Humanity is ever prone to swing to extremes. The Godless philosophy of commurustic Russia is but a swing in the opposite direction from a church-dominated State. The doctrine of salvation bv faith alone, which was promulgated bv Martin Luther, is a swing to the opposite extreme from the Romish concept of salvation by works. Men go to the extreme in their emotional approach to religion. In some religious bodies, the worship service is a cold, formal ritual. In other religious bodies the opposite extreme is reached with the worship service punctuated with shouts and "Amens."
Since the church of the Lord is made up of individuals with their human tendencies, it is not surprising that we find among brethren the disposition to go to extremes on issues that confront the church, today. This article deals with extremes to which some brethren have gone on the question of what constitutes scriptural authority. Of course all our brethren agree, in principle at least, that the scriptures are our authority for religious faith and practice. That is the testirriony of inspiration. (Rom. 10:17) That was the plea of the restoration movement, and it is the ground which we claily) to occupy today. But where brethren have become divided, and where they have gone to hurtful extremes is on the question of how to establish scriptural authority, or when a thing is scriptural and when it is not scriptural.
One of the extreme positions taken by brethren is that a thing is not scriptural unless it is specifically commanded. The opposite extreme, taken by other brethren is, that a thing is not unscriptural unless it is expressly forhidden. The first extreme asks, Where is the command? The second extreme asks, Where is it forbidden?
The result of the first extreme is, opposition to, the class method of teaching the Bible. Anti-class brethren tell us that there is no command in the Bible authorizing us to divide people into classes for the purpose of teaching God's Word. The second extreme has resulted in the introduction of instrumental music and other human innovations. Brethren who endorse these things tell us that they are not forbidden.
The fallacv of these two extremes is, that the first ignores or overlooks the realm of expediency, that is, things that are necessary to, or assist in carrying out a command. The other extreme ignores the realm of specific authority that is, that where God specifically commands something, everything else but what God commanded is thereby excluded.
Must we have in express command for everything we do religiously? True, we must have authority. And furthermore, when God commands a thing to be done, that should be the end of ill controversy. But some of God's commands are of a general nature, and man is left to exercise his own judgment as the best method of carrying out the command. The method used, will tie governed by varying circumstances. A method that will work with one person may not work with another person.
As in example of what we mean by expediencies, or methods, let us take the coininand, "l-o" a,; it is given in the Great Commission. Jesus said, "Go, teach all nations. Matt. 28:19. Now, if Jesus had said, "Walk," inan would have been limited to one method of travelling, he would have to walk. He couldn't ride. But the command "go" is a general command and man can use his own judgmerit as to what means of conveyance he uses in "going." He may walk if it pleases him. Or, he mav drive a car, or go by train or bus. If that is not fast enough, or if the distance is great he can go by aeroplane. If he is out on the desert, lie may have to ride a camel. No one call sav that any of these means of convevance are commanded in the New Testairent. Nevertheless they are all scriptural in that thev are expedients that assist in carrying out the command "go," therefore inherent in the command.
Is it sinful to divide people into classes for the purpose of teaching God's Word? True, we do not have a command authorizing such a division. However we do have the command to teach. Jesus said, "Go teach all nations." The command, "teach," like the command "go," is a general command, and man is therefore left to use his own judgment as to what method of teaching he shall use. There are different methods of teaching. One is pulpit preaching. I know that there are some who would make a distinction between teaching and preaching. I suggest that if a man is not teaching when he is preaching he had better sit down and let somebody preach that can teach. The pulpit is not the place for entertainment. We may teach the Bible by means of radio and television. A teacher may use charts or a blackboard, or he may use literature. I have known brethren to oppose the use of religious literature. They will say that it is alright for a man to preach a ' sermon, but he must not write it down so people can read it. Teaching may be done by personal work going into the homes of people and conducting Bible studies. All these methods assist us in carrying out the command to teach, and are therefore scriptural since they are inherent in the command.
The division of people into classes is just a method or a means that assists us in teaching. We are accountable not only for what we teach, but it is also our responsibility to teach in such a way that all who are taught are edified. Paul found it necessary to rebuke the church at Corinth for their misuse of the gift of speaking in tongues. Those who, could not understand the tongue that was spoken were not edified. I Cor. 14: 1-5. Can we believe that God is pleased with any system today, that would deprive a part of the congregation of the edification for which thev have come together ? It will be remembered that the average congregation consists of varying age groups, from pre-school age on up to old age. Are those of mature years going to be forced to study over and over the simple truths of the 131hle along with little children? Did not Paul rebuke some who, "When by reason of time ye ought to, be teachers . . . yu are such as have need of milk and not of solid food." Heb. 5:12. On the other hand, are we to expect the children to sit patiently while a teacher talks away over their heads, expounding the deeper truths of the Bible, such as are found in the book of Romans? It can thus be seen that division into classes is simply an expedient with the purpose of adapting the lessons to various age groups.
But now, let us consider the other extreme. Is a thing wrong only when it is expressly forbidden? Those who advocate the use of instrumental music in the worship tell us that it is not forbidden. Is that to be our standard of authority? If so, let the advocates of instrumental music tell us what is wrong with infant baptism or even kissing the pope's toe.
But we are told that the fact that Jesus specified the baptism of believers (Mark 16: 16), therefore infants would be excluded. Exactlv so! Thus it is seen that in some matters, at least, even digressive brethren recognize a realm of specific authority.
What is specific authority? Simply this, that whenever God has specified a certain thing to be done, or a certain thing to be used, everything else but what God specified is excluded. God commanded Noah to make an ark of gopher wood (Gen. 6:14). The fact that God specified gopher wood ruled out any and every other kind of wood. It was not necessary for God to say, "Thou shalt not make ;t out of cedar, pine or oak." When God that the Israelites use a lamb for the Passover supper, everything else but the lamb was excluded and no prohibition was necessary. When God commanded baptism in water, the fact that water is specified, excludes wine, oil or milk.
There are two kinds of music. There is vocal music (singing). Then there is music that is made on mechanical instruments. If God had simply commanded us to make music, we would be at liberty to use whatever kind of music seems best to us, and no man could rightly oppose the use of an organ or any other musical instrument in the worship. But it so happens that God specified a certain type of music. God said, "Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Instrumental music is thus
excluded when singing is specified, and no express prohibition is necessary. Nor can it be pleaded that instrumental music is an "aid" to singing - no more so than Noah could have used cedar as an "aid" to gopher wood, or the children of Israel have used a pig as an "aid" to the Passover lamb. Instrumental music is not an aid to singing. It is an addition.
Yes, the Bible is our authority. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17). But, brethren, let us avoid going to hurtful extremes in our application of what the Bible teaches. Let us not legislate where God has not legislated. If the command is of a general nature, such as the command, "teach," every lawful method that will expedite teaching is inherent in the command. Then let us avoid the other extreme of rejecting as unscriptural only what is expressly forbidden. Such an extreme only opens the flood-gate to every human innovation that is not forbidden, that erring mortals want to introduce. God has specified the organization through which the gospel is to be preached to the world. That organization is the church (Eph. 3:10, 11; I Tim. 3:15). God has specified the kind of music he wants in the worship. He tells us to "sing" (Col. 3:16). The missionary society, though not forbidden, is an addition to the church. Instrumental music, though not prohibited, is an addition to singing. Let us not be guilty of adding to what God has commanded.
Truth Magazine II:4, pp. 10-11, 13