Last Saturday's issue of "The Oklahoman" (easily the biggest newspaper in the state) contained an article about the recent decision by the Quail Springs Church of Christ in Oklahoma City to add a Sunday service that includes instrumental music. You can read the article, which is mostly a Q&A with with Quail Springs' preacher, Mark Henderson, here.
In response, Dr. Glover Shipp, a long-time missionary, teacher, and writer among the Churches of Christ, has reportedly written a letter to the editor of "The Oklahoman." I don't know if the paper has published the letter, but you can read it here.
Something I noticed about Shipp's remarks: Although he does cite, in a positive way, a handful of New Testament passages that mention singing, he does not resort to the exclusionary principle of the silence of the Scriptures. Instead, he immediately turns to the historical side of the argument: instrumental music was unknown in Christian worship for centuries, and was rare for many centuries even after it was introduced. He quotes Roman Catholic sources to make his point, and also mentions the a cappella tradition of Eastern Orthodoxy. Finally, he notes ;-) the loud instruments heard in many worship assemblies these days, and the fact that many of the people at those assemblies simply don't sing.
I find all of this intriguing at many different levels. Here's one. In recent memory, the silence of the Scriptures was one of the first points our people would make in an argument about the use of instrumental music. In fact, in his fairly-recent and congenial book, Sing His Praise: A Case for a Cappella Music as Worship Today (1987), Rubel Shelley includes the exclusionary principle in his array of arguments for a cappella worship. (This book is one of my favorites on the subject, by the way). But it seems as though the problem associated with this argument--namely, the kind of book you have to assume the Bible is--has had the effect of discrediting this one aspect of the non-instrumental position. Am I right about that?
Either way, as I read Glover Shipp's letter, I was reminded of what Darryl Tippens says in his recent booklet, That's Why We Sing: Many of us reared in Churches of Christ have heard a number of arguments for a cappella singing that seem to carry far less weight than they once did. (p. 19). I think he's right.