Frank wrote about Cutting the Roast off:
“Your article about opposition to instrumental music in church worship merely being “traditional” is simply wrong and superficially written. I have found that those who get emotionally “burned out” in a conservative approach to Bible authority start such diatribes. In fact, the arguments for acappella (in the style of the church) is scripturally conservative. God tells us how He wants to be worshipped and served (Jn 4:23-24, 8:31-32, Phil 3:3, Col. 3:17). He tells us to sing (Col 3:16, Heb 13:15). The instrument specified is the heart (Eph 5:19). There is no similar clarity in requiring worshipping with mechanical instruments, so there is no clear authority directing us that God wants such in His worship. It’s surprising you could have preached for 12 years and not know this.”
Yes, I am familiar with all of those verses. And your note reveals the problem in Church of Christ theology: that one can plonk a verse down and that proves everything. The only problem is that the verses don’t make sense when viewed in their context. None of the verses you mentioned is in the context of the congregational worship service. Churches of Christ assume, systematically, that any verse that mentions the five forms of Church of Christ worship: preach, pray, give money, Lord’s Supper and sing–are automatically talking about the congregational worship service. (Any passages that mention individual worship: fasting, praying alone, giving to the poor, forgiving people we are angry at, etc. are not mentioned even 10% as much as the passages the Church of Christ assumes are about the congregational worship.)
Let’s take the verses Frank uses to prove acapella (no piano, no guitar) worship in congregational singing:
1. Eph. 5: 19–The apostle Paul says instead of getting drunk, be filled with the Spirit, sing to one another, making melody in the heart to the Lord. The next verse goes on to describe how to treat one’s spouse, how to treat one’s children, one’s parents, employees, boss, etc. There is no indication in the letter to the Ephesians that the Apostle Paul was writing about the congregational worship service. There is no reference to the Ephesians even meeting together.
2. Col. 3:16–This passage is very similar to the Ephesians passage. Paul instructs the Christians in Colossae to put away evil, to put away racism, to put on God’s virtues, to teach and admonish one another in wisdom, to sing with thankful hearts to God, and to do it all in the name of Jesus. Wives and husbands are instructed how to treat each other, etc. Again, no reference to the congregational worship service in the entire letter, except that the letter be read in the church.
3. Heb. 13:15–“let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name.” I fail to see singing in this passage of scripture, I see confessing that Christ is the Savior here, but even if one could prove singing, one still could not prove the writer is referring to the congregational worship service.
The reason I make this distinction: singing at home or singing in the congregation, is that the Church of Christ usually makes such a distinction. 90% of people in the hard line Church of Christ say one cannot use a piano at church, but one can use a piano when singing hymns at home alone; the rule only applies to the worship service.
But the biggest problems with Frank’s argument are:
1. that it assumes we are to find a blueprint for congregational worship today in the letters written to the first century churches. And the assumption is that the worship prescriptions are so precise that if it even one time says: “make melody in your heart to God” that becomes the only authorized place one can make melody: the heart. Not on a piano, not on a guitar, in the heart.
2. This method of interpreting Paul’s writings would confuse the early Jewish Christians who sang the Psalms which often had references to praising God with cymbals and harps and lutes.
3. that it assumes the format of the congregational worship service is incredibly important, such that it has special methods of inferring biblical authority (command, example and necessary inference). We don’t need to use those same methods of interpretation for individual piety and obedience at home, only for congregational worship on Sunday.
4. that it assumes all the first century churches had a strict worship format on Sunday mornings. None of them differed. God did not leave it up to each church to worship and praise the way their culture would naturally praise and worship. What Jesus, the apostles and the New Testament writers taught about was personal piety and how to conduct one’s day to day life. There is very little about how to conduct a worship assembly, or how to organize a congregation. It is assumed by the writers the congregation and worship will be almost exactly like a synagogue of the first century. But there is no indication in any of the teachings that this format is important to God. What is important to God is clearly taught. There is no need to search for it in odd ways that make no sense to people outside of the Church of Christ.
5. that it assumes there are no cultural, social or historical factors that went into the format of the early worship services.
6. that it assumes God is a devious God that hides his commandments in obscure verses about singing and making melody in one’s heart. And that only the vigilant can figure out that the format in the Psalms of singing with cymbals, harp and lute have changed to a New Testament format with no cymbals, harp and lute, even though the Psalms, which are commanded for us to sing in the same passage, specify instrumental music.