I Think Just As I Always Did Whatever I May Say"(II)

Ron HaIbrook
Nashville, Tennessee

"I Believe Instrumental Music Is Sinful"

Having known for nearly 10 years Brother Edward Fudge's position on instrumental music and similar innovations (i.e., they are not sinful, though better left off), having heard him adamantly defend his view in mid-July 1973, and in view of his defense of his position within a matter of hours before he spoke on Oct. 7, we were shocked indeed to hear him blurt out without blinking an eye, "I believe that instrumental music is sinful. " He mentioned missionary and benevolent institutions, and those who oppose such, getting "tangled up in a party way with papers or colleges." I believe it is also wrong and sinful to tell things that are not so on people, to travel around disrupting the peace of the brethren, to create suspicions and hinder the work of the Lord. And 1 don't mind saying that on any of those things." (pp. 28-9 typescript).

At that point he turned to other matters, leaving this writer doubt as to whether he meant the instrument is sinful on an objective or subjective basis. He had always believed worship with an instrument was sinful for him personally; on the basis that his conscience was enlightened, it would constitute self-willed, presumptuous sin for him personally. At the same time he maintained that it was used in sincerity by some who were not enlightened and therefore "involved a false piety, not a flagrant pride;" "that made a difference with Him (God) in this situation" (Firm Foundation, Vol. 89, Nos. 22-23). We got more light when he addressed himself to his "Faith or Opinion" article in which he had referred to innovations as "matters of `opinion' " (Christian Standard. July 8, 1967).

. . . anything specifically stated by God is a matter of faith . . . If you've got to figure it out, if you've got to put two and two together and get four, then they (i.e. the Campbells, and Fudge, who was recommending this approach; (RH) called it opinion obviously instrumental music and all kinds of issues are not things, most of the time, that we can just turn and read straight out of the Bible, `do not do it.' It's not that simple. It's a matter that you've got to put two and two together" and therefore is "opinion." "But now it's not true to claim that that means that either they or I would have approved of it . . . as far as writing in the Christian Church magazine, the point of that was to try to ease up on them from a different side and get a, point across to them a little different way that maybe they would listen to."

Brother Fudge will never convert any Christian Church people that way, nor even keep members of the Church sound! Though he says he opposes compromise, his position constitutes a compromise. It is a compromise position. They will be converted when they learn that their innovations are violations of the faith (Jude 3), additions to the gospel (Gal. 1:8-9), and outside the doctrine of Christ (2 Jn. 9). Their lawless deeds break fellowship with faithful brethren because such deeds first break fellowship with God"whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God."

But of course Ed, being a hail-good-fellow and a second generation preacher, could not take such a hard line; he had swallowed Ketcherside's position on Jude 3, Gal. 1:8-9, and 2 Jn. 9 hook, line, sinker, and even the fishing pole itself. He believed a passage like 2 Jn. 9 only "eliminates from `the fellowship' all who deny . . . that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." He believed such passages do "not (deal) at all with differences or arguments between saints on how best to please the Christ" and therefore "it is just as wrong" to apply such passages to modern innovations "as it would be to fail to apply them to the modern deceiver and anti-christ" (Christian Standard, Nov. 30, 1968).

So what could Brother Fudge do when he decided to send an article to a Christian Church paper on instrumental music but take a compromise position. Any gospel preacher who writes what Christian Church people need to hear on instrumental music would find the odds of publication 1000 to one against publication. It would take a compromise position to get publication! They do not want their people told in clear, scriptural language that instrumental music in worship is .sin which violates, adds to, and goes beyond the Lord's will. Nor do they want it said that such breaks fellowship with God and the faithful.

They will print articles if someone will say such things as: (1) the preachers who originally called for a restoration of the ancient order did not consider instrumental music, .centralized cooperation, and institutionalism as violations of the faith nor additions to the gospel; (2) such preachers originally saw such matters as opinions arrived at by inference and deduction; (3) matters of opinion were not made tests of fellowship; (4) we should adopt the same approach as a solution to the problem of fellowship. The price of publication is compromise. Ed Fudge paid that price. hoping they would learn to give up the instrument rather than force it on others as a test of fellowship. Compromisers can never see that their compromise cuts both directions. The Christian Standard printed the "Faith or Opinion" article because the corollary to Ed's hoped-for lesson is this lesson: those who refuse the instrument cannot draw lines of fellowship over the issue as long as those who use it do not force anyone else to use it against his will.

Ed can see the corollary in his compromise because he stated it himself in the "Faith or Opinion" article, though he omitted mention of this on Oct. 7. After saying the one who wants his "opinions" (innovations!) introduced should "not impose his opinions on others," Ed clearly states the corollary: "this does not give the objector the right to forbid the other brother's doing" whatever his opinion leads him to do. This is because "opinion will not interfere with his salvation." The Christian Church people can see this corollary and so can feel justified to retain the instrument because of the very article that is supposed to teach them to repudiate it. A number of young men among the saints have seen it. These young men have seen it and bought it. Like Ed, many of these young men now want to recognize some kind of fellowship with those who use instruments; some have gone much further. Compromise does not kill faith like a heart attack. It eats at the vitals of faith like a cancer: quietly, gradually.

Has Ed changed his view of the connection between instruments and sin? Maybe. More important, has he changed his view of the relation between instruments and fellowship? Does he still believe in 1974 (as he did in 1967 when he wrote on "Faith and Opinion" for a Christian Church paper) that there is room for fellowship in Christ with those who use instruments and other innovations? On that point, for once he speaks without ambiguity or equivocation, "From the first to the last, I haven't ever changed my mind."

In the closing sentences of his first presentation on Oct. 7, Brother Fudge added a little on his view of sin. "The Bible teaches that instrumental music is a sin In the worship of the New Testament church." He said since sin "means to miss the mark," "I really believe, if you want to get right down to it, that every time anybody believes something different from what I do, and every time anybody practices something different from what I do, and every time anybody practices something I don't want to practice according to the Bible, I believe it is a sin." Whether certain things are called sin "is nothing in the world but a semantic difficulty" (p. 34 typescript).

When Brother Fudge sat down, he left Brother Tom O'Neal and the present writer looking like a couple of bald faced liars at worst or dim wits at best. Both of us had preached and printed material concerning the dangers of Ed's refusal to call instrumental music and other innovations sinful. That was Ed's position, publicly and privately, spoken and written, for some ten years. Silence can be deception. Brother Fudge practiced such deception by not uttering one .syllable of admission as to his former position. O'Neal and Halbrook say Fudge has consistently taught the instrument is not sinful in worship, though better left off. Fudge simply gets up and says he not only believes the instrument is better left off, he believes it is "a sin in the worship"! What is the audience to think of those who gave the opposite report of a man's belief, after hearing the man state his belief for himself??? Since he repeated this deception in his Nov. 8 Gospel Guardian editorial without batting an eye- "I believe that instrumental music is sinful-that it misses the mark of God's Word" - we hereby call upon him to make the same correction in the Guardian that he finally trade before the brethren assembled on Oct. 7.

Only after the present writer had the floor and prodded Ed by reminding him of his past teaching, public and private, did he get up and admit that O'Neal and Halbrook had represented him correctly on this matter. Compare this admission with the blanket denial of correct representation published in Ed's Nov. 8 editorial

". . . yes, I told Ron that I would not use the word sin of these things (instrumental music in worship, recreation in the church's work, church donations to human institutions, churches centralizing their work; RH) . . . I was thinking by the word sin of things that are violations of God's clear word (RH spoke up: "Amen!"). And I would rather use the word sin if God says do something and a man doesn't, then that's a sin. If God says don't do it and a man does, then that's a sin .... And obviously I'm not saying the same thing there I said the other time. Now here's the reason. I went back and studied some more in the word books, the Greek books and things of this sort that define the word sin; and I found that the word stands for several different words. Some of the words imply" (1) "mean and ornery," (2) "a rebellious spirit," (3) a simple misunderstanding or _ weakness. "And yet the Bible uses the word sin of all these different kinds, although it emphasizes different aspects. And so it's in that general sense that the word sin is meaning something different from what I understand the will of God to be; but I'm happy to say, yes, all those things (instruments, etc. RH) are sinful" (pp. 52-53 typescript).

Obviously Brother Fudge has been casting about trying to find the solid ground 9n this troublesome little word "sin." After 10 years of preaching, after winning a medal in Greek and earning a degree in it, after ransacking the lexicons and dictionaries in preparation for Oct. 7, he still has not found his balance. Several "first generation preachers" might have been of real service to him on this matter if he had not been fretting, under Ketcherside's influence, over their supposed "legalistic, pharisaical system of interpretation." These men, like Roy Cogdill, Franklin Puckett, and others, have been preaching for years that "sin is lawlessness" after the fashion of I John 3:4. They have pointed out that men who bind what God has not bound or loose what God has not loosed in order to salvation and fellowship, are lawless - without divine law, missing the mark required by God, not walking by faith! Furthermore, these first generation "hard-liners" have not shunned, on the excuse they are not God, to preach that Christ will declare at the judgment, "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. 7:23).

Instead of feeding on denominational theology and digressive interpretations of the restoration effort, all of us younger preachers will learn more about true grace, faith, unity, and love - as well as about sin - by listening to these older men of the Book and by turning to the Book itself. These men and the Book have taught that we may have "the grace of God" by faithfully obeying "the word of his grace" (Tit. 2:11 ff; Acts 20:32). They have not preached many sermons on Christ as "a representative law keeper" whose righteousness will be transferred to us in case we have used instrumental music or otherwise sinned by "false piety" (cf. Ed Fudge, Gospel Guardian. Vol. 21, No. 44; Firm Foundation. Vol. 89, Nos. 22-23). They have rather preached that when David saw his sin, repented of it, and sought forgiveness, God counted this obedient faith for righteousness. They have preached that when Abraham met the condition of obedient faith, "it was imputed to him for righteousness" (Rom. 4; Ja. 2). They have shown that unity in Christ is unity upon the word of Christ - not meaning that we know all there is to know, but meaning we do not bind or loose what God has not bound or loosed (Jn. 17, Acts 2, Eph. 1-4). They have urged that loving God is nothing short of obedient faith to God's Word (I Jn. 5).

We are not holding Brother Fudge up to unfair or ugly ridicule, or demeaning his scholarship when we point out that something is basically. wrong, deeply wrong, in his fundamental concepts of New Testament Christianity. He is still confused and utterly out of balance on such fundamentals as grace, faith, unity, love, and sin. And that after years of study, preaching, and writing!

Has he finally found his balance upon the Word of God on sin? Well, it sounds encouraging to hear him say that innovations miss the mark of God's Word, i.e. lawlessness. But he used this nebulous proviso: "it's in that general sense that the word sin is meaning something different from what I understand the will of God to be." As quoted earlier, he says, "if you want to get right down to it"-and we do want to. that's what it's all about-it is a sin "every time anybody believes something different from what I do, and every time anybody practices something I don't want to practice according to the Bible." That's the opposite extreme from his former position and shows he still has not gotten his balance. This nebulous proviso would mean that if some sister feels within her conscience that she should not ask a question in a Bible class, Brother Fudge is committed to call her a sinner on that account. She "believes something different from what" he does; so in the same "general sense" that he identifies those who embrace instruments in worship as sinners, he identifies the poor sister a sinner! Balderdash! Some women where we have preached feel they should wear something on their head to worship and other people think they should never attend any movie of any kind. The brethren we have been closely associated with who hold some of the above named ideas have not been of that extreme sort who would bind those things on us in order to salvation and fellowship. Nor have we demanded they change their views in order to salvation and fellowship. And if Ed calls all those people sinners in the same "general sense" as digressives, we shall challenge him and defend them from the charge.

Sin is lawlessness. So long as God's Word does not require or forbid a certain menu, a man who feels he should eat herbs only is not .sinning. One firmly believes he may buy at market and eat meat sacrificed to idols; another firmly believes not. Since Ed would believe the former, he is committed to a proviso that labels the latter sin. But God said, "for neither if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse" (I Cor. 8:8). God does not require a woman to ask a question in class, or prohibit her from wearing a covering while she studies in the class; neither does God require we attend movies as a condition of salvation and fellowship. Thus, none of these ideas are sins, neither in a "general sense"nora specific sense.

Sin is lawlessness. God has laid out His pattern, has bound and loosed, sometimes generically and sometimes specifically, as regards the work, worship, and organization of the church. The faithful man of God is required to conduct himself according to that blueprint (cf. I Tim. 3:1415; Tit. 1:5ff; Acts 20:28ff). Those who break ranks, teach unsound doctrine, and go outside the apostolic doctrine are to be rebuked (Tit. 2:15; Thes. 3:6; 2 Jn. 9). Their conduct is lawless, it is sin (I Jn. 3:4). Their end is condemnation, unless they repent (Matt. 7:21-23; I Jn. 1:3ff). Innovations like instrumental music violate the divine pattern. They are lawless. They are sin. They condemn, unless the digressive C the rank-breaker C repents.

"If you want to get right down to it," Brother Fudge is still ambiguous concerning his concept of sin in regard to instrumental music. When it comes to his view of instrumental music as it affects fellowship, he is clear enough: `from the first to the last, I haven't ever changed."Even if he can be straightened out on instruments and sin, that will not help his problem on unity and fellowship. He embraces the Calvinistic doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ; so even if some "pious immersed believer" uses instruments in worship, he is in the grace of God and in a fellowship recognized by Fudge, Ketcherside, Garrett, and others. This is why we are not very optimistic about Ed's apparent change which allows him to say, "I believe instrumental music is sinful."

Truth Magazine, XVIII:18, pp. 6-9
March 7, 1974