Changing the Tune

There is much confusion over God’s immutability, that changeless nature that defines Him, when the discussion of instruments of music in New Testament worship is discussed. The aged prophet footnotes Old Testament revelation with a bold, unswerving punctuation mark: “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6). The faulty assumption is that, if God does not change, then what He was happy with in, say, the time of the Mosaic dispensation, He will be happy with in the Christian era.

Now, don’t kid yourself; the purpose in this line of (poor) reasoning is to slide self-serving preference under divine doctrine’s door. This particular polemic is supposed to work in defense of instrumental music. The argument goes: if God was happy with David using instrumental music in worship, surely He would be happy with it in today’s worship services. Of course, such is not the case.

In the first place, what God desires in worship is always stated, either specifically or by implication. Therefore, what pleases God can be easily understood and obeyed. When people choose to tamper with clearly-stated, divine directives, whether it is offering unauthorized fire (Leviticus 10:1-2) or introducing unauthorized doctrines (Matthew 15:8-9), the line between acceptable and unacceptable worship is laid waste. If one cannot find some statement or command, implicit or direct, to use instruments (e.g., “play,” as we find “sing”) then their use is not authorized.

In the second place, because God does not change it does not follow that His directives cannot change; still

He does so by divine, stated direction. He instructed Moses to strike the rock in Rephidim (Exodus 17:5-6) yet in Kadesh, God told Moses to speak to the rock (Numbers 20:8). Striking the rock did not glorify God in the second instance and Moses missed the boat to Canaan (Deuteronomy 32:51). (Note: both of these demands were made in the same dispensation). From this we discern that God expects us to do what He said to do but, more importantly, when He said to do it. During the Mosaic dispensation, God allowed instrumental music and required incense burning in worship; this is not acceptable in worship in the Christian era unless one can find an injunction authorizing it as an option or requirement.

Fashionable arguments are being paraded down religious runways as if they are the newest and latest in theological window dressing but, in truth, they are merely a regurgitation of moldy oldies that were burned and buried years ago. Were any person to read the corpus of New Testament instruction, untainted by the bias of organ donors (the instrument, not the kidney), the logical, intelligent, reasonable consensus would be that praising God with instruments in worship in the Christian era had to have been of late invention and those who promote such error should change their tune.

JDS