Monday, October 16, 2006

Freed-Hardeman Forum: Baby Step, But Which Way?

The Christian Chronicle, a publication of the a capella Christian Churches, today offers a report on the "Contemporary Discussion," previously announced here, between David Faust and D. Ralph Gilmore at Freed-Hardeman University Saturday.

SWNID was unable to connect to the FHU server for streaming audio, but we understand from water-cooler conversation (metaphor alert: this conversation was not actually held in the proximity of a water cooler) that (a) aspects of discussion felt more than a little hostile to Dr. Faust, the most gentle of gentlemen, prompting him to voice his disappointment with the tone of certain remarks, including the introduction to the entire discussion; (b) email to Dr. Faust since the discussion has been markedly positive.

This accords with our SWNIDish reading of the Chronicle story. We note several remarks that suggest less than full willingness to engage the logic of Dr. Faust's observations and analogies. We leave it to our insightful and gentle readers to note these for themselves. We will note that citing Ephesians 5:19, specifying singing and making melody in the heart, to support a no-instruments position both illogically identifies the worshiper's internal state with one expression (singing with the voice) while excluding all others.

But we note as well that per the article at least one FHU student found his heart strangely warmed to consider alternative points of view.

We note further what is at stake in the kind of hermeneutics and ecclesiology that spawns the instrumental debate, specifically citing another story on the Chronicle web site. To wit: noninstrumental churches of Christ in developing countries are being split over such issues as whether singing during the observance of the Lord's supper is acceptable or whether congregations can send money to other organizations.

We cite with enthusiastic SWNIDish approval this remark, quoted in the article, from Dick Stephens, an a capella brother ministering in Malawi, one country hit by such controversies, who provides what we think is decisive perspective:

All of this is going on while people are starving to death, babies are dying of malnutrition . . . villages are not hearing the gospel and Muslims are trying to make deep inroads in Africa.
We fail to believe that the Lord Jesus died for the sake of establishing a church that would even consider debating such matters as whether to use instruments or send money from a congregation to an organization.

It is, of course, sharply ironic that some who strive to uphold the heritage of Thomas and Alexander Campbell should perpetuate the very thing that spawned their rethinking of established ecclesiologies, i.e. the exportation (from Scotland to Northern Ireland and then to America, in the Campbells' experience) of unspeakably minor church controversies and the demand that exclusionary positions be taken by all on said controversies..


JB in CA said...

Here's an excerpt from the Christian Chronicle article cited above:

"[According to Gilmore,] Ephesians 5:19 calls for 'singing and making melody in one’s heart to the Lord.' That verse 'tells you where you’re supposed to pluck the string — in your heart,' Gilmore said. 'It’s a purely vocal reference.'"

SWNID is absolutely right to point out that Gilmore is engaging in inconsistent exegesis when he consigns instrumental music--but not singing--to one's internal state. To be consistent, he would have to argue that the passage calls for us not only to refrain from (audibly) playing instruments, but also from (audibly) singing. We would, in effect, have to stand around silently, while rocking-out within.

The problem, as I see it, is that Gilmore interprets the phrase "in your heart" as describing the place where one should play instruments rather than the manner in which one should play them. In other words, he interprets "in your heart" as a dative of place rather than as a dative of manner.

The original Greek allows both interpretations, but the English translation "in your heart" decidedly favors the first. That's too bad, because the context obviously indicates that the latter was intended. No one, after all, thinks the passage is advocating total silence. It is for that reason, no doubt, that the NASB substitutes "with" for "in" and renders Eph. 5:19 as "singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord." (Note, also, that the ESV goes so far as to render "in your heart" as "with all your heart." Perhaps the ESV translators do this because they have reason to believe that the pairing of the singular noun "heart" with the plural pronoun "you" is an idiomatic expression for "all your heart." I don't know. Maybe SWNID can help out here. Literally, the Greek says, "singing and psalming in/with the heart of all of you to the Lord.")

mattc said...

I wonder if Gilmore's interpretation of Eph 5:19 could also be the basis for a total prohibition of musical instruments in any context whatsoever, whether used in a worship service or not, based on the premise that everything a person does should be an act of worship (1 Cor 10:13).
So much for the radio, movie soundtracks, symphony hall, or the organ at the Reds game for that matter.

Also, assuming Paul is in fact exhorting us to sing in our hearts as Gilmore understands it: is a command to do X necessarily a prohibition against Y? If Paul had urged us to "eat vegetables" am I at odds with scripture to eat velveeta on my vegetables?

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

JB: I affirm the ESV's dynamic equivalent rendering as fitting the perlocutionary force of the phrase. You're right about the nature of the dative in this clause, but I'd have two observations about that.

One is that I find it problematic exegesis to insist on a specific category for a use of a case (like instrumental versus local dative) when it is not clear from the context which is intended. The usage is probably ambiguous in terms of category because the author didn't consider it important to specify, his meaning being clear enough either way. So "in your heart" as a place is clearly metaphorical and thus not appreciably different in sense from "with your heart" as a manner (also metaphorical). What that suggests is that Paul didn't think anyone would read this text to answer the question of instrumental music in worship.

The other is that to make this text work to allow literal singing but not literal plucking (bringing the etymology of "making melody" into play), you've got to confine "in your heart" to apply just to "making melody." But there's no clear way to determine that the phrase doesn't also modify "singing," all the more so as the two verbs would seem both to refer to the same activity.

All of which is to say that it takes multiple levels of special pleading to extract an a capella mandate from this text.

MattC: You have the uncanny ability to inject Velveeta into every discussion, but with flawless logic here.

Anonymous said...

"Inject" is the operate word. We'd all be best to hang an IV bag full of velveeta.

Anonymous said...

Debates are rarely forums for friendly discussion. It takes a person who intentionally plays nice, and also a person who is mature enough to stay nice when the other person doesn't. No one would better at both than Dr. Faust.
This blog proves the first point.

JB in CA said...


I agree with your cautionary note about being careful not to force one's interpretation of the dative into any specific category of use without clear contextual justification. But I still think there is clear contextual justification for interpreting it the way I did. In order to make my point, however, I must first address your objection to a distinction I drew between two related expressions.

I deny that "in your heart" is not appreciably different in meaning from "with your heart." The former is a metaphor, yes, but a metaphor of place. To do something in your heart--whether it's singing, making melody, or whatever--is to do it inwardly ("in the secret recesses of my heart"). That's why the phrase is generally reserved for states of mind ("believe, know, trust, etc., in your heart"), the mind being an inward "place" where these attitudes are most naturally maintained. To sing or make melody in your heart, therefore, suggests (among other things) singing or making it silently, perhaps by imagining you’re singing or making it. To do something with your heart, on the other hand, is to do it sincerely (or enthusiastically, etc.). You can do something (such as sing or make melody) sincerely while, at the same time, doing it outwardly. Hence, it’s possible to sing or make melody outwardly with your heart. But can you sing or make it outwardly in your heart? Well, no doubt you can sing or make melody both outwardly and in your heart at the same time, by doing two things at once (say, performing and imagining), but that’s not the question. The question is whether it’s possible for the singing or making of melody in your heart to be, in itself, an outward activity. My answer, for the reasons given above, is No.

Now, why do I think that the context of Eph. 5:19 dictates that the relevant phrase should be understood as a dative of manner ("with your heart") rather than as a dative of place ("in your heart")? Because both "singing" and "making melody" describe the ways in which believers are directed, earlier in the verse, to "speak to" (i.e., "address") one another, and it’s not possible to address one another in those ways while, at the same time, remaining silent. Regardless, then, of whether the phrase modifies both "singing" and "making melody" or "making melody" alone, it should be interpreted as a dative of manner. For only under that interpretation can one’s singing and making melody be understood as addressing others.

The most pressing question, then, it seems, is whether the Greek term translated as "making melody" refers to the playing of a musical instrument. Gilmore seems to think it does. One has to wonder, then, why he doesn't find the playing of instruments in church acceptable. Indeed, given his overall hermeneutic, one has to wonder why he doesn't find it mandatory.

Ken Sublett said...

I have begun a review of Faust's lecture here:

This is not ready for prime time but both sides of the issue tend to lift passages out of context and without the "story line."

The temple dedication, like many "music" passages actually had God cutting off access to the Ark which signified both the Word and Grace under the mercy seat. What we call church needs a serious time out.

You remember that Jesus told the woman at the well that worship HAD been in the PLACES of mountains or houses but God only seeks worship in the PLACE of the human spirit: stands to reason you can only "give heed" as Paul's only worship word in the PLACE of the unladed mind.

Paul speaks of an external act which in Romans 15 is speaking that which is written. The internal context is IN the place of the heart because both arousal singing and instruments tend to the spiritual anxiety Jesus died to remove. Paul said that the converts now worshipped IN THE SPIRIT as opposed to IN THE FLESH.

Paul interchanges GRACE for MELODY in Colossians because Psallo never seems to be translated in other text to mean melody and in fact is primarily a warfare word. Additionally, there are numerous comments in the Greek literature to make "making the heart strings vibrate."

If church is ekklesia or school of the Bible as the Campbells insisted then, as in the synagogue, music was excluded and has no rationale. If anyone wished to restore the ekklesia or synagogue of Christ then you are correct because the EXTERNAL command means to speak and the Greek definitions and examples I have researched show that it is the OPPOSITE of poetry or music. On the other hand, music is the opposite of "a sound mind." Wouldn't it be a kick if both "wings" of the bird just beat against one another to stay aloft.

I (meekly) claim to have examined more Greek and Latin literature (in translation) than the dictionary writers. The fact is that PSALLO is never used to translate MELODY. It simply means PLUCK to make a thwack or twang which does not music make. This is because it was a warfare word often associated with Apollo (our Apollyoon) who carried both a bow and a lyre tune to each other. The second application in the literature speaks of the polluted rope which drove idlers out of the Agora where all of the fun and games too place and INTO the ekklesia where only serious speaking and discussion took place. The concept of "shooting out hymns" is common whereas Psallo as melody does not exist in my search.

Jim Shoes said...

I realize it's a little late to note this, but having looked over Mr. Sublett's blog, it seems to me to have been produced by what can politely be called "A Beautiful Mind."

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