I was reading through the Zondevan Counterpoints series book, Understanding Four Views on Baptism recently and encountered the above quote. I admit that it caused me much confusion (I wrote on the margin: “Uh?”). First, I’ll admit I didn’t go looking through the New Testament to see if the claim was true. I’m just going to give John Castelein the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s right. Second, Castelein noted that “Churches of Christ” is not a denomination in the strictest sense and so there is diversity; but it seemed that his point was that they unified around this point. I also don’t know if this is true and will assume Castelein is correct (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).
Okay, now to my point: even were I to grant that the NT does not authorize the use of musical instruments in worship, what does this mean? Think about it for a second. What else does the NT not authorize? I’m pretty sure there’s nothing in there about offering plates, displaying crosses in a sanctuary (or really anything at all about what a church may look like considering it was written during the time of house churches), playing Frisbee, or going on family vacations either. Does this mean all of these things may not be practiced? Certainly not. On the face of it, this appears to be an argument from silence: the NT doesn’t say we can, so we cannot. But of course that doesn’t follow.
Moreover, what of the multiple places in the Old Testament where the use of instruments in worship is clearly condoned and even encouraged? One may consider Psalm 33:2-3:
Praise the Lord with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy.
It seems to me that in order to argue that there may be no instruments in church, one must explicitly state that the Psalms may not apply to worship in Christian churches. For me, that’s a tough sell.
I’m curious to see whether there are positive arguments for this doctrinal distinctive. Let me know if you have encountered any and also let me know your own thoughts on the issue.
John D. Castelein, “Christian Churches/Churches of Christ View: Believers’ Baptism as the Biblical Occasion of Salvation” in Understanding Four Views on Baptism edited by Paul Engle and John Armstrong (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007).
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