What led me to change my beliefs?

What led me to believe the teachings of the churches of Christ were wrong after 12 years of being a preacher?

Well, during gospel meetings the preachers would always say, “If I am wrong on any point, I would be most grateful if you would point it out to me, because yours and my salvation depend on it,” or words to that effect.

One of the first things that didn’t make sense to me was the idea that people would lose their salvation over instrumental music, but not over women’s headcovering. So if someone used a piano in church, they were lost and going to hell, but if they taught error about whether a woman had to wear a headcovering on her head during church (I Cor. 11) they were not lost. It was somehow okay to be in error on one point, but not on another. When I asked what the distinction was I was told, “Two hundred years of restoration history have shown which issues cause division and which issues do not.” Or “The church has agreed not to divide over the headcovering.”
“But what if a person believes error about a piano?”
“They dragged organs and pianos into churches and forced people to worship with the piano playing. They made it a divisive issue.” (in the 1920s)
“So if they did not make it a divisive issue, and just believed error, but didn’t push it, they would be saved?”
“No. Issues that were divisive in the past are matters of fellowship and withdrawal and false teaching now.”

If they had said so in the beginning I would have let go of the whole system a long time ago. It finally comes down to: What my parents believe and what my best friends believe is what I will defend.

That was the first crack in the wall. The next problem was the fact that God really wanted instruments of music in worship in the Old Testament: even a Psalm of David talking about the instruments that were to be used to worship God,  was used for a short quote in the New Testament (Psalm 98:3,5; Luke 1:54; Psalm 68:18-25; Eph. 4:8). The writer in the New Testament never said, “I’m quoting from this Psalm, but remember we don’t use instruments of music after the death of Christ; it is different now.” (The doctrine of a sharp divide between before and after the cross is used to defend no instruments of music in worship.) In fact the two passages (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) used by anti-instrumental music teachers do not condemn the use of instrumental music. Certainly no Jewish person in the first century reading the Jewish Paul’s words would ever come to the conclusion that Paul was against using instruments of music in worship to God.

So when I brought up these inconsistencies I was expecting erudite Greek arguments. But the Greek argument I received was: “The Greek Orthodox Church never used instruments of music.” Or “You’re going liberal.” Or “That’s not what I was taught.” Or  “Well then, go join the Christian Church.” And the best one, “No sound teacher agrees with you.”

The facade of honest biblical inquiry, and “speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent”, began to crumble. Behind the facade was a parade of brethren that looked suspiciously like the Ku Klux Klan: projecting their fears and sins onto outgroups and patting themselves on their own backs, similar to the Pharisee who went up to the temple to pray: “Thank You, Lord for not making me one of those sinners, swindlers, unjust, adulterers, especially not like that tax-gatherer for the enemy over there. I fast twice a week, I give a tenth of all I earn…” (Luke 18). “I go to church three times a week, and I sift the book of Acts for all of the rules…”

Finally I went to graduate school. I had to write papers that were logical. I could not. I was instructed repeatedly to rewrite my papers and take the logic step by step, citing primary sources at each step. Eventually I could do it, and I received my master’s degree. Then I read an article written by a preacher in the churches of Christ, or I sat and listened to a sermon. Wow! Talk about ignorance, talk about an inability to follow a straight line of logic, and this is what they take pride in: their logic will get them to heaven. (They would take one topic [baptism], and get ultra logical about it. Then they would decide they were ultra logical about all topics, without having to prove it.)

So that was the beginning of the end.

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About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
This entry was posted in Command, Example and Necessary Inference, Instrumental Music and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to What led me to change my beliefs?

  1. Gigi says:

    I actually prayed once thanking God that I wasn’t born Baptist. 😉 Good words here. The house of cards came tumbling down…

  2. John says:

    Hello. I find your blog interesting and was wondering if you could answer a few questions regarding one who supports no instruments in worship service from the following points of views?

    1)Ephesians 5:19 has two parts: Singing + Making Melody. The “making melody” is translated from the Greek word “psallo.” It means to “pluck or twang.” The adverbial phrase that follows tells where this action takes place. It is “in the heart” and not on a harp. This fixes the locus of the “plucking” in a figurative sense. Note the contrast with the physical, Old Testament worship (McClintock and Strong’s Encyclopedia, Vol. VIII, p739; Thayer’s Greek Lexicon on “psallo”; personal discussion with Dr. Adrian Herren).

    2)Psalm 150, by inspiration, encourages and names instruments of music to be used in praising God. Yet, the early church under the guidance of the Apostles–having these very scriptures before their eyes–did not use them to worship God but just simply sang instead.

    3)The Psalms are not a “worship manual” for specifics about New Covenant worship.

    4)The scriptures of the very early church were the Old Testament. The New Testament writings were not in existence from the start. (example: Acts 17: 2,3 + 2 Timothy 3:15)

    5)Even as recent as the 19th century, religious leaders of most denominations condemned the use of mechanical instruments during worship.”a cappella” means “at chapel.”

    6)The acappella practice was so standard that it took about 400 years for someone to change it (“A Cappella Singing” by Dr. William M. Green, Professor of classical languages, University of California, Berkeley, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, by E. Ferguson)

    7)That instrumental music was absent from Christian worship during the days of the inspired Apostolic teaching (John 14:26; Acts 2: 42) proves that the Apostles, who were very familiar with the use of instruments in Temple worship, never encouraged churches to use them.

    8)The above also means that the Holy Spirit never encouraged churches to use instruments (John 14:26) in spite of the fact that it once did so in a direct way (2 Chronicles 29:25).

    9)In the Old Testament, God asked for singing + instrumental music for use in worship (2 Chronicles 29:25-26; Psalm 150). It was
    something they could be sure about. Very specific.

    10)They had the very scriptures before them that approved and encouraged the use of instruments right down to the naming of specific types (2 Chronicles 29:25-26; Psalm 150). And at the time of the early church, instruments were available and many Christians had the talent to play them … yet this talent was not exercised in worship. The Old Testament scripture was not followed.

    11)The design of the New Covenant worship will be different than that of the Old Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31; John 4:23; Hebrews 7:12; 10:1,10; 9:1). Many physical things of the Old pointed to their true substance in the New. For example, in the Old it was the priests that offered physical sacrifices to God, but in the New everyone is a priest with spiritual sacrifices to offer (1 Peter 2:5). It is specifically the “fruit of lips” that is the sacrifice of praise asked for (Hebrews 13:15) and not the sounds from man-made devices. (See ThingsOld and New in Religion, by Hoyt Bailey, for more examples.)

    12)Since we cannot be absolutely certain that God finds the use of musical instruments an appropriate form of worship, then it seems quite foolish to risk His wrath by adding something which He did not clearly authorize us to do during collective worship.

    13)The facts show that we cannot be sure that God approves the use of instrumental music in worship. This makes it a “questionable” and “unsure” matter.

    14)However, the facts show that we can be absolutely sure that just singing has God’s approval. All can agree upon this.

    15)The total context argues strongly that the non-use of the instrument is a matter of design (i.e., it was no accident that it was left out).

    16)It is well to remember that when God specifies a path to follow, we should follow it with full faith in the superiority of God (Isaiah 55:8) … for it is not in man to direct his own steps (Jeremiah 10:23).

    17) If we are going to use instrumental instruments in worship based on old testament scripture, can we have more than one wife, sacrifice animals, and preform other old testament customs in worship?

    17)If one uses no instruments in worship service, will they be condemned?

    Thank you.

    • Hi John, Your argument about instrumental music assumes:
      1. That we have to have authorization in the Scriptures for all forms of worship.
      2. That our worship needs to be the same as early church worship.
      3. That all the churches in the early church worshiped the same.
      4. That the apostle Paul was talking about group church worship when he wrote to the Ephesians.
      5. That the apostle Paul’s comment about singing and making melody in the heart was a legal statement, that left out any other forms of musical worship.
      6. That Jesus’ teachings about our daily lives was not the center of Jesus’ teaching.
      7. That the central point of the New Testament was to establish an organization with a code of worship.
      None of these assumptions is correct, so I cannot comment on your post. Jesus came to show us a merciful way to live. He sacrificed himself for us, and the apostles and early church responded to that sacrifice and teaching.
      Then the early church quickly codified a form of worship, and a hierarchy, because that is far easier to measure and regulate than the thoughts in people’s hearts. And we have been astray ever since.

  3. Me again, haha- I just discovered this. I hope you don’t mind my curiosity and questions 🙂
    I have to say, the arguments that were given to you were really bad, so I can understand why you weren’t satisfied with them. What opened my eyes the most concerning instrumental music was this:
    The OT was a clearly physical type of the spiritual that would come after Christ, which I hope we can agree on. Everything about our service to Christ today is spiritual and is a matter of the heart and our willingness to keep in step with the Spirit. So, for example, the priests would spend so much time preparing their outward man to go to the temple and perform these sacrifices daily, as commanded. Yet, this translates to Christians preparing their hearts daily, putting on the new man and becoming living sacrifices. We do inwardly what they did outwardly.
    Now in Acts, Paul makes the appeal in 17:22-31 that God doesn’t dwell in these temples made of hands, nor is he served by human hands, though that is very much contrary to how He related to His people in the OT. Yet, when Christ fulfilled that Law and brought this better law, He revealed how we are intended to serve and worship Him: with our hearts and our being, by the Spirit.
    In the Old Testament they worshiped God with their hands by strings and instruments, and today we worship Him just with our hearts and our voices, as described in the NT. Why would we need instruments?
    That was just so compelling to me because it fits the beautiful picture of the wisdom of God in the OT type and how Christ perfected that and brought out the spiritual, which is really wonderfully described in Hebrews and also Romans.
    And then of course, but not as convincing of a thought, what can you do with the truth that no use of instrumental music in worship was evidenced until several centuries after the scriptures were completed?

    • Hi Crunchy Christian,
      I half agree with you. The outward forms of temple worship in the Old Testament were symbolic of the spiritual truths in the New.
      I have three responses:
      1. The Apostle John said there are instruments of music in heaven. Why none in the church?
      2. Everything about the way Churches of Christ interpret serving God is Old Testament in attitude: a. Assemble every Sunday, b. Take the Lord’s Supper, unleavened bread and wine, c. Sing, d. Pray, e. Give money, f. Preach. In setting forth these rules the Churches of Christ have come up with an outward vehicle to carry their worship in. Jesus seldom talked about worship, and never talked about church worship. Most of what he taught was self-sacrifice, how to love one another, and not to be selfish. None of the obedience Jesus asked for required a formalized rule bound vehicle to carry itself in. I don’t need to be doing church to be practicing what Jesus taught. In fact, Jesus was kicked out of all his churches (synagogues) he was a member of or visited regularly, and that didn’t affect what he practiced and taught. Yet the Churches of Christ say, “Unless you have this particular worship vehicle, you cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
      3. The Quakers believed that rituals were a form of self dependence that interfered with dependence solely on God. “I was baptized.” “I took the Lord’s Supper.” So they eliminated all outward physical rituals and forms of worship and sat silently at church waiting for the Holy Spirit to inspire someone to speak. This is a logical step for someone who believes the outward forms of the Old Testament were done away with and only the heart was left.

  4. Phil says:

    It’s interesting that logical conclusions are relied upon to understand abstact spiritual principles in the coC. Faith is not founded in logic. Grace is not logical. The fact that God is infinite is not logical. Logic is based upon temporal principles and yet seem to that which those in the coC use to prove infinite truth. There is a place for reason and logic but it does not explain the lofty truth that is the basis for faith.

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