Question on Musical Instruments now as a Circumstance of Worship

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by NaphtaliPress, Sep 18, 2019.

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  1. Henry Hall

    Henry Hall Puritan Board Freshman

    Maybe it would help to restate the principle as “if God’s command was needed for it (making it not a circumstance) in the OT, then God’s command would be needed for it (making it not a circumstance) in the NT.”
  2. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    From the new PP post. On the answer to objection 3, How is musical accompaniment, claimed to aid the singing, different as far as directly affecting or not affecting the element of singing, than a specific tune which is chosen, a sober for a sober psalm, lively for an upbeat psalm, etc.?
    3. Circumstances must not directly affect the elements of worship. Time, place, apparel, posture, etc. have no direct influence on the elements of corporate worship nor how they are done. Circumstances are not parts of the acts themselves, rather they are necessary conditions surrounding them. This cannot be said of instrumental music. As John Owen said in general about such pseudo-circumstances:​

    “These are not circumstances attending the nature of the thing itself, but are arbitrarily superadded to the things that they are appointed to accompany. Whatever men may call such additions, they are no less parts of the whole wherein they serve than the things themselves whereunto they are adjoined.” [7]
  3. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    It may be a partial answer to this will come from what musical instruments are doing- what they add and how they interfere, perhaps- when they're played audibly along with the singing voices, even when played very simply. John Price has a section on the psychology of music that I'm going to check into later today. My daughter is in grad school majoring in music performance, and I'm also planning to ask her what resources she may have. It seems a less than precise scientific field, but is it possible this is a "light of nature" issue, as well a theological one?

    It's surely also an issue of maintaining the unity and uniformity of the church, and a conscience issue. I'm struck lately that in these disestablishment times, each congregation ought to do all possible to abstain from any practice that could cause stumbling. For the apostles, the goal was uniformity of practice. What would they have thought of one of the congregations that introduced the use of a musical instrument for any reason?

    Another thought: Christ is singing with every congregation as they sing his word (Psalm 22:22, Hebrews 2:12). Will we accompany Christ, even ever so simply, as he sings? This may sound initially silly but I think it bears some thinking through.

    Just a few thoughts.
  4. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    The author of the new article said that Giradeau answers this clearly as he does with many other objections in this article: Is Instrumental Music a Circumstance of Worship?

    "Sixthly, There is only one other argument of this minute class which will be considered. It is one which I have known some brethren to maintain as men do a last redoubt. It is argued that instrumental music is just as fairly entitled to rank among the circumstances indicated by the Confession of Faith as is a tune-book. Does a tune-book assist the singing of praise? So does an organ. If the church has discretion in employing one kind of assistance to singing, why not another?

    Has it not occurred to the minds of those who insist so strenuously upon this view that they may be using a tune-book to accomplish an office to which it may be inadequate, when they wield it to knock down arguments derived from the Old Testament and the New Testament Scriptures, from the old dispensation and the new, from the practice of the Jewish synagogue, of the apostles, of the whole church for twelve hundred years, and of the Calvinistic Reformed Church for centuries? Does it not occur to them also that there may be a flaw in the statement of their argument? Expanded, it is this: Whatever assists the singing of praise is a legitimate circumstance; the tune-book and the organ alike assist, etc., therefore they are alike legitimate circumstances. The true statement would be, whatever is necessary to the singing of praise is a legitimate circumstance; the tune-book and the organ are alike so necessary; therefore they are alike legitimate circumstances. It behooves them to show that the organ is necessary to the singing of praise. It is not enough to say that it assists it. They cannot prove its necessity. Praise has been and is sung without the organ. But it also behooves me to show that the tune-book is necessary to the singing of praise, that it is a condition without which it could not be done. If this can be evinced, as the organ is not necessary to singing, it does not, as is assumed, stand on the same foot with the tune-book, and the argument is unfounded.

    It will be granted that a tune is necessary to modulated singing—that is, to singing which is not merely the prolongation of a single note, and that could not be denominated singing. But the tune-book gives the tune. The tune is necessary to singing; the tune-book is necessary to the tune; therefore the tune-book is necessary to singing. Need this simple argument be pressed? Whence the tune, if not from the tune-book? Is it improvised by the leading singer? Suppose that it may be, and he would be the only singer. It would be impossible for others to unite with him.

    It may be replied that the organ also gives the tune. This is a mistake. The organ is as much indebted to the tune-book for the tune as is a leading singer. If the organist should improvise the tune, where would be the singing? It will hardly be contended that a solo on the organ would be the singing of the congregation, or that the organ sings at all.

    It may still be said that the tune-book is not necessary to singing, since it is a fact that singing is often done without it. This is a mistake also. The tune-book may be absent as a book, but the tune it contains is present in the mind of the leading singer, he remembers what he got from it. It is a necessity to him, whether literally absent or present, he cannot sing without the tune, and the tune is in the tune-book.

    Finally, the mighty contest may yet be maintained on the ground that some leading singers do not know the musical notes, and, therefore, cannot depend on the tune-book for the tune. True, there are some who are ignorant of the notes, but all the same they depend on the tunebook, not immediately, but mediately and really. For the tune is learned, in the first instance, only from some one who does know the notes and got the tune from the book. The tune-book is the first cause of the tune, and is necessary to its existence. Of course, tunes are learned by the ear. Most members of a congregation so learn them. But these persons acquire them from the leading singer, and he received them from the tune-book. So that, look at the matter as we may, the tune-book is necessary to the singing of praise: it conditions its performance.

    If, now, it be objected that the tune-book is a circumstance not common to human actions and societies, and is equally, with instrumental music, according to this argument, excluded from the discretionary control of the church, I answer, That is true. It is circumstances in the natural sphere, those which attend actions as actions, and not this or that particular action of a distinctive society, that fall within the discretion of the church. Consequently both of these circumstances—the tune-book and instrumental music—fall without that discretion. They both condition the performance of an act peculiar to the church. But the difference between them is this: One is necessary to the performance of a commanded duty, namely, the singing of praise, and the other is not. The singing of praise is undoubtedly a commanded duty, and it follows that what is a necessary condition of its discharge comes also under the scope of command. It is, therefore, not discretionary with the church to employ it; it is obligatory. It must be employed, or the commanded duty fails to be done. It is not so with instrumental music. It is not a condition necessary to the commanded duty of singing praise; neither is it a natural circumstance conditioning the acts of all societies. It is, therefore, neither obligatory upon nor discretionary with the church to use it. It is consequently excluded."
  5. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    I think Chris and Victor both had good points earlier, i.e., that proving something is "unnecessary" proves too much.

    I appreciate Girardeau's point, but there are many things that are useful for order, convenience, comfort, that are not strictly necessary---so it seems to me that necessity can only be a supporting test, not a primary one.
  6. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    So there is no way the piano could jump down to the level of the precentor if no one can sing to take his place? And as Logan reminded, this argument rules out a pitch pipe since it is not necessary and not all societies use pitch pipes etc.? Right?
  7. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    It does seem to come down to whether a piano playing just the melody line, in the place of having no precentor, would be acceptable. Seems this would have to come down to a wisdom issue- assuming agreement that musical instruments are forbidden because not commanded, would it be wise to bring one in for any reason? Possibly there is no airtight biblical case to be made, except love for fellow Christians and wishing to avoid any appearance of evil or temptation to other members or congregations. Again, assuming agreement with acapella understanding of the RPW.
  8. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Well, as I said up front, it's arguing a minority view/practice amongst the majority that have no issue with musical instruments at all and to which this is like numbering the angels dancing on a pinhead.
  9. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Yes. It's a (strange) and moot issue to those who don't hold to acapella EP. And for those who do, I've never heard of anyone desiring to bring in a musical instrument to help the singing. 'Seeing' acapella and EP settles the issue. In our congregation about half of us sing very off-key. We have a very good precentor. God provides.
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