REFLECTIONS
by Al Maxey

Issue #304 ------- June 2, 2007
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Stupidity is nature's favorite resource
for preserving consistency of opinion.

Walter Bagehot {1826-1877}

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Musings from Martians
Is there Intelligent Life on Mars?

Barbara Tuchman [1912-1989], in a very insightful article she titled "An Inquiry into the Persistence of Unwisdom in Government" [Esquire, 1980], made this declaration: "Wooden-headedness consists of assessing a situation in terms of preconceived, fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs. It is acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be confused by the facts." I think this lady has made quite an astute observation; one that is easily applicable to many different fields of inquiry, including the theological. A willingness to truly set aside one's cherished traditions and simply consider, in an open-minded fashion, the factual evidence, is a quality quite rare within certain religious circles -- especially among the more radical, ultra-conservative, legalistic sects and factions of Christendom. Indeed, such reflective openness is not only extremely rare, it is virtually extinct, and those few disciples within these groups who dare to engage in independent thought are soon either excommunicated or exterminated. Party purgings are quite the norm among such cultish sects, and they are ever on the watch for the slightest leanings away from the party positions and parameters. They construct massive walls of exclusion around themselves and lob grenades at anyone who wanders too near their fortresses. It is a pathetic approach to Christianity, and, tragically, it abounds all about us in countless feuding factions and squabbling sects.

Although examples abound, not only in Churches of Christ, but in most other religious groups as well, one arm of one faction stands out as a perfect example. There is a so-called "Bible discussion group" on the Internet known as Mars-List, which is a gathering primarily of members of the Non-Institutional Churches of Christ, an extremely legalistic, patternistic, warlike bunch. Their name is well-chosen, as Mars was the ancient Roman god of warfare. Little wonder the planet Mars is known as the "red planet" --- for it is covered with the blood of those slain in "holy warfare." For those people who enjoy a good knock-down, drag-out brawl over any and every issue imaginable, Mars-List is the place to be. Some people, and some perspectives, however, are not welcome on this group. That wretched liberal Al Maxey, for example, has been banned from Mars-List for all eternity. I am not allowed anywhere near there. Nor are the members of that group ever allowed to quote me. To do so is to risk expulsion from the group. This was all made abundantly clear this past week on Mars-List when, once again, I became the focus of their acrimony.

A dear brother in Christ, who has long been a supporter of this Reflections ministry, made the fatal mistake of sharing with the members of Mars-List an excerpt from my recent article "Ponderings & Puzzlements" [Issue #302] in which I had said: "If you firmly believe (as many do) that God has created a prohibitive LAW with respect to instruments of music in worship, then I simply invite you to provide me with the biblical evidence. Please send me at your earliest convenience even one verse in the Bible (either OT or NT) that even hints at divine disapproval of accompanied singing in worshipful praise of our God and Father." A rather simple request, really. But you would think Satan had been released from the abyss by the outpouring of responses from the hardcore legalists on Mars-List. They were practically foaming at the mouth. This brother was immediately attacked for daring to refer to anything I had written. A senior member of the group, who hails from Alabama, declared: "You may not be aware of the fact that the articles written in Al Maxey's Reflections are not to be posted on Mars-List. Doing so can lead to disciplinary action by the list owners" [May 25, post #7693]. Indeed, this is exactly what happened. Two or three days later, after dozens of messages had been posted attacking this brother, he was removed from Mars-List and all of his messages were deleted from the archives so that no one would ever again be able to read them! Kinda makes you wonder what they are so afraid of, doesn't it?! Of course, the removal of this brother proved to be a relief to the hardcore of the list. One of the previous owners, who preaches in Illinois, opined, "His presence does no good to anyone. His fruit shows him to be a false teacher in every sense of the word" [May 28, post #7770]. Naturally, there was a tendency by one or two brave souls to voice concern over such antics, however this was quickly suppressed by the present owner from Tennessee, who rather firmly declared, "Persons are added and removed at the discretion of the owners." He then issued the ultimatum that "discussions of these decisions" would NOT be allowed on Mars-List [May 28, post #7778]. As is the case with any tyrannical regime, whether it be secular or religious, voices of dissent are never tolerated. The few who dare are soon exterminated. Those in possession of an evil Diotrephes spirit are by nature prone to prohibitive pronouncements against the brethren and purges of those who don't submit [3 John 10].

As infuriated as many of the hardcore Martians were, some nevertheless realized that my request was indeed a very legitimate one; one that if ignored would reflect poorly upon them. After all, these people clearly believe it is a SIN to accompany worshipful singing with instruments. Therefore, given their view that the use of instruments constitutes a salvation and fellowship issue, it is really not unreasonable for someone to simply request biblical validation of the assertion. If God does indeed regard such a practice as a soul-damning sin, then should not the proponents of such a theology, if they are honest, simply be willing to provide even one passage that states this to be fact? Indeed, I am willing to accept just one passage that even hints at such divine disapproval. Surely, one would think, such a request would not be all that difficult to grant given their adamant assertion of their view as discernible truth. So, before this dear brother was cast from the group, several offered up that requested verse (or what they thought was that verse). In this present issue of Reflections, I would like to share with you the verses they provided. After all, I stated in my above referenced article that if such a passage could be found, then I would provide it within my next issue. Therefore, I shall honor that commitment. Here are the passages that the legalists came up with in response to my request for a verse "in the Bible (either OT or NT) that even hints at divine disapproval of accompanied singing in worshipful praise of our God and Father." Let us carefully examine these verses to see if they have truly found that elusive divine prohibition!

Romans 12:1-2

One of the former owners of Mars-List, a preacher/elder in Illinois, believes he has found the definitive passage. He wrote, "Here's a passage: Romans 12:1-2 ... this verse plainly prohibits it" [May 25, post #7694]. Well, let's take a look at it. The apostle Paul wrote, "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but instead be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Uhhhhh ... hmmmm! I seem to be having a bit of difficulty perceiving the presence of phrases like "instruments of music" and "soul-damning sin" and "prohibited, forbidden." I don't even find a "worship service" here, much less what is or isn't acceptable within such. Yes, we need to be aware of "the will of God," but the specifics of that divine will are not really enumerated here, beyond the fact that He wants us to present our very being in sacrificial, spiritual service to Him. I'm having some problem seeing a divine prohibition of instruments in this passage, however; a prohibition from God so irrefutably obvious that we can declare all in opposition to it to be eternally lost. This man declares "this verse plainly prohibits it." Well, frankly, it just isn't that plain to me, I'm afraid. But, maybe I'm just not overly perceptive. If some of you are able to see that plainly presented prohibition in this passage, then please enlighten me, because I simply don't see it.

Galatians 6:7

A Martian from Texas provided Galatians 6:7 -- "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." Thankfully, this man provided his own commentary: "Okay, so what does this verse have to do with singing? Absolutely nothing. But, the one who sows discord (and introducing the instrument does sow discord) is wrong." He further pointed out that one of the things our Lord hates is "the one who spreads strife among brothers" [Prov. 6:19]. We would all acknowledge that those who intentionally seek to spread strife and discord among the people of God are a loathsome bunch. God is not pleased with such men and women, to say the least. Anytime anyone seeks to impose something upon a group against their will, there will be strife. This is true whether one is seeking to impose or bind a piano, multiple cups, Sunday School, small groups, the NIV, or any of a thousand other things which are neither right nor wrong in and of themselves. Frankly, if a group is instrumental, and a small segment of the whole seeks to impose a non-instrumental worship style upon their brethren, that too can be the cause of a tremendous amount of strife, dissension and division. To extrapolate from a universal ban on causing strife among brethren to a universal ban on instrumental accompaniment of worshipful singing is to extrapolate far more than is textually or logically warranted.

In that very same post to the group, this very same person went on to note, with respect to the use of an instrument as accompaniment to singing, "it may or may not be right, because it is not specifically condemned and there is not one verse that prohibits it specifically. You and Al can glory in the fact that you can present such an argument and know full well that nobody can produce a specific verse that prohibits using the instrument in our worship to God. Just what does this do for you and Al? Make you feel superior?" No, far from it, actually. The only point I have sought to make is that if someone is going to place a prohibitive law in the mouth of our God, one so serious that to violate this prohibition will cause those who transgress it to be eternally lost, then such persons truly ought to be able to produce a "thus sayeth the Lord." But, if no such prohibition exists anywhere in Scripture, then by what authority do we place such a decree in the mouth of our Lord? This reader admits, and rightly so, that nobody can produce that passage. Why? Because God never said it. So, what gives them the right to say it?! If men are adding to the Word, creating law where God never did, is this not sowing discord and causing strife unnecessarily?! Frankly, it can be just as divisive to try and impose the use of instruments as it is to impose their prohibition. In point of fact, God has done neither ... thus, we should do neither. Where God has given no command one way or the other, let us employ ample doses of love, acceptance and sound judgment, guided by the revealed principles and precepts of God's Word, to come to choices that glorify God, edify our brethren, and encourage the lost to come to Jesus. Once again, the passages suggested, by the admission of the writer himself, really do not deal specifically with instruments, but simply with an admonition that we all accept -- flee from strife.

Ephesians 5:6-11

One of the other owners of the infamous Mars-List, an elderly fellow who resides in Kentucky, wrote, "The verse you are asking for is Ephesians 5:6-11. Nobody is obligated to prove all that is not well-pleasing to the Lord. It is pure negativism to call for someone to prove what is not well-pleasing to our Lord" [May 26, post #7698]. Perhaps this gentleman from Kentucky might have a point IF some of his legalistic companions were not declaring with the voice of authority that the use of instrumental accompaniment is displeasing to our God. So displeasing, they contend, that to use it will cause one to go to hell. When such a position is preached by some from the pulpit week after week, then it is not "negativism," but rather accountability that demands such people produce a "thus sayeth the Lord." If I am bold enough to say that God hates something so much He will send you to hell for doing it, then I had better be prepared to substantiate such a declaration!! And if God never said such a thing, then why should I or anyone else feel compelled to submit to some mere man's decree? It seems that our Lord had something to say to the legalists of His day about "teaching as doctrines the precepts of men" [Matt. 15:9].

As for the passage this man provided, the apostle Paul wrote, "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; so walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them" [Eph. 5:6-11]. Well, I guess I must be pretty dense, because, once again, I simply fail to see even a hint in this passage of divine disapproval of instruments. Yes, we are clearly to do that which is pleasing to the Lord, but where in Scripture does it declare that the use of instruments is displeasing to Him?! If there is not even a hint of such anywhere in the Bible, then what gives man the right to create such a position and ascribe it to our God? Talk about presumption!! "Instruments in worship are 'unfruitful deeds of darkness,'" some might say. Okay, show me. Where has GOD said this? Can't find it?! Then excuse me if I refuse to swallow this "doctrine of men" as a doctrine of God. I'm just stubborn enough to want to hear it from HIM.

It is a sad fact, but true nevertheless, that men really don't speak where the Bible speaks, and remain silent where the Bible is silent. The reality is: where the Bible is silent they speak all the louder. I love the way the Living Bible paraphrases the statement of Jesus in Matt. 23:2-3 (capturing the true essence of His sarcasm) -- "You would think these Jewish leaders and these Pharisees were Moses, the way they keep making up so many laws! And of course you should obey their every whim!" These legalists who take human whims and elevate them to divine decrees are still with us, and I have no doubt our Lord is just as disgusted with them today as He was then. No mere man has the right to issue and impose any command upon others within the family of God that cannot be substantiated by a clear "thus sayeth the Lord God Himself." And yet that is exactly the case when it comes to this prohibitive command against instrumental accompaniment. This is a common human failing, however, and it can even be seen in the secular realm. For example, Ann Coulter (and, yes, I freely admit to being one of her biggest fans) stated in one of her best-selling books, "Usually, when judges are hankering to legislate, they choose territory where there is no written law at all. Where the law is silent, they concoct 'penumbras' and 'emanations' and discover hitherto unnoticed, invisible provisions" [How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must), p. 295]. Human nature truly is fairly consistent, isn't it?! God has never uttered a single word against the use of instruments in worshipful praise unto Him. Not even a hint of displeasure can be found in Scripture. Not one! Therefore, these legalists have chosen to fill what they perceive to be a divine void with their own personal whims. What blasphemous arrogance!

1 Corinthians 4:6

A Martian from California provided the following phrase from 1 Cor. 4:6 (and he quoted it from the Easy to Read translation) -- "Follow only what the Scriptures say" [May 27, post #7728]. You'll get no argument from me, brother. So, let me ask you a question: Does Scripture say that the use of instrumental accompaniment to singing in worshipful praise to God is a SIN? Does God Himself anywhere in Scripture say "thou shalt NOT" use instrumental accompaniment? If so, then simply provide that saying! After all, as you quoted, we are to "follow only what Scriptures say." Thus, I shall await that passage where it SAYS that the use of instruments is a soul-damning sin. Since you declare such to be true, then it must actually SAY SO somewhere in Scripture, right?! Surely, you wouldn't expect us to follow what the Scriptures DON'T say! Or, would you?!

Romans 14:23

Another Martian from Kentucky (many seem to have landed there) wrote, "Faith comes only from what God has revealed (Rom. 10:17), not from something God has said nothing about. God has said nothing about using instruments in our singing in worship to Him. Therefore, it cannot be a matter of faith, and from Romans 14:23 it is sinful to practice it as worship to God" [May 27, post #7737]. Okay, let's think about this for a moment. Faith comes NOT from something God has said nothing about. God gave no command in the NT writings, either one way or the other, with regard to the use of instruments in worshipful expression. Therefore, why have you made this a matter of faith? A test of fellowship? An issue relating to one's very salvation? If a matter of faith cannot be established by biblical silence, then why do you use biblical silence to establish as a matter of faith the non-use of instruments?!

This person needs to go back and read more carefully Romans 14. The whole chapter deals with how one man "has faith" that he may eat all things, but another man "has faith" that he may only eat vegetables. Paul also talks about other matters upon which brethren have differing convictions. "The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God" [vs. 22]. We may differ on a great many points of personal conviction, and yet each of us is acting on "faith." It is when a person acts against his personal convictions regarding some matter, or when he has doubts, but acts anyway, that he sins against his own conscience. This is the meaning of Rom. 14:23. In other words, what may for me be an acceptable expression of faith before my God, may on the other hand be for you a SIN. Why? Because you are acting against your convictions. You have doubts as to whether some action is acceptable before God, but you engage in it anyway. That is sin ... for you. But, it is NOT sinful for me. If, in fact, verse 23 is speaking of instruments (and in principle this may be included, and a thousand and one other items as well), then the teaching is that such use is only sinful if you think that it is. "For I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean" [vs. 14]. "For why is my freedom judged by another's conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?" [1 Cor. 10:29-30]. The teaching of Romans 14 is that we are not to judge one another on such matters of conviction/faith where God has granted us liberty. There are many areas of practice and service where God has simply said nothing one way or the other. In such matters we must follow our own convictions, not impose our convictions upon others, and accept those of differing convictions. For some reason, this seems to be a concept beyond the grasp of most Martians.

Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16

An elderly Martian from Alabama wrote: "As to the verse that you requested, I'll give you two for the price of one: Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16" [May 25, post #7693]. Let's notice my challenge one more time: "If you firmly believe (as many do) that God has created a prohibitive LAW with respect to instruments of music in worship, then I simply invite you to provide me with the biblical evidence. Please send me at your earliest convenience even one verse in the Bible (either OT or NT) that even hints at divine disapproval of accompanied singing in worshipful praise of our God and Father." This gentleman has given us two passages. Let's notice the latter one first. "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God" [Col. 3:16]. I don't see any expression of divine disapproval here; not of instrumental accompaniment to singing, or of anything else. I see that we are to let the word of Christ richly dwell within us. I see that we are to sing with thankfulness in our hearts to God, but that can be done whether Bertha tinkles the ivories in the corner or not. I see that we are to teach and admonish one another wisely, and that one methodology for complying with this instruction is through the use of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. However, I see absolutely nothing in the nature of a prohibitive LAW with respect to instrumental accompaniment. Such a divine decree is not even hinted at in the passage.

In Eph. 5:18-19 the apostle Paul wrote, "Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and psalming (making melody) with your heart to the Lord." Just as the word of Christ is to richly indwell us, so also is His Spirit. Just as we are to sing with thankfulness in our hearts to God, so also are we to "sing and psalm" unto Him with our hearts. In other words, the focus of our God is inward, not on the externals. He is concerned about what takes place in our hearts. "God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" [1 Sam. 16:7]. Thus, one may be a deaf/mute, incapable of uttering any sound, yet still sing like the angels in his heart. One may indeed be playing a woodwind instrument, and at the same time singing with thankfulness in his heart. The singing and psalming mentioned in this passage are entirely internal in nature, and thus need not even be audible. God "hears" differently than man hears. Many will argue that since the singing and psalming are "with the heart," that this excludes instruments. If that is so, then it also excludes the instrument known as the vocal chords. There is nothing in that phrase that suggests any audible expression of this inner praise. Their argument totally misses the point, however. Paul is not attempting to establish a law of exclusion in this statement; he merely seeks to impress upon the minds of his readers that the praise our Lord regards is a praise of the heart. Jesus lamented the worship of the legalists of His day, for "they honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me" [Matt. 15:8].

That which is to be given audible expression, as clearly proclaimed by these two verses, is the "speaking to one another" and the "teaching and admonishing of one another." Again, one of the methodologies for doing this is through the medium of song. From the very beginning of time, men have used music as a tool to touch the lives of those about them. It is one of the most effective teaching tools available to mankind. The Lord realized this, and encouraged its use. Nothing is said in either passage about whether such speaking, teaching and admonishing in song is accompanied or not by instruments, although when employing "psalms" one will note that many of them were accompanied by instruments, and even speak of such (see Psalm 150, just by way of a singular example). What we can safely say is that neither of these passages have anything whatsoever to say against the use of such instrumental accompaniment. Not one word. Such a prohibitive LAW is not even hinted at in these two passages. We are simply informed that when Christians lift their voices in praise (whether accompanied or not), there are two audiences -- (1) God, who listens to the heart, and (2) our fellow men, who are more audibly stimulated. To appeal to these two passages as "proof" that God disapproves of instruments in our worshipful praise only shows the depth of the biblical and exegetical ignorance of those who make such an appeal.

The Pedophilia Challenge

As an example of the bizarre depths to which these legalists will sink in their absolute desperation to prove their position, one particular Martian from the state of Texas, realizing he could not substantiate from the Scriptures his view that instruments were regarded with disapproval by God, decided to issue a counter-challenge instead. I guess the operative theory here is: If Al Maxey can't adequately respond to his challenge, then that, in and of itself, somehow validates his own negative view of instruments. He wrote, "Pedophilia is not mentioned in the Bible, so Al Maxey would have to approve of such in order to be consistent with his teaching, and never ever teach against pedophilia. The very reasons that Al would offer against pedophilia are no different than our arguments against instrumental music in worship" [May 26, post #7704]. The next day he continued, "Can you give me one verse in the Scriptures where it says pedophilia is disapproved by God? Since you and I both know that it is not there, how would you respond to show that those who want to practice pedophilia would be engaging in sin? Could you or would you admit that pedophilia is a sin if the Bible does not specifically call it a sin?" [May 27, post #7748]. Now you see why I subtitled this article: "Is there intelligent life on Mars?!" One has to wonder!

There are several matters that need to be addressed in this person's statements. First, he errs rather significantly in his assumption that if biblical silence does not forbid, then it must of necessity commend. In point of fact, it does neither. Genuine silence does not have the power to command. "Pedophilia is not mentioned in the Bible, so Al Maxey would have to approve of such in order to be consistent with his teaching." No, to be perfectly consistent in his teaching, if indeed the Bible is genuinely silent about pedophilia, Al Maxey would have to declare that the Bible speaks neither for nor against it, thus he would have no authority to assert as objective fact either position. At best he could only assert a personal conviction on the matter, but such could never rise to the authority of divine decree. Having said that, however, can we truly say that God's Word has no guidance whatsoever with respect to pedophilia? True, the actual word itself is never mentioned, but has God left us no indication of His will for mankind in this area?

Pedophilia and instrumental accompaniment to songs of praise in a worshipful setting are apples and oranges. For one thing, I can point to passages in the Scriptures that not only show God's approval of the latter, but which also clearly show where He has commanded it of His people. No such affirmation or command exists for an act of pedophilia, however. Dr. Robert L. Pettus, MD stated, "Pedophilia or child molestation is a sexual perversion in which satisfaction is derived only from molesting a child" [As I See Sex Through The Bible, p. 98]. According to the American Psychiatric Association, "Most adults who sexually molest children are considered to have pedophilia, a mental disorder described in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. An adult who engages in sexual activity with a child is thereby performing a criminal and immoral act that can never, ever be considered normal or socially acceptable behavior. According to the DSM-IV definition, pedophilia involves sexual activity by an adult with a prepubescent child. Pedophiliac activity may involve undressing and looking at the child or more direct physical sex acts. All these activities are psychologically harmful to the child, and some may be physically harmful. In addition, individuals with pedophilia often go to great lengths to obtain photos, films or pornographic publications that focus on sex with children."

Even if the Bible didn't take exception to the above, most normal, decent, godly people would. I believe we can all say with a very high degree of confidence that the Lord God has established parameters in His Word for acceptable sexual fulfillment. Does God regard illicit sexual activity (regardless of its nature) as a desired characteristic of His people? Certainly not. Is immorality condemned? Is fornication condemned? Is adultery condemned? Absolutely. Throughout God's inspired Scriptures, He has sought to limit the sexual act to a man and his wife. In that specificity there is an inherent limitation. Even one's grandchildren are off limits [Lev. 18], which some scholars regard as a possible allusion to pedophilia. The reality, however, is that sexual activity with anyone or anything (whether specified or not) outside the restricted parameters established by God is SIN. "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral" [Heb. 13:4, NIV]. I seriously doubt any of us would dare to argue that sex with children would not fall under the umbrella of "sexual immorality." Frankly, God's position on pedophilia couldn't be clearer. No, our God did not specifically utter the word itself, but His principles of acceptable sexual expression are abundantly manifest throughout Scripture.

He has also not been silent on His feelings about instrumental accompaniment to worshipful expression in song. It is mentioned numerous times in Scripture, and always with approval. He has never once, either in principle or precept, shown any leaning toward disapproval. These are both facts that cannot be contested. However, the Martians are correct in their assertion that in the NT writings there is no specific command either for or against the use of instruments. Such direction, pro or con, is entirely absent. The real question, therefore, is how does one regard this silence? The Martians assert it is prohibitive. However, even they are not consistent in the application of this principle of prohibition and exclusion, allowing exceptions for those items they personally approve. It is this inconsistency that has largely led to the countless feuding factions among these legalistic patternists. Is there a better way to approach such biblical silence to determine if something is either approved or disapproved in the sight of God? I believe there is.

I have discussed this far more reasoned, rational approach (than the traditional CENI approach of the Churches of Christ) many times in my Reflections. I would especially refer the reader to my study: Suggesting Another Hermeneutic: Inquiry into an Interpretive Methodology [Issue #126]. Essentially, the approach is this: in the absence of a specific statement from God on some matter (whether it be pedophilia or instruments of music in worship), responsible disciples of Christ must, with the Scriptures open before them and a Berean spirit within them [Acts 17:11], ask a series of questions to determine their course of action. Is said action or practice consistent with those precepts and principles that are specified within God's inspired Word? Would said action or practice be contrary to what God has stated He approves or disapproves? Would it be an affront to His holiness? Would it in any way undermine our efforts to live lives of holiness before Him? Would said action or practice be edifying to the blood-bought Bride of Jesus Christ? Would it help build up the Body of Christ? Would it help promote the proclamation of the gospel throughout the earth? Would it prove to be a stumbling block in the path of those who are seeking to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? How we answer these several key questions will determine the suitability of said action or practice. Frankly, these questions, when answered by honest, sincere hearts, will lead to the exclusion of such things as pedophilia. On the other hand, I fail to see how musical accompaniment to worshipful singing would ever be condemned by such a process! If so, then on what rational basis?

Conclusion

Brethren, I think we're beginning to see why Mars is a "dead planet." The confused, pathetic attempt at a response by these patternists to a legitimate question has succeeded in accomplishing only one thing: a demonstration once again, for all the world to see, that their rigid theology is based on nothing other than their own party preferences. God and His Word are not even factors in the establishment of their LAWS that they seek to impose upon the rest of humanity. The harshest condemnation in all the New Covenant writings is reserved for such people as these. I can only hope and pray, as I trust each of you will, that their eyes may be opened before it is too late. They stand in opposition to our God, they dishonor His fair name, and they are a curse to Christianity. Hard words? Yes, they are ... and they are intended to be. Souls are being led into the outer darkness, away from the true Light, by these legalists, and it is time for the people of God to both expose them and oppose them. We have allowed this cancer to fester within the Body too long without treatment. It is time for surgery! Dear God, heal your One Body; restore it to health; eradicate this loathsome disease that infests us! Amen! May it be so!

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Readers' Reflections

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From a Reader in California:

Bro. Al, I just wanted to send you a quick note to say Thank You for your service to our country in Vietnam. I am a member of the Board of Trustees of the local public cemetery (in addition to my church duties), and I just got back from a Memorial Day ceremony hosted by our local Blue Star Mothers chapter. In the spirit of remembering those who have fallen, I also want to thank you, one of the ones who came back! Have a very happy and blessed Memorial Day.

From a Reader in Indiana:

Bro. Al, As always with your Reflections, it is only after the second or third reading that I finally am able to absorb all that you have said ... and maybe not even then!! This current issue on the bronze serpent is especially good. I particularly liked your comment about our skewed focus in rushing people to the river rather than to the Redeemer. Also, I think almost everyone can quote John 3:16, but what I found so interesting was the reference, in the two verses prior, to the bronze serpent and belief [John 3:14-15]. I guess I hadn't seen that before. I also thought the part about grumbling, which is found in 1 Cor. 10:9-11, was a really good reminder for us of what not to do.

From a Minister in California:

Bro. Al, I must confess that I typically read the readers' responses before I read your latest study, because many times I have to spend time digesting the depth of what you write! The response by the man from Orange County, California who attended a worship service with instrumentation -- he was dismayed by the audience reaction to the music, and apparently the swaying -- caught my attention. Perhaps what he witnessed was not so much a secular type of response to some concert, but rather a common element in spiritual worship. I personally have been deeply moved many times in worship to the point of an emotional or physical response ... both with and without instrumental music present. Maybe part of the problem is that we've put worship in a box, labeled it, and anything else just can't be worship because it doesn't fit the labeled container in which we've placed it. Just some thoughts on a beautiful morning! Now I'll go and read you article!! I love you, brother!

From a Reader in Missouri:

Brother Al, All I can say is: Preach on, brother, preach on! Too many "bronze serpents" have been worshipped across the brotherhood instead of Jesus. We have got to start lifting Him up in our lives so people can see Him, instead of lifting up our specific local congregation, or doctrine, or tradition, or denomination. Keep speaking the Truth, Al. Man, if you were here right now, brother, I would lay a big hug on you!!

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