ cooperate with non-instrumental churches and refuse to have anything to do with instrumental churches. We treat our disagreements among the a cappella churches as mistakes of weakness, and so covered by grace. We treat our disagreements with instrumental congregations as willful violations of God’s plainly revealed will, and so a salvation issue.
The Bible department at Freed-Hardeman has announced that instrumental music is a salvation issue, and didn’t limit their condemnation to those who are wilfully sinning.
Moreover, while I agree we can’t judge the salvation of every individual, because we just can’t know their hearts, we very much need to have a theology that answers — at least, in principle — the question: who falls away? Because we need to know how to teach our members to stay away from those things that damn. We need to know whom to discipline. We need to know who are our sister congregations and with whom we may cooperate.
Finally, I like how Phil Sander’s in his blog philanswers deals concerning this question. He writes: “In the end, the “going-to-hell” argument is designed to hush up the Truth, to bully away anyone who reminds us of right and wrong. When people can’t find evidence to support an unauthorized practice, they resort to complaint and fault-finding. The point of the complaint at the top of this post is to make it appear that anyone who thinks instrumental music is wrong is arrogant and judgmental. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Umm. How is do I “bully” someone by asking how they defend their views from scripture? Seriously. My post simply asks those who condemn others to be willing to state how they reach their conclusion from scripture. How does this “hush up the Truth”? Refusing to explain one’s reasoning, refusing to answer the question, and falsely accusing those who ask for an explanation of wanting to willfully violate God’s will does, indeed, bully people and hush up the truth.
(Col 4:6) Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
(1 Pet 3:15-16) But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
It is said, “we are all wrong about something.”There is a difference between being mistaken through human weakness and in willfully driving a wedge in the body of Christ by pushing a divisive practice and making fun of anyone who disagrees.
I entirely agree. But what if someone reads the Bible and concludes that instrumental music is fully acceptable to God. Are they mistaken through human weakness or are they willfully driving a wedge in the body of God’s people? Can you say with confidence that everyone who worships God with an instrument does so intending to drive a wedge in the body of Christ? Really? Is that a factual assertion?
I’m quite certain that there are people who worship God with an instrument entirely unaware of the arguments made in the Churches of Christ. I know people who worship with instruments purely because they want to worship God.
Well, Phil, do you think you know everything or that you are always right? Of course not, I am a fallible sinner saved by the grace of God, dependent upon His mercy for salvation. I understand what it means to be saved, since I cannot save myself. But in all my weakness, I do not suppose that I can presume upon the grace and never need repentance. The blood of Jesus can certainly cleanse those who walk in the light. Walking in the light is not sinlessness, because no one is capable of sinless perfection. But people can fool themselves, thinking they are in the light, when they are not (1 John 1:6). Sand theology does not yield the same results as rock theology (Matt. 7:21-27). Sand theology is when people build where they want rather than heed the words of Jesus. Self-made religion and innovations are sand theology. Those who plant their own plants will find themselves uprooted (Matt. 15:14). That’s what Jesus says about it. That is how He feels about such things. I take that view because He has expressed His will in the matter.” (Tuesday, October 16, 2007, http://www.philanswers.blogspot.com)
Again, you presume to know the motivations of your opponents, and you conveniently assume that they all act fully aware of their error. But it’s just not true.
Consider the independent Christian Churches. They have members who give generously to their churches and other Christian works, who plant churches across the world, who dedicate their lives to missions, who write theology so well that we sell their books and literature in our own catalogues and bookstores — and it’s just not true that they all worship with an instrument in willful disobedience, intending to act in rebellion to God.
Phi Sanders posted comment here a while back, saying,
The vision of the Restoration Movement was not ecumenical. The vision of the Restoration was not ecumenical (join hands but stay in error). The vision of the Restoration Movement was not to develop new, self-made religion. The vision of the Restoration Movement was [to] unite believers in the truth. Before Jesus prayed for unity, he prayed for his disciples to be sanctified (set apart) in the truth.
The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) urges believers to be trained so that they may “observe all things whatsoever I have commanded.” This is a process that the Lord wants observed. It is clear from Scripture that people grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18). But there is a point of maturity which Christians do reach, a functional maturity where they by practice can discern right from wrong (Heb. 5:12-14; Eph. 4:11-16).
The Lord expected Thyatira and Smyrna to discipline the false teaching among them (Revelation) and rebuked them for their toleration of error. Error is a salvation issue (James 5:19-20), and the mature should train the immature and watch for their souls to keep them from straying.
As for instrumental music, I will happy to point to my study at www.God-answers.org. Go to online tools. I will also offer my book, “Let All the Earth Keep Silence” at the Seminar.
Now, perhaps I misread Br Sanders, but he certainly seems to be reasoning that (a) instrumental music is error, (b) all Christians are required to mature to the point where they are accountable for error, and (c) error is a salvation issue. Thus, except for the immature, instrumental music damns.
But, you see, he also skips a step. How do we know which error damns? Or is he seriously contending that all error damns? I responded to him, saying, among other things,
Even the most prominent and presumably most mature among the conservatives can’t agree on what’s permitted and not and what damns and doesn’t. And I’ve yet to hear anyone from among them give a rule for just what doctrinal error is covered by grace and what error isn’t.
He did not reply. However, we did have another conversation, this time on his blog. When I posed the same question, he replied,
I think we must be careful not to place ourselves in God’s role of deciding what God will do with the saved who act ignorantly in sin. “Am I in the place of God?” is a good response to many things.
God will make His own decisions and does not need my help. I do believe that we must not also be so presumptuous in opening that door of grace as to give false hope or to so dismiss the will of God that we actually enable sin to continue.
Certainly judging (as one-cuppers do)is as reprehensible as any other sin. We can only wish for the grace of God for our binding-what-God-has not-bound brethren; but we do not wish to so excuse the right or the left to the point that we enable binding or loosing where one has no right.
So we’ll continue to speak out against error (ignorant or otherwise)and not presume to take the place of God.
I really don’t know how to reconcile the two views.
I’m still waiting for an answer to the question: How do the conservative Churches of Christ distinquish those errors that damn and those that don’t? Their reasoning suggests that all error damns, but none actually practice that way. So how do they decide?