Using Instruments in Worship

Discussion in 'Worship' started by Ryan&Amber2013, Sep 24, 2017.

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  1. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Sophomore

    I am a musician and have been thinking about how I use my gifting in the church.

    For those of you who think it's okay to use instruments in worship, what is the best reasoning you have? I have been looking at some stances, and sadly, they haven't been convincing at all.

  2. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    While it's not directly to your question, there's no reason to believe that because we have a particular gifting or ability that it's appropriate to use it in the church. We don't bring in athletes to perform feats of athleticism or math wizards to derive equations in public worship. I'm not sure why churches so often expect otherwise of musicians (of which I am one too, at least by hobby).
  3. Parakaleo

    Parakaleo Puritan Board Sophomore

    I'd simply point out that the criteria (given the RPW) is not only, "I think it's okay," but rather, "God commands us to use musical instruments," for us to safely use them.
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  4. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Sophomore

    That is a good point. So that leads to a question: Psalm 55 says "with stringed instruments." Does that mean only stringed instruments can be used, or can we play percussion over it? Wouldn't that be against the command if we don't obey as God wrote it?
  5. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Or if one thinks the command to play instruments is for today, what about the harp which is specifically commanded?
  6. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    We had a hurricane that knocked the power out in my home congregation for over a week and I had to find another church to attend the following Lord's day. I googled 'reformed churches near me' and found a Baptist congregation that adhered to the 1689 confessions. The place was very impressive, it was like a movie theater with seats that were upholstered and that folded up when you stood.
    Very friendly people who greeted me and the friend who accompanied me. The worship service lasted a half an hour and there were three guitarists, a fellow playing something like a bongo drum, and four singers on stage, counting two of the guitarists. There were no hymnals. Instead they had three large screens hanging with the lyrics to the contemporary Christian music they played and sang.
    The volume wasn't so loud that it hurt, but it was loud enough that for the two thirds of the congregation that sang they couldn't be heard. Only the singers on stage were audible to me. Perhaps that is why my estimate of one third of the people didn't sing.
    This Baptist worship service that I attended is emblematic of what I dislike in current contemporary Christian worship. A friend in an SBC congregation, a deacon there for over 10 years, plays guitar in their band. He is expert but it is not only too loud, but resembles rock music to my ear. I cannot stand it. They have a drummer !
    I've had debates with him regarding the appropriateness of this sort of 'worship' and he says that "churches are dying and if you want to draw young people this is what you have to give them." Of course to my mind this is no justification for the cacophony they call worship and based on my observations in my congregation is not a valid conclusion.
    My home congregation uses the Trinity Hymnal and music geared to it specifically which, since we do not have a musician to play our piano or organ, is piped in from the computer in the back. This is what I am comfortable with, but I guess I am old fashioned.
  7. tangleword

    tangleword Puritan Board Freshman

    Wouldn't that depend on whether instruments are considered an element or a circumstance of worship?
  8. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Repeating something I've said often; Even in the most minimal (as my present church) I've never been in a church that used musical instruments where they were strictly used circumstantially if by that it is meant merely to try and aid the singing (I would bet a good song leader is far more effective than a good or not so good piano player). When the prelude gets more amens or praise the Lords than an amen or a preach it after the sermon, they are clearly at the very least considered on a pare and the former is clearly not a circumstance. It is something folks pay attention to; it's a performance, etc.

    Girardeau on this question:
    There are three criteria by which the kind of circumstances attending worship which fall under the discretionary power of the church may be determined: first, they are not qualities or modes of the acts of worship; they are extraneous to them as a certain kind of actions; secondly, they are common to the acts of all societies, and, therefore, not peculiar to the acts of the church as a particular sort of society — they are not characteristic and distinctive of her acts and predicable of them alone; and thirdly, they are conditions necessary to the performance of the acts of worship — without them the acts of this society could not be done, as without them the acts of no society could be done.
    The other strict and proper act of worship is the singing of praise....

    Let us submit it to the test of the criteria by which these circumstances are determined. First, they are not parts of the acts of worship by which they are modified; but this circumstance is a part of the act of singing praise by which it is performed. Secondly, these circumstances are common to the acts of human societies, not peculiar to, and distinctive of, those of the church. It is very certain that instrumental music is not such a circumstance. It will hardly be said that all societies play on instruments as well as the church. Thirdly, these circumstances are conditions necessary to the performance of the acts of worship, without which they either cannot be done at all, or not done decently and in order. That the singing of praise cannot be performed at all without instrumental music will be affirmed by none. But it may be affirmed that it cannot without it be performed decently and in order. Let it be noticed that the question is not whether it may be performed in an indecent and disorderly manner. Granted; but so may instrumental music. The question is, whether it cannot be done decently and in order without instrumental accompaniment. The question can only be determined by reference of the practice to a permanent and universal standard of propriety and decorum. And to say that the simple singing of God’s praise in His house is indecent and disorderly is to say, that for twelve centuries the church of Christ was guilty of this impropriety; for it is a matter of history that for that period not even the Church of Rome knew anything of instruments in her worship. To say that the simple singing of God’s praise violates the standard of decency and order of this age is to censure the glorious Free Church of Scotland and the Irish Presbyterian Church for an indecent and disorderly conduct of this part of divine worship. The ground, therefore, that instrumental music in public worship is one of those circumstances required by the rule that all things be done decently and in order cannot be maintained without a spirit of arrogance and censoriousness which would itself violate the higher principle of Christian charity. It is submitted, with all modesty, that this line of argument ought to be conclusive with Presbyterians, at least, against ranking instrumental music in public worship as one of the circumstances common to human actions and societies which fall under the discretion of the church.​
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2017
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  9. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    Sorry that this isn't strictly related to your question, but I recently had a conversation with a friend who is a worship leader at his congregation. He was interested to find out that we didn't use instruments and then he made the comment that he had been very frustrated for a long time, trying to motivate the people to sing but the more they tried to lead with the singers and instruments, the more passive the people became. He was convinced that the instruments were part of the problem, becoming more worship on behalf of the people instead of leading the people in worship. At the very least, something to beware of.
  10. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Are you not letting your preferences, or what you are comfortable, with dictate what you think is proper? :)
  11. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    I hadn't looked at it like that. Interesting question. On one hand I suppose I am. On the other hand, the congregation I am a part of is within the RPW and I am quite content there. If I had no other choice would I attend the other congregation in spite of my preferences, or would I be an A.W. Pink ? I'd have to think about that.
  12. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Hi Ryan,

    I'm a professional musician (piano). I also lead the music in my church.

    First, I agree with Chris that instruments should be considered a circumstance of worship. No need to make an argument as to whether or not they are commanded. Praise is commanded, and this can be done with or without instruments.

    Second, as a musician, I have to consider how I play with the singing so that I am aiding, not performing. This doesn't mean that I don't play skillfully, rather the skill should bring attention to the words, not the performer.

    I hope this helps...
  13. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    I’m not sure that’s what Chris is saying.

  14. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    As our church moved from a small location to a much larger building, I find the piano a much bigger distraction. The people are hard to hear when singing and the piano seems to become more overwhelming with such a large room.
  15. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Fair enough, although I do recall him saying this in another post. Chris, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. Thanks!
  16. KBorg

    KBorg Puritan Board Freshman

    Two questions: a) Were musical instruments an element or a circumstance in OT worship? b) What criteria do you employ in discerning what is/isn't a circumstance? Cheers!
  17. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    One has to consider that Altars, Horns (psalm 118) and Dancing (Psalm 149) would have to be used and done with this line of reasoning. Clearly there are prohibitions but that’s where we understand “whatever is not commanded is forbidden”. The same question has to be asked of these things as well.
  18. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    1. I believe an element, though I haven't studied that one.

    2. Please define your understanding of a circumstance of worship. We can take it from there. :)

  19. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Freshman


    At our church we use the piano, and it's sole purpose is to keep us singing in key and at the correct tempo. We believe that the accompanying music MUST NOT overwhelm the singing: we would hear each other as we sing. But the singing is far easier when the piano helps to keep us decently in key and tempo. We want to offer God only those things that He commands, but they ought to be things we find lovely as well. So we do not bring the sick and lame--in other words, we do not bring songs unlovely when it is in our power, with a little effort, to bring songs that we can delight in bringing. In the same way I do not bring my wife an ugly flower: I bring her a beautiful flower that reminds me of her beauty, and I can rejoice in it's lovely-ness while I offer it to her.

    If you play an instrument that can be used for keeping everyone decent and orderly as they sing, and there's a need, then I wouldn't take issue. But if it's superfluous--why bother? use your musical talents to raise your voice in song. I also make distinctions personally between one type of instrument and another, and different musical styles, but that should be discussed in another thread--this one is drifting enough as it is.
  20. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    If it is what I recall, I have previously said that if they are to be argued for, musical instruments should be argued as circumstantial; I don't believe that is a successive argument; but arguing as an element gets us to the necessity of musical instruments which I'm not sure has been seriously argued by the Reformed.
  21. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thank you for the replies so far; they are helpful. The main thing I'm trying to understand is the Biblical stance for why it's okay to use instruments. What is it in the Bible that has convinced you that we have the freedom to use them and pick which ones, etc. Thanks!
  22. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Let me reiterate, we can praise God with or without instruments.

    With that said, let me try to answer your question:

    1. "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms." (James 5:13) "Sing psalms" in Greek is ψάλλω. Strongs defines as such: "properly, pluck a musical instrument (like a harp); used of "singing along with instruments"; "to make music," or simply sing." From an etymological standpoint, the word in its very definition has to do with playing an instrument.

    2. When musical instruments are used as an aid to singing, they assist in the congregation singing the words of praise together. This aid to singing in unison also is an aid to singing words with clarity. When words have clarity, they are more easily understood (think of children who cannot yet read but can speak, and therefore cannot follow the text). Paul says "I will sing [ψάλλω] with the spirit, and I will also sing [ψάλλω] with the understanding." (1 Cor. 14:15) Therefore if instruments can aid in understanding, why not use them?

    3. Praise is something that we do physically, but it comes from within, then from without. Paul says again we are to be "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody [ψάλλω] in your heart to the Lord." Our singing, if not done with understanding (yes, our uninspired understanding), wells up in us-- from the whole person overjoyed by the work of God in our lives-- and the manifestation of this joy is in physical praise. Our praise doesn't always come out in the same tunes, or the same words, or with the same instruments, but it always comes from the same place-- the heart, sung with understanding. Because of this, I want to be careful not to focus too much on the external manifestation of our praise, but from the place from which it comes.

  23. BG

    BG Puritan Board Junior

    Tim, do you know of any place in the New Testament or the old where the term sing psalms means to play musical instruments other than in the temple.
  24. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    Much of this seems rather close to an etymological fallacy. The context determines the meaning of the term from its semantic range, not the etymology of the term itself. To assume that psallo has reference to instrument-accompanied singing in these passages is begging the question.

    With regard to point #2, the church has sung psalms and hymns almost exclusively unaccompanied for more than a millennia and a half. Did it lack unison and clarity? My wife and I often sing along with a FCoS(C) church's webcast on Lord's Day afternoons since we rarely sing psalms in our church and that church sings unaccompanied. I have no more trouble understanding what they are singing than I do the accompanied hymns at my own church.
  25. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Professor

    Look at Psalm 150, where all four categories of musical instruments are represented: percussion, brass, woodwinds, and strings. Different translations will translate the specific words used in different ways but, with these four categories, the whole orchestra, so to speak, is represented. (The piano, by the way, is a percussion instrument.) So, go for it!
  26. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Professor

    At another website, someone noted that the early church tied 1 Corinthians 14.7 and 19 together to produce an argument against musical instruments. Two or three of us who responded were skeptical of such "exegesis," to say the least. That entire chapter is devoted to a completely unrelated subject.
  27. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Puritan Board Junior

    Could you share the church's webcast you sing with?

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  28. Held Fast

    Held Fast Puritan Board Freshman

    It may be that I have been fortunate to have worshipped with peoples in over 20 countries, in multiple languages, with Christians who were not so "blessed" as to have been instructed in the manner many here appreciate. There is something profoundly uplifting to worship with people who bring their best to their King; their best voices, their best instruments, their very best. Personally I am grateful for our worship team, all skilled volunteers, who faithfully give their best to lead the rest of us into worship ... moderately but not sedately. As with all things in the Christian walk, it is the heart of the worshipper that is most important, tempered with the awareness that while nothing is forbidden, not everything is edifying. To the OP, all gifts from God are ultimately for His worship; maybe not in the Lord's Day service, true, but definitely for His worship still.
  29. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Freshman

    It's OK to properly use instruments for the same reason it's OK to have chairs or pews, air conditioning or carpets. Or lights. The early church met in many different places--upper rooms, temple porches, people's houses: these were circumstances. We are not given specific details as to where to meet, what color of carpets to have, what color of psalter. Those are circumstances that are left to the wisdom of the elders.
    Should we eschew printed psalters with musical notation because the church had no such thing for hundreds of years? Of course not: those are circumstances which aid us in bringing right worship. Pews that allow us to sit comfortably during a sermon; lights so that we may read the text; the design of the communion chalice--circumstances.
    And so is accompaniment. Can worship still happen without it? Of course. So it is a circumstance, and as with all circumstances, care must be taken that the circumstance does not usurp the place of what it is there in aid of. Sadly, it seems to happen all the time.
  30. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi Rob,
    I think the context here is specifically Lord's Day worship.
    But consider that a heart that is sincere in wanting to worship God will seek to do it in a way that pleases Him. The substance of what we bring in worship is a reflection of our hearts. How do we know that Cain's heart was wrong before God? Because he brought the wrong thing. However sincere you think your heart is, if you bring a thing not required, your heart is wrong. Perhaps wrong in ignorance rather than malice, but once you know God's will..."He who knoweth to do right and doeth it not, to him it is sin."
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