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Vol.  9  No. 5 May 2007  Page 5
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D. Gene WestGeneric & Specific Authority #2

By D. Gene West

    Recently the question was proposed, “If we are authorized to sing in worship, would not generic authority also authorize us to play instruments while we do that?” The answer to that is a resounding, “No!” If we are authorized to sing; the authorization of that one act of worship authorizes all that is necessary to carry out that command, just as Noah’s authorization to build the ark authorized all that he needed to do that. For example, since most of us do not memorize a great number of hymns, and some of us are incapable of memorizing any, we are authorized to print those hymns in books that we call songbooks. These are authorized in the command to sing. Since in order to sing, we must have notes of music to guide us, notes are authorized in the songbooks. Since in order to sing, we need to have a pitch to do so correctly, we are authorized to use some appropriate device to obtain that pitch. Since we are to speak to one another in songs, hymns and spiritual songs, we need to be regulated in our singing, so the song leader is authorized. He can give us the pitch, begin singing slightly ahead of us and beat the time so that we can stay together, singing appropriately to God. There is nothing used in the song service that is not authorized under the command to sing, though some things like songbooks, pitch pipes, tuning forks, etc. are not specifically mentioned in Scripture. These things are authorized by the authorized activity.

    Notes, pulpit stands, the use of overhead projectors, loud speaker systems, Power Point projection and all other matters that make the preaching of the Gospel more easily done and understood are authorized by the command to preach, just as saws, hammers, augers, pegs, squares, etc. were authorized in God’s giving Noah the command to build the ark. All things unspecified, but necessary to the carrying out the command to sing are called expedients. An expedient may not be required, but neither is it forbidden. Is it possible to sing without books, without notes, without pitch and a song leader? Yes, but it is much better if you have them! And when we use them, we have done nothing but sing.

    So, why is this not the case with the use of instruments of music? Because the instrument is most assuredly not needed in order to sing praises to God! We can do that without the assistance of any kind of musical instrument found on earth. If a thing is not necessary to the carrying out of the command or to the following of an example, then it is not authorized by the command or the example. It is really just that simple! It has been averred that when one uses an orchestra, a piano, organ or an accordion, or any other instrument of music, all he is doing is singing. We are amazed that anyone would argue that when singing is accompanied, you have nothing but singing! That is simply not true! If it were there would be no such thing as accompaniment! When music is played in addition to singing, that is, along side of it, one is not just singing. When music is added to singing and sometimes substituted for it, you have music other than singing. One who knows not the difference between singing, and singing and playing is hardly qualified to discuss either.

    The command to sing authorizes the use of those things necessary to doing that, but when something is done in addition to that, then we have moved on into another sphere. Just as the eating of the Lord’s Supper authorizes the use of trays of cups, plates for the bread, and just as the taking of the collection authorizes the use of plates or pouches, or the people coming up front and laying their money on the table, so the command to sing authorizes all expedients necessary to doing that and that alone. Specific authority tells us what to do. Generic authority inherent within that specific authority gives us the right to use those expedients necessary to the accomplishing of that command. That is not at all difficult to understand, is it? A teacher tells a student to write an essay. Where does the student get the authority to use a pencil and paper, or pen and paper, or the typewriter, or the computer to do so? From the command to do it!
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