Friday, January 04, 2008

Future Faith

I was sitting in a creative planning meeting at church on Wednesday, discussing some things that we're thinking about in the wake of BST's departure. One of the questions, of course, was people who would lead in his stead, and a particular name came up and it's someone who typically leads instrumental worship. The natural joke that we made was that sure he could lead, but he'd have to leave the instrument at home. We all had a nice laugh and continued the discussion.

While the meeting continued, the lady I was sitting next to leaned over to me and said that she'd had the exact same conversation with her early teenage daughter, and when the lady had said the same thing about the instrument, her daughter looked at her as though she were speaking German. In our children's worship and youth group, we use a lot of song tracks and instrumental worship. Even outside of the Sunday morning service, we do a lot of instrumental stuff.

And when my friend told me about this, I just started thinking about all the "blood" that has been spilled over this issue and how it seems that however churches end up dealing with this, whether sticking with acapella out of a sense of tradition or even out of hewing to the literal interpretation of the Scripture, for most people even within the church, it's going to become a non-issue theologically. In fact, I would think that 15-20 years from now, it's going to be a non-issue, period. Not that we won't find others to "spill blood" about. The next one most likely being women's public roles in worship. Not that there hasn't already been a lot of wrangling over that one too.



Adam said...

I think you are exactly right in your predictions here. As one who works with teens in a more traditional environment that Otter Creek, I can tell you that it is a non-issue with the vast majority of the teens I work with. Further, I think there is no denying that women's role is the next "big one." For various sociological and cultural reasons, churches of Christ are going to have no other option that to grapple with this.

chris said...

The early church did not use instruments until several hundred years after it was established. I was visiting a Greek Orthodox church last year and asked where the piano was. The guide looked at me like I was crazy. They do not use instruments. It does no good to appear so two-faced to your young people.

belinda said...

Exactly right - the early churches, now called Orthodox - did NOT use instruments. There's something to be said for that. Remember that's where the church began - in the East. The Russian Orthodox Church worships this way also. My Russian husband and I met because a church of Christ was the nearest to what he had grown up with in Russia. We don't need to blend . . . we are different. If someone wants to attend a church with instruments, there are plenty out there.

Justin said...

Belinda and Chris,

Phil isn't saying that anyone has to worship with instruments. Nor is anyone at Otter Creek for that matter.

He's just musing on the fact that most young people don't even know that its an issue. And that eventually, most adults won't believe it to be a "salvation issue" (I hate that phrase, its ridiculous).

Many churches of Christ will continue to stick with A cappella tradition, because there is some merit in that tradition... but it definitely won't stick around because people think its the only way to truly worship God.

chris said...

Maybe the youth need a course in church history. I can't imagine being so uninformed, even as a young person. In my opinion it is the duty of the elders to see that they are taught. No wonder the daughter looked at the mother as if she were speaking German since the church evidently has a rather schizophrenic attitude toward instreumental music.

Justin said...

Not at all...

It is true that the early church didn't use instruments... but they didn't sing in four part harmony either, and I don't see any churches of Christ writing tracts condemning other churches for singing western hymns instead of eastern music.

Maybe YOU should read some history about the churches of Christ. What you'll find is that the split from the Christian Church and Disciples wasn't so much about instruments being wrong, that was just a cover.

Previous to that split, it was a choice that they made, but it wasn't orthodoxy.

And its not orthodoxy in the bible. There are no "instructions for worship" well... unless you take Romans 12 into consideration. But we don't like to do that. We'd much rather make up rules that we know we can follow in a worship service that would be completely foreign to the early church, rather than, you know, offering our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, and not returning evil for evil, and all that other stuff that basically is the best description of the life of a Christ follower. And it doesn't say a thing about instruments.

And by the way, the NT church didn't have the New Testament to get their doctrine from... for a while after the deaths of the apostles. They used the Old Testament, which I'm pretty sure, commands the use of instruments in worship.

That being said, this is a moot point. No one is going to hell for using, or not using instruments. Its a personal preference. If you start judging people for using or not using instruments in Sunday assemblies, then you are speaking where the bible doesn't speak... and isn't there a verse somewhere that has a pretty big problem with that?

Chris said...

Burton Coffman has written "Excursus on Mechanical Instruments of Music in Christian Worship." at the end of his second volume commentary of Psalms. I would urge everyone to read it.

Thomas+ said...

Jesus attended worship that used musical instruments all the time. The Temple used instruments. And to say the the "early church" didn't use instruments is incredibly silly. Did any of us go to every worship service in the first 300 years of the church? The church sang the psalms, which come with instrumental suggestions after all.

That said, I love to hear churches sing without instruments. As a matter of taste, it can sound great.

It seems to me that OC should get together, as elders or whatever your structure is, and at least have the conversation. Why don't we use instruments on Sunday morning, and should this continue? Given that OC uses instruments everywhere else, it is at least worth some prayer.

My 2 cents. Worth about that.

Brandon Scott said...

Love me some Father Thomas.

Hope the meetings go well, Phil. Blessings to you and all the worship committee. I know you'll all do a fine job!

chris said...

God was not pleased with anyone who worshiped with works of their own hands. Musical instruments are not only manufactured with hands but they are played with hands.
Isaiah 2;8, Jer.1:16, Jer.25:6, Micah 5:13

In addition God was not pleased with David who invented to himself instruments of music although he allowed it. Amos 6:5

Thomas+ said...

I assume Chris is kidding. If he is not kidding, that is still one of the funniest things I have ever heard.

Good grief, someone had to make the altar, the temple. Someone had to make your Bible, your clothes, your pew, your building. All the stuff you worship with someone had to make. Unless you worship naked in the grass. Which would be kind of fun. Depending on whom you're with.

I guess God was kidding when he inspired Psalm 150, one of many for instances in which he tells us to play instruments in praise of his glory.

Brandon Scott said...

one word...Piney.

chris said...

Thomas, I don't know about you but I don't worship a building or a pew, an alter or clothes, etc.

The fact remains that instrumental music was first introduced about the middle of the eighth century in the Catholic church. The word "A Capella" literally translates "as in church." The Catholic church debated the issue for years before using instruments about the year 755. In the 1800's, most protestant churches did not use instruments. It's easy to research the subject, just google.

Instruments have long been associated with paganism and sexual immorality, just think that mountain near Corinth which I have had the privelege to see a couple of times.

Keith Brenton said...

chris isn't kidding, thomas. That's what he's been taught that those verses say, and that's what he wants to believe.

He can conveniently leave the word "with" out of the conversation and say that non-a cappella worship is worshiping the instruments, not worshiping with instruments.

To him, it's wrong and he can't do it and it's a matter of obedience to God and therefore salvation and he is compelled to promulgate what he sees as the truth. I can respect that - and it would be really hard to "unlearn" that kind of teaching and omission in teaching.

What I can't respect is when folks go to the next step and begin judging and condemning based upon a teaching of man.

I think we all know that Jesus opposed that in the extreme.

Short of that, though - I'd love to know belinda's answer to the question "Why do 'we' need to be different? Who are 'we' anyway?"

Aren't Christians supposed to be different from the world - rather than from other believers?

chris said...


Did you not read my first sentence of 8:34? I said WITH there. I did not say anything about worshiping the instrument. Of course they do not worship the instruments. My point is that God cannot be worshiped with a dead object.

BTW, I am a woman.

DB Carden said...


The bible was written as a collection of books that each have their own proper context. Pulling out one verse here and there out of that proper context to defend a particular idea is wrong...some might even say heretical.

Jeremiah and Isaiah are prophesies against the wickedness of the kingdom of Judah and have nothing to do with instruments or music or singing.

chris said...

Very well db, the New Testament version goes like this:

Men cannot worship him by things they make with their hands because he does not need anything. He is the one who gives life and breath and everything else to all people.

Acts 17:25

(Worldwide English Version)

DB Carden said...

Paul was pointing out the difference between the idols in Athens that had servants that brought them food and drink. He was pointing out that God does not need those things since God is the creator of all those things.

Again, no mention of instruments, music, or singing in Acts 17, Paul is introducing Jehovah God to the Athenians who worshipped "An Unknown God".

chris said...

Nice try DB, but God can do without dead, lifeless metal to worship him. A piece of metal is not spiritual and God desires those that worship him to do so in spirit and in truth.

Nuff said.

Justin said...


Does your song leader use a microphone?

Do you use hymnals?

And better question, why is it ok to sing 4 part harmony when it didn't even exist during the 1st century?

Thomas+ said...

I know, Phil. You are right, no one is going to convince Chris of anything.

And, I do feel a little like I'm part of a dog pile with Chris at the bottom. Or the top, if she prefers. Whichever.

But, I was interested in her New Testament reference. Yes, it was wildly out of context. Yes, it showcases a very odd (and in my opinion ultimately unfaithful, though I am sure Chris is doing everything in her power to be faithful) reading of Holy Scripture.

She quoted Acts 17:25 from the "Worldwide English Version". I had never heard of this version of the scripture, and being someone who's job it is to know such things, I did a tiny bit of research.

I thought it sounded odd, and it is. It is a translation done by a missionary to West Africa, not by a team of scholars. And it seems to have mainly been used to take the place of the King James and other older version in 1960s India and other English as a Second Language nations.

Looking at the Greek, as I did, as well as at the New American Standard and the NRSV, RSV, ESV and NIV for perspective, I will give you a literalistic "translation:"

"Nor by hands human is served having need of anything, He giving to all life and breath and all things."

From that verse, there is no way to get a command, or even an implication, that humans can not serve or worship him with things they make. Literally, "by human hands he is not served because he needs nothing." Not a word about "things they make with their hands." Just the hands themselves. If I were using Chris' method of biblical interpretation, I would be against sign language in church, but I couldn't use this verse to condemn musical instruments.

I would be very hesitant to base an entire system of worship on poor translations of verses ripped out of context.

Oh, and besides singing without instruments (which is entirely in doubt, regardless of Chris' google search), the church in the first few centuries widely sang hymns to the Blessed Virgin Mary, burned incense to icons, and baptized babies. I have never seen any of these in the Church of Christ, but I have only visited a couple. I mean, some of us are arguing that the earlier church did it, so we should to, right?

belinda said...

When I refer to "we" in my comment, I am refering to the church of Christ. I'm on the same page as Chris, I believe it's wrong, and I couldn't worship with instruments. In my opinion, it's a man-made idea. However I don't understand the distinction between an instrumental church of Christ and a Baptist church. Maybe someone can explain to me.

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