An article in the August, 29, 1999, edition of Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper told of David Lipscomb University’s dismissal one of its Bible professors because the congregation where the professor served as a minister had begun to use instrumental music in its worship services.
Doug Varnado, professor of Bible for 17 years and director of a campus missions program, was forced to resign after the Community Church of Christ (CCC) in Hendersonville, Tennessee, began using recorded instrumental music earlier this year. (The CCC is the result of a split in the Hendersonville Church of Christ some nine years ago.) The article was replete with innuendo and error. However, being familiar with the Tennessean, I know the paper’s Religion Editor, Ray Waddle, is no friend of the Lord’s church. Thus, it is difficult to know how accurately Mr. Waddle paraphrased and interpreted those whom he interviewed. Nevertheless, we will examine the article assuming Waddle accurately conveyed the intended meaning of the interview participants. According to the article, “This spring, the church leadership declared publicly that instrumental music was not a ‘salvation’ issue. It’s not important if the church adds instrumental music on occasion.” First, by what authority does CCC, or anyone else, add anything to the worship of God? We are commanded to do all things according to the authority of Jesus Christ (Col. 3:17). Paul warned the Corinthians against going beyond the things that are written (1 Cor. 4:6). To add instrumental music to the worship of the New Testament church is to transgress (go beyond) the law of God and in so doing, to commit sin (1 John 3:4). The article continued, “More important (than instrumental music–TC) is a faith community that shows compassion for people seeking God.” Are the issues of acceptable worship and compassion for the lost mutually exclusive? Can one not seek to worship God acceptably while at the same time show genuine concern for the lost? What good does it do to convert a man only to teach him error concerning the worship of God? In giving the Great Commission, Jesus said we are to make disciples by “baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20). Does the use of instrumental music in worship qualify as one of those things which Jesus commanded us to teach and observe? Or, does the use of instrumental music in worship fall under condemnation as a tradition of men (Matt 15:9)? The article insinuates that those of us who desire to worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) have no compassion for the lost. Later in the article, Varnado is quoted as saying, “Everybody’s welcome here.” Again, this is nothing more than insinuation. As we have already shown, one of the favorite tactics of digressives is to portray faithful brethren as unkind and unloving. Is it unkind to desire to obey God? The prophet Samuel told King Saul, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). Apparently, digressives believe that the appearance of kindness and love is better than to obey! Again, obedience is not mutually exclusive to kindness and love. Furthermore, Varnado’s statement of inclusion is refuted in the very same paragraph of the article. The article noted that one minister quit over the introduction of the instrument, and five other members (and we assume their families) were forced to leave to save their jobs at Goodpasture Christian School. This attitude disregards the teaching of Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. Despite the aforementioned statement of CCC’s leadership, how the church is to worship is a salvation matter. However, for the sake of showing their inconsistency, let’s assume the use of instrumental music in worship is an optional matter. If CCC is going to practice what Paul taught about love, unity, and matters of opinion, they must refrain from using the instrument in order to maintain peace and unity among the local flock. To the contrary, CCC’s leadership was so intent on having the instrument that they were willing to do so at the expense of losing one of their ministers and numerous members! How’s that for being kind and loving?! Ron Cook, a member and former elder at CCC, was eager to offer his opinion of the situation. He said, “God made music; God surrounds us with music every day. It’s absurd to say we can’t give music back to God.” Question: Did God really make music, or did He give man the ability to make music? Does God really surround us with music every day? If so, which music is God’s? Is the thumping and pounding of some teenager’s car stereo God’s music? How about the lyrics of most modern music? When people drive by and force me to listen to outrageous and vulgar lyrics, am I to assume the deafening noise I’m hearing is God- given? If so, then I should not attempt to get away! Does Cook really believe congregational singing is not music given back to God? One accusation often leveled at members of the church is, “You don’t believe in music.” My response is always, “That is only true if singing does not constitute worship.” God not only desires music in worship to Him, He demands it. However, the music God has authorized in worship is a capella, congregational singing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Also, is it really absurd to think there are some things created by God that do not belong in the worship of God? If we could ask Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10) if there were some God-given items that do not belong in worship, what do you think they might say? Would you expect to hear, “God made all kinds of fire; it is absurd to think we cannot offer to him any kind of fire we wish”? I doubt it! Paul condemned the Corinthians because they had perverted the Lord’s Supper and made of it a gluttonous, segregated feast. Do you reckon any Corinthians, in response to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11, said the following, “God made food and drink; it is absurd to think we cannot use any kind of food we desire in observing the Lord’s supper?” It is not difficult to see the ridiculousness of Cook’s statements and position on the matter. The article concluded with Cook predicting that “the music issue will fade away once young churchgoers, awash daily in music, become church leaders.” Said Cook, “Instrumental music is already a part of youth events that happen at churches. Teenagers love Christian music. Music is a fact of life. It’s inevitable.” Cook assumes our youngsters cannot be taught the proper place of instrumental music in the life of a Christian. I have listened to secular music ever since I was a small boy. I can still remember singing with my father as we listened to his favorite songs on the radio. But I have never given a moment’s thought to trying to force the instrument into the worship of God. Why? Because I was taught better! Obviously, Mr Cook’s formal religious training leaves somewhat to be desired. Brethren, if all Christians would train their children in the way that they should go, the music issue would go away, because our children would not tolerate it! Apostasy is NOT inevitable, no matter what the digressives among us may say or imply! The key to making any issue of false teaching go away is proper teaching. May God help us to this end!