I would never call it sinful to use instruments in worship.
But I call it inconsistent with the idea of Restoration.
If we strive for unity through going back to the “Ancient Order of Things”, a-capella worship (to be sure) is one of the “minors”. But it always becomes an issue, when people want to depart from “the old paths”.
I would most likely disagree with the standard reasoning or the attitude among many conservative churches – because they make this bigger than it is, even a salvation issue (if they are quoted correctly in this Blog).
But I also disagree with the progressive approach, because it does not fit the idea of restoration, but is – concerning instrumental worship – indeed based on wishful thinking. The church of christ in their oldest records we have unanimously rejected instruments in worship. You cannot deny this fact, nor easily argue, that a-capella worship was an innovation in the 2nd century. This is they way it was from the beginning, and it did not change until the middle ages.
Why? Pray, why do progressives always start a fight on this issus? Why don’t they comply with the tradition and focus on the spiritual quality of faith and church life? Changing such externals as instrumental versus a-capella might stir up a few more emotions in worship – but that’s not to be confused with spirituality. On the other hand it does cause division among the churches of Christ, and it causes many to fall into the sins of resentment and ugly talk about others. And this indeed can become a salvation issue!
Is what you gain worth the price, Jay (et al.)?
I’m going to spend two posts on these questions. And I want to make clear at the beginning that I find Alexander an engaging, thoughtful, spiritual conversationalist. I’m not picking on him.
However, the questions he asks are critically important to the contemporary Churches of Christ. You see, in most of Christendom, the decision to be a cappella or instrumental would be thought of as being on the order of what color to paint the foyer — a matter of taste and expedience. But in the Churches of Christ, it’s beyond that. Even for those (like Alexander) who don’t see the question as a salvation matter, it’s often seen as an identity question. Unspoken but often very real is the question: “If we aren’t the churches that sing a cappella, who are we?” Closely tied to that is: “This will cause some much division and consternation, is it really worth the price?”
Both questions are subtly tied to the 20th Century Churches of Christ way of thinking, that is, to the false teaching that we are the only people going to heaven. If we are the only saved people, then, yes, a movement toward the instrument may be seen as a division. But if we are but a part of the church-universal, then a move toward the instrument is step toward greater unity with the larger Christian community and away from seeking an identity in a subset of the church-universal.
Just so, when we worry about whether we are still a part of the “Church of Christ” or Restoration Movement if we use instruments, we are worrying about whether we remain part of a faction — unless we believe the Churches of Christ is the same thing as the church-universal.
So I ask the readers to first think in terms of the Churches of Christ as a subset of the church-universal, a subset with a lot to offer the larger community of believers, but a subset, saved by grace and not works, holy by the virtue of the saving work of Jesus, not our own perfection.
Does teaching the permissibility of instrumental music cause division among the Churches of Christ? Is it sin because of the divisive attitudes of others?
We need to start with some basics. First, if someone is filled with “resentment and ugly talk about others,” who is the sinner? The one who is being talked ugly about? Or the one doing the ugly talking?
Obviously, it’s possible that both are sinners, but the one being resented or talked ugly about may or may not be a sinner. The one doing the resenting and ugly talk is always a sinner.
(Mar 7:21-23 ESV) 21 “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
(2Co 12:20 ESV) 20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish–that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.
(Eph 4:31 ESV) 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
(Col 3:8 ESV) 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
(1Pe 2:1 ESV) So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
These behaviors are simply not permitted to Christians. Period. And I can’t conceive of an ethic that says, “You can’t do that, because it’ll make me slander you!” That’d be unthinkably wrong. The sinners don’t set the agenda. The sinners don’t get to use their sinfulness to control others.
Rather, we need to call on the immature among us to be true to our calling.
(Gal 5:22-24 ESV) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
(Tit 2:11-15 ESV) 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
(2Pe 1:5-8 ESV) 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The fact that we are slandered and resented is cause for celebration!
(Mat 5:11-12 ESV) 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
(Luk 6:22-23 ESV) 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”
(1Pe 4:14-16 ESV) 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
Should we prefer to be among those suffering ugly talk and resentment, or those guilty of ugly talk and resentment?
Of course, we could capitulate to the persecutors and submit to their version of Christianity, but this would be as wrong as could be.
(1Co 7:22-23 ESV) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.
(Gal 5:1 ESV) For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
(1Pe 2:15-16 ESV) 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
The last thing a Christian should do is give control over those who pervert the gospel into a legal system, seeking justfication by works. Yes, while you do not consider instrumental music a sin, you urge me to allow those who do consider it a sin — even as a salvation issue — to control of the doctrinal agenda of the church — so they won’t become guilty of sin. But if they would slander someone for disagreeing over such a question, they are already guilty of sin, because their hearts haven’t yet submitted to the Spirit of Christ. People whose hearts are filled with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” may well disagree with me, but they will not be hateful.
Yes, there are those who behave abominably in response to disagreement, and in doing so, they show themselves to be Spirit-less, weak, untransformed Christians. The cure is for them to honor God’s word, and the last thing we should do is kowtow to them and give them de facto control of God’s church. These are not the people who should be in authority among us.
Now, the problem is even deeper than untransformed hearts. It’s a false gospel. I’ve covered this at length elsewhere, but the notion that a cappella singing is a salvation issue is an example of the Galatian heresy, because it’s an effort to be justified by works. That false gospel has led to countless divisions in the 20th Century Churches of Christ and unspeakable heartache and misery. This is not a question best solved by silence. Ignoring the problem won’t make it get better.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke.
So, no, teaching against division does not cause division. It may well expose those who truly are dividers when they disagree and demand division! Teaching freedom does not destroy freedom. It may well expose those who oppose freedom as enslavers of God’s people when they disagree and demand that we return to slavery! Suffering persecution is not grounds to stop. It’s cause to persevere.
There is only one path to true unity, and it’s not compromise and silence about God’s will. It’s the gospel of Jesus Christ and the grace of God. All else is false religion. There are many ways that people might be united, but I wish to be united in Jesus and faith in him.