Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Historical Quotes About Music in Worship

My brother Peter, whose new blog, P-Squared, just went live, sent me this url from Expository Files today. Reprinted here:

Historical Quotes About Music in Worship

The following is a series of quotes and their sources that I think that some readers will find enlightening, others will find them disturbing, and others interesting. I imagine all will find them a little ironic. I am not going to comment on them at all. They really speak for themselves.

Thomas Aquinas, Catholic Theologian; 13th century: "Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize." Bingham's Antiquities, Vol. 2, p.483, London

John Calvin, Reformation Leader, Founder of Reformed & Presbyterian denominations: "Musical Instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law." Calvin, Commentary on Psalm 33, see also commentary on 1 Samuel 18:1-9

John Wesley, Founder of Methodist Denomination: "I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen." Cited by Methodist commentator Adam Clarke; Clarke's Commentary, Vol. 4, p.684

Catholic Encyclopedia: "Although Josephus tells of the wonderful effects produced in the Temple by the use of instruments, the first Christians were of too spiritual a fibre to substitute lifeless instruments for or to use them to accompany the human voice. Clement of Alexandria severely condemns the use of instruments even at Christian banquets." Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 10, p. 652

Martin Luther, Reformation Leader: "The organ in the worship service is a sign of Baal." Realencyklopadie Fur Protestantische Theologie und Kirche, Bd, 14, s.433 cited in Instrumental Music and New Testament Worship, James D. Bales, p. 130.

Charles Spurgeon, Baptist Author/Pastor: "We might as well pray by machinery as sing by it" and "Israel was at school, and used childish things to help her learn; but in these days when Jesus gives us spiritual food, one can make melody without strings and pipes... we do not need them. That would hinder rather than help our praise. Sing unto Him. This is the sweetest and best music. No instrument like the human voice." Charles Spurgeon, Commentary on Psalm 42

FINAL QUOTE (this is really the MOST important one on the whole page): "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." (Colossians 3:16,17).

By Jon W. Quinn
The Front Page
From Expository Files 4.2; February 1997

Thanks, guys. That's just great. Guess all that stuff in Psalms about the lyre, harp, drum, tamborine, etc. was just skipped over in your consideration.

Good thing all of these guys are dead, or I'd have to open a can.

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  • At 7/11/2007 2:39 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    So now the controversy isn't over whether or not to use instruments but if the service is going to be traditional, contemporary or blended. Don't you think God must be amazed at what we choose as our battle lines?

  • At 7/12/2007 10:33 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...


    Trust me, there's plenty of debate to this day about the appropriateness of instruments.

    A few years ago, I had the joy of attending CITA's (Christians in Theatre Arts) national conference and was struck by the fact that even with all these people of faith around no one was leading musical worship. I can't remember who I asked about it, but the concern was that there were CITA members belonging to churches who didn't believe in using instruments, or in some cases even music, in worship. It still blows my mind.

    You and I are both old enough to remember the debate in the 1980s about Stryper. Now P.O.D. goes multiplatinum with music that makes the "To Hell With the Devil" sound like Barry Manilow. So there's progress being made. But Karen and I have, in fact, left a church because of their congregation's discomfort with liturgical dance.


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