One of the most popular arguments against instrumental music is that “the only thing that instruments have brought to worship” is division. The person I’m discussing this with has 4 points, and I know that Corbitt discusses these in his book very well, what I am looking for is a parallel.
1. there is no command in the scripture for instrumental music in worship
2. it was not introduced into the church for some 600 years, it was tossed out the first two times they tried
3. it was introduced by an apostate church
4. it only brings division.
Q: Can you think of anything that we currently do or practice in the churches of Christ that would also fit these, like the kitchen or gym. I have gotten to the point where I don’t even bring up arguments when I disagree with things being taught, they are standard ‘doctrine.’
Any help would be greatly appreciated. I do not like to discuss a lot of these things unless I’m really loaded for the task.
Let’s try a couple of similar arguments on for size. We were discussing the one-cup issue in my class last week.
1. There is no command for multiple cups. Nor is there an example. We do have examples of a single cup.
(Mat 26:27-28) Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
(1 Cor 11:28) A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.
“Cup” is quite plainly singular everywhere it’s used in reference to the communion (in parallel to the argument that “elders” is always plural!)
2. Multiple cups began in the early 20th Century, only after germ theory was discovered by Pasteur and others and the US suffered a devastating TB epidemic, well before the availability of antibiotics. I can find no evidence of multiple cups in nearly the first 19 centuries of church history. Even today, the Catholics, Orthodox, and Episcopalians celebrate a one-cup communion.
3. The Churches of Christ were hardly the first or only churches to adopt multiple cups. In fact, the first church in the US to adopt multiple cups was a Presbyterian church. Thus, it can truly be said that the Churches of Christ copied the practice from “the denominations.” Of course, some (not all) within the one-cup Churches of Christ see the issue as an apostasy issue, and from their perspective, multiple cups come from an apostate church.
4. As this article plainly shows, the controversy brought division to numerous churches. And these divisions have not yet been healed.
Therefore, by the argument made, we must return to the one cup of God’s holy word. It’s really quite simple if you’ll just follow God’s word rather than the fashions of man. Indeed, in using multiple cups, we are following in the paths of liberal denominations that have rejected all that is good and holy. It’s easy to see where this path leads! (See how easy it is to cap an argument with a snide, condescending, holier-than-thou comment? Why do we think it persuades anyone?)
Now, having seen how such arguments fail, let’s look at some additional facts. (A much more comprehensive consideration of the issue may be found under Instrumental Music.)
1. Is there really no command in scripture? No example?
Consider that the Jerusalem church met in the temple courts daily, and they had instrumental music and choirs. Rather an odd choice, isn’t it, if God wanted nothing to do with instrumental music after Pentecost?
And consider the arguments made in this post from a while back. I’ll not repeat them here, but there’s much more authority for instrumental music than we sometimes pretend.
2. Instrumental music was introduced in the New Testament church at Pentecost. Luther permitted instrumental music, which led to the grandeur of Bach — some of the greatest worship music ever composed. The Messiah came from the pen of Handel, thanks to the fact he wasn’t working in a Calvinistic nation — as the Calvinists rejected instrumental music in worship.
Just try to make an argument that The Messiah or Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring is evil. You can’t make a serious case.
3. Churches we sometimes call apostate do actually get some things right. Do we toss out meeting houses because it wasn’t until Constantine that the church could own buildings? Do we toss out hymn books because they weren’t invented until after Gutenberg? Oh, please! Instrumental music goes back to David and will survive in heaven. It wasn’t invented by the Catholics.
4. This division argument is a shameful argument, because issues such as instrumental music only divide when we make them divide! Consider Richland Hills or Quail Springs. They added an additional, instrumental service, forcing no one to act against his conscience. Other churches damned them. Who is the divider? Who is the factious one?
Why aren’t we dividers when we refuse to celebrate communion with just one cup? Why aren’t we dividers when we have Sunday school or cooperate to support orphanages, even though we know this offends the sensibilities of others? We are such hypocrites!
The cure for division is not to behave as the most rule-bound among us would want. The cure for division is to stop dividing. Indeed, in arguing that instrumental music isn’t a salvation issue but shouldn’t be practiced because it’s divisive, well, aren’t we tacitly condoning the sin of being factious? If it’s a grave sin to be factious, why allow the factious to set the agenda?
I concede that most churches will need to precede a decision to go instrumental with patient, prayerful teaching so that no one is required to worship contrary to his conscience. I don’t concede that whoever is the most legalistic among us gets to always have their way.