A Disturbing Conversation

Aude McKee
Plainfield, Indiana

Recently, a man whom I have known for twelve or thirteen years, visited in my home. We talked for three hours about the Lord, His word, and the church revealed in the New Testament. But ever since our conversation I have felt a little depressed - I have been disturbed.

This friend of mine has as his present goal in life, the uniting of the "conservative" wing of the Christian Church with the church. He believes quite earnestly that if he can accomplish this, his life will have been worthwhile.

Now his desire to bring about unity is not the thing that disturbs me, but his attitude toward the word of God does. He believes that instrumental music is about the only thing that stands between the "union." Now in order to eliminate this "sore spot" between the two groups, he is going to plead with the "conservative Christian Church" to give up their mechanical music because it is only an expedient and "we ought not to cause division over an expedient." This, brother believes that instrumental music is used in two ways by denominations-as an aid, and as an addition. To him it is wrong to use it as an addition, but right to use it as an aid. It is right to use it while the singing is in progress, but wrong to use it before the singing begins or after the song is finished. This friend of mine believes that if I send my boy to the store with the express command, "Bring back a watermelon," he would not be a disobedient child if he, on his own initiative, brought back a box of salt also. He said, "I can't go along with that argument about Noah building an ark out of gopher wood. If he had used another kind of wood, in addition to gopher, he would not have disobeyed." His point is, if Noah honestly felt that walnut wood would be an aid in the construction, he could have used it with God's approval. To my sorrow this friend cannot be shown that his attitude toward the word of God is the very attitude that brought the Christian Church into being in the first place. Back in the middle 1800's men began to argue that authority was not necessary for action-that if they believed a thing was good and would "aid" or "assist," then it would be right to do it. As the attitude took hold of the minds of brethren, it resulted in the formation of an organization, separate and apart from the church, to do some of the work the Lord gave the church to do. They formed what was known as the American Christian Missionary Society. Then in about ten years the instrument of music was introduced into the worship. And so the wedge was driven and in less than 50 years the U. S. Government recognized the church and the Christian Church as separate bodies. Now my friend wants to bring the groups back together by telling the "conservative Christian Church" that instrumental music is an expedient (not a matter of faith), and that division ought not to be continued on matters of expediency. But if the instrument is a matter of expediency, they would not have to give it up for the sake of unity! We could have unity anyway. Meeting at 10:00 or 11:00 on the Lord's Day is a matter of expediency. Brethren do not fall out over a matter like that, but rather, unity prevails among those who meet at different hours on Sunday. But instrumental music in the worship is not a matter of expediency because it is not authorized. In order for a thing to be expedient it must first be lawful. It must be authorized by God. So if instrumental music was authorized, then it would be a matter of expediency whether an organ or a piano was used.

As our conversation continued it eventually drifted to other matters, such as church-sponsored recreation. My friend defended it-on what grounds? As an aid! His argument for recreation sponsored by the church was the same as his argument for instrumental music in the worship. Instrumental music is right, he said, because it is an aid to the singing. Recreation sponsored by the church is pleasing to God because it is an aid to the church in reaching the young people with the gospel of Christ. Where is his "aid" argument found in the teachings of Christ? That he failed to provide! When he was pressed for the scripture he replied that the scripture was not necessary. The whole argument is that common sense would tell a person to use everything that would be beneficial in doing what God wants done, and thus human wisdom is elevated on a level with the wisdom of the Almighty. God didn't know that walnut wood would be an aid in the construction of the ark-it took the wisdom of man to discover that. God hadn't thought of the fact that instrumental music would assist the singing. The wisdom of man thought of that. God overlooked the fact that if the church sponsored recreation she could reach more young people. Man invented that. What wonderful creatures we are!

But still, even as badly as I feel because of my friend's attitude toward God's word, I would not be as disturbed as I am were it not for one other statement that he made. He said, "I have been in various parts of the country and talked with a host of brethren, but only a very few have disagreed with my ideas." I have no reason to doubt his truthfulness and as I look around and observe conditions I am inclined to believe that "a host of brethren" have fallen in behind the "aid" argument. It will aid the church in spreading the gospel to centralize authority in a human institution or in a local congregation, and so centralization of authority is scriptural. It will aid the church in reaching the young people to sponsor recreation, so that is pleasing to God. It will aid the church in doing her benevolent work to establish a separate institution for that purpose, so that is right. Having done all this, how could they disagree with the "aid" argument for instrumental music in the worship?

Yes, I am disturbed. We have read history and have seen the end of this loose attitude toward authority in years past. What will be the end this time? Unless brethren stop, and "go back to Jerusalem," apostasy will again stain the names of a host of brethren.

Truth Magazine, V:3, pp. 10-11
December 1960