12 Oct 2009

Reframing the Question: Exercise in Hermeneutics and Grace

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Chronicles, Exegesis, Grace, Hebrew Bible, Hermeneutics, Ministry, Preaching, Precision Obedience, Worship
I am taking a brief diversion from our mediations on Jesus &  Sabbath to reflect on a question that was put to me the other day. It is not the first time that this question (though perhaps not in the exact same words) has been asked of me. The question is:

Can a person perform worship acts incorrectly, or the wrong acts altogether, and still be pleasing to God?” Another form of this question is “Can a person be baptized for the wrong reason and be pleasing to God?

I think the question is misframed from the start. I compare this framing of the question to the lawyer who is “leading the witness” in a court setting. The framing of the question distorts the testimony of Scripture. In answer to THAT misframed question the answers are …

Clearly there are worship acts that are displeasing to God. Clearly there are worship acts that are wrong.

HOWEVER, the question is, rather, does the Biblical narrative testify to people:

1) either leaving a worship act “undone” or
2) performing a worship “act” incorrectly … and being accepted by God inspite of the reality that it is wrong?


Framing the question(s) this way highlights what the Scriptures actually testify too. What does the Story of God reveal? When we look at the unified narrative of God through Genesis, Exodus, Judges, Kings, Chronicles, to name but a few scenes from that drama of grace, what do we see? They testify too:

1) That is –  yes – there are wrong acts of worship (usually idolatry in some form)
2) That God’s People often fail in their attempt to worship properly. Humans one hundred percent of the time fall vastly short of the glory of God in worship to him.

AND embedded in the Story we see

3) That CORRECT acts of worship can be, and are, DISPLEASING to God as much as incorrect ones
4) That People can and have (according to the Holy Spirit’s testimony) done incorrect worship acts and yet were ACCEPTED by God.

Now anyone with beyond a freshman level knowledge of the biblical story knows that all four statements above are TRUE. Sometimes these themes are juxtaposed in the same narrative.

For Example:

Nadab and Abihu did get toasted for insulting the holiness of God (Lev 10.1-11). This is a story that is often used to present half of the biblical truth. Yet this disaster is contrasted (by the Holy Spirit) with Eleazar and Ithamar (Lev 10.12-20). What is the purpose of bringing together two very similar “mistakes” regarding worship but with radically different outcomes? Frankly, I have met numerous Christians, including preachers, who never heard of Eleazar and Ithamar.

Why is one set of brothers destroyed YET the other set granted healing mercy and divine grace?

Do we dare affirm that Yahweh is simply arbitrary? What do we discern that is the difference between these two sets of brothers on the same day in the same chapter of the Bible: was the difference one of technical precision or was the difference located within the often conflicted human heart?

Since I revolt at the notion that the Father of Jesus is purely arbitrary, I embrace the notion highlighted repeatedly in the biblical narrative, that God accepted Eleazar & Ithamar on the basis of knowing their heart. It shows no respect for either the integrity or the authority of Scripture to embrace the first story and hide or deny or denigrate the latter. Such a procedure reveals more about the person than either God or the biblical text.

Though at times Leviticus 10.11ff, and my next example are characterized as “sugarstick” texts by those who imagine we are saved by precision correctness, the Holy Spirit of God saw fit to tell the story of those who did very little according to the “book” in 2 Chronicles 29-30. The story of Hezekiah’s Passover is no fleeting moment in the history of God’s People according to the Chronicler. By comparison it is one of the longest and most detailed episodes within the entire history of 1-2 Chronicles. The author thought it was THAT important. The Holy Spirit expressly declares that the worshipers did practically nothing associated with the Passover “right.”The inspired author states explicitly,

Since many in the crowd had not consecrated themselves, the Levites had to kill the Passover lambs for all those who were not ceremonially clean and could not consecrate their lambs to the Lord. Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, ‘May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets their heart on seeking God ...'” (2 Chron 30.17-19).

And yet, the Holy Spirit declared it to be one of the greatest worship services in Israel’s history.

There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem” (v. 26).

God looks at the “heart” that is “seeking God” (v.19) rather than simply ritualistic precision.

Sugarstick or not this text is in the biblical canon and is written for our learning. How do we integrate it into our theology and what does it say about the God we worship?

In another place one wonders what King David was doing wearing the linen ephod? David is much like any other Mesopotamian monarch of the day in doing this. He is assuming the role of Priest and King. The ephod part of the High Priest’s vestments but David was neither Aaronic nor Levite! Yet the Scriptures tell us (2x) that he was wearing it (2 Sam 6.14 and 1 Chron 15.27). This latter text is very interesting indeed. In the context David is bringing the ark back (after the Lord broke out against Israel in the Uzzah episode … which David later assumes responsibility for). David dresses like the Levites with his “linen robe” (15.27) he wore the linen ephod (v.27) that the Priest wears. As the narrative moves into chapter 16 it states quite explicitly that David offered the sacrifices.

After David had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD. Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each Israelite man and woman” (1 Chron 16.2-3)

In Second Samuel 6.13 David also is declared to have sacrificed animals as worship to the LORD. After the sacrifices David gave a magnificent hymn to Asaph for the singing worship of Israel (16.7-36).

Interestingly enough as this worship service closes at the end of chapter 16 we learn that they sang with all kinds of instruments but the writer says everything Israel did that day was in “accordance” with the Law of the Lord (16.40). This clearly does not mean that David was authorized to wear a linen ephod of the High Priest in the Law of Moses or that instruments were commanded by Moses or that David could offer sacrifices according to the Law of Moses. But it does mean that God ACCEPTED that worship service.

On the other hand in the biblical canon we read of “legal” worship that is rejected by God. Amos roasts the Israelites for their worship. He flays the worship assemblies! God “hates” Israel’s feasts, assemblies, new moons, sabbaths and sacrifice! All of these things were commanded, explicitly, in the Law of Moses. Yet God rejects their formally correct worship for the exact same reason he accepts the formally incorrect worship of Eleazar/Ithamar, David, and Hezekiah. Yahweh looks for the heart that “seeks God.” Now that phrase is not used explicitly in Amos 5 but that is the meaning in the text. Israel’s interest in going through the motions, in ignoring the weightier matters of the law (sounds like Jesus actually), made the worship stink in God’s nostrils.

So I stress once again the question is NOT are there worship acts that can be undone and we “please” God. Or are there worship acts that can be done incorrectly. The answer is yes there are. We want to serve God in purity of heart and we also want to worship as he directs. Yet the question that actually fits the biblical narrative is: “Can one perform an act of worship incorrectly and still be accepted by God?” According to the Holy Spirit Yahweh has done this on more than one occasion.

Bobby Valentine
Tucson, AZ

44 Responses to “Reframing the Question: Exercise in Hermeneutics and Grace”

  1. Keith Brenton Says:

    Oh, my. Are you ready for the reaction you’ll get to this one, bro?

    It’s hard to argue with the truth, though. Still, there will always be a few who try.

    Ananias and Sapphira demonstrate that you can worship “correctly” by giving, yet still incur God’s wrath for having deceitful, selfish hearts.

    To Philippi, Paul could write that he was glad that Christ was preached even from wrong motives. To Corinth, he would write that their love feasts expressed little or no love for each other. Selfishness in worship was not acceptable. As far as we know, no one was obliterated because of it. (Though he did wish a Lorene Bobbitt number on the circumcisionists!)

    So for those who only accept Old Testament examples in support of their own arguments, I can only add that there are quite a few in the New as well.

    Excellent answer to the “wrong” question, Bobby!

  2. reborn1995 Says:

    i think you’re right in that God must accept our lack of flawlessness. i sure hope He does, or i’m doomed for sure.

    But i still think it’s more complicated than your reframing of the question. You have pointed out that heart-disposition can make a difference in what God will and won’t accept. But you also point out that our goal ought to be to worship with “purity of heart” and “as he directs.”

    Isn’t it the case that some (whether traditionalists or progressives) have used the point you’re making in order to justify getting to worship the way they want to? What i’m saying is that someone could use this as a sort of ‘insurance plan’?–‘it’s okay if i’m doing it wrong, because God knows my heart; so i just won’t worry about what’s the right way to do it.’

    To say that God accepts His children’s worship even when it’s occasionally mistaken is spot on and a desperately needed reminder for just about everyone in the CoC. But to get the impression (i’m not saying you intended to give it) that “well, i’ll go ahead and do all the incorrect worshipping i like then” is quite too far–a conclusion which none of these OT examples support.

    It’s a good post–i enjoy your work.


  3. Tim Archer Says:

    I hadn’t thought about the significance of David offering sacrifices. Solomon did so as well. Quite a contrast with what happened to Saul when he offered a sacrifice.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  4. Keith Says:

    Great post and excellent comments as well.

    In the great passover of 2 Chronicles 29-30, “the rules” are secondary to “the people” as they seek restoration with God. We see this motif over and over again, and sometimes it’s God who is “breaking the rules.” (Dare I say such a thing?)

    In Matthew 2 we see the magi/wise men/astrologers from the East coming to worship the Christ. These guys were not followers of Yahweh, at least not according to the rules. Yet God works within their understanding. He shows them a star (how appropriate and inappropriate) to lead them to Jesus. When they met Jesus “they worshiped him” and gave him gifts. Suddenly, their relationship with God changes and he now speaks to them in a dream (instead of in the stars) and warns them not to go back and see Harod.
    They moved from distant seekers to close followers and worshipers of God. Why? Because God sought them out where they were, though astrology.

    Should we then practice astrology too? Of course not. Should we then seek people where they are in order to bring them closer to God. Of course we should.

    #1. People
    #[some other number larger than 1]. Rules

  5. Jody B Says:

    Two questions Bobby:

    Is there a command to Christians within the Gospels or Epistles to worship?

    Is there an equivalent of a Levitical discourse on acceptable worship in the Gospels or Epistles?

  6. Randall Says:

    I am consistently edified by your writings. Thanks for sharing your research, knowledge and perspective with us.

  7. nick gill Says:

    ooh ooh! can i answer jody’s question?

    1) Yes. Worship in the Spirit and in Jesus (he who IS the Truth)

    2) No

    for further review:


    Look for Worship Words in the NT and Worship in the Book of Acts and Revelation

  8. Jody B Says:

    “worship in spirit and in truth” was a prophecy, not a command.

  9. Diane Says:

    Jody my views on worship are published in a work with John Mark Hicks called A Gathered People … I think the Hebrew Bible and the NT share a unified voice on the subject of worship … even if nothing quite like Leviticus in the “NT”

  10. Diane Says:

    I am using Diane’s PC … this is ME

  11. Jody B Says:

    Is that Nick using Diane’s computer or Bobby? Who is Diane? 🙂 Seriously though, give me a link for the material, will ya? I’d like to look at it.

    I’m wondering aloud that if we only have one recording of Jesus’ thoughts on worship by those who would follow Him (made within the context of external regulations, that is) am I being legalistic by perhaps overemphasizing externally identifying marks of the faith?

    I don’t want this to be taken as argumentative. I just don’t want to make something out to be of more or less importance than what it is.

    By the way reborn1995, God does not accept our lack of flawlessness. He provided flawlessness for us in the form of Christ. Ain’t that good news!

  12. reborn1995 Says:


    maybe. i’m not as sure anymore about how the atonement works. The Christus Victor theory has become somewhat compelling to me of late.


  13. Jody B Says:

    Guy, that’s a discussion for a different day. I just wanted to give hope.

  14. Stewart Says:

    Guy — in response to your first comment, anyone with the attitude “it’s okay if I’m doing it wrong ’cause God knows my heart” is, by the very definition, doing it wrong.

    I would suggest that anyone who seeks a church based on the fact that the church worships in a manner that said individual prefers seeks only to worship themselves, not God.

    For a person that believes that instrumental music in worship is a sin, does the presence of a pianist banging away on a piano in the same room negate the first person’s ability to sing? Can God hear the person’s voice above the noise of the piano?

    Anyone convinced that the use of instrumental music in worship is sinful should not try to worship in a place that supports it. But if we continue to argue the point with those who have not yet reached that conclusion — but are still earnestly seeking God — we risk destroying our influence with them and hardening their hearts to aspects of God’s Word that they may not have considered…

  15. Keith Brenton Says:

    Guy, what if none of the theories of atonement is wrong?

    Some are compelling to some folks. Some tug the hearts of others.

    Some folks, like me and my thirteen-year-old recently-baptized daughter, are just too unsophisticated to care which theory is “right.” We just respond to the simplicity of “Christ died for us.” And it’s enough.

  16. reborn1995 Says:


    i agree that the person definitely has a wrong heart who isn’t trying to do things the way God wants. i also agree with Bobby that God must accept at least some degree of imperfection in our forms and expressions of obedience.

    But i’m just not sure what to do with that information. i was just pointing out that it seems very tempting to use that to say, “well, let’s forget about worshipping right then since God will overlook our mistakes anyway.”

    i’m honestly not sure i understand your point with the IM debate.


  17. reborn1995 Says:


    1. Well, x and not-x can’t both be true. Insomuch as two theories are incompatible, then one of them has to be wrong. However, it may be that multiple theories (or revised versions of those theories) are compatible and could all be true.

    2. i never said it was necessary for a person to possess an exhaustive understanding of any particular atonement theory in order to enjoy the actual benefits of Christ’s death. Nevertheless, i aim to gain understanding so i can know God and Christ better and appreciate them and their love ever more deeply. In order to partially achieve that goal, i want to ask deeper questions about exactly what Christ’s death accomplished and how it accomplished it, that is, insomuch as God has given us revelation which answers those questions.


  18. Diane Says:

    I, Bobby Valentine, am using Diane’s PC here at the office of Palo Verde.

    Bobby V

  19. Diane Says:

    Theories of atonement are just that … theories. Christ died for the redemption of God’s creation. This we believe. A deep study of various theories can DEEPEN our sense of awe and wonder but in the end IF we think we comprehend then we have been looking at something other than the mystery of the cross.

    Guy, I want to nuance (slighly) the use of a word by you. You said you agree with me that God “must” accept some degree of flawed obedience on our part. I know what you mean but i want to caution the use of the word “must.” Nothing compels God except his own nature. God does accept us, not because he “has to” but because he is the God of Exodus 34.6-7.

    Bobby Valentine

  20. Stewart Says:

    Guy — Sorry about the “threadjack”. A friend of mine recently used Lev. 10:1-11 to explain why instrumental music in worship was absolutely wrong because it was not explicitly authorized. He was using it as an example of being punished for worshiping the wrong way.

    As I’m looking over it, it’s clear that my point about IM was unclear. You’d either have to be me or the person I was discussing this with earlier for it to make sense.

    I believe that worship is an individual act. Many of my fellow CoCers seem to believe that the utilization of a piano during worship invalidates that worship service for all the participants — that the piano, in the Levitical context posted above, represents the “strange fire”. Any belief that implies worshiping God is a sort of “spiritual Macarena” that you have to perform just right to be pleasing to Him takes the focus away from God and places it on what we DO and how WE worship. If that’s the image we portray, how can we be a good influence in the lives of others?

    Forgive me if I’m still not making sense. I was using the IM debate as a bit of shorthand to reiterate the point…

  21. reborn1995 Says:


    i did not mean “must” in the sense that God is in any way indebted to me or that i’m entitled to His acceptance of my flaws. But i meant “must” in two senses.

    “Must”–in that it *necessarily follows* from the fact that (1) The obedience/worship i offer God is flawed. (2) God accepts my obedience/worship. (3) Therefore, God accepts (at least some) flawed obedience/worship.

    And “Must”–in that God *cannot act contrary to His nature,* thus He can’t go back on His word. He’s indebted to Himself to keep His promises to me and others who offer Him less than perfection.

    You’re right–i certainly didn’t mean to connote any sense of entitlement or ungratefulness.


  22. Diane Says:


    I understand. We are in on accord …

    Bobby V

  23. Diane Says:


    Leviticus 10.1-10 is a grossly abused text. It is one of the texts referred to in the post these comments are on. Context clearly shows that these fellows were not toasted simply because they made a minor error in a technical matter.

    I would like to see some expansion the notion of worship as an “individual act.” We agree that it is not a macarana! But what do we mean by “individual?” Can worship be individual without being “individualistic”? In what way is worship also a communal act? Just seeking your understanding?

    Bobby Valentine

  24. Stewart Says:


    Your reference to Leviticus is what drew me into the comments. A more traditional Church of Christ preacher recently used that passage to explain why “silence is prohibitive, not permissive” as it relates to matters of worship. His conclusion was that Nadab and Abihu died because they offered worship that God didn’t command. My belief has always been that their sin was not what they did as much as why they did it — a heart issue.

    We are given no indication that Cain’s offering was sinful. We have no record of a broken rule, just the knowledge that his offering was displeasing to God. What did Cain do with that knowledge? He killed his brother.

    Now when I give my wife a present and she doesn’t like it, I take it back and get her something she DOES like. I love my wife and I want her to be happy. Killing my brother doesn’t even appear as a blip on the radar. Cain wasn’t concerned with finding a way to please God. He just wanted to take out the guy that messed up the curve. Heart issue.

    Regarding “individual worship”:

    The meaning behind any individual’s acts of worship is known only to that person and God. It is not necessary for acts of worship to reach a certain decibel level before God can hear it. It sounds a bit silly when stated like that, but I couldn’t sing a little louder to “cover” for someone that didn’t feel like singing. Likewise, another’s lack of worship offering in song should not necessarily be held against me.

    If everyone in my office pools their money to buy a gift for the boss, they have all made individual contributions to the present. If I decide to use my money to buy a gift for my boss instead of pooling that money with theirs, I have given an individualistic gift.

    I can think of no act of worship that is communal in the sense that all participants must observe it in the same manner and with the same heart for it to be considered acceptable to God. That’s a difficult sentence to read. Picture a stone archway. Each stone must be properly shaped and positioned for the archway to remain structurally viable. If one stone is misshapen, the integrity of the archway is damaged. If a stone is missing or removed, the archway will fall. However, that does not mean that we should “forsake the assembly”. If anything, it should stand as a conviction that merely assembling is not enough to cover a heart that doesn’t seek God…

  25. rich Says:

    rightly dividing the word of truth.
    what is the word of truth…
    we might want to reframe that to the root meaning giving Glory to God…
    i know what Paul taught,how do we teach that to day.
    what is sophistry?
    what is gods word in this contex?
    might want to run a word study on that,i know it is not Christ in this type of use.

  26. rich Says:

    what is it Paul says about Pure RELIGON????


  27. Anonymous Says:

    Rich, answer your own questions??? What did “Paul” say about pure religion? Did Paul address Pure religion?

  28. rich constant Says:

    how does that one go.
    the one that got hit usually yelps.
    i am sure you know, Anonymous,and no one likes the answer.
    blessings rich

  29. rich constant Says:

    i know that when i was involved with the Texas tradition non institutional conservative arm of the church,
    for 59 years of my life i didn’t look at the teaching as a culturally induced hermeneutic the way i do at this present. time thank you very much.
    kinda like the tail wagging the dog.

    blessings rich

  30. pilgrimdan Says:

    “Can a person perform worship acts incorrectly…”

    If the highest form of worship is what is presented in Matthew 25

    the separating of the sheep from the goats…

    then I don’t see how you can incorrectly worship

    help someone in need, feeding the poor, visiting the sick, etc…

  31. rich Says:

    there is a little more.
    learning to see.
    helping the blind to see.
    GOD IS


  32. Keith Brenton Says:

    Guy, I’m not so sure that “x” and “not-x” must necessarily be mutually exclusive when you’re talking about God.

    If He were solely just, we’d all be in for it. If He were solely merciful, no one need worry. But we say He is both just and merciful.

    Israel seemed to believe that the Lord could bring both good and bad things about (Joshua 23:15; that He could both bless and curse Deuteronomy 11:26). If God Himself can be “x” as well as “not-x,” cannot atonement be both? Or at least more than one? (As I understand there are LOTS of theories of atonement out there.)

  33. reborn1995 Says:


    What you’re describing is not a case of “x” and “not-x”. A representative case would be that God is both “just” and “unjust” at exactly the same time in exactly the same sense. Justice and mercy don’t constitute a contradiction. A paradox at times perhaps, but not a contradiction.

    If the law of non-contradiction doesn’t apply to God, then God can lie to us. Not possible.


  34. rich constant Says:

    i read on your profile you like to think so think on this simple little question
    atonement is the EFFECT of what the God accomplished on the cross through his son.
    the question becomes

    If Christ righteous under law…

    How is God righteous to curse his son.

    that takes into consideration this does not concern fulfillment and not to be confused with that.
    gal 4.3-4

    Christ was cursed gal.3 and was in hades acts 2
    took away the power of him that had control by overcoming death….
    now then

    the question is does this not set up the
    Law of Contradiction,as far as TRUTH is concerned
    i think it does for orthodox theological thinkers.
    how my brother
    is this not an either or
    for contemporary theology


  35. rich constant Says:

    by the way bob this deals with, “Can a person perform worship acts incorrectly, or the wrong acts altogether, and still be pleasing to God?”
    this is where the rubber meets the road so to speak.

  36. Anonymous Says:

    What do you mean “no one likes the answer?

  37. rich Says:

    what is antinomianism.
    or for me
    where does ROM 6 play out with ROM 12
    or Heb.3 unbelief and disobedience
    rebellion and faithfulness

    what IS relativism today to me and where does grace draw the line by faith.
    when i am called by god in Christ TO DO as Christ lives in me.
    do i attend a dead church fellowship.
    we all have a choice.
    we i think must all examine ourselves against gods truth.
    blessings this morning of fellowship

  38. preacherman Says:

    Excellent post!!!!!

  39. rich constant Says:

    this question only appears to be a paradox, the truth of god is never a paradox.
    this question falls under the the heading of a conundrum(an exercise in sideways logic)
    the reason for this(sideways) is orthodox theology got tied up in a preconceived hermeneutic.

    If Christ is righteous under law…

    How is God righteous to curse his son.

    the answer is simple.
    faithfullness to god’s will
    Romans 5.18
    going to
    the cross was a righteous act.

    The Law was not given to make a man righteous it was given to make sin utterly sinful.

    3:21 Is the law therefore opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 3:22 But the scripture imprisoned everything and everyone under sin so that the promise could be given – because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ – to those who believe.

    understanding individual faithfulness in gods righteousness act of judgement is a key to the question of merciful judgement through grace by faith

    blessings all
    rich constant

  40. Steve V Says:

    Thanks for stopping by my site. I have admired your work for some time, keep up the great job.

    Congrats, on the engagement. One more Valentine in the world, yeah!

    Steve Valetine

  41. Steve V Says:

    OOPPS. Cant even spell my own name. Should be Steve Valentine

  42. jamesbrett Says:

    While I definitely see some value in the question, and more in its answer, I want to support and add to pilgrimDan’s comment.

    I do believe at the core of “acceptable worship” is the issue of the worshiper’s heart. But I want to make sure I take it one step farther — that I realize true heart worship manifests itself first and foremost in a habitually obedient life. Not that I sit in a place, or want to, from which I will judge others’ worship — and not that I think a “good person,” gets a pass to do whatever he desires in an assembly of the faithful…

    But if we ever did want to argue over acceptable worship and point fingers at others for not “doing it correctly” (which I don’t, but there seem to be some who do), I think whether or not there is a piano or a prophecy shouldn’t enter the conversation until we’ve spent a LONG time discussing whether the individuals in question are living obedient lives, exercising justice and mercy, patience and giving, etc…

    If we’re a complaining, finger-pointing, money-grabbing, or power-hungry people, then there is no worship that will ever be acceptable, because we’ve missed the worship boat long ago — except that worship of repentance and a return to being obedient followers of Christ.

  43. Dee Andrews Says:

    Wow, Bobby! You’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest here with this post. Good for you!!

    I love your post and also all of the comments it has generated. You’ve certainly given ME a lot to think on.

    Thank you for all that you are as God’s blessed child.


  44. Wendell Glass Says:

    Great post and great discussion. My two cents here. The question really goes to the heart of the Stone-Campbell movement. You state there are “wrong acts” of worship and I would agree. There are dozens of things we acts that we could do in worship, maybe scores of them. Upon what are we to base our decision of what to do when we come together to worship? This was precisely the question that the Campbells and others wrestled with. The answer they came to was that while there might be many, many things that might be acceptable to God, we human beings can probably never agree upon them. Therefore to be unified as one body of Christ, we should use the New Testament as our guide and try to emulate as best we can those things that we can find there because we can all agree that these are acceptable. Other practices might be pleasing to God, but the odds are that we’ll never all agree upon them. I know of no one in any Christian fellowship that believes that singing a cappella is in violation of Scripture. When we go beyond that and begin to add instrumental music, now we have introduced a questionable practice. Is it wrong? Is it acceptable? Why or why not? Now we are in the realm of conjecture and we’ll never all agree upon this point. We will probably do harm to the body with the debate. The work of the Campbells and others was not really about proving what is “right” or “wrong”. It’s about we use as a basis for unity. This was an ecumenical movement before ecumenism was “cool”. Sadly, that ecumenical spirit has largely been lost and replaced by sectarian ideals. Would that we could recover that original spirit.

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