Glover Shipp Speaks Out on Quail Springs

Editor’s note: The following was sent by Glover to The Oklahoman in response to the story on Quail Springs’s decision to use the instrument in their Sunday meetings.

I have been in churches of Christ for all of my 80 years, and have served as a preacher, missionary, deacon and elder, presently as an elder of the Edmond, Okla., Church of Christ. I have taught world religions, the history of Christianity and our own history. I have studied at length the matter of instrumental music. I have visited instrumental churches. Here are my conclusions.

Mark Henderson is right in saying that the New Testament is silent on instruments in worship. The instruction on music in worship is found primarily in three passages:

  • Ephesians 5:19, which says to speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs; to sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.
  • Colossians 3:16, which tells us to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in our hearts to God.
  • Hebrews 13:15, which says that we are to offer the fruit of our lips as a sacrifice of praise.

One argument Henderson did not mention is historical. Here is what the Catholic Encyclopedia says in this matter:

“The first Christians were of too spiritual a fibre to substitute lifeless instruments for or use them to accompany the human voice. Clement of Alexandria severely condemns the use of instruments even at Christian banquets . . .” (X, 651). “For almost a thousand years, Gregorian chant without any instrumental or harmonic addition, was the only music used in connection with the liturgy” (X, 657).

And yet another of many historical witnesses:

Voices and Instruments in Christian Worship, published by The Liturgical Press: “From the standpoint of ritual action, liturgical music can only be monodic and vocal. Throughout nearly ten centuries of its history, Christian worship was in principle, and nearly always in fact, celebrated una voce [“one voice”- unanimously] and a cappella [without instrumental accompaniment, lit. “as the chapel”]. . . . The abundance and clearness of the texts in which the Fathers of the Church have discussed the questions can leave us in no doubt about the content and firmness of their teaching: musical instruments are to be excluded from the worship of the New Alliance” (142, 150).

Because of this historical position, the Eastern Church continued without instruments, even after the split with the Roman Church. The result is that all of the Orthodox churches, to my knowledge, continue their tradition of a cappella music. This is a major segment of Christendom. Other churches, also, deny their use, so churches of Christ are not unique in their position.

It is my observation in visiting contemporary instrumental services is that they look and sound exactly like any rock band — loud and with a heavy percussion beat. Guitars predominate, but with other instruments also used. The instrumentalists generally are not singing. Among those attending, many are not singing at all, but just listening to the music up on the stage. Finally, most have lost all ability to sing parts or even a cappella. The words of the songs are projected, but not the music. If a visitor doesn’t know a song, he or she cannot enter into the singing.

Visit the Edmond Church of Christ and hear a cappella music generally at its best. The congregation of about 1,200 members sings very well without ever turning to instruments to aid it.

We are certainly not against instruments. I played a violin for many years. Others are professional-level musicians. We choose to sing unaccompanied because of New Testament teaching on the matter, the example of the early church and its subsequent history for its first millennium.

Sincerely,

Dr. Glover Shipp

Randal and his wife Vicki have lived and worked in Brazil since Nov. 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. He likes to read novels in his back-porch hammock. http://randal.us

11 thoughts on “Glover Shipp Speaks Out on Quail Springs

  1. What about I Corinthians 14:15? Is this not in a “in Church” setting? Silence of the scripture also speaks loudly. Wtom Hall

  2. Wtom Hall asked about 1 Cor. 14:15 which says, “What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.” This text shows why instruments are not advisable. Of course it says nothing about playing instruments. But it also speaks of singing and praying in the spirit. In the Corinthian church the spiritual gifts that aided in singing and praying, thereby enabling the early church to cross language barriers along with tongue-speaking, had to follow the same rules placed on the prophets with tongues. Everything was done for edification and everything was done in order (vss. 26,40). To the unbeliever and ungifted (vs.16), singing or praying “in the spirit” amounted to making noise unless these things were interpreted to edify the mind. The application of this text for us is that anything that does not edify should not be included in the worship of God. Churches that include musical instruments in their worship cannot interpret the subjective pluck of a string and should therefore keep them silent. Instruments in worship amount to noise, like the sound of a gong or a cymbal.

  3. I am a member of a Church of Christ and we do not use instruments in our weekly services. First of all, let me say that I’m not arguing for or against instruments in worship. However, I think your reasoning is very flawed. Correct me if I’m wrong, but your argument amounts to: “That’s the way we’ve always done it”. If you could prove to someone that there was no foundation for belief in a practice, yet they persisted only because they had always done it that way. And let’s say, so had their predecessors. You might shake your head and say it was ridiculous. Yet, that is exactly what you’ve done.
    I’ve coached sports where an athlete had very unorthodox form that was detrimental to their performance. Trying to modify their form was a lot like pulling teeth. Why? Because we are creatures of habit and we are resistant to change (good or bad).

    Again, I’m not saying that music does or doesn’t belong in church services. I AM saying that your reasoning is not sound at all (excuse the unintentional pun).

  4. Dear Ty,

    Your are right when you use the argument “that is they way we have always done it.” If that pertains to things that are expedient. How many times we worship on the first day of the week ect. We are not talking about that but are addressing the example given to us on how to worship. If you study 1 Cor. 11:2 through 16:4 you will find the five expressions or acts of worship. God did not leave us without instruction. All must be done decently and in order(1 Cor. 14:40b). There are traditions that cannot be changed according to the inspired Apostle Paul.

    1 Cor 11:2 ¶ Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.

    2 Thess 2:15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word {of mouth} or by letter from us.

    I will also add in the context of the Lord’s Supper instructions, our brother Pauld wrote:”I received from the Lord what I passed on to you.” (1 Cor. 11:23)

    There are things that we must resist when it is found in God’s Word as lasting and abiding laws and commands. I did say laws because God has never left us without law even in the New Testament. There is no Biblical evidence for mechanical instruments in the worship of the New Testament. There is much evidence on what type of music is ordained an that is singing with the heart. It truly is very simple but men always try to bind and add what should not be bound or added. I am sure dear brother you would not add meat to the Lord’s Supper. Why? Because God’s Word gives us the example of unleaven bread and fruit of the vine. It is very striaght forward and simple to understand.

    On the sports end, yes their are unorthodoxed players but that does not change the rules of the sport. If a guy dribbles the ball in basketball stangely and carries it he will be called for traveling. A rule or command of the game. If he does not do anything illegal then it is fine. (it constitutes expediency). I hope this helps dear brother and does not offend. If you or anyone would like to continue in study my email is rejoice410@aol.com

    Because of Christ,

    Marty Trujillo

  5. We encourage everyone to consult the FAQ about doctrinal discussion. That’s not our purpose here, though we do have definite positions.

    We have deleted a number of posts, mostly from progressives, who take potshots and exhibit emotionally intense language with pejorative terms. We’ll continue that practice. The ones above seem to be a bit more level-headed, but, again, we’re not looking for doctrinal discussion on the site.

    But we are looking for general comments and even comments critical of specific things we’re doing are helpful, such as the comment on Thompson about who asked the big question in the Watergate hearings.

    Thanks!

  6. Dear Randall,

    Sorry about not using the comment section correctly. I was just trying to help. I hope I was not coming across in the wrong fashion. That was not my attempt. I did not see guidelines till you pointed me to the f.a.q. section. Thank you brother and keep up the great work!

    Because of Christ,

    Marty Trujillo
    Phil. 4:4!

  7. Marty, no problem at all. I sensed your good will. I’ve let several through that didn’t exactly fit the guidelines. We’re still working through this as well as we get geared up for the official launch, Lord permitting, later this month. What we’re really deleting are comments by judgmental progressives condemning us for being judgmental. 🙂 Shame on us!

    Overall, we’ve been gratified by the kind acceptance of the brethren. Thanks for your last comment and apology which wasn’t really necessary.

    Blessings,

    Randal

  8. Question.

    Dr. Shipp also points out that the singing was monodic.

    Why is no one concerned about that innovation? Is it because we are used to hearing four part harmony but not instruments? If the only measure is it sounds pretty to us that seems very human centered.

    I only ask because Clement of Alexandria was equally concerned with both.

  9. Darin, thanks for your comment. We are generally not interested in in-depth doctrinal discussion on this news site. There are other places on the web for that. Please visit and read the FAQ on this site.

    However, in response to your comment I’d just like to point out that the singing exemplified in the New Testament is not specifically one part or multi-part. It is “singing” that is commanded.

    Does four-part harmony meet the description of “singing?” Yes, it does, and therefore four-part singing is within the biblical mandate.

    Mechanical instruments of music do not meet the description of “singing,” and therefore they should be excluded in the worship in order to be sure we are practicing as God would have us.

  10. By referring to the fact that for a thousand years men did not introduce the instrument into worship Dr. Shipp is not offering that as a reason to continue the practice, rather he is pointing to the fact that those people understood and observed the simple teaching of the Bible on the matter. People today seem more concerned with their own enjoyment than they are with worshiping God.

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