Q&A: Still Not Convinced

Still Not Convinced

Question

I am still not convinced that the church is not organically connected with the heavenly Temple. I think there is more than mere metaphor happening here. All throughout the New Testament there are "metaphors" comparing the Church with the Temple. Even the heavenly Temple is an analogy to a greater spiritual reality. We are His body. His body is the true Temple. Our worship has closer connections to the Temple than with one time military celebrations or special public parades.

Regarding the Regulative Principle, what would you consider acceptable worship? I mean, what do we need to do to please God in our corporate worship specifically? And what exactly is wrong with Episcopalian or Lutheran worship? From what I've read from you, I don't see what you would object to? If both instrumental and acapella singing are indifferent with God, does it just come down to a matter of our own personal preference? I personally love musical instruments. I play guitar, banjo, mandolin, and a little bit of violin. I don't find them necessary or really edifying for worship though. Especially when they are played alone - without singing. I would be happy to use them if it pleased God though.

I still don't find your view of corporate worship very helpful. You said, "I believe all corporate worship ought to follow the same restrictions and freedoms." So you really think we should examine military victory celebrations for ideas for Lord's Day worship? Temple worship was corporate was it not? I'm sure David did not share your view of freedoms and restrictions. He behaved differently during a military parade than he did in the Temple. So did the women. If your view is correct, then whatever was done at a public celebration could be done in the Temple and vice versa since all corporate worship shares the same restrictions and freedoms.

Regarding Uzzah, your criticism may be right. However, my point was only that the example of moving the Ark was not a useful example of what God is pleased with. You at first seemed to only assume what UZZAH did was wrong. My point is that they were ALL guilty because they did not consult the Lord and His prescriptions for moving the Ark. We should not run to this text to find out what God approves of.

You wrote "The obvious problem is that we don't know precisely what instruments David used ... we ought not to refuse to use instruments just because we can't play the same ones. The Bible is sometimes more precise about its commands, and sometimes less precise. When it is less precise, there is more freedom of expression in obeying its commands."

You presume that the commandment of the Lord regarding David's instruments was very imprecise. Please read 1 Chronicles 15. I can't follow how these strict appointments for particular Levites infer freedom in using any instruments we choose. Or that we don't know what instruments David used. These are the instruments of David listed here. Of course it doesn't give exact dimensions and measurements (or brand names) but it does say what kind of instrument they are and for some, what material they were made of. Notice that it does not say "musical instruments in general" or "they played whatever instruments they personally liked to hear". Your analogy about the Lord's Supper doesn't follow. Jesus didn't say eat food and drink in general in remembrance of Me. He said "bread and wine." Not milk and cookies. Not potato chips and Kool-aid. Just because he didn't give the exact ingredients of the bread and the exact type of wine that doesn't mean we are free to use any kind of food and drink for the Lord's Supper.

If Jesus said, "Play brass cymbals and silver trumpets in remembrance of me," would you really play the banjo and fiddle and say, "Hey man, all Jesus said was that he wanted some musical instruments played in remembrance of him"? You might see some variations in the make and sizes of the cymbals and trumpets - just as we see variation in the type of bread used for the Lord's Supper, but they would still be cymbals and trumpets regardless.

So I don't find a command or example in the Bible to use "musical instruments in general" in worship. I would only consent to them if they were used as a circumstance to aid in our singing the right notes at the right time.

Answer

I won't deny that the church has replaced the earthly temple in some significant ways. For onet, God's presence now dwells with us rather than in the temple. For another thing, we have now entered with Christ within the veil of the heavenly temple. These are important facts to keep in mind, even if one contends (as I do) that descriptions of the church as an actual building are metaphoric. The metaphor is there for a purpose: to demonstrate similarity or continuity between the things compared. But a mehor is also limited: it is not intended to demonstrate similarity or continuity in all respects, but only in those respects which the author draws out by the comparison.

The problem for me is that the connections that do exist between the church and the temple do not sufficiently warrant modeling our worship exclusively or nearly exclusively (positively or negatively) on temple worship. Rather, I believe the temple gave us examples of the kinds of things that God requires and allows in worship, and that we must use those principles to guide our own worship, along with the other principles for worship that we find elsewhere in Scripture. My second problem related to this issue is that I honestly do not see in Scripture a necessary connection between instrumental music and/or accompaniment and atoning sacrifice.

On the Regulative Principle, Richard Pratt has provided a brief summary with which I am in full agreement: The Regulative Principle (from IIIM Magazine Online, Volume 1, Number 28). With specific regard to Lutheran and Anglican worship, I am not familiar enough with their worship to provide specific examples of things in their worship with which I might disagree. However, at least with regard to the Lutheran conception of worship, I can safely state that Lutherans allow whatever Scripture does not explicitly forbid. I disagree with this idea, insisting that we must have positive biblical support/warrant for whatever we do in worship, whether by instruction or example.

I do believe that we should examine military celebrations for principles of corporate worship -- we should examine all instances of corporate worship. Yes, we should examine temple worship, but not exclusively. Our understanding of temple worship should be informed by our understanding of other corporate worship, and vice versa. This mutual informing is part of what we refer to when we say that "Scripture interprets Scripture." The fact that people behaved differently in different settings does not prove that they were required to behave differently in different settings. Certainly much of this different behavior has to do with the different occasions that inspired people to worship. The returning of the ark to Jerusalem is an occasion for great joy, whereas more subdued worship is appropriate for more solemn occasions. And just for clarity, I did not say that whatever could be done in a public celebration could be done in corporate worship. What I said was, " I believe all corporate worship ought to follow the same restrictions and freedoms." Not all public celebrations constitute corporate worship. But insofar as we are talking about non-temple corporate worship such as that in Exodus 15, yes, I believe the same principles apply. This is not to say that the specific instructions regarding washing, entering behind the veil once a year, etc. are consistent in all settings and times. Rather, it is to say that the principles behind these stipulations remain consistent (there is, of course, great variety of opinion regarding what those principles are, but that is a debate for another day). The principles may have been applied differently in the temple than they were in other celebrations, but that does not mean that the principles of corporate worship were themselves different in these different settings.

On Uzzah, you're right: it's not the text to go to as the ideal of worship. However, it is a legtimate text to go to for some things. I think one of those things is the example of the use of instruments. I believe that was something they did correctly, not something that added to their sin in that instance, just as their joy over the return of the ark to Jerusalem was also something they did correctly, as was their desire to return it to Jerusalem at all. They did many things rightly, and some things wrongly. The problem was not that they were an out-of-control, sinful mob. The problem was that they failed to treat the ark as God had instructed them to treat it, despite all their good intentions and positive worship expressions. If you get the little things right and the big things wrong, you're still in big trouble.

On the instruments mentioned throughout the Old Testament, it is important to remember that we don't really know what they thought a "harp" was, or what a "lyre" was. Names for instruments in the Bible are those of instruments with which we are familiar and which probably bear similarity to the ancient instruments. But we dont' have extant examples of these instruments, so our translations are just educated guesses at these things. And on the Lord's Supper parallel, my point was not that we don't know what kind of bread Jesus used. We are not free to use any food and drink -- we have to use bread and wine. But we are free in regard to what type of wine and bread we use. In the same, way, we are not free to use any object in worship. We can only use those which Scripture has allowed, such as musical instruments. But the type of instruments we use is not prescribed.

At any rate, we find no command that any particular instruments be used to the exclusion of others -- no command forbids the use of any particular instrument. From this fact, many of us (like me) draw the conclusion that instruments in general are acceptable. Clearly, we cannot expect the Bible to have mentioned any instrument which did not exist at the time. The fact that it fails to mention electric guitar or pipe organ does not mean that these instruments are forbidden. It simply means they hadn't been invented yet, and that we have to use our best judgment in determing how the allowance of so many different instruments in ancient times applies to the use of modern instruments. Like any other Scripture, we have to account for epochal changes when we apply it.

As I have stated before, we have a fundamental disagreement over how to read the Bible. When it comes to allowing instruments, you are looking for a specific command, and holding very strictly to the precise things that were done in Scripture. I, on the other hand, am looking for the principles behind the specific stipulations of Scripture so that I can apply those principles to specific instances not mentioned in Scripture, such as a New Testament worship service. And you are seeing a close association between atoning sacrifice and temple worship, on the one hand, and instrumental music/accompaniment, on the other hand. To me this is inconsistent because Scripture does not state this connection specifically. At this point, you too are looking for principles (just like me, though you find different ones).

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.