Monday, April 09, 2007

A Great Issue of Spiritual Sword

I hope you will read the April issue of the Spiritual Sword, entitled, "Wolves in Sheep's Clothing." It contains a devastating rebuke and refutation of the current movement to get instruments of music into the worship of the church. Alan Highers has masterfully refuted most of the current arguments that appear to permit the use of instruments.

I hope every elder of the Richland Hills church will read this issue. They said that they spent years studying the issue of the instrument. By the course of action they have taken, I would suggest they studied poorly. The case made by their senior minister is full of fallacies and contradictions. His arguments are weak, and only the naive are fooled by them.

I hope and pray elders and preachers all over the brotherhood will read this issue and cease arguing over the matter. 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.

If Biblical truth has any importance to those who profess New Testament Christianity and if brotherly love is to continue, then let the advocates of this innovation and self-made religion cease from reviving this terrible division. It is the human practice that caused the division a century ago, and it is the insistence on having this innovation that is causing the division today. To suggest that we ought to be together again and overlook humanly devised worship is merely to defect to error from truth.

Those who claim to be ambassadors for unity are in reality recruiters for compromise. Before there can be unity, there must first be repentance of error. We plead with our instrumental brethren, if you are so bent on unity, to give up the instrument and self-made religion and to come back to a cappella worship--where we were before you demanded change. Only then can there be unity.



Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

Phil I have not seen the new issue. I suppose I will have to get a hold of a copy to see the new arguments.

Though I disapprove of Richland Hills decision to adopt the instrument I fail to see a legitimate reason for making it a test of fellowship or an issue of salvation.

I guess I have studied poorly too. But I think I have studied it as much or deeply as you. So my question is why is it that deem every person a poor studier unless they agree with "me."

You know I love and respect you as my beloved brother. And though I think you are mistaken, I just think you are mistaken ... not a poor student.

Bobby Valentine

Phil Sanders said...


My reason for saying they studied poorly arises from the weakness of their arguments. They are poor students because they reason poorly on mistaken evidence not because they are not intelligent.

I am sure you have studied the issue too. We have discussed it more than once. When you say that you do not think this is a salvation issue or a need for breaking fellowship, I must question your conclusions.

Jesus condemned following the commandments of men. Humanly devised traditions and practices will be uprooted (Matthew 15). Should those who love truth and wish to follow the Scriptures alone "tolerate" what is obviously humanly planted? Should they keep silent while others drift into error?

Tampering with the truth in order to justify a man-made practice that divides the church is sinful. Division is a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21) and will lead to condemnation. All sinful acts are ultimately a salvation issue, because a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.

Those who presumptuously guess their departure from the truth to innovate self-made religion is a non-issue usually aren't thinking about what God wants. What is a non-issue to us may not be to God. Just ask Uzzah.

I love and repect you too, Bobby. I love the folks at Richland Hills. That's why this latest compromise is such a grief.


benoverby said...


Interesting. Personally, I applaud Richland Hills' decision. You and I both agree with Jesus, as quoted by you, "Jesus condemned following the commandments of men."

Man invented the commandment: "Thou shalt not play an instrument in worship." Richland Hills isn't commanding anything. As you probably remember, I was once staunchly against instruments on the basis of the same sort of arguments Highers employs. Highers', and others like him, depend on logic which works only within his closed system, sort of like the logic of those who once insisted the earth was the center of the universe. It's very tough to see the truth from inside the matrix, or Plato's cave, or a CENI classroom. From outside, what used to look like crisp logic now looks like limp assertions.

I can do the math with any syllogism Highers creates to denounce instrumental music. It will usually pass the test of validity, but it will always fail the test of truth. It's not just the structure of the argument that counts; it's the content of the supporting propositions that determine truth. That's where those who condemn the instrument miss it. If all truth can be summed up in a syllogism, every single syllogism produced by those who condemn instruments will always—and I stress ALWAYS, contain at least one false premise.

We agree about one other thing: "His arguments are weak, and only the naive are fooled by them."

Every argument I've ever heard in an attempt to refute and condemn the instrument, is an argument that depends on a naive audience, an audience easily fooled by worn out clich├ęs and CENI-dependent proof text.

Ben Overby
Rochester NY
Lawson Road Church of Christ

Phil Sanders said...


Your complaint against Highers is that he depends on logic and a closed system. You note that it is very tough to see the truth from the inside of a CENI classroom. Your statement, "From outside, what used to look like crisp logic now looks like limp assertions," probably says more about this issue than anything else.

Which area is really so bad? Is it that we have a closed system (a canon that claims to have given us all truth)? Is it that we are using logic (thinking)? Or is it that we think people should look to commands, examples, and necessary inference for what God wills for our lives? What are we supposed to look for in determining how we are to please God? It is not naivete that causes the problem between us; it is the difference in thinking about whether to build our houses on the rock or on sand, between doing what we know is right and presumptuous guessing we have permission to do what we want.

Perhaps we should use presumptuous guesses as our hermeneutic or claim the Holy Spirit has spoken to us? Surely, inferring from OT examples of instrumental music and using faulty linguistics will lead us to the what we wish for God's will for the church and its worship! Surely, claiming muddy water on this issue should permit us to do what we want! We should grant that we are agnostics over the matter and authorize ourselves to do as we judge. Yes, this is a good hermeneutic for compromise, since some would rather fellowship presumption than hold to a rock theology.

It is much easier, Ben, for you to criticize Alan Highers for his logic from his premises than for you to demonstrate that his premise are always false.

I am amazed that you criticize inferring by inferring.

Just because a statement has been around a while does not make it untrue. Just because you are bored of hearing it doesn't mean it is untrue or lacks authority. Getting tired of authority is more a heart problem than a truth problem. It's a lot easier to make the claim that something is a "worn out" cliche than it is to respond with cogent arguments.

It seems to me that Jesus answered most of his critics by appealing to the Scriptures for proof. Didn't he face Satan with quotes from Deuteronomy?


Royce Ogle said...

I fail to see how it is any of my business or yours what Richland Hills or any other church does. What happened to local church autonomy?

The glaring truth is that to this day, all of those who are so upset about using instruments in worship services haven't a clue about the great doctrines of the historic Christian faith. If they do they have kept it hidden well.

Any person who believes that a child of God will be lost because they worship and sing while accompanied by a piano doesn't have even an elementary understanding of the doctrine of salvation. Poor scholarship and focus on what appeals to the flesh leads to a perversion of the gospel of Christ, i.e. salvation by works. Christianity can not be measured by what a man can observe. Only Christ can "see faith", I look at the outward part of a man while God sees his heart.

Will we be known for loving Christ and introducing others to Him or will we be known for our attacks on others who claim Christ as Lord? You sir, and I, will answer to God for how we have treated our family members.

Grace to you,
Royce Ogle

Phil Sanders said...


You fail to see how it is our business what they do. Well... they published a book urging us to do what they did. They wanted wanted to make it our business to join them in their error. Now, we are not witch-hunting hate-mongers. We are responding to their plea to join them. Okay?

It is an arrogant thing to think, Royce, that nobody ever studied salvation except those who agree with you. I have taught courses on the Biblical Doctrine of Salvation for many years. I know what it means to be saved grace, because I have been.

The question is whether instrumental music is sinful, because it is a human innovation and not instructed in the New Testament. We answer yes, and Paul, the apostle of grace, condemns self-made religion in Colossians 2:20-23. Jesus agrees (Matthew 15:1-14). "Every plant (human tradition) my Father has not planted (instructed) shall be uprooted."

Loving Christ enough to listen to Him and do His words is also important. Loving others enough to tell them the truth rather than leave them in error is also important.

What is tragic is to compromise the truth, unify with error, and act like that is loving.

You have judged me and attacked me for not agreeing with you. Is that loving? Does it show grace?

Have you listened to your attack?


Kenneth Morvant said...

I accepted Christ in an instrumental church of Christ back in 1977. I always felt that there was no clear reason not to have the instrument. After all "make melody in your heart" does not mean "lungs only", doesn't it? Even though I attended mainline churches and went to non-instrumental schools, I still felt that it did not matter.

I decided to answer that question finally so that I could feel confident in teaching that the instrument is not authorized. I finally realized through my study that we worship in the spirit. We don't have a temple building, but we are a temple for God's spirit. Our sacrifices are spiritual. On-and-on we see that we worship spiritually now. Not the physical methods of worship that was required in the Old Testament. That is why I believe the instrument is not allowed as part of the worship.

If you still believe that it won't matter then consider that God has never looked upon rebellion very lightly. Consider Adam and Eve, Moses striking the rock, strange fire, and other people who thought it did not matter how they worshiped and obeyed God. Jesus said that if we loved Him, we need to obey his commands. As a minister and teacher of the Word, I can only teach what the Word tells us. I will not take chances with my salvation, or any other person's salvation.

I understand now that we are in a spiritual kingdom that contains spiritual temples for God's Spirit and our worship is spiritual. Until I realized that, I was confused about this issue until I learned that and I'm convinced that this is the way to teach others about the instrumental issue.

Circumcision was demanded for the Jew. Can't we worship God without that happening to us? We would never question that God demanded that of the Jews, so why do we question what He wants us to do today. Disobedience from Adam and Eve until the end of time has never been taken lightly by God.

Anonymous said...

I thank God for you Phil and Kenneth M. for your careful and honest approach to this satan inflicted issue on the church. Paul had warned the church in Colosea about deceptive philosophy Col 2:8. To me, it is a shame to even call it a no salvation issue. If it were in the old testament era, some would have follwed the path of Nadab and Abihu.
i can clearly see the hand of denominational influennce on the church. Do a good research, you will descover that most who champion instrumental music are mostly converts from denominations who entered the church with their former practice. if you still love the cocumbers of Egypt, it is unfortunate.
Mike Udam
Ogoja- Nigeria

Matt M. said...

No one may read this, since this post is old, but I'm going to post it anyway. We always need to remember that we live under the NEW covenant. Things changed when the OLD covenant was done away with. The discontinuation of instrumental music being one.

If you don't think it's a serious issue, or a "salvation issue", to not follow exactly what God explicitly or implicitly states, you need to read Exodus 17 and then Exodus 20. In Exodus 17 Moses is instructed by God to strike the rock with his staff and water will come forth. Just 3 chapters later (20) God instructs Moses to speak to the rock and water would come forth. In chapter 20 we read that Moses strikes the rock, rather than speak to it as instructed. Because of this God informs him that he failed to honor God's commandment and would not enter into the promised land. God never explicitly told Moses that he couldn't strike the rock in chapter 20. Again, keep in mind that just 3 chapters before this, God authorized striking the other rock. But God still punished Moses despite the fact that striking rocks to bring forth water was previously authorized. How does that compare to instrumental music worship? "Because it was okay in the Old Testament" falls apart pretty quickly.