Monday, March 17, 2008

A cappella tradition? What kind?

Recently a poster sent me this message:

A cappella singing is a fine tradition - perhaps even a long one - but it is not a scriptural command. Singing is indeed something that God wants us to do - but He does not specify a cappella in scripture. What one wishes - whether Baptist or member of a church of Christ - is not command. If our salvation was dependent upon it, I can't imagine Him not expressing that in scripture.

This is certainly not a new position to me. I have been hearing it for years. The suggestion is that if we can turn singing (without accompaniment) into a human tradition (though fine and long), we make it no different than playing the instrument in worship. Just call something a "tradition" and that makes it all right. Or does it?

Following and binding a human tradition is not okay; it is sinful. A tradition always smacks of authority, whether human or divine.

The problem with this poster is that what he is trying to say is a human tradition is not human at all; it is a divine tradition. The word tradition comes from the Greek term "paradosis" and refers to a teaching or practice that has been "handed down." The Lord's Supper was a practice handed down to us (1 Cor. 11:23-26). The gospel is a "handed-down" message (1 Cor. 15:1-3). Paul praised the Corinthians for holding firmly to the traditions, just as he delivered them (1 Cor. 11:2). Paul urged the Thessalonians to "stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us" (2 Thess. 2:15). He further says that we are to "keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us" (3:6). There is such a thing as Divine tradition.

Now as to specifics in our music. I can read in Scripture words such as speak, teach, admonish, give thanks, confess--all of these are activities of the lips, which is our means of sacrifice (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16: Heb. 13:5). Not once in the New Testament is there any suggestion that the church ever worshiped musically except by verbal means--singing. That is the inspired, apostolic, and divine tradition of the church; and it arises from the New Testament. That is what God desires.

The human tradition is the use of instruments, which came centuries later than the apostles. When one reads the Bible to justify what he desires, exegesis rolls off like water on a duck's back.

What is human is to add to God's word that which God never authorized; and all such additions are condemned. Every plant which my Father has not planted shall be rooted up (Matt. 15:13). Such additions are disgraceful and underhanded tampering with the word of God. God does not want such things. If He had he would have told us.

As for salvation matters, the sin of adding the instrument is in tampering with God's word, of speaking when God is silent. One does not have a specific prohibition for it, since the Bible everywhere condemns men for innovations. This principle of condemning innovation applies every time some human dreams up some new thing (Jer. 23:16-40).

The responsibility for this issue does not fall on those who hold fast to what they know is right--singing; it falls on the innovator to show there is some apostolic justification for the practice of adding to the singing that which has no roots in the New Testament. More than a hundred years has passed, and the innovators have yet to find one shred of evidence. They cannot find what is not there. They just dreamed up what they desire and want everyone else to say it's all right. Well, it is not all right. The principle of condemning innovation stands.



Donnie Bates said...

Great article, Phil.

Terry said...

As you probably know, I agree with most of your perspectives (such as rejecting relativism). However, I cannot agree with the teaching that the New Testament condemns instumental accompaniment to singing praise to God. When the apostle Paul told Christians to "sing psalms", he was telling them to sing songs that were originally intended to be sung with instrumental music in the background. If we return to the original intent, we allow instrumental music to accompany the singing of psalms. On this issue, I believe we have made a mistake in insisting on banning instrumental music in worship. In this case, necessary inferences would not allow the prohibition against instrumental music, because the inferences would indicate that the original intent of "sing psalms" would include instrumental accompaniment. If I have not used proper logic, please let me know the flaw(s). Thanks for considering my reasoning and for treating me with respect and kindness in the past (and in the future too, I hope :)).

Phil Sanders said...

Let's think this one through a little. By the time of the New Testament, Jewish people were well entrenched in synagogue worship, which did not include instruments. They were very used to "singing psalms" unaccompanied. In fact, of the 50 or so times "psallo" is used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) about 40 times it is translated "sing." Only the context would cause the word to be translated otherwise. The default understanding of the word by 150 BC was "sing." This is why lexicons realize that the instrument does not inhere in psallo or psalmos.

If psallo or psalmos had permitted the instrument, why did the church universally reject instruments for several centuries? Why did the people who understood the words best not use them?

You see the problem that IM people have with psallo and psalmos is in showing that the early church understood the need for or the allowance for the instrument. There simply is no evidence they understood these words to demand or to permit instruments.


Anonymous said...

Are you getting ready for a lectureship or a book?

I agree with you but surely you understand that the lines are drawn and it is just trench warfare when it comes to A cappella versus Instrumental.

Phil Sanders said...


I know the lines are drawn sharply, and we will lose many who have gone off into digression.

As for lectures or books, I have already written much and spoken much on these matters. My book "Let All the Earth Keep Silence" has been out nearly 20 years (and frankly remains unanswered). It that book I have this quote:

Everett Ferguson said of psallo, “If the precise meaning of certain verses may be in doubt, what is clear is that an instrument did not inhere in the word psallo in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, dating 150-250 BC). Psallo could translate a word meaning ‘play’ (nagan), or a general word (zamar). The meaning, which would cover all occurrences, is ‘make melody.’ This could include making melody on an instrument, but in the preponderance of occurrences it clearly refers to making melody with the voice.” F. F. Bruce said of psallo in Eph. 5:19, “Nor should the etymological force of the terms be pressed, as though psalmos inevitably meant a song sung to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument…while such plucking of the strings is the original sense of psallo…it is used in the NT with the meaning ‘to sing psalms.’” In confirmation of this view, the Greek Orthodox Church (who knows Greek better than anyone) has never used instruments of music in worship.

While some have abandoned the idea that psallo requires the use of an instrument, they today suggest that it permits the use of the instrument in Ephesians 5:19. If this were so, the first readers of the epistle of Ephesians and early churches did not know it. If Paul indeed was permitting the use instruments, we are at a loss to explain why early churches so adamantly and uniformly opposed them. Actually, no ancient writer ever made the argument that psallo and psalmos permitted the use of instruments is worship. In fact, George P. Slade in 1878 was the first ever to argue that psallo or psalmos permitted the instrument even if the instrument is not mentioned. Early Christians never understood the context of Ephesians or Colossians to demand or permit instruments.
The first rule of hermeneutics in the study of words is that a word does not and cannot mean what the author and the first readers did not understand it to mean. Whatever the words psalmos and psallo meant to them, it could not have demanded or permitted the use of instruments. The universal opposition to the use of instruments among the early church fathers makes it clear they understood the epistles of Ephesians and Colossians to teach vocal music only.

God bless,

Anonymous said...

But Phil you can't argue with those like Atchley who now claim "the Holy Spirit" told us to do this....

I guess maybe after almost 2.5 decades I am getting a little tired. BUT, I do appreciate that you keep it going. I not only believe IM is NOT authorized I believe it is WRONG.

I just see a self imposed 'intellectual ignorance' flooding our age that 'reason' has no effect on.

Phil Sanders said...


I do not expect to win those who are bent on ruining the worship of the church by innovations. They are wrong, sinful.

I keep discussing these matters because there are so many people still thinking through these issues and needing information to decide whether they will accept their use or not.

The hard-nosed advocates won't change, but there are others who are still open. I plan to keep talking so that I can reach them.


Keith Brenton said...

So all you really need in order to understand that instrumental praise is a wrong and sinful corruption of the worship of the church is an intimate knowledge of ancient Hebrew and Greek, Jewish intertestamental history, first century history, the practices of the Greek Orthodox church - and an innate sense for which traditions are human and which are divine.

That sounds simple enough.

Look, the tradition of using instruments in worship pre-dated post-apostolic times by centuries. As nearly as one can tell, David introduced it as an innovation to temple worship as something God never commanded, yet God blessed it and His Holy Spirit preserved those Psalms which refer to as well as those which don't. God blessed a lot of innovations to His law that were introduced by men later on - cups in the Passover; the festival of Dedication, for instance - things that Jesus observed and never condemned. You can just ignore these and maintain that "the Bible everywhere condemns men for innovations."

"God does not want such things. If He had he would have told us." How do you know that?

"This principle of condemning innovation applies every time some human dreams up some new thing (Jer. 23:16-40)" Every time? Including church-owned buildings, salaried ministers, multiple communion cups, unveiled women's heads?

On one thing we agree: "When one reads the Bible to justify what he desires, exegesis rolls off like water on a duck's back."

Phil, you obviously desire that there should never be instrumental accompaniment to worship and are willing to go to almost any length to make scripture agree with you. Why can it not be just a preference where God expresses none? Why condemn the preferences of others?

I don't expect to see this response to your post. Either through your choice (which is your privilege on your blog) or the machinations of Blogger, many of my comments do not appear on your blog.

But you have to know from scripture that these matters can never be solved solely by applying the advice "think, think, think."

You also have to "love, love, love" and "pray, pray, pray."

Phil Sanders said...

One does not have to know Hebrew or Greek to know what "sing" means. It means sing. When Paul and Silas "sang," they did not need an instrument. There is no indication that when the disciples sang at the Supper they had an instrument. In fact, there is not indication any Christian in the New Testament ever used an instrument to sing in worship. Many people who don't know Hebrew or Greek know that.

You frankly are pulling a smoke screen here. Apparently the evidence of the centuries can be dismissed when it does not favor your point.

As for David, note 2 Chron. 29:25. What Israel did, they did "according to the commandment of David and of Gad the king’s seer and of Nathan the prophet, for the commandment was from the Lord through his prophets." This was not a human innovation.

We cannot be sure that Jesus observed all the traditions of the rabbis, since he himself condemns them (Mt. 15:1-14). As for the cup at the Passover, all Jews had wine at formal meals. We cannot read a late tradition of the rabbis onto the amme ha'aritz, especially when Jesus argues vehemently against them. If Jesus and his disciples did not wash hands and could pick grain on the Sabbath, why would we assume that now all of a sudden he was keeping this rabbinical tradition? Think again. As for the feast of Dedication, we do not know that Jesus observed this feast. We know where he was at the time. By the way, does "every" mean "every" in Matt. 15:13? By the way, have you considered the altar of Ahaz?

We know all that God wants because the Word is all-sufficient, complete, and lacking nothing (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3-4). The apostles were guided into all the truth (John 16:12-13). I would suggest to all readers to take a long and careful look at my book on Silence.

I also obviously desire there should never be a pope, sprinkling for baptism, or additional Scriptures. But I reject your jaundiced accusation that I have made the Scripture fit my beliefs. Indeed, I am not the one who is taking something innovated and trying to permit it in the church.

Anyone who has read my treatise on silence realizes that I have done my homework properly in discussing how to understand Scripture correctly. My work on silence has been used in graduate school courses in Hermeneutics. I have debated it with Disciples scholars and with people in the Christian church. Its arguments remain unanswered.

Why can I not simply be content to let people have their preferences? Because of the harm I saw in the 19th century, the division caused by people who forced the issue. Have you forgotten Add-Ran?

I will not be silent or told to hush in this matter. I must out of love speak the truth. God's will ought to count for something not just the preferences of brethren.

Frankly, I find those who give into their preferences usually do not think. Dave Miller took Atchley to the intellectual woodshed. Atchley's worn out and muddy arguments, stolen from a century ago, do not show wisdom or scholarship. They show compromise, and he was not thinking. Frankly, in my discussions with those who follow his poor advice, I find his followers blind to any reasoning and fully given to their feelings.

Keith, this is a brief discussion between us. But I have prayed and labored in these matters for more than thirty years. I love God and brethren. It is out of love for both that I speak. There is no love in sitting silent while your brother sins against God.


Dave said...

Hi Phil,
I've been a casual observer to many of the bloggers within the church. I find it fascinating as well as frightening to hear the variety of opinions on the world-wide web.
As for the current subject matter, I noticed that Keith went back to King David and his use of the instrument for praising God. No doubt, we even learn that the temple included a chamber for the musicians. It's been understood that some OT worship involved an instrument.
What I find remarkable is that the NT offers absoultely 0 accounts of instruments being used in worship. Looking over the letters by Paul, Peter, and others, there isn't even a hint of instruments being used. You can even look towards the Corinthian church with all their problems, chapters 11-14 deals directly with their worship together....not one mention about an instrument being used.
To me, that deafening SILENCE proves quite a bit. From what I read, there just isn't any evidence that we are given authority to use the instrument during worship.

I appreciate such a venue as this to discuss these matters. Keep up the good work.


Phil Sanders said...

indeed that deafening silence does speak clearly and loudly. I'm glad you have enjoyed this discussion. There simply is no evidence in Christian worship of instruments, animal sacrifice, incense, or wave offerings. Christianity is not Judaism, even Thomas Aquinas knew that in 1250.

Thanks for your kindness,


dell said...

I agree Christianity is not Judaism, but why the continued legalistic offerings as predicated by Moses law?

Phil Sanders said...


I am really sorry you used the word "legalistic," because that only serves to confuse matters.

The old covenant was marked with many, many Scriptures teaching the need to obey the covenant details in a careful, diligent, loving, respectful, and accurate way. I speaking of multiple statements explicit in Scripture. This is not legalism--this is God telling us how He desires for us to respond to Him.

I do not hold this way to the right way because Moses wrote it. I hold it to be the right way because Jesus modeled it for us who follow Him. Jesus obeyed the Father's instructions lovingly and accurately (John 14:31, NASB). Tampering with God's word, according to the New Testament, is disgraceful and underhanded (2 Cor. 4:1-4). Those who are approved of God handle the word of God accurately (2 Tim. 2:15).

I have no interest in legalism which seeks to establish its own righteousness based on self-made laws. (It is interesting how I have been condemned by those who uphold self-made religion, and they call me the legalist.)

I have great interest in following the path of Jesus in loving lawfulness. There is a world of difference. It is sad that the common pejorative "legalist" is placed on people who merely want to do what God says and not what man says. This shows unawareness of the meaning of the term.


Dell said...

I used the term because it fits by excepted definition. Since it doesn't fit by your definition let me restate the comment.

"I agree Christianity is not Judaism, but why the continued works of law keeping as predicated by Moses law?"

Phil Sanders said...

Jesus commanded his apostles to teach us to observe all things that he commanded.


Keith Brenton said...

Phil, you're right about David and the temple worship, and I gladly concede your point. I'd been looking for that and hadn't been able to find it.

In some ways, though, it makes me less likely to accept instrumental worship as banned in the New Testament. God commands something, never specifically repeals nor rescinds it in scripture, and yet by His silence commands something different which we must somehow intuit or discern from external sources and traditions ... or commit sin by offending His unspoken command?

That just doesn't seem like God's character as revealed in scripture.

Phil Sanders said...


The sin in this matter is in presuming we have permission to do what God has not authorized us to do. Jesus never presumed he had authority to act beyond the revealed will of God (John 12:48-50); nor did the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-13).

The methodological error of 2 John 9-11 is in going beyond what has been taught, regardless of how one understands the genitive "of Christ." We have no right to go beyond any teaching, whether about Christ or about the church or about salvation. This is why, though nothing is said in Scripture about sprinkling for baptism, sprinkling is in error for going beyond.

There is nothing in Scripture about a pope, yet it is clearly going beyond what we do know. Since the New Testament Scripture is complete and final, we have no right to presume we can develop our own ways of worship.


dell said...

Phil, are you willing to be consistent with the "silence of the Scripture" rule of hermaneutics? If you are fine, but if you aren't this is a poor rule man to use in determining God's intent for worship or anything else.

Phil Sanders said...

I have been consistent with my hermeneutic on silence. I do think that before you start bringing up expediencies, you ought to check what I have said about them. Usually when silence comes up, people confuse what I teach on specifics with what I teach on expediencies.


dell kimberly said...

You stated,

"Usually when silence comes up, people confuse what I teach on specifics with what I teach on expediencies."

I expect that expediencies would be anything you didn't want to deal with as specifics?

Phil Sanders said...

don't be so cynical. Expediencies are those areas where God allows men to fulfill his commands in a variety of ways. A great example on an expediency is Paul's taking a ship to go to Macedonia (Acts 16:9ff). A ship is not mentioned in the original instruction, but Paul reasoned that one was necessary to fulfill the command of God in the vision.


Keith Brenton said...

Phil, you know I'm not trying to impugn your motives in pursuing this. It's your logic I question. Please don't read into what I've written a disdain for your character - it isn't there!

I just believe you would be an even more powerful witness for Christ if you could try to see scripture from a broader perspective - that of what God wants FOR us as well as what He wants FROM us ... with both the left and right brain engaged.

I can't help but believe that this question of worship is about more than taking folks to the intellectual woodshed or logically proving some premise or somehow defining silence as deafening. It has to involve the entirety of scripture, and God's nature revealed in it.

When you say there is nothing in scripture that indicates that first century worship included instruments, though, you also have to concede that there is nothing that excludes them. Nor is there anything that indicates that Christians should exclude each other regarding them.

I have no desire to tell you to hush up, or to pull smokescreens or discount history.

But if we as a fellowship are going to be dogmatic about "going beyond" with regard to instruments, shouldn't we be equally dogmatic about salaried preachers, owned church buildings, unveiled women's heads, church buses, Sunday school, vacation Bible school, missionary organizations, individual communion cups, PowerPoints, microphones, pitch pipes and any number of other items which simply aren't specifically "authorized." Does that make them sin?

I have no real desire, either, to have instrumental worship where I attend. It would cause more harm than good in an environment where many folks have been taught to see scripture as primarily or only law. But I cannot see scriptural grounds for condemning others who do worship with instruments, and have been taught by practice since childhood that God accepts their accompanied singing as worship.

Thanks for taking the time to explore the subject with me, and with others here. I know we won't convince each other, but I agree it is worth discussing.

Phil Sanders said...

I really weary of your stereotyping as if I only had one view of God and had not spent my life studying His will and purpose not only for the church but also for my life.

I am neither naive, stunted in my spiritual growth, nor in a stupor. My studies of silence began with Genesis and Deuteronomy and have continued through the historical books and the gospels. I did not just dream up some negative, Pharisaical point of view and then bind it on everyone.

Why don't you show where the CHRISTIANS used instruments in their worship and end this discussion? The all-sufficiency of the New Testament Scriptures is what excludes them. God gave us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Instruments were not among them. We were guided into all the truth, and instruments did not play any part.

The problem is not that I don't understand Scripture; the problem is that you don't see the times that Scripture excludes self-made religion.

There is Scripture for salaried preachers (Gal. 6 and 1 Cor. 9). When you can't deal with IM, you must resort to naming expediencies to bolster self-made religion, as if I had never answered this before or as if no one had ever the argument before. Frankly, there is Scripture for the use of expedients to help do what God instructs. I am surprised, Keith, that you have not studied well enough to have seen this argument answered for the last century. Paul took a ship to come over to Macedonia (Acts 16). He did exactly what God desired and used the tool needed to do it. Teaching, communing, and pitch pipes help do what God says to do. (I do not believe in or support the practice of missionary organizations.)

I reject your assumption and slander that I see Scripture as only law. I see it, yes, as God's instructions to us on how to love Him; but your assumption is pejorative and naive. We must know how to love God, and God teaches us in the inspired word. Keeping that word is an act of love in response to the grace of God. When someone does not keep the commandments, he does not show love to God (That's what the Bible says in John 14:15-25; 15:8-10). I would encourage you, Keith, to go to the website and to the online tools for the book on hermeneutics I use to teach my students.

Before you decide someone is so limited, it would help to do more homework.


Falantedios said...

Dear Phil,

If God in Scripture were indeed silent about instrumental music, your championing of the authority of silence with relation to this issue would make sense. Your work on silence is indeed excellent, but it does not apply here.

The fact remains that God is not silent on the use of instrumental music in worship. First century practice is irrelevant to our discussion of authority. Paul had the authority (as an itinerant apostle, not a located pulpiteer) to receive support (not a salary). He freely relinquished that authority. It is my assertion that the Scriptures authorize instrumental music, and that the Gentile Christians relinquished the practice of it because they wanted to look different from the pagans.

You affirm that the use of musical instruments is commanded in the Hebrew Scriptures. That is not silence. That is affirmation.

1) The earliest Christians worshipped in the Temple. Only opinion and/or conjecture allow one to assume that they rejected the instrumental aspects of taht worship.

2) Paul participates in a Jewish religious vow, and encourages others to do the same. The authority to do this can only be found in the Old Testament.

2a) Therefore, not all practices authorized by the law of Moses have been cast aside under the new covenant.

2b) Further, not all practices of the law of Moses must be specifically re-authorized to be considered authorized for Christian worship.

3) Paul instructs Timothy that the Hebrew Scriptures are completely profitable for teaching, for reproof, for instruction in righteousness. This, one must think, would include everything not made obsolete by the sacrifice of Christ.

4) Revelation 5 depicts God's people worshipping him with instruments.

In these ways, God is not silent on musical instruments.

Let me be clear, as I've stated earlier. With respect to questions like this, Paul states, "Not all things are beneficial." I believe that musical instruments are authorized but not beneficial in public worship.

in HIS love,
Nick Gill
Frankfort, KY

Phil Sanders said...

Dear Nick,

I did not say God was silent about instruments. I said that God is silent about the use of instruments in Christian worship. There is a difference, and bringing up other eras (OT and heaven) does not speak with any authority to what we are to do in Christian worship.

First century practice is relevant in that it shows what in the NEW TESTAMENT is God's instructions to the church on worship and many other matters. The New Testament Scripture of the first century is the authority for the first century and the twenty-first. God was speaking to all Christians of all time in the New Testament.

There were many things commanded to Jews that were never authorized or instructed to Christians: animal sacrifice, use of incense, dancing for worship, observing the Sabbath, and various feasts just to name a few. To suggest that just because something is commanded in the OT it is affirmed in the NT is not justifiable, otherwise why do you not do all the other things commanded in the OT?

The temple complex comprised fourteen acres. It was large enough for the twelve apostles to preach in separate languages without interfering with each other. Thousands of people met there for many reasons. Jews heard and observed the Levites praising God in the temple with instruments. Only those in the priestly tribe played instruments. The common people were observers. Even if the instruments were playing in the temple, we have no record of CHRISTIANS worshiping with them. I can walk in a denominational bookstore and hear an instrumental CD. That does not mean I participated in what was on that CD. I have gone to funerals often where IM was used, but that did not mean I was worshiping with them. Being in the presence of something does not mean that I am the one doing it or that I approve it. 2 Kings 5 speaks to this issue. Naaman had a role that was official and meant he had to walk with his king. He noted that he would serve only the God of heaven, though in his official capacity he would be around idolatry. The prophet did not censure him for this. Why? Because worship is intentional and inward. Just because we are in an environment does not mean we are doing what others are doing.

Paul, at the advice of the brethren in Jerusalem, attempted to participate in a Jewish vow. Paul was Jewish, and the temple had not yet been destroyed. Paul did this with the idea of "being like a Jew to win the Jews." He is not here trying to bring the whole of Jewish practice into Christianity. In Galatians 5:1-4, he condemns the very thing you are suggesting from his example. I reject your assumption that Paul was opening the door for everything Jewish to be appropriated into Christianity. That, sir, is presumptuous ideology and eisegetical. Hebrews makes it clear that the old covenant was becoming obsolete (8:13). There apparently was a period of time, when a transition took place. But we can be sure that in the destruction of the temple God poured out his wrath on Judaism.

While 2 Timothy 3:16-17 include the Hebrew Scriptures, they also include new covenant Scriptures as well (see 1 Tim 5:18). Paul understood the need to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Any understanding of 3:16-17 that dismisses 2:15 is again misleading eisegesis. Your logic is faulty because you assume far too much.

How many things in Revelation 5 are real, and how many are figurative? Even if we could be sure that there are real harps in heaven, what has that to do with us here? Our task is to do what we have been told to do here, to be faithful to our instructions. When you can show me the Divine instruction to Christians to use instruments in Christian worship, our discussion will be over. I've been waiting for nearly forty years.

Nick, the instrument is neither authorized nor beneficial. It is the source of endless strife and born of culture not of God. I warn all men to stay away from it.

With respect and love,

Anonymous said...

I don't want IM, but I have studied with many people outside of the church on the silence issue and they ask me if I truly believe the arguments. Their response, which is not out of open rebellion, but simple common sense, is that I seem to be drinking the cool-aid on the issue. It's the same way I felt after reading the Wallace-Hunt debate. The explanation seems so long and contrived.


Phil Sanders said...

Raymond Kelcy used to say that the two most difficult concepts to get across to people is the silence issue and the undenominational character of the church. He is right.

In my personal, evangelistic Bible studies, I have always tried to make it simple. God does not permit us to act beyond what He has instructed us in His revealed Word.

I don't think that is difficult to understand. Each time we order something online, we specify what we want and would not tolerate the company sending us additional merchandise and charging us for it.

When I go to the telephone book, I go for the right numbers. There is no statement in the phone telling me not to dial some other number and still expect to get a particular party. The listing of the right number is sufficient.

We must learn to do what God says, and I think the problem with many people who think we are crazy is that they have never been exposed to the teaching. I suspect many sprinkled folks through the centuries felt that way about the immersers. People don't like to hear about the need to change, even when it is change back to God's will.


Keith Brenton said...

I have ordered your book on and am looking forward to reading it.

Chuck Dorsey said...


We've discussed a few years ago on the old GA message board that you controlled and then eliminated. I notice that you claim you've debated Christian Church persons on the IM issue. Quit frankly, I find your exegesis of the biblical text wanting on this issue as well as your logic.

I'm a former Church of Christer, born and bred, and serving in the Church of Christ as a minister for over 12 years. I'm a graduate of Freed-Hardeman and Harding Graduate School. Now I serve as a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). It is my opinion that you are the modern day classic example of a CENIer well versed in confronting the IM issue that has divided the great unity movement Campbell and Stone envisioned.

So, what I'm proposing is an old fashioned opportunity for debate. I question not your zeal, nor your integrity at all ... I do call into question your hermeneutic which creates laws where God has made no laws. It is a hermeneutic that has created laws that, in turn, has created division.

How such a debate would be engaged is open to negotiation and preference. I simply extend to you this invitation. You may respond by emailing me at

Chuck Dorsey

Phil Sanders said...

Dear Chuck,

I think you've probably said more about yourself than about me. So you were a "Church of Christer." I am not nor have I ever been. You say that you are in the Stone-Campbell movement. I am not. I belong to Jesus, and He added me to his church.

It appears your beliefs have led you into a Disciples congregation. They have always sought to fellowship the mainstream and be regarded so. Does this mean you fellowship the sprinkled as well as use IM?

While I am familiar with the old arguments opposing IM, I actually have developed my own. As for division, I think you have to look beyond the hermeneutics to personality issues for much of the division you speak about. Heresies, factions, divisions, and fusses all too often have personality issues that drag doctrine in.

I have been listening to progressives for nearly three decades and have yet to hear their hermeneutic; all they say is our hermeneutic is bad. Most of the time progressive hermeneutics is simply compromise, loopholes, and rebellion, since grace covers it all anyway.

Perhaps it is time for debate. The last fellow who challenged me to debate (at Faulkner a couple of years ago) fled the scene. Perhaps now is a time to revive the matter.


As for GA, I never had any control of that board; it was open to all.