By Connie W. Adams
For a long time now, Vernon M. Newland, editor of The Crusader, a paper which sets forth the views of the conservative Christian Church, has been publishing a “statement” which is really a challenge concerning the words psalmos and psallo. It is his contention that it has never been proved that these words had come to exclude the instrument by New Testament times. Some of our readers may recall that a year ago in this column we pointed out the error of his assumptions concerning these words and offered to engage him in oral or written discussion or both. We offered the columns of this paper to carry such an exchange, provided he would also carry it in his paper.
Several months passed without a word from him. We mentioned the matter again in this column. Editor Newland did not so much as show the courtesy to reply to my letter. He has not mentioned it, or my articles in his paper, to the best of my knowledge (others have sent me copies of his paper). Further, both William H. Feist and I sent money over a year ago for a year’s subscription to his paper. Neither of us has ever received the first copy nor have we received our money back, though I mentioned this a few months ago in this column. We therefore suggest that our editor friend not only needs help on psalmos and psallo, but also needs at least a short course in common courtesy and a long one on basic honesty. I am not only willing to deny that the New Testament authorizes the use of instrumental music in worship under the terms psalmos and psallo, but I am also willing to affirm that it is dishonest to accept money for a product without either providing the product or returning the money. What say you, editor?
The 301 Cubit Ark
Mission magazine carried an article by this title in the December, 1971 issue of that paper. It was written by Dr. Lanny Hunter, a dermatologist in Flagstaff, Arizona, and apparently an active church worker in his area. I have never read an article by one professing to be a member of the church, which contained more error per cubic inch than this one piece. The writer reveals a denominational concept of the church and gives evidence of having absorbed more “theology” than scripture. He laments the “isolation” of the church from the mainstream of denominationalism and says that while we may have kept out some undesirable things, we have also denied ourselves many good things, which would elevate us and make us more effective in God’s service. He fears that this leaves us “no standard by which to judge our religious efforts except ourselves and our own interpretation of biblical literature” and adds that such “prolonged isolation” may result in a “robust religious mediocrity.” Paul said “let us walk by the same rule” (Phil. 3:16). That implies two things: (1) the presence of a standard and (2) the ability to recognize it in order to walk by it. Denominationalism is a plant, which the Father did not plant (Mt. 15:13) and therefore does not constitute an acceptable standard by which to measure anything.
He attacks the “restoration principle” which assumes “that the Bible provides a pattern on which a restoration can be made.” He calls in question the idea of having command, example or necessary inference to establish scriptural authority. He said “Suffice it to say, there is nothing in the New Testament canon which states that future generations must go back to the Bible for detailed instructions for work and worship. Nor is there any scripture which gives substance to the assumption that command, example, or necessary inference’ is the interpretative key to grasping the significance of scripture.”
This is no-patternism in its rankest form. It is the gateway to every form of error denominationalists can contrive, but more than that, it leads to infidelity as its final consequence. If there is no pattern for work and worship, then there can be no violation of such, and man is left to his own ingenuity to implicate the church in whatever work he thinks would be good and to engage in whatever form of worship may please his taste. As far as the question of how something is proved scriptural, Acts 15 demonstrates the use in the early church of all three avenues of arriving at authority. Peter argued from necessary inference when he showed that God gave the same gift when the gospel began among Gentiles that be did when it began among Jews, and that “therefore” they should be received on equal terms. Paul and Barnabas argued from approved example by showing that God had confirmed their work among Gentiles with signs following. James cited the direct statement of Amos as applicable to the point in question. The issue was settled and notice of it was sent to all the brethren. But Hunter does not believe that what happened among them establishes a “normative” situation for the action of Christians in this age. He thus relegates the New Testament to the theological scrap pile.
Hunter is afraid that we have reduced the New Testament documents to “key-punch cards” manipulated by “theological systems analysts” in order to “program Christians in exhaustive, minute detail.” It is sometimes hard to tell about brainy theologians, but I think he was abusing us!
All through the article he scores the idea of viewing the New Testament as a pattern for the present. he does not have any more respect for the Old Testament for he implies that it would have been perfectly correct to have built the ark one cubit longer than God said, had it appeared to Noah the prudent thing to have done. Yet, Noah “by faith prepared an ark to the saving of his house” (Heb. 11: 7). Men of faith do exactly what God tells them. The Old Testament provides many worthy lessons for us (Rom. 15:4). Likewise, the New Testament provides 11 all things which pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1: 3). In scripture God’s man is given everything to make him complete (2 Tim. 3:1617). Peter said, “if any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (I Pet. 4: 11). Jude said the faith was “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3, NASV).
It would take a much longer article to reply to every false statement in this piece of ultra liberalism. But hold on, tight. Mission gives awards each year to the best articles which they have carried. Hunter’s article was hailed as “article of the year” in 1971! That should not be too surprising in a journal which gave the “article of the year” award a year or so before to a piece advocating theistic evolution. If Hunter is correct, then the scriptures are not all sufficient and any of the details of his article are but side issues. That anyone professing to be a gospel preacher would give such an article the time of day, much less acceptance is a sad commentary on the fortunes, which beset the people of God today. I have even heard of some young men who say they are enlightened, who think this article was a brilliant and thought provoking work. All I can say is that I pray the churches, which love the truth and want to walk in the old paths, may be spared such brilliance!
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 21, pp.9-10
March 29, 1973