Songs Without Notes: A Meandering History of Hymnals and Vocal Music, with Rant — Part 2

CrownHimWithManyCrownsThe Calvinist Regulative Principle of Worship

In Switzerland, unlike Luther’s Germany, the Reformation went an entirely different direction. In Zurich, Ulrich Zwingli adopted the Regulative Principle of Worship, arguing that we may only do that which has been authorized by express command, approved precedent, or necessary inference. As a result, he rejected instruments in worship, although he was, like Luther, an accomplished musician. See this excellent article by John Mark Hicks for further background.

The Regulative Principle was originally limited to worship — on the theory that worship holds a special place in NT theology. However, the Churches of Christ have expanded the principle to apply to the use of church buildings, the church treasury, church organization, the name of the church, and for some, all of life. That sounds like an exaggeration, but the claim has been made, and it’s not unusual to read articles from the early 20th Century judging whether it’s wrong to play cards or listen to a brass band in a city park based on the RPW. Questions Answered, a book that compiles articles answering readers’ questions published in the Gospel Advocate, by David Lipscomb and E. G. Sewell, is filled with such material.

In Geneva, John Calvin was more extreme, banning all instruments from the city — not just from the churches. The city was without musical instruments for 200 years due to his influence.

Zwingli’s and Calvin’s movements merged to create the Reformed Church. Soon, Calvin’s disciple John Knox brought Reformed (Calvinist) theology to Scotland, and the official state religion of Scotland became Presbyterianism. In England, the Puritans worked to have the Anglican Church adopt Calvinism.

In Calvinist churches, singing was originally limited to the Psalms, translated into French or English but not re-arranged to provide regular meter or rhyme. No original hymns were permitted. You see, the scriptures say to sing hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs. Only the Psalms have been preserved, and so only the Psalms are allowed.

Over time, the rules were loosened to allow re-arranging of the psalms to have regular meter and even rhyme, but original hymns remained banned for many years — and some Presbyterian denominations continue to ban anything but the Psalms even today.

The Puritans rejected the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (BCP), as lacking authority. Of course, in the Churches of Christ, almost all of our weddings come straight out of the BCP. When Church of Christ scholars such as J. W. McGarvey reject “reading printed prayers,” they’re copying far older arguments made by the Puritans over issues that leave modern Churches of Christ scratching their heads over why we’re feuding over such things. It’s not hard to trace Church of Christ arguments regarding the need for express scriptural authority to Puritan arguments made centuries earlier.[3][4]

So during the 18th and 19th Centuries, many Calvinist denominations were struggling with whether to allow any hymns other than biblical Psalms, and whether to allow Psalms to be edited to make them more singable. It’s no coincidence that the Lutherans and Anglicans produced some of the greatest composers in history (Bach, Handel, etc.), while the Calvinists struggle to name a one.

Their theology put a straightjacket on creativity and beauty — making nearly everything into a fight over what is and isn’t authorized, and leading to countless denominational rifts, splits, and sects. And yet for all the ink spilt over the question, the NPW churches haven’t started worshiping Mary and offering animal sacrifice.
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[3] We so blindly copy Puritan rhetoric that we continue to quote Justin Martyr’s supposed objections to instrumental music even though we’ve known for 100 years that Justin did not write these things. We’ve not bothered to do much in the way of original research in over a century. Indeed, I’ve had church members hand me articles written by Puritans in the 19th Century as supposedly persuasive authority, completely ignoring over a century of study and scholarship on the origins of Christian worship and the early church fathers. The articles were likely good scholarship when written, but today many of their historical claims have been disproved. I mean, if you’re going to split churches and damn denominations over such things, do take the trouble to check your facts.

[4] Although even under the RPW it’s hard to see error in reading printed prayers.

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.
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48 Responses to Songs Without Notes: A Meandering History of Hymnals and Vocal Music, with Rant — Part 2

  1. jon atkins says:

    This article reminds me of a conversation with a Catholic friend from graduate school (who is now a nationally recognized scholar in the history of the Reformation era). He asked & I was explaining something about the Church of Christ beliefs about something (I don’t remember what). As I neared the end of my explanation, he started laughing and said, “It’s Calvinism! Your Calvinists, All American Protestants are Calvinists!” The older I’ve gotten & the more I’ve learned, the more I see what he meant–and how he’s probably right!

    More seriously, I wonder how much Calvin’s abhorrence to instruments derived less from his careful study of scripture than from the musical practices in the Catholic church at the time, which had become very ornate, complex, performance-oriented,and out of touch with the average attendant. I understand Calvin and early Calvinists to have been motivated mostly by their desire for a “root and branch” reformation of the church, which they understood mainly as rooting out all Catholic practices they considered idolatrous–which included most Catholic practices. English Puritans, after all, were strongly motivated by their desire to eliminate anything that smacked of Catholicism from the Church of England (it was more characteristic of Puritanism, and Calvinism, than predestination, in my opinion). If Calvin was reacting to Catholic practices, it would parallel what David Edwin Harrell and others have written about the Restoration movement’s division over instruments–that it was heavily influenced by social class (rich churches could afford organs, poorer churches couldn’t) and sectionalism (Northerners more often preferred instruments, while Southerners tended to reject them). It would also remind us that all of our readings of scripture are so heavily influenced by our cultural biases.

    One other thought: Calvin could have such a long-lasting impact on Geneva because he was virtually the dictator of the city. Luther always saw the church as supportive of civil authorities, while Calvinists & Puritans expected civil authorities to uphold the direction determined by the church. Not sure what impact this difference may have had, but their different views of church & state may have something to do with why some churches developing from the Calvinist tradition (like Churches of Christ) became more obsessed with figuring out everything & forcing conformity on members, while churches following a Lutheran tradition ended up producing Bach (who I look forward to meeting in Heaven). Maybe not, but worth thinking about.

  2. Jeff Richardson says:

    When reading this article, the words of Mr. Tidwell of the Gospel Advocate reflect a resounding truth when he said, ” their approach adapted religious thought to fit secular intellectual fads.” or , “What you believe about the integrity of scripture, speaks volumes about your faith in God’s honesty and in God’s ability.” It says a lot when we have to search history to see what man thinks, and we ignore plain Biblical truths. Jay it is evident that you look at the bible as a lawyer, you argue your points as a lawyer, looking for loop holes, trying to make the guilty not guilty. looking for precedent in the actions of mere men. Why not just listen to the supreme Judge?

  3. John F says:

    The relationship of church to culture is ALWAYS with us. The letters to the churches of Revelation address the question — how can Christians adapt in any way to the community around them? What compromises essential doctrine? Especially is this clear in the letter to Thyatira, where the members are encouraged to commit fornication, likely through the trade guilds.

  4. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Jeff,

    One could change just a few words and flip the argument right back at you:

    “What you believe about the integrity of scripture, speaks volumes about your faith in God’s honesty and in God’s ability.” It says a lot when we have to search Restoration history to see what man thinks, and we ignore plain Biblical truths. Jeff it is evident that you look at the bible as a legalist, you argue your points as a legalist, looking for regulations that don’t exist, trying to make the innocent appear guilty, looking for precedent in the actions of mere men. Why not just listen to the supreme Judge?

  5. Mark says:

    Jeff,
    “It says a lot when we have to search history to see what man thinks.” What about when those men were scholars and thinkers? The rabbis of old wrote long commentaries on the Torah and the prophets even when they had the actual untranslated Hebrew words and wrote their commentaries in Hebrew as well.

    What “plain Biblical truths” are being ignored? Every time I have heard “plain Biblical truths” I am reminded that it translates to accept my way of thinking on this issue.

  6. Jeff Richardson says:

    Plain biblical truth Mark would be, sing! That is the instruction that we have,how hard is that to understand. We are rejecting God’s authority when we add instruments. remember Col 3:17? “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord.” Which means, when you do something, you do so with His permission, we have His authority to do so. In the first century they had instruments of music. Why do we not have any example in the New Testament of there use? Could it be that they understood the will of God? And these scholars and thinkers as you put it, were mere men, using the wisdom of men, it in no way makes it truth, just their opinion. And Kevin, I do see God’s inspired word as law, a rule book, a guide. After all, it is the perfect law of liberty, law of the Spirit, law of Christ. And you would do well to heed it as a light that shines in dark places. My Bible instructs me that we are in the world, but not of the world. We don’t do as the world does, we live to a higher standard. Matt 28, the great commission, after they are instructed to make disciples of all men, baptizing them in the name of Jesus Christ. Then what did Jesus say?, teach them to observe all things that I have commanded. I suppose that those things have never been taught. That they just don’t appear in your New Testaments. We are free to do as we please? Where have you in lightened, intellectual scholars been all these centuries? I’m thankful that the Lord’s church now has you so the rest of us can finally get it right. Or we can just rely on God’s inspired word, where a babe in Christ shouldn’t error. If the Bible is nothing more than what you men believe, then in reality we have nothing, or I should say, you have nothing.

  7. Mark says:

    IMHO Col 3:17 goes along with:

    Mark 9:41 King James Bible
    For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.
    Matthew 10:42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

    and Col. 3:17 means that we are say and do good things in name of the Lord.

  8. Jeff Richardson says:

    What you believe is, whatever YOU decide to say, (teach) or whatever YOU decide to do, (practice) and if YOU say that your doing it in the name of the Lord, then it’s ok with Him. He will bless whatever I do, if I say, I’m doing it for you Lord. How far did that attitude get Cain? We have to decide who we are trying to please, ourselves or God?

  9. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Personally, I am trying to please God, and binding where He has not bound is sinful and reminiscent of 1st century Pharisees.

    Matt 28, the great commission, after they are instructed to make disciples of all men, baptizing them in the name of Jesus Christ. Then what did Jesus say?, teach them to observe all things that I have commanded. I suppose that those things have never been taught.
    Jeff, I am very curious now. What command/commands is Christ referring to? Can you list some of these commands?

  10. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Jeff R wrote,

    Jay it is evident that you look at the bible as a lawyer, you argue your points as a lawyer, looking for loop holes, trying to make the guilty not guilty. looking for precedent in the actions of mere men. Why not just listen to the supreme Judge?

    Jeff,

    Ad hominem arguments are not allowed on this site. If you want to disagree with me, by all means, do so. But disagree with my arguments, not my imagined motivations.

    The a cappella advocates invited the Reformation leaders to the conversation, as they routinely quote Calvin, Luther, etc. in support of their views. I’m just checking to see if they’ve been used fairly. I mean, if you want to argue for a cappella music from history, then you have to be willing to hear what history really says.

  11. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Jon Atkins,

    Your Catholic friend was very perceptive. We in the Churches of Christ have rejected Calvin’s salvation theology, but we are culturally very Calvinist (no steeples or stained glass, no images of Jesus (except in the children’s dept.), plain buildings) and our ecclesiology is very Calvinist (a cappella singing, low church, sermon-centered assembly, etc.) Not surprising given our history. What is surprising is how unaware of it we generally are. Of course, being Calvinist isn’t necessary wrong. Calvin was right about lots of things. But we are wrong assume that God is against steeples, when it fact we inherited that particular bias from the Puritans and others in the Calvinist tradition.

    I suggest that we begin with the church. Let’s begin by recognizing that, properly speaking, the church is not a building. The Puritans understood how confusing it is to use the word “church” to refer both to man-made buildings and to the mystical Body of Christ. Richard Mather, for example, wrote: “There’s no just ground from Scripture to apply such a trope as church to a house for public assembly.” The New England Puritans preferred to call such buildings meetinghouses.

    In saying this, they recognized further that such buildings are never to be thought of as “sacred spaces.” The Reformed view of church architecture is at odds with much of architectural history and with much of contemporary church architecture. Indeed, a “sacramentalist” approach dominates church architecture; most of the world’s great church buildings were built to create a sense of “the sacred.” While we can admire the beauty of such churches and the ingenuity of those who built them, we must join the seventeenth-century Puritans in rejecting the faulty theology laid in their foundations.

    It is because of this nonsacramentalist view that the Reformed tradition has been castigated by many, both inside and outside the church. Puritans and Calvinists have been roundly condemned as haters of all things beautiful. After all, is it not because of our impoverished sense of the sacred that “low-church” Protestants have produced the big-box churches I described earlier? Indeed, there might be some truth in this critique

    http://www.opc.org/nh.html?article_id=688 — from a contemporary Orthodox Prebyterian Church site (traditionally Calvinist), and it sure sounds familiar. In fact, if you read 19th Century and early 20th Century Restoration Movement literature, church buildings were regularly called “meetinghouses” in line with Puritan practice. Somewhere around WWI or WWII, we shifted to “church building” — I’m sure because most of the people we talked to had no idea “meetinghouse” referred to what everyone else calls a church (which in English can refer to the people or the building).

  12. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Notice the following quote by Jeff:

    “Where have you in lightened, intellectual scholars been all these centuries? I’m thankful that the Lord’s church now has you so the rest of us can finally get it right.”

    I assume Jeff meant ‘enlightened’ in that first sentence; IDK. This quote is very insightful with respect to CoC dogma. I’ve actually said very similar things when I was wallowing in legalism. Thank God that I escaped my fallacious thinking and repented of my long-held error.

    Notice the irony that is packed in these few sentences. If anyone disagrees with our position, we question their scholarship. We mock and belittle and throw out sarcastic comments. The irony is that we never consider just how insular and scholarship-averse the conservative wing of our fellowship has become. We only read “our” authors. We drink deeply from the kool-aid of our lectureship circuit. We have abandoned critical thinking for flawed hermeneutics. As a fellowship, our conservative brethren produce perhaps the fewest notable scholars in Christendom. Who produces fewer?? No one buys our commentaries…except for us of course. Some of our doctrinal positions are only known within our own restoration movement circles. The reality is that the conservative wing of our fellowship is 180 degrees out from the rest of the Christian world and scholarship on a host of issues.

    Unfortunately, I’ve made similar statements as those above to my considerable shame. And why should we listen to well educated, intellectual scholars? We’ve got our lectureship books, after all. Thank goodness the SOF CoC came along and “finally got it right.”

  13. David Hinckley says:

    Danny Corbitt’s “Missing More Than Music” and some articles by him in the Wineshins archieves (do a Google search for “Danny Corbitt” + instrumental) document that the it was a few hundred years before anyone used BCV (book, chapter,verse) as an argument against instrumental music. The earliest objectives were all seemingly racist or cultural, i.e. instruments made us like the Jews, or the pagans, or…, or….

  14. David says:

    It is not hard to understand that the word “singing” In Col 3:16 and Eph 5: 19 can mean singing and playing an instrument. That is the way the word “singing” is used in Rev 14: 3. Same Greek word. We can not, with any certainty, say that Paul was being silent about instruments when he wrote the two verses. So, it seems that the most strict application of the RPW would not prohibit instruments accompanying singing in the assembly.

    Calvin and Zwingli must have missed that, as I did, until Jay referenced that argument a few years ago.

  15. bcampagnolo says:

    I have been reading this site for almost a year, and I agree, Jay (and many of the comments) have helped me to see a bigger picture of a Lawgiver that is looking for loop holes, trying to make the guilty not guilty. When none could be found, He sent Himself.

  16. Jeff Richardson says:

    In John 5:39,46,47, Jesus said, “Had you believed Moses, you would believe in Me, for He wrote about Me, but if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” When dealing with people who believe that “truth” is subjective and relative, no absolutes, where there is only gray, and no black and white, it’s like a dog chasing it’s tail. You insist on me not being arrogant and dogmatic, while you are being arrogant and dogmatic. Unless we all see scripture as God’s inspired word we will never have the unity that Jesus prayed for. c of C dogma? Do you mean teaching the bible? Understanding that we can understand it. That it is God’s word, something that needs to be followed and obeyed. I believe you mean God’s “dogma”. Because that’s who you are really arguing with. This idea that God was so inept, that He couldn’t communicate to us in a way that all can understand, is simply mind boggling to me. You all remind me of the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day. The self pronounced scholars, who new the law, but they abused it for their own gain. Why do you look for “notable scholars”? Find twelve of them and you will have twelve different opinions. Man’s wisdom is foolishness to God. Why not just take God at His word? We read the newspaper and we expect to understand it, why is the Bible so different? You all seem to like history, why not study the children of Israel, how many times were they instructed? How many times did they wonder from the voice of God? How many times did God call them to repentance? God said, “this is my Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him.” Jesus told the 70 before He sent them out, “he who rejects you, rejects Me.” They were sent out to teach the word of the Lord. I sure hope they sent along a “scholar” to translate what they were meaning to say.

  17. Mark says:

    Jeff, who here is saying that the scripture is not God’s inspired word?

  18. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Absolutely no one, Mark. You are right.

    It is a straw-man argument that we love to throw out to those with whom we disagree.

    Unless we all see scripture as God’s inspired word we will never have the unity that Jesus prayed for.
    I am not are of anyone here who has made such a claim.

  19. Jeff Richardson says:

    When so many deny it’s all sufficiency as in 2 Timothy 3:16,17, as the perfect standard and seek the wisdom of scholars, what does that say about their attitude towards it? Instead of so called scholars why not look to Paul, Luke, Peter, John etc? Why not allow the bible to interpret itself? And be satisfied with what it says, and not twisting it to our own destruction.

  20. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Jeff,

    Have you noticed how frequently you exchange one definition for another, conflate topics, and change subjects? Come on, brother; you are killing me.

    First, inspiration and sufficiency are two entirely different subjects. You conflate the two.
    Second, we have already agreed that if you, Jeff, define and caveat your terms, we are almost entirely in agreement in terms of sufficiency.

    So, what is your point? Who here has denied the inspiration of the scripture? Where is the quote?

  21. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Jeff,

    You wrote:
    “…what does that say about their attitude towards it?”
    You seem to revel in questioning motives. Why is that? It’s rather juvenile.

    You wrote:
    Instead of so called scholars why not look to Paul, Luke, Peter, John etc? Why not allow the bible to interpret itself? And be satisfied with what it says, and not twisting it to our own destruction.
    The first sentence insinuates that people with whom you disagree put more faith in scholars that the Apostles and authors of scripture. Of course the HS is the actual author. No one here believes that. Again, what exactly are you implying? Who has said that?

    I checked several of my lectureship book: Spiritual Sword, Denton, Memphis SOP, Bellview, Lubbock, Shenandoah, Power, West Visalia… (I have collected several hundred over the years). Did you know that every book contains a list of various “works cited” / bibliographies by some of our most prevalent ministers among the conservative wing? Wow. These men actually referred to, and quoted, the works of other non-inspired men within many of the manuscripts. Did you know that? Jeff, you may be on an island all by yourself with this position of not reading non-inspired material. Even the conservatives disagree with you here.

    I couldn’t agree more with you last two sentences. Amen!

  22. Jeff Richardson says:

    Kevin stated, “Our conservative brethren have produced few notable scholars, no one buys our commentaries, our doctrinal positions are only known within, and our fellowship is 180 degrees out from the rest of the “Christian” world.” Notable in who’s eyes? ‘Narrow is the gate that leads to righteousness and life, and few who will find it, wide is the gate that leads to destruction, and many will go there in. Kevin, I since that you really have a problem with the church of Christ, and that you wish it were more like the man made denominations. Do you not believe that Christ built only one, and that He died for only one, His? And if I truly believed that the bible was indeed God’s inspired word, wouldn’t I also believe it to be the standard of all standards? A standard that must be followed? Inspiration and all sufficient go together, you can’t have one without the other. How can a man believe in the inspired word of God and not believe that it is all sufficient in matters of faith and practice? And when we use commentaries and other man made material in our bible studies, do we take their word as the gospel? I hope not. Shouldn’t we use caution and compare what they say to what the bible says? I hope so. And if they don’t jive, shouldn’t we reject what they say? They are not our standard, God’s word is, that’s all I’m trying to get across.

  23. Monty says:

    “Narrow is the gate that leads to righteousness and life, and few who will find it, wide is the gate that leads to destruction, and many will go there in.”

    There’s the standard fall back verse. Take great comfort in that verse, except that if it’s true that all other believers who sing with musical accompaniment and all who don’t say the magic formula “for remission of sins” and all who don’t take the Supper every week, and all who don’t use the KJV, or that send money to para-church orgs and so on and so forth with our endless manmade lists of rules, if all these are lost then there’s only been like 10 people saved since the 1st century(if all those things are so). Think how ridiculous that sounds. Wake up man!

  24. Jeff Richardson says:

    Do you not believe Matt 7:13,14? The way is narrow, it’s God’s way, man’s way is wide and many will follow that way. Verse 21 and following, Jesus said, not everyone who says to Me Lord, Lord will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but those who have done the will of My Father. Many in that day will say have we not ………..done many wonders in thy name, and I will say, depart from Me, I NEVER knew you. Doesn’t sound as if that gate is as wide as you might think. And Monty, who are these people of Matt 7:21f? Are they not sincere Christ believing people? People who think they are following Christ, but who have fallen short of the Fathers will? it all comes back to the standard, and our obedience to it.

  25. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Whoa, Jeff. Can we not proceed topic by topic?

    Let’s at least moderately discuss one topic before chasing after others.

    You commented at 9:44 am:
    Unless we all see scripture as God’s inspired word we will never have the unity that Jesus prayed for.

    I’ve asked you to provide a quote. If you can’t, that’s okay. Just admit it and we can move on to the topic of scholars and any other topic that you mentioned at 1:58 pm. But this is worthy of discussion if you can provide a quote and actual context.

  26. Jeff Richardson says:

    Kevin I was actually answering Monty, if you will notice I mention him by name. Quote, what kind of quote are you looking for?

  27. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Jeff asked:
    Kevin stated, “Our conservative brethren have produced few notable scholars, no one buys our commentaries, our doctrinal positions are only known within, and our fellowship is 180 degrees out from the rest of the “Christian” world.” Notable in who’s eyes?
    In the eyes of leading NT scholars & students of the NT. Once again, the conservative-wing of our fellowship is highly insular. Critical thinkers know that they must read and honestly evaluate differing opinions and the latest NT scholarship. We aren’t exactly known for doing that. We aren’t open to honest discussion. We would rather label & condemn and go back to our lectureship books and brotherhood publications. We’ve made it a sin to use bible study material by people with whom we disagree. Don’t believe me? See the article here (Nov 2008, page 5):
    http://www.bellviewcoc.com/Defender-PDF/2008-Defender.pdf

    ‘Narrow is the gate that leads to righteousness and life, and few who will find it, wide is the gate that leads to destruction, and many will go there in.
    Agreed and amen. Matt 7:14.

    Kevin, I since that you really have a problem with the church of Christ, and that you wish it were more like the man made denominations.
    I don’t recall ever thinking, “I wish the Church of Christ” could be more like some other group. I fervently wish that the Church of Christ would cease teaching error. I fervently wish that it would cease binding where God has not bound and quit loosing where God has not loosed.

    Do you not believe that Christ built only one, and that He died for only one, His?
    I absolutely believe that Christ built one church and shed His blood for it.

    And if I truly believed that the bible was indeed God’s inspired word, wouldn’t I also believe it to be the standard of all standards? A standard that must be followed?
    Amen.

    Inspiration and all sufficient go together, you can’t have one without the other. How can a man believe in the inspired word of God and not believe that it is all sufficient in matters of faith and practice?
    We discussed this and came to an agreement when you accepted the caveat. I don’t know of anyone here who disagrees with the inspiration or the sufficiency of scripture.

    And when we use commentaries and other man made material in our bible studies, do we take their word as the gospel?
    Nope. Again, I don’t know who suggested otherwise. Do you?

    Shouldn’t we use caution and compare what they say to what the bible says? I hope so. And if they don’t jive, shouldn’t we reject what they say? They are not our standard, God’s word is, that’s all I’m trying to get across.
    Agreed.

  28. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Jeff R wrote,

    When dealing with people who believe that “truth” is subjective and relative, no absolutes, where there is only gray, and no black and white, it’s like a dog chasing it’s tail.

    Who are you talking about? I know of no moral relativists here and no one claiming truth to be entirely subjective. If this is a fair accusation for someone here, uttered consistently with the Christian standards of speech, please tell us whom you are talking about and on what you base your accusation.

    (2 Tim. 2:24-26 ESV) 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

    (Tit. 3:1-2 ESV) Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

  29. Monty says:

    Jeff wrote,

    “And Monty, who are these people of Matt 7:21f? Are they not sincere Christ believing people? People who think they are following Christ, but who have fallen short of the glory of God?”

    Jeff, is there any possibility that it could apply to folks like yourself who bind where scripture doesn’t bind? Who did Jesus have his biggest beef with, liberals or with those who turned traditions into law? You interpret the “narrow way” to be the ultra-conservative CofC teaching way as if they are synonymous. Could what Jesus said apply to someone who looks towards his own works to save him, notice what they said, “But didn’t I do” such and such? Is it obeying Jesus’ command to love one another if most of what you’re doing is trying to separate yourself with anyone who believes Jesus died for their sins but doesn’t accept your narrowly defined (I get it right – you don’t approach? Jeff, I used to be like you. I was so wrong. Your view of truth has the church beginning at Pentecost and existing for a while then falling off the face of the earth until about the early 1800’s. Does that sound logical?

  30. Larry Cheek says:

    Jeff,
    Can you see a Church of Christ of today being transplanted back into the first Century and any of the Disciples living then understanding that it is what Jesus established? Imagine your self living in that time period and attending what they knew as an assembly of Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Magnificent building, special clothing, scheduled times of assembly (especially while being persecuted) by Jews and Romans. Were they not Christians, because they did not have everything that we have placed in order in our assemblies (which we identify as worship) was there anyone in the early church which called the assembly worship? Of course, I must suggest that we are looking at the time from Pentecost to the completion of the written Word. There were many changes in the later years. But, the changes did not cause the original Christians to be lost, or the later Christians to be closer to the narrow way of salvation. We are very prone to using the wrong measuring tools to validate our progress on the path of following Jesus.

  31. Jeff Richardson says:

    Larry,The only measuring tool we have is the inspired word of God. Your right many do use the wrong measuring tool, as in scholars and modern thinkers. Why is it so hard to follow the instructions, the examples and yes those things inferred and not be the church of the first century? It’s when we deviate from it that we become something else. Did those in the first century worship in Spirit and in truth? the question for us is, do we worship in spirit and in truth? And what “traditions” am I binding or loosening? And Monty, those words in Matt 7 were the words of Jesus Himself. He is the one who called it the way narrow. Jesus said he would separate Himself from those who do not the will of the Father. And yes I believe that the Lord’s church began on Pentecost. And it fell into almost obscurity because man perverted it. Remember the great falling away that’s talked about in the New testament? Man in his wisdom caused it all. Why did it happen, it happened because they left the standard. And Monty, just because someone believes that Jesus died for their sins, I assume your speaking of a simple acknowledgement of that fact, won’t save them. Nor will asking Jesus into your heart to be your personal Savior and saying a sinners prayer. These instructions cannot be found any where in scripture. One must obey the gospel, like the many examples found in Acts. You may say that this is narrow and yes it is, but Jesus Christ made it that way. So Jay you agree with me, when we look at a simple truth as in Matt 19, and we see clearly that if a man divorces his wife for any reason “except” for sexual immorality and she or he marries another they both commit adultery. That truth is absolute, it is not subjective, it is black and white. the same would hold true for singing, without instruments. Coming together on the first day of the week, to sing, teach and preach, to pray, to partake of the Lord’s supper, to exhort to encourage to rebuke (worship). All absolutes with no gray area. They did it in the first century and that example has been left for us. We can do the same, only if we will. Are we willing to follow the standard and nothing else? Jesus prayed that those who believe in Him would be of one mind, the same mind, of one accord, having all things in common, to be one as He and the Father are one. This can happen, if we follow the same standard. The word of God will show us what kind of men we are, and what we need to do to change. And Jay, you may see this as being discourteous, and quarrelsome but I see it as defending the truth. As Paul once said, Have I become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

  32. Alabama John says:

    While we are on strange things, here is another.
    We are to have one wife as they did in the old Testament. They also had Concubines. WE want to follow Gods chosen people in the old testament in things that were approved by God and not excluded in the new Testament. Having one wife with Concubines added was sure approved by God back then and I do not see where its excluded in the New.
    So, when did also having Concubines stop.
    My wife at times could use some help around the house and maybe one or two could spray weeds and push a lawnmower to help me.
    Don’t want 70 virgins like some others want in the afterlife, but a few Concubines in this one would of been nice.

  33. David says:

    Talk about strange, combine the two traditional CofC teachings of the RPW and Positive Ordinances. Apply them consistently, and we find that not partaking the Lord’s Supper at night in an upper room becomes one of the most damnable sins a person can commit. And if someone argues that you have to use some common sense in interpreting the Bible, tell them they are in rebellious disobedience to God’s clearly stated Word.

  34. Dwight says:

    I used to think as Jeff does, but the one thing that snapped me out of it was the concept that God is not vague. When God wanted something he tells us, when he didn’t want something he tells us, it if falls within the middle of what we call silence, then God allows.
    To make a command within or of God’s silence is what the Pharisees did.
    There are plenty of examples where God made a command and man came along and added to it without changing the thrust of the command or replacing it. Ex. God commanded a Passover on a certain day, which Hezekiah did and then he held another Passover the following week. Ex. God had 7 feast in the rotation by command and Esther added another one, not commanded by God.
    The problem isn’t scripture…it is us and out thinking that we have it all tied up in the correct way as opposed to others who don’t. We are all failures, but even more so when we hold ourselves superior to others.
    Jeff said, “Plain biblical truth Mark would be, sing!”, which no one disagrees with. But the problem is retrofitting our singing to the singing of the NT without understanding the singing in the NT.
    It says, “sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”, now what are psalms? When we read psalms in the OT we have IM mentioned, not as a command, but as a reality, but for some reason when we move to the NT we expet the Jews to undertnd psalms different. But when you look at the Septuagint, the psalms in the NT is the same as the OT.
    Now when we look at our present songs, they look and sound nothing like the psalms, which is because they aren’t psalms at all. They don’t have the structure, the meter, the IM, so when we place psalms on our song book we are kidding ourselves. They might be songs, but they are not psalms. In all of my 50 years I have never sang a psalm in psalm form.

  35. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    David wrote,

    Talk about strange, combine the two traditional CofC teachings of the RPW and Positive Ordinances.

    For those not familiar with “positive” ordinances, this is from 19th Century CoC preaching. God’s commands are either moral or positive. Positive commands require something not essential to fundamental morality, such as Sunday worship, baptism, or the Lord’s Supper. The argument made was that positive commands are more important because they’re tests of faith — of willingness to obey. A good man who’d never heard of God might never steal — but only a God-fearer will be baptized or sing exclusively a cappella. And because these are tests of faith, it’s more important to obey the positive commands than the moral commands.

    Implicit is the fact that no one not named “Jesus” will ever be morally perfect, but perfect adherence to a positive command is quite possible. Many have gone their entire lives without worshiping in church with an instrument. And since they’re capable of perfect (dare I say, precision) obedience, nothing less will do.

    Hence, we have a religion that cares more about Sunday night attendance than feeding the poor. And, hence, we’re more likely to damn over kitchens in the church building than division and angry disputation.

  36. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Jeff R wrote,

    And Jay, you may see this as being discourteous, and quarrelsome but I see it as defending the truth. As Paul once said, Have I become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

    What I consider discourteous and quarrelsome is making accusations about people that are plainly not true. Again, who here considers all truth subjective and relative? You made the accusation. Back it up or apologize. You wrote,

    When dealing with people who believe that “truth” is subjective and relative, no absolutes, where there is only gray, and no black and white, it’s like a dog chasing it’s tail.

    Disagreeing with you does not mean someone doubts that truth is objective. They just disagree.

  37. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Why is it so hard to follow the instructions, the examples and yes those things inferred and not be the church of the first century? It’s when we deviate from it that we become something else.
    Says who? Some dude named Jeff? This is a perfect illustration of the problems plaguing Churches of Christ. If a Congregation A “deviates” from Congregation B’s understanding of the truth, then Congregation A no longer qualifies as a true church. This concept is nothing short of absurd. In practicality, it leads to division after division. Is division what we have seen within the American Restoration Movement? Indeed it is. You might say that division is the leading characteristic of the restoration movement.
    Multiple cups in the LS? Division.
    Fellowship hall? Division.
    Located preacher? Division.
    Use Apologetics Press material in your bible study classes? Division.
    Use an instrument? Division

    We could fill an entire page or two of the most asinine things that have divided Churches of Christ. That’s what happens when we bind where God has not bound. We become modern day Pharisees.

    Did those in the first century worship in Spirit and in truth? the question for us is, do we worship in spirit and in truth?
    Who among Churches of Christ would fellowship any of the congregations in the NT? We would disfellowship the church at Galatia, Corinth, et al in a heartbeat.

    Jeff, you consistently trot out Bible verses as if there are those here who disagree with it. I’m baffled as to why you do this. No one here disagrees with Christ as recorded in Mt 7:13-14:
    13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
    We don’t disagree with Christ. We disagree with your application of what Christ said. The conservative wing of the COC applies this verse in all sorts of erroneous ways. We use this verse to damn those pay their preacher. We use it to damn those who contribute to disaster-stricken areas via the COC Disaster Relief Fund. We use it to damn those who excuse children from the morning worship assembly. We use it to damn those who participate in Life Groups. We use it to damn those who have to work on Sunday. We use it to damn those who sing with instrumental music. We damn those who applaud at baptisms. We damn those who pat our foot during singing in the assembly. Who among us has never softly hummed through the words of a song because we didn’t know the lyrics but we did know the melody?? We are all damned. It’s beyond ridiculous!

    That truth is absolute, it is not subjective, it is black and white. the same would hold true for singing, without instruments.
    I agree that it is black and white. Your position is black. It’s wrong, brother. You are binding where God has not bound. I used to do the same thing. I know all the arguments. And damning over this issue was/is sinful. God wants us to sing. How we sing is completely up to us. He doesn’t legislate how we sing. We can sing with or without instruments. Either way, it is singing. God expects us to Go into all the world. How we go is up to us. God expects us to spread the Gospel. How we do so (preaching, tracts, radio, internet, drama, books, MP3, et al) is completely up to us.

  38. Mark says:

    I don’t think I want to be the first century church. I don’t want the faith to be illegal according to Roman law. I don’t want to have to attend the service in the catacombs among decaying bodies. I don’t want a good % of the offering to go to a Roman official to get him to turn his head the other way so we can meet in an ampitheatre. People forget that the first century wasn’t the good old days and the founder and messiah had just been crucified by Roman authorities.

  39. Monty says:

    Jeff is here for one of three reasons. 1 He sincerely believes we’re all going to hell and he wants to redeem us from such, a noble goal. 2. Jeff is insincere and he just loves being argumentative and is practicing his debating skills. 3. Jeff feels in his heart a burning ember of something he’s never tasted before and he likes it but it scares him (that can’t be right can it) so he’s bouncing what he has been spoon-fed around off of us to answer the nagging doubts he has, (he certainly won’t get this information from his church leaders). The new growing freedom is exhilarating but scary at the same time, after all he’s been taught for years perhaps that to be wrong on any matter of doctrine is damning, who wouldn’t be scared, like being told to fear the great Oz. Maybe he’s like a child who wants desperately to jump off the high-dive but that first jump is so often terrifying. I remember well my first reading of Wineskins or whatever it was called back then when Ruel Lemmons was the editor and thinking “Wow!” “Where has this stuff been hiding?” “It wasn’t like the GA stuff I was used to, it was refreshing and exhilarating. But I remember the feeling also of being in my Bible College Library reading it and looking over my shoulder making sure none of my friends but especially my instructors caught me reading it. The sad thing was I went many years after that without ever reading it again. Then I ran across this blog. Again the same feelings came back to me as in the past. Like an oasis in the desert. Jeff, Drink my friend. Drink deep. Open your mind and your heart.

  40. Larry Cheek says:

    I remember how in the church we upheld a value in which we professed that the early church had everything correct and it was our obligation to reproduce it. This drove our imaginations to believing that the early church was almost just like us. I mean they met at the same times during the week as we do, they sang only the songs that we know (what other songs were there), they had the fruit of the vine just like ours, the bread was of course unleavened just like ours (no yeast or salt), their preacher delivered sermons very nearly like the ones we have heard all of our lives, and their lives between their worship assemblies were being conducted almost identical to ours (we were almost identical except they did not have any of the conveniences which we have.
    Talk to most Christians today and you will find that they believe that the church is either the building that they go to, (to worship the Lord in, or it is the body of believers that are at the church). The general public is also programmed with the same concepts. On the other hand the early church never identified a building in which they met in as a church. As far as I can understand their communication never revealed that they believed that worship was done in an assembly of other believers, and there are no commands in the NT which direct us to worship with an assembly of believers. There is not a command which establishes that Christians are to gather on The First Day of The Week. Two verses in the whole of NT which speaks of Christians doing something on The First Day of The Week. One is referencing a participation in braking bread and the other is a directive to lay by in store on The First Day of The Week a gift to be collected and delivered to needy Saints (Christians in need). Both of these communications are lacking the identification that they were part of an assembly which was commanded to take place. The gift which is laid aside was to given and stored on The First Day of The Week. But, there is a huge assumption to be made if that action was to be part of an assembly of Christians. I am not attempting to suggest that we should not assemble on The First Day of The Week but, there is no commands demanding it of Christians. Especially, calling it worship or a worship service. We are to worship 24/7 and assemble to edify and build up each other. Teaching others especially non-Christians is also at every opportunity, 365 days per year. Commands or laws are not there to support many of the events which we have been taught were damming if we failed to do them.

  41. Jeff Richardson says:

    Kevin, there are three kinds of music. 1. Singing alone. 2. Singing w/instruments. 3. Instrumental. We have been told to spread the good news. We know what to spread. We know where to spread it, everywhere. How we spread it has been left up to us. We can go by boat, car, plane or train, ride a horse. We can us TV or radio or the internet. If we use instruments along with our singing, we have added something to a direct command. We have added another element which changes the command. If we use a song book, we have added an aid, an aid to help us to fulfill that command. A song book does not change the command to sing. Just like using a car to go spread the good news.
    Jay said to me, “back it up or apologize”. “disagreeing with you does not mean someone doubts that truth is objective, they just disagree.” When the question is asked in Matt 19, “Is it lawful for man to divorce his wife for any reason.” The answer from Christ was, in the beginning…..the point was one man and woman for life. They respond, why then did Moses grant a certificate of divorce to put her away. Jesus said, he did so because of the hardness of your hearts. But I say, (Christ) if a man divorces his wife “except” it be for sexual immorality and she marries another, he causes her to commit adultery. This is not subjective it is absolute, black and white. We make it subjective and non absolute when we go back to the Old testament to justify our stance, based upon what others did. Just because they did, and it’s recorded, doesn’t mean God was pleased. And why go back to a law that we are not under? As it is written, God winked at their ignorance, but the day is coming when He will write His laws on their hearts. The same can be said of our stance on instruments of music. Eph 5 and Col 3, are absolutes, they are not subjective. Why would we go back to a law that we have never been under to see what we, Christians, who live under the New are to do? Yes, the Old was written for our learning, but we are not bound by the old law. In Amos 5:23, the Lord God said, “Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.” In Amos 6:1 ” Woe to you who are at ease in Zion….verse 5 who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments. And INVENT for yourselves musical instruments like David.” Doesn’t sound as if God was pleased with what they offered, or with what David did. Why would we go back there to justify what we do now? We wouldn’t unless we see the new Law as subjective. And based upon what was said in Amos, if we continue to use instruments we make the old subjective as well. If all is subjective, what do we have? We have nothing!

  42. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Jeff wrote:
    Kevin, there are three kinds of music. 1. Singing alone. 2. Singing w/instruments. 3. Instrumental…If we use instruments along with our singing, we have added something to a direct command. We have added another element which changes the command. If we use a song book, we have added an aid, an aid to help us to fulfill that command. A song book does not change the command to sing. Just like using a car to go spread the good news.
    Book, Chapter, Verse please? You are adding to God’s word, brother. The NT does not command a kind of “music” for NT worship.

    In fact, “music” only appears one time in the Greek NT, Luke 15:23-32:

    23 “‘And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
    25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ ”

    The Greek word for “music” is συμφωνία or symphōnia and means:
    ① the sound produced by several instruments, music
    ② a group of performing musicians, band, orchestra
    ③ a wind instrument

    BDAG. Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature 2000 : 961. Print.

    It would be most inconsistent for Christ, the very Son of God, to use συμφωνία in a parable with several significant spiritual connotations if He were so eager to damn Christians who actually use συμφωνία when worshipping in spirit and truth! Jeff, you have unwittingly caricatured God as the proverbial trickster with a magnifying glass, eagerly luring ants with honey in order to zap them. In our zeal to damn others because of our unbiblical and Pharisaical opinions about “music” we have become the angry brother in the parable! God have mercy on us for our ignorance.

    Additionally, if the parable teaches nothing else, it teaches that we CAN rejoice and celebrate with instruments, and this comes from the very mouth of the Messiah. “Celebrate” occurs four times in the passage. “Glad” appears once, and “music” appears once. Clearly, our Lord doesn’t frown on rejoicing or expressing our joy / gladness with musical instruments. Paul instructs us to celebrate the sacrifice of Christ in I Cor. In Phil 4:4 Paul tells us:

    Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

    Our Lord doesn’t have a problem with musical instruments. We shouldn’t either. If one has personal scruples, that’s fine. But sin lies at the door when you impose your personal scruples on another as a matter of faith and sever fellowship over personal scruples / opinions.

  43. Dwight says:

    Jeff, You said, “three kinds of music. 1. Singing alone. 2. Singing w/instruments. 3. Instrumental…”, but note that one can do these in groups or by ones self, so there must be six kinds of music.
    The problem is that we like to categorized things in the coC, which is bad in some instances, especially when things weren’t meant to be categorized. Take the word and concept of psalms.
    We are told to “sing one to another pslams, hymns and spiritual songs.” Well, do we sing psalms? I have been in the coC (conservative) and have never heard a psalm sung, that is as written and as sung to the meter of a psalm. The psalms that is in reference to in the NT is based on the OT, which they had and used at the time, and thus if the same psalms, then the concept of IM was not excluded. The Septuigent makes it clear that the psalms in the NT is the same as the psalms in the OT.
    Now we might argue, then why isn’t IM mentioned, but why would they, if implied in the concept of psalms.
    To put this into perspective, chairs are mentioned in the OT four times, but not in the NT at all, thus we should conclude they didn’t have chairs during this time or that the saints in worship didn’t use chairs, even when we are told they sat down around a table.
    The problem with using Amos 5:23, the Lord God said, “Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.” In Amos 6:1 ” Woe to you who are at ease in Zion….vs. 5 who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments. And INVENT for yourselves musical instruments like David.”
    is that we are now saying that God who allowed IM and even commanded two horns of brass is now against them. Really! David’s IM were used in the Temple many times and yet they are somehow unholy. Really!
    And go back and read Amos again. In vs.21-22 it appears that God is against the feast and sacrifices as well, which He himself commanded. No he was against their lack of heart and true worship in their worship.
    Then in In Amos 6 it appears that God is against beds, couches, lambs and calves as well. So we must condemn those things. Really!
    This is a gross misuse of scripture. God is not condemning things, but rather their idolatry and their high living in the sight of God.
    And to let you know I have used all of these arguments, minus Amos, because it is lame.
    I want you to think about these.
    Did Hezekiah sin when he had the second Passover, not commanded of by God?
    Did Esther sin when she added on another feast within the feast rotation commanded by God?
    Did the people, even Jesus, sin when they drank wine during the Passover feast, when it was not commanded in any of the many times God reiterated the elements of the Passover?
    Our argument is silence prohibits. Or nothing goes without saying.
    And yet there are plenty of examples where this is not true. God allowed in the silence as long as the command was fulfilled.
    Now you are going to say “we must sing”, so are you singing as you write this and if not, then you are sinning. If you are not singing, then you have made a decision not to.
    We then move into the “it must be an aid”, but where is that written that it is sinful until it becomes an aid. Then we have to deal with the fact that somehow they managed to not have song books, not have pitch pipes, not have notes, not have rythyem, not have buildings.
    They were not aids then, because they were not needed, so why are they an aid now? Hmmmm. Because we have justified them. We. In the silence of scripture.

  44. Larry Cheek says:

    Reread Amos again, there is a very important point which has been excluded. God was not explaining that he was against the instruments, he was against them inventing them to use for their own purposes. Their songs were not worshiping God. David, invented instruments for worshiping God.

  45. Dwight says:

    Larry, this might be a condemnation against doing things for self pleasure that doesn’t have God involved. There might be truth to that concept. We would call this secular indulgence.

  46. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    In somewhat hypocritical fashion, we love to gloat that the Bible does not teach “faith only,” while at the same time we vociferously proclaim that the Bible teaches “acapella singing only.”

  47. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Kevin wrote,

    In somewhat hypocritical fashion, we love to gloat that the Bible does not teach “faith only,” while at the same time we vociferously proclaim that the Bible teaches “acapella singing only.”

    A very well made point indeed. (If only Luther had insert “alone” at the end of Eph 5:19 in his German translation …)

  48. Larry Cheek says:

    Dwight,
    It surely would be tough on many of us if the concept in Amos could be referencing the type of lyrics found in many of our beloved country music songs. You know, many of them place very ungodly concepts into our minds.

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