by Al Maxey

Issue #401 ------- June 30, 2009
A dogma, an indisputable confession of faith,
is set up only when the aim is to suppress doubts
once and for all. But that no longer has anything to
do with judgment; only with a personal power drive.

Carl G. Jung {1875-1961}

You're A Good Little Dogma
Passing Along to Future Generations
the Dreary Dogmatisms of the Past

I derive a great deal of personal satisfaction in the knowledge that more and more of my beloved brethren in Christ are finally choosing to think for themselves, rather than blindly accepting as "gospel" that which has been handed down to them from their religious forefathers. Now, there is nothing wrong with passing along divine truths to future generations ... indeed, we are remiss if we do not. However, when Truth becomes overwhelmed by tradition, no matter how good those traditions may be, what ends up being passed down to our progeny is far removed from the simple message of grace our God intended for His children. What makes all of this even more appalling is when the muddled rationale for these misguided dogmas is also handed down so that those who come after us can have the tools to "justify" that which has been passed on to them. Therefore, not only are misguided doctrines and practices perpetuated, but so also are the implements necessary to plant them in the hearts and minds of the unperceptive. It is doubly tragic that these people not only tend to blindly accept the deadly dogmas handed down to them, but they also gullibly embrace the faulty "reasoning" that supports them.

I recently came across the attached drawing of Droopy patting the head of a miniature version of himself. I suppose any number of possible captions could be affixed to this drawing (some amusing, some clever, and some insightful). However, when I saw it I immediately thought of the human tendency to try and "perpetuate for posterity" our own personal perceptions -- to assure that our views prevail "for the ultimate good of mankind" -- and to applaud those who meekly and silently submit to our infinitely superior understandings. In essence, this becomes little more than a form of sectarian cloning --- a recreation of ourselves in the hope of weeding out those we perceive to be inferior. In his classic work Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell [1903-1950] spoke of this process of recreating self in others in order to preserve our way over that of those about us with whom we fundamentally differ. He wrote, "We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves." Joseph Stalin [1879-1953], understanding this principle only too well, noted that for the "proletarian state" to survive, it must produce, empower and unleash upon the masses thousands of what he called "engineers of the soul." It should be quite obvious to any serious student of Christendom that such "soul engineering" continues to occur, spurred on by the leaders of various factions and sects determined to supplant all other spiritual views with their own. Therefore, they doggedly disseminate their deadly dogma; each deluded generation dispensing it unto the next.

Brethren, such sectarian dogmatism can only be successfully countered by impressing upon more and more disciples of Jesus Christ the need, indeed the absolute necessity, of independent, rational thought. John Dewey [1859-1952] warned that "any theory and set of practices is dogmatic" which is not subjected to "critical examination" by those upon whom said theories and practices are being pressed. We must dare to question; we must dare to challenge; we must dare to doubt; we must dare to THINK!! A blind acceptance of "hand-me-down truths" guarantees only slavery. Arnold J. Toynbee [1889-1975], in a piece titled "Change and Habit: The Challenge of Our Time," astutely observed, "Thinking for oneself is always arduous and is sometimes painful. The temptation to stop thinking and to take dogma on faith is strong. Yet, since the intellect does possess the capacity to think for itself, it also has the impulse and feels the obligation. We may therefore feel sure that the intellect will always refuse, sooner or later, to take traditional doctrines on trust." We need to ponder these insightful words at length, for they hold the key to our liberation from the shackles of sectarian dogmatism.

Someone once likened dogmatism to a bitter pill, declaring, "If you chew it, you will never swallow it." Ingested whole, however, without examination or evaluation, it quickly becomes part of one's system, and could easily bring great harm and even death to the body. The same can be said for the Body of Christ. Far too many have been swallowing without chewing or tasting for far too long. It is time to take a much closer look at the food being set before us. Frankly, that fare may not be fit for human consumption. Perhaps nowhere is this truth discerned quite so clearly and dramatically as in the repeated attempts to serve up for our consumption the so-called "Law of Silence." Yes, it's very understandable why this dish is set before us at virtually every meal, for the main course of legalistic patternism would be absolutely impossible to swallow (and keep down) without it. Indeed, to a large extent, legalistic patternism stands or falls based upon whether or not genuine biblical silence is always prohibitive in nature. The sectarian and factional dogmatists insist that it is, and they'll fight to the death any and all who suggest otherwise. Nothing will raise their hackles more quickly than some "digressive" or "liberal" questioning their "Law of Silence." If you don't believe me, just challenge their view on this and then step back. The explosion will be immediate and enormous! It must be, for their entire theology is balanced precariously upon this foundation. Thus, from generation to generation this fallacious interpretive tool has been handed down so as to preserve the various dogmatic distinctives of one's religious heritage.

Over the years I have tried repeatedly to liberate my beloved brethren from the shackles imposed upon them by those determined to promote legalism within the church of our Lord Jesus. This battle has been waged since the first century church, and, without doubt, Satan will see to it, through his minions, that it continues to be waged within the family of God until our Lord returns to take us home. Time and again, I have sought to show my brethren in bondage the many inconsistencies, and just plain falsehoods, associated with this ridiculous "Law of Silence." An increasing number of disciples, thank God, are awakening to their folly, and a good number of my beloved brethren in Christ are finally breathing the fresh, clean air of freedom for the first time. Far too many more, however, are still in bondage; still languishing under law; still perishing under patternism. And, sadly, there are good men and women -- acting in ignorance (as did Saul of Tarsus) -- who are laboring to perpetuate these dogmas which are so opposed to all that our precious Lord came to accomplish. I harbor no ill-will or animosity against such persons, although I do despise with all my being their teaching. For those teaching such dogmas in ignorance, there's hope. I will reach out to them lovingly with the message of God's grace. However, to those hardened legalists intent upon dominating those around them and defaming all who stand in their way, I will not hesitate for a second to use every means at my disposal to expose them and their teaching. They must be opposed, for they are causing the deaths of countless precious souls.

I think we are all aware of the types of people to be found in the latter category. Indeed, I recently had a public written debate with one of them regarding this very matter -- The Maxey-Broking Debate. Let me introduce you to someone in the previous category, though; a man whom I believe to be very wrong in some of his teaching, but very right within his heart, as evidenced in his attitudes and actions toward those with whom he differs. That man is J. D. Tant, who serves as the minister for the Roswell Church of Christ in Roswell, Georgia. Brother Tant is a few years my senior, I believe, and he's a member of a very well-known family in Non-Institutional Churches of Christ. His father was the late Yater Tant, who passed away on March 3, 1997. Brother J. D. (which stands for Jefferson David) wrote a glowing tribute to his father -- Yater Tant: A Man for His Season -- which you really need to read. Although I have never met Bro. J. D. Tant, he and I have corresponded for a number of years. He has long been subscribed to my Reflections, and he will periodically comment on my articles. At times he will express appreciation for something I have written; at other times he will take exception to my teachings. But, he has always done so with love and tenderness and respect. I appreciate him far more than he probably knows, and regard him as nothing less than my precious brother-in-Christ. Do we differ on some doctrines and practices? Yes, we do. However, as I have often said -- you don't have to be my twin to be my brother.

But, returning to the matter of genuine biblical silence, and whether or not it should be perceived as prohibitive or permissive in nature, J. D. Tant has published an article (which appears on his congregation's web site) titled -- Biblical Authority and the "Silence" of the Scriptures: Does it Allow or Disallow? Before you read another word of this present issue of my Reflections, I would ask you to please take the time to consider carefully and prayerfully this article by Bro. Tant. Do NOT merely accept my evaluation without first examining for yourself his own words. It would be unfair to him for anyone to do otherwise. Having said all of that, let me hasten to acknowledge that I believe Bro. J. D. Tant has done a fairly decent job in the above referenced article of clearly presenting the primary "proofs" of the theological position he espouses. I believe he is dead wrong, but I applaud his effort to try and defend (what I believe to be) his dogma. At least one who reads that article is aware of the reasoning behind his position. It is my contention, however, that his reasoning is inherently and fatally flawed.

I appreciate Bro. Tant's overview, at the beginning of his article, of the history of the "Silence" issue. It has indeed been the source of some very heated debate for a good many centuries. Tertullian (160-220 A.D.), a noted early Christian author and apologist from Carthage, took the view that "what has not been freely allowed is forbidden." In other words, if the Holy Scriptures are genuinely silent about something, then that about which they are truly, utterly and absolutely silent is forever forbidden. Others of his day, however, declared just as confidently, "the thing which is not forbidden is freely permitted." The opposing view, therefore, was: if God said nothing about it, then He must have nothing against it. Thus, it should be permitted to His people. Both positions, in my estimation, are entirely untenable, as I have sought to demonstrate over the years in my own writings on this particular topic [you'll find 22 of these in-depth studies under the heading "Law of Silence" on my Topical Index web page]. Other figures down through history, such as Luther and Zwingli, also weighed in on this matter. The latter maintained that anything "not enjoined or taught in the New Testament should be unconditionally rejected," whereas Luther espoused the opposing view -- "What is not against Scripture is for Scripture, and Scripture for it." Though debate was heated during the period of the Protestant Reformation, the position of Luther was favored overwhelmingly by most within Christendom, thereby gaining theological dominance. Most religious movements in the years since, including our own Stone-Campbell Movement, have struggled with the "Silence" issue, and its role (if any) in "establishing authority" for our practices within the church. Regardless of denomination, most of those favoring the "silence forbids" doctrine tend to be on the "conservative" end of the spectrum, whereas most favoring the "silence permits" doctrine tend to be on the "progressive" end of the spectrum. Therefore, as one might imagine, this so-called "Law of Silence" has long been a central focus in the ongoing battle between the two camps, with schisms and factions among us being attributable, at least in part, to our struggle over this interpretive approach to Scripture and the ways in which it is practically applied (especially with respect to that which occurs in a public worship assembly).

It is my studied conviction, and I have long maintained this position, that genuine biblical silence (i.e.: where God has truly said absolutely NOTHING one way or the other about something) is neither proscriptive nor prescriptive; it neither prohibits nor permits. Thus, it is just as incorrect to state one can't do something solely because of "silence," as it is to suggest one can do something solely because of "silence." It is my own understanding that when God says nothing, we tend to fill in that void by saying something (either pro or con). Genuine silence of the Scriptures, however, is not in itself authoritative (one way or the other). It simply suggests God chose to say nothing either for or against. Logic would dictate, then, that all such practices that fall into this realm of silence should be carefully evaluated in light of our God's eternal nature and His purposes to determine if said practice would be either consistent or inconsistent with both. If said practice might potentially bring dishonor to God, division to His people, and distraction from the saving message of the Gospel, then it should be discarded. If said practice would tend to produce the exact opposite result, then it should not be discounted out of hand, but evaluated even further to determine the wisdom of its application in specific situations and scenarios. This is a logical, rational, common-sense approach to those matters that fall within the parameters of God's true silence.

One of the main problems of those in the "silence forbids" camp, however, is that they persist in their misunderstanding of the issue of biblical silence. In most cases they site from the Scriptures, "silence" is not even at issue, for the simple reason that God has clearly specified His will in the matter. Therefore, these individuals are confusing specificity with silence, believing it is the latter that is authoritative in every example they provide, when, in reality, it is the former. For some reason they just can't seem to grasp this vital distinction. Generation after generation will drag out the same handful of examples from Scripture to validate their view that silence forbids, and in every case the example employed demonstrates just the opposite. In those areas where some practice or action is proscribed, it is specificity, NOT silence, that forbids. WHY this truth eludes these people is genuinely puzzling! For those who might want to study this timeless principle of "specificity over silence" in much more depth, viewing the overwhelming evidence provided, I would suggest my following articles:

For those of you who took the time to read the above studies, I think you will perceive quite easily just where Bro. J. D. Tant has gone astray within his own written presentation. Once the principle is comprehended, even a child can perceive the fallacy of the arguments put forth by those who insist that genuine Scriptural silence forbids. However, realist that I am, I know only too well that many of you reading this present review did not (and will not) read the above studies (I at least hope and pray Bro. Tant will examine them). Therefore, let me briefly address the examples he gave in his article so that you might perceive the nature of my objection to his reasoning. First of all, J. D. Tant provided the example of the differing sacrifices of Cain and Abel [Genesis 4]. Assuming that God revealed to these brothers exactly what He wanted in the way of a sacrifice, and assuming that Cain willfully chose a sacrifice about which God said nothing, Bro. Tant concludes that Cain violated God's silence on the matter. Even if we grant these two assumptions (which I personally believe are somewhat suspect, as I have discussed in Reflections #275 -- Offering A Better Sacrifice: Why Did God Accept Abel's Offering, But Reject the Offering of Cain?), nevertheless it would not be God's silence that was violated by Cain, it would be His specificity. If indeed God specified the correct offering, then He was NOT silent on the matter. He had spoken. If God said, "I want an animal sacrifice," then a grain offering was not forbidden because God said nothing about such an offering, but it was excluded because God had made it perfectly clear the type of offering He did require -- it was an animal offering. Thus, it was not silence that prohibited the grain offering, rather it was God's specificity that prohibited the grain offering. "Silence" was never a factor.

Strangely (and certainly inconsistently), Bro. Tant actually seemed to agree with this principle in his very next illustration, although he apparently failed to grasp the significance. Notice the following command of God to Moses -- "Speak to the sons of Israel that they bring you an unblemished red heifer in which is no defect and on which a yoke has never been placed" [Numbers 19:2]. Tant writes, "Where, in all of the Bible, is Moses told not to offer an ant, a bedbug, a horse or a zebra?" That's right, God was silent about all these other creatures. There was no need to list what should NOT be offered, for God had clearly specified what should be offered. Thus, it was not silence that prohibited these other creatures, but specificity. Bro. Tant then correctly observes: "The point is clear. God spoke about what He wanted, but did not need to specify everything He did not want." Exactly!! Thus, it was not His silence that prohibited bedbugs and zebras, it was the fact that He specified a red heifer. So, Bro. Tant, given your own words here, how is it you still maintain it is God's silence that is truly authoritative here? Your theology is not consistent with your own admission above.

Noah was instructed by God which wood to use in constructing the ark [Genesis 6:14]. Although there is some doubt among scholars today as to the exact identity of that particular wood, nevertheless it was most certainly known to Noah ... and so it was this wood he used. Why? Because God had specified what He wanted. What would prevent Noah from using cedar or ash? Would it have been the fact that God was silent about those woods? Of course not!! The authority to exclude rested in the specificity of God, not in His silence. Indeed, this is not even a case of genuine biblical silence, for our God had spoken on the matter, and God had been specific. There is no authority in what God didn't say about the matter, but rather in what He did say. Bro. Tant asks, "Could Noah have reasoned that since God was silent about golden oak, it would be OK to use it? You know the answer." Yes, we do know the answer. But, do YOU understand how you arrived at that answer?!! I remember my algebra teacher in high school saying over and again to some of the students, "You got the answer right, but the process you used to arrive at that answer was wrong!" No, it would NOT have been OK for Noah to use golden oak. But the reason is NOT that God was silent about golden oak, it was because He had specified a different wood. Therefore, right answer, wrong reasoning, J. D., if you're basing your response on the authority of silence rather than the authority of specificity.

Some are likely thinking at this juncture that this is just a matter of "splitting hairs," and is not really a matter of any great spiritual significance. They couldn't be more wrong. The difference may indeed be somewhat subtle, but it's serious, and failing to perceive it can lead to disastrous consequences within the Body of Christ. The reason that the legalists and patternists MUST show the validity of this "law of silence" is that they have built their religious identities around the exclusion of certain practices in their worship assemblies. And the basis for that exclusion is the belief that biblical silence is always and forever prohibitive. Thus, they must take these examples and demonstrate from them that it is SILENCE that has the authority to exclude and prohibit. If that is taken away from them, they have no authoritative basis for excluding said worshipful practices, and thus they have no valid basis for separating themselves from others who may differ with them. In short, their whole perception of themselves as THE "one, true church," who alone have God's will down perfectly, crumbles around them. This they will never allow to happen, which is why they will come after you tooth and toenail if you dare to question or challenge this so-called "law of silence," for they themselves stand or fall right along with it. Have you had one of these people shake a finger at you, demanding, "Show me where it says you can have a fellowship hall" ... "Show me where it says you can have a Sunday School" ... "Show me where it says you can have instrumental accompaniment in the worship service" ... "Show me where it says that you can have multiple cups in the Lord's Supper" ... "Show me where it says..." -- well, you get the idea! Silence prohibits!!! Their distinctive theology depends on it.

Let me pose a serious question to Bro. Tant, one the legalistic patternists will typically flee from like a tornado. If silence is prohibitive, then did Jesus violate God's restrictive will by engaging in religious activities about which the OT writings are silent?! If doing what is "not authorized" is a SIN, as these people assert, then one who engages in what is clearly "not authorized" in Scripture is guilty of sin. Right? This is what they teach. We can't "fellowship the denominationalists" because they engage in practices about which the Scriptures are silent. Thus, they are sinning. We can't hang out with sinners!! End of discussion. Well, could we hang out with JESUS? He engaged in religious activities that were established by men, and about which the OT Scriptures were silent. Was HE a sinner? Where in Scripture has God said anything about four cups of wine at the Passover meal?! These were added centuries later by Rabbinical scholars!! Yet, Jesus drank from these cups of wine, even using one of them to establish the Lord's Supper. See my study of this in Reflections #14 -- The "Law of Silence" and the Four Cups of Wine.

Where in the OT Scriptures did the Lord God ever say anything about the need for a synagogue system?! And yet, Jesus frequented the Jewish synagogues, even though they were a later innovation of mere men. See my study of this in Reflections #13 -- The "Law of Silence" and the Synagogue System. For those of you who might suggest that Psalm 74:8 is just such an OT reference, may I refer you to Reflections #124 -- Psalm 74:8 and Synagogues. We find Jesus in the temple during the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) in John 10:22ff. Where in the OT writings do we find this celebration commanded by God? He is silent about this feast. Thus, shouldn't Jesus have stayed out of the temple, at the very least, to show His respect for God's "law of silence"?! And just what are we to make of our Lord's early observance of the Passover prior to His death? Wasn't this otherwise than prescribed?! Wasn't God silent about observing it early? See my study on this in Reflections #138 -- "Otherwise Than Prescribed." We could go on here, but hopefully you get the idea. If genuine biblical silence is prohibitive, if it always excludes, as the legalists maintain ... then our Lord and Savior sinned. I would love to hear Bro. J. D. Tant address this matter. I have asked this of other "law of silence" proponents, and they have yet to get back to me!!

Well, let's get back to Bro. Tant's article. He writes, "The sad fate of Nadab and Abihu is another good example of respecting the silence of the Scriptures." Really? Or, is it another great example of respecting the specificity of our Lord?! May I direct you to Reflections #63 -- Nadab and Abihu: The Nature of their Fatal Error. Were these two sons of Aaron killed because they showed disregard for God's silence? No, of course not. In fact, Bro. Tant states that God "had specified which fire He wanted." Well then, J. D., He wasn't silent, now was He?! What the brothers failed to do was obey God's specific command. Clearly, they weren't destroyed because they transgressed in some area where God said nothing whatsoever! What about the transporting of the Ark of the Covenant and the death of Uzzah? You may find my study of this sad event in Reflections #23 -- Did God Overreact? The Controversial Death Of Uzzah. Both David and Uzzah were guilty of failing to comply with the clear commands of the Lord, a fact which even J. D. Tant acknowledged in his article. Of Uzzah he wrote, "He died for violating a clear prohibition." As for David and his men, Tant stated, "David said they had not considered what God had said." Yes, in both of these very tragic cases there was undeniable specificity from the Lord God, and it was their failure to comply with that which was specified that led to the recorded consequences. Silence was never a factor. (Also see Reflections #23a in which I respond to readers' questions on the above mentioned article on Uzzah.)

Well, let's move to some of Bro. Tant's examples from the New Testament writings. In Hebrews 1:5 the inspired writer asks, "For unto which of the angels did He ever say, 'Thou art My Son'?" Yes, the Lord Jesus is superior to the angels. That truth is evidenced in countless ways throughout Scripture. However, notice what Bro. Tant writes: "Why could angels not be considered as equal to the Son? Because God was silent about the matter." In other words, because God never said to an angel, "Thou art My Son," it is for THIS reason (God's silence) that they are not equal to the Son! Brother Tant, with all due respect, you know better than that. God has declared (specified) the fact of the supremacy of His Son time and again in Scripture. Our Lord's supremacy is not the result of God's silence with respect to angels on this matter, but is rather the result of His specific statements with respect to His beloved Son, denoting His authority, dominion and elevation over and above all others, both visible and invisible, in heaven and on earth [Colossians 1:15-18].

And then, of course, there is the "old faithful" of all proof-texts; the one that is always, without fail, dusted off and trotted out by the legalists for the coup de grāce: Hebrews 7:14. The inspired penman (who I believe may very well have been Apollos -- Reflections #128) writes, "For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests." The proponents of the so-called "Law of Silence" boldly declare this is "proof positive" that "silence excludes and prohibits." Moses was silent about priests coming from any other tribe than Levi, thus all other tribes are excluded by silence. Is this a logical, rational, reasonable conclusion to draw from this passage? Let's use the brains God gave us and think this through.

Was God silent with respect to which of the tribes would be the "priestly tribe"? No. God spoke. God specified. The tribe was to be Levi ... and only Levi. "The Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to stand before the Lord to serve Him and to bless in His name until this day. Thus, Levi does not have a portion or inheritance with his brothers; the Lord is his inheritance" [Deut. 10:8-9]. See also: Numbers 3:5-10; 8:5-26; 18:1-7. "Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the sons of Israel, and the Levites shall be Mine" [Num. 8:14]. God continued, "They are wholly given to Me from among the sons of Israel" [Num. 8:16]. "I am giving you the priesthood as a bestowed service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death" [Num. 18:7]. God had made it very, very clear that no one from any tribe other than Levi would ever be allowed to serve in the priesthood. God had spoken, and God had specified. The Lord was far from silent. Thus, the tribe of Judah was excluded from serving in the priesthood not because our God was silent about Judah serving as priests, but rather because He had specified that only those from Levi could serve as priests.

This brings us to the Hebrews 7:14 passage. Judah was a tribe "with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests." Why was Moses "silent" about Judah with reference to the priesthood? Because God had specified the tribe of Levi. There was no need for Moses to say anything about Judah for the simple reason that God had already clearly declared His will in the matter. Judah was therefore excluded from the priesthood not because Moses was "silent" about them serving in that capacity, but rather because God had specified that priests would come solely from Levi. Thus, it was not silence that excluded or prohibited, it was specificity. This passage has nothing whatsoever to do with "silence," much less any so-called "Law of Silence." The proof-texters have only succeeded in proving their own ignorance and inability when it comes to sound biblical exegesis. Their wresting and manipulation of this passage, in a failed attempt to prove an untenable theory, is a prime example of the "dogmatic model" of biblical interpretation. It is deplorable, and it is rejected by reputable, responsible scholars of the Word. And yet, Bro. J. D. Tant states, "If indeed Moses 'spoke nothing,' that means he was silent. And that silence settled the matter." No, Bro. Tant, it did not. It was God's specificity that settled the matter.

What I find most remarkable, however, and even somewhat amusing, is that at the very end of his article, J. D. Tant makes a statement that shows, at least on some cognitive level, he understands the principle of specificity. He speaks of opponents to his position countering "that God was not 'silent' about Noah's wood, Moses' sacrifice, or Nadab and Abihu's fire, because God 'specified' what He wanted." Bro. Tant then states: "Agreed!" WHAT?!! He just negated the basic premise of his entire article (i.e.: that it's silence that is prohibitive)! Now, at the end of the article, he agrees that it is specificity. Well, I agree with his agreement!!

Let me close this evaluation of Bro. Tant's article (although there is more that could be said) by commenting on what really underlies most of these articles by those within the "silence prohibits" camp. One thing that you will invariably find in virtually every single article is a reference to instrumental music. At some point they will always bring this up (although they will generally make it appear to be simply "a passing remark"). The reality is, although they will likely never admit it: this was the whole purpose of the article!! The BIG issue for most ultra-conservatives in the Churches of Christ is the use of instrumental accompaniment to singing in a public "worship assembly." This is something the "denominations" do, therefore we must never, ever engage in that practice. The problem they have, however, is that there is absolutely nothing in Scripture that condemns such a practice. Indeed, whenever instrumental accompaniment does appear in Scripture, it is always in a positive light. God not only approved its use, but in the OT times He even commanded it. It is also presented figuratively in a very positive light in Revelation, with reference being made to "the harps of God" which are used in praise unto Him [Reflections #297]. Nowhere in all of Scripture is there even the slightest hint that our God disapproves of the use of instrumental accompaniment to the singing of praises unto Him. Not one single word!! And yet, since the ultra-conservatives have made such a fuss over the years about how all the "denominations" are "in error" for their use of instruments, and how WE, the "one, true church," are clearly identified as such by our refusal to use instruments, they find themselves in the rather embarrassing position of trying to defend a dogma (i.e.: using instruments is forbidden, and thus sinful) that has no basis in actual biblical fact. So what do they do? You guessed it --- they pull out of their sleeve the only card they can play: their fallacious "Law of Silence." Since one can't find "book, chapter and verse" in the NT documents where the early church clearly employed instruments in a "worship service," such use of instruments in said service is therefore forever forbidden to mankind until the second coming!! Period ... End of Discussion!!

Bro. Tant wrote, "We cannot use instrumental music in worship since God is silent about it!" If genuine biblical silence always equates to absolute prohibition, then anything not mentioned is forbidden to God's people. Uhhhhh. Wait a minute. Church buildings aren't mentioned. Song books aren't mentioned. Four part harmony isn't mentioned. Sunday School classes (and printed class materials) aren't mentioned. All kinds of electronic systems used to enhance our "worship services" aren't mentioned. Trays (gold colored only, never silver) filled with plastic thimbles containing unfermented grape juice aren't mentioned. Whew!! Thank God for the "Law of Expediency" [Reflections #261]. This now enables us to permit all of those things that WE like (about which the Scriptures are silent), while still continuing to condemn the things all OTHERS like (about which the Scriptures are silent). So, who is it that gets to determine what is an "expedient" and what is an "innovation"? You guessed it -- WE do. Handy how that works out, isn't it?!

"Wait a minute," writes J. D. Tant. "God did specify about music! He said 'sing.'" No argument there. All through Scripture we know that singing is approved and appreciated by our Father. Thus, we sing. We probably would anyway, for singing is just part of our human nature. Even babies will sing. It's part of who we are ... who we were created to be. Paul wrote, "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord" [Eph. 5:19; cf. Col. 3:16]. There are two audiences specified here: The Lord and our fellow disciples. To the latter we "speak, teach, admonish" through "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs." To the former (God) we "sing and make music" in our hearts. That which is audible is directed toward one another, and it is fully for our benefit; that which is directed toward the Lord is in our hearts (it need not be audible at all). Thus, the deaf/mute can "sing" just as acceptably to the Lord as anyone else, for the "singing" occurs in the heart.

These two verses have long been used (or, I should say: misused and abused) to "prove" that instrumental accompaniment is forever forbidden and sinful. How do they formulate such a law from these passages? That's right -- the "Law of Silence." God said nothing about instruments in these two verses. Thus, they are wrong. God specified singing. Thus, all else is excluded. End of discussion. Just for the sake of argument, let's assume that this passage is indeed commanding people to SING (audibly) in a Sunday "worship service" (which, by the way, it is not; the context has nothing to do with a public assembly; it's talking about a disciple's daily Spirit-filled walk with his/her Lord). The only way we would be in violation of this "command" would be to REPLACE singing with something else entirely. If God specified that He wanted us to "sing" in the assembly, and we threw out all singing and danced instead, THEN we would be in violation of His specified directive. AIDS to singing, however, do not in any way negate or supplant singing. Indeed, they may actually enhance it: both to His glory and our edification. Instrumental accompaniment in no way replaces or negates singing. Singing still occurs (and it can still be just as motivated by the heart). The argument that God says "sing" is a feeble attempt at a diversion. Whether one uses instrumental accompaniment or not, "singing" takes place ... thus, God's "command" is obeyed.

Brethren, in the final analysis, there is absolutely nothing in all of Scripture that even begins to forbid instrumental accompaniment to our worshipful, heartfelt singing of praises unto our heavenly Father. Nothing!! And yet, some among us have made a cappella the everlasting "mark of faithfulness" that identifies the "One, True Church" (which, of course, as everyone knows, is OUR group -- the Church of Christ). All other groups are merely godless "denominations" who have embraced devilish innovations like "instrumental accompaniment" to singing. And how do we know this is the case? That's right -- the "Law of Silence." And whenever anyone tries to use that same "law" against US, we just fall back on the "Law of Expediency." How wonderful that God has given us these two great laws to prove WE'RE right and everyone else is headed straight for hell. Good grief!! I wonder sometimes why God continues to put up with us!! May God help us to wake up from our sectarian silliness before it consumes us completely.

Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
Publisher: (301) 695-1707

Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Australia:

Brother Al, That is great news!! As you know, both of your announcements in your last Reflections (placing your sermons online so that others may listen to them and speaking at The Tulsa Workshop) were things I had been hoping for. We did not go to Tulsa this year, but had been hoping to go in 2010, so the timing looks really good for us to finally meet up with you in person. I look forward to hearing even more of your sermons on the Internet. I also still listen to those you mailed to me on tape. Have a great and blessed day, brother.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Dear Brother Al, It was with great joy that I read of your being one of the speakers at The Tulsa Workshop in March, 2010!! I have already marked the calendar in large letters!! Health allowing, I will finally have the chance to meet you in person! I am sure that you will have hundreds of people wanting to meet with you, but I hope that you and Shelly will be our guests for at least one good meal together. Your Reflections article "The Gift of Love" really hits home! I am so glad your folks are now close by, and that they have the love of God in their lives. 62 years together! -- what a beautiful thing! We can indeed learn from the doves (mating for life). My wife and I celebrated our 51st anniversary last Christmas eve, and we hope to have many more together! By the way, Al, pay no attention to those who seek to destroy you with their bitterness and hatred. The only people they are hurting are themselves! Their great hatred is actually driving people away, and many disciples are beginning to realize, at long last, that they have been listening to false teaching for their entire lives. That is the reason the numbers are dropping so dramatically in these ultra-conservative congregations. Even those people who do not study for themselves still realize that hatred has no place in the family of God.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Bro. Al, Your reflective piece on "The Gift of Love" was an excellent article! Also, it is about time you decided to come speak at The Tulsa Workshop!! Your presence is looong overdue!!

From a Minister/Author in Tennessee:

Brother Al, You are so fortunate to still have your parents! Congratulations to them for 62 years of wedded bliss. My wife and I will celebrate 48 years together this August. I hope we make 62 ... and beyond. One other thing: Broking and Denham surely do give us conservatives a bad name!!

From a New Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, I was recently reading First Samuel and came across the word "emerods," so I googled this word and voila -- I came across your study [Reflections #135] and your web site ... and I love it. I would love to receive your weekly Reflections. Thank you for your devotion to your work, and most of all for sharing it with the rest of us!

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, You continue to be a great source of encouragement to me because you are changing the world for Christ! I can't wait for my daughter to get to Abilene Christian University this coming fall, because she also is offering up herself as a tool to help change the world for Christ, and she is a powerful warrior!

From a Minister in New Mexico:

Brother Al, Thank you for being such a blessing! After reading your last article ("The Gift of Love"), I went to the study you referenced -- Reflections #170: "One Another" Relationships of the New Covenant Church -- and was blessed again! Thank You for your ministry, work and dedication.

If you would like to be removed from or added to this
mailing list, contact me and I will immediately comply.
If you are challenged by these Reflections, then feel
free to send them on to others and encourage them
to write for a free subscription. These articles may all
be purchased on CD. Check the ARCHIVES for
details and past issues of these weekly Reflections: