Seriously, it’s OK

Alexander Campbell and a Guitar

joshua busman on the use of instrumental music in worship during the protestant reformation

Joshua Busman

Joshua Busman

Jim West directed my attention to an excellent paper given by Joshua Busman of UNC, Chapel Hill presented at the 2010 SCGMC Meeting at Duke University on differing views of the use of instrumental music during Christian worship by various key players of the Protestant Reformation. The various views are tied to understandings of scripture, specifically, the first of the Ten Commandments.

The paper entitled, “Different Commandments: Sola Scriptura and Theologies of Worship in the Protestant Reformation,” is available on academia.edu here. Give it a read.

Pepperdine President Andrew K. Benton and His Band, MidLife Crisis, Rock Pepperdine

Pepperdine President Andrew K. Benton performs with his band MidLife Crisis at Pepperdine. Screen capture from YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5q_fyO8m0ug)

Pepperdine President Andrew K. Benton performs with his band MidLife Crisis at Pepperdine. Screen capture from YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5q_fyO8m0ug)

Pepperdine University has been rocked by a MidLife Crisis – the band that is. Pepeprdine President Andrew K. Benton and his MidLife Crisis band mates, Jeff Pippin, Chris Stivers, Reber Carroll, and Logan Carroll performed at the President’s Brock House mansion last September, 2009, and professionally edited videos of the event are now available for public viewing on YouTube. It was a great performance and students appeared to have a great time as demonstrated by the large number of them dancing during the performance. (And if you can get kids to dance these days, you’ve got to be doing something right.)

You can watch videos of the set list on rrcarrol’s YouTube Channel.

Songs include “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World (original video here):

“Fire” by Jimi Hendrix (original song with lyrics here):

and “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby (original live performance here):

Let me state clearly that I fully support President Benton’s participation in a band (in fact, I wish I could play that well), and I love his band’s choice of songs. President Benton’s band was true to the original on their version of Jimmy Eats World’s The Middle (original here), and Jeff Pippin absolutely nailed the solo during Jimi Hendrix’ Fire (original here).

It is worth pointing out, however, that there are some in the Churches of Christ who would object, quite strenuously in fact, to these same instruments, same voices, and this same amplification equipment being used to sing songs about God. For some reason, using these instruments and voices to sing lyrics like Jimi Hendrix’ classic line, “You say your mom ain’t home, it ain’t my concern. Just don’t play with me, and you won’t get burned. I have only one itching desire: Let me stand next to your fire,” on the campus of Pepperdine University is wholly good and acceptable (and even a little bit rockin’), but using these same instruments and voices and microphones in a worship setting to sing praises to God and about God is somehow heretical and displeasing to God.

I fail to comprehend this so-called logic. Allow me to clarify the position of those who oppose the use of instrumental music in worship:

  • Play guitar to Jimi Hendrix = good
  • Play guitar to God = bad
  • Play piano during “The Way It is” = permissible
  • Play piano during “I’m Going That Way” = not permissible
  • Pep Band play in Firestone Fieldhouse during basketball game = scriptural
  • Simply play recorded instrumental music before worship service in Firestone Fieldhouse = not scriptural
  • Play piano in Raitt Recital Hall or Brock House or Elkins Auditorium anytime during the week except Sunday from 10:15 to 11:30 am = OK
  • Play piano in Elkins Auditorium on Sunday from 10:15 to 11:30 am = Not OK

I don’t know about you, but I find that argument hovering somewhere between hypocritical and indefensible. How is using these talents and tools for fun and dancing at the Pepperdine President’s mansion permissible “under the law,” but using these same talents and tools to honor God not allowable “under the law”? Go figure. I don’t understand why some would venture to make this obviously strained argument.

When someone can adequately explain this argument to me (with a straight face), I’ll stop raising the issue. Until such a time as this, I shall continue to raise the issue of why instrumental music is not permitted by the Elders of the University Church if Christ in Malibu during worship services.

I call upon the Elders of the University Church of Christ in Malibu to host a public forum on the topic of the occasional use of instrumental music in worship, and invite all student, faculty, and staff members to participate at a convenient time when all can be present and voice their opinions.

Until then, I thank President Benton and his band, MidLife Crisis, for continuing to bring rockin’ instrumental music to Pepperdine!!

Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D. (UCLA)

thoughts on the use of instrumental music in worship

Man with GuitarI’ve begun posting some of my thoughts on church-related issues on the Malibu Church of Christ Blog.

For instance, I recently posted some thoughts entitled, “Opposed to instrumental music in worship? Here’s the site for you,” which discuss the ongoing opposition from some to the use of instrumental music in the Churches of Christ.

The position that congregations/churches (including Churches of Christ) should only use a cappella music during worship is completely indefensible (imho) outside of an argument from tradition (i.e., we’ve never done it that way, so let’s not start now because it might upset some more traditional donors contributors university administrators members).

It is not enough to point out that other denominations and institutions of higher learning mock those sectarians and sectarian institutions who still argue that any church that uses instrumental music during worship is “unpleasing to God” or worse yet, “unbiblical” or even “heretical,” because sectarians draw strength from isolation and ridicule. (They feel righteously persecuted for their “correct” beliefs.) Rather, we must have a transparent discussion in public about the issue of instrumental music in corporate worship, and must act upon the results of that discussion. During that debate, it will be important for those holding various points of view on the subject speak up. Likewise, when completely untenable, theologically sloppy arguments are made on either side of the issue, they should countered as appropriate, and should be challenged (professionally) even if the one making the argument has a Ph.D. in religious studies! (That goes for me too.)

The church must stop cowering to those whom seek to impose their minority opinion on the rest of the congregation, and whom refuse even to bring the issue up for debate.

It’s simply time we had the discussion. We can have it in this space or elsewhere, but we must have the discussion, and we must act on that discussion’s outcome.

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