This choice of “proof texts” relates to us more than “surprise,” it conveys outright astonishment, amazement and incredulity. Such is the case “IF” Acts 15 turns out NOT to be about answering the question; “What must I do to be saved?” NOT about “adding to nor taking away” or NOT about the preaching of “another gospel.” In fact, “IF” Acts 15 is about adding the instrument to worship our only response would of necessity have to be one of stunned amazement. The adoption of Acts 15 as a “proof text” for the instrument would create such centrifugal force from radical circular reasoning as to leave one suspended in mid air with no where to go.
Even as I type these words, the whole idea of discussing this passage in such a light seems so bizarre as to defy all logic and reason. Unfortunately, as my mind returns to rationality, I sadly begin to understand what Paul spoke of so passionately to Timothy just before he died the martyr’s death:
For the time will come, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts will they multiply to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they will turn away their ears from the truth, and will be turned to fables. (2)To read into (3) Acts 15 a “proof text” for the use of the instrument in worship is indeed… a fable. Gill says that these “fables” are “…everything that is vain, empty, and senseless.” (4) Thayer says that a fable is, “…a story…a fiction… an invention, a falsehood.” (5) How, then, could bro. Atchley possibly see the instrument in this passage? In order for one to “see” the instrument in this passage one must first adopt:
• Origen’s theory that Scripture has “hidden and multiple meanings,” all equally valid. (6)
• Origen’s theory that individuals can understand Scripture via “allegorical” (fictional) stories.
• Thomas Aquinas’ theory that truth is primarily revealed through the “senses” and not revelation. (7)
• Thomas Aquinas’ theory that one of man’s “senses” is the “sense” of “imagination,” i.e. if one can imagine something as true, it becomes true for that person – think John Lennon, “imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you can, no hell below us, above us only sky…” (8)
• Circular Theology that theorizes that one best understands Scripture when seen through the light of “one’s life experiences” and that nobility is found not in the finding of truth but the SEARCH for it. In other words, one ends where one begins… with questions and no answers. (9)
• “Emerging” or evolutionary theology that theorizes that truth evolves over time like Darwinian evolution. Each generation, like rings on a tree, grows stronger and more sophisticated than the generation before it. Therefore, today’s “truth” is superior to yesterday’s “truth” and tomorrow’s “truth” will be superior to today’s… and so on. Darwin incorrectly assumed that the “simple” evolved into the more “complex.” We now know that even the smallest of cellular organisms are far more complicated than we can even begin to understand, even with today’s advanced technology. Upon this same foolish notion, the “emerging” church assumes that 1st century Christianity was “simple” and today’s is far more complex and sophisticated. (10)
• Sensus Plenior (“fuller sense”) biblical interpretation theory that assumes that men today, with all the accumulated “wisdom” of the ages, can actually better understand the Scriptures than those who lived before, even the writers of the Bible!
When one blends all these murky and erroneous ingredients into a lens mold, a pair of “rose colored glasses” is the sad result. Through these glasses one can then stare through and “see” the use of the instrument in worship supported in Acts 15. In our next installment we will hear what Acts 15 has to say about Acts 15. By the way, we continue our study on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. on this subject at the Archdale church of Christ in Charlotte, NC. You are more than welcome! www.archdale.org
(1) A byproduct is not the essence. Resulting effects are not possible without the essence of a thing being first delivered. When the Holy Spirit inspired truth of the gospel was defended and defined at Jerusalem, one effect was that no additional roadblocks were put in the way of Gentile believers, they came to Christ the same way as the Jew.
(2) II Timothy 4:3-4 – 1833 Webster Bible via e-sword.com
(3) To read “into” a passage something that is not there is called “eisegesis.”
(4) John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible via e-sword.com
(5) Thayer’s Greek Definitions via e-sword.com
(6) Origen lived and taught in the early 2nd century, primarily from Alexandria and Palestine
(7) Thomas Aquinas lived in the 13th century
(8) Lyrics via: http://johnlennon.lyrics.info/imagine.html
(9) Here’s a technical definition of Circular Theology: “Bible interpretation (hermeneutics) is therefore the circular process of understanding sacred Biblical literature, namely interpreting the component parts of the sacred text in the light of the whole and the whole of the light of its parts. It is the ongoing dialogue between one’s initial understanding of the sacred text and the impressions of the Holy Spirit gathered from subsequent readings and reflections on it. It’s the dialogue between one’s own frame of reference (one’s own sphere of existence) and the context of the text.” - Ferdinand Deist, A Concise Dictionary of Theological and Related Terms (Pretoria, South Africa: Van Schaik, 1990, 1992)
(10) For more detail, see: Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy (El Cajon, CA, Youth Specialties Books / Zondervan, 2004) pg. 286-280.