We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Are Musical Instruments Unholy?


I was in a train station sending my mother back to Alabama when I found a “gospel tract” collection planted by “Gospel Tract and Bible Society,” published by the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. Much of the stuff was good, but much of it was also very legalistic and often aberrational. But I want to mention just one of them because the subject is something the Church of Christ also teaches.

I am referring to the idea that musical instruments should not be used in the assembly because there is no mention of them being used during worship in the New Testament. Now, if you happen to think that is arguing from silence, I whole-heartedly agree with you! I don’t remember reading about pews being mentioned in the N.T either but I suspect these churches all have pews. There are many things these churches use for their worship service that aren’t mentioned in the N.T., such as collection baskets/plates, air conditioning, furnaces and even hymn books! I guess when one argues from silence he can come up with all sorts of things not allowed in the church because they aren’t mentioned in the New Testament.

The Church of Christ (often referred to as “Campbellites”) has no problem with singing hymns as long as they don’t have any musical instruments. Of course a pitch pipe is okay (isn‘t that a musical instrument?).

I was unaware that Mennonites also were against instrumental music; or is it just this particular sect?

Anyway, the tract I picked up was titled, “Worship Without Musical Instruments.” The reasons given in this tract again include an argument from silence: “There is no evidence in the New Testament that the apostolic Church used musical instruments. There is little mention of them in the New Testament other than as examples for comparison (1 Corinthians 13:1; 14:7), and in Revelation referring to music in heaven (Revelation 14:2; 15:2).” The tract then discusses many passages of Scripture that speak of singing but not of musical instruments.

From what I have read, the Greek in the N.T. passages that mention singing (Rom. 15:9; 1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; James 5:13) carry the idea of singing with instruments. The word “psalm” in Ephesians and Colossians especially includes the meaning of instrumental accompaniment. So I guess musical instruments are indeed mentioned in the New Testament!

My first thought when encountering this teaching for the first time through a member of the Church of Christ was Psalm 150’s mention of playing musical instruments. But this Mennonite sect tract says, “Before the time of Christ…worship included the use of musical instruments… The sacrifices and rituals so important to the Old Testament-era worshipers were abolished, and worship from the heart became the only acceptable worship…. Salvation is of the heart. God is worshiped and praised from the heart.” So what they are claiming is that all use of musical instruments in worship was done away with in Christ. I’d say that was some very convoluted reasoning!

Dr. Hugh F. Pyle, in his book, The Truth About the “Church of Christ,” makes a very good point: “Do we really believe that God has changed? If musical instruments were used by godly men in the Old Testament ([cites several passages]), is it wrong to suppose that God would still bless the use of musical instruments by godly men today?” I have to agree with Pyle, and I personally worship the Lord and praise Him in my music while playing my bagpipes. (A funny side note - I have had Catholic priests tell me I couldn’t play at weddings because the bagpipes are a secular instrument - as if there was such thing.)

If you are a member of a Christian assembly where this legalistic silliness is taught, I would suggest you find another place of worship. I have observed that when an assembly has this sort of legalistic teaching it is only one of many legalistic ideas that keep its members in spiritual bondage. Christ has set us free from this sort of Pharisaical bondage.

1 comment:

aprilnandy said...

I love this post so much! I am a singer in a band that is a worship music band (gasp!).

You know what is interesting? David, the infamous psalmist, harp and lyre player, experienced New Covenant relationship with God through the Holy Spirit -- long before Christ came. His testimony in the Psalms and throughout the O.T. is something we can use to exemplify how we ought to worship "in spirit and in truth" today!

You're absolutely correct in saying that limiting worship to silence will only place the worshipers in bondage. I've been there myself. You're also correct in saying that it is legalistic silliness. There is still much of a Pharisaical spirit existing in the church today.