Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 23, 1969
NUMBER 37, PAGE 4,9b

Echoes From An Ancient Battlefield


Fanning Yater Tant

One of the most obvious of all truths, and yet one of the most difficult for many to understand, is that most spiritual battles are never wholly and completely "won." They keep reappearing, generation after generation, changed in form, of course, but remarkably constant in substance. The old, old attacks against Christ and Christianity remain much the same now as they were fifteen hundred years ago. Does one hear today modern "scientific" arguments against the virgin birth? How is this different from the early centuries when one of the notorious charges against the new religion was that Jesus Christ was the bastard son of Mary and an Egyptian soldier? Does a resurrection from the dead seem unbelievable to a modern secularist? Well, let us remember that Cetus (fourth century) taunted the Christians with his charge that "the Christian hope of rising out of the ground at the last day is one worthy of worms."

The front page of this issue carries an article which to many will seem to be an echo from an ancient battle-field — last century's bruising fight over instrumental music in Christian worship. Most of those who read this page probably would have supposed that that battle was long since ended, the smoke cleared away, and even the battle-field now relegated to those forgotten pastures of long ago. But let us understand that EVERY battle is won or lost within the heart and soul of each individual Christian. That our fore-fathers reached a decision on this matter, and arrived at a stance with which they were willing to face God in the judgment, does not mean at all that they won that battle for their children and grand-children — they won it for themselves! But each generation, and each individual must make a decision, one way or another, on all that has gone before. Even in our day we see the phenomenon of many who were reared in the "anti-instrument" conviction casting aside their early teachings and going over to the instrument position; and, in like manner, the reverse flow has long been evident.

For that reason we are glad to give space this week to Brother Lyles' review of the Tom Burgess book, "Documents On Instrumental Music." The review is considerably longer than we like to use, but we feel it is justified in this instance, due to certain significant developments within the Churches of Christ within the last decade.

The instrumental music question is to be decided by a resort to two fundamental considerations: (1) the actual teaching of the Bible, and (2) the authority of that teaching. Historically, the battle waged at first around the second of these poles — authority. Advocates of the instrument freely admitted that there was no authority "for" the instrument, but heatedly insisted that there was also no authority "against" it, and therefore it was not a matter on which God had expressed himself. As time went by, however, they shifted the ground, and began to seek express authority "for" the instrument. O.E. Payne wrote a small booklet on "psallo" seeking to establish that some sort of mechanical instrument actually inheres in the word "psallo", and that it is impossible to obey God's command to "psallo" without an instrument! This was really the reason behind M.C. Kurfees monumental work on "Instrumental Music." He so completely devastated Payne's contention that most scholars in the Christian Church abandoned Payne, and reverted to their former plea: "It doesn't make any difference; it is a matter of unconcern to God."

For fifty years now the battlefield has been relatively quiet. Until the last decade. And then men have arisen (in the Churches of Christ, mind you, not in the Christian Churches!) seeking to wed the two positions, i.e. (1) instrumental music is not authorized in Christian worship, but (2) it should not be made a test of fellowship; and those who use it should be accorded full Christian fellowship and given "Godspeed" in their work. And now comes Tom Burgess with a new statement of the ancient O.E. Payne position. As far as we can see he has absolutely nothing new — no new evidence, no new argument, no new witness. But since his book has been given some acclaim among certain of the conservative disciples as being an "answer" to Kurfees', and since probably a great number of this present generation are acquainted with neither Payne nor Kurfees, we feel that Brother Lyles' review is in order.

In fact, in religion as in politics, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance," or as John Philpot Curran said it originally in 1970, "The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt." God's people of old were "destroyed for lack of knowledge." Every new generation that comes upon the stage of action must be taught, taught, TAUGHT over and over again the fundamentals of faith. Otherwise, some such sophistical book as this one by Tom Burgess may well sweep the uninformed into servitude to the forces of error.

— F. Y. T.