Posted in Church History, Doctrine

Three New Arguments (on the Instrumental Music Question)

The churches of Christ and the Disciples of Christ have been formally recognized as two groups of people at least since 1906. The division occurred over the formation of the American Christian Missionary Society and the introduction of mechanical instruments of music into public worship. D. S. Burnett played a prominent role in the establishment of the society, and L. L. Pinkerton of Midway, Kentucky was involved in the innovation regarding music. Pinkerton, in a letter to Ben Franklin, said, “So far as known to me, or, I presume to you, I am the only ‘preacher’ in Kentucky of our brotherhood who has publicly advocated the propriety of employing instrumental music in some churches, and that the church of God in Midway is the only church that has yet made a decided effort to introduce it” (Earl West, The Search for the Ancient Order, Vol. I, p. 311).

In passing years as more and more brethren demanded the change in worship, much discussion, disagreement, aggravation, tension, and separation followed. It was a sad time for the church.

Over the years many debates have been held on the music question. One of the greatest debates on the issue of scriptural music in worship was between N. B. Hardeman and Ira M. Boswell held in 1923 in Nashville, Tennessee. Boswell contended that the Greek word, “psallo,” used by Paul in Ephesians 5:19 and translated in our ASV as “making melody,” permitted the use of a mechanical instrument in worship. In his first affirmative speech he declared that he was attempting to prove that “To sing with or without instrumental music is scriptural” (Hardeman-Boswell Debate, p. 29). Neither Boswell nor any other disputant of whom I am aware ever committed himself to the position that the New Testament obligates worshipers to worship with a mechanical instrument of music in the song service.

Hardeman admitted that some instrument inhered in the word “psallo.” He took the tack that “psallo” did demand some kind of instrument. But in the passage, the particular instrument that Paul named is “the heart.” Boswell resorted to much lexical evidence for the Greek word which indicated that some instrument of some kind inhered in the word, but then he would not draw the conclusion that Christians today must use that instrument, whatever it was. In his second speech, Hardeman said, “It seems to me that Brother Boswell is in this kind of a predicament: First, God demands it. The word means it, and you cannot do what ‘psallo’ means without the use of the musical instrument. That is Brother Boswell’s contention, as from the lexicons to which he has referred; and then the next part is, notwithstanding the word means that and notwithstanding that idea inheres in it, yet I can leave it out” (Hardeman-Boswell Debate, p. 56). This was a fantastic moment in the history of the discussion!

In the debate Boswell’s weak position was completely routed, and Hardeman took the correct position on the music issue including proper handling of the word “psallo.” Hardeman’s effort was masterful. And when he took the position that the Greek word, “psallo,” did, in fact, demand an instrument, his approach was a complete surprise to Boswell. Boswell did not expect it!

In Hardeman’s biography we learn that Hardeman viewed his debate with Boswell as his best (James Marvin Powell and Mary Nelle Hardeman Powers, N. B. H., p. 195). We also learn the following:

Some twenty years after the debate, Hardeman met Boswell in Louisville, Kentucky. He told Boswell that he had heard that Dr. Carey Morgan, who at the time of the debate was pastor of Nashville’s Vine Street Christian Church, and J. J. Walker had stayed up nearly all night after the first session of the debate, trying to answer Hardeman’s argument, and revamp their own arguments. Boswell said that was true. Hardeman and Boswell remained friends through the years, though their paths did not often meet. There was mutual respect though their views were poles apart” (N. B. H., pp. 195, 196).

The issue has been debated much, and the history of the debates has revealed that on the polemic platform, mechanical instrumental music in worship has never been proved to be authorized by the New Testament, while singing without the accompaniment of any mechanical instrument of music in worship has been conclusively proved to be authorized.

Our preachers have defended the truth on the issue for years. Sadly, too many brethren now alive have become ignorant of history and are completely out of touch with Bible authority and, therefore, find mechanical instruments in worship harmless, appealing, and acceptable. How tragic!

Finally, let me by way of three new arguments, add to the history of the defense of the truth regarding scriptural music in worship. Consider the following:

First Syllogism:

  1. If the Old Testament authorized both singing and playing, then the Old Testament distinguished singing from playing.
  2. The Old Testament authorized both singing and playing (Psalm 149:1; Psalm 87:7).
  3. Then, the Old Testament distinguished singing from playing.

Second Syllogism:

  1. If the Old Testament distinguished singing from playing, then the authorization to sing by itself did not authorize playing anymore than the authorization to play by itself authorized dancing.
  2. The Old Testament distinguished singing from playing (Psalm 87:7; Psalm 149:1; Psalm 150).
  3. Then, the authorization to sing by itself did not authorize playing anymore than the authorization to play by itself authorized dancing.

Third Syllogism:

  1. If the Old Testament authorization to sing did not by itself authorize playing or dancing, then the New Testament authorization to sing cannot by itself authorize playing or dancing.
  2. The Old Testament authorization to sing did not by itself authorize playing or dancing (Psalm 87:7; Psalm 149:1; Psalm 150; Ezekiel 33:32).
  3. Then, the New Testament authorization to sing cannot by itself authorize playing or dancing.
Posted in By Roy C. Deaver, Church History

The Point We Seek to Make

By Roy C. Deaver (1922-2007)

It was in 1938, in his gospel meeting with the 2nd and Whaley Street Church in Longview, Texas, that I first became acquainted with the great, respected, much-loved N. B. Hardeman. It was here that he conducted a great gospel meeting, with C. M. Pullias (our local preacher) leading the singing! Yes, the same team that had conducted the great Nashville, Tennessee, Ryman Auditorium meetings! By the time the Longview meeting was over, I had determined in my own mind that someday, somehow, I would become a student in N. B. Hardeman’s classes.

In September of 1940 Wilma Ruth and I made our trip to Henderson, Tennessee. Within a few days I was a student in classes taught by N. B. Hardeman, L. L. Brigance, W. Claude Hall, and Mary Nell Hardeman Powers—the greatest English grammarian I have ever known!

In my first year one of the required courses was the study of the Scheme of Redemption. The text was the monumental book entitled The Scheme of Redemption, written by Dr. Robert Milligan, who at the time of the writing was President of the College of the Bible in Kentucky University — a great scholar in the Restoration Movement. The “Introduction” to the book has the date: May 19, 1868. So, the book has been around for awhile, and it will continue to be around.

It was a study course for which I personally will be eternally grateful. I was and I am and I will ever be truly grateful to have had that privilege of seeing such a majestic unfolding of the glorious “Scheme of Redemption.” Three of the best years of our lives were spent at Freed-Hardeman College, and we are truly grateful.

What’s the point — the present point? The above article is the material contained in pages 276 through 284 in Milligan’s The Scheme of Redemption. The book is hard to come by, and so, I have typed this material that others may read it for themselves. This is the class, and these are the pages which first began to give me — in some measure — an understanding of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It triggered my determination to continue to study the subject. It was here and why and how I began to grasp the concept of an actual, literal, personal, indwelling of the Holy Spirit within the child of God. Who was the teacher? Professor N. B. Hardeman! I am here to tell the reader that in NO WAY did brother Hardeman ever try to “explain away” what Milligan had written. If you want to know what brother Hardeman taught on this subject — HERE IT IS!

And so, it disturbs me no little to hear somebody on the present scene declare that brother Hardeman did not teach an actual indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I encourage the reader to read– and/or to read again and again his monumental sermons on “The Vine and the Branches” and “The Spirit of Christ.”

At that time (when I was a student, 1940-43), FHC was a two-year college. But after two years I was not ready to leave. I wanted at least one more year, and did remain another year. I had three things in mind: (1) I wanted to do additional work in my Greek; (2) I wanted to take advantage of that fabulous library; and (3) I wanted to study N. B. Hardeman. I wanted to see (at least to my own satisfaction) what made N. B. Hardeman so great! So exceptional! In case you are interested in my conclusion, here it is: (1) It was not the fact that he was a handsome man, always dressed well and looked well — his shoes were always shined! (2) It was not just the fact that he was so exceptionally brilliant and knowledgeable in so many different subject areas. (3) It was not simply the fact that he was a man “set in authority.” Rather, my own conclusion was (and still is) his tremendous ability (without seeming to be aware of it) to produce a student!

He did not have to give orders or make threats. He simply possessed an indescribable way of causing a person to want to be a better student! If he happened to mention the annual overflow of the Nile River, being translated that meant: tomorrow you had better know the lakes and rivers that were in any way related to the annual overflow of the Nile. God bless you, N. B. Hardeman!

 

[Editor’s note: This piece was originally published in the Jan-Mar 2000 issue of Biblical Notes Quarterly, and references another article which is not reproduced here].