THE RESTORATION PRINCIPLE: WHAT IS IT, AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
by Dan Coker
Lesson Three: Consuming one another (Gal 5:15)
It was noted in the first lesson that Thomas Campbell attempted to establish a functional hermeneutical base by the use of terminology such as "express terms," and "approved precedent." These were modified somewhat and later became popular as the concepts of "direct command" and "approved apostolic example." Concerning this hermeneutic and its author, Dr. B. J. Humble observes that "Campbell also believed that the New Testament taught by inference, but he did not believe that truths known only by inference should be bound on the consciences of others" (The Story of the Restoration, p. 20). Related to the concept of inference is that of the silence (absence of explicit instruction) of Scripture. Alexander Campbell interpreted such "silence" as meaning "one has no authority to do it." Later, the concept of expediency began to challenge the integrity of Campbell's position-so much so that he felt obliged to accept certain expedients (such as Church buildings) as "necessary." But subsequent introduction of "necessary" expedients and "necessary" inferences generated more questions than answers. How to apply Scripture has been the basis of numerous debates-and divisions-among the Churches of Christ, but when instrumental music was introduced as a part of the praise services, the silence of the Scripture argument was-and still is-the primary defense against its inclusion. In contrast, the purpose of this study will be to present a case for a cappella praise in the Churches, not from silence, but from that which is quite audible: hearing the facts, from Scripture; from ecclesiastical history; and from our restoration heritage. While we listen to these sources, it would be good to consider two conflicting attitudes that frequently manifest themselves-albeit not usually as explicit declarations-in the arguments of those who claim to follow the Bible: 1) "We are the right Church, therefore what we do is right." 2) "We are the right Church because we do the right things."
What do we know about instruments in the Bible and in history?
- 1. It is undeniable that several instruments were employed in doxologies (Ps. 150) and in ceremonies of dedication (2Cr 5:12,13; 29:20-36). These latter passages describe the use of instruments to raise a joyful praise unto the Lord on occasions such as the original dedication of the Temple, and the restoration of Temple worship during the time of King Hezekiah.
- 2. The original meaning of the Greek word psallo, (used in Ef 5:19, literally "intoning psalms" in your heart) was that of "plucking, twitching or touching the strings of an instrument." Certain psalms were designed to be presented with the accompaniment of the "softer" instruments, such as the harp, lyre, and flute. But even then, the music was of a "background" type, and was never considered to be an integral part of the psalm. For example, when a psalm was presented to encourage repentance and fidelity, frequently the background music would stop altogether, allowing the listener to have time to reflect on his or her life without any sort of distraction. Such pauses in the process were identified by the word "Selah" (see Psalms 32 and 89), after which time the music would begin anew, rising in volume until it reached its crescendo, a symbol of a spiritual offering to the Lord.
- 3. Languages are dynamic expressions of thought that grow and change in usage with the passing of time. A clear and apropos example of this phenomenon is that of the word "lyre." Originally, every form of the root word referred either to the instrument itself or to the music produced from it. But during the past several centuries, the adjective "lyrical" and the noun "lyrics" have referred exclusively to the words of a song or poem. In fact, by definition a "lyrical poem" is one that is recited without music. Of even greater consequence, the word psallo (Greek equivalent of the Hebrew used for writing the Psalms) had changed its meaning completely from the time of David until the time of Christ. In David's time it meant "pluck a string" as an accompaniment to singing; in New Testament times it meant "sing, accompanied by the melody made in the heart." When the Ephesians received the word psallo in exhortation from Paul, not a single one of them thought of instrumentation. That is why this Greek word is translated simply "sing" in the New Testament. Even those translators who use instruments of music in their praise services do not suggest that instrumentation in any way should be included in the rendering of psallo in Ef. 5:19.
- 4. Although instruments were used in the Temple (controlled by the Sadducees) during the time of Christ, the Synagogues (established after the Babylonian captivity, and eventually controlled by the Pharisees) did not use instruments of music, because they were centers for study, instruction, and meditation. When those present heard an exhortation delivered from the Psalms by the Cantor, they kept silence in reverence toward the Lord. Note: ekklesía (church) is the Greek counterpart of the Hebrew word for "synagogue."
- 5. From the first to the eighth century (some authorities put it as late as the tenth) not even the Roman Church used instruments of music in the worship assembly. So pronounced was the absence of instruments in the praise service that the designation in Latin "a cappella" ("as done in the chapel, or Church building") was adopted to distinguish Christian singing from secular instrumentation and singing. Today, the word still means "singing without instrumentation."
- 6. Although there is no specific pronouncement against instrumentation in the New Testament, Paul does draw an unfavorable comparison between the sound of "lifeless" instruments and the conviction, purpose and quickening power of "singing with the spirit" (1Co 14:7-15). Also, there is an impressive list of Church leaders who both criticized and resisted the inclusion of the instrument in the Church's worship, from the second century "Church Fathers" until the dawning of the US Restoration Movement. Some of their statements are recorded on an accompanying page.
- 1. Outward expressions of devotion to the Lord are extremely important, in both Old and New Testaments. And one of the most obvious characteristics of these audible and visible forms is the exactness with which they are to be offered to the Lord. This was not because the Lord is a legalist, but because the outward expression is indicative of both the spirituality of the worshipper and the motives of his heart.
- 2. Perhaps a good way to study the purposes of "form" worship, is to compare the "shadow" and "fullness" of several acts of worship as described and compared in the Old and New Testaments. After such an examination, the key question should be: "In which of these forms did the Lord allow modification or innovation in order to enhance the presentation?"
- a. Altar: Animal sacrifice / crucifixion of Jesus (He 9:15-28)
- b. Temple: Consecration with sacrifice / the body (Ro. 12:1; 1Co 3:16)
- c. Incense: Continual aroma before the Most Holy Place / prayers (Rev 5:8)
- d. Bread of the Presence: Priestly food / Lord's Supper (1Co 10:16)
- e. Lampstand: God's fire among His people / His churches (Rev 1:20)
- f. Laver: Ceremonial purification / baptism (Ac 22:16; 1Pe 3:21)
- g. Doxology: Instruments, dance, singing / "fruit of lips," or "singing" (Heb. 13:15; 1Co 14:15; Col 3:16)
CHURCH LEADERS SPEAK OUT ABOUT INSTRUMENTATION
- 1. Examining the textual, contextual and historical evidence concerning music and praise in the Old and New Testaments, it is difficult to establish a "fit" between instrumentation and singing in the New Covenant context. Neither by suggestion nor example-much less by commandment-does the New Testament bring the two concepts together-not even for the sake of "beauty and enhancement." In fact, quite the opposite is true. The emphasis is placed directly on the purposes that are characteristic of the New Temple of God: teach and instruct one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, while each participant raises a doxology in his heart to the Lord.
- 2. For the church of the first century, the use of the instrument would have been as strange as offering animal sacrifices. The old forms had been replaced by the newer, spirit-filled ones.
- 3. Those of us who belong to Christ are now His sanctuary (hierón), His priesthood (hiereús), and His living sacrifice (hierós). That is, we are engaged in activities in which all the faithful can and should participate.
- 4. According to New Testament instruction, the Sunday meeting of the church is for purposes of reflection on God's grace, edification in His Spirit, communion with His body, instruction in His word, and praise to His glory. All this must be done in a participatory-yet orderly-way. Therefore, participation means that one will contribute as well as receive (edify and be edified) while in ekklesía. Instrumentation simply has no part in the basics of this process.
1. Justin Martyr (139): "Simply singing is not agreeable to children [Jews], but singing with lifeless instruments and with dancing is. On this account the use of this kind of instruments . . . is removed from the songs of the churches, and there is left remaining simply singing."
2. Clement of Alexandria (190): "Leave the pipe to the shepherd, the flute to the men who are in fear of gods and intent on their idol worship. Such musical instruments must be excluded from our wingless feasts, for they are more suited for beasts and for the class of men that is least capable of reason, than for men."
3. Chrysostom (347-407): "David formerly sang songs, also today we sing hymns. He had a lyre with lifeless strings, the church has a lyre with living strings. Our tongues are the strings of the lyre with a different tone indeed, but much more in accordance with piety."
4. Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), author of the "Gregorian Chant," had it and other chants sung a cappella.
5. One of the great differences between the Roman and Greek Orthodox Churches (formal split in 1054) was the instrument, which the Greek Church rejected.
6. Thomas Aquinas (1274): "Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize."
7. Martin Luther (1483-1546): "The organ in the worship is the insignia of Baal . . The Roman Catholic Church borrowed it from the Jews."
8. John Calvin (1509-1564): "Musical instruments in celebrating the praise of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, the restoration of the other shadows of the law."
9. John Wesley (1703-1791): "I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen."
10. Alexander Campbell (1788-1866): "I presume, to all spiritually-minded Christians, such aids [instruments] would be as a cow bell in a concert."
11. J.W. McGarvey (1881): "Musical Worship has been attended by strife, alienation, and division, with all their attendant evils, in hundreds of congregations . . . I regard the use of the organ in the worship a violation of one of the fundamental principles of our plea for restoration and unity."
Last updated November 13, 2001.