This blog records my transition from the Churches of Christ to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Why I Am Still A Member Of The Church Of Christ Part 4

What have been my reasons for being a member of The Church of Christ so far?

1. The Restoration Principle
2. Baptism as the immersion of a penitent person in water for the forgiveness of sins
3. Observance of the Lord's Supper every Sunday

There is one last major reason i'll supply, though there might be other reasons which aren't as terribly significant to me. Or else, they are only half reasons. Maybe i'll do a part 5 and explain what i mean by that. But let me state my final major reason for remaining a member of The Church of Christ, and on this blog i do want to give a few justifications for that reason.

4. i am still a member of The Church of Christ because of their general rejection of the use of instrumental music in worship.

i know for some readers i probably just became the ugly, conservative traditionalist they were already afraid i was. But i assure you, i honestly think my own personal conviction on this matter is of a different nature than your average red-faced, i'll-write-a-nasty-article-about-you-in-my-publication, right-winged CoCer. This is why i want to state my reasons for this conviction. If you asked such a CoCer what's wrong with instrumental music, the pat, ready-made answer is (you guessed it): silence! (and on the back of that donkey, tack on a tail of the principle of authority). Despite my slightly jovial tone, i honestly don't altogether reject that reasoning (though i think it's in dire need of revision). But i honestly do not see it as the primary reason not to use instrumental music--not by a long shot. Here, instead, are the roots of my personal conviction on this matter:

(1) Using instrumental music in worship would be a case of Judaizing. The Hebrews writer tells us that Judaism was full of mere shadows of things to come. The real, solid objects casting those shadows are the elements and blessings we (the church) have in Christ. All of the ceremonial implements and rituals of the Old Covenant were dim veils covering a beautiful face that the church is now blessed to look directly in the eye. i am saying we shouldn't use instruments because we're not Jews--yes. But i'm not merely pointing out that Christianity is a different religion from Judaism (that's only half my point here), rather, i'm pointing out that the particular relationship shared by Judaism and Christianity ought to show that things such as instrumental music are inappropriate in Christianity. Using instruments in worship is really a "step down" or a "step backwards" from the spiritual realities and blessings given to us in Christ. Instrumental music would be spiritually immature in the same sense as burning incense, observing the Passover, burnt sacrifices, and a golden ark. i'm not at all saying that those who argue for the use of instrumental music are immature in their motives or arguments. Neither am i saying that God forced immature practices on the Jews--i think an individual Jew could be as spiritually mature as someone now. What i am saying is that in comparing the covenants, there's a sense (an important sense!) in which the ceremonial implements of Judaism are inferior to the spiritual realities of Christianity. It is inferior along the same comparitive vein as Israel being concerned about a literal plot of land and a civil law over against Christianity's trans-territorial and trans-temporal nature. Judaism had mere symbols and ceremonial metaphors for what we in Christ are blessed to have a literal grasp of. i believe instrumental music is letting loose that new grasp in Christ to return to inferior shadows and symbols as in Judaism.

(2) This is strongly related to the last point, and in fact i am very tempted to call it "(1b)" instead of a second distinct reason. Here it is nonetheless: There is an incredible textual contrast between the Old and New Covenants regarding these ceremonial implements and regarding instrumental music in particular. The Old Testament is permeated with references to the use of instrumental music in Jewish worship. Instruments feature quite prominently throughout the literature. (So i definitely disagree with those CoCer's who try ardently to make the case that instrumental music was equally as bad in the Old Testament as in the New but God just let it slide.) It is amazing to me how often and how explicit God was in the Old Testament regarding the use of instruments and yet in the New Testament not even one word is breathed about their use in Christian worship. It's true--i am making a sort of argument from silence, but it's not the traditional argument from silence. i'm pointing out the glaring contrastive silence of the New Testament to the Old on this issue. If all of these ceremonial implements of worship (including instrumental music) are appropriate to Christianity, then why this blindlingly obvious difference between the two texts? How do you account for the New Testament being completely bereft of any mention of such things? What i think it suggests is that the use of instrumental music (as well as any other ceremonial implement) was entirely appropriate to Judaism because of the nature of the Jewish covenant, but it is entirely inappropriate to Christianity because of the nature of the new covenant.

(3) i believe the restoration principle strongly suggests rejecting instrumental music in worship. Let's forget the traditional principle of authority and argument from silence for just a moment. Let's even suppose that instrumental music is no big deal and the early church could have used it had they wanted to and God would've been fine with. So what if they could? Did they use it? And if they didn't, should we? Remember, the restoration principle suggests a precedent of imitation--we ought to imitate the early church. And by all historical accounts, an incredible argument can be made that the early church did not use instrumental music, and that no one used them until the seventh century. But notice, it was introduced in the seventh century. It was not the norm. It was not the custom. It was not the practice of the ancients. The New Testament has no mention or sanction of it, and there is second and third century Christian literature which explicity rejects the use of instrumental music among Christians. The Restoration Principle calls us to imitate the early church. Non-imitation is only justified where the particular case of non-imitation is justified because imitation would be trans-temporally or trans-culturally inappropriate. i certainly can't see why imitating the early church by not using instruments would be trans-temporally or trans-culturally inappropriate.

(4) Only after the above three reasons were exhausted (and i believe they're plenty sufficient without this fourth one) would i then turn to the notion of authority and silence akin to the traditional CoC arguments. But like i said, i think these lines of reasoning are in need of some revision which is far beyond the scope of this post. i just list this to say that i think there is validity to be had in qualified and altered versions of the traditional silence/authority arguments against instrumental music.

So, again, the CoC's rejection of instrumental music in worship is another reason why i am still a member of The Church Of Christ.


MrsHonea said...

I must say, I was impressed with this seemingly new reasoning behind the "no instruments allowed" way of thinking for most churches of christ.

Would you go so far as to say that doing so is a sin that without repentance would send the "musician" straight to hell, based on your understanding?

reborn1995 said...

i really don't think eternal fates work as simply as that. i don't think anyone is lost *merely* based on playing an instrument anymore than i think a person is saved merely based on not playing one.

(1) Could someone be in tremendous spiritual danger over instrumental music? Sure. But believe it or not, i think someone could be in grave spiritual danger over insisting on no instruments as well. i think motive, attitude, and emphasis are key factors. For instance, if someone wanted instrumental music were asked, "would you give up your instruments if God told you to?", and if they said "no, i wouldn't obey because i'd still want them and choose to use them," i'd say that person has serious spiritual defects. Or suppose that it was obvious a person wanted instrumental music just because he wanted a worship service the way he liked it and instrumental music pleased him and the most important thing to him was that the way things were done pleased him. obviously that guy has serious spiritual defects as well. Or suppose in a third case, that a person came to the understanding through scripture study that instrumental was either wrong or just not the best way to do things, but he still refused to give it up (very similar to the first case).--again, indicative of serious spiritual defects. notice though, in all three cases, the instrumental music is really only a symptom of a larger problem, and that problem is really what has the potential to cost someone their soul. (And notice that any of those three people could use the garden variety excuses for keeping instruments--"it's not a salvation issue, David did it, etc."--but those arguments would also be simply manifestations of their hard-hearted-ness.)

(2) i believe that *in Christ* there is leniency. There has to be. If a person has to perform flawlessly in order to stay in Christ, then Christ really becomes superfluous i think. If we couldn't perform flawlessly out of Christ, what makes us think we'll perform flawlessly while in Him? Our salvation is really not based on our own performance at all i dont' think, but on Christ's. So i may very well go to the grave with some flaws i never fixed. But the difference between me and the lost will be that i was in Christ and they weren't. So of primary importance for asking the question about someone's spiritual status while worshipping with instrumental music is: Is that person in Christ? (and i still maintain that baptism puts us there and no one is in Christ without it.) if no, then that person is lost and no amount of acapella singing will ever fix that. if yes, then it becomes a matter of details. (a) is it a baby or young Christian we're talking about?--should we really expect that a babe in Christ will know and be held accountable for all that someone grown up in Christ should know and be held accountable for? Suppose some unchurched woman repented and was baptized into Christ last Sunday, worships at a Christian Church for two weeks and then dies. Is that piano in the corner really going to be a factor in her eternal assessment? i hardly think so. (b) if a person is worshipping with an instrument, what's their motive, intent, knowledge-level, attitude, state of penitence, etc.? i think that whole web of factors is what determines whether an instrument will send anyone to hell.

MrsHonea said...

I think I'm beginning to like you more and more...I actually think we may be more on the same wave length about things.

Good comment-back.

Paula Harrington said...

Interesting blog :)

Glad I found it.

Matthew said...

I will be in Oklahoma City on Friday Night, but I will be getting in at 11pm and leaving in the morning at 5am. My wife Charity is there with her sister. If you attend Memorial Road, she will be there tonight. Wish we could see one another again, but do not worry, I will be out in December.

Michael said...

This link does not address the argument posited above, nor does it make a case. It asserts that the church today must replicate what the 1st century church did. But this is a selective argument for it only considers the 1st century practices which it considers valid and renders the other practices as "cultural" or irrelevant. A preview of the new testament church shows that they met in homes and in the temple courts. (Even Paul worshiped in the temple while taking an oath.) The early church mandated that women wear veils, that women be silent while assembled. Of course these are not appealed to as binding on the church today because the COC does not practice them. So, we must ask, "Why is instrumental music deemed as unscriptural whereas women wearing veils is not?"

reborn1995 said...

while i don't agree that the NT teaches that all first century Christian women were to wear veils or be silent, even if it does, all you've identified is inconsistency. you've placed the pain of inconsistency on the side of condemning instruments. but logically, there's no reason the pain of inconsistency can't fall on the other items you've mentioned. in other words, you argue as though the obvious solution is to stop condemning instruments, but consistency could just as easily be had if we started meeting in homes and temple courts and had women wear veils.

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