Instrumental Music in Worship

Even though I’m going to take this blog in a new direction, I can’t help posting something I wrote back when I was a believing Christian. I was always afraid to post it here because I knew so many people in the church of Christ (the church I belonged to) would have problems with it. It was cowardly of me, but I didn’t want to go through that much drama, especially considering how things went when I did a post on drinking alcohol. But I figure I don’t have anything to lose at this point, so here are the thoughts I had on instrumental music in worship. Again, these were thoughts I held for many years as a faithful Christian in the church of Christ. I hope some of you will find these thoughts helpful.

I am a conservative Christian. I have always attended churches of Christ, and our aim is to try to practice things as close to the New Testament instructions as possible. Therefore, when it comes to our worship services, you will find no pianos, organs, orchestras, etc. You will only find a capella congregational singing. The reason for this is found in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, where Christians are encouraged to sing. And since “sing” is all that’s instructed, that’s all we do. Furthermore, since that’s the only instruction, we condemn anything more than simply singing.

For most of my life, I had no problem with this logic. But over the last several years, I have come to think of it as incorrect.

For me, the first chink in the armor appeared when I found out the word psalm (if you check the link, be sure to read the whole entry) essentially means “songs sung to musical accompaniment.” That was a huge revelation for me. Because if we’re told to sing those kinds of songs, then doesn’t that allow for musical instruments to be used?

Some would say no. Some people think that the meaning of “psalm” is irrelevant, since we’re still only told to sing. Others would say, “well if ‘psalm’ indicates the use of instruments, then you must use instruments!” In my opinion, both positions are extremes and make the subject much too complicated.

Part of the problem comes from viewing Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16 as strict commands. They don’t read like commands to me; they seem more like appeals or exhortations. The context of Colossians 3 is a plea for the Colossians to pull together and support one another. And singing is one of the things Paul says they can do to achieve that goal. Singing is referenced in Ephesians 5 because Paul is drawing a contrast: don’t be filled with wine, be filled with the Spirit! These simply aren’t written in the same way that most other Biblical commands are (10 Commandments, etc), though I realize that’s a fine line and difficult to prove.

Adding to the Command
But regardless of what kind of command it is, it’s true that those passages still only tell us to sing. And many Christians I know will say that if you add instrumental music to it, then you are no longer fulfilling the command to sing, you are doing something else. In their mind, singing along with instruments would be an addition to God’s word, which makes it wrong. But I’m not so sure that’s a good argument either.

Typically, in teaching about addition, the example of Nadab and Abihu is used. In Leviticus 10:1-2 we see that Nadab and Abihu are sons of Aaron and priests to God. While making sacrifices one day, they offered “strange fire” before the Lord and were struck dead because of it. I don’t know whether this strange fire was made a different way, or gotten from a different place, etc. All I know is that it wasn’t what God prescribed and they were punished.

This is often used as an example of addition. But if you really think about it, it’s not addition at all. It’s substitution. Nadab and Abihu weren’t left to figure out how to make this fire, God had told them (Lev 6:12-13 seems the likely place). They did something entirely different. That’s not adding to a command, that’s ignoring it and doing something else instead.

Another example that is commonly used is that of Noah building the ark (Genesis 6). God gave exact instructions on what type of wood to use, how many levels it should be, how many doors, windows, what dimmensions, etc. And I certainly agree that if Noah had done anything different, it would have been wrong. But that’s still not addition.

It is interesting to note that while God gave Noah many specific instructions, he also left some things out. For instance, God didn’t tell Noah how to build or arrange the living quarters for his family. That was apparently left up to Noah. Noah had freedom to choose how he wanted to do those things just as long as he built the ark with the specs God provided. Adding to those commands was okay.

If someone sings a song of worship while accompanied by a guitar, piano, etc, they are still singing a song of worship.

The Purpose of Singing
So why were we told to sing anyway? What’s important about it? Most Christians I know will rightly say that the words are the most important part. That’s absolutely true — after all, that’s where the meaning resides. But they will also use that to argue against instruments by saying that they distract from the words. In some cases, that’s probably true, and in those cases I would agree that the music has gone too far. But most of the time, music does not distract from the meaning of the words. Just think of your favorite secular music. You can enjoy the music and still understand the lyrics in most cases.

I’ve also heard people condemn instrumental music in worship because it can incite emotions. There’s some truth to that, obviously. But isn’t that part of the reason that God told us to sing? If we weren’t supposed to get our emotions riled, then the Bible probably would have told us to simply speak or chant to one another. But instead, we’re also told to sing — and one of the main reasons used is that it exhorts one another. Well if you exhort someone, you build them up emotionally! In my mind, the emotional aspect of music is actually one of the benefits we get from our worship.

And don’t forget that the Old Testament is full of references to instrumental music being used in worship. If it were wrong today because of its distracting nature, then it would have been wrong back then as well.

Some Closing Thoughts
As I said at the beginning, I first started questioning this issue when I discovered the meaning of the word psalm. But the next thing that caused me to challenge it was human nature. When my oldest daughter was a toddler, she loved to sing. And one day, she was going around the house with her toy guitar singing songs and strumming along. After a few minutes she broke into “Jesus Loves Me” or something similar, all while playing that guitar. Now this was a child who had never heard religious songs set to music. Never. Yet it was natural for her to assume that nothing would be wrong with doing it.

So when 1st Century Christians worshipped God, how did they do it? The earliest converts were Jews, who used instruments to worship God in the temple. In fact, in Acts 2:46-47 we see that the first Christians continued to meet daily in the temple where music with worship would have been practiced. But we see no mention of how that was disapproved of, or not engaged in, or taught against etc. The early Greek Christians would have been used to the same kinds of worship because of paganism. Yet there are still no teachings in the New Testament that condemn the practice of using instruments in worship.

God is not out to trick us. He gave us a message so that we could understand him. But how could people be expected to follow a command that is never actually given? Especially when use of the word psalm makes it seem ambiguous, at best? And when the Old Testament is filled with references of instruments used in worship, and when imagery of heaven involves harps and trumpets, and when their own human nature causes them to assume that it’s okay, how are people supposed to unanimously come to the conclusion that its use in the church is wrong?

Colossians 3:20-23 says the following:

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

As this passage says, why should we submit ourselves to strict physical regulations that have no inherent spiritual value when we’ve been set free from the physical mandates of the Old Law? Wouldn’t this condemnation of instrumental music in worship apply? There’s no inherent value in using or not using musical instruments.

And that brings me to my final point. I can understand someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with instrumental music in worship because it is not expressly commanded. But among conservative Christians, you often hear the phrase “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.” If you think about it, that’s an admirable position to take.

But on the subject of instrumental music, they have changed it to “speak where the Bible speaks and condemn where the Bible is silent.” In my mind, those are two vastly different things. We are completely justified to abstain from a certain practice if it affects our conscience (Romans 14). But that does not give us the right to condemn others for doing it when the Bible itself doesn’t condemn them. When we do that, we are becoming Pharisees — we are setting bounds for people that God never set.

When you see it from that perspective, it becomes obvious that true “addition” to the word of God doesn’t come from the use of instrumental music in worship, but in condemning others for practicing it.

I hope these thoughts make sense. I’ve been thinking about it for a very long time, but have never written about it till now. If you have any further thoughts, questions, disagreements, complaints, etc about this article, feel free to leave a comment below. And thanks for stopping by.

35 thoughts on “Instrumental Music in Worship”

  1. praise God!!!I totally agree with you. ….in the bible we see David (a man after God’s heart) was a harp player…and my view about instrument in worship is that it should be used as a tool to direct us to worshiping God and not divert us from Worshiping Him


  2. Your arguments have some flaws. For example, think about Saul presuming to offer sacrifices to God. He had not specifically been forbidden from offering sacrifice, but the priests had been specifically told to offer it. Saul was condemned by God because he PRESUMED to do that which had not been commanded for him to do. In like manner, when we presume to include something in worship that God has not commanded, we are taking liberties that God has not granted, especially when He has specifically told us what He wants. He wants us to sing. He is very capable of telling us if He wants us to play on an instrument other than our heart. Where does He authorize us to do more than sing?

    The other problem is your definition of “psalm”. It comes from the word that means “to pluck”. What leads you to believe that something other than the vocal chords are to be plucked? He specifies the instrument we are to use–the heart. Use of any other instrument is going beyond our authority. You make a lot of assumptions in your argument. You would be better advised to accept what it says and not go beyond that.


  3. Thanks for the comment. The example of Saul is a good one, but he still wasn’t doing something that God had never spoken about. God had specified that Levites could offer sacrifices — Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin. So God had already given commands about this, and Saul ignored them. That’s very different from what I was talking about.

    Also, the word that means “to pluck” is used in Ephesians 19, but it’s used where our English versions say “making melody.” That’s not the word I’m talking about. I’m talking about the word “psalm” in that passage. You’re referencing a verb, I’m talking about a subject. I hope that helps clear it up a little.



  4. Music is something God spoke about. He gave commands specifying what He wants. That is very much like the situation with Saul.

    Hope that clears up your misunderstanding.


  5. Just to clarify, I agree that the New Testament talks about the kind of music that’s supposed to be used in worship. But my point about the definition of psalm is that Eph 5:19 would basically say:

    speaking to one another in [songs sung to musical accompaniment] and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord

    Therefore, the definition of that word allows music to accompany the singing. In fact, it’s probably the best way to word that passage if Paul’s intent was to say they needed to sing spiritual songs, but whether or not they used musical instruments was immaterial. The confusion about these passages simply comes from most of us not knowing the full definition of “psalm.” That’s why I think people in the church of Christ would do better to stop condemning instrumental music in worship — there’s just no scriptural basis to make that prohibition. And it’s certainly not the message that 1st Century Christians would have understood this to say.


  6. Look at the context. He is talking about singing specifically, and the types of songs he is including is limited to those that were of a spiritual nature. Making a specific command into a generic one is problematic. You are broadening the scope of what is said by including musical instruments. If God had wanted us to play musical instruments He would have commanded it. We can’t assume or presume to do other than what has been specified. There should be no confusion about the matter when you consider the context.


  7. But he did command it. We just saw the passage. How else can one sing “songs sung to musical accompaniment” if no one provides the accompaniment?


  8. The Declaration of Independence contains the phrase “all men are created equal”. If this is approached the same way you are approaching this passage in the Bible, then your understanding of this phrase would be that all people are the same. Personalities, intelligence, race, nationality, thought processes, physical characteristics, etc. are the same. After all, the definition of “equal” would require us to accept this argument. Equal means “same”. However, we understand that the context of the Declaration of Independence dictates that this is speaking generally of our rights as citizens. Do you see the problems that arise from defining a passage by the possible definition of one word instead of determining the meaning and usage of the word from the broader context? I don’t believe that you approach anything else in the manner in which you are approaching the Bible. If playing an instrument is commanded, then why is there no example of it occurring within the early Church? Paul and Silas sang while in prison, there are other examples of the New Testament Christians singing, but none of them playing an instrument. You said earlier that playing an instrument would be optional, but how can that be if it is commanded? You originally said it wasn’t commanded, but now you are saying it is. Which is it? Read the passage again. Isn’t it dealing with singing? It is very specific. It tells us what to do and limits us to songs of a spiritual nature utilizing our hearts as well as our voices. The context doesn’t allow for anything else.


  9. I think this is much simpler than you’re trying to make it. You claim I’m trying to explain a passage by just one word, but then you hang the whole passage on the word “sing.” So I’ll ask again: how can one sing songs with musical accompaniment if no one provides the accompaniment?

    Your point about the Declaration of Independence would be valid if there were only one way to understand the word “equal,” but as you said, the context helps us understand what was meant. We know from common sense that all people are not exactly the same, so the meaning intended is very obvious.

    But you want to say that singing a song of worship along with musical accompaniment is forbidden by God, when the Bible actually says they can sing songs with musical accompaniment. You’re trying to make a “law” that goes directly against the reading of this passage.

    Don’t you think it’s at least possible that your understanding of Christianity could be slightly wrong? Look, the people in the Reformation Movement were admirably trying to get back to just what the Bible said. I’m not surprised that they assumed the word “psalm” just meant a spiritual song. But as it turns out, that’s not what 1st or 2nd Century Christians would have gotten from the word. They would have understood the word to allow musical instruments. As I stated above, the practice was encouraged under the Old Law, and pagans used it as well. How in the world was a Christian supposed to realize that it was suddenly wrong, when nothing was said to condemn it, and when they’re told to sing songs that were usually sung with instrumental accompaniment?

    The people in the Reformation Movement made a mistake here; it’s as simple as that. It was well-meaning, and it was understandable, but it was a mistake based on their poor understanding of the word psalm. There’s no need to continue compounding the mistake when the original meaning is now clear. It’s okay to adjust a position on something when the evidence dictates it. I hope you’ll really think about that. This isn’t supposed to be an argument, it’s supposed to be a mutually beneficial search for truth.


  10. This discussion highlights at BIG part of what is wrong with the Church of Christ. Many members of the Church are so dogmatic and rigid about certain doctrines that they are unable to even see another point of view. This rigid view of instrumental music *may* even be excusable if ChurchOfChristers were also as rigid on Jesus’ teaching on the Rich Young Ruler and the Good Samaritan and on truly giving up all that you have for Christ. But many in the church smugly condemn all manner of doctrinal error while never searching out the poor of this world who need clothes and never visiting those in prison (see Matthew 25). Before anyone excuses them self here please think about when the last time you visited someone in prison was.

    If I may be frank, I believe this is a large part of the reason why Nathan has ended up where he is. His view God and the Bible was so rigid based on CoC orthodoxy that it was inflexible when presented with certain fundamental questions. Just like a skyscraper that is not built to sway during an earthquake his rigid view of the Bible cracked when reading critiques made by rationally minded skeptics.

    We need more open-mindedness and rationale. While I disagree with with most of what has been recently published on this site, I am still able to rationally see the point Nathan is making here about instrumental music. In fact it is very easy for me to see despite my own orthodox CoC up bringing.


  11. The use of “mechanical instruments of music” (to use the c of C language) in worship is a challenging one. It’s certainly not a “cut and dried” clear cut issue. I once asked the question in a Bible class full of adult conservative Christians – about 50-60, “How many of you arrived at the conclusion that the NT prohibited the use of instruments in singing completely through your own private study – without being taught this by anyone else or hearing teaching on the subject?” No one raised their hand. I wasn’t making an argument about the subject, but noting that our views on this are inherited and/or ingrained the moment we become disciples; and that most, in our culture, would not just arrive at this view on their own. This does not, in itself, negate the view.

    Another significant problem is that very few members of churches of Christ, particularly those over 40 (of which I am one) are willing to actually enter an objective study on the subject of instrumental music. In essence we are completely unwilling to have an Acts 17:11 attitude. We cannot even fathom the possibility of being wrong on the subject. Every church directed study on the subject I’ve seen has not remotely entertained the possibility that instruments could be allowed when they enter the study. Few enter the study saying, “Okay, let’s re-study and be equally open to instruments or no instruments.” Most have their minds made up. In fact, most want classes on the subject NOT to study it, but to refute the use of instruments. They just want arguments against. If we are not willing to be open to change – how can we possibly say that is an objective approach? It is not. It is as equally biased as the Pharisees view of Jesus. Being so ingrained with a doctrine that, even if my conclusion is actually correct, I could not possibly entertain an alternative view without incredible emotional upheaval (As with the Jews reaction to Paul in Acts 22:20-22) is quite an unhealthy approach – spiritually speaking.

    It is a subject, it seems to me, where there are several challenges and entire books have been written about this. In some respects, one has to first ask the question of how do we interpret and read the Scriptures in the first place? Really, there is no one interpretive method, we have to have as many hermeneutics as genres (no one, in ordinary life, reads poetry, parable, narrative story, or law documents with the same hermeneutic – unfortunately for many, not all, in churches of Christ they’ve read all of these in the same way: as an ‘instruction manual’ for putting a piece of furniture together). While, the Bible is full of instructions, the particular genres need to be read differently.

    As Harris notes, if we are going to be rigid / rulebook oriented about one part – we should be consistent with all of it. How many have fulfilled this direct imperative from the Lord:

    12 “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. 13 “But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14).

    If we took the typical way brethren in churches of Christ read some passages (say Mt. 19:9 on marriage) and applied it here – we’d all stand condemned. But there are those who do take this as rigidly as Mt. 19:9. Of course, I think in some respects we are failing to fulfill this (though I don’t see this as ‘literally’ or ‘woodenly’ as some would – there are nevertheless challenging principles for us!).

    As to the subject itself, I don’t think the “psallo” argument favoring instruments is backed by Greek language scholars. Etymology (original meaning) of a term does not do anything here. The word “nice” once meant someone who was a dunce. Is that how we use it today?

    Just to quote Bauer’s Arndt & Gingrich Greek Lexicon on Psallo: “1. Sing, sing praise; in or with your heart. The original meaning of psallo was to ‘pluck’, ‘play’ (a stringed instrument); this persisted for a time. But, in the LXX psallo frequently means ‘sing’, whether to the accompaniment of a harp or not. This process continued until psallo means ‘sing’ exclusively; psaltes = singer, chanter, with no reference to instrumental accompaniment. Although the NT does not voice opposition to instrumental music, in view of Christian resistance to mystery cults, as well as Pharisaic aversion to musical instruments in worship, it is likely that some sense as ‘make melody’ is best here. Those who favor ‘play’ may be relying too much on the earliest meaning of psallo. … 2. Sing praise in spiritual ecstasy and in full possession of one’s mental faculties 1 Cor. 14:15; sing praise, Isa. 5:13 (LXX).” (Bauer’s Greek Lexicon).

    The NASB translates “psallo” in Eph. 5:19b as “making melody” and the instrument mentioned is the heart (key Greek terms in parentheses): “singing (adontes) and making melody (psallo) with your heart (kardia) to the Lord.” Even if “playing” or “plucking” were the meaning here, though that is doubtful, the instrument appears to be the heart. This is almost a direct quote from the Greek version of Ps. 98:5 – “sing praises (psallo) to the Lord with the lyre (kithara).” Paul, in Eph. 5:19, replaces “lyre (kithara)” with “heart (kardia).”

    That is not conclusive or sufficient evidence that instruments were prohibited. Paul’s point is not to argue about instruments (we don’t know that he has any of that in his mind) but about how to be filled with the Spirit of God (Eph. 5:18-19) as opposed to drunkenness. In essence, ‘high’ with the Spirit through singing. Some have argued that the instrument does not negate “singing with melody in your heart to the Lord.” And, that is true. Others argue that Psalms were sung to instruments under David so when Paul names psalms there is an expectation that instruments would be used – even though the emphasis is on the heart (5:19) and the understanding (1 Cor. 14:15). I don’t think one can say, however, that “psalms” implies the instrument. It could, but I don’t think it conclusively does.

    I am open to correction on that.

    While I teach what I believe about instruments I am not going to say that all those who use an instrument are condemned! This attitude of condemnation over an honorable disagreement is both unwarranted and has led to a rejection of the gospel for many. It it is one thing to say, “I believe X is wrong, or right, here are the reasons …” It’s quite another to say, as many in churches of Christ have said, “If you disagree with me, God will condemn you.” We simply cannot and must not whittle on God’s end of the stick.

    Perhaps these thoughts will be of benefit. Sorry for the length. Got a bit carried away!


  12. Harris, thanks so much for the comment.

    Jeff, I also really appreciate your take on this. In fact, it’s exactly the way I thought about this issue for years. Thanks for sharing.

    Most people in the church of Christ would heavily disapprove of the stance you guys take — that displays a lot of courage.


  13. This is my last post and visit to this site. I have a personal connection to Nathan and must confess that I am sickened by his views and comments on religion in general and God and the Bible specifically. I apologize if my comments have appeared too Rigid and not open minded.

    I think the real issue is not what I or any person or organized religious group thinks or says. It is about what God has said through His word. Is our attitude one where we allow and approve of actions in worship that we have no authority for or do we only approve and practice those things that we can clearly find authority to do? Is it wise to see how close to the edge of the cliff we can come, or to gather as closely to the shepherd as possible? I stand by my earlier comments, and would suggest that all study the scriptures and try their best to adhere as closely as possible to them.

    I am aware that many will consider this as “legalistic”, and I would agree. The New Testament refers to itself as a “law”. My desire is to be only as legalistic as the scripture, and to follow it as closely as I can. I am not trying to bind my “views” on anyone, but to stand for what the Bible clearly says.

    Nathan’s choice to turn from God comes not from a background of “rigid Church of Christ dogma” (in my opinion), but from a lack of love for the truth and a desire to serve himself. In any event, our authoritative source in religious matters has to be God and His word, the Bible. No “church doctrine” or opinion is suffcient as guide for our lives when our eternal condition is at stake.


  14. This is an interesting discussion. I believe in a creator, but the bible has too many issues for me to think it is from an all powerful, all knowing, perfect God. That being said, if the bible were from God, I can see where one must check their own agendas at the door and try to follow it as perfectly as possible. The problem with this, as I see it, is that everyone has an opinion.

    It would be easy to say that opinion must also be taken out of the equation, that our personal opinions do not matter – only what God says matters. However, how would a group of people determine what God is saying through this bible? Some things are obvious like, “do not commit adultery,” while others are not as cut and dry like, “does the bible condemn drinking, or drunkenness,” or in this case “does god condemn or allow instrumental music?” (I find it strange that it can be only one or the other) I guess God would ultimately decide, but since he is not clearing any of these issues up for us, we have to use our own opinions in determining what he wants exactly.

    To draw such hard lines on music when there seems to be reasonable evidence to support instrumental music, at least in some situations, seems a little too extreme. I hope that such convictions to a hard line approach would lead someone to heaven, because if you’re wrong, then wont God judge you just as harshly? Also, to alienate loved ones over such things would be truly sad if God didn’t really care. But then, I did say something about reasonable evidence. So far, there has been little to convince me that the bible believer cares anything about reason.


  15. To quote:

    I think the real issue is not what I or any person or organized religious group thinks or says. It is about what God has said through His word. Is our attitude one where we allow and approve of actions in worship that we have no authority for or do we only approve and practice those things that we can clearly find authority to do?

    No “church doctrine” or opinion is suffcient as guide for our lives when our eternal condition is at stake.

    That’s the exact point I’ve been trying to make. If someone really believes that instrumental music is not allowed in worship, then they shouldn’t practice it. But that does not mean they can condemn others for it, because you can’t “clearly find authority” to condemn the practice. In other words, the condemnation of instrumental music is not found in the Bible — it’s just a “church doctrine or opinion.”

    This whole thing is an authority issue. You don’t have the authority to condemn a practice that God doesn’t condemn.


  16. Nate,

    Thank you for posting this. I have not read anything else on your blog so I do not know anything about you other than what I have read here.
    I was raised conservative CoC and now that I have grown into my own thoughts and my own faith, I believe CoC overcomplicates many views with nit-picking arguments that only stand to support their views. Enter a discussion with a super conservative CoC and you will run around in circles with them trying to convince you with what “God/the Bible really means,” which, of course, no one can know. I loved the story about your daughter with the guitar, reminds me of how much Jesus loves children and how we should have child-like faith. Also, God is the judge. Let us not judge or condemn and leave that to Him.


  17. When we face our maker in the end, it will be a matter of what he says is right and not what we think is right, we will be judged by his word. If we change it in any way, we will answer to him in the end. I prefer to obey his will and except his word at face value. Any decisions we make on our own, or assumptions we make on our own, will be judged by God in the end. The important thing is God will have the final word.


  18. Hi Allan,

    If God is real, then I guess you’re right. Out of curiosity, in taking the Bible at face value, how do you see the instrumental music issue?



  19. Well, I don’t see it that way, but I understand where you’re coming from. To get back to your original comment, how do you see this issue? When you say this passage should be taken at face value, in what way do you mean? Do you think the passage prohibits instrumental music, or that it’s simply saying disciples should sing whether there’s musical accompaniment or not?

    Thanks again.


  20. I think your issue goes far beyond instermental use. I really do not think that my answer will satisfy you. However I choose Not using instermentatiom because the New Testament does not give referance or give example of its use. Sence I do believe in god, I want to obay him as closely as possible and keep my personal views out of it. I do not see where it prohibits use of it but that is however a judgement call and once again subject to gods judgement. I have attended churches that use instermentatiom and frankly i was not that impressed. Sence you do not believe in the existence of god, I find it puzzling, that this issue bothers you. I am simply saying, sence god does not command or give example of it in the New Testament, I am quite comfortable without its use. There are many churches that use it and that is totally up to them and in time, god will Make that call, not me. At least I know that I am not adding or taking anything away from the word of god. Christ instructs his disciples to sing, not play and sing and that is good enough for me.


  21. Thanks for the candid reply. It may surprise you to hear that I agree with you. I think you have the correct outlook on it. The reason this is interesting to me is that I was a Christian for many years and attended churches that prohibited the use of instruments. That in itself is not a bad thing, but they went a step further and condemned those who did use them. I came to realize that they had no authority to do that.

    The reasons I finally left Christianity were completely unrelated to this. But when I was growing up, thinking through the instrumental music thing was the first time I broke away from the doctrines my parents held to.

    Thanks again for discussing the issue with me. 🙂


  22. This is late in the game but here goes. God is not Vague. Meaning that if God wants us to do something He tells us, if God doesn’t want us to do something he tells us. When God is silent, then God has no opinion…it is not a condemnation until God condemns it. Growing up in the CoC we have problems with understanding past that which we have come to understand. And this causes a lot of hypocrisy.
    Let’s look at Eph. 5:19 “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,”
    Psalms per the meaning is to “pluck strings” and this was done to singing in the OT. It should be noted that the word psalms in the OT and the psalmos in the NT are basically transliterations, much like baptizo and baptism, and mean exactly the same thing. This is proved by the Septuigent, which uses the term psalmos in place of psalms in the OT version. The Jews in that century wouldn’t have understood the OT and the NT as separate, but rather a continuing story of God’s mercy. And the Jewish words would have carried the Jewish understandings.
    But let’s be technical shall we:
    1.) “speaking to one another”, which Col.3:16 also says, argues that there must always be another within in range of the singing and that that other person also must e singing. In other words, singing alone is unscriptural. Add to this that there are no examples of them singing alone. In I Cor.12-14 those who gathered together would have sung with the Spirit. In the case of Paul and Silas, they sang to each other. In the case of the Passover/Lord’s Supper, they sang afterwards. To follow this strictly, we must always sing in the presence of others, other wise it is sinful.
    2.) the melody must be a construct of the heart, meaning that a pre-written melody is sinful. Ironically the only proof of a pre-written melody goes back to the Psalms, where of course instruments were used.
    3.) Eph. and Col. applies to “making melody” and thus should apply to all instances of melody. The Jews didn’t have any concept of secular singing or music, as all was directed to God. But due to these verses “making melody” should be God directed, so to sing, even without an instrument, to another person is sinful. The early saints would have directed all singing to God. Technically secular singing is wrong, with or without IM.

    The argument of condemning something that accompanies something fails, because of this….common understanding and application.
    If a man is approached by his daughter and she says, “Daddy, I want to sing you a song”, then he says, “OK”, then she pulls out a guitar and starts singing, will the father condemn his daughter or not. After all she said “sing” and here she is not only singing, but playing. Did she lie or not?
    This is not rocket science.
    In the OT, IM was commanded in the Temple, but outside of the Temple, it was not and the people sang and used IM freely. Singing and playing was a part of the festivals and by people like David.

    To say we shouldn’t do things that weren’t done in the NT also must apply to things like church buildings and everything that goes into them. They either worshipped in homes or in open places, but one thing is true, they never had church buildings. Never.
    The Jews when giving, never prayed before the giving. There are also no examples of a contribution following the Lord’s Supper, but rather a song. See the gospels. There were also no examples of preachers settling in one congregation, which would have been hard due to there being many congregations in many homes.
    The Lord’s Supper was done in the evening, per the Passover and I Cor.11 and it being called a “supper” and was done around a table. If there was serving it was done by the women, which now is sinful in the “church building”.
    And then there is the blatant disregard for I Cor.11 where the women are supposed to have a sign of headship, either in a covering or by long hair, per command applying to “every man” and “every woman”.
    The list goes on.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Hey Dwight,

    Glad you stumbled upon the blog! I think you make a whole bunch of excellent points, and I’m glad to see someone else from the CoC who feels this way about instrumental music. Do you know any other Christians in the CoC that are starting to see it this way?


  24. Interesting interaction, to say the least. I’m a Christian, and I love Bible study above anything. You may be able to guess my background by my comments, but my point I’d like to make is that I simply cannot believe God would expect me to conform my beliefs to what another person told me to think. I appreciate the previous post that suggests a similar idea. When I taught reading, I was daily amazed by the wide span of interpretations that my students brought to the discussion, and yes, I was tutored by them, as well as them being taught be me. In addition, I had students who would never possess the ability to read and comprehend on a complex scale. They convinced me that God would never complicate His Word as dramatically as we try to make it. I am not posting for response or interaction, although I anticipate reaction, but what I find intriguing is that Jesus had every opportunity to dwell on issues of this nature and did not. He talked at length about how we should treat one another and how our hearts were our essence. As I restudied I Corinthians 13 recently, I couldn’t help but be taken aback all over again by what Paul wrote in verse 13 when he concluded, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Is that not the most basic revelation — that love trumps the other two! Nate, this is the first time I’ve ever seen your posts, and it was in my seeking others’ ideas on instrumental music. I teach children about Jesus, and their spontaneity of love and worship overwhelms me. I never plan to sit in another adult class if I don’t have to, and controversy of opinion has a lot to do with my reason. Jesus wants us to trust Him, and I am trusting that love and devotion, accompanied by study, obedience, practice, and lots of prayer will be enough. I have a brother I love with all my heart who I believe was discouraged in his faith by religionists’ radical and condemning words and ways. I would be interested to know what your views of creation and eternity are now that you no longer believe there is a God. Thank you for being so hospitable on this site.


  25. Jan, I’m not nate, and cant speak for him, but your post intrigued me and I wanted to reply anyway, if that’s alright.

    Although I no longer believe either, I can relate to a lot what you said. Before the faith completely left me, I had long realized that the Churches of Christ had several, real issues, and seemed to generally fall into what appeared to me as Pharisee-ism, making and binding rules that weren’t really in the bible at all – which, ironically, would be addition, which the bible explicitly condemns…

    So indeed, the CoC’s position on singing and instrumental music is flawed and can’t even be sustained under scrutiny – especially when it comes to instruments, choirs and solos.

    But if I could answer what i think in regard to creation and eternity, I’d say that I expect death to be like how it was before I was born – as in nothing – but that fate of black, nothingness does not automatically imply that I should lead a hedonistic life now – far from it, instead it means that i should focus more now on pursuing goodness and living the best I can with my loved ones with the life I have now.

    Eternity, I can’t say for sure, but If an invisible God can be eternal, without need of creation, then perhaps energy and matter (information) can be eternal, without the need for creation.

    But the bible’s “answer” to eternity and creation is just a claim that is made by men. There’s no proof, and if looked at carefully, you will find problems. Gen 1 says birds came from water while Gen 2 says that they came from dry land. Carefully read Gen 1 and how God placed the sun, moon, stars and BIRDS in the same sky, beneath the “water from above”…. as if the blue sky was blue because it’s water and that’s where we get rain, and as if the sun and moon are on this side of that sky water because we can see them, and it looks as if the blue is behind them… like an ancient person, without knowledge of the solar system, was trying to explain what they saw… and that’s just the first 2 chapters of the book…

    And then consider the actions of ISIS, how terrible we find them – yet it’s the exact same thing that God supposedly ordered the Israelites to do – to slaughter man woman and child, except the virgin girls, who they were take for themselves… righteous.

    so, a claim, by random men, within a book containing such things, doesnt really count as proof – or even good evidence, really.

    But goodness is real – it’s as real as we make, if nothing else.

    anyhow, that’s my quick take.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Hi Jan,

    I’m really sorry I didn’t get a chance to reply to you until now — just been staying busy. But I appreciate your comment, and I’m glad you decided to weigh in on this.

    First of all, I really admire what you said about learning from your students. I think it’s so important to have that kind of humility, and it’s unfortunate that some people seem incapable of that kind of openness. I also largely agree with your observation about Jesus’s statements not being so concerned with these kinds of petty rules and regulations — Paul tends to reject that kind of minutiae as well. Yet groups like the Church of Christ can’t help themselves in getting mired in all of it.

    But to your question, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to completely answer you on creation and eternity, because I’m not really sure what ultimate point these two things lead you to. So I’ll just do the best I can.

    When I was a Christian, I had major doubts about Big Bang cosmology and evolution. But after deconverting, I realized that my objections to those theories were solely based on my religious beliefs and not due to any specific scientific reasons. So out of curiosity, I decided to learn a bit more about the science behind the theories. Long story short, I found out that the evidence for both is quite overwhelming. If you’re interested in knowing specifics, I’d be happy to share some with you, as well as recommend some resources — but since I’m not sure that this is really what you were asking about anyway, I’ll hold off for now.

    I don’t believe that our Universe required any kind of creator. I can’t know that for sure, of course, but I don’t have any reason to think it’s the case. The assumption that there was “nothing” before the Big Bang is just that — an assumption. We don’t know that true nothingness is the default state of things. We don’t even know that true nothingness can exist! After all, even empty space has certain properties. Perhaps the current iteration of our Universe is just one in a long chain of expansion-collapse cycles. Or maybe it’s just one Universe in a multi-verse. Or maybe it’s something that no one’s thought of yet. But this not-knowing is not a reason to grab onto belief in any old explanation. We should believe things only when there’s evidence for them.

    As to eternity, I’m not sure if you mean the concept or the idea of an afterlife. In the case of the former, I don’t have any major thoughts about it, so I’ll address the latter.

    It would be great to live forever, especially if it meant spending time with loved ones, doing the things we enjoy, having adventures, etc. But it seems to me that all of the available science so far points toward consciousness and personality being inextricably linked to the physical brain. And we know what happens to the brain upon death.

    Furthermore, just to focus on Christianity, the concepts of Heaven and Hell in the Bible seem very problematic to me (which we could dig into if you’re interested), and the doctrines surrounding them show signs of development as you follow them through the Bible chronologically. In other words, I just don’t see any evidence to make me think I’ll survive my own death. So I try to focus on making this life the best one I can, and I try to do things that help make other people’s lives better as well.

    Anyway, I know that was a long comment, but those are big topics! Thanks again for stopping by, and I hope you’ll reply when you can. Take care!


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