OT Elemental use of musical instruments ceremonial and gone in NT or not?

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by bookslover, Sep 19, 2019.

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  1. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    The Word should be front and center in Christian worship. I don't believe using multiple instruments is wrong (we often use piano and guitar). However, I'm uncomfortable with "staged" musicians since it puts a wrong emphasis to the service. The OPC says in their DPW that instruments should be on the level of the congregation (paraphrasing here). I think this maintains good order and promotes proper emphasis.
  2. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    In fact, since the Bible mentions every category of musical instruments (woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion), every musical instrument is allowed in public worship services.
  3. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    A full orchestra, then? One has cause wonder where the line will be drawn, and by whom.

    And I wonder if electronic music produced using computers is forbidden.
  4. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    A full orchestra? Why not?
  5. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    I get the sense that "Why not?" is how you approach most matters concerning worship.
  6. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    This is not the same question as that addressed in the OP, but once musical instruments enter, what are the limits? Orchestras, professional musicians, rock bands? Who decides? By what standard do they decide?
  7. G

    G Puritan Board Junior


    This is precisely why I asked Tim this. I don’t think he or Richard are arguing for just a circumstantial use. Now to be fair I don’t think Tim would verbally say he is arguing for their required elemental use. However, the natural outcome of their thoughts would appear (visually and audibly), to many to be that instruments are an element of worship. If that is the case, then the logical outcome would be “the more the merrier” so long as everyone is playing in order then even making a “musical instrument choir” would likely be seen as permissible.

    Further (and to be fair), I think @Ben Zartman is arguing for the circumstantial use, which is different than Tim or Richard’s argument; however the OP is about using them as more than a circumstance.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2019
  8. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    This it's not a problem of instruments per se. In the Counter Reformation, Rome had to discuss a similar overuse of melismatic music. Understand that this was largely, if not completely in the context of acapella music.

    So in terms of melismatic music, where is the limit? How many notes per syllable is permissible?

    In the end, we do not want the instruments to overpower or distract from the words but rather to further beautify the music. One can praise God with a Psalm without musical instruments, but simply playing musical instrument without words is not a Psalm.

    The parameter here is one of discretion, doing things decently and in order, and understanding what is helpful for singing words. That would naturally put some limitations on both instruments and melismas, though finding your precise line may be problematic.
  9. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    In allowing any musical instrument to be used into the worship of God, one is tacitly allowing any and all musical instrumentation into the worship of God. What's missing is the understanding that while your particular congregation may at present have the wisdom or taste to limit what's done, the next generation at your church may have a different idea on what's permissable. The church up the street from you uses a full rock band and smoke effects (just for beginners). Why? Because musical instruments are permitted in the visible church.

    It evidences a lack of understanding not to see that God is concerned with the worship of his whole visible church, even the charismatics, even the methodists. Wherever God's true sheep assemble, they are at the mercy of their leaders as to what's done in a worship service. To allow musical instrumentation in without regulation, which your OPC church cannot provide for the visible church, Tim, is to tell the rest of the church that no one can limit what they choose to bring in and implement into their services. "Every man did what was right in his own eyes." You could wish that people would be wiser. But given the free hand they've been given by the NPW, and given human nature, they're not going to be.
  10. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    My heart breaks for the sheep of Christ who are at the mercy of the outcome of such thinking. I don't say you're being arrogant, Tim. I just think you're not understanding. It is in fact an arrogant way to think; I hope you'll rethink.
  11. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    I am part of the RCUS, not OPC (not that we'd disagree on this issue, though).

    Jeri, I'm sorry you feel this way, but surely you don't think I'm acting as Israel in the time of the Judges, do you? I've given biblical reasoning for my actions. The allusion you make is making me feel like you haven't heard any of my biblical reasoning-- as if I was just doing what feels right in my sinful heart. I do not question your motives in your own position because I think that you are sincerely trying to serve God. I would not apply the idea that everyone d"what is right in his own eyes" you on this. I wish you could have the same charity.

    I've been to different conservative Reformed churches (RCUS, OPC, URC) and the idea of "opening the flood gates" to whatever kind of "show" we want it to be is simply not the case. These congregations put the Word of God first. I've never seen them treat musical instruments as you fear my reasoning allows. Why? Because they are worshipping God. Because they do things decently and in order. This has been going on for generations, normally with the use of a single piano.

    I really do think that you're making mountains out of molehills and putting your emphasis on form over heart.

    Blessings, sister.
  12. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    I can appreciate that there ought to be discussions about the boundaries of a capella worship. But you don't think it's the same debate, do you, that you'd have to have in the pro-accompaniment camp?

    Note that we just had a member above supporting the idea of a full orchestra in the church's worship. That should serve to illustrate the difference.
  13. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    It's not a matter of "form over heart". It's a matter of attention to both.
  14. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    I agree there should be attention to both. My challenge was to Jeri's tone and emphasis.
  15. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    @timfost I know I already said “last question”, but:

    1. Would your view also allow for designated choirs?

    2. So is your premise summarized as follows: if we can find OT evidence of a form of praise being used (without condemnation) outside of the temple towards God, then we can use it today as a form of corporate praise? Example: If we can find OT evidence of incense being used to praise God outside of the temple, would you then approve it to be used in corporate worship for praise today?
  16. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    Sure, I think a choir can look like a performance if they are in the front and the other members are silently sitting. However, many believe the early church sang antiphonally, which would be consistent at least with some of the Psalms (e.g. 136 in Ezra 3:11) and would suggest two groups of singers. (This would also make singing easier with illiterate people in the congregation on a practical level.)

    So to answer your question, a choir is not necessarily inappropriate in worship, though great care would need to be taken so that a) praises are sung corporately and b) the centrality of the Word is maintained.
  17. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    Not quite, but thanks for the opportunity to clarify. Worship has multiple parts. Praise is a part (subset) of worship, and instruments are a subset of praise. Singing praise continues in the NT without controversy. This discussion concerns a subset of something that is appropriate for NT worship. In other words, there is a difference between an element and a subset of an element. The NT can speak to an element without having to clarify every part of the element.

    Do you see the difference?
  18. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    No wasn't alluding to you, but to the state of much of the visible church.
  19. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    I don't have a dog in this fight, but, can you elaborate on these categories and where they come from? This doesn't sound like Reformation era confessionals to me.
  20. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    Well that is the questions is it not?

    I can see the difference you are making. However, this is the first time I have heard of these distinctions regarding my study in the reading of historical reformed liturgies and works on the regulative principle of worship.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2019
  21. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    From R. Scott Clark:

    From where did the Reformed get the idea that the use of musical instruments in public worship is inextricably linked to Levitical priesthood and to the ceremonies that have been fulfilled in Christ? From 2 Chronicles 29:

    Then Hezekiah the king rose early and gathered the officials of the city and went up to the house of the LORD. And they brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven male goats for a sin offering for the kingdom and for the sanctuary and for Judah. And he commanded the priests, the sons of Aaron, to offer them on the altar of the LORD. So they slaughtered the bulls, and the priests received the blood and threw it against the altar. And they slaughtered the rams, and their blood was thrown against the altar. And they slaughtered the lambs, and their blood was thrown against the altar. Then the goats for the sin offering were brought to the king and the assembly, and they laid their hands on them, and the priests slaughtered them and made a sin offering with their blood on the altar, to make atonement for all Israel. For the king commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all Israel. And he stationed the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, harps, and lyres, according to the commandment of David and of Gad the king’s seer and of Nathan the prophet, for the commandment was from the LORD through his prophets. The Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. Then Hezekiah commanded that the burnt offering be offered on the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song to the LORD began also, and the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David king of Israel. The whole assembly worshiped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded. All this continued until the burnt offering was finished. When the offering was finished, the king and all who were present with him bowed themselves and worshiped. And Hezekiah the king and the officials commanded the Levites to sing praises to the LORD with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed down and worshiped (2 Chron 29:20–30; ESV)

    As far as the Reformed understood from this passage (read in conjunction with others and in light of redemptive history) the instruments used by the Levites in public worship were covered with the blood of bulls, goats, rams, and lambs. The same priesthood that threw the blood of animals against the altar played musical instruments as the sacrifices were being made. Please note that Scripture says explicitly that they did this according to the commandment of David, Gad, Nathan, and most importantly, from the Lord through his prophets. The use of musical instruments in public worship is bound up with the sacrificial system.

    It is sometimes asked to what the instruments pointed. I interpret this question to imply that if one cannot show in every instance to what a type pointed that the type is either not fulfilled or is still in force. This, of course, is not how the Reformed read Scripture nor is it the way we customarily read Scripture today. How exactly is the Israelite holy war against the Canaanites fulfilled? The Reformed answer is to say that the holy war is abrogated along with the rest of the ceremonies, types, and shadows. It was part of the entire typological system. It was never intended to be permanent. God never intended to have a permanent national people any more than he intended animal sacrifices or musical instruments should be permanent. That’s why the Reformed spoke of “ceremonies” and “shadows.” The instruments were part of an entire system which pointed forward to the reality to come in Christ. The entire system is abrogated. That’s why the Reformed spoke of the judicial laws and the ceremonial laws both as fulfilled, abrogated, and expired (WCF 21). They continue to speak to us about God’s holiness and righteousness and they inform us by way of principle but insofar as they are part of the legal ceremonies, they are, as Calvin said, abolished."

    The full article:
  22. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    To argue that instruments are integral to "praise" is just to view them as part of the elements, rather than (as the proposition for discussion is in this thread) if there is a case to be made that they are circumstantial.

    That instruments were in the OT integral to praise (or other expressions) is found there in the text by their appointments. And who were the instrumentalists? Levites, religious ministers. Because they were designated as elements of OT worship, ministers were assigned to learn proficiency on them. And when they were skilled to an appropriate degree, they were summoned to duty as professionals.

    Instruments are not appointed in NT worship. If they were, then we would expect there to be some prescription for them, which we do not find (as we do for singing). Would they belong to the church's ministry (pastors, elders, deacons)? Another minister? Indeed, this is what many churches have: "ministers" of music.

    Where is the congregation (in place of the Levites now) commanded to gain instrumental proficiency (as certain Levites were)? They understand the duty to learn some singing; where are they similarly obligated to learn instruments? If they are never so, who decides where this "gift" appears? Moreover, not all "gifts" belong in worship, as the apostle teaches.

    This leaves us to regard them as things allowed (if so be; I don't want to be engaged in the question) in order to make the appointed singing to be all it is meant to be, by keeping the chorus (of the congregation, who are not professionals) so far as possible in time and in tune (a customary use).

    Whatever else one could admit was a helpful use for musical "presence" in worship, if the fundamental be not regarded as: support for the appointed singing, one has lost the rationale completely. There could not be the possibility of even considering an "offertory" background or anything else you can imagine coming between the official open and close (I'm not giving a positive argument), if the allowance for instrumentation was not admitted on the basis of supporting the singing mission.
  23. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    @Grant Jones and @KMK,

    Corporate praise has many parts as it is plurality of individuals that make one corporate body. As is natural with an organic body, individual members will serve different functions. Some will sing higher, some lower. Some might sing one part while others sing another (my church sings Psalm 133 in round, for example). Instrumental accompaniment is also a part of the praise, though it cannot stand on its own without the Word, which is why I would not play "special music" on the piano during worship. On a practical level, my church has put many Psalms to music as verbatim text. Since common meter or any other metered melody does not work for a verbatim rendering of non-metric poetry, our music is inherently more complex. Using an instrument not only adds to the beauty of the music, but allows us to sing verbatim psalms "decently and in order."

    Similarly, prayer prayer multiple parts. Petitions, praises, thanksgiving, etc. are all appropriate parts of prayer, though prayer is not encompassed by any one of these things.

    I hope this helps...
  24. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    If not the same debate, a very similar one. Many of the Psalms in the Psalter could be sung to Gilligan's Island or House of the Rising Sun. Most people know these melodies and it would likely accommodate a capella singing. However, I doubt anyone would recommend their use for that. Where is the line? We have no examples of people offering up metered music to God, yet do you have a problem with using meter?

    I don't think your frequent pushing for finding "the line" is fair since I'm not sure if you know where the line is as relating to your own convictions. It feels hypocritical to me that you would push it so hard on us yet not be able to "draw the line" with your own practice.
  25. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    Again, I appreciate this conversation, but think it's time for me to pull out unless something I said needs clarification.

    I do sincerely believe that iron sharpens iron and I appreciate your challenges, concerns and example of what it looks like to take God and His Word and worship seriously.
  26. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    By the structure you have set up, without much historical precedent in interpretation, it would seem that if a congregation "never" used instruments, then their praise could be found lacking at some point. Using your own example of prayer:

    -If I always and only used petitions in prayer and never thanked God, then my prayer life could said to be lacking.

    So Tim, any way you structure it, what you ARE saying without directly expressing such, is that instrument use is in the "element" category. Further, you are indirectly inferring that if a Christian omits instruments in worship all the time, then their praise is somehow lacking. You see instrument use and choir use in the OT outside the temple and therefore draw a line to use them in worship today correct? We have OT verses that document incense outside the Temple...so why can't we use them today as praise by your logic?

    I still hold your view suspect considering the NT silence. You admit we should use instruments, designated Choirs can be used, and we can use a full on band so long at it is decent and in order.

    Where is the NT Choir, NT Instrument, or the NT band?

    Of course you will try to say we are using different logic for infant baptism (which is an entirely different matter). However, we have NT evidence that household baptism continued and that Children were still considered part of the Covenant Community (for the anti-paedos, lets avoid a derailing). In the NT, children of believers are called "holy", household baptisms occur, and Jesus speaks about the little children and letting them come to him.

    P.S. Instruments seem to almost always be linked to ceremonial items. Revelation itself supports this by using a lot of OT ceremonial imagery. I don't feel it has been proven that instruments were not part of the shadowy passing worship. If anything, Revelation's use of instruments along with choirs, bowls, lamp-stands, and instruments supports this even more.
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2019
  27. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    We have NT households and NT praise, both defined in the OT.

    When making the comparison of praise and prayer, I used the word "similar." I did not say "identical."

    Thanks for a good discussion!
  28. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

  29. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Are you saying that instrumental acc. is a necessary part of the element of praise?
  30. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    I would say that it is not a essential part of praise, but when an instrument is played with singing it is nevertheless praising God.
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