Scripturality of Instrumental Music in the New Testament Church
Date of Award
Master of Theology (Th.M)
The thesis gives a detailed history of instrumental music in worship before the Church began, as well as the use of instrumentation, or lack thereof, in the early beginnings of the Church. Music was not a contributor to the early Church for a number of reasons. Those reasons varied from avoiding anything that would be considered close to pagan worship, to being very careful to not arouse suspicion when it came to Christian worship for fear of persecution. The thesis continues to explain the incorporation of instrumental music into some worship in early centuries. As the worshiper contributed more to worship, as they began to sing psalms and spiritual songs, the need for some type of aid to worship became apparent. Psalms were difficult to sing due to inconsistent tunes and due to the fact that the average worshiper could not sing very well. Some aid was needed to allow better worship through the music. Training the human voice is attainable, yet, can be very difficult. Worship leaders did the next best thing, in their opinion, at least. They brought in instruments to make music a more tolerable part of worship. The solution became the problem. Worship leaders allowed the instrument to play to large a role in worship. Instead of the instrument acting as background to the human voice, it became the focal point to worship. The music became entertainment, thereby taking the attention away from why the worshiper was there in the first place: to worship God. When the music programs of some of the larger cathedrals and churches reached that point, the church leaders of that area took it upon themselves to have the instruments removed and in essence, start all over again in the creation of proper worship to God.
Another part of the thesis gives a brief overview of the latter part of the Nineteenth Century and why so many congregations and denominations decided, either for the first time or for the first time in several centuries, to allow instrumental music in the local church. Culture, once again, played a large role, but the reasoning, in the opinion of the author, was slightly off base. Many believed that the church should add music to keep peace in the church. Yet, for many, instruments in the church caused greater division. These divisions continue today.
Finally, the thesis gives reasoning as to why, in the opinion of the author, the New Testament does not speak directly to the issue of instrumental music in the church. In only two passages, Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19, does the Apostle Paul encourage the church to speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. The Greek word psallos, translated from original texts and then used with the same interpretation for the words in the Septuagint, meant to pluck the strings of the harp. Many argue that the translation of the Greek psallos changed to plucking the strings of the heart. While this may be true at some point, it did not occur in the short time span that Christ was here on earth. The point to the entire thesis, then, centers around the idea that the words used in Colossians and Ephesians were meant to allow instrumental music in worship in a very low key, background manner. There was little said about it and because of that, the use of instruments in worship were to be as inconsequential as the words used to encourage others in their worship. It is when man allows music to become the focal point of worship that we, in the author's opinion, do indeed sin against what God intended us to use instruments in worship for, when His Word was authored.
Elder, William Howard Jr., "Scripturality of Instrumental Music in the New Testament Church" (2009). Master of Art Theology Thesis. 64.