Colossians: The Instrumental Music Question, Part 1

Colossae moundWe’ve covered instrumental music countless times on this blog, and long-time readers may well be tired of the question. But Col 3:16 is next up for the class I’m teaching, and  this will be a lesson taught in just for one week — if possible. So I have to address the question succinctly.

Let’s see. There are really only about three arguments against the instrument:

1. The meaning of psallo

2. The evidence of early, uninspired Christians

3. The lack of biblical authority

Psallo

Now this is not really a good argument because it’s only a rebuttal. Those who support instrumental music often argue that psallo means “to sing with an instrument,” and the a cappella advocates disagree. But even the most strident a cappella advocates don’t argue that psallo means “sing a cappella.” Therefore, the argument is at best a rebuttal and does not to prove the case. We’ll not spend much time on this one.

Eary Christians

There have been several books written on this one, going in both directions. The response to all of them is simple enough: the evidence is inadmissible. Now, I’m not saying we should never study the Patristics, but I am saying you can’t base a doctrine on uninspired writings. If you can’t prove your case from the scriptures, you have no case. It’s not enough to raise a possibility from the scriptures and then secure the case from history. The scriptures must be themselves sufficient to establish the case. Period. That is, unless you want to adopt the Catholic or Orthodox view that church tradition carries the weight of inspiration. But Protestants reject that view.

The famous Reformation slogan sola scriptura (the scriptures only) was a rejection of the authority of uninspired sources and a plea to return to the text of the scriptures only. The Restoration Movement reframed that slogan as “We speak where the Bible speaks, and we are silent where the Bible is silent.” Now, some argue that Thomas Campbell meant that silences prohibit conduct, which is not true in general, but even the most conservative among us would agree that the slogan includes the notion that we may not bind anything that’s not found in scripture.

Therefore, while we could have (and have had) excellent discussions regarding what the Church Fathers really wrote, their evidence is inadmissible and certainly may not be used to establish what some wrongly consider a salvation issue. When we start damning others because of what Justin Martyr or Thomas Aquinas wrote, we violate our core principles as Protestants and as part of the Restoration Movement.

Silences

Now, this brings us to the real argument — that scriptural silences should be interpreted as prohibitions. The traditional argument begins with –

* Silences are either permissions or prohibitions. If all silences are permissions, then we could teach that Mary was immaculately conceived and add fried chicken to the Lord’s Supper. As this is obviously wrong, we must consider the silences prohibitions.

You have just seen a classic example of the “false dichotomy,” that is, an argument that proceeds by a false choice between two positions when there are in fact other choices. It may well be that some silences are prohibitions and some are not. It may be that we aren’t supposed to do theology by searching out silences but rather build theology on what God said.

You see, by this same logic, you can prove that all churches must be painted green, which is silly and shows how very wrong this approach to doctrine is. More simply, you can argue that girls are either pretty or ugly. As I can show an example of an ugly girl, obviously they aren’t all pretty and so they must all be ugly. No. Some are ugly and some are pretty. And it’s entirely possible that some silences are prohibitions and some are permissions.

There are those who cite a multitude of Bible verses to show that authority in worship is essential. I don’t have time to cover them all here, and they’ve all been covered in prior posts. Suffice to say that we have authority to worship God.

Now, who is to say that each kind of worship must be specifically authorized? If worship in general is authorized, where does the Bible say that each “act of worship” has to have authority? You can argue for months on end that authority is required, but who says that the general authority to worship isn’t good enough?

We have authority to evangelize the world. Must each method we use be authorized? Must we find specific authority for radio ads? Newspaper ads? English language courses? Of course not, because we have authority to evangelize and the methods are up to us, so long as we act in accord with love and God’s purposes.

But, someone might argue, there are specific examples of evangelical methods: teaching in synagogues, personal Bible study, and discourse among philosophers on Mars Hill. If these are specifically approved, shouldn’t we limit ourselves to these specific methods? Shouldn’t we try to be safe? How dare we be so arrogant as to assume our judgment about how to seek and save the lost is better than God’s?

Well, that’s just a silly argument and we’ve rejected it. In fact, it’s not even been seriously considered. Times have changed! Even the most conservative of our churches has no problem with direct mail (although they might insist on private funds rather than congregational funds. Really.) But mail existed in Roman times, and we have no scriptural evidence of a direct mail campaign. Still, it’s a silly argument.

We use our God-given common sense and realize that God wants souls saved and grants us the judgment to use expedient means, even though sometime we’ll mess up and evangelize ineffectively and even foolishly. God wants souls saved.

And God wants to be worshipped. And he wants us to use our God-given common sense to decide how to fulfill the general authority to worship God. There simply is no list of rules on how to do it, and therefore there is nothing either on or off the list. Of course, we could worship stupidly, just as we’ve proven ourselves capable of evangelizing stupidly, and that’s why God gives grace.

One last point. The Puritans argued — and we adopted their arguments — that worship is somehow so important to God that he regulates worship more strictly than evangelism. But that doesn’t really make sense. Consider the Parable of Good Samaritan. Ray Vander Laan points out that the priest and Levite who walked past the beaten man were trying to preserve their ceremonial cleanliness so they could participate in their jobs at the temple. To touch a dead man made one unclean, and so priests and Levites were told not to touch a man near death, to avoid the risk the man might die while being touched.

You see, they followed the rabbinic school of Shammai who taught that “Love the Lord thy God” was the greatest command, and this meant that the rules for worship are more important than “love thy neighbor.” It was concluded that a priest should let a man die rather than risk losing the opportunity to worship.

Rabbi Hillel taught that “love they neighbor” was more important, but wouldn’t consider a Samaritan a “neighbor.”

The point of Jesus’ parable is that “love thy neighbor” is how we express our love for God. God saved us so we’ll be like him in how we love others. Jesus’ life shows us who God is, and we find Jesus actively caring for and loving others. But the Gospels all emphasize his teaching the gospel, not his synagogue worship. He certainly obeyed the commands to worship, but the gospels teach us about his compassion for others.

If we see worship as more important than anything else, we are followers of rabbi Shammai and not rabbi Jesus. It’s not right and not our place to decide that God is more about worship than evangelism, and yet our hermeneutics often assume that worship must be treated with special rules that don’t apply more generally. Now, some preachers are happy to argue that their rules of silence apply to more than worship, but study their teachings carefully, and you’ll find they apply the rules more strictly to worship than anything else — all based on the false assumption that Sunday, congregational worship is the most important thing. It’s not.

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39 Responses to Colossians: The Instrumental Music Question, Part 1

  1. Dave R. says:

    Very well done, This does, however, lead to another issue. It has been my understanding that the Restoration Movement churches have not praticed foot washing because of the example of the early Christians, nothwithstanding John 13.

  2. Laymond says:

    If we can manage to find out whether God likes it with or without better, that's the way to go.

    Jay, do I get a royalty when you use my picture, like that ?

  3. Rich W says:

    Jay,

    As you said, the details on this subject have been discussed many times before. Let me voice some of my observations concerning trends. Trends are not proofs for anything, just observation.

    The number of words used (perhaps subconsciously) in the three categories (psallo, early Christians and silences) is proportional to the frequency these arguments seem to be presented. However, I believe they are inversely proportional to the strength of each argument.

    I believe the typical usage of the word psallo (not the pure dictionary definition only) provides the most evidence for limiting singing accompaniment to spiritual instruments (i.e. heart, grace, mind, understanding, joy). This is a similar argument you use for believer baptism. It's just the only kind presented in scripture.

    I agree the early Christians do not provide a proof of anything. However, they do give us an opportunity for verification/validation or "sense check" for our biblical interpretation. If they recorded usage of IM then we would obviously lean favorable to IM. However, they actually argue against it even if the only examples we have on record don't follow 21st century thought processes.

    Side note: Concerning worship and church organization, you seem to argue the most against (accapella) that which was rejected the longest (in years) by the early Christians, but you agree most with "rule by committee" aka "plurality of elders" that the church fathers rejected the soonest. Again, this is just an observation.

    I agree with the principle of silence. But you bring up its weakness in that it can be difficult to discern between something considered important and something trivial (like paint color).

    Another note to provide some balance here.
    1. If we ever meet live, I would be happy to treat you to lunch.
    2. Unlike other progressive blogs I read, you apply reasoning and logic to develop your understanding of scripture. I value that principle highly. Thus I read and comment on this blog by far the most.

  4. konastephen says:

    Jay, hopefully you know where I sit on this issue—but I’m confused about your point regarding the early church. While I agree that scripture is sufficient in matters of salvation (and in this I’m a good little Protestant), we should not cut too much of a wedge between holy scripture and the first ones to use it.

    No matter how you slice it there will always be hermeneutical obstacles to reading scripture. Reading the early church writers—while not authoritative—gives us, in the very least, a starting point for our subsequent interpretation. Going back then to the issue of hell—it is not clear from scripture alone the duration of punishment…so we ask: what did the early church think, and why?

    Regarding instruments, I fail to see how the pleonasm of ‘singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs’, could ever be construed as specifying a form of worship from a list of other kinds (e.g. instrumental). True to our Enlightenment heritage, we are deft at hiding our traditions behind the guise of logic and reason.

    But the real argument to beat, I think, is the historical argument. Most Restorationists, once you’ve peeled back the tradition undergirding their logic, will admit that they want to go back to the early church—to its simplicity. The early church didn’t use instruments in worship—and we don’t care why—but it’s safe to follow them, so we won’t use them either…This group of thinkers usually holds, as well, to a strict dichotomy between physical and spiritual (in the sense you refer to as Platonic) and therefore consider instruments in the O.T. as the childish sensual shadows of the spiritual worship of the N.T. church. This is, in my view, is the idol that needs to be shattered…

  5. Royce Ogle says:

    Funny Laymond! Thats a good one!

    Over 10 years ago when I started to meet with the brothers and sisters at a church of Christ, about the 2nd week I asked an elder for the Bible references to back up his teaching in a small group that only a cappella singing is authorized. He kindly give me the classic passages. Before I could process what he had just said I replied in shock "Is that it?" He was shocked at my reply and the subject abruptly changed never to be mentioned between us again.

    Our leaders make it clear that our beautiful a cappella singing is from our rich heritage only and is not commanded by Scripture nor are instruments prohibited by them.

    We still worship a cappella every Sunday, we are just honest about why we do it.

    Royce

  6. Royce Ogle says:

    The problem with making rules based on early churchmen is that you can find some that support what you already believe and practice. The Bible, if used properly, does not allow that latitude.

    Royce

  7. konastephen says:

    Royce,
    Beautiful! Whenever I hear that people are worshipping God uninhibited in their own heritage my heart sings…

    Nothing stinks worse than the callous defensive pleas of a tradition that abhors tradition…unless maybe the whining of those always itching for something new…

  8. Laymond says:

    I read once, where a baptist asked a CoC member, why don't you use an instrument in worship the answer was "have you ever heard us sing, we don't need one"
    I will tell you something even funnier, to me anyway, while writing this comment, I tryed to delete a period two or three times, before I realized it was a speck on the screen. not a sigh of old age, just poor eysight :)

  9. The first century assemblies did not likely include four-part harmony. Does that mean it's unscriptural?

    Four part harmony nearly caused a split in the Paris, KY church, when some college chorus students began singing parts during a worship service in the 1830's.

    Many CofC's increasing project words on screens, but do not provide sheet music for the songs they sing. This, over time, has resulted in a loss of congregations' ability to sing four part harmony and increasing reliance on "praise teams" of some type.

    Some songs we sing would sound better and be more inspirational if they were accompanied by appropriate instrumentation. Some arrangements of instrumental songs distract from their impact.

    I wish for a perspective that would allow those who plan our corporate worship times to be free from individual biases and prepare worship times that might be the most inspiring for the largest number of folks.

    At one congregation, when speaking on this topic, I joked that the music ministry would try to meet the expectations of 60 percent of the congregation at any given worship time — and not the same 60 percent all the time.

    Because the fact is that everyone is dissatisfied with their corporate worship experience from time-to-time.

    In my view, when Jesus admonished us to worship "in spirit and truth", he denied the significance of form and focused on the heart of the worshipper.

    No one can accurately judge my heart or yours, save God himself.

    God himself has chosen not to judge a man until after he dies, so why should your or I judge anyone before that?

  10. nick gill says:

    Jay,

    Are you sure the Shammai/Hillel breakdown goes like that?

    I was under the impression from RVL, et al, that they agreed that the Shema was the first great command, but that their disagreement was on the second. Shammai said Sabbath (ranking love of neighbor seventh, maybe?) while Hillel said love of neighbor was second, but (as you say) would not have considered a Samaritan as created in the image of God.

  11. konastephen says:

    If we see worship as more important than anything else, we are followers of rabbi Shammai and not […] Jesus.

    I think I understand where you’re coming from with this, yet to me, worship IS more important than anything else! But our worship is guided both by our love of God and for our neighbor—the greatest law… For though worship is all about God—for it must be Theo-centric—yet God does not require anything we give Him, God does not NEED our worship. It is us, man, who cannot but worship—so we worship Him who is worthy of it.
    We precisely do not love our neighbors by letting them worship however they prefer without thought or care as to what they are doing. And yet there will be a variety of communal expressions to corporate worship as the church wrestles with its surroundings and seeks to grow and edify in the one true source of all that is good and right.

    I firmly reject the supposition that the ardent defenders of ‘singing-only worship’ are motivated, even in part, by serving God at the expense of loving their neighbor—I deny this point because it can’t be done. The error is instead, or so I believe, semiotic: we often fail to see and hear the significance in other ways of doing things, just as we often fail to see the lack of significance (and sometimes idolatry) in our own practices…
    I know that we’re saying exactly the same thing here, yet it seems important to say it in such away as to disallow any pendulum swing in the other direction.

  12. nick gill says:

    I firmly reject the supposition that the ardent defenders of ‘singing-only worship’ are motivated, even in part, by serving God at the expense of loving their neighbor—I deny this point because it can’t be done.

    kona, don't you see that the priest and the levite felt exactly as you do?

    They would have passionately denied that they were "motivated, even in part, by serving God at the expense of loving their neighbor" with their insistence on maintaining ritual cleanliness. Their error, like ours, was in identifying the neighbor that needed to be loved. They believed that the true worshippers, who needed them to maintain their ritual cleanliness so that true worship could go on at Temple, were the neighbors that needed their love, so they made the man in the ditch an outcast.

  13. konastephen says:

    Nick Gill,

    Christian worship has no temple, no mountain; Christian worship has no cleanliness laws in the manner of the O.T.
    Ever since joining the coC I have found it odd that we make such a firm cut between the O.T. and the N.T. as to the content for commanded worship, but we cling to the O.T. as to the structure of our thinking. I guess I did not see your possible critique of my comment because I do not share (with the coC) this presupposition.

    It seems like many in the CoC see a continuity between how God wants us to make rules between the O.T. And N.T. (Leviticus), and they see a discontinuity between how God wants to be worshipped (O.T. instruments > N.T. voices). I affirm exactly the opposite. I see a continuity between the worship that God loves, and a discontinuity as to how He has told us how to do it…

  14. nick gill says:

    Christian worship has no temple, no mountain; Christian worship has no cleanliness laws in the manner of the O.T.

    Those who would make 'singing-only worship' a law are seeking to establish precisely the same kind of law that you affirm that Christian worship does not possess.

    I see a continuity between the worship that God loves, and a discontinuity as to how He has told us how to do it.

    The only discontinuity I see is what the Hebrew writer describes – that Mosaic worship had an earthly tabernacle and ordinances for worship – while the new covenant is different in that it has neither of these things. I too see a strong continuity between the worship that God loves under both covenants (humble, sincere, communal). The difference, I believe, is that "the Law came through Moses; grace and truth came through Christ Jesus."

  15. konastephen says:

    Nick,

    John 1:17 is a great verse, yet I've never cared much for the law/grace dichotomy as it tends to be used. I'm not saying that this is what you’re doing–far from it. It just seems that sometimes when we try to combat law using grace, we end up with a grace that looks a lot the law we tried to defeat… Whatever we think 'grace' is, it must be the same thing that the law always pointed towards–and the connexion point must always be Christ.

    Hopefully we realize that worship is more than just songs with voice (with or without instruments)–but that aside, the only leg one could stand on to make singing-only a law would be tradition. But this is the very thing (following the Enlightenment 'prejudice against prejudice') that we relegate to mere opinion. (enter stage right all necessary pejorative modifiers: 'HUMAN' tradition)

  16. nick gill says:

    Kona,

    It just seems that sometimes when we try to combat law using grace, we end up with a grace that looks a lot like the law we tried to defeat

    Yes! That's so true. I think you are spot-on when you say, "Whatever we think 'grace' is, it must be the same thing that the law always pointed towards…" That's precisely what I think John is trying to express – because a dichotomizing interpretation makes the law false as well as anti-grace – and since the law came by grace, then the progression in John 1:17 must be from the lesser to the fuller rather than the confrontational reading most commonly used there.

    PS – I appreciate your graciousness in seeing that I was not trying to establish a dichotomy, but rather the
    Galatians progression from law to freedom that blooms from the seed in John 1:17

  17. mark says:

    I feel very confident that the majority of coC members in this country do not feel instruments in worship are damnable. Rather there is a dying respect and fondness towards the tradition of singing and those who in the minority advocate it. We all know the wizard of oz is just a man behind the box. When that man dies the church I believe we find a new worship in instruments.

  18. konastephen says:

    Sometimes it takes me a bit to fully adjust my eyes to this conversation. I very much agree with, for instance, Al Maxey's latest 'Reflections': http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx454.htm

    Yet I come at this from the exact opposite end of the spectrum. I come from a background of using instruments. I've sung with guitar, electric and acoustic. I've travelled with evangelistic bands, and so forth. I think I've seen pretty much everything. I've seen a lot of good and have many great memories of lives changed. I have also, though, seen some communities fall into complete chaos and disorder (lacking any real grounding in truth or morality)–and I would closely associate these errors with our worship! In the same breathe though, I'd state that there have been many good groups and good times, with passionate, intimate, meaningful, life integrating/changing worship, with a well grounded theology.

    I've now been in an 'a cappella' church for over 3 years, and I can still worship fully here. I do miss some of the highs and the lows, the risk-taking, and the idea that worship is central to life…but I don’t miss the gravity towards exploring feelings at the cost of rationality; I don’t miss the need for the 'new', or the hype for the ephemeral. I love where I am now (though I wish we'd see that where we've swept the altar clean of religious tradition, we've actually just adopted a secular version of it–trading transcendence for a school-like austerity…at least in my case).

    I am, and have, and will, struggle to see the best of both worlds come together–passion and truth–grace and integrity.

    And in the end, I seek rest in the simple Truth on the other side of all this confusion and difficult debating…so whatever we do, whether in word or in deed, let's do it all in the name of the Lord, giving thanks to God the Father through him!

  19. mark,
    I'd like to believe you're right about what "the majority of cofC members" feel. But whether it's a majority or not, I cannot say. But there remain a significant, if not large, number to DO find it damnable. I worship with many of them every Sunday, and can give you a list of congregations in the Washington, DC area where the congregations have taken very public stands against instrumental music.

  20. mark says:

    David said "large, number to DO find it damnable. "

    Leaders that work beyond their authority and appoint themselves as the mouthpiece for the church doesn't make the whole congregation anti instrument. It just makes them a cult. This is particularly the point of the ex church of Christ website. But all the evidence of the true feelings of the churches of Christ is well documented. The issue for most in the church is a feeling of deep spirituality felt in the singing instrument free. For mainlines and liberal churches of Christ making up 85% of the churches in America it is not a damnable issue. Is there wayward churches with an agenda, ? Sure ,but look at the ICOC its trend towards the instrument. The church of Christ is not not far behind. There will be a day when our kids become the leaders of the church. Our kids will not be afraid of the superstitions and people who are merely powerless puppets.

  21. Darin says:

    Jay, you know how to get people going.

    I respect all that you do. I pray you have a great class.

  22. abasnar says:

    2. The evidence of early, uninspired Christians
    ….

    Eary Christians

    There have been several books written on this one, going in both directions. The response to all of them is simple enough: the evidence is inadmissible. Now, I’m not saying we should never study the Patristics, but I am saying you can’t base a doctrine on uninspired writings. If you can’t prove your case from the scriptures, you have no case. It’s not enough to raise a possibility from the scriptures and then secure the case from history. The scriptures must be themselves sufficient to establish the case. Period. That is, unless you want to adopt the Catholic or Orthodox view that church tradition carries the weight of inspiration. But Protestants reject that view.

    If I am not mistaken, Jay, you are a lawyer. Let me ask you a few questions:

    a) Do witnesses have to be inspired in order to give a faithful accout?
    b) If the witnesses all agree on a matter, how much weight does their testimony have?
    c) If we disagree on the interpretations of Bible-texts like these can we ignore the light, these witnesses shed on the subject?

    Dear Jay, these men from 2nd and 3rd century testify that the church of Christ of their days was non-instrumental.

    I call them "church of Christ" for a several strong reasons:

    a) Back then there were no denominational labels, yet, except for some heretical or schismatic groups (Marcionites, Montanists …)
    b) Calling them "Early Christians" or even "Early Church Fathers" makes it sound, that we view them as something different than we are
    c) Calling them "church of Christ" is calling the "church of Chrait" of today back to "The Ancient Order of Things".

    Now some more questions concerning the witnesses:

    a) Why do the witnesses all agree on non-instrumental worship?
    b) Do they indicate anywhere that singing a-cappella was an innovation?
    c) Where did men like Clement of Alexandria learn their faith?
    d) Whom die the elders of old consult, when they were in doubt on any matter of doctrine or church practice?

    If we answer these questions according to their own testimony, the results would be:

    a) Because it was the same practice in all churches of Christ
    b) Because they did not dare to alter the Apostolic traditions
    c) Clement went to the oldest and most respected leaders in the Christian world as a young student – which means, he most likely met people, who saw in their youth the apostle John and listened to him (compare this with his contemporary Irenaeus who testified to such links).
    d) Both Irenaeus (Lyon in Gaul) and Tertullian (Carthage in North Africa) say, that when in doubt they ask the oldest churches, in which the Apostles personally taught. There Irenaeus made his famous statement (which is taken out of context by the Roman Cathilics as a proof text) that all orthodox Christians must agree with Rome. But he said the same about any other Apostiolic church such as Ephesus or Corinth …

    One more thing: They all spoke Koine-Greek as their mother tongue and were perfectly aware of the literal meaning of "psallo" – and yet, they don't draw the same same conclusions as you do from the dictionary.

    Does that make us Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox if we take their testimony seriously?

    If we dismiss them as irrelevant (ironically only in these points of doctrine and practice where we disagree with them), where would that leave us? With the Bible alone? No way!

    We carry the dust of two millenia on our glasses! We came out of Catholicism, then came the Reformation with all its thousands of subgroups, then the Enlightment … Boy we can hardly diescern A from Z when reading through these glasses. And we wear them whether we are aware of them or not. Unless we deliberately take them off, we can suty opur Bibles both day and night and will never agree on everything.

    But look back at the testimony of the church of Christ before the Enlightment, the Reformation and Catholicism arose. Look at a relativeley pure church of CHrist, and undivided CHrurch of CHrist, a church of Martyrs who did not play theology, but laid down their lives for Christ.

    Does that make them infallible? No. But I trust their insights a-thousand times more than those of our contemporary scholars.

    Alexander

  23. Price says:

    I think it's interesting that the debate centers around how WE like OUR worship. I find that strange for a body of believers that consider themselves evangelistic. Shouldn't the question be what do THEY like and how would it enable me to speak the truth to a dying soul? Paul said that he became all things to all men in order that he might save some…I wonder what he would think about our disagreements on a capella music in order to please ourselves.

  24. nick gill says:

    Ironically, Price, one of the major arguments has always been that we shouldn't do what pleases us, but what pleases God.

    Yet, the songs that God likes always seem to be the songs that we like.

  25. Alexander,
    I see two issues with your presentation:

    1. As most lawyers will attest, eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable.

    2. It is impossible to responsibly conclude that we have reports on the practices of EVERY assembly of the early church. At best we have reports on what many, or perhaps most, did, but not all.

    These are just the two most obvious reasons why history is a poor basis for establishing inspired instructions.

  26. Jay Guin says:

    Dave R.,

    Jesus washing feet is, of course, an example. He also said,

    (Joh 13:14-15 ESV) 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

    But it's obvious that this is neither an express command or binding example, because it's not how the church behaved on the American frontier in the early 19th Century, which is when the true pattern was established.

    The early church practices footwashing, although not universally —

    Forgive the sarcasm, but the support for footwashing isn't greatly different from the support for a cappella music only — except the biblical evidence for footwashing is much, much stronger. If we want to bind the Patristics on each other, we need to be prepared to debate the Patristic case for and against footwashing in light of the command and example of Jesus.

    Nevertheless, it appears to have been practiced in the early centuries of post-apostolic Christianity, though the evidence is scant. For example, Tertullian (145-220) mentions the practice in his De Corona, but gives no details as to who practiced it or how it was practiced. It was practiced by the church at Milan (ca. A.D. 380), is mentioned by the Council of Elvira (A.D. 300), and is even referenced by Augustine (ca. A.D. 400). Observance of foot washing at the time of baptism was maintained in Africa, Gaul, Germany, Milan, northern Italy, and Ireland. According to the Mennonite Encyclopedia "St. Benedict's Rule (A.D. 529) for the Benedictine Order prescribed hospitality feetwashing in addition to a communal feetwashing for humility"; a statement confirmed by the Catholic Encyclopedia.[1] It apparently was established in the Roman church, though not in connection with baptism, by the 8th century. The Albigenses observed feetwashing in connection with communion, and the Waldenses' custom was to wash the feet of visiting ministers. There is some evidence that it was observed by the early Hussites. The practice was a meaningful part of the 16th century radical reformation. Foot washing was often "rediscovered" or "restored" in revivals of religion in which the participants tried to recreate the faith and practice of the apostolic era.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_washing#History

    According to an article in Christianity Today,

    Most early Christians practiced baptism by immersion, but a minority took their cues from John 13:10: they believed baptism by the washing of feet precluded the need to wash head and hands. This view began in Syria and spread west by the late 100s. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (in modern France) conjectured that Jesus, during his descent into hell, purified the dead by baptizing them by washing their feet.

    Not everyone agreed on foot washing’s sacramental value. By the early 300s, the rite was so controversial, one important church council outlawed it. At the end of the fourth century, though, Ambrose, bishop of Milan, defended footwashing’s baptismal significance: while full baptism purified someone from personal sins, he argued, foot washing purified the neophyte from original sin.

    In the early medieval period, foot washing increasingly was seen merely as the supreme example of humility. And the rite was moved to Maundy Thursday, the night the Last Supper is commemorated .

    http://www.ctlibrary.com/ch/1993/issue37/3743.htm

    Of course, the problem in the 20th Century Churches of Christ is an approach to hermeneutics focused on a mechanical reading without regard to the underlying theology and an insistence on selectively imposing the Patristics. (The case for a monarchial bishop and for infant baptism is stronger in the Patristics than the case for a cappella music only.)

    We are very selective in what Patristic teachings we finding binding and which silences we find binding — with the pattern found being not much different from the 19th Century American frontier practice, slightly adjusted to be truer to the First Century practice but not taken all the way to First Century practice.

  27. Anonymous says:

    It is impossible to responsibly conclude that we have reports on the practices of EVERY assembly of the early church. At best we have reports on what many, or perhaps most, did, but not all.

    Exactly David. We don't know by a few men how every single church throughout the world practiced then. Even today when records are more easily written and kept we cannot say how every single church throughout the world practices.

  28. Jay Guin says:

    Rich W,

    I'm not following your argument re psallo.

    Psallo in the NT means sing. It's not even used in Col 3:16 — which uses ado for "sing." Here are all the uses of psallo in the NT —

    (Rom 15:8-9 ESV) the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name."

    Paul is paraphrasing,

    (Psa 18:49 ESV) For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing to your name.

    In the Septuagint, "sing" translates psallo, which, when the Septuagint was translated, meant "sing accompanied by a stringed instrument." David wrote the Psalm, and of course was a harpist. There's no way psallo means "sing a cappella" in this passage.

    (1Co 14:15 ESV) What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.

    Clearly, the reference is to singing in the assembled church, and Paul does seem to object to any music where the words cannot be understood, but he does not object to the instrument per se. Rather, he simply insists that the mind be engaged as well as the spirit.

    Paul had several Greek words available to him to mean "sing," but he chose psallo, likely because it's the verb form of psalmos, that is, psalm, and I'm sure the early church typically sang psalms. But if his goal was to ban the instrument, psallo, with its association with the explicitly instrumental psalms — is a truly odd choice. Why not use one of the words for "sing" that doesn't have a clear association with instrumental music?

    (Jam 5:13 ESV) 13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.

    Again, there's nothing to indicate a ban on instruments, and the use of psallo would be a strange choice of word to say such a thing.

    (Eph 5:18-21 ESV) 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

    Grammatically, the command is "be filled with the Spirit." "Addressing one another in psalms, … singing and making melody …" are participles that demonstrate the consequences of so doing. I covered this passage, and its roots in the Psalms, in http://oneinjesus.info/2010/04/the-fork-in-the-ro…. For reasons explained in the link, there's no implication in Paul's choice of psallo that he meant "sing a cappella." He is paraphrasing an explicitly instrumental Psalm.

    Regarding believer baptism, my argument is not from silence. The Bible is explicit that baptism (and salvation) are for believers. The old saw that the Bible says nothing of infant baptism is someone else's argument.

    PS — Thanks for reading and commenting. And barbecue is usually the lunch of choice around here (Tuscaloosa, Alabama).

  29. Jay Guin says:

    konastephen,

    Danny Corbitt has shattered the Patristic idol. http://missingmorethanmusic.com/chapters/MissingM… (also available from Amazon.com).

    The other closely related idol is the idea that we are called to worship as the early church worshipped because God has this rulebook on worship that is only hinted at in the scriptures. Therefore, we must use special hermeneutical rules — like the Laws of Specific and General Authority and the Regulative Principle — to reveal these rules, which would be invisible to the unschooled. It's all very Gnostic, because of the emphasis on secret learning. Despite our frequent insistence that our conclusions are common sense, they are anything but. But by insisting that our hermeneutics are common sense, we can damn others for rejecting what is so very, very obvious.

    It doesn't stand up to scrutiny, because the people who disagree aren't rebellious or evil or seeking to please men rather than God. No, they just disagree because they read the scriptures without assuming that God insists on First Century worship.

    Just consider all the questions that God didn't bother to answer in the scriptures —

    1. He mentions the Love Feast in Jude 12 and 2 Pet 2:13, but gives no instructions for how to conduct a Love Feast. He doesn't even tell us what one is.

    2. Six times he commands the Holy Kiss. Is this on the lips? Men on men and women on women? Or cross-gendered? Is it binding? Do we go to hell if we get this wrong. Six commands sure seems to make it important.

    3. Women are allowed to pray and prophesy in the presence of men in 1 Cor 11 — if their heads are covered. What kind of covering? A fashionable hat? A veil? A shawl? Can they lead a prayer? Does this apply to the Sunday morning worship?

    4. Do we have to assemble in an upper room? At night?

    5. We have examples of gathering daily and once a week. Is three times a week okay?

    6. If we meet at night, is that the first day according to the Jewish calendar (Saturday night) or Roman calendar (Sunday night)?

    7. Is it sin to have the announcements after the opening prayer? Is it a separate act of worship? If not, can we do them at all?

    8. Is it okay for us to have a chorus sing if we don't sing along? Is it "one another" if they sing 6 songs and we join them for a 7th?

    9. Are weddings a worship service? Funerals?

    You see, we agonize over these questions because we are seeking answers to the wrong questions. We should let the Bible tell us both the questions and the answers. The cure for disunity isn't figuring out to agree on questions the Bible doesn't answer. We might do better to focus on what the Bible really does focus on. Or who.

  30. Jay Guin says:

    Alexander asked,

    If I am not mistaken, Jay, you are a lawyer. Let me ask you a few questions:

    a) Do witnesses have to be inspired in order to give a faithful accout?
    b) If the witnesses all agree on a matter, how much weight does their testimony have?
    c) If we disagree on the interpretations of Bible-texts like these can we ignore the light, these witnesses shed on the subject?

    1. The early church fathers who condemn the instrument are not witnesses, because none were around when the apostles taught.
    2. As I taught in the class, I think it's important that hermeneutics be done in community. Hence, this blog, Hence, the class. And hence the importance of hearing what wise men of ages past have said about the scriptures.

    But the early church fathers don't condemn the instrument because of lack of authority or what the Bible says. Rather, they refer to a desire not to Judaize or to not be like the military or the pagans. Their arguments are cultural. Not a one arguments based on psallo or the Regulative Principle, and as Danny Corbitt shows in his book, there is no opposition to the instrument in worship until the THIRD CENTURY. The usual quote from Justin Martyr is from 19th Century Puritan polemics, but it's been known for 100 years that it is really a 5th century quote from someone else (Corbitt explains this). http://missingmorethanmusic.com/chapters/MissingM

    In the end, I'm only willing to bind what the Bible says is binding. I figure God is smart enough to tell us what matters. No secret decoder ring is required. And God doesn't tell us the instruments or no instruments matter. In fact, in Colossians, he warns us against those who ban things that "perish with using." Instruments perish with using, and therefore aren't of eternal significance. They can be used for holy purposes — to worship God — or unholy purposes — to encourage secularism. They are morally neutral.

  31. Jay Guin says:

    Price,

    I don't recall anyone on either side addressing how they like their worship. So far, both sides argue solely for what God approves. In fact, I've not argued for the adoption of instrumental music, just against the teaching that God bans instrumental music.

    On the other hand, I entirely agree with you that God is much, much more concerned about mission and evangelism than he is about the choice of instruments (as in not concerned at all). And once we realize that God doesn't ban instruments, the question of what to actually do becomes a kingdom/mission question, not a question of what makes us comfortable.

    Nothing is more clear in the Bible than that we weren't saved to be comfortable or catered to. Rather, we were saved to follow Jesus in, among other things, seeking and saving the lost. And if a cappella singing interferes with what God wants from us, we have to lay our preferences at the foot of the cross and honor Christ, not ourselves.

  32. abasnar says:

    The early church fathers who condemn the instrument are not witnesses, because none were around when the apostles taught.

    This is a too narrow definition of witness. They are witnesses in the sense that they give us the EARLIEST descriptions of Christian Worship we have. And they were only one and a half generations removed. Like Irenaeus, a contemporary of Clement, who could vividly remember what Polycarp told in the assembly about his conversations with John. So this makes them quite informative sources for any question we disagree on today.

    Let's go down your list – most question are a sourse of contention among us, but they become so obvious and clear, when we go to these witnesses. (I really encourage you – if you don't have it, to purchase the ||Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs)

    Just consider all the questions that God didn’t bother to answer in the scriptures –

    That's not correct, Jay. Everything is there, we just disagree on the meaning and application. But back then it was clear, because it was clarified by the life and oral teaching of the Apostls in the churches. And both was important to obey (2Th 2:15) – which adds a loud question mark to our "Sola Scriptura" BTW.

    1. He mentions the Love Feast in Jude 12 and 2 Pet 2:13, but gives no instructions for how to conduct a Love Feast. He doesn’t even tell us what one is.

    Acts 2:46 could be added to this, because it mentions eating together and breaking the bread. But go this Dictionary and see how it is described. Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian go into great detail about it; Ignatius mentions it …

    But how much information do we really need to just simply eat together and celebrate the Lord's Supper as a real meal?

    2. Six times he commands the Holy Kiss. Is this on the lips? Men on men and women on women? Or cross-gendered? Is it binding? Do we go to hell if we get this wrong. Six commands sure seems to make it important.

    Is dealt with in details in this Dictionary. Men to men and women to women. Is this enough for us to simply do it?

    3. Women are allowed to pray and prophesy in the presence of men in 1 Cor 11 — if their heads are covered. What kind of covering? A fashionable hat? A veil? A shawl? Can they lead a prayer? Does this apply to the Sunday morning worship?

    That's really easy. We even have pictures from the catacombs who show quite plainly how it looked like. And we have a continuous tradion up to only a generation ago in almost all denominations. If only the style of headdress is an issue – just look at the various examples and notice, that it is really easy.

    So how much more information do we need to simply obey?

    4. Do we have to assemble in an upper room? At night?

    Again, look at the evidence from sctripture and church history. They met in houses – Dura Europos shows it was not always an upper room. Sometimes it was. But it is clear that they did not have special buildings – our expensive auditoriums have no authority.

    5. We have examples of gathering daily and once a week. Is three times a week okay?

    Go back to theis dictionary. Daily was the norm until the 4th century, whenever possible. We in our Sunday.-church-culture stick to the bare minimum that was required by the RC-State Church … and this is hard to get out of our brains and lifestyle.

    Bout the evidence is clear – how much more could anyone want?

    6. If we meet at night, is that the first day according to the Jewish calendar (Saturday night) or Roman calendar (Sunday night)?

    Go and read how they did it in the church of Christ? The letter of Pliny the younger (1st century!) can be taken into consideration as well. There were two meetings on Sunday: One before sunrise, and one after sunset – sunday was a workday back then …

    This is also not a big eal to answer. And the go back to acts 20:7 and understand that they met in the evening – it is really obvious and nothing to argue about.

    7. Is it sin to have the announcements after the opening prayer? Is it a separate act of worship? If not, can we do them at all?

    Pauls letters were read in the assembly – and they contained announcements – we don't even need the Early church for that …

    8. Is it okay for us to have a chorus sing if we don’t sing along? Is it “one another” if they sing 6 songs and we join them for a 7th?

    Read 1Co 145:26-33 – it is not about performanecs, but about mutual edigfication, and everyone participates in sharing/suggesting a song, a word, a prayer … which can be solo ore sung together (see also Clement of Alexandria)

    9. Are weddings a worship service? Funerals?

    Add baptisms to the list, if you like … Again: Look at the evidence of church history, if you are not sure. But I think, we don't need a specific command to celebrate something the Lord has blessed.

    So – in total – I think most of the time we use these ambiguities as an excuse nmot to do what – with a little amount of research and common sense – is really (REALLY) easy to understand and obvious.

    How much information do we really need to simply do what God says?

    Alexander

  33. Price says:

    Jay, Danny Corbitt's artical was very informative. Everyone that has an opinion regarding musical instruments should read it. I've passed it along to several others…Thanks for sharing…

  34. Anonymous says:

    Some people use church history as the focused hero when arguing issues. Some may think Anti-Semitism doesn’t have bearing when using church history to define their belief, I very much so do. The church I attend, we don’t use the history of church to define our belief, we look to and use God’s Word.

    In the Bible Jewish believers kept the faith in its original Jewish form. But the early century Gentile church did not seek to understand the Jewish roots of the faith but applied Greek philosophy to it. Because of the Greek outlook the official line became very Anti-Semitic. The church adopted Greek philosophy and ideas into its theology.

    Justin Martyr 100-165 AD claimed God’s covenant with Israel was no longer valid and that Gentiles had replaced them.

    Ignatus said that those who partook Passover were partakers with those who killed Jesus.

    Tertullian160-220 AD blamed the Jews for the death of Jesus he argued that divine judgment is upon Israel, and Jews are destined to suffer for the crucifixion.

    Origen 185-254 AD Origen and his school in Alexandria teachings were based on Greek philosophy. Although he was considered heretical at the time he was tolerated and influenced the church teaching profoundly. He was responsible for much Anti-Semitism and accused Jews of plotting to kill Christians creating the atmosphere cccccccccin which Christian Anti-Semitism took root and spread. His later disciples consisted of Gregory, Dionysus, Hieracas, Pamphilus, Eusebius.

    Council of Nicea in 325 AD and Council of Antioch in 341 AD Christians were forbidden to celebrate Passover with Jews.

    Several Church councils from 341 AD to 626 AD prohibited Christians from celebrating the Sabbath, festivals, and even eating with the Jews.

    John Chrysostom 344-407 AD preached that he hated the Jews and it is the duty of all Christians to hate the Jews.

    Jerome 347-420 AD said Jews are incapable of understanding Scripture and should be severely punished until they confess the true faith.

    Augustine 354-430 AD wrote that the Jews were destined to wander the earth to witness the victory of church over synagogue.

    Council of Laodicea 434-481 AD Christians were forbidden to worship on the Sabbath.
    440 AD the state church enforced Anti-Semitism and Jews accepting their messiah had to renounce all Jewishness and become Gentile Christians.

    More Jews have been killed in the name of Yeshua than by anyone else. Not only did the church forefathers hate the Jews and disengage themselves from them, they persecuted them throughout history.

    Christians were never given any mandate by Jesus to punish the Jews, but the Church was responsible for unleashing the most awful persecution to happen.

  35. Stewart says:

    Whose worship is more acceptable to God? The aorship offered by a sincere heart that just happens to take place in the same room as a piano, or the people who say, "it sounds good to me, and I'm hoping it sounds good to you"?

    I was led to believe that Acappella was the only "scriptural" contemporary Christian music, but at least one of their songs attempts to justify their singing by saying those very words! That's not worshipping God, that's worshipping self. We color it with pretty words, but if we ever approach it from a "personal preference" position, we lose focus on the object of worship.

  36. abasnar says:

    @ Anonymous

    I think the rejection of Israel as a nation does have some Biblical support to it, but this does not justify harsh, unloving or unsympathetic words, because:

    Rom 11:17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree,
    Rom 11:18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.
    Rom 11:19 Then you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in."
    Rom 11:20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.
    Rom 11:21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.
    Rom 11:22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.
    Rom 11:23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.
    Rom 11:24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
    Rom 11:25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
    Rom 11:26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob";
    Rom 11:27 "and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins."
    Rom 11:28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.

    So, I agree with you that the tone with which they spoke of Israels temporary rejection is not really fitting – the theology itself, that is behind these words, however I regard as scriptural.

    Alexander

  37. Jay Guin says:

    Anonymous,

    Luther's anti-Semitism help create the Holocaust, I'm persuaded. In the 20th Century, much European scholarship sought to write Judaism out of the NT. Judaism was perceived as too primitive to be worthy of consideration. This attitude led to some very bad scholarship, much of which filtered down to the grassroots. I have study Bibles where the quotes from the OT in Paul aren't even cross-referenced to the original! The OT became a repository of stories for children and Messianic proof texts, and the NT was studied in isolation.

    We are fortunate to live in an age where scholarship has largely repudiated those attitudes.

    I would commend to the readers In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity by Oskar Skarsaune, which demonstrates the heavy influence of Judaism on the early church and the later efforts to cleanse the church of Judaism.

    As you note, several later councils banned attendance at synagogue services, telling us that there were Christians who still were practicing Jews well into the 5th Century, despite the leadership moving ever more into a Hellenized church.

  38. abasnar says:

    The church I attend, we don’t use the history of church to define our belief, we look to and use God’s Word.

    Well, maybe it is a bit too long for a post, but I compiled this "essay" this afternoon as a reply for statements such as these. Please consider these words carefully – I see no other way to solve our puzzles. "Sola Scriptura" proves to be ineffective or at least not sufficient. It works only as long as you and/or your church live(s) in isolation from other Christians.

    This approach I follow leads every scriptural conversation back to the times when the church of Christ was still united and very close to its origin. This way I see clear answers to our IM debates that pretty well settle the matter. But you have to understand the idea first: Why we cannot interpret the scriptures without knowing church history.

    ******************************************************

    Mind the Gap!

    When I visited London some 20 years ago, I also enjoyed the public transportation system, especially the underground lines. Whenever the doors of the train were opened, a voice from the speaker said: “Mind the gap!” to warn the passengers of the gap between the platform and the train. They might step in, lose a shoe or even get hurt.

    This “Mind the gap!” stuck to my memory, and it has its theological implications. There is a huge gap between the time of the apostles and our day and age we have to be aware of. If we don’t, we might study the Bible (and act accordingly) as if the Bible was handed down to us directly by Paul himself: “Here you are, beloved brother, this volume contains everything you ought to know and follow.” No further comments, no living example – just a book.

    And it seems this book has been given to all other Christians individually. No common practice and instruction on how to read and to apply it was given – just this book. And all diligent pastors and laypeople study it with great zeal, but it seems impossible to agree on its implications and applications. The church of Christ has been divided into thousands of different opinions and practices, although they all use the very same book. Something is deeply wrong in this approach: We don’t mind the gap!

    When the book was given originally, Paul did not just hand over a copy of the New Testament. He passed on his very life

    (1Th 2:8) So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

    So love was not only a command or a doctrine, but it was exemplified by the lives of the Apostles themselves. And more than that: Every doctrine was shown as well as taught orally on many occasions and in great detail before it was summed up in a letter, because it needed reinforcement or correction. And even after having written about, let’s say the Lord’s Supper (which is quite a big topic), he says:

    (1Co 11:34) About the other things I will give directions when I come.

    So the book does contain all we need, all right, but the book had been clarified, explained and exemplified by the oral teaching and living example of the Apostles. The conclusion we ought to draw from this is quite obvious, and Paul himself wrote this down as a command:

    (2Th 2:15) So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

    If we only have the book, can we be sure we will no doubt come to the right conclusions and applications? No, there is a gap, we have to be aware of, and we have to seek ways to fill this gap.

    Through God’s provision, the church of Christ did not cease to exist when the last Apostle died, and the Spirit of Christ did not leave this earth when the soul of John left the Apostle’s body. The churches also did not immediately fall into apostasy, because the Apostles took care that they were led by carefully chosen and equipped elders. Paul instructed Timothy:

    (2Ti 2:2) and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

    How many generations did Paul have in mind?
    ? Paul (martyred around 64 AD)
    ? Timothy (martyred around 80 AD)
    ? Faithful men
    ? Others

    We can ad to the second generation men like Onesimus (the former slave) who became a bishop/elder in Ephesus who knew and met Ignatius of Antioch (martyred around 117 AD), a disciple of John as well as Polycarp (who was martyred as late as 150 AD). We can also list Clement of Rome among these men. So the second generation last until the early 2nd century AD.

    The third generation would be men like Justin Martyr, Hermas, the author of 2nd Clement, and would last about to the mid 2nd century AD.

    The fourth generation would consist of men like Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and Hippolytus of Rome (who all overlapped with Irenaeus) and would end around 200/220 AD.

    So we see how far this little note in 2Ti 2:2 was meant to reach. Paul had (consciously or not) even they year 200 in mind! This means, the church of Christ was basically in good hands (unless the Apostles were failures in handing down the faith to others), as the written legacy of these men testify. How blessed are we that the writings of the “faithful men” are available to us even today!

    Now, what we often do is we think they are like us: They had a copy of the New Testament, studied it and came to some more or less weird conclusions. We say that, because they differ from us in quite a number of aspects (be it doctrine or life style). So we scoff at them as uninspired and unreliable sources – whenever we disagree with them. And we use them as a source of proof-texts, whenever we came to the same conclusions as they. Honestly, this is dishonest.

    But they are in a far better position to understand the Scriptures, because there was no gap back then! They read the Bible and saw its application in the churches that still stood firmly on the Apostolic tradition, who still remembered what the Apostles said in the assemblies, to whom the letters functioned as a reminder for the oral teaching and living example of the Apostles, whereas we have only the “reminder” but nothing to remind us of. We have a summary of the Apostolic Teaching but not its details.

    ? They spoke Koine-Greek as their native tongue and did not need Strong’s Concordance.
    ? They knew the culture of the Ancient world first hand and not from text books.
    ? They knew apostolic church life first hand, because they were raised in it.
    ? They still could ask older persons who remembered the Apostles personally.
    ? They could send letters to churches where the Apostles taught personally to clarify ambiguities (which they actually did!).

    See, there was no gap back then!

    Sure enough, there was decline also. From the 3rd century on we see shifts, we see an increase of new traditions, of a clergy-laity distinction, of sophisticated theological questions that eventually led to what we came to know as Roman Catholicism. And this system of thought and religion really twisted and distorted the original message and ethos of the Gospel. The Reformation therefore was a call to restoration, and their motto was: “The Bible Alone”, which was commendable in order to change the course dramatically.

    But where did this motto lead to? It blinded us to the gap. It separated the book from the life of the early church. It led to uncountable schisms, to pride and enmity among the so-called Reformed Churches. This is an ugly fruit, to say the least. What does it say about the tree?

    “The Bible Alone” is an important motto. But we have to mind the gap. These Faithful men of old would have agreed with “The Bible Alone”, in fact it was them who decided on the NT canon. But they read the Bible in the light of the living Apostolic Tradition; and they were “ultraconservative” in their interpretation and application.

    I made up my mind. I use their insights as the primary commentary to the Christian Faith. This is the only common sense approach to restore the church unto its original purity, unity and beauty, I see so far. Unless someone can show me amore convincing way, I won’t accept any interpretation of the Bible that cannot be traced back at least to the 2nd century.

    Alexander

  39. Anonymous says:

    It works only as long as you and/or your church live(s) in isolation from other Christians.

    Not true. I don’t believe using the Word of God leads people to isolate. We are very much a growing church, people come there hungry for the Word of God and that is what they get there. Our main priority is telling the gospel. We do not isolate from other churches nor do we seek to. We are asked many times to assist other churches, not just in our community but in other places as well, to reach out to people and we do so. The pastor is asked to speak at various places and churches and does. Looking to God and His Word does not make people isolate, but quite the opposite.

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