An Experiment in Christian Dialogue: In Reply to Robert

Angel with harpThis is in reply to Robert’s comment.


You continue to make the fatal mistake of confusing disobeying a command with doing more than is commanded. Had Noah made the ark with knotty pine, he’d have plainly violated the command. Had he brought along shovels — a subject on which God was quite silent — there’d have been no violation. And I’m sure the shovels were needed and that Noah brought them.

The thing about language is that it doesn’t always admit of precise rules. A command to do “X” might mean “X and X only” or might mean “X and whatever else you consider appropriate to accomplish my purposes.”

I recently asked my son to go to Taco Casa and bring me back 3 hot beef burritos — and he kindly did just that. But he also brought back some tacos for himself. Did he disobey? Obviously, not. I didn’t intend for him to go hungry. I simply had no instructions as to what he might eat for himself. Had he brought back 20 hot beef burritos, he’d have been disobedient — unless we have 6 hungry teens here who also needed feeding.

And the fact that he bought himself tacos is not even arguably an aid or expedient to bringing me my burritos. You see, you don’t always need stated permission (even though he was spending my money). Rather, in this case, his “authority” was found in the nature of our relationship, not in the command.

It’s just contrary to the nature of human language and human relationships to imagine that “sing” somehow specifies a cappella or instrumental. After all, the fact that we have to say “a cappella” to prevent our own language from being ambiguous makes plain that “sing” doesn’t mean “sing a cappella.” But then neither does it mean “sing with an instrument.” Rather, it means “sing.” If I invite friends over to sing Beatles tunes with me and some friends, no one has violated the terms of the invitation by bringing a guitar. Just so, “psallo” in koine Greek indicates neither the use of an instrument nor the absence of an instrument.

You are reading far more into the language than is there. The only way you can get to the conclusion that instruments are prohibited is by showing that the SCRIPTURES require that all worship of God be by express authority and that the authority granted does not authorize instruments as an aid or an expedient.

If you have children, I suggest that you tell them they can only do those things that you command, give examples for, or that are necessarily inferred from your commands. See how well that works in parenting.

“Mommy said to go upstairs and play. Therefore, even though my sister has broken her leg, I’ll not tell mommy because watching out for my sister isn’t necessarily implied in ‘go … play.'”

Sometimes, you just have to raise them right and give them the freedom to use the good sense that God gave them. And this is where the Spirit comes in and why worship in Spirit and in truth makes so much sense. God is willing to trust us to be faithful children because he lives in us through his Spirit.

The last several posts in this series show that the scriptural argument for the Regulative Principle utterly fails. It’s built on the abuse of verses that have nothing to do with such a concept. The Regulative Principle exists neither in logic, the nature of language, nor the scriptures. Rather, it’s a human invention.

The fact is that the use of an instrument is a matter left to human judgment, empowered and guided by the Spirit, within broad scriptural guidelines. There are limits. Among them are the standards of 1 Cor 14 and Heb 10 that the assembly encourage, strengthen, comfort, and edify. And there is the statement of Jesus that under the new covenant, worship will be in Spirit and in truth. And the statements in Heb 8 – 9 that one mark of the inferiority of worship under the Law of Moses was the imposition of external regulations.

What accomplishes those things in a given situation is very culture-dependent. Evidently, in the Greco-Roman culture, in at least some places and at some times, instrumental music tended to lead to an association with pagan revelry.

Of course, the pagan world did not have a well-established Christian subculture with a rich heritage of Christian music that is very far removed from debauchery and revelry. And this heritage goes all the back to Bach.

This is the dona nobis pacem from Bach’s Mass in B Minor. It means “give us peace.” And there’s nothing the early church Patristics say against instrumental music that applies to this work.

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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175 Responses to An Experiment in Christian Dialogue: In Reply to Robert

  1. Royce says:

    Who but someone with an agenda could disagree with this common, simple, easy to understand logic?

    Jay you have stated the case perfectly.

    Often, it seems to me, that some participants in these Christian forums are like some of those in political discussions, logic simply escapes them without notice.

    (Royce remember, a Christian virtue is patience!)


  2. And there’s nothing the early church Patristics say against instrumental music that applies to this work.

    Let everyone judge for himself:

    CHAPTER IV.—HOW TO CONDUCT OURSELVES AT FEASTS. (Clemet of Alexandria, Instructor Book 2/Ch IV)

    Let revelry keep away from our rational entertainments, and foolish vigils, too, that revel in intemperance. For revelry is an inebriating pipe, the chain (The reading ?????? is here adopted. The passage is obscure.) of an amatory bridge, that is, of sorrow. And let love, and intoxication, and senseless passions, be removed from our choir. Burlesque singing is the boon companion of drunkenness. A night spent over drink invites drunkenness, rouses lust, and is audacious in deeds of shame. For if people occupy their time with pipes, and psalteries, and choirs, and dances, and Egyptian clapping of hands, and such disorderly frivolities, they become quite immodest and intractable, beat on cymbals and drums, and make a noise on instruments of delusion; for plainly such a banquet, as seems to me, is a theatre of drunkenness. For the apostle decrees that, “putting off the works of darkness, we should put on the armour of light, walking honestly as in the day, not spending our time in rioting and drunkenness, in chambering and wantonness.” ( Rom. xiii. 12, 13.) Let the pipe be resigned to the shepherds, and the flute to the superstitious who are engrossed in idolatry. For, in truth, such instruments are to be banished from the temperate banquet, being more suitable to beasts than men, and the more irrational portion of mankind. For we have heard of stags being charmed by the pipe, and seduced by music into the toils, when hunted by the huntsmen. And when mares are being covered, a tune is played on the flute—a nuptial song, as it were. And every improper sight and sound, to speak in a word, and every shameful sensation of licentiousnes—which, in truth, is privation of sensation—must by all means be excluded; and we must be on our guard against whatever pleasure titillates eye and ear, and effeminates. For the various spells of the broken strains and plaintive numbers of the Carian muse corrupt men’s morals, drawing to perturbation of mind, by the licentious and mischievous art of music. [He distinguishes between the lewd music of Satanic odes (Tatian, cap. xxxiii. p. 79, supra), and another art of music of which he will soon speak.]

    The Spirit, distinguishing from such revelry the divine service, sings, “Praise Him with the sound of trumpet;” for with sound of trumpet He shall raise the dead. “Praise Him on the psaltery;” for the tongue is the psaltery of the Lord. “And praise Him on the lyre.” ( Ps. cl. 3, 5.) By the lyre is meant the mouth struck by the Spirit, as it were by a plectrum. “Praise with the timbrel and the dance,” refers to the Church meditating on the resurrection of the dead in the resounding skin. “Praise Him on the chords and organ.” Our body He calls an organ, and its nerves are the strings, by which it has received harmonious tension, and when struck by the Spirit, it gives forth human voices. “Praise Him on the clashing cymbals.” He calls the tongue the cymbal of the mouth, which resounds with the pulsation of the lips. Therefore He cried to humanity, “Let every breath praise the LORD,” because He cares for every breathing thing which He hath made. For man is truly a pacific instrument; while other instruments, if you investigate, you will find to be warlike, inflaming to lusts, or kindling up amours, or rousing wrath.

    In their wars, therefore, the Etruscans use the trumpet, the Arcadians the pipe, the Sicilians the pectides, the Cretans the lyre, the Lacedæmonians the flute, the Thracians the horn, the Egyptians the drum, and the Arabians the cymbal. The one instrument of peace, the Word alone by which we honour God, is what we employ. We no longer employ the ancient psaltery, and trumpet, and timbrel, and flute, which those expert in war and contemners of the fear of God were wont to make use of also in the choruses at their festive assemblies; that by such strains they might raise their dejected minds. But let our genial feeling in drinking be twofold, in accordance with the law. For “if thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” and then “thy neighbour,” let its first manifestation be towards God in thanksgiving and psalmody, and the second toward our neighbour in decorous fellowship. For says the apostle, “Let the Word of the Lord dwell in you richly.” ( Col. iii. 16.) And this Word suits and conforms Himself to seasons, to persons, to places.

    In the present instance He is a guest with us. For the apostle adds again, “Teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your heart to God.” And again, “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and His Father.” This is our thankful revelry. And even if you wish to sing and play to the harp or lyre, there is no blame. [Here instrumental music is allowed, though he turns everything into a type.] Thou shalt imitate the righteous Hebrew king in his thanksgiving to God. “Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; praise is comely to the upright,” (Ps. xxxiii. 1–3.) says the prophecy. “Confess to the Lord on the harp; play to Him on the psaltery of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song.” And does not the ten-stringed psaltery indicate the Word Jesus, who is manifested by the element of the decad? And as it is befitting, before partaking of food, that we should bless the Creator of all; so also in drinking it is suitable to praise Him on partaking of His creatures. [Even the heathen had such forms. The Christian grace before and after meat is here recognised as a matter of course. 1 Tim. iv. 3, 4.] For the psalm is a melodious and sober blessing. The apostle calls the psalm “a spiritual song.”(Eph. v. 19; Col. iii. 16.)

    Finally, before partaking of sleep, it is a sacred duty to give thanks to God, having enjoyed His grace and love, and so go straight to sleep. [Besides the hymn on lighting the lamps, he notes completory prayer at bedtime.] “And confess to Him in songs of the lips,” he says, “because in His command all His good pleasure is done, and there is no deficiency in His salvation.” (Wisd. Sirach (Ecclus.) xxxix. 15, 16.)
    Further, among the ancient Greeks, in their banquets over the brimming cups, a song was sung called a skolion, after the manner of the Hebrew psalms, all together raising the pæan with the voice, and sometimes also taking turns in the song while they drank healths round; while those that were more musical than the rest sang to the lyre. But let amatory songs be banished far away, and let our songs be hymns to God. “Let them praise,” it is said, “His name in the dance, and let them play to Him on the timbrel and psaltery.”(Ps. cxlix. 3. )And what is the choir which plays? The Spirit will show thee: “Let His praise be in the congregation (church) of the saints; let them be joyful in their King.”(Ps. cxlix. 1, 2)And again he adds, “The LORD will take pleasure in His people.”( Ps. clxix. 4. ) For temperate harmonies [Observe the contrast between the modest harmonies he praises, and the operatic strains he censures. Yet modern Christians delight in these florid and meretricious compositions, and they have intruded into the solemnities of worship. In Europe, dramatic composers of a sensual school have taken possession of the Latin ceremonial.] are to be admitted; but we are to banish as far as possible from our robust mind those liquid harmonies, which, through pernicious arts in the modulations of tones, train to effeminacy and scurrility. But grave and modest strains say farewell to the turbulence of drunkenness. [On gluttony and drinking, our author borrows much from Plato. Kaye, p. 74.] Chromatic harmonies are therefore to be abandoned to immodest revels, and to florid and meretricious music.

  3. Rob Woodfin says:

    Yesterday evening my wife and I went to hear a Ugandan Orphans choir at the local elementary school. It was impossible to keep from tearing up, especially when they sang "He Knows My Name." As they performed several other American and African songs of praise, which included clapping, dancing, drumming and other instrumental accompaniment, it was also impossible to avoid thinking about this subject.

    The Christians who orchestrate this program (pun intended) are "not of us," but another denomination. Had this been a conventional Church of Christ effort to help raise money for the millions of other poverty-stricken orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, the children would have been required to stand motionless in rows with their hands at their sides singing, of course, a cappella.

    These children, who have lost almost everything, including their parents, do still have the most important thing, of which they magnificently testify, the love of God. And they do it with the only other thing they possess, a heritage of music and celebration of life. To insist that for them to be acceptable to God they would have to set that aside makes us, I believe, not unlike the Judaizing teachers who tormented the early church. Perhaps it also makes us like someone else who had an opinion about "appropriate" worship. Surely everyone reading this blog recalls the story of David's wife, Michal, and her rebuke of his manner of celebration to the Lord upon the return of the Ark of the Covenant. Do you happen to remember her fate?

    I do wonder about the fate of those who continue to condemn so many others for their presumably unacceptable worship. Methinks we doth presume too much.

  4. Tim Archer says:

    I sang in choirs for many years. We often had piano accompaniment, but never was it announced: "The choir will sing and play tonight in the concert hall." It was announced that the choir would sing, even though one member of the choir played the piano at times.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  5. Todd Collier says:


    Amusingly the learned father takes both sides – I don't like it, its too pagan, we are better than this, but go ahead because after all that is what David did and it is what the scriptures talk about. And again look at his argument – which may speak to a great many other issues – less about what god "demands" and more about showing our difference from the culture around us. (As a church growth guy that makes me pause a bit when I think about our – my – focus on reaching this culture on their terms.)

    Again we are back to what a man thinks and what the scripture actually says. At least Clement is willing to submit his opinions to the expressed Word of God leaving the issue in the "good, better, best" category instead of outright condemning it.

  6. Tom says:

    Alexander's extensive quote of Clemet does raise a question about whether or not Clemet would have approved the "inspired" and "inspiring" expression of praise offered by Bach. Of course, if Clemet wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we should certainly accept his writings as Scripture and include them among the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, and Jude as those to which we turn to find God's will. If we decide to endorse these writings as inspired Scripture, it seems that we will have to abandon the four-part harmonies we have come to love so much and that fill ALL of our hymnals. We can certainly learn some things from the writings of the early church leaders, but what I think the above quote demonstrates is that Clemet was fallible in his exegesis and in his judgment concerning the meaning of Paul's inspired writings.

  7. laymond says:

    When we compare our instructions to get food from Taco Bell to that of God and his demands of offerings of worship, we just might be simplyfing God a little much.

    Exd 30:13 This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel [is] twenty gerahs:) an half shekel [shall be] the offering of the LORD.
    Exd 30:14 Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD.
    Exd 30:15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when [they] give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.

    What if Moses had decided, hey some of you guys can afford more than what God ask for, so us kick in a few more shekels, what the hey we did what was ask and more. What if Moses had decided, hey some of these teenagers got money, they can afford to kick in also. Do you think that would have went over with God very well?

  8. Laymond,
    How well did it go over in Neh. 10.32?

    Was Nehemiah wrong in telling Israel to offer less than the 1/2 shekel?

    I just want more understanding of what you point is, I am not trying to start anything. I believe Jay's explination is spot on even if it is too "simple"

    Thank you,
    Steve Valentine

  9. Todd Collier says:

    But the point is Laymond that though on some things God is indeed very precise, He is more often than not very overboard in His precision. At other times He is not very precise at all and allows room for a more localized application of His law.

    On those things where He has been extremely precise, we need to be extremely precise. Where He has been less so, we may be less so. And if our emphasis is on having relationship with Him instead of just figuring out what will or will not get us smacked we just might get it right more often than not and enjoy a marvelous freedom.

    In the NT there are few passages that reach the exactitude of Exodus and Leviticus – very few indeed. I think there is a point there.

  10. nick gill says:


    if that was the only offering required, or if every offering required had such a prohibition, then your point might make sense.

    But if you quoted just a little bit more of Ex 30, you'd notice that this is specifically a command for the census tax. Part of the reason why each Israelite was required to give a certain amount was so that each would be accounted for equally in the census.

  11. Jay,

    As always I greatly appreciate your time, effort and spirit in which you engage in these discussions though we greatly disagree. But I respect you and do consider carefully what you say. But of course agin, I can’t agree and must respond too much of what you say.

    I will present my responses to you in three parts so as not to test everybody’s patience:)! The first will address the issue of the patristic evidence and conclusions drawn from that.

    The second the silence argument. And related to that, finally, the difference of views we have concerning obedience.

    Response to Jay (1)

    First, in regard to the patristic evidence, it ought to be clear that far from being the strongest warrant for your position, your argument is actually the strongest warrant against it!

    Continued references after references after references to the testimony of religious scholars and historians could be presented almost indefinitely—and that should make it clear without question that Instrumental Music was not practiced in the early church! Period.

    The absence of any mention of mechanical instruments being used in worship in the New Testament is easily understood when we realize that it was not the practice of the Apostolic church to use such instruments.

    Again, Bible scholars and historians of all faiths agree on the entire absence of instrumental music from the New Testament church. Again they were not used in the patristic period covering a period of at least four hundred years. Further, it was hundreds of years after the apostolic age before they were introduced into the assembly, perhaps as late as the tenth century.

    Again, it was these “Early Church Fathers” who opposed instruments of music in Christian worship.
    • Justin Martyr (ca. 150 A.D.) condemned any association with musical instruments as worldly.
    • Tertullian (150-222 A.D.) mentions only vocal music in worship.
    • Clement of Alexandria (200 A.D.) severely denounced the use of instruments among Christians even at banquets.
    • Augustine (354-430 A.D.) displays the general attitude of the early church against instruments of music for any purpose. "Let no one's heart revert to the instruments of the theatre."
    • Gregory of Nazianus (330-390 A.D.) mentions instruments but not in any way to approve them. He believed their only use was the arousement of sensuousness.
    • Jerome (347-420 A.D.) speaks only of vocal music and emphasizes that the heart is the source of songs.
    • Theodoret (ca. 400 A.D.) says the use of the instrument is a "childish" relic of the Old Testament and is excluded from the worship of the church.
    • Chrysostom (4th century A.D.) says the instruments of the Old Testament allegorically look forward to the pure worship of the lips.9

    Everett Ferguson ,as you both testify and others as well is one of the premier historians of church history alive today. In his book, A Cappella Music in Public Worship, notes:

    “The type of vocal praise that evolved in the synagogue and the early church made instrumental music irrelevant. It is only the instrumentally conceived music of modern times that makes us think differently. It is no wonder, therefore, that historians and interpreters of church music agree that a cappella singing is the purest and highest type of church music. Many quotations could be assembled on this theme. Historians may not agree on an exclusive stand, but they do agree that this is the classic form of church music. I should not be understood as saying that just because the singing is unaccompanied it measures up to these standards of Christian worship – as edifying, spiritual, and an appropriate offering of man to God. I am simply saying that vocal music is best fitted to express the nature of Christian worship.”

    Now to be fair and honest…..Jay is right that the early church writers didn’t oppose IM on the grounds that many of us argue against (i.e., Regulative Principle (i.e., “without Apostlicial Biblical authority or examples, silence, etc.) but they discuss and argue from the difference of OT worship and the spiriutal nature of NT worship. But mostly I think Jay terribly misinterprets their lack of silence in this regard.

    I will explain and show how.

    One of the most thorough sifting of the evidence of the patristic period is by James McKinnon in his own compilation for Music in Early Christian Literature.
    McKinnon was an American “musicologist”, and was a professor of music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and then later on the chair of the music department at the University at Buffalo.

    He writes: “A careful reading of the patristic criticism of instruments don’t reveal a single verse which condemns the use in church. The context of condemnation may be the banquet, the theater or the festivals accompanying marriage, but it never liturgy.” (p. 71)

    Then later after a detailed survey of the evidence, his conclusions are significant.

    McKinnon then makes this very significant observation: “The implication for the performance of early Christian music is obvious. Not only was it predominately vocal, but it was so exclusively vocal that the occasion to criticize the use of instruments in church never arose….” (p.73)

    Wow! Did anyone else catch that incredible point?

    McKinnon goes on to say: “If it had ever occurred to Christian communities of the third and fourth centuries to add instruments to their singing, indignation over this would have resounded throughout patristic literature and ecclesiastical legislation. One can only imagine the outburst the situation would have evoked from, say Jerome or Chrysostom.” (p. 77)

    Now, at this point…..I want to ask a question to you Jay or any others reading this, I asked this to David in a previous comment and discussion we were having about this related “history” manner and worship of the early church.

    I pointed out how it is very common for some to assert, that the absence of IM in worship of the apostolic church was not because of any theological objection, but because because it followed the practice of worship in the synagogue.

    But what about the Gentiles???

    Remember the apostles refused to bind on Gentiles deeply held Jewish practices that were rooted in the Old Covenant (circumcision and food laws most notable), so they would not bind on Gentiles what was merely a preference of the synagogue??

    MY QUESTION: If unaccompanied singing was not something bound on the Gentiles, then would it not certainly have been the case that of them would have introduced instrumental music in their worship?

    Again, especially in light of the idea that there is all this “freedom” to decide how we might best worship God in the culture of our day and time as long as it’s done in an edifying manner.

    Again, where is the evidence that the Gentiles “interpreted” this “freedom in worship” as evidence in the use of IM??


    Friends, those early Christians, who were guided by the Apostles, did not make use of mechanical instruments of music, but, rather, sang psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

    The question is: If we seriously intend to be New Testament Christians, can we do that which was never permitted as a part of the worship of the New Testament Church?

    Come on folks! Think about it! Please I beg you!

    More to come!

    Your brother in Christ,
    Robert Prater

  12. nick gill says:

    The question is: If we seriously intend to be New Testament Christians, can we do that which was never permitted as a part of the worship of the New Testament Church?

    Certainly, if it was forbidden by mere men whose reasoning on the matter was completely shaped by their culture. Show me one ECF who said, "We should not worship with instruments because the apostles forbade it," and if they're correct, I'll agree with them.

    You can't find such a father, because they knew that the apostles did not forbid it. In fact, if the apostles had forbidden it, the fathers wouldn't have needed such a wealth of cultural reasons to suggest that instrumental music was bad for Christians to practice.

    It is precisely because there is no apostolic forbidding of the practice that the ECF were free to reason for or against it. They uniformly support such reasoning by one of two arguments. 1) it makes us look like pagans, or 2) (which they thought was worse) it makes us look like Jews.

    Silence is neither prohibitive nor permissive. It is simply silent.

  13. Mario Lopez says:

    Perhaps the silence on IM is in our time, a test of love and patience, that many have so far have failed.

    Just a thought…

  14. Royce says:

    To Robert Prater and others. Isn't this at best one of those "disputable" matters? If you think its wrong and you do it anyway you have sinned. However, if another brother (or congregation) does not judge it wrong then why the fuss?

    One matters like this one where there is not a hint in Scripture as to its validity this is a good rule to follow. "I will not tell you that you can't if you will not tell me I have to".

    I worship with an a cappella congregation. It is our heritage, it is beautiful, and we will continue. What irks me and many, many others is for some knucklehead insists that others are going to hell if they don't follow his preference which is a cappella only in worship.


  15. Nick,

    Man are you jumping through some amazing “loopholes” of logic” and common sense on this one:)!

    The ECF wrote about what the early apostolic church and first century Christians did! Let's try to keep that straight my man:)!

    It is inconceivable that the church in the centuries after the apostles would uniformly and so vehemently condemn musical instruments if those instruments had been used in worship in the apostolic churches.

    The only reasonable conclusion is that it was NOT NECESSARY for the writers to explain the use of instruments in the early apostolic church in light of their condemnation of them because instruments NEVER were used in Christian worship! If such a reversal of viewpoint had occurred surely some discussion of the issue would be preserved in the literature of the early church, but there is NOTHING!

    Again, as Ferguson notes in T"he Instrumental Music "issue:

    “Where something was avaible and every assumption would seem to favor Christian adoption of the practice and yet there is complete evidence of the rejection of the practice in the post-apostolic period, there is every reason to look to a deliberate choice made in the apostolic age. A person must have a good explanation in order to think that instruments were authorized in the New Testament but were not used by Christians for many centuries after the New Testament.” (p. 98-99)

    I want to know do my progressive brothers reading this on Jay’s blog, do you concede the point the clearly, from all evidence both from the New Testament itself and church history, that the early Christians did not worship with instrumental music and just sang only vocal??

    My progressive friends….don’t you get this point?? You can’t “go back to the Bible” and “restore NT Christianity” and something that wasn’t there in the first place!

    Now, Nick, you’ve clearly bought into Jay and other progressive thinking that bases both the early first century apostolic church and the later early church writers of the next several centuries non-use and opposition to IM SOLEY based on your assumption that is was only because of their concern for either association with paganism or Judaism.

    Regarding paganism…this is SUCH A REACH ….instruments of music were prevalent in both temple worship for Jews and in celebration of Jewish life (cf. Luke 15 the return of the prodigal son), my friend THEY WERE NOT ESPECIALLY LINKED TO PAGANISM!! In the mind of Jewish people, they would have been associated with Judaism! Since they were not linked to paganism, use of them would no more associate the church with paganism and its accompanying immorality than with Judaism!

    The fear of being associated with paganism does NOT explain why early Christians did not use instruments.

    What we do know is that mostly when the early Christian writers addressed the issue of why they did not worship with IM when God had allowed them for worship in the temple, they did not say, “Our nonuse of them simply is a personal preference inherited from the synagogue.”

    Rather they did SAY among other things, that IM were unsuitable for worship in the new covenant because they were part of a more sensual, external worship of the old covenant which was a mere shadow or type of course of the higher spiritual worship of the New Covenant.

    Ferguson agrees in his conclusion by saying:

    “Instrumental music, therefore was an important feature of the temple worship, and it was closely associated with its sacrificial system. Here may be a significant reason for explaining the absence of instrumental music in early Christian worship. Early Christianity saw the sacrificial system and temple worship as super ceded by the sacrifice of Christ and the worship of the church. When the Leviticus priesthood and the sacrificial cultus were abolished, naturally its accompaniments were too.” (p. 31, A Cappella Music)

    This is much of John Mark Hicks point in his well written argument and theology for a cappella singing in Christian worship.

    Jay wanted to chase rabbits about “unity” and John Mark’s conclusions which do in fact seem to argue against the points he made in his article on IM instead of focusing on these arguments themselves.

    So it seems rather obvious that it was neither a desire to distinguish itself from paganism or neither Judaism nor the habit of the synagogue is sufficient explain the early church’s nonuse of IM in worship.

    The early church understood correctly that instruments were excluded implicitly from Christian worship by the teachings that came from the apostles and the New Testament.

    Again, I come back to what Price says in his book, “Old Light on New Worship” about the issue and talks about the issue of how we interpret silence:

    “We return now to our question concerning how we are to interpret silence of the New Testament on musical instruments. Does this silence mean that instrumental music was simply assumed by the apostles and nothing was written about them? Or does this silence mean that instrumental music did not exist in the apostolic church? The historical evidence of unaccompanied singing in both the Jewish synagogue before the apostles and the church of the second century after the apostles provide the most powerful evidence in interpreting the silence of the New Testament. If the worship of the synagogue, from which the worship of the church was derived, and the worship of the second century immediately following the apostles were both without musical instruments, then surely the apostolic churches had no musical instruments either. How can it possibly be assumed that musical instruments existed in the apostolic church when they were absent from the periods immediately prior and following. It is placed beyond any doubt, by these historical facts, that the silence of the New Testament must be interpreted to mean that musical instruments did not exist in the apostolic churches. Those who hold to the regular principle of worship believe that the church today should follow the apostolic model. The question must be asked, if musical instruments did not exist in the times of the apostles, then under whose authority do we bring them into the church today?

    BTW….I’m stilling waiting on someone to ANSWER MY QUESTION ABOUT THE GENTILES and IM since it was all a matter of freedom to either use IM or not??

    Robert Prater

  16. nick gill says:

    LOL That's all the ECF wrote about??? What the early church did? That's the silliest assertion you've made so far, Robert. They wrote consistently about what their churches SHOULD do, and why – pretty much the same thing we're doing.

    And you're talking silly talk here as well, when you say:

    Rather they did SAY among other things, that IM were unsuitable for worship in the new covenant because they were part of a more sensual, external worship of the old covenant which was a mere shadow or type of course of the higher spiritual worship of the New Covenant.

    and then:

    So it seems rather obvious that it was neither a desire to distinguish itself from paganism or neither Judaism nor the habit of the synagogue is sufficient explain the early church’s nonuse of IM in worship.

    (emphasis mine)

    First you say that they desired to differentiate Christian worship ("higher spiritual worship of the New Covenant") from Jewish worship ("more sensual external worship") – then you say that they didn't desire to do that.

    The same kind of teaching about sensuality that they use to prohibit instruments would also prohibit eating real food at the Lord's Table (even a little bit) and drinking real drink at the Lord's Table (even a little bit) and giving real holy kisses and being baptized in real water. All that jazz is sensual, too.

    Robert asks:

    Again, where is the evidence that the Gentiles “interpreted” this “freedom in worship” as evidence in the use of IM??

    No one is suggesting that they did interpret it thus. Only that they were free to interpret it that way, and according to the writings of the ECF, they were under considerable pressure to remain a cappella for cultural reasons.

    Again, we return to "all things are lawful, but not all are edifying."

  17. Royce,

    I don't have much to say to you as I know we wouldn't agree on much…..I mean I read your comments and others….I"m not stupid:)

    My conviciton is not that it is a "disputable matter" as you hope it is. We walk by faith not sight. (2Cor. 5:7) Walking by faith is walking by the instructions and guidance and directions of the Lord. (cf. John 8:31-32)

    And secondly, you say, "…..I worship with an a cappella congregation. It is our heritage, it is beautiful, and we will continue."

    No it won't Royce….if many of the progressives either have their way, or at the least, continue to promote that IM is a "non-issue" or not a matter of faith.

    To be real blunt and personal….becasue one day my three children might end up attending some congregation where some "knucklehead":) progressives insist on doing away with a ceppella and going IM because…after all, it's just our "hertiage" and "tradition" not anything BIblical.

    And don't think for a minute that in time those congregations which have gone IM like Richland Hills or Quail Springs or Jenks CofC near Tulsa where I grew up, won't one day….pressure mount to just do away with the 'a ceppella service" and just either go completly IM or at least a combination of IM/a ceppella.

    Lastly, nobody has condemned anybody to HELL! God will judge not me!

    We must be faithful and true to His teachings to the best we can in faith.

    We will be judged by the Word of Christ. (Jn. 12:48) I want to be found only doing what He has commanded.

    If a person is discontent with New Testament first century apostolic worship, they can certainly introduce their own preferences or hertiage or traditions. But we'd best not expect our actions to have the approval of heaven.

    BTW….anytime you don't like the convesation or topic, the don't read or comment.

    But there are PLENTY of people on both side of the issue who think dialogue and debate (discussion is that's too hard for some) is greatly needed to hopefully find some resolution or unity on.

    Ah…..I'm probably wasting my time with you though, right:)?

    Your brother,
    Robert Prater

  18. nick gill says:

    Robert, while Jay's readers are waiting with baited breath for you (or anyone else) to do the following, unlike you (and Cougan, for that matter), we shall refrain from hitting caps lock and demanding that someone answer our question.

    But we'd be thrilled if you would provide a reference from the ECF where they provide a scripture that prohibits IM.

    I think we'd even be satisfied with a quote from the ECF that says even one of the Fathers believed that the command to sing is what disqualified IM from Christian worship. They don't, because they no more held to the Regulative Principle of Worship than I do.

    Lacking those things, the writings of the ECF are just like our writings – logic and opinion shaped by culture, from which people should swallow the meat and spit out the bones.

    Their desire to be seen as different from the pagan world is meaty – their means of going about it would not achieve the same result in the modern world, where there's just as much debauched a cappella material as there is instrumental material.

    And playing an instrument is no more unspiritual than is writing down words.

  19. K. Rex Butts says:

    What about the missiological question of contextualization? Is the point of Christianity – living out the gospel of Jesus Christ – to be the continuation/reproduction of any particular church form within history, whether that of the first century (Apostolic), fourth century (Augustinian), sixteenth century (Reformation), etc…? Or is the point to live out the gospel as followers/imitators of Jesus Christ, following his example (cf. Phil 2.5-8), being imitators of God (cf. Eph 5.1), to be holy because He is holy (cf. 1 Pet 1.13-15), etc…?

    If the later is correct (which I believe it is), the Patristic evidence must be weighed in consideration that they were addressing questions within a different culture than ours. Thus the ecclesiological polity for their culture was shaped in part as a response to what was needed in their culture. Our culture is different and we cannot answer their questions within their culture and then impose it upon our culture. We must bring the truth of the gospel (a claim, not a form) into conversation with our culture in a way that the gospel truth (it's claim) remains fully in tact and yet finds its vehicle of expression within the cultural forms of the culture it seeks to penetrate and transform.

    This is exactly what happened when the gospel mission exanded beyond the Jews unto the Gentiles, and it is why we find the gospel expressed in different church forms within the New Testament, despite the Restoration Movements best attempt to flatten scripture out as a document written within a cultural vacume.

    I am not arguing for or against instrumental music. What I am saying as it relates to this issue is that the question of whether or not instrumental music is right or wrong cannot be answered solely on the basis of what they did in the apostolic and post-apostolic early Christian era. The question of whether instrumental music is right or wrong in our culture and historical period cannot be completely answered until we address the question with the discipline of missiology. Further more, until that is done and as long as we keep trying to force the first century vehicular forms that carried the gospel forrth upon our own culture, we are really know different than the old-order Amish and Mennonite communities that we might criticize for continually trying to preserve a vehicular form of another culture in terms of how Christians ought to dress and make use of industry and technology as a means to convey the gospel truth.

    Grace and peace,


  20. nick gill says:

    If a person is discontent with New Testament first century apostolic worship, they can certainly introduce their own preferences or hertiage or traditions. But we’d best not expect our actions to have the approval of heaven.

    I expect that none of us would be at all comfortable with "New Testament first century apostolic worship."

    -The veiled women praying and prophesying would be shocking.
    -The mutual edification would violate our personal space.
    -The lack of pews would prevent us from having our assigned seats in the auditorium.
    -The lack of an auditorium (a place for listening) would demand mutual participation, which would unnerve us.
    -The love feast would be appalling to us, since we neither feast nor express love for one another in our assemblies.
    -The opportunity for believers to bring their own songs to the assembly would impinge upon our desire to hear only the old tried-and-true songs.
    -The lack of musical notation would ruin our attempts at harmony.
    -the lack of songbooks would require us to sing what we know, which isn't much.
    -the lack of pew Bibles would require us to actually remember the Scriptures read to us – good luck with that.

    Robert, no one on this list has ever experienced "New Testament first century apostolic worship." They never have, they never will, and thank God that we're not required to reproduce it. Since I was born in the 20th century, and am living in the 21st, that's the worship God desires from me – "New Covenant 21st century Christian worship." That's all I can offer, and thanks be to God – that's precisely what he desires.

  21. K. Rex Butts says:

    BTW…in response to my above comment, let me also suggest that just as the question of whether or not instrumental music in worship is right or wrong cannot be answered soley on the basis of the acceptable practice in the apostolic/post-apostolic Christianity, neither can its appropriateness be answered solely on the basis that instrumental worship was acceptable to God in the Old Testament and, as some argue based on the visions in Revelation, because it is pleasing to God in the heavenly courts. Again we must employ the missiological question and that means that whatever answer we arrive at for a postmodern, post-Christian, Western & North-American culture, the same question might yeild a different answer in an Eastern culture such as China or India.

    Grace and peace,


  22. Response to Jay (2)

    Of course the opposition against the use of instrumental music is not soley based upon the argument from the silence of the Scriptures and the Regulative Principle arguments or apostolic example.

    There is also the argument about instrumental music in worship being contrary to the nature of Christian worship which John Mark Hicks discusses in his article. And it is to that point which the early church fathers wrote condemning it on. Maybe we need to take up that discussion??

    But will to respond to what you previosly said.

    First of all I must say Laymond coldn’t have said it any better: “When we compare our instructions to get food from Taco Bell to that of God and his demands of offerings of worship, we just :)!

    We’re not talking “tacos” here we’re talking worshiping the Hoy God Almighty! Coming into His presence in a special set apart way as He instructs! "But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him." (Hab. 2:20)

    “See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks……….8Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29for our "God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:25,28)

    I always come back to Moses’ explanation after Nadab and Ahibu offering “unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command.” (Lev. 10:1 NIV)

    His explanation was that those who approach God (i.e., in worshp) must regard Him as holy (3a). "Holy" means set apart, to treat as special. When man does it his way instead of God’s way he does not treat God as special but man as special. God is the one who must be glorified not man (3b). This word means, "to honor". When man disobeys God’s law of obedience in worship he is not honoring God but self!

    But Jay let’s talk some about illustratates of silence in regard to langague and parenting as you bring up.

    Consider for a moment that you have a 12-year-old son whom you send into the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. You give him a $10 bill. He goes into the store and comes back out with a 12 pack of soda and a bag of chips and no milk or bread. Did he do your will in the matter? Obviously not!

    Any fair-minded person would understand the child did not do as the parent had asked. But what if the child had come out with the bag of chips, 12 pack of soda and the milk and bread? Would he have done your will then? Or what if he spent whatever was left of the money on candy? Would we be smiling or possibly be upset with the child for… not doing what we said? This is the principle of exclusion.

    Now, Jay, I don’t disagree with all of what you said about always needing stated permission and authority found in the nature of relationships.

    The key differences is you said “You don’t always need stated persmission.” So, you do accept the idea that at times, we do need God’s stated permission in certain matters?

    And it is at this precise point that I think that’s the difference between how you and I see the nature of God’s commands and our obedience to them. More to come in my third and final response.

    But you do seem at times to use and agree with the law of silence….the need to at least have “stated permission” (if something isn’t stated…well…..I’d call that silence!)

    The silence argument is valid and is very much scriptural. It was made by the apostles and Jersualem conference in their letter to the Gentiles: “We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.” (Acts 15:24) Argument from silence!

    Or Hebrew writer about how the Son is superior to the angels: “For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son” (Heb. 1:5; cf. vs. 13; 7:14)

    Jay, I’d be interesting in your view of 1 Chronicles 17:1-7

    Because even God Himself rebuked David for presuming to build a temple for the Lord. What argument did He use to suggest that David should have known better? SILENCE!!

    “After David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, "Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent." Nathan replied to David, "Whatever you have in mind, do it, for God is with you.” That night the word of God came to Nathan, saying: "Go and tell my servant David, 'This is what the LORD says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in. I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought Israel up out of Egypt to this day. I have moved from one tent site to another, from one dwelling place to another. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their leaders whom I commanded to shepherd my people, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?" (1 Chronicles 17:1-6)

    God used the silence of the Scriptures, even all of revelation, to argue against any justification for David presuming to build a temple for God.

    Let’s come back to Noah.

    Even you say that Noah was not at liberty to use any other type of wood. The use of any other type of wood would have been sin. WHY?

    This principle is still true – no specific command of God can be changed (added to or taken away from) without committing sin.

    The point here is that arguments from silence are not always fallacious. As a lawyer, please correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this even true in jurisprudence too? Where the absence of sufficient evidence ("silence" must result in a conclusion: not guilty?

    Again, you and I just disagree on what constitutes disobedience to God.

    There is scriptural warrant for singing as worship to God. God regulates by what He positively says—sing and make melody. (Eph. 5:19)

    You are making a huge presumption that God will accept in worship what He has not specified or authorized. By singing with our lips, we can accomplish everything God intended our worship in song to be. Why not be content to do just that? Improvising is dangerous!

    The physician sends a prescription to the pharmacist. It prescribes penicillin for the patient’s illness, but the prescription is silent about amoxicillin. Amoxicillin is not authorized for the patient, but it is not necessary for the doctor to write, “Do not fill with amoxicillin.”

    Silence is significant. The New Testament clearly authorizes singing. It is silent about instrumental music. It is not necessary for God to state, “Thou shalt not use instrumental music.” It simply is not authorized.

    Again, you offered your “examples” of silence as proof that doing more than is commanded is NOT disobedience, I now offer mine.

    Consider for a moment that you have a 12-year-old son whom you send into the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. You give him a $10 bill. He goes into the store and comes back out with a 12 pack of pop (that's what we call here in Oklahoma, not soda:) and a bag of chips and no milk or bread. Did he do your will in the matter? Obviously not. Any fair-minded person would understand the child did not do as the parent had asked.

    But what if the child had come out with the bag of chips, 12 pack of pop and the milk and bread? Would he have done your will then? Or what if he spent whatever was left of the money on candy? Would we be smiling or possibly be upset with the child for… not doing what we said? This is the principle of exclusion.

    Another example….

    A child knowing that for his own protection his parents desire to know his whereabouts asks his mother’s permission to go into a neighbor’s house to play. Recognizing the family, she grants permission. What parent would be pleased to learn that in addition to the house specified, he went into two other homes before coming home? What boy would be justified by saying, "But Mom, you didn’t tell me I couldn’t go into those houses"?

    What mom feels compelled to enumerate all the houses her son cannot go into the next time the boy goes out to play?

    Again….yet, many of the proponents of mechanical instruments of music demand the same work of God. They feel that they are justified in using the instrument of music in worship if God does not forbid it. Does God have to tell us what He forbids before He can preserve only what He wants in worship? How much more voluminous the Bible would be if God approved of such reasoning!

    God never says, "Thou shalt not use mechanical instruments of music in worship."

    However, to assume that such silence is permissive is presumptuous. To establish what God desires in our worship today, we must begin with what God has commanded, not what He has not forbidden. The failure to do so is digressive.

    Now let me try to put all of this in perspective. I want to state clearly that I do not believe that this is the most vital of all topics. But too many indeed, do not understand this, for they regard it as a slight matter.

    To the contrary; however, anything Scripture teaches on must not be looked upon as minor. How can we submit to the Lordship of Christ if we do not listen to Scripture? It is not just the use or non-use of instruments in worship.

    What is involved here is the larger principle of how the New Testament teaches us on any subject. If the New Testament requires immersion for the forgiveness of sins, can baptism be something less? If in the New Testament men are the elders of congregations, do we have the right to appoint women as elders today?

    To ask these questions is but to answer them in the negative. The first-century church met in worship and sang songs of praise. The New Testament requirement to sing does not leave the option to sing and play.

    Like Luther, we must stand on the authority of Scripture. At the Diet of Worms, Luther was asked to recant what he had written about man taking authority from God and corrupting His words. Facing what would have seemed like certain death exclaimed:

    “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience would be neither right nor safe. God help me. Here I stand, I can do no other.”

    Likewise today a great many of us moderates and conservatives in churches of Christ have a similar battle-cry. Unless we are convinced by Scripture and sound reason, not by men or conversations of men, our conscience is captive to the Word of God. We cannot and will not recant anything for to go against our conscience would be neither right nor safe. God help us. Here we stand, we can do no other.

    In Christ,
    Robert Prater

  23. Mike Ward says:

    The use of the example of Noah to prove instrumental music is wrong is ridiculous.

    First, it is not even analogous to the instrumental question. If Noah had built the arc out of pine then he would have failed to use Gopher wood. However, those using instruments do not fail to sing. The analogous question would be what if Noah built two arcs, one from gopher wood and one from pine?

    Second, the text does not say what God would have done if Noah had not used gopher wood. We conclude that God would have been displeased based on our broader theological understanding. Nothing in this text tells us what God would have done.

    Finally, even if the law of silence existed in the patriarchal age, it does not follow that it exists today.

  24. Mario Lopez says:

    Do we have the love required to refrain from meat.. err instruments if we know that it will offend? If it is an issue that is so divisive. How can a person claiming a greater understanding of grace and love, not express that and refrain?

  25. K. Rex Butts says:


    The Apostle Paul, neither in Romans or First Corinthians calls for the stronger person to refrain from meat because it will offend the weaker person. He calls for restraint from the stronger when the lack of will destroy the faith of the weaker.

    Grace and peace,


  26. Ray Downen says:

    Some of us would talk all day if anyone would listen! Jay quoted: "there is the statement of Jesus that under the new covenant, worship will be in Spirit and in truth." But some lose sight of the fact that worship is daily service in the name of Jesus. It's not sitting in a sanctuary being "led in worship" by a "worship leader." The apostles knew nothing about a "worship service." They say nothing about a "worship leader." Neither of these things have anything to do with Christianity as led by apostles of Christ. Arguing about worship laws is of no apparent value to ones who cherish apostolic doctrine. By the way, "gopher wood" is likely pine wood or the equivalent in type and content. Does anyone know where they might find a gopher tree? Or the fossil remains of one? Question: Are some trying to restore 2nd or 3rd-century Christianity? Voluminous quotes from writers of that time might so indicate.

  27. Mario,
    It is quite easy to refrain from instruments and the views one holds on this particular disputable issue. I hold the view that IM is not damnable yet I attend a summer gospel camp that considers it to be an error. When asked to teach a class about IM, I simply declined because I knew the stance of the elders over that camp. Not because either one of us was wrong, but because it would have taken away from the purpose of the camp. I did attend the class and added considerable thought and discussion to it though without causing an up roar.

    It is just as wrong to write someone off as lost to hell because someone sees a disputable issue in a different light. Just like the eating of meat you mention. That condemnation does terrible things in the heart of those that condemn others because they don't meet up to the standard of the one doing the condeming. (as we can see in some of the exchanges) And that is what I believe is being addressed on this sight. Instead of turning our assemblies into shooting matches, the issues are taken up here on this site to work through the issues. With attempt to do so with the utmost respect and reverense for God, His Word and brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Thanks you,
    Steve Valentine

  28. Royce says:


    Why should what a church does in Texas offend someone in middle Tenn or Alabama?

    When North Richland Hills Church of Christ added one instrumental service (they have three) it was not a congregation down the street or around the corner but zealots many, many miles away who cried fowl the loudest.

    I am offended when COC people add conditions to salvation, or staying saved, that the Bible does not and still call themselves faithful Christians. Shouldn't they stop?


  29. Nick,

    You refuse to answer and deal honestly with my questions about the early church record and the patristic evidence. You simply and to be quite honest, in such an arrogant and self-righteous, “I’m the enlightened one”, you dismiss such with the wave of a hand.

    My what arrogance from a would be scholar not qualified to hold light for Alexander Campbell in my opinion! (Neither would I though:) hehe!!

    Nick you’re like an armchair critic who desires to criticize the general who lead a great army to victory.

    You seem to completely reject the restoration movement concepts of returning to the New Testament.

    You remind me of one who is only able to set up and refute a “straw man” arguments in which one misrepresents a position, knocks it down, claims triumph over the defeat of the giant, all the while having only argued against the creation of one’s own mind. In doing so, you have merely fought Don Quixote’s “wind mills rather than defeating the great dragon”

    BTW Rex, my dear brother, who I do personally know and have many fond and precious memories of when we were at Harding together in HBS……we shared and occured a lot of the same ground in Searcy, Bokchito, OK (really) and even Brazil…..but sadly we don't share the same ground of theoloy any longer, do we??

    Rex, do you remember what brother Jimmy Allen taught us…… can’t be either/or on some things! You love to say “I am not arguing for or against instrumental music….”

    Jimmy would say and you know this man……that’s a little sounds a little like Pontus Pilate? Can’t have it both ways man! Take a stand and position. But don’t act like your neutral in this and not for or against IM.

    That’s dangerously naïve and disingenuous. The soul of both Christians and congregations are at stake here!

    But anyway……I’ve had my fill for a while I think on this blog of the arrogance and smugness of many of the progressives who have never really wanted my participation, nor appreciated mine or hardly any other comments from other conservative thinkers. No positive or faith affirming or uniting agreement on hardly a thing…..rather some of the most disheartening descriptions about your more conservative brethren.

    Maybe that is some of the reason why more conservatives don't speak up more here, don't know.

    Now…..I’m not saying I’ve been the “model of Christian love” here in my words…trust me, as a matter of fact, that’s why after my third response to Jay and possibly a few potential follow comments I will leave the comment sections and read from time to time as a non-commenter for a while and let you have your unchallenged viewpoints!

    I certainly don’t like the person that I become at times in these discussions. I do apologize and repent of anything wrong or mean spirited I have written. I don’t know if it’s because I’m in the minority and outnumbered or what…..but I can’t keep this spirit up nor time wise with finishing up both my Grad studies at OC and summer camp's, mission trips, VBS ahead.

    My discussions on this blog in the last year or so I guess have really hit me hard in that I realize that more divisions and separation is apparently inevitable. There can be no unity between most of our convictions if we can’t be united on only “doing what is found to be Biblically sound and approved in the New Testament.”

    Let me make it clear that I am deeply in love with both God and His Son Jesus and the body of Christ, but I"m appalled in how off the rails churches are choosing to go. She is turning into the old Israel, trying to sell her garments of righteousness for fame and fortune of the "nations around her" (denominations)

    I want to make it clear that even though I may use strong language about some of my progressive brothers and their false and deceptive doctrines they teach, I still believe that they are my brothers in Christ.
    I would like to think that it is in my being to lay my life down for them, as love should be my motivation and not my fear for them to suffer destruction.

    If I call them a ‘wolf’, it means (to me) that some Christian brother is stealing from the family of God.

    Now I have come to the conclusion that denial of Bible authority in one area leads to rejection of God's word in other areas. I know most progressives and liberals in the church would strongly object such characterization of them, but it is my opinion.

    But it seems to me on all accounts that progressive brethren are rapidly moving into the mainstream of Protestant denominationalism.

    And it’s even clearer, though I take no comfort or joy in this fact that us more moderate and conservative, middle of the road brethren are the "new anti's" taking shape.

    I weep over such and for the future battles and hurt awaiting us in many congregations.

    But God will not abandon His people and church and maybe we need to have the "fire" lit in us in order to really begin reaching more souls for Christ and to bring into HIs one undenominational church.

    Robert Prater

  30. Mario,
    Supposed to be "shouting" matches – Hopefully they won't turn into "shooting" matches 🙂

  31. Royce says:


    How can anyone take a person's comments seriously when you keep insisting that their is "denial of Bible authority" and that we can't be united because “doing what is found to be Biblically sound and approved in the New Testament.” is not possible.

    Hey, you missed a great big point! The Bible doesn't address IM.

    The most odd thing is that you consider "brothers" those who are false teachers. Did Jesus? If you really believe that those who say its ok to have IM are false teachers and that Christians will be damned because of it, why in the world would you consider them "Brothers"? I'm just curious like that I suppose.

    I consider those who preach "another gospel" the same way I believe Paul did. Read the book of Galatians sometime.

    We are a really odd bunch. Even those who deny the deity of Jesus and his bodily resurrection are often referred to by some commenter's as "Brother". Is there no limit to the unbelief one can display just so long as he is "faithful"? Check off the 5 acts each week and be as rotten as hell and its OK?



  32. K. Rex Butts says:


    I do remember Jimmy Allen and have many fond memories of him along with much respect for him. But I do think he has not only elevated the issue of worship/instrumental music to a level scripture does not. Further, I don't think we can take a man's actions regarding the legalities of whether a person should be crucified or not and apply it to this issue.

    Having said that, I can't speak for others but where do you find arrogance and smugness? I have neither desired nor tried to be arrogant and smug. I just raised the missiological question because I believe it too often gets ignored on an issue like this when I believe it has something to say on an issue like this (or at least make us consider other questions before drawing any conclusion). And in a subsequent reply, I suggested that the missiological question must be addressed by those who advocate for instrumental worship before they draw any conclusions as well. In other words, I am not just trying to defend one side. Instead, I am trying to provoke us all (traditionalists and progressives) to consider the missiological question before drawing any conclusions. How is that arrogant and smug?

    Grace and peace,


  33. Response to Jay (3)

    This is really hardly a response in the sense that Jay would probably not disagree with much here I say. But I don’t want to close out all my comments, which I know many of you have patiently read through:)!

    Some may only see me in the “fiery moment” of debate concerning instrumental music. I want to do some explaining about how I view obedience to God’s will.

    In the Bible more than 150 times the word "obey" and its various forms are used. The obedience principle under girds all of God's revelation to man. It is the basis of the friendship between God and man. Since the day God breathed into the nostrils of Adam the breath of life, He has asked for the appropriate response of praise and adoration found only in obedience.

    But God is not just interested in whether or not we will obey certain rules, but especially in what it does for us and the kind of people we become because of it.

    C. S. Lewis put it this way, "We may think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules; whereas He really wants people of a particular sort." (Mere Christianity)

    Conservatives do not have in view here some hollow adherence to a check list of rules or directions to be followed, as one follows a map to a destination or a recipe in a cookbook. If we try to map out obedience to God down to the last detail, then the life of faith loses its character as journey or progress.

    One writer described this approach to discipleship as “becoming an obstacle course to see whether we can negotiate each successive obstruction on our own.”

    No, no! Obedience ceases to be response to a living God, and becomes instead a check list of rules. This is a "dry and sterile" view of Christian discipleship.

    It can be a disheartening thing that leads to frustration to think that all we get by way of answer to the question, what does God want of us? is the response, Obedience to God's commands.

    But this is deliberate. We are not given directions, but direction. That direction can be summarized as "walking in the light," as striving to conform our character to that of God.

    God really wants people living an "abundant life," being "partakers of the divine nature" and becoming a blessing to all those around them. He wants people being "conformed to the image of His Son," people who are Christ like. The obedience principle is not just for God's benefit, but for our benefit.

    One person I think gave the best definition, to me at least, of success. He said, "Success is discerning the will of God and doing it as best you can." Sounds like 1 John 2:17! Someone has defined obedience as "conformity to the will of God in thought, in purpose, and in action."

    We are informed by the Hebrews writer that Christ "became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him." (5:9) No New Testament author is hesitant to express the obedience principle! The Hebrews writer expressed the principle positively. It is also expressed negatively. Peter, while discussing the judgment in the book of I Peter, asked, "What will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (4:17) Paul gives the answer to that question: "They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power on the day He comes to be glorified….." (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10)

    God recognizes no faith that does not lead to obedience. Abraham's faith was "made complete (perfected) by what he did (obedience)." (James 2:22) In other words, his faith became true faith by obedience. Nor does God recognize any obedience that does not spring from faith. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God."(Romans 10:17)

    Never, in history, has God turned His back on the obedient.

    Now, as a parent of three children, and anyone else who has had a hand in raising children knows about the process of shaping people of "a particular sort” as Lewis said. When my child throws her food on the floor and I tell her not to do it, I am giving her a command that I would like to be obeyed. But in the end I do not want her to stop dropping her cereal on the floor just because I say so, but because she too recognizes the mess and waste it creates. Rules are given to guide behavior, but they are meant to be appropriated as internal guiding norms, not just as external sanctions and prohibitions.

    We want to know what God is like. We look to His commandments and direction in life. “I am the way….truth and the life” Jesus said. (John 14:6)

    What does knowledge of God look like? How does it express itself? So too in this way the child who knows her parents well also knows their expectations well. And the child who loves and respects her parents, honors their expectations.

    Those who know God live according to the way that God prescribes. "Knowing God" is understood in personal, intimate and relational terms. “Walk in the light as he is in the light….” John tells us. One lives either in the sphere of light or in the sphere of darkness. Our lives, our daily "walking," are shaped by the sphere in which we live.

    Now the point is not that we must manifest perfect obedience in all that we do. Rather we are to reflect on our lives, asking whether our thoughts, words and deeds show that our primary allegiance is to the God who is light.

    Our aim is to live for one master, God alone, in and with all that we do. That is walking as Jesus walked.

    Many today are desperately chasing for feelings of assurance. They usually don’t find what they are looking for. If we focus on God and what God has done for us, we are as one writer says, “oriented within the circle and guided by its fixed centerpoint.” If we focus on ourselves or our own feelings, even with good intentions, we drift without direction or anchor.

    This all being true, surely it is high time to abandon all fuzziness regarding what is right or wrong. People had better stop letting their own foolish whims and egotistical notions guide them and pay attention to God's Word.

    It is not enough just to read the label giving the ingredients on a bottle of vitamins. They must be taken to benefit the body. Many starve to death spiritually while reading the label. We must obey! We must be "doers of God's word and not hearers only."

    An elderly gentleman was asked what he thought would be the most heartbreaking experience a person could face in life. His soft reply was, "To hear the Master ask, 'Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?”

    Hoping for some clarity and conclusion here.

    Your tired and weary from “fighting” here brother.

    May God truly bless you all.
    Robert Prater

  34. Rob Woodfin says:

    Seven thousand, nine hundred and fifty-six conditions of salvation. Whew!

  35. Nancy says:

    Oh good, somebody cited John 12:48 here too. Which "words of Christ" will we be judged by?

  36. Mario Lopez says:

    I wasn't saying that it was the only reason not to use IM. Just one more to consider.

  37. Mario Lopez says:

    Another possible 'argument.' Not completely thought out, yet, but an idea that occurred. The OT temple had IM, okay. In the NT are not our bodies to be the temple? Well then if the IM were used to make music in the OT temple, what part of the temple, that is the body in the NT, would music come from? The voice. Just food for thought.

  38. The Bible also uses words translated "love" almost 700 times. If only half of them refer to being loved by God, loving God in return and loving one's fellow man/sibling in Christ (rather than romantic love), then "love" would still appear more than twice as often as "obey" and "submit" and "submission" combined.

    Robert said, "The obedience principle under girds all of God’s revelation to man."

    But surely it is not the only principle which undergirds all of God's revelation to man.

    I appreciate the spirit of love in which Robert has shared his deep convictions, and if he became cross with us from time to time, it's just as likely that it was because we were becoming cranky with him.

    Still, I don't think it's fair to dismiss all of those who see God's approval of instrumental praise in scripture – and no expressed disapproval – by calling their arguments old, as if the a cappella arguments are not.

    I don't think it's fair to dismiss them as seeking what they desire in worship rather than what God desires.

    I don't think it's fair to reject whatever parts of the Revelation to John that are inconvenient because they might just be symbolic (and they might not be … do we accept the final judgment and punishment of Satan as merely symbolic?), or reject inconvenient references to instrumental praise in the Old Testament as expired law (yet still be willing to embrace Noah's assumed tools and God's punishment of Nadab and Abihu on the assumption that God had not commanded them anything about the fire to be offered).

    In the end, this is a disputable matter – a matter of conscience – that falls under the purview of Romans 14. If the writings of the Patristic authors are valid, it has been disputed for hundreds of years … how could it be anything else?

    It would be wrong for Robert to worship contrary to his convictions. It would be wrong for him to keep silent about them. Just as wrong as it would be for me, or for anyone else.

    What I keep coming back to, though, is the inescapable fact that so many (not Robert) have pursued their conviction to the point of breaking fellowship with others – and some even 'marking' others publicly without ever once going to them privately first, then with two or three others next – over what is so obviously a difference of opinion; something that can only be a teaching of man and not a doctrine of God.

    And that does not speak of either their love nor their obedience.

  39. Keith,

    Thanks for you comments. I appreciate your gentle and reasonable words. I do agree with much of what you said!

    BTW…do you attend Pleasant Valley in Little Rock where Chuck Monan, son-in-law of Stafford North??

    It probably doesn't surprise you that I consider Chuck, although barely an acquiantance only through lectureships, meetings (he was here in Shawnee last April for a meeting) but anyway, a great ambassador and spokesmen for the more moderate/conservative position on IM and other matters.

    He's been a feature speaker the last few years at the Affirming the Faith seminar in OKC

    This "lectureship" which has all but replaced the OC lectureships (Quest) has really become Oklahoma City's version of a moderate/conservative version of the more progressive gathering at the Tulsa Workshop.

    But I was in Tulsa this past week on Friday and had lunch with a few Harding guys and still have many good friends and brothers who are on "both sides" so to speak!

    Still fighting and searching for common ground for unity in the church.

    Love you in Christ (though we've never met),
    Robert Prater

  40. But we’d be thrilled if you would provide a reference from the ECF where they provide a scripture that prohibits IM.

    This might be a pretty unfair question, because we all no there is no command such as "Thou shalt not use instruments in worship." So how could the ECF point to a verse like that? But what they did, is very convincingto me: They read it in the light of types and antitypes – a good example is Clement of Alexandria (see further up the thread).

    Understanding that the use of istruments was connected to the temple worship, leads to the conclusion that they are types that foreshadowed the spiritual worship such as the incense or the altar.

    If someone likes to point to REvelation for the use of instruments, saying: "See, God does accept instruments", I answer as follows:

    a) Then we should burn incense as well (the Orthodox churches use the very same argument as those arguing for IM based on Revelation)
    b) we might as well erect a tabernacle or temple and build an altar (the Roman Catholic churches treat their buildings like a eral House of God)
    c) Where do you store the Arc ofthe Covenant (the Ethiopian church is very fond of theirs …)

    Unless we understand the difference between types and antitypes, shadows and realities, we will not understand the main Biblical reason for a-capella worship.

    On a second level it is about separation from this world (from Pagan and Jewish practices), which can be seen in the light of culture. BUT have you ever noticed how worldly 20th (and 21st) century western Christianity has become? Does it in any way disturb you to see how the sisters dress? How the brothers brag about their cars? How the teenies shake about in discos? And how we argue for "our MTV" in worship???

    It is a true and Biblical argument: If you vote for IM either on Revelation or the Old Testament (you cannot do it based on the NT), then you vote based on the shadows and types; then you consequently may vote for tithing or keeping the Sabbath … or building temples and burning incense. This is "Judaizing" reasoning – and that's what the ECF said. It's not a Bible verse they pointed to, but a dispensational understanding of the different covenants.



    As for the allowance of IM inClemnts quote: He is referring not to congregational singing, but to a performance of an individual (compared to the more gifted men at a banquet that sing a verse to the lyre) – and still he encourages the symbolic understanding of the instruments more than the literal use of them even for a performance-song.

  41. Robert, I do worship and work at PV and highly esteem my good friend and colleague Chuck. I don't agree with all of his views, but respect him for having them – and for concentrating in his preaching and teaching on discipleship, righteousness and spiritual maturing rather thsn on matters of opinion.

    He's also authored an article in New Wineskins -and that seeming dichotomy should tell you that he is someone who thinks for himself, loves deeply, and moves easily among people of diverse beliefs.

    I don't get to brag on him very often – thanks for giving me an excuse!

  42. Nick Gill says:

    Robert writes:

    You refuse to answer and deal honestly with my questions about the early church record and the patristic evidence. You simply and to be quite honest, in such an arrogant and self-righteous, “I’m the enlightened one”, you dismiss such with the wave of a hand.
    My what arrogance from a would be scholar not qualified to hold light for Alexander Campbell in my opinion! (Neither would I though:) hehe!!
    Nick you’re like an armchair critic who desires to criticize the general who lead a great army to victory.
    You seem to completely reject the restoration movement concepts of returning to the New Testament.
    You remind me of one who is only able to set up and refute a “straw man” arguments in which one misrepresents a position, knocks it down, claims triumph over the defeat of the giant, all the while having only argued against the creation of one’s own mind. In doing so, you have merely fought Don Quixote’s “wind mills rather than defeating the great dragon”

    Clearly what's good for the goose has not gone down so well with the gander! You, Robert, are the one who consistently introduces the ECF into a discussion of what the NT says about IM.

    Then, when brethren point out Scriptural statements such as:

    For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV)


    "All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24 ESV)

    You assail us with more quotes from the ECF – "The Fathers didn't interpret it that way, so it must be wrong!"

    To which I reply, "They were free to exercise their Christian freedom in ways that best suited the mission of God to their cultures."

    I'm not sure which questions about the Fathers I've ignored. Let me skim through your earlier comments:

    The ECF wrote about what the early apostolic church and first century Christians did! Let’s try to keep that straight my man:)!

    They also wrote about what they should do and why they should do it. They didn't just record what they did.

    It is inconceivable that the church in the centuries after the apostles would uniformly and so vehemently condemn musical instruments if those instruments had been used in worship in the apostolic churches.

    I agree. I've never asserted that instruments were used in 1st century Christian worship, except for when they gathered to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem at the appropriate times. Instead, I assert that they were free to do so, but did not for cultural reasons.

    Again, where is the evidence that the Gentiles “interpreted” this “freedom in worship” as evidence in the use of IM??

    They did not, and the ECF tell us why they did not. "Worldliness" – Justin Martyr
    "Arousal of sensuousness" – Gregory of Nazanius
    "'childish' relic of the Old Testament" – Theodoret
    "the instruments of the Old Testament allegorically look forward to the pure worship of the lips" – Chrysostom

    Those are several good opinions. Justin and Gregory are obviously cultural. Theodoret's argument proves too much – circumcision and vows would also fall under "childish relics" and yet Paul practiced (note carefully that I say practiced, not bound) them both. And allegory is a dangerous way to try and prove anything.

    Would it trouble you to find out that I agree with Dr. Ferguson's conclusion:

    I am simply saying that vocal music is best fitted to express the nature of Christian worship.

    However, I also think Biblical Hebrew and koine Greek are best fitted to express the truths of the Bible. But most believers will never learn those languages, so what do we do? We accommodate them by translating the Biblical message into their native languages. I don't encourage people to learn Greek, but I encourage them to get multiple translations and a good Bible dictionary, so they can grow in their understanding.

    Likewise, I agree with Dr. Ferguson that a cappella – done inclusively – best expresses the worship of a kingdom of sojourners and aliens in this world. But that is the strongest statement about a cappella that can be made. It can clearly be proven that IM cannot be bound – that would be Judaizing. But practicing IM seems to fall under the same heading as Jewish vows (Acts 18; Acts 21) and circumcision (Acts 16) – practices authorized in the Old Covenant that were not prohibited in the New. Requiring them of all believers is prohibited; practicing them by some believers is part of Christian freedom.

    I've seen the argument made on this string that the command to sing is inherently exclusive – that sing means "sing and only sing" – and that that law of exclusion prohibits the use of IM.

    What I don't understand is: why is IM the only activity excluded by the command to sing and only sing?

    If the command to sing is naturally exclusive, why doesn't it exclude any other activities? Any other forms of worship? Why does this so-called law of exclusion get applied inconsistently?

  43. Keith,

    I do envy you that you are able to "sit at his feet" each week and hear him! He would be the mold (although my style is different) and balance I too am striving for in such matters.

    I usually I preach one or two sermons a year (not always) on foundamental essential beliefs we have such as a cappella singing and weekly Lord's Supper, role of women in the assembly, plurality of elders, and baptism, and not on "matters of opinion" and the great majority of being more like Jesus in our Christian lives, ministry, faith growing, etc.

    I would say that of the 15-20 regular preachers I eat breakfast with twice a month in OKC and who come from moderate conservative congregations like North MacArthur, Memorial Road, Edmond, Westside (Norman), Southwest, Eastside (Midwest city), Wilshire, Britton Road, etc. to name a few.

    Most of these would be very similar in their stance and approach. Some of us are more "conservative" than others, but ALL believe we must stand for our convictions and resist the far left progressive agenda to change the churches of Christ fundamental positions like IM or role of women in the assembly, weekly Lord's Supper Sunday observeracne, baptism, etc.

    I am no radical or extreminsts. I think for myself, do my own study. I have never been associated with any far right, extreme wings in the Lord's church. I'm about 21 hours into my Master's degree at OC. Come from very middle of the road/conservative background, Harding undergrad.

    BTW…..I was one of about 800 in a packed room at the lectureships who clapped and "amened" Dr. Tom Alexander, former dean of Bible department at Harding in 2006 when he analyzed and refuted Rich Atchley's very public sermons on justification of IM at Richland Hills during that pivotal year many of us believe.

    I am really a nobody but when I stumbled across Jay's website a year and a half ago and begin reading some of his views and those who comment about the chuches of Christ and are need to change some of our fundamental positions….I spoke up, not always the best or in right manner, but I did.

    I don't want Jay to ever think he needs to have to ask the CFTF radical wing in the brotherhood to debate him only. There are plenty of moderates and conservatives who are middle of the road who will not sit quietly and watch the church be radically changed.

    I would encourage you or any other of my progressive brothers here to please check out and listen to Chuck Monan's keynote sermon he presented at the Affirming the Faith seminar in 08 on "I Am Not Ashamed of The Lord’s Church” –

    It's simply one of the best presentations and defense of what those of us in the more moderate/conservative (not extremists/radicals) are saying and pleading for which has been the historical position most in churches of Christ have taken.

    I do believe that we can have a diversity of opinions in the Lord's church–we don't have to divide over everything. But there is clearly a far left radical progressive wing in the church which desires to see us fundamental change on positions such as IM. Such agenda's will be opposed in love but in defense of the truth.

    Anyway, I'm sure most reading this probably don't care….but for what it's worth.

    God bless,
    Robert Prater

  44. Nick Gill says:


    I appreciate how you write – I think writing without sarcasm/wit is like cooking without seasoning – you'll eat if it you're hungry enough, but it isn't very enjoyable.

    So I like your style – I get a little frustrated when you don't like being on the receiving end of a bit of it – but things often sound funnier in my head than they do once I've hit "submit."

    I'm pretty confused by your last paragraph, though. If an issue like IM is central to the faith – so central that only "far left radical progressives" want to change anything about it – what kind of matters can we have a diversity of opinion on?

    And – more to the point – how do you explain that openness to diversity to someone who (like you and others on IM) says, "No – there can be no diversity of opinion on that issue."

    You see, it seems to me that we're always open to diversity when it comes to the beliefs and traditions of people who are more "traditional" or "conservative" than us. That's why Jay, et al, are looking for where Scripture says there can be no diversity of opinion. Because we're pretty certain that diversity of opinion is authorized on # of cups, and how to do Sunday School, and the support of preachers – but we're being told that there can be no diversity of opinion or practice on IM, a practice that Scripture is (at best) silent about.

    I care deeply about where you're coming from, and I'm glad you're not a CFTF partisan. I can promise you that the only agenda I have is for the church to be everything God dreams for it to be.

  45. Nick,

    I do appreciate what you have said to me and I will carefully reconsider and examine it.

    I have probably been too harsh and judgmental in my assessment of you and when you were just simply using sarcasm/wit. I accused you of elitism and arrogance and smugness and judged the motives of your heart. For that I repent and ask for your forgiveness.

    Although there is much we disagree over concerning IM and how to interpret the ECF, I think you and I would probably have a pretty fun and lively discussion over a long lunch break in a quiet place:)! If you ever come up to the Tulsa Workshop, one day, let me know and I'll try to meet you in person! I do not believe in alienation and complete withdraw on these issues unless in extreme circumstances like what Quail Springs in OKC did in causing over 300 members to have to leave because IM. Man I know a few people who left over it, one I took a Grad class with!

    This stuff is real man!

    Anyway, Nick, when it comes to the restoratation movement and what is happening in congregations today…. . I believe it is vital to the subject of unity to have some historical background of the divisions that have ripped through the churches of Christ over the past 130 years.

    The use or promotion and practice of IM will in fact generates further division in the body and really hinders progress toward bringing about the unity based upon the truth of the God’s Word in Christ. This always proceeds to a great and disgraceful division before the world, and hinders the preaching of the gospel to the lost.

    I understand that many progressives despise CENI. But Thomas Campbell mentioned two of them in "The Declaration and Address" (1809) when he said:

    "Nothing ought to be inculcated upon Christians as articles of faith; nor required of them as terms of communion, but what is expressly taught and enjoined upon them in the word of God. Nor ought anything to be admitted, as of Divine obligation, in their church constitution and managements, but what is expressly enjoined by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles upon the New Testament church; either in express terms or by approved precedent."

    And I would stand on the hermeneutical ground of unity that was accepted in 1832 by both Stone and Campbell groups; it is the fundamental teaching of the New Testament. Thomas Campbell, in his "Declaration and Address,"

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

    The people of God were united on these principles from 1832 to 1849; Christians enjoyed the sweet fellowship of the people of God and made marvelous progress when so united. They made deep inroads on denominationalism and increased more rapidly in number than at any other period in the history of the Restoration Movement. And so, such a unity honors the truth of God, respects the authority of Christ, and glorifies God.

    This has been historical where most of the unity in churches of Christ have been found. We in churches of Christ have found unity in Christ from the idea of restoring the New Testament church.

    Now I hear what many who oppose this approach say: "Which church are you trying to restore? Jerusalem? Corinth? Laodicea?"

    But this obviously have missed the point. Restoration thinkers have never insisted on totally restoring a particular local church of the first century, but rather the church as it existed in the mind of God and was revealed through the Holy Spirit to inspired men. It is the church as it was in the mind of God that provides the pattern we must restore.

    To give up on the idea of restoring the church as it was in the mind of God many of us believe is to invite each group to develop its own ideas of worship, church organization, the plan of salvation and morality. Why? Because there is no pattern to follow.

    Again, many today are convinced that the New Testament is so full of first-century culture that we cannot take the New Testament teachings at face value but must “cleanse them of cultural overtones” as one writer said.

    All of us would agree that some injunctions of the NT that have their base in particular cultural situations (such as the "holy kiss") but that does not justify us in dismissing all injunctions as a cultural one. The teaching in 1 Timothy 2 about the silence women are to keep in the assembly is a case in point. Some in the church are saying that Paul's teaching there is based strictly on the cultural role of woman in first-century society. But Paul based his argument not on cultural basis but rather the reason for that silence: the relationship of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (v. 13). First-century culture is not the issue in 1 Timothy 2.

    Just an example. And I’m sure you might disagree with me on that one!


    Again, when it comes to the subject and issue of IM and unity. All even you have agreed and admitted that the NT is silent about IM and we only have the command to “sing.” We find nowhere in the early church for hundreds of years after the Apostles set up the church of the use of IM.

    Why would a people, steeped in the tradition of using musical instruments in worship, would all of a sudden refrain from them under the New Covenant unless they were divinely instructed to by the apotles. Your arguments about worldiness just don't explain it in the context of the first century Jewish culture. There must have been a reason, and even you agree and admit with Ferguson that it was becasue they were not in the nature of spiriutal worship of the NT and to be different from the OT systme.

    The Apostles set up the early church using a pattern or form to be followed that was revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:15-17; 4:16; cf. 1 Thess. 5:25) They were to "keep an eye on those" who caused divisions and put obstacles in the way that were contrary to the teachings received from the apostles. (Rom. 16:17) Paul said division is a work of the flesh (Ga. 519-21) and Paul later said, "Warn a divisive person person once and then warn him a second time, after that have nothing to do with him." (Titus 3:10)

    The Spirit’s direction results in unity among God’s people when we follow the teachings of the Spirit on the pages of the New Testament and nothing more or less.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Robert Prater

  46. Nick Gill says:


    I do look forward to breaking bread with you one day. I hope to get to Tulsa next year, but I've been hoping that for about 5 years running now, so I probably won't make it next time either – I'm saving up to go to Honduras in February, and the Summer Celebration at Lipscomb is just a couple hours south of me, so I have a hard time selling myself on the 10-hour drive and/or the expense of the flight to Tulsa.

    So we may not get to break bread together (except around the universal Communion table, of course!) before the Wedding Feast of the Lamb! And I'm not convinced that God's going to sort out all our debates even then, so we'll have a lot to talk about! 🙂

    Please understand that I do hear the power of this argument:

    Why would a people, steeped in the tradition of using musical instruments in worship, would all of a sudden refrain from them under the New Covenant unless they were divinely instructed to by the apostles?

    but I sincerely believe it is refuted by a more powerful speculation:

    Why would a people, steeped in reverence for the apostle's doctrine, refrain from recording the divine instructions from the apostles about this aspect of worship?

    If there was a word from the apostles that we needed to hear, we would have it – we wouldn't have to speculate about it. The ECF have given several reasons why not to bring the instrument into their churches – and none of them even hints that there was ever a word from an apostle about it.

    In Jerusalem, as I've said before, I don't believe Christians stopped worshipping during the instrumental parts of the morning and evening worship. I'm convinced that Christians were there during those times, because the morning and evening rituals were directly related to God's promise of forgiveness for the people of Abraham. They were a daily reminder that God had promised to save his people, and that he hadn't done it yet – until Jesus! So it was a missionally PERFECT time to worship the one true God together with the Jews and then preach the kingdom of Jesus.

    As far as we can tell, Jews didn't worship with instruments in synagogue. And we don't have any record of how the earliest Jewish Christians worshipped at home, so we just can't know from Scripture whether they interpreted psallo to include instrumentation when singing the Psalms.

    In the Gentile congregations, it is much simpler to understand. Instrumental worship went out the door along with household idols and temple orgies.

    As the ECF say, it was for two reasons that IM was rejected:

    1) to avoid the sensuousness and debauchery of pagan worship

    2) in rejection of the physical typology of Jewish worship.

    Finally, I concur with your reading of Thomas Campbell (although not your application, obviously 🙂 ) – I wish all opinions and human inventions would be treated as of no authority. But IM is demonstrably not a human invention, and in context, TC was saying that nothing based on opinion should be inculcated as of divine obligation – which is precisely what I'm arguing against – that a cappella is a matter of opinion and should not be inculcated as of divine obligation.

    TC was of the opinion that the Westminster Confession of Faith was the finest distillation of doctrine ever penned by the hand of man – he never suggested that it should not be used by Christians. Rather, he said that acceptance of it must not be inculcated as of divine obligation.

    Likewise, I agree with Dr. Ferguson that a cappella is the best way for sojourners and aliens to express their devotion, and like TC, I reject the inference that it must therefore be inculcated as of divine obligation.

  47. Nick,

    Let me ask of a few things about the ECF. It can't be argued against that yes in the years following the death of the apostles the early church was led, and therefore greatly influenced by these men.

    You say: “Why would a people, steeped in reverence for the apostle’s doctrine, refrain from recording the divine instructions from the apostles about this aspect of worship?”

    But Nick, surely you know that even though much of what they did is SO to be grealty admired, neverthelesss, over time not only did they transform church life and practice intos somethin differetn from that which the apotsle had taugth, they turned it into virtually the opposite?

    Espeically when looking at several of the teachings and practices that went against the teaching of the apostles in the New Testament.

    Take for instance, chronologically one of their first doctrinal errors, and it may have also been the most serious and became the seedbed in which the others inevitably grew and flourished.

    Indeed, the foundational deception into which the ECF fell went to the very heart of church life and fellowship and that concerned the nature of the government and leadership of Christ’s church, particular of course, that of elders being local men, who help shepherd and protect only the local congregation which they are overseers as was practiced in the church of the New Testament.

    Don't you have to concede this point? If so, then taken our two points:

    Mine: "Why would a people, steeped in the tradition of using musical instruments in worship, would all of a sudden refrain from them under the New Covenant unless they were divinely instructed to by the apostles?"

    Yours: "Why would a people, steeped in reverence for the apostle’s doctrine, refrain from recording the divine instructions from the apostles about this aspect of worship?"

    Your point about them would not seem to be as strong as mine becasue mine are closer to the truth and reality of what the first century church indeed, as you have admitted, clearly practiced in their worship assembly–singing and did so under the direction and authority of the apostles.

    But of course I’m most be careful because I’m using them as well to argue against IM:)! So we’re both in a “Gotcha” moment!


    I also wonder….and this is just thinking aloud for us to consider. Shouldn’t we also consider the notion and idea that although the New Testament was fully written by the time of time of Clement of Rome in AD 95, it was nevertheless not fully compiled, verified and available as a complete work for years afterwards??

    Don’t we need to be clear in our minds that these men did not have the complete New Testament, and hence the complete Bible, available to them in the same way as we do now or even by the time of the 4th and 5th century?

    Isn’t it therefore understandable that some of their teachings and practices turned out to be at variance with what the original Apostles taught?

    After all, when we look at how badly the church has done through the centuries in this regard with the completed scriptures fully available, should we not be surprised to see error creeping in among those who only had parts of the New Testament to refer to? (And I’m also too keenly aware of some of my “errors” I have fallen into through the years, even though I have available the completed scriptures to refer and study)


    What is really more inexcusable though is that the wider “Christian community” once having the fully compiled New Testament, did not assess the ECF teachings in the light of it and retain or reject things accordingly.

    But nonetheless these men preserved, guarded and spread the truth of the good news about Jesus in the face of great adversity, often paying the price with their lives. They were, without doubt, brave men of God who protected the early church from many heresies and deceptions that could have potentially all but destroyed the Christian faith.

    I am not in any way writing them off and saying they were wrong about everything they did and taught. Indeed, I fully honor and take my hat off to them.

    Just think we need to keep some of this in mind in our discussion about them and what they said about IM.

    Robert Prater

  48. K. Rex Butts says:


    This is just to spur some consideration. I agree that what became Roman Catholicism leadership with the Papal authority is not what Jesus nor the Apostles intended for the church in terms of recognized leadership. But where does the NT say that the church was to have no leadership beyond the local church? It doesn't. Of course, that does not prove anything.

    However, where does the New Testament provide a picture of one specific leadership form? It doesn't. Instead the church starts out being led simply by the Apostles (Acts 2). However, as it grows they appoint some deacons to take care of some specific matters because that responsibility is too much for them to shoulder themselves (Acts 6). Later as the church began to expand, Paul speaks of those who are presumably leading various churches meeting in homes (Rom 16). As a result of the growing expansion and need for further teaching, shepherding, etc…local evangelists are sent to churches with the instructions to not shoulder all of the responsibility themselves but to appoint bishops/overseers and deacons (1 Tim 3) and elsewhere presbyters/elders (Tit 1). Thus as we enter into the later part of the first century, we are given in Ephesians 4.11 a snapshot of what the leadership of the church (locally and/or regionally?) looked like in response to its present geographical size and distribution(?).

    Be patient with me as I try to think out loud in this comment. What seems clear is that when we stop flattening out the New Testament and removing it from its historical culture and development, what we have portrayed for us in terms of church leadership is anything but a static picture. Instead, we have a church that has developed leadership in response and out of necessity to missional development and expansion. If that is correct and since no where does the New Testament specifically state a form of leadership structure as the form for all time and circumstances, could it be that there was/is nothing wrong with the post-apostolic appointment of regional bishops to serve as leaders over a particular region? Could it be that the post-apostolic church, having been a part of a church that always developed leadership in response to its expansion and out of it missional necessity, believed it was justified in developing more regional leadership as it continued to expand (an exansion not spoken of in scripture)?

    Again, I am not aguing for or desireing anything like what became the hiarchial authoritarian structure of Roman Catholicism. But I do question whether in our reaction to some of the very hiarchial and authoritarian denominational structures of leadership, that we have reacted to an equally unhealthy position of no church leadership beyond the local church…which we do not abide by anyways…after all, have our editors and lectureships not agressively sought to serve as leadership over the local churches?

    We have assumed that bishops/overseers and presbyters/elders are the same office and function. Though they are certainly similar, there is some early post-apostolic Christian literature (which we are fond of when it supports our causes) that might suggest that, though they are similar in terms of office and function, there is a difference between the two – even if only a subtle difference.

    Again, I am just thinking outloud and I am doing so for several reasons. First, as I read the New Testament, I am increasingly convinced that the Restoration Movement has not understood the intent and form of church leadership in the NT as clearly as we would like to have thought. Second, our circumstances in terms of local congregational size and geographical distribution in the twenty-first century are way beyond what the New Testament ever imagined. Thus we might ask how cloning the NT form of church leadership, a form developed for its own cultural needs, would work for our circumstances. Third, some of the divisions (large and small) that have and continue to occur in the Restoration Movement and/or Churches of Christ could possibly be avoided if there was some form of leadership beyond the local church greater than just editors and lectureships.

    Of course, I do want to say that I believe all church leadership/leaders are not called to a dictator-style of leadership but to a self-sacrificial servant-hood leadership that was first modeled to us by Jesus Christ.

    Well, I have thought outloud enough. What are your thoughts? What do you think of the unstatic leadership development in the NT? What do we do to address the problem of leadership we face in our own culture and circumstances?

    Grace and peace,


  49. Rex,

    I have written you a lengthy reply. I really didn’t intend for it to be:)!

    First of all, I totally understand you’re “thinking out loud” and asking for patience in your considerations about the issue of church leadership. We're having an open discussion here just between you and me (with I'm sure a few others reading this on the outside):!

    And you hopefully know that I love and appreciate your passion and heart for ministry and to serve others and truly be dedicated to an “Incarnation Missional” focus in your ministry. There is much we agree on with that.

    But (you knew it was coming:) I would very much strongly caution you to carefully reconsider the direction you seem to be going (and are in fact at) in your understanding, theology and approach to both how you view the New Testament and particularly the issue of Biblical leadership for today’s church.

    Now, let also say, I totally understand your concern about New Testament and removing it from its historical culture and development. No disagreement over there.

    But I think you take this too far.

    Rex, you say right off the bat: “But where does the NT say that the church was to have no leadership beyond the local church? It doesn’t. Of course, that does not prove anything.” First of all, we must be careful not to form a doctrine out of nothing!

    You seem to be stating many conclusions without providing supporting information. I wonder if you may have started with a conclusion and then set out to prove it. (We all have to struggle against such…your not alone there:)

    Then you say, “Instead, we have a church that has developed leadership in response and out of necessity to missional development and expansion."

    Still later on you say, “….since no where does the New Testament specifically state a form of leadership structure as the form for all time and circumstances, could it be that there was/is nothing wrong with the post-apostolic appointment of regional bishops to serve as leaders over a particular region?”

    But the scriptures you cited (i.e., Acts 6, Romans 16, Ephesians 4, 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1), really I fear that the only reason you have drawn this conclusions is because you have not allowed the Scriptures to speak for themselves but have instead read, albeit unintentionally, into various verses what is NOT explicitly stated.

    The result is that the various references to church leadership come across as vague, incomplete, and sometimes contradictory. But all this obscurity disappears when the same Scriptures are simply taken as they are.

    The appearance of various forms of church leadership is the result of the early church being in various stages of maturity. In the New Testament, newly planted churches were led by apostles (or their representatives) until such time as elders/bishops could be appointed to provide on-going oversight.

    Now yes in the beginning the oversight of the Jerusalem church was by the Ttelve. In Acts 15 we read of "the apostles and elders" and in Acts 21:18 only the elders. This suggests that over time the Jerusalem church transitioned from an apostle-led church to an elder-led church (a collective team in both cases). Even Paul in

    Now Paul and Barnabas appointed elders almost immediately on their first missionary journey: “So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” (Acts 14:23).

    Both B. J. Lightfoot and William Ramsey claim the significance of this passage is in Luke’s usage of it as a summary of Paul’s customary method of organizing newly planted churches. Lightfoot writes: “On their very first missionary journey the Apostles Paul and Barnabas are described as appointing presbyters in every church. The same rule was doubtless carried out in all the brotherhoods founded later; but it is mentioned here and here only because the mode of procedure on this occasion would suffice as a type of the apostles dealings elsewhere under similar circumstances.” (Biblical Eldership)

    William Ramsey comments: “It is clear, therefore, that Paul everywhere instituted elders in his new churches; and on our hypothesis as to the accurate and methodical expression of the historian, we are bound to infer that this first case is intended to be typical of the way of appointment followed in all later cases.”

    Paul encouraged Timothy and Titus to remain in Ephesus and Crete and do the same (1 Tim. 1:3; 3:1; Titus 1:5). The church in Jerusalem already had an established and functioning group of elders at the time of the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15). Elders appear as part of the normal structure of other early New Testament assemblies (Acts 20:17; Phil. 1:1).

    Donald Guthrie, formerly Vice-Principal of London Bible College, comments about 1 Timothy 2 passage about elders: “It was Paul’s practice to appoint several elders (the same thing as bishops) to take charge of each church.”

    At this point, let’s bring in one of the earliest Church Fathers (although you are right about using them when they agree with us and not with they don’t:). Writing it’s believed to be around 96 AD,

    Clement of Rome is an interesting figure in early Christian history, not least because he had contact with some of the original Christian eyewitnesses, apostles and their co-workers. Origen says he was the sometime companion of Paul. (cf. Phil. 4.3)

    In a letter to the church at Corinth, a letter that reflects that the author knows Paul and the way the church was structured there, and he is writing a further letter to the same house churches to further correct the ongoing problems there.

    Here below is the crucial passage of importance which states that the Church in Corinth was lead by elders.

    "The apostles were given the gospel for us by the Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ was sent forth from God. Thus Christ came from God and the apostles from Christ. Both things happened then in an orderly way according to the will of God. When therefore the apostles received his commands and were fully convinced through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and persuaded by the Word of God, they went forth proclaiming the Good News that the Kingdom of God was about to come, brimming with confidence through the Holy Spirit. And as they preached throughout the countryside and in the cities, they appointed the first fruits of their ministries as bishops/overseers and deacons of those who were about to believe, testing them by the Spirit. And this was no recent development. For indeed, bishops/overseers and deacons have been mentioned in writings long before. For thus Scripture says in one place (Isaiah 60.17 LXX) "I will appoint their bishops/overseers in righteousness and their deacons in faith."

    It is thus important that we take with absolute seriousness what Clement says about the leadership structure of early Christianity from the time it began right on through the first century.


    Rex, let me address now, what I come back to as being probably the biggest problem I see in your approach to scripture is once again, this difference between many progressives and more moderate conservatives are having over ‘hermeneutics” and interpretation, particularly in regard to the issue of “Is there a pattern for the church to follow.”

    Too many people have “bought” into hook line and sinker (however sincerely ) and believe false idea and assertion that the NT does not give us light on the life and practice of the church in the 21st century.

    For example, Donald G. Miller has stated there is “No particular structure of church life is divinely ordained.” (The Church in God’s Program, 105)

    Again he writes: “Any form … which the Holy Spirit can inhabit and to which He may impart the life of Christ, must be accepted as valid for the church. As all forms of life adapt themselves to their environment, so does the Life of Christ by His Spirit in the church.”

    However, most conservative Christian scholars would not make such a sweeping statement, but rather belief the NT to be our guide in church practice. Now, yes, there is disagreement over just how this works out and to what principles and practices of the New Testament we are obliged to follow.

    So the real divide and difference between progressives and conservatives is this: Progressives and others give is that we must separate New Testament practices from New Testament principles. We must adhere to the principles and follow the practices as best as we see fit.

    Now I admit, all of this is appealing, except for the distressing fact that Paul equated his practices with the principles that he taught: I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.” (1 C. 4:16,17)

    Unlike so many today, Paul practiced what he preached and he preached what he practiced. Paul could instruct his readers to imitate his ways because they conformed with what he taught. His ways were not culturally oriented, but rather universally practiced ‘everywhere and in every church.’

    How, then can we distinguish what Paul did, or apostolic practice, from what he taught, apostolic principle?

    Now I understand that this does raise a very logical and legitimate question. "Are you saying, then, that I am to believe that the truly New Testament church should carry out every practice recorded in the New Testament?" "Should we wash feet and greet one another with a holy kiss? Should we meet in the Temple or in private homes? Should we do away with full-time ministers and all make tents? "

    Now, that is another discussion we can have altogether. I believe there are some practical (and hopefully Biblical) guidelines for discerning what practices were binding in the New Testament times and are binding upon us today as well. Things like: was the practice in question universally and consistently followed in the churches of the New Testament?

    Again, those things which Timothy was sent to remind the Corinthians of were those things which Paul practiced and preached ‘everywhere in every church’ (1 Corinthians 4:16,17). Take one example about what is said about meeting in houses. Although the church met in various private homes (Romans 16:3-16; Philemon 2, etc.), it also met at the Temple, in various synagogues for a time, and in the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9).

    But we must conclude that the church met wherever it was convenient to do so, and that no one kind of meeting place was superior to another or universally binding on the church as a whole. Therefore, there is no principle underlying the meeting of the church in private homes, other than that of practicality.

    I guess I find Rex, much of what you say seems to be more “hopeful conjecture” and are hardly the language of sound doctrine. Rather than establishing a leadership structure around what we think may be pragmatic and relative in our 21 century culture and environment, let us stick with what is expressly stated and given to us in the NT.

    Again, my dear friend and brother, I would strongly caution and urge you to reject this false idea that there is very little evidence of one particular pattern or model of church leadership in the NT. This will take you down a path and road of great error I fear. (I hope I'm wrong)

    This misguided idea that says it is better to search for “principles” of church leadership in the Scriptures rather than seeking a specific “pattern” or model to be strictly adhered to.

    Rex, you made the statement which is an unproven assertion: “Our circumstances in terms of local congregational size and geographical distribution in the twenty-first century are way beyond what the New Testament ever imagined.

    Listen to yourselves! God couldn’t have imagined the needs and problems in our 21st century culture?? Huh?? No, no, no! He did! That’s why He gave us His inspired and eternal truth of His word.

    Paul said "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

    Yes Paul certainly had in mind and was including the entire Old Testament, but there is strong evidence that points also that he also would include the NT books that had been written up to the time he wrote, including his own writings. Paul directed that his letters be read in the churches (Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27). Several times he claimed that his writings had divine authority (1 Cor. 2:13; 7:10, 12; 14:37; 2 Cor. 2:17; 13:3). The only New Testament books written after 2 Timothy were probably 2 Peter, Hebrews, Jude, and John’s writings.

    Rex, why would God go to all the trouble to save us and place us into His body, the church and then say, “You’re on your own! There is no divine instruction or pattern for you!” No, again, read 1 Timothy 3:15. God gives a pattern. We don’t have to look to the world or our own ingenuity to try to figure out how the church ought to worship or be organized, etc. There is a pattern and plan in place!

    Remember the purpose of scripture in that Paul says that using the Scripture will result in service and we’ll be “Equipped for every good work.” “Equipped” means to be furnished or supplied. You will have adequate resources to minister to others—whether in the 1st century of 21st century!

    Bottom line, not only do the Scriptures “describe” what happened in their time and culture, they are also “prescribing” (in proper instances) what must happen in all times and in every culture!

    Again you said, “Thus we might ask how cloning the NT form of church leadership, a form developed for its own cultural needs, would work for our circumstances.”

    It will work for ours and any other cultural or circumstance!

    Rex, we are a people of restoration spirit. We are a “Go back to the Bible” kind of people.

    Whether a particular organizational form in our minds appears to work or not work according to the human perspective is an inadequate and improper basis for determining church leadership structure.

    The question is not, "What works?" The questions is, "What does the Bible say?” That will ALWAYS work!

    God knows what He is doing! Trust Him my friend!

    Robert Prater

  50. Rob Woodfin says:

    The conservative arguments over pattern and structure and correctness of method and practice all point to the same conclusion: only one group has figured it out precisely and applies it correctly … and that would be the the non-progressive side of the CoC (well, I guess that's half a group … unless you remember there are three streams in the Restoration Movement, so that would be half of a third of a group).

    Whatever the fraction, it begs a question of the contenders: "Is this truly your intentional assessment of the Lord's glorious church?" In it's growth over the past two thousand years, has it only reached 0.03% of the population? I dare you to try to draw that on a bar chart and I double-dare you to display it.

    When I read the parable of the wedding feast and the guest who came dressed improperly, I find it ironic the illustration depicts only one unacceptable among a houseful of celebrants. Shouldn't that have been the other way around? Did Jesus have no idea how few "few" was going to be of all those who would seek Him in the centuries and millennia after His ascension?

    When we hook our thumbs in our vests and make the claim "I am a Christian because I have flawlessly done this and this and this …", we fall into the same trap Satan first set in the garden when he convinced Adam and Eve they could be like God. We elevate ourselves above all the rest and presume to look God in the eye.

    We get righteously indignant whenever someone uses the title "Reverend" or "Father." I suggest each one of us should take a good look at ourselves anytime we make the superior claim "I Am" and justify ourselves by our performance rather than praying at every opportunity, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

  51. paul says:

    I don't know why I read this article. It used to be "a disputable matter" to me that was part of christian liberty, but it really isn't any more. When "a cappella-only" "Christians" I have know for thirty years started verbally condemning to Hell me, my wife and children, and parents simply for my choice to attend an instrumental Church of Christ, it became personal. Even my in-laws tell my wife and kids that we are going to Hell and are not Christians anymore. Do you all realize "a cappella-only" is an abhorrent doctrine among those who actually are Christians? It is a separatist doctrine that divides the body of Christ, and thus is sinful. Personally I prefer a cappella because I spent 40 years of my life in that worship syle and I think it is a "purer" style of worship, but if you all think I would set foot again in an acappella church again….
    Jesus condemned the self-righteous attitudes, doctrines and precepts of men, and legalism of the Pharisees. People who go around Damning everyone to Hell who don't meet their group's accepted doctrines violate more principles and commands of Jesus than I can possibly name…

    It is imperative that genuine Christians recognize difference between opinion and essential christian doctrine. This absolutely will require challenging examination of our own beliefs contrasted with what the Word of God simply and plainly states apart from our "private interpretation", tradition, and teachings we have been taught.

  52. K. Rex Butts says:


    Thanks for your reply and I know your comments are made out of Christian love and a sincere desire to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ in the 21st century…and I hope everyone else knows that as well. Since I personally know you, it is almost as if I can hear the tone of your voice and see the body language that you communicate with, which helps me to understand your passion but also know, even though we disagree, the love and desire to be Jesus' disciple from which you write.

    Now… We do disagree on hermeneutics and our understanding of the purpose of scripture (specifically the NT) and I suspect this has as much to do with the disagreement as it has historically had between two or more Christian traditions (e.g., Restoration, Reformed, Eastern, etc…).

    As for my view of scripture and the NT, I do reject the idea of scripture being a flat-like document intended to provide a constitutional/by-laws like prescription for a church polity. There is just too much evidence that I believe supports this conclusion and too little to suppot the conclusions that historically have been held within the Restoration Movement for me to hold on to the constitutional-type view of scripture and the NT.

    Plus, 2 Tim 3.16-17, which you referenced, exegetically refers to the OT and not the NT which was not even a complete canon at the time. Further more, as Paul was speaking about the OT, he was not suggesting that the polity for Judaism was useful for teaching. What was useful for teaching was the lessons we learn from Israel's history, the teachings of the prophets, the wisdom of the sages, and the devotions of the psalmist. So I don't know what this passages has to do with understanding the purpose and nature of the NT – except that I do believe the NT has the same authority and usefulness that the OT has as an inspired scripture. Also, in 1 Cor 4.16-17, are "the ways" of Paul refering to church polity or his cruciform-lifestyle? Don't be too quick to assume.

    I do think you have misunderstood me and as a result unintentionally mischaracterized what I was saying, making me to say something which I am not. I did say "our circumstances in terms of local congregational size and geographical distribution in the twenty-first century are way beyond what the New Testament ever imagined" and I stand by that statement. But read it carefully, I did not say that God could not envision our circumstances but that 'scripture' does not. This is because scripture is speaking within a particular historical-culture. It is the same as saying scripture does not envision Christians physically dwelling within a free-democratic society rather than a society ruled by an imperialistic emperor. It is not that God cannot envision such circumstance but that scripture does not envision because for scripture to speak about the church's way of living in a free-democratice government would have made absolutely no intelligible sense to Christains living under Greco-Roman rule. The same is true about our circumstances. Scripture would make no intelligble sense if it would have spoken about, for instance ten or so different Churches of Christ in White County, Arkansas and a few of them having 1,000 plus members. All I am saying with my original statement, is that scripture does not directly address our unique circumstances nor did it ever intend to. That does not mean that we cannot learn from the NT how to address the questions of our circumstances…this would be the task of theology and specifically ecclesiology as the questions relate to church polity.

    Nevertheless, I am a restorationist in the sense that I simply want to be a non-denominational Christian (despite our fellowship's appearance and, to some extent, practice of denominationalism) meaning that I want to be a follower of Jesus, nothing more, nothing less. But my desire to be a restorationist does not mean accepting every view the RM has historically held. One of those views which I think earlier restoration leaders got wrong is the view that scripture provides a complete pattern for the organization and practice of the church and that whatever pattern is there is the pattern we are to follow. There is a pattern scripture calls upon us to follow but it is not a creed, mannual, or ecclesiological pattern. The pattern is Jesus and when believers strive to live as Jesus lived, there are being the church Jesus envisioned his disciples to be.

    As for the leadership of the church, my questions and considerations (yes, they are far from conclusions) stem from my view that scripture is not flat but develops within historical time and the same with the leadership in the first century church. For that reason, I question some (not all) of the conclusions reached by earlier restoration leaders which are still held by some (perhaps many) today. And I do believe that "progressive development" of leadership within the NT gives us some freedom to make adjustments based on the circumstances of our own cultural needs (of course, done so while bathed in prayer and scripture). I know you disagree, insisting that we follow the specifics of the preceived authoritative pattern laid out in the NT. Fair enough. I would like to know then one what grounds are you free to go beyond or change the patten when it comes to greeting one another with a holy kiss and washing feet but not so when it comes to an issue like church polity? I also would like to know then on what grounds do you refuse to recognize the leadership role of prophets that were clearly mentioned in 1 Cor 11 and spoken of as necessary for church leadership in Eph 4? On what grounds are we free to deviate from one aspect of the pattern but not from another? There is no rational grounds.

    Any ways…you may disagree with my questions and considersation…with my unwillingness to accept the previous generations answers and reconsider everything for myself. But our fellowship and Christianity as a whole needs people like me. Where would our fellowship be if it was not for the audacity of men like Campbell, Stone, Scott, etc… who refused to accept the answers of the denominations they were part of but instead had the courage to raise new questions and pursue those quests in faith free from the fear of what others thought. I am not saying, though, I am anything near what Campbell, Stone, and Scott were.

    But to be clear (and I hope others reading this share this view with me), I and we, need people like you Robert. Yes some of this gets frustrating but we really need each other even though we apparently have some fundamental disagreements on the intent of scripture. We are told in scripture that iron sharpens iron and sometimes the two pieces of iron share some very different views. I am confident that God will use us both along with others to bring about his will and not your will, my will, nor anyone elses will.

    And why? Because despite our disagreements, we do share the most important conviction…that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and has been raised from death and now reigns as Lord and Messiah and that we strive to be faithful to that confession, no matter how feeble our attempts sometimes turn out to be. We both are jars of clay but thanks be to God that he still works through clay jars.

    Grace and peace,


  53. Mario Lopez says:

    I think one problem that exists is that the more conservative, moderate, and more liberal folks are necessary in a congregation to, in a sense, balance each other. But too many times we are left with congregations were one group gets fed up and goes. And we wonder why the rest go off some other extreme direction.

  54. Mario Lopez says:

    Rob Woodfin "The conservative arguments over pattern and structure and correctness of method and practice all point to the same conclusion: only one group has figured it out precisely and applies it correctly … "

    I have in my time never met a person to claim such. Or reach that conclusioin.

    Most would agree in the end the Lord will be judge.

    Then again what do I know? I am no prophet.

  55. Mike Ward says:

    Rob, things may be different were Mario lives, but you describe the conservative postion perfectly were I am.

  56. Mario Lopez says:

    I live in NW Indiana, where do you Mike?

  57. Mike Ward says:


    I live in Lexington, KY, and I'm sure that in NW Indiana the conservative CoC believe that the CoC is the only denomination that has the bible figured out applies it correctly.

    You mentioned that most will agree that in the end the Lord will judge. This is also true, but so what? Don't you see that a person can believe that in the end the Lord will be judge and still think they and their group are the only ones who have the bible figured out?

  58. K. Rex Butts says:


    I grew up in NW Indiana (La Porte). What town are you in?

    Any ways… Rob's was not that any church would 'admit or boldly say' that they have it all figured out and apply it correctly but instead that they 'act' as though they have it all correctly understood and applied, thus criticizing and condemning all others (pointing out the speck's in the eyes of others). And guess what? Right in NW Indiana, I was raised in a CoC who acted just as such. Now they have since changed but I do know there are still some in NW Indiana with that same old disposition.

    Also, ten years ago at a World Mission Workshop hosted by a rather conservative CoC university, I heard a keynote speaker claim that the CoC has perfectly restored the NT Church and thus, he waxed eloquently to deaf ears criticizing the so-called "change agents." I still remember one of my Harding Professors saying in response to his address that he would like to speak with him about the materialism in the CoC and our willingness to divide against and malign those we disagree with as just two of a handful of examples that ought to make us pause before we claim to have perfectly restored the NT Church.

    Well, say hello to my home stopping grounds.

    Grace and peace,


  59. Mario Lopez says:


    I live in Hammond.

    How are we supposed to act? I am not condoning the way these people you knew were acting. Then again I was not there to see how they were acting. But I've noticed that no matter how we approach some people, how tactfull, acting, understanding, etc they get offended. Not to say we don't try. I'm not sure how I should act when I would talk with someone if they happen to be in error. Then again I suppose we run into that within and without…

    Another reason to avoid them CoC universities 😉


    As you've heard probably a hundred times, the coC's in general as far as I know don't consider themselves a denomination…. But without going into that argument.

    "You mentioned that most will agree that in the end the Lord will judge. This is also true, but so what?"

    So What? Isn't that it? The reason we bother trying to study, belive, act, etc… Becuase their comes a judgment. That it matters. Otherwise forget it, eat drink and be merry. We're trying to be God's people. Well that's the way I've looked at it. That's the jist I put on the header in the bulletin I print for the congregation.

    "Don’t you see that a person can believe that in the end the Lord will be judge and still think they and their group are the only ones who have the bible figured out?"

    People can hold all kinds of beliefs, but I try to hold to ones that are more consistent.

    In Fact, if the coC's drift off some way far away from God, or cease to exist. I have no doubt God would lift up for himself a people. Not to say everyone in the coC's are his people so those outside aren't, but without getting into every exception, you know what i mean.

    -In Christian Love
    Mario Lope

  60. K. Rex Butts says:


    I think your question of how we are supposed to act towards others we understand to believe and/or practice error has a very practical legitimacy to it. I try to remember the wisdom Jesus taught about judging in Matthew 7.1-5 which reminds us that though others have speck's in their eyes, we have logs in our own eyes. The point is not that we cannot judge, make critical evaluations, ask critical questions of another person's/denomination's polity, suggest an alternate view point, etc… The point is that when doing so, we must do so from a position of humility that recognizes we too are less than perfect in our beliefs and practices and thus have error (logs in our eyes) as well.

    Thus, I don't approach others from a (intellectually arrogant) standpoint that say's "I'm right and you're wrong". Instead, assuming the other person desires to follow Jesus and strives to be biblical in that pursuit, I approach them from that same common point of depature – that we both are seeking to be followers of Jesus and are striving to be biblical in that pursuit, no matter how right or wrong we have been in that journey so far. Secondly, I try to listen to them not simply for the sake of finding error but for the sake of how we can mutually encourage one another in our common desire to follow Jesus and be biblical in that pursuit. This does not mean that we will not encounter differences along the way, it means that rather than coming to the table with a preconceived judgment (they are wrong, I am right) that we come to the table a friend's and fellow disciple's wanting to help each other in our common goal.

    This approach, I believe, allows us to hear each others differences (our judgments, critical questions, etc….) not as judgmental condemnation but as a loving consideration of something for which we have not considered previously in our Bible-study.

    I have purposely also spoken in the first-person plural for at least two reasons. First, with this sort of approach on both parties (yes, I realize that other Christians/denominations can be just as judgmental and damming of other Christians) it allows a dialogue (dialogical conversation) to take place. Secondly, with this sort of approach we are acknowledging that while the others may be wrong, we too could be wrong and therefore we have something to learn from each other. This later point is something which the CoC of the 20th century (and indeed the congregation I grew up in) failed miserably at, believing everyone else to be woefully in error to the point of eternal damnation while believing itself to be overwhelmingly right to the point that, arguably, we began to ground the basis of our salvation in the fact that 'we' were right in our belief and subsequently been right in our practice.

    This approach led to a woman who was baptized many years ago but left the CoC congregation becuase of it preceived arrogance returning and participating once again in the fellowship of Christ. It also led to a man being immersed into Christ who previously had only experienced baptism as a infant being sprinkled in another Protestant church. That man has chosen to stay in his Protestant church where he is a recognized leader hoping to teach others about the importance of being immersed as a confessing believer.

    Any ways…I hope that helps. Tell us more about your ministry in Hammond, IN. The fields are ripe for the harvest in the Chicago area.

    Grace and peace,


  61. Mike Ward says:

    You quote my "so what?" out of context. In context I believe it is clear that I was asking you how does acceptance of this fact support your contention that conservaive CoC do not believe they are the they only ones who understand the bible and follow it. I was not suggesting that the fact that the Lord will judge is unimportant. Only that it did not have any bearing on your point.

  62. Mike Ward says:

    My last commment was directed at Mario, nor Rex (just in case this is not obvious)

  63. Mario Lopez says:


    I have found that the words always, all of, never, and none of, tend to get people in trouble. You speak as if all of, the 'conservative' coC and every member holds this one opinion.

    I just haven't found that to be true.

    My point about God's judgment was that in the end, he'll judge and pardon and condemn as necessary. Not on me to do his job, just to do try to do his will for me on earth.

    Sorry, if I was talking past your point.

    I am not sure how you can deal with those churches. What do you suggest they should do? What is the best possible outcome in your view? What would be your goal for them? Would this require a change in any other group or church?

    What happens if those churches are right, or wrong?

    I'm not trying to be a harsh inquistor, I'm just an engineer, I tend to look for solutions. 😛

    -Mario Lopez

  64. Mike Ward says:


    I certainly could be overlooking some examples, but I cannot find anywhere that I used the words "always", "all of", "never" or "none" in this thread. Nor could I find any of them in Rob's post that sparked our discussion. But like I said, I may be overlooking some examples of my using these words.

    In any event, I do not deny that I have been speaking in generalites. I'm not going to get derailed into a discusison of the appropriateness of generalities since I do not believe this is a real issue.

  65. Rob Woodfin says:

    I think often of the aging Daniel Sommer, traveling across the Midwest in his final years, trying to repair at least some of the damage he had done in his younger days in dividing Restoration Churches. He had been among the zealots who were determined to drive out all those who did not adhere to the truth as the ultra-conservatives saw it in the second and third generations following the Campbells. And he had been very (destructively) successful.

    If you think that is ancient history which we shouldn't dredge up, consider this quote: "The Christian Church has done the Church of Christ a favor in one sense. They have helped weed out some of the unconverted folks in the Church of Christ." That statement was not written a century ago by some illiterate neophyte. That was written just a couple of years ago by one of the leaders of a Tennessee CoC school of preaching.

    That attitude is why one of the most popular Christian writers of this generation no longer preaches in a building with the "Church of Christ" moniker on the doorpost, though he still preaches the gospel … and at the same place.

    Not all conservative congregations are that bad. And, yes, there are some conservatives who merely "act" like they have it all figured out. But I can sadly testify that there are indeed quite a few members and congregations who are convinced that no one outside (the fellowship known as) the (a cappella) Church of Christ is a Christian and all those within the ranks who subscribe to the false teachings of the Abilenes, Pepperdines, Lipscombs, etc. are in for a rude awakening at judgment, too.

    If you think I'm making this up, ask around. I wish it was fiction. It truly is a sad, sad story.

    But the bright side we should focus on is the determination of more and more folks within our fellowship who are spurning this darker dimension of our heritage and moving toward the unity Christ prayed for. This is not a group who has figured out how to agree on everything. These are Christians who have come to realize that walking together means as fellow believers of the risen Savior, not as practitioners of perfectly executed worship.

    So what will become of our ultra-conservative brethren? I have no doubt they will continue to function, just in smaller and fewer congregations with each passing year.

    It think one of the questions on this thread is, "How do we adroitly discuss and deal with the 'us' and 'them' between CoC progressives and conservatives. It can be confusing to talk about (much less be part of) one group that has two distinctively (yes, I used that word) different views of fellowship. This has bothered me greatly in the past, but I am slowing being convinced by some of the best and brightest on the progressive side that it is not the label that matters most, but the fruits of the Spirit which identify us.

  66. Mario Lopez says:


    Sorry, I don't believe you used those words, just the sentiment. I was trying to squeeze a warning about that in. I probably didn't write it out very well.

    Anyhow, I have written only based on my experience, I have had very little exposure to any of the magazines floating around, or any larger gatherings, or universities or colleges associated with the CoC. Just what I've seen in the congregations that I've been apart of, visited, and brothers and sister's my wife and I have befriended.


    One of the things I've admired most about the coC is that there is no real emphasis on the local history, lines of teachers, etc etc. Not in the teaching or preaching. I remember talking to a brother while down in Colombia about how good it is that we don't have to worry about knowing about specific teachers or what not, that we could just talk about the bible.

    Oddly enough though, I do find history very fascinating. Especially that of the CoC, and have learned quite a bit studying some of it. It is a bit disappointing, especially the mistakes and missteps. I pray we don't keep making the same mistakes, or follow in the mistakes of numerous denominations.

    Anyhow, in your view, which ones are the conservatives, and ultra conservatives?

    My guess would be I'd fall under the ultra-conservative label. Most of the actions, words, and attitudes that I see condemned are those being found in the more, I suppose, 'mainstream,' what some of my local brethern might call liberal churches. I dunno, much of what I hear railed against, is something kinda foreign to me in my experience with the Christians I deal with.

    I could be wrong about all this, I've only been reading this blog for a week, maybe too.

    -Sometimes Confused, but means well 🙂
    Mario Lopez

  67. Mike Ward says:


    I very much enjoyed reading you last post.


    What makes you think you would be labeled "ultra-conservative"?

    Since you diagreed with the statement that the Churches of Christ are the "one group has figured [the bible] out precisely and applies it correctly,” I would probably describe you as "moderate".

    I know these terms are subjective, but "ultra-conservative"?

    I don't think you've met any ultra-conservatives. If you had, I don't believe you'd think you were one.

  68. K. Rex Butts says:

    Mario said, "One of the things I’ve admired most about the coC is that there is no real emphasis on the local history, lines of teachers, etc etc. Not in the teaching or preaching. I remember talking to a brother while down in Colombia about how good it is that we don’t have to worry about knowing about specific teachers or what not, that we could just talk about the bible."

    That is actually a quite common sentiment I have found among members of CoC's within my ministry. It is indeed a nice desire to just want to talk about and learn from the scriptures, forgetting not just the Restoration History but indeed the roughly 2,000 years of Christian History. Unfortunately, it is a dangerous sentiment. Without knowing some of the basic history and how that history developed, we not only remain oblivious to the good and bad lenses through which we have been taught scripture and continue to read scripture with but we also are most likely doomed to repeat its mistakes…and remember, the old adage about history is that those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.

    Mario, here is a link to a fairly short and readable book on the history of the CoC written by Gary Holloway and Doug Foster titled "Renewing God's People: A Concise History of Churches of Christ";…. Not everyone agrees with some of the conclusions they draw but they do do a good job of sharing the basic history and what the core aspirations of the Restoration Movement/Churches of Christ were/are. Plus the book will refer to a variety of other resources on Restoration history that are much larger.

    Grace and peace,


  69. Jay Guin says:

    Robert wrote,

    Friends, those early Christians, who were guided by the Apostles, did not make use of mechanical instruments of music, but, rather, sang psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

    The question is: If we seriously intend to be New Testament Christians, can we do that which was never permitted as a part of the worship of the New Testament Church?

    Yes, I very much want to be a First Century Christian guided by the New Testament. I have no interesting in being a Second Century or Third Century Christian.

    Nor am I willing to give up "speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent" or sola scriptura. You see, your arguments follow very much the same lines as those posted on Catholic and Eastern Orthodox websites. They also seek to bind doctrine found in the Patristics.

    Now, why did the ECF practice a cappella? Because the early church was — for centuries — largely Jewish in culture. Read In the Shadow of the Temple. It's an amazing book.

    And I take the ECF's at their word. In their culture, instruments were highly associated with pagan and debauched practices that were deeply engrained in Greek and Roman culture. Is was a pragmatic response to a very real problem that church had to face. And we find examples in Patristic literature of love feasts and other church events that became drunken parties following the pagan practice — 1 Cor 11 is likely an example. but only the first of many. The ECFs evidently concluded that instruments would — in that culture and that place — make it hard for new converts to distinguish Christian practice from pagan.

    And that might be true today in a country where you were converting Muslims — as many Muslims consider all instruments sin. Convert them and start playing a guitar and you may well leave the impression that you have no moral standards at all.

    Culture often dictates how the universal principles of love and service play out.

  70. Mario Lopez says:

    What are insturments in our culture? Is it more about what genre of music? I'm not sure even where to start evaluating any of this.

    Becuase, really what are musicians associated with? And music? Clubs, Parties, Concerts, etc…

    I'm not sure, I see alot of negative things associated with music, in our culture.

    But there are positive things right? But, wouldn't there have been back then too (Music in the temple?)?

    I dunno… Too much data to process. Where do start?

  71. Jay Guin says:

    Robert wrote,

    First of all I must say Laymond coldn’t have said it any better: “When we compare our instructions to get food from Taco Bell to that of God and his demands of offerings of worship, we just 🙂 !

    We’re not talking “tacos” here we’re talking worshiping the Hoy God Almighty! Coming into His presence in a special set apart way as He instructs! “But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” (Hab. 2:20)

    Robert also wrote,

    Consider for a moment that you have a 12-year-old son whom you send into the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. You give him a $10 bill. He goes into the store and comes back out with a 12 pack of pop (that’s what we call here in Oklahoma, not soda:) and a bag of chips and no milk or bread. Did he do your will in the matter? Obviously not. Any fair-minded person would understand the child did not do as the parent had asked.

    But what if the child had come out with the bag of chips, 12 pack of pop and the milk and bread? Would he have done your will then? Or what if he spent whatever was left of the money on candy? Would we be smiling or possibly be upset with the child for… not doing what we said? This is the principle of exclusion.

    Uh …. so chips are appropriate to this discussion and tacos are just silly? I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but you obviously are being very unfair to me — and just as inconsistent as can be. Your standards seem to vary with the needs of our arguments.

    Regarding the merits of your examples, they fail for reasons previously stated. Whether a command excludes any additions depends on the context — including our relationship with the speaker and what the circumstances require. You can't prove your point by example, because you have to demonstrate that in EVERY such case a command prohibits all additions. And it's just not true. Yes, there are circumstances where additions aren't allowed. And there are circumstances where additions are.

    If you read the literature of the conservative Churches, you'll find that most books on this subject have a section dealing with the "addition" vs. "aid" distinction. Aids, such as buildings and hymnals, are allowed. Additions are not.

    The classic "proof" is to find some verse that says the Israelites "worshipped" with instruments, making instruments an "act" of worship and hence an addition — which is an exercise of inventiveness but not hermeneutics. After all, the Bible says nothing of aids, additions, and acts. This is an effort to impose a Platonic (or Lockean) system of thought on a Jewish writing.

    Plato spoke of things have properties that are either essences or accidents.… And the Puritans have interpreted the Regulative Principle in those terms. The Churches have gone in a similar direction, but with different terminology.

    Say what you will, you are trying to impose the Patristics and worldly philosophy on the church rather than the word of God. Luther taught sola scriptura — in order to avoid including the Patristics as a foundation for authority and commands. You teach the opposite. Indeed, implicit in your argumentation is a denial of the sufficiency the scriptures as you so insist in bringing in other sources to make your case.

    Indeed, most people I've discussed this with and who agree with you find the Patristic evidence to be determinative. And in so doing, they've contradicted Luther's great statement, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience would be neither right nor safe. God help me. Here I stand, I can do no other.”

    It's really simple. The text says "sing." If you sing, you've obeyed the text.

    It's not wrong to use an instrument unless in a given setting, instruments violate a broader principle, such as "love your neighbor." And as noted in my previous comment, it's easy to imagine such settings. But most churches aren't in such a setting.

    The alternative is to continue to divide and disfellowship over the countless issues that the Regulative Principle creates. It's the most divisive teaching that the Churches have ever known. Judge it by its fruit.

  72. Jay Guin says:


    Let's consider your proof texts.

    (Acts 15:22-29 ESV) Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, 23with the following letter: "The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. 24Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell."

    The ESV is among the most literal translations we have, and its favored by many conservative writers. To read v. 24 as dealing with authority, you have to presume that evangelists needed authority from the apostles to do so. But the case of Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch and the Samaritans clearly disproves that notion.

    No, the lack of "authority" is really a lack of instructions.

    But the KJV says,

    24Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:

    And to my eyes, that may be true to the Greek. But all they're saying is we never said you had to be circumcised. But they aren't saying, "You can't be circumcised." You want to argue that silence is a prohibition! And it's not according to your own proof text.

    Now, regarding 1 Chr 17:1-7, note what God said,

    Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their leaders whom I commanded to shepherd my people, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”

    If you'll read your Torah, you'll find that God commanded that the Israelites worship in the Tabernacle. Building a temple would be a plain violation, unless authorized by God himself. It's not silence. God spoke. David was disobeying.

    You see, it's like gopher wood and shovels. Use the wrong kind of wood and you are disobeying something actually commanded — not a silence. Bring some shovels (or plates or an extra change of clothes), and you've brought an addition — and it's okay because it fulfills God's purposes in the ark.

    Regarding the Hebrews passage, we've just had a lengthy discussion on that one in an earlier post. Again, God commanded that priests be descendants of Aaron. Jesus was not such a descendant. The fact that God made him a priest shows that God has spoken to change his covenant. God was not silent regarding who could be a priest.

    You are confusing conventional idiomatic speech with legislation. If I tell my son to buy a taco and he brings me a watermelon — and no taco — he's disobeyed a command — but I may well say, "I didn't tell you to bring me a watermelon!" But I wouldn't be arguing from silence.

  73. Jay,

    Thanks again for you kindly response. I apologize if sometimes you perceive me being “unfair” with you in my arguments. That is certainly not my intent. You have always been both fair and kind to me and respectfully disagree. I shall try to do the same.

    No surprise at the end of the day, we’re just simply going to have to respectfully “disagree” with each other. You progressive basically claim we (conservatives) are adding to the gospel by demanding a cappella music, we more moderate conservatives basically are warning and cautioning you and others who support IM in worship there it is without Biblical authority and contrary to the nature of Christian worship and also has and continues to cause great division in congregations and pits brother/sister against brother/sister and even family against family. Therefore, all this could potential be done so without God’s approval and met with His disapproval. (Yes, of course we will let God save, condemn and judge).

    But we will not back down on what we believe God’s will is for us on the music question.

    Now, I admit that maybe I’ve substituted short and easy answers that very well may understate the strength of the a cappella position.

    I do think that both Ferguson and John Mark Hicks basis arguments against IM are probably the strongest. To summarize: The early church’s nonuse of IM is that instruments were a divinely prescribed part of temple worship that was superseded by the “higher worship instituted by Christ.”

    I think probably this needs to be our last area of discussion and debate concerning IM. We’ve just about “exhausted” all the arguments:)! And I would be really interested in your take on what both Ferguson and John Mark Hicks assert about IM being contrary to the spiritual nature of NT worship, and therefore IM faded away like the rest of the external OT system.

    Yet this in spite of the fact that singing continued in Christian worship despite its association with temple worship because again, it differs from playing instruments in spiritually significant ways, i.e., “make music with your heart.” (Eph. 5:19)

    The McClintock and Strong Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. 6, page 759, "The Greeks, as well as the Jews, were wont to use instruments as accompaniments in their sacred songs. The converts to Christianity accordingly must have been familiar with this mode of singing; yet it is generally believed that the primitive Christians failed to adopt the use of instrumental music in their religious worship."

    Lyman Coleman, Presbyterian scholar and author makes the following statements in his book, The Primitive Church, page 370-371, 376-377,

    "Both the Jews in their temple service, and the Greeks in their idol worship, were accustomed to sing with the accompaniment of instrumental music. The converts to Christianity, accordingly, must have been familiar with this mode of singing…but it is generally admitted, that the primitive Christians employed no instrumental music in their religious worship…Such musical accompaniments were gradually introduced; but can hardly be assigned to a period earlier than the fifth and sixth centuries."

    It is sometimes said that the New Testament is silent about the use of musical instruments. This is true if we mean that it gives no evidence of their use in the apostolic church.

    About one thing, however, the New Testament is not silent. It is not silent about the termination of the ceremonial worship of the Old Testament. Our Lord Himself announced that true worship would require no visible geographic center (John 4:21). Soon men would be able to worship God "in spirit and in truth" (4:24). What did He mean? Clearly, He did not mean that Old Testament ceremonial worship had been false.

    No, the contrast here intended is a contrast between two types of true worship, one of which was now passing away and the other of which was now coming into existence. True worship had previously been in the temple and in types: but now it would be in Spirit and in truth. "For the law" (that is, the law expressed in these Old Testament ceremonies and ordinances) was "only a shadow of the good things to come" (Heb. 10:1). And the coming of these very good things themselves of necessity terminated the anticipatory shadows!

    This can be seen in the particular shadowy ordinance of instrumental music, if we compare the form of expression found in the Old Testament and the New. In the Old Testament, Levites are called to worship in the temple with instruments of music (II Chron. 5:11-13, Pss. 81:1-3, 98:4-6, 149:2-3). In the New Testament, believers are called to worship in the Spirit with heart and lips (Heb. 13:15, and cf. 12:22-23, Eph. 5:18-19, Col. 3:16). Much of the argument in the New Testament (e.g. Acts 7, Gal. 3, Heb. 7-10) is in order to show that Old Testament ceremonial worship is abolished. Thus there were many things in tabernacle and temple that were not a part of worship in the apostolic church. There were images (Exod. 25:18-19, 36:8), priests (Exod. 40:13-15), incense (Exod. 30:8), candles (Exod. 25:31), etc. All of these were given, as the New Testament informs us, as "this is an illustration for the present time” (Heb. 9:9). They were "imposed" (by divine commandment) "applying until the time of the new order.” (Heb. 9:10). They were "patterns of things in the heavens" (9:31), which things now belong to us because of the finished work and present intercession of Christ (9:24, 12:18-24).

    Calvin once said, "when the clear light of the gospel has dissipated the shadows of the law, and taught us that God is to be served in simpler form, it would be to act a foolish and mistaken part to imitate that which the prophet enjoined only upon those of his own time.”

    Jay, again, Scripture is clear that musical IM were a divinely prescribed part of the external, ceremonial worship ritus of the Jewish temple and were closely associated with the offering of sacrifices. After the Uzzah debacle, when David finally scriptural and Biblical transported the Ark as God had commanded, he then commanded that Levities be appointed to sing and play instruments as the ark was brought to Jerusalem, and sacrifices were offered by the priests alone the way. ( 1 Chron. 15:16-28) The ark was placed in a tent, and David appointed Levites to minster regularly before the ark by playing sacred songs on their instruments. (1 Chron. 16:4-7, 37-42)

    When Hezekiah restored temple worship after King Ahaz’s idolatry, Scripture says “he stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres, according t the commandment of David and of Gad the king’s seer and of Nathan the prophet, for the commandment was from the Lord through the prophets.” (2 Chron. 29:25) Again, it is clear that musical instruments were divinely prescribed part of Levitical ministry in temple worship.

    2 Chronicles 29:26-28 indicates that the musical accompaniment began with the burnt offering and ended when that sacrifice was finished.

    Ezra 3:10 makes clear that after the exile, more than 400 years after David’s death, the Spirit-inspired instructions David had given regarding worship still were followed. Musical instruments were used to praise the Lord “according to the directions of David, king of Israel.”

    Thus, Ferguson writes in A Cappella Music, p. 31:

    “Instrumental music, therefore, was an important feature of the temple worship, and it was closely associated with its sacrificial system. Here may in fact be a significant reason explaining the absence of instrumental music in early Christian worship. Early Christianity saw the sacrificial system and temple worship as superseded by the sacrifice of Christ and the worship of the church. When the Levitrical priesthood and the sacrificial cultus were abolished, naturally its accompaniments were too.”

    My dear progressive friends….if we are going to claim we are trying to restore the New Testament practice of worship, then we can’t use instruments in worship and make that claim. We cannot claim, “We are going by the Bible.” There is no instrumental music used by the church in worship in the New Testament Scriptures. Period. There is only singing (i.e. a cappella singing—singing without the accompaniment of instrumental music) in the New Testament. The NT admonishes us to sing, sing, sing! (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16, James 5:13) It shows the Apostles singing (Acts 16:25). The Word of God admonishes us to sing elsewhere (1 Cor. 14:15).

    Again, both Scripture and church history (ECF) suggest that IM was a divinely prescribed part of the Jewish sacrifialy system that was rendered obsolete by Christ.

    Jay and other progressives attempt to reason and explain that when the early Christians addressed the issue of why they did not use IM when God had prescribed them for worship in the temple, they did not say, “Our nonuse of them simply is a personal preference inherited from the synagogue.” Rather, they said, among other things, that IM are unsuitable for worship in the NT because they are part of the more “sensual, external worship of the old covenant” which was a mere shadow of type of the higher “spiritual worship of the new covenant.”

    Jay, I'll ask once again my question: I have repeatly pointed out how it is very common for some to assert, that the absence of IM in worship of the apostolic church was not because of any theological objection, but because because it followed the practice of worship in the synagogue.

    But what about the Gentiles???

    Would the apostles refusedto bind on Gentiles deeply held Jewish practices that were rooted in the Old Covenant (circumcision and food laws most notable), so they would not bind on Gentiles what was merely a preference of the synagogue??

    MY QUESTION: If unaccompanied singing was not something bound on the Gentiles, then would it not certainly have been the case that of them would have introduced instrumental music in their worship?

    You might say, "Well it was beacsue of the influence of paganism?"

    That's all about all you can really say I think at the best.

    Again, where is the evidence that the Gentiles “interpreted” this “freedom in worship” as evidence even try to attempt to use IM with the apostle's approval???


    So the question becomes whether there is anything in the NT to dispel that suggestion, whether there is any indication in the NT that God does indeed desire or accept worship from Christians in the form of IM.

    There is not. There is no command to use instruments in worship and no Biblical record of any Christian doing so. In theological context, that “silence is deafening.”

    I agree with John Mark Hicks “A cappella music derives its emotional and spiritual vigor from the heart which sings rather than the from the instrument which generatates emotional response from external sources. This is the contrast between extrinsic and intrinsic generation of worship emotion.”

    Again, there is absutely no indication that in NT that God either desires or accepts worship from Christians in regard to IM. You simply cannot dispel the conclusion from Scripture and church history that IM was a part of temple worship that was superseded by the higher spiritual worship of the NT given by Christ.

    Since it is certain that worshipping God with heartfelt singing is pleasing to Him, and at the very least, IM has a significant potential of being pleasing to Him in that as worship it is according to an inferior shadow), the person devoted to pleasing God will worship Him by singing with IM.

    That’s be united on that my friends!

    God bless you all,
    Robert Prater

  74. Correction in next to last line I posted, should have added the word "without" to read: "devoted to pleasing God will worshp Him by singing without IM."



  75. Royce says:


    You are saying "…the person devoted to pleasing God will worship Him by singing without IM"

    Since you don't fully know the heart of any worshiper, including yours, such broad statements are really silly.

    Instruments nor vocal sounds honor God unless the person making the noise is surrendered to Christ and wants to honor him.

    God wonderfully gifts some people with musical ability. Just in the same way some are gifted in art and in other ways. To suggest that every Christian should not use his or her talents to honor the God who gave them is simply absurd.

    Think about the practicality of this IM issue. One a typical Sunday the saints meet to "worship". During their time together there will be announcements about who is getting what surgery, the soft ball team will play at 2 p.m., Sister Martha's baby shower went well, etc. etc.

    The preacher will tell at least one joke, very likely at least one of the songs will be unscriptural, everyone will listen to two different men pray, an invitation will be given after the "lesson" and then everyone will think next of lunch or some recreation for the afternoon.

    All of this is "approved" but one song accompanied by a guitar is unpleasing to God?

    Sorry, I can't see it.


  76. Mario Lopez says:

    Just like you said it's all about attitude. Our attitude to God and His word. If he asked for the guitar. Hey, I'm taking lessons right now, I'd be right up there! But, I respect and honor His requests. Our attitude to our brethren. I wouldn't want to cause conflict, if I just absolutely insisted that I HAD to be up there with the guitar, it would be the start of trouble.

    Let God choose what is pleasing. That's my plea.

    And what's this about a church softball team? I suppose that would be another topic….

    –Treading a worn out path.
    Mario Lopez..

  77. Mike Ward says:


    Which of God's requests are those who use IM not honoring?

  78. Mario Lopez says:

    I feel like we are stuck on a Möbius strip.

  79. Mike Ward says:


    I'm sure you mean to be humorous, but since the question is whether or not those who use IM are in rebellion against God and spreading division through His kingdom, I think it is a very serious matter.

    If you cannot tell me which of God's requests those who use IM are failing to honor perhaps you should not have made such a serious accusation in the first place.

  80. Mario Lopez says:

    Does not God request us not to cause division?

  81. Mario Lopez says:

    The reason for comment on being stuck on a Mobius strip, is this same discussion just seems to keep looping around in each "Response" discussions.

    There have been plenty of response already on this website alone, from various commentators, that I'm not sure if I can say anything new.

  82. Mike Ward says:


    Yes he does.

    Is that the request you are accusing those who use IM of not honoring?

  83. Mario Lopez says:


    I forget which viewpoint are you defending?

    The Right to use IM?
    The Command to use IM?
    IM as an Option?
    IM only in assembly?
    IM only outside of assembly?

  84. Mike Ward says:


    Why can't you tell me what request of God's you are accusing those who use IM of not honoring?

    You've brought up God's command that we not cause division. If that's the one you are accusing them on not honoring just say so. If it is another one just say what it is.

    Now you are trying to change the subject.

    People who use IM may be reading this, and they have a right to know what request of God's you are accusing them of not honoring.

    If you cannot answer the question then take back the accusation.

  85. Mario Lopez says:

    I am trying to change the subject.

    I could easily point to some book, article, or blog, etc… I just don't feel the need to. I am sure you know how the discussion will go. If I say the request is to Sing, then it's either that doesn't preclude additions or that Sing could mean w/ or w/o Instruments. An appeal to the ECF would be followed by well they aren't scripture, an appeal to the ancient greek will degenerate into pinning down definitions, and the definitions will never satisfy everyone. Then there is the argument concerning Silence in scripture. That won't be enough because it's not developed in the NT enough, so an appeal to OT examples will be met with the End of the Law. Or the OT will be appealed to for the use of IM and then that will be met with End of the Law. And So On… It's all interesting and all, but it's all been done and what we've been reading in these response for, at least for me, weeks.

    Is it any easier to say that they are causing division? I'm sure then someone will chime in and say that it's the other guys that are doing that! And the Binding which in Not Bound…

    So yes I am trying to change the subject.

    I am not sure how this will come across, I mean it to come across as a bit exasperated, but not angry.

    Mario Lopez

  86. Mario Lopez says:


    and it's been what we’ve been reading in these responses to this blog for, at least for me, weeks.

  87. Mike Ward says:


    You are the one who made the accusation. What request of God's were you accusing those who use IM of not honoring? You make a list of things you could say as if you don't even know what you were accusing them of but could think up something if you wanted to. I don't want you to think up an answer, I want to know what the accusation meant when you made it. You made the accusation, and now you need to explain yourself or take it back. The fact you are unwilling to defend the accusation should not matter. And least say what request of God's those who use IM are not honoring. Then, if you don't want to defend it, don't. But at least tell me and those who use IM what request of God's they are not honoring.

    I don't think you sound angry, why should you be angry. I've done nothing to you. The people who should be angry are the millions of people you accused of failing to honor a request of God's while steadfasting refusing to tell them which request it is.

  88. Mario Lopez says:

    Just Singing.

  89. Mario Lopez says:

    If only we had the attention of millions…

  90. Mike Ward says:

    Thank you Mario, I think you know what my follow-up question is, but I know you're exasperated so I won't ask it. But please think about it. And if you do want to continue this train of thought just let me know.

  91. Mike Ward says:

    ditto to your 4:01pm comment

  92. Mike Ward says:


    In reply to your 3:10pm question I suppose I would say IM is an option though that might not be the way I would usually phrase it. I might rather say IM does not matter. Saying IM is an option might lead som to beleive that I beleive we have a choice between IM and singing. That's not my opinon. We must sing.

  93. Mario Lopez says:

    So let us sing!

  94. Jay Guin says:

    Robert wrote,

    You progressive basically claim we (conservatives) are adding to the gospel by demanding a cappella music, we more moderate conservatives basically are warning and cautioning you and others who support IM in worship there it is without Biblical authority and contrary to the nature of Christian worship and also has and continues to cause great division in congregations and pits brother/sister against brother/sister and even family against family.

    Not so. I've never known a progressive congregation to adopt instrumental music without leaving an a cappella service in place. If division occurs, it's because the conservatives believe a false gospel which teaches that they cannot be in fellowship with their instrumental brothers. Yes, division occurs — but it's the fault of those who leave in violation of God's commands to be united. It's much more the fault of those who teach this false gospel.

    One of the central lessons of the Reformation is sola scriptura — that we rely solely on the scriptures. I've had occasion to study the arguments of the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches, and they argue just like you. They argue that something in the scriptures is a bit ambiguous, they find the ambiguity resolved by the Patristics, and they teach their conclusions as doctrine. It was wrong 500 years ago, and it's wrong today.

    When Thomas Campbell cautioned us to be silent where the Bible is silent, he meant that we should not take our inferences and theories and make them salvation and fellowship issues. He was quite explicit. Alexander Campbell taught that its wrong to take even his own theories on worship as boundary markers for who is saved and who is not.

    Therefore, your arguments violate the principles of both the Reformation and the Restoration Movement. I'm not willing to go where you want to go.

    Regarding the Gentiles' non-use of instruments, there a lots of possibilities, some quite plainly stated in the Patristics —

    1. They may have yielded to the scruples of their Jewish brethren.
    2. They may have seen instruments as too associated with pagan worship practices and the military.
    3. They may have been influenced by Platonic thought to conclude that instruments being material are necessarily too fleshly for God's approval.
    4. They and the Jews may have been influenced by Philo of Alexandria, a Jew who worked to merge Platonic and Jewish thought and was highly influential among the Patristics. Philo opposed instruments — long before Jesus was born — because of Platonic thought.

    But there's no reason to think the apostles gave a command against instruments that they meant to be obeyed for all time — because those commands are found only in the scriptures.

    I didn't come to a firm conclusion on this subject until I discovered that many of our traditional arguments against the instrument would force me to surrender some of my cherished principles — unity of believers in Jesus, sola scripture, silent where the Bible is silent, and the sufficiency of the scriptures.

    I'm waiting for the conservative who shows up to argue his case solely from the Bible. I've not met one yet — and that tells me all I need to know.

  95. Royce Ogle says:

    I can't resist saying AMEN to Jay's reply to Robert.

    Jay, you have said it well, you have stated the truth clearly. Good job.

    BTW, I think a topic worth discussing at some point is this one. Is the word "conservative" really the right word to describe what is really not a "conservative" view at all. I consider myself, and you Jay, to be conservative.

    It is "conservative to hold to the principal of "sola scripture". It is not conservative to make things up and then give them the same level of authority as Scripture.


  96. Jay Guin says:

    So, Royce, what's a term we could use that the conservatives would be willing to accept?

  97. Mike Ward says:

    I like "traditional" myself because we always used "conservative" as a synomym for NI in the NI-CoC. To me "traditional" covers the NI churches and the right side of the mainline CoC collectively.

    But if you want a term that traditionalist will be completely happy with "conservative" is probably your best bet. Unless you are willing to use the term "sound".

  98. Royce Ogle says:

    I believe the best term, and one they should embrace is "traditionalist". Would they accept it? No, not likely.

    While I don't run from the term "progressive", (it's better than Satanist, blind guide, change agent, etc.) I simply don't think it fits.

    It is not progressive to hold the views you enumerated in the comment earlier. What is progressive about believing the Bible and allowing it to be the final authority for both faith and daily living, teaching that salvation is by faith in Jesus, and that those who truely are following Jesus will be know by loving others and holy living? If that is progressive we for sure need that progress.


  99. Jay Guin says:


    I'm really very good with "change agent." In my world — the business world — change agents are highly thought of. And it's true. I fully intend to be an agent of change.

  100. Not so. I’ve never known a progressive congregation to adopt instrumental music without leaving an a cappella service in place. If division occurs, it’s because the conservatives believe a false gospel which teaches that they cannot be in fellowship with their instrumental brothers. Yes, division occurs — but it’s the fault of those who leave in violation of God’s commands to be united. It’s much more the fault of those who teach this false gospel.

    Don't you see, Jay, that by offering two different services you already split a church? I agree with Robert that those who want to change the worship (or anything else) against the opposition of others in the church are in fact splitting the church even if they all meet in the same building but at different times:

    (Rom 15:5-6) Now the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be of the same mind one with another according to Christ Jesus: that with one accord ye may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    If you provide instrumental worship (e.g.) in the morning and a-cappella in the evening, does the church then worship with one voice? No, it doesn't. You divided the church according to the people's preferences.

    You make worship appear like a Buffet, where one can go in, and the "spiritual vegetarians" go for a-cappella while the "meat-loves" for electric guitars and drums. You make worship something that we bring to ourselves, to meet our preferences. Worshipping a-cappella is normally not argued for on the basis of "I like it so much better", but because it seems to be the pattern we ought to follow. IM cannot be based on patterns of scripture and almost always follows personal preferences ("it would turn away our youth or unchurched people if we don't play their music").

    And so these questions who started the splits in church are actually quite easy to answer: If a-cappella was at the beginning of our movement, then those introducing instruments caused the split. That is the course of all the discussions the arguments for a-cappella sometimes grew a little weird, is nothing but a natural counterreaction. Now, of course, it is easy to point to our sometimes distorted view of the regulative principle and say: "See, how silly that is?" Which, again, doesn't really help.

    Those who introduced change against the convictions of a large part of the church split the church. There would be no conservative wing in the church, no CFTF-radical, if they had not been "begotten" by the progressive people. There still would be one church.

    Please note, I took a very simple approach (it might be a little more complex, but this way a child could understand it): I said, a-cappella was in the beginning, IM came later. IM brought change, animosity, schism and ugly words. I look at the fruit and feel sick.


  101. Mike Ward says:


    I cannot take you seriously if you are going to the blame the progressives for the CFTF crowd. They are as likely to attack other conservatives as they are to attack progressives.

    How is their attitude the fault of those they attack? And how is it only the fault of the progressives they attack and not the fault of the conservatives they attack?

  102. I cannot take you seriously if you are going to the blame the progressives for the CFTF crowd.

    I believe they are an overreaction to acounterraction to a reaction … All are to blame equally, if we go backto the beginnings; but there are always some who started the whole thing. As for IM there is a clear beginning.

  103. Rob Woodfin says:

    If offering IM and non-IM services divides the church, wouldn't the same argument apply for having Sunday School? Oops, that's right. We've already been down that road … too!

    Regarding names, I really like the idea our brothers on the other end of the RM spectrum use. For those of you who aren't familiar, they call themselves "The Christian Church: Disciples of Christ." They call us "The Christian Church: Church of Christ." We don't buy into their scheme, of course. Perhaps one of the reasons we don't, beyond the fact that they are apostates, is that they go on to apply their ID system across the board; "The Christian Church: Methodist," and so on.

    Not only does this umbrella method move in the direction of unity, it does it without forcing total agreement on every opinion. The most rigid (conservative) person on this blog would surely not embarrass himself or herself by attempting to claim that everyone in his/her congregation thinks the same way on every issue or every scripture. (I will admit, however, that there are congregations where discussion is kept at bay by domineering teachers/leaders, giving the impression of total agreement.)

    Perhaps we might make it easier on ourselves in having these discussions and forging ahead in our attempt to escape the bonds of disunity, if progressives (change agents, etc) simply referred to ourselves as disciples of Christ who happen to attend a Church of Christ. I think even our dear brother Fred Craddock (probably the most well-known member of the Disciples of Christ) would smile at that idea.

    You've all heard the cheap shots taken at those congregations who have abbreviated their names in communities where the name "Church of Christ" had become synonymous with "Pharisees." The most popular insult is, "Well, at least they're honest enough to take the name of Christ off their sign since they don't follow Him anymore anyway." The disciples methodology avoids such attacks.

    Can't you hear it now? "You better watch out for him, he's a disciple!"

  104. Jay,

    We simply will not agree on this matter. And that’s probably the most we’ve ever agreed on:)! We're just probably going to have to end it here! We've been debating and discussing this pretty good for the past month or so!

    But I still I find your “explanations” as to why the Gentiles did not use IM weak to say the least.

    Basically, your view is that the reason why the Gentiles might have chosen to not worship with IM is for every other reason EXCEPT that it might have been because of apostolic instruction and example.

    You said: “But there’s no reason to think the apostles gave a command against instruments that they meant to be obeyed for all time — because those commands are found only in the scriptures.”

    You allow the possible for almost every conceivable far out of left field explanation except that “they continued in the apostle’s doctrine…” (Acts 2:42)

    Simply amazing!

    Neither did you really even attempt to explain the reasoning why the Jews would abandon their use and practice of IM in their worship assemblies when they had such a rich heritage of using them in the OT.

    Would you refute the view advocated by Ferguson and Hicks that the early church’s nonuse of IM is that instruments were a divinely prescribed part of temple worship that was superseded by the “higher worship instituted by Christ?”

    Surely isn’t that enough authority for us to follow in just singing as the early church were instructed and practiced??


    You said: “I’m waiting for the conservative who shows up to argue his case solely from the Bible. I’ve not met one yet — and that tells me all I need to know.”

    That sounds real nice and great. But you know I’d like to turn that around on you:

    I say: “I’m waiting for the progressive who shows up to argue his case solely from the Bible. I’ve not met one yet—and that tells me all I need to know.”


    “And after signing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives." (Matthew 26:30)

    "But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them." (Acts 16:25)

    "and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, 'Therefore I will give praise to Thee among the Gentiles, and I will sing to Thy name.'" (Romans 15:9)

    "What is the outcome then? I shall pray with the spirit and I shall pray with the mind also; I shall sing with the spirit and I shall sing with the mind also." (1 Corinthians 14:15)

    "Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:19)

    "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Colossians 3:16)

    "…I will proclaim Thy name to My brethren, In the midst of the congregation I will sing Thy praise." (Hebrews 2:12)

    "Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name." (Hebrews 13:15)

    "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises." (James 5:13)

    Jay and my progressive friends….we “conservatives” are waiting anxiously for your scriptures in support of IM in worship!

    Can people plead endlessly they lack certainty (all the while acting without evidence from the New Testament). An opinion is a guess in the absence of evidence.

    You want us to trust your presumptuous guess over the clear testimony of the New Testament hundreds of years of early church history.

    It’s very interesting that to me, really, after all these years of education, reading, studying, and debate….we’re still back to the view and difference between Calvin and Zwingli. Zwingli took the position that we can only do what the Bible teaches and we are not to go beyond what is written. They expressed their position by teaching, "Only that which the Bible commands or for what distinct authorization can be found in its pages is binding or allowable." In other words, they taught that we can do only that which the Bible authorizes us to do.

    Luther had another view towards Bible authority. He believed that whatever is not forbidden in the Bible is permissible. His position could be summed up by, "If the Bible doesn't say you can't, then you can. There is nothing wrong with a practice as long as the Bible does not say you can't."

    The reason Luther took this position was that he also believed in infant baptism. The Bible does not say you can't baptize infants, but the Bible does not authorize it either.

    Nearly every denomination today follows Luther's view towards authority. If you talk about instrumental music to most people today, the first response you will most likely get is, "The Bible doesn't say you can't!"

    When the fact of the matter is that the absence of a prohibition in the New Testament against IM is to be expected, when you think about it. There is no prohibition, because it was not happening!! The early church just sang as indeed they were instructed!

    Jay, you said: “Therefore, your arguments violate the principles of both the Reformation and the Restoration Movement. I’m not willing to go where you want to go.”

    Jay your position is both on the wrong side of scripture and the reformation and restoration movement, regardless of how you want to “spin” things!

    You’re not willing to go where both the reformation and restoration went on this issue.


    Men such as John Calvin and of Protestant reformers understood and rightly warned against the tendency of man to frame his worship according to his own preferences.

    One of John Calvin’s great caution and concern on matters of worship reflected his belief that Christians too often want to please themselves in worship rather than please God.

    He related this warning particularly to the human tendency to want worship which is pleasing to the senses when he wrote:

    “And undoubtedly this is the origin of all superstitions, that men are delighted with their own inventions, and choose to be wise in their own eyes rather than restrain their senses in obedience to God.”

    In the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) we read:

    “We may not adopt any device [in our worship] which seems fit to ourselves, but look to the injunctions of him who alone is entitled to prescribe. Therefore, if we would have him approve our worship, this rule, which he everywhere enforces with the utmost strictness, must be carefully observed…God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned in his word.”

    John Knox's battle to reform Scotland and his call for purity of worship is most instructive here. Knox states,

    “The matter is not of so small importance, as some suppose. The question is, whether God or man ought to be obeyed in matters of religion? In mouth, all do confess that only God is worthy of sovereignty. But after many–by the instigation of the devil, and by the presumptuous arrogance of carnal wisdom and worldly policy–have defaced God's holy ordinance, men fear not to follow what laws and common consent (mother of all mischief) have established and commanded. But thus continually I can do nothing but hold, and affirm all things polluted, yea, execrable and accursed, which God by his Word has not sanctified in his religion.”


    And you and other progressives surely know that you stand on the wrong side of the view of those in the Restoration Movement on IM.

    Again, you and other progressives despise CENI. But Thomas Campbell mentioned two of them in "The Declaration and Address" (1809) when he said,

    "Nothing ought to be inculcated upon Christians as articles of faith; nor required of them as terms of communion, but what is expressly taught and enjoined upon them in the word of God. Nor ought anything to be admitted, as of Divine obligation, in their church constitution and managements, but what is expressly enjoined by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles upon the New Testament church; either in express terms or by approved precedent."

    Alexander Campbell said:

    “Instrumental music in worship was well adapted to churches founded on the Jewish pattern of things and practicing infant sprinkling. That all persons singing who have no spiritual discernment, taste or relish for spiritual meditation, consolations and sympathies of renewed hearts should call for such an aid is but natural. So to those who have no real devotion and spirituality in them, and whose animal nature flags under the opposition or the oppression of church service I think that instrumental music would… be an essential prerequisite to fire up their souls to even animal devotion. But I presume that to all spiritually-minded Christians, such aid would be as a cow bell in a concert." Alexander Campbell recorded in Robert Richardson's biography, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Vol. 2.


    How can anyone with some decent common sense not realize that because they are worshipping at a church that progressive “change agents” want to make in churches of Christ – that takes an “either/or position” on instrumental music, i.e., not a matter of faith.

    But this position in practical matters is really deceiving because you really can’t have it both ways on this issue and keep unity because eventually some day, somebody is going to want to "begin to introduce it”, and that congregation (elders) decides to begin using instrumental (since after all, as progressives like to say, “its an either/or issue), the only option that those who oppose it sincerely and in good conscience and faith against instrumental music, is TO LEAVE AND GO FIND A CHURCH THAT HAS A CAPELLA.

    That my friend is a divisive hermeneutic and will only lead to further division within the body of Christ!

    I also completely agree with what Alexander said: “does the church then worship with one voice? No, it doesn’t. You divided the church according to the people’s preferences.”

    Yes that's exactly right my brothers!

    What kind of unity would it be if people who claimed to be united could not even worship together?? Think about it people!

    As long as we practice what the Bible says, there is no disagreement that we are doing what is right.

    Everyone can see that the Bible teaches Christians to be "speaking to one another" and to be "making melody in your hearts." Christians are to be "teaching and admonishing one another" and to be "singing with grace in your hearts." None of these points are debated by anyone.

    The disagreement comes when people try to add instrumental music to God's commands. This is where we can see that the real issue is not instrumental music, but our view towards the authority of the Word of God. Do we want to follow exactly what the Lord commands, or are we free to add our own ideas to what He has revealed?

    May God help us to only be united on His Word!

    Robert Prater

  105. Actually, that's what I do, too, when asked what I think of such and such a church. I'd say it is a Christian Curch in ( Mennonite tradition. I think that's fair, because we are also shaped by our traditions: A Christian Church in the tradition of the Restoration movement.

    This does justice to both sides:

    First, if we say, giving yourself a name destroys unity and gives reis to denominationalism; then naming (or labeling) others does the same. So, just because a church calls itself a Baptist church does not give me the right to do likewise.

    Second: Admitting that there are traditions is facing reality without making a name out of it. We have tradiotions, too. And one of our most original convictions is that traditions of men shall be put away for the sake of restoring the Ancient Order of Things".

    So far I have not seen yet one church that is completely restored; but we try and we seek to accomplish it step by step. We also have to realize and to appreciate the zeal in other groups who are not part of the "official" RM, but do actually try the same. We are called to learn from each other.

    The problem with being conservative and being progressive is similar. Conservatives want to preserve a certain status quo, based on the assumption: "We are a fully restored NT-church" – thus they step off the road to restoration and become a denominatuion with a set of (mostly unwritten) manmade traditions. The progressives (as I understand) get some things straightened out again, restore some of the orininal visions of the movement (such as unity), but adopt methods and styles that I don't see justifyable by NT-standards (such as female preachers; or – on a much lower level – IM). So they also step off the road of restoration. Both fail and both disappoint.

    The only solution I see is becoming a radical (from the Latin radix = root). That's why I speak a lot of separation from this world and am in fact (maybe no one noticed so far) equally critical about the conservatives.


    P.S.: I actually even distrust our sola-scriptura approach, because even when two conservative preachers study the Bible together they will come up with three explanations. I tend to back up my understanding with the earliest commentaries available – they are not infallible, but a lot closer to the original Apostolic church (some of them being written even by dsiples of Paul and John). If I can't trace back a doctrine or practice to the first and second generation after the NT-era, I will not accept it as an original understanding of the faith.

  106. bigfry2003 says:

    You're right, Robert. The Gentiles didn't worship with IM because the apostles told them God hated IM. They just neglected to ever write it down or have it recorded in any way that God hates IM so that anybody except them might possibly know of such an important doctrine from God. Why include something so important in Scripture? It's their little secret.

  107. Mike Ward says:

    The conservative position boils down to:

    1) Seperate from those who disagree with them
    2) Blame the seperation on those they have seperated from
    3) Demand those they seperated from repent of causing division

    However, this only works if the conservative can show that God demands that he seperate. This can only be done by showing it from the bible.

    The entire argument therefore stands and falls on the conservative's ability to prove his point from the scriptures. If he cannot, he is the one being divisive when he seperates from his brother over a private interpretation.

    We have been deceived into believing that seperating is the "safe" position. There is nothing safe about seperating ourselves from others of God's people over matters God himself is silent on.

  108. Mario Lopez says:

    Can someone define CTCF, I saw the abbreviation not sure what it meant.

    Maybe I don't remember very well, but wasn't one of the ECF's arguments along the lines of, that through Christ we have a better covenant, that the OT physical things were shadows of NT spiritual things, therefore OT IM is now NT Spiritual singing? OT temple = NT christian "body" ? OT IM = NT voice.

    Is that a valid biblical argument? Or am I off base with any of this?

    Mario Lopez

  109. Mike Ward says:


    Where did you see CTCF? I might know if I see it in context.

    If you meant CFTF which was used earlier in this thread it refers to "Contending for the Faith". An ultra-conservatve mainline CoC periodical with an assoicated annual lectureship.

  110. Mario Lopez says:

    Yeah it was CFTF. Thanks for catching that!

    And never heard of them.

    Thanks again Mike!

  111. Mario Lopez says:

    I'm assuming not to be confused with

  112. Mike Ward says:


    It's these guys:

    Watch the open forums if you want to see divisiveness run amok.

    Jay has approached them about a discussion.

  113. K. Rex Butts says:

    Why must one leave a church because one of their two or three services has IM? Oh I know they will proof-text the Bible to justify their leaving but the truth is, they are just as guilty of fostering division.

    Perhaps some people in our movement need to learn about T.B. Lairmore who personally was opposed to the use of IM but never felt compelled by emotion or biblical study to divide from those who used IM.

    May his tribe increase!

    Grace and peace,


  114. Brian Bergman says:

    Robert said:

    "I also completely agree with what Alexander said: “does the church then worship with one voice? No, it doesn’t. You divided the church according to the people’s preferences.”

    Yes that’s exactly right my brothers!

    What kind of unity would it be if people who claimed to be united could not even worship together?? Think about it people!"

    Brian responds:

    Wow Robert! Thanks to you, I now realize that my home congregation is horribly divided.

    You see, I'm in Miami where there is a large Latino population. My congregation has an English speaking assembly and a Spanish speaking assembly. And here for the past 8 years, I've thought of us as one congregation since we have a single eldership and a single budget. In fact, this coming Sunday, we are having a bilingual assembly followed by a luncheon to honor all of our bible class teachers, both Spanish and English.

    I am grateful for you straightening me out. Until I read your definition that a church that can't worship together must not be united, I was living a delusion. I am distraught to know that in your mind, I'm not united with my good brother Alberto who organized a food drive to stock the pantry that is used by both Spanish and English for benevolence just because he sits in an assembly an hour later singing songs in Spanish rather than in English. I am saddened to find out that our time of fellowship between the English assembly and Spanish assembly in which we share coffee, donuts, laughter and friendship is not a sign of our unity because we don't all sit in our auditorium at the same time of day.

    My whole life, I thought it was the blood of Christ that unites us and now I find out from you that it is worship in the same room performing the same rituals that defines our unity.

    On the other hand, maybe I've been right all along. Maybe I am united with my Spanish speaking brothers and sisters even though I don't sit next to them in a pew every Sunday morning.

    Maybe it is you who needs to "think about it."

  115. Mario Lopez says:


    Why would a church make such a change if any member would feel so strongly about it? That just don't seem to be very Christ like.

    The group I assemble with, we wouldn't even make a minor change, pertaining to 5 minutes, if we were not all in agreement.

    Love and Patience,

    Mario Lopez

  116. Why must one leave a church because one of their two or three services has IM?

    I repeat what I said above: Offering two or three different kinds of worship in order to meet different preferences is no longer worshipping God but worshipping our preferences. And I am quite serious about that, because we are called to unity in worship (Rom 15:6).

    I also repeat that a-cappella worship stood at the beginning of the NT-church, confirmed by the Early church – no one really familiar with the matter really contradicts this. So IM is in fact contrary to the practice in the Early church, and in as much we are to follow their example, singing a-cappella is one part of the big picture.

    The reasons the ECF gave for a-cappella are sound and Biblical, and follow the great line of understanding the differences between types an shadows on one side (OT worship) and the antitype or body of them on the other side (NT worship). One who does not understand the differences between type and antitype won't understand the debate. But this is Biblical thinking (see e.g. the letter of Hebrews).

    OK. If a brother or sister sees all of this very clearly, he must understand the actions of the progressives as very offensive and schismatic. And to a certain degree I would agree. Because all these changes toward IM are not in order to bring about a more Biblical worship, but in order to meet carnal preferences. I see no command in the NT that we must use instruments. So there is absolutely no justification to change an a-cappella church at the cost of schism, bitterness and alienation.

    I also said, some of the weirder groups and statements among the conservatives are a result of a counterreaction. And I mean that, too. I don't agree with all arguments, the conservatives throw into the battle, or their use of the regulative principle. But this distorted reasoning is the fruit of decades of ongoing heated debates – we have to put all of this into perspective. Of course it is easy for Jay to point to such (sometinmes really silly) arguments, saying: "See how unbiblical all of this is!" You don't need to study theology to do that.

    To keep it stupid and simple:
    First there was a-cappella
    Then there came a group who wanted to change that
    The result is schism and alienation

    It is as simple a that. Now, does that justify to leave? One could see it from a different angle: Those who changed already left the church, before the church left the building. Sound a bit tough, and I'm using extreme words on purpose. Consider: Unity does not mean to worship in the same building, but at different times according to one's preferences. Unity is praising with one mouth (Rom 15:6) Those who installed their own IM worship already split the church although they are still using the same building as the others.

    I really can feel with brothers and sisters who say: "Well, that's it, we have to look for a church that still strives for unity." Maybe I would not do that, but I am not in this situation.

    See, Rex, I think, it might not be wrong after all. But either way (staying ior leaving) is a heart-breaking decision; and I am really puzzled how those that want to change for IM can justify this dilemma they (!) cause in the churches of Christ.

    Again: There is no Biblical need for the use of IM, but there is strong historic evidence that the Early Church sang a-cappella, and that's the example we should follow. When we start changing that, according to which pattern do we change it? According to which command? According to the OT-temple-worship? According to the 21st century mainline denominations? Who or what is the example or the authority to do that and to risk splitting the church?


  117. Mike Ward says:


    What if everyone is not in agreement that everything should stay the same? Will your church make a change because one person demands it or is a single obstinate person only catered too if he demands the status quo?

  118. K. Rex Butts says:

    I believe Brian (at 2:26) has a valid point. Let's be careful how we define a united church!

    Grace and peace,


  119. Anonymous says:

    No person can honestly proclaim they know anyone who worshiped at every single home church with every single group of Christians on the face of the earth during the first century.

    If there had been no IM being used in the first century churches why did the Roman Catholic Church and Cambellite movement argue that there shouldn’t be IM? The Bible never says the churches sang “only” without instrumental music, there is no Biblical support to make any such statement.

  120. K. Rex Butts says:


    I can't speak for any specific situation but I do believe that churches should strive to have as many members on board with their decisions. However, some times, for the sake of continueing the mission, a church must move foward with a decision and be willing to let some people leave…for there are always some Christians who will hold a church in paralysis from ever missionally moving on because such decisions don't suit there preferences. Remember, it was Jesus who told Peter, when Peter objected to Jesus' announcement of his impending date with crucifixion, to get behind him…in other words, Jesus told Peter to either get on board or get off the train because the mission of God would not be sacrificed to suit Peter's sensibilities.

    Grace and peace,


  121. Mike Ward says:

    Brian, Rex,

    I agree, but let's not assume a church which has two services with different styles of worship is divided.

    A lot of Christian Churches have a traditional worship and a contempory worship. It does not mean that everyone who goes to one serivce is opposed to and will never attend the other. It just means they prefer one over the other.

    A church where the acapella worshipers think the instrumental worshippers who meet in the same building are going the hell is NOT united even if they are under one eldership, but simply having two services does not imply division.

    Not you said that it did. Just wanted to make the comment.

  122. Rob Woodfin says:


    Not knowing the size of your congregation, it's hard to assess the magnitude of your last assertion. But, for the sake of discussion, let's assume it's twenty people.

    Are you saying that none of the twenty ever wish they could have a Sunday School class use a different book (i.e. – Apologetics Press vs Gospel Advocate)? That none of them would even possibly prefer adjusting service times (say earlier on Sunday morning or maybe earlier on Wed pm)? Every single one was/is happy with the last hymnal that was selected? Only one Bible version is used in every class and service?

    Are you sure you didn't speak too quickly. Because if you have 20 (or 120 or 220) people who all (seem to) agree about everything, then you either have a congregation who is too afraid to talk to their elders about anything … or a congregation where nothing ever gets done. I don't mean to insult you with either alternative, and frankly I hope neither is the case.

  123. Brian Bergman says:

    Mike (above at 2:53),

    Thanks for the comment. Go back and look at Robert Prater's post (April 7, 10:15) A.M. He makes the exact assumption that you say we shouldn't make.

    Here is his comment: "What kind of unity would it be if people who claimed to be united could not even worship together??"

    According to him, a church with multiple worship assemblies is not united.

    Maybe I was a bit too sarcastic in my response so that my meaning got lost, but I was trying to say the same thing you said. Just from my experience with my own congregation, Mr. Prater's statement was pretty absurd and I was trying to point that out in my own post.

    There are congregations all over that have multiple assemblies for myriad reasons. According to Mr. Prater, those congregations cannot claim to be united on the basis of their multiple assemblies.

    For the record, I completely disagree with his assertion.

  124. Mario Lopez says:


    Had to read that a few times. We work based on mutual agreement. So if there is a change suggested, and no objections are raised then we go for it.


    And yes some people will leave. Seen that too, but it wasn't because there wasn't any attempt to work through the difficulty. It wasn't based off of just one decision mind you. They decided that they wanted to leave. I begged them not to go. But, we all have free will. They worship with another congregation, not much different a bit closer to home.

    What I was trying to point at is, attitude. How those things are approached, sometimes a 'ultra-conservative' or a 'raving liberal' is produced when a person is steamrolled by others in a congregation trying to get their way. The bad attitude employed helped push them further from truth.

  125. Mario Lopez says:


    Or just perhaps we can agree that some things are more trivial then others.

    We all I'm sure have our preferences, who doesn't? But, the point is to be able to work together. So sometimes we sacrifice our personal preferences. No need tearing a congregation apart, because we can't agree on the color of the carpet.

    To answer some those questions though.
    Honestly not sure where we get class material, probably from different vendors. Depends on the teacher, I suppose.

    We have changed service times quite a bit. We have settled into something that works for everyone.

    We have two different song books, so I guess we haven't settled yet. 🙂

    And a myriad number of different bibles, though most that are up in the auditorium are NASB.

    What you may not know about this congregation, is that it has been a successful merger of two different groups that existed in the same city. We've had some practice when it comes to deciding some of these kinds of issues.

  126. Mike Ward says:


    What do you do if ONE person demands a change? (Perhaps he has a change of conviction and now believes multiple communion cups are a sin.) Do you make the change even though he is only one who wants it?

    I ask because it sound like you maintain the status quo to meet the damands of a single member, but it not so clear to me that you will institute a change to meet the demands of a single member so I am curious.

  127. Mario Lopez says:


    Hasn't happened yet, Mike.

    Personally, I'd do it.

    There would probably be much discussion.

    I have confidence that we'd be able to work it out 🙂

  128. Mike Ward says:


    I said once you were not an ultra-conservative as you described yourself but more likely not even a conservative but a moderate, and I'm more convinced of that.

    Most conservatives would not be satisfied worshipping with people who thought IM was okay but gave it up for the sake of unity.

    See this thread.

    In fact, I worship at an acapella church but we are criticized by other CoC in the area not because we have IM during worship but because we fellowship church which do!

    For many it isn't enough to accept their practice for unity's sake. You have to agree with them that they are right and you were wrong.

  129. Mario Lopez says:


    I was referring to the hypothetical situation, not having happened.

    I know that there have been changes made, because individuals have suggested it.

  130. Mike Ward says:


    Regarding your 3:28 comment. You have a great attitude. I hope you are right about your church. I once thought the church I was at, at the time would always be able to work out it's differences at least enough to stick together, but it doesn't always work out like that.

  131. Mike Ward says:


    Regarding your 3:31 comment. I understood you were being hypothetical. In fact, I wrote my 3:31 comment before I saw your 3:28 comment. I was just speaking in general. You make the point that those who want IM can give it up for the sake of unity. That's true if the moderates and conservatives will allow it. But if the conservatives demand the the progressives not only give up IM but say that it is wrong (when they don't believe that it is) then there cannot be unity. Progressives cannot lie about what they beleive for the sake of unity even though they can agree to give up a practice.

  132. Mario Lopez says:


    That's why I said sometime back, that we will all stand before the Judgment seat. And not just our actions, but our attitudes will be weighed, and for some that's not a good situation to be in.

    I still say I'd probably end up in the conservative part of the spectrum. 😛

  133. Rob Woodfin says:


    I am happy to hear that you do have differences of opinion. And so do we all. The crux of the matter is, however, that there are contenders who say there can be no differences of opinion when it comes to matters of salvation. Now that rules out "color of the carpet" issues. But the real divide comes when one begins to categorize those "matters." We all agree the divinity of Jesus needs to be in there. We don't agree we should be throwing brethren away over practices … such as "authorized" versions of the Bible … or instrumental music."

    The issue is NOT, must every congregation accept instrumental music in order to facilitate unity. The question is, does one congregation have the authority to declare another apostate over this issue?

    There are a couple of very conservative brothers right now who have been "disfellowshipped" by the Contending for the Faith crowd because of some obscure opinion about selection of elders.

    It can and has become extremely absurd. It is, I believe, a spiritual cancer.

  134. K. Rex Butts says:

    I just want to clarify that I DO NOT believe a church is divided because they have different worship services in different languages, styles, or even one with instruments and another without.

    Grace and peace,


  135. Randall says:

    135 comments and still counting. And what has been accomplished? In what way has God been glorified? How does this increase our following Jesus, our understanding and love for the Father? Is this evidence of the Spirit at work in our lives?

    How long will we debate/discuss this issue? I suppose 135 comments to a single post is little compared with the last 150 years of discussing whether we could or could not allow IM.

    Is it any wonder that some associated with the CofC might be embarrassed by this?


  136. Bruce Morton says:

    Dear All:
    Separate from the note chain regarding my essay, I am interested in gathering input from folks regarding an ongoing question for me.

    Given what we know from apostolic teaching regarding the importance of Christian song, I am interested to know what reasons surface in folks minds FOR instrumental music. What have you heard that urges IM?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  137. Royce says:

    Singing is mentioned less than 10 times in the New Testament, two of those in Revelation and once is clearly only a matter of the heart and not vocal.

    I fail to see why it is such a huge issue. My objection has never been that some choose a cappella only due to conviction. My objection is binding that conviction on others and making it a condition of continued salvation. That is a SIN!

    With respect, I think you have failed to make the case that Christians who sing with instrumental accompaniment are violating any scriptural prohibition. Or, that they are more likely to be "sensuous" or be entangled with paganism.

    You have obviously spent a lot of time and hard work on this issue. I appreciate your scholarship, I just disagree with your conclusions.

    It is my sense that most people who come to this subject have their minds made up 'before" they begin the study or discussion. Then their study is an attempt to support what they already believe. Such is the case with "most" folks whose family history goes back many years in the Restoration Movement and especially the church of Christ..

    Why the instrument? The same reason that perhaps 99.9 percent of all music includes instruments. Be it rock and roll, heavy metal, rap, blues, country, classical, jazz, opera, and whatever other music there is. If done well, and in a genera of music you enjoy, instruments compliment vocals, they blend together.

    I say if you want to be a cappella only then do it as unto the Lord from a pure heart. And, if you want to use instruments do it from a pure heart as unto the Lord. Neither is superior in my view and most of the professing Christian world agrees.


  138. Bruce Morton says:

    I appreciate your input. Interesting that you believe most have already made up their mind before approaching a study on the subject. So, is that how you saw yourself prior to approaching the study I proposed?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  139. nick gill says:

    Given what we know from apostolic teaching regarding the importance of Christian song, I am interested to know what reasons surface in folks minds FOR instrumental music. What have you heard that urges IM?

    From a missional perspective, a combination of IM and a cappella singing offers several opportunities that the traditional song service does not. Many years ago, the style of a cappella we currently practice was a cultural mainstay. People had community singing gatherings where people would actually get together in order to sing like this for entertainment! Different towns and communities would actually publish songbooks!

    In the interim, culture has changed, but our style of singing has not. In effect, our current tradition requires the lost to learn a new language – the language of Second-Great-Awakening era singing – in order to be full members of the Christian community.

    We allow the holy Scriptures to be translated into appropriate modern language, but God forbid we allow our style of worship to be translated in the same way.

    We allow Christians to pray to God in the modern language of their culture (the apostolic example for New Covenant prayer is in koine Greek), but we do not allow them to worship God with the music of their culture.

    Also, Bruce, no one in this discussion has actually urged IM. What we're urging (what I'm urging, anyway) is a rejection of the non-Scriptural stance that a cappella is the only style that is not rejected by God. What I'm urging is the understanding that Christians are free in Christ to express their love for God with or without instrumental accompaniment.

  140. Mario Lopez says:


    So what you're saying is we need new and/or revised songs?

    Sounds like a plan.

  141. nick gill says:


    I'm saying we need new and revised hearts. We can change the songs we sing and it will help some, for a little while. But unless our hearts are changed, by the time we are old "our" songs will have become the new tradition that is the one right way to do worship.

    We need hearts that "hold on loosely" to traditions of men, so that we are free to engage our culture in every appropriate way. Bruce's research is so great where that is concerned, because it points out that there are deeply inappropriate ways of engaging culture, and that Paul is warning against such ways among the Ephesian Christians. We must cling to the Tradition (the body of teaching) that Paul passed down – avoiding pagan influence and syncretism, without assuming that any traditions (cherished methods of carrying out our understanding of God's will) that worked in the Ephesian context will necessarily work in our context.

    So yes, we need new and revised songs. We need the church to embrace creativity, rather than congratulating our young people when they write a song that sounds just like all the church songs their grandparents grew up singing.

    I think most congregations in the brotherhood need to be developing a praise team. Not to please the saved – but to teach the lost how to worship God in song. The lost don't just need new words – they need to SEE joy and reverence and awe and openness modeled before them. A good praise team doesn't just sing the song better than everyone else. A good praise team shows the congregation how to worship! How many times have you looked around and seen stern faces singing "O Happy Day"? The way I've heard it sung in several places, anyone walking in would not have had a chance of understanding that we were expressing joy. Our body language and tone conflicts so greatly with the words of the song that no joy is actually expressed. Praise teams teach us how to emote – they're not there to make the singing sound better. Of course, emoting and expressing ourselves in harmony with the meaning of the song will inherently MAKE the singing sound better – sound truer – their technical proficiency is not their purpose. Their collection of spiritual gifts is why they're part of the praise team.

    But most of all – first of all – we need to reach out for the fullness and richness of God's grace and freedom. Until then, our worship will be fearful rather than bold. Surface fixes (new songs, re-arranged songs, praise teams instituted just for their pretty voices, etc) will not solve the problem of insisting on "my way of worshiping" or our unspoken assumption that God will be angry with us if we don't carry out the Five Acts in the right way and on the right day.

  142. Bruce Morton says:

    Dear All:
    Thought I would share an interesting historical observation in the discussion about Ephesians 5:19 by John MacArthur:

    For over a thousand dark years of its history (?c.? 500–1500) the church in general did not sing. From shortly after New Testament times until the Reformation, what music the church had was usually performed by professional musicians. The music they presented could not be understood or appreciated by the average church member. In any case, they could only sit and listen, unable to participate. But when the Bible came back into the church during the Reformation, singing came with it. Martin Luther and some of the other Reformation leaders are among the greatest hymn writers of church history. Where the true gospel is known and believed, music is loved and sung. God’s Spirit in the heart puts music in the heart…In his great allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan pictured the pilgrim, Christian, falling into the slough of despond, straying into doubting castle, and enduring many other hardships, frustrations, and failures. And though the expression “?filled with the Spirit?” is not used in the story, each time Christian is delivered we see him going on his way singing. Every time he came back under the Spirit’s control he had a song in his heart. (MacArthur, Ephesians)

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  143. nick gill says:

    For over a thousand dark years of its history (?c.? 500–1500) the church in general did not sing. From shortly after New Testament times until the Reformation, what music the church had was usually performed by professional musicians. The music they presented could not be understood or appreciated by the average church member. In any case, they could only sit and listen, unable to participate.

    and a cappella somehow solves this? Let’s delete IM from the passage above and see what happens.

    For over a thousand dark years of its history (?c.? 500–1500) the church in general did not sing. From shortly after New Testament times until the Reformation, what music the church had was usually performed by <del>professional musicians</del> singers. The music they presented could not be understood or appreciated by the average church member. In any case, they could only sit and listen, unable to participate.

    There. IM has been removed, yet the problem remains. Why? Because the problem was not IM! The problems were A) an unhealthy obsession with Latin that practically prevented the laity from participating in worship, and B) a sense of professionalism that said only what is technically precise and proficient is acceptable to God – again preventing the laity from participating in the worship.

    Remove the Latin – translate the liturgy into the common tongues – and you’ve removed obstacle #1.

    Remove the elitism – understand that what God has made worthy should not be called unworthy – and you’ve removed obstacle #2.

    So, here’s the passage again, with the problem solved.

    For over a thousand dark years of its history (?c.? 500–1500) the church in general <del>did not sing</del> sang. From shortly after New Testament times until the Reformation, what music the church had was usually <del>performed</del> accompanied by <del>professional</del> members of the assembly who were musicians. The music they presented could <del>not</del> be understood <del>or</del> and appreciated by the average church member or visitor. In any case, they could <del>only</del> never just sit and listen, unable to participate because the blending of culturally appropriate music and praise of the eternal God caught them up together in one powerful voice of joy and praise or lament and grief or passion and grace.

    See? IM was not the problem – elitism was (and is).

    PS – Sorry, Jay. Please delete the first version of this comment – I got too fancy with my HTML.

  144. Royce says:


    The answer is "yes". I have studied the Bible for about 50 years and IM isn't addressed. I knew that before this series of posts and comments.


  145. Mario Lopez says:


    It'd assume you were talking about the new covenant. Not the Bible as a whole.

  146. Bruce Morton says:

    Let me suggest that the problem was not completely associated with Latin; the Polyphonic Controversy within Catholicism reveals that. IM did affect medieval worship negatively (I am probably a little unique re background in that respect — studied medieval theology and worship @ Gettysburg Theological Seminary).

    Some of the later period voices (e.g. Erasmus) vocally opposed the religious IM that had become little more than entertainment: "We have brought into our churches a certain operose and theatrical music; such a confused, disorderly chattering of some words, as I hardly think was ever heard in any of the Grecian or Roman theatres. The church rings with the noise of trumpets, pipes and dulcimers; and human voices strive to bear their part with them. Men run to church as to a theatre, to have their ears tickled" (Erasmus, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:19). Cf. first century Roman Asia; based on what we know Dionysian ritual represented a "high point" in theatrics.

    One of the toughest things for all of us to hear (me included) is that our world is not spiritually neutral (I appreciate your comment regarding that). Satan influences the most seemingly neutral, "natural" human expressions and with time they can become his tools — IM included (and voices too). I am more and more convinced that is why Paul emphasizes that Christians need to sing songs from the Scriptures to one another.

    I appreciate your comment, and Mario's. Yes, we need more songs (including new songs) that speak the Scriptures.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  147. nick gill says:


    When I read that paragraph, I don't hear a critique of IM. I hear a critique of style.

    My dad grew up in the early days of rock'n'roll – clean sharp guitar riffs, very little distortion, and a tight arrangement. Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, et al. He also loved doo wap music for its clarity and harmonization.

    He can't stand the Beatles, or Led Zepplin, or Jimi Hendrix, or really much of any rock music that came after the British Invasion. His critique is much the same as that of Erasmus: "such a confused, disorderly chattering… ringing with the noise of [distortion and whammy bars and screaming]; and human voices strive to bear their part with them."

    The first sentence of the Erasmus quote is telling: "a certain operose and theatrical music" is at the heart of his complaint. Does removing IM solve this problem? In some cases, yes – if the style of IM fosters chaos or hinders communal participation in the worship. But (as you consistently note, Bruce, and I appreciate it very much) prohibition of IM does nothing to prevent a cappella cacophany.

    This is where I think Jay's exegesis of Paul's warning against the Colossian heresy is so important to grasp. Prohibiting particular practices "that perish with using" does nothing to promote true godliness, but only worship of our own willpower.

    Just so, Scripture does not prohibit sex – we follow God's limitation of sex to the sanctity of the marriage bed.

    Scripture does not prohibit IM – we should follow God's limitation of all worship practices to that which edifies one another.

    Some people assert that it is impossible for instruments to promote spiritual edification. That assertion requires evidence to prove its validity – evidence that does not exist, IMO.

    Music is like food — all of it is clean (the death of Christ tore down the barrier between 'clean' and 'unclean'), but not all of it is healthy.

  148. Bruce Morton says:

    I think I will leave with you whether you took a look at the historical and cultural background of Paul's letter that I am suggesting. I hear your comments regarding IM. However, that is not all I have been talking about.

    Let me suggest that Paul is talking about both IM and song! He is addressing a world drenched in darkness. That is why he gets specific with the Asians.

    I continue to believe we have a difficult time with that (all of us). Hard for us to accept what he is saying about a dark world and Satan's work. Andrew Delbanco suggested in his 1995 book that for the typical American, Satan was "dead;" I think he makes the point with force. Not long ago I asked a college student at a Christian university if he believed Satan was real. His answer: "no." He may be the exception, but practically, I suspect he is not. We want to think of music (and much of life) as if it is in a neutral setting. Free to feel and do.

    I am interested to know if you see issues with that in a dark world. Your thoughts?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  149. nick gill says:


    Have you read God At War by Greg Boyd?

    I think you'd appreciate it very much.

  150. Bruce Morton says:

    Sometimes it helps brothers hear each other by asking specific questions. I am curious to know if we agree that Paul's focus is on song — Christians speaking to one another…. Your thoughts?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  151. nick gill says:

    Also interesting is <a>this article in this month's Christian Chronicle.

    Darryl Tippens, a guest writer, mulls over challenges facing the practice of a cappella in our culture.

  152. Bruce Morton says:

    I know our day wants to "free IM from critique." You/ will have a tough time with that and the proposal of "style" re some of the late medieval voices — not just Erasmus. Will leave with you to investigate; sometime self-discovery is more fun!

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  153. nick gill says:

    Bruce asks:

    Sometimes it helps brothers hear each other by asking specific questions. I am curious to know if we agree that Paul’s focus is on song — Christians speaking to one another…. Your thoughts?

    Nick here: No, not really. I think Paul is using song as one example of how the Christian life should be filled with the Spirit rather than filled with debauchery. Paul's focus in the passage (in the whole didactic half of the letter – chapters 4-6 – for that matter) is spiritual conflict – the war between the children of light and the sons of disobedience. He's showing us that song is a potent weapon, but not the only weapon.

  154. nick gill says:


    Hardly! I promise that the last thing I'm interested in with regards to this discussing is "freeing IM from critique."

    I want all our aspects of worship to be critiqued, to strive to glorify God in healthy, beautiful, inclusive ways.

    I want IM and a cappella to be critiqued. I don't want us to leave the assembly feeling justified because we sang without accompaniment.

    Or because we heard a prayer, because we nibbled a pinch of cracker and swallowed a sip of juice, because we put some stuff in a basket, and because we heard a man talk about some Biblical things we agree with.

    We must do things that edify one another. I know that the late medieval voices and Reformation voices conclude that IM itself is the problem and that it should be rejected. I just think they've misdiagnosed the problem – like a doctor who makes a diagnosis of diabetes, and prescribes that the patient only shop at one particular grocery store.

    It might by pure chance address a bit of the symptoms, but the prescription doesn't address the actual illness.

  155. Bruce Morton says:

    Here is the point that surprises me some. Paul is talking about speaking Scripture, singing Scripture, in Ephesians 5:18-21. Right? No, not all that he is talking about in Ephesians 4:17-5:21, but 5:18-21 does tie back to Eph. 4:23-24 and 5:11 (part of the parallels in wording I noted in the original essay). Ephesians 5:18-21 seems to represent a culmination — an exclamation point. And there he is talking about speaking, singing to one another — singing Scripture and spiritual songs. Please step back from our culture just a ways with me as you think about it.

    Okay, I'll be quiet for awhile.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  156. nick gill says:


    No, I do not believe he is talking exclusively about speaking Scripture or singing Scripture. Yes, that's part of it – but hymns and spiritual songs are not Scripture. They should be based in truth, but he doesn't say, "addressing one another in psalms, prophetic poems, and oracles of God, singing and making melody…"

    My point is that Paul is not focusing on Scripture in any of the three passages (4:23-24, 5:11, 5:18-21). Scripture is one tool among many in the spiritual battle – unless Paul's suggesting in his concluding metaphor that the belt of truth and the sword of the Spirit are the same thing.

    In fact, while I agree that 5:18-21 is a crescendo, an exclamation point in the great work that is the Ephesian letter, it can't be the biggest or loudest one because he doesn't change topics! He continues to explain how to be filled with the Spirit – wives, husbands, children, slaves, masters – before the GREAT crescendo, the !!!!!!!!!! of the letter –

    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:10-13 ESV)

    In fact, one cannot actually obey 5:20 without going beyond speaking Scripture. Scripture doesn't provide the words for me to give thanks for every single thing. It provides a motif upon which I'm expected to improvise without rebelling.

  157. Bruce Morton says:

    I do agree that Ephesians has numerous exclamation points. I appreciate your comment; mine was not intended to diminish what follows 5:21.

    Regarding "hymns," since Paul appears to be pointing to the LXX we should consider the close association there between psalms and hymns. There is much here — much more than we have even talked about in the chains of notes.

    I appreciate the dialog with you and your commitment to hear the Lord's Word. It encourages.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  158. Mario Lopez says:

    Ephesians 4:11-13
    Ephesians 5:10
    Ephesians 5:17

    All speak to the seeking of truth, which would be scripture.

    I see much of what that section of Ephesians speaking against the Gentile life they had lived in before.

    It would seem the scripture says to the Jew leave behind your Jewness and to the Gentile your Gentilness. Both traditions oddly enough having IM.

  159. nick gill says:


    Scripture is true, but it is self-evidently not the only truth. Paul's teaching to the Ephesians about truth includes Scripture rightly understood and accurately quoted (Satan can "speak Scripture" but he is a liar), but does not exclude other truths.

  160. Mario Lopez says:

    Jesus is truth.


  161. Mario Lopez says:

    And one or two those verses seemed to point to being pleasing to God. The main source of that would be from scripture.

  162. Jay Guin says:


    Thanks for your comments. They've been consistently on the mark.

  163. Jay Guin says:


    There are these critical considerations in the IM controversy, to my thinking —

    First, the theories offered to reject IM are built on seriously flawed theology. The Regulative Priniciple has divided the Churches for over a century and is utterly without scriptural warrant. The use of the Patristics to build a binding doctrine is a very wrong practice. The whole approach to scripture reading that was invented to insist on a cappella only has led to countless divisions and decades of pain.

    Second, the notion that these disagreements must damn (not held by all who oppose IM, but by many) runs exactly contrary to the gospel of Jesus. We turn Romans inside out and upside down just so no one will use a piano! And we sure look to be violating Paul's warning against seeking justification other than by faith.

    Third, it's not that the lost are desperate for IM. They aren't. They're desperate for Jesus. But they're desperate for the real Jesus, the Jesus who saves by faith.

    When we refuse to allow new converts and young Christians to worship in the way that reflects their own hearts, we'd better have a good reason. And to say: don't use IM because the old members will get mad and leave — only tells them that our old members are either legalists or selfish or badly taught. Now, if the lesson really and truly is: please submit to our scruples so we can worship as one, but we don't condemn you for your own beliefs — then well and good. But if that's the case, we won't deny the young and new converts the right to use IM in their classes or in their small groups at home.

    When we won't allow our members to use the freedom we say they have, even when no one with scruples is present, we aren't honoring Rom 14. Rather, we're being legalists.

    The atttitudes and doctrines that teach IM to be sinful are deeply wrong and greatly harm our efforts to seek and save the lost. The attitude of bearing with one another's scruples is holy and good — if that's what we're really doing.

    Fourth, the doctrines behind a cappella and the attitudes these doctrines produce have caused many of our Churches to be governed politically rather than doctrinally. In these Churches, when someone has a scruple against calling the fellowship hall a "gym" or using church money to pay for this or that, we deal with it through submission to those with the weakest faith and through rationalization — rather than through loving, gentle instruction. And the result is a divided church meeting in one building.

    It's fine to submit if you'll also teach the full gospel. But when fear of the legalistic members keeps the elders and preacher from teaching the truth in every single class, no longer are they yielding to scruples — they're being intimidating into teaching and practicing a partial or even false gospel. That's no way to run a church. Paul never taught us to never teach Romans and Galatians if that might make someone mad.

    We should never tempt someone to sin against his conscience. And we should never refrain from teaching the truth to those who misunderstand the gospel.

    I have nothing against a cappella singing. My congregation worships a cappella and I'm an elder. I love it. We're actually pretty good at it. But I'll fight the doctrine that insists on dividing over a cappella singing and countless like opinions so long as God gives me strength.

  164. Bruce Morton says:

    I want you to know I have listened to your thoughts and study and — and am considering the study of Ephesians 5:19 that you propose. I appreciate your taking the time to write what urges IM in your view.

    You bring up regulative principle. While I do believe we need to lean on apostolic counsel with all of our weight in a dark world, I think you understand my focus was on the historical and religious background of Paul's teaching. You have tackled some with me — until I treaded on IM.

    So, no problems with IM in a dark world? No IM AND vocal music issues facing us by Satan's work in our culture and thought? New Christians should feel free to express themselves? We should have no concerns? Go ahead and let them reflect their hearts?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  165. Jay Guin says:


    As I've said before, I agree that Ephesians responds to pagan influences the church was having to resist. I disagree that Paul was suggesting that the cure (or a cure) for paganism is replacing instrumental music with a cappella music. Paul said that we should seek to be filled with the Spirit, and it's in understanding the work of the Spirit that we find the solution to the vices of paganism.

    I have no desire to foist IM on anyone. I only wish to urge the rejection of those who seek to foist a cappella on others.

    (Gal 5:1) It's for freedom you've been freed.

    [from memory]

    You asked,

    So, no problems with IM in a dark world?  No IM AND vocal music issues facing us by Satan's work in our culture and thought?  New Christians should feel free to express themselves?  We should have no concerns?  Go ahead and let them reflect their hearts?

    I am greatly concerned about evils of the world that surround us. And, yes, paganism has returned as a serious issue today. The solution is the same one urged by Paul: be filled with the Spirit.

    We do not create a new Phariseeism to replace the Phariseeism that Jesus rejected. We don't find safety in finding interstitial rules in the silences. Rather, we should focus on what the scriptures themselves say are the most important things.

    AND we need to redefine our self-image. We must stop thinking of ourselves as the people who care enough to get the hidden rules right. Rather, we must think of ourselves as people who've been crucified with Jesus and resurrected to life in the Spirit through faith in Jesus and submission to him as Lord — and whose hearts are being transformed by God's own hand through his Spirit.

    Thus, passages such as the Sermon on the Mount, 1 Cor 12 – 13, and Rom 12 – 15 should become central to our thinking. These are some of the central passages on how to live now that we've been saved. We should first evaluate our faithfulness and whether we are "sound" and still "faithful" by how well we do in those areas.

    We shouldn't focus on answering the questions of the 16th Century Reformation or even the 19th Century Restoration. Rather, let the passages that are obviously central to life as a Christian and as the church define how we live and how we talk about ourselves. We should not view ourselves as the church that "restored NT worship patterns." We should be the church that strives to live the Sermon on the Mount every day.

    That will allow us to be filled with the Spirit and even prevail against the gates of Hades. And it will lead to Spirit-driven, truth-centered worship as we've never experienced.

    And … to return to your question … that's what we need to teach young people and new converts. Lessons on IM vs AC music are not the cure for the darkness of paganism that surrounds us. Rather, we have to restore a gospel that saves by grace through faith. 

  166. Bruce Morton says:

    In all of the discussion between us, until now I had not seen you put so clearly a separation between the work of the Spirit and song. I think I fully see where you are. I work at listening.

    I will offer that Stephen Guthrie's article is excellent; it leaves NO question about the structure of the text and the association between the work of the Spirit and song in Paul's counsel. Nothing like having a Baptist professor teach the RM/ about the Spirit's work through song.

    You have never acknowledged that connection have you — refused to note it? You (and some others) have argued all around it — RM history; patternism; Phariseeism. All of it has nothing to do with my starting point in the essay I proposed. My starting point for all of this was the war of light versus darkness and the place of song in that. That is what Paul is saying; Guthrie (and others) are on target.

    Let me ask a positive question. Will you join me in encouraging a generation that is used to listening to IM to sing? Encourage them to speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs?

    In Christ
    Bruce Morton

  167. K. Rex Butts says:

    Just a testimony here…I just came from a house gathering of Christians mostly from the Restoration Movement. There were three people who come from a Bible Church tradition. We all shared in a meal together and then spent time in worship and prayer. We sang 8-10 songs including but not limited to "As The Deer Pants for The Water," "Listen to Our Hearts," and "How Great Thou Art" and we sang them all in a capella. I believe we all were encouraged by the singing and were strenghtened in the Spirit. Then after some prayer time, one of the women who is also a singer/songwriter guitar player who plays on the local indie circut some played a song on her guitar that she wrote herself titled "Lord, We Want to be Like You" which she wanted to play for us. The words to the verses were some deeply written lyrics that came out of struggle she has had in life. The chorus is really easy tune to pick up and by the end of the song, everyone was singing the chorus along with her.

    Some would say this is wrong? What is wrong with it? Were we not able to be edified and filled with the Spirit? I for one was edified and encouraged by listening to her song and eventually singing with her and everyone just as much as I was when we were singing in a capella; I am quite certain everyone else present would testify the same just as much as I am sure those present who normally do not worship in a capella form would testify that they were strengthened and filled with the Spirit while singing w/out any IM.

    Was this not a gift which God has blessed her with…a gift of being able to write and perform Christian music as a singer/song-writer guitar player? Should she not share this gift with other Christians gathered in worship and fellowship as a blessing of edification and encouragement? I for one never had any images of pagan rituals or pagans playing the guitar come to mind the entire time. I am sure everyone else present would say the same.

    One thing we have learned in Biblical studies about Ephesians and other Epistles of the New Testament is that they were written as conditional letters to churches addressing specific conditions they were dealing with at the time. The nature of a conditional letter is just that…conditional. It does not mean that every practical instruction given to the original recipients are instructions that must be specifically followed by other Christians of another location or historical periods. To say otherwise put not only the Churches of Christ and Restoration Movement but most of Christianity at odds with many other teachings in the epistles dealing with how we greet each other (holy kiss), how we treat slaves (which is addressed right in Ephesians), how we deal with the gifts of having received from God a hymn, tongue, revelation, lesson, interpretation (1 Cor 14.26) which were clearly to be allowed for building one another up (which we have replaced with worship leaders, liturgists, etc… to give us the content of our worship, and there are others if we look hard enough.

    We can't have it both ways. If the Epistles are conditional and we are free to make adjustments on the above listed practical instructions for worship and/or fellowship because we are living in a different culture, time, etc… then to be coherent we must say the same about passages like Ephesians 5.19 and Colossians 3.16. That means that even if it can be shown with overwhelming certainty that Paul specific purpose in Eph 5.19 and Col 3.16 was to regulate and prohibit the uses of IM (and I'm still unconvinced that such a claim can be shown sufficiently since I believe it hinges on a faulty hermeneutic), it does not make it automatically prohibited universally.

    If the Epistles are not conditional and therefore the practical instructions given in verses like Eph 5.19 and Col 3.16 are to be strictly adhered to universally as the CoC has traditionally claimed then so must every other practical instruction in the NT epistles such as I mentioned above be strictly adhered to. To say otherwise is incoherent. I am not most read person on the study of Restoration hermeneutics but I have read some and I know others who have read a tons more than I have and the CoC is incoherent on this issue hermeneutical application.

    If I am correct and that whatever the instructions of Eph 5.19 are being given on the basis of a missiological issue, it means that how we apply the teaching of Eph 5.19 must also be addressed on the basis of missiology. Thus we need to have our pulse on the culture of those gathering for worship. What does a piano, guitar, or full "praise band" mean and imply to them? If it invokes pagan thoughts then by all means we should not even consider such instruments. Of course this applies to other aspects of our worhsip. It is becoming more common to display images on a projector screen while churches sing. We might sing the great hymn "How Great Thou Art" and display an image of the Sun rising over the ocean or the evening stars cresting over the mountain-scape. To someone like me, it would remind me of Psalm 19.1. But to another person, especially a recent convert from paganism, it might remind them of some form of pagan-earth worship and therefore would be completely inappropriate to display. But again, on the grounds of missiology rather than a universal instruction (or lack of for those who hold to the silence heremenuetic).

    Well I have said enough…I just do not see on what grounds God was displeased with the worship/fellowship gathering I was part of and I have tried to explain why along with stating the inconsistency that exists with the traditional CoC stance on this issue. But to be clear, there are other concerns such as congregational unity and peace that are related to that and because of this, that is why despite my believe that there is nothing wrong with IM Christian worship, I have never even consdiered trying to lead an a capella congegation to change. I don't judge those who have but that is not my calling.

    Grace and peace,


  168. Jay Guin says:


    I'm not really following your argument. Are you saying that I've never argued for the connection of the Spirit with song?

    Do I advocate for singing? Of course, I do. Do I think singing should be replaced by performance? Of course, not.

    Am I against "special music," that is, solos and duets? Not at all — so long as they don't replace congregational singing.

    There are, I'm sure, churches that play IM so loudly that people can't sing, but by and large, IM is far from inconsistent with singing.

    Visit nearly any contemporary Christian music worship service, and you'll see the congregation singing along. It's even true at paid concerts.

    IM can indeed interfere with singing, but that's an abuse of the practice, not the nature of the practice.

  169. Royce says:

    I started the comments off beginning with this statement.

    "Who but someone with an agenda could disagree with this common, simple, easy to understand logic?
    Jay you have stated the case perfectly"

    169 comments later I am more convinced that statement was accurate.

    One person has a book to sell. Hey, nothing wrong about hawking a book, people do it all the time.

    Here is where the rubber meets the road. The whole ongoing discussions, fights, splits, sinful accusations, slander, etc. about a cappella is about protecting the most visible marker of the traditional churches of Christ. People whose identity is wrapped up in the coc will do almost anything legal to keep that visible marker of the "Lord's church".

    The other markers are much harder to see by comparison. We use only the Bible doesn't work, so did Jim Jones and David Koresh. We have the Lord's supper every week, some other groups do too. We teach immersion in water to have sins forgiven, but we don't have many baptisms. Ahh, singing. This is where the traditionalists have drawn a line in the sand. A cappella singing is a marker of the "true church" and must therefore be protected, even if the Bible doesn't address it they will pretend it does at all costs.

    Are progressives, those who accept that IM is not sinful or dangerous better people than the rigid traditionalists? No, we are all unworthy of God's grace, not one deserves his mercy. The truth is though that many people with RM roots, and some transplants, have their identity in the person of Jesus Christ period.
    They are Christians who happen to worship at a church of Christ. They are not church of Christ Christians they are simply Christians whose only agenda is to follow Christ and love those he died for.

    If all the time, money, and bandwidth that has been used to defend the historic churches of Christ had been used to teach people about the Christ of the church all of us would be far better off.


  170. Bruce Morton says:

    Yes, if you go back to your previous post, you will see that you skirted some crucial questions. I am glad you urge singing. Are you ready to urge it to a generation that has been used to sitting and listening to IM? A crucial question in our day. We face a US will little understanding of the Scriptures.

    Let me share that I have visited some contemporary assemblies — including the largest US church (Lakewood). Know what I saw? A few people singing; the vast majority just listening — and that is all they did. Same trend in university chapels; sit and listen by many.

    We are sliding toward being a "sit and listen" and isolated nation broadly (everyone listening to their digital music player). Numerous American sociologists I have read have noted that occurring within the country (and the West) — and they are concerned for cultural reasons. Daryl Tippen's May article in the Christian Chronicle accurately notes it.

    That is probably the biggest reason all of this discussion surfaces. I doubt if we would even be talking about it if the vast majority of churches in the land were acting on Paul's counsel: sing together (and at the same time speaking and learning the Scriptures).

    Note: we recently had Southern Baptist friends join the Katy congregation's singing/assembly. They were surprised by the singing and how many songs/Scripture was spoken; they liked (and acknowledged they knew only a fraction of the songs — though had heard most). Whether we want to admit it or not, fewer people are singing in this nation; and I see the trend even in singing-only congregations. It is affecting faith and knowledge of the Lord's Word. We are indeed sliding toward a practical form of Wicca in the broad "popular Christianity" in the nation (I agree fully with what Rex has suggested as the #1 issue facing Christianity in America: syncretism!). I am convinced part of the issue is related to the decline of song. Not all, but part.

    I am glad to hear that you are urging song.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  171. Bruce Morton says:

    I do hope that you stop your criticisms; they are offensive — as was the suggestion of my "warped imagination." You do not have an agenda?

    My goal has not been to defend a visible marker. I will not suggest that DW will reveal that since it is clear I am hawking a book.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  172. Anonymous says:

    If all the time, money, and bandwidth that has been used to defend the historic churches of Christ had been used to teach people about the Christ of the church all of us would be far better off. Royce

    Amen, Amen, and Amen Royce!!

    With many COCer’s you hear more about a cappella vs. IM than you do about Jesus, this blog by itself gives plenty proof of that.

    Seventy-three of the 150 psalms in the Bible are attributed to David. David started out as a sheepherder who also was a gifted musician. David’s psalms were accompanied with music. David sang from his heart to the Lord, which obviously was pleasing to God. David though he fell many times in his life was still a man of God and praised God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. God’s thoughts are much higher than ours, man sees outward appearances while God knows the heart.

  173. Bruce Morton says:

    Dear Anonymous:
    I will be brief; probably better. Before you amen Royce quite so vocally, ask why Paul even talks about song at the conclusion of parallels that talk about the war of light versus darkness.

    What I have been talking about — and many seem to not want to hear — is just how important song is in Paul's counsel re Christians being renewed.

    I will point you to an excellent article by a Baptist Professor, if an interest: Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46 (December 2003): 633-46.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  174. Anonymous says:

    The COC denomination is not the only group claiming IM is a sin, I've read and studied many materials by people, including people from Baptist churches, who are against IM and find none of them to be Biblical.

    Psalm 19:13-14 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.

    Psalm 146 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! While I live I will praise the LORD; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the LORD his God, Who made heaven and earth, The sea, and all that is in them; Who keeps truth forever, Who executes justice for the oppressed, Who gives food to the hungry. The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners. The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises those who are bowed down; The LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked He turns upside down. The LORD shall reign forever— Your God, O Zion, to all generations.

    Praise the LORD!

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