Several months ago, I was assailed by a few brothers in response a letter I wrote that was published in the Christian Chronicle. In that letter I had not embraced the party line on the subject of singing and music in churches of Christ and Christian churches. After exhausting his other familiar arguments, one brother asked in an email the following question.
“Could Noah have built the Ark out of Mesquite wood and been pleasing to God? We follow God instructions and are accepted or we no not follow His instructions and are condemned. Real simple”
This was his last of a series of emails we exchanged. His view was that any person or congregation that is not acapella is not right with God and should not be the recipients of our fellowship. My reply to him follows.
My dear brother xxxx
May I appeal to your common sense? Taking your line of reasoning to its logical end, one could invent all sorts of sins, and thus reasons to not to “fellowship” lots of folks. The bible says nothing about making the human voice louder by using electronic equipment, but every acapella congregation I have ever visited had a public address system. The bible says nothing about a church building, water coolers, air conditioners, heaters, telephones, church buses, and the list is endless. None of them is sinful just because the bible never mentioned them and musical instruments are not either.
The bible says “I am the Lord, I change not” (Mal 6:3) and, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 8:13) The Psalms encourages God’s people again and again to praise God using musical instruments. When did that change? How much more of the Psalms should we disregard today?
Should I fellowship you? Just because you worship in a church that adheres to the church of Christ tradition of acapella singing, is that enough of a reason? Should I also require that you are a “one cupper”? Should I add that you have no Sunday school? They are not mentioned in the bible! Should I check to see if you comply with every other rule that suits my taste?
Or should I fellowship someone who speaks against brothers who love Jesus as much as you do? Should I fellowship a man who is critical of everyone who is not like him? The first fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5 is “love”. Paul talked at great length about the importance of love and the futility of serving God without it. He said even if he became a martyr for the faith without love, he would have failed. I think it is striking that immediately after the famous verses on the supremacy of love Paul said these words. “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Cor 13:11) If I am required by my Lord to love my enemies I believe I can manage to love and have fellowship with those who have surrendered their lives to Him, even if they are not like me in some ways. I like Paul’s way better than your way brother. In his letter to the Philippians he said this, “ Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” But Paul, do you know they have a piano? Do you know they pool money together with other churches to preach the gospel on foreign soil? Are you aware they have some folks singing while others only listen? But what about the TBN TV network?
Paul would say again, “if Christ is preached I rejoice, and will rejoice”. I believe I will too.
We restoration people have much larger fish to fry than what some congregation does on a Lord’s day in some distant city. Before we can hope to be people who embrace scriptural unity we must grow to the place where we can say with Alexander Campbell, “We are only Christians, but not the only Christians”. And, have the same view of others who claim Jesus as Lord as Paul did.
Amen X 100!
Right on all points Royce. I am sorry for the beating you took. Its tragic really; while so many brethren concern themselves with other believers who are using instruments or have a kitchen in their church building, they are ignoring the single mom next door struggling to make ends meet, or the family down the street without insurance who have a disabled child, or the people sitting next to them on Sundays with a private hurt that has yet to be disclosed. God have mercy on all of us for leading small lives and fighting small battles when He offers us so much more.
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How do we know God didn’t tell Noah to “go fer wood” before he built the ark, and Moses – standing nearby – just misunderstood?
Thank you, Royce, for this well-thought-out and loving reply. May your tribe increase!
I recieved a book yesterday by Dr. David Miller (I don’t know if it is a real Ph.D. or not the way he argues the points in the book). “Richland Hills & Instumental Music”. The book was not feeled with the spirit of love but of criticism, eletism, and legalism that we see in many churches today. The thing I don’t understand is if we are autonomous what gives us the right to tell other congregations what to do? Where is the scriptural authority? We don’t see the Roman church disfellowshiping, writting nasty articles about the Corinthian Church. It crazy what’s going on. Where is the love and grace? Will the church ever become what God desires a place where people find God, love, mercy, grace.
Odgie, I am a big boy. I can take a lick and keep on ticking just like a Timex watch. You make a valid point. It is my observation that to many, form wins over function, being right over doing right, and conformity over unity. What happened to loving God and loving your neighbor?
Thanks for the shout out Dobbs!
Keith, are your writers on strike too? LOL
Bill, you are too kind.
Yep, Dr. Miller earned his title. He is a very educated man. He has the degrees to prove it. Yet, with all his learning, as you point out, he doesn’t understand the autonomy of the local church but has other short comings as well
In the “About” section of Apologetics Press of which he is the director, under the tab “What we believe” there are 9 statements. Most of them are right on the money. One of them should be very troubling for almost all Christians. I quote:
“Salvation is by means of obedience to the Gospel system, involving faith in God and Christ, repentance from sin, confession of faith, and immersion in water for remission of past sins, coupled with a life of growing consecration and dedication.”
Obedience to the “Gospel system”? Yes, you read it right, system. Not obedience to Christ but to a system devised by misguided men. Peter never preached obedience to a “system”, Paul never, nor did any other Apostle.
Here is the glaring problem in a nut shell. To the legalist zealots, the good news is the “system”, not the story of Christ’s redemptive work on behalf of sinners.
This is “another gospel, which is not really another” and a “perversion” of the gospel of the Christ of God.
When it comes to the doctrine of soteriology (salvation) Dr. Miller’s Ph.D. is in truth “Phenomenal Dud”.
Royce, I remember that word “system.” Years ago, I heard an argument for why a penitent believer could be immersed into Christ and still not be a real Christian: If it was happening in a religious group other than the Church of Christ, then the person was being baptized into the wrong “system.” That’s what the man said! I’m so glad that’s not what God said. I’ve wondered if the next sermon was against “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”