Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Instrumental Music in Corporate Worship: What Do the Bible and History Say?

 USA Today online headline read, "Church of Christ opens door to musical instruments" (http://tinyurl.com/q68t6f7)

Since I identify with a group of Christians who DESCRIBE themselves as the South Jacksonville church of Christ the headline caught my attention. However, it didn't take long to realize that the writer did not mean the same thing I meant when talking about the church of Christ. I mean church of Christ, in the primitive sense of the phrase as we read about in the New Testament. In the New Testament (Romans 16:16 "the churches of Christ salute you") the apostle Paul was not using the term as a name but rather as a description of Christians, who are striving to follow Jesus and belong to Him, wherever they assemble to worship and work, in any given location, according to that pattern set forth by apostolic instructions in the New Testament. Consequently when the writer declares that the "Church of Christ commitment to a cappella dates to the faith's emergence in the 1800s Restoration Movement," she does not understand church of Christ as it is used in New Testament. She sees what she calls "Church of Christ" as a denomination. However, the church belonging to Christ, which we read about in the New Testament was undenominational for the simple reason the church we read about in the New Testament existed centuries before any denominationalism as we know it today came into existence.
So, her statement could only be true if you have a sectarian/denominational view of the "Church of Christ." However, since the church belonging to Christ, which we read about in the New Testament, is not a denomination it has always been committed to a cappella. Primitive Christianity knows nothing of any kind of commitment toward the use of mechanical instruments of music in their worship. (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16-17).
The word "a cappella" literally means "in the manner of the chapel/church." Meaning, unaccompanied vocal music and generally had reference to church music pre 1600's. So churches that existed even 200 years before the Restoration Movement didn't use the instrument either.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) revered by the Roman Catholics wrote: "Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize." [Thomas Aquinas. Bingham's Antiquities, Vol. 3, page 137.] Interesting Aquinas understood that because Israel used the instrument that didn't mean the church should. And, that was 400 years prior to the Restoration Movement.
Augustine (354-430), is ranked right after the apostles, in terms of importance, according to some Catholic scholars. Here is what he wrote in 354 A.D.as he described the singing at Alexandria under Athanasius: "musical instruments were not used. The pipe, tabret, and harp here associate so intimately with the sensual heathen cults, as well as with the wild revelries and shameless performances of the degenerate theater and circus, it is easy to understand the prejudices against their use in the worship" That's 1400+ years before the Restoration Movement of the 1800's.
If we go to the beginning of primitive Christianity, namely, the New Testament, we read nothing about the use of instrumental music in worship. Does it say anything about music in the corporate worship? Yes it does: "... I will *sing* praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also." (1 Corinthians 14:15) "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, *singing* and making melody to the Lord with your heart...' (Ephesians 5:15-16). "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, *singing* psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Colossians 3:16)
Is the use of instrumental music in our worship really that significant? You tell me, Jesus said, "The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day." (John 12:48) Listen to what the apostle Paul said in verse 37, about the things he wrote in 1 Corinthians 14 which included verse 15 (see previous paragraph), "If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord." Thus, singing was a command of the Lord.
I admit the issue may seem insignificant to some. However, I am reminded in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) that the man to whom one talent was given, thought it was NO big deal that he buried his talent and gave it back to the Master. Yet the Lord condemned him, calling him a "wicked and slothful servant!..." Why? He was indifferent to the things of His Master and his rational was completely illogical. He did not have the right view of God and he did not regard the things of God as being significant, even in the smallest of matters (1 talent)! He was not faithful in even a little because he thought the one talent given to Him was insignificant in comparison to all that the Master owned and controlled. No doubt, the one talent man would have argued his case, "But I didn't lose it and I didn't steal from you." Nonetheless, Jesus said, "So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

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