New Wineskins: Series Gets Mentioned at “Jesus Creed”

WineskinsbannerScot McKnight’s blog, “Jesus Creed,” is among the most popular Christian blogs in the world. And he recently posted this question —

How would you respond to someone who believes that instrumental music is not an acceptable form of worship?

The question triggered an excellent discussion — and you’ll find many familiar names among the commenters, as well as a mention of the New Wineskins series on the issue I’m editing.

To me, the interesting thing is how very different the discussion is at “Jesus Creed” compared to the discussion at New Wineskins. Why do you suppose the two conversations are so radically different in tone?

PS — “Jesus Creed” is among my favorite blogs. Highly recommended.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Instrumental Music, New Wineskins Magazine, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to New Wineskins: Series Gets Mentioned at “Jesus Creed”

  1. ao says:

    You and your oneinjesus blog were specifically mentioned as well!

  2. aBasnar says:

    Why do you suppose the two conversations are so radically different in tone?

    This Blog seems to come from a background where no one questions the legitimacy of instrumental worship. I even sense something like "pity" for us a-capella worshippers. "How weould you respond to them" sounds to me like: "How can you help them?"

    So of course the discussion is very different. Amnong the churches of Christ such a debate is always viewed as a threat to unity (which it is). This the reactions are very different, more aggressive and more defensive.

    I have learned a lot through these discussions, though: React fast, when someone even hints to innvations might be one ofthe lessons … Rebuke with sound doctrine rather than with traditions that are too simplistic is a second lesson … Don't give in to "choice" and don't use "freedom" as a cover for self-will are number three and four … don't let young brothers fresh from seminaries decide or speak on such matters, keep leadership in the hands of more conservative and older brothers might be a measure that has its dangers as well, but nonethess it slows down innovations to a minimum so we can focus on the core of our calling without being distracted with endless debated provoked by youthful lusts …

    You can imagine, that the tone of my responses is therefore very different in nature than the tone at Jesus Creed. it is understandable, yea, necessarily so.

    Alexander

  3. Anonymous says:

    As Alexander points out, the principle difference is the beginning presumption. At Jesus Creed, instrumental music is not really questioned.

    But at the same time, there is a lot of positive reaction to a cappella singing. As one commentor noted, when some Baptists visited a hospital patient they concluded they could not sing because no one brought a guitar. No self-respecting CofCer would ever be limited in such a way.

    But overall what truly jumps out is the acceptance of a cappella as an acceptable part of worship, but regret over the "doctrinaire" rejection of accompanied singing and the resulting "debates" in which we so often find ourselves mired.

  4. Dwayne Phillips says:

    I have been in various inter-denominational (what a word) settings. I have observed what David noted, i.e., people will not even attempt to sing unless accompanied by a musical instrument. It is what you are used to. The unfamiliar is uncomfortable.

  5. aBasnar says:

    Holding festival, then, in our whole life, persuaded that God is altogether on every side present, we cultivate our fields, praising; we sail the sea, hymning; in all the Rest of our conversation we conduct ourselves according to the rule.

    (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata or Miscellanies, Bk VII, ch VII)

    If you are used to sing at work and in every circumstance (or at least under the shower and in the bathtub) you are used to sing a-cappella as well.

    If you sing as a family, you will train your kids also to sing themselves … this will train their voices and give the the confidece necessary for singing.

    If you are on the other hand used to be a music-consumer more than a singer (radio, CDs, MP3 plugged to your ears) you will lose confidence in your own voice and abilities to sing – you'll always depend on "professionals" to "lead" you in worship.

    Maybe that's just a side aspect, but it's worth to think it through …

    Alexander

  6. K. Rex Butts says:

    Has it occurred to anyone that few, if any, of the commenters on "Jesus Creed" blog have confused the gospel with having anything to do with whether Christians worship with or without instruments? On this blog, there are still some commenters who seem to think God is going to judge people for worshiping him with instrumental music. That changes how people comment.

  7. Clyde_symonette says:

    Absolutely astounding brother. Has no one said anything worthy of consideration that would prevent you from acting in this manner against a brother who questions?

  8. I absolutely agree with aBasnar's (Alexander's) last comment. This is a recent change in the western world. Read books about soldiers in history. Soldiers always sang as they walked along UNTIL the Gulf War of the early 1990s. Books about soldiers in that war showed how the vast majority had CD players. Today's soldiers have iPods.

    Church is one of the few places where you hear amateurs sing. I find it unfortunate as that also means that church is one of the few places where you hear bad singing. The quality of singing in a church cannot compare to what is heard on an iPod – all professionals with professional production.

  9. Anonymous says:

    If you are on the other hand used to be a music-consumer more than a singer (radio, CDs, MP3 plugged to your ears) you will lose confidence in your own voice and abilities to sing – you'll always depend on "professionals" to "lead" you in worship.

    Is that why COC'ers have song "leaders" in worship…they have the better voices.

    There have been many of times a tune from a worship song I heard on the radio has stuck in my head and I start singing the words, where ever I am at…there have been many of times after church services that a tune from worship has stuck in my head and I start singing the words, where ever I am at. I have seen many people before the church services, singing a song they heard on the radio…and after the church services walking to their cars singing songs that we sang earlier in worship.

    That was an arrogant assumption to make about churches around the globe you've never been to!

  10. JDunn says:

    So we must quell any attempt at innovation to remain clamped in the shackles of tradition? This self induced monastacism shall then help us focus on the core of our calling?
    I'm afraid that you may see the core calling as different than others. While those around us view us with the same curiosity reserved for an Amish buggy, we pride ourselves on being focused on our core calling. All the while the world around us is going to hell.

  11. aBasnar says:

    Being viewed as odd by the world should not make us worried. There is even more to come.

    Tha Amish have same valid points if you care to listen to them. I would not choose the same life style, but I' strongly recommend to rethink our life style and to reshape it to be more fitting to the NT ethos.

    Now, this would bring about change, but this kind of change is not an "innovation" but a "restoration".

    So I should clarify: I call an innovation which leads furher away from the origins. I call a restoration what puts away innovations from the past (nowadays called a church-tradition) in order to come closer to the NT order of the church. So I am not against change in general, on the contrary: I urge for necessary changes.

    Introducing instruments is an innovation, it is reversing an act of restoration (done by the swiss reformers in the 1500s) in order to be more appealing to our contemporaries. You say it yourself: We are viewed in reagrd of this like the Amish with their Buggies. So who is our concern? The world and their opinion!

    Alexander

  12. Ryan Chubb says:

    So I should clarify: I call an innovation which leads further away from the origins. […] I am not against change in general, on the contrary: I urge for necessary changes.

    You are right, we should not care about looking odd. That should not be our worry. Likewise, we should not adopt practices just to ‘fit in’ to contemporary culture. But that said, why should I join in with this romantic innovation of primitivist restoration? Why should I believe that by simply doing what the early church did that I will necessarily be doing what God wants us to do today? Moreover, how do you know that the early church would not have responded differently to us if they were here in our time?

    For me, I see little else in this ‘primitivist’ stance than a cover for resentment and selfishness! And in so far as people continue to remain blind to how God has and is working through innovations that have branched out from the origins (which is Jesus!), then I refuse to revoke this judgment. For neither the early church, nor today’s church is best—but we all strive and work to enter into His rest—to make the gospel intelligible to our age—whether that makes us look like fools or not!

    Truly, I am confounded and troubled by this continued agnostic stance over the message of the gospel—an agnosticism that suggests we cannot know what the Master wants from us while He is away, without our eyes dropping from the biblical text, from the cross, and unto to that of the actions of the early church. Though I’m willing to go against the grain of society, and am perfectly willing to throw off the fetters of our modern conveniences, I’m not willing to bury the talents entrusted to me in this primitivist sand…

  13. aBasnar says:

    Why should I join in with this romantic innovation of primitivist restoration?

    Two answers:

    1st answer

    Who says that restorartion is "primitivist"? Only those who believe in progress and evolution. In this mindset the assumption is: The Early Church was primitive, the contemporary church is more advanced (and enlightened).

    While there is some truth in this as we are to know God better and better – there is a flip side to it: God is perfect and does not change. And His self-revelation in creation and the apostles and prophets is complete. That's why we shall not dare to add or to take away from what has been revealed. God does not evolve – and there is no primitivism in Him. The apostles therefore laid a perfect foubndation for the churches of Christ, and (after some infirmities) they started practicing what they've been taught rather faithfully.

    2nd answer

    So every addition and every substraction from this apostolic foundation and practice is sin that we must repent from! Repenting from substraction means to restore what we have done away; repenting from additions means to do away with every addition.

    Therefore we have the command to do the first works:

    Rev 2:5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

    Comparing our church life (and faith life) to the life of 1st/2nd century churches of Christ puts us to shame. So how can we belittle the idea of restoration as being romatic? It is imperative!

    Alexander

  14. guy says:

    Ryan,

    You said:
    "For me, I see little else in this ‘primitivist’ stance than a cover for resentment and selfishness!"

    Do you really think that the drive for contemporizing the church doesn't have equal potential for being a cover for resentment and selfishness?

    –guy

  15. Ryan Chubb says:

    Alexander, I have been very careful in comments elsewhere to not oppose the error of primitivism (a going back to the ancient paths) by expressing the opposite error of blind progress or Hegelian evolution. I do not claim that all change is good—and I, likewise, agree with you that the early church had best stand in judgment of us, rather than the other way around!

    But that being said, I do emphatically claim that the model of the church is held in the life and death of Jesus and His Word. The early church cannot be the model for the church today. It is like being confused by the complexity of a large tree and longing to go back to the simplicity and austerity of the young sapling. Though there is much to critique in the history of the church, we cannot succumb to the view that the early church was best in every sense, and make all they did as normative for our praxis today.

    I so wish I could tear out this primitivist lens to history, because I agree that it is just as wrong to add or subtract from scripture! It is just as bad to draw a circle around the good and the true too tight as it is wrong to draw the lines too wide!!! So we must know what the seed of the church is, what the DNA of the church is, or else we’ll simply reenact what other did before us and miss the very point of their actions…

  16. Ryan Chubb says:

    Guy, I do agree that both have equal potential to hide our selfishness and resentment. My point is not to argue for blind change, I’m not friend of modernizing; not do I want to say that the early church got it wrong—they did not. I just believe that we often make our historical judgments too quickly—and too unreflectively!

  17. aBasnar says:

    So we must know what the seed of the church is, what the DNA of the church is, or else we’ll simply reenact what other did before us and miss the very point of their actions…

    Sounds almost like "organic church" – the "DNA" is also mentioned frequently in the house church movement which is yet another attempt to restore the "essence" of NT church life which I find very interesting (e.g. New Testament Restoration Foundation)

    Take the following as a side remark or question – just to get the idea:

    Is it part of the DNA how the church meets? In it essential to meet in houses, in small groups where mutual edification takes place? We see this in the NT and in the Pre-Nicene church … and we see a dramatic change in the way the church met after Constantine.

    Not to discuss this here. This is (according to my understanding) way more important tham IM or not IM. Do congregations numbering in the 1000s, meeting in worship-halls with all the trimmings, having a professionally performing band and a seminary trained preacher in his 30s as the main speaker, the whole church sitting in pews, eating a fingernail-sized piece of unleavened bread and drinking half a sip of unfermented grape juice … do such congregations in any way resemble NT Christianity?

    Or is it only about the attitude and the heart? I think BOTH needs to be taken seriously. And thus "restoration" is a very big task, and understanding the DNA is crucial.

    Alexander

  18. Doug says:

    I don't think that we should make too much out of that comment about the Baptists in a hospital. I was raised in the instumental Church and had never worshipped accapella until about 6 years ago. I have had absolutley no problem in singing accapella and, in fact, lead songs every week now. There are plenty of good singers in the Instumental world who would have no problems singing accapella. Like I said once before, IMHO the CocC, as a whole, thinks that it sings better than it really does. In fact, I view the CofC, as a whole, as having a pride problem in many respects.

  19. Ryan Chubb says:

    (getting a little squeezed here)

    I wondered if I had stepped too far by using the term 'DNA'. The last thing I want to encourage is the 'house church movement'! Not that this is all bad, but from my perspective this is just the flip-side to the mega church movement—both seem to be a manifestation of our modern psychosis.

    We can go at this all day, you and I; and in the end I think we’ll find that we agree on most things—can anyone be more a pessimist of our age than me?—but where you find resolution to the complexities of our age in the simplicity of the early church, I am a little more open (though it might be messy) with a little more diversity. And I think we differ on this only because we differ on how we view the seed of the church—I think that all that needs to be said is summed up in Jesus and His Word; you, on the other hand, seem to supplement the relative silences of scripture with inferences from the actions and words of the early church. And though I think we need to do this to some extent, I worry that your view misses the nuances of how the early church responded to the gospel and improvised in their day and age…your view seem to miss any sense of dynamism in New Creation—our participation/anticipation of what is to come.

    Though it’s a tired whipping boy of most Protestants, I’ll agree with you in principle regarding Constantine. The problem is that your dream of church would never have grown up to challenge the Roman Empire. Your view works only so long as we are the tiny ‘remnant’, spending an inordinate amount of time focusing on how everyone else has failed to be the ‘closest to perfect church’ as a background to our self-image….

    In a pastoral sense, I agree with the radicalism of your position—but as a complete answer, I find it too one-dimensional. I am always interested in your comments, because they seem to take discipleship seriously, and you have a knack for questioning the things that most assume to be okay and/or neutral—but I can’t get past your sense of history, which I can’t seem to reconcile with how the apostles would have viewed history…

  20. Anonymous says:

    Alexander,

    You make my point. The gospel is not about the size of the congregation, whether it meets in homes, the temple courts, or a church building, the size of the bread served, etc.

    The Jerusalem church had thousands of members, met in the Temple courts (together!) and at homes (in small groups), very much as many megachurches do.

    You are confusing the gospel with the cultural contextualization of the gospel. They are not the same.

    The DNA of the church is found in the blood of Christ, not in the mode of meeting or the form of the communion service.

    You ask,

    "Do congregations numbering in the 1000s, meeting in worship-halls with all the trimmings, having a professionally performing band and a seminary trained preacher in his 30s as the main speaker, the whole church sitting in pews, eating a fingernail-sized piece of unleavened bread and drinking half a sip of unfermented grape juice … do such congregations in any way resemble NT Christianity?"

    Sometimes. Because New Testament Christianity is about living like Jesus — submissively, sacrificially, and humbly. And some megachurches do this. And some house churches don't.

    We need to get away from hats in the building and a cappella music and focus on true New Testament Christianity — Christ-like-ness, not in a restored ecclesiology.

  21. JDunn says:

    Am I the only person amused by the irony of debating primitivism versus modernizing via the internet? We seem to have such a disconnect between "church" and life that, while we push toward a primitive return to 1st century roots in our worship we feel no pressure to follow that in life. At least the Amish practice what they preach!

  22. guy says:

    This presupposes that *all* aspects of the cultural life and abilities and resources of the 1st century ought to be imitated. i'm not sure anyone here is making as grand a claim as that. i understand the claim to be something closer to: we ought to imitate the first century church in the particular practices which distinguished them as *the church.* Some here reject that claim. Some here believe the claim, but think the list of distinguishing features is longer or shorter than others are making it out to be.

    –guy

  23. aBasnar says:

    If we separate the form from the content wo "gnostfy" Chrsitianity. As the DNA expresses itself in a clear and visble/bodily structure – so the "DNA" of the church leads to forms and a specific order.

    Many churches – I believe – are mutants that have serious defects, if we stick the "DNA" metaphor.

    Alexander

  24. Ryan Chubb says:

    Alexander (below), You are right that we cannot separate form from content—but neither can we collapse them! And agreeing with you that we can’t do anything we want in church, do you seriously believe that there is then only one correct form that we should all adhere to around the globe? Are you another one who wants McChurch, coC style?? I don’t think that you are…You say that you believe that many churches are mutants, and depending on how wide of a circle you were making in this claim I suppose I’d agree with you (I’ve seen some pretty weird things in my time). But would you care to give an example of what you consider to be a mutation?This again is the question that the metaphor of DNA asks: how can change happen over time and something still remain the same? You are not the younger you! So are you a mutant? Is your beard an unauthorized addition to the early-Alexander? Of course these are silly examples, but the point is that if we miss the heart of what Christianity is, of what church is, then we will never stop drawing lines too loose or too tight. We are one body with many parts… (1 Corinthians 12:12ff) The change that happens from zygote to adulthood in man is not mutation! And it might be amazing how a mustard seed can become the largest of all garden plants, but we should think about how this diversification does in fact happen with all ‘living’ truths…I’m more than willing to debate this issue on the other side if people propose things that go contrary to Jesus, the nature of God seen through scripture, or to contradict the intentions of the apostles. But I refuse to do this is we associate their message with a surface form of worship!

  25. Anonymous says:

    Alexander,

    I entirely agree that the "DNA" must be expressed in the form of a body. The test is whether the body is like Jesus.

    (Mat 10:24-25a ESV) 24 "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master."

    I'm not following the Gnosticism concern. The gospel requires much more than an intellectual acceptance. The gospel's truth must be embodied — individually and corporately. But the truth to be embodied is the faith.

  26. Mario Lopez says:

    For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.
    Even to the point of the words we use. Why wouldn't it judged? All things will be judged.

Leave a Reply