By Ron Halbrook
Could This Book Change Your Life?
Francis J. Winder’s book defending instrumental music in worship is entitled Music of the Saints. It was published in 1980 by The Restoration Press, 11977 S.E. Kehrli Dr., Milwaukie, Oregon 97222. The cover and the title page carry the following words:
Written TO BE UNDERSTOOD . . . for those WHO WANT TO KNOW
Publisher’s WARNING: “Read this at your risk!”
(This book could DRAMATICALLY change your life!)
In spite of the dramatic trumpets, this book will not change your life unless you are among the ignorant and blind who are always susceptible to certain leaders who love the darkness. Nothing can be done for people of this attitude, though there may be some souls mixed among them who are open to the simple truths of God’s Word when it is proclaimed. Those who harden themselves in blindness cannot be brought to repentance, but who can always benefit from observing their course.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children . . . . Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone (Hos. 4:6; 17).
Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch (Jesus speaking, Matt. 15:13-14).
A long overdue admission regarding the Lord’s Supper is made in Music of the Saints, which admission dramatically warns us against the destructive results of the blind apostasy which this book represents.
Singing Clearly Authorized
The truth about the music of the saints is the same today as it was when the New Testament revelation was completed. The passages which mention music in worship among God’s people as they serve Him on this earth, whether the worship of an individual or of a group, indicate vocal music. Singing is authorized by direct statements and commands, by divinely approved apostolic examples, and by necessary implication in these passages:
1. Jesus and His disciples “sung a hymn” after He ordained the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:30; Mk. 14:26).
2. In prison, Paul and Silas “sang praises unto God” (Acts 16:25).
3. The prophets had foretold the gospel age, when God would be glorified among the Gentiles – “I will . . . sing unto thy name” (Rom. 15:9, quoted from Ps. 18:49).
4. In prayers and songs from the heart or spirit of man to God, understanding and edification must be given to those who hear – “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also” (1 Cor. 14:15).
5. Music in worship must come from the heart, be spoken, and teach those around us – “speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19).
6. The same thoughts are conveyed again – “teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).
7. The prophets pictured the Messiah as one who went among His people, identifying with them and sharing their lot -“in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee” (Heb. 2:12, quoted from Ps. 22:22).
8. Christians are to “offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Heb. 13:15).
9. “Is any merry? let him sing psalms” (Jas. 5:13).
If we speak as the oracles of God speak (1 Pet. 4:11), if we speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where it is silent, we can offer vocal music in worship to God with the certain authority of His Word. No one denies this. Furthermore, not one thing in Winder’s book changes this certain truth.
Four Basic Arguments Repeated
Winder’s Music of the Saints gathers just about every argument that has been used in the public defense of the instrument since its introduction in 1859 among churches professing restoration. J.W. McGarvey noted in the Millennial Harbinger of 1864 (“Instrumental Music in Churches,” pp. 510-14) that four basic arguments were being utilized to defend the instrument. These have been repeated ever since, and again by Winder.
First is the argument that instruments were used in worship before the New Testament era. Winder elaborates the point at length, citing passage after passage. For years, 2 Chronicles 29:25 has been marked in red ink in my Bible, where “the commandment of the Lord by his prophets” set specific instruments “in the house of the Lord.” That is just how simple it would be to prove the mechanical instruments belong in New Testament worship – just cite the passage where the Lord put them in!
Second, Winder refers to the mention of harps in Revelation 5:8; 14:2; and 15:2, in the heavenly vision given to John. In this vision of highly symbolic figures, harps represent the melody of praise, as is evident from the context in which they are used. In addition, the scenes pictured in these passages do not represent God’s people on earth doing anything. This appeal to the vision of Revelation shows the dire extremity of the proponents of the instrument in search of an argument to sustain themselves.
Third, Winder attempts the time worn silence-givesconsent argument, proposing that the absence of a specific prohibition against instruments constitutes permissive authority for thier use. If there were first generic authority to “make music” in worship without prohibition of some particular kind (such as instrumental), the generic authority would suffice. But in the absence of such a general command, and in view of the certain authority for saints to sing in worship, only singing is authorized. Winder never deals with Hebrews 7:14, which illustrates the binding nature of biblical authority. Jesus dared not pretend to be a priest under the Old Law because He wis of Judah, “of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.” God’s specific approval of a given thing in a class of things serves as a specific prohibition of all others in that class. In the class of “music,” only singing is given approval in New Testament revelation for the worship of saints on earth. Therefore, the instrument is prohibited by the binding nature of God’s authority revealed in Scripture. Winder’s silencefor-consent idealeads to a ridiculous extreme on the Lord’s Supper, noted below.
Fourth, Winder appeals to the old “aid” argument. But mechanical instruments are far more than simple aids to singing – they produce an additional kind of music in the face of God’s approval of only the one kind, vocal. Winder’s blindness on aid versus addition leads to his perversion of Bible teaching on the Lord’s Supper, to be noted.
In Search Of An Argument That Will Stand
Winder tries his hand at the psallo argument, which has become something of a sugar stick to instrumental advocates during this century. From the Greek word psallo come “psalms” and “making melody” in Ephesians 5:19. Instrumental people attempt to find a harp or some instrument somehow implied “in,” “under,” “around,” or “about” the word psallo as used in the Scripture. The problem is that this makes the instrument a command, not optional, and condemns to hell everyone who worships without it! The instrument cannot be both present and absent in the passage at the same time. Ira Boswell had trouble with this dilemma in his 1923 debate with N.B. Hardernan (a classic debate reprinted by Guardian of Truth Publications), as did Tom Burgess in his Documents on Instrumental Music (1966), as does Winder. Whether studied in Greek or English, Ephesians 5:19 clearly authorizes singing and just as clearly says not one thing about man-made instruments of music.
Claiming that worship is nothing but an emotion, Winder pleads that the instrument is not acually in worship so cannot be an addition to worship. This leads him to say that no physical action is necessary for worship and that the Bible reveals no pattern of actions for acceptable worship. The truth is that God has revealed acceptable acts of worship in every age of His dealings with men and has punished those who deviated from it (see Lev. 10: 1-3; 1 Kgs. 12-13). Also, when instruments were authorized, God considered them as in the worship (2 Chron. 29:25-28). “Praise him with the psaltery and harp . . . . Praise him upon the loud cymbals” (Psa. 150). When the instrument is used while praises are offered to God, the use of an instrument becomes part of the worship activity. Worship includes emotions but is something more than emotion. Jesus in John 4:24 said we must worship “in spirit and in truth.” “In spirit” is from the heart, the seat of emotion. “In truth” is action according to divine instructions. During 1900-1901 Hall L. Calhoun tried this worship-is-only-emotion idea on M.C. Kurfees, was answered thoroughly, and eventually gave up the practice of instrumental music and its defense.
Unity-in-diversity is proclaimed by Winder. If brethren will not accept the instrument, they ought to accept those who do use it as sound brethren serving the Lord in an acceptable way, says Winder. He compliments “noninstrument brethren” and churches who have accepted and used him in preaching – such as “the Tigard, Oregon congregation” where “Claude Guild and Woodrow Hughes” preach, and congregations in “Ohio, Washington, Oregon and California” where “Capt. Houghton G. Gross” has preached (Music of the Saints, p. 1). As for those who believe instruments in worship are sinful and who refuse to bid godspeed to people who use them (2 Jn. 9-11), Winder strains io find adequate descriptions: “anti’s” “abysmally ignorant,” “fight against God,” “heretic,” “rebel,””immoral,” “wicked,” and “church-splitters” (pp. 35, 37-8, 69,138, 150).
“On The Same Principle”
The real high (or, I should say, low) point of Winder’s book is his attempt to grapple with the Lord’s Supper. If another kind of music can be added to vocal, why cannot foods other than unleavened bread and grape juice be added to the Lord’s table? Hear Mr. Silence-Gives-Consent, Aid, Worship-Is-Emotion Winder:
To make it a matter of DOCTRINE, that we MUST always have potatoes and gravy, and pie and cake (or other food) along with or in addition to the emblems, would be as unscriptural as to insist that we MUST NEVER HAVE THEM.
Should one wish to include such material things as meat, potatoes, cake etc., along with “theemblems” in the assembly, we would have NO SCRIPTURAL RIGHT to condemn such an act. The members would still be truly worshiping . . . (p. 121).
If we meet to “REMEMBER”, and to partake of the “emblems” for the purposes for which He gave them, and we feel that other things did not interfere or hinder but rather definitely contributed TO the worship, I am sure that God would bless our worship.
A Christian dare not judge his brother in motives, in conscience, in customs or in worship. If GOD has NOT made such laws or restrictions, men dare not.
So, to re-empbasize the point, it would NOT be a sin or unscriptural to have “meat and potatoes”, “pie or ice cream”, or any other healthful, helpful food “on the table” as an aid in our worship, providing that our spiritual purpose was to meet HIM there, and to thankfully remember Him for His death and ALL that He means to us, physically as well as spiritually (p. 123).
Consequently, to add material food, such as apple pie or ice cream, as some have scornfully suggested, would NOT of itself be sinful, since IT VIOLATES NO LAW AGAINST ITI It would SUBSTITUTE NO ORDINANCE for it (it might complement it!); IT WOULD SET ASIDE NO TEACHING about it; it in NO WAY WOULD DISHONOR CHRIST. . . . And on the same principle, neither can the use of GODIS INSTRUMEN73 in the WORSHIP of God, be condemned (pp. 125-26, all emphasis original).
In the same context, Winder says that sprinkling could be instituted along with immersion, just so the same person receives both. But if we can add to God’s Word, why can we not also take away? If we can add sprinkling, why not take away immersion; or, add ice cream and potatoes, why not take away the other emblems? Some liberal Protestants who sprinkle have also tried hamburger and Pepsi at the table. Some Chinese people who sprinkle are using biscuits and sugar cane juice on the Table (Christianity Today, 11 Dec. 1981, pp. 42, 44-45). It’s the “same principle.”
If our service to God is nothing but an emotion and there !s no. pattern for acceptable worship, the final logical end is universalism. Every person who has an emotion of worshipping God will be saved. But even that sounds like a restrictive pattern – that a person must have a certain emotion to please God. Let’s not be so legalistic about salvation. Why not say that everyone will be saved regardless of what emotion he has or what action he does? Either there is a pattern of truth and of acceptable service to God, or there is not. Winder cannot have it both ways!
Winder acknowledges his debt to R.M. Bell, F.W. Strong (both deceased), Tom Burgess, and David L. Eubanks. Will the latter two men endorse Winder on the Lord’s Supper? Brethren, let us be reminded as to why we have fought the instrument in worship all these years, and why we mustfight it yet! “On the same principle” that instrumental music can be defended, every innovation and apostasy conceivable to man can be justified. “On the same principle,” the authority of God’s Word means exactly nothing. “And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” on the same principle.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 16, pp. 502-504
August 16, 1984