*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 7th of February 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
It is a mailbag Monday- I hope you enjoyed our 2nd-weekend edition. We had quite the bumps in number over the past two weeks- so if you’re new, welcome. If you’re not- know that I’m going to be using the concept of “Lex Orandi Lex Credendi” without using the Latin phrase as not to scare off any of the new ones.
Tracy in Holland, Michigan, wrote me a fascinating email in which she asked several questions about the history of worship in the church- and so we are going to break down part of that today. One of her questions came down to: “why do some churches not use musical instruments?” (and she notes that she knows of churches that don’t sing hymns- but only the Psalms.
A few things to start:
- I don’t have an answer to this one- but how often do we conflate our experience as Christians primarily with what we do for an hour or so on Sunday morning? I am firmly in the “you should go to church” camp, but it seems the New Testament is more expansive than that. Also- we don’t get much of a picture of the church as Sunday worship in the New Testament.
- Where you stand or sit goes a long way in determining what you see and how you think. I know there are people SHOCKED that some use instruments and others SHOCKED that others don’t. According to the book of Revelation, we will be worshiping together at some point- so charity might be helpful.
- As far as the historical record goes, you will not find instrumentation references in the early churches- not in Acts and very rarely in the first few centuries. So- “church history” would suggest that those who use instruments are innovators. The question is: are you allowed to innovate?
As far as churches that don’t use instrumentation, you will find the Churches of Christ, the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Oriental, several churches from the Radical Reformation (Mennonites, Quakers, etc.), and many Reformed churches such as the Reformed and Presbyterian Church of North America.
For those who do not use church instruments, the issue is one of authority. That is, who authorizes what you do in corporate worship?
Note that many churches that don’t use instruments adhere to the principle of Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)- so church history isn’t the final judge. Just because “everybody’s doing it” isn’t good enough.
Let me briefly walk you through a few categories so we can wrap our minds around the topic-
Consider four different approaches, the Regulative, the Normative, the Analogical, and the Adiaphoristic.
The Regulative principle argues that only expressly commanded in worship is allowed. The Bible “regulates” what you can and can’t do- Sola Scriptura! This gets tricky because of the different approaches some churches see between the Old and New Testaments. The Churches of Christ, for example, will see more of a break while many Reformed will see a continuity. For this reason, some Reformed Christians will use instruments but see it as commanded in the Old Testament.
The Normative principle is, very basically, that if it is not forbidden is allowed so long as it follows good order.
The Analogical principle says that if an analogous Old Testament worship event is commanded, you can bring it into the church- think of the harp, dancing, and other forms of physical worship.
And the adiaphorist position says that issues about worship- outside what is commanded- are up to the individual conscience. Of all four, this is the broadest, whereas the Regulative is the most strict.
There is no shortage of very, very zealous folks arguing for a version of one of these four positions (or a combo of a few). The “worship wars” have been around for a long time- and if our central activity takes place on the day of the week we come together, then it makes sense.
Thanks for the question, Tracy, and please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org- and don’t be shy! We hope to do a weekend edition mega mailbag thread soon.
The Last Word for today comes from Psalm 1- but from the Scottish Metrical Psalter- something convenient for those who worship with exclusive Pslamnody:
1 That man hath perfect blessedness,
who walketh not astray
In counsel of ungodly men,
nor stands in sinners' way,
2 Nor sitteth in the scorner's chair:
But placeth his delight
Upon God's law, and meditates
On his law day and night.
3 He shall be like a tree that grows
near planted by a river,
Which in his season yields his fruit,
and his leaf fadeth never:
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 7th of February 2022 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man with a bronze star and a purple heart for the Worship Wars of 2102. He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man who both claps and taps his feet in rhythm during church- this is a new development. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.