Not worth the fight

I guess it’s no secret that the topic of music is a highly-charged one in our brotherhood. I don’t plan to get into that argument per se; you can look at the discussion going on over at Jay Guin’s blog if you don’t know what I’m talking about (I would send you directly to, but there is a brother there who insists on completely dominating the discussion. If you can’t be coherent, be loud).

Something that concerns me about the historical view held within our brotherhood are the multiplicity of arguments used to support, many which actually contradict the others. I can’t help but wonder if, when pressed on the matter, if these brothers would insist that others hold exactly to their view or is belief in the same practice enough?

The typical assertion about baptism is that the act isn’t enough, that you need to hold to the proper understanding. Does the same hold true about music? If one believes that all use of instruments in the Bible was sinful while another holds that the Old Testament allowed instruments but the New Testament doesn’t, do they believe the same thing? If one believes that the Greek word “psallo” excludes the use of instruments while another believes it refers to instruments, but that our instrument is the heart, do they believe the same thing? I could go on and on.

My fear is that we are starting from a conclusion, then working backwards to support it. If not, why the wide variety of opinions to support our practice? Many of these beliefs, might I add, are virtually unique to the person holding them.

I’m an a cappella guy. My roots are in the a cappella church, and unless I can see something of real substance to be gained by bringing in instruments, I’m not interested. But I’ve read the arguments that try to make this a critical issue, from the bizarro world of Piney to well-reasoned arguments by men like Everett Ferguson and Jack Boyd. I’m just not convinced.

It’s not worth the fight. Not worth the fight to make people use instruments, not worth the fight to make them stop. God is quite capable of expressing himself clearly on important issues. And he chose not to on this issue. Because it’s not worth the fight.

17 thoughts on “Not worth the fight

  1. Vern

    Just wondering if you use a microphone with your voice haven’t you crossed the line already? Assuming there was a line in the first place. If you are hearing an amplified, digital approximation of your voice, does that still count as a God created voice? So shouldn’t microphones be banned in the church as well. Many preachers of old, did just fine without amplification. God forbid we start talking about mp3 files.

    One could ask more questions to show this is not really a question we should be dealing with.

  2. Tim Archer Post author


    Historically a difference has been made between what is merely an aid and what isn’t. The argument is made that singing and playing are different activities while singing with a mike is the same activity, just with an aid.

    Don’t want to pull you into our brotherhood’s fights, just want you to know that there has been a lot of thought put into this over the last few centuries. Many Churches of Christ, some Orthodox churches, etc. have decided that instrumental music is not God’s will for the church.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  3. K. Rex Butts

    I’m with you Tim. I find the arguments made (which I used to make as well) to be unconvincing that instrumental worship is biblically wrong but it’s not my agenda necessarily to become instrumental for the sake of adding instruments. Further, I completely agree when you say “My fear is that we are starting from a conclusion, then working backwards to support it. ”

    I have a small clip of Francis Chan asking the question of whether or not Christians would really respond to the gospel by praying a Sinner’s Prayer is they just read the Bible without be taught a pre-assumption external to scripture about how those who believe in Jesus should respond to him (Chan believes we would only conclude that we are to repent and be baptized). I believe his question can also be asked to those who conclude that instruments are wrong…would they really arrive at that conclusion from just reading scripture without being taught any pre-assumptions eternal to scripture as to how scripture is to be read (hermeneutics) regarding silence, regulation, etc… And here is where I am increasingly passionate about criticizing because I believe that such pre-assumptions ultimately teach people to read the Bible not to be a follower of Jesus but to be a follower of a church that never existed based on proof-texting of scripture. The result has been an adventure in missing the point. For example, in Churches of Christ there was great division over “how” we should do missions and help orphans (missionary societies, supporting orphan homes) rather than just getting it done (sending missionaries, helping orphans). Jesus must be shaking his head…all those orphans in need of help and some of my people are busy arguing over how they should help them…folly!..all those nations in need of hearing the gospel and some of my people are arguing over how to send out and support missionaries.

    Grace and Peace,


  4. Clyde Symonette

    Hi Tim:

    You said: “Not worth the fight to make people use instruments, not worth the fight to make them stop.”

    I appreciate your post. I don’t think the intent is to coerce anyone into using instruments. Aside from the pundits who obviously enjoy debating, I believe the question is this: Why can’t non-instrumentalists, instrumentalist and those who don’t care just all get along?

  5. heavenbound

    I have always thought instruments inhance the voice. The voice is the instrument used to express thought. Music played expresses thought and feeling of emotion even the psalmist talks about playing instruments in praise and worship. Psalm 149 verse 3
    Let them praise his name in the dance; let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.
    Psalm 150 :
    praise ye the Lord Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in the firmament of his power. V3 praise him with the sound of the trumpet; praise him with the psaltery and harp. V4. Praise him with the timbrel and dance; praise him with stringed instruments and organs. V5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals; praise him upon the high sounding cymbols V6 Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.
    Now how can we stand and say that the bible doesn’t instruct us how to praise the Lord with singing, praise aided by instruments made by man………

  6. Tim Archer Post author

    Please don’t make me present the arguments for or against instrumental music. Let me just say that if you try to dismiss either side by a quick comment or by citing a passage here or there, you’re only showing that you haven’t understood the other side of the argument.
    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  7. H Clay McCool

    I believe the BIGGER question is, are we being divisive over the use of the instrument?

    This I do know for sure, being divisive is sinful.

  8. Vern

    You comments are helpful. Just that point about an activity versus an aid is helpful. But as Paul said let each be fully persuaded in their own mind, but that doesn’t mean we should divide from each other. Rather bear each other in love. Love is the essence of the greatest commandment.

  9. Vern

    Just on a personal note, it is much easier for me to sing with a guitar than without. In that sense, would it be just an aid or an activity? I’m not really into instrumental music as I believe we generally need words to convey a clear message. Apart from sign language of course.

  10. Clyde Symonette

    The question of divisiveness is only raise if one side, despite all of the evidences, insists that its my way or the highway. That’s sinful..

  11. Keith Brenton

    I’ve said this in the comments at New Wineskins, but felt it worth repeating. When Jay proposed the theme for this edition, we agreed it was “worth the fight” because it’s part of the ministry of reconciliation – with each other, as well as with God – and that doesn’t end with evangelism.

    If we can’t discuss this issue and come to some sort of peace about it, what kind of witnesses for Christ are we in this world?

    There have been very few opportunities for both points of view to dialogue and exchange ideas … most of it in the comments has been remarkably civil; some of it had to be deleted not because I disagreed with the content, but because it consisted of (uncredited) paste-ins of sermons from other Web sites – which risks violating authors’ copyrights.

    I sincerely believe that there are parts of scripture that are (as Peter terms it) “hard to understand” because the Lord desires us to meditate on them, ask for His Spirit to help us with them – and desires us to speak with each other about them to gain a greater, common understand of them … and each other.

    My conclusion on the issue is that it is covered by Romans 14 because New Testament scripture doesn’t specifically mention it; there is no intrinsic right or wrong attached to it. I think it’s worth talking about if only to see whether I am just as off-the-mark about it as the loud and incoherent brother who believes that all music should be banned from public worship, vocal or instrumental.

  12. Ken Sublett

    Romans 14 forbids any doubtful disputations which do not edify. In this context, edify means to educate. The sects in Rome were identified by the days they came to the market and the food stalls they attended or took their usually common meal.

    In Romans 15 Paul defines the role of what he calls “synagogue” using the terms come together, assemble or gather. He forbids self-pleasure which in both Greek and Latin identify all of the performing arts. He then commands that we use “that which is written for our learning” using one mind and one mouth. He calls that “Scripture” as psalms (no meter included), hymns (prayer or speaking) and spiritual songs (inspired.”

    That defines, inclusively and exclusively, the role of the Qahal, synagogue or Church in the wilderness whiich educated people: they PREACHED the Word by READING the Word. “They sung a hymn” is the once-a-year example of Jesus where “hymn” in Greek means to recite Scripture and in Latin, Dicto means to speak. That fits Paul’s direct command to SPEAK that which is written for our learning. Speak is what you do in what the Campbells called A School of Christ.

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