Monday, May 21, 2007

Aids and Additions

A recent comment made me want to say more about aids and additions. To liken church buildings (because they aren't mentioned in Scripture) to instrumental music (IM) in Christian worship (because it is not in Scripture) is a popular thing to do. But such a suggestion is like mixing apples and oranges. IM is like adding a fourth floor to the ark, when only three floors are specified. Church buildings are like the tools necessary to build the ark. One violates silence, while the other does not. Why? Because when instructions are specific, they should be fulfilled specifically; and when instructions are generic, they can be fulfilled by the use of the most expedient means.

We might use another illustration. Neither a tray nor a roast lamb was mentioned in the instructions for the Lord's supper. But adding roast lamb to the Supper is a violation of it, while putting the bread on a tray is expedient.

There is no mention of a baptistery in Scripture, but there is no violation of Scripture to use one. It is an expedient in the fulfillment of the instructions to baptize and to be baptized. But to add another mode of baptism (you can be immersed or sprinkled) is a violation of the specifics of the word baptism.

In generic instructions, God grants permission for expedients (the means to do what He has instructed); but when God gives specific instructions, the addition of other things is a violation of God's will. That is why the altar of Ahaz was so sinful and why Hezekiah took it away when he cleansed the temple.



Keith Brenton said...

Where does scripture explain what is permissible by virtue of its expediency and what is forbidden because of its extraneousness?

I read this explanation on your site's PDF on the subject, but found no citation or souce for it ... though I have to confess I am glad to see how much of it is devoted to helping the lost become acquainted with Christ!

Phil Sanders said...

My original post on this matter was very much filled with Scriptures illustrating the point I was making.

I have made a clear distinction between generic or general instructions (which come in the form of commands, approved examples, and inferences) and specific instructions.

If I instruct you to come to Nashville, you might choose numerous means of coming (bus, train, airplane, car, horseback, or walk). When Paul was told to come to Macedonia (Acts 16:9-11), he took a ship. The ship is implied (sailed) in how Paul responded to this instruction. Paul could have chosen to walk around the Black Sea and get there. That, of course, would have been foolish.

What makes IM an addition is that the Scriptures proclaim that it is itself not an aid to singing but a form of worship all on its own (Psalm 150; 2 Chron. 29:25).

As for loving lost souls, did you see the Evangelism Handbook or the Upon the Rock Bible studies at ? Have you seen the television program, "God's Answers to Life's Questions?"


Keith Brenton said...

Phil, I know you've made a clear distinction ... it's just not clear to me in scripture that IM is - or many other things that some see as necessary yet others see as extraneous are - forbidden.

Our church leaders are trying to decide whether miked singers would be an aid to our congregational singing - which does not seem up to our best - or whether it would further detract from it. I'm not asking you to decide the question for us, but to be honest, it seems to be a matter of opinion not addressed by scripture at all.

If we end up having them, they'll be praising God. But there's no guarantee that singing will improve, since singing comes from the heart of the individual. Would you see this as forbidden by scripture? Because some folks would insist that those who play the instruments in instrumental worship are praising God, too.

Then there's our powerpoints for songs and scriptures. It's my job to prepare them, by the way. Do we need them? We have song books and Bibles. Are they a help or a hindrance? Are they forbidden? Or just a matter of choice?

I'm just not sure we can find clear and unfailing answers to questions like this in scripture's silence and logic which may take you in one direction and take me in another.

Phil Sanders said...


It is not clear to you that they are forbidden. Why not?

You can see clearly that sprinkling infants and popes are forbidden. You can see clearly that purgatory is humanly-conceived.

Using a microphone as an aid to singing (not adding to the singing but amplifying what God instructs so that people may hear) is, in my judgment or opinion, not a matter of right and wrong but a matter of wise and foolish. People will disagree on how to use them. As long as they are changing the instruction, I have no problem with a microphone.

I believe that worship teams are foolish because they take the focus off the worship itself and tend to put it on the individual singers. I have seen some of the folks up front look more like entertainers than one worshiping. The "Christian music" industry has made stars out of folks. Why should we imitate that?

Many worship teams sing songs others don't know and become a bit exclusive. I find them foolish because people will tend to sit and listen to them rather than participate as they should. Such is the experience of the denominational churches for many years.

As for Powerpoint presentations, we use them with our songs and Scriptures at Concord Rd. Most places I have preached as a guest uses them as well. My opinion is that the simpler the better. Expedients are supposed to aid and help. Some powerpoint presentations get in the way and distract. You will have to use your good judgment as to whether they aid or not.

Frankly, some "expedients" don't expedite and should be discarded. I would get rid of a blackboard that you cannot erase. And I would get rid of a worship team that shows out, excludes, or leads people to quit singing.

As for the Scriptures, they are not so uncertain as you suggest. Changing the instructions of God in every age and in any circumstance is ALWAYS sinful and condemned. That is not uncertain.

The use of expedients do not change the instruction; they are there to help people fulfill the instruction. The tools used to build the ark did not change the instructions, but they surely helped Noah. We don't know what tools Oholiab and Bezaleel used in the construction of the tabernacle. They used many and used them as they saw fit, but Moses checked them out to see that they built the tabernacle according to the pattern. Talking tools is one thing; changing the pattern is another.

Keith, I notice you are just up the road from me at Woodmont Hills. You are associated with Zoe and New Wineskins, the best I can tell. Perhaps we can talk sometime.


Keith Brenton said...

Actually, no, I'm way up the road from you at Pleasant Valley Church of Christ in Little Rock - but I do help the ZOE and New Wineskins folks with their web sites.

And by the way, I really like the new look of yours today - though I think the top pic may be too big. Substituting this in the source code might help:

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