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Book Review – Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed

Book Review – Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed

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Young Restless No Longer Reformed ReviewMany today are attracted to reformed theology – that is, theology that follows the traditions and practices of John Calvin and other protestant theologians during the Reformation era. Today, the major players in reformed theological circles include names like John MacArthur, D.A. Carson, R.C. Sproul, John Piper, J.I. Packer, Albert Mohler, and Mark Dever, to name a few. Rising stars in the reformed tradition include Kevin DeYoung, J.D. Greear, Joe Thorn, Tim Challies, and Matt Chandler.

Reformed preaching and teaching is characterized by an allegedly high view of God and His divine attributes, namely His sovereignty, glory, and holiness. You can understand why people are attracted to reformed preaching; in an age where theological liberalism is rampant, more and more people are searching for preaching that trumpets God’s majesty and holds the Bible in high esteem.

The denominations today that are growing (or at least not shrinking) are mostly theologically conservative. The allure of liberalism comes with empty promises of church growth. Let this be a lesson to us: people are searching for churches that offer meaty, challenging, and substantive teaching. Many are tired of the Readers Digest-like teaching so prevalent today. People want to be taught God’s Word in a clear, understandable way. Reformed preaching claims to offer this. But be sure to read the small print. Subtle error is the most dangerous form of error.

The problem with reformed theology is not that it is typically conservative, but that it is usually deeply Calvinistic. The doctrine of Calvinism teaches that (a) all infants are born with the seed of sin, (b) God chooses individually who He will save from eternal damnation (meaning we have no choice in the matter), (c) the blood of Christ is not available to all men, and (d) the few people God has individually chosen to save are forced by the Holy Spirit to obey Him.

Because so many even among the church of Christ are attracted to Reformed preaching – Calvinism is poised to infiltrate the Lord’s church like never before. Which is why I have enjoyed Austin Fischer’s book, Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed: Black Holes, Love, And A Journey In And Out Of Calvinism.

In his book, Austin Fischer demonstrates the problems of Calvinism. Calvinism’s supposedly high view of God’s sovereignty is merely a façade. The Sovereign God of the Bible is bigger than the so-called sovereign god of Calvinism. Our truly Sovereign God has chosen to share some of His sovereignty with mankind, allowing us to choose whether or not we will love and serve Him. Austin writes,

God is always sovereign, but that means he – and not we – gets to decide what shape that sovereignty takes. And apparently, God’s sovereignty makes room for human freedom so that God and humans can have a personal, and not merely casual, relationship. (Page 67)

The God of the Bible is bigger than the god of Calvinism in that a truly Sovereign God can foreknow our eternal destiny without foreordaining our eternal destiny. Calvinists miss this point. They instead humanize God – claiming that since God knows all things (His omniscience), like a human He must therefore predestine us individually.

Fischer is balanced in his assessment of Calvinism. Commenting on the mistake of automatically assuming we have free will, he writes,

Looking for free will in the Bible is like looking for gravity: it’s assumed everywhere and holds everything together, so you probably won’t notice it until it’s missing and you float away. (Page 62)

Instead, we must start with Genesis – with mankind choosing to eat from the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil – not with the peculiar passages that at first-glance seem to teach Calvinism when taken out of context. “For the first four hundred years of church history, people read Romans 9 and did not think it taught what later came to be called Calvinism” (page 48).

Fischer continues,

It’s usually easier to rattle off multiple verses that seem to contradict free will than it is to name a single verse that affirms it. We think of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart because the passage sticks out – it cuts against the grain of the rest of the biblical narrative. We don’t think of the sixty-three times Jesus tells people to do or not do something during his Sermon on the Mount, seemingly assuming they had the ability to do or not do what he said, because it flows seamlessly with the pattern of the biblical narrative. (Page 62).

As Austin Fischer explains his evolution towards the truth and away from Calvinism, he said he “felt pretentious staking more on Calvinism than Jesus did” (page 48).

Everyone who regularly listens to or reads the works of reformed theologians needs to read Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed. While it is written by a non-New Testament Christian, it reminds us that Calvinism is wrong and that there are still people in Christendom who are searching for truth. There are some flaws in this book, and there are many things I would have said differently had I been the author. Nevertheless, it is important for Christians to balance their reading, and this book help accomplish this.

Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed achieves what few books have been able to easily do: In just 108 pages, Calvinism is explained and refuted with clear, accessible language. The god of Calvinism is actually quite small, and the sovereign God of the Bible is quite glorious indeed.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

About Ben

Born at a very young age, Ben is the pulpit minister at the Edgewood church of Christ in Columbus, GA. He is married to the luckiest girl alive, Hannah. Uh, he means, *he’s* the lucky one. Together they have two children, Ezra & Colleyanna. Ben is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University and is, by nearly all accounts, a superb parallel parker.



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Millennials, Let’s Get Over Ourselves

Millennials, Let’s Get Over Ourselves

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This is a guest post by Jacob Rutledge. Jacob is a fellow gospel preacher, a faithful servant of the Lord, and an exemplary father, husband, and teacher. Whenever you are around him, it is obvious that he loves the Lord and His church with every ounce of his being. I want to be like Jacob when I grow up. You should never miss a chance to listen to him or read his writings. Make sure to follow Jacob on twitter here.   -Ben

“A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever” (Ecc. 1:3).

One article reads, “What Can the Church do to Keep Millennials?”

Another writer cries, “We are losing Millennials left and right!”

Millennials! Millennials! We must pander to the Millennials!

Listen, I’m a Millennial and I’m just about tired of hearing about Millennials. Don’t misunderstand me: I think my generation has a lot to offer the church. There is creativity, imagination, and compassion in the hearts of my generation that I genuinely believe can be used for the glory of God. We do a disservice to Millennials when we don’t recognize those talents and use them within their scriptural boundaries for the work of the church. At the same time there are major flaws that characterize my generation: extreme narcissism, an entitlement mentality, and a veracious appetite for materialism. Every generation has its strengths and weaknesses; the problem I believe with my generation is that we fail to recognize our weaknesses.

Allow me to paint with a broad brush: Because of our over inflated egos we want the culture to constantly focus on our needs. We believe that our ideas are the best ideas; that our plans are the best plans. We don’t take criticism well (especially from the older generations). And, generally, we have a high disregard for anything “old.” We are the Athenians on steroids: we sit around and wait for someone to tweet something new. I realize I’m speaking in generalities and not every Millennial fits into this category; I’m just testifying to what I have seen in myself, in others, and in the culture as a whole.

And I think it’s about time that we get over ourselves.

Really. I mean really guys. Do we really think we are the first ones to feel this way? Do we really think our generation is “the” generation that is going to fix everything? Do we really think that our generation is any better than previous generations? Do we not realize that many of the benefits we enjoy today are due to the ingenuity, courage, compassion and sacrifice of previous generations? Yes, we can offer our culture (and the future) many things, but a failure to recognize the victories of past generations and an over infatuation with our own leads only to darker–not brighter–days.

Sadly, this hyper sensitivity to the whims (and I mean WHIMS) of my generation has seeped into the church. There seems to be an entire blogosphere that is concerned only with the preservation and promotion of one particular generation; as if the progress of the kingdom is laid on the backs of Millennials instead of the hands of the Master.

Here are some concerns I have with the church’s current infatuation with Millennials:

A disregard for the competence and intelligence of previous generations of godly men and women.

When Paul wrote to Timothy he commended and encouraged him for his faithful dedication to imitating the older apostle (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 1:13; 2 Tim. 3:10). He encouraged the Corinthians to follow a similar pattern (1 Cor. 11:1). Although there was a generation gap, Paul didn’t feel as if that kept his younger brother from following the aged apostle in his Christian walk. In fact, Paul is convicted that one of the most beneficial avenues of maturity for Timothy is through following him: an older, more seasoned Christian.

For some reason there seems to be a constant questioning of the competency of the previous generations of Christians–especially of preachers. I have fallen into the trap myself at various times. We look at the previous generation of gospel preachers and we see ourselves as superior. We view their sermons as too simplistic, their focus as too narrow, and their knowledge too limited. We look with disdain on the sermons about the beauty of New Testament Christianity, worship, and holy conduct as outdated and out of touch. We think we are the first ones to have really thought through the issues. We love to view ourselves as more balanced than the previous generation of ministers (because, of course, “balance is the principle thing”).

I realize that the previous generation wasn’t perfect, but neither is ours. We do a disservice to great men of faith when we reject their teaching simply because we view them as outdated. There is great danger in this mentality as well. An outright rejection of previous Christian thought opens the door wide open for apostasy. When we begin with the foundation that these “forefathers of faith” were wrong, we can more easily reject the truth simply because we are deluded by our own self-adulation. I’m not saying follow men at the expense of truth; I’m saying follow truth at the expense of whatever generation it might be found. Eyes that are wise in their own sight are often the scorn of scripture (Isa. 5:21; Rom. 12:16).

An arrogant sense of superior spirituality.

Not only do we question the competence of previous generations, we view their level of spirituality as inferior to our own. We assume that, since the church didn’t do certain things in the way we think they should be done, they aren’t as graceful, as loving, or as compassionate as we are. When you read the social media post of some of my fellow Millennials you would think that the church didn’t know how to love until they came along. Come on. Are you kidding me? Let’s get over ourselves Millennials.

How arrogant can we be to assume that the church was filled with loveless hypocrites before we graced the stage? Does the church always have room to grow? Absolutely. Are there certain expedients we can change to help facilitate the work of the church in our generation? Sure. But let’s not assume that the previous generation’s love isn’t as genuine or their worship isn’t as fervent. In fact, the Lord has shown me time and time again how lacking this assumption truly is. More often than not it is the older generation that has shown sincere Christian love to me and my family. It is previous generations who have sacrificed time, money, and effort for the growth of the Kingdom. It is the previous generation which shows a great reverence and awe for the word and worship of God. There will always be those in every generation (including ours) that don’t show the genuine love and grace of Christ. So, let’s not assume that ours is the first to perfect these qualities.

A lack of focus on multi-generational churches.

Whenever we focus on one particular generation at the expense of another we fail to recognize the strength of a multi-generational faith in the church. Paul instructed Titus on the importance of the familial structure of the church (Titus 2:1-8). John also recognized the various strengths of differing generations (1 John 2:13-14). The culture of the Kingdom should never be dominated by the desires of any particular generation, but by the combined efforts of every generation to exalt their shared Savior. The church should be place where every member is respected, honored and loved regardless of their age (1 Cor. 12: 12-ff; 1 Tim. 4:12). If we combine the moral strength and reverence for God’s authority of past generations with the ingenuity and creativity of the current generation then the church would be unstoppable! The gospel is a multi-generational affair. It addresses the shared needs of every community in every generation: the need for salvation, redemption, reconciliation, communion, and love. Let’s not assume that our generation is the only one that recognizes that need.

Conclusion

Again, don’t misunderstand me: I hope we continue to write blogs that help address the particular struggles and strengths of this current generation; yet, I also hope that we can create a more diverse concern for the multi-generational faithfulness of every age group.

I’m sure I’ll get some flack from my own generation for this article (remember we don’t take criticism well!) as well as from those who have built their blogs on the transient premise of “mono-generationalism.” Regardless, I feel it’s time for my generation to take a long look at ourselves in the mirror. It’s time to top focusing on the exclusive needs of our generation and begin exalting the holy generation of Christ (1 Pet. 2:9).

So, let’s get over ourselves Millennials!

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.



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Why So Many Are Jumping On The Gay “Marriage” Bandwagon Today

Why So Many Are Jumping On The Gay “Marriage” Bandwagon Today

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gay marriage bandwagonNot long ago in our nation’s history, homosexuality was taboo. People commonly looked at homosexual behavior with disgust. Laws were enacted to outlaw various actions attributed to same-sex attraction. But now culture has very rapidly performed a 180-degree shift. A majority of Americans – particularly younger Americans – now approve of homosexual practice [1][2].

What happened? Those who support the acceptance of LGBT behavior adopted arguments that became particularly compelling to young people.

This should not come as a surprise to us. The Bible teaches us that homosexuality is a subject by which it is easy to be fooled. “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither […] adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, […] will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

Here are some arguments that have proven to be very effective at duping people today:

1. Gay “marriage” has been packaged like a civil rights issue.

I think Millennials grew up reading in their history books about the 1965 civil rights marches in Alabama and thought, “I would have liked to have been a part of that.” Today, homosexuality has become the moral equivalent of being black. This is very interesting, as the social conversation about homosexuality is no longer about what you do, but about who you are. If I were a black man, I would be deeply offended by equating 2015 with 1965. Christians understand that in reality, the issue is not about identity, but about choice. You cannot choose to be black, but you can choose to practice homosexuality (cf. 1 Cor. 6:11). Your temptation does not define you, but your decision to act on your temptation does. Jesus was tempted, yet was without sin (Heb. 4:15).

2. Gay “marriage” has redefined love.

The words of John Mayer’s song, “You love, who you love, who you love,” resonate with people today. Most now think, “There’s enough hate in the world, and here are two men who love each other; what’s wrong with that?”

Our secular world has cheapened “love” to mean “sexual attraction,” and the marriage bed has become the pinnacle of romance. Society’s idea of marriage, which has devolved to merely signify a time-period of commitment, is only a shabby duct-tape attempt to replicate true biblical marriage.

Knowing the new definition of “love,” are you ready for the ramifications of this argument? If society supports a relationship simply because of “love,” what else must society eventually support? Surely a man can “love” his dog. Surely pedophilia can be committed within a “loving” relationship. Surely it is wrong to continue prosecuting teachers for “loving” some of their pupils. Surely a woman can marry several men with whom she is in love.

For Christians, it isn’t about consensual sexual intercourse, but about truly loving God and His Word. It isn’t real love if I allow someone to enter into a relationship with me that God calls “sin.” Eternity, after all, awaits us. A truly loving relationship is founded on the bedrock goal of helping one another get to heaven. It more closely resembles hatred if I am willing to place myself between someone else and heaven.

3. Gay “marriage” is now seen as progress.

Two lesbian parents on Disney's "Good Luck Charlie," which aired in early 2014.

Two lesbian parents on Disney’s “Good Luck Charlie,” which aired in early 2014. Credit: hadamsj via YouTube.

Homosexuals have long been able to support one another and enter into covenants with one another. The Supreme Court on June 26, 2015 gave very few freedoms that were not already enjoyed by practicing homosexuals. But it isn’t about rights (they already had those rights); it is about gaining society’s approval.

When Lot had the audacity to deny the men of Sodom their demand to gang-rape his male guests, they replied, “Now he has become the judge!” (Gen. 19:9). Does this sound familiar to the argument used today? “Stop judging us.” “Who are you to say we are wrong?” It isn’t about rights; it is about finding affirmation after God has called certain behavior wrong. People don’t want to be seen as being on the “wrong side of history,” so they go along with this so-called “progress.”

4. Gay “marriage” has redefined tolerance.

If you refuse to endorse homosexual behavior, society will quickly label you as “intolerant.” That is because “tolerance” no longer means peaceful coexistence with contrary views and belief systems. Today, “tolerance” means full support. Either you embrace homosexuality or you are a rotten, bigoted person full of hate. (That escalated quickly, didn’t it?) In the eyes of society, it is impossible to be both compassionate to homosexuals while disapproving of their actions.

With this word game, no wonder young people are supporting gay “marriage” in droves. After all, who wants to be seen as a bigot? They don’t want their peers to think they are “closed-minded” – or worse – “intolerant” (gasp, the thought!).

Now that the courts, the media, and public opinion favor gay “marriage,” what can we do?

1. Prepare for these arguments. Sometimes we fail to keep ourselves up-to-speed with culture. We are often more aware of the problems of the past and easily have answers to those problems. But times have changed, and Satan has found new ways to package sin that will appeal to a new generation of thinking. Cultural Christianity has already bowed to the pressure to approve of gay marriage. Now, more than ever before, it is important to think like God thinks and live on every drop of God’s Word. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).

2. Prepare our children for these arguments. This goes without saying. But so many of my peers have left the Lord’s Church because their parents did not prepare them for these arguments. I know many children of preachers who have left the church because their fathers failed to equip them with ways to respond to postmodern and emergent arguments in favor of homosexuality (and a host of other issues). From the very beginning, our children need to know what is natural and what is unnatural and unpleasing to God.

3. Start with the basics when talking to people who support gay “marriage. When talking to my friends and neighbors who practice or approve of homosexuality, I rarely talk about the sinfulness of homosexuality. Why? They don’t know what sin is. Before you can establish that practicing homosexuality is wrong, there is a host of other issues one must first understand. First, one must believe in the God of the Bible. Second, one must believe in the Bible and the extent of its authority over our lives. One must understand the concept of sola scriptura, that the Bible is not a fluid document, and that God’s Word never takes a back seat to culture. Third, one must grasp the concept of sin, know Who Jesus is, and understand the nature of salvation. If someone does not understand these things, they will never understand the truth about homosexuality (and they will look at you like a close-minded, intolerant bigot).

4. Think about our words. Because culture now supports gay “marriage,” it is important to choose our words carefully. There are more people who want to demonize your biblical convictions than there are people who tolerate (the old meaning of the word) them. Before you write or say anything, just assume your words could easily appear on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper. In other words, don’t say stupid things. If you consider how your words could be interpreted from all sides, the truth will become even brighter.

5. Model biblical sexuality. The darker our world becomes, the brighter Christianity should shine. Sin brings guilt, confusion, sadness, and doubt. Christians should model what a happy marriage looks like! A truly happy and fulfilling life can only be found in living God’s Way – following His law rather than our own reasoning (Prov. 14:12; Ecc. 12:13; Eph. 2:10).

6. Rejoice when we feel the pressure. One of the greatest honors is suffering for Christ’s sake. Secular America is particularly hostile toward New Testament Christians. When we face name-calling, loss of opportunity, fines, or lawsuits – we should rejoice! Knowing how unworthy I am of God’s grace – it is an honor to be shamed because of the Name I wear. Glory in these verses:

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake (Phil. 1:29)

Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. (Acts 5:41)

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:10)

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Sources
[1] [http://www.gallup.com/poll/169640/sex-marriage-support-reaches-new-high.aspx]
[2] [http://features.pewforum.org/same-sex-marriage-attitudes/slide2.php]



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Why I Love A Cappella Music In Worship

Why I Love A Cappella Music In Worship

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Aren’t you the people who don’t have music?” Yep, that’s us. Mere Christians. Except we really do have music – and we love music. When it comes to our worship, however, we just don’t use man-made instruments to accompany our music. We simply use the strings (psallo) of the heart: our voices.

People who walk into our church buildings often ask, “Where’s the piano?” If I didn’t know much about the church of Christ, I would ask the same thing. It is, after all, one of the most obvious differences between Christ’s church and other churches.

Can I share with you the reasons why I love the exclusive use of a cappella music in worship? The following reasons aren’t in any particular order, except for the last one (it is by far the most important).

1. It’s simple.

Suddenly, worship becomes much less complicated when you take instruments out of the equation. You don’t have as many wires and electronics to deal with. You don’t need as much real estate on stage. You don’t need a sound technician. You don’t have to find musicians. You don’t have to coordinate as many people to assist with the worship service.

Additionally, you don’t have to worry near as much about the “worship wars” – the almost constant battle between those who want traditional music and those who want more contemporary music. Yes, there will always be people who want to sing newer or older songs, but in my experience the problem is greatly exacerbated when drum sets and guitars are part of the equation.

With a cappella music in worship, there are fewer things that can go wrong. And there are fewer issues by which to be distracted. When it comes to worshiping the Lord, simple is all He wants. A cappella music makes it easier to worship anytime, anywhere. (And if a cappella is the norm, you don’t feel like you’re “missing” something when instruments aren’t around.)

2. I like how the church can spend its money on more important things.

a cappella4Have you seen how much stuff costs these days? A new Baldwin grand piano will run you over $40,000. I hear what you’re saying, “It doesn’t to be a Baldwin.” Okay, but even a new Yamaha grand piano will be in the ballpark of $30,000. That is, of course, if you want to buy “new.” You can pick up used guitars, pianos, organs, drum sets, etc., for a fraction of the price. Maybe someone can even donate an old electric piano that has been collecting dust in their garage. But everyone wants the best – especially if it is supposedly for the Lord – and the best is going to cost some $$$. And if you can afford the best, why not get the best?

Plus, there’s the sound equipment you’ve got to worry about. Mixers, equalizers, microphones, amplifiers, and speakers that will do it all justice. This all costs money, and assets need to be insured. And in today’s turbulent legal situation (with implications of legalized same-sex marriage looming on the horizon) and unsteady economy, having unnecessary assets of sometimes-exorbitant worth can be irresponsible.

Without having to equip a “praise band,” think of the ways the Lord’s money can be stretched. Perhaps your church wouldn’t benefit much from the added savings, but other churches with more elaborate bands could save even more. Which in turn means more money could be allocated to feed the homeless, organize evangelistic efforts, or hire another minister. Use your imagination.

3. It is easier for me to keep the main thing the main thing.

Instrumental music in worship makes it easier to misplace my focus. I think less about the words in the song when sister Jones playing the organ accidentally presses a wrong note. I think less about the words in the song when the professional musician visits our service and amazes us with his talent on the guitar. I think less about the words in the song when I visit a different church and am charmed by how much better their band is than that of my home church.

When I was preaching in Georgia, I remember a nearby Missionary Baptist church that split over an argument between parents over whose child would get the lead role in the worship band. I know of a Methodist church in Lexington, Kentucky that lost over 200 members because the “music director” was fired over his reluctance to incorporate more “contemporary” music.

There is a natural tendency to make worship about the musician and his or her abilities rather than the object of our worship, God Himself. Musicians may humbly say, “I use my talent for God’s glory,” but what about the people in the audience who may be doing more listening than they are participating?

We must remember that those present in worship must participate in worship, not merely spectate. Acceptable worship involves teaching and encouraging one another through our singing (Col. 3:16). God has specifically requested reciprocal, congregational singing (Eph. 5:19). When instrumental music is added to the worship service, however, it tends to lend itself to performance-based worship. A cappella music allows me personally to focus on using the words of the song to edify the people sitting next to me.

4. I like worshiping like the early church.

I don’t believe in denominational Christianity. I simply want pre-denominational New Testament Christianity. I want to be as close as possible in doctrine and practice to the church instituted by Jesus Christ through His apostles in the 1st century. And there is no doubt about it: the early church worshiped with a cappella music. After all, “a cappella” is Italian for, “in the manner of the church.” For hundreds of years, a cappella singing characterized Christian worship.

There is no doubt about it: the early church worshiped with a cappella music

The late James McKinnon, professor of musicology at the State University of New York, wrote, “The antagonism which the Fathers of the early Church displayed toward instruments has two outstanding characteristics: vehemence and uniformity” (69). The Reformed theologian John Girardeau wrote, “Instrumental music had no place in the early Christian churches” (102). Edmond Lorenz, a well-known Adventist in the late 19th century, said regarding the music of the early church, “there was no instrumental accompaniment” (217). Dr. Everett Ferguson, professor at Abilene University, wrote, “The testimony of early church history is clear and strong that early Christians employed vocal music but did not employ instrumental music in their assemblies” (79).

I will mention a sampling of overwhelming evidence from the early Christian witnesses about the exclusive use of a cappella music in the church. Eusebius of Caesarea, a well-known church historian from the 4th century, wrote,

We render our hymn with a living psalterion and a living kithara with spiritual songs. The unison voices of Christians would be more acceptable to God than any musical instrument. (Ferguson 94)

Nicetas Dardani, an elder in the 3rd century, wrote,

Only the corporal institutions have been rejected, like circumcision, the Sabbath, sacrifices, discrimination in foods, [from the Old Law and have fallen into desuetude]. So, too, the trumpets, harps, cymbals, and timbrels. For the sound of these we now have a better substitute in the music from the mouths of men. (94)

Theodoret of Cyrus, an early theologian from the 4th century, wrote,

It is not simple singing that belongs to the childish state (in reference to the Old Covenant, BG), but singing with lifeless instruments, with dancing, and with clappers. Hence the use of such instruments and the others that belong to the childish state is excluded from the singing in the churches, and simple singing is left. (95)

Don’t you want to identify as closely as possible with the early church? Early Christians are not alone. Renowned men such as John Calvin, Adam Clarke, and Charles Spurgeon were all opposed to instrumental music. Spurgeon, perhaps the most famous of all Baptist preachers, commented on 1 Corinthians 14:15, “I would as soon pray to God with machinery as to sing to God with machinery.”

5. I find it easier to worship God with my mind (and not fall into the trap of empty emotionalism).

Music manipulates the human mind evokes different emotions. Background music in horror films, music played at gyms, and music in romance movies are all very distinctive. When young David played his harp, “Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him” (1 Sam 16:23, ESV). Modern scientific research proves in varying degrees the power of music upon our subconscious and our emotions.

Why not rebel against mainstream religion and truly be fresh? Be different. Pursue 1st century Christianity.

When I sing about matters such as Christ’s death, His resurrection, or His glory, I want to feel strong emotions – not primarily because of the talented band or compelling orchestra, but because of the potent words of the song. Music that is instrument-centered, instead of linguistically-focused, is a danger to the intelligent worship of God’s people, which must be “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

Worship must be edifying and encouraging, but it must also captivate the mind. “I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also” (1 Cor. 14:15). While worship should be emotional, it should principally be intellectual (which should then lead to emotional worship). In the words of John Prince, “Anything that has the power to bypass the mind and directly affect the emotions must be handled with the greatest care in the worship of God. Musical instruments, and even unaccompanied tunes, have this power” (153).

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones commented, “We can become drunk with music – there is no question about that. Music can have the effect of creating an emotional state in which the mind is no longer functioning as it should be, and no longer discriminating. I have known people to sing themselves into a state of intoxication without realizing what they were doing” (282).

Please do not misunderstand (as some may eagerly do); I believe singing must reflect the deep convictions and affections of the heart – especially our joy and thankfulness in Christ. “Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing” (Psa. 100:2). All I am saying is we don’t need instruments to accomplish this. (And if you need instruments for emotional worship, then you do not adequately appreciate the depth of your salvation.)

6. I don’t like adding to what God specifically commanded.  

When it comes to worship, has God through Scripture told us what will please Him? Absolutely. His Spirit-inspired Word says,

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Heb. 13:15)

We express our worship through our lips. We do this by praying and singing (1 Cor. 14:15). James writes,

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. (Jas. 5:13)

Elsewhere in the New Testament, we read:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  (Col. 3:16)

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:18-20)

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:25)

Again, has God indicated what is pleasing to Him? He wants us to worship Him with our hearts and with our voices. Additionally, there is an absence of mechanical instruments of music in the New Testament context of Christians assembling to worship. F. LaGard Smith wrote,

In contrast to the many Old Testament passages referring to musical instruments in temple worship, in the New Testament text not one sound of a musical instrument is heard – not a trumpet, not a harp, not the quietest jungle of a tambourine! Singing, yes. Musical instruments, no. Relative to musical instruments, there is only an ominous haunting silence.

When I assemble with Christians and worship God with a cappella music, I find comfort in the fact that I am worshiping God in the manner He specifically wants – no man-made additives. Simple, beautiful, congregational a cappella singing – just as He wants.

Conclusion

The first five reasons I listed are my preferences, and you are allowed to disagree. I genuinely believe a cappella music is most conducive for truly spiritual worship. But there is no getting around the sixth reason: God has specifically asked for a cappella music in our worship to Him.

I just want to stick with the primitive New Testament pattern for worship. Call it “vintage.” Call it “restoration.” Call it “radical.” But in an age where non-conformity is celebrated, why not rebel against mainstream religion and truly be fresh? Be different. Pursue 1st century Christianity.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Sources
Ferguson, Everett, Jack P. Lewis, Earl West. The Instrumental Music Issue. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1987.
Girardeau, John. Instrumental music in the public worship of the church. Richmond: Whittet & Shepperson, Printers, 1888.
Lorenz, Edmund. Church Music: What a Minister Should Know About It. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1923.
Lloyd-Jones, Martin. Preachers & Preaching. Zondervan, 2012.
McKinnon, James. The Temple, the Church Fathers and Early Western Chant. Brookfield: Ashgate Publishing Company, 1998.
Price, John. Old Light On New Worship. Avinger, Texas: Simpson Publishing Company, 2007
Smith, F. LaGard. The Cultural Church. Nashville: 21st Century Christian, 1992.



Source: Plain Simple Faith