An Experiment in Christian Dialogue: A Post by Bruce Morton, Revised

Angel with harpI usually post several days ahead — just in case something terrible happens, like a computer death — and to make sure I have time to repent of my posts before they go public. And I put Bruce’s post on the site several days before it actually appeared. Unfortunately, it was scheduled to appear on one of those days when I was in the midst of a computer salvage operation (still ongoing, by the way).

So although Bruce had told me a revised post was coming, I failed to take the old one down. Here’s his fuller post, with my apologies.

Ephesians 5:18-21: The Work of the Spirit Through Song in a World Under Siege

Bruce Morton

The teaching in Ephesians 5:18-21 by Paul has, at times, been discussed by itself – without taking into account the broader context.  Ephesians 4:17-5:21 includes important parallels that tie the teaching together.  For example, 5:18-21 parallels 5:11 and also reveals 4:23-24 applied to Christian worship.  When we focus on Paul’s teaching about song outside of the context, we leave behind why he says what he says.

Much lies behind Paul’s comment in Ephesians 4:17.  The apostle to the Gentiles is writing about song in the broader context of Asian and Greek life and conduct – including worship.  The apostle is speaking in generalities, but they are generalities that point toward the strong influence of Asian religion on the earliest Christians.  The dark pressure should not surprise us.  Luke’s account of earliest Christianity in Ephesus reveals the influence of Artemis of the Ephesians.  Further, a growing number of archaeologists and historians have noted of late the power of the Dionysus cult in both Ephesus and Corinth.  The two cities acted as influential hubs for the religion.  The mystery cults permeated Gentile life and worship in Roman Asia and beyond (see, for example, Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity; Philip Harland, Associations, Synagogues, and Congregations; Ross Kraemer, Her Share of the Blessings).

Paul’s generalities in Ephesians 4:17-5:21 do not describe the specifics of religious ritual.  Indeed, he writes, “it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” (Eph. 5:12; NIV)  However, we should not conclude that Paul is endorsing specific, well-known practices associated with cult ritual simply because he uses the general words “shameful” or “debauchery.”  Both Greek words were prominently associated with Asian cult activities.  Dionysian worship was fueled by wine and instrumentation.

The apostle is speaking in contrasts.  Herbert Presker, for one, highlights the contrast of music with song as he discusses the Dionysus cult and Ephesians 5:18.  He writes that, “The life and liturgy of Christians are not marked by sensual ecstasy or Bacchantic [Dionysiac] frenzy (Gk. methyskesthai oino) but by infilling with the Spirit (Gk. plerousthe en pneumatic).  The distinction could hardly be more succinctly expressed:  orgiastic enthusiasm on the one side, and on the other the fullness of the Spirit that finds liturgical expression in praise and thanksgiving….” (see more at Presker, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 4:548).  Paul reveals his concern about sensational life and worship throughout the text – an issue that OneInJesus contributors have been raising as well (and which I appreciate).  Is Paul urging song as opposed to instrumented music?  Yes, it appears he is doing exactly that.  His comment about song is not written “on its own.”  Powerful instrumental music factored prominently in Dionysiac ritual.  Indeed, one Greek papyrus highlights how instrumentation was used to initiate supposed supernatural possession (see William Johnson, “Musical Evenings in the Early Empire: New Evidence From a Greek Papyrus with Musical Notation,” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 120 (2000): 57-85).

The apostle provides further emphasis by his use of the adopsallo (sing; make music) structure of his words.  Three Septuagint Psalms include the same structure, but Paul has revised the Psalms to point to song alone (see LXX Psalm 26, 56, 107).

In a text that deals with the war of light versus darkness, Paul is stressing how the Spirit uses song to renew a congregation of Christians.  He is highlighting the dangers in a world under intense spiritual siege.  The subject of instrumental music and the importance of song to the Lord and to one another are part of a desperate spiritual struggle – one that the West does not always see with clarity.  Leonard Allen, Richard Hughes, and Michael Weed make the point with strength when they write that, “In this world there is a sharply diminishing sense of overarching, invisible realities surrounding daily life and giving it meaning.” (Allen, Hughes, Weed, The Worldly Church, 56).  Seeing by faith what Paul sees will inform our conversation – and our worship.  A spiritual war is real; our spiritual song acts as a setting for the Spirit’s work in comforting, protecting, and renewing us.  It also can unify us.  Note:  more is available, including notes/references, in the recent publication Deceiving Winds (21st Century Christian).

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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145 Responses to An Experiment in Christian Dialogue: A Post by Bruce Morton, Revised

  1. Randall says:

    Interesting post. If the point is valid it would provide support for non use of instrumental music in any/all settings – not just in the worship/music of the church.

    Today,as we look at the lyrics that accompany so much music on the radio we could build a case against all instrumental music if we were so inclined.

    Seems like most of my 60 years I have heard the CofC argue against IM in worship, but only in worship. One can only wonder how much longer this this can go on; indefinitely I assume.

  2. Royce says:

    Personally, I respectfully disagree that the Bible forbids instruments in the Christian assembly. Everyone who makes the best defense for a cappella only must use extra-biblical material because you just can't get there using only the Bible. At least I can't.

    If that is a person's conviction, without regard to how they reached the conclusion, then by all means they should not use an instrument. To do so for that person would be wrong.

    However, no person has the right, or the authority before God, to tell other Christians they will go to hell for using an instrument. Adding conditions to salvation that the Bible does not add is a sin. I see no difference in requiring circumcision.

    It is a stretch to believe that an issue that could damn a Christian to hell would be so obscure that the majority of Bible students can find no such restriction and not one verse that addresses the issue of IM.

    Sadly, IM is only one of scores of man made conditions our people have chosen to damn others over. It is not very good evidence of loving our brothers to make such mistakes.


  3. paul says:

    Amen Brother Royce, AMEN and AMEN!!!

  4. Ray Downen says:

    The apostolic lessons in Ephesians no more deal with congregational "worship" than they do with going to the bathroom. Paul is writing about living for Jesus. He never in any of his writings speaks of "worship services." The memorial "meal" was simply part of a shared meal where both rich and poor ate together and together then honored Jesus, remembering His death as they ate bread and drank wine or whatever liquid was served with the meal. To read into Paul's exhortations to the Ephesians an anti-instrument motif is absurd from the beginning. He uses the word "psalm" to describe some of the songs they are encouraged to sing. Psalms were often accompanied. If Paul had for any reason at all opposed Christian use of musical instruments, he knew the words to say so. He said no such thing! He implied no such thing. How hard some people work to try to prove their preference is God's command!

  5. Bruce Morton says:

    I do want to wade in with you/, but let me first highlight that it is also not very good evidence of loving our brothers to suggest that a brother (me) has "warped imagination" either. Quite a statement, and then to read what you wrote about love….

    Let me also get some clarification. Are you suggesting that noting some historical/religious background information that might better inform Scripture is an appeal to "extra-biblical" information? Wanted to see what you see to be "extra-biblical."

    Let me ask a straightforward question to all as I wade in (and glad to do). What issues do folks have with simply singing to the Lord? Vocal music only? (e.g. what ALL churches do in Fiji) Not all wrestle with this as does the West.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  6. Bruce Morton says:

    Dear Ray:
    I hope that sharp statements like "absurd" is not representative of how you would speak in a Bible study group in your congregation. Seems to me that we need to chat with one another with patience, not sharpness. But perhaps I am not at home in this current age.

    How did you come to the conclusion that Paul was NOT speaking about a worship assembly? Do you see evidence in Paul's counsel that he is excluding an assembly for the purpose of worship (since worship gatherings of all religions were pervasive throughout the Greco-Roman world)?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  7. Mario Lopez says:

    Paul was writing to the church there, and the letter were read in the assembly, if I remember right.

  8. Ray Downen says:

    Bruce suggests that absurdity is impossible when the Bible is being discussed. I disagree, as I said. The apostle in writing to the Ephesians is telling them how to live each day. He is not writing about rituals or liturgy. Nothing in the letter is on such a subject. For someone to try to bring him down to one hour a week is, I say, absurd. That would be true wherever the subject is being discussed by however many. And there's absolutely no hint in HIS writing that he is opposed to musical instruments being used by Christians anywhere at any time. Instead he is encouraging singing, which often was and is accompanied by instruments. Psalms in particular were either played without accompaning singing or else the instrument was used to accompany a singer. In Old Testament psalms, words tell a story which was most likely sung using the words. Paul is most likely speaking of vocal music, with or without instrumental accompaniment. But his subject is obviously not liturgy or rituals of any kind. To imply otherwise is absurd. Anywhere the subject was being discussed, I'd be untruthful if I said otherwise. The passage simply cannot be used to provide comfort to anti-instrumentalists. Its subject is daily life and how Christians should conduct themselves.

  9. Bruce Morton says:

    Dear Brothers and Sisters:
    As a final post this evening for folks to chew on, let me share upfront that I did not have a 'defense of vocal music only' on my radar screen. I was not even thinking about a book (now published by 21st Century Christian — Jay, could you post a link again to Deceiving Winds?).

    Initially, my work started by wading into 1 and 2 Timothy with a teen study group (they ate it up — I am convinced teens are thirsting for more historical and archaeological background information as they look at the Bible). At the same time, I was having conversations with two Wiccan priestesses. As a result of both spiritual activites, I decided to do some reading to gather a better understanding of goddess theology — and where it touched earliest Christianity (one of the prominent places being Ephesus and Roman Asia).

    I have spent 5+ years looking at Roman Asia (including doing some original translating of inscriptions). What surfaced as I peeled back Roman Asia surprised me in a number of places — one of which is just how much of the Ephesian letter appears to have been written to counter pressure from the Asian cults (typically mystery cults). As I have waded into the mystery religions, it became clear that should be no surprise! The cults were incredibly powerful — and pervasive. However, numerous significant studies in the past 25+ years have underestimated their strength (e.g. Wayne Meeks, The First Urban Christians). Oddly, feminist theologians have not; they have provided a clearer view than have others about the Dionysus and Isis cults.

    I have spent quite a bit of time trying to understand the mystery religions — not easy (they were called mystery religions for a reason!); and spent quite a bit of time testing findings with respected students of the Scriptures — including Everett Ferguson and Jack Cottrell.
    Let me share that Jack Cottrell (Cincinnati Christian University) has endorsed Deceiving Winds and encouraged me to send it to select faculty members at schools associated with the Independent Christian churches — which is in progress. Everett Ferguson has made similar suggestions. And so that there is no question, my goal in all of this was to share background to apostolic teaching. The work of Christ is my focus; I believe apostolic teaching to be the work of the risen Lord.

    Please know that I am not a legalist. If you grab a copy of Deceiving Winds, you will see that. It is by the grace of the Lord that we breathe in any given moment…. and are recreated in Christ. I have prepared the brief essay above which represents a little of the three chapters that wade in to Ephesians 4:17-5:21. It is too little, but my input to Jay was that I had concluded there was more to the matter of vocal music and IM than the Restoration Movement had typically discussed. He challenged me to write an essay.

    As further grist for the mill, let me share one reference from someone outside the Restoration Movement (a Baptist professor). Stephen Guthrie, "Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46 (December, 2003): 633-46. His study represents a thorough look at Eph. 4-5 and links vocal music to the work of the Spirit; he emphasizes what we are losing in the West by all of our thirst for sensational worship, etc. And he gets pointed!

    Finally, let me share that I am also convinced that congregations that sing vocally only can also miss some of the messages in Ephesians 4:17-5:21. For example, do our songs speak Scripture? Not nearly enough by my own survey. Do they unify all — children, teens, young adults, older adults? Paul is telling us that song and Scripture sung are crucial to spiritual renewal in the middle of spiritual war.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  10. Bruce Morton says:

    To be clear, no I did not say absurdity is impossible in a Bible study. It can certainly happen. But I, for one, have never heard a brother or sister in a Bible study group say to another person, "that's absurd." Weblogs seem to bring out a sharpness that many would never practice face-to-face. So, you also do this in congregational settings as well?

    To confirm, glad to wade into the specifics later after some rest.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  11. Royce says:

    Brother Bruce,

    Kindly and brotherly sir, I think if you read the comments here and at the other post, the common consensus is that your conclusions about the Ephesian texts in question are incorrect. You are imagining the text forbids the use of instruments in the worship assembly, it does not.

    The Bible is the inspired revelation of God to man. What some author, historian, or church father said is not inspired. I am all for study and for sure learning about culture, other religious practices, etc. are helpful. They are not essential however to understand what God said in His revelation. Even the common man without access to extra-biblical material can know God, know God's will for his daily living and worship.

    You seem to keep missing my main point. I don't have any problem with churches singing a cappella only. I do it every Lords day and every Wednesday, and at every other gathering, small group etc. I love it, I enjoy it, it reminds me of our primitive forefathers. I can't find a shred of evidence in the Bible that I should warn anyone else that they are in danger if they don't worship (sing) as I do. And, I, you, nor anyone else certainly has no authority to damn anyone else or refuse Christian fellowship to those who use instruments.

    I will never understand why so many people get so worked up over the IM question. This is clearly a case where tradition and heritage has trumped thus saith the Lord.


  12. Edward Fudge says:

    While I believe that psallo includes singing both accompanied and unaccompanied, I also believe that Bruce makes a valuable point. Today, as in first-century Ephesus, it is possible to replace Spirit-motivated worship in the heart expressed in song with fleshly-driven "enthusiasm" induced by the repetitious beat and rhythm of instrumentation (especially when electronically amplified to the point of rattling the bones). As my friend, musician John Michael Talbot, says, sometimes we mistake excitement for inspiration.

  13. Bruce Morton says:

    Brother Fudge:
    I appreciate the comment and your considering the study. Have wanted to meet you. We have a connection in the Lord. Pat Harrell was my cousin, and I have worshipped from time to time at Bering Drive when Pat was there and after. I continue to keep in contact with his family. And I work ten minutes away in Greenway Plaza. Glad to meet and chat over lunch sometime. Please feel free to email me if you are interested ([email protected]).

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  14. John Grant says:

    Just a simple question for ya'll.

    How do you feel about singing without musical instruments but various people in the congregation on their own and independently clapping, foot patting, bodies swaying or arms held up or even waving, all in rhythm to the a capella singing?

    Is any, which, or all that sinful in assembly for lack of scripture?

  15. Bruce Morton says:

    Let me wade into the "life" versus "ritual" and "one hour a week" comments. Please know that I do agree that the apostle is talking about life. He is clear about that in Ephesians. 4:17. But Gentile life included significant expressions of "formal" worship. Ephesians 5:12 suggests by the wording that parallels an ancient source that Paul is speaking of what happens in worship gatherings — specifically Dionysian gatherings.

    I know you do not want me to belabor, so let me suggest that life and worship are included in his counsel. Michael Weed, for one, emphasizes that "Many ancient religions (e.g. the cult of Dionysus) used wine, dancing, and music in wild rites designed to produce a frenzied intoxication which was believed to facilitate escape from the limitations of mortality, enabling communication with deity." (Weed, Ephesians, Living Word Commentary, 177). Brother Weed's commentary has more — and will offer that it is worth a read.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  16. Bruce Morton says:

    Thank you for posting the revised essay.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  17. Mario Lopez says:

    What ever happened to the good ol' days when we used to simply argue that the text says sing, so we just sing. 😛

    In my experience the addition of insturments, is just the tip of the iceberg and is not the only issue.

  18. Ray Downen says:

    Bruce well says, "The teaching in Ephesians 5:18-21 by Paul has, at times, been discussed by itself – without taking into account the broader context. Ephesians 4:17-5:21 includes important parallels that tie the teaching together. For example, 5:18-21 parallels 5:11 and also reveals 4:23-24 applied to Christian worship. When we focus on Paul’s teaching about song outside of the context, we leave behind why he says what he says."

    His defense of his sectarian view of a cappella singing is that sometimes instruments are played to excite rather than to bless. And he's surely right!

    But voices can do and sometimes in our churches do the same bad thing. The fault I find with his teaching is that he reads INTO the text what he wants to find there. It isn't there. He puts it there. This cannot be commended. It's not right. It's wrong for us to read INTO any Bible text our own thoughts. We seek to learn from the inspired writers rather than to find ways to cause what they said (wrote) to seem to agree with the idea we are promoting.

    Even readers at the writer's own time or soon after may misunderstand what was written, so their comments may be no more accurate than comments made after many years. That's why I have little interest in 2nd and 3rd century authors. They do not of a surety know any more about apostolic doctrine than any of us can learn from reading the inspired writings. Seeking proof in contemporary historical facts or suppositions of what a person wants to find in Paul's writings is not convincing. We can imagine the pagan "worship" of Paul's day. We can READ what Paul wrote.

    And Paul's subject was not a worship service. It was daily life. It was what his readers were to do every day as they served (which is worship) God by showing His love to others and by their good lives and by words and song. Happy people sing often, seldom only "in church." We who love to sing do so whenever the opportunity arises. We don't wait for a "worship service" to praise God in song. And we're apt to listen to singing that we like or to played music that we like. Every day. Anywhere. Frequently if possible.

    And God gives musical ability to some who can't sing at all and to many who can both sing and play instruments. Are Christians supposed, because of Ephesians, to play only for the Devil? That's the implication of forbidding use of musical instruments in Christian assemblies. And it's a devilish deed to think or say so! GOD does not hate musical instruments or those who play them. Yes, as Bruce correctly says, the context is important. It's about daily LIFE and service.

  19. Mario Lopez says:

    Howdy Ray,

    It appears to me just from a quick rereading of the letter to the Colossians from Paul Chapter 3, that it seems to point to the context of the assembly.

    Does that change anything?

  20. Bruce, I appreciate your study and effort; this may be the most cogent defense of a cappella-only worship that I have read to date.

    At the same time, it still comes down to opinion – the opinion of some scholars about the definition of words, how much influence the culture of Paul's time has on his teaching, whether this is in specific reference to instrumental accompaniment and the purpose for it (to excite and intoxicate rather than to simply accompany).

    And then we are left to our own opinions to decide whether the culture of Paul's day is sufficiently similar to our own – or decide whether it is a teaching which transcends culture – for us to accept and practice this doctrine exclusively.

    It's all conjectural. And while opinion and preference may still be the basis for acceptable, conscientious praise to God, I don't believe anyone can make the case that it is the basis for "marking," correction and condemnation as has been too long practiced in Churches of Christ.

    Bruce, I don't believe you're a part of that extreme. But the comments you read here should indicate to you that there are widely-divergent opinions on this subject.

    You'll hardly find anyone commenting here – of either or any persuasion on IM – who will contest that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; or that He died, was entombed and resurrected on the third day; or any of the other articles of faith which we all affirm to be incontrovertible, indisputable fact.

    What so many of us oppose is the elevation of the issue of instrumentally-accompanied / a cappella-only worship to the same level.

  21. Jay Guin says:

    Edward and Bruce,

    I think it's helpful to make some careful distinctions here. Different people draw differing conclusions from passages such as Eph 5:19.

    1. Some argue that using an instrument necessarily damns or at least puts someone outside the fellowship of the church. I don't think this is Bruce's argument, and it's certainly not Edward's. And this is the argument that, in my view, urgently needs refuting.

    2. Some argue that using an instrument is a sin but that those who use it honestly believing themselves to be obediently worshiping God sin but are covered by grace. I don't think this is Edward's position but I suspect it may be Bruce's. This, to me, is much less dangerous to the Kingdom than 1, but nonetheless misunderstands NT teaching and the nature of our relationship with God.

    3. Some argue that using an instrument is not a sin but it can be used in sinful ways. And I agree. However, in this context, people fit into either of two categories —

    a. Some can't ever find the non-sinful use of the instrument. Either it offends others or else is too prone to lead to orgiastic frenzy or has too many associations with sin in current culture to be unusable or is too much entertainment and not enough worship. I disagree because I've heard Bach and Handel — not to mention Chris Tomlin and many other contemporary artists who compose excellent Christian music that is not remotely sinful. I don't think the instrument can be banned solely on the theory that it can abusive.

    b. Finally, there are those who, like me, find no inherent sin in the instrument but recognize that instrumentation can be abused but that a cappella singing is also subject to abuse. Therefore, church leaders everywhere must be careful to keep their congregations somewhere in between the two extremes — but there are a LOT of commendable musical styles that are not abusive. The categories of musical forms that will please God is quite broad because God has made his children very creative.

    In the congregation where I grew up, we sang "O Happy Day" after each baptism — so slowly as to sound like a funeral dirge rather than —

    If your singing — a cappella or instrumented — takes the joy out of worship, it teaches a false understanding of the gospel. Just so, if the singing — a cappella or instrumented — leads to idolotry: worship of the performers rather than God — that's sinful, too. And if the singing — a cappella or instrumented — is all about the experience and not the Maker, well, that's wrong as well.

    But none of this means that the worship of the 19th Century church revivals or the 20th Century rural, white South is the God-given form of worship. The early church likely chanted in unison. Harmony as we know it came centuries later. Syncopation and blues scales even later.

    As I've been learning in my missiology (theology of mission work) studies, the key is to find worshipful expressions that are true to the cultural context in which the gospel is preached. The gospel is unchanging and unchangeable. But the musical styles, preaching styles, etc. vary with the culture — or else we need to go all the way back to the chants of the early church.

    And so I entirely agree with Edward that instrumentation can be abused — and there are countless abuses possible. I just want to caution the readers that the potential for abuse exists in every musical genre and every culture.

    Therefore, we have to be careful not to confuse our preferences with allegations of worship abuse. We in the Churches of Christ have a long history of doctrinalizing our disagreements. I personally cannot stand rap and hiphop. It makes me feel Methuselah-old to say that, but I detest it. That doesn't make it sin — as much as I wish it were true. But then, I also detest ABBA. And I think God will gladly accept the worship of those who sing in all those styles. He's a lot more tolerate and patient than I am.

    Which leads to another form of idolatry — assuming that God's taste in music happens to be exactly the same as mine — which would make me the god of worship in my congregation. Ain't so. God judges the heart. 1 Sam 16:7.

    Therefore, although I'm an elder, I've carefully not shared my taste in music with our worship leader. My place as an elder is to be a servant to others, not to be served. (I doubt that the disclosure of my distaste for ABBA and rap will affect his decisions.)

  22. Jay Guin says:


    You ask, "Do they unify all — children, teens, young adults, older adults?" I would like to suggest a very different way of looking at the question.

    My take on the scriptures is that we win these fights, not through compromise or finding the least offensive style or taking turns, but by surrender.

    (Phil 2:1 ESV) So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

    This way we achieve the unity Paul urges us to have is not through negotiation or even modern conflict resolution methods. We find unity through humility and service — counting the other more significant than ourselves. And in the local church, to me that means we older, more mature members see ourselves as less significant than the lost and the younger members — not because we have low self-esteem, but because they are less mature and so we must set an example of Christlikeness for them. That's our role in the Christian colony.

    I can't imagine Paul visiting a church he planted and brokering a deal between young and old regarding how many old and new chants would be sung at each service. I think he'd instead remind both sides that Jesus gave up heaven and life for them, and they should be standing in line asking to be the first to surrender their preferences for the others.

    And I entirely agree that "song and Scripture sung are crucial to spiritual renewal in the middle of spiritual war." I just think we need to consider the question as missionaries.

  23. John Grant says:


    My point exactly. The same verse used to exclude IM could just as easy exclude all physical movement and does in most conservative churches of Christ.

    Not doing any movement is preached from the pulpit using the same scripture to SING, but only IM is debated and even argued over. Why not the rest?

  24. And in case there's anyone in this conversation who is not acquainted the with music of John Michael Talbot (mentioned by Edward Fudge above), here's a sample:

  25. Ray Downen says:

    As for singing too slowly, my observation has been that often the song leader is too anxious to finish his job. Sung words are apt to be best understood at about the same pace as spoken words. Some people talk slowly. To ask them to leap through a song which has meaning is likely to ask the impossible. The fast pace will mask the thought. When songs are all sung as dirges, the group singing will possibly fall asleep or at best think of many things other than the words being slowly brought forth. Ideally, the singing will be leading the thoughts of each singer and listener. Our pace should vary. Some songs are quick. Some are not. Most do well in between rushing and dawdling. This is true of "special music" or congregational songs. Moderation is the word.

  26. Bruce Morton says:

    Dear All:
    I appreciate the kind dialog with brothers. I think I should say little more here as I know that each of us benefits most by the Spirit's patient and quiet work as we reflect on apostolic teaching.

    Let me share briefly that I believe the risen Lord through Paul is showing us that not every cultural religious expression is light. He reveals in Ephesians that the Asian cults were the tools of a dark lord. That included their rituals. His generalities just 'touch' on what was within the Dionysian cult (and others). He refuses to say more than "shameful" or "debauchery." Historians know a good bit of what lies behind those general terms and Clement of Alexandria reveals some of the detail. I will not list specifics here. Clement of Alexandria's words at one point could be a commentary on Ephesians and the pressure of the Asian cults: "Under cover of music, they have outraged human life…." (Exhortation, 9) We face exactly the same danger 2000 years later — at times bending to strong cultural pressures that may not represent light. But in the West — in a religious melting pot — we struggle to call almost anything "darkness." We are supposed to be "tolerant" of every expression. Paul was not being tolerant of Asian cult pressure. He saw it for what it was; that message in Ephesians 4:17-5:21 has impressed on me deeply.

    Let me suggest that Paul's focus in Ephesians 4:17-5:21 is on sensuality and sensationalism — in life, in worship — and how it contributes to darkness. The parallels in the text (listed in the essay) point out a great deal about Ephesians 5:18-21. I hope that becomes a point of unity as folks discuss further.

    Last, I will highlight that Paul makes frequent use of the Septuagint in Ephesians (not new news). That includes Ephesians 5:18-21 as well (something rarely discussed from what I have discovered). Paul uses the same structure as the LXX Psalms 26, 56, and 107. However, he revises the message of each Psalm. I will leave with all of you to read and pray regarding the revision. After all, I have been mulling all of this for a couple of years myself. Has shaped my own singing, worship, and how I see the importance of congregational song now. And to confirm, I agree with all that opening a song book and "just singing" in response to Paul's counsel to "sing" does not necessarily free congregational worship from the threats Paul highlights. In a world drenched in sensuality and sensationalism, Paul's counsel about what is light in the Lord provides guidance to people in a desperate situation — that being all of us (Eph. 6:10-18).

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  27. bradstanford says:

    Dionysian worship was fueled by wine and instrumentation.

    Better wording is in order. "…fueled by alcohol and music that was meant to promote sensuality" is a better way to phrase that.

    Any good musician can use any type of music to promote his or her core beliefs. Sensual people will use a guitar to promote sensuality. A Christian musician will use it to point to God.

    In fact, this is what all art is supposed to do: communicate God's message, be it through painting, works of fiction, or music.

    At some point, the melodies sung by drunken men in bars became the basis for hymns. At that time, they were "contemporary christian songs." They are now defended as Inspired by many. In reality, it was simply expedient to use melodies that people already knew. Bar songs as hymns – at least today's melodies are written by people who profess Jesus as Lord!

    There is always something to complain about in contemporary christian music, no matter what denomination you are in:

    "It was not polyphony in itself which Pope John XXII rejected, but rather the suppression of the Gregorian melody by a sensually effective polyphony which was far removed from the liturgical function in tonal terms as well as in terms of rhythmic movement … and expression" – K. G. Fellerer speaking of the banishment of polyphonic & harmony-based music from Catholic Liturgy in 1322

    I'm not sure that anyone here would describe 1300s Catholic choir music as "sensual" (ok – a couple of us might :^), but as far as getting large group of modern people all worked up – hardly. Those who defend acapella 4-part harmony as Inspired By Scripture would be promoting sensual contemporary christian music and entertainment back then. History is oft quoted as a defense for acapella worship – except that part for some reason. Once again, we have to pick and chose to make history say what we want it to say.

    If you want to return to "first century worship", then you need to return to the Gregorian Chant, not Stamps-Baxter.

    This issue, of course, is designed by the enemy to get us to face inward, rather than outward. And we're supposed to be the ones who are wise to his schemes!

    Here's the thing: if you want to get the furthest away from sin, get as close as you can to Jesus. That is the essence of the New Covenant: Love God, love your neighbor as yourself. In these you fulfill the Law in its entirety. For there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And if you are in Him, all of your efforts – artistic and otherwise – will reflect that.

  28. Mario Lopez says:

    Have we had a good discussion about psallo and ado yet? Or did I miss it? Maybe I should do a couple searches in the archive.

  29. Bruce Morton says:

    I have appreciated your comments and the question you raise. Has been a focus of my attention as well over the past few years. Most use of psallo classically and in the LXX has indicated making music on an instrument. That is one of the reasons Ephesians 5:18-21 is so striking. It represents an example of Paul revising parts of three LXX Psalms (26, 56, 107) and giving psallo a revised meaning by "with your heart" (ESV, as one recent translation). Folks may be thinking, "Okay, we have heard your comments. Enough." So, I'll stop at that.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  30. Jay Guin says:


    Yes, psallo and ado have been discussed. I suggest /2009/07/07/instrumental-mu… the comments there, and the link to Danny Corbitt's excellent book, which covers the question in detail.

  31. Royce says:

    If I have learned nothing more, it has been confirmed that perhaps no other issue is quite the "hot button" topic IM has become.

    Seriously, isn't it just a bit over the top? How many years have RM folks been fighting about this? In the scheme of God's redemptive plan and the life and mission of the church in that redemptive story, should IM garner this much attention?

    Families have been torn apart, churches split, people who say they are following Christ take out full page ads in news papers to condemn others who claim to be following Christ, and preachers condemn their fellow preachers to hell…..over music?

    Meanwhile a watching world is waiting for us to make a redemptive appeal, supposedly based on love? I think it is high time we get our priorities in order. Instead of the unified, pure Christians the RM fathers envisioned, many of us have become only people to be avoided.

    Perhaps I'm completely wrong but I think at the judgment seat of Christ the only question about music in worship will be "Why did you waste so much time and resources, and hurt one another, over something that mattered so little?"

    Christ is the answer! We are asking the wrong questions.


  32. Jay Guin says:

    Bruce mentions 3 psalms paraphrased by Paul in Eph 5:19: "LXX Psalms 26, 56, 107." (LXX stands for the Septuagint).

    Ps 26:4 I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. 5 I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked. 6 I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O LORD, 7 proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds.

    Ps 56:12 I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you.

    Ps 107:22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy! … 32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

    This is the ESV, and there's no express reference to instruments. Of course, if "sing" translates psallo in the Greek Septuagint, when the Septuagint was translated, psallo meant to plan an instrument.

    It's not entirely obvious to me that Paul was paraphrasing any of these in Eph 5:19, but the Greek may be more similar than the English. Or maybe I've picked out the wrong verses.


    Are these the right verses? Before I dig into the LXX, I want to be sure I've dug out the right verses.

  33. Bruce Morton says:

    The LXX has 151 Psalms, while the English translations have 150. So, often the numbers are "one off."

    LXX Psalm 26 = English Psalm 27.
    See specifically LXX Psalm 26:6b compared to Psalm 27:6b.

    LXX Psalm 56 = English Psalm 57.
    See specifically LXX Psalm 56:8b-9a compared to Psalm 57:7b-8a.

    LXX Psalm 107 = English Psalm 108.
    See specifically LXX Psalm 107:2b-3a compared to Psalm 108:1b-2a.

    Fyi, I have included all of the Greek comparisons in a note in Deceiving Winds (pages 259-60), but not adding all here as folks will see it. I have used the Septuaginta, ed. Alfred Rahlfs (Stuttgart, 1935) — standard LXX text.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  34. Bruce Morton says:

    You may be thinking, "Bruce, I have heard enough of your perspective; I want others to chime in." So, I am attempting to be brief as to what raises all of this for me — based on a look at Ephesians 4:17-5:21. To confirm, I will be glad to let you/others have the last word as folks mull all of this.

    Please know that I do understand that all of this may feel like a hundred year echo within the Restoration Movement. It has surfaced for me as part of a look at earliest Christianity among the ancient cults; I have spent little time looking at the historical RM argumentation of the issue. I do not suggest that the RM background is unimportant. However, that has not been my focus. My focus was on apostolic teaching against the background of the Asian cults.

    I certainly agree with you that Christ is the answer! An interesting parallel in Colossians points to just how important song was in apostolic perspective in conveying that answer. Colossians 3:16 does not stand "by itself" either; it parallels Colossians 1:28. Paul was saying in brief, "we have been teaching you;" now "you teach others with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs." A remarkable joining of texts by the apostle. He is highlighting one way the congregations were to continue what the apostles began. They were to teach others by means of song!

    Let me also note that what many in America find "strange" is common in Fiji. Song (no IM) is a crucial part of the culture and worship in Fiji — and not just within churches of Christ. One sociologist, Joan Burton, has studied the culture in-depth. She has noted that the Fijians depend on vocal music — everywhere (including worship) — as something that strongly binds their culture together. What is significant here is that her study illustrates the message Paul is conveying in Ephesians 4:17-5:21 and the purpose of song in building oneness among the earliest Christians.

    Okay, I am stopping.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  35. Jay Guin says:


    Thanks for the citations. They are very helpful. The Psalms to which you refer are —

    Ps 108:1b-2a I will sing and make melody with all my being! 2 Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!

    Ps 57:7b-8a I will sing and make melody! 8 Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!

    Psalm 27:6b I will sing and make melody to the LORD.

    The first two have express references to instruments. The third does not. In Eph 5:19, it does appear that Paul is paraphrasing the repeated phrase "Sing and make melody."

    All three are literally "I will sing (ado) and I will pluck (an instrument) (psalo) to the Lord." The translation of psalo as "pluck" (an instrument) in the Septuagint is not controversial, but the Septuagint (Greek translatio of the Hebrew OT) is centuries older than the NT.

    Eph 5:19 in Greek is —

    sing (ado) and sing/make melody/pluck an instrument (psalo) to the Lord.

    By the First Century, psalo had come to mean "sing," either with or without an instrument.

    Now, we can make a couple of arguments.

    1. Paul seems to clearly echo these three Psalms.

    2. Two of the three psalms have explicit references to instruments.

    3. There are no explicit references to instruments in Ephesians, other than "in the heart" (en tE kardia), which is not "with the heart" but "in the heart," being the place where the singing and playing are to take place.

    4. Ps 107 LXX (= English Ps 108) refers to singing and playing "in my glory (doxE)." Paul could not say "in my glory" as he carefully uses "glory" in his writings to refer to God's presence and our celebration of God — not the inner being of the Christian. And so he replaces "glory" with "heart."

    5. The other psalms don't offer a similar parallel, so we conclude Paul was quoting Ps 107.

    This is the quote in context —

    1 My heart is steadfast, O God!
    I will sing and make melody with all my being!
    2Awake, O harp and lyre!
    I will awake the dawn!
    3I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples;
    I will sing praises to you among the nations.
    4For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

    So … does this imply that Paul is rejecting instruments? He certainly didn't quote the part about instruments. But he did use the very same verbs for "sing" and "make melody." The first means "sing" (not a cappella and not instrumental, just "sing"). The second is psalo. And in the Greek of the Septuagint, it means "play an instrument" and in Ps 107, the instruments are named: a harp and a lyre.

    Now, Paul had Greek verbs available to say "sing" with no implication of instruments. He chose to retain psalo even though he was willing to replace "glory" with "heart". And if he was quoting a Psalm from the Septuagint, he was using psalo in the sense in which David wrote it.

    Just so, if I quote Shakespeare, I should normally be taken to be using his words in his sense — especially if I'm a Shakespeare scholar, as Paul was an OT scholar — trained under Gamaliel, one of the great rabbis in Jewish history.

    So, if anything, this argues for Paul to be using psalo in its Septuagint sense, not in the koine (First Century) Greek sense, as it's a quote. And "in your heart" would seem not to mean the heart is the instrument any more than "in my glory" means David's glory is his instrument. And that's plainly not the meaning of the Psalm, as the instruments are named in the next verse.

    (Young's Literal) Eph 5:19 speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord

    Does Paul therefore command the use of instruments? Well, as I've said before, grammatically, it's not a command. Rather, it's a description of how being filled with the Spirit impacts a Christian.

    Might Paul have used psalo in its First Century sense of "sing"? No. Not literally, because he wrote "singing and making melody (psalo)," and why would he say "singing and singing"? That would make no sense.

    My own conclusion, therefore, is that these texts, far from arguing for strictly a cappella music, lead us to interpret Eph 5:19 as at least neutral and, in reality, supportive of the use of instruments. Indeed, his real point is to direct our singing and playing toward God rather than toward debauchery, it seems to me.

    But, and this is a big "but," I'm not a Greek scholar. Someone who knows this stuff better than me may well come to a different conclusion. This is just the best I can do by myself.

    (And did you notice I've been able to find Greek resources on this world wide web thing? I still miss my QuickVerse, but I'm learning new skills.)

  36. Bruce Morton says:

    I appreciate your taking time to wade into the LXX with me and with others.

    I will briefly offer for consideration that the Greek phrase can be "in your heart" or "with your heart." Translations vary. NIV and KJV translators chose "in;" ESV, RSV, NEB, and Jerusalem Bible translators chose "with."

    Please also note the participles and structure in verse 19: "speaking" closely associated with "singing" and "making music". Paul does not place an "and" between the first and the second two.

    With this will let folks read and pray.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  37. Ray Downen says:

    Bruce Morton asked, "How did you come to the conclusion that Paul was NOT speaking about a worship assembly? Do you see evidence in Paul’s counsel that he is excluding an assembly for the purpose of worship (since worship gatherings of all religions were pervasive throughout the Greco-Roman world)?"

    I see no evidence anywhere in the apostolic writings that the apostles were concerned with public worship by Christians. I see no reason why reasonable readers would read INTO apostolic writings rules about congregational worship. Worship is a matter of the heart. It's private, not public. If the early church had worship services, no inspired writer saw fit to mention the fact.

    I see no evidence that Paul was excluding singing during Christian assemblies. I'd think he was including singing anywhere. Or playing musical instruments. I greatly appreciate Jay's comments about the matter. I urge every reader to ponder and search for any apostolic writing which refers to Christian gatherings as being "worship services." If pagans held worship services (we suppose they did indeed do so) why would we assume that meant that Christians in apostolic days did so? I make no such assumption.

    And I search in vain for any inspired witness of the early Christians ever even once gathering for a "worship" service. I think Paul points us to truth in speaking of living for Jesus as our "reasonable service" which is our worship. Or, as the NIV words it, "I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–THIS is your spiritual act of worship" (Romans 12:1).

    As always in inspired writings, this is NOT pointing to what we are to do "one hour per week" or when directed by a "worship leader." This is speaking of how we live every day! We worship by serving. Sacrificially. Persistently. Lovingly. Patiently. It's not something we turn on and off when told to do so by any worship leader! It's not swinging and swaying to rhythmic song, either vocal or vocal with accompaniment.

  38. "I see no evidence anywhere in the apostolic writings that the apostles were concerned with public worship by Christians."

    One word response: Wow!!! The links and foolish claims some people are making in trying to suport IM is just amazing to me!

    Surely this is not where most of the progressives are at??? Please…please, say "it ain't so!"


    I guess sSo much for all the references in the book of Acts of "when they had come together" "they were all in one place," etc. or 1 Timothy 2 and 3 (cf. 3;15). Or just forget 1 Corinthians 11-14! Huh??


    Robert Prater

  39. K. Rex Butts says:

    Robert said, "foolish claims some people are making in trying to suport IM is just amazing to me!"

    With my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, I ask…is this not the pot calling the kettle black? I see plenty of questionable claims and exegesis used to condemn IM.

    Grace and Peace,


  40. Rex,

    You can call whatever pot calling the kettle you want to my friend, but anytime you want to question a passage I've exegeted here, just say the word and we'll discuss it!

    The real question is: Do you agre with this nonsense idea that there is "no evidence anywhere in the apostolic writings that the apostles were concerned with public worship by Christians."

    I'm asking is that where progressives are now at?


  41. Mike Ward says:


    You cite the many mentions of "when they had come together” in Acts as example of the apostles being concerned with public worship. I have two questions.

    1) Which passages in acts are you refering to as examples of public worship? I have found the following include the phrase, "when they had come together”: 1:6, 25:17, and 28:12. Maybe there are others I could not find. I do not which you are refering to as examples of public worhip.

    2) Do you believe that whenever the bible shows an example of somthing that it implies the inspired writers are concerned with it as a pattern for Christian worship? For instance there are two examples of the Lord's supper being taken in an upper room. I, however, do not believe that any of the apostlic writers where concerned about this. Sometimes an example is just an examples.

    Like you I am not convinced that the apostolic writers were unconcerned with public worship. But I think it is lot harder to come up with an counter-example than you think. And simply mocking the idea won't accomplish anything.

  42. K. Rex Butts says:


    To answer your question…no, I do think the Apostles/New Testament showed a concern for the worship assembly. I think it shows the same concern it has for the rest of life, that the values of the gospel (e.g., humility) rather than the values of the world (e.g., wealth) shape the assembly as well as the whole of Christian life.

    But what I think is that the issue of whether or not a Christian assembly can have instruments in worship is a stupid issue that has nothing to do with the gospel and has often gotten in the way of the bigger issue. We fight over this to the point of division (and both sides are at fault) all the while there is another pagan out there dying in a false belief, or there is another child being smothered to death under the weight of injustice and oppression.

    I think it is stupid that anyone from either side would so insist on having their way that they divide from teh majority who do not share their view.

    But I also think it is pretty stupid that people keep wanting to turn the New Testament into a second law, proof-texting verse irregardless of context in order to support their conclusion which obviously cannot be supported without them appealing to principles, philosophies, etc… that are extra-biblical in order to build up a systematic construct of an argument based upon interprative rules their read back into scripture in order to justify their argumentation so that they can then justify a stated rule that says something to the effect of "The New Testament forbids the practice of instrumental music in Christian worship" when in fact the New Testament never actually says that; when in fact that what they say the New Testament says is actually only an interpretation they are making.

    I don't need instruments to worship God and where I worship, we don't use them either. Nor do I have any intentions of trying to introduce instruments because even if I wanted to, I believe it would cause more trouble and take away from the real gospel issues. But I am not going to support an interpretation that is used to condemn those who do use instruments in worship and is built upon many extra-biblical ideologies in order to justify such an interpretation. Nor am I going to make a DVD and send it to every other Church of Christ congregation urging them to play such a DVD as though, even though I have never set foot in most of those congregations, I know what is best for their church…like the New Testament Church Today group has tried doing. (Yes we teach short term missionaries not to take issues from teh homeland and make it an issue for someone else but when it comes to an issue like this, that little piece of wisdom gets tossed out the door because some other Christians think they know what is best for a congregation they have most likely never even set foot in…how arrogant).

    What also do I think? I think as far back as the first cenury there were Christians wanting to establish and enforce rules God never made. And I think the Aposltes/New Testament was concerned that Christians not be duped and coerced into such deciet because "everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by God's word and prayer" (1 Tim 4.4-5, NRSV). And yes I know that Paul is specifically talking about those who forbid certain foods and marriage. But I suppose that if certain foods, which some Christians wanted to exclude, can be made by the hands of men and yet be called "good" by God and indeed sanctified by God then I suppose that if someone has the gift for writing Christian poetyy and strumming the guitar behind it, then it to is "good" and sanctified by God.

    Well, that is all I have for this issue.

    Grace and peace,


  43. Rex you said:

    "But I suppose that if certain foods, which some Christians wanted to exclude, can be made by the hands of men and yet be called “good” by God and indeed sanctified by God then I suppose that if someone has the gift for writing Christian poetyy and strumming the guitar behind it, then it to is “good” and sanctified by God."

    But you also told me (accused??) in earlier post: seeing "plenty of questionable claims and exegesis…." you of course then said "used to condemn IM."

    I might turn that one right around here. "I see plenty of questionable claims and exegesis used to justify IM."

    Boy you've done job on 1 Timothy 4:5!


    In this passage Paul teaches clearly about the essential goodness of all food. The points of this teaching are: everything God created is good.

    Food is made clean for us ("consecrated, sanctified") by our prayer of thanksgiving.

    Food is also made clean for us by our understanding of the truth — that is, "the word of God."

    Jesus said, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." (John 17:17)

    Rex, that is the only way to have something "sanctified" or consecreated by God is by His Word, truth.

    I can find God "consecrating" singing (Eph. 5:19), I can't find where he did with IM. Maybe I've missed that:)!

    My friend, we don't make something "consecreted" God does in His Word.

    If our worship is driven by offering to God what He has requested from us, are not questions about worshipping with instrumental music easily resolved?

    Boy I wonder does the complexity of this issue arise from trying to figure out what God has asked Christians to do or does it come from other values competing with God's requests?


  44. Bruce Morton says:

    I think I have been chastised for raising the "stupid issue." Please know that I will not react defensively; I do want to hear you/ That is the purpose of the forum, and that is brotherly love. Glad to do so.

    Also, since I cannot tell who has read what, I was interested to know if you had waded into the initial essay and subsequent background and information listed in the note chain, or no? I am curious to know what folks "hear" as they consider Ephesians 4:17-5:21.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  45. Bruce Morton says:

    I am listening, and interested to know what conclusions you have reached regarding 1 Corinthians 11:17 and the apostle's other uses of "come together" (e.g. verse 34).

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  46. K. Rex Butts says:


    You are not getting it…you can quote Jn 17.17 all day long (and out of context to suit your purpose)…but the issue of IM has NOTHING to do with the truth Jesus preached, the truth that he is, or the New Testament…it is only something inseted into the NT and called a truth issue. In other words, I am saying that to teach that the New Testament in any way teaches against and prohibits Christians from worshiping with instruments is to add to what the scriptures teach and say…to add to the words of God!


    I am sorry but I have not read through all of your posts but that is just because I have not had the time. I am not claiming to be an expert on Ephesians but I have taught through that book, preached through it, and even translated the entire book from the Greek text into English (no claims on being a good translation)…I just say that to say that I am not a novice to Ephesians and I don't think the context of Ephesians 5.19 supports any justification for using that passage to condemn IM.

    I don't mean to say that all arguments are stupid. I believe I can make a good case for not using IM in certain contexts but not based upon exegetical grounds. Instead the case would be made upon a missiological ground.

    I do think it is pretty studpid for this (non-biblical) issue to continue having the preeminence that it does and especially to the point of division when their are real issues worth fighting for. Last night I spent the evening with four twenty-somthing's, two of whom profess to be Christians and the other two who profess to be "spiritual" but with questions about Christianity and as I am trying to be truthful and sensitive in my conversation with them, all the while I am hearing the two professing Christians say why believing in Jesus is good but you really don't absolutely have to believe in him to be saved.

    So I am just trying to say that in the real world – not this blog – we've got bigger issues and issues that are real and central to the fundamental gospel. And at the risk of putting words in everyone's mouth, I believe you, Robert, Jay, and everyone else commenting on this blog would agree that it is a real big problem when we are trying to witness the gospel to non-believers and we have other professing believers saying it really doesn't matter what we believe. So while there might be a time and place for the discussion of Christian worship, I just think it pales in comparrison to the big picture we are (ought) to be fighting for.

    Grace and peace,


  47. Randall says:

    Rex at 6:53–

    Thank you Rex!!!

    If only everyone would end this stupid thing, forever.

    It is an embarrassment to the church of God that we would carry on with all this.


  48. Bruce Morton says:

    I do want you to know that I have heard the critique and that you consider the study I have raised to be stupid and an embarrassment.

    So, do want to gather your conclusions about Paul's counsel regarding spiritual song in his broader counsel in Ephesians 4:17-5:21. What are your thoughts? Glad to listen.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  49. Bruce Morton says:

    I am glad to hear your attention to the Ephesians letter. I will let you soak up the essay and further information before wading in further. The subject of this post is part of a recent publication by 21st Century Christian — that looks at Paul's letters to Roman Asia against the background of the Asian cults. It is broader than Ephesians 4:17-5:21, but thought folks would have an interest in some of the research.

    I sat on the study/research and prayed about it for a couple of years before releasing to Everett Ferguson, Jack Cottrell (Cincinnati Christian University), and others. Some of the findings surprised. I know folks do not want me to rehash here, so if you are inclined to further discussion beyond the forum, please feel free to email me at: [email protected].

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  50. Bruce Morton says:

    Also thought you would have an interest to know some of the "roots' of Deceiving Winds. What you will see in my comments above is that a conversation with two Wiccan priestesses initiated some of this study by me. I know, how did I get from there to the subject of this forum chain? I will leave to you to read.

    Just wanted you to know that Colossians 1:28 and 3:16 mingled are crucial to me too. We are trying to teach others, and glad to know of your efforts.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  51. K. Rex Butts says:


    I just thought I would let you know that I took time to read your small essay above and appreciate the time you have put into your study. I agree that Paul is trying to counter a behavior found among the pagan culture but I think this counter teaching Paul is offering is broader than simple worship. However, gathering together in Christian community – a community that is filled with the Holy Spirit – is the way to strengthen one another for the fight against evil. Worship – especially in the singing of psalms and hymns – achieves this goal in a mysterious (if you will) manner than cannot be adequately described in words.

    Nevertheless, though I fully understand what the word psallo had come to mean in the first century, I still don't think that a contextualized exegetical case can be made that Paul's intentions was to provide instruction on how Christians were to sing regarding the accompaniment of musical instruments or lack of much less trying to estanblish a rule that must be obeyed by all Christians of all cultures within history.

    Furher more, no one ever speaks about the missiological issues. I believe a case could 'possibly' be made that in a culture such as our, the lack of IM may be a hinderance to the gospel and therefore establishing an indigenous gospel rather than a transplanted gospel might necessitate the inclusiong of IM (notice I said possibly, I am not ready to stake my life on that claim…just trying to think outloud).

    Plus, I am pretty positive that telling the emerging unchurched generation IM is wrong would not only drive them away but the typical case against IM would be silliness to them because they don't even think through the modern paradigm that is necessary to understand such things as the Regulative Principle or Baconian Rationalism.

    Any ways…though we disagree, I do appreciate the time you have placed into your studies and I am sure that much of the background info of the Ephesian culture would be beneficial.

    Grace and peace,


  52. Randall says:

    I don't intend to participate in this very much. I may not think it stupid that IM has ever been discussed, but that it has been beaten to death multiple times over. For crying out loud, this debate has been one of the more important issues discussed by the CofC since the middle of the 19th century and we're still at it. Others have said the value of the ink used to print the articles about IM exceeds the value of the issue. It is embarrassing to tell someone I attend a CofC and then be asked what the big deal is with them and IM. I am tired of it. I am embarrassed by the CofC being known as a denomination that "majors in the minors and minors in the majors." Why don't we focus our attention on more important theological issues?

    I also think that a fair reading of the scriptures does not lead anyone to the a clear conclusion that God disapproves of IM. If it was clear there surely be an unequivocal teaching against it.

    I think Rex has said the rest better than I could have ever done. If he chooses to carry on the discussion with you that is between the two of you. I am done.

    I wish all of God's blessing upon you.

  53. I am pretty positive that telling the emerging unchurched generation IM is wrong would … drive them away.
    Why? If it did not drive away the 2nd-7th century Pagans, why should it drive away the Pagans of the 21st century?

    This does not convince me as an argument. And more than that I actually fear this kind of reasoning: If we choose the way we worship according to the taste of the world where would that lead to? Paul – as all seem to agree – spoke up against the Pagan culture. "Psallo" as also almost all agree – back then in the 1st century – was a synonym for singing and not necessarily for playing an instrument. The Early church was quite clear and unanimous about a-cappella worship. And they grew in numbers in spite of that!

    If we don't grow, I am sure, it is not because we don't play the music of the world. It is not, becaus we are too different from the society around us. I think, for the outsiders it doesn't make enough difference to be a Christian! You can live the same life style, you can have the same kind of jobs, there is even te same allowance ondivorce and remarriage, on patriotic zeal and the same interest in football or baseball. The only difference we offer, seems to be a verbal confession to Christ, the "thrill" of daily Bible-Reading and prayer, the routine of partaking a worship service.

    Of course: If being admitted to worship is the only significant incentive we can offer to the world, we have to make this event as entertaining and thrilling as possible in order to win the masses.

    And this Gospel somehow sounds like: "You don't have to change anything, just accept Jesus as your savior!" The end result is what we had since Constantin: A "Christian" Culture.


  54. I am pretty positive that telling the emerging unchurched generation IM is wrong would … drive them away.

    Why? If it did not drive away the 2nd-7th century Pagans, why should it drive away the Pagans of the 21st century?

    This does not convince me as an argument. And more than that I actually fear this kind of reasoning: If we choose the way we worship according to the taste of the world where would that lead to? Paul – as all seem to agree – spoke up against the Pagan culture. "Psallo" as also almost all agree – back then in the 1st century – was a synonym for singing and not necessarily for playing an instrument. The Early church was quite clear and unanimous about a-cappella worship. And they grew in numbers in spite of that!

    If we don't grow, I am sure, it is not because we don't play the music of the world. It is not, becaus we are too different from the society around us. I think, for the outsiders it doesn't make enough difference to be a Christian! You can live the same life style, you can have the same kind of jobs, there is even te same allowance ondivorce and remarriage, on patriotic zeal and the same interest in football or baseball. The only difference we offer, seems to be a verbal confession to Christ, the "thrill" of daily Bible-Reading and prayer, the routine of partaking a worship service.

    Of course: If being admitted to worship is the only significant incentive we can offer to the world, we have to make this event as entertaining and thrilling as possible in order to win the masses.

    And this Gospel somehow sounds like: "You don't have to change anything, just accept Jesus as your savior!" The end result is what we had since Constantin: A "Christian" Culture.


  55. Mike Ward says:


    Didn't the 2nd through 7th century church make allowances for the Pagans? Maybe they should not have, but I don't see how the practice of the church of that period supports your contention.

  56. Mike Ward says:

    Okay, this phrase has come up in several threads now. Does someone want to explain to me what "emerging church" means?

  57. BTW: As far as I have experienced it in the various discussions during the last 15 years the request for IM (or in my case CCM) always came from Christians – I've never heard a seeker questioning a-cappella singing.

    Whenever I talk to outsiders, actually they have no problem with whatever I say concerning such matters. But they demand consistency. If I say, we try to be as close as possible to the Early Church, then singing a-cappella is consistent. Meeting in big worship halls and sitting in pews on the other hand isn't. So as soon, as we say: We are a NT church, we should be very careful to be consistent and to not pick and choose … And, you will see, singing a-cappella will be the least disturbing thing for unchurched people. (Well, the gate is narrow, and I think we should keep it that way …)

    And what is won, if people get baptized because we "play their music" ( (c) Lee Strobel in his testimony "A Case for Christ"), but are not changed in their attitude towards the world? After all, worldly music is binding us to the culture we live in in a very strong and emotional way. (That's one of the reasons why I don't listen to the radio just to have some sound in the background while doing something else – music and its message isn't neutral).


  58. Randall says:

    Mike Ward,
    For a conservative perspective (conservative in the big sense, not the CofC sense of the word) on the emerging church you may want to read this:
    The link will take you to a review of a book about the emerging church which indicates what the writers like and don't like about it.

  59. Dear Mike


    Didn’t the 2nd through 7th century church make allowances for the Pagans? Maybe they should not have, but I don’t see how the practice of the church of that period supports your contention.

    You are right, they did, especially from Constantine on. And I am in strong disagreement with what happened after Nicea (and even in the decades before that turning point). But the topic is IM, and this they kept (in West) until the Middle Ages as it was at the beginning (a-cappella), and in the East until today.

    Anyway. My biggest question is: "What is won, when we change from a-cappella to IM?"

    Will because of that one sould be added to the church? I mean a soul, not a number. We can easily attract numbers if we meet their taste for entertaining, but – as even Bill Hybels had to admit – there are many attending the services but only few of them are disciples.

    If we make the church for the unchurched a place where they can feel at home, we produce worldly churches. Of course, church should not be an unpleasent place either. But the seekers should be attracted by love in holiness, not by entertainment they are used to from the world.

    The Early Church kept the narrow gate narrow, and still it grew tremendously … under persecution. One of the reasons we are not pesecuted is maybe that the world recognizes us as part of its own people. I'm sorry, I can't see the difference between the world and the church when I look at contemporary Western Christianity. And this bothers me very much. It is not out of contentiousness I'm saying this, but because I fear that if the world does accept us, we might (or will) be rejected by the Lord.

    So, if we (what is my impression) seek to introduce IM in order to become more appealing to outsiders (because for God it makes no difference at all!), we go into the wrong direction. And, to be balanced, IM is one of the minor issues. In other aspects the conservatives have entered the road to worldliness as well without being aware of it.

    So we discuss IM, and the conservatives can feel good for holding fast to the traditions (while letting go of them in even weightier things); and the progressives can sell it as their "concern for outsiders" without realizing the context of the whole thing. But neither side sees the big picture.

    We could ask: Does the tradition of a-cappella help us to understand the concept of separation? If we don't understand the concept, we might es well let go of it … But if we grasp what is at stake, we will do everything that helps us to keep a clear distance from the kingdom of darkness and its ultimate doom.

    Do you, Mike, understand what I try to say?


  60. Mike Ward says:


    I understand most of what you are saying, but I don't think I understand all of it.

    I still think the example of the 2nd through 7th century does not make the point you made with it, but this is a minor thing in the context of the larger discussion.

    I find that conservative arguments against IM are all over the place. Conservatives are certain it must be wrong and throw out every argument they can think of hoping something sticks.

    Any progressive arguing IM is needed to reach the unchurched may be doing to same thing from the opposite direction. I'm not yet convinced IM increases evangelism opportunities (though I have not completely dismissed the idea).

    However, I do believe that strong opposition to IM turns many seekers away. They may be considering being part of an acapella congregation, but if they see that congregation focusing more on condemning IM in other churches than anything else many of them well go elsewhere–or no where.

  61. Mike Ward says:


    Thanks for the link, but having now read it, I have no more understanding of what the emerging church is than I did before. I found a Wikipedia article which likewise was zero help and a site attacking the emerging church which didn't help either.

    I'm not sure "emerging church" really means anything.

  62. Royce Ogle says:

    Easter Sunday my wife and I went to church with our daughter, son in law, and three grandsons. The service we attended (one of three that day) was the contemporary service.

    The pastor preached a very simple yet profound message on the good news of what Christ has accomplished for sinners. A video was shown of a lady who had been baptised in the early service, and we sang.

    We sung the songs, a mixture of more modern songs and some old hymns. We worshiped our God. The guitars and piano did not keep me from singing.

    At our home church we don't have IM, I still sing and worship in the same way. I sing songs to praise and adore my God.

    Those folks at my daughter's church are no more likely to be sensous or to fall into sin than the folks across the river who sing a cappella. (I know both groups pretty well) Both groups are people who are devoted to Jesus and each other. They play sports together, they teach together at the Christian school, and work together to make our community better.

    The evidence is not that both congregations are large but that hundreds at both locations evidence transformed lives that love Christ, love others, and are happily building the kingdom.

    Reading into the biblical text what is not there only builds the wall higher. Like it or not you are going to heaven with folks who worship with instruments, those who worship in liturgical churches, those who reflect their heritage in Africa, etc., etc.

    The authenticity of a person's faith is not reflected by what form of worship they enjoy and appreciate but by how they love. Perhaps it would be good to shift the focus from Ephesians and Colossians to 1 John.


  63. Mario Lopez says:


    The Emergent Church is a bit like how Indie Music is to Main Stream music. Different for the sake of difference, in terms of churchiness, and rooted in cultural norms of the area they appear in. They are said to 'emerge' out of communities instead of coming into and changing them.

    That's my understanding.

    -Mario Lopez

  64. Mike Ward says:


    Thanks for the explanation.

    I don't follow your Indie Music anology, but your last sentence, "They are said to ‘emerge’ out of communities instead of coming into and changing them." is the most helpful description I've seen.

    However, I don't see how that is being "different for the sake of difference".

  65. Mario Lopez says:


    They have a tendency in practice, to do things different because they don't want to be like other churches, not necessarily because the behavior emerged from the culture.

  66. K. Rex Butts says:

    I would say that trying to put a one size fits all definition on the emerging church movement is like trying to put a one size fits all definition on the protesting (Protestant) church movement of the 16th century. The emerging church movement is a variety of church movements with a different theological emphasis just as the Protestant movement had diverse theological emphasis shaped by Christians such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Menno Simmons. Much like the Protestant movement, the commonality with the emerging movement seems to be that something is wrong with the general practice and understanding of contemporary Christianity which is to wedded to the Western-enlightment paradigm (and I would include the Restoration Movement in this paradigm).

    Unfortunately, those who seem to be the most critical of the emerging church movement are the ones who often appear oblivious to the (rightfully earned) criticisms of the Western-enlightment paradigm. Will the emerging movement over-react some? Of course! That is what happens in any reactionary movement. But so did the western-enlighment paradigm and anyone who keeps up with current theological studies knows that there has been a lot written in the last twent-five years showing how the reformers read and interpreted scripture in reaction to the abuses taking place in Roman Catholicism. That is why, even though there are some in the emerging church movement that raise some red flags with me (e.g., McLaren), I trust that God is using is working through it to bring about his will just as he has always done throughout history.

    Grace and peace,


  67. Mike Ward says:

    Thanks Rex,

    The more I read about what the emerging church is (here and elsewhere) the the more confused I become.

  68. Randall says:

    Mike Ward,
    As Rex pointed out the emerging church is not monolithic. If you were to read the book that was covered in the review I linked to, you would find a much more substantial discussion of who is who in the emerging church and what they teach. Much of it is good and in my opinion some of it goes too far. I assume there is no surprise there.

    The idea of wanting to be the church rather than going to church is associated with the emerging church though it is not original with that movement. I suspect many more traditional Christians feel that way too. I do think there are some in the movement that have a bias against propositional truth. This may be a reaction against some of the doctrinal battles that have characterized more mainline Christianity.

    If you are interested you could several hours on line or reading the book. Sam Storms web site has a second part to the book review (I think) as well as a five part series by D.A. Carson (a conservative reformed guy) on the emerging church.


  69. Anonymous says:

    There is no shock that people want to argue IM and a cappella, there will always be people who will find something to complain and argue about. The quibbling over IM and a cappella on this blog, the arrogance of many on here displays the scorn of many churches, and that to say is beyond saddening.

    But the seekers should be attracted by love in holiness, not by entertainment they are used to from the world.

    Love and holiness is what attracted me and many, many other people to the church I attend. I came from a world of thugs, guns, money, and drugs, it certainly was not the contemporary music that attracted me. When I first went people came and spoke to me with love and compassion with a genuine interest to speak to me, no one spoke to me in Christianese, someone asked me if I wanted them to show me where everything is, as we walked around the building I saw many people deeply reading studying in their Bibles with each other, I saw many people from all walks of life, Black, White, Hispanic, Jewish, Asian, adults and teenagers around the hallways genuinely giving each other love and encouragement. I walked in expecting people to have a holier-than-thou attitude toward me….that didn’t happen, I was blown away by the genuineness the people there had toward each other and toward me. When I would thank them for their kindness they were very humble and gave God glory, I had never seen anything like this. As I kept coming I saw this happening not only when they gathered together but it was seen in these people’s lives….I was greatly humbled. The teachings were not in Christianese, after coming a just a couple of times I was actually wanting to learn, I wanted to know God, I wanted to know Jesus, I wanted to study the Bible. That small spark that was lit when I first came is now a consuming fire that I need every day of my life. Going to church is not a chore it is a privilege to gather together with others who are on fire for the Lord. I go to worship God, to study His Word, to give Him praise to the best of my abilities as many other people there do, and is such a small sacrifice compared to His, I want to give Him my best! When we leave the building we gather at it is not to be sin sniffers. Worshiping God doesn’t end when we walk out those doors, worshiping God is our daily walk. When we go out those doors that’s where our mission begins, when we leave there our mission is clear to us, we are His hands and feet that are to reach out to a lost and hurting world.

  70. Jay Guin says:


    Rex first mentioned the "emerging unchurched generation," which I take to mean the very many young people who are open to the spiritual but not familiar with the real Jesus.

    The "emerging church" refers to a movement away from the old way of doing church toward something better. At this point, the leaders of that movement have gone in different directions, some good and some not so good. A lot of good thinking and writing and experimenting was done, however.

    I did a couple of series on the movement through the writings of Scot McKnight, an orthodox Christian who identified himself with some parts of the emerging church movement. /index-under-construction/t… Many have condemned the movement by pointing out the flaws of some people within it while ignoring the virtues of other people within it.

    Personally, I have no interest in approving or disapproving the movement. Rather, I read their writings and consider their works and learn from them — sometimes learning to disagree and sometimes to agree — and it's always been a rich and rewarding study.

  71. Bruce Morton says:

    I appreciate greatly the first paragraph of your 10:49 pm post last night. An excellent summary and exactly where I have been headed. My starting place was more than a discussion of IM, but our society tends to polarize quickly. Part of it has to do with Restoration Movement history. Part of it is the pace of dialog.

    My starting point was to ask folks to "get at" Ephesians 4:17-5:21 with me. I see it as having application to both congregations with IM and congregations with vocal music only. And I am growing more convinced — and this forum has increased that sense — that we are struggling to hear Paul in the text. So, I appreciate your taking time to get some of what I wanted to share. I hope you will read through my subsequent notes, which will add to it.

    It is "buried" in the above, but want to highlight Stephen Guthrie's (Baptist professor) excellent, enlightening article. He gets at exactly what Paul is saying about the power of music — in the Asian cults, and as Christians sing.

    More than anything my purpose in the essay was to highlight what I believe folks have talked about too little — the Spirit's use of song as Christians sing together. It is a simple message about preaching the Word in the first century and now.

    Rex, I appreciate your focus on Scripture.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  72. K. Rex Butts says:


    I am sorry that my reply has come so late but I have been under the weather with a stomach virus. I am just now feeling like actually sitting up.

    Any ways…I do appreciate your use of scripture. Even though we don't agree, I consider your use of scripture – to read it in its historical-grammatical context – is based on good methodology. Personally, I have no desire in defending IM or A Capella worship. I am concerned when I see others abusing the nature of scripture (i.e., proof-texting, flatlining, etc…) and/or employing a hermeneutic that I believe is frought with problems. I am concerned because such methology has an impact on how we read the rest of scripture and try to answer questions to issues that we face.

    For example, when I hear some whose abuse of scripture allows them to steadfastly codemn to hell those who use IM because that is the supposed "apostolic pattern" but blatently ignore the poor and justifying that ignorance of the poor as being a non-biblical issue…well, we see just how rediculous of a methodology is being employed when someone is trying replicate a supposed rigorous pattern and all the while miss what scripture actually says…that we are to be followers of Jesus (Mk. 1.17), imitators of God (Eph 5.1), share the very same attitude (values) of Christ (Phil 2.5-8) to be holy as God is holy, which has to do with moral/ethics and not patternism (1 Pet 1.13-16), etc… The example I am using was a church I served at who tolerated racism and mistreatment of the poor but self-righteously condemned to hell all those who even believed IM was ok but still worshiped in an Acapella congregation – and in doing so, drove all their children and grandchildren away to other congregations without such self-righteousness attitudes and interpretations of scripture.

    That is what bothers me most about this issue. And while the church I served at might be an extreme example for the 20th century, how does an entire fellowship (the Churches of Christ) divide from and condemn those who believe in/practice IM worship and yet, at best, remain passive and, at worst, help foster racial/ethic hatred against African-Americans? How does someone like Foy E. Wallace find the support for condemning all those who did not share his strict view of scripture and yet miss the very heartbeat of the life Jesus lived (serving the least of these) and called us to follow him in doing?

    That is how warped and absurd the traditional methodology towards scripture (proof-texting, flatlining) and the tradititional hermeneutic became…that it allowed us to fight to death on an interpretation that is clearly not spelled out as neatly as we have historically claimed and yet miss some teachings about how to live as Christians/church that are clearly stated in the scriptures. This seems to be, in my opinion, a great example of straining the gnats while swallowing a camel.

    As for the worship with IM…I can see how in a pagan culture where IM is used in connection with pagan worship how the use of IM in a Christian assembly might cause some recently converted Christians from a pagan culture to begin indulging back in pagan idolatry. In such a scenario, the prohibition against IM is being made on missiological grounds and not on the basis that that is the will of God for every church in every historical culture.

    Again, I believe even in our culture that a missiological argument for not using IM could be made. Likewise, I believe a missiological argument could be made for using IM in our culture too. For me personally, the use of instruments or lack of has no bearing on how worshiping God in song strengthens me to stand strong in the Spirit against the evil that tempts me. If you want to look on by blog, you will find a page full of music videos of various Christian hymns, some ancient and some contemporary, that I listen to for encourament from time to time. In the videos, some of the songs are sung in Acapella but most have IM accompaniment to them (it is hard to find high-quality videos with acapella singing online). Nevertheless, they all are encouraging to me because I focus on the words. As a guitarist who use to play in bands, I realize that musical accompaniment can either aid or hinder the song depending on how the music is played but I still focus on the words. That is why I am just as edified in my Acapella congregation as I am in my in-laws Christian church where IM is played in worship.

    Well that is all for now, I need to go an rest some more.

    Grace and peace,


    P.S., I have enjoyed this little dialogue with you. God bless!

  73. Bruce Morton says:

    Interacting with you has been a pleasure. I have become more sensitive to the issues around IM in the last five years as I have studied the letters to Ephesus and listened to my sons. They have been students at one of the Christian universities and tell me that it seems like a growing number of students have a declining interest in singing; prefer to just listen. And as one result understanding of Scripture appears to be eroding. I have wondered if that is a contributing factor to the broad situation in the U.S. An exodus out of churches (not just churches of Christ; 3 of 4 nationally are leaving all groups, including groups that use IM).

    Two Wiccan priestess have helped open my eyes to more. They believe that "popular Christianity" in America is moving toward Wicca! Based on the dialog and some of the reading I tackled to better understand their perspective, I have begun to think they are correct. And why? An eroding understanding of the Lord's teaching — both in the Gospels and apostolic letters.

    You may not have the time, but I think you might have an interest in Deceiving Winds and will offer a copy. Email me if you would like (I have allocated a budget to give away a limited number). Perhaps 'poke at it' with me and/or in New Wineskins.

    I will keep you in prayer that the Lord helps you heal.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  74. Bruce Morton says:

    And Rex:
    Did want to affirm in the event that you had any doubt: I agree that some discussion about IM has represented proof-texting. Add to that our not hearing the Lord fully in other areas — including race relations, treatment of the poor, etc. In every age believers of Christ have faced the struggle of light versus darkness. Ephesians 5:1 is an important statement to me too.

    And yes, I see the "patternism" discussion in New Wineskins. This note chain is not the place to tackle fully, but will offer this for consideration. "Patternism" is far from just the domain of churches of Christ. Every religious group, every movement — including emerging churches — has revealed a pattern approach to Scripture. Part of my study was at a Lutheran school (Gettysburg Theological Seminary); no question among the Lutherans about the presence of theological "patterns:" of course they exist and are valid (just read The Book of Concord)! It is just a more vocal conversation in churches of Christ and Independent Christian churches (and among Evangelicals) because we give great weight to apostolic teaching.

    The mid-twentieth century theologians (e.g. Karl Barth) saw that clearer than some early twenty-first century theologians. Many of us "push back" on patternism; part of the rebellion of postmodernism. But postmodernism has pattern to it too! We all apply one.

    The challenge is less "patternism" and more the issue even the earliest Christians faced: What is the weight of apostolic teaching vis-a-vis the weight of culture? I continue to believe the letters of Paul give important answers — especially since they reveal the Gospel applied to tough cultural questions. We are there too. A lot here, but thought I would offer how Neo-Orthodoxy played into this as well historically.

    I give thanks for your faith in the Lord

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  75. K. Rex Butts says:


    I am interested in any book that might deepen my understanding of scripture, even if I don't agree with all of the conclusions an author reaches (which is how most of the books I read end up).

    I certainly do not want to have any part of turning the Christian faith into any pagan religion, Wican or not. Last Sunday, I was having a conversation with four 20-somthings at a get together I was invited too. Two of the people were professing Christians and the other two we just professing "spiritualist" with questions about Jesus. As I am trying to listen and converse with the four in a truthful yet sensitive manner, I hear the two professing Christians tell the other two that you really don't have to "believe in Jesus all the way" to have salvation. They subsequently said that as long as we "do good" and "don't disrespect" Jesus, we can have salvation even if we don't believe everything Jesus taught and did. Their ideas about Jesus – which I completely disagree with – about just doing good has a familiar ring to the pagan-wican creed of "harm none."

    We live in some interesting times. I firmly believe this hints at the #1 issue Christianity in North America will face in the coming years. I just saw a a book that I put on my Amazon wish-list titled "The Christian Atheist" and the premise of the book is how Christians live as though God does not exist. If that interests you, Scot McKnight posted a small review of the book on his blog:

    Grace and peace,


  76. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:


    Many thanks for your insightful study. Beyond the whole instrumental question, I believe you have correctly identified the seductive threat of pagan influences.

    Best Always,

    Greg Tidwell

  77. Bruce,

    I thank you as well for your tremendous work in Deceiving Winds. I am enjoying reading what you have written about the historical information we have regarding the church at Ephesus.

    Thanks for also taking some of the "heat" off me in here:)! lol!!!


    No, seriously, I preach in Shawnee, OK about 30 miles east of OKC. I organize an area minister's luncheon and this past Tuesday shared yoru book and insights with them. There was much interest in it. If you ever get up this way or at Oklahoma Christian or Quest in fall, I'd look forward to meeting and visiting with you.

    I think more and more moderate conservatives are being to wake up and realize what is going in the church right now with the influences from the culture and especially the emergent church movement which is so many ways have abandoned the gospel and the idea of absolute truth.

    If one tailors the church to identify with its culture and engages in this pseudo-gospel, there is no question that the result will bear any similarity to the church of the NT.

    BTW…in another post you offer some commentary from MacArthur on Ephesians. I've recently read his book, "The Truth War: Fighting for Certainity in an Age of Deception." Excellent book on the importance of fighting for and defending biblical truth.

    God bless your work brother. Don't get encouraged by the voices of criticism. Many are listening and hungering for truth.

    Robert Prater

  78. Bruce Morton says:

    Greg, Robert:
    Thank you for the comments regarding the study/research. They encourage. What good you see please credit to apostolic counsel as the Word of the risen Lord.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  79. K. Rex Butts says:

    "Pagan influences"? "Culture and emergent church movement" influences?

    Come on. I wanted to post something different but before I hit the 'submit comment' button, I realized that what I wanted to say would serve no good and Christ-like purpose.

    But I have to tell you, making such a statement is pretty insulting. Has it not occured that some (including myself) who disagree with your view of A Capella Only Worship read our Bible just as much as you? I cannot speak for others but I can say that you do not know enough about me to know what influences me. And while I readily admit that all people are shaped to a certain extent by non-scripture influences, I am sure that those who have listened to my preaching over the last 10 years of my life would tell you I make a conscious and strong effort to be biblical. But perhaps the most insulting aspect is that you speak as if 'we' are influenced by pagans, culture, and so on but you are not influenced at all by factors that my distort rather than enable you to hear the will of God in scripture. Frankly, that smacks of arrogance.

    It is true that I don't believe scripture teaches that IM is wrong in Christian worship. It is true that I believe every interpreter of scripture engages in biblical interpretation through a variety of lenses, some which are good and some which are not so good. But never once have I implied that those who disagree with me on the subject of IM, who I believe to be wrong on the issue, to have reached their conclusion on a pejorative basis. I have always assumed that we are reading the same Bible and for reasons that I suspect have more to do with exegetical and hermeneutical issues, we have reached a different conclusion.

    I have enjoyed the little dialogue with Bruce not because we both agree but because we were discussing some of the historical exegesis issues involved with this issue and refrained from making such pejorative comments about each other.

    Grace and peace,


  80. K. Rex Butts says:

    BTW…if anyone is interested, you can scroll through my blog. If you do, I think you will find that 1) I write about things that interest me within the broad spectrum of Christian, some posts dealing directly with scripture, some dealing with theological issues, some dealing with practical issues, etc…; 2) you won't agree with everything I say but that out to be a given on any person's blog; 3) most importantly, I think you will discover by my posting that (even when you disagree) I strive to be biblical and to apply scripture in a way that is coherent with the aim and goal of scripture, and that I very much want the gospel of Jesus Christ to reign and not the culture of yesterday, today, or tomorrow.

  81. Bruce Morton says:

    Since I was up and saw, thought I would comment. I think Greg was commenting on the discussion about Wiccan priestesses when he mentions "pagan influences." He and I have been talking about Neo-Paganism some. He has DW and is aware of the broad themes in the book; much of it looks at the prominence of pagan influences in our day. We are approaching a world that looks more and more like first century Roman Asia (and you have illustrated it perfectly by your example — I appreciate your sharing).

    I hope no issue with my chiming in.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  82. David Carr says:

    Mario Lopez asked: What ever happened to the good ol’ days when we used to simply argue that the text says sing, so we just sing.

    Good question. Answer? Because a lot of people don't want to just sing!! The Lord's simple exhortation is too simple. We have to improve on it and jazz it up.

    Do we miss the fact that twice in the context of Ephesians 5 we are urged to understand the will of the Lord (verse 17) and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord (verse 10)? But, no … we have to do what is pleasing to us!!

    David, Hunter Valley, Australia

  83. K. Rex Butts says:


    Thanks for clarifying what Greg meant by "pagan influences".

    Greg, please accept my apology for believing your comment about "pagan influences" was directed at people like me who hold a high view of scripture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ but do not believe IM is unbiblical.

    As I would hope any professing Christian would be, I am concerned that Christianity in North America is becoming a syncretistic religious practice. I believe this syncretism is influenced by the values of consumerism, nationalism, as well as a facination with non-traditional eastern and pagan religious practices. This syncretism seems to be found in both mainstream and evangeligcal type churches, and the Churches of Christ (sadly) do not seem to be exempt.

    Even though I do not regard IM worship as being unbiblical, I fully understand why those who feel it is unbiblical believe that way. I believe the #1 issue facing Christianity in North America is whether our deeds, and not just our lips, will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. When I hear Christians being more concerned for what a congregation can do for them or give to them (consumerism), I hear people who live as though they are Lord. When I hear people act and speak as though peace, hope, and freedom depend on what the nation does and subsequently publiclly praises the nation with increasing fervor (nationalism), I hear people who seem to have forgotten the central claims of the gospel…namely that holistic salvation (not just forgiveness but also peace, hope, freedom, etc…) only is found and gained through and in Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. When I hear people who want to incorporate a variety of world religious practices or speak in pluralistic terms (syncretism) I not only wonder if they ever really truly believed the supposed confession of Jesus they made but also if they ever really understood the goal of God's created and redemptive plan…because if they would've understood that, I believe they would see that many (not all) of the assumptions they have made about other religions that appear attractive are actually things God wishs and wills for his people to have (for instance, God is concerned about his people having reconciled relationship with him and one another that transcends the shallowness of secular society; God is interested in his people caring for and acting with justice and mercy towards all people and creation).

    I don't know why Christians in North America are becoming more and more syncretistic in their faith. There are perhaps many reasons and some of those reasons are their own fault. However, I think we who have been charged with communicating the gospel and leading people in the way of that gospel share some of the blame and I am no exception. While they may be taught and led by many secular ideologies, they have been taught and led by us as well. I fear that what has been preached and teached as the gospel was really no gospel at all or very periphial to the gospel and done so all the while ignoring (unintentionally) the actual gospel and its fundamental claims.

    Any ways…I need to take a break from these discussions as I have other priorities to concentrate on. God bless you all as we all strive to be authentic witnesses of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.

    Grace and peace,


  84. bradstanford says:

    Good question. Answer? Because a lot of people don’t want to just sing!! The Lord’s simple exhortation is too simple. We have to improve on it and jazz it up.

    This is a surface assumption that is far behind the topics that have been covered repeatedly on this blog. There are plenty of posts and comments here to show otherwise.

    The real answer is because the Old Testament's regulative principle is being applied to the New Testament. Two different ways of thinking are trying to communicate about the same thing, and this has proven to be very difficult, indeed.

    The discussion needs to back up to how to communicate with each other, not about specific issues. Once there is a way to communicate, then the ideas can be discussed without the condescension.

  85. nick gill says:

    Good question. Answer? Because a lot of people don’t want to just sing!! The Lord’s simple exhortation is too simple. We have to improve on it and jazz it up.

    Respectfully, David, I'd appreciate it if you would give us one exhortation from Scripture to "just sing."

    Just one place where Scripture exhorts Christians to "just sing. Don't do anything else – just sing."

    Just in case, we've already shown during the course of this recent discussion that neither Eph 5:19 nor Col 3:16 is an exhortation to just sing, but rather they offer non-exclusive examples of how to fulfill the exhortation to "be filled with the Spirit" or to "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." Those are the exhortations in those passages, not the participle "singing."

  86. Bruce Morton says:

    I have considered Jay's argumentaton regarding Ephesians 5:19. He cites grammars/etc. that lean where they want to lean.

    All should take a look at other studies beyond Jay's suggestions. He is incorrect. The structure of the three Greek participles in Ephesians 5:19 reveals that Paul is linking "speaking to one another" with "singing" and "making music in/with your heart." And as for the individual terms regarding music, it is not uncommon for the apostles to use various synonyms to urge their instruction. In the LXX psalms and hymns are synonyms.

    And whatever a chorus of voices says in critique, Paul is taking the LXX and purposefully changing the message of psallo to focus on the heart — when he could easily have encouraged instruments to a culture certainly ready to hear such counsel. He does not. He says "sing!" in Ephesians 5:19 — and Colossians 3:16.

    I do know some are not ready to hear the points, but the structure is there and Paul's use and revision of the LXX is there as well. Deceiving Winds has more background if you are interested.

    I encourage you to also read Stephen Guthrie's article. Excellent article (by a Baptist professor): 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

  87. Bruce, the Holy Spirit could also just as easily have nudged Paul to be explicit about forbidding instrumentation in worship if He had judged it to be important enough to do so.

  88. Bruce Morton says:

    I can tell by your comments that you have been listening in and considering the background. I appreciate that.

    Everett Ferguson and Jack Cottrell have encouraged me to distribute copies of DW (in churches of Christ and Independent Christian churches) as my budget allows. Also has gone to select folks at the Baptist Seminary at Louisville; they have expressed an interest as well. If you would like a copy of Deceiving Winds, I would be glad to send to you. I am sending a copy to K. Rex Butts. Just send a note with your mailing address to my email if an interest: [email protected].

    Your question is important; I have mulled it as well over the last few years. In addition to this question, other similar ones surface in light of the historical and religious background of Roman Asia. Is Paul telling the Ephesian Christians that they can keep their Asian cult practices if they add song to the Lord into the mix? After all he does not specifically exclude some of the key aspects of the rituals (indeed the NT includes no use of some of the words prominently associated with Asian cults).

    If we draw that conclusion, let me suggest that we get far from the force of the apostle's counsel in 4:17-5:21. We are supposed to read 5:18-21 in light of previous verses — including Paul's use of generalities (like "shameful" and "debauchery").

    I believe Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:12 part of why he is approaching the Asian cults as he does. He avoids cataloging a list of "no's" regarding specifics of cult ritual. Perhaps a good bit of emotional pressure was surfacing in the Ephesian congregation around all of this (which appears to be the case in Corinth as well — another hub of Dionysus cult strength; see 2 Cor. 12:21). So, the apostle focuses on what the Christians should be doing versus all that was involved in what they had been doing. He urges them to sing Scripture as a way for the Spirit to renew them and make them children of light.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  89. bradstanford says:


    What do you believe it means to be filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18?

    Has the Church of Christ been as vocal and adamant in fulfilling the commands in Ephesians 5:18 as in Ephesians 5:19 in your opinion?

  90. But that's not the only other conclusion we could draw. (Personally, I'd prefer to propose possibilities than try to draw conclusions., since we're arguing over the absence of explicit instructions about instrumental worship.)

    Another possibility is that instrumental accompaniment was not intrinsically related to debauchery, and so no instruction about it in worship was necessary.

    Yet another possibility is that instrumental worship was a matter of conscience, as were feast days and certain meats in Romans 14. For Jewish Christians, instrumental worship might have reminded them of temple worship in Jerusalem. For Gentile Christians, instrumental worship might have been too reminiscent of idolatrous pagan worship.

    Still another possibility is that instrumental worship was not in view at all when Paul wrote; he hadn't even considered it an issue. So he did not mention it, nor did the Spirit prompt him to.

    It just seems like we're going to extreme measures to find something in the text which isn't necessarily in the text … and making scripture say something it doesn't say is at the least proof-texting and perilously close to wresting/adding to scripture – to me.

    Bruce, you may have gone about your research with the clearest of slates and the most honorable of intentions – finding what scripture says and means without preconceptions is really difficult! – and I don't mean to impugn your research or your motives – but there are a lot of possibilities that result from it; not just the two you've outlined.

  91. Bruce Morton says:

    Ephesians 5:18-21 provides a powerful corrective to the conclusion that the Spirit works only through the Word. I believe we need to preach often about the Spirit's work in song; in my opinion many congregations wearing many names have ignored the counsel.

    And specifically, what do I believe Paul means in Ephesians 5:18? First, it is intended as a contrast to being filled with wine. And it is associated closely with "speaking to one another in…" in 5:19a. Paul is announcing one medium of the Spirit's work: song to the Lord (not just vocal music per se). A powerful message.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  92. Bruce Morton says:

    Regarding wading into instrumental music vis-a-vis the historical and religious background of Roman Asia and its mystery religions, I am not ready to do that further in brief weblog notes. I have waded in some and heard the push backs, so I ought to stop.

    I welcome your wading into more of the research in DW. fyi: DW includes some pages of endnotes so that folks can go do their own digging. But it is not written as academic material; it is written at the popular level (for a quarter of Bible study). I'll leave it at that.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  93. bradstanford says:


    Since song is only one medium of the Spirit's work, it seems to me that if the church was adamant about v18, then v19 would fall into place. Obeying Paul's command to be filled with the Spirit would encompass the commands that follow in v19, since Paul is simply describing one result of v18.

    To completely drink in the Spirit to the point of losing our fleshly mind and replacing it with God's completely describes the transformation of our minds spoken of in Romans 12. If the church will obey that, then these secondary arguments will cease to exist. For when all share unity through the Spirit, then, "…if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you," (Philippians 3:15b) because the Spirit is actively transforming us all into the image of Christ – the only pattern.

  94. Bruce Morton says:

    Let me also add that I do understand the "push back" and your questioning whether instrumental music was in view in Ephesians 5:18-21. DW includes a view of Ephesians that is rare — based on all that I have read. That is why I sat on all of this for a couple of years and let Everett Ferguson and others "poke" on it.

    Do I believe instrumental music is in view in the Ephesian letter? Yes I do; I believe we should have no doubt, given the historical and religious background and Paul's contrast in the text. But I know it will take awhile for folks to wade into all of this and consider.

    Important sources:
    Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2003).

    Barbara Goff, Citizen Bacchae: Women’s Ritual Practice in Ancient Greece (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004).

    Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46 (December 2003): 633-46.

    William A. Johnson, “Musical Evenings in the Early Empire: New Evidence From a Greek Papyrus with Musical Notation,” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 120 (2000): 57-85.

    Helmut Koester, editor, Ephesos, Metropolis of Asia, An Interdisciplinary Approach to its Archaeology, Religion, and Culture (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004).

    Ross S. Kraemer, “Ecstasy and Possession: The Attraction of Women to the Cult of Dionysus,” The Harvard Theological Review 72 (Jan., 1979): 55-80.

    Larry J. Kreitzer, “‘Crude Language’ and ‘Shameful Things Done in Secret’ (Ephesians 5.4, 12): Allusions to the Cult of Demeter/Cybele in Hierapolis?” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 71 (September 1998): 51-77.

    Richard Oster, “Ephesus as a Religious Center under the Principate, I. Paganism before Constantine.” In Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, II.18.3: 1661-1728 (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1980).

    Cleon L. Rogers, “The Dionysian Background of Ephesians 5:18,” Bibliotheca Sacra 136 (1979): 249-57.

    Robert Turcan, The Cults of the Roman Empire, Translated by Antonia Nevill (Cambridge: Blackwell Pub., 1996).

    Michael R. Weed, The Letters of Paul to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and Philemon. The Living Word Commentary. Edited by Everett Ferguson (Austin, TX: R. B. Sweet Co., 1971).

    There is more, but the above represents a useful starting place. I appreciate the time you have taken to consider the research/study.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  95. Bruce Morton says:

    I agree with you. I am convinced that as people sing the Scriptures more and more, the issue we are seeing in this trail of notes will simply vanish from minds. People will feel no need for an instrument of music to accompany their song. They will fell lifted to the heavens as they "simply sing" to one another and the Lord. Indeed, anything else will seem a distraction.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  96. Anonymous says:

    Praise God!!

  97. Anonymous says:

    Paise God!!

  98. Bruce Morton says:

    Dear Anonymous,
    I understand the message; I think I have been rebuked. I will leave you to apostolic counsel. I can tell my thoughts/study/research are less than meaningless.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  99. bradstanford says:

    Bruce said:

    I agree with you. I am convinced that as people sing the Scriptures more and more, the issue we are seeing in this trail of notes will simply vanish from minds. People will feel no need for an instrument of music to accompany their song. They will fell lifted to the heavens as they “simply sing” to one another and the Lord. Indeed, anything else will seem a distraction.

    We agree only that focus on the Spirit will eliminate the problem. Your conclusions about that result seem biased, to say the least.

    Jesus fulfilled life by Law. The Spirit shows us how to join Him in that completed work, not by returning to a lifestyle of always falling short, but a lifestyle of being more than conquerors through faith, resulting in a continual filling of the Spirit, as the Greek suggests in v18.

    The underpinnings of the issue at hand is not history, but Spirit, according to Scripture itself. You even agree that being filled with the Spirit is the solution to this problem, not more knowledge of hisory.

    And yet, your explanation of what it means to be filled with the Spirit is extremely vague.

    Someone who has mastered this passage to the point of being able to teach others with the authority of a book should be well able to teach v18 first, since it is the basis of v19.

    Could you please expound on your understanding on v18? Feel free to include personal testimony about what it is like to be filled not with wine, but with the Spirit.

    -How are we to be filled, when it seems that it is up to the Spirit to do the filling (for who can force the Spirit to fill them, even though Paul commands it?).
    -How do we help others learn to be filled with the Spirit, since it is so important, and the solution to this problem, as you said yourself?

  100. Bruce Morton says:

    I genuinely do not understand the "biased" part. There should be no question for folks — but I know it exists — that Paul is emphasizing one way the Spirit works (but certainly not the only way): through our singing to the Lord and to one another. The apostle is linking the participles "being filled" and "speaking" (in psalms, etc.). I do not want to go beyond what Paul has said here and I am not sure I can describe a feeling.

    Indeed, that was one of the issues facing ancient Ephesus. The mystery religions frequently depended on trances (Gk. ekstasis) to convey a sense of certainty that deity was possessing an individual. Paul never uses ekstasis in his letters; the absence is telling. Indeed, in contrast he is telling the Asians to saturate themselves with the Word of God.

    Yes, I do preach and teach Ephesians 5:18-19ff. Have been doing so in a church the past few Sundays. People tell me the background information is eye-opening; helps emphasize the great importance of a congregation singing together. But here I am trying to be brief. I do not know if the above satisfies, but I do believe it accurately represents what Paul has written. If you wish, I would be glad to send you a copy of Deceiving Winds — free of charge. I can tell all of this is of interest, and so glad to offer.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  101. Randall says:

    It is understandable that we would not want to be possessed by any god that is not the true God. On the other hand, It seems to me that being filled with the Spirit is more than being saturated in the written word, that is, scripture. Did you mean to leave the impression that being filled with the Spirit is limited to being saturated in scripture? There are some that understand the activity of the HS to be limited to the written word acting on us and that is what is behind my question. Also, I am not 1000% sure I understand the sense in which you are using the word "saturated.."

  102. Anonymous says:

    I take heed the whole Word of God which includes the Hebrew Scriptures.

    Churches in history have messed up in big ways turning people away, many churches have and still are suffering the consequences. People should learn from the mistakes in made throughout history not continue in them.

    What is distracting to the gospel being told to a hurting world is people constantly quibbling over instrumental music.

  103. Bruce Morton says:

    I do understand; the question has surfaced a few times to date (Brad asked recently as well). I do not believe the Spirit's work is limited to "working through the Word." I am aware of the teaching; Ephesians 5:18-21 provides a powerful corrective to the teaching.

    Paul is pointing to the mystical, the miraculous as a congregation sings to one another and to the Lord. That is why 5:18-21 serves as such a powerful culmination of 4:17-5:17. The apostle is specifying one of the Spirit's conduits of work as an alternative to ekstasis-fueled religion. Paul is teaching us something of the incredible wonder and unifying effect of a congregation singing to the Lord together. It is where the Spirit is working to renew us to be children of light. See Guthrie's article as one good study of such. I have tried to convey all of this briefly, but not easy in the IM vs. a cappella discussions of our day.

    And Paul says more than "just sing." He points them to the Word, write it on their hearts, recite it, sing it! (I wonder how many congregations in the land sing the Psalms as much as do vocal-only synagogues in our time?). I will comment that the mystic spiritualist (and religious dropout) Joan Borysenko once remarked that the most encouraging religious expression of her youth was when her a cappella synagogue sang Scripture! I hope we are all listening to her heart; it may help us reach others.

    I believe that answers.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  104. Bruce Morton says:

    Yes, I got it; I heard your thought.

    I am not convinced I have not been "quibbling over instrumental music" as much as I have been urging people to see the importance of congregational song to the Lord — all singing, an expression of unity, oneness. It is not happening much in our nation at present; we are rapidly becoming a "sit and listen" people — and our understanding of the Word is eroding away.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  105. bradstanford says:

    [email protected]:02 pm

    I genuinely do not understand the “biased” part.

    [email protected]:45 am

    People will feel no need for an instrument of music to accompany their song.

    That bias. You have drawn a conclusion based on your interpretation of the Scripture. Which is fine, we all have to. The problem is, you're teaching your opinion (about the work of the Spirit resulting in vocal-only congregational singing) as if it's truth. That's dangerous.

    I do not want to go beyond what Paul has said here and I am not sure I can describe a feeling.

    Indeed emotions and feelings are involved when being filled with the Spirit. But it should be easy for someone claiming authority to teach these passages to actually give some definition. Again, since it is super-important, and the actual focus of those verses, we had better know this!

    Concisely, the filling of the Spirit can involve:

    – Deep insight into Scripture
    – Powerful and bold witness
    – Overflowing joy
    – Conquering longtime or powerful sin
    – Extra sensitivity to good and evil in people or a situation
    – Favor from others, especially worldly people
    – Understanding details about others we don't know
    – Visions and dreams

    Since you have difficulty putting into words something that you have been teaching for the "past few Sundays", it makes me wonder about what you've been teaching.

    Simply put, Paul is saying that the filling of the Spirit has a language – that of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Filled people will speak that language, in all of its dialects, including both vocal and instrumental.

    But the main point is to be filled, not to make sure that all of our spiritual dialects are exactly the same.

    Our focus should be on understanding v18 so that we can properly apply v19. This is the root of many differences, especially in the IM disagreement.

    If you wish, I would be glad to send you a copy of Deceiving Winds — free of charge. I can tell all of this is of interest, and so glad to offer.

    No thanks. While we agree that being filled with the Spirit is vital, you aren't able to articulate anything about how this works, other than it's in opposition to drinking wine and is connected to speaking psalms and Scripture to each other. Further you make unsubstantiated claims like:

    [Congregational singing] is not happening much in our nation at present; we are rapidly becoming a “sit and listen” people — and our understanding of the Word is eroding away.

    …once again presenting your opinion as if there's some kind of authority there. If you can back this up with actual facts, that's great. Feel free to present them.

    Overall, your words here do not encourage me that you have written from a position of truth and authority, but of preconceived notions and misunderstanding.

    Please don't worry about brevity. If you can describe how to be filled, and how to teach new believers to be filled, please do so. Otherwise, what's the point, since this is key?

  106. JMF says:


    You said:

    Concisely, the filling of the Spirit can involve:
    – Deep insight into Scripture
    – Powerful and bold witness
    – Overflowing joy
    – Conquering longtime or powerful sin
    – Extra sensitivity to good and evil in people or a situation
    – Favor from others, especially worldly people
    – Understanding details about others we don’t know
    – Visions and dreams

    Brother, you've pretty much summed up the things I have emailed you about. I thirst for more info on what "Spirit-filled" looks like, and the nature of an actual "personal relationship" with God. I think these two subjects horrify us in the COC. And that is sad.

    So Brad, if you are trying to decide what to do your next blog posting about…. 🙂

    P.S.: Everyone can feel free to change directions on this thread and start discussing "spirit filling" if you want…personally, as one of the "pew fillers" (readers), I get sooooo much more out of you guys' knowledge on other topics. It would be such a blessing if you guys wrote as much in the other posts about non-music issues.

    Why is this? Why do other issues/topics get 5-10 posts each, and the IM posts get 100 responses? Why are we so obsessed with this? I've not kept up; I just saw that Brad had posted and I always enjoy his posts. Otherwise I wouldn't be here reading about IM again. But man, it would all be worth it if the conversation actually turned towards the Spirit or something else that is useful.

  107. Jay Guin says:


    I've begun work on a series on the Holy Spirit — planned to be a thorough-going study.

    It's a week or 10 days from starting to be posted.

  108. Bruce Morton says:

    Please forgive me for writing "People will feel no need for an instrument of music to accompany their song." I should not have written what I wrote.

    Regarding your last paragraphs and pressure for me to articulate more and more… or I must have written from preconceived notions and misunderstanding, I have decided to not "defend." Paul was brief as he talked about music; I will leave you with what he wrote.

    The subject of music brings out waves of emotion in cultures — ours and 2000 years ago. Music is crucial to us; no less among the Asian cults.

    I stand by my comment that we are rapidly becoming a "sit and listen" society, with not much congregational song broadly speaking (churches of Christ, some Mennonites, others being an exception). Song yes, but less congregational song — singing by ALL. While most religious groups probably do not want to poll the trend, some have voiced the concern I have voiced. Call it opinion if you wish; I am far from alone in my concern. I do not think it is hard to see, but will point you to other voices/studies:

    Greg Scheer, “Sing to the Lord a New Psalm: An Essay with Four New Settings for Congregational Singing,” Call to Worship: Liturgy, Music, Preaching and the Arts 41.4 (2008) 16-24. Scheer discusses the decline of congregational psalm-singing in modern worship, suggesting that our “faith has been deprived of a rich source of inspiration and sustenance” (page 16).

    Calvin Stapert, A New Song for an Old World: Musical Thought in the Early Church. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2007. He expresses deep concern regarding a nation plugged in to digital music and taking very little time taken to sing the Psalms together. (194ff.)

    Note: if a question the above studies are "outside" the Restoration Movement tradition.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  109. Anonymous says:

    I'm sure there are churches those people have visited where not every person sang. Those men are not the spokesmen of every church on the face of the earth.

    Here's another Praise God!!

  110. Bruce Morton says:

    Separate from my note above, I was curious about something and decided to ask a simple question. Do you see any issues with a congregation singing — just singing to the Lord and to one another?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  111. Bruce Morton says:

    I understand you've expressed a desire to honor the Lord (which I know includes casting doubt on the posts I submit).

    But is there a reason that you think the two men I noted have to be spokesmen of every church on the face of the earth — or what they share is not valid in considering the broad shape of the nation? Do you know what they have written, the scope of their articles?

    Your comment is supposed to honor God? It does not; it does not look for truth.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  112. Jay Guin says:


    The Greg Scheer article is online at It argues for, among other things, reciting Ps 5 over music. He says nothing against instruments of music. Rather, he argues,

    We would experience the depth and variety of the psalms to an even greater extent if our psalmody utilized a greater variety of musical forms, combining and modernizing historic forms of psalmody into creative new psalm songs.

    In short, he's looking for greater creativity than is allowed with purely traditional forms of worship. And, yes, he wants the Psalms to be a part of our worship, but doesn't argue for a cappella. Regarding Ps 36, he actually explains how to get the right impact in a service using contemporary music.

    Those churches that use contemporary music styles may shy away from even discussing something like the use of a lectionary psalm because they may feel it obligates them to a particular music style. I don’t believe that
    is true. Though theology and aesthetics always affect each other, I think there are ways to achieve the liturgical goal of singing the psalms regardless of style. “Deeper than the Sea” sets a significant portion of Psalm 36 in a “praise and worship” musical style using the looser, more colloquial language typical of the genre.

    If anything, this article supports the arguments for the freedom to use IM as appropriate vs. the strict AC rule. I can't imagine that Scheer agrees with your premise.

    Stapert's book is also available online, including the full text of the chapter in which he draws his conclusions for modern worship.

    He argues for more singing of psalms, for more focus on God, and avoiding of emotional manipulation. But despite having spent the preceding several chapters summarizing the writings of the Church Fathers on music — with many quotations opposed to instruments — Stapert not once argues against the use of instruments in modern worship. Rather, he looks at the theology and purposes behind the Father's objections and applies that rationales to contemporary culture.

    Again, he does not support your central thesis — that we should not use instruments in modern worship — despite being an expert in the Church Fathers.

    I don't greatly disagree with his conclusions. Yes, we should be careful not to let our worship debase into purely synthetic emotion driven by the music and not the Giver of Music. We should focus on the object of our worship and not the delights of the experience of worship. All true. All legitimate concerns. And yet instrumental worship can certainly be done in a way that brings glory to God.

  113. Bruce Morton says:

    I think you know that I was not referring to Scheer and Stapert to suggest they "argue against IM." As you note, they do not say one way or another in the article and section I am pointing to. But they do discuss the decline in singing the Psalms and the need to sing them. Isn't that why I referred to them?

    This seems tough for you to talk about without heading toward an "argument about IM" discussion. The idea of just singing; you seem to press against it — even to the point of satire! So, the satire honored the Lord?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  114. bradstanford says:

    1. Thank you for your correction.

    2."Do you see any issues with a congregation singing — just singing to the Lord and to one another?"


    Understand, I am not a legalist that defines worship as a list of dos and don'ts. I grew up that way, trained in all things conservative by the Churches of Christ. But God called me out of that way to the way of the Spirit described in Scripture.

    It does not matter how a person or congregation sings. It is that they *do* sing – not "in order to please God" (salvation by works) but in response to what's going on in the heavenlies, as revealed (and led) by the Spirit, for the edification of the church.

    Even if a new believer simply sings because it says to in Scripture (good choice!), they will quickly learn that there is far more to it than that – *if* they are trained to hear the Spirit of God. Singing quickly becomes a response that, by nature of its existence, encompasses obedience. "On earth, as it is in heaven" is a good passage to connect with "be filled with the Spirit" in this regard.

    3. Original quote: "I am not convinced I have not been 'quibbling over instrumental music' as much as I have been urging people to see the importance of congregational song to the Lord — all singing, an expression of unity, oneness. It is not happening much in our nation at present; we are rapidly becoming a 'sit and listen' people — and our understanding of the Word is eroding away."

    This quote was about congregational singing, not singing the psalms. The two studies you pointed to talk about singing Scripture, rather than congregational singing in general as in the quote above. Do you consider these to be the same?

    Congregational singing and worship is a gigantic part of worship in the current church. Whether it's Hillsong,, Mars Hill, or RHCC, congregational singing is fantastically important to body life. The fastest growing churches can hardly be described as "sit and listen" churches, which is why I am puzzled by the comment about congregational singing.

    As for singing the psalms, specifically in the CofC: many of the youth groups across the CofC did this as I was growing up, and tried to get their congregations to sing these "new" songs, which where psalms (or other scriptures) set to music. We all know where that led: it helped to kick off the so-called "worship wars".

    As I eventually visited churches from California to Alabama, I discovered that we all ran into the same resistance, and the CofC would have nothing to do with these scriptural songs, simply because they were "new". Of course, it wasn't ultimately a denominational issue limited to the CofC, but a generational one across all denominations.

    Because of pride, an entire generation was told "no" to scripture set to "new" music, and yes to Stamps-Baxter (and older) music. As a result, gifts were not fanned into flame, and now, there is the lack of Scriptural song you and others are seeing. Reaping and sowing would explain your observations, almost by itself.

    4. "I have decided to not 'defend.' "
    I was not trying to pressure you to defend, but to define. If you can not define, you can not discuss. And to refuse (or to be unable?) to define a key passage that is the foundation of what you are talking about, especially one you have taught recently, is just…well…odd.

  115. bradstanford says:

    This seems tough for you to talk about without heading toward an “argument about IM” discussion. The idea of just singing; you seem to press against it — even to the point of satire! So, the satire honored the Lord?

    In all fairness, Jay saw the same words I did, which you later retracted once I pointed them out. You set the tone for IM, not Jay. He probably did not see the retraction buried in the comments.

    I did not see any satire in Jay's comments. Where was it?

  116. Bruce Morton says:

    The satire I reference is not in this note chain. It is in his separate comment about Holy Spirit Hokey Pokey.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  117. Bruce Morton says:

    I am aware that some churches are returning to more congregational song. But I am not convinced they are the majority, based on the discussions I have read/heard and what I have seen.

    My "quibbling" comment was in response to a comment by "Anonymous." I referenced Scheer and Stapert's studies as examples of voices concerned about less singing in our day (specifically the Psalms). I do not hear them drawing the distinction you draw.

    I do agree that some (many) churches of Christ have leaned toward not singing some new songs, especially some loved by teens that speak the Psalms. I believe congregations need to sing the Psalms more.

    I will suggest that you are making too much of my not "defining" as you think I should. Perhaps you are urging as you have a deep-seated belief that churches of Christ do not talk about the Spirit enough. I agree. And I agree that we need to preach/teach the work of the Spirit more. I have been doing some of that — by emphasizing the work of the Spirit in congregational song. My goal has not been to talk about all that "filling" means. Interestingly, Paul is brief in verse 18 as well. Indeed, given the religious background, it is a remarkable characteristic of his counsel.

    I am not convinced that my "oddness" translates into my misunderstanding the historical and religious background of Ephesians 4:17-5:21. I believe the background to the text is certain; others who have studied first century Roman Asia in-depth have agreed. And that helps inform Ephesians 5:18-21.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  118. Mario Lopez says:

    One thing I am reminded of, and it's something we need to be very careful about is that sometimes we get caught up 'Boxing Shadows.' That is we are still fighting a fight that happened sometime in the past. So we tried, or had an argument about something before with someone else or other group, it has left a deep emotional memory of it, so any time we get into a discussion about something that is closely related, suddenly we are thrust back into that fight. The bad thing about that is, well, it's not always relevant. So in the past I tried this, and this happened. That doesn't mean that today that same person will respond the same way. We are stuck still fighting the battles of the past, with someone that may not even be fighting back, we're boxing at shadows.

    I only bring this up due to comments made about how certain folks feel about the congregations they grew up in. Still fighting against those people in those groups and carrying that into today.

    I must be blessed in some special way to not see many of those attitudes and action described. Having spent all my time in conservative non institutional churches, some of the accusations thrown about, are just so foreign to my experience. I know I am relatively young a few years away from thirty. But, I don't know…

    Sorry for getting on this tangent. Back to the discussion at hand.

  119. bradstanford says:

    Unless there was another comment from somewhere else, that "certain folks" is pointed at me, it seems.

    While your point is a good reminder, I want to be clear that such is not my case. And yes, you'll have to take my word for it, until you have a chance to know me better. :^)

    The other side of the coin is: if there is a reasonable cause and effect that should bring an "aha!" moment, it, too, is valid. Being in the recent past does not negate the observations value, nor does it indicate that the source of the observation is the result of a quest against the White Wale.

    It is interesting that "boxing at shadows" would show up in a thread about history and its impact on the church, but only in reference to recent history. For it seems the IM shadow has been boxed to death, and yet the quest for it is still afoot.

  120. Mario Lopez says:


    Wasn't you in particular.

    Appreciate the comments.

  121. nick gill says:

    I agree with you. I am convinced that as people sing the Scriptures more and more, the issue we are seeing in this trail of notes will simply vanish from minds. People will feel no need for an instrument of music to accompany their song. They will feel lifted to the heavens as they “simply sing” to one another and the Lord. Indeed, anything else will seem a distraction.

    Ironically, when they experience that sense of being "lifted to the heavens" – the very sense that Paul is trying to foster with his words in Eph 1-2 (esp. 2:6), and that John the Revelator is striving to encourage for his congregations in Revelation 4-5 (remember, those passages aren't describing John time-traveling, but rather what John is seeing during his Lord's Day worship), they'll suddenly experience something that might "seem a distraction."

    Harp music. How distracting to the pure worship of the One True God.

  122. nick gill says:

    Mario, I am glad that your church experiences have been experiences of joy and unity.

    However, have you ever heard of the concept of the self-selection bias?

    For example, atheists assert that atheism is a smarter choice than theism because atheists tend to score higher on IQ tests. This is classic self-selection, though – as Vox Day explains:

    The ability to understand and identify with an abstract concept that departs from the norm requires some basic level of intelligence, which excludes many less intelligent and non-religious individuals who are by every meaningful definition atheists but do not self-identify as atheists.

    Likewise, it is very believable that a group of believers could experience great feelings of unity and joy because they've "selected out" questioners and gadflies.

  123. Bruce Morton says:

    I will suggest that as we talk about Ephesians 4:17-5:21 (the original scope of this note thread), we talk about the setting of the apostle's counsel: a war of light versus darkness.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  124. bradstanford says:

    I will suggest that you are making too much of my not “defining” as you think I should. Perhaps you are urging as you have a deep-seated belief that churches of Christ do not talk about the Spirit enough.

    Perhaps I need to know about an author before I read his book? Especially when he claims to have knowledge about something that all congregations should do. If you are unable to discuss it, then I can not know that you have the slightest authority to write about it. I'm not sure why that's so difficult to understand, and why you refuse to show that you know what you're talking about, and have the authority to teach all congregations.

    Paul is brief in verse 18 as well. Indeed, given the religious background, it is a remarkable characteristic of his counsel.

    So let's not bother defining it? That's not the Berean CofC that I know. Here is a direct command that no one wants to tear apart and figure out? Especially when it forms the foundation for a major defining doctrine? Or the basis of a book that is used to help define that doctrine? Why is that?

    You have a conclusion you think all churches should listen to, and yet you can't explain the context of the verses when asked. How, then, should we accept the authority of your conclusions?

    I am not convinced that my “oddness” translates into my misunderstanding the historical and religious background of Ephesians 4:17-5:21.

    Probably not. But it does completely undermine any conclusion that you draw outside of the facts of reporting the history.

    I believe the background to the text is certain; others who have studied first century Roman Asia in-depth have agreed. And that helps inform Ephesians 5:18-21.

    The background is not what I'm concerned with. If you simply agree with "others" why do all the work in writing about it? But if there was authority to what you have to say, and a conclusion to draw based on that authority, then there was a reason to write in the first place.

    Sadly, it seems by your own words there was not.

  125. nick gill says:

    I will suggest that as we talk about Ephesians 4:17-5:21 (the original scope of this note thread), we talk about the setting of the apostle’s counsel: a war of light versus darkness.

    An idea about which we're in total agreement, Bruce.

    You contend, however, that Paul is asserting that in the kingdom of light, there is no place for IM.

    I've been in too many settings, though, where instrumental accompaniment helped people like me overcome their natural self-consciousness and allowed them to sing from the depths of my being, full-voiced and unashamed.

    Most people, even in our a cappella assemblies today, cannot sing that way.

    In situations where IM encourages such fearless singing to the Lord, I think it is as appropriate a weapon in the war of light against darkness as is a loaf of bread to a starving person.

    In situations where IM discourages or prevents such fearless singing, I do not think it is an appropriate weapon.

  126. Bruce Morton says:

    Separately, yes, "lifted to heaven" was emotive. I should certainly be careful in this weblog regarding such expressions in discussion of music. I, for one, am certain that Ephesians 2:6 does not suggest we leave a war of light versus dark. Ephesians 6:10ff. suggests we do not.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  127. Bruce Morton says:

    I think we should consider all of this as wrapping up. I think folks have heard my essay; that was my offering. I will leave for people to consider Ephesians 4:17-5:21 before the Lord.

    Your observation about the presence of shame is important; yes, part of a war of light versus darkness. I appreciate your highlighting how shame can deter our worship.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  128. Bruce Morton says:

    An interesting statement when you say, "The background is not what I’m concerned with. If you simply agree with “others” why do all the work in writing about it?"

    As I look back at my essay, most is about the background. To confirm, few studies that I am aware of have taken a look at the Asian cults as the historical and religious background of Ephesians 4:17-5:21. And much of the content of this note chain has been a discussion of the background.

    I know you want to focus on Ephesians 5:18 and have called me into question for not taking up your challenge. Isn't Paul being brief about the work of the Spirit in verse 18? Perhaps that itself says something about the background; I have been considering that very characteristic.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  129. bradstanford says:

    An interesting statement when you say, “The background is not what I’m concerned with. If you simply agree with “others” why do all the work in writing about it?” As I look back at my essay, most is about the background.

    To clarify: I love the history and appreciate its documentation. I am not concerned with you simply reporting what happened in history. That is helpful. Drawing conclusions for the reader that can't be supported by that history and Scripture together is not helpful. That's what I am concerned with.

    To confirm, few studies that I am aware of have taken a look at the Asian cults as the historical and religious background of Ephesians 4:17-5:21.

    So you're wanting to present the Asian cult influences on the early church. Good. But you take the opportunity to explain to the reader how you think this knowledge should be applied to today's worship assemblies. Why not present the facts of history and let the reader decide what it means?

    Isn’t Paul being brief about the work of the Spirit in verse 18?

    Isn't "Love your neighbor as yourself" brief? Does it not encompass all of the law and prophets, in spite of its brevity? Does understanding it – much less obeying it – require great amounts of meditation and discussion?

    Brevity is not a reason for your silence. After all, if it is critical to the conclusions you draw, shouldn't you be able to converse about it? And if you don't even understand it, shouldn't the potential reader be aware of that, so they can account for your personal bias as they read?

    The best researchers always list the possible influences on their research that might have skewed their study. Not knowing about how the filling of the Spirit affected the Ephesians in the face of Asian cults certainly skews any conclusions you have made. How can a historian be ignorant of the most important influence on the culture he is studying, and a factor that directly affects his own personal work?

    I have not called you into question for not "taking up my challenge". I have called you into question because you assume authority to tell all congregations of the Lord's church what His Scriptures mean, when in fact you don't seem to have such authority, and you have provided no evidence to the contrary on a very foundational matter.

  130. Mario Lopez says:


    Authority? What do you mean?

  131. bradstanford says:

    Great question, Mario!

    I think of the term as it is used of Jesus in Mark 1:22 & 27:

    The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

    Jesus casts out a demon, and then:

    The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him."

    In the first instance, He taught in the way that the crowd registered it as "new" (different from what they usually heard). In the second, he gave action to back it up.

    In the same way, when I approach the church and say, "This Scripture means [x] to everyone," it needs to have the authority of revelation (new clarity to a passage that was previously not clear, for instance), and of action (demonstrably obvious).

    To this end, I look for mastery: a thorough knowledge of subject matter because of intimate understanding through experience of that which has been studied.

    An authority is always eager to share what he knows, because his authority allows him to understand the impact and importance of his subject matter to others.

    He welcomes every opportunity to explain more fully everything that he knows via study, direct experience (God's object lessons that complete one's understanding), and the "teach me more" questioning from others.

    Passionate would be a good adjective for the one in authority. Jesus could speak with intimate knowledge of the Scriptures. He not only wrote them, but He was them. The teachers had no such passion, and the people could tell the difference.

    Ask me about flying, aircraft design, spacecraft design, or any related work, and you will have to ask me to stop talking two days from now. It is an interest, and I have a lot say (nothing new there!). But I have little authority as an armchair aerospace engineer. I could not sit in a room of engineers and hold my own.

    Ask me about relationships, marriage, and family, and I will engage deeply with Scripture, experience, and testimony from others I've counseled. I have been given some authority in this regard, and hope to gain more.

    Gary Smalley would be at the level of demonstrable authority, though. I could hold my own in a conversation with him, but I would still expect to learn more from him than him from me.

    When writing a book, a man is saying, "I know what I'm talking about. I have authority over this subject, to the point of wanting everyone to read about what I have found. It's important." By looking for the characteristics listed above, we can find out whether this is true or not.

    If Jay had bowed out of discussions with conservative brothers after writing his books, what would they say of him? He didn't know what he was talking about. Smoke. Mirrors. No authority. Sometimes, these things are said anyway!

    But almost every day, he answers questions, takes it on the chin, and keeps coming back. There is a favor there that others have not been able to disprove or achieve for themselves. Even those that disagree with him respect that.

    The question at hand is "Why should all the churches agree with the conclusions in this book?" The only acceptable answer to me is "Authority".

  132. Anonymous says:

    Jewish believers kept the faith in its original Jewish form, as taught by Yeshua who was a Jew and preached by the apostles who were also very much Jews.

    The early century Gentile church: Unfortunately the Gentile church did not seek to understand the Jewish roots of the faith but applied Greek philosophy to it. Because of the Greek outlook the official line became very Anti-Semitic. The church adopted Greek philosophy and ideas into its theology.

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

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

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

    Origen 263-339 AD Origen and his school in Alexandria teachings were based on Greek philosophy. Although he was considered heretical at the time he was tolerated and influenced the church teaching profoundly. He was responsible for much Anti-Semitism and accused Jews of plotting to kill Christians creating the atmosphere in which Christian Anti-Semitism took root and spread. His later disciples consisted of Gregory, Dionysus, Hieracas, Pamphilus, Eusebius.

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

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

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

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

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

    Council of Laodicea 434-481 AD Christians were forbidden to worship on the Sabbath.

    440 AD the state church enforced Anti-Semitism and Jews accepting their messiah had to renounce all Jewishness and become Gentile Christians.

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

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

  133. Bruce Morton says:

    Your recent posts/essays illustrate one reason for the concerns that have been growing as I have waded into OneinJesus. I see skillful argument and passion, but also something less gracious. Your essays reveal intelligence and deep feeling — and a lack of considerateness. Jay's satire reveals the same lack of considerateness.

    It does not give me pleasure to see it. I hope for chats such as I have had with Keith Brenton, Nick Gill, K. Rex Butts, Mario Lopez, and Robert Prater. Their courtesy has told me much.

    Weblogs present Christians with a challenge — and not an easy one to navigate in a world at spiritual war. I hope folks who decide to read Deceiving Winds (and/or the initial essay) consider it in light of the work and authority of the risen Lord — including apostolic teaching. I am not interested in arguing for authority. And in that respect I can think of others with a like spiritual view whom I consider good company in the Lord.

    I pray the Lord keeps you and your family safe.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  134. Anonymous says:

    Bruce accuses Brad of lack considerateness, will you explain how Brad has revealed such lack as you say. I mean if you are going to throw accusations around you should be able to back them up with some kind of explanation besides something like "he just is".

    I see Brad as being a challenge to you and you ar not able to meet his challenge, thus you use a lame excuse not to meet his challenge.

  135. bradstanford says:

    I see skillful argument and passion, but also something less gracious. Your essays reveal intelligence and deep feeling — and a lack of considerateness.

    I do not read books by men very often at all. God makes His presence and the Word so engaging, I see no reason to. I have never even read any of Jay's books! I also have never read commentaries by men, out of obedience to the Lord.

    I was fascinated by the history contained in your book. I wanted to read it. I think it is valuable. But because reading your book would take time away from the Word and fellowship with God, I wanted to know more about who I would be spending time with. Your book is on a very short list of books that have received such consideration, and with enthusiastic expectation, I might add.

    But because of statements like this:

    Is Paul urging song as opposed to instrumented music? Yes, it appears he is doing exactly that.

    …I had to understand whether this was simply traditionalism, an excited but neutral historian, or an underlying agenda that would influence your ability to report the history without bias. I won't trade Scripture time for an agenda book.

    It does not give me pleasure to see it.

    It does not give me pleasure to see doctrinal error being handed out for free.

    And in that respect I can think of others with a like spiritual view whom I consider good company in the Lord.

    If you want to keep company with those with a like spiritual view, then why write a book and then give it away? That doesn't add up. Books are not designed to be kept within a group of people who agree with you.

    When iron sharpens iron, you will find heat, pressure, and sparks. That is why many here simply read and do not discuss. Indeed, communication on the web is difficult, and very public.

    This is also why I write long rather than short. Clarity trumps brevity when discussing heaven and hell, life and death, truth and error, especially because its the web.

    I am not interested in arguing for authority.

    When you publish a book, your are claiming authority on that subject whether you intend to or not. When you pass it out for free, your are indicating that your ideas are so important, that you are willing to sacrifice so others can get the truth.

    Did you assume no one would ask, "Who are you? Why did you write this? What gives you the authority to interpret scripture like you do?" That is simply not believable.

    It's as if you want us all to accept your book at face value, because you say so. Since when has that ever been a good policy? I have no idea who you are, and yet I'm just supposed to accept your teaching? Why? What should compel me to believe you?

    You have had ample opportunity to explain, and have chosen not to. Painting me as inconsiderate is simply a straw man to divert attention from the fact that you have nothing to say about critical doctrinal issues found within the scriptures you claim to have authority to interpret. Calling names at this point simply confirms my good decision to not read your book.

  136. Todd Collier says:


    First who are you, anonymous posters always make me a bit nervous. Hard to talk to a disembodied voice.

    Your brief history of the early Church's antisemitism is a bit one sided. Historically, it was the Synagogue that kicked out the Ekklesia and initiated the persecution of the followers of Yeshua, not the other way around. The "antisemitism" you note is representative of the long struggle between these two opposing visions of Yeshua Hameshiach. You do a good read on the early Fathers but do you know the writings of the Rabbi's? How are Christians handled in the Talmud? Worse than animals?

    I reject racism in any form, but the beginnings of Christian antisemitism rest in a two sided struggle for Truth. As with all such things the solution lies not in more accusations but in a return to the basic laws which we have in common. Love Adonai with all we are and love all of the "others" He has created as we love ourselves.

  137. Anonymous says:

    You do a good read on the early Fathers but do you know the writings of the Rabbi’s? How are Christians handled in the Talmud? Worse than animals?Todd C.

    Yes I do.

    When I hear non-believers say that the church has done wrong I don’t stand and argue with them, I agree with them. There are so many here who want to talk about the history of the church….but bring up these huge mistakes the church has made and no one wants hear that. That is why I don’t use history of church to define my belief, I look to and use God’s Word.

  138. Todd Collier says:

    Then you do wisely. But then you must tell me why you brought up the antisemitism in the first place since it would appear to have no bearing on the topic at hand. And your post was still very lopsided.

    I can refer to an ancient writer's stand on issue "a" without agreeing with his stance on issue"b." I do the same with modern writers. I do this everyday in my study and even in reading this blog. Now if I based my core belief's upon an antisemite or even on an antigoyite for that matter I have much to answer for. But I don't and I don't see many posters here (ok, none in fact) who do.

  139. Anonymous says:

    It's not just this thread, it is many comments on threads here people use the history of church as the focused hero of their argument. You may think Anti-Semitism doesn't have bearing when using church hisory to define a belief, I very much so do.

  140. Todd Collier says:

    And since I don't know you or anything about you I really don't know how to respond. We use church history to shed light on various usually minor doctrinal points – I don't think any of us have examined that history regarding the ancient church's treatment of Jews because none of us have any questions about issues regarding how we treat Jews.

    Again, how does that point fit with the rest? I can't see how their response to Jewish persecution by becoming persecutors inpacts how we examine their attitudes toward the topics we discuss, other than to reinforce the point, often made here, that the Fathers were flawed and their writings give us an idea of ancient practice, not modern law.

  141. Anonymous says:

    Their beliefs and attitudes about the Jews have an enormous impact and are very telling about their teachings of God's Word and their ideas about church. The early Gentile church misuse of God's Word used their power to influence and control people.

  142. Bruce Morton says:

    With who-knows-how-many folks "listening in," this post is uncomfortable for me. However, I hear you talk about your cautious approach to reading and Bible study and I see more clearly how we have collided. And I feel I should go the extra mile here. But with this post I think it will be beneficial for me to take a break from this web forum for awhile. You should know that I have understood your notes of confusion, even surprise, at my reaction to your requests. Many of your requests (for definition, experience, etc.) have been reasonable, understandable. Your reaction to my decisions has been where the "inconsiderate" aspect surfaces.

    Let me share that you have misread many of my signals. It is a case of caution meeting privacy. I tend to not talk too much about myself, my experiences, my feelings, my passions. When I do I prefer to reveal such face-to-face in small groups of people. This has been my first experience wading at-length into a web forum. It has reminded me of some previous experiences in larger adult Bible study groups.

    I have sat in more than a few larger adult Bible studies that have generated more heat than light. The classes have spread through the entire spectrum — from progressive to conservative. The experiences have conditioned me some. You should know that I infrequently speak to larger groups of adults. So who am i? I am not a supported minister; I am one of the deacons of a church of Christ in Katy, Texas. Most of my work is with children and teens. I love them and I love to teach them. And they are a joy. Also, I am glad to share that the large majority of young people in the congregation raise their voices to the Lord with joy! And it is a joy to hear them.

    Yes, adult members of the Katy congregation have asked me to teach adult classes, and I have on occasion. Recently, an elder's wife asked me to teach in a small-group setting using Deceiving Winds. I told her I would consider. Are my decisions the result of feeling I have nothing to say? That is not it. Much is probably due to many memories of unkindness. Perhaps surprisingly, I have tried to stay sensitive to such — not bury it; I believe that kind of sensitivity remains part of being children of light. I am not ashamed to say that this web forum experience has brought a lot of hurt. My wife has asked me for the past few days to "please leave" the forum. She has seen the hurt in me.

    I have thought a good bit about my experiences as I have written Deceiving Winds. I have concluded that the book may exist as my alternative to teaching large groups of adults. I did not put it out lightly; I let folks poke on it who are widely-respected and who I thought might take issue with some/much (e.g. Everett Ferguson; Jack Cottrell). I have already purchased and given away more copies than royalties will offset (and no, I am far from wealthy). Why would I do that? An effort to balance previous hurts and a sense of privacy with my searching the Scriptures and my deep concerns regarding some religious decisions and trends I see. So, when I offered you a copy of the book, it was an expression of care and interest. It was my saying, "I am making a sacrifice and you are free to browse for a few minutes and toss it in the trash can, or read as you wish." You, in turn, threw the offer back at me, since I did not respond as you expected — and as you believed I should.

    Finally, I will share that as I waded into the web forum I did not intend to try to lay out all of what is in the 304 pages, answer every question, etc., but only give folks a look at a little of it, to decide if they wanted to see more (download sample text, etc. at 21st Century Christian). Perhaps the charge of naive is on the minds of some readers. To my mind people should respect the feelings of others, even if they do not understand all.

    I have "opened up" far more than I intended in this web forum and with that will leave you/ with what I have written before the risen Lord in this note chain.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  143. bradstanford says:

    Well observed, and well written. This is the Bruce I was trying to encounter 100 comments ago. I hope you're still reading.

    I understand completely that if this is a tale of caution meets privacy, this would be the source of misunderstanding. While I have things that I keep private (we all do), spiritual experiences, feelings, and passions are far from that category. I really don't know what you mean about "privacy" when it comes to core doctrines. So I can't identify readily.

    Scripture describes a lifestyle of being ready and able to answer others. Not a very private lifestyle! I imagine what would happen if someone asked Paul what it meant to be filled with the Spirit. I believe you would see his ability to be brief dissolve before your very ears.

    The filling of the Spirit is central to a walk with God. The kingdom does not advance without it. I really don't have a compartment for a servant-leader wanting to hold privately his views on the most important kingdom-advancing doctrine, especially since the subject of his own book requires him to do so to complete the historical picture. I don't know how to relate to that.

    While I believe in the purity of your motivation, your privacy policy leaves me lacking an interpretive context that would help me put myself in your shoes. It's a plot twist I would have never guessed in a story involving an author writing boldly about doctrine, excerpting it on the web, and making himself available for discussion. It leaves me stroking my beard in wonder.

    (I can at least imagine a scenario in which a deacon in the CofC would not want to go on record stating his position on being filled with the Spirit. I don't think that's your case, but at least it gives me some scenario in which "privacy" might make sense. I hope not, though.)

    I completely understand the hurt factor as well. When I first visited GraceConversation, I left very quickly, because of hurt. I eventually went back, participated, and made my way over here. That's one of the best decisions I ever made. Not only have I learned more about others by sticking around, but I have been forced to examine my own beliefs as well. Both of those things are super important in a world where people simply scream and walk away, never being able to engage a point of order.

    My wife can empathize with yours, many times over. But I can say from experience, your wife is going to love the man that comes through the fire of refinement. Ten years ago, you would not have described my writing with words like you did in one of your prior posts. After much hurt, I have become more able to communicate my ideas, and more careful to vet my own ideas before speaking them (no, really!).

    My wife wanted the hurt to stop. As a man, I needed the training that God was giving me. We both now agree the hurt was worth it.

    I agree that others' feelings should be respected. Of course, we're misheard in face-to-face meetings; how much more on the emotionless web! Even if I put a smiley face :^) some will see that as a marker of gentleness, while others see it as sarcasm. Some read every word I write with a condescending tone in their head, a few with angelic harp music in the background. Both are wrong, and there's not much I can do about it.

    This is also why I asked as many questions of you as possible, to give you room to clarify. If you're going to be online, you will have to clarify. A lot!

    I return to the image of iron sharpening iron. Is that a respectful process? Most would not describe it that way. But shaping each other into useful tools should be part of kingdom life. Sometimes we have to ignore our feelings, and just submit to refinement. In fact, if a brother leaves me the same way he found me when he encountered me, what good was our relationship?

    To this end, I will be taking JMF's suggestion and writing about being filled with the Spirit. If I can't measure up to the standard I hold you to, then all of what I have said is simply smoke! Making me formulate my ideas into words is only going to make me better able to teach, and I welcome that. Without this discussion, I would not be wanting to do that. I'm leaving different than when I showed up, and I'm grateful.

    In working with relationships there is a saying I use, borrowed from a friend: "Your feelings are valid. And they are not the truth." Our feelings are deceptive. You may feel like I was disrespectful or inconsiderate. It's easy to feel that the first time out. The truth is, it's far less painful to be transparent when trying to share ideas. Transparency is a valuable commodity in the kingdom economy.

    I am confident in our God that He is able to take a very private man with a valuable gift of reporting church history, and turn him into a very bold man who not only invites, but relishes the questions, the comments, and the reviews. Christ was not timid, fearful, or very private. He gives us that same Spirit, and we are slowly changed so that our image matches the Spirit.

    With the writing of your book, I think God is starting to draw you out into a new place. You start this chapter in your life with me accusing you of having no authority to write what you have written. But at the end of this chapter, if you join God in this transformation, no one will be able to make that accusation against you and stand. I look forward to that day.

    Like you, I think I've had my fill of comments for awhile. Peace for you and your wife, in the name of Jesus.

  144. this has been a fascinating dialog and i thank jay for allowing it here in the spirit of love and unity. i think that bruce is correct that the historical setting of ephesians and the cults are significant information. whether that means paul consciously remolds music for verbal praise only i am not convinced of. but here is my own attempt to interpret Eph 5.19 within its larger historical setting in my blog article "Spirit Led Lives Lead to Spirit Lead Worship" at

    Bobby Valentine

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