by Al Maxey

Issue #320 ------- October 6, 2007
A bird doesn't sing because it has an
answer, it sings because it has a song.

Maya Angelou {b. 1928}

An Argument for A Cappella
The Position of Dr. John Mark Hicks

"When you tell someone that you attend a Church of Christ, they may know very little about us. But if they are acquainted with Churches of Christ at all, they will probably know at least one thing -- we do not use instrumental music in our worship assemblies." So begins a lengthy, yet quite scholarly, article by Dr. John Mark Hicks which, in my estimation, is one of the finest witnesses for a cappella music in our assemblies that I've ever encountered in all my many years of ministry. The article appears on the web site of Harding University Graduate School of Religion and is titled Why Don't You Have Music In Your Church? Before you continue on with the remainder of this current issue of my weekly Reflections, may I urge each one of you to please, please take the time to examine this study by Dr. Hicks. Although I myself am very rarely shown the same courtesy [example: Buster Dobbs -- Reflections #307], I try never to review the work of another person without first informing my readers where they may examine in full the work being critiqued. This is only fair to the author in question, whether one ultimately agrees with his/her premise and conclusion or not.

Bro. Hicks is a native New Mexican (being born in the town of Ft. Sumner), though he currently resides in Franklin, Tennessee. He grew up in Virginia, and spent the bulk of his teen years in the Washington, D.C. area. Dr. Hicks has written several books, lectured in 39 states (as well as numerous other nations, such as Japan, Korea, Uganda, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Croatia, Italy, Ukraine, Jamaica, England, Wales, Russia, and Honduras), and has served on staff at several large congregations. He is presently serving as Professor of Theology at Lipscomb University in Nashville, as well as Adjunct Professor of Christian Doctrine at Harding University Graduate School of Religion in Memphis. He is one of our finest biblical scholars, in my estimation, and a prolific writer. I respect him highly and am willing to take very seriously what he has to say with regard to theological issues. That doesn't mean I always agree with him on every issue (he is human, and thus subject to being in error, just like the rest of us), but I believe what he has to say does deserve respectful consideration, rather than just being rejected out of hand. I have attempted to do the former with regard to his above mentioned article on music in the church.

Dr. John Mark Hicks is more than aware that this practice of most (though not all) within Churches of Christ of singing without instrumental accompaniment is very often viewed by our religious neighbors as being somewhat peculiar, to say the least (along with our teaching on immersion and our tradition of weekly, Sunday only observance of the Lord's Supper). He writes, "We are considered unique or unusual because we practice these three public liturgical acts in the way we do. Indeed, sometimes we are regarded as rather odd and even stubborn about these practices. Because of these three customs, the Churches of Christ tend to stick out like a sore thumb ... we are often perceived as an aberration with eccentric habits." And that's putting it rather kindly. Differing practices and doctrinal understandings are not really what draw the attention of the rest of Christendom. After all, there is sufficient diversity of doctrine and practice in the many groups around us. What truly tends to draw the adverse attention of others is our tendency (far more so in the past than in the present) to declare ourselves the only people who understand the Scriptures, the only people approved by God, and thus the only people headed for heaven. Most disciples of Christ, regardless of faith-heritage, can tolerate some degree of diversity, but arrogance is another matter altogether. In other words, most are willing to accept the fact of our position on these issues, and even respect us for our convictions. What they are not willing to accept is the insistence by some among us that we alone, of all the disciples of Christ Jesus on the planet who have ever lived, are the only ones who "have arrived" at perfect perception and practice of eternal Truth. We are saved, and everyone else is going straight to hell. Period. End of discussion.

The focus of Dr. Hicks' paper is only on one of these three distinctive practices: a cappella music in the assembly of the saints. "It would surely surprise some to learn," observes this author, that the style of music generally preferred by most congregations of the Churches of Christ is "solidly rooted in the historic Christian tradition." In other words, "A cappella music is the original tradition of the church." Very few would argue against this fact. Even those who advocate instrumental accompaniment to their worshipful, heartfelt singing will usually acknowledge that the early, apostolic church, according to extra-biblical testimony, refrained from using instruments. There is significant debate over why this is so, and what it signifies spiritually, if anything, but the fact itself is hard to refute. I am encouraged to note, however, that Dr. Hicks takes great care not to characterize this practice as heavenly Truth, but rather as "historic tradition." Most students of Christian history can readily agree with the latter, but promotion of the former is absolutely guaranteed to inflame passions and incite heated debate, with division following closely behind.

Invariably, someone will ask us, "Why don't you have instrumental music in your church?" This is a legitimate question, and, in the words of John Mark Hicks, "we need to be able to give a reasonable, relevant and biblical answer." Sadly, and even tragically, this is an area where far too many within Churches of Christ have been woefully remiss, a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed by our religious neighbors. I will freely acknowledge that as I was growing up, and during the early years of my university studies and ministry, I was embarrassed by much of what I was hearing from our pulpits and papers. "Reasonable, relevant and biblical"? Not even close. I heard very few rational attempts to justify our practice in light of sound exegesis, but I heard endless tirades against the "apostates" all around us for daring to differ with us. It didn't take me long to realize something was wrong with this picture. For decades I have been searching for someone among us ... anyone ... to provide "a reasonable, relevant and biblical answer" to this question. Again, in my estimation, Dr. Hicks has come the closest to doing just that. And one reason his defense is so appealing to me (and I believe it will be to our religious neighbors as well) is because he has approached the matter positively, rather than negatively. In other words, he simply states the rationale for why he embraces a cappella music and rejects instrumental music. He does not berate those who differ with his preference, nor does he condemn them to hell. Indeed, he refuses to even make it a salvation issue at all. He simply seeks to explain in "a reasonable, relevant and biblical" manner WHY he personally chooses one over the other. You are free to agree or to disagree without incurring his "holy wrath" or being characterized as living kindling for the fires of hell.

Dr. Hicks freely admits, "Historically, the fundamental reason we have not used instrumental music in our worship assemblies is because they were absent from the worship assemblies of New Testament Christians." This indeed is the argument that we hear most frequently from the proponents of a cappella music in the church. The early disciples apparently didn't use instruments (as far as we know from the extant historical accounts ... more properly from the silence of such sources), thus we don't use them. The obvious weakness of this approach, of course, is that there are a great many things the early disciples didn't use or didn't do, and we today use them and do them anyway! The inconsistency of this is glaring to our religious neighbors. If we're going to profess to "restore the first century church," then we had best attempt to restore it in every particular (if such is indeed salvific), rather than picking and choosing which patternistic particulars suit our fancy. Of course, we have formulated the concept of "expediency" to allow those practices we personally prefer, but which have no more documentation within the early church than instrumental accompaniment. These are allowed, however, because we deem them "expedient." The flaw in this hermeneutic is obvious: one man's godly expedient is another man's godless innovation. And therein lies the foundation of the countless factions within the family of our Father. Subjectivism has become the Standard, which is little more than heavenly decree derived from human deduction. That which is merely assumed or inferred can never rise to the level of LAW, and yet this is exactly what we have done with far too many personal and party preferences in the church today. Is it any wonder we are as divided and divisive as we are?!

Yes, brethren, the "fundamental reason" we have not employed instruments in our worship assemblies is historically based, NOT Scripturally based. Frankly, that is rather flimsy basis for the formulation of LAW. Indeed, it is no basis at all. And yet, Dr. Hicks is completely correct in saying, "The historic practice of the church ought to give us pause to wonder why the early church did not use instrumental music." Yes, history reveals a great many things about the early church, as well as the church of the first several hundred years, that "give us pause to wonder." For each of the unique features of their worship and practice there may be any number of legitimate explanations. Countless theories have been postulated to explain why there seems to be this absence of instruments in their worship, and Hicks takes time to explore several of them. He even admits that "it is possible that instruments were used, but since it was unimportant to the writers of the New Testament or they had no occasion to really comment on the practice, they did not mention their use." The biblical and historical record is simply inconclusive as to the universal practice of the apostolic church. It's at least possible that some Christians did make use of instrumental accompaniment. We just don't know. But, even if we allow that none of the early disciples ever employed instruments in their corporate times of worship, we are still left to speculate as to the why of this fact. Although there are many reasonable theories, the reality is: we just don't know with any degree of certainty.

This has led to the following comment by John Mark Hicks: "Even if we cannot determine why the early church did not worship with musical instruments, perhaps it ought to be enough for us as restorationists that they did not and we ought to follow their example if we want to simply be a New Testament church. That is surely a sufficient reason for the existence of a Christian a cappella community." I disagree with this statement on a number of levels. First, I am not in favor of the doctrine of restorationism, especially as it is typically understood within our faith-heritage. Being a New Covenant people is NOT about restoring the peculiar practices of disciples who lived 2000 years ago on the other side of the planet in a culture vastly different from our own. Christians do not have to become clones of first century disciples to be "the church," they simply have to be transformed into the image of Christ Jesus. Such transformed people can express their love and devotion in any culture at any time in any place. Second, and this has already been mentioned, if being a NT church necessitates the restoring of some pattern, then that restoration must be complete, and not partial. If we really want to go down that road, then our present worship assemblies are in for some radical renovation! Buy some ear plugs, because the shrieks of dismay are going to be deafening!!

No, Bro. Hicks, just because there seems to be no biblical or extra-biblical evidence that these early disciples used instruments is NOT "sufficient reason" for us to insist this should be the uniform practice of all those seeking to simply be a New Covenant people today. If, on the other hand, we knew for a fact that this lack of use was based on a command from God Himself, then we would have a basis for insisting this practice be maintained by all seeking to submit to His will. There is no such command, however. There is not even the hint of such anywhere in Scripture. Indeed, Dr. Hicks admits, "It is possible that this silence is merely incidental. Silence does not necessarily imply prohibition." Amen!! To the credit of Dr. John Mark Hicks, he recognizes this very serious weakness in our argument. Thus, he makes the following insightful observation: "At some point we must move beyond the merely historical argument that the New Testament is silent about something. Given the occasional nature of the New Testament documents, it is not enough to simply say, 'The New Testament does not mention it, so therefore, we should not do it.' If this were true, then we could not purchase church buildings, earn interest on treasury money, sell a preacher's home for profit, or offer benevolence to non-members out of the church treasury. Mere silence is not enough. Rather, silence must be combined with some theological rationale or some genre expectation that gives weight to the silence."

I completely concur with the following statement by Dr. John Mark Hicks -- "Silence can only be prohibitive if it functions in relation to a command or theological principle. There must be some theological principle which gives weight to silence or provides the reason for silence. Silence alone, in the context of an epistolary or narrative genre, cannot have the weight of prohibition." Again, may I say Amen. This is exactly the point I have been making in my writings and teachings for years. Therefore, observes Hicks, "given the New Testament's silence, we must ask if there is a theological principle which excludes instrumental music from the worship of New Testament assemblies, and how explicit is it?" This, indeed, is the very question that must be answered, since by virtue of silence alone there is no reason to exclude the use of instruments as an aid or accompaniment to singing. Some, of course, point to Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 as the principle behind the prohibition of instruments, but that whole argument is extremely weak. Dr. Hicks correctly notes: "Unless one refuses to sing or where instrumental music substitutes for singing, instrumental music does not contradict the command to sing because when we sing with instruments we are still singing. ... Playing does not contradict singing (it only adds to singing)." The legalistic patternists, needless to say, will not accept any of this argument, and are probably at this point in this study foaming at the mouth, for silence and these two passages are really the only legs they have upon which to stand. Take these two "pillars of truth" away, and their whole feeble theology falls to the ground with a resounding thud.

Obviously, there is no specific biblical command that would prohibit instrumental music in our worship, therefore Dr. Hicks, if he would exclude their use, must find some theological principle that would serve the same purpose. In his view, he has located that principle; a principle which he believes explains and validates silence. His contention is that instrumental music is an integral part of Old Covenant worship; "an established part of Israel's worship assemblies." He freely admits that "the Psalms are filled with references to worshipping God with instrumental music." It was just as much a part of their worship as the blood sacrifices and the burning of incense. "Sacrifices, incense and musical instruments are closely tied together in temple worship; they are closely tied to the temple's altar." There seems to be some historical evidence that the Jews did not incorporate musical instruments within the synagogue, believing them to be part of temple worship. Thus, "instruments were excluded because they were too closely tied to the temple's altar." He further notes: "rabbinic traditions indicate, music in the synagogue, where there was music at all, was a cappella." Although this is quite probably historically factual, nevertheless Hicks is honest enough to declare that this theory is simply a matter of "general scholarly consensus." In other words, not all scholars accept this as absolute fact.

If, however, we allow the premise that instrumental music was closely tied to the temple worship under the Old Covenant, which few will discount, then is it possible that with the formation of a new covenant those items associated with the old covenant would forever be removed? If we are now the "temple" of the Spirit of God, rather than some physical structure (the temple in Jerusalem), would it be safe to say that the particulars of worshipful expression would now be spiritual rather than physical? Incense, instruments and sacrifices (the shadows) would now be supplanted by the substance: prayers and songs from out of the heart, and the once for all sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross. Certainly, the book of Hebrews documents in dramatic fashion the superiority of the new covenant over the old in many ways, even with regard to worshipful expression [see Reflections #33]. And the words of Jesus to the woman from Samaria [John 4] clearly state that the worship our Father seeks under this new order is spiritual in nature [note my study of this passage in Reflections #112]. As Hicks declares, "Jesus announces that worship in the new age will not be associated with a place, but with a person." Amen. For Hicks, this apparently means that any external, physical aspect of temple worship is now forever banned from spiritual worship under the New Covenant. We don't offer blood sacrifices, we don't burn incense, and we most certainly don't play musical instruments. "We no longer worship by the typological shadows of the old covenant," he declares. "The worship of God will not focus on sensual elements." "The worship of God is not sensually based, but Spirit-prompted." Apparently, for Bro. Hicks, the employment of instruments constitutes some form of sensuality. "God wishes to be worshipped with the lips of His people rather than with the strings of their harps. New covenant worship is focused on the spiritual rather than the sensual."

Thus, Hicks seems to conclude that the focus of Paul, the epistle to the Hebrews, and Christ Jesus, as they portray the realities of a new covenant relationship with the Lord, is entirely spiritual, thereby excluding anything even remotely physical/sensual. He writes, "In contrast to playing the strings of a harp in the Psalms, Paul calls for the Ephesians to be filled with the Spirit by praising God with the strings of their heart. Instead of 'sing and play your harp to the Lord' as it appears in the Psalms, Paul writes 'sing and play your heart to the Lord.' Paul implicitly contrasts the playing (psallontes) of our hearts in Christian assemblies with the playing (psallontes) of the harp in the Old Testament temple." John Mark Hicks makes the same mistake here that is often made by those who appeal to the Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 passages for validation of their view of the exclusion of instruments from a Christian assembly --- there is no evidence whatsoever that Paul has a Christian assembly in view in these passages. Indeed, the evidence tends to suggest daily Christian living. Paul begins this very section with the admonition, "Be very careful, then, how you live [Eph. 5:15, NIV]. He talks about being filled with the Spirit, rather than filled with wine, causing one to be in a drunken state. He talks about always giving thanks unto the Lord [vs. 20] and being subject to one another [vs. 21]. He talks about the special relationship between husbands and wives, children and parents, and the need to flee the immoral conduct of the world about them. A structured, regulated "worship service" of the church is never in view in this passage. These are admonitions for daily Spirit-filled living. When our hearts are filled with His Spirit they overflow daily in demonstrations of the fruit of that Spirit. This includes joyful, worshipful praise unto Him. Whether alone or in the presence of our brethren, we share this joy with one another, thus instructing and uplifting one another daily.

Additionally, I am rather perplexed by this view that there is no place for "sensual" expression within the worship of those living under the New Covenant. And by "sensual" I simply mean "the physical senses as distinct from the intellect." If worship is to be utterly devoid of any "sensual" element, then our singing may need to undergo some radical changes. What about four part harmony, for example? Is this not an innovation appealing to the physical senses? And yes, there has indeed been division over this "innovation." What about song books, pitch pipes, praise teams, PowerPoint presentations, and the like? Are these not designed to appeal to the senses? Should they be excluded as well? Some would suggest they should. Where will such sensory deprivation end? When Paul urged the brethren to look to their heart, he was truly echoing the admonition of the Lord to His people from the very beginning. The focus of our God has always been upon the heart, rather than upon the externals, regardless of the covenant under which His people lived. The sensual elements are for our benefit, but where HE looks is inward. This teaching can be found in the writings of the Old Testament, but it is especially emphasized in the teaching of Jesus and His inspired NT writers. To assume this renewed focus on the heart in some way abolishes the place of those elements of worship that appeal to man's God-given senses is to assume far too much, in my estimation. There is absolutely nothing in the NT writings that suggests such a deprivation is required.

Yes, certain aspects of the temple worship are indeed abrogated, and are declared such in NT Scripture. The blood offerings for atonement, for example. The book of Hebrews especially points to Jesus Christ, and His one-time bloody sacrifice upon the cross, as the ultimate offering that transcends, fulfills, and forever replaces the shedding of the blood of bulls and goats. Suggesting that lesser, sensory aspects of OT temple worship are thus terminated as well is to suggest what Scripture does not. Hebrews does not even mention incense or music, much less suggest they are forever abolished. They are incidental to the worship of the altar, whereas the blood sacrifice was integral to it. One may perhaps assume that the former is removed with the latter, but that is purely an assumption; there is absolutely no biblical authority for such a declaration. Nevertheless, Dr. Hicks, based on this assumption, declares, "Given the above understanding of Christian worship and the typological character of temple music, instrumental music is out of character with the nature of Christian worship."

Dr. Hicks writes, "I believe Ephesians 5:19 provides the theological rationale for the silence of the New Testament about instrumental music in Christian assemblies. Consequently, I regard the silence of the New Testament on this point as intentional. As a result, when Paul calls us to sing and play with the heart to the Lord, he implicitly excludes singing and playing with the harp. Paul consciously points us to a covenantal shift." Frankly, I think Hicks has read far more into this text than is warranted. It is a grasping at theological straws in an attempt to validate an untenable position, in my estimation. Hicks observes, "When the church gathers for the praise of God and for the Lord's Supper, there is something theologically significant about worshipping a cappella. When we worship together a cappella we fulfill (and honor) the past." Frankly, brethren, should the church of today really be that concerned about "honoring the past"? Or, should it be concerned about honoring God? The whole theology of restoration of a pattern in worship seems to me to be placing undue focus on the practices of mere men rather than on the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, a cappella music is most certainly a beautiful expression of heartfelt praise, but I personally would not go quite so far as to characterize it "theologically significant" in worship, although I certainly love and respect those who may feel it is.

The important thing here is that such convictions not be bound upon others as either a test of fellowship or a condition of salvation. Convictions that are based upon assumptions drawn from silence can never rise to such a level of universal law for the church. To the credit of Dr. John Mark Hicks, he concurs. He states, "I have made my judgment about instrumental music on the basis of the historical reality of early Christian usage and theological inferences about spiritual and typological fulfillment." Notice what he said, brethren. His "judgment" (opinion) is based upon history and inference (assumption). He further clarifies: "All our judgments about instrumental music are inferential and grounded upon the historical silence of the text." As a result, no such deduction may ever be elevated to the status of divine decree. Hicks clearly declares this to be so: "The New Testament does not explicitly address this issue nor does it explicitly draw out the principles upon which I think instrumental music ought to be excluded. Consequently, it cannot rank as something of 'first importance.'" Bro. Hicks continues, "I think it is important to be clear that we do not regard this as a fundamental gospel issue. ... I am opposed to instrumental music in Christian worship, but I will not equate that opposition with the gospel. Nor will I make it a mandatory belief for baptism or admission to the fellowship of the Lord's Supper. ... It is a truth which is neither central to the gospel nor the kingdom of God. ... We can permit diversity of belief on this point without condemning others to hell."

Brethren, I applaud John Mark Hicks for his honest defense of his convictions, and for presenting them in such a scholarly manner. Although I differ with some of what he has written, as well as with some of his conclusions, I nevertheless am impressed with his Christ-like spirit throughout. He has declared eloquently why he believes as he does, and yet he is willing to declare this conviction to be based on assumptions drawn from his own personal reflection. As a result, he is not willing to press his perception upon others, nor is he willing to make his personal convictions fellowship or salvation issues. This places Hicks head and shoulders above many of his contemporaries, in my view, and I highly commend this good brother in Christ for his bold stand. If more of us would follow His example we just might actually live to witness the fulfillment of our Lord's prayer in John 17.

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Japan:

Bro. Al, I always love it when you write about unity, and, as usual, you are right on target. This article ("Unity Through Surrender") could be classified as a "walking barrage," as you have truly hit home to one of the main points and main obstacles to unity. Genuine unity is not about everyone having the same doctrine, but rather worshipping the same risen Savior. Nobody needs to "give up" or "add on" any beliefs or practices at all. Instead, we should each be patient with and accepting of one another, realizing that there are some things about which it is truly okay to "agree to disagree." Romans 14 is an excellent passage on this. As is typical of your writings, you always "fire for effect," and you are spot on. Brother, don't ever stop doing what you do best!!

From a Reader in Nevada:

Bro. Al, I was very happy to receive your latest issue of Reflections ("Unity Through Surrender"). In it you mentioned the "Law of Silence." It is truly agonizing that men of God will spend so much time trying to fill in voids where the Scriptures do not speak, instead of actually applying what God does speak about in His Word. Since Scripture leaves many questions unanswered, we cannot hope, through legalism, to supply those answers. Why do some find it so necessary to supply details that God does not supply for us?! On another note, my heart is aching this evening for the rulers and kings of the One Cup church. These Old Path Advocate lords have just removed us from the Internet directory of One Cup congregations (and for years they have refused to include us in the printed directory). Can't these men understand that the more of us they "remove from the brotherhood," the more they are establishing the fact that they constitute a cult within their own denomination? It is so sad to watch these OPA tyrants attempt to turn God's people away from Him and to their own narrow views. Bro. Al, I seek your prayers and the prayers of your readers for these misguided souls!!

From a Minister in Kansas:

Brother Al, One Cup man here. Great job on your latest Reflections ("Unity Through Surrender"). You understand the thinking of the One Cup power brokers very well. They want everyone to conform to their way of thinking ... or else! All the different factions within the Churches of Christ never cease to amaze me! Why can't they just let congregations make up their own minds about things? Why must it always be: "Do it our way, or you will be excluded"? When will all this nonsense stop?! Why can't we differ and still treat one another as brethren? We don't have to give up our individual convictions in order to work together! May God bless all who seek for unity. Keep up the good work, Bro. Al.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Bro. Al, As one who grew up in the Non-Institutional branch of "our" brotherhood in the 1950's and early 1960's -- and who sincerely thought: "If everyone would just take the most conservative view and stop bringing in all these 'innovations' we could be united in the Restoration Movement" -- I applaud your courage, and also your ability to show just how foolish, shallow and divisive that kind of "reasoning" really is, and how it has generated a great many factions among us. I was sincere and honest in that thinking, and many whom I loved were as well. But, praise God that today those folks who dare to question, and who are brave enough to "think a new thought" now and then, have someone like you who can so clearly articulate the Truth, as well as point out our many inconsistencies and the flawed thinking of years gone by. Bro. Al, I thank God upon every mention of your name!!

From a Reader in Alabama:

Al, You and others of the same stripe continue to do and say just about anything that will allow you to develop a wider fellowship with people you have no business being in fellowship with. Your constant usage of denominational materials and quotes from denominational preachers only shows your own misunderstanding. If we all used the Bible, and nothing else, we would all come to the same conclusions. Stop trying to impress the Lord's church with your flowering speeches and writings that come mostly from the writings of denominational preachers. Use your Bible! We can all understand that.

From a Minister in Mississippi:

Hello Brother Al, I hope this finds you in the joy and freedom of Christ tonight. After receiving your latest Reflections (thank you for your devotion, by the way), I wanted to ask you a question about the latest advertisement in the Christian Chronicle, about which you have spoken negatively. Would you take the same view about a group that ran an advertisement advocating the use of instrumental music?

From a Reader in Alabama:

Brother Al, I want to tell you that your most recent Reflections, which was titled "Unity Through Surrender," was one of the best I have seen in the time since I've been a subscriber! You did a magnificent job, as usual, of loving the messenger, but disputing the message, and also of pointing the way to true unity. God bless you, my brother!

From a Christian Church Pastor in California:

Dear Brother Al, Your most recent article "Unity Through Surrender" was another winner! You have an incredible grasp of the REAL issue that divides our Stone-Campbell heritage, and you've expressed it beautifully through this last issue of your Reflections. The REAL issue is not musical instruments, missionary societies, communion cups, orphanages, church dinners, or any other such issue never mentioned in the Scriptures. The REAL issue is whether believers are free in Christ to think for themselves, or must they forever cower in fear at the feet of self-appointed theological tyrants. Praise God that many are now rediscovering the joy of freedom in Christ because of your voice! Thank you.

From a New Reader in Indiana:

Pastor Maxey, Our church (an Assembly of God) is hosting a "Day for Girls" at the local Community Center. These girls are ages 10-17. I would like to use your Reflections article -- Adorned With Proper Apparel: Examining the Teaching of 1 Tim. 2:9 [Issue #136] -- as one of our main lessons. May I have your permission to use this article, and also to copy it and pass it out to the girls? I found it to be very helpful, and I think the girls could use this knowledge in their daily dress. I await your reply. By the way, your web site is wonderful. Thank you!!

From a New Reader in Massachusetts:

Dear Pastor Maxey, I came across your web site, and your study of TULIP Theology, while looking for information about the five points of Calvinism. While I disagree with your stated position, I found it well-reasoned, and so I will think about what you have said. Frankly, I am having a difficult time embracing any of the positions related to eternal security and original sin that I have heard Christians commonly embrace. I am writing a novel with Christian themes, and do not want to lead my readers into error, so I'm rather pained by my own ignorance in this area. Also, I read your Maxey-Martin Dialogue. As a Baptist, I am grieved by the treatment you received from Pastor David Martin. I saw nothing false or insincere in your statements, and I pray that in the future you will receive the respect you deserve from our leaders in the Baptist Church. I must admit that I (and others I know) have had some painful interactions with members of some of the extreme branches of the Church of Christ, but your tone is starkly different from theirs. Brother, may God bless you and your ministry. Please never lose the patience it is so clear the Holy Spirit has granted you.

From a Reader in Colorado:

Brother Al, If we took the issue of instrumental vs. a cappella music in the worship assembly to the Supreme Court of the USA for a decision, what would that decision be? The court would first review the Old Testament writings. Their findings showing that God was in favor of instruments in worship would be quite large. They would also find that the greatest earthly king who ever lived, characterized by the Father as a man after His own heart, actually fashioned instruments by hand for the express purpose of using them in worship. Psalm 150 could not be any plainer! The court would not find one verse, or even one single word, from the Lord God against the use of instruments in worship. In the New Testament writings, the court would find not one single word from God either for or against instruments of music in worship. What the court would find is that the nature of God is immutable; unchangeable. This being the case, would the court reasonably conclude that God enjoyed and wanted instrumental music in Old Testament worship, but rejects and even loathes it in New Testament worship? I am not advocating the use of instruments in worship (our congregation does not use them), but I refuse to condemn to hell (or reject as a brother or sister) those Christians who do.

From a Reader in Alabama:

Brother Al, I just want to thank you for whatever influence you may have had on Bro. McMillon's decision with regard to paid advertisements in The Christian Chronicle. For several years I have been a financial supporter of The Christian Chronicle, but I was having serious misgivings about doing so this year. I am pleased that I will now be able to send them a check before the year's end. As a result of their willingness to change this policy, I will be increasing my support. Thank you for all you do for the Kingdom.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

This is absolutely fantastic, Bro. Al. I saw their two page advertisement this month, and it made me physically ill. I applaud The Christian Chronicle for standing up for what is right. It will cost them some revenue at a time when they need funds, so this decision makes their stand for what is right all that much more impressive. Thank you, Al. I always enjoy your Reflections.

From a Minister in Oregon:

Bro. Al, I am so glad to hear about this change of policy. I am glad they are returning to being a voice of reason and unity. Thanks for letting us all know about this. I will be sending an encouraging note to Dr. Lynn McMillon, thanking him for standing up for unity in the brotherhood.

From a Reader in California:

Bro. Al, I believe The Christian Chronicle, with this new advertising policy, can now properly bear its name -- "Christian." The attitude of Bro. McMillon, as evidenced in this new editorial stance, is most definitely that of a disciple of Jesus Christ. I'm sure he will reap a firestorm of criticism and accusations of "caving in." But, what I find truly ironic is that those who will undoubtedly criticize Bro. McMillon are the very ones who want people to "cave in" to their view of instrumental music "for the sake of peace." Kudos to The Christian Chronicle for its change in policy!!

From an Evangelist in Athens, Greece:

Bro. Al, I'm writing to tell you how much I appreciate you and your love for the Lord Jesus. He has blessed you with wisdom and a spirit of love for His One Body -- and this is helping to unite us. Your response to The Christian Chronicle is admirable and very much appreciated. Keep up the God blessed good work that you are doing!

From a Minister in New Zealand:

Praise be to God, Brother Al. Thank you for your courageous stand on unity for the family of God. Praise be to God when brothers and sisters can unite around the Lord's table and look beyond their doctrinal issues! The Gospel of Christ rules, not the rules of the Church of Christ.

From a Reader in Alaska:

Bro. Al, Clearly, inclusion of divisive ads, aside from being contrary to what I understand Titus 3:10 to teach, does not "unite" the brotherhood. Jesus' unambiguous appeal for unity ought not to be cast aside without some explicit, not just deduced, scriptural/spiritual basis.

From a Minister in South Carolina:

Dear Bro. Maxey, Thank you for taking a stand. I whole-heartedly agree with the stand you took in Reflections #315. I was heartbroken to see the Chronicle's paid advertisement on pages 24-25 of their October issue. In fact, I am already experiencing the backlash by those who are reading too much into the "silence" of this ad -- accusingly saying to me, "Why isn't your name listed there?!"

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, All I can say is "Wow!" I had just read my copy of The Christian Chronicle tonight at work, and I was going to write to them and express my great displeasure with the two page ad they had run, and then I got your special notice!! Thankfully, they had already felt the heat and have now changed their policy! It will be nice to see it back to being a newspaper. I really hated thinking, every time it came in the mail, "I wonder how partisan they are going to be this time?!"

From an Elder in Texas:

Bro. Al, I am glad that The Christian Chronicle changed their policy. I was about to send a letter asking them to cancel my subscription!

From a Reader in Alabama:

Bro. Al, This proves that it's not just the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, but the squeaky wheel that argues rationally, intelligently and without stooping to name calling or ad hominem attacks.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, Thank you for your stand for Christian unity! I love our a cappella singing for a number of reasons, and I feel sure our congregation will continue in this worthy tradition in the future. However, I have trouble reconciling the use of instruments with SIN, especially when Ephesians 5 is talking about daily living. Where is a "worship service" in that Scripture?!

From a Reader in Missouri:

Bro. Al, Thank you for actually saying what so many of us have on our hearts (especially with regard to The Christian Chronicle ads). That group of preachers, who listed their names therein, does NOT represent all preachers and leaders within the Churches of Christ. Brother, you are doing an excellent job of bringing a more open-minded and informed view to the whole issue of unity.

From a Minister in Alabama:

Bro. Al, This is great news, and a very positive step for the Chronicle. I think the paper serves a great purpose, but I too have been concerned by some of these advertisements. I will be sure and let Lynn McMillon know of my hearty approval of this wise and courageous move. Thank you for your initiative! Brother, you're serving a great purpose in God's kingdom. Your open-minded, biblical, and reasoned approach to matters is truly a breath of fresh air to a fellowship languishing on the stale crumbs of traditionalism.

From a Reader in Oregon:

Dear Brother Al, Thank you so much for your efforts toward unity and fellowship within the Churches of Christ. For years, some of the advertisements in The Christian Chronicle have distressed me, and so I really appreciate your effort in getting them stopped, and also for leading the charge for change!

From an Elder in Missouri:

Brother Al, A newspaper such as the Chronicle should be careful not to feed sectarianism if they truly want to be balanced in their approach to things. I was very surprised when I saw their first ad, as I was with the second one as well. This seemed so out of character for Bro. Lynn McMillon, as well as out of character for what I understood that publication to stand for. It is so good to see Lynn take this stand against any further such advertisements. We have enough "hate rags" out there publishing negative and divisive commentary in the name of "news" ... we surely don't need one as prestigious as the Chronicle following suit. Al, thanks for sharing this good news with us.

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, I have a question. Let's say that we practice "unity in diversity" as you suggest -- "the only functional unity there is," according to you in Reflections #319. We are going to celebrate our decision and get together to worship and praise God. Are we going to use the instrument or not? Some may say Yes, some may say No. Sounds like trouble!!

From a Minister in Missouri:

Dear Bro. Maxey, I really appreciate and agree with your approach to the silence of the Scriptures. Here is something I wanted to throw out to you based on the date of Revelation. Most conservative students of the Bible agree that Revelation is to be dated in the 90's (about 60+ years after the church was established). If this is the case, then why on earth would the Lord allow (even figuratively) the author to record that the elders and the redeemed sang with harps? This was then distributed to all the seven churches of Asia. Would not the use of instruments (according to the patternists) already be clearly "anathema" within the church due to Jesus' "clear teaching" on the matter and the "practice" of the early disciples for six decades (I'm being sarcastic here)? On top of everything, this use of instruments takes place right before the Throne of God! I asked one of the Bible professors at Harding University about this and his answer, after a pause, was: "Well, uhhhh, I guess I had never considered that question."

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