Larry Ray Hafley


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Contending for the Faith

Instrument VS Non-Instrument


(The article below with the title above was sent to me with the request that I review it. I have done so in segments, interspersing my remarks with his. Mr. Mattingly's comments appear in italics.)

Gary Mattingly - Christian Church preacher

    First and foremost, we must see that there is a fundamental difference in the hermeneutics (This is the interpretation of Scripture) between the two groups. The non-instrumental brethren see the 'silence of the Scripture' to be a prohibition. If the scriptures do not have a "thus saith the Lord" on a subject, then, to this group, we must not do it. They feel that the New Testament says nothing about instruments, therefore, they should be refused in worship.

    We, within the Christian Church/Church of Christ, use a hermeneutic that says for the most part, if there is silence in Scripture, we can use liberty on the subject. If the Scripture does not say 'thou shalt use an instrument in worship', we find this a liberty. We can use it or not use it. This is the underlying cause for our differences today in the instrumental issue. You must see this clearly before you can talk about this further. This is a must to see!

Silence Of The Scriptures A Prohibition?

First, before we begin, let it be noted that Gary Mattingly has admitted that he can find no scriptural authority for mechanical instruments of music in worship. If he had such authority, he could not argue has he has done in this treatise. If the premises of his reasoning in this essay are true, instrumental music cannot be justified by any reference to Scripture. Forevermore, he has cut himself off from every appeal to the Bible to justify their use. He cannot cite the Old Testament. He cannot reason that the scriptural terms, "sing," "psalms," or "make melody," include the instrument in their meaning. No, he can never make such arguments, for he here contends that the use of such instruments is without a "'thus saith the Lord'."

As we shall see below, he quotes Isaac Errett with approval and agrees with Errett that the use of instrumental music lies "outside of 'plain precepts', that is, Scriptural teachings." Unless and until Mr. Mattingly repudiates that assessment, he may never use Scripture to sustain his use of instrumental music. (Be assured that if we have further discussion of this issue with Mr. Mattingly, we shall not let him forget this inescapable conclusion.)

Second, though Gary Mattingly has correctly assessed the positions, his remarks are "incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial." What we "feel" about the silence of the Scriptures, and what the Christian Church practices matters not at all. The issue is, "What does the Bible teach?" Does the word of God show that "if there is silence in Scripture, we can use liberty on the subject," or does it teach that, "If the scriptures do not have a 'thus saith the Lord' on a subject, then...we must not do it"? Answering those vital questions shall be the topic of this part of our study, for as Mr. Mattingly has said, "(We) must see this clearly before (we) can talk about this further."

Before we proceed, however, it would be good to hear Gary comment further on his qualifying remark regarding the silence of the Scriptures giving men the right to act. He said, "We, within the Christian Church/Church of Christ, use a hermeneutic that says for the most part, if there is silence in Scripture, we can use liberty on the subject." Did you catch his qualifier? Observe, the phrase, "for the most part." When Mr. Mattingly replies to our remarks, we should like for him to explain what he means by, "for the most part." What limits the freedom to act if the Scriptures are silent? There must be a "brake" or a restraint of some kind on the silence of the Scriptures, for Gary indicates that the freedom to act when Scripture is silent is not absolute. There are limitations, for such is the meaning of "for the most part."

We are interested in the specific rules of Scripture which prohibit certain things when God has been silent about them. The use of instruments is not one of those things, Gary alleges. However, the expression, "for the most part," shows that some things may indeed be excluded by the silence of the Scriptures. What are those things, Gary, and how do we learn from Scripture what they are? (Oh, I almost forgot — If they were mentioned, then Scripture is not silent about them; hence, we cannot "learn from Scripture what they are." So, Gary, just how do you know that some things are forbidden since God has said nothing about them? According to you, Gary, some things must be left off the table, for such is the clear import of "for the most part." We want to know what those things are and how you determine that they must be rejected even though Scripture is as silent about them as it is about the instrument.)

Scripture is silent about making "Groundhog Day" a religious holiday. I suppose Gary would agree that it should not be added to the ecclesiastical calendar. Yet, the Bible is as silent about Easter and Christmas as it is about Groundhog Day. So, what says we may accept one but not the other? The Catholic papacy, priesthood, confessional booth, incense burning, candle lighting, the counting of beads, and infant baptism are other items that come to mind. Perhaps Gary can tell us if those things are excluded by his qualifying words, "for the most part." If so, by what rule does he reject those traditions while accepting the instrument? The Scripture is silent about all of them, yet he accepts the one and refuses the other. Why? How? He needs to tell us.

Gary, why will you bless the instrument but refuse to baptize the infant? Scripture is silent about sprinkling water on an infant, and I suppose that you exclude such an activity under your qualifier "for the most part." Again, though, why the instrument but not the infant? Suppose a Catholic were to tell you that he accepted the papal system of government and infant baptism because, "If there is silence in Scripture, we can use liberty on the subject"? Suppose a Catholic used your own words to sustain the traditions of Catholicism, how would you answer him?

Third, we propose to let the word of God settle this matter of the silence of the Scriptures. Does the silence of the Scriptures grant us the liberty ("for the most part") to decide what we shall do in our worship of the Lord, or does it forbid us to act without a "thus saith the Lord"? To that we now turn our attention.

Old Testament Passages, Principles, and Precepts

Old Testament Passages: Since the Old Testament was written for "our learning," and since a number of Old Testament passages address the issue of the silence of the Scriptures, let us see what it has to say.

    "According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it....And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount....And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was showed thee in the mount" (Exodus 25:9, 40; 26:30; Cf. Hebrews 8:5).

    "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God....Ye shall observe to do therefore as the Lord your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand nor to the left. Ye, shall walk in the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live....What thing so ever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it" (Deuteronomy 4:2; 5:32, 33; 12:32).

    "Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee and thou be found a liar" (Proverbs 30:6).

    "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20).

Specific Arguments From The Old Testament:

  1. Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1, 2). The sons of Aaron "offered strange (foreign) fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not." God directed that the burning of incense should be done with coals from the fire of the altar (Leviticus 6:12, 13; 16:12; Numbers 16:46). No passage says, "Thou shalt not use fire from other sources." Were they, then, free to act? "And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord." Since God had specified the fire he wanted used, that precluded them from using fire "which he commanded them not." Likewise, God has spoken with respect to the kind of music he wants in worship, which is "singing" (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

    When God has spoken, when he has told man what he desires, we are not (as the example of Nadab and Abihu clearly reveals) at liberty to presume upon his silence. "But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously...the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandments, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him" (Numbers 15:30, 31).

  2. David, Uzzah, and the Ark of the Covenant (1 Chronicles 13:2-4, 7-10; 15:2, 13-15). The rectangular wooden box known as the ark of the covenant, which contained Aaron's rod that miraculously budded, a pot of manna, and the ten commandments, was to be moved only by the Levites (Numbers 3:31; 4:1-5; Deuteronomy 10:8; 31:9). It was to be borne by Levites carrying poles which were inserted through rings by the sides of the ark (Exodus 25:14, 15). The poles were not to be taken from the rings of the ark! If the ark of the covenant were touched, the one touching it would die (Numbers 4:15).

    With great flair, David, with the consent of the people, commissioned that the ark should be transported; however, it was carried "in a new cart," not borne by poles in the rings by the sides of the ark. Thus it was that when the oxen stumbled, the ark shuddered and shook as though it would fall, for Uzzah "put forth his hand to hold the ark." When he did so, he died instantly. Though David was "displeased," he later admitted (a) that "none ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites," and (b) that God had smitten Uzzah "for that we sought him not after the due order." That is, they had not moved the ark in the way and manner God had set forth. No plea of "liberty," based on "the silence of the Scriptures," could have saved Uzzah!

    Immediately after Uzzah was stricken, David was afraid. He did not know what to do. He did not have the "liberty" or freedom to act without God's authority, so he put the transportation of the ark on hold until further word was received from God (2 Samuel 6:9-15). Only after he was told what to do did he continue with the moving of the ark of the covenant. Such things were written for our learning and admonition. Will we hear them?

  3. Trapped At The Red Sea (Exodus 14:10-17). When the children of Israel were trapped at the Red Sea, hemmed in by the waves, the wilderness, and the warriors of Egypt, they had several options. They could attempt to swim across, flee into the wilderness, turn and fight, or surrender. God had not spoken. Should they act as they determined, since God had not told them what to do? No, for Moses said, "Stand still." The absence of direction did not give them discretion to decide. Rather, they were told to wait. Finally, God spoke. "Go forward," he said.

    The point is that until God spoke, they were not authorized to act. God's silence gave them no decision making power. God had not said, "Thou shalt not flee and hide in the wilderness." Every human impulse cried and cringed in fear, but not until God spoke and said, "Go forward," were they free to move. Our friend, Mattingly, needs to see this point.

  4. Defiled At Passover (Num. 9:1-8). When certain men were defiled by contact with a corpse, they were separated and could not take of the Passover on the appointed date. What should they do? God had not spoken concerning such an event. They had several options since God had been silent on the matter. They could have eaten the Passover and then gone back to their separation. They could have waited until their time was up and then have eaten a belated Passover the day following. They could have simply said, "Oh, well, we will just wait until next year."

    However, when they came to Moses with their dilemma, note his response. Did Moses say, "Since God did not say 'thou shalt not' take the Passover when defiled, I think it will be alright for you to make an exception"? Did Moses tell them that God's silence on the matter left it up to them to decide what to do? No, he did not! Hear him: "Stand still, and I will hear what the Lord will command concerning you." In other words, they could not presume to act, they could not claim liberty to decide. Rather, they had to await the Lord's determination.

    So it is today. If we do not have authority from heaven, if we don't have a "thus saith the Lord," we are not free to act. This applies to the playing of an instrument as well as to the burning of incense. If God has not directed the devotion, it is vain and void (Matthew 7:22, 23; 15:8, 9). Therefore, since God has not authorized the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship, to do so is to work iniquity and to stand condemned (Matthew 7:21-27; 15:8, 9, 2-14).

  5. Penalty For Blasphemy (Leviticus 24:10-16). When one of the Israelites "blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed," no one knew what to do with him. Should they severely reprimand him and wash his mouth out with soap? Should they dismiss it as a slip of the lip in the heat of anger? Should they whip him? God had not addressed the issue, so they were not free to settle the matter. Thus, "they put him in ward, that the mind of the Lord might be showed them." Once again, they dared not to presume upon God's silence. Mattingly does. Moses did not.

  6. Picking Up Sticks On The Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36). When a man was found in violation of the Sabbath by picking up sticks, "they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him." They could have whipped him with the sticks, which would have been an ironic twist. They could have burned the sticks and made him eat cold food for a week. Yes, since God had not spoken they could have done any number of things, but they did not "because it was not declared" by the Lord "what should be done to him."

If Mr. Mattingly and his Christian Church brethren had been back there, they would not have been bound by the Lord's silence, but Moses was. So are we (1 Corinthians 4:6).

New Testament Passages

Since the New Testament is our plan and pattern, the rule by which all our words and deeds are to be measured, and since a number of it passages are pertinent to our inquiry, let us see what it has to say about the silence of the Scriptures.

    "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20).

    "Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Romans 16:17).

    "And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6).

    "But though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8, 9).

    "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Colossians 3:17).

    "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

    "Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son" (2 John 9).

Specific Arguments From The New Testament

  1. Inspired Injunction (Acts 15:24). "Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, ye must keep the law and be circumcised, to whom we gave no such commandment."

    Since the apostles had not spoken, others were not at liberty to speak. Their silence did not authorize others to issue commands. Yet, concerning our worship Mattingly has said, "If the Scripture does not say 'thou shalt use an instrument in worship', we find this a liberty. We can use it or not use it." Well, neither the Scriptures nor the apostles had said, "thou shalt not bind the law or circumcision," either. Still, there was no liberty for them to presume to permit anything else. Why not? Because the apostles had given "no such commandment." When certain ones spoke without apostolic approval and authority, they thereby troubled the brethren and subverted their souls. Thus, it is no small issue with which we are dealing!

    We may only observe the things taught by the Lord through the apostles (Cf. Matthew 28:20; Luke 10:16; Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 1 John 4:6; 2 John 9). When men like Mattingly teach to the contrary, and seek to add the instrument to our worship, they trouble the disciples with words and subvert their souls.

  2. When "Moses Spake Nothing" (Hebrews 7:11-14). If there were but one Scripture to demonstrate the fallacy of Mr. Mattingly's argument that silence gives consent, it would be the text of Hebrews 7:11-14: "If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood." Observe, please, these salient points:

      (a) The Levitical priesthood was not sufficient. Another was prophesied (Melchisedec), and it came.

      (b) Since the law of Moses authorized and recognized only the priesthood "after the order of Aaron," the existence of the priesthood of Christ logically demands "of necessity a change also of the law." But, why is this true?

      (c) It is true because Moses only spoke of a priesthood from the issue of Aaron, the Levitical priesthood, but Christ did not come from that tribe, from the tribe of Levi. No, he came from the tribe of Judah.

      (d) Consequently, therefore, if a new priesthood exists (and it does!), then a new law also exists since Moses "spake nothing" (was silent) about priests from another tribe.

    You will note that the Spirit of God here did not reason as does Gary Mattingly. Mattingly says, "If the Scripture does not say 'thou shalt use an instrument in worship', we find this a liberty." In Hebrews, the Spirit says that since Moses "spake nothing" concerning any tribe, other than that of Levi, then no priest could come from any other tribe. Mattingly would have said, "If the Scripture does not say 'thou shalt use another tribe for the priesthood, we find this a liberty."

    See the glaring contrast between the two? Mattingly and the Christian Church uses "the hermeneutic" which the Spirit of God rejected in Hebrews 7. If his principle and his understanding of the silence of the Scriptures is correct, I challenge him to apply it and say that priests could arise from some other tribe. Since Moses did not say, "Thou shalt use another tribe for the priesthood," let Mr. Mattingly tell us if the tribe of Judah could serve as priest under the law. He should have no problem telling us directly, for he argues that, "If the Scripture does not say 'thou shalt use an instrument in worship', we find this a liberty." Well, since Scripture does not say "thou shalt use the tribe of Judah in the priesthood," does he find that "a liberty" also? The Spirit did not. Does Mattingly?

More Musings From Mattingly

    From early Restoration Movement (RM) history two men were on the liberty side of the issue. A Mr. Pendleton was for the instrument, but he felt that using it might cause the weaker Christians to sin. He used the principle found in Romans 14 about the meat sacrificed to idols. Read that section for a reminder. He made a good point. Also, Isaac Errett, founder of the STANDARD, said on June 2, 1868, '&ldots;right doing in place of exact thinking and outside of plain precepts, let all acknowledge liberty to all&ldots;" he was stating the hermeneutic that it was a liberty to use an instrument because it was outside of 'plain precepts', that is, Scriptural teachings. Both of these men thought along with others in the early RM days that instruments were acceptable.

    Two men who found the instrument wrong were Mr. McGarvey and Mr. Lard. McGarvey said: Nothing may be introduced into worship that is not explicitly authorized in the N.T. Note again his belief that silence of Scripture forbids. Lard was even more legalistic: Let every preacher resolve to never enter a meeting house in which an organ stands. He felt it was better to not go to church at all than to go where there was an instrument. He even felt that we might as well abandon immersion as accept the instrument. To place the musical instrument issue along the same level as immersion for the remission of sins is poor handling of Scripture.

    So, we see the primary reason for the difference is hermeneutical understanding of the silence of Scriptures. This is foundational to the issue. In our early days, two of our magazines took sides and published their thoughts. These being the STANDARD, noted above, and the GOSPEL ADVOCATE, the latter opposing anything 'new and innovative.'

Romans 14, People, Papers, And Scriptural Authority

First, to eat meat is right before God. Eating meat meets with his approval (1 Timothy 4:1-4; Romans 14:14, 20 — no meat is unclean of itself; all are pure and may be eaten without offense to God). Now, let Mattingly show the same with respect to the use of pianos, guitars, and organs in worship. It is not enough for him to assume and assert it. He must drum up Bible authority for their use. He and I can both show that eating meat is scriptural and that we may do it because God has authorized it. Can he do the same for his instruments?

Second, Mattingly tells us to read Romans 14. Well, I have done so a few times, and I have yet to find the premise, principle, or precept which says, "If the Scripture does not say 'thou shalt use an instrument in worship', we find this a liberty." Yes, there is "liberty" in Romans 14, but not of that nature. If Mattingly finds "liberty" in Romans 14 for using an instrument, how will he answer the Catholic who says he finds "liberty" in Romans 14 for baptizing an infant? Note a parallel:

    Christian Church: "If the Scripture does not say 'thou shalt use an instrument in worship', we find this a liberty" which allows us to use it.

    Catholic Church: "If the Scripture does not say 'thou shalt baptize an infant in worship,' we find this a liberty" which allows us to baptize them.

I challenge Mr. Mattingly to show that sprinkling water on an infant and enrolling him as a member of the church is not a "liberty" which is granted by Scripture. His argument for the instrument binds him to the infant. They stand or fall together.

The same is true of many other items linked to the work, worship, and organization of the church. Take the Catholic priesthood, for example. Does our friend, Mattingly, oppose a priestly order in the organization of the church? If so, upon what basis?

    Christian Church: "If the Scripture does not say 'thou shalt use an instrument in worship', we find this a liberty" which allows us to use it.

    Catholic Church: "If the Scripture does not say 'thou shalt use a priest in worship,' we find this a liberty" which allows us to use them."

We are not surprised by Mattingly's appeal to Romans 14 (which appeal, by the way, would not have been made had there been scriptural authority for the instrument). It is an old ploy and plea. It did not work in the 19th century, and it will not work in any succeeding century, either.

    "Those who advanced instrumental music in worship...constantly appealed to Romans 14. When the Gospel Advocate...warned that such practices represented a growing apostasy, Editor Isaac Errett of the Christian Standard retorted that the divinity of Christ and the necessity of baptism were still being preached. Beyond that, we must not 'dictate where Christ has not dictated,' he said, but some brethren are guilty of a 'murderous stifling of free thought and free speech...we insist that Romans xiv. allows A very large liberty which we have no liberty to trench on.' From 1870 on, a host of liberals made this identical plea in advancing not only instruments and societies, but also open membership, theistic evolution, and various theories renouncing the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. Those who opposed liberalism as a perversion of the liberty granted in Romans 14 were accused of 'intolerant dogmatism.'

    "J.B. Briney in debate with W.W. Otey appealed for the toleration of instruments on the basis that the objecting brethren were weak, and instruments could be used where no one objected. 'I will close the debate in fellowship and love if he will...agree that unless the instrument may hurt somebody else, it may be used if it don't (sic) lead somebody to sin,' said Briney. Otey pointed out that Briney must 'prove conclusively that the use of instrumental music is authorized,' in keeping with the limits of Romans 14." (Ron Halbrook, "Romans 14 Abused To Accommodate False Doctrine," Guardian Of Truth, January 2, 1992, p. 28).

(Those who believe that Romans 14 will not be used in the 21st century to justify "open membership, theistic evolution and various theories renouncing the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures," as per the days of Genesis one and the flood, are poor students of the evolution of error among us [2 Timothy 2:16-18; 3:13]. The groundwork for these things is being laid in our day.)

Third, why does Mattingly cite Pendleton, Errett, McGarvey, and Lard? Though they were great men in many respects, they were simply men. What does their preaching and practice prove? Likewise, with respect to the positions of the papers, the Christian Standard and the Gospel Advocate--neither one is our standard, nor our advocate or appeal. The word of God is our rule, our standard; Jesus is our advocate, our appeal in the court of heaven. His law, the gospel, is the constitution of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 28:20; Colossians 3:17; James 4:12; 2 John 9).

It is ironic that he appeals to restoration history, to restoration philosophy. What was the initial call of the men associated with the movement? "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent" (Thomas Campbell; Cf. 1 Peter 4:11). Or, "Speak where the Bible speaks; be silent where the Bible is silent" (1 Corinthians 4:6). Mattingly's view is more than a liberal slant to that scriptural slogan, it is a clear disavowal of it! When he approves of the instrument, based upon the fact "that (there is) liberty to use an instrument because it was outside of 'plain precepts', that is, Scriptural teachings," he has totally abandoned the essential essence of restoration, "Let us speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent." Those who act "outside of...Scriptural teachings" are certainly not being "silent where the Bible is silent"!

Fourth, we acknowledge that Moses Lard said some sharp things with respect to the instrument and fellowship. However, to be fair, and not simply to dismiss Lard as a "legalist," as Mattingly does, note that in the same article wherein he called for dismissal and disassociation of the instrument, he gave the reason for his strong language. After establishing the point that, "As a people we have from the first and continually to the present proclaimed the New Testament and that alone is our only full and perfect rule of faith and practice," he asked, in light of that immutable, indisputable principle, "what defense can be urged for the introduction into some of our congregations of instrumental music? The answer which thunders in my ears from every page of the New Testament is, none. Did Christ ever appoint it? Did the apostles ever sanction it? Or did any of the primitive church ever use it? Never. In what light then must we view him who attempts to introduce it into the churches of Christ of the present day? I answer, as an insulter of the authority of Christ, and as a defiant and impious innovator on the simplicity and purity of the ancient worship. In no other light can we view him, in no other light should he be viewed" (Foy E. Wallace, Jr., The Instrumental Music Question, p. 76).

Given Lard's understanding, he could act and advise no less than he did. Let Mattingly show that Lard was wrong in his understanding of the Bible. When he does, we will join him in his denial of Lard. (Though McGarvey did not join Lard's call to utterly forsake and abandon those who embraced the instrument, in his later years he acknowledged that he had been mistaken in his course.)

Mattingly Musings On Music And Money

    Second, the economy had some influence over the musical question. The high cost of piano and organs left many without the resources before the Civil War to buy them. Before the Civil War, the congregations below the Mason-Dixon line were generally too poor to buy an instrument. We note that the majority of the non-Instrumental congregations were and are today South , i.e., Texas, Tennessee. It became a factor that if you can not afford it, then it may not be good for you. Such reasoning can be a minor factor even today.

Money, Music, And Meetinghouses

An identical argument could be made with regard to meetinghouses, or church buildings. Historically, many churches were too poor to erect buildings. Did those brethren who opposed the piano in worship oppose a place to meet?

Local churches that can afford neither the music nor the meetinghouse generally understand the relationship of the two economic factors.

    (a)A church building is authorized by the command for saints to assemble, to come together in one place (Hebrews 10:25; Cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 14:23; 16:2). Whether borrowed or bought, a place of some kind is essential to do what the Lord said do; namely, come together to perform certain acts. If there were no authority for Christians to assemble, whether they could afford them or not, church buildings would exist without scriptural authority.

    (b) An instrument of music need not be expensive-homemade drums, a string of Christmas bells, and garage sale guitars will do nicely. However, that is not the issue and never has been. Musical instruments, whether affordable or not, cannot be used in the worship of the church for they are without scriptural authority. Then, why song books? Well, in order to sing, which is authorized, one must either memorize the words or read them. Thus, song books assist in doing what the Lord said do; namely, sing. Musical instruments, on the other hand do not have corresponding authority. There is no authorization to play as there is to "sing" (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

Conclusion: Find the authority for Christians to meet together and you have found authority for a meetinghouse. Find authority for Christians to sing and you have found the authority for songbooks. Find authority for Christians to play and you will have found authority for pianos, organs, and the accompanying sheet music. Money is not the issue.

Mattingly Muses On Music In "Bars and Theaters"

    A third factor for not using the instrument in the Frontier days was that the piano and organ were a mainstay in the bars and theaters. They had the money to buy them. So, the argument was raised that to have such an instrument in worship is guilt by association. Since the piano and organ were associated with evil happenings in bars in the early days of the R.M., we can consider this as a valid point for that time period. This is a mute argument in this day. There is nothing inherently evil in the piano. We might point out that not too many years ago the pool table was considered evil and to go to a pool hall was unthinkable. (Remember: The musical MUSIC MAN: "There's trouble right here in River City, trouble, that starts with 't' and rhymes with 'p' and that stands for pool&ldots;') We find the pool table in many of our homes today do we not?

    Fourth, the claim that the piano would make the church a 'gay and worldly place' was proposed in the early days. The GOSPEL ADVOCATE stood firm against all innovations as wrong. Does the piano make it a gay and worldly church? In fact, it may or it may not. There are many factors that would be apparent in a congregation that is worldly. But to flatly say that to use the instrument is worldliness, is wrong. We can find 'worldly' churches who either use or do not use the instrument. Such a claim was poorly thought out to say the least.

    Listen, we must not confuse culture with orthodoxy. In other words, we must be careful not to condemn something as 'too fancy' because it is not within our tastes. Our missionaries had a huge lesson to learn as they traveled to foreign lands and tried to make those churches 'American' in their worship styles. Some things in culture are indeed wrong and some are not. Suffice it to say that our personal preferences are not orthodoxy.

Of Pianos And Pool Tables

Anything that exists without divine authority is worldly and those who indulge it are guilty of worldliness, whether or not it is seen as such by the culture of the times (1 John 4:1, 6). The touching, tender, tearful, sweet scene of an infant baptism is of the world; it is spiritual profanity, for it is not of God (Matthew 7:21-27; 15:8, 9). An act need not be viewed as profane by a community to be disdained as worldliness before God. The "abominable idolatries," "lying vanities," and "damnable heresies" denounced by the Spirit were not seen as such by the "spiritual" leaders who advocated them (Cf. Acts 14:11-17). Yet, they were no less worldly than a snake charmer's, or a Christian church's, horn.

If the pianos and organs were denounced simply because of their tie to bars and theaters, would that not also eliminate singing? Did they not engage in choruses of raucous songs in such places? So, if pianos and organs were not to be used, would that not also exclude singing on the same basis?

Since Mattingly acknowledges that pianos and pool tables have now undergone a cultural cleansing and that they are now acceptable, and since he uses the piano, let us ask him where the pool table fits in the Christian Church? Since the piano and the pool table have been "sanctified and cleansed," and instruments are now used in worship, where has our friend put the pool table in the Christian Church? What part of worship does it serve? "He does not utilize the pool table in worship," you say? Why not? "It is not part of the worship. God has not placed it in the worship of the church." Ah, now apply that same reasoning to the piano, and, perhaps, we will be making progress in our study!

(Some of our own brethren need to learn that as a culturally cleansed piano is not justified in the worship of the church, neither is a culturally cleansed pool table permitted in the work of the church. Whether in the work or the worship of the church, the authority to "play" is as absent on the one hand as it is on the other.)

End Of Mattingly's Musings On Music

    I have yet to find in the New Testament where it says that we are to sing in worship. Eph.5:19 and Col.3:16 are often used to say that we are not to use the instrument in worship. But the context does not allow us to say that the worship hour is pictured. Yet, we sing in worship with no " thus saith the Lord." In Acts 2:42 we find the church gathering for the "apostles" teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer." No music mentioned. Did they sing? I am sure they did! The PSALMS were sung.

    It is a grave concern of mine to hear the musical instrument being put on the same level as, say, immersion for the remission of sins. It is tragedy to make it a 'test of fellowship.' IT IS NOT!

    My intent is to inform you mainly of the initial stand and confusion on this issue from our RM history. By the way, this debate is not confined to our movement. The Reformers debated it. Calvin thought the instrument worldly - even stained glass windows and hymns were wrong to him. (He only approved of singing the Psalms.) And there are non-instrumental Baptist and Methodist churches. We could go on but this will end our thoughts.

This Will "End Our Thoughts," Too

First, if Mattingly has proved that singing is done without scriptural authority, all he has succeeded in doing is to prove that he does two things which God disapproves; namely, singing and playing. Christians have never said that an assembly is the only way Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 could be fulfilled. However, it is certainly one way saints may "teach and admonish one another." It is one way they may reciprocally speak to one another. Further, the Spirit said, "In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee" (Hebrews 2:12). So, singing (not playing) is done "in the midst of the church." Perhaps, Mattingly will explain just when this is done. It is surely done in the same manner the Lord breaks bread with the disciples in his kingdom (Cf. Matthew. 26:29; Luke 22:28, 29; 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17, 21, "communion," [fellowship] at the "table of the Lord" in the church at Corinth).

Thus, we have found Bible authority for singing "in the midst of the church." Now, let Mattingly find "playing" even on the fringes, the border, or the outskirts of the church, and we will accept it "in the midst." Can he do it? No, he cannot, and no one knows it better than Gary Mattingly.

Second, Mattingly says he does not find "singing" listed in Acts 2:42. Well, it is certain he found no piano or organ there, either. However, not only did they continue in fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayers, but they also continued "in the apostles' doctrine," or teaching. Now, what is part of that teaching, or doctrine? It is that Christians should teach and admonish one another and speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Surely, then, since they continued steadfastly in that doctrine, that teaching, they sang together as that teaching told them to do. So, we have found singing in the apostles' doctrine, which they "continued steadfastly in." Now, let our friend find a piano or an organ there.

Third, from the same paragraph above, compare these two statements from Mr. Mattingly:

    (a) I have yet to find in the New Testament where it says that we are to sing in worship.

    (b) No music mentioned. Did they sing? I am sure they did! The PSALMS were sung.

Mattingly has "yet to find in the New Testament" that "we are to sing in worship....No music mentioned." Still, he is "sure they" sang! Can anyone have confidence in one who so reasons (?) from Scripture?

Again, let us apply his logic and use of Scripture to the baptism of babies. Mr. Mattingly, suppose a Catholic priest said to you, "I have yet to find in the New Testament where it says we are to baptize infants. No infant baptism mentioned. Did they baptize infants? I am sure they did! Infants were baptized." How would you answer a priest who argues from the silence of the Scriptures for infant baptism in the same manner as you argue from them for the instrument?

Fourth, Mattingly vehemently protests, "It is a grave concern of mine to hear the musical instrument being put on the same level as, say, immersion for the remission of sins. It is tragedy to make it a 'test of fellowship.' IT IS NOT!" All he needs to do is to find a clear statement for the instrument as we can both find for immersion and the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). This he cannot do. Since we are speaking of concerns over tests of fellowship, suppose a Catholic expressed a desire to unite with the congregation where Mattingly ministers. Suppose this Catholic denounced the errors of the papacy and priesthood and said he saw that Catholicism went beyond New Testament teaching. Suppose this Catholic, who had water sprinkled on his forehead when he was an infant, wanted to join the Christian Church where Mattingly preaches on the basis of his infant baptism. Would Mattingly make it "a test of fellowship"? If so, how would he answer the Catholic if he said, "It is a grave concern of mine to hear infant baptism for the remission of sins being put on the same level, as, say, adult immersion for the remission of sins. It is a tragedy to make it a 'test of fellowship.' IT IS NOT!"

Mr. Mattingly, how would you answer him? If you attempt to tell us, we shall turn your reasoning against you at every turn on the instrument, too. Try us and see. You cannot logically, consistently, or scripturally deny the Catholic as a member of your church while accepting the instrument. If you deny him, you must deny it. If you accept it, you must accept him.

Why, though, should it be a "grave concern" to Mattingly? Surely, those who make the instrument a "test of fellowship" have the "liberty" to do so! Since "Scripture does not say, 'Thou shalt make music a test of fellowship," are not those who do so free to "find liberty" for their actions? If silence allows the instrument, as Mattingly avows, why does not silence permit some to make its use a test of fellowship?

Finally, Mr. Mattingly says, "My intent is to inform you mainly of the initial stand and confusion on this issue from our RM history."

While we understand and appreciate his expressed "intent" and purpose, we would be better served if all preachers contented themselves with "the initial stand" of the New Testament on "this issue," or any other that has caused "confusion." "What saith the Scriptures?" What Calvin believed is no more our authority or guide than is the faith of Methodists and Baptists. We care not for any of their beliefs or tenets of faith. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20).

Happily do we join hearts and hands in the work and worship prescribed of God with all who "in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, both theirs and ours" (1 Corinthians 1:2; 4:6, 17; 11:2). However, until we are shown from the Scriptures that instruments of music are authorized as part of the worship of the church, we can have neither part nor lot with them and shall oppose them as we would any other human tradition and innovation (Revelation 22:18, 19).