ARE MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS APPROPRIATE IN CHURCH?
It is obvious when pastors claim their church is biblical and not contemporary they have one thing in mind. They are speaking of musical instruments and any song not in the hymnal. Now, there are many types of music I personally do not like, but that is my preference. However, for any pastor to condemn another, or suggest that they themselves do things as intended in Scripture, may indicate they know little about church history, and less about Scripture. If we reckon time from the cross, much of what we do is contemporary. My argument is not the rightness or wrongness of instruments or songs recently written. My point is to show that we do not follow the faith of our fathers, whose tombs we whitewash, while condemning others who do not do as we do.
These historical quotations are enlightening about church history – musical instruments in public worship were rejected from the apostolic era to the 19th century. Such references to history do not prove musical instruments wrong in public worship, for only the Bible can do that, but they illustrate that what is now universally assumed and taken for granted was once rejected.
Justin Martyr (139 A.D.), an early church Father
“The use of [instrumental] music was not received in the Christian churches, as it was among the Jews, in their infant state, but only the use of plain song…. Simply singing is not agreeable to children [the aforementioned Jews], but singing with lifeless instruments and with dancing and clapping is. On this account the use of this kind of instruments and of others agreeable to children is removed from the songs of the churches, and there is left remaining simply singing.”
Tertullian (200 A.D.), an early church Father
“Musical concerts with viol and lute belong to Apollo, to the Muses, to Minerva and Mercury who invented them; ye who are Christians, hate and abhor these things whose very authors themselves must be the object of loathing and aversion.”
Eusebius (260-340), an early church Father
“Of old at the time those of the circumcision were worshiping with symbols and types it was not inappropriate to send up hymns to God with the psalterion and kithara…. But we in an inward manner keep the part of the Jew, according to the saying of the apostle…. [Romans 2:28f]. We render our hymns with a living psalterion and a living kithara, with spiritual songs. The unison voices of Christians would be more acceptable to God than any musical instrument.”
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), one of the greatest Catholics
“Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize.”
The Catholic Encyclopedia
“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 … For almost a thousand years, Gregorian chant without any instrumental or harmonic addition, was the only music used in connection with the liturgy.”
The New Catholic Encyclopedia
“The rejection of all musical instruments for Christian worship is consistent among the Fathers [early Christian writers]. They were associated with pagan, orgiastic rites.”
Martin Luther (1483-1546), the father of Lutheranism
“The organ in the worship is the insignia of Baal… The Roman Catholics borrowed it from the Jews.”
John Calvin (1509-1564), a father of Presbyterianism
“Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists therefore, have foolishly borrowed, this, as well as many other things, from the Jews. Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostles is far more pleasing to him.”
Theodore Beza (1519-1605), the successor to John Calvin
“If the apostle justly prohibits the use of unknown tongues in the church, much less would he have tolerated these artificial musical performances which are addressed to the ear alone, and seldom strike the understanding even of the performers themselves.”
John Wesley (1703-1791), a father of Methodism
“I have no objection to instruments of music in our worship, provided they are neither seen nor heard.”
Adam Clarke (1760-1832), one of the greatest Methodists
“I am an old man, and I here declare that I never knew them to be productive of any good in the worship of God, and have reason to believe that they are productive of much evil. Music as a science I esteem and admire, but instrumental music in the house of God I abominate and abhor. This is the abuse of music, and I here register my protest against all such corruption of the worship of the author of Christianity. The late and venerable and most eminent divine, the Rev. John Wesley, who was a lover of music, and an elegant poet, when asked his opinion of instruments of music being introduced into the chapels of the Methodists, said in his terse and powerful manner, ‘I have no objections to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen.’ I say the same.”
“But were it even evident, which it is not, either from this or any other place in the sacred writings, that instruments of music were prescribed by divine authority under the law, could this be adduced with any semblance of reason, that they ought to be used in Christian worship? No; the whole spirit, soul, and genius of the Christian religion are against this; and those who know the Church of God best, and what constitutes its genuine spiritual state, know that these things have been introduced as a substitute for the life and power of religion; and that where they prevail most, there is least of the power of Christianity. Away with such portentous baubles from the worship of that infinite Spirit who requires His followers to worship Him in spirit and truth, for to no such worship are these instruments friendly.”
Presbyterian Catechism of 1842
“Question 6. Is there any authority for instrumental music in the worship of God under the present dispensation? Answer. Not the least, only the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs was appointed by the apostles; not a syllable is said in the New Testament in favor of instrumental music nor was it ever introduced into the Church until after the eighth century, after the Catholics had corrupted the simplicity of the gospel by their carnal inventions. It was not allowed in the Synagogues, the parish churches of the Jews, but was confined to the Temple service and was abolished with the rites of that dispensation.”
Philip Schaff (1819-1893), wrote History of the Christian Church
“It is questionable whether, as used in the New Testament, ‘psallo’ means more than to sing…. The absence of instrumental music from the church for some centuries after the apostles and the sentiment regarding it which pervades the writing of the fathers are unaccountable, if in the apostolic church such music was used.”
“The custom of organ accompaniment did not become general among Protestants until the eighteenth century.”
Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), one of the greatest Baptists
“Praise the Lord with the harp. Israel was at school, and used childish things to help her to learn; but in these days when Jesus gives us spiritual food, one can make melody without strings and pipes. We do not need them. They would hinder rather than help our praise. Sing unto him. This is the sweetest and best music. No instrument like the human voice…. David appears to have had a peculiarly tender remembrance of the singing of the pilgrims, and assuredly it is the most delightful part of worship and that which comes nearest to the adoration of heaven. What a degradation to supplant the intelligent song of the whole congregation by the theatrical prettiness of a quartet, bellows, and pipes! We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it.”
Spurgeon preached to 6,000 people every Sunday for 20 years in the Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle and never were mechanical instruments of music used in his services. When asked why, he quoted 1st Corinthians 14:15. “I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the understanding also; I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” He then declared: “I would as soon pray to God with machinery as to sing to God with machinery.”
David Benedict (1779-1874), Baptist Historian
“In my earliest intercourse among this people, congregational singing generally prevailed among them…. The Introduction Of The Organ Among The Baptists. This instrument, which from time immemorial has been associated with cathedral pomp and prelatical power, and has always been the peculiar favorite of great national churches, at length found its way into Baptist sanctuaries, and the first one ever employed by the denomination in this country, and probably in any other, might have been standing in the singing gallery of the Old Baptist meeting house in Pawtucket, about forty years ago, where I then officiated as pastor (1840)…. Staunch old Baptists in former times would as soon have tolerated the Pope of Rome in their pulpits as an organ in their galleries, and yet the instrument has gradually found its way among them…. How far this modern organ fever will extend among our people, and whether it will on the whole work a RE-formation or DE-formation in their singing service, time will more fully develop.”
Albert Henry Newman (1852-1933), Baptist Historian
“In 1699 the Baptists received an invitation from Thomas Clayton, rector of Christ Church, to unite with the Church of England. They replied in a dignified manner, declining to do so unless he could prove, ‘that the Church of Christ under the New Testament may consist of … a mixed multitude and their seed, even all the members of a nation … whether they are godly or ungodly,’ that ‘lords, archbishops, etc., … are of divine institution and appointment,’ and that their vestments, liturgical services, use of mechanical instruments, infant baptism, sprinkling, ‘signing with the cross in baptism,’ etc., are warranted by Scripture.”
“It may be interesting to note that this church (First Baptist Church of Newport, organized in 1644) was one of the first to introduce instrumental music. The instrument was a bass viol and caused considerable commotion. This occurred early in the nineteenth century.”
Pastor Ken Blue was born in Boswell, Ark. In 1955 he accepted Christ as his Savior. He and his wife Joyce were married in 1955. They have 5 children. He graduated from Midwestern Baptist Bible College in 1969 and started the Open Door Baptist Church in Lynnwood, Wa. where he pastored for 39 years. Because of health issues (ALS) he was forced to resign as pastor. It is his desire to continue to be used of God to help pastors and believers through this ministry.
Why shouldn’t we have musical instruments in a church? After all, as long as they are used to sustain beliefs and the songs are suitable, why not? This can draw in more followers!
Andrew Poole says
It would seem that even church “fathers” were not immune to dogma on this issue. While much is stated for preference and opinion in their quotes, very little includes sound biblical basis for why or why not a Christian would consider any instrument in worship.
David invited his fellow worshippers to grab all hosts of instruments, harps, strings, clapping, and so on… Paul neither affirmed or denied their use… He simply told us to sing.
We certainly can’t deny the effect certain instruments have, and yes these ought to be taken into consideration, especially as worship and edification are the main focuses of Biblical song, yet I cant help but wonder if Paul’s approach, dealing with matters of doctrine, the preaching of the cross, and the heart of man towards God and not so much song structure, composure, and instrumentation may be an example better followed by Christians today when dealing with music choices.
In my limited experience, when people understand their calling in the grace of God as outlined in Paul’s epistles and have a heart of service towards God and others, the Holy Spirit does a fine job of convicting a person on their musical choices, as they are purged, like any other area of life as we grow, to better suit us for His use.