Solos, Quartets . . . A Response

By Weldon E. Warnock

Traditional bias and preconceived notions are difficult to overcome. They taint our perception of the Scriptures. Brother Pruitt has this problem in his approach to singing. He is accustomed, as well as myself, to congregational singing. Therefore, he concludes the early church must have done it just like he experiences. But such was not the case as was shown in my August 21, 1986 article in Guardian of Truth.

A child of God may sing any where and at any time, whether it be a solo or in unison with other saints, if he sings to the glory of God and the edification of those who hear. Paul and Silas sang praises to God while incarcerated at Philippi (Acts 16:25). James wrote, “Is any among you . . . merry? let him sing psalms” (Jas. 5:13). 1 Corinthians 14:26 states, “. . , when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm . . . … And, of course, we must not overlook 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16 and Hebrews 2:12.

I have conducted radio programs on behalf of the church where four or five brethren sang. This was worship to God, but the whole church did not participate. Some of our Sunday and Wednesday Bible classes have singing interspersed in them. Is this wrong because the whole church does not sing simultaneously? Certainly not! We also worship God in song at funerals, as well as in prayer and teaching. Many times at funerals only three or four brethren sing. Have they sinned in worshiping God through song when the whole assembly of people does not sing? Again, the answer is no! Whether a few or all sing on a radio program, in a Bible class, at a funeral or in the assembly of the whole church, we have done only what God has authorized.

Brother Pruitt has trouble with 1 Corinthians 14:26. He simply passes it off as an assembly where spiritual gifts were exercised. True, 1 Corinthians 14 regulates spiritual gifts, but there are principles in the chapter that remain. It was an assembly of the church (v. 23) and individuals sang solos (v. 26). We still have assemblies and we still have singing and the principle that allowed individual singing in the assembly at Corinth will allow the same today. Even brother Pruitt admits solo singing at Corinth. Hence, both of us are in agreement on that point. Let us keep in mind that this was at the same period that Paul wrote Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. We conclude, therefore, that the Ephesians and Colossian passages did not (and do not) preclude the type of singing in 1 Corinthians 14:26. Neither did solo singing preclude congregational singing. We all must sing when we come together for worship in song, but not necessarily simultaneously. Here, brother Pruitt makes a law where God never made one.

The word, “simultaneous,” means “at the same time.” Brother Pruitt says this is the way we have to sing. His position would eliminate our part songs where we have alto, tenor or bass leads. Some songs have only soprano leads until the chorus, and in some cases the women are predominant with their soprano voices while the men are totally silent, waiting for the bass and tenor parts to begin. Brother M.C. Kurfees wrote, “His (Paul) admonition for Christians to sing is in the following words: ‘Speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs’ (Eph. 5:19) He uses the reflexive pronoun (emp. mine, wew), ‘speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.’ He does not say whether this speaking in psalms and other kinds of musical compositions shall be done by all in concert or by one at a time: hence, either is correct” (Gospel Advocate, May, 1913, p. 464).

Brother Pruitt would have you believe I just quoted a bunch of denominational writers in my former article that he is reviewing, but he inadvertently or conveniently omitted such honorable and knowledge able brethren as M.C. Kurfees, R.L. Whiteside and Marshall Patton whom I quoted as being in agreement with me. Ironically, brother Pruitt says we should see Barnes’ Notes. Barnes was a Presbyterian.

As to expediency we all (at least most of us) recognize that all things are lawful but not all things are expedient (1 Cor. 6:12). That is, all things lawfu! are permitted, but not all of those lawful things are proper. Such is the case with solo singing today in our assemblies of the whole church. Kurfees recognized this. R.L. Whiteside realized this. Marshall Patton stated this. I believe this. The apostle Paul taught this. Brother Pruitt says he cannot see this. Well, that is his problem, not mine.

A funeral is under different circumstances and its very nature would not, generally speaking, promot6 theatrical pomp and display, at least among us. This is why I maintain that solo or quartet singing at a funeral is expedient, while not expedient in our church assemblies.

“Surely our good brother has given little thought to his reasoning.”

Guardian of Truth XXX: 21, p. 651
November 6, 1986