Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fairy Tale

Once upon a time ...

... the one who was righteous looked down from his lofty position of superior knowledge and unimpeachable works, and decided that there were too many followers. Too many who believed on Jesus, the Lord and Son. It was time to winnow out the chaff, to weed out the thistles, to cleanse the threshing floor.

He decided that there should be laws, just as there had been in the Old Covenant, but unexpressed instead of explicit, camouflaged in the language of love in the New. He deigned that those who did not correctly and logically deduce them from the hidden hints in scripture should be forever lost, no matter how much they believed, or loved, or helped, or shared, or worshiped. Nor should there be any gift of the Holy Spirit to help in the deciphering; they should be on their own with just the Word and the brains given them.

They should be judged publicly and condemned before their peers to burn forever in unquenchable fire for their stupidity and inability to decipher the silent commands or to obey the unspoken laws. It was to be justice for all and mercy toward none.

For no one who did not see things exactly the same way that he did should deserve to live happily ever after - the promises of grace notwithstanding, nor the blood of the Son, nor the love of a Father.

Fortunately, he was not God. He was a preacher at a church he wished was bigger ... or an editor of a newsprint periodical ... or a speaker at conferences that defend the hidden truth and mark the disagreeable ... or a troller of blogs, in search of heretics to reel in and gut and then hang out to dry.

Sadly, he was unaware or unwilling to believe that Jesus really meant what He said in Matthew 7:2 and Luke 6:37 ... that those words were not fairy tale, but Spirit and truth.

Yet he was also a beloved brother, a fellow believer, loved by God, redeemed by grace, bought by blood. There were, and still are, many of him.

So we pray.

And we hope.

13 comments:

ben overby said...

Keith,

I agree that the guy is a redeemed brother, beloved, etc. However, the terrible twist in the story is that, though a defending of the so-called ancient paths, he is in danger of falling from grace. To divide the body of Christ with a religion of externalism is to take up the position of the Galatians. I pity those who will gather today in the arrogance of their own righteousness, insisting that justification is the result of keeping a handful of boundary markers.

ben

Dave Ramsey said...

Thanks, Keith, for your citing Revelation 15:2 in your October 3 post and for your continuing (October 10) concern with one who “looked down from his lofty position of superior knowledge and unimpeachable works.” You are obviously well read in religious matters and, without doubt, sincere. All of us, as Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 wrote of himself, know in part and speak in part until such time as we shall know fully.

In Revelation 15:2, what, or who, is the source of the harps given to "those who had been victorious over the beast and his image"? The verse explicitly indicates that those harps are to be "given by God." They are not to be human-made harps.

God has given each of us the strings of a harp which is the heart and a voice with which to sing praises from the heart as was the practice in worship by Christians in the pristine simplicity of the first-century church. Cf. Ephesians 5:19.

Putting a human-made tool on the altar defiles the altar (Exodus 20:25). The one who would do such a thing is the one who “looked down from his lofty position of superior knowledge and unimpeachable works,” putting his (or her) own work in lieu of the Lord’s.

If one of these days God gives us harps other than the ones he has already given us, we shall then gladly and appropriately use the new, God-given harps. In the meantime we would do well to shun the human-made sounding brass and clanging cymbal, which are incapable of the love necessary for harmony within the church.

You, Keith, are a good person, even if you worry a lot and sometimes, like me, like everyone, would positively benefit from rising above sins like judgmentalism. “There is now therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ.” The gospel is good news. May the Lord bless you as you spread the good news.

Keith Brenton said...

Dave, thanks for your comment and irenic spirit.

I'm glad you perceive me as someone who at least seems to be sincere. There are folks who use that word as a kind of back-handed compliment, however, alleging that those who disagree with them are sincere but still in soul-condemning error.

Your view of Revelation 15:2, as explained, relies on an assumption I am not willing to make because it is not explicit in the text: that only harps that are not human-made are acceptable to God.

Your citation of Exodus 20:25 in support of the contention is perplexing at best, since the verse has nothing whatever to do with worship to God in song. If indeed Old Testament scripture still reveals God's preferences, why would such an interpretation be more obvious that God's acceptance of instruments of music in worship to him in passages such as 1 Kings 10:12, 1 Chronicles 13:8, 15:16,28, chapter 25; Nehemiah 12:27; Psalms 33, 43, 71, 98, 147, 149 and 150? Did God disdain this worship because He did not give them His own hand-made harps? Or did He, in fact, give the children of Israel everything in this world they needed to make them and use them to express their praise for Him?

And while Ephesians 5:19 does indeed encourage us to sing, it does not seem to be limited to the setting of gathered worship, nor to be commanding only a "pristine simplicity of the first-century church." That is also an assumption. Its context is instruction for living a life of love and light: control your greed, avoid and expose darkness, stay sober, be filled with the Spirit, sing, be thankful. The verse neither authorizes nor condemns instruments of praise.

Instruments are not capable of love, but they can assist in expressing it. They did in the Old Testament. They do in the heavenly realms described by the Revelation to John. Were they forbidden for their soullessness? Paul's metaphor - which you mention - in 1 Corinthians 13 seems rather to communicate the inability of two specific instruments - a gong and a cymbal - to communicate a melody, a tune ... just as speaking in any tongue without love is incapable of communicating a message of love.

It's precisely that lack of love that, as you accurately perceive, worries me when I see, read, and hear brothers and sisters shunning and condemning other brothers and sisters in Christ over violations of teachings of men rather than of God. That does make worship vain.(Matthew 15:9)

Let me ask some things candidly, though, Dave: Did you come up with those interpretations yourself? Or were you taught them? Were you also taught to exclude people who disagree with them, bro? When these teachings are not explicit in scripture, how do you know that they are of God and not of men?

I do try to be a good person. I try not to judge others, though I am called to judge actions for myself. Perhaps I do worry too much.

But Ben (above) is right. When assumptions and teachings and interpretations of men are passed off as God's in order to divide the body of Christ, there is something deeply wrong with the heart which feels compelled to do so.

That's why, rather than worry, I turn it over to God.

I pray. And I hope.

ryan said...

Eph. 5:19 is always cited as a defense against music, but if read in the right context, it is easy to see that both the melody and the singing are to be in the heart. Its about the heart and not some legalistic pattern that men come up with. Worship doesn't just exist inside a church building, and most people who oppose music in organized worship services have no problem with it when used for secular purposes. We are supposed to worship God in everything we do. This is something most churches of Christ lost sight of long ago.

Dave Ramsey said...

Fortunately I was taught some of them. Others I derived on my own, searching the scriptures.

Usurpation of the job description which belongs to God alone is beyond me. “Every one shall give account individually to God.” I’m usually busy enough trying to find words to rationalize my own behavior.

The decision within a congregation on what type of music to have in worship is a congregational decision. But because you asked, I perceive the singing which is unaccompanied by mechanical instruments to be the right decision. Why the agitation to change that in accappella congregations, including the one-third of Christendom in Eastern and Greek Orthodoxy?

If you want to worship with instruments, go to a congregation which has them. No need exists to vex the ones which don’t. I have friends and relatives in the instrumental Christian churches and the Disciples of Christ. No reasonable person can doubt their fervor as they spend a lot of money on instrumentation (money which could better be spent on feeding the hungry) and as the organist just about blasts the quieter parishioners out of the pews.

Instruments showed up in the temples of the Old Testament after human beings, including my eponymous David, put them there. God had not asked for them but in His grace tolerated them. Now read Amos 6:1-7.

And what about you, brother Keith?

Let me ask some things candidly: “Did you come up with those interpretations yourself? Or were you taught them? Were you also taught to exclude people who disagree with them, bro? When these teachings are not explicit in scripture, how do you know that they are of God and not of men?”

Keith Brenton said...

Dave, welcome back. You said: "I perceive the singing which is unaccompanied by mechanical instruments to be the right decision."

Does that automatically make the decision to use instruments wrong, because you perceive not using them is right? (I'll quickly agree there's nothing wrong with not using them!)

You added, "If you want to worship with instruments, go to a congregation which has them." I don't know if you meant me personally when you said "you," but I don't really want to go to a congregation to worship either with or without instruments. I'm pretty happy at my a cappella church home and think the music is vibrant and uplifting. I don't think I'm vexing anyone there; all I teach - and only on this blog - is that I believe it's wrong to judge and condemn others over an issue like this which is not an issue to God.

But I worship more frequently than just Sunday morning and in places other than my home church. In my car, in my home ... sometimes listening to and singing with songs of praise with instruments. That's uplifting to me, too.

Your objections about expense of instruments can be used about so many things, though ... song books are expensive. PowerPoints and projectors. Amplification systems for pulpits. Buildings. Ministers, staff, missionaries ... you get the idea. The hungry still go un-fed!

In Amos 6:1-7 I find no condemnation of instruments, but of indolence, complacency, overindulgence in wine and cosmetics at a time when there should have been grief over the nation's woes. There's no indication that the instruments are being used for worship (except possibly the phrase "like David"). David used them for worship, as well as for soothing King Saul's affliction. Amos could be referring to either, or both, or neither. If one maintains that this refers exclusively to worship and condemns the instruments, one must make several assumptions!

Like, "God had not asked for them but in His grace tolerated them." Really? That's not what 2 Chronicles 29:25 says.

As to your candid questions: Good questions! (And vaguely familiar ...) Since you didn't really answer them, I'm tempted to take the approach of Jesus and say, "Neither will I tell you ... "! (Matthew 21:27) But they're fair questions and I won't avoid them.

To what interpretations do you refer? That God is not offended by instrumental worship simply because He never once explicitly condemns it in scripture, though He sees fit to include psalm after psalm encouraging it? That it takes place in heaven as a result of His gift of instruments? They are conclusions I've drawn, to be sure. (I've read people who agree and disagree with them.) Yet no one had to teach me to assume that instruments are forbidden in order to make assumptions about passages of scripture to support that assumption.

When God forbids a practice in scripture, I've never found Him to be unclear or silent. He just comes right out and forbids it. He's God and He can. That's how I know that what He forbids, He forbids ... what He permits, He permits ... and what He is silent about is not worth dicing up the body of believers that His Son died to save.

Dave Ramsey said...

The harps and lyres in 2 Chronicles 29.25 were to be used “in the way prescribed by David.” Presumably it’s the same David as in Amos 6.

“Does that automatically make the decision to use instruments wrong, because you perceive not using them is right?” What it makes is the impossibility of having it both ways at the same time and in the same place.

In a free society an individual can associate with whatever group s/he desires to associate with. That’s true for anyone in that society. Anyone who doesn’t like the way things are and knows of a better situation is free to move.

PowerPoints, projectors, amplification systems were hardly under discussion. They are fairly recent inventions. The Lord said to go into all the world. He did not specify how to get there.

“Since you didn't really answer them . . . .” Insofar as may be ascertained from the online test, it was of the essay nature, not true-false. But you are to be congratulated for having fit in with a fellowship environment where you can both give and receive. You are of the progeny and mentality of Alexander Campbell.

Count your blessings!

Keith Brenton said...

Dave, you observed "The harps and lyres in 2 Chronicles 29.25 were to be used 'in the way prescribed by David.' ”

Indeed they were! It also says, "... this was commanded by the LORD through his prophets."

Come on by any time.

Dave Ramsey said...

". . . this was commanded by the LORD through his prophets." Yes, right along with animal sacrifice. It was in the old testament, not the church.

Keith Brenton said...

Yet, Dave, I can point you to a passage in the New Testament where animal sacrifice is repealed (Hebrews 10), if you will.

Jesus struck down the Sabbath and washing traditions and dietary codes as law. Early Christian leaders removed circumcision.

I can find no such passage in the New Testament which abolishes instrumental praise. It was instruction given through prophets, not part of Moses' law.

Should we do away with every Old Testament instruction that is not specifically mentioned in the New?

Dave Ramsey said...

Several New Testament passages have already been cited supra. The discussion has more potential to wax interminable than to change anyone's mind, at least yours or mine. But I appreciate your irenic spirit, your choice to adhere to the old paths in view of the fellowship with which you have affiliated yourself, and your continuing quest for the whole counsel of God.

Keith Brenton said...

Dave, you're a ood soul if for mo other reason than being willing to put up withy rantings! It's a genuine privilege to have you as a brother in Christ.

Dave Ramsey said...

Starting to burn incense like crazy. Can't see that that the N.T. ever stopped it.