Friday, April 13, 2007

Besides the Point

I said on Monday, "There is not now, nor has there ever been in the last 2,000 years, one shred of evidence to support the use of instruments in the musical worship of the church." Apparently a brother has found exception to that in Revelation 15:2.

"And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands." (NASB)

This verse tells of a sea of glass mingled with fire, a beast with a number (666), and harps. Now this verse found in a highly figurative, apocalyptic context full of signs. We are supposed to ignore that context and suppose this is New Testament evidence that the early church worshiped with instruments of music.

To do this he must prove that the harps are literal not figurative.

To do this he must prove that what is done in heaven in worship should be a norm for church activity.

The argument about harps in heaven is both old and bad. We are supposed to believe the harps are literal and normative while the incense, the four beasts, the Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes, and the sea of glass mingled with fire are figurative.

If one were to make a serious argument justifying the instrument in the worship of the church, one would show a passage where the church was using it here on earth. One might also show a command or an inference that the church was actually to use it. He cannot point to it in Acts or one of the epistles. He must go to a figurative, apocalyptic text, which speaks of heaven and not what is happening in the church of that day. If one could have found the passage that approves the instrument in the worship of the church on earth, this issue would have been settled long ago. As it is, we are all still waiting. We have been for over a hundred years. All our brother can do is bring up old and bad arguments.

Now this brother has said there is not one shred of evidence in Scripture that the use of instruments of music in worship is sinful. This old, fallacious argument is merely a subterfuge. I am reminded of Jeremiah 7:31, which condemns some sinful acts of idolatry.
“They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind."

Our brother seems to think that unless a specific prohibition is found, that we cannot discern whether something is right or wrong. It didn't come into God's mind that men would burn their sons and daughters in the fire.

The absence of a prohibition is not a license. The reason there was no prohibition is because God told us what He wanted specifically. He wanted us to sing and make melody in our hearts, teach and admonish, and to offer up the fruit of our lips that praise his name. We know that. We know nothing of instruments commanded or used in the church. There is still no evidence. Had God wanted instruments, He would have told us. After all, He told David and Israel that he wanted them in the old covenant. But God is silent in the New. It was not in His mind to use instruments in Christian worship. He did not command it. Just as they presumptuously burned their kids at the high places in the valley of Hinnom, so people presumptuously worship today, doing things which God never commanded.

The absence of a prohibition is the New Testament is to be expected, when you think about it. There is no prohibition, because it was not happening.

In the end our brother, like Atchley, can only give us his opinion. An opinion is a guess in the absence of evidence. They want us to trust their presumptuous guess over the clear testimony of hundreds of years of early church history.

Their retort that we are not to judge when something is wrong is likewise flimsy and inconsistent. There is no specific prohibition of sprinkling, infant baptism, papal primacy, holy water, incense, gambling, or polygamy either. We judge these things wrong by taking heed of what God has positively told us. Mature Christians discern right from wrong from the study of the Word (Heb. 5:12-14); naive folks swallow anything (Prov. 14:15; 22:3; 27:12).

I choose to build my house on the rock of what I know (singing) not on the sand of someone else's guess (instrumental music). Jesus told the outcome of the rock theology and sand theology. I plan to listen.


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