By Bob Felkner
A good citizen will obey the laws of the nation in which he lives (Rom. 13:1-7). Not only should he obey those laws, but he should also encourage legal action against criminals. We usually insist on the prosecution of murderers, rapists, thieves, and dope peddlers, but what about smut peddlers? Why do we allow them to promote perversion in our cities? I am often amazed at our apathy! So many people are sitting around and spewing forth pessimistic statements like, “We can’t do anything about it.” Others complain about the pornography problem, but too often they direct their complaints to the wrong people. We need to express ourselves publically against pornography. This will also provide us with an opportunity to reveal what the Bible teaches about sex, morality, and family life.
For those who are interested in the fight against filth, I have prepared a few suggestions:
1. In order to combat the pornography problem, citizens must coordinate their efforts.
2. Contact leading citizens and ask them to speak out against pornography.
3. Every citizen should be made aware of the severity of this problem. It is far worse than immodesty or nudity. Pornography includes torture, rape, and sickening perversions (Lev. 18:22-23; 2 Cor. 2:11).
4. Study federal, state, and local obscenity laws. John Drakeford’s book, Pornography, the Sexual Mirage is very frank and informative. In order to stay informed, you may want to get on the mailing lists of the following organizations: Citizens for Decency through Law, 5670 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90036 and Morality in Media, 487 Park Avenue, New York, New York 10022. I am not suggesting membership in these organizations, but the information they publish is very helpful.
5. Speak to store owners and managers about the materials they are selling. Also speak to the owners of movie theaters.
6. Circulate petitions against X-rated movies and pornographic magazines. Make copies . of the signed petitions and present them to public officials. (A petition is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as: “a solemn, earnest request; entreaty” or “a formal document embodying such a request.”)
7. Meet with city and county officials and urge them to enforce existing obscenity laws. Complain until you get results (Lk. 11:8). Be kind but firm, and speak to the sheriff, city attorney, district attorney, mayor, and oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11); while John cautioned, “Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ hath not God, but he that abideth in the teaching the same hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9); and Paul instructed, “and whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17). From these passages we learn that whatever a man does in religion that is done without the name (or authority) of the Lord Jesus, and whoever transgresses by going onward and not abiding in the teaching of Christ and so does not speak as the oracles of God brings the displeasure of heaven upon himself. There is no escaping this conclusion. And, a choir is without the necessary authority and so displeases God. “The Bible doesn’t say you can’t have one” is not sufficient authority. In fact, the very fact that such an argument as this is used in its defense is almost enough to cause lovers of God to exclude it.
2. A church should not have a choir because it amounts to a harking back to the Law of Moses. The Bible tells us that in the Old Testament worship a special class called “singers” was appointed the task of performing in this capacity in the temple worship (1 Chron. 15:19). At times they seem to have sung with the congregation (2 Chron. 23:13), while at other times “in the congregation” but not “with the congregation” (Ps. 68:25, 26). They performed with instruments of music accompanying them (2 Chron. 23:13). And this was also a part of a system involving dancing in the worship (Ps. 150:4) as well as animal sacrifice and a multitude of other outdated and now unscriptural modes.
Brethren have always realized the distinction in the right division of the Word between that which is a part of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The only time that the difference begins to get fuzzy is when there is a pet practice that is not authorized in the New but was practiced in the Old. And in the case of the choir that is what we have. The Hebrew writer marked clearly the difference: .”But now hath he (Christ) obtained a ministry the more excellent, by so much as he is also the mediator of a better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises” (Heb. 8:6), and “He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second (Heb. 10:9). Paul said, “having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:14). Choirs are found in a law which has been “taken out of the way” and “nailed to the cross.” They have no business in the church of God.
3. A church should not have a choir because it seeks, to please the human ear rather than the Divine Will. The first argument usually heard in defense of the introduction of a choir into the church is based upon human satisfaction therewith: “It just sounds better than congregational singing.” This argument has been used all along by those intent upon justifying the use of mechanical instrumental music in the worship. The question we should ask at this point is, “To whom does it sound better?” Whom are we trying to please when we worship, ourselves or God? Perhaps it does sound better to certain human ears, but that is not a good enough reason for adopting it. In effect we are worshipping ourselves if we are the ones we are attempting to satisfy by our worship. After all, worship is “showing reverence for a deity” (Webster’s New World Dictionary, p. 627), and if our reverence is for our own wishes rather than His, -how can we think that He is pleased by such self-centered service?
4. A church should not have a choir because it makes worship a spectator sport instead of an act of communion of the saints with God. When Paul wrote to the Colossian congregation, he said, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns arid spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God” (Col. 3:16). To the Ephesians he wrote, “Speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). Christians in their singing are told to “teach and admonish one another” and to “speak one to another.” A select group from the congregation is riot given the task of teaching and admonishing the remainder of the church. Everyone is to participate. This is congregational singing. In this situation everyone makes melody with his heart and all possess grace in their hearts to God. They are not special qualities possessed of an elite segment of the church. Neither is the singing a thing .to be watched and listened to by a majority while a small minority of the church “performs.” The New Testament nowhere teaches that singing should be a spectator sport. Neither soloists nor choirs have any place in a church that is trying to please God. Their intent is for the enjoyment of those present rather than God-the satisfaction of the human ear instead of the divine will. “Through him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make a confession to his name” (Heb. 13:15).
5. A church should not have a choir because it is of denominationalism. It is a well known fact that denominational churches have long made use of choirs in their worship services. This is not strange, though, for it is obvious that denominationalism does not usually concern itself with the limitations enjoined by scripture. Choirs originated in the 4th century A D. during the period of apostacy from New Testament simplicity and order. By the time of Gregory the Great (died 604 A. D.), a Schola Cantorum or “School of Singing” was established for training choristers. The practice was continued by the Catholics down through the centuries and taken over by many Protestant groups. In Catholicism a choir still sings certain parts of the Mass, Vespers, etc., either independently or antiphonally with the congregation. (Cf. F. L. Cross, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 273; L. A. Loetscher, Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. I, p. 238; and Donald Attwater, ed., A Catholic Dictionary, pp. 92-93).
But wherever and whenever, churches have forsaken Catholicism and denominationalism and their doctrines and practices they have left choirs behind. And whenever once-faithful churches have left the truth and begun to sink ever more deeply into denominationalism they have introduced choirs into their worship. The same has generally occurred with the mechanical instrument of music. Both are characteristics of mancentered worship, rather than God-centered, Biblecentered worship. And the fact that some churches of Christ across the land are starting to desire them is simple evidence of this transition. Members of the church of long standing are usually staggered by the very thought of their introduction. It is another sign to them and to faithful people of God everywhere that the church is losing its identity, its distinctiveness. Once the cry “Come ye out from among them and be ye separate” f2 Cor. 6:17) was heard from pulpits far and wide, but now that plaintive call is all but silent in most.
6. A church should not have a choir because it is divisive. Where there are still people who ask for “Book, Chapter, and Verse” there will be a fight whenever a questionable activity is engaged in or an unscriptural practice is introduced. They realize that it is their responsibility to fight the good fight of faith (2 Tim. 4:7), and prove all things, holding fast what is good (1 Thess. 5:21). They cannot compromise with error by fellowshipping it and allowing it to go unreproved (Eph. 5:11). Thus division will many times occur when choirs are introduced, and the fault of the division will usually be placed upon those who oppose them even though the promoters are actually responsible. Some will therefore be manifestly shown approved of God by such (1 Cor. 11:19) while others will be damned for the aforementioned sins as well as dividing the body of Christ (Gal. 5:19-21).
Choirs have no place in churches of Christ. Perhaps there are other reasons why they do not, but these should surely suffice to prove this point.
Truth Magazine XIX: 51, pp. 807-809
November 6, 1975