Instrumental Music and the Christian Church

By Weldon E. Warnock

Alexander Campbell said that instrumental music in worship to all spiritually-minded Christians would be “as a cowbell in a concert.” Martin Luther stated that an organ in worship to God is “an ensign to Baal.” But, lo, and behold, the “erudite” Independent Christian Church preachers believe instrumental music in worship to be the personification of godliness and holiness.

Orientation For Heaven

Given Blakely, Christian Church preacher, said in discussions with John Gibbs at Joplin, MO, April 8-9 , !987: “If the purpose of the church is to orient people for heaven, the representation of musical instruments’ employment in the singing of God’s praise before His throne in heaven is inescapably indicative of their acceptability in the church” (The Banner of Truth, June 1987, p. 15).

According to Blakely we get ready for heaven by using instruments of music in worship on earth. It baffles me how a man of Given Blakely’s intelligence, as well as his colleagues, can be serious about literal instruments of music in heaven. What would a spiritual being do with a material harp? Surely he knows that Revelation is a figurative, symbolic book and the instruments mentioned therein are no more physical than the incense in heaven.

Revelation 5:8 depicts those with harps as also having vials or bowls of incense. “. . . having everyone of them harps, and golden vials of odours, which are the prayers of the saints.” In Revelation 8:3 we read, “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.” Wonder what fragrance the incense is that these Christian Church preachers offer with their prayers in worship at their altar? Indeed, they have incense, they must have incense, they need incense in order to orient them, according to Blakely, for heaven.

This “as a cowbell in a concert” or “an ensign to Baal” is, to these modern Nadab’s and Abilitils, an orientation for heaven. So, brother and sister, grab your instrument and begin getting yourself ready for the home of the soul. Perhaps you can beat a drum, or pound on a tambourine, or pluck a jew’s-harp. But play you must!

Too, if what is done in heaven should be practiced here in the church to help our orientation for heaven, we might ought to live celibate lives because there is no marriage in heaven (Matt. 22:30).


These Christian Church preachers chide us for being legalistic. Fred O. Blakely, editor of The Banner of Truth, reviewing the Given Blakely and John Gibbs discussion on instrumental conducted at Joplin, MO, stated in the June 1987 issue:

Brother Gibbs ably represented the historic Church of Christ (andinstrumental) view of God as, in principle. operating under the reign of Christ very much as He did during the Mosaic regime. The new covenant, in this concept, is another system of law, with Moses being replaced by Christ as the Lawgiver and Executor of the covenant. On the other hand, Brother Blakely contended for the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Christ, as distinguished from the inflexible rule of law under Moses. The resultant freedom from the legalistic principle, which is everywhere recognized and proclaimed by the Apostles. . . .

From these comments, and from others I have read in Blakely’s journal, they obviously would not know a legalist from a posthole digger. They do not like being “fenced in” or circumscribed by the law of God. Nevertheless, we are under law, the law of Christ, Blakely, Don Dewelt and others to the contrary, as the apostle Paul plainly teaches (1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2; Jas. 2:12).

Their tune Is the same old one we have heard for years – the Man and not the Plan. They sound like the country song by Tom T. Hall which says, “Me and Jesus have got our own thing going.” They want to do as they please under the guise of “freedom in Christ.” But freedom in Christ is not lawlessness. Disrespect for law destroys freedom as is evident among us today.

In analyzing the Given Blakely-Alan Highers debate on instrumental music at Neosho, MO, Charles Cobb said, “It was that Brother Highers represented years of stagnated religious tradition. On the other hand, Brother Blakely spoke out of a living and discerning relationship with Christ” (The Banner of Truth, July 1988, p. 16). Wasn’t that nice of Given Blakely – so Christ-like, yet poor old Highers just appealed to the authority of Scripture for his practice. Such sounds about like a pious-acting evangelical preacher who has no Bible authority, but “I love Jesus!”

My friend, you cannot separate Jesus from what he taught. If you think so, then take a peck at Matthew 7:21-27; Luke 6:46; John 12:48; Acts 2:42; 1 Timothy 4:16; 2 John 9-11, and many more. It is totally ludicrous, and absurd on top of that, what these fellows are teaching.

An Affinity For Modernists

The Independent Christian Church preachers do not think much of the avid anti-instrumental music brethren (branding us as legalists, lacking the spirit of Christ and void of the Holy Spirit), but they seem to have an affinity for the modernists and loose-thinkers. One of those modernists they extol is Leroy Garrett. For example, Dwaine Dunning quoted Leroy Garrett at the Neosho debate: “A hermeneutics of silence is like a geography of nowhere, or a physics of nothing.” Isn’t that rich? With that kind of convoluted logic it is a wonder that Garrett can get out of his driveway. A map tells us what roads will take us to what place, and if we depart from that concept, we will wind-up out in the boondocks, just like Garrett has done, religiously. I might also add that Garrett writes in One Body.

But to show what kind of bed-fellows these Christian Church preachers have, notice the following excerpt from Leroy Garrett’s own paper, Restoration Review (January 1987):

When something in the Bible is contrary to the spirit of Christ or does nothing for us in terms of enlightening us about God and his will for us and thus wholly irrelevant to our lives, then it cannot be the word of God to us. I find this to be the case of one entire book of the Bible, Zephani , a book that says next to nothing to me (Quoted from Spiritual Sword, April 1988, p. 47).

These are the people who “love the Lord,” they say, but they don’t think very highly of the integrity and authority of the Scriptures, unless they appeal to them at the moment.

Those Who Use Instrumental Music

There are several reasons why instrumental music in worship to God is unjustifiable, unscriptural and sinful. The Christian Church preachers cast them aside with impunity and holler, “freedom in Christ.” Those who use the instrument:

1. Are not walking by faith. Paul wrote, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Faith comes through hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). Hence, we walk by what the word of God teaches. We can sing by faith (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), but we cannot play instruments in worship by faith. There is not one Scripture in the New Testament that commands, infers or exemplifies instrumental music in worship.

2. Reject the basis for unity. We read, “Now I beseech you brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you” (1 Cor. 1:10). To “speak the same thing” is unity of doctrine, and “that there be no divisions among you” is unity of practice. Neither one of these can be realized unless we speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11) and adhere closely thereto. Nobody can speak as the Bible speaks and advocate instrumental music in worship. Where is the passage?

3. Make void the worship to God. Jesus declared, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:24). The term “in truth” means, according to truth, God’s word, for no worship can be true worship which is not patterned after his word. Jesus stated, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). No instruments of music can be found in the word of God for worship in this dispensation. Instrumental music constitutes will-worship (Col. 2:23) and vain worship. The Bible states, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9). Instrumental music fits into this category.

4. Operate on the silence of the Scriptures. Given Blakely said at Joplin, MO, “Were one to begin at Genesis and read through Revelation, he would not find a single time when the employment of musical instrument in God’s praise by people of faith was spoken against, condemned, or rejected” (The Banner of Truth, June 1987, p. 15). Blakely’s warped thinking would allow sprinkling for baptism, coffee, cakes, pies, and bacon on the Lord’s Table, counting of beads during prayer, baptizing babies, burning incense, washing feet, and any other thing not specifically forbidden. They need to find where it is authorized, not where specifically forbidden. The principle of the silence of the Scriptures is explicitly set forth in Hebrews 7:14. Among the Israelites, the tribe of Levi was chosen to give attendance at the altar, to make sacrifices. Moses never said, “Judah may not serve at the altar,” but by designating Levi, Judah and all the other tribes were eliminated. Jesus being from Judah, could not qualify. Hence, the priesthood and the law were changed. Jesus is now our High Priest.

5. Follow traditions of nien. Instrumental music was first introduced into worship of so-called Christendom in about 666 A.D. by Pope Vitalian (Chambers Encyclopedia, Vol. 7, p. 112). John Calvin said, “The papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things, from the Jews” (Commentary on Psalms 33). The Christian Church borrowed their instruments from the foolishly, I might add.

Jesus said, “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition” (Mk. 7:13). The Christian Church preachers are the ones guilty of imposing traditions, not we who oppose the instrument. Earl West wrote that the first instrument introduced into the church of Christ, according to the historical record, was at Midway, KY in 1860 (The Search for the Ancient Order, Vol. 1, p. 312).

6. Ignore the authority of Christ. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do aft in thename of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Col. 3:17; cf. Matt. 28:18). The name of Jesus is not attached to an instrument in worship. If so, we could open the Bible and turn directly to it. But instead the Christian Church preachers run back to king David instead of King Jesus, or they pervert the Greek, or they go to the imagery and symbols of heaven, but they can’t come forth with a New Testament text for divine authorization.

7. Go beyond that which Is written. Paul wrote, “that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written” (1 Cor. 4:6, ASV). The Bible is an inerrant, verbally inspired, complete, sufficient and relevant book. God omitted nothing he wanted us to know and do. We are regulated by that which is written. There is nothing written about instrumental music in worship, therefore, we go beyond the boundary of the inspired precepts when we so employ it (cf. 2 Jn. 9-11).

Alan Highers wrote, “The conclusion of the whole matter (with respect to instrumental music) is this- Unity with those who use the instrument is predicated upon a single choice – either they give up the instrument, or we give up our opposition to it. What other alternatives are there?” (Spiritual Sword, April 1988, p. 48) But brethren we who oppose the instrument can no more give that up than we can our position on baptism, the elements of the Lord’s Supper or assemblying on the r1rst day of the week. These things are not for compromise. May we have the resolve to stand!

Guardian of Truth XXXII: 21, pp. 641, 662-663
November 3, 1988