Recently I ran across the Bible I had when I was a kid. It’s dated Christmas of ’81. I was ten years old.
I used this Bible in junior high and high school until I got a new one when I graduated. Let’s take a look.
Here’s my name, written all swirly and with a very 1980s paint pen.
My parents’ message to me in my dad’s handwriting.
For some reason, I highlighted several parts of Psalms 116, 117 and 118.
Now here’s what I think is one of the most interesting finds in this Bible. Inside the back cover are my handwritten words: “Why should Church only use vocal msc. and not ist?” Meaning, “Why should the church only use vocal music and not instrumental music?” Then a list of verses.
I remember this. I was in a Bible class in 7th grade – a class taught by a couple who was teaching us to defend our faith. Or “How to prove to your friends that they are going to hell because they don’t go to your church.” Great way to be popular in junior high.
Quick re-cap for those unfamiliar with Church of Christ traditions. Traditional Churches of Christ don’t use instrumental music in worship. There is no mention of instruments being used in worship in the New Testament, so they believe it is not authorized by scripture. Yes, David wrote the Psalms on harps and lyres and whatever else he could find out there in the sheep pasture, but the Psalms are in the Old Testament, so it doesn’t count. And yes, trumpets and harps are mentioned throughout Revelation, which IS in the New Testament, but not in the context of how worship was to be done in the early church. So it doesn't count, either.
The flagship verse for proof-texting this point is Ephesians 5:19. It’s at the top of the list my list of verses, and I even underscored it in the text – as I’m sure all good CoC kids did.
I think this notation in the back of my Bible is funny because I no longer believe using instruments will keep anyone out of heaven and I haven’t believed that in a long time. I started questioning it in high school and as I grew and studied over the years, I finally let it go completely. Of course I loved the a capella music I had grown up with, and I still do. It’s an important part of my heritage and the church culture I grew up in. But it has nothing to do with my salvation.
Since 2006, we’ve been part of a church that uses instrumental music in worship. Probably the most difficult adjustment to that has been the fact that my kids can no longer run around on the stage after church. Too much expensive equipment up there. By contrast, our old church just had a podium and a couple of chairs up there. Much more kid-friendly.
To be honest, it’s been so nice to let it go. Not a capella worship per se, but the debate over it. My kids aren’t being taught in Bible class a concept that, despite that list of verses I fervently wrote down in 7th grade, is not backed up by scripture. Not that our new church is perfect. But my kids can scratch the music debate off the list of things that could get in the way of truly defining their faith.
As Forrest Gump says, “It’s one less thing.”
I still love those old hymns. One song I know I want at my funeral is "Softly and Tenderly" sung a capella. That music is a big part of who I am. It's just not part of where I'll be in the afterlife.