Of those churches which trace their origin to Alexander Campbell's preaching,
some are liberal Protestant churches like any other of that tribe. Some
are another story.
Make a Joyful Noise
"It is good to give thanks to the LORD, and to sing praises to Your
name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and
Your faithfulness every night, on an instrument on ten strings, on the lyre, and on the harp, with harmonious sound."
"Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the children of Zion be joyful
in their King. Let them praise His name with the dance; let them sing praises
to Him with the timbrel and harp." (Psalm 149:2-3).
"Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; praise Him with the lute
and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; praise Him with stringed
instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with clashing
cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!"
Ofttimes what God says is good, man says is bad, and vice versa: "Woe
unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for
light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet
for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20). His own like God's ways best: "My sheep
hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:..." (John 10:27).
In the Old Testament, God not only allowed instrumental music, He commanded it:
"Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month,
on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets,
a holy convocation." (Leviticus 23:24).
Instrumental music was part of temple worship:
"And it came to pass when the priests came out of the Most Holy Place
(for all the priests who were present had sanctified themselves, without
keeping to their divisions), and the Levites who were the singers, all
those of Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren,
stood at the east end of the altar, clothed in white linen, having cymbals,
stringed instruments and harps, and with them one hundred and twenty priests
sounding with trumpets - indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and
singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking
the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals
and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying: 'For He is good,
for His mercy endures forever,' that the house, the house of the LORD,
was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering
because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God."
(2 Chronicles 5:11-14).
The 'Church of Christ' relies upon the early church writers to justify
their ban on instrumental music, but most of these writers say nothing
about music, instrumental or otherwise. Some say nice things about David
and his harp, "Moreover, King David the harpist, whom we mentioned
just above, urged us toward the truth and away from idols. So far was he
from singing the praises of daemons that they were put to flight by him
with the true music; and when Saul was possessed, David healed him merely
by playing the harp." (Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks, Chapter 1).
Those few church writers who do insist on the stripped-down musical minimalism
that would come to be known as Gregorian chant may be reflecting existing
cultural biases against music. Plato banned most forms of music, and most
musical instruments, from his Republic:
"Our songs and airs, then, will not need instruments of large compass
capable of modulation into all the modes, and we shall not maintain craftsmen
to make them, in particular the flute, which has the largest compass of
all. That leaves the lyre and the cithara for use in the town; and in the
country the herdsmen may have some sort of pipe." (Plato's Republic,
III 399 Cornford).
"We might, in fact, see an analogy between this luxious living and
that style of music which uses every variation of mode and rhythm. Variety
there engendered license in the soul, and simplicity temperance. So in
the body, variety breeds maladies and simplicity health." (Plato's
Republic, III 404 Cornford).
Plato would only allow musical modes suited for patriotic ditties and the
like into his Republic. Some church writers inherited this cultural bias;
it certainly doesn't come from the Bible: "And Miriam the prophetess,
the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went
out after her with timbrels and with dances." (Exodus 15:20). Saints
in the Old Testament praised God with musical instruments like Miriam's
timbrel. Saints in heaven praise God with musical instruments, "And
when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders
fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours,
which are the prayers of saints." (Revelation 5:8).
The saints of the Jewish church hung out in the temple, where God was
praised with musical instruments: "And day by day, attending the temple
together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad
and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people."
(Acts 2:46-47). Did the saints cover their ears when the musicians started up?
Some modern-day followers of Alexander Campbell retort that God did not command playing musical instruments in the New Testament...and therefore it is
forbidden. Following this principle consistently: that whatever is not
commanded is forbidden,-- will lead to unhappy results. Here's one to keep
the saints crossing and uncrossing their legs: the Bible does not command
that you go to the bathroom before leaving the house for church, nor does
the Bible command that you go to the bathroom upon arriving at church.
Therefore, it is forbidden to go the bathroom, either before leaving for
church or upon arrival.