An Experiment in Christian Dialogue: A Post by Bruce Morton

Angel with harpSeveral days ago, reader Bruce Morton challenged me to post his arguments against instrumental music in worship. I invited him to write such a post. Here it is, entirely unedited, other than the insertion of a link to his book available at Amazon.

Concerning Ephesians 5:18-21
Bruce Morton

The teaching in Ephesians 5:18-21 by Paul has, at times, been separated out of the broader context of 4:17-5:21.  The Restoration Movement has focused attention on the teaching and in some cases concluded that apostolic teaching is silent regarding instrumental music in worship assemblies.

Paul, however, is writing about song in the broader context of Asian and Greek life and conduct – including worship.  Much lies behind Paul’s comment in Ephesians 4:17.  Ephesians 4:17-5:21 includes important parallels that tie the teaching together.  Specifically, 5:18-21 parallels 5:11 and also reveals 4:23-24 applied to Christian worship.

The apostle is speaking in generalities, but they are generalities that point toward the strong influence of Asian religion.  The dark pressure should not surprise us.  Luke’s account of earliest Christianity in Ephesus reveals the influence of “Artemis of the Ephesians.”  Further, a growing number of historians and theologians have noted of late the power of the Dionysus cult in both Ephesus and Corinth.  The two cities acted as hubs of power for the religion.  The cult permeated Gentile life and worship in Roman Asia and beyond (see, for example, Philip Harland, Associations, Synagogues, and Congregations; Ross Kraemer, Her Share of the Blessings).

Paul’s generalities in Ephesians 4:17-5:21 do not describe the specifics of religious ritual.  Indeed, he writes, “it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” (Eph. 5:12; NIV)  However, we should not conclude that Paul is endorsing specific, well-known practices associated with cult ritual simply because he uses the general words “shameful” or “debauchery.”  Both Greek words were prominently associated with Asian cult activities.  Dionysian worship included sensational ritual that featured instrumentation, theatrics, and wine.  Paul reveals his concern about sensationalism throughout the text – an issue that contributors have been raising as well (and which I appreciate).

Is Paul urging song as opposed to instrumented music?  Yes, it appears he is doing exactly that.  Paul quotes – and carefully revises – Septuagint Psalms for a reason.  He is stressing how the Spirit uses song to renew a congregation of Christians.  He is highlighting the dangers in a world drenched in a war of light versus dark.  The subject of instrumental music and the importance of song to the Lord and to one another are part of a desperate spiritual struggle.  Seeing by faith the world Paul sees will inform our conversation – and our worship.  A spiritual war is real; our spiritual song acts as a setting for the Spirit’s work in comforting, protecting, and renewing us.  It also can unify us.  But only if we listen to the counsel of the risen Lord and act on it.

Note:  more is available, including notes/references, in the recent publication Deceiving Winds (21st Century Christian).


27 Responses

  1. I have seen many positions presented against instrumental music in worship in Christian assemblies. This is undoubtedly one of the weakest.

    I carefully read the passage the author based his conclusion on. I fail to see how anyone could conclude that Paul was teaching a cappella only singing in this text.

    You would think that if singing with or without instrumental accompaniment is such an important issue that Christians could go to hell over it, Paul or some other New Testament figure would have at least hinted that instruments in the assembly is wrong. No such warning is given by anyone.

    The author says “Seeing by faith the world Paul sees will inform our conversation – and our worship”. Seeing what he claims to see in the Ephesians passage does not require faith, it requires a warped imagination. It is no more than a feeble attempt to support a fallacy.


  2. Bruce appears to be reasoning entirely from inference. The passage does not speak of Asian influences. Nothing in scripture connects Artemis with Christian singing. Far from being a necessary inference, these extrapolations go far beyond what is written in the passage.

    Even if those theories are correct, I fail to see how they can be elevated to the level of a biblical mandate. God *really* wants people to be saved. He sent his Son to die to make it possible. I can’t accept that he hid a mandatory requirement for salvation between the lines of Ephesians. What we must know and what we must practice in order to be saved is quite plain in scripture. If God wanted to include a cappella music in that list, he certainly could have said so. But he did not.

  3. Does this mean that this is “prohibition command,” situational, and directed only when music use could be misinterpreted as being cultic in nature? There is a command in the this passage. Verse 18b contains a strong contrastive “but” and a Greek Imperative “be filled.” The verbs in v 19 are participles that are linked to the main verb in v. 18b. These participles are linked adverbially to the imperative “to be filled”. A responsible use of this could include the”to be filled by/so that” then placing the corresponding verbs after this. In other words “Be filled with the Holy Spirit by singing…” or “so that you sing…” Also this is a positive command, not a negative one. Thus Paul is encouraging his followers to do something, not prohibiting them from doing something.

    Verse 19 is in no way linked to the sins that Paul lists in 18a or prior, and to do this is to ignore both English and Greek grammar regarding this passage.

    The one command listed in this pericope is “Be filled with the Holy Spirit” which unfortunately some COC congregations ignore completely in their interpretation.

    I do applaud Mr Morton historical research on the cultic matters in Ephesus and Corinth. Paul explicitly instructs his followers to live different lives than the pagan worships (see 1 Cor 11:4 – instructing the men not to look like pagan priests). It seems highly unlikely that he would leave his followers to infer what he meant here.

    This passage does command us to take our worship seriously. Our worship in song should be from the heart and full of the Spirit. When it is not, we are deficient of God’s desire for us. This is a passage that I constantly attempt to live up to, especially in corporate worship.

    Sorry for the long response and much more could be said regarding the Greek Grammar.

    Jay thanks for what you do. Unity is important for Christ’s followers and you are aiding this. I pray we all approach subjects like this with humility and love for each other. This is my desire and if I have not done this, please accept my apology.


  4. Well, I am always very reluctant to accept theories about the Asian and ancient cults as a reason for specific Biblical commands or statements. This is true for this text, too.

    What I, however, see (and this might be a connection to Dionysos) is the first part of Pauls statement: “Don’t fill yourselves with wine, be instead filled with the Spirit by speaking to each other with hymns (etc…) singing and playing in your hearts.”

    There is another text, where we find Christians drunk, that’s in 1 Cor 11, where some brothers ate and drank ahead of the others and eventually got drunk. The background to 1 Cor 11 is the Love-Feast (= Lord’s Supper), a full meal with a typical amount of wine available (sounds very strange to my American brothers, doesn’t it?).

    Now, the Love-Feast is very similar to the banquetting the Romans and Greeks enjoyed. And part of banquetting consisted of singing to instrumental accompanyment, sometimes even dancing. And drunkenness and gluttony was very common.

    That’s why the Early church insisted that the Love Feast should be a temperate banquet,(e.g. Tertullian) and since the musical instrument were connected to the worldly banquets (parties), they were banned from the church. This (as I see it) might be the background to Eph 5:18-19; because there we also find drunkenness and singing. To be more precise: This is speaking of the Christan Love-Feast, which shall be decidedly different from the worldly feats.

    Now for today: Conventional worship has practically nothing in common with a Christian Assembly of Apostolic times. Where is the food and the wine? We only serve a small peace of cracker. Why do we not sit around a table in someones’s living room, but in a large hall and in pews?

    The whole essence of worship, the whole atmosphere has basically nothing to do with the original. So, when we speak about instruments versus a-capella, it is like discussing whether we should serve real food while sitting in pews aor just this small cracker. It is a good question, but applied to a totally different situation.

    Now, we (our church) are sitting in living rooms. This does not allow for a woship-band, amplifyers and microphones. When we sit around the table, there is actually no room for holding a guitar, because the neck would be dangerous for the nose of the person left of me. 😉

    It doesn’t really fit. Although, just a modest guitar accompanyment would be nothing worth to argue about. But the whole focus of the meeting is different. We don’t worship that traditional way, saying: We stand and sing for 20 minutes and then listen to a sermon. We share what was going on this week, we sing, we pray, we read scriptures, we discuss a Bibel-passage … yes, I almost forgot: We eat a meal together (yesterday we had an Amish Corn Soup!), break the bread and share the cup. We are not focussed on the quality of singing, on instruments or other aspects of “attractive” or even “visitor friendly” worship. True “visitor friendlyness” is hospitality and a good meal.

    And there are also worldly counterparts to the contemporary Love-Feasts: Parties and worldly celebrations, often accompanied by loud music (from a CD-player) and lude dancing, gluttony and drinking. And, yes, our banquets should be very different from those. The times have not changed, and the Word of God neither …

    Maybe that’s a new way to look at it …

  5. Wow Alexander, first century Christianity. May your tribe increase with His blessing.

  6. A brother writes, “This passage does command us to take our worship seriously. Our worship in song should be from the heart and full of the Spirit. When it is not, we are deficient of God’s desire for us. This is a passage that I constantly attempt to live up to, especially in corporate worship.”

    But the apostle is not writing about “the worship.” He’s writing about the living–daily, wherever we are. Some “good Christians” sing only a cappella “in church” but play and sing ungodly songs everywhere else. Paul is writing about how we are to LIVE, not how we are to act “in church.”

    Paul said not one word in opposition to singing with instruments also in use. But he URGES us to sing godly songs rather than any other kind. Anywhere. Everywhere. Whenever an occasion for singing comes. Based on the text in question, Christians should never attend a concert where ungodly music is being played and/or sung. He’s surely not in this passage speaking of just what we do on Sunday mornings “in church.”

  7. I think the point Paul is making – and I could be mistaken; often am – is that worship, thanksgiving, mutual edification and song should be a part of our daily lives of worship … just as the characteristics of darkness are evident daily in the lives of those who do not believe.

    Ephesus is the city where a riot and near-lynching ensued when Paul’s teaching was perceived as a threat to the worship of Artemis/Diana (Acts 19). Both Jews (for three months) and Gentiles (for two years) opposed him. Bruce Morton points out accurately the antagonistic environment in which Christians lived there.

    But to limit the teaching only to gathered worship – and to conclude that it opposes instrumental worship at all by not mentioning it – requires assumptions that aren’t warranted by the text.

  8. i think two issues are conflated here: (1) Does the passage in question prohibit the use of instrumental music in Christian worship?, and (2) If it does, is disobedience to such damnable? The last of the author’s words give vague suggestion that disobedience is damnable, but he wasn’t completely clear to me. In any case, it seems to me that someone could hold “yes” to (1) and “no” to (2). That being the case, i’m puzzled by how many commentators immediately attacked the idea of “yes” to (2) as though it’s inseparable from a “yes” to (1).

    A couple things stand out to me:

    First, isn’t it noteworthy that this defense is rather different in nature than many others? The author did not try to assume nor construct a dry system of hermeneutics and treat the passage like a technical manual. He clearly tried to speak about Paul’s own situation and culture and concerns. Whether his research is bogus or not is something to deal with, but his answer is not 20th-century traditional re-hashing. Despite this, i may be misreading some, but it seems he’s been met with near eye-rolling. (Perhaps i’m oversensitive, but it appears sometimes as though people are bent against what a conservative says no matter what the content, and don’t search for any pluses or anything worth learning from their *brother’s* work just because he’s taking a conservative position–as though something can’t be taken seriously just because it came out of a conservative’s mouth or it helps a conservative conclusion. If that’s the atmosphere we’re creating, then it seems to me we’ve settled firmly in the camp that is the mirror image of the CFTF crowd we’ve been so quick to attack lately. So much for steps toward unity.)

    Second, this relates indirectly to the post’s goals–but hasn’t it ever puzzled anyone else that many of the patristics were opposed to IM *because it mimicked paganism*?? Some of them are very particular that there must be a distinction between their worship and that of the pagan cults. Where did they get that idea? How did that reasoning arise? Perhaps it was all of their own making. Nevertheless, this author’s work suggests a root source for those positions. The author’s work connects history in an interesting way. Perhaps you don’t think explanatory power is evidence in favor of a position, but surely it’s a feature that calls for hesitancy to dismiss a position quickly.


  9. A whole lot of issues are at play here, including whether we she view all/most scripture as law and whether we ought to read scripture in order to find proof of what we believe. I admit that I am as guilty of proof-texting as anyone, and not nearly as skilled at it as Jesus was.

    (He could stop a conversation dead by doing it!)

    But, innovative approach to a different scripture or not, the question is whether Bruce’s argument stands on its own merit. I don’t think it does, for the reasons I mentioned.

    Bringing up the patirstics introduces related but different questions: Are we to give them the same weight as scripture? How close to apostolic times does the author have to be in order to accept his teaching? Do we accept with equal weight patristic references to all-night vigils, lighting of lamps, washing of hands, antiphonal-only singing, or baptism while naked after a lengthy period of apprenticeship? Do we conclude that what they state as their preference was true of all churches? Are we compelled to follow these teachings if they are the clear response to paganism of that era?

    It’s complicated.

    Is it God’s intention for obedience to Him and following His Son to be that complicated.

  10. Ephesians 5, and its parallel in Colossians 3, are about how we live our lives as imitators of Christ everyday.

    The Biblical context of Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 is not about an assembly of the saints but is about how we live our lives. And how do we live our lives? Paul lists the following do’s and do not’s:
    – not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed
    – no obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking
    – do not be partners with those who practce the above
    – Have nothing to do with these fruitless deeds of darkness
    – Be very careful, then, how you live
    – make the most of every opportunity
    – Do not get drunk on wine but be filled with the Spirit
    – Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
    – Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord
    – always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
    – Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ
    – Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord
    – Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church
    – Children, obey your parents in the Lord
    – Fathers, do not exasperate your children
    – Fathers, bring your children up in the training and instruction of the Lord
    – Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart
    – masters, treat your slaves in the same way
    – be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power
    – Put on the full armor of God
    – set your hearts on things above
    – Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things
    – Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed
    – rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips
    – Do not lie to each other
    – clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience
    – Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another
    – Forgive as the Lord forgave you
    – put on love
    – Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts
    – be thankful
    – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly
    – and admonish one another with all wisdom
    – sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God
    – whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him
    – Wives, submit to your husbands
    – Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them
    – Children, obey your parents in everything
    – Fathers, do not embitter your children
    – Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything

    All of these things are what we are to do or not do everyday.

    I do not understand how we can take one or two statements from the long list Paul provided us and say that those two only apply to Christian assemblies. Paul di dnot make such a distinction. Why should we?

    God bless

  11. Just wanted to quote a few brothers…

    You would think that if singing with or without instrumental accompaniment is such an important issue that Christians could go to hell over it, Paul or some other New Testament figure would have at least hinted that instruments in the assembly is wrong. No such warning is given by anyone.

    The one command listed in this pericope is “Be filled with the Holy Spirit” which unfortunately some COC congregations ignore completely in their interpretation.

    Wow Alexander, first century Christianity. May your tribe increase with His blessing.

    I have worshiped with some in a home-church setting, like what Alexander describes, and liked it more than a corporate (church building) setting. Its more “biblical” and focused on Jesus instead of “ritual” issues. If we are to worship “new testament” style, quibbles over worship ritual needs to become last and Jesus must come first.

  12. Keith,

    i’m not sure “proof-texting” is identical to “reading scripture in order to find proof of what we believe.” If a non-believer asked me to show him from scripture that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, i’d certainly have to go “reading scripture in order to find proof of what i believe,” but i don’t think i’d be “proof-texting” with many of the connotations typically associated with that phrase. Often we cry “proof-texting” when small passages are taken in isolation from their contexts and the author’s intent etc and treated as evidence for a position. It doesn’t appear to me that Morton aims to be neglectful of context or historical circumstance, but, in fact, seems to rest his conclusions on exactly that. That’s doesn’t mean he’s right, but it suggests to me that even if he’s wrong, he’s not “proof-texting.”

    i certainly didn’t mean to suggest that extra-canonical Christian writings are as authoritative as scripture or inspired or anything of the sort. But insomuch as they record history accurately, they represent the ideas and practices of people who stand far nearer to the time of NT than we do. Does that mean they automatically get everything right and we don’t? No. Even when they’re wrong, they could still possess insights we lack. In any case, a class-opinion is a historical phenomenon, and explaining such a phenomenon is not insignificant or frivolous. While they may have gotten some things wrong, they may have also gotten quite a bit right without us realizing it because there are things they knew that we don’t. Here an author didn’t start from patristics and work back into the NT. And that’s not what i’m advocating as a conclusive move in a discussion. i’m also not even talking about giving any sort of autonomous weight to any particular practices mentioned by the patristics. The author is starting with scripture, considering historical context and circumstances, and the particular conclusion he draws connects to later patristics in a way that many other explanations don’t. His interpretation has greater explanatory power than others. That doesn’t mean it’s a sufficient condition for truth. It may not even be a necessary condition for truth. But frequently in life we take it as evidence in favor of a theory.


  13. The passage plainly indicates they were together, but why does that make it a “formal” or “public” worship? Why not any gathering of brothers and sisters in Christ?

    The interpretation that Paul refers specifically to a weekly assembly can only come from a church where Christians are only together for a formal assembly.

    If you recognize that Greco-Roman world often had social events involving banqueting and that the banqueting often led to drunkenness, the message isn’t so much: don’t get drunk in the public assembly. Rather, it’s don’t get drunk when you’re together for whatever reason.

    And: instead be filled with the Spirit, which leads to gratitude, submission, and singing.

    It seems plainly much broader than the regular assembly, and the emphasis is on not getting drunk, not on refraining from the use of instruments.

    You have to get away from the NIV translation and follow the more accurate translations that properly show the command to be “Do not get drunk” and the “command” re singing to be a participle at the end of the same sentence. It’s not a stand alone command in the Greek or in most translations.

    That being the case, if Paul meant to warn us against the debauching use of instruments, he’d have said “Do not use instruments, which lead to debauchery, but instead …”

    And while Paul condemns debauchery, it’s awfully hard to argue that drunkenness leads to the use of instruments! Surely the instruments were used long before the guests became drunk. Therefore, they are not included in what he calls debauchery.

    So I agree with Bruce that Ephesians likely has reference to pagan feasts and the fear that the Christians, when they gather, might slip into pagan social norms. But the concern was plainly drunkenness and its consequences, not the use of instruments.

  14. Guy,

    I agree with how you use the Fathers. Start with the text and then see how the early fathers used the text.

    What I find amazing though it how some progressives see the use of those resources as a part of the problem when the conservative folks I was raised and educated by would have thrown a fit if I quoted them. In fact, according to my studies in the past several years, most of what they wrote has more in agreement with where we are trying to get to than where we have come from.

    But again that is me. A strict constructionist who has somehow wound up wearing a progressive label.

  15. Todd,

    I think you find yourself wearing a progressive label because you’ve noticed something troubling – something that Jay noticed as well and has written about extensively.

    While you’re probably right that the conservative folk who educated you would pop their corks if you quoted The Fathers at them, it was *not* because their traditions weren’t anchored in the Fathers, but because they didn’t believe they were. Jay’s shown more than a few instances where our traditions are moored not in strict construction interpretation, but rather in the traditions of the Fathers.

    But I also think you’re correct that we have much in common with the Fathers – their way of thinking and the dangers they sought to avoid rather than their particular decisions, but still, much in common. And they didn’t look to each other for answers – they looked to Jesus and the apostles and to what the Scriptures said.

    I wish some of our leaders would be more concerned with mimicking paganism.

  16. Jay,

    I think your argument proves too much. Are we really willing to say that because Paul only mentions drunkenness, that’s the only part of Ephesian debauchery he opposed?

    And I disagree with the idea that instruments can’t be used to encourage debauchery. This is not to suggest that Paul’s writing condemns the use of instruments altogether – but rather that they should be used unto Christian edification rather than to create drunkenness, numbness, and/or debauchery.

    “All things are lawful, but not all are edifying” seems to be Paul’s general way of encouraging his congregations to solve these problems. Keith’s conclusion fits Paul’s message in every text:

    worship, thanksgiving, mutual edification and song should be a part of our daily lives of worship.

    Instrumentation worthy of those purposes is acceptable. Instrumentation that undermines those purposes is not, IMO.

  17. Why do many of the young a cappella vocal groups from coc schools and churches have some of their members imitating instruments? I think that is very, very odd.

    If you think instruments are bad (is it safe to say that most a cappella churches are that because they believe instruments are not approved?) why would you try to sound like them?


  18. And when I was a teen back in the ’80’s we had folks freaking out over that very practice. Yet since I have known a few very close brothers who condemn IM roundly but are proud of their “beat boxing.”

  19. Jay:
    I thought from your email that you were not going to publish my original essay until I added some background — per your suggestion? And I shared in my 3/24 email to you that I was working on the revision that honored your input. So, I am surprised that you posted the original essay on 3/29. But I see it is done (I sent further background in the revised essay this morning).

    And I see from the large majority of responses that people seem less willing to hear/see these days what a brother has surfaced. There is a good bit here in terms of Greco-Roman background (some of which is relatively new — including some original translations of inscriptions from Roman Asia — by the author) and I had hoped to have some genuinely patient dialog with brothers and sisters. But folks dismiss so quickly!

    Is this type of dialog now common? Are these quick, sometimes even sharp, responses what would take place in a Bible study group in the represented congregations? Does not seem like brotherly love from where I sit.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  20. Bruce,

    No one has “dismissed” what you’ve written! Far from it! We might disagree energetically, but no one has dismissed you. Please, continue to interact with us.

    I, for one, appreciate your willingness to address the socio-historical context of the letter as well as the idea of spiritual combat and its relationship to our worship. I think you overplay your hand when you assert that Paul is consciously addressing instrumented worship – and the argument presented would invalidate other practices where physical items are used to express our worship.

    But please – don’t misunderstand our forwardness as disrespect or lack of love. Thank you for sharing your thinking with us – please continue.

  21. Alan S.:
    Let me add a note for you to suggest. Excluding a worship assembly out of the counsel in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 is exactly one mistake we have been making as we approached the texts. The Asians thought about their cults somewhat differently. The Dionysus cult, for one, wove its way into everything — socializing; trade guilds; worship gatherings.

    Yes, Paul is indeed talking about “life,” but he is not excluding a worship assembly. Indeed, his “shameful things done in secret” Eph. 5:12) closely follows the wording used by one ancient writer in referring to a Dionysian worship gathering.

    Allow me also to add the below text regarding Ephesians 5:18-21 for your consideration:

    The apostle is speaking in contrasts. Herbert Presker, for one, highlights the contrast of music with song as he discusses the Dionysus cult and Ephesians 5:18. He writes that, “The life and liturgy of Christians are not marked by sensual ecstasy or Bacchantic [Dionysiac] frenzy (Gk. methyskesthai oino) but by infilling with the Spirit (Gk. plerousthe en pneumatic). The distinction could hardly be more succinctly expressed: orgiastic enthusiasm on the one side, and on the other the fullness of the Spirit that finds liturgical expression in praise and thanksgiving….” (see more at Presker, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 4:548). Further, one Greek papyrus highlights how instrumentation was used to initiate supposed supernatural possession (see William Johnson, “Musical Evenings in the Early Empire: New Evidence From a Greek Papyrus with Musical Notation,” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 120 (2000): 57-85). Paul reveals his concern about sensational life and worship throughout the context.

    This is only the tip of the iceberg, but I am asking, in the Lord, that folks prayerfully consider that typically many of us have wrestled with the subject of instrumental music without looking at the parallels in and the background of the broader context of Ephesians 4:17-5:21. And the context is crucial.

    Please know that my original purpose was to look at the ancient cults of the region as I waded into 1 and 2 Timothy. As I peeled back Roman Asia over the last 5 years, some of the findings surprised. But enough for this posting. In summary, Paul is talking about the importance of song as a tool of the Spirit as we face spiritual war.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  22. Brother Ogle:
    I like your “in pursuit of the truth” caption in GraceDigest. While I was far from encouraged with the suggestion that I have a “warped imagination,” I am assuming the pursuit of truth represents a genuine passion. So, glad to discuss how my imagination might not be warped and want you to know that I have a like pursuit. Interested?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  23. Bro’ Bruce,

    I think I addressed your concern at GraceDigest after you left your comment. I hope it was satisfactory.

    If you want to use the Bible in a continued dialog, sure. I am not interested in what some uninspired author or preacher’s opinion is. And, I firmly believe, as I have made clear at least two or three times, matters that in some people’s view damn a soul must only be supported by the Word of God, not by what someone thinks.

    Perhaps no person has studied and written more on this subject than Kenneth Sublett. He has devoted the last several years of his life to this issue of IM almost completely. He too, and everyone else I have read who makes the case against IM most convincingly must use extra-biblical material.

    I say in the best possible way, I simply disagree. I would say to all Christians, do what your convictions allow. Just don’t bind your convictions on others at the threat of dis-fellowhip or damnation to hell, unless you can make your case using only the Word of God.

    I think this position is both fair and reasonable to most sincere people of good will.


  24. Nick asked,

    Are we really willing to say that because Paul only mentions drunkenness, that’s the only part of Ephesian debauchery he opposed?

    That’s not what I was trying to say. The scripture says that rather than being drunk on wine — which leads to debauchery — we should be filled with the Spirit, which leads to (among other things) singing. Grammatically, he is opposed, first, to drunkenness, and second, to debauchery.

    Now, consider the argument sometimes made by others: We shouldn’t use instruments because instruments are found in debauched settings, such as pagan feasts. Well, that argument fails for two reasons. First, in contemporary society, it’s just not true that instruments inherently lead to debauchery, any more than peanuts lead to debauchery, even though peanuts are quite common in bars — or so I’m told.

    And it fails because he surely isn’t saying that drunkeness leads to the use of instruments! Debauchery is something that results from drinking. And therefore he’s not teaching against instruments, even if instruments were commonly used in debauched settings.

    “Debauchery” is asotia in the Greek, and refers to waste or dissipation. ” 1. an abandoned, dissolute life; 2. profligacy, prodigality”

    It doesn’t mean “worship of God accompanied by musical instruments.”

  25. Royce,

    It’s culture. If you grow up listening to music with a pronounced back beat, that’s what sounds good to you and that’s the kind of music you compose. If you eliminate the rhythm, there are plenty of songs that just don’t work. Hence, you have Christians trying to be true to their a cappella training while singing contemporary songs.

    You have the same phenomenon in clapping. It’s an effort to produce a beat in a generation raised on rock and other music with a beat.

    Of course, my grandmother said rock and roll music would send us all straight to hell, so maybe it all makes sense.

  26. Bruce,

    I’ve posted your revised draft, with an apology for putting your original draft up before receiving the revision.

    I see no lack of love. I do see a lot of disagreement. But that’s the point. There’d be no need for dialogue if we all agreed.

  27. Bruce,

    I’d certainly agree that instruments can be used for wicked purposes. So can songs (listen to your radio!). But that doesn’t mean instruments are inherently pagan or orgiastic.

    For that matter, those pagan feasts pretty routinely used wine to help produce the Bacchantic ecstasy, but Paul doesn’t condemn wine. He prohibits getting drunk on wine.

    It’s fair to say that one can get “drunk” on certain forms of music, too — but that doesn’t mean that instruments are always wrong, anymore than it means Jesus sinned by turning water into wine.

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