by Dan Coker

Lesson Three: Consuming one another (Gal 5:15)

It was noted in the first lesson that Thomas Campbell attempted to establish a functional hermeneutical base by the use of terminology such as "express terms," and "approved precedent." These were modified somewhat and later became popular as the concepts of "direct command" and "approved apostolic example." Concerning this hermeneutic and its author, Dr. B. J. Humble observes that "Campbell also believed that the New Testament taught by inference, but he did not believe that truths known only by inference should be bound on the consciences of others" (The Story of the Restoration, p. 20). Related to the concept of inference is that of the silence (absence of explicit instruction) of Scripture. Alexander Campbell interpreted such "silence" as meaning "one has no authority to do it." Later, the concept of expediency began to challenge the integrity of Campbell's position-so much so that he felt obliged to accept certain expedients (such as Church buildings) as "necessary." But subsequent introduction of "necessary" expedients and "necessary" inferences generated more questions than answers. How to apply Scripture has been the basis of numerous debates-and divisions-among the Churches of Christ, but when instrumental music was introduced as a part of the praise services, the silence of the Scripture argument was-and still is-the primary defense against its inclusion. In contrast, the purpose of this study will be to present a case for a cappella praise in the Churches, not from silence, but from that which is quite audible: hearing the facts, from Scripture; from ecclesiastical history; and from our restoration heritage. While we listen to these sources, it would be good to consider two conflicting attitudes that frequently manifest themselves-albeit not usually as explicit declarations-in the arguments of those who claim to follow the Bible: 1) "We are the right Church, therefore what we do is right." 2) "We are the right Church because we do the right things."

What do we know about instruments in the Bible and in history?





1. Justin Martyr (139): "Simply singing is not agreeable to children [Jews], but singing with lifeless instruments and with dancing is. On this account the use of this kind of instruments . . . is removed from the songs of the churches, and there is left remaining simply singing."

2. Clement of Alexandria (190): "Leave the pipe to the shepherd, the flute to the men who are in fear of gods and intent on their idol worship. Such musical instruments must be excluded from our wingless feasts, for they are more suited for beasts and for the class of men that is least capable of reason, than for men."

3. Chrysostom (347-407): "David formerly sang songs, also today we sing hymns. He had a lyre with lifeless strings, the church has a lyre with living strings. Our tongues are the strings of the lyre with a different tone indeed, but much more in accordance with piety."

4. Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), author of the "Gregorian Chant," had it and other chants sung a cappella.

5. One of the great differences between the Roman and Greek Orthodox Churches (formal split in 1054) was the instrument, which the Greek Church rejected.

6. Thomas Aquinas (1274): "Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize."

7. Martin Luther (1483-1546): "The organ in the worship is the insignia of Baal . . The Roman Catholic Church borrowed it from the Jews."

8. John Calvin (1509-1564): "Musical instruments in celebrating the praise of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, the restoration of the other shadows of the law."

9. John Wesley (1703-1791): "I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen."

10. Alexander Campbell (1788-1866): "I presume, to all spiritually-minded Christians, such aids [instruments] would be as a cow bell in a concert."

11. J.W. McGarvey (1881): "Musical Worship has been attended by strife, alienation, and division, with all their attendant evils, in hundreds of congregations . . . I regard the use of the organ in the worship a violation of one of the fundamental principles of our plea for restoration and unity."

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Last updated November 13, 2001.