thoughts on the use of instrumental music in worship

Man with GuitarI’ve begun posting some of my thoughts on church-related issues on the Malibu Church of Christ Blog.

For instance, I recently posted some thoughts entitled, “Opposed to instrumental music in worship? Here’s the site for you,” which discuss the ongoing opposition from some to the use of instrumental music in the Churches of Christ.

The position that congregations/churches (including Churches of Christ) should only use a cappella music during worship is completely indefensible (imho) outside of an argument from tradition (i.e., we’ve never done it that way, so let’s not start now because it might upset some more traditional donors contributors university administrators members).

It is not enough to point out that other denominations and institutions of higher learning mock those sectarians and sectarian institutions who still argue that any church that uses instrumental music during worship is “unpleasing to God” or worse yet, “unbiblical” or even “heretical,” because sectarians draw strength from isolation and ridicule. (They feel righteously persecuted for their “correct” beliefs.) Rather, we must have a transparent discussion in public about the issue of instrumental music in corporate worship, and must act upon the results of that discussion. During that debate, it will be important for those holding various points of view on the subject speak up. Likewise, when completely untenable, theologically sloppy arguments are made on either side of the issue, they should countered as appropriate, and should be challenged (professionally) even if the one making the argument has a Ph.D. in religious studies! (That goes for me too.)

The church must stop cowering to those whom seek to impose their minority opinion on the rest of the congregation, and whom refuse even to bring the issue up for debate.

It’s simply time we had the discussion. We can have it in this space or elsewhere, but we must have the discussion, and we must act on that discussion’s outcome.

8 Responses

  1. It’s not a moral issue
    It’s preference
    Most of the world population cannot relate to non-instrumental worship music
    They can appreciate it as an art form (like “the sing off”)… But only as spectators
    If you want to reach out… Make it an easier transition for people to participate by making the instrumental music loud enough to drown their own naked voice our
    That will give them the freedom to Worship without feeling embarrassed about their voice

  2. I must admit that I looked at the link to that site from your original post on the Malibu Church of Christ blog, but couldn’t make it through. Rarely have I seen such stupid “reasoning” applied to something that should be pleasing (at least to some extent; everyone typically likes some type of instrumental music) to anybody — God included. Thanks for the great post Dr. C.

  3. micah, that’s a great point. i had never really thought of that. then again, i only know the world from my tradition and my own singing (which i believe is wonderful. then again, i’ve never asked those around me ;-)

    thanx for the comment!

  4. you bet. thanx for the comment.

  5. Coming from the same tradition (but a much more restricted environment), one word comes to mind from reading this….ballsy ;-) Perhaps some rational dialogue can soon begin.

  6. thanx matthew. not sure if it’s courage, frustration, or just the rocks finally deciding to cry out, but there’s never any harm in having the conversation.

    thanx again.

  7. Such an approach to theology, history, and music is completely incomprehensible to me, but then I’m a high church, somewhat existentialist ELCA Lutheran with a PhD in New Testament.
    I’m also especially baffled by the comment about a “reasonable gospel”. So where does that leave those with a diminished mental capacity or mental illness? What about grace?
    My prayers are with you as you try to start a conversation with you coreligionists.

    Grace, peace, and a blessed Advent.


  8. Well, during the pre-Bach music ages, it wasn’t permissible to use instruments other than voice in the Catholic Church, as the voice, or singing, is the highest instruments of god, and instruments were viewed as recreational and devil’s play, as they were used in the court quite often for pleasure.

    I think those ideas are most definitely archaic, as Bach and the baroque era of music most definitely used instruments lavishly within Oratorios (Operas that were church themed rather than hedonistic) and choral work, as well as the use of the organ.

    This definitely makes me sad that someone would think instruments are unpleasing to God, and it kind of reminds me of the school of thought that subscribes to “God is only within these church walls and everyone else is a heathen etc.”

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