In my role as a teacher I’m not nearly as interested in getting my students to think what I think as I am in getting my students to think. I’ve been wrong – a lot. So, to me, it is arrogant and foolish to focus on trying to convince people to think or believe as I do. Instead, I feel like my time is better spent in showing people how to think and then helping them discover information, or evidence, that will help them make informed determinations.
Next thought. The whole idea of musical instruments is one of the two major doctrinal sticking points between the Churches of Christ and other evangelical denominations (the other being baptism for salvation). Being raised in the fundamentalist tradition, I have been repeatedly exposed the many reasons that musical instruments are wrong and an abomination to God. Much like everything else, I readily accepted these arguments because they came from people I felt that I could trust. Not the least of these people were members of my family. The feeling that I could trust them for their honesty, integrity and desire to honor God has never wavered. However, what has wavered considerably is my willingness to accept the arguments without critical and impartial examination. Impartial being the most critical criteria.
Today, I still believe that we shouldn’t use musical instruments in our corporate worship times. But not for all the same reasons that I was told. And, not that I have anything to say about it, but I don’t believe that someone is packing their bags for hell as they reach to unpack their guitar, or drum set or organ or any other mechanical instrument.
Last Sunday night we had a great study and discussion on the use of musical instruments in worship. There were a couple of detail questions that came up (relating to the Greek) that I couldn’t answer. So I went back and spent some time finding those answers and digging in for another study. I included some of what covered below.
Common Arguments against the use of musical instruments
1. Psallo – refers exclusively to singing as the definition of plucking is no longer used at the time of the first century.
Response: This is not necessarily true. In fact, many scholars would disagree. It is true that the word did come to refer exclusively to singing. But that exact time is not known. There is a reference by Lucian, a rhetorician and satirist, who used the word to refer to plucking. He lived approximately from 125 AD until at least 180 AD.
2. Silence – Silence indicates a lack of authority for the action and in this instance, only singing is mentioned (see above point). There is no reference to the use of musical instruments and God is specific on what he wants and expects. For example, Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-11) offered a strange fire in their worship and were executed for their sin. Therefore, some contend that we ought to err on the side of caution in order to be sure not to invoke the wrath of God.
Response 1: This argument is based on the hermeneutical pattern of Command-Example-Necessary Inference. This is device is fine, but is not inspired nor directed by God. There are other methods of interpreting the scripture. For example, where some might say that silence indicates a lack of authority, others will say that silence provides authority.
It is ironic that the argument for authority is based on a concept that is not authorized. God never indicated precisely how we are to interpret the scriptures.
Response 2: The use of Old Testament passages to prove or provide justification for New Testament arguments is tenuous. Not only is there doubt about the correspondence or equality of evidence, it is easy to become inconsistent with the manner in which we apply the scriptures. For example, in the instance of Lev. 10:1-11 we utilize the Old Testament to prove that what God has not commanded he does not accept (particularly in worship). However, many of us who use this argument oppose the use of the psalms to provide justification for the use of the musical instruments; stating that we are now under a new law and the Old Testament no longer applies. The inconsistency seems to be obvious. If this is the case, then the use of Leviticus 10:1-11 would not apply because God has instituted a new covenant where he no longer deals with people in a direct manner (now using the Holy Spirit) and has instituted a new covenant that is founded on a sacrifice of Christ and the grace and mercy that it provides.
Response 3: In this instance, erring on the side of caution seems to ignore the entire picture we have of who God is. He is just and jealous. He is also gracious and patient and all-loving. This attitude could be interpreted as a lack of faith in God’s promise of grace and forgiveness to the penitent.
3. Not used by 1st century church – When the Church was in its infancy and under the direction and leadership of the inspired apostles, there are no references to any use of musical instruments. They (MI) were not used until approximately the late 7th century. This was not based on a lack of availability. For some reason they just chose not to use them.
Response 1: We don’t know why they weren’t used. There are cultural considerations where instrumental music was widely associated with pagan temples; and the early Christians may have desired to avoid any accidental associations.
Response 2: There were many activities and objects that were not done or utilized then that are used now. There is no standard by which we are to effectively pick and choose which are appropriate.
I wanted to compare the Greek (from NA 27) with the major translations available today. I decided to list them out for you to look at as well. The only other argument that I often hear (and that I have used) that I didn’t mention above is the idea of the praise (or making melody) either with or in our hearts. In this case, the noun (heart) is in the dative which means the verb is either referred to as being ‘to,’ ‘in’ or ‘with’ the noun. Those who oppose the use of musical instruments often argue that it is not possible to offer praise in or with our hearts if one is using an instrument. In my opinion this is a poor argument. First, I can offer praise with or in my heart without ever opening my mouth. Second, the fact that a song might be accompanied by an instrument does not exclude me from being able to honor this command. Whether or not I sing with an instrument as no bearing on whether or not my heart is full of praise. The condition of my heart is a mutually exclusive concept.
|Ephesians 5:19||Colossians 3:16b|
|Nestle-Aland 27||λαλοῦντες ἑαυτοῖς [ἐν] ψαλμοῖς καὶ ὕμνοις καὶ ᾠδαῖς πνευματικαῖς, ᾄδοντες καὶ ψάλλοντες τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν τῷ κυρίῳ,||νουθετοῦντες ἑαυτοὺς ψαλμοῖς, ὕμνοις, ᾠδαῖς πνευματικαῖς ἐν [τῇ] χάριτι ᾄδοντες ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν τῷ θεῷ:
|Literal word-for-word translation||Speaking to themselves in psalms1 and sacred songs2 and with spiritual songs, singing and praising3 with4 your heart to the Lord.||Admonishing themselves with psalms1, sacred songs2, spiritual songs praising with grace3 in your hearts to the Lord.|
|Notes on translation||1also songs of praise2also hymns3Praising most literal but making melody probably best translation.4or in||1also songs of praise2also hymns3or thanks/thankfulness|
|New American Standard||Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;||Admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.|
|New International Version||Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,||Admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.|
|English Standard Version||Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,||Admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.|
|New King James Version||Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,||Admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.|
|King James Version||Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;||Admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.|