Colossians: Further on the Instrumental Music Question (In Reply to Alexander), Part 2

Colossae moundAlexander wrote,

I would never call it sinful to use intruments 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 likeley 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 want to repeat that I find Alexander an engaging, thoughtful, spiritual conversationalist. I’m not picking on him. And 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 doctrinal, 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?”

Is my teaching on the instrument inconsistent with the Restoration Movement?


The Restoration Movement was indeed founded as a unity movement, but unity was not sought through uniform worship practices. Rather, unity was sought by not allowing such disagreements to be barriers to fellowship. Instrumental music was not an issue during the first 60 years of the Movement. Rather, the original goal was to overcome creeds — that is, doctrinal statements that served as tests of fellowship.

One of the founding documents of the Movement is Thomas Campbell’s “Declaration and Address” of 1809. He wrote,

3. That in order to this, nothing ought to be inculcated upon christians as articles of faith; nor required of them as terms of communion; but what is expressly taught, and enjoined upon them, in the word of God. Nor ought any thing be admitted, as of divine obligation, in their church constitution and managements, but what is expressly enjoined by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles upon the New Testament church; either in express terms, or by approven precedent.

Now, the supposed prohibition of instrumental music is certainly NOT “expressly taught, and enjoined.” Therefore, Campbell urges us to not to treat it as of “divine obligation” or to make it a part of our “church constitution and managements.”

Campbell, in referencing express commands and approved precedents, is NOT saying those are the only things authorized. Rather, he’s saying those are the only rules we can treat as “divine obligation” or include in our “church constitution and managements.” That is, we aren’t allowed to make up rules out of silences.

5. That with respect to the commands and ordinances of our Lord Jesus Christ, where the scriptures are silent, as to the express time or manner of performance, if any such there be; no human authority has power to interfere, in order to supply the supposed deficiency, by making laws for the church; nor can any thing more be required of christians in such cases, but only that they so observe these commands and ordinances, as will evidently answer the declared and obvious end of their institution. Much less has any human authority power to impose new commands or ordinances upon the church, which our Lord Jesus Christ has not enjoined. Nothing ought to be received into the faith or worship of the church; or be made a term of communion amongst christians, that is not as old as the New Testament.

Campbell then declares that where the scriptures are silent, no human has the right to “supply the supposed deficiency, by making laws for the church.” Therefore, Campbell denies that silences are necessarily prohibitions. Rather, the laws we must obey are laws “expressly taught” (paragraph 3, quoted above). He then insists that we can insist on no more than obedience to actual commands found in the scripture. And he prohibits binding anything not as old as the New Testament. That seems to plainly ban the use of Third Century writings.

6. That although inferences and deductions from scripture premises, when fairly inferred, may be truly called the doctrine of God’s holy word: yet are they not formally binding upon the consciences of christians farther than they perceive the connection, and evidently see that they are so; for their faith must not stand in the wisdom of men; but in the power and veracity of God–therefore no such deductions can be made terms of communion, but do properly belong to the after and progressive edification of the church. Hence it is evident that no such deductions or inferential truths ought to have any place in the churchs’s confession.

Inferences, even if “fairly inferred” so as to be “truly called the doctrine of God’s holy word” are not “binding upon the consciences of christians” because to hold otherwise would be to make one’s faith depend on the “wisdom of men.” Therefore, “deductions” are not terms of “communion.” Therefore, the instrumental vs. a cappella controversy cannot be a salvation or fellowship issue to someone wanting to be true to the Restoration Movement.

The original Restoration Movement was about unity achieved by insisting on nothing but the word of God — not even inferences and deductions. Now, the argument against instrumental music begins with inferring that all silences are prohibitions (a very doubtful inference) and then inferring that the scriptures are silent on the instrument (also very doubtful).

Thomas Campbell would certainly not have agreed with the 20th Century insistence on a cappella music as a term of fellowship or as somehow defining the boundaries or our identity as a Movement. Indeed, it is the exact opposite of his teaching.

On the other hand, I’m confident his congregation was a cappella. All frontier congregations were. It wasn’t an issue in those days because of the cost and because most frontier churches were rooted in Calvinism, and the Zwingli/Puritan branch had especially insisted on the Regulative Principle, banning all on which the scriptures were silent. You see, our position on a cappella music is not Restoration teaching at all. It’s Zwinglian.

The Restoration Movement was specifically designed to unite all Christians without regard to the speculations of the Zwinglis and other men — to no longer divide over issues other than faith in Jesus. Alexander Campbell wrote in The Christian System,

It must strike every man of reflection, that a religion requiring much mental abstraction or exquisite refinement of thought, or that calls for the comprehension or even apprehension of refined distinctions and of nice subtleties, is a religion not suited to mankind in their present circumstances. To present such a creed as the Westminster, as adopted, either by Baptists or Paido-Baptists; such a creed as the Episcopalian, or, in the fact, any sectarian creed, composed as they all are, of propositions, deduced by logical inferences, and couched in philosophical language, to all those who are fit subjects of the salvation of Heaven–I say, to present such a creed to such for their examination or adoption, shocks all common sense. This pernicious course is what has paganized Christianity.

Our sects and parties, our disputes and speculations, our orders and castes, so much resemble any thing but Christianity, that when we enter a modern synagogue, or an ecclesiastical council, we seem rather to have entered a Jewish sanhedrim, a Mohometan mosque, a Pagan temple, or an Egyptian cloister, than a Christian congregation. Sometimes, indeed, our religious meetings so resemble the Areopagus, the Forum, or the Senate, that we almost suppose ourselves to have been translated to Athens or Rome. Even Christian orators emulate Demosthenes and Cicero. Christian doctrines are made to assume the garb of Egyptian mysteries, and Christian observances put on the pomp and pageantry of pagan ceremonies. Unity of opinion, expressed in subscription to voluminous dogmas imported from Geneva, Westminster, Edinburgh, or Rome, is made the bond of union: and a difference in the tenth, or ten thousandth shade of opinion, frequently becomes the actual cause of dismemberment or expulsion.

The New Testament was not designed to occupy the same place in theological seminaries that the carcases of malefactors are condemned to occupy in medical halls–first doomed to the gibbet, and then to the dissecting knife of the spiritual anatomist. Christianity consists infinitely more in good works than in sound opinions; and while it is a joyful truth, that he that believes and is baptized shall be saved, it is equally true that he that says, ‘I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.’

(Paragraphing modified to facilitate readability.) The practices that Campbell condemns could just as easily refer to the teachings and practices of the 20th Century Churches of Christ. Campbell declares Christianity “paganized” — not due to impurity of worship but by insistence of forming sects and parties regarding disagreements over such things as how to worship! Rather, Campbell urges that “Christianity consists infinitely more in good works than in sound opinions.”

Campbell wrote in the same article,

Religious philosophers on the Bible have excogitated the following doctrines and philosophical distinctions:–

‘The Holy Trinity,’ ‘Three persons of one substance, power, and eternity,’ ‘Co-essential, co-substantial, co-equal,’ ‘The Son eternally begotten of the Father,’ ‘An eternal Son,’ ‘Humanity and divinity of Christ,’ ‘The Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son,’ ‘God’s eternal decrees,’ ‘Conditional and unconditional election and reprobation,’ ‘God out of Christ,’ ‘Free will,’ ‘Liberty and necessity,’ ‘Original sin,’ ‘Total depravity,’ ‘Covenant of grace,’7 ‘Effectual calling,’ ‘Free grace,’ ‘Sovereign grace,’ ‘General and particular atonement,’ ‘Satisfy divine justice,’ ‘Common and special operations of the Holy Ghost,’ ‘Imputed righteousness,’ ‘Inherent righteousness,’ ‘Progressive sanctification,’ ‘Justifying and saving faith,’ ‘Historic and temporary faith,’ ‘The direct and reflex acts of faith,’ ‘The faith of assurance, and the assurance of faith,’ ‘Legal repentance,’ ‘Evangelical repentance,’ ‘Perseverance of the saints,’8 and ‘Falling from grace,’9 ‘Visible and invisible church,’ ‘Infant membership,’ ‘Sacraments,’ ‘Eucharist,’ ‘Consubstantiation,’ ‘Church government,’ ‘The power of the keys,’ &c. &c.

Concerning these and all such doctrines, and all the speculations and phraseology to which they have given rise, we have the privilege neither to affirm nor deny–neither to believe nor doubt; because God has not proposed them to us in his word, and there is no command to believe them. If they are deduced from the Scriptures, we have them in the facts and declarations of God’s Spirit; if they are not deduced from the Bible, we are free from all the difficulties and strifes which they have engendered and created.

Alexander Campbell could not be clearer that some very dear and much-debated doctrines should not be terms of communion. Indeed, he goes all the way back to the Council of Nicea to condemn division over “speculations” — although there are many things here that the Churches of Christ affirm as true. But each example is also an example of a major division of Christ’s church thoughout history, each of which Campbell condemns. And he certainly had an opinion as to who was right on each question. He just denies the rightness of dividing over such things.

Study the list closely. It’s a truly astonishing list, as many of the items on the list are considered the very definition of orthodox Christianity. Campbell, however, writes,

When the Messiah appeared as the founder of a new religion, systems of religion consisting of opinions and speculations upon matter and mind, upon God and nature, upon virtue and vice, had been adopted, improved, reformed, and exploded time after time. That there was always something superfluous, something defective, something wrong, something that could be improved, in every system of religion and morality, was generally felt, and at last universally acknowledged. But the grandeur, sublimity, and beauty of the foundation of hope, and of ecclesiastical or social union, established by the author and founder of Christianity, consisted in this, that THE BELIEF OF ONE FACT, and that upon the best evidence in the world, is all that is requisite, as far as faith goes, to salvation. The belief of this ONE FACT and submission to ONE INSTITUTION expressive of it, is all that is required of Heaven to admission into the church.

A Christian, as defined, not by Dr. Johnson, nor any creed-maker, but by one taught from Heaven, is one that believes this one fact, and has submitted to one institution, and whose deportment accords with the morality and virtue of the great Prophet. The one fact is expressed in a single proposition–that Jesus the Nazarene is the Messiah. The evidence upon which it is to be believed is the testimony of twelve men, confirmed by prophecy, miracles, and spiritual gifts.

The one institution is baptism into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Every such person is a disciple in the fullest sense of the word, the moment he has believed this one fact, upon the above evidence, and has submitted to the above mentioned institution; and whether he believes the five points condemned, or the five points approved by the synod of Dort, is not so much as to be asked of him; whether he holds any of the views of the Calvinists or Arminians, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, or Quakers, is never once to be asked of such persons, in order to admission into the Christian community, called the church. The only doubt that can reasonably arise upon these points, is, whether this one fact, in its nature and necessary results, can suffice to the salvation of the soul, and whether the open avowal of it, in the overt act of baptism, can be a sufficient recommendation of the person, so professing, to the confidence and love of the brotherhood.

As to the first of these, it is again and again asserted, in the clearest language, by the Lord himself, the Apostles Peter, Paul, and John, that he that believes the testimony that Jesus is the Christ, is begotten by God, may overcome the world, has eternal life, and is, on the veracity of God, saved from his sins. This should settle the first point; for the witnesses agree that whosoever confesses that Jesus is the Christ, and is baptized, should be received into the church; and not an instance can be produced of any person being asked for any other faith, in order to admission, in the whole New Testament.

The Saviour expressly declared to Peter, that upon this fact, that he was the Messiah, the Son of God, he would build his church; and Paul has expressly declared that “other foundation can no man lay (for ecclesiastical union) than that JESUS IS THE CHRIST.” The point is proved that we have assumed; and this proved, every thing is established requisite to the union of all Christians upon a proper basis.

(Paragraphing modified to facilitate readability. Italics in original. Boldface is mine.) The “Synod of Dort” is the council that adopted the five points of Calvinism, abbreviated “TULIP.” Campbell, a former Calvinist, declares that neither Calvinism nor non-Calvinism is a term of communion.

Now, the 20th Century Churches of Christ correctly admitted converts to baptism and communion solely on a confession of faith in Jesus. Good. But they failed to treat that as the only foundation for ecclesiastical union. They treated faith in Jesus as sufficient to become saved but not sufficient to stay saved, instead adding a burden of commands and inferences far greater than the Mosaic 613 commands, declaring all sorts of things essential to be a part of the Restoration Movement, indeed, essential to salvation.

No … the idea that we must practice a cappella singing to be part of the Restoration Movement is the very opposite of Restoration Movement thought. Rather, to be true to the principles of the Movement, we must work for unity across denominational lines, without regard to disagreements over doctrines such as Calvinism, focusing instead on faith in Jesus.

At the same time, there is a strain of thought in the Campbells some call “primitivism,” that is, a desire to return to First Century practices. They scoured the scriptures (and Patristics) for lessons on how to worship, how to organize the church, and such. However, these conclusions were not tests of fellowship. Alexander Campbell himself made it clear that he didn’t consider the pattern of worship that he taught a salvation issue, as noted recently by John Mark Hicks.

The interesting question, however, is whether [Campbell] thought the “order” he discerned within the New Testament was a test of fellowship among believers. Did he believe that conformity to this order was necessary to salvation? Was it his intent to identify the marks of the church that defined the true church so that every other body of believers who did not conform to those marks was apostate and thus outside the fellowship of God?

This was implicitly raised in the Christian Baptist by one of Campbell’s critics. Spencer Clack, the editor of the Baptist Recorder, wondered whether Campbell’s “ancient order” functioned similarly to the written creeds to which Campbell mightily objected (CB 5 [6 August 1827] 359-360). Campbell’s response is illuminating. He maintained that his “ancient order” was no creed precisely because he had “never made them, hinted that they should be, or used them as a test of christian character or terms of christian communion” (CB 5 [3 September 1827] 369-370,

(emphasis Hicks’).

Therefore, I utterly disagree with the notion that the progressive viewpoint “does not fit the idea of restoration.” The idea of restoration is to stop adding commands to the Bible that aren’t there and to unite despite disagreements over what the Bible says, so long as we remain united in our faith in Jesus.

And we aren’t a true Restoration Movement until we grant each other freedom to disagree regarding matters of silence. Indeed, to do otherwise is to entirely leave the teachings of the founders of the Movement. Freedom that can’t be exercised isn’t freedom.

But I insist that we follow the Campbells on these questions, not because of the authority of the Campbells, but because they were solid scholars of the scriptures. And on these points, they interpreted the scriptures aright.

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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41 Responses to Colossians: Further on the Instrumental Music Question (In Reply to Alexander), Part 2

  1. Ray says:

    Jay, again another great write-up!

    I must clearly state that I do not investigate nor research Alexander Campbell's writings, but I do have a Gospel Advocate Reprint copy of "The Living Oracles". In it Campbell has preface and appendices work that is excellent, his work in that NT further demonstrates what you just clarified. He was quite the textual and theological critic.

    The cofc, as I know it, seems far removed from the unity-seeking it claims it wants; instead it is divisive over just about everything.

    Your write-ups are good and I think you are spot on when proclaiming unity not conformity.

  2. guy says:


    C'mon. Surely you can tell this is just a straw man fallacy.

    First, unless i grossly misread and misunderstood what Alexander wrote, his claim that IM is inconsistent with the idea of restoration is not equivalent to your claim that your position is consistent with *the writings/views of the leaders of the Restoration Movement.* Whether IM comports with 19th century RM writings had nothing to do with Alexander's position or claim so far as i understood it.

    Second, Alexander made crystal clear he didn't think worship practices were salvation issues, yet that is the position you attacked. There can be good reason to imitate first century practice even if you don't think anyone's going to hell over it. That's what i understood Alexander's position to be. But, again, you attacked something *other* than Alexander's position.

    Again–unless i've just really misinterpretted Alexander, which i hope he'll clarify if i have, in which case i apologize and retract all this–you haven't really engaged the comments you've posted.

    And lastly and unrelated, you said:

    "Rather, the original goal was to overcome creeds — that is, doctrinal statements that served as tests of fellowship."

    Even you have a creed–a doctrinal statement that serves as a test of fellowship–whether it's written down or not. Do you fellowship atheists or Satanists? No? If not at least because they lack some correct, required belief, then why not?


  3. Dan H. says:

    At the risk of being accused of being maudlin, Jay, I must say—-I love ya, man! This is a wonderful explanation for anyone who values scripture or the restoration movement. If we are to ever stop relying on the doctrines of 20th century and late 19th century preachers we must be willing to accept all those who confess Christ as savior. ………. This article speaks both to our need to follow scripture and the great freedom which we enjoy. God bless you.

  4. Dan H. says:

    Guy, I think you missed something……. I took Alexander to mean he was referring exactly to what Jay said. The whole Restoration Movement was about restoring the church to a united Christianity as in the first century…… Alexander is saying we can do that by following the first century practices of the early church……… Jay (and Alexander Campbell) are saying we can do that by accepting one another as brothers in Christ upon our confession that Jesus is Messiah and submission to baptism.

    Which would you choose?

  5. Jay Guin says:


    Dan H is right. I might could have said it better, so let me try again. You can't assert that someone is not true to the Restoration Movement regarding a dispute about the instrument when the Restoration Movement was not about the instrument. Barton W. Stone, Walter Scott, and Thomas and Alexander Campbell founded the Movement, and what they tried to accomplish was a unification of Christendom based on recognition of all with submissive faith in Jesus as brothers in Christ. If you read the Last Will & Testament of Springfield Presbytery and the other writings of these men, this is very clear. The instrument did not become an issue until very late in Alexander Campbell's life and he said next to nothing on the subject. Thomas Campbell and Barton W. Stone died before the issue even arose — and yet they founded the Movement!

    Now, it is true that Alexander Campbell (but not Stone) also wanted to build unity based believers baptism by immersion, and so he worked for unity with the Baptists — and he saw no necessity that the believer consider baptism to be for remission of sins (that's a 20th Century issue). We've covered the differing interpretations of his Lunenburg letter correspondence here at length — but Campbell himself declared that his movement was designed to draw Christians out of the denominations into unity — not to save the lost by drawing them out of the denominations.

    And Campbell taught on lots and lots of different subjects. The fact that he ran a series called Search for the Ancient Order that dealt with acts of worship does not give us permission to redefine the Movement in those terms. Those articles were not the centerpiece of the Movement. Rather, later generations decided to trash the original plea for unity despite disagreements and turn a brief series of articles into the entirety of the Movement. Indeed, the book where he lays his theology out in detail, The Christian System,… doesn't even address instrumental music or say that much on the order of worship — focusing almost entirely on the Lord's Supper.

    Therefore, I think the 20th Century Churches of Christ are not at all heirs of the Restoration Movement. Indeed, much of their teaching is the very teaching the Restorers worked to oppose. The progressive movement within the Churches of Christ is, in fact, true to the spirit of the Restoration Movement. Making the Restoration Movement be about the instrument is simply a misreading of history.

  6. abasnar says:

    At the same time, there is a strain of thought in the Campbells some call “primitivism,” that is, a desire to return to First Century practices. They scoured the scriptures (and Patristics) for lessons on how to worship, how to organize the church, and such. However, these conclusions were not tests of fellowship. Alexander Campbell himself made it clear that he didn’t consider the pattern of worship that he taught a salvation issue, as noted recently by John Mark Hicks.

    I do like John Mark Hicks's works (as far as i have read them) – His paper on IM is basically also my conviction:

    There is a difference between the ideal or the idea and the reality or the way to reach to goal. If we only can have fellowship if we are perfectly resored, we will never have followship. So it is not about perfectionism, but more about direction.

    I understand Campbell to be very clear about the NT commands and patterns (I translated his D&A 1809 into German, also the Last Will of Stone, because I find both documents very balanced). What I appreciate aboput Alexander Campbell is also his interest in church history – in his debates he often makes uses not of "the Bible Alone" but of many abncient resources that shed light on the scriptures.

    In this I understand him in his "desire forthe primitive church" – not as a condition for fellowship, but as pointing to the direction of restoration. The RM is not only about unoty or about restoring baptism, but it is a bigger project and a greater vision.

    In the end – unity won't be achieved, if we don't earnestly strive for a common understanding of the scriptures and how we put them into practice in every aspect of the Christian life.


  7. guy says:

    i stand corrected–Alexander did mean to claim his view more accurately represented the RM leaders than yours.

    i'm guilty of reading too much of my own view into Alexander's words. i consider myself a restorationist, but i don't see that project as properly defined by the RM leaders. So i'm not terribly concerned with whether mine or anyone else's view is harmonious with their writings or not.


  8. Alexander,
    You wrote:

    In the end – unity won’t be achieved, if we don’t earnestly strive for a common understanding of the scriptures and how we put them into practice in every aspect of the Christian life.

    I do not share this view — and in fact, I think it has several problems.

    First, unity can only be achieved by relying on God, not upon our understanding.

    Second, this blog alone is pretty strong evidence of how impossible it is to have a common understanding of scripture.

    Third, in any given situation, it's impossible to know how to perfectly practice Jesus' principles in life. Because I don't know you as Jesus does, I cannot say things to you and have confidence that you will understand what I intend to communicate to you. All I have is my good intention, my failure is why I need Jesus as an intermediary.

    We'll find unity in Jesus, in spite of ourselves, but never because of anything we do or understand. Thank God for grace and forgiveness.

  9. Clark Coleman says:

    The common saying that we cannot make our inferences a test of fellowship is simply illogical. Every time we interpret a scriptural passage, we make inferences. If an English (or Greek, or Hebrew) word has four meanings, we have to decide which meaning fits the context best, or which was the intended meaning. To do this, we use our brains, we make inferences and inductions and deductions, and we do not all agree on the result.

    What people are trying to say is that some inferences are "obvious" but others are disputable, and we should not make disputable inferences into tests of fellowship, because then we will have endless disputes and divisions.

    But all of the "obvious' inferences and interpretations are in fact disputed by one cult or another. I personally know people who claim to believe in the Bible who are Mormons, Christian Scientists, and members of the Unity Church (who believe in reincarnation, among other things). Jehovah's Witnesses believe in the Bible, and they believe Jesus died for their sins and was bodily resurrected from the dead, but they believe the Christ was the highest angel, named Michael in the Old Testament, and was created by the Father, and the Holy Spirit is not a person of the Trinity, which they do not believe in anyway.

    I bet Alexander Campbell and other Restoration Movement founders did not intend to extend fellowship to these groups I have listed. Why? Because of their interpretations of the Bible, which interpretations are based on inferences, inductions, deductions, and the like.

    For the record, I do not make instrumental music a test of fellowship, in the following sense: I believe that members of the Christian Church are saved in the same way that we are, that they are not going to hell because of instruments, etc. But I cannot have instruments in the congregation I attend without violating my own conscience concerning what my worship should be.

    The recurring theme in "progressive" circles is the simple logical fallacy that they do not draw lines in the sand; only those divisive conservatives draw lines in the sand, hence there is a difference in kind between the two groups, when in fact there is only a difference in degree. Everyone, even Campbell and Stone, draws some line in the sand somewhere. It can be productive to discuss the criteria for such actions, but not to pretend that one of does so and the other does not. Trying to turn a difference in degree into a difference in kind is an old rhetorical trick that gives one party the moral high ground. But it does not get us any closer to deciding what the proper degree should be.

  10. Aaron says:

    Clark, there is a difference in kind between trusting in God's grace as opposed to relying on my own perfect performance. I've been on both sides of that coin, and only one side leads to life. I don't personally know any "progressives" that celebrate some sort of "moral high ground." I do know lots of dear friends who I wish would see how poisonous legalism and the Galatian Heresy are. This debate pains me, mostly because I'm not sure it will ever be resolved…at least not on this side of the Resurrection.

  11. Brent says:

    There has been a lot of serious discussion . . . good discussion over the past several days pertaining to the IM question. I'm going to interject a funny story. It is also a sad story, but a true story.

    When I was a teenager, 34 years ago, my family went on a vacation to the west coast, and we drove there and back to Texas. We always attended an assembly when traveling, (a practice of mine as well, not out of legalism, but out of joy and curiosity). My parents looked in a telephone book and found an address for a local church of Christ in a southern New Mexico town. We were not familiar with the city, and so we arrived just a little late. We drove up and saw the sign, Church of Christ. We parked right on the street in front of the building and rushed in to find a seat.

    I have two sisters, so there were five of us, and we found seats on the back row. There were about 200 in attendance. The congregation was singing a cappella, and we joined right it. They were singing the songs we knew, so it had to be a good place. Then all of the sudden, I saw panic hit my father's face . . . and then my mothers'. I knew something was wrong. I leaned over to ask my mother, and at the same moment something caught my eye. There it was . . . standing upright in plain view of all of us . . . right behind the podium . . . Great Scott . . . a black piano! Sin was standing there in plain view. We froze. Was our worship going to be acceptable in this place??

    I remember feeling really weird. We were in shock. The sign said Church of Christ!! My mother whispered to me to be prepared to quietly leave when Dad gets up. All eyes were on Dad. About that time, the singing was over . . . and the preacher began to speak. We listened very carefully, because he was bound to say something that was not scriptural. How could he speak a holy message to us with SIN standing right behind him? We kept listening and waited for him to reveal his true sinful self. He spoke as a man of God though, and Dad didn't get up. It was a good sermon. In fact the worship service was a blessing to us. We continued to worship, and we made it to the end of the service. The piano stood in silence.

    Afterward, we were enthusiastically greeted by the church, and my dad asked why a piano was behind the podium. They told us that it was sometimes used in weddings, but that they didn't use it in the Sunday assemblies. Well okay then . . . all was well with the world. I can remember feeling so happy that the people at that congregation had not slipped into sin.

    We made our way out of the front of the building and walked to our car parked in the front. As we were opening the doors to the car, we noticed that there was another church building to the right of the building we had just walked out of. Out in front of the building was a sign that read . . . Non-Instrumental Church of Christ. Their congregation was also letting out, and its members were walking out of the front doors, and they just stood there looking at us. I could feel the thoughts that were written on their faces. They had a sad/alarmed look. They wanted to warn us. My dad said, "Hurry up and get in the car. " We made it to the west coast and back .

    That was the Sunday we worshiped with a piano . . . but the piano was silent. We had not transgressed!! Surely God was smiling at us.

    If not laughing.

  12. abasnar says:

    This story remembers me of a quotation from Clement of Alexandria concerning Greek philosophy:

    But the majority of Christians are frightened at the Hellenic philosophy, as children are at masks, being afraid lest it lead them afraid.

    Clement of Alexandria was a very learned men, and he could discern quite intelligently what in these Hellenic philosopühies are actually seeds of truth (just as Paul did in Athens). But the majority of Chritians did not have acces to the large libraries nor the time and capacities to dig into these books – they "kept it it stupid and simple" (KISS): "If it is from Plato, then run for your lives!"

    Brothers, this is a commendable reaction! Indeed it is! As we teach little children to just stay away from the stove in order not to get burned. Now, of course every adult should be able to handle a stove; but not every Christian should be well versed in the philosophies of the time.

    It is the sam with this story of IM. It might not represent a totally balanced theology, but it reflects a sinsere desire to keep away from every sort of evil. IM is nor evil per se, but it is not accepted within the conservative body of the churches of Christ. The reasons commonly given mighjt be weak and questionable, but the historic evidence is clear enough to stick with a-cappella. And I don't think it is necessary to bother the simple members of our congregations with too many details.

    If they stay away from everything that sounds or smells a little fishy (evry kind of evil 1Th 5:22, not just IM), this is a highly commendable attitude, pleasing to the Lord. Those who are teachers in the church will over the years lead also these "weak Christians" to maturity, so they don't fear "the masks" as if they could actually bite them. But we should not belittle their concerns at all.


  13. abasnar says:

    Dear David

    First, unity can only be achieved by relying on God, not upon our understanding.

    Can we say, this is the underlying attitude or foundation of every other (necessary) step that follows? What you state here, remains on the “spiritual level” – but as soon as two builders try to build a house they have to have more than love to their profession. They also have to agree on a plan and on certain procedures in order to work together harmoniously and effieciently.

    Second, this blog alone is pretty strong evidence of how impossible it is to have a common understanding of scripture.

    It is quite sad to see this. But why is this so? I am convinced, that there are paradigms in the back of the progressive mind, that are fueled more by the spirit of Post Modernism than they are aware of. I don’t mean this in an accusing way, but I can’t help but seeing parallels: E.g. It is more about experience and relationship than about facts. It is OK to do things differently as long as we love each other – and still call this “unity”. So the understanding of “unity” differs in as much the goal to come to practical, visible unity – up to the level of One City, One Church under One Leadership with One Discipline, One Lifestyle and One Worship seems not only completely “out of reach” (which most likely it is – but it is a vision, and it was the original vision of the RM), but it is not even a vision any more! The progressive idea of unity is satisfied, as soon as everyone accepts each other as brothers and sisters, and yet every church has the freedom to do and act as she pleases (they would probably not use the word “please”, but according to their own understanding of the Scriptures. Yet in the end, the result is pretty much the same … and that’s Postmodernism).

    Third, in any given situation, it’s impossible to know how to perfectly practice Jesus’ principles in life. Because I don’t know you as Jesus does, I cannot say things to you and have confidence that you will understand what I intend to communicate to you. All I have is my good intention, my failure is why I need Jesus as an intermediary.

    Phooi – and I thought “Teach them to keep everything I commanded you” is a command that could be put into practice. It seems our Lord was unable to convey His will and message to us, if in the end everything remains ambiguous, unclear and “up to you” … Why do we preach and teach the church to discern between good and evil any longer? Don’t we just teach the the personal view of the preacher concerning good and evil? See, that’s Postmodernism …

    We’ll find unity in Jesus, in spite of ourselves, but never because of anything we do or understand. Thank God for grace and forgiveness.

    We find unity in Jesus through our Faith and love towards Him. But as soon as we take a song-book to sing together we have to agree on a specific Hymn! We cannot sing a “quod libet” in church, but we are to sing in unison, with one voice. As soon as the preacher says something, the church is called to obedience – so 50, 100, 500 or 5000 listeners are called to DO what has been said from the pulpit. We have to strive to come to unity in our faith and understanding (Eph 4:11-16).

    This is not always easy. And yes, we need God’s Grace and forgiveness on they way, but saying (in effect), it is impossible anyway, so let’s just love one an other without bothering about doctrines and practices is … Postmodernism.

    I don’t write that to offend you personally, though. And I am sure, many will disagree with my “brief analysis” – but I ask all to step back a little, and try to harmonize these quoted objections with the scriptures I alluded to in this reply (Eph 4:11-16; Mt 18:20; Ro 15:5-6; 1Co 1:10; Heb 13:17) – we are to speak with one voice, are to act as one body – how much liberty is there left for us “to have it your way” (the Kingdom of God is NOT Burger King)?


  14. Ray says:

    Good thoughts Alexander and this is spot on (quote from Alexander from September 9th, 2010 at 12:49):
    "IM is nor evil per se, but it is not accepted within the conservative body of the churches of Christ. The reasons commonly given mighjt be weak and questionable, but the historic evidence is clear enough to stick with a-cappella. And I don’t think it is necessary to bother the simple members of our congregations with too many details.

    If they stay away from everything that sounds or smells a little fishy (evry kind of evil 1Th 5:22, not just IM), this is a highly commendable attitude, pleasing to the Lord. "

    but it is also why in a Romans 14 application that I seek to leave the conservative cofc. I could go on to describe things, but perhaps by interpretation of matters would get the better of me instead of the facts. But as a preacher, who has been trying his dead level best to be faithful and teach the text, I am now looking for a liberal/progressive home.

    However, I will offer this thought: the attitude that the conservative cofc is "commendable" is almost negated because they make things so "simple" that it is arguably counterproductive. It is clearly marked by "If I am going to error, I am going to error on the side of caution." The response of error is error (or sin is sin) comes to mind.

    I want to close with a contemplation. It is not possible to have post-modernism without first having modernism. So in that vein, consider this: while it is true that some liberal/progressives are moved along by a "post-modern" mindset; why does it never get stated that some of the conservative cofc is moved along by the "modern" mindset? If modernism or post-modernism is the philosophy by which one interprets the Scriptures, then it is quite possible that by Colossians 2.8 both have been moved by something that is not spiritual. Food for thought.

  15. Price says:

    Alexander….There is a difference between "order" and "conformity"….at least in MHO….II Cor 3:17 says that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Freedom…Why must you categorize the Spirit into Conservative, Modern, Post-Modern, etc….
    In the Corinthian church there were people who were gifted by God differently and each had a different gift to offer. Paul didn't forbid the individual nature of worship but rather asked that it be done in proper order. It seems to me that you would have everyone conform to a certain style of worship, a specific understanding of scripture, etc.

    Your example of two builders is interesting…Psalms 127:1 says that unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…I think what you suggested is pretty typical of what goes on…two builders (groups) want it done a different way and regardless of what the LORD would allow, there is division based on the individual goals and beliefs of the two human builders. So, instead of a glorious house, you end up with two less than glorious ones, then 4…then 8…because conformity doesn't work. Never has…If it did, then the whole world, the ones that believe in Jesus would be under one roof all with the exact understanding of the other…As you said..Phooi..

  16. Clark Coleman says:

    Aaron: I am trusting in God's grace, and not in my own perfect performance. That is why I said that IM is not a salvation issue, and I believe that members of the Christian Church are saved in the same way that I am regardless of IM. Your reply is not responsive to what I wrote. Rather, it is responsive to some prejudice you have concerning what a cappella advocates must believe.

  17. abasnar says:

    why does it never get stated that some of the conservative cofc is moved along by the “modern” mindset?

    Well, now you stated it, and you are absolutely right about this. Alexander Campbell was quite influenced by the Enlightment which preceded modernism. Zwingly was caught in Humanism, while Luther more or less by his Roman catholic background, esp. Augustinian theology.

    No secular philosophy is neutral. And modernism is also a snare, we need to be aware of. In fact: Some aspects of Post-Modernism are even more scriptural than modernism, but that's just a side remark. Certainly Colossians 2:8 applies to all of us.

    But we really, really have to shape our mind by the Scriptures – and a deep conviction that separation from this world is a MUST, helps us to become more critical and aware of the "Zeitgeist" from whereever it may blow. For me a tremenduous help was a series of documentaries by Francis A Schaeffer based on his book "How should we then live", basically an overview of our Western philosophiocal and cultural history in the light of the Scriptures (with quite a dose of Reformed Theology added …).

    However, I will offer this thought: the attitude that the conservative cofc is “commendable” is almost negated because they make things so “simple” that it is arguably counterproductive.

    I have to agree. I sometimes tried to have a conversation in conservative CoC-Blogs, but somehow they are very unwilling to invest a few more thoughts on matters that for them are settled (5 Acts of worship e.g.). It was rather unproductive …

    I would not call our church in Vienna "conservative" (although we stick to a-cappella); in fact I think we might be a bit shocking for some of the German churches in our freedom to break with some of our traditions (like meeting in homes instead of a building twice a month, eating in the assembly – even as part of worship). At the same time we tend to rethink positions that lead us to even stricter convictions (e.g. yesterday we stressed the non-swearing of oaths issue in a very "Anabaptist" way, as well as non-resistance and that Christians may not go to the army will be addressed in one of the next Bible studies; postions once embraced by the RM, but later given up).

    So I would not consider myself conservative in the usual sense; but also not progressive – although I feel quite at home in this Blog. But I am convinced of the need to move on on the path of Restoration – the task is not finished yet. The division between conservatives and progressives is a sad thing to watch, because it is unnecessary. The conservatives lost sight of the vision as well, and the just hold fast to their traditions – the progressives correctly saw that this is not enough, but they move in a different direction altogether I would not recommend to follow.

    I am not sure whether Ro 14 is the text that really fits the situation, though. To a degree, maybe; but the real issues have more to do with the desire to restore a pure, unadulterated New Testament Church. Not that this is a salvation issue, otherwise in the times between (let's say) Irenaeus and Alexander Campbell no one could have been saved; or worse, even maybe none in the CoC would be saved, because where is a church of Christ that could say of itself: "We made it! We are a perfectly restored NT-Church." I see none. But still, I think it is a necessary vision. But it needs a little more space to argue why …


  18. abasnar says:

    There is a difference between “order” and “conformity”….at least in MHO….II Cor 3:17 says that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Freedom…Why must you categorize the Spirit into Conservative, Modern, Post-Modern, etc….

    But what about Col 2:5 where Paul rejoyces over firm faith and order? Order is also important for unity – the Kingdom of God cannot be reduced to Joy and Freedom (although both are essential), but there is also order, there is righteuosness …

    Categorizing does not create the different categories, but just gives them names to address them. And I did not make them up, these category-names were coined already by others and they serve the purpose.

    Paul didn’t forbid the individual nature of worship but rather asked that it be done in proper order. It seems to me that you would have everyone conform to a certain style of worship, a specific understanding of scripture, etc.

    Not really. We have 6 different house churches in our congregation, and each of these does some things differerntly. Up to the degree that we sooner or later will have to discuss some things in more details, because these differences can become irritating/confusing. Let me give you an example from our church:

    We merged the remnant of the ICoC with the CoC. in both groups there were different traditions concerning the participation of women. The ICoC allowed women to pray in the assemblies, the CoC did not. Almost all of our house-churches consist of members from both groups. In two house churches, there is no "real sermon", but the presiding brother leads a Bible-discussion. The women are invited to answer questions and share insights as well as the brothers in these house churches. And sisters are invited to pray aloud as well. In the other groups the women remain silent. There is a traditional sermon (where sisters are excluded from by definition 2Ti 2:15); but they are also forbidden to pray (because of an IMO very narrow interpretation of 1Co 14:34).

    Can you imagine that differences like these can become an issue? Can cause irritation? And it is not that both views and applications are equally all right. If the more "open view" is correct, the sisters is the more "conservative" house churches are deprived of their proestly rights and duties – which would be degrading and sinful! If the other view is correct, we'd be breaking God's order which was specified as a clear "Lord's Command". Who does not accept this won't be accepted either (1Co 14:38).

    So, tell, is this that easy to solve? Is the solution that everyone does as he pleases? It does not work that way, does it?

    But there is a clear Will and Truth to be found. And we have to find it in order to strengthen the unity we still have and enjoy. There is a text, that fits right in the midlle between these two positions: 1Co 11:2-16 – an Apostolic Tradition that cries out for restoration like Abel's blood. But the cries of this slain teaching (killed in the 1960s by some scholars who did not know what they were doing) die away unheard.

    So, tell me: Here we have an example of how easily it can happen that differences in worship are not just a matter of taste, but a question of obedience towards God's word. It's not always that simple …

    How does the Lord build His house?
    Through His Spirit.
    How does the Spirit work in order to build the house?
    – By renewing us in the new birth.
    – By remembering us of the Words of Christ.
    – By leading us into all truth.
    – By giving us the will and the power to obey.
    – By giving us differernt gifts so we may edify one another.

    OK, what will the result be if we follow the Spirit?
    Different oponions or one heart and one mind?
    Different practices or one apostolic tradition?
    Only "unity in diversity" or a certain degree of uniformity as well?

    I don't belive that the Spirit gives self-contradicting guidance or that the Spirit builds according to different blueprints all the time. I don't believe that the Spirit allows for churches to separate in order to keep their man-made traditions; but rather he want us to unite.

    Have you ever noticed, that exactly in the context of the worship-assemblies we have the strongest emphasis that we have to follow the same rules as all other churches? (1Co 11:16; 1Co 14:33-36)

    So, maybe we should define Freedom by its limits first, before we speak about freedom. Otherwise we would use the same word and mean completely different things.


  19. Price says:

    Alexander….I think you have a great opportunity before you…What you describe in the various home churches sounds to me like a first century community of believers…

    First, I agree with you about order..Paul was very instructional in his comments on order. I know of no one who disagrees with this…But, in that order, were people who brought a song (solo), a word of prophecy to edify the person or the congregation, a tongue which they themselves might have to have an interpreter to understand what was being said….I don't know about you but that seems like a whole bunch of stuff going on besides 2 songs, a prayer, a sermon and passsing the plate….

    However, conformity is totally different to me…Yes, we should have a few things in common belief…The Apostles Creed sort of summarizes those critical items wouldn't you agree? Beyond that it seems that we are imposing OUR personal beliefs on someone else..We say it's because we want to get things right and not wrong and I assume that's true…but that reflects a much greater problem…Rules versus Grace..
    We talk about traditions and ECF and ways to speak for God where He chose not to speak in order to come up with rules to follow…Why? In order not to break the rules that would jeapordize one's salvation…..IMHO that is a misunderstanding of Grace…and the importance of certain traditions not imposed on us…

    Paul didn't tell the 1st century christians to wear the clothing styles and jewelry options of Moses. He was concerned only that we represented ourselves in contrast to the immoral community. The 1st century church chose not to use instruments that had long been ordered by God in worship, not according to some BCV but rather because of the prominent and prevalent use by the immoral community. There is not one ECF in the first 200 years that spoke of a BCV that God had ordered them not to use musical instruments..It was the Pharisees that didn't like IM…

    To me the clear tradition of the 1st century church was to do things that separated them publically from the immoral behavior of the world at large..To be set apart…Holy…Cultures and styles change. Today's world is different from that of the 1st century…Women are no longer relegated to barefoot and pregnant and told to keep their mouths shut…The lead world class businesses, run governments, etc….Since their is no male nor female, Jew nor Greek, why should we dismiss their God-given talents in our faith communities if we don't dismiss them in our culture? Again, trying to be something we aren't ( living in the 1st Century) causes us problems..Why can't we be like Jesus our culture, in our times, in our communities?

    Gal 2:4 This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.

    Gal 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

    Maybe there should be a teaching in your home churches on what it means to be free…??

    When you look back, God gave man the Torah…Man added the Talmud…God gave man Grace through Faith and man shunned it in favor of works…God gave man Freedom…and man demanded rules of tradition…It seems that we are following after tradition alright..but perhaps the wrong tradition…

    I would imagine that if your home churches express their LOVE for one another and allow for each other to exist in freedom, it will grow into something special…If everybody just digs in their heels all the way to their kneecaps, it won't be any different than what's happening on every Sunday on different street corners…IMO, people are sick and tired of building walls and would rather walk hand in hand…

  20. Clark Coleman says:

    Price: I figured out that ECF stands for Early Church Fathers, but I don't what the BCV code is, so I cannot comment on that. However, let me address a contradiction. You say that we should stand out from the immoral world around us, and that this is not the same as it was in the first century. True. Then you say that we should permit women certain roles in the church because in the world around us today, they perform all kinds of roles in businesses and other secular institutions. Should we follow the world or be distinct from the world?

    There is a bait and switch argument here. You claim that a capella was just an effort to be different from the immoral pagan religions, but you don't say that women's roles were specified to be different from heathens. Rather, you take the attitude that Paul et al. were products of a patriarchal culture, which implies that their teachings on sex roles were not inspired or inerrant. Thus, there is no analogy between the music issue and the sex roles issue. You are taking positions on these two issues for very different reasons.

  21. Clark Coleman says:

    Price: One more note. You want to avoid imposing our beliefs on others in the church, but accept the common denominator of the Apostles' Creed. But even the Apostles' Creed is based on interpretation and inference and many cults stumble over the simplest and most fundamental aspects of the historic Christian faith. If we exclude them from our churches, deny them teaching positions in our churches, etc., we do so on the basis of interpretations and inferences. See my post of September 8 at 8:54 p.m., to which no one has responded.

  22. Clark
    In response to your post of Sep 8, your opening premise is illogical. God's love, grace and forgiveness is illogical.

    The very fact that any of us requires or expect's God to conform to our understanding of the requirements of logic demonstrates our own misunderstanding of God.

  23. Price says:

    Clark….BCV (Book, Chapter and Verse) I learned it here…:)
    Regarding the apparent contradiction regarding IM and women's roles…
    Wish I had done a better job, sorry…
    Regarding music….musical instruments were commanded by God in worship. It wasn't optional..under the O.T. worship….It was never rescended by God….In John's revelation, whether symbolic or not, I don't know, I haven't seen heaven nor according to scripture am I even able to imagine what is there, yet we clearly see that God enjoys muscial instruments. So, why the stoppage in the early days of the church…There is historical evidence that the modern day world had usurped musical instruments in the use of immoral activity. The Pharisee's hated the instruments as a result as they reflected the IMMORAL behavior of society in general…The early church APPARENTLY agreed. We don't have any writings that indicate that the ECF's thought they were commanded by God to refrain from there use..It was a choice that they felt was appropriate for the times..I call that Freedom… If they had depended solely on tradition they would have used musical instruments but they felt compelled to discontinue their use because of what it represented…
    So, in today's world immoral people use instruments as well…but…big but….so do Christians…Nearly every major metropolitan area of the country has a Christian radio station. Music is no longer a symbol of immoral behavior exclusively…Same with TV…yes, there are immoral shows but Christians have chosen to use modern day technology to reach the world through that medium…Same with the internet. We correspond even now via this technology and yet there are immoral people who use it as well…But, it is not dominated by immoral activity and to use musical instruments in church, preach on TV, play Christian music on the airwaves and reach out to lost people via the internet is not considered in and of itself as immoral…so we use them…

    Women in the first century were second class citizens. Perhaps even up to modern day times…David Lipscomb himself had some pretty harsh opinions of women in society which were accepted by the church and later dismissed as outdated…The culture of the day, as I understand it, would have been offended by women taking any leading role in the church. It would have been an insult to the times. Some have said that the inclusion of the testimony concerning Jesus by Mary Magdelene was incredible in that it was recorded as she was a woman…

    Today, no one is insulted by women taking a leading role in society. It generally offends no one that a leader is a woman per se. Certainly it did a half century ago but not today. I personally would prefer a man to be the pastor of a church. I think it's man's role to lead. However, I believe that our limitation of women's roles has gone well beyond that…We don't allow them to do anything really…I don't think that's what scripture intended.

    Two things that cause me to have that opinion…both examples given us through the hand of Paul…One, is that he compares the lack of consideration for one's ethnic origin (Jew/Greek) and gender (Male/Female) or occupation ? (Slave/Free) in the Kingdom…and Second, his affirmation of Phoebe. She didn't go on his behalf, she went on hers. Paul instructed the leaders of the church to assist her in whatever SHE needed. She was acting on her own authority and apparently given this language used, was quite influential not only in society but in her specific church…You got to admit that given the times, that was pretty bold on Paul's part to tell a group of Elders to offer her assistance in any regard that she would need them…when, she, apparently according to some interpretations was to remain totally silent in the church…perhaps our understanding could use a little modification…

    The early church also had rules against eating any food that was provided by an animal that was strangled, and all sorts of things that today we don't consider..How many of us check out how animals are dispatched before we eat ? It seems to me that the Jerusalem Council was an excellent example of using our freedom in Christ and discernment of the times to moderate our "rules" to be inclusive as conscience will allow to provide more bridges to fellowship and the advancement of the good news of Christ…

    To your question regarding whether or not should we be distinct from the world…I don't consider that our objective…per se…I believe that we should love the Lord will our heart, mind and soul and love our neighbor as ourself…if that separates us from the world then perhaps our example will be one that they wish to immitate to the point that our belief will make us less distinct…isn't that the goal ?

  24. guy says:


    Some people reject any notion of hell or punishment because "that kind of God" doesn't conform to their understanding. Some people reject any notion that only a select few in history holding a certain belief will be eternally saved because "that kind of God" doesn't conform to their understanding.

    That's a card that can be played against *any* position. I don't think it changes the fact that something is the truth and all else is not regardless of whether that something conforms to our understanding or not.


  25. Aaron says:


    I never said anything about you trusting in your performance. Don't read in to what I said.

    It strikes me as either willfully ignorant or blatantly dishonest to believe (as you seem to) that there isn't an element of legalism in the "a cappella" only camp. I know this, because I've seen it with my own eyes. Like I said previously, I used to be a legalist myself.

    Am I prejudiced? Yes. As recently as this year, I've lost "friends" because of this very issue. I've been told in no uncertain terms that I'm destined for eternal Hell because I don't preach division from those who disagree with "the pattern" concerning music in the assembly. It's not enough to remain "sound" in practice, evidently I'm supposed to seek out "sinners" to damn. I'm done fighting that battle. If that's what the "Church of Christ" is going to be about, count me out (or "disfellowship" me, if that's the "scriptural" term). I want no part of it anymore.

    p.s. your statement in your last comment, "See my post of September 8 at 8:54 p.m., to which no one has responded." is insulting and rude to me personally. I did respond to your comment. I'll not engage in any sort of further discussion with you if you're going do summarily dismiss any response I might make. What's the point?

  26. Clark Coleman says:

    Aaron: I took it that you were responding to a certain a cappella faction, which includes many individuals who are divisive, legalistic, etc. I am happy to criticize the actions of such individuals myself. I did not interpret your comments as being a specific response to me.

    Your recent comments are more of the same, e.g. "It strikes me as either willfully ignorant or blatantly dishonest to believe (as you seem to) that there isn’t an element of legalism in the “a cappella” only camp. " My statements have said nothing about whether there was legalism in the a cappella only camp. My statements were a critique of a common line of reasoning that I am seeing in various contexts, not just music. Neither your first response nor your second response deals with my critique. Rather, it seems that you have had bad experiences with divisive persons on this issue, and you have me pegged as a member of their faction, and are responding that faction as a whole rather than responding to me.

    I would be happy not to dismiss anyone's responses, but I ask that they truly be responses to my writing, rather than factional responses to a group they incorrectly perceive me as belonging to.

  27. Guy,
    That's the point I was trying to make — I guess I made it poorly. We cannot impose our understanding on God, nor limit him to our reasoning ability.

    We do not know what he knows.

  28. guy says:


    Fair enough. But just theoretically, given belief in God and the Bible, is it reasonable to presume that our faculties have been designed to generally function properly with respect to the environment God put us in?

    (i'm getting back to your comment about the "illogical.")


  29. Clark Coleman says:

    David: My premise was not that we can figure God out logically. My premise was that we will not persuade each other of anything by engaging in bad logic, self-contradiction, etc. All human communication depends upon a very small common-denominator logical basis. For example, I cannot say that the sky is always green and then say later that my statement does not contradict the sky ever being blue.

    My statement was that there is a common line of reasoning employed in these discussions that is illogical. That statement does not say anything about our comprehension of God.

  30. Jay Guin says:


    Thanks for the story. It sounds like that church split over whether to allow instrumental music in a wedding! Very, very sad.

    I was just told that a Church of Christ in town figures they can't fellowship my own church because we clap. We clap to the music, and that evidently puts us outside the Lord's Church. I guess clapping is the new instrumental music … kind of a "gateway" sin.

    I grew up in North Alabama, notorious for its legalism, and even I am astonished at how much more legalistic the conservative Churches around here are becoming.

    Meanwhile, in Memphis, they're damning each other over elder re-affirmation.

    The Regulative Principle and the attitudes it creates are horribly destructive.

  31. Jay Guin says:


    I concede that it's hard to draw a line between "express command" and "inference." There's always inference at some level. Therefore, were I arguing Campbell's case for him, I would (and do) take a different approach. I just think we need to take the numerous passages promising salvation to all with faith in Jesus seriously. And this puts me and Campbell in the same place, but by different paths.

  32. Dan H. says:

    Clapping in the church is probably the result of that Satanic song used in so many Vacation Bible Schools, "If You're Happy and You Know It , Clap Your Hands". I say; if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off……. See how easy it is for them kids to clap with one hand!… you liberals!!……. And what's more when I was a boy if anybody ever thought that…… …. we would face that kind of……… wait a minute, please,,,,,,,,,,,,, Maw! I told you to keep them roosters out of the house!!!! They will be at the chickens all night and we will never get any sleep!! …..that woman don't listen to nothing……….. now as I was saying, …………. uh, uh, oh yes , clapping keeps the animals awake and the hens won't lay….. it's that simple…….

  33. Dan H. says:

    well , that was a fairly sarcastic thing to say….. I apologize….. it so troubles that people condemn others who would enthusiastically worship…………………

  34. Pastor Mike says:

    As I read Jay's article and resulting comments, I recalled a status on FaceBook which I stole as my own for a while.

    "For most people, the bible is like a software license. Few actually read it. They just scroll to the bottom and click 'I agree.' "

    My point and question is this: While it is evident that most if not all who participate on this site are serious about reading and understanding the Word, I wonder what percentage of the whole of the CoC draw their conclusions from scripture, and how many essentially parrot what they think they have heard?

  35. Ray says:

    Pastor Mike I say "kuddos and dittos" on your "point and question".

  36. Great quote, Pastor Mike, I'll have to plagiarize it, as well. I wish I knew who to give credit to.

  37. Bruce Morton says:

    In a land filled with instrumental worship (Roman Asia), Paul focused on song and the Word. Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 have much to say to our time as well as the first century.

    In a time when it appears people are reading the Word of the Lord less than in previous periods (see the NEA studies of literary reading), congregations need to sing the Word to one another and to visitors who join them. That expression of congregational teaching and unity in song was part of Paul’s purpose as well in Ephesians 4:17-5:21.

    We give up crucial apostolic counsel when we choose to add instrumental music to congregational worship. We lose the very unity Paul is urging. Let’s sing the Word together!

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  38. abasnar says:

    Dear Price

    Although it might open a completely different topic, I'd like to pick out this one:

    The early church also had rules against eating any food that was provided by an animal that was strangled, and all sorts of things that today we don’t consider..How many of us check out how animals are dispatched before we eat ? It seems to me that the Jerusalem Council was an excellent example of using our freedom in Christ and discernment of the times to moderate our “rules” to be inclusive as conscience will allow to provide more bridges to fellowship and the advancement of the good news of Christ…

    Don't take this personally, because this is a pretty common view: I think this is one of the syptoms of a sick Christianity.

    God says something – and we don't do it. And we find many ways to justify our "misbehavior". In all montheistic religions stick to at least one common aspect concerning food: We must abstain from blood and strangled meat.

    You have this in the covenant with Noah in Gen 9:4
    You have this is the Mosaic Law Lev 3:17
    You have this as a rule for the church in Acts 15:28-29
    You have this in the Qu'ran Sura 2:173

    The only ones who are "having it their own way" are the majority of Christians who point to the word "Freedom". Who gives us the right to do this? Are we trying to prove again and again that God's true bride will be known by its unfaithfulness (seriously – we act like Israel in ignoring God's explicit commands)? Moslems and Jews prove to be more faithful to God than Christianity

    Are you sure this attitude is pleasing to God?


  39. abasnar says:

    Dear Price, let me "reunite" our discussion here and answer you bit by bit:

    Alexander….Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience….
    .If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. I Cor 10:25,27

    Sounds like Freedom to me….

    If you take just these verses it does sound like freedom. But the matter is more complex than this. First, the issue of blood has never been addressed by Paul (most likely because there was no reason to do so), but it was reinforced by James in Acts 21:25. But let's just stick with meat sacrificed to idols.

    It was clearly forbidden by the letter from Acts 15 (wichich means, all apostels and elders agreed to the guidance of the Spirit in this matter – which gives this letter a pretty high authority)
    It was remembered by James in Jerusalem.
    Our Lord Jesus shows a very strong opinion concerning meat sacrificed to idols in His letters to the seven churces (Rev 2:14 and Rev 2:20).

    Is it believable that Pauls just dumps the whole issue under the motto of "freedom"?

    No, he doesn't do that at all. the only question he is concerned about is if we have to check every piece of meat on the market or that is being set before us whether ist has been sacrificed to idols or not. Since the "idols" are no power in themselves, they don't make the meat spiritually poisonous, or so.

    But, he says, if we KNOW it has been sacrificed to idols, we shall not buy or eat it (1Co 10:19-22), in order to testify agains idolatry (1Co 10:27-29). So, where is the freedom here? It is a command of separation (1Co 10:14) that has to be observed on a fourfold testimony:

    – The Jerusalem council
    – James in Jerusalem
    – Our Lord Jesus in His letters
    – and Paul, if you read all he had to say on the subject

    But – again – this is only the issue of meat sacrificed to idols. It has to do with separation from idolatry, therefore it is not a matter of freedom, but of obedience and sanctification; even to the point that we are not to partake of the Lord's Supper if we willfully and knowingly eat meat sacrificed to idols (1Co 10:21). Our God is a jealous God (1Co 10:22). Sensible Christians will understand this (1Co 10:15).

    And in similar manner as to the example you mentioned, IM is commanded in the O.T., not excluded or prohibited in the N.T., and is spoken about favorably in the presence of God in Heaven….and yet some would condemn its use as “progressive” and a reproach to the conservative movement of the church….

    The difference is as follows, and it is big:

    "Progressives" say, there is no command that forbids instruments. They are right about that.

    But there is a command concerning blood and strangled meet – but it is explained away.

    So the problem is not whether we have a command or not, it is more about our attitude ("Conservatives" do the same BTW in areas they don't like to hear and do …).

    At what point does the church stop creating a N.T. Talmud ??

    Don’t take this personally but…Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Gal 3:2-3

    Let's be very clear about it: These (IM, abstaining from blood etc…) are not questions about how we are going to be saved or born again. But these are quetsions of how we are to live once we are saved and received the Holy Spirit.

    Bur if we live a life of stubborn disobedience we will lose our salvation in the end – and this might even make minor commands "salvation issues".

    The "Galatian Heresy" (that has been mentioned in this Blog quite often) is about being saved through circomcision and keeping the Law of Moses (in the exact same way as taught by some Jewish brothers in Acts 15:1).

    If we fail to see the difference between the two things, we will end up with the mistaken understanding of a Gospel that does not require obedience. We must not add to the requirements of the Gospel, but we must keep what has been said to the church in the New Testament.

    IM is a class in itself in as much as it is more backed up by church history than the Scriptures, but the way the ECF argued for a-cappella makes totally sense in the context of the transition from the Old Covenant and its typoligical worship to the New Covenant and its worship in Spirit and Truth.

    This, my brother, needs a good deal more consideration and time to dig into the matter – thus pointing to a vague concept of "Christian Freedom" is misleading.

    Some are concerned solely on whether WHAT they do is pleasing to God…I just assume that I AM PLEASING to Him and that He is intent of helping me to be all that I can be…warts and all….so that in my WEAKNESS His strength is made perfect. His Grace (unmerited favor)is sufficient for me.

    If we just "assume" that we please Him, we make ourselves the judge. If God gives commands – such as not eating blood – and we ignore these commands, we might still "assume" that God is pleased with us; but the reality might very likely look a bit different.
    At least, He will chastise us.

    If he hasn't chastised us yet, we should nevertheless never build our hope on God's silence (Psalm 50:21). God somehow "accepted" that the Israelites ignored the Law of Passover for centuries, but He praised Josia for repentance and restoration (2Ki 23:21-25). Every Israelite might have used the same words before Josias reforms: "I just assume that I AM PLEASING to Him" – but the truth was just the oppsite.

    Don't get me wrong: I do believe, you want to please the Lord also – I think I can sense that in you lines; but if I take just the words, I regard them as dangerous.


  40. Price says:


    I did not mean to present the idea that we have the freedom to disobey a specified command of God. I believe in free will certainly, but I am convinced that going against the direct instruction of God is predictable in its result. What I believe is clearly presented in scripture is that we have the freedom to act when God does not specify a particular conduct. It then becomes a matter of being true to one's conscience.

    Paul was particularly offended by someone that suggested he conform to their understanding…In I Cor 10:29 he says… For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? However, I would agree with you that he doesn't just throw everything under the Freedom cloak…I think he's throws it undert the one labeled Unity.

    The Jerusalem Council was a tribute to their concern for Unity.
    The decision to not require circumcision by the Gentile converts was a HUGE deal and would not have been done except for Unity.
    It was Alexander Campbell's articulate expression for Unity that dominated his argument for Faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and submission in the act of obedience of baptism as the ONLY criteria of fellowship.
    It's difficult for me to see how anyone that claims a portion of their spiritual identity in the Restoration Movement and their focus on patterning after the 1st Century example, to make such harsh claims toward other Brothers and Sisters in Christ over issues which are reasonably disputed. Furthermore, it is in all but a few circumstances that it could not be said that the local CoC congregation was adamant about certain rules of conduct that membership and fellowship were irreversably tied to. That to me reflects a contradiction in philosophies that isn't consistent with N.T. example.

    If we were to pretend for a moment that we were fully into the Restoration Movement started by the Campbell's and Mr. Stone, we would have to ask this question of ourselves….

    Given that I respect your conscience toward the unspecified, and you likewise respect mine: How is it that we can more fully incorporate the bond of unity that was so critically knitted together that enabled a small group of uneducated men to transform the entire world to this very day? And, is it in the best interest of Unity to continue to angrily divide into countless sects of unbendable theology and dogma?

    For me, a former deep conservative, it was a matter of addressing my pride. So, although I just disagree with those that take a prohibitive stance or diminished view whatsoever of IM or spiritual gifts or any other unspecified expression of behavior or worship I will respect them as a fellow heir and they will always be allowed in my assembly. I will not disfellowship from those that He invites to the table nor condemn those that He hasn't.

    Each man is given the Freedom to decide on his own.

  41. abasnar says:

    The Jerusalem Council was a tribute to their concern for Unity.
    The decision to not require circumcision by the Gentile converts was a HUGE deal and would not have been done except for Unity.

    It had to do with unity, but even more so with the requirements of the Gospel. The Orinigal question, whether we (Gentiles) had to be circumcised and have to keep the Law in order to be saved (! Acts 15:1) was answered: No, we are saved by faith (Acts 15:9 and by grace (Acts 15:11). And then – not as requirement to be saved, but as a requirement to DO, these "necessary things" which are not only part of the Mosaic covenant, but of the covenant with Noah that is valid for all mankind. So Acts 15:28-29 are requirements, that we have to obey in order "to do well". This is, what God wants us to do – not as a requirement for salvation, but for sanctification.

    This is not about freedom or conscience any more.

    And this (you brought this in as an analogy to the IM-question) is on a very different level than the IM. Here we DO have a clear command, and even though we have a "THIS DO" we add "ES NOT APPLY TO US." And this is simply not OK, even if the majority of Christians does that.

    I am not sure whether you understood my reasoning – maybe a could be a better communicator …


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