Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 13, 1963
NUMBER 7, PAGE 2,10a

Censoring The Song Books

James W. Adams

Recently in The Gospel Guardian, an article appeared from the pen of this writer concerning an effort on the part of some to "censor" our song books by removing from them all songs addressed to Jesus on the assumption that it is wrong to "sing to Jesus." We are informed that one of these "censors" has marked more than sixty songs in one book which are not to be sung by the congregation. After our article appeared, we received a letter of commendation from one of the very best preachers on the West Coast. He suggested that while we were about it we might discuss some of the other foolishness that is being taught in that area and elsewhere concerning singing and other matters. Among those things which he mentioned was the further censoring of song books by deleting all songs which have been written by women. A cursory examination of Christian Hymns Number Two reveals that of the four-hundred-fifty-two songs which it contains one-hundred-thirty were written by women. It appears that if we permit our self-appointed "censors" to go unrestrained, by the time they have set up another criterion or two by which the scripturalness of songs is to be determined (such as "invitation songs") we will not have anything left of the song books but the cardboard backs. And it is conceivable that they might find something wrong with the cloth, the paper, or the paste thus robbing us of the privilege of holding in our hands the songless book covers.

Another Criterion Which Our Censors Have Missed

We should not like to be the occasion of more trouble, but it appears to us that our song critics have overlooked a most significant test. We have neither heard nor read the arguments of the "censors" against the use of "songs written by women." We presume the objection is raised on the ground that women would thus edify the assembly and that it is a "shame for women to speak in the church," (1 Cor. 14:35.) or that a woman is not "to teach nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence." (1 Tim. 2:12.) Our "censor" seems to have overlooked the fact that most songs which are contained in the books normally used in worship have been written by persons not members of the church, unbelievers. Teachers of God's people are to be "faithful men." (2 Tim. 2:2.) Is it unscriptural for the assembly to be edified by a song written by a female Christian and scriptural for it to be edified by a song written by an unbelieving male? If not, there go most of the remaining songs in our book. Look out covers; here we come!

The preacher who would make such an argument places himself in a most embarrassing situation. If words emanating from unbelievers as well as women cannot edify the assembly, preachers will have to delete from their sermons all quotations from scholars who are or were not members of the church. Definitions of words quoted from Noah Webster would have to go. Grammatical criticisms from Hebrew, Greek or English grammars written by non-members of the Church would have to go. Quotations from lexicographers such as Thayer and Gesenius would be taboo. If this is too much for our song "censors" to accept, perhaps they will give us the passage of Scripture that justifies the edifying of the assembly by words written by an unbeliever and prohibit the edifying of the assembly by the words written by a believing woman.

Let The Scriptures Speak

The gift of prophecy was one of the spiritual gifts bestowed upon members of the apostolic church by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:4, 8-10.) The gift of prophecy was given for the edification of the church. (1 Cor. 14:4; Eph 4:7-12.) Women were given the gift of prophecy: (1) Joel prophesied that they would be given this gift and Peter declared on the day of Pentecost that Joel's prophecy began to be fulfilled that day (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-18.); (2) Philip had four virgin daughters that prophesied. (Acts 21:9.) The gift of prophecy was not simply the ability to foretell future events but also the transmitting of revelations from God by means of which His people were instructed, edified. Question Mr. Censor: In apostolic days, could a revelation given by God through a woman have been repeated in the assembly of the saints scripturally? Surely, no preacher of the gospel would be so devoid of reason as to take the absurdly ridiculous position that such could not have been done.

Mr. Censor, is it scriptural for Christians to read Luke 1:42-45 in the assembly of the saints? This passage contains the words of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, as filled with the Holy Spirit she saluted Mary, the prospective mother of the Son of God. Any argument made against singing a song written by a woman could with equal force be used against the reading of this passage. If not, why not? Mr. Censor, would it be scriptural to read Mary's reply (sometimes called the "Magnificat") in the assembly of the saints? (Luke 1:46-55.) These are words spoken by a woman. Mr. Censor, would it be scriptural to read in the assembly of the saints Ruth's beautiful pledge of undying fidelity to her mother-in-law, Naomi? (Ruth 1:16, 17.) Your argument against singing a song written by a woman would demand such a position. How absurd can we become?

The True Test

There is only one test to which a song should be submitted relative to its use in the worship of Christians (this has to do with the content not the music); namely, does it teach the truth — are its sentiments completely in harmony with the teaching of the word of God? Paul quoted heathen poets and prophets in teaching the word of God. (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12.) If a sentiment is true it may be utilized in teaching the word of God, in edifying the saints, whether it emanates from a believing female or an unbelieving male. When, in our worship, we adopt for use songs written by unbelievers or women, the words of the songs become our own expressions of praise and adoration of and to Jehovah. If the words of the songs express sentiments which are in harmony with divine truth, they are scriptural. We regard this proposition to be so palpably true as to approach the axiomatic. Brethren, we fervently and prayerfully insist that one does not have to take leave of his senses in order to be "sound in the faith!"

— 3105 N. W. 35th Place, Oklahoma City, Okla.