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.
Dr. Glover Shipp