Friday, April 06, 2007

Can We Know Enough?

Rick Atchley and Bob Russell in their book, Together Again, argue for their unity on the basis of what we don't know. They place the instrument in the area of "disputable matters" (65), arguing that since Christians differ on the matter and Bible-believing brethren come to different conclusions, we should not divide over such matters (64).

If you think this argument through, Atchley and Russell are making an argument from ignorance or an argument from agnosticism. They say that in the light of the fact there is no specific prohibition of the instrument, we should not divide over the matter. We don't know enough from Scripture, since it is silent on the instrument, to make a ruling one way or the other--so let's accept both views as equally correct.

So, in the absence of what we know, we will discuss but make no judgments.

Are we really so ignorant? We know that:
  • God wants us to sing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 13:15)
  • Christ wants His true disciples to abide in His Word (Jn 8:31-32; Mt. 7:21-27)
  • Neither Christ nor the Holy Spirit ever acted on their own initiative with regard to the Word of God (Jn 12:48-50; 14:31; 16:12-13).
  • Adding to the word of God is condemned (Mt 15:7-9; Gal. 1:6-9; 2 John 9-11)
  • The unity for which Jesus prayed was first sanctified by truth (John 17:17-23)

We can know that it is wrong to act on a guess. Nadab and Abihu acted without authority; David and Uzzah acted without authority; Saul acted without authority at Gilgal; Ahaz acted without authority in adding an altar; and the Judaizers acted without authority in adding the Law to the Gospel. These examples are in the Scriptures for a reason, and they are for our learning (Rom. 15:4) so that we might have hope and not make the same mistakes. Are the Scriptures of the Old Testament never to reprove or correct us (2 Tim. 3:16-17)?

To say "we don't know enough about what God desires about music in worship, so we feel free to do as we wish" is bad business. It presumes the right to act on a guess. It is sand theology. I might just as well ignore all the positive things the Bible says about marriage and feel free to enter into a polygamous union (since there is no specific, New Testament prohibition of polygamy; by that I mean a specific "thou shalt not!" Interestingly, the same duo argue against drawing conclusions from inferences. Does God not imply and can we not infer a prohibition of polygamy from Romans 7:3 and 1 Corinthians 7:2?).

I would rather act on what I know than presume freedom in what I don't know. There really is a difference between building our houses on rock and on sand. Jesus wanted us to build on what we know, not build upon a guess.



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