Congregational Mergers and Autonomy: A Reader’s Question

MergerI get emails –

A reader wrote to ask this question. I’ve edited it with his permission to make it anonymous –

Some time ago the local Christian church was left without a preacher and only one elder remained. They called our elders — we’re a Church of Christ — wanting to discuss the possibility of merging our congregations. They had just finished an auditorium, but because of the split had not moved into it. We were outgrowing our building so, we without enthusiasm, agreed to meet with their steering committee. Only minutes after the meeting started we truly felt the presence of God. We decided this was not about financial or special needs — merging just seemed the right thing to do.

At one point the pianist stood to say, “I have played for this church and others most of my life, but for the sake of unity I’m willing to sing a cappella in the worship”. The others agreed. Each of our differences was resolved in the same way…for the sake of unity.

Elated we returned to our congregation and reported on the  meeting explaining that this must be carefully decided and would require much praying and a lot of patience on both sides. To our surprise the mere suggestion became divisive. Some were unwilling to discuss the matter and visitors took it back to their own congregations and the hateful letters and rumors started. We had to put it on the back burner to keep a oneness desire from further splintering the church.

What is the matter with the spirit of many from our heritage? I thought we had grown beyond this and would have been thrilled and praising God for this opportunity.

I have conservative and progressive readers. Readers, what’s the answer?

And let me ask a related question: How might the leadership of the churches resolve the objections of those who don’t want the churches to unite?

Avatar of Jay Guin

About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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109 Responses to Congregational Mergers and Autonomy: A Reader’s Question

  1. Mick Porter says:

    You asked, "What is the matter with the spirit of many from our heritage?" – perhaps the answer lies in the hermeneutical approach that expects the New Testament to provide a "pattern" for the church.

    I was just looking back over a blog post I wrote on this some time back, and noticed this as just one of the points I made about the symptoms of such an approach :

    "Massive disunity will (i.e. DOES) result. No two churches (actually, no two Christians) can ever agree on what the pattern actually is. Unlike the very specific, unambiguous pattern that was given Moses, the New Testament descriptions of the early church are monumentally ambiguous if we try to read them as a pattern. Churches that try to do that will always be scratching around trying to work out which ecclesiological issues they will apply as a test of fellowship. That someone would refuse fellowship over the use or non-use of alcohol, musical instruments, or similar is astonishing but unbelievably prevalent as an outcome of this hermeneutic. Unity is found as we grow together into knowledge of Christ."

  2. David Himes says:

    This is just another sad story.

    And, in my view, it is the result of false teaching over a long period of time. Romans 14 speaks to not condemning those who differ from our view in good conscience, but it does not speak to those who impose their views on others.

    In the very long term, the congregation should focus on more teaching about grace, love, forgiveness and acceptance.

    In the short term, there is no approach likely to bring reconciliation of these diverse views.

    Those who wish to merge the congregation should be sure of their own motives and then act.

  3. Alan says:

    I think this is an example of reaping what has been sown. For generations, we have disparaged other believers — even other churches of Christ — to defend our own flock. So when opportunities like this arise, there is a deeply ingrained resistance to the whole idea. They aren't "us" so there must be something wrong.

  4. nick gill says:

    There should have been several months of preparing the ground before the seed was ever cast. I can imagine in the heat of excitement, Christ-natured leaders wanted to announce this opportunity as soon as possible!

    But careful launching of a project is absolutely essential to its success. Look at the mission of God – how long God prepared everything before sending his Messiah.

    Likewise, a project like this needed better launching.

    1) Don't announce it at a regular assembly with visitors present. This is congregational business.

    2) LAY A FOUNDATION! This needs several weeks (months, maybe?) of teaching in all phases of their Christian education – sermons, classes, and small groups if present.

    Baby steps work far better than buckets of ice water.

  5. Tim Archer says:

    While living in Argentina, our team received a visit from another missionary. He told us that a well-known church leader had "left the church" and gone to preach for a Christian church. To get him to come, they agreed to stop using instruments in worship. This missionary friend could only see the man's move as apostasy.

    How sad.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  6. I heartily agree with Nick about the method and timing with which such news should be brought to a congregation – but it's possible that the church with the empty auditorium could not afford that amount of time and discretion.

    What is the matter with the spirit of many from our heritage?

    A doctrine of "distinctiveness," which is just a candy-butt word for "divisiveness."

  7. John says:

    For future change efforts like this, I suggest a great new book called "Switch" by Chip and Dan Heath.

    I am sad that our COC heritage can let something like that happen. However, I am guessing that some of it might have gone better with a different approach to the change. Probably should have started before the opportunity ever came up.

    I think the whole thing is silly, but I have to agree with Nick that this is a significant change and requires an approach not unlike any other "organizational change".

    P.S. I don't have stock in Chip and Dan Heath….it's just a good book!

  8. Rich says:

    Interestingly, the below from George Barna was in my email inbox this morning. I think it addresses the real issue.

    "I was involved in a meeting recently during which one of the participants said that people are stressed by change. When I asked what people were stressed I was told that “most people” are overwhelmed by the pace and magnitude of change in our world these days, and are wondering how to cope with it all.

    Is that your experience? Mine has been that some people are grappling with change-related stress, but many are not. At the risk of over-simplifying things, it appears that people in their forties and older are the group most likely to struggle with the scope and speed of change. However, our studies indicate that younger people barely notice such change. Why? Because change has been a constant in their life; a world driven by change is the only environment they have ever known. They are more likely to be stressed by an environment reflecting a lack of change, which would feel like either death or deterioration to them.

    How much of the tension we typically experience in leading an organization is due to the pressure caused by the different sensitivities toward change of the people involved? The anxiety level is probably especially high when we try to satisfy everyone at once – the “one size fits all” approach to ministry – and when the entity is directed by a leader who believes that if people are not happy then he/she is not leading well.

    Some of the best leaders I’ve observed are those who remember that the challenges introduced by change are just another opportunity to empower people to apply their gifts toward pursuing a shared vision. Fulfilled vision changes everything anyway; leaders are all about creating positive change. Helping people to put change into proper perspective, and make sense of the new reality created by change is a difficult but continual task of leaders. What have you learned about how to best help people handle change?

    I was involved in a meeting recently during which one of the participants said that people are stressed by change. When I asked what people were stressed I was told that “most people” are overwhelmed by the pace and magnitude of change in our world these days, and are wondering how to cope with it all.

    Is that your experience? Mine has been that some people are grappling with change-related stress, but many are not. At the risk of over-simplifying things, it appears that people in their forties and older are the group most likely to struggle with the scope and speed of change. However, our studies indicate that younger people barely notice such change. Why? Because change has been a constant in their life; a world driven by change is the only environment they have ever known. They are more likely to be stressed by an environment reflecting a lack of change, which would feel like either death or deterioration to them.

    How much of the tension we typically experience in leading an organization is due to the pressure caused by the different sensitivities toward change of the people involved? The anxiety level is probably especially high when we try to satisfy everyone at once – the “one size fits all” approach to ministry – and when the entity is directed by a leader who believes that if people are not happy then he/she is not leading well.

    Some of the best leaders I’ve observed are those who remember that the challenges introduced by change are just another opportunity to empower people to apply their gifts toward pursuing a shared vision. Fulfilled vision changes everything anyway; leaders are all about creating positive change. Helping people to put change into proper perspective, and make sense of the new reality created by change is a difficult but continual task of leaders. What have you learned about how to best help people handle change?"

  9. Melanie Holt says:

    I commend these elders for their progressive thinking. I agree with the decision to merge. It would set a good example for others. I believe more congregations should merge which would leave more money for helping the poor, orphans, widows and missionaries instead of paying duplicate salaries and utilities. I pray that they don't let the people who refuse to grow spiritually to hold them back. It is time for Christians to eat meat not stay babes with milk.

  10. Matthew says:

    Wow, powerful email. The story of the piano player's sacrifice is enough to move me to tears. I agree with Alan–the reaping of what one has sown seems evident. But, we must believe that the gospel's power can accomplish much. The leaders should be explicit that the gospel is at issue–if they can't unite on it then they have fundamentally misunderstood the gospel. Perhaps this is a point then that the leadership should confess and repent that they have didactically not led the congregation in the way they should go. Perhaps the leader's humility and confession will win some of the divisive members over for Christ…

  11. Mike Ward says:

    We in the the Churches of Christ are typically very good at finding something to criticize. Several of the posters who disagree members attitudes spend most of their posts criticizing the way the elders handled the situation. I suppose in some way I'm being critical of those posts right now.

    There's no work so good we cannot think of a reason that doing it would be wrong. (Give a homeless man money and he'll spend it on alcohol; give him food and he'll eat it and use the money he would have had to spend on food on alcohol.)

    We probably aren't going to learn to stop being critical overnight, but maybe we can stop being controlled by other peoples criticisms.

    As it is, the complainers complain because it usually works. For "the sake of unity", they get their way. Even if their way leads directly to division and disunity.

  12. Randall says:

    Jay asked:
    "I have conservative and progressive readers. Readers, what’s the answer?"

    The CofC is dysfunctional! Visitors took the news back to their congregations and then this congregations gets hate mail. If that is not a dysfunctional family I do not know what is. So much for congreagational autonomy, not to mention love.

    OK, it could have been handled differently by laying the ground work as someone suggested. None the less, the immediate loud and clear reaction of the congregation is to fight. It is our history and it is in our genes,

    Even Alexander Campbell who was so much in favor of unity was quite the iconoclast. I beleive he did mellow in has later years when he had a unity movement to take care of, but he got that movement, in part, by riduculing the stayus quo. Leroy Garrett at one time suggested it was ouir Scotch Irish ancestry that made us so prone to fight – at least during the early years.
    Peace,
    Randall

  13. Glenn Ziegler says:

    What an awesome opportunity!

    Perhaps it would be good to look at this like we do other relationships.

    Is this a time for 'dating' the other congregation? Maybe. I do not think so, personally, but I have been wrong before, so…

    Or is this like an adoption? Again, maybe. I do not think so, personally, but remember what I just said about having been wrong before?

    Or is this, as it seemed to be from the note written, a matter of finding long-lost family members and re-uniting the family? Personally, this is the one that resonates most within me, heart and soul of the matter, if you will. Formerly estranged family? Certainly. Family we do not know very well at all? Absolutely. But family. All of us God's kids. And what could be better than finding out a bunch of cousins you never knew are living right down the street? The potential for a wonderful family reunion, even the necessity of it long overdue, is a worthy opportunity to do everything we can to make happen.

    Will we lose some? No. Our Father may lose some and may spend time on the porch watching for them to come home, but 'we' will not lose anyone who was ever ours to lose. We will have found one another again, after much too long not even thinking about the ones who went away. More than that, we will bring glory to God – because any negatives will come from those whose hearts were already against finding any 'lost sheep' or 'forgotten family.'

    The deciding factor, as if unity with others who love and serve God were not enough, was the spirit – at least for me. When the spirit of the leaders, those entrusted with the care and feeding of the flock, is moved – then the flock either follows their leaders or else the leaders were only figureheads. So the only real test here is whether you trust that you actually have been leading and so will have following when you lead the merge? If not, repent of your non-leading ways or get out of leadership. And if (please God) so, then go on and lead. The congregation of God's people will only be better for it.

    Just my thoughts,

    Glenn

  14. Jay,

    You asked to hear from your “conservative” readers. I will respond from the perspective that this is a congregation that would be opposed to instrumental music on the grounds of faith and BIble authority. Well, if that is the case, then obviously the approach to unity and fellowship with our instrumental brethren will be different from those who believe the matter to not be an issue of faith or BIble authority. But for those of us who believe instrumental music is an unauthorized addition to what God has commanded in worship it’s another issue.

    Until the issue of instrumental music is properly and openly discussed by the two congregations and their leadership, as far as what will be clearly preached and practiced, fear from members of the church of Christ congregation will be real and valid. Those differences need to be discussed and where possible settled.

    There must be discussion about will these members who have come from an “instrumental congregation” openly and publically teach in the classrooms and pulpit. Will it be that instrumental music doesn’t matter and is not a matter of faith or scripture. Will they attempt to convince others in the congregation (younger generation) that acappella music is just a tradition?

    These discussions should be done in a spirit of humility and love and understanding. But with conviction from God’s Word which a majority of churches of Christ have on the subject.

    So for me the core and practical issue about the merger is how will this be addressed and handled and dealt with in the congregation by the elders, preachers, and ministers and members??

    Again, will they agree that and stand on the truth that unaccompanied singing from the heart will be what is promoted and practiced in the congregation and not attempt to teach and divide otherwise on the music issue. Nobody is asking them or demanding that unless they publically change their personal convictions on instrumental music unity cannot be acheived. (Becasue we have members in conservative congregations who have no personal problem with the use of IM).

    But until these questions were openly and honestly addressed and some general agreement was made, if I were a member of that congregation I would oppose the merger with the Christian Church. I would encourage them to stand on the hermeneutical ground of unity that was accepted in 1832 by the Stone and Campbell groups, in his "Declaration and Address," said

    "Our desire, therefore, for our brethren and ourselves would be to reject human opinions and the inventions of men as of no authority, or as having no place in the church of God. We should cease from further contentions about such things, returning to and holding fast by the original standard, taking the divine word alone for our rule; the Holy Spirit for our teacher and guide; and lead us into all truth … that, by so doing, we may be at peace among ourselves, follow peace with all men, and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord."

    This is the way men in the restoration movement found peace and established unity among the people of God. On this ground and teaching, and only on this, can scriptural unity be had now; on these basic principles of the New Testament Christian unity may always be had.

    I believe such a unity honors the truth of God, respects the authority of Christ, and glorifies God.

    So from my perspective, which is probably I would just guess close to what a majority of mainstream, more traditional, middle of the road, conservative members in churches of Christ would probably believe, until these issues are dealt with, and those in the aceppella congregation who are conscientiously opposed to the promotion and use of instruments in worship are addressed, I don’t think a merger should be done between the two congregations

    It must be realized that our differences cannot be just ignored, except by those who believe they do not matter.

    Well….you wanted the “conservative” viewpoint….you got it. Let the critics respond (and I know they will):)!

    Robert Prater

  15. nick gill says:

    Robert, you contradict yourself when you quote TC. Here's what I mean.

    You say:

    There must be discussion about will these members who have come from an “instrumental congregation” openly and publically teach in the classrooms and pulpit. Will it be that instrumental music doesn’t matter and is not a matter of faith or scripture. Will they attempt to convince others in the congregation (younger generation) that acappella music is just a tradition?

    TC says:

    We should cease from further contentions about such things, returning to and holding fast by the original standard, taking the divine word alone for our rule; the Holy Spirit for our teacher and guide; and lead us into all truth.

    So which should it be, brother? Your assertion that contentions about IM should occur, or TC's assertion that we should cease from further contentions about opinions and inventions?

  16. K. Rex Butts says:

    This is why unity CANNOT be acheived in the current state of things.

    The human-centered enlightment/modern paradigm continues to pull the wool over our heads making us believe that unity is something we must acheive on our own through our efforts at uniformity. Christian unity, in scripture, is not something we must acheive. It is something we already are and must accept. That may mean that some of us may need to give up certain freedoms at times in deference to those who cannot in good conscience participate in our freedom but it does not mean that we must uniformly agree one these issues and how these issues will be taught.

    These issues are the very problem. They are issues and NOT THE GOSPEL. Paul's approach to solving the practical matters that surface was not to tackle the issues themselves but to remind both sides of what God has done for them to make them one already (the gospel). When we focus on the issues and trying to reach uniformity, it is just another cute ploy for trying to acheive unity on our own merit rather than accepting the gift God has already given to us – namely, that we are one in Christ despite all of our worldly differences.

    When I was preaching up in New York State, I served a CoC (a capella) that had both members from the ICC and CoC (because there wasn't any ICC nearby). As you would expect, there were those who believed instrumental music was allowed and those who believed it was a sin. We did not talk about the issue because it was not the gospel. Neither side tried to force the other into accepting their viewpoint on instrumental music by teaching their viewpoint because to do so would only disrupt unity by trying to force the other side to make a decision.

    This is why I objected so strongly to the New Testament Church Today folks who did not even know our church congregation but so ARROGANTLY think they knew what is best for our church and that was to play a video showing why the a capella side was correct which would only have resulted in bringing division to a congregation at peace and unity.

    Unity will never be acheived by us hammering out the issues and forcing one side or the other into submission and agreement. Unity can be acheived when we chose to give up certain freedoms at times in deference to those with seemingly less freedom while focusing not on the specific issues but instead upon the gospel of Jesus Christ. Until this is learned, unity efforts will only result in further failure, resentment, and animosity.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  17. Nancy says:

    Looks like the group that sought to merge dodge a bullet and was spared a slow death from spiritual asphyxiation.

  18. Guy says:

    Jay,

    i'm confused.
    was the suggestion of merging opposed by *both* congregations?
    What were the "other differences" that were worked out in the same way?

    i don't see why just because these two congregations ended up opposing the merger, that implies that something's wrong with "the spirit of our heritage." There are congregations who would've embraced the merger. The important question then is why didn't *these* congregations merge? Whether that question has to do with "heritage" issues is mere assumption and speculation. It may be true that there's something wrong with "the spirit of our heritage," but i don't see how that necessarily follows from this example.

    i will say that my dad told me that years ago he had a conversation with the preacher from the local one-cup congregation in the town where i grew up (Moore, OK). My dad asked them man, "if my congregation was willing to practice the LS with only one cup, but just didn't preach that it was necessary to do so, could our congregations combine?" The man responded, "No, you have to practice it *and* preach that it's necessary to do so." Perhaps that distinction was relevant to the CoC congregation in this case(?)

    But this is all speculation. What's really needed is more details about what actually happened and was said and what the objectors actually argued. i think jumping on this anecdote to decry the tragic "spirit of our heritage" is really just fishing for cannon fodder.

    –Guy

  19. nick gill says:

    Guy, you don't believe anything negative should be included in the concept of "heritage," though. So of course you're going to say that.

  20. Guy says:

    Nick,

    ?? When did i say that? i know we talked about heritage the other day. But i never said what you just assigned to me.

    And even if i thought that (which i don't), what is your point? Does "of course you're going to say that" invalidate my words or my point of view? Does it mean my post offers no worth-while contribution to the discussion? What exactly is your aim in that comment?

    –Guy

  21. nick gill says:

    Guy, you didn't say that.

    Notice that I didn't say you said that. I say you meant that, which is my opinion.

    I've already stated my position of heritage – that when you take a name, you take all the baggage that comes with that name. Heritage is a legacy of shared history – we belong to the one body of Christ. We live for that body. Everything we do reflects on that body.

    I've also said that there's a difference between guilt and responsibility, a difference you continue to reject.

    The baptism of Jesus does not say that he was personally guilty of sin. He doesn't disagree with John that Jesus, personally, doesn't need it – that, in fact, John needs to be baptized into Jesus.

    His baptism does say that he belongs to a "people of unclean lips." Further, Paul goes so far as to say, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us." That is an amazing choice, an amazing willingness on the part of Jesus.

    Guy, nothing I said can invalidate your point of view. You're a human being created in the image of God. I merely meant to communicate the idea that, considering your prior comments, I wasn't surprised that you were rejecting a piece of potential negative heritage.

    and finally, you misquoted the author of the email, and your misquote does change the meaning of the statement – the email wasn't asking about the "spirit of our heritage" – he was asking about "the spirit of many from our heritage" – the spirit that would cause visitors to carry a message from this announcement that would generate hateful letters.

    He implied that their spirits were in the wrong – he didn't say there was anything wrong with our heritage.

  22. Duane says:

    Guy, the experience of your father in dealing with the one-cup preacher is, sadly, no longer atypical, although it once was. In the 1950's, most one-cup preachers who debated the issue would conlcude by saying that the multi-cup congregations only had to change their practice in order for there to be unity. Today, most would say that the issue must be preached as necessary for salvation as well.

    I personally know of a congregation in Texas several years ago which changed their practice from multiple cups to a single cup just so that a family with one-cup convictions who lived nearby could attend. Things went well for several weeks until some one-cup preachers got involved and insisted that the congregation must call on some of them to come and preach on the issue. The congregation's leaders refused and responded by reverting to their original practice in order to not be associated with the one-cup group at all. An opportunity for unity and fellowship was lost because of fear that these brethren were really "false" brethren.

  23. Nick

    You sure are good are 'reading" into what people say and misrepresenting what people say:)!

    I think you set up a two false assertions, none which either I or Campbell were saying. You said which is it: Either "Your assertion that contentions about IM should occur….." or "TC’s assertion that we should cease from further contentions about opinions and inventions?"

    I reject the setup and premise of both. You seem to miss the point, badly!

    First of all, when did I ever make the assertion that there should be "contentions?"

    Is that what the progressive folks now in the church see when it comes to open, frank, honest dialogue and discussion the issues that divide us?

    It seems like all some of us have herad lately from progressives is the cry for "better understanding" and "dialogue" about the issues.

    And when someone suggests we have them to address legitimate fear and concerns about whether the possible merger with our Christian Church brethren in a local congregation would lead to pressure and promotion of the IM being taught and encouraged, which would cause further potential division, we're almost told as it were to "hush."

    Second, I'm sorry, your just going to have to come to terms with the fact that it was and is the conviction of many of us in churches of Christ, both historically and presnetly, just as it was with both Thomas and Alexander Campbell that the use of IM needs to be "rejected" as an "invention of men" and have "no authority or place in the church of God."

    It was G.C. Brewer who wrote, "IF we are going to restore New Testament church, we cannot restore something that wsa not in it."

    But again, we told "not to tackle the issues themselves." Or not to "talk about the issue." Or not to worry about "hammering out the issues."

    Speaking of unity and the difference beween it and union. Reuel Lemmons said:

    "In all our approaches to unity we must be wary of tryingto work out compromise between men lest we wind up with a compromise of truth. Our factions exist becasue groups substitute their opinions for truth and insit upon their being accepted as truth. There is plenty of room for re-examination of any ground we occupy–but only in light of Scritpure. "What does the Bible say?" must be our criterion, and each must true his faith and practice to the Plumbline. Unity is wonderful, and much to be desired, but unity bought at the price of surrender of truth is not worth the price." (Reuel Lemmons, Merger Verses Unity," Firm Foundation, June, 1969)

    Listen my dear progressive friends…….please understand that my heart desires there to be unity between those who are estranged, but unity based on false premises is no unity at all. Some are seeking unity without any discussion of the rightness or wrongness of instrumental music in worship. They want to “sweep the issue under the rug” and ignore the real cause of division. I do not believe this can be done.

    I close with I think Everett Ferguson’s conclusion he wrote concerning a Cappella Music which I believe is right on and is the position that that right now separates the Christian Church and apparently the far left progressives in the church who won't to accept them without discussion on the issues.

    “We are on good historical and theological grounds to engage in a cappella music in our public worship. This is safe, ecumenical ground that all can agree is acceptable. Instrumental music cannot be confirmed as authorized in the text of the New Testament. It did not exist in worship until centuries after the New Testament was written. Vocal music is more consistent with the nature of Christian worship. Neither side of the instrumental music controversy has had a monopoly on Christian love and humility, and neither side has reason for pride. My hope is that we can go beyond our recent history of bitterness and unite on the original undivided ground of the Restoration Plea…..let us be New Testament churches – in practice and in attitude, in loyalty to the Bible, and in the exercise of Christian freedom.” (A Cappella Music in Public Worship)

    For Christ,
    Robert Prater

  24. nick gill says:

    Robert,

    Most of us are good at something! :)

    1) In your Thomas Campbell quote, what do you think "such things" refers to, if not what I said it referred to (opinion and inventions)?

    2) Contention is defined as, "to strive or vie in contest or rivalry or against difficulties" or "to strive in debate." TC said there should be no more "striving in debate" about such things. You said there should be.

    As I said earlier, I think the only way to have had serious teaching about the situation in all aspects of church education.

    What the Lemmons quote has to do with IM and unity, I can't fathom, since "what the Bible says" never demands or implies rejection of instrumental music.

    The venerable Br. Ferguson has done a great deal of work, but he's wrong on several counts in your quote. As he should well know, several Christian groups in history (the Quakers, prominently) would not agree on a cappella music in public worship. His wording is quite careful in the third sentence, because that is the strongest statement an honest NT scholar can make about the matter, and since the exact same statement can be made about several other prominent practices, it hardly qualifies as a sole reason for prohibition. Vocal music is only more consistent with Christian worship in a divided worldview where using mechanical devices is less "spiritual" than using only one's body.

    The ECF rejected instrumental music because "it was Jewish" not because Scripture demanded such a rejection.

    Br. Ferguson is right about several things in your quote, though. Neither side has reason for pride, and we should be able to reject bitterness and unite on the original undivided ground. However, uniformity of practice (an arguable inference from Scripture) must not be elevated to the same level as loyalty to the Bible and Christian freedom. Loyalty to the Bible is a necessary inference and Christian freedom is a direct gift from God to every saved person.

    I do not want to sweep the issue under the rug, either, Robert – but I'm not demanding that the Independent Christian Churches submit to my reading of Scripture on a debatable matter in order for me to have visible unity with them.

  25. nick gill says:

    My 4th sentence should read, "As I said earlier, I think the only way to have handled this matter would be to have had serious teaching about the situation in all aspects of church education.

  26. Mike Ward says:

    "This is safe, ecumenical ground that all can agree is acceptable. "

    One cup communion is safe, ecumenical ground that all can agree is acceptable.

    No fellowship halls is safe, ecumenical ground that all can agree is acceptable.

    No steeples is safe, ecumenical ground that all can agree is acceptable.

    House churches are safe, ecumenical ground that all can agree is acceptable.

    No paid preacher is safe, ecumenical ground that all can agree is acceptable.

    People only demand the safe, ecumenucal ground when the issue is one where they personally are on the more restrictive side of the argument. The same people will ignore the argument when they are on the less restritive side of the argument.

  27. nick gill says:

    well-said, Mike. Anyone notice what happened to the play it safe servant in the story Jesus told?

    No changes in Christian practice – none – should be done for entertainment value. That is treating the gathering frivolously. But there are solid, lost-people-loving, missional reasons to consider Paul's stance in 1 Cor 9 (I become all things to all people, that by any means available I may save some) to be normative in matters of practice.

  28. Larry Short says:

    Well, the bulk of the comments on what's safe to me become Paul's suggestion that the stronger brethern who have do not have a restriction accept one for their weaker brother. Maybe Paul's method to the ultimate is the modern C of C! Only I wish we would not preach for each restriction..
    Years ago my congregation and another merged. There were no divisive doctrinal issues but many style differences. Just like this example one group was losing a preacher, so ours volunteered to do both. Also helpful would be trading Sunday night services, at alternate places.
    The discussion above about resisiting change and needing preparation is true and kind. Sharing the preacher gives the group without one a chance to accept this one. Meeting together some before merger gives the people a chance to accept the strangers. We Americans dislike arranged marriages.

  29. nick gill says:

    BTW, Guy – I'm sorry I came off as I did earlier. Also, I'm sorry I missed your last comment from a few days ago – it was quite thoughtful and challenging to me.

  30. You good men can “write off” and dismiss the witness of the ancient church. But, some of the greatest theologians, some of the greatest minds who ever have exercised their God given abilities on the topic differ with you. Were they all on the “less restrictive side of the argument?”

    In his book, entitled, “Old Light on New Worship” – Musical Instruments and the Worship of God, a Theological, Historical and Psychological Study” by John Price says in his chapter on “The History of Musical Instruments” after talking about the unanimous rejection of musical instruments by the Church Fathers throughout the early centuries of the church says:

    “The significance of this rejection of musical instruments in worship by the Church Fathers cannot be underestimated. It provides the most convincing historical evidence that musical instruments in worship was not commanded by the apostles or practiced in the churches of their time. If the apostles had commanded and used musical instruments in the early church, then surely this practice would have been carried on by the Church Fathers…..Is it possible that musical instruments were used in all the churches of the New Testament, and yet immediately after the death of the apostles, the Church Fathers were able to completely eradicate them from worship, and that, as we shall see, for over a thousand years? The thought is absurd. All the historical evidence leads to only one conclusion, that there were no musical instruments in the apostolic churches.” (p. 77-78)

    But, again, Mike, these must have all been on the “less restrictive side of the argument”, right?

    That just must be the reason why such vast segments of the “Christian church” have understood the will of God in worship when it comes to instrumental music. But, hey, I’m glad you guys have somehow arrived at a better understanding against over a thousand years of church history:)!

    And boy Mike………to liken church buildings, ffellowship halls, steeples, house churches, one cup, paid preaches, etc. is really just a diversion and smoke screen. What an old “rabbit” you pulled out of your “hat" on that one:)! You seem to have a very fundamental flaw and mistake in your thinking concerning “Aids and Additions” when it comes to Biblical authority.

    To compare these just because they aren't mentioned in Scripture to instrumental music in Christian worship (because it is not in Scripture) is a popular thing to do. But such a suggestion is like mixing apples and oranges. Instrumental music is like adding a “fourth floor to the ark,” when only three floors are specified.

    I guess we’re back Bible authority 101. That in generic instructions, God grants permission for expedients (the means to do what He has instructed); but when God gives specific instructions, the addition of other things is a violation of God's will.

    Ah…I’m probably wasting my time arguing this, right:)?

    In Christ,
    Robert Prater

  31. nick gill says:

    Well looky there: Prater's read his Warren and his Deaver.

    Too bad Paul didn't give us a treatise on "aids and additions" or "generic vs. Specific authority."

    And you know Price overstates his case on two levels:

    1) While the ECF "unanimously reject" IM, they never use Scripture to support that rejection.

    2) No one is saying the earliest church universally used IM and it vanished! So that whole line of discussion is ludicrous.

    But no, you're not wasting your time – although it'd help if you based your interpretation style on the Scriptures, rather than Ascertaining Biblical Authority

  32. Of course, the truly legalist position would be to point out that God authorized instrumental worship in 2 Chronicles 29 (if not before) and the authorization for it was never repealed in the New Testament (as was animal sacrifice in Hebrews 10, for example), and that God authorizes instrumental praise in heaven in Revelation 15:2-3, and that only a rebellious heretic would forbid what God has clearly authorized.

    Which has nothing whatsoever to do with the situation in the post, since the pianist was willing to concede to a cappella worship and only someone willing to judge the hearts of the others in the Christian church would have any reason to object – having assumed that they would later move to restore it.

  33. Hank says:

    In the book by Mr. Price, he argues that, "There is no record in scripture of a musical instrument ever being used in public worship without an explicit divine command."

    Can that statement be disproved?

    If not, he asks, "On what grounds then, can we place the musical instruments of the temple in a different category than other ceremonial elements?" Such as the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, dancing, etc?

    Why would musical instruments be any different than the other carnal shadows of the Old Law?

  34. Keith Brenton says:

    Carnal shadows … like the ten commandments?

  35. Guy says:

    Nick,

    no wonder i misunderstood–i never picked up on you making a difference between guilt and responsibility. i certainly believe there is such a difference.

    i certainly do believe that people can have negative things in their heritage. My grandfather who died before i was born was an alcoholic. But i don't believe that in 'taking a name' a person 'takes all the baggage associated with that name.' i'm currently engaged. My fiancee has agreed to take on my family name. i don't believe that means it's her job to apologize for anything my late grandfather did while drinking alcohol.

    You're right, i did read the line wrong when i read the post the first time; read it too quickly or something i guess.

    In the case mentioned above, the email-writer takes the case to be a manifestation of a larger problem. That may be true. But suppose the religious histories of the people involved in the case mentioned were very different. Suppose they all came from a movement known for great unity. That doesn't make it impossible for two such congregations to act in opposition to that heritage out of other motivations. Therefore, just because the congregatons have the history that they do doesn't imply that they acted the way they did *because* of that heritage. Thus, i think the focus should people on the people and case at hand–why they did what they did and what can be done about it.

    –Guy

  36. nick gill says:

    Guy, thank you for continuing our dialogue – I know I can be a jerk sometimes.

    You wrote:
    Thus, i think the focus should people on the people and case at hand–why they did what they did and what can be done about it

    Nick here:
    I think that's what I'm trying to do – I don't think you can discount our shared heritage from the list of potential factors in people's decisionmaking processes. I don't think anyone is saying that our heritage is the sole contributor, but no one can deny that our heritage generates a great deal of hate-mail.

  37. All due respect, Robert and Hank, but I'm just quoting scripture and what I see you fellows quoting is a book by John Price. It ain't scripture.

    Would you accept my reasoning if all I quoted was, say, Rubel Shelly? I wouldn't, either. We think for ourselves, with the brains God gave us.

    Other works are the precepts of men, Price or Shelly or whomever.

  38. Hank says:

    "Carnal shadows … like the ten commandments?" — Keith

    No. carnal shadows like the altar, the sack-cloth, the evening sacrifice, the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and stuff like that.

  39. Hank says:

    Keith wrote:

    "All due respect, Robert and Hank, but I’m just quoting scripture and what I see you fellows quoting is a book by John Price. It ain’t scripture.

    Would you accept my reasoning if all I quoted was, say, Rubel Shelly? I wouldn’t, either. We think for ourselves, with the brains God gave us.

    Other works are the precepts of men, Price or Shelly or whomever."

    Easy Keith…Nobody said his book was scripture. But he makes an interesting point. I only want to know if it can be disproved?

    Don't you ever read any unispired books? Or, do you really believe that to do so implies that we are not "thinking for ourselves" nor "using the brains God gave us"? Are you for real?

    Again, I merely asked a question about what that guy wrote in his book. Did you really have to play the "brains God gave us" card?

    Seriously bro.

  40. Guy says:

    Nick,

    oh i'd certainly agree with that. –Provisionally, if by "our heritage" you mean (1) the way that some people have acted in the past or present and (2) those people were associated with the CoC and (3a) either the people who did what they did were motivated by their association with the CoC to do so (3b) or other people in or out of the CoC perceived/believed that those people were motivated by their association with the CoC when they did what they did.

    But i also think there are people who were divisive in spirit and personality before they ever joined or took seriously their membership in the CoC. In that case, hate-mail wasn't generated by heritage, rather the particular CoC that person joined somehow didn't challenge that person's divisive/cynical/(fill-in-the-blank) spirit sufficiently to stop them from producing hate-mail.

    Further, i think there are people who joined and belong to a CoC who know nothing of the in-fighting and divisive-ness we spend a great deal of time talking about on this blog. Or perhaps a person is aware that "some" churches "somewhere" do that sort of thing because a friend of a friend told her so. But that person isn't personally that way, no one else in the congregation she joined is that way, and no other congregation with which her congregation associates is that way. In that case, i'd have a problem saying that all this mess is a part of *her* heritage.

    –Guy

  41. nick gill says:

    Guy, we agree on a great deal! Not everything, of course, but a lot.

    But i also think there are people who were divisive in spirit and personality before they ever joined or took seriously their membership in the CoC. In that case, hate-mail wasn’t generated by heritage, rather the particular CoC that person joined somehow didn’t challenge that person’s divisive/cynical/(fill-in-the-blank) spirit sufficiently to stop them from producing hate-mail.

    I think this group needs a litte more discussion. See, I think there's something about our heritage (all the way from Alexander Campbell to Foy Wallace Jr to a host of brethren today) that attracts those folks. And I've spoken to and studied with and under too many graduates of our preaching schools to doubt that that spirit is taught there, fed there, and encouraged as the Christian way to deal with error.

    And I think heritage is a little more subtle than your words allow. Remember that (following Ez. 18) I'm not saying that later generations bear the guilt of former generations, but I do believe that the power of people's sins goes beyond the people they know personally. In your hypothetical situation, I still believe that their ministers would have been educated in an environment influenced by that heritage; their elders would have grown up in churches influenced by that heritage. And that heritage doesn't always create a negative influence! Jay's theology and Royce's theology are as deeply shaped by their heritage as (FOR EXAMPLE) Phil Sanders or Mac Deaver. How we respond to the influence of heritage is up to us.

  42. K. Rex Butts says:

    If we are seeking unity based on our uniformity on the issue of instrumental music in Christian worship and other such issues, we can forget ever acheiving it.

    If, however, we seek the unity we already have been made into by God's redemptive work in Christ and let the cross shape how we relate to one another in community with each other, then WE CAN enjoy the oneness God has already made us to be.

    But that unity/oneness IS NOT predicated upon us agreeing upon everyone of these issues or how such issues should be taught in our congregations. Our unity/oneness is predicated upon the cross of Jesus and nothing else.

    And for those of you who insist otherwise, it is upon you to explain why neither Paul nor any other New Testament writer sought to put forth an "official" position and practice regarding their issues (i.e., clean/unclean meats) in order to bring uniform agreement but instead continually called both sides back to the redemptive work of God in Christ.

    Grace and peace,

    K. Rex Butts

    P.S. for clarification, I am neither advocating nor opposing instrumental music in Christian worship. I AM AN ADVOCATE FOR THE CROSS OF JESUS!

  43. Bob Harry says:

    You all

    You could learn much from the interdenominational churches who's members were many denominations. They are completely autonomous and don't worry what other denominations might think. They would have merged in a heart beat. Some even don't have paid preachers which is a God send. From what i have read in the above comments some of you should be ashamed to even be called Christian preachers. You quibble over trivia.

    The Campbells and Barton Stone should be turning in their graves. I am embarrassed to be a member of the COC. I thought each congregation was autonomous and free to merge with whomever they wish.

    You all need to spend more time with sinners, discussing their salvation than all this BS. That.s cow dung to you if you don't catch on.

    Bob

  44. Hank, I read lots of books which are, shall we say, far less than inspired. (Sometimes I get all the way through them and think, "Well, I'll never get those hours back.")

    But I don't try to form doctrine for church praxis from them. We have scripture for that, and the brains God gave us to think for ourselves. We don't have to be "infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men."

    Somehow you discern the ten commandments from "the altar, the sack-cloth, the evening sacrifice, the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and stuff like that." How do you do that? How do you know which one stay, and which ones go?

    Of the commandments, I'd say that the Sabbath goes. But I can only say so because of Matthew 12:8-12, Mark 2:27, Luke 6:5. It's repealed.

    But how can you know that a commandment is still in place unless New Testament scripture specifically supports it? How can you know if a commandment is repealed unless New Testament scripture specifically repeals and/or fulfills it?

    I'm not trying to play cards here; I'm asking questions. I think they are legitimate questions.

  45. Hank says:

    Keith,

    Doesn't the NT clearly teach that the temple worship, in all of its outward cereonies and rituals, has been abolished by the coming of Christ? And if so, wouldn't that include the Levitical priesthood and the musical instruments that were an inherent part of that priesthood? Having been abolished by Christ, there is no ceremony or ritual of that temple worship that we are to bring forward into NT worship.

    Hear the Word of God:

    For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.

    In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

    8The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:

    9Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;

    Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

    For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.

    For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

  46. Hank says:

    I hit "submit" on accident before I was done. Let me add:

    For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; Eph. 2:14-15.

    That's how I know.

    Now, can the following statement be disproved?

    “There is no record in scripture of a musical instrument ever being used in public worship without an explicit divine command.”

  47. I for one have no desire to become "interdenominational" or join the ecumenical movement. Neither thankful to a majority of churches of Christ. You've got the wrong restoration movement if you think otherwise!

    Keith, since you don't seem to care to hear non-Biblicial references or sources (although I'm sure you're current understanding of scritpure has been greatly influenced by such), and so since Scripture, and not history or non-biblical sources (as helpful as those might be), because Scripture must be our final authority, it is to the Scripture I will go.

    For those who hold the traditional view of the Regulative Principle, key passages usually include the Second Commandment in Exodus 20:4-6 and Deuteronomy 5:8-10; the offering of strange fire in Leviticus 10:1-3; the warning against false worship in Deuteronomy 12:32; the death of Uzza in 2 Samuel 6:1-11 and 1 Chronicles 13:5-14; the prohibition of adding to the Word of God in Proverbs 30:5, 6; the warning against false worship in Jeremiah 7:31; Jesus’ conflict with the Pharisees over the commandments of God and the traditions of men in Matthew 15:1-9 and Mark 7:1-13; Jesus’ teaching about worship in spirit and truth in John 4:22-24; the warning against will worship in Colossians 2:23; and the prohibition of adding to or subtracting from the Word of God in Revelation 22:18, 19. From these and other passages it is argued that the Bible explicitly condemns all worship that is not commanded by God.

    My progressive friends it’s possible to disobey a positive command, even when a counter-negative command is not provided!

    Let’s come back to the example in Leviticus 10:1-3. It is this disrespectful, irreverent attitude of presumption that caused God to punish the disobedient, reminding His true followers, "by those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy".

    These examples, among all the other examples from the Old Testament era, were given for our learning and admonition (I Corinthians 10:11-12; Romans 15:4). Will we heed their warning?

    God doesn’t allow us the option of changing His commandments by addition or subtraction. Why the warning if it's not a possible threat or concern?

    He commands us to do it his way — no more, no less. The risk of doing it “our way” could have eternal consequences.

    * “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2)
    * “So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left.” (Deuteronomy 5:32)

    I am only concerned with my worship practice conforming to God’s will and not church tradition or current popular opinion!

    “The safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters

    God bless,
    Robert Prater

  48. Hank says:

    And even though he was not inspired of God when he asked it (or ever), the question is still worthy? How would you answer Keith? (it is okay to answer it even though it is not scripture)…

    “On what grounds then, can we place the musical instruments of the temple in a different category than other ceremonial elements?” Such as the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, dancing, etc?

    Why would musical instruments be any different than the other carnal shadows of the Old Law?

  49. Bob Harry says:

    Robert

    What are you trying to restore? The "old paths" or your version of Campbell-Stone Christianity? They would not agree with the "conservatives" of which you are obviously a part of. Stone and Campbell had only the love of Christ in mind to unite a horribly divided denominational world on Scripture undergirded by the golden rule and Gospel, not COC conservative version of doctrine. I came from a non class, non located preacher environment and they were more tolerant toward the class and preacher system than most of you with those espousing IM.

    Debate and all this discussion in a blog setting is worthless unless there is more love and tolerance shown toward those not so eloquently endowed as most of you. I find you rather arrogant and boring.but that is my opinion.

    Cheers

    Bob

  50. nick gill says:

    Robert,

    Let’s come back to the example in Leviticus 10:1-3. It is this disrespectful, irreverent attitude of presumption that caused God to punish the disobedient, reminding His true followers, “by those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy”

    Oh let's get into Leviticus 10! I would love to understand what interpretive approach allows you to make God's treatment of the rebellious Nadab and Abihu universally authoritative, while his treatment of the triply-rebellious Eleazar and Ithamar (ignored the command to eat, ignored the command not to mourn, and the reason: they didn't feel like obeying on such a day as that!) Is ignored IN THE SAME CHAPTER???

    You do the same thing with 2 Sam 6! What interpretive ethod authorizes you to make God's treatment of Uzzah a universal precedent, but God's treatment of rebellious David the Anointed One (Mesiach) who taught – nay, commanded! – Uzzah to sin with regard to the Ark?

    God told Moses, "keeping steadfast love for thousands of generations, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation." (Ex 34:7)

    THOUSANDS vs, 3 or 4 generations, and you uphold the 3 or 4 and, with your hermeneutics and your traditions, nullify the THOUSANDS???

    What interpretive principle gives you the right to make Nadab, Abihu, and Uzzah universal, and the right to ignore the lessons on Eleazar, Ithamar, and David?

  51. bradstanford says:

    Bob Harry said: "I am embarrassed to be a member of the COC."

    This is a major reason for the death of the CofC. If you love your neighbor as yourself, then you have to do some serious mental gymnastics to think that bringing your neighbor into this family feud is a loving action. Therefore, most have not. And the CofC is about to breathe its last.

    They'll continue to attend, of course, because they've been taught that not going is a damnable offense. But there is no joy, no outreach, no grace, no gospel, no Jesus. Very trapped, very sad.

    A lack of Jesus-ness in any group of people who claim to follow Jesus is honest hypocrisy at best, and blind lukewarmness at its worst. Loving Scripture as you love yourself is not a functional substitute for the gospel.

    I am humbled by the grace of the piano player in this situation. That is the definite mark of a follower of Christ.

    The religious people always have Scripture on their side:
    1. No Messiah comes from Nazareth.
    2. An illegitimate child can't be the Messiah.
    3. He casts out demons in the name of Beelzebub.
    4. He believes in the resurrection of the dead.
    5. He doesn't believe in the resurrection of the dead (depends on which group you were from – sound familiar).

    All of them missed out on God standing face to face with them.

    It is the prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners that sit at His feet – those who know they don't have all their doctrinal ducks in a row, other than to know that they are accepted. Jesus calls it the faith of a child.

    Like the piano player.

  52. Do we do away with bread in our worship because it was part of temple worship? The concept of atonement? The gathering of people to hear scripture read?

    Haven't you read in Acts 2 that the believers gathered in the temple courts? Seen that nothing is said of any repudiation of the worship going on there? Between that time and the temple's demise, thousands of believers worshipped both as Christians and Jews. At its demise, Christ was the only High Priest and sacrifice, so many priestly functions and laws about items of worship were transformed or abolished. But not all!

    We still pray, give offerings, engage in cleansing, read from God's word, meditate on it, show hospitality, care for the poor, observe a feast of deliverance … and on and on.

    Your question assumes that all other ceremonial elements – bread, water, money – are excluded, but only mentions the ones that we as a fellowship have self-righteously excluded, and for no directly- commanded reason. We have exluded them primarily to differentiate ourselves from others who still include them. It is not a valid question. It is slanted and prejudicial. The plain answer to your question is, you can't. There is nothing forbidden about any of those elements of worship. Neither are they required. They are, therefore, optional. That's not so hard to figure out, is it?

    (Most of us light lamps of some sort or another when we worship. Some prefer to worship in the dark. It's optional.)

    Now, I asked a valid question: How do you differentiate between the ancient laws – of Moses – that we should keep, and those we should ignore, if it's not by New Testament scripture either confirming or repealing it?

  53. Bob Harry says:

    Brad

    I did not say that. I am embarrassed to be a member of the COC. I said they, should be more tolerant with each other.
    And you are right, who would bring a guest into a cat fight.The COC is not the only group guilty of infighting.

    I used the interdenominationals as an example of Christians with a diverse background getting along.

    Bob

  54. Guy says:

    Nick,

    i agree there's something in our heritage that attracts those folks. But they'll only be attracted to congregations and 'circles' which carry on that particular 'something' in our heritage. The congregations which do not carry on that thread, would not be attractive to them, but would rather become the subject of their disdain.

    Nevertheless, in such a case, our heritage did not "generate" hate-mail in the same way as a person who was not previosly cynical/divisive in heart, then joined the CoC, then acquired that mentality.

    Regarding the latter case–i grant you the likelihoods that someone (especially among those in charge) in a given congregation was trained at institutions permeated with the "heritage" we're talking about. But that doesn't mean they act that way or ever inform their own congregants of that thread of things. Further, there are a smattering of churches (rare, but i've seen them–especially during the brief time i lived in New England) who don't handpick their leaders out of the traditional institutions. Some hire in-house. Also, my second or third interview ever was for a youth ministry position in South Lyons, MI. They had never even heard of Brown Trail School of Preaching, and they (elders, preacher, and a few of the wives) acted completely shocked during the interview when i spouted off the various doctrinal answers i'd been taught at BTSOP. They genuinely thought of themselves as "conservatives" solely because they still baptized for the remission of sins and didn't use instruments.

    All i'm saying is that in recent times it's becoming more and more plausible for a person to join a CoC and stay in it without ever hearing about all the issues we're discussing here. In at least those cases, i don't think it's fair to assign such a person all the negatives we're identifying that have taken place in the COC's history.

    –Guy

  55. bradstanford says:

    Bob – sorry, but I simply copied straight out of your comment, second paragraph, second sentence. It caught my eye, or it wouldn't have inspired me to comment in the first place.

    If that's not what you meant to say, I understand. But here is your original quote that I literally copied from (as in command-C, or control-C if you're in Windows):

    Bob Harry, on March 11, 2010 at 8:01 pm Said:

    You all

    You could learn much from the interdenominational churches who’s members were many denominations. They are completely autonomous and don’t worry what other denominations might think. They would have merged in a heart beat. Some even don’t have paid preachers which is a God send. From what i have read in the above comments some of you should be ashamed to even be called Christian preachers. You quibble over trivia.

    The Campbells and Barton Stone should be turning in their graves. I am embarrassed to be a member of the COC. I thought each congregation was autonomous and free to merge with whomever they wish.

    You all need to spend more time with sinners, discussing their salvation than all this BS. That.s cow dung to you if you don’t catch on.

    Bob

  56. nick gill says:

    Guy, it is in those places, outposts on the edge of the American CoC frontier in postChristian America, that I believe the Spirit is blowing! Places where Christian freedom can be lived and enjoyed away from the spying eyes of the editor-bishops and the Contenders For The Faith. Places where, when converts are taught in freedom, they'll never be shackled by denominational traditions.

    Our heritage of unity and freedom runs deeper and richer than the sectarian squabbling. I trust in the power of God's Spirit to set people free indeed.

  57. Guy says:

    Nick,

    Maybe so. The congregation i attended for a summer in Trumbull, CT was comprised of mostly first-generation Christians. And while i was there, i did a couple different VBS's for other congregations in town which had somewhat similar make-ups and vibes.

    i really think both "conservatives" and "progressives" in terms of those vocal proponents of the list of positions which are typically assigned to either camp really comprise two different minorities in the CoC (i know Jay has defined progressive on here in a much broader, more inclusive way). i think a great number of congregations really fall inbetween the two camps.

    i think if i was in a "conservative" congregation, it would be in my best interest to pay a great deal of attention to the criticisms of the "progressives" in order to examine myself and my congregation and see whether or not they were right. If i were in a "progressive" congregation, i think i shouldn't be so quick to dismiss what the conservatives have to say, but to think carefully about whether or not they're right and what i should do about it. In either case, i think the point is to start with yourself and where you are and work there. Is your congregation overrun with people or ideologies from a certain camp? If not, then why sweat it? There are likely much bigger fish to fry.

    That congregation in CT i went to was by all appearances conservative. No instruments. No female public leadership over men. Generally traditional songs. Etc. But they weren't that way because they took all their prompts from the CFTF lectureships. The fact was those matters weren't really issues. There were more important things to deal with. Praying for each other. Serving each other. Being at each other's hospital bedsides. Stocking a pantry for the community's hungry. Individual and communal prayer and bible study (they had a FANTASTIC prayer service idea i'll have to share sometime). That to me is what needs done. i realize it's not always as simple as that, though, when you belong to a congregation squarely in one camp or the other.

    –Guy

  58. Hank says:

    bradstanford wroye:

    "I am humbled by the grace of the piano player in this situation. That is the definite mark of a follower of Christ."

    With which I agree. As Jay mentioned…"at one point the pianist stood to say, “I have played for this church and others most of my life, but for the sake of unity I’m willing to sing a cappella in the worship”. The others agreed. Each of our differences was resolved in the same way…for the sake of unity"

    I wish that every piano player (as well as guitars, drums, etc.), would do the same.

  59. Hank, the long answer to your specific question would have to point out that dancing was never commanded in scripture, and therefore isn't parallel to instrumental worship. Dancing was what David did out of the joy of his heart at the return of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem.

  60. bradstanford says:

    Hank – I also wish that every acapella singer would have the same amount of grace to give up their traditional hang-ups for the cause of Christ as well, and worship with those who use instruments. Jesus said we will know a tree by its fruit. The IM disagreement is the unfortunate fruit of the CofC, since that's the issue that the wagons got circled around years ago. A sad legacy to say the least.

  61. nick gill says:

    In Jesus' day, the Pharisees were divided into two major schools of thought. One was named after Rabbi Hillel, the other after Rabbi Shammai. Their yokes (their method of interpreting Torah) started at the same place, but branched apart very quickly.

    The question you'd use to discover whether a Pharisee followed Hillel's yoke or Shammai's yoke was simple, and you'll recognize it. "Rabbi, what is the greatest command? How do you read the law?"

    Hillel and Shammai (and the five schools of thought on the spectrum between them) agreed marvelously on the 1st and greatest command. Jesus did too. The greatest command is this:

    "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

    Where things began to get hairy, and where I believe there's a lesson to be learned for us today is at the second great command. Jesus and Hillel agreed that the second great command is this:

    You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18)

    While the other schools of thought generally followed this path, and would then argue about "Who is my neighbor?" (recognize THAT question?) Shammai did not follow this path. Shammai (and the Sadducees, although their style of interpretation was MUCH different – they came to the same result, as the parable of the Good Samaritan shows) believed that the second greatest command was:

    "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)

    Now, Hillel wasn't as lovey-dovey as one might like – the parable of the Good Samaritan is shocking to any 1st Century Jew precisely because Hillel allowed that anyone was your neighbor EXCEPT Samaritans, who had lost their image-of-God by settling with and intermarrying with pagans. But that's an idea for a different day.

    My thought for today is just this: Does our traditional position (that error in public worship requires division) elevate another command (Col 2:23, maybe) to second place, bumping love of neighbor to third (or, if memory serves, seventh according to Shammai)?

  62. Bob, you said about me, “I find you rather arrogant and boring.but that is my opinion.” That would called a ad hominem attack and I will not respond to you until I see repentance of such. And Jay do ever wonder why more conservative folks don’t comment….gee, I wonder why:)!

    Nick, let’s talk about Leviticus 10:1-3 and it’s underlying principle. God's displeasure with unauthorized worship is expressed throughout scripturture. Throughout Scripture, both in the Old and New Testament, examples abound of God rejecting (often violently) worship that includes elements that He has not prescribed. Rarely are these elements introduced with malicious intent – usually the motive is to enhance the worship of God. But God nevertheless rejects such worship.

    So many today seem to be governed by the old principle of: anything not expressly forbidden in the Word of God is allowable in the worship of God. "What Scripture does not forbid, it permits."

    My opposition to such an interpretative approach is not based only on a single proof-text, but on the totality of what Scripture teaches about the principle of worship

    Now, Nick, yes, we know that God usually does not kill each of us when we sin (thank God), and even when we persist in our sin. The general biblical truth is that God does not treat us as our sins deserve, but he is patient with us so that we can come to repentance. Yet Paul teaches, "Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance" (Rom. 2:4). God's kind patience in forbearing with sin is not to be misunderstood as an approval of sin. It is God's objective Word and not my subjective feelings that assure me of God's approval of my worship.

    The fact of the matter is that Nadab and Abihu lacked the peculiar mark of sanctity. It was not of God's appointment; it was not divine fire. If you can understand the nature of their sin, then everything else will fall into place. If you miss what was wrong with their fire, you will fight every conclusion along the way. Was God displeased? Was their act sin? As a mighty judgment, fire from heaven, like a blazing bolt of lightning, consumed them, and they died before the Lord. The key point is this: it was not commanded, and therefore it was wrong. They had intruded a merely human device into holy things, thus usurping God's prerogative, and they died for their sin!

    Now, yes, it is true in the New Testament dispensation the Lord has left more freedom within worship than in the detailed ritual of Old Testament ceremonies. It is also true that there will always be differences among faithful Bible-believing Christians who seek God's honor. Exegetical questions, questions of liberty, and how far such liberty extends are necessary questions.

    But this much is clear: wherever we lack clear divine warrant for what we do in the worship of God, we need to be exceedingly careful lest, like Nadab and Abihu, we be guilty of offering “strange fire” which the Lord has not commanded. Go into a typical place of worship today, and you will see a multitude of remarkable devices and practices by which, it is imagined, the worship and adoration of God are furthered. The generation of Nadab and Abihu is not extinct. Will-worship, self-made religion, has confused the commands of God with the practices and traditions of man. Nadabs are numerous; Abihus abound. Their successors are in control, although God has never changed His law.

    Or perhaps you would like to reason that God does not regard it as a serious offense, otherwise we would see such judgments every day as happened to Nadab and Abihu. You see the deception! How many use it in practice every day.

    So many sincere, kind and loving followers of God think that because they don't see God's judgment, they are at peace. But because those who offend God do not reap the punishment immediately is no proof that God has ceased to hold men accountable for intruding on holy ground and offering strange fire. But because those who offend God do not reap the punishment immediately is no proof that God has ceased to hold men accountable for intruding on holy ground and offering strange fire. One judgment of this kind gives us a warning for all time. Same goes for King Saul….David….Uzzah…..Because all liars are not struck dead for their deception, as were Annanias and Sapphira, is no indication that God has ceased to hate lying. One swift, terrible judgment like that should suffice for all time and give us some idea as well about the everlasting punishment for such. One example of Nadab and Abihu should be clear. “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew. 15:9).

    Again, why can't one judgment of this kind gives us a warning for all time. One example of Nadab and Abihu should be clear. “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew. 15:9).

    Yes…..of course, God will be the one who judges the final eternal souls of men….not me or you or anyone else……and if not for the grace of God, none of us have a chance. But having said that, it doesn't take away from the principles of what I've said above.

    I just wonder…….what has happened to the spirit of the reformers upon which the restoration movement was founded: Sola Scriptura!

    My progressive friends….without such a revealed standard we are like the Athenians of old, worshipping “unknown gods”! Why are we so inclined to incur God's wrath for illicit worship rather than diligently seeking and heeding divine revelation on the matter?

    And by the way Nick, let’s not pit one attribute or characteristic of God against the other: God’s love/mercy vs. His justice/judgment. God is perfectly just and merciful and both these attributes are manifested throughout all scripture. Yes, God spared David's life by pure grace; normally David would have died for his sins (Lev. 20:10; 24:17). But remember, even though the Lord removed the guilt of David's sin (forgiveness) he did not remove the consequences of it (discipline).

    Nick, your thinking I believe contributes to kind of idea many people have come up with the idea that God, especially "the God of the Old Testament," is a God of vengeful judgment, that he is a fierce and harsh tyrant, and that the slightest misstep is treated with severe judgment. We tend to think of God in that way despite the hundreds of passages in the Old Testament that reveal the tenderness of His heart and the abundance of His love and compassion. But this is because we read our Bibles so superficially. God is acting here just as much as a God of love as He is in any other part of the Bible. His nature is love. And He never deviates from what he has revealed Himself to be. So this action must be in line with His nature and character of love. And, if we don't react to it as such, then there is something wrong with us.

    We should never take this mercy for granted. The thing about mercy is that it is a gift. It is a gift that is offered at the will of the giver not the one who receives it.

    To ignore God's directives is to say that I am above God, how arrogant and sinful it that!. It's not a matter of what we think or how sincere we are, but what God says! Let's not forget who is in charge.

    There is only one way for those who would worship God in a way acceptable to Him. Do what He commands alone. Do not add to it, or take away from it. That is the regulative principle of worship. What God thinks of those who violate it is clear in Leviticus 10:1-3.

    And freedom……freedom, Biblically defined, is not a freedom of human creativity, but a freedom to honor God through doing His will made possible by redemption of sin through the work of Jesus.

    Friends my prayer for us all is the following: “Lord forgive us when we move out in our own direction thinking we know what is best. Help us keep you on the throne and to willingly submit to your ways as made clear in your Word."

    In Christ,
    Robert Prater

  63. K. Rex Butts says:

    Again I ask…instead of trying to solve this issue…why does neither Paul nor any other New Testament writer seek to put forth an “official” position and practice regarding the issues of the first century (i.e., clean/unclean meats) in order to bring uniform agreement but instead continually called Christians on both sides of the issue back to the redemptive work of God in Christ? What does that say about Christians today trying hammer down an official position on an issue like instrumental worship or any number of other issues we might encounter today?

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  64. Robert, I believe you successfully avoided answering Nick's question about Eleazar and Ithamar with an ad hominem attack of your own, brother:

    "Nick, your thinking I believe contributes to kind of idea many people have come up with the idea that God, especially “the God of the Old Testament,” is a God of vengeful judgment, that he is a fierce and harsh tyrant, and that the slightest misstep is treated with severe judgment."

    Nick has displayed no such opinion here, nor elsewhere, to my knowledge.

    (And I believe you had a little fun with my call for "sola scriptura" above.)

  65. K. Rex Butts says:

    And two more questions…if the issue of instrumental music (or lack of) is so important to God then why did God not make it more clear? Why did he leave it up to us to try and clarify through a cleaver and complicated hermeneutic rooted in Scottish philosophy?

    "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will renounce the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared with a hot iron. They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods WHICH GOD CREATED TO BE RECEIVED WITH THANKSGIVING by those who believe and know the truth. FOR EVERYTHING CREATED BY GOD IS GOOD, AND NOTHING IS TO BE REJECTED; provided it is received with thanksgiving FOR IT IS SANCTIFIED BY GOD'S WORD AND PRAYER" (1 Tim 4.1-5, NRSV, Caps for emphasis).

    If the food that we prepare is from God and acceptable to God and his people, is not all music that we make – vocal and instrumental – from God and acceptable to God and his people?

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  66. nick gill says:

    Robert-

    BRAVO! I love reading good writing, and when someone uses irony with such audacity and wit, I must applaud. Well done, sir!

    You say:

    Throughout Scripture, both in the Old and New Testament, examples abound of God rejecting (often violently) worship that includes elements that He has not prescribed.

    and then you say:

    Nick, your thinking I believe contributes to kind of idea many people have come up with the idea that God, especially “the God of the Old Testament,” is a God of vengeful judgment, that he is a fierce and harsh tyrant, and that the slightest misstep is treated with severe judgment. We tend to think of God in that way despite the hundreds of passages in the Old Testament that reveal the tenderness of His heart and the abundance of His love and compassion. But this is because we read our Bibles so superficially. God is acting here just as much as a God of love as He is in any other part of the Bible. His nature is love. And He never deviates from what he has revealed Himself to be. So this action must be in line with His nature and character of love.

    And you say these things precisely at the point where I/ am arguing for the incredible graciousness of God and you are arguing from 3 verses in Leviticus 10 and 1 verse in Samuel that God "often violently" punishes people who err in their worship!

    It's almost like you've reversed our positions in a beautiful rhetorical manuever devised to paper over the fact that you can only prove this so-called "underlying principle" of Lev 10:1-3 by completely severing it from the rest of chapter 10. That is a brilliant use of irony, brother.

  67. Well…..let’s talk about Eleazar and Ithamar.
    I think Nick you are making a distinction which is not made by Scripture. The argument seems to be that Nadab and Abibu were punished because of irreverent pride, but their brothers sinned later in the chapter and weren't punished because their sin was simply born of human weakness. What is your point? Is your thought that if one worships with the instrument and does so believing it is unscriptural and wrong, but still does so out of pride, he will be judged by God. But if a person worships with the instrument thinking it is a Christian liberty but does so from a pure heart, he will be forgiven and God will overlook it? But let’s be clear here…..most of this blog don’t believe instrumental music to be unscriptural or unauthorized, right? So we’re always going to talk in circles. But I shall try once more…

    Leviticus 10 does not teach this idea. Moses was angry at first in the case of Eleazar and Ithamar. After hearing the explanation, "he was content" (v. 20). If Moses was content, then God's law wasn't broken in the first place. Where was Moses ever content with a bonafide case of sin-regardless of excuses and explanations? Christ did not sin by healing on the Sabbath; it seemed to some that he did, but they were put to silence by his explanation. On Lev. 10: 12-20, Pulpit Commentary says, "It was true that the letter of the Law bad been broken, but there was a sufficient cause for it (see Hos. 6:6; Matt. 12:7)." Don’t you think an inspired man like Moses could determine whether an apparent violation was actually allowable in God's sight or not?

    In Matt. 12, Christ does not argue that David and the priests actually sinned in what they did, though misguided men might think so. David and the priests are placed by Christ exactly where Moses saw Eleazar and Ithamar to be: among "the guiltless" (Matt. 12:5). In each case, through Moses and Christ, we see no law was broken in God's sight. If law had been broken through “misguided piety” or sincere “misunderstanding”, wouldn’t a sin offering would have been in order (Lev. 4).

    Furthermore, there is no consistent application of the supposed distinction in the rest of the Old Testament. For instance, when David sincerely moved the ark on a cart and Uzzah sincerely tried to stabilize it, Uzzah died and David didn't (2 Sam. 6). The Lev. 10 argument hinges on separating "human weakness" (in the form of false or misguided piety) from "pride." Actually, pride is a human weakness to which we all are subject, just as we're subject to other human weaknesses. Read 1 Jn. 2:15-17 for the distinction the Lord does not make in this matter. King Hezekiah showed off his treasures to Babylon’s messengers; he fell victim to the weakness of pride, but lived to repent (Isa. 39.

    Again, go back to the context. Moses made careful inquiry about the goat of the sin offering, and there it was; burned up: Moses wanted to know why Eleazar and Ithamar didn’t eat the portions of sacrifice that were given for the priests to eat. Since Aaron replied on their behalf in Leviticus 10:19, it seems they did not eat it because they followed their father’s example of mourning the loss of his sons. Again, Leviticus 10:20 "And when Moses heard that, he was content." Moses could accept that, as God did also.

    Again Moses got angry with them and asked them why they didn’t eat from it as they were commanded to, then Aaron tells Moses the reason. Aaron was fasting because he was mourning his son’s death, which was allowable because it was not done outwardly but privately. It seems that Aaron’s sons may have been following their father’s example and refused to eat from the sin offering out of respect

    When Moses heard that Aaron was concerned with pleasing the Lord, it set his mind at ease over whether the priesthood was taken seriously by Aaron and his family. Moses then could see that the “mistakes” were not because of negligence to God’s commandments.

    I’m sorry Nick and my other progressive friends but this example of Ithamar and Eleazar does not serve as a counter argument to clearly Nadab and Abihu’s example and that somehow, this passage might justify God accepting the use of instruments in worship. You’re simply stretching and overreaching and attempting to make this passage teach something it does NOT. The example of Nadab and Abihu continues to serve as an example of disobedience in offering unauthorized worship to God which He clearly rejected.

    My brothers you are making a distinction God doesn’t make. And it just seems to be the old tired argument that “sincerity’ in worship all that really ultimately matters. But clearly you can sincerely worship God in vain. We must respond in worship towards God because of the revelation of Himself. The worship that God is pleased with is produced in the right kind of “spirit” which leads to a sanctified truth response to what He reveals in His Word. God is concerned about the sincerity of the worship of His Name. Therefore He has given us His Word to lead us into true, spiritual and sincere worship.

    In Christ,
    Robert Prater

  68. Nick….how many examples do you want to show people can either willful or unintentional disobey God’s commandments when it comes to worship? One, two, three, four…..20? What is God doing as He lays down His standards, principles, and guidelines in the form of commandments, statutes, ordinances, laws in the Old Testament? Wasn’t He telling us what was it that was most important to Him?

    I mean, what is the Book of Leviticus all about? Isn’t Leviticus a book of worship. It tells the children of Israel how to get right with God and how to stay right with God. How can sinful people worship a holy God? This question is answered in the book of Leviticus.
    What about the instructions pertaining to the construction of the tabernacle and the manufacture of the various articles associated with it? Or the law “restated” in the Book of Deuteronomy.

    That God places supreme importance upon His written word is abundantly clear. The Lord has revealed this to man by His praise of His word, and by His condemnation of those who would tamper with it. God's name is glorious and fearful. The penalty for not fearing God's name makes it obvious that He does not take disrespect for His name lightly. "I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name." (Ps 138:2)

    The Lord also informed us of His view of His word by giving us three grave warnings to those who would corrupt the Scriptures. God warned against adding to His word:

    "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Do not Add to his words, lest he reprove you and you be found a liar." (Proverbs 30:5-6)

    Note that He also warned would-be correctors that they were not to subtract from His word. "Your shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish ought from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you." (Deuteronomy 4:2)

    God gave us the words that He wanted us to have, and we dare not alter them. If we are to keep His commandments, we certainly need to know precisely what they are. Hence, the Lord provided ample warnings to us, so that we might not be tempted to change His words. Lest anyone be confused about the utter foolishness of tampering with the holy word of God, the Lord provided a fearsome final reminder in the last verses of His inspired word: "For I testify unto every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." (Rev. 22:18-19)

    How can anyone read the preceding without recognizing the immense importance the LORD has placed on His word? God promised to severely punish anyone who adds to His word. Worse, He promised to expunge those who would take away from His words, from the book of life! In this light, should we not highly value the Holy word of the living God?
    Why are there so few who are willing to take a stand on this issue?

    And God in His omniscience knew that His word would be attacked. Since the day Satan was cast from Heaven, he has been working furiously to sabotage the word of God. Satan's very first attack as recorded in Genesis was on God's spoken word. (Gen. 3:1)
    The serpent's technique was not to engage in a full-fledged frontal attack of outright denial, but rather to undermine the absolute authority of God's word. Satan is subtle. This is precisely what modernists, atheists and far left progressive liberals are doing when they “spiritualize Scripture.” "Did God really say that? How do you know?"

    Most Christians have heard such things many times. These attacks on God's revelation most certainly did not end in the Garden of Eden. They have continued down to this very day. n the New Testament, we see another example of Satan's tactics; that of changing God's word. Immediately following Jesus' forty-day fast, Satan engaged him in a dialogue. Each time Satan tried to tempt Jesus Christ, the Lord answered him by quoting His own words. The Lord Jesus Christ said: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4) In the next two verses Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus, boldly altering His words by omitting a key phrase.

    The fact is that in both in the Old Testament and New Testament, when God tells His people how to worship Him, He expects them to follow His instructions exactly.
    If God expected strict obedience to His. Whether worship instructions in both the Patriarchal Age and the Jewish Age or Christian era.

    Would God leave us without instruction in the most important issue on earth – His worship? Certainly God, and God alone, has the prerogative to determine the means through which He is worshiped.

    When we, the people of God, come together for worship, we are to follow God's prescription for worship. Our worship is to be regulated by God's Word alone. We are not to add to nor subtract from God's prescribed form of worship. Innovation has no place in the worship of God.

    And just as God gave the Jews a pattern through Moses and David, He has given us a pattern of work and worship. The Old Testament, the tabernacle and the temple were only "a copy and a shadow of heavenly things" that are now provided for us by Christ under the New Testament. (Heb. 7 & 8, cf. 8:5)

    In closing, I think about how Os Guiness confronts us with the inescapable question – How have we Christians become so irrelevant when we have tried so hard to be relevant?

    “By our uncritical pursuit of relevance we have actually courted irrelevance; by our breathless chase after relevance without a matching commitment to faithfulness, we have become not only unfaithful but irrelevant; by our determined efforts to redefine ourselves in ways that are more compelling to the modern world than are faithful to Christ, we have lost not only our identity but our authority and our relevance. Our crying need is to be faithful as well as relevant! (Prophetic Untimeliness, p. 15)

    I've probably said more than I should and will probably once again be "dogpiled" by critics. I think I've done enough writing these past two days for awhile.

    I fear the gap between us (progressives and moderate conservatives) in the church has probably been widened than before I started commenting. And for that I grieve.

    For Christ,
    Robert Prater

  69. K. Rex Butts says:

    Robert,

    I think the point is that Leviticus 10 is being used (and I would say badly used) as an ad hoc proof-text. The problem is that for every proof-text to defend a position, there is a counter proof-text and a counter proof-text to that and a counter proof-text to that and a… I think I've made my point.

    Leviticus 10 was written for an entire different purpose than the issue of worship with or without instruments, so any use of Leviticus 10 will always be an ad hoc use and therefore such use is open to criticism.

    Any ways…I am not trying to convince you (or anyone else) one way or the other on this issue, as I believe all of our answers are mere opinions that having nothing to do with the good news of the kingdom of God (the gospel Jesus preached). But I am concerned when I see an issue, which I believe is not addressed in the NT and therefore is a matter of freedom, continually pressed to the point of division in churches.

    So I am interested on your thoughts to…

    “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will renounce the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared with a hot iron. They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods WHICH GOD CREATED TO BE RECEIVED WITH THANKSGIVING by those who believe and know the truth. FOR EVERYTHING CREATED BY GOD IS GOOD, AND NOTHING IS TO BE REJECTED; provided it is received with thanksgiving FOR IT IS SANCTIFIED BY GOD’S WORD AND PRAYER” (1 Tim 4.1-5, NRSV, Caps for emphasis).

    If the food that we prepare is from God and acceptable to God and his people, is not all music that we make – vocal and instrumental – from God and acceptable to God and his people?

    —-

    Any ways, I am not trying to be cute or trickery. Although I have no objections to instrumental worship, I would gladly worship in a capella format to worship with you (I also happen to prefer a capella, as I think many praise bands do not have a good sound mix and therefore become distracting to my music/guitar playing ears…but that is another issue).

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  70. K. Rex Butts says:

    BTW…Rodney Plunket, who preaches for the White Station CoC in Memphis, gave a lecture on Holiness and Leviticus 10 at HUGSR (in fact I believe he wrote his PhD disseration on Lev 10) and if his research is correct, Lev 10 has nothing to do with the way it has been used in the CoC. And Rodney Plunket is not out to advocate for IM, so he has no reason to use Lev 10 as an ad hoc argument.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  71. nick gill says:

    Robert –

    My sole purpose with these two passages, at the present time, is to show that they do not teach what you say they teach: "Throughout Scripture, both in the Old and New Testament, examples abound of God rejecting (often violently) worship that includes elements that He has not prescribed." You made an assertion that I am disproving. I have not yet begun to assert what I believe either passage is teaching – so most of your last comment is irrelevant, because you wasted your time arguing an assertion that you invented and attributed to me. Let's get to the text, shall we?

    Your quotation of the Pulpit Commentary, and your commentary afterwards, is confusing.
    You quoted the following:

    On Lev. 10: 12-20, Pulpit Commentary says, “It was true that the letter of the Law had been broken, but there was a sufficient cause for it (see Hos. 6:6; Matt. 12:7).”

    Then you comment:

    Don’t you think an inspired man like Moses could determine whether an apparent violation was actually allowable in God’s sight or not?

    Which is it, brother? Is it a breaking of the Law or only an apparent breaking? You go back and forth on this a couple of times, so I'd like a better understanding of your position. Do you believe Eleazar and Ithamar (and/or Aaron) broke the law?

    Your reading of Matthew 12 is wrong in one sense, and right in another. Here's the text:

    At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath." He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath." (Matthew 12:1-8, emphasis mine)

    Jesus clearly says that it was not lawful for David and his men to eat the showbread. He does not say, "You Pharisees THINK eating the showbread is unlawful but it really isn't." He says eating the showbread "is not lawful for [David] to eat."

    You are wrong to say that no law was broken in the sight of God. If Jesus says someone did something unlawful, which is what He says here, then a law was broken.

    But you are right to say that Jesus calls David and his men, along with himself and the disciples, guiltless. What you are unable to do at present, it seems, is explain why lawbreakers like these, and Eleazar and Ithamar, are guiltless.

    They broke God's laws concerning public worship. Your statement in your last comment was correct, that God doesn't strike dead every guilty person. So the problem you need to solve to prove your assertion that God rejects all error in worship is not the punishment not received, but rather the proclamation of guiltlessness.

    Next, you mentioned "sincere David" and "sincere Uzzah." There is no suggestion in the text that David or Uzzah were sincerely mistaken in this matter. In fact, Scripture tells us that the king had his own copy of the law. David chose to bring the Ark back on an oxcart for the same reason that the Ark was lost in the first place, and why it ended up at the house of Abinadab in the second: it was being treated as an idol. The Israelites treated it as an idol; the Philistines treated it as an idol; David treats it as an idol. Uzzah is punished for being more concerned about his own glory, and David's, than God's. David is rightly angered and struck with fear – angry because his sin led to the death of Uzzah (guys whose names start with the letter U should probably have avoided contact with David, eh?), and afraid of the power of God.

    Finally, brother, you contradict yourself again. You wrote (emphasis mine):

    When Moses heard that Aaron was concerned with pleasing the Lord, it set his mind at ease over whether the priesthood was taken seriously by Aaron and his family. Moses then could see that the “mistakes” were not because of negligence to God’s commandments.

    Then you wrote (remember, these are YOUR words, not mine):

    My brothers you are making a distinction God doesn’t make. And it just seems to be the old tired argument that “sincerity’ in worship all that really ultimately matters.

    Well, for goodness' sake, brother, isn't that exactly what you said satisfied Moses? The <del>sincerity</del> seriousness of Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar with respect to the worship of the One True God? It certainly sounds to me like Moses understood what the Sadducees in Jesus' day (represented by the priest and the Levite in the Godd Samaritan parable) did not: compassion and redemptive love outweigh the ritual law.

    Let me close with one more response to your writing.

    The example of Nadab and Abihu continues to serve as an example of disobedience in offering unauthorized worship to God which He clearly rejected.

    That is absolutely true. God rejected their worship. No one in the history of theology has questioned that.

    However, the question that you steadfastly refuse to answer is WHY? The whole purpose of the Eleazar and Ithamar narrative is to point out that the reason cannot be simply because Nadab and Abihu violated God's commands with respect to worship. The second pair of sons imitated the rebellion of the first pair, and yet were guiltless. I believe I've shown by a preponderance of the evidence that Leviticus 10 cannot be used as prima facie evidence supporting the proposition that God rejects all erroneous worship.

  72. Mike Ward says:

    What did Nadab and Abihu do that was unauthorized?

    The usual answer it that they got the fire from an unauthorized place. But where is the instruction from God telling them where to get the fire to burn the incense?

    There isn't one.

    Nadab and Abihu could not take the fire from the place God told them too because God never told them where to take the fire from.

    Unless like some, you argue that to there is an unrecorded command. But if the command is unrecorded then we have no idea how it was worded. God could have specifically told them where not take the fire from.

    The example of Nadab and Abihu is generally used like this:
    ASSUME God told them where to get the fire from.
    ASSUME God did not tell them where not to get the fire from.
    Then argue that since God told them where to get it but not where not to get and they where killed that there was some kind of unwritten "law of silence" in the Old Testament.

    But it's all based on assumptions which are not revealed in the text.

    On top of that, it is then simply taken for granted that for some reason this law of silence was not nailed to the cross with the rest of the law of Moses.

  73. nick gill says:

    Would God leave us without instruction in the most important issue on earth – His worship?

    Hyperbole, unsupported by Scripture, will get your argument nowhere, Robert. The Messiah Himself tells us what is most important.

    "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:36-40 ESV)

    "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23)

    Paul continues:

    Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:1-8 ESV)

    For you, Robert, to suggest without any support whatsoever, that the public worship is "the most important issue on earth" is troublesome at best.

    Robert continues:

    When we, the people of God, come together for worship, we are to follow God’s prescription for worship. Our worship is to be regulated by God’s Word alone. We are not to add to nor subtract from God’s prescribed form of worship. Innovation has no place in the worship of God.

    Perhaps you have a different New Testament from mine. Can you show me where the NT version of Leviticus is? For I agree, when God wants to establish a clear and unequivocal worship practice, He knows how to do it – and He did it in Leviticus, for one nation of people living in one place on earth for a specific period of time.

    I'm interested in your reference to Hebrews 8 and 9. They have a couple of interesting statements there. The Hebrew writer quotes Jeremiah saying that the New Covenant will not be like the Old Covenant. The author continues to quote Jeremiah's prophecy that the Law will be written on the hearts of the covenant people, rather than the covenant people needed to be taught to know God (ie, the difference between being born into the covenant, knowing nothing of God, and being baptized into the covenant – choosing to submit to God AFTER learning of Him.).

    Then the Hebrew writer goes on to mention ANOTHER difference between the two covenants. The author says, "The first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness."

    Is it possible that the author means – quite differently from the way you understand this idea, Robert – that the new covenant has neither an earthly place of holiness nor regulations for worship?

    That, perhaps, since Spirit-filled, Christ-led worship of the One True God is supposed to encompass the entire earth and all the nations and cultures within it, that one set of regulations would not create what God desires?

    That one set of regulations would not allow Christians to "become all things to all people, that by any means we might save some?" (1 Cor 9)

    That regulations for worship – the whole idea that they are necessary – is childish in a Galatians 4:1-7 sense?

    That if Christ can live in each of the incredibly diverse, unique-looking, different faces of the poor (Matt 25), that what God desires is for all the ethnoi (nations) to worship Him and Him alone in their own styles and languages?

  74. Hank says:

    Keith wrote:

    "Hank, the long answer to your specific question would have to point out that dancing was never commanded in scripture, and therefore isn’t parallel to instrumental worship. Dancing was what David did out of the joy of his heart at the return of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem."

    Actually Keith, you stand corrected. While there are other passages as well, consider Psa. 149:1-3 — "Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.
    Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp."

    And so, I will ask the question again:

    In the book by Mr. Price, he argues that, “There is no record in scripture of a musical instrument ever being used in public worship without an explicit divine command.”

    Can that statement be disproved?

    If not, he also asks, “On what grounds then, can we place the musical instruments of the temple in a different category than other ceremonial elements?” Such as the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, dancing, etc?

    Why would musical instruments be any different than the other carnal shadows of the Old Law?

  75. Hank says:

    He (Mr. Price) also asks:

    "Will the trumpets, tambourines and cymbals which the OT requires really enhance our appreciation of what is being sung? How will churches organize the dancing which is an integral element in such passages (Psa. 149:3; 150:4)?"

  76. nick gill says:

    I'll allow Keith to deal with the comment directed towards him, where a poem is interpreted as a piece of law code. That's between Hank and Keith.

    But since the last comment was left open for all, I will respond.

    Question 1: Perhaps, perhaps not.

    "Let each of us please his neighbor for his own good, to build him up." (Rom 15:2

    "All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up." 1 Cor 10:23

    Question 2: That's up to the elders of each congregation, in accordance with the two quotes above, and one more. "But all things should be done decently and in order."

  77. I stand and sit corrected. If you regard everything imperative in scripture and otherwise unattributed as a command of God. And dance was not specifically commanded as part of temple worship. Incense and lighting/maintaining of the lamps before the veil were.

    Hank said:

    "In the book by Mr. Price, he argues that, 'There is no record in scripture of a musical instrument ever being used in public worship without an explicit divine command.'

    Can that statement be disproved?"

    You won't like the answer, but ….

    I find no evidence of God's command for David to use instruments to celebrate before him in the incident recorded in <a href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Chronicles+13&version=NIV&quot; rel="nofollow">1 Chronicles 13 and <a href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Samuel+6&version=NIV&quot; rel="nofollow">2 Samuel 6.

    Nor do I find anyone but David authorizing the innovation of instruments of praise in <a href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Chronicles+15&version=NIV&quot; rel="nofollow">1 Chronicles 15.

    But God commanded it through his prophets, yes, in <a href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Chronicles+29&version=NIV&quot; rel="nofollow">2 Chronicles 29.

    I've answered Mr. Price's question to the best of my ability. You can't exclude those elements by God's silence any more than you can exclude water, money, etc. from our worship just because they were commanded under an old law … but in some New Testament verses about baptism and giving, water and money are not mentioned.

    Would you do me the courtesy to attempt to answer mine?

    How do you differentiate between the ancient laws of Moses that we should keep, and those we should ignore, if it’s not by New Testament scripture either confirming or repealing them? How do you do that? How do you know which one stay, and which ones go?

    Hank, if you don't have an answer, just say so; it's okay (as you said to me) if it's not from scripture. I just want to know how you can be sure, if it's not by the criteria of scripture.

  78. Hank says:

    Keith wrote:

    "Hank, if you don’t have an answer, just say so; it’s okay (as you said to me) if it’s not from scripture. I just want to know how you can be sure, if it’s not by the criteria of scripture."

    Whoa…Whoa…Whoa…bro.

    Keith, all I said was that it is okay to answer a question that is not specifically asked in scripture. Here is what I wrote:

    "In the book by Mr. Price, he argues that “There is no record in scripture of a musical instrument ever being used in public worship without an explicit divine command.”

    Can that statement be disproved?""

    The question I asked is not asked in scripture. However, I believe that it is still okay and right for us to ask and try to answer it.

    Here is what I actually wrote:

    "And even though he was not inspired of God when he asked it (or ever), the question is still worthy? How would you answer Keith? (it is okay to answer it even though it is not scripture)…"

    Keith (and all), I only said that is okay to answer a question that is not asked in scripture….NOT that it is okay to answer the question without scripture. There is a big difference.

    Repeat — I never said (nor implied), that it is okay to answer a question apart from scripture…

    I want to clear this up before asking/answering anything else.

    Does that make sense Keith?

  79. It does now. I misunderstood. I apologize. You are not under any obligation to answer my question. In fact, I withdraw it as not germane to the topic of the post.

    Please understand that I did not grow up in a Church of Christ which taught so many of the principles that you and Robert have expressed, Hank. I wasn't terribly motivated to pick them up in college, either. I am trying to make sense of them, and I am failing.

  80. Hank says:

    You won’t like the answer, but ….
    Keith wrote:

    "I find no evidence of God’s command for David to use instruments to celebrate before him in the incident recorded in 1 Chronicles 13 and 2 Samuel 6.

    Nor do I find anyone but David authorizing the innovation of instruments of praise in 1 Chronicles 15.

    But God commanded it through his prophets, yes, in 2 Chronicles 29."

    Price addressed that as well (not that he is inspired…but, he makes a lot of sense), when he wrote:

    "When we read through the historical narraatives of 1 Chr. 13-16 and 1 23-25, in which David brings the ark to Jerusalem and orders the temple worship, respectively, we are not told why he brought the singers and the various musical instruments into God's worship. We may be left with the impression that David did so simply ut of his own personal desires as a skilled musician……We are not told why David used them in the histirical narrative.

    We discover the reason why David brought musical instruments into God's worship almost 300 years later during the reign of king Hezekiah. After many years of decay and neglect, the temple worship was restored by Hezekiah, and we read in Chro. 29:25-27:

    And he set the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the LORD by his prophets. And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the LORD began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel.

    Notice that the Bible says that, "…for so was the commandment of the LORD by his prophets."

    Keith, much more can be said, but the deeper we dig, the more it will be shown that David was actually commaned by God through his prophets Gad and Nathan. David's command was God's command. Even the great prophet and king David had no liberty to alter God's worship because of his own desires or musical inclinations…."for the command was from the Lord through his prophets."

  81. Hank says:

    Thanks Keith.

  82. nick gill says:

    Who commanded Miriam to lead the public worship with the tambourine? If the commandment to use instruments in the public worship did not appear until the time of David, it certainly seems like she lacked authority to do so.

    Where is her authority?

  83. Hank says:

    Nick, that is a good question. And as Jay has said it is good to give credit wherever it is due…. Price had this to say regarding that:

    "It is important for us to note that this is the only place in Scripture where Miriam is called a "prophetess." For what reason would she be so designated here other than to indicate that she used her timbrel under divine command? It was not just Miriam, but "Miriam the prophetess" who played the timbrel. In the same way, we ind the use of instruments by the prophets in 1 Sam. 10:5, and 2 Kings 3:15. Though we read of no explicit command on thee occasions, the fact that these men were under divine inspisration would indicate that the command existed. As prophets, they were actig under divine guidance even in regard to their use of musical instruments…..

    Furthermore, it should also be remembered that Israel was a theocracy, and, as such, there were times of civil celebration that were mengled with the praises of Jehovah. Occasions such as Miriam's use of the timbrel and David's return after killing Goliath (1 Sam. 18:6) would fall into this category, but they have no direct baring on the occasions of formal and public worship. David's bringing of the ark into Jerusalem in 1 Chr. 13-15 may also be considered a civil celebration. It should also be noted that these were all unique occasions and none involved a continuing state of public worship for all the people of God. Each case is limited in terms of those involved and is only temporry in nature. Because the occasions do not involve a continuing state of public worship for all the peope, we would not expect to find an explici divine command…..

    We have seen that, under the Old Covenant, even the specific instruments of worship, the trumpets of Moses and the instruments of Davis, were commande by God. No musical instrument has ever been brought into God's public worship except by explicit divine command. ….

    These are truths clearly established from the Old Testament Scriptures"

  84. Hank, I can see Price's interpretations as a possibility. I can also see the possibility that Miriam and David liked instrumental worship and celebrated with it, not having been commanded to do so. I can see the possibility that God later commanded it through his prophets in 2 Chronicles 29 out of deference to David, to the people who were blessed by it, to the numerous Psalms David and others had written which encouraged it.

    If you accept Price's argument that these were unique situations which do not involve a continuing state of public worship for all the people of God, then you negate "example" as a precedent for practice … and would have to accept that the incident involving Nadab and Abihu was unique, having to do with the inaugural worship at the tabernacle only.

    That also weakens his contention that you quoted earlier; that instrumental worship was commanded by God through his prophets (earlier than the occasion where that is revealed).

    I don't believe you can prove that "No musical instrument has ever been brought into God’s public worship except by explicit divine command" by interpreting the scriptures exclusively under the assumption that "No musical instrument has ever been brought into God’s public worship except by explicit divine command." That would be circular logic.

    You would have to consider the other possibilities and logically, scripturally eliminate them – and we do not have the information to do so.

  85. nick gill says:

    Are you kidding, Hank?

    It was not just Miriam, but “Miriam the prophetess” who played the timbrel.

    +

    Furthermore, it should also be remembered that Israel was a theocracy, and, as such, there were times of civil celebration that were mengled with the praises of Jehovah. Occasions such as Miriam’s use of the timbrel and David’s return after killing Goliath (1 Sam. 18:6) would fall into this category, but they have no direct baring on the occasions of formal and public worship.

    =

    No musical instrument has ever been brought into God’s public worship except by explicit divine command

    I'm sorry, but that evidence is just too thin. Miriam is called, "Miriam the prophet, the sister of Moses" because that is where she is introduced in the Exodus narrative.

    And there is no historical reason to look at Israel's history and try to categorize it into civil and religious, based upon our modern political categories. When God is king (Exodus) and when God's Anointed One is king (Samuel, Chronicles), the civil/religious division disappears. The only reason for trying to view it that way is to exclude certain worship gatherings from <del>your</del> Mr. Price's argument, and it doesn't work.

  86. Nick, I don’t think ultimately you and I will be able to fully answer all the questions we have about this passage. Why did God not strike them down as He had Nadab and Abihu?

    I don’t know exactly if it because Aaron interceded on behalf of his kids that spared them punishment from God or what. All we do know is when Aaron explained to Moses that they had not eaten the meat because of their mourning and anguish over what had just happened, "he was satisfied" (Lev. 10:20). Maybe it was simply the fact that considering the events of the day, had they eaten of the sacrifices, they would have done so with an improper attitude, and worshiped in vain. All I do know is that God too was apparently satisfied, for no calamity came on Eleazer and Ithamar.

    I still don’t know what your real point is. That we can disobey God’s commandments when it comes to worship He has authorized but as long as we’re sincere in heart He’ll forgive us or overlook it anyway? Because we DO KNOW that didn’t fly with Nadab and Abihu. God never did say to them directly in these words, “You shall make use of this fire and no other,” but God would have them to understand this.

    Nobody is basing their entire theology solely on this passage. All I’m saying is it teaches us the importance of worshipping God in accordance to what He has commanded us and it shows in principle that God can and has rejected such worship in severe judgment. (Matthew 15:9ff; cf. Mt. 15:13 where “every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up” references teachings or worship i.e., “in vain do they worship me…..teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

    He's some general observations…..if they don't apply to you, then don't apply them to you…but it just seems like me that many modern progressive liberals don’t want to hear any such message. It’s like I heard one preacher describe many progressives that to them, “the absoluteness of the Bible is not absolutism.” All the while claiming to hold a high view of the Bible and the truth.

    I just greatly fear that many today are calling into question the most fundamental precepts of God’s word. John Macarthur described the modern interpretation of so many liberal theologians and scholars as something like watching a tennis match without a net between the players. It just the height of contemporary arrogance and leads inevitably to independent foolishness.

    Anyway, I’m sure you completely disagree with my assessment, but it’s mine nonetheless. It seems like there is great bitterness in you toward those of us more conservative brethren in the church. The one thing I’ve been surprised and sadden to have discovered in the past few years commenting on this site is even though “liberals” like to talk much about love and acceptance and tolerance and understanding, the minute a conservative opens his mouth or “types on the keyboard:)” you find some of the most judgmental and vicious brethren in the world who are the liberals. What they say about “legalists” is every bit as harsh as what many legalists say about them.

    Oh…BTW for the record, Nick, what I really meant to say about worship should have been “one of the most important issues on the earth—His worship.” Boy, chill out and lighten up on me:)!

    Rex, I really don’t know what to make of your question/argument about “everything created by God is good…” It’s almost like you are trying to be cute or trickery. Because I have to admit, on the surface, it seems like a pretty sillly and weak point and one I don’t see having anything to do with worship or our discussion…..just because created something and is good…..does that mean He either wants or commands for it to offer to Him in worship???

    Let me ask you a question or anyone else…..let’s suppose I wanted to bring into the worship assembly the act of rhythmic dance or karate or how about yoga? Or let’s say painting, etc. Or how about instead of break and fruit of vine, either add or subtract roasted lamb….or pop or whatever? Would these be acceptable in the assembly? Why or why not? What basis or interpretive principles would you use? Just curious…..

    Anyway, I think I’ll continue to hold to the example of Nadab and Abihu to serve as an example of disobedience in offering unauthorized worship to God which He clearly rejected.

    In Christ,
    Robert Prater

  87. Hank says:

    I too am curious as to whether or not the many here would object to rhymic dancing, karate and/or yoga being brought into the worship assembly.

    And if so, on what grounds?

  88. Nick Gill says:

    Robert –

    I still don’t know what your real point is. That we can disobey God’s commandments when it comes to worship He has authorized but as long as we’re sincere in heart He’ll forgive us or overlook it anyway? Because we DO KNOW that didn’t fly with Nadab and Abihu.

    We know disobedient worship didn't fly with Nadab and Abihu. We know sincere but disobedient worship did fly with Eleazar and Ithamar. I'm not even beginning to suggest at this point that the clear conclusion to be drawn from those two examples should be applied throughout Scripture. As I said before, so I say again: all I'm trying to do at this point is to show that you are wrong about the lesson of Leviticus 10. Their worship is rejected, but not for the reason you've put forth – that reason would also nullify the worship of the second pair of brothers.

    I think Moses makes it pretty clear, in context, why their worship was rejected. Remove the chapter-break and read the story – it starts at the beginning of chapter 9. I believe they were punished for 3 reasons:

    Primarily, they sought glory for themselves on the day of the Lord.
    Secondarily, they were probably drunk.
    Thirdly, they were not authorized to offer fire – only the high priest was allowed. (Lev 16:12 – remember that Moses doesn't write according to our standards of chronological order)

    I believe they were punished because (to modernize the story), on Inauguration Day, they ran up onto the President's dais while he was speaking, knocked him out of the way, and did a commercial for themselves.

    Self-glorifying worship is never accepted. God's Promise prevented Him from killing David for glorifying himself in the matter of ark transportation, but the narrative in Samuel makes it clear that David understood that God's wrath was against him. Ananias and Saphira sought glory for themselves.

    It seems like there is great bitterness in you toward those of us more conservative brethren in the church. The one thing I’ve been surprised and sadden to have discovered in the past few years commenting on this site is even though “liberals” like to talk much about love and acceptance and tolerance and understanding, the minute a conservative opens his mouth or “types on the keyboard:)” you find some of the most judgmental and vicious brethren in the world who are the liberals. What they say about “legalists” is every bit as harsh as what many legalists say about them.

    Robert, grow up. I dialogue just as passionately with Royce as I do with you. You're right – there are some progressives who communicate poorly. But just skim through this conversation and ask yourself where the ad hominem attacks have come from, and how they were resolved.

    Since you asked:

    Let me ask you a question or anyone else…..let’s suppose I wanted to bring into the worship assembly the act of rhythmic dance or karate or how about yoga? Or let’s say painting, etc. Or how about instead of break and fruit of vine, either add or subtract roasted lamb….or pop or whatever? Would these be acceptable in the assembly? Why or why not? What basis or interpretive principles would you use? Just curious.

    As I said earlier, here are the NT principles to be employed:

    "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24)
    “Let each of us please his neighbor for his own good, to build him up.” (Rom 15:2)
    "To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings." (1Cor 9:22-23)
    “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.” (1 Cor 10:23)
    "So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order." (1Cor 14:39-40)

    Finally, Robert:

    I think I’ll continue to hold to the example of Nadab and Abihu to serve as an example of disobedience in offering unauthorized worship to God which He clearly rejected.

    That's fine, as far as it goes, but – since I've shown pretty clearly that the reason for the rejection of their worship was not merely its unauthorized nature – you're going beyond what is written to apply it as broadly as you do.

  89. Glenn Ziegler says:

    rhythmic dancing? just wondering if there was any other kind? Maybe some of you have been watching America's Got Talent a bit too much.

    karate? really? What is the karate move for turning the other cheek? Or do you read that as meaning "turn the other guy's cheek"? Consider the source of the discipline and just state the question honestly, okay? Karate hearkens to a fighting (self-defense or offense) to protect monasteries of Buddhist and/or Confuscian monks. To bring it in would be syncretism, would it not?

    Yoga? Again, syncretism. In these 'enlightened times' (as some may call them) there are plenty of folks who would like to just hedge their bets every way they can. Is that what you would promote? I think Paul addressed that pretty well in Athens, didn't he? Maybe someone could use a refresher.

    Having grown up attending a church of Christ, I have heard many of these same kinds of extremist arguments, building straw-man issues whenever there seemed to be no place left to hide from the truth revealed by an honest study of the scriptures. S-C/RM preachers may not have invented the straw-man argument, but many have honed it to an art form. But it is still as unconvincing as ever to anyone who knows it for what it is. As one schooled at "Christian" colleges and a COC preacher training school, I have found that the main differences I can find between those who use straw-man arguments and those who avoid them are diligence and sweat equity in the development of the reasoning by those who avoid the straw-man approach. And that has nothing whatsoever to do with which side of the IM issue one might ascribe to. Both sides have straw-man practitioners a-plenty.

    Seems to me that the apostles and evangelists of the first century had a more direct approach, dealing with what they found in each place directly, without ever addressing all the what-ifs and contingencies we seem so pre-occupied with in this discussion. Jay gave us a better place to frame the discussion, and frankly, I wonder why so many have felt the need to leave behind that framework? Then again, there are really less than a dozen people still in the discussion anyway, if you hadn't noticed.

    Hank and RP, to be direct with your question …
    (suppose I wanted to bring into the worship assembly the act of rhythmic dance or karate or how about yoga? Or let’s say painting, etc. Or how about instead of bread and fruit of vine, either add or subtract roasted lamb….or pop or whatever? Would these be acceptable in the assembly? Why or why not? What basis or interpretive principles would you use?)

    Dance? If you like and if it is offered to God and offered to build up the others in assembly.

    Karate? No. Too violent and syncretistic. Encourages people to rely on self-defense rather than God. I am against anything that undermines our trust in God.

    Yoga? No. Meditation on God's word? Yes. See the difference?

    Painting? Only if the paints are non-toxic and eco-friendly. Same rules as we used with my kids at our abode. Frankly, I am better at drawing than painting, but I appreciate those who have abilities I do not bring to the mix.

    Note: why ask 'instead of' and then qualify that with 'add or subtract'? Which is it?

    How about we just share a meal and be sure to take time together to use the bread and the cup to celebrate our togetherness in Christ and remember the way He gave His body and blood to bring us together and bring us with Him to His Father? And how about we promote the practice of families doing that every day at home, too?

    (After all, if we want to think of ourselves as a movement to restore the original practice, how much more original in practice can we get than Acts 2?)

    Which of these questions is supposed to be a tough one? Can you not work this out in your own home and come together with love and unity of heart to assemble and encourage one another?

    It often pains me to see how splintered and out of focus we have become. Today it is difficult to even imagine the effect of being in a non-judgmental family gathering like the ones that broke out daily, from house to house and in the Temple courtyard in the days following the Pentecost after Jesus arose from the dead. We just aren't mature enough to handle it, I guess.

    Hank and Robert and Nick and Rex and all, is this the best we can do?

  90. Nick Gill says:

    Glenn –

    It often pains me to see how splintered and out of focus we have become. Today it is difficult to even imagine the effect of being in a non-judgmental family gathering like the ones that broke out daily, from house to house and in the Temple courtyard in the days following the Pentecost after Jesus arose from the dead. We just aren’t mature enough to handle it, I guess.

    I really understand your frustration – I feel it, too. But this kind of talk seems to idealize the early assemblies as much as any strict conservative Restorationist. They had just as many problems as we do – otherwise, why did Paul need to write all those letters? Why the Jerusalem Council? Why the servant appointment in Acts 6?

    But no, it isn't the best we can do. We're trying to get better, though.

  91. K. Rex Butts says:

    Robert,

    In case you missed it :-)… that was not my argument, it was the Apostle Paul's words.

    Glenn,

    I understand your frustration but I am not sure how your comment redeemed the discussion in any sense. I have tried to refrain from judging anyone but if I have, I deeply regret it because that was not my intent.

    Robert is the only person I know personally on this blog chat. We both were in the same undergraduate Bible program together and though we did not always agree then we got along just fine then, loving each other with the love of Christ and I am quite sure we both would do the same today if we were sitting in the same room.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  92. Karate. Yoga.

    Somehow, I thought we were going to stick to the scriptures in this conversation.

    I think I'm done here.

  93. Jay Guin says:

    Hank and Robert,

    You argue from a false dichotomy, assuming that the choice is either "5 and only 5 acts of worship" or "no boundaries at all." Obviously, there are many other possibilities.

    The scriptures don't center on the Christian assembly, but they do address the purpose of the assembly —

    (Heb 10:24-25) And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

    The writer wasn't issuing an edict: go to church or go to hell! He was explaining how we should help each other remain true to Jesus so as to not fall away. And we do that by meeting together so we can encourage each other (active voice: we go to encourage, not to be encouraged). This encouragement is toward love and good deeds — that is, to be like Jesus.

    He does not describe performance of arbitrary rules to placate a vengeful God. Rather, he describes an assembly of people who've committed to carry a cross for Jesus, helping each other carry on to the end without falling away.

    Just so, in 1 Cor 14 Paul deals with questions regarding what is and isn't appropriate in the assembly. He doesn't check his apostolic list of authorized acts. Rather, he asks: does it edify? and if it doesn't, can it be done in a way that edifies?

    (1 Cor 14:3-4) But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.

    Notice that self-edification is considered inappropriate in the assembly if not accompanied by edification of others. It's not a time to meditate quietly, all alone in a room with others. It's a time to take advantage of the presence of beloved brothers and sisters to build them up.

    (1 Cor 14:27-28) If anyone speaks in a tongue, two–or at the most three–should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.

    Paul imposes rules based on pragmatic concerns. Tongues is neither inherently acceptable nor not acceptable. It's neither authorized nor unauthorized. Rather, it's appropriate if done in a way that edifies and not appropriate if not.

    The third passage that is central to my own thinking regarding the assembly is —

    (John 4:23-24) Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

    While not limited to the assembly, the principle is applicable to the assembly. The traditional interpretation puts the emphasis on "and" — that Jesus is saying no longer will worship in spirit or worship in truth be acceptable alone — it must be both. And many traditions argue that "truth" means according to the rules of our tradition and "spirit" means with the right heart. This is a demonstrably erroneous interpretation.

    In John, "truth" means the truth about Jesus. http://oneinjesus.info/index-under-construction/t

    In context, "spirit" refers to the nature of God: "God is spirit" is not about God's attitude but his divine nature. And "living water" is plainly about the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). Therefore, worship under the new covenant is worship that is in the good news of Jesus and the Spirit.

    I've explained this one way a while back at http://oneinjesus.info/2007/09/30/a-debate-on-ins…. But in light of the series I've just begun on The Cruciform God, we can go just a little deeper. The Spirit's role is to move us toward being more like Jesus. The gospel is all about the cross of Jesus. Being like Jesus is following his self-sacrificing example.

    Therefore, true worship is kenosis — self-emptying — becoming more like Jesus — taking up your cross daily. And in the assembly, that which "edifies" or encourages "toward love and good works" is that which helps us realize the Spirit's work in us to be more and more like Jesus and him crucified.

    That means that many things that are not sinful are inappropriate in the assembly, and many things that could be righteous can be done in ways that are contrary to Spirit and truth.

    Thus, preaching, singing, etc that is contrary to the nature of Jesus is not "in Spirit and in truth," whereas announcements that encourage the members toward love and good works are — even though not in Alexander Campbell's list of five acts.

    I propose, therefore, that when an activity is suggested for the assembly, whether or not it's on the list of 5 acts, it be tested by the scriptures. Does it encourage to love and good works? Does it edify, encourage, strengthen, or comfort? Is it in Spirit and truth?

    When we get done, we won't have a handy list of only a very few approved acts, but we'll have much more Christ-centered assemblies and much more Christ-like congregations.

  94. Anonymous says:

    The COC denomination again and again and again beats a dead horse quibbling over instrumental music. Incredible what people look for to argue over, even more so sad! Will someone please give the Scripture where the apostles were running around arguing about instrumental music with the people.

    Seems this blog itself has gone past two admonitions.

    Titus 3:9-11 “But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.”

    There’s too much else that needs to be done to help the needy, the sick, the lonely, the broken, and the lost.

  95. Keith and Glenn, you are right about my “karate and yoga” illustrations. I have resorted to the tactic of what's been called "reductio ad absurdum." I got off course. I shall try to do better in the future.

    I really should have not written the last paragraph. Was mostly tired and frustrated. Not the kind of serious discussion by serious people I would hope for.

    But I guess my point is that in today’s contemporary churches today, we are in fact seing things being advocated such as both “praise and worship” dance as well as what is called “Liturgical Dance” both argued to enhance the worship experience. It can be done as a solo or with a group of dancers and usually highly choreographed. And it's not just something being practiced in Pentecostal or charismatic churches.

    In a recent article online article I was reading about new Alternative worship styles draw younger crowds it talked about techno dance music—and how well, worship is getting physical! One minister described their churches commitment to a worship style that “uses dance, creative movement, flags, and tambourines as an expression of Biblical Christian faith.”

    I don’t have to tell you that many churches of Christ are adding new nontraditional, contemporary interactive worship services.

    And what about dramatic and theatrical presentations as worship? I don’t these are “extreme” cases or examples. Do these types of worship activities have a rightful place in the Assembly of God’s people?

    And yes it is true that it is easier to see what is wrong with others than to put right what is wrong with us. I get that. But we nevertheless need to examine ourselves

    Again….many will not be particularly troubled by these issues, but there are others like myself wonder what kind of Biblical interpretive principle or guide will be used to help see these types of issues in a clearer light.

    No yes I understand that I every generation of believers in the history of the church have had music and worship style that was consistent with that generation. We’re not singing chants now. Every generation has style changes. And I think to throw away anything just because it’s new is to miss the point all together. Every generation needs to express its worship in ways that it’s familiar with and comfortable with. And so there is going to be a morphing(?) and a changing of certain styles, while hopefully at the same time holding onto Biblical authority for what we do in our worship activities.

    Again…as example I know of one congregation in the OKC near Shawnee where I preach that advertised their church service as "God's Country Goodtime Hour." They apparently had flyers boldly promise "line dancing in worship.” According to the report “the pastor is dancing, too, decked out in Wrangler boots and Levis."

    Now, you might think such a scene is merely an aberration from an obscure or offbeat church. Sadly, that is not the case. Current church-growth theory has opened the door wide for such antics. Plenty of churches are employing every means available to spice up their services.

    Anyone who can’t see clearly that Sunday worship is undergoing a revolution that has no parallel in all of church history is a little blind or naïve.

    Again, I am brought back face to face with the Reformers' principle of Sola Scriptural—Scripture alone. In an age when many evangelicals seem to be turning en masse to worldly expertise in the areas of “how to do church”, we are pointed back to Scripture as the only source we can turn to for infallible spiritual truth.

    How does the sufficiency of Scripture apply to worship? Again, it was the Reformers answered that question by applying sola Scriptural to worship in a tenet they called the regulative principle. John Calvin was one of the first to articulate it succinctly:

    "We may not adopt any device [in our worship] which seems fit to ourselves, but look to the injunctions of him who alone is entitled to prescribe. Therefore, if we would have Him approve our worship, this rule, which he everywhere enforces with the utmost strictness, must be carefully observed. . . . God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by his word. (John Calvin, The Necessity of Reforming the Church (Dallas: Protestant Heritage Press, 1995, 17-18)

    And nineteenth-century Scottish church historian William Cunningham defined the regulative principle in these terms: "It is unwarrantable and unlawful to introduce into the government and worship of the church anything which has not the positive sanction of Scripture."

    I just think we’d do well to not leg go of this confidence in sola Scriptural as it applies to worship. It seems to me a number of harmful trends that are gaining momentum these days reveal a diminishing lack of respect in both the authority of Scripture and confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture. It’s as one writer described, “On the one hand, there is, as we have noted, almost a circus atmosphere in some churches where pragmatic methods that trivialize what is holy are being employed to boost attendance.”

    Yes I know obviously, not all who affirm the soundness of the regulative principle necessarily agree in every detail about how it should be applied. Some would point to such differences in matters of practice and suggest that the whole regulative principle is therefore is no good.

    I am striving for balance somewhere in the middle on all this. I do agree with what Rex said about loving each other in spite of our differences.

    Anyway I am still thinking and listening…..and hoping for an honest and open Biblical discussion at the table.

    May we give God all praise and honor on the Lord’s Day tomorrow

    Humbly in Christ
    Robert Prater

  96. Hank says:

    Jay wrote:

    "You argue from a false dichotomy, assuming that the choice is either “5 and only 5 acts of worship” or “no boundaries at all.” Obviously, there are many other possibilities."

    Like what Jay? Here again, you suggest that there are boundaries, but are you really able to decipher where?

  97. One more thing…..I do think Jay offered some thought provoking arguments and suggestion to help provide guidelines when discussing worship matters….whie I wouldn't agree with all of them and still I'm guided by the regulative principle…….they are helpful to the discussion.

    I espeically thought interesting was his comment, "That means that many things that are not sinful are inappropriate in the assembly, and many things that could be righteous can be done in ways that are contrary to Spirit and truth…"

    Very interesting….still thinking about it all….

    Sincerely,
    Robert Prater

  98. Hank says:

    Jay wrote:

    "I propose, therefore, that when an activity is suggested for the assembly, whether or not it’s on the list of 5 acts, it be tested by the scriptures. Does it encourage to love and good works? Does it edify, encourage, strengthen, or comfort? Is it in Spirit and truth?"

    Does this mean that we can introduce ANYTHING we feel like so long as WE BELIEVE the thing encourages us to love, that WE BELIEVE it is edifying, that it comforts us, etc.? And that so long as WE BELIEVE it's good…that God will accept it?

    Do you believe that it is possible for a church somewhere to believe that a thing is good and pleasing to God, but be wrong? And that the thing believed to be good was actually sinful?

    Some people here want to laugh at those of us who bring up karate, dancing, and yoga, but why are those things so funny? There is a church 3 miles from my house that last moth offered "pet blessing ceremonies" on their sign out front. Another church right next to the one I attend held a "motorcycle blessing." I bet that both of those churches believed their practices were pleasing to God and not sin. But are you really sure that they are not mistaken?

    When we divorce ourselves from the goal of only offering to God the things he has actually asked for…then you tell me where the actual boundaries are.

    And saying (at least implying) that a thing is pleasing to God so long as the people believe it is just doesn't work.

    Besides, what is it in guitars and drums that is so encouraging to love and good works? And in what
    way(s) do they edify, encourage, strengthen, and comfort? And what qualifies tham as being in Spirit and in truth?

  99. nick gill says:

    Robert –

    I appreciate your honesty and openness shared with us in your last comment. I'm honored to be your brother in Christ, and I thank God for you before each time I participate in our dialogues. When we gather around the Table tomorrow, I hope it will be with the great and exciting knowledge that, by the Spirit, we all gather around the same Table together with our blessed Lord at the head!

    I can't count how many times I've sent out paragraphs that I regret. It is a grotesque feeling that I'm trying to learn to avoid with the discipline of prayer.

    Let me also affirm, before I interact with your comments, that I deeply appreciate your love for our God and your desire to be found faithful in Him. I do not believe (although my darker thoughts mutter it to try and weaken our brotherhood) that you are a legalist, trying to put God in your debt through your obedience. Rather, I believe that you have the deepest honor for the word of God – an honor so deep that I strive to help you see what I perceive as a major error, an error that may hinder your ministry and your growth into the likeness of Christ.

    You wrote:

    In an age when many evangelicals seem to be turning en masse to worldly expertise in the areas of “how to do church”, we are pointed back to Scripture as the only source we can turn to for infallible spiritual truth.

    And

    Scottish church historian William Cunningham defined the regulative principle in these terms: “It is unwarrantable and unlawful to introduce into the government and worship of the church anything which has not the positive sanction of Scripture.”

    Brother, it is precisely because I do not find the Regulative Principle used in such passages as Leviticus 8-9, et al, that out of my belief in the all-sufficiency of Scripture, I must reject the Regulative Principle.

    I believe Scripture, empowered by the Spirit who inspires and interprets it in the community of faith, is sufficient to teach us how to worship in the new covenant. As part of its difference from the old covenant, though, the new covenant does not provide a code of regulations for worship. Instead, it provides the life and mission of Jesus, along with some challenging questions, to teach us how to apply that life and mission in the myriad of cultures and locales in which the gospel will take root.

    I hope that one of the things that comes out of our discussions is that people will see that honest loving brethren can disagree over how Scripture is to be interpreted, without either conversation partner rejecting the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.

    I fully agree with the one author's evaluation that many churches have created a circus-like atmosphere in hopes of boosting attendance – and I cannot for the life of me see how many of those settings can foster spiritual growth and fellowship. I've never grown closer to anyone who was sitting in the next row from me at a movie theater or a concert.

    But I have great misgivings as well about the congregations that have rigorously applied the Regulative Principle of Worship over the course of its existence. Its consistent application is just as likely to produce spiritual apathy, self-reliance, and complacency as it is to produce true worship. The Regulative Principle over-emphasizes externals that can be performed without regard for the

  100. nick gill says:

    I messed up on my PDA, so my last comment was incomplete :(

    The regulative principle can be obeyed without any concern for the state of the person's heart. Questions like: what's best for my brethren? What would build up this church community? Would that be indecent?

    Questions like those REQUIRE a group of hearts in the midst of Christian transformation to answer them. No other kind of heart will care.

    Sometimes, in order to sing from the bottom of his heart, my younger brother will need songs with simpler lyrics, and a bit of instrumentation or a praise team to guide his voice and address his deep lack of self-confidence in approaching God so intimately.

    Sometimes my older sister, in order to worship fro the depths of HER heart, will need to sing the songs she grew up with, the songs she buried her late husband with, in the style in which she grew up worshipping.

    If the Scriptures can be translated into different languages and dialects and styles of speech without sacrificing The Message, then I believe worship can be translated into different heart-languages and styles of expression without sacrificing the true and utter devotion to the One True God that it requires, expresses, and creates.

    Finally (for tonight, I think) the Regulative Principle, by its nature, focuses on FORMS. Focusing on particular forms cannot help but create something, well – FORMAL – something ceremonial. I see absolutely nothing ceremonial about any of the worship described in the New Testament.

    So for those three reasons: I can't find it in Scripture, it fails to transform the heart, and it creates something that doesn't actually look like the early church, I must reject the Regulative Principle.

  101. nick gill says:

    Hank asks-

    Do you believe that it is possible for a church somewhere to believe that a thing is good and pleasing to God, but be wrong? And that the thing believed to be good was actually sinful

    Yes, of course! But if their error is committed while striving to love their brother as Jesus loved them (utterly wholeheartedly and sacrificially) and to love their neighbor as themselves – then according to 1 John, they are walking in the light and the sin is forgiven. It is that simple – and that difficult.

    Why would it be sinful to ask God's blessing on any part of your neighbor's household? Would it be sinful if they held "marriage blessing" meetings? "Employment blessing" meetings for the un- or under-employed? Brother, I think your concern speaks more of snobbery than spirituality. To compare a martial-arts demonstration with praying for your neighbor is unkind at best.

    When we divorce ourselves from the goal of only offering to God the things he has actually asked for

    The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.(Psalm 51:17)

    For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.(Hosea 6:6)

    With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?(Micah 6:6-8)

    then you tell me where the actual boundaries are

    What is your obsession with boundaries??? Are you trying to escape? If God is at the center, pursue Him and the boundaries will be behind you. And if, as I believe, the boundaries are God's own nature (love, compassion, mercy, justice, and beauty), you're more likely to be in them by follow Jay's principles than the Regulative Principle. Regardless, obsessing over boundaries takes your focus off of God.

    what is it in guitars and drums that is so encouraging to love and good works? And in whatway(s) do they edify, encourage, strengthen, and comfort? And what qualifies tham as being in Spirit and in truth

    Picture this. A 17-year-old skater meets a preacher who likes to eat his lunch at the local skate park. He laughs and applauds when the skaters do their tricks, and grins knowingly when the skaters show off for the opposite sex. One of this group ODs on drugs, and the preacher is the only person they know who knows anything about God, death, and funerals. He perfors the funeral and the congregation embraces the mourners without judgment or self-consciousness. The skater, who knows NOTHING about God, hears the Gospel from the minister and understands that it is this message about Jesus Christ that caused all those people to shower him and his friends with love and respect. He becomes a Christian and converts several of his friends – young people who have never sang in public before in their lives without musical instruemnts cranked up around them. That, not the 4-part Stamps Baxter harmony and Isaac watts lyrics of our tradition, is the language they use to communicate great passion – joy, grief, anger, melancholy.

    Did uou require him to learn Greek to become a Christian?

    Why should he be required, an infant in Christ, to learn another language in order to keep the more mature believers comfortable?

    Shouldn't they rather sacrifice in order that he might be edified, love him by understanding his weakness and need, and teach him the value and beauty of some of their music as well? Like any foreigner, he may never learn to love their language, and they ay never becoe fluent in his, but out of deep sacrificial love, they empty themselves, and teach him with their loving example how to empty himself in love?

    That is NOT a hypothetical. It is the story of a real young man converted by ministers in our tradition. And it is exactly how instruments (or praise teams) CAN, in some situations, be the most loving option.

  102. Larry Short says:

    If sola scripture is gospel, then why only for worship and church organization? Why not all life? Guess we have to be Amish.
    Realize that most of what we do on a Sunday morning is not scriptural! I'll give you my routine in a few hours (spring forward). I will shut off my unscriptural alarm clock, go to the unscriptuaral bathroom, use an unscriptual razor to shave, dress in uns clothes, and drive a uns car to an uns builiding.
    I'll use a uns songbook, led by uns songleader, listen to a uns paid preacher. I'll take communion uns without a meal and uns with a contribution. My whole worship experience will be in a uns language!
    Get it? How many unscriptural things can I do and still be saved?
    Next, since we have to make choices about items to use and ways to do, I'm all for simple, similar to scripture. But to argue that sola scripture for all we do is blind thinking. Most of what you will do Sunday morning will be unscriptual.

  103. Hank says:

    Nick, having a religious service where a church prays for their neigbors and/or their marriages is different than a religios service where a church prays for their neighbors pets and motorclcles.

    As far as the boudaries, I meantion that because Jay had implied that there are some. I just want to know where you guys actually see them? You see, I dont think you believe there are any but just don't want to admit as much. Come on Nick, "pet" and "motorcycle" sevices as a church? For real??

    I lost a lot of big fish last season… maybe I seek out a church service dedicated to fishing rods and line….

  104. David Himes says:

    Hank,
    I won't speak for other, but the problem of boundaries is not whether or not they exist, but whether they are inherently observable by others.

    Because the standard Jesus set is "spirit and truth." And those are standards for the heart and may not be observable by outsiders.

    You and Robert and others seem to focus on observable standards.

    The dilemma, it seems to me, you must deal with is that only God can judge the heart.

  105. Nick Gill says:

    Nick, having a religious service where a church prays for their neigbors and/or their marriages is different than a religios service where a church prays for their neighbors pets and motorclcles.

    Hank, you're right – it is different. "The least and the lost" are much less likely to come to a religious service dedicated to praying for their marriages and/or themselves. Pets and/or vehicles can be a safe starting point. It does seem foolish, I admit – but that's part of its 1 Corinthians appeal.

    And David, the problem with observable standards and external boundaries is not really the heart-judging issue. Hank and Robert are not trying to get in the business of heart-judging. They want to do exactly what God wants them to do, and they want to teach exactly what God wants them to teach.

    That is an honorable desire, and I don't think they're trying to judge hearts, but protect people from danger.

    The problem with external standards is just this: Picture a large field with God at the center, and a high and thick and strong fence around the edges. His people are on one side, and the lost are on the other side. Reaching the lost with the gospel requires either that we cross the barrier or that we lob spiritual bombs over the wall to blast them with the news that we're safe and they aren't.

    The ethics of the box (the idea that the closer to the center you are, the more you honor God) is mutually exclusive to the ethics of compassion where you're required to go and get your hands dirty in the lives of sinners. Jesus consistently rejects the morality of the box, and over and over against drives home the ethics of compassion (Luke 4, Luke 5, Luke 7, Luke 10, Luke 19) where the sole boundary marker is the extent of your compassion.

  106. Jay Guin says:

    Hank,

    I wrote a 1,000-word post describing biblical boundaries for the assembly — from 1 Cor, John, and Hebrews. Like those.

  107. Jay Guin says:

    Hank,

    Is it possible for someone to apply the principles of John 4, 1 Cor 14, and Heb 10 to the assembly incorrectly? Of course.

    The test that the scriptures gives is both objective and subjective, isn't it? I mean, some things that encourage me won't encourage you. Those of you who are preachers realize that not all sermons resonate with all members. The same song may encourage and edify one member while leaving another cold. And I doubt that in a congregation of any size it's possible for every sermon and every song to encourage or edify every member every time.

    If we were to find that a particular musical style or song choice fails to edify and encourage all the members, we'd be poor leaders indeed if we didn't change the song choice — even though the very same songs might be richly encouraging at a church 5 miles away.

    Hence, the test is somewhat subjective.

    On the other hand, whether what we do is true to the gospel is, by and large, objective. Content matters. Whether the works we encourage are good works is largely objective. Whether the acts we encourage are acts of love is largely objective.

    Now, I must add that it's a mistake to run only the five acts through the edify/encourage/Spirit/truth filter. The announcements, the talk in the aisles, the classes, the life of the congregation as a congregation should live up to this standard.

    In my congregation, and I don't think we're unusual, much of our encouragement to love and good works is found in the Sunday morning handout and in the hallways, foyer, and aisles, as members invite other to go to the hospital to help a sick friend, to cut the grass of an infirm friend, to volunteer for the nursery, etc. After all, we don't go to be encouraged by the preacher — we ALL attend so that we can ALL encourage one another. And singing, praying, etc. are part of that — but the biggest part is in our informal interaction. And this is where you can see the true heart of the congregation.

    When a member suffers the loss of a beloved family member, she'll find comfort in a mention in the announcements or from the pulpit, but she'll likely find greater comfort in the hugs and kind words in the parking lot and hallway between the assembly and the classes.

    Regarding instrumental music, like I said, it's subjective. It may not be the least edifying to you , just as Stamps-Baxter isn't edifying to me. That doesn't make it damnable. It just makes it a poor choice in some congregations and yet a fine choice in others.

  108. nick gill says:

    Amen, Hank. Amen.

  109. Hank says:

    Fair enough… Thanks Nick for being fair with what I wrote. Thank you too Jay for allowing me a voice here.

    I have been trying really hard to not be “legalistic” while at the same time not embracing absudities (and sinful?) ideas of men. It is hard indeed…. I count you both as brothers and am so grateful that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and that his mercies never come to an end.

    God is good, we are not…

    Thanks for Jesus, huh?

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