With the last e-magazine issue of New Wineskins basically advocating and encouraging the use of instruments in Christian worship, it is natural to expect those who disagree to speak out. I am not one of those.
The Gospel Advocate is one of those magazines whose writer’s are opposed to instrumental music in Christian worship and have devoted certain articles in two recent issues to their cause (no surprise). Admittedly, I rarely read the GA anymore unless I see an article from someone I know. And so that happened with the Novemenber 2010 issue.
I am writing this blog post because of the article titled “Expectations of Those Assembled” (p. 13-14) by Dr. Duane Warden. The thrust of his article is to make an appeal for reason alongside of emotion in the practice of the assembled church. I have no argument against that. Finding the correct mix between heart and mind may be difficult, but both are necessary for loving God.
What I disagree with is the subtle, perhaps unintended, hint that those who are not opposed to instrumental worship in the Christian assembly have abandoned reason. Dr. Warden writes, “Reason is a necessary component of faith. It is faith’s fuel box. That baptism is for the remission of sins is not less spiritually significant because it evokes controversy. It matters whether or not the church sings to the accompaniment of instruments of music” (p. 14).
I have no doubt that there are some in the Churches of Christ and the larger Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement who have made their mind up in favor of instrumental worship without ever considering the reasons for the case of a capella worship. I am not one of them. I was raised in an a capella congregation and received most of my college education from a university that taught a capella worship.
The point of this post is not to make a case for instrumental worship nor deconstruct the case for a capella worship. But I do want to briefly say that I have heard all of the arguments for a capella worship, I’ve learned a few things about the hermeneutics which the arguments rest upon, I’ve learned a few things about the way the arguments have developed within the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, and I’ve even learned a few things about the specific passages traditionally used to build the case for a capella worship… but as I have thought (reason) through everything, I have come to disagree with the conclusion that instrumental music in Christian worship is wrong. And I know other preachers, teachers, and leaders in the Churches of Christ who have reached the same or similar conclusion by way of reason too.
The fact is that when I began to answer God’s call for ministry, I believed that instrumental music in Christian worship was absolutely wrong and I would have defended that belief as vigorous as my capabilities would allow. Then I started thinking for myself and reading scripture for myself, rather than just assuming what I had always been taught. I started giving consideration to viewpoints from others that were different from my own at the time. And that is what has led me to change my mind on this issue…and I know I am not alone either.
My point is not to encourage or discourage the instrumentalist and a capella practitioners from their practice of worship. My point is simple: As the question of instrumental vs. a capella worship seems to have a rekindled fire in Churches of Christ, I want to point out that believing the use of instrumental music in Christian worship is not an unbiblical practice is a conclusion reached by reasoning in the scriptures, with theology, and so forth.
Feel free to leave any comments or questions. But please remember, I am not arguing for or against instrumental worship here. I am simply pointing out that acceptance of instrumental worship is not without reason.
I want to state that my disagreement with Dr. Duane Warden is in no way a judgment on Dr. Warden’s faith. I am actually a former student of Dr. Warden’s, having had him for a undergraduate class in the General Epistles (James,;1 & 2 Peter; 1, 2, & 3 John; and Jude) at Harding University. He always struck me as an open-minded professor who is both a New Testament Scholar and a lover of God and his scripture.