Friends, The MonT-SteR loves the Scriptures. For Christians, they are the chief and final authority for all matters of faith and praxis. Since we are to take them as the inspired Word of God, they must be handled with the utmost care. Properly apprehending and applying their meaning is the first step to a successful, joyful life of obedience to the heart and ways of God.
When the Scriptures are misapprehended, it is a serious matter. Ideas have consequences; thus, failure to accurately understand the truth the Bible communicates will lead to false and damaging ideas about fundamental life issues. We cannot properly understand God, His activity, or ourselves apart from an accurate grasp of the teachings of Scripture. John Piper says it well: bad theology dishonors God and hurts people.
This is why The MonT-SteR gets upset when people who have a public ministry platform teach egregiously false doctrine. And there is a local gentleman who does just that every Sunday morning on WNIS, our local talk radio station. For an hour each week, Jimmie Gribble pontificates unopposed, sourly peddling bad theology and deriding those who disagree with the Church of Christ’s ill-formed doctrines on baptism and worship practices.
No more, friends. I’ve been itching to respond to Mr. Gribble for awhile now, and the time has come. Hence, I am inaugurating a new recurring feature here on tMR that I am calling Gribble Watch. I’m going to monitor his program (I have to record it, as I am usually attending Sunday services myself when his program airs), and respond to the uglier exhibits of bad theology that crop up in the course of his program.
For this week, I am going to make a brief retort to his repeated assertion that the use of mechanical instruments in a church setting is strictly forbidden. There is a significant backdrop of tradition from the Church fathers (i.e., the generation of church leadership following the time of Paul and the direct associates of Jesus) that plays into this debate, but I am not going to deal with that in detail here. While it is true that mechanical instruments were shunned or even forbidden by some of the Church fathers because of their association with pagan worship practices, a scriptural polemic for or against the practice will trump any polemic that appears in the writings of the Church fathers. So I will deal with what I understand to be the substance of Gribble’s biblical argument against the practice.
Gribble goes so far as to state that the use of mechanical instruments in worship is characteristic of those who are “outside the Lord’s church,” i.e., those who are not true followers of Jesus. He takes issue with those who point to the Psalms (particularly Ps. 150) as evidence that the use of instruments should accepted and encouraged in the community of faith. Gribble’s argument, as stated on his radio show a couple of weeks ago, is essentially this:
- 1 Cor 10:31 states that everything should be done to the glory of God.
- Commandments given to the church are through the authority of the Lord Jesus alone (1 Thess 4:2).
- Appealing to the Psalms to justify the use of mechanical instruments in church is substituting the authority of David for the authority of Jesus, which is unacceptable.
- There is no authoritative command from Jesus to use mechanical instruments in a worship setting; on that basis, the use of mechanical instruments can never be to the glory of God.
- Therefore, mechanical instruments are forbidden in a worship setting.
There are two major problems with this line of reasoning from the Scriptures:
- I readily grant that everything we do, whether privately or in a corporate worship setting, ought to glorify God. I also agree that the commands of Scripture, particularly in the New Testament (NT), are given by the authority of Jesus. But Gribble’s argument essentially undercuts the divine inspiration of the totality of the Scriptures. Paul states that ALL scripture is “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (1 Tim 3:16-17). I doubt very seriously that Gribble would find fault with appealing to the Psalms to encourage Christians to give thanks to God in a worship setting, or to praise Him for His goodness, or to present offerings to Him — the Psalms are replete with such language. According to 1 Tim 3:16-17, it’s proper to use the Psalms to that end. So why set the Psalms, which testify about Jesus, against the teachings of Jesus, who 1) is set forth in John 1 as the incarnate Word, and 2) stated that His purpose was to fulfill the Old Testament (OT) Scriptures rather than set them at nought (Matt 5:17)?
- There is no good reason to, as you will NEVER FIND one verse in the NT that forbids the use of mechanical instruments in a worship setting. Gribble’s point is that since Jesus never commanded it, it shouldn’t be practiced. This is essentially an argument from silence, and it makes Gribble’s reasoning patently fallacious. Gribble’s program consistently advertises correspondence courses in Bible study. By Gribble’s logic, this shouldn’t be practiced either, as Jesus never directly commanded a church to offer correspondence courses. In fact, we could use Gribble’s logic to forbid almost anything churches typically use to facilitate worship and preaching — including pulpits, microphones and sound equipment, chairs and pews, carpeted floors in the sanctuary, bulletins, orders of service, having congregants sit or stand at various points in the service, choirs, hymnals, newsletters, computers, church buildings, even (gasp!) RADIO BROADCASTS.
The truth, friends, is that it’s impossible (and downright SILLY) to base our understanding of biblical worship practices on what ISN’T in the Scriptures. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates musical instruments can’t be used to the glory of God. As long as that is the case, churches are free to employ them as a worship aid. And, if a church prefers not to, that’s fine as well. The key is to worship in both spirit and truth.
Mr. Gribble, I urge you to stop troubling other Christians with this hurtful, unbiblical, nonsensical teaching. The Bible can never be interpreted to countenance the notion that those who use mechanical instruments in a worship setting are automatically outside the Body of Christ. That is not the test or measure of saving faith, and you know it. Rather, it is a pet doctrine of the denomination you have associated yourself with. You have preferred the teachings of men over the Word of God, and are therefore in error.
And that, beloved readers, is the first installment of Gribble Watch. Look for more to come on both the written and the audio side of The MonT-SteR REPORT
aka The MonT-SteR