Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A common sentiment, but....

A fellow blogger says:

"My dear friends, if the use of instrumental music will send a Christ-follower to hell, then we're all going to hell. Over something. We're all wrong about something!!"

Through the years, I've noticed that when someone disagrees, one trick they use to try to make the opposition look bad is a statement about "going to hell." Judgment does not belong to us; it belongs to God. We are not in the place of God (Gen. 50:19), even when we deal with the guilty.

It is a smoke screen to pull out the "going-to-hell" complaint. One could just as easily apply this common complaint to any number of subjects. I remember hearing the same complaint from any number of people who objected to the Biblical teaching on the church, baptism, or various moral questions. Such statements are designed to make the person who is saying something is sinful to appear judgmental and thereby hypocritical.

Another complaint I've heard is the "Jesus didn't die over....." whine. Any time I hear that one, I know the person is stinging over the matter and has no other answer.

A more realistic understanding of the instrumental music issue or any issue is this: does such a belief, behavior, or practice violate an instruction of God? We must determine first whether something is a sin. If indeed the matter violates the instructions of God and is thereby sinful, then it can potentially be a salvation issue. Any sin can be a salvation issue.

That we are all imperfect, having imperfect knowledge and living imperfect lives, is not under question. What is under question is if ignorance is a license to self-made religion. Are we to assume that we can (because the water is presumably muddy) act on our own initiative? Do we really think that ignorance grants us the right to presume upon the grace of God?

Now I can perceive a novice or babe in Christ being judged less strictly. The disobedient who did not know the master's will will be beaten with few stripes rather than many. What of the church leaders who, departing from a unified view, presume to embrace out of a supposed uncertainty the right to self-made religion? Will not teachers incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1)? Will not leaders who grant permission to go beyond the instructions of Scripture be held accountable? Can people plead endlessly they lack certainty (all the while acting without evidence from the New Testament)? Do people never have to repent of self-made religion? Can they knowingly continue to practice their presumptuous ways?

Paul said, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).

One must wonder if God's will is so hard to understand that a passage like Ephesians 5:15-17 is itself impractical and impossible. Do we believe we can obey it? "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." You'd think to hear some talk that we can't understand anything. To hear some talk, there is no such thing as damnable heresy. To hear some talk, we should never admonish the factious (a divisive heretic) man. To hear some talk, self-made religion is as salvific as the revealed will of God.

In the end, the "going-to-hell" argument is designed to hush up the Truth, to bully away anyone who reminds us of right and wrong. When people can't find evidence to support an unauthorized practice, they resort to complaint and fault-finding. The point of the complaint at the top of this post is to make it appear that anyone who thinks instrumental music is wrong is arrogant and judgmental. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is said, "we are all wrong about something." There is a difference between being mistaken through human weakness and in willfully driving a wedge in the body of Christ by pushing a divisive practice and making fun of anyone who disagrees.

Well, Phil, do you think you know everything or that you are always right? Of course not, I am a fallible sinner saved by the grace of God, dependent upon His mercy for salvation. I understand what it means to be saved, since I cannot save myself. But in all my weakness, I do not suppose that I can presume upon the grace and never need repentance.

The blood of Jesus can certainly cleanse those who walk in the light. Walking in the light is not sinlessness, because no one is capable of sinless perfection. But people can fool themselves, thinking they are in the light, when they are not (1 John 1:6). Sand theology does not yield the same results as rock theology (Matt. 7:21-27). Sand theology is when people build where they want rather than heed the words of Jesus. Self-made religion and innovations are sand theology. Those who plant their own plants will find themselves uprooted (Matt. 15:14). That's what Jesus says about it. That is how He feels about such things. I take that view because He has expressed His will in the matter.

think, think

Phil

27 comments:

Steven Hunter said...

Amen!

Bruce Ligon said...

In my opinion, one of the greatest needs of Christians during a time when the Truth is being clouded by the desire of more than a few "to be like the nations around us" is clear reasoning. Truth doesn't change (Jude 3). Thanks for this good expression of this reminder!

Richard said...

Well said, Phil!

Falantedios said...

Truth changed on instrumental worship. Once is was God-ordained (in the Writings, not the Law). Now it is man-made. In eternity, it will be God-ordained again.

respectfully,
Nick Gill

Phil Sanders said...

Nick,

No, truth hasn't changed on this issue or any other. What was under one covenant is for that covenant and should be respected. The question is not what but when. Under our blood-bought covenant of Jesus Christ, there is no God-ordained instruction for IM. Since that covenant is how I am united with God in Christ, I will observe it.

Truth hasn't changed. Desire has. People want IM, whether God has ordained it under the Christian covenant or not, so they reach out to other covenants to justify their self-made religion. BTW, one who wants to bind the Law on Christians is anathema (Gal. 1:6-9; 5:1-4).

And yes, the Bible calls things David wrote Law (John 10:34-35; Psalm 82:6).

kindly,
phil

Falantedios said...

Truth hasn't changed.

What was well-pleasing to God in 100BC was an abomination to Him in 100AD.

Yet, you say that is not a change in the truth.

I know, I know. I just need to think, think, think.

Nick Gill

Phil Sanders said...

Nick,

The covenants changed, and IM was NEVER a part of the new covenant.

BTW, keeping the Sabbath was right in 100 BC, but not in 100 AD. Offering animal sacrifices was right in 100 BC but not 100 AD.

The truth didn't change; the covenants did. Live under the new covenant.

phil

Anonymous said...

Romans 14:4 and following gives us some insight on disputable matters, be convinced in your OWN mind and stop worrying about everyone else! Satan loves this kind of bickering, arguing over what silence in the scriptures means. If you think it is wrong then it is, (for you). Stop the judgment of your brothers and get on with serving theres plenty of work to be done. peace
philip sims

Anonymous said...

Romans 14:4 and following gives us some insight on disputable matters, be convinced in your OWN mind and stop worrying about everyone else! Satan loves this kind of bickering, arguing over what silence in the scriptures means. If you think it is wrong then it is, (for you). Stop the judgment of your brothers and get on with serving theres plenty of work to be done. peace
philip sims

Falantedios said...

Dear Phil,

The earliest Christians worshipped with instruments until the Temple was destroyed. Paul does not condemn Sabbath-Keeping (but he clearly condemns justification by works of the law), and he participates in non-atoning animal sacrifices in worship to God under the new covenant. These are not conclusions or inferences. They are clear propositional statements of Scripture (Acts 2:46; Romans 14:5-8, Galatians 3; Acts 21:26). How can you continue to deny this? How can you continue to subvert Scripture to uphold your traditions?

in HIS love,
Nick Gill

Phil Sanders said...

Philip,

I agree with you there is much work to be done for the cause of Christ, and the debating is wearisome. Yet there is so much error being disseminated, that I can not afford to keep quiet. Error is soul-threatening (James 5:19-20).

I certainly believe the principles of Romans 14 apply to many of the disputes within the church. "Let everyone be fully convinced in his own mind" and "passing judgment" over such matters should be suspended. But these matters are indifferent.

To apply this principle in Romans 14 to instrumental music, however, is unwarranted. This is not one opinion against another. We are dealing with self-made religion and human innovation. If we allow the use of IM, then there is no stopping place as to what men may do, all the while claiming there is no prohibition.

Romans 14 is not a license for self-made religion (which Paul condemns in Colossians 2). It is not a license to divide the church with our desires.

We cannot be silent while people push their agenda to turn the church of our Lord into a bad substitute for a denomination, nor will we be hushed.

kindly,
Phil

Phil Sanders said...

Nick,

Your statement about the earliest Christians is misleading. Jewish Christians were in the presence of instruments as Jews only when they were in the Temple. There is no evidence Gentile Christians ever worshiped with instruments, and there is no evidence that Jewish Christians expected to use instruments in their Christian gatherings or in the church. Indeed, all the early literature shows that they vehemently opposed the use of instruments in Christian worship.

The tradition of using instruments in churches today arises from Catholicism and was not common until about 1300 AD. The Prostestant and Reformed movements rejected the instrument and did not begin to use them until about 1800 AD.

The human tradition is to begin using that for which there is no Scriptural basis (IM). The Biblical tradition is to worship by singing.

When Paul sacrifices an animal in the worship of the church, then I will too. He did not do so as a Christian; he did so to win favor as a Jew. That too is in the text.

kindly,
Phil

Darin L. Hamm said...

Mr. Sanders,

I have supplied exegesis on your last statement about Paul and his actions in Acts but I understand, you need to defend your position and that is the only workable explanation coming from your belief system.

I think we would all agree that there is a line between orthodox Christian teaching and heresy. I agree that the argument “we all get something wrong” won’ because it is based on the assumption that instruments in worship is wrong.

In my opinion a more appropriate discussion would center on whether or not it is correct to go through the NT text in search of a pattern for a one hour worship service. Is that idea correct?

It seems to me you would say yes. Your position seems to be that anything beyond what you do is man made religion. I follow you but what fascinates me and always has is how one comes about with such a statement.

In fact your post shows how a man, you, came to your understanding of why using instruments for a one hour worship service is wrong. In your responses you explain that you made that decision based on readings of early church writings (by the way you probably proof-texted Clement of Alexandria wouldn’t you say?), the fact that instruments is simply an observation of a man.

You see I sing and make melody in my heart each Sunday and that is something I can do with PowerPoint, overhead projectors, hymn books, pitch pipes and low and behold instrumental accompaniment, none of which keeps me from doing what God told me to do, sing.

Now maybe I have a bad translation because my text doesn’t say don’t use any aids because if aids are bad we are all going to hell aren’t we, oh but that’s a smoke screen isn’t it?

Could it be that the reason the CoC is in its current position is many people see your sand theology.

Darin Hamm

Phil Sanders said...

Darin,

You presume far too much.

Since I preach for a church that worships sometimes more and sometimes less than an hour, your assumption on a one-hour plan shows that you would rather peg-hole me than discuss.

If the New Testament was not written to instruct people in how to live godly lives and how churches should believe and practice, then one must wonder why it was written at all.

I have often (if you had read me more, you would have known this) said that early church history does not make Biblical doctrine, but it does confirm what the early church understood as the church.

Arguments from early church history on the IM issue is hardly my starting and ending place.

I have no doubt you can sing with many helps around you. By with those aids, you are still doing just what the Lord said do. Powerpoints, books, and pitchpipes are aids to singing, but they are not in and of themselves forms of worship.

When you add the instrument you add a form of worship never encountered in the New Testament church. It was used in the Temple as a form of worship. There is no such instruction in the New Testament to use it in the gatherings of the Lord's body. The use of IM in Christian worship is a plant the Lord did not plant. It is a vain form of worship built upon the teachings of men.

I can read in the New Testament Scriptures what I do in my musical worship--I sing.

YOU CANNOT DO SO when you use IM.

Now who is on the rock and who is on the sand, Darin?

kindly,
Phil

Darin L. Hamm said...

Mr. Sanders,

Thank you for adding my post and responding, I appreciate it.

Can you explain how adding a pitch pipe to worship isn't adding a pitch pipe to worship? Is it because they are not found at all in the OT or NT?

Speaking of song books, since the early church only used scripture for their chants and we know that, what authority do we have to make changes? Didn't man make that decision? Didn't adding songs written beyond repeating scripture cause just as much trouble when introduced?

I guess my problem was learning far too much about church history, (especially that Clement of Alexandria). Throw in that songs hymns and spiritual songs are specific forms of chanting and I have trouble telling what is and isn’t expected of God. I end up having to ask man and they always want to tell me and explain it since God never said it.

Again, thanks for adding my comment and responding.

I do agree a day will come when what is sand will be revealed.

Darin Hamm

Phil Sanders said...

Darin,
Understanding the difference between an aid or expedient and an addition I believe is essential to this discussion. Pipes, pews, and powerpoints help us to do what God instructed--to sing, speak, teach, admonish, and give thanks. They do not add another form of worship; they aid in doing what God said do.

When Noah built the ark, he used tools. The tools are not specifically mentioned but were necessary aids to the accomplishment of the building. If Noah, however, added a fourth floor or an extra window, this is a different matter. He is adding something beyond the instruction.

Do you remember Ahaz's altar, the design of which he got in Damascus?
He pushed aside God's altar and used his own. Now they were still making offerings, doing exactly what they were doing before. Yes, but it was man-designed religion on that altar (See. 2 Kings 16:10-16). This is why Hezekiah threw it out.

In Acts 16, there is the Macedonian call. Paul took a ship in answer to that call, but no ship is mentioned. Why a ship? A ship was necessary to get across the sea.

There is a difference between using things that expedite, help, aid, doing what God says to do and things that add something "strange" to the mix. BTW, "strange" in Lev. 10:1-2 is translated "unauthorized" in NIV and ESV.

Now, nobody has shown that IM is authorized in Christian worship or that it was so used. There is no implication of its use in any NT passage. It is strange and unauthorized.

Thanks for the discussion.

(Darin, sometimes it just that I run out of time in monitoring that I don't allow every post)

kindly,
Phil

Darin L. Hamm said...

Mr. Sanders,

I understand the argument you offer, I was raised CoC. I also understand that it makes perfect sense to you as you explain it. I would only point out that a man has to decide what is expedient and what is an addition in your statement since the Bible makes no such declaration.

We could discuss more such as the fact that the only songbook of the early church was the Bible and the fact that songs, hymns and spiritual songs are a specific style of chanting but in the end we come at the text and God’s expectations from two very different starting points so I would only be trying to show you how your theology doesn’t work, but I understand that isn’t likely to happen.

Thanks for the discussion and I have no issue if a response isn’t posted, it is your blog you know.

Darin Hamm

Phil Sanders said...

Darin,

the fact is the songs of the early church came from a variety of things. They sang psalms, they sang new hymns given by the Spirit (1 Cor. 14:26), and they sang songs composed in the first century.

Song books do not sing or play. They merely provide the words and the notes needed so that the song can be sung in unison. They are helpful--an expedient.

My theology is as old as the ark and works fine. I find it in Moses in Joshua and throughout both the Old and New Testaments. I would urge you to read a copy of my book, Let All the Earth Keep Silent.

As far as distinguishing aids from additions. The first helps, the other adds. That is not really that hard to understand.

It is the difference between a baptistery and sprinkling. It is the difference between a platter and cup for the Lord's Supper and roast lamb as an element.

kindly,
Phil

Jay said...

Phil,

I agree with much of what you say. It's certainly true that those who sin, knowing that it's sin, are in serious spiritual jeopardy. But what of those baptized, penitent believers who use the instrument honestly believing that it's permitted?

They are not "knowingly" violating God's will. As they think are being obedient, they aren't self-willed. They are trying to do follow God's will.

You suggest that grace might be broader for a novice. Are you saying that there comes a point where a baptized, penitent believer has to get ALL doctrine right or grace won't cover even an unintentional error?

Phil Sanders said...

Jay,

Just because I do not know something is wrong does not excuse my sin. A Methodist and Catholic sprinkle their baby, thinking this is the right thing to do. But we have no record of infant baptism or sprinkling for baptism in Scripture. "Not knowing" does not sanctify an unscriptural practice.

Babes in Christ who have not been taught can easily be led astray by those who are more mature. Jezebel's followers were given time to repent, but there came a point in time when they could no longer continue their error.

James 5:19-20 speaks of a person following error and having his soul at stake.

I do not wish to be presumptuous as to when that takes place, but some of my brethren think that because they have "decided" something is okay, it is thereby all right to continue to practice. This is not true to Scripture.

kindly,
Phil

Jay said...

I certainly agree that sin is sin whether or not one is ignorant of the violation. But that's not the question I meant to pose. The question is whether the sin is forgiven when committed in ignorance by a penitent, baptized believer.

You mention sprinkling and such, but I'm only speaking of those who've been saved and are therefore within grace. I'm not suggesting that those outside grace receive the same grace given to those in grace.

If a penitent, baptized believer (genuinely trying to obey God, truly in the faith, truly baptized) sins out of a misinterpretation of God's will on some other topic (not baptism, not faith in Jesus, not penitence) does he lose his soul?

Certainly, all Christians should seek God's will by diligent study, but what if a Christian reaches a conclusion other than yours on some point of doctrine? Is he damned? Or when does that error damn?

I expect that you're right that God expects more of the mature than the immature, but does that mean there comes a point when grace no longer covers any doctrinal error at all?

I just don't see why we consider those who condemn multiple cups as saved, even though considering them in error, but consider those who allow the instrument damned because they are in error. Why one and not the other? Is it better to impose rules that God does not? Or to set aside rules that God imposes? Both are sin. Why consider those on our right in grace and those on our left lost?

Phil Sanders said...

Jay,
I think we must be careful not to place ourselves in God's role of deciding what God will do with the saved who act ignorantly in sin. "Am I in the place of God?" is a good response to many things.

God will make His own decisions and does not need my help. I do believe that we must not also be so presumptuous in opening that door of grace as to give false hope or to so dismiss the will of God that we actually enable sin to continue.

Certainly judging (as one-cuppers do)is as reprehensible as any other sin. We can only wish for the grace of God for our binding-what-God-has not-bound brethren; but we do not wish to so excuse the right or the left to the point that we enable binding or loosing where one has no right.

So we'll continue to speak out against error (ignorant or otherwise)and not presume to take the place of God.

kindly,
Phil

Jay Guin said...

Phil,

How do you react to the ad published in the Oklahoman condemning Quail Springs? Here's a link to the full text --

http://jayguin.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/oklahoman_ad_red1.pdf

I know you agree that the instrument is wrong, but do you agree with publishing an ad to disfellowship the Quail Springs minister?

Phil Sanders said...

Jay,
I will be in OKC next week at the Affirming the Faith Seminar at North MacArthur. I'll teach two classes on Postmodern: Erasing the Distinctives. In the second class, I will talk about the Emerging Church. While QS is not in that category, there are some things similar. The phrase about our mission being to "reach out" is more important to the leadership than "keeping" is significant.

Phil

Jay said...

Regarding the Quail Springs ad, why not simply say whether running the ad was right or wrong?

Phil Sanders said...

Jay,

Am I in the place of God? Who made me an arbiter or judge over everything done by some brother or sister?

Why don't you give your judgment rather than demand one from me.

Phil

Charles said...

Actually, God placed us in squarely in that seat of judgment. From I Corinthians 5: "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside." It is quite clear that sin in the church is to be judged within the church. I consider that $11,000 attack ad to be a public reproach on the body of Christ. Why equivocate on this?