Play that Funky Music

Question
What do you think about music in church? I think it helps you get into it more. What does the bible say?
Answer
The Bible provides many examples of instruments used in public worship, and condones their use in these instances (e.g. Exod. 15:20-21; 2 Sam. 6:5; 1 Kings 10:12; 1 Chr. 13:8; 15:16,21,28; 16:4-6,42; 23:5; 25:1-7; 2 Chr. 5:12-13; 7:6; 9:11; 20:28; 29:25-28; 30:21; 34:12; Neh. 12:27,35-36; Pss. 4:1; 6:1; 12:1; 33:2; 43:4; 54:1; 55:1; 57:8; 67:1; 71:22; 76:1; 81:2-3; 92:3; 98:5; 108:2; 147:7; 149:3; 150:3-5; Isa. 38:20; Hab. 3:19).

Some argue that these instances were part of the Old Testament ceremonial law, and that the use of musical instruments was abbrogated with the coming of Christ. This is a very poor argument, in my opinion, because the Law itself does not indicate that instruments are to be used. If the Law does not mention the use of instruments, and if the caselaw does not mention the use of instruments, then the use of instruments was not part of the Law. That seems to me to be self-evident, but there are very respectable minds that differ from me on this position.

Others argue against musical instruments on the basis that they distract from worship. Personally, I think this is an improper argument. As I see it, if the Bible demonstrates to us that the use of musical instruments is beneficial (which I think it does), then we ought to do what the Bible says. If we believe that music in general is distracting, then perhaps our idea of "distracting" needs renovation, or perhaps our musical appreciation needs to be enhanced. It is also possible that God likes that bit of distraction. I know of nothing in Scripture that would suggest that distraction in worship is always bad. Does it keep us from focusing on God and on him alone? Perhaps at times it does. Is this bad? I don't think so. For example, if we fail to focus on our relationships with our brethren during the Lord's Supper, we risk offending God rather severely (1 Cor. 11:17-34). As another example, the Psalms sing about many things that do not focus directly on God, such as Psalm 133 which focuses on the brethren. None of this is to suggest that the use of instruments in worship must not be appropriate. However, I believe there is great situational latitude in determining propriety.

I have never heard an argument against instruments that did not appear to me to grate against Scripture in significant ways. Given the evidence in favor of musical instruments that I find in Scripture, I don't think a good argument against them is likely to exist. There may be exceptions to this, but these exceptions will result from exceptional circumstances, not from a different fundamental bias in Scripture.


Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Creative Delivery Systems at Third Millennium Ministries.