The Price of Unity

Written by Drew on April 10th, 2006

The year 1906 is considered the official date of the division among churches of the restoration that ultimately yielded three distinct groups: the Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ), Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, and churches of Christ. Although evidence of this split existed years before, 1906 was the date the United States relgious census listed churches of Christ and Christian Churches as two separate bodies.

Here we are in 2006, the 100th anniversery of the 1906 division, and to commemmorate the occasion, several of our number propose reconciling our differences with the Independent Christian Churches. This from the Associated Press:

The turning point for Jeff Walling came two decades ago at a church youth conference. Sitting with arms folded, he listened to 3,000 teenagers singing and praising God with a guitar accompaniment — and felt ashamed.

Walling, the son of a Churches of Christ preacher, had adamantly held to his group’s teaching that using instrumental music in worship was wrong. But as he heard the youths worship, he began having doubts.

Now Walling and other Churches of Christ leaders are at the forefront of what could be a seminal moment for their fellowship — a possible reconciliation with another group of independent congregations 100 years after the two became recognized as separate.

Walling’s behavior provokes several questions:

  • Why are the emotions of 3,000 teenagers serving as his guide in spiritual matters? What happened to Bible authority–book, chapter, and verse? (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
  • What was responsible for the spirit that impressed him during the youth conference? Does he really expect us to believe that one guitar made all the difference? Does musical accompaniment produce spirituality? Is that as deep as it goes?
  • What is Walling ashamed of? Have the churches of Christ been petty and ill-informed in their insistence on a capella music in worship? Or, rather, can their practices be explained through a respect for biblical authority?

Mike Cope made similar statments in the August 7, 2005 issue of the Christian Standard (the major paper circulated among Christian Churches):

I’m sure in some ways I’ve inadvertently contributed to this division. And for that, I’m so sorry. We are full brothers and sisters in Christ, and that should be reflected in the way we treat one another and minister side-by-side with one another.

There’s so much talk of reconciliation as the hundredth year since the formal division approaches. And I’m thankful for all of those places—lectureships, conferences, meetings—where that reconciliation will have a public face. That’s important.

But the essence of this reconciliation will be at quieter, local levels. It will mean family members apologizing for making such a big fuss about the differences. It will mean mutual forgiveness. It will mean churches planted together, ministries supported together, campus ministries united, and teen groups nurtured together.

Again we see the apologies. The shame. Cope implies this is not just the efforts of a few but the overall desire of churches of Christ. But, in truth, not much is happening at the local levels. Walling and Cope’s efforts are a part of a well-orchestrated movement that is being handled through seminars, conventions, and select colleges.

I believe the motives of these men are pure. I’ve heard others brand them as contemptible “change agents” whose sole desire is to destroy the church. I know that’s not true. These men are seeking unity, a goal promoted by the Lord Himself (Jn. 17:21). But that doesn’t mean their actions are harmless. Quite the contrary–they are dangerous.

Whenever reconciliation takes place between two parties, one or both of the parties have to make concessions, which, in effect, are statements that condemn one’s own history and practices. This is why Walling is “ashamed” and Cope is “sorry.” Their capitulation communicates penitence to the other side.

Don’t hold your breath waiting on the Christian Churches to make any concessions. They’re not changing. They’re comfortable right where they are.

I, for one, believe the churches of Christ have been on the right track. I’m not sorry for preaching against the use of instrumental music in worship. There are solid biblical and historical grounds upon which this argument can be made. If we have been wrong, then let us repent and ask the Christian Churches for forgiveness. But if we’ve been right, let us not be ashamed (Rom. 1:16).

Unity always comes with a price. Are we willing to pay it? I would love to unite with all those with whom I share common ground. But not if it means throwing away the authority of God’s Word in the process.

 

18 Comments so far ↓

  1. J-Train says:

    In all the years I’ve heard the debate over musical instruments, I’ve heard the “for musical instrument” side ask time and time again “what is so wrong about a musical instrument in worship and why are you all so adamant about it?” But until I read your post here, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about what they think is so special and necessary about having instruments in worship. Why do they cling to them so desperately? Is it purely the “feeling” one gets from a “live concert” type event? I’d be curious to hear what their response would be. In the end though, Id rather be held accountable for NOT doing something I wasn’t specifically told to do, than DOING something I wasn’t specifically told to do.

    -Joel

  2. Ron says:

    In all my years of playing musical instruments throughout school and college, one fact remains undisputable; The instrument never taught me how to play it but rather I was taught how to play the instrument.

    Col 3:16 ~ Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord

    I still have a hard time understanding why people continue to ignore this scriptural principle.

  3. almcfaughn says:

    I know this argument is as old as is the debate over instrumental music, but it is one that needs to be brought out in pulpits and articles today.

    God DID say we are to play an instrument, but He also DID specify the instrument–“your heart.” That should settle the matter, but, sadly, it doesn’t.

    As always, great work, Drew.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Could it be that N.T. worship evolved out of a synagogue pattern of worship? Consider Edersheim’s report of synagogue worship.

    http://www.piney.com/Synagogue1.html

    You have yet to prove your case that silence is prohibited.

    But let’s stick to the possibility that the first Christians continued their worship habbits from their time in the synagogue. Also, realizing that Paul made it a point to go first to the synagogues when he entered a town. It would seem reasonable that the pattern of worship comes more from the synagogue than from scripture. Show me the “blue print” for what you do (three songs, prayer, song, L.S., song, sermon, song) and PLEASE refrain from relying on the “UNSCRIPTURAL” paradigm of
    Command, example, necessary inference etc..

    Sincerely,

    John Newton

  5. Ike says:

    I knowingly tread on dangerous ground, but consider my argument for what it is:

    I’ve been to churches that use instrumentation, and even piped-ion music. (not c o’ C) I can only remate my experience, but I felt disconnected. Particularly when we dealt with soloists, or songs that only the “select few” knew. I wasn’t worshipping, I was experiencing. Big difference.

    Now let me shed a light on Mr. Walling. Very effective speaker, but one who is way too reliant on pulling emotions. I attended a “Youth In Action” in Tuscaloosa when I was in high school, and Jeff Walling was a main speaker. The first night he preached to the crowd of 1,200, he got a little over a couple dozen responses. It was a very powerful lesson.

    The next night, he spoke again, and got about the same number… and HALF of them were the same from the night before.

    Now, I’m no dummy, and I know that kids on out of town trips can get into trouble even with the church gang, but let’s be real: there’s no way that those chaperoned kids got into that mcuh come-to-Jesus trouble in 24 hours. No how, no way.

    That’s when I sat back and analyzed the strings that were bring pulled. It frightened me that ANYONE could be that effective at motivating and manipulating behavior, particularly in the young. And here was a man revelling in it, proud of his numbers.

    I promised myself that whatever level my spiritual committment, it would be grounded in reason and study, and not in homilies and shame. I walked for too long without the Lord as a result, but I feel I am a much stronger Christian now, because I can make the intellectual case and debunk the emotional one.

    Long story short: if any “leader” in the church is making decisions based on emotional appeals, they are not sturdy, nor are they sound. Mr. Walling’s “transcendental instrumental” carries no more weight with me than the kids who walked forward because they felt like sinners, even though they committed no sin against the body requiring a public confession.

  6. The Berean Examiner says:

    John,

    Drew did try to prove that “silence is prohibitive” over a month ago in his March archive. It is his #3 “Not in silence” in his Friday, March 03,2006 blog “Where does Authority Lie?”

    Below is Drew’s so called proof text.

    God never said these things to any of the angels: “You are my Son; Today I have become your Father.” God also never said to an angel, “I will be his Father, and he will be my son.” (Hebrews 1:5)

    And God never said this to an angel: “Sit at my right side until I put your enemies under your power (Hebrews 1:13)

    It is clear that Christ came from the tribe of Judah. And Moses said nothing about priests belonging to that tribe. (Hebrews 7:14)

    Then Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu {sinned}. Each son took a dish for burning incense. They used a different fire and lit the incense. They did not use the fire that Moses had commanded them to use. (Leviticus 10:1)

    So fire came from the Lord and destroyed Nadab and Abihu. They died in front of the Lord. (Leviticus 10:2)

    See Al Maxey’s Reflections # 230 and # 228 for a true understanding of Drew’s proof text.

  7. Joel F. says:

    I believe Acts 15 may be another good example of silence as there were certain Christians who taught that men had to be circumsized to be saved. The church in Jerusalem sent a letter back to those who were being troubled by this. Listen to their response:

    “Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth. “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”
    (Act 15:24-29)

    These judaizing teachers spoke out against the silence of God of which no instruction was given.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I’d LOVE to go a week without reading about something Al Maxey said. Come ON! My beliefs are based on scriptures, not what Al Maxey thinks!!!

  9. Ike says:

    To the anonymous person above me:

    Thanks. I now have Diet Coke spray all over my monitor.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, Ike…But seriously…COME ON! Drew writes what Drew writes, I don’t need Al givin’ me a “true” understanding. Drew does just fine on his own. If I wanted to read what Al Maxey had to say, I’d look at HIS website. Since I don’t really care, I visit Drew’s.

    -Anonymous (you all know who this is)

  11. Anonymous says:

    By the way Ike, I enjoy your blog as well. Well written and often pretty interesting. I’m planning on memorizing it and quoting it on Drew’s blog every opportunity I get. Do you have a cult I could join and follow you?

    -Anonymous strikes again

  12. Drew Kizer says:

    John,

    The interpretive method of direct statement, implication, approved example, and necessary inference is not something that can be stamped “scriptural” or “unscriptural” since it is a matter of common sense. God created a world for us that abides by certain laws of rationality that do not have to be revealed in His Word for us to understand them.

    For example, we do not read “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence and interpret that to mean all men are not created equal. That’s a nonsensical approach to interpreting language.

    God wrote the Bible so that we may understand it (Eph. 3:2). Your problem is not with direct statement, implication, etc. but with the belief that the Bible should be used as a pattern or “blueprint,” as you call it.

    There is good reason to believe God intended for the NT to serve as a pattern for Christian living (1 Cor. 4:6; Rom. 6:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Gal. 6:2; Jas. 1:25; et al.). That is why I’m interested in determing its exact meaning. Scripture is the only thing that will tell me God’s will for my life.

    Silence is prohibitive in law. This is another one of those irritating matters of common sense. Plenty of verses have already been given to show that God and His prophets have interpreted biblical law using this standard.

  13. Jeff @ truth-in-love.com says:

    The interpretive method of direct statement, implication, approved example, and necessary inference is not something that can be stamped “scriptural” or “unscriptural” since it is a matter of common sense.

    I disagree somewhat. They were used by both Jesus and the early church in order to determine God’s will.

    Of course, if you dismiss Scripture as a mere historical narrative, and deny that Jesus and the church are binding examples for us to follow, how they might have used Scripture becomes irrelevant…

  14. The Berean Examiner says:

    “The price of unity”. Can you provide us with your whole list of items that got to be to have unity and salvation? What is your whole list of things that we must agree on before we can have unity and salvation? I will be nice and get you started.

    Drew’s COMPLETE List of things to have (things that we must agree on) before we can have unity and salvation:
    1) IM in Worship
    2) take over, Drew.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I hope Drew doesn’t even give your question the dignity of a response, Mr. Examiner. I have mine though:

    Anonymous’s COMPLETE List of things to have (things that we must agree on) before we can have unity and salvation:
    1) IM in Worship
    2) Must agree with, quote, dilligently read and worship Al Maxey.

    If they have those two things, I say fellowship away!

    -Anonymous again

  16. Drew Kizer says:

    What is “IM in worship?” Instant messaging in worship? Or is it saying, “I am in worship?”

  17. Anonymous says:

    Instant Messaging in worship would be difficult, due to all the typing that’s required. It’s tough to type and play guitar at the same time. I could be wrong though. I’ll email Ike Pigott and ask him, so I can get a TRUE understanding of Drew’s blog. Because as Ike states on his blog:

    “The second verse is apparently NOT the same as the first.”

    It doesn’t really relate, and I searched his blog for about 10 minutes for something relevent, but it does help me pound in my point and I think it’s funny.

    -Anonymous

    (I really do like your blog, Ike.)

  18. Paul says:

    Drew,

    Great post. Have you seen The Christian Chronicle’s latest post? http://www.christianchronicle.org. I don’t read it reguarly, but was looking for news on the Winkler case the other day.

    I can’t help but think of 2 Timothy 4:3.

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