November 21, 2017

To Applaud Or Not To Applaud In Worship

By Dick Blackford

To "profane" something is to take that which is holy and treat it as common. This is the reason I don't applaud in worship unto God.

Worship to the Almighty, Eternal, Sovereign God is unique, in a class by itself. (1) Only in the Lord's supper do we eat a meal that is not designed to satisfy physical hunger. It was eaten purely as a memorial, after the disciples had already eaten the passover feast. Meals eaten at holidays in our time are feasts designed to satisfy physical hunger. (2) In worship we pray to God. It is a solemn and serious occasion. But we do not pray to Elvis to celebrate his birthday. (3) In giving, we are to do so cheerfully, not grudgingly, as God has prospered us. The I.R.S. does not require this attitude when we pay our taxes. Also, the Lord does not specify in dollars and cents, but the I.R.S. does. (4) In singing to God we are to "make melody in the heart" (Col.3:16). This is not required when singing at a secular event. (5) In preaching, we must preach only the truth. But in social and political speeches there is no such requirement. One can even make inflammatory speeches against the government.

If clapping is a scriptural form of worship, couldn't the Lord have thought of it?

Arguments For Clapping In Worship

1. "If we would clap to celebrate a ball game, how much more does Jesus deserve our applause?" Re-ply: This is not the way scriptural authority is established. That can only be established from Scripture. If we can eat popcorn to celebrate a ball game, how much more should we eat popcorn in worship to God? (Don't blame me for the absurdity of any of these arguments. I am only showing what else it "proves" if the arguments are valid.) If we can eat black-eyed peas and hog jowl to celebrate New Year's Day, how much more should we eat these in worship to God? (I hesitate to make these arguments since some already have coffee and donuts in Bible classes. So far, they haven't gone "whole hog" and said we can have these in the worship assembly.) If we would pull pranks to celebrate April Fool's Day, how much more should we pull pranks in worship unto God? If we shoot fireworks to celebrate Independence Day, how much more should we shoot fireworks to celebrate our independence from sin and the Law of Moses? If we play "Pin The Tale On The Donkey" to celebrate our children's birthdays, how much more should we do so to celebrate our Lord's birth? If we take the day off from work to celebrate Labor Day, how much more should we take the Lord's Day off to celebrate that we are laborers in the vineyard of the Lord?

Had enough? How about one more. If we wear false faces to celebrate Halloween, how much more should we wear false faces in worship? All of these are the consequence of not basing an argument on Scripture but on human reasoning from secular events.

2. "Applause means the same as saying `Amen."' Reply: According to what standard of authority? It never meant that in the Bible. When a curse was pronounced by the priest upon an adulteress she was to respond by saying "Amen, Amen" (Num.5: 11-31). If clapping is another way of saying "Amen" it is difficult to imagine the woman applauding when a curse was pronounced upon her.

Moses pronounced twelve curses on the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali. After each curse Israel was to respond "Amen" (Deut.27:15-26). Could they have substituted a round of applause and been acceptable to God? Would it be acceptable for us to close our prayers with a round of applause instead of an audible "Amen" (I Cor.14:16)? Most of the epistles end with an "Amen." How do you communicate hand clapping in writing? This shows that something is being communicated in writing that there is no equivalent for. There is no record where "Amen" was used in a secular way. It is a word which belongs to the spiritual realm. Clapping belongs in the secular realm and is associated with sports and entertainment. There is a good reason for this since clapping is never mentioned in the New Testament.

Webster's definition of applause includes cheering and stomping the feet. Those who defend clapping must of necessity defend these also.

3. "If we can change the holy kiss to a handshake (Rom.16:16), then we can change `Amen' to applause." Reply: The Bible does not command the kiss as a form of greeting. Paul was not instituting kissing as the proper way to greet. The custom of kissing as a form of greeting or endorsement had been practiced for thousands of years (Exod. l 8:7; 1 Sam.10:1; etc.), so Paul was not beginning a new practice. He was regulating the attitude with which this custom was practiced. It was not a command to kiss. The emphasis was on the kind of kiss. When greeting with a kiss it was to be a holy kiss. It was not to be a hypocritical kiss, like that of Judas (Mk. 14:44) or of Joab (2 Sam.20:9). Nor was it to be a lascivious kiss (Ga1.5:19-21), but a holy one. Whatever form of greeting is the custom at a particular time and place, it should be pure.

Booing And Hissing?

If one may applaud a sermon to show approval (as one may show approval in this manner at a ball game), then why could not one equally boo or hiss to show disapproval if he disagrees? In a matter of time our services would be filled with applause (including stomping the feet), wolf whistles, cat calls, boos, and hisses. The right for one is the right for the others. If the silence of the New Testament authorizes applause then it also authorizes boos, hisses, jeers, etc. Is this really what we want? Has worship become so casual to us that there is no difference in our behavior and degree of solemnity at worship or at an entertainment event?

Perhaps unwittingly, brethren have bought into the idea advanced in debate by some defenders of instrumental music in worship, that "worship is a right thing to do and there is no wrong way to do it" (Given O. Blakely, Blakely-Highers Debate). Since the Scriptures are silent about applause and nothing is said to indicate that clapping is an acceptable substitute for saying "Amen," and since it is also silent about booing, hissing, etc., we believe we have concluded rightly that God does not approve either practice in worship or in a religious context.

Guardian of Truth XXXIX: 9 p. 2
May 4, 1995

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