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Instrumental music in Christian worship is not acceptable to God or the New Testament

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/3/2010 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 4,216 times Debate No: 13555
Debate Rounds (3)
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I am currently a student at the West Virginia School of Preaching.
This debate regards authority of the New Testament in regards to Christian worship, so I would appreciate it if my opponent would stick to that topic and not stray into a non-existence of God/Bible is not from God argument.

I am affirming that instrumental music is not authorized or acceptable in Christian worship based on standards set in the New Testament.
My opponent only has to answer the following questions according to the law of rationality,
therefore the burden of proof is on them.

1. Where in the New Testament are Christians commanded that instruments in worship are acceptable?

2. Is there an example in the New Testament of instruments being used for worship?

3. Were instruments always used in conjunction with worship to God in the Old Testament?

4. Were instruments available for worship before the New Testament was written?

5. If instruments were available for worship, why were instruments not used in Christian worship in the first 700 years of Christianity?

6. Did apostles of the first century have a special end the Holy Spirit (i.e. Holy Spirit Baptism) that guided them into all truth, and subsequently, the ability to discern what was proper for doctrine or not.

7. Should the Bible be the ultimate authority for Christian worship today? If not, what should be?

I will affirm the argument in paragraph form once I have a challenger.
My opponent has a right to ask me questions in a similar format.
If I have neglected or decide upon a crucial question, I will add no more than one question per round.
This is my first debate,
not that any should go easy on me,
but if the format could be clarified or improved,
I am open to suggestions from my opponent.
I would enjoy a good clean discussion.


Hey, I'm a sophomore student at Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and I decided to take you up on this debate. I am a slightly seasoned debater, for I've really only been debating for nearly two months. I do, as a Protestant Christian, believe that instruments should be used in church services for worship; but before I elaborate on my arguments, I'd like to answer yours as followed:

1. First I'd like to state the definition of the phrase "musical instrument", assuming that is what you are referring to, according to Princeton University's online etymology database, the phrase "musical instrument" is defined: 'any of various devices or contrivances that can be used to produce musical tones or sounds', therefore the voice is a musical instrument because it creates musical tones/sounds by vibration in the vocal chords.
Also know that with the exception of wind and percussion instruments, all acoustic instruments make musical sounds with chords. So, now that we know that the human voice is a musical instrument, here are a couple of examples which tell us to use our voices to praise the lord:
- Colossians 3:16
"Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God."

-Ephesians 5:19 (New International Version)
"Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord"

2. Again, I state some examples in the New Testament which refer to singing in worship:
-Matthew 26:30 (Mark 14:26)
"After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."

-Acts 16:25
"But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them;"

-Romans 15:9
"and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, "THEREFORE I WILL GIVE PRAISE TO YOU AMONG THE GENTILES, AND I WILL SING TO YOUR NAME."

-1 Cor. 14:15
"What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also."

3. There are many different ways of worship, so people in the O.T, do not necessarily need to always use instruments in worship. I would like to make known, though, that I am NOT saying that instruments are not acceptable to God or the N.T, I am merely saying that musical instruments are not the only way to worship. I will list an example taken from the Old Testament:
-"And his brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ " (Gen. 4:21). Matthew Henry comments on this verse thusly: "Jubal was a famous musician, and particularly an organist, and the first that gave rules for that noble art and science of music. When Jubal had set them in a way to be rich, Jubal put them in a way to be merry. Those who spend their days in wealth will not be without the timbrel and harp, Job. 21:12-13. From his name, JUBAL, probably, the jubilee trumpet was so called; for the best music was that which proclaimed liberty and redemption."
Mr. Henry may have gotten somewhat carried away with his comments. However, the word "father" in the verse must indicate that either the invention and refining of the instruments or the playing of them began with Jubal and continued with his children. I think it refers to both the instrument and its use. This does not show that mechanical instruments were authorized for worship in the Old Testament but does show that they were available.
The words "harp" and "organ" are from words that were more general in meaning. The New American Standard says "lyre and pipe." The words in the Hebrew apparently mean "string" and "wind" instruments. We do not know when percussion instruments came into being but they were of early origin and may have been the first.

4. As you can see in the previous response, I did list an example of instrument use in the Old Testament. So, as you may be able to conclude, instruments were definitely used before the New Testament was written.

5. I need clarification on this question, are you talking about ALL Christians? Also, what is your source?

6. I'm not really understanding this question, either. What I'm "hearing" is: "Did the first century apostles have a guide that lead them into all truth and the ability to discern what was proper for doctrine or not?" I presume my answer has to be God. Re-word this, please.

7. Well, I have to say, yes. We as Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God, the "handbook" to walking in the footsteps of Christ.

1. As a counteraction to your first question, I'd like to ask you; where in the Bible does it state that we SHOULD NOT use musical instruments in worship?

2. How are your last to questions relevant to your topic?

3. Why do you believe that musical instruments shouldn't be used in Christian worship?

=====This concludes my debate=====
Debate Round No. 1


I apologize for the initial lack of definition. If you'll permit me, I'll define musical instrument to mean specifically a mechanical music instrument; guitar, harp, etc. I didn't feel the need to define terms or present evidence without a challenger, so pardon me if this is not the preferred form. I should have at least defined terms.
Even going by your definition, that a voice is an instrument, by Colossians 3:16 you cited, only singing is commanded and, I affirm, permitted. The only music one should produce in worship of the Christian Godhead is from the heart and voice. If one permits other instruments, then every worshipper would be bound to play instruments to, frankly, cacophonic effects and to no edification. Citing singing as proof that playing instruments is authorized to Question 1 is not even logical by your own definition. There is a distinction between singing and playing an instrument.

As far as the argument that instruments are not forbidden, they are certainly excluded:
MCCLINTOCK "The Greek word 'psallo' is applied among the Greeks of modern times exclusively to sacred music, which in the Eastern Church has never been any other than vocal, instrumental music being unknown in that church, as it was in the primitive church." (McClintock & Strong, Vol. 8, p. 739).
GARRISON "There is no command in the New Testament, Greek or English, commanding the use of the instrument. Such a command would be entirely out of harmony with the New Testament." (J.H. Garrison, Christian Church)

These aren't half the quotes available on the subject, but there is ample evidence therein. Organs and other instruments in music were not used in Christian worship until after the 700's, not accepted by early church leaders, and not even used by Protestants until the 1800's!
Regarding early practice in singing:
AQUINAS "Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize." (Thomas Aquinas, Bingham's Antiquities, Vol. 3, page 137)
CHRYSOSTOM "David formerly sang songs, also today we sing hymns. He had a lyre with lifeless strings, the church has a lyre with living strings. Our tongues are the strings of the lyre with a different tone indeed but much more in accordance with piety. Here there is no need for the cithara, or for stretched strings, or for the plectrum, or for art, or for any instrument; but, if you like, you may yourself become a cithara, mortifying the members of the flesh and making a full harmony of mind and body. For when the flesh no longer lusts against the Spirit, but has submitted to its orders and has been led at length into the best and most admirable path, then will you create a spiritual melody." (Chrysostom, 347-407, Exposition of Psalms 41, (381-398 A.D.) Source Readings in Music History, ed. O. Strunk, W. W. Norton and Co.: New York, 1950, pg. 70.)
CATHOLIC "For almost a thousand years Gregorian chant, without any instrumental or harmonic addition was the only music used in connection with the liturgy. The organ, in its primitive and rude form, was the first, and for a long time the sole, instrument used to accompany the chant…. The church has never encouraged and at most only tolerated the use of instruments. She enjoins in the 'Caeremonials Episcoporum', - that permission for their use should first be obtained from the ordinary. She holds up as her ideal the unaccompanied chant, and polyphonic, a-capella style. The Sistene Chapel has not even an organ."" (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 10, pg. 657-688.)
Founders of Protestant movements:
CALVIN "Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists therefore, have foolishly borrowed, this, as well as many other things, from the Jews. Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostles is far more pleasing to him. Paul allows us to bless God in the public assembly of the saints, only in a known tongue (I Cor. 14:16) What shall we then say of chanting, which fills the ears with nothing but an empty sound?" (John Calvin, Commentary on Psalms 33)
LUTHER "The organ in the worship Is the insignia of Baal… The Roman Catholic borrowed it from the Jews." (Martin Luther, Mcclintock & Strong's Encyclopedia Volume VI, page 762)
WESLEY 'I have no objection to instruments of music in our worship, provided they are neither seen nor heard." (John Wesley, founder of Methodism, quoted in Adam Clarke's Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 685)

As far as when it was introduced:
SHAFF "The first organ certainly known to exist and be used in a church was put in the cathedral at Aix-la-chapel by the German emperor, Charlemange, who came to the throne in 768AD. It met with great opposition among the Romanists, especially among the monks, and that it made its way but slowly into common use. So great was the opposition even as late as the 16th century that it would have been abolished by the council of Trent but for the influence of the Emperor Ferdinand…. In the Greek church the organ never came into use... The Reform church discarded it; and though the church of Basel very early introduced it, it was in other places admitted only sparingly and after long hesitation." (Shaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, Vol 2, p. 1702)
SHAFF (new) "The custom of organ accompaniment did not become general among Protestants until the eighteenth century." (The New Shaff-Herzogg Encyclopedia, 1953, Vol 10, p. 257)
All sources taken from compilation of quotes from

It would be difficult to prove that a few sects here and there, whether Gnostics or Montanists or whatever, may not have added instruments to their worship, but it was firmly believed by church leaders that it was not permitted. Call it old fashioned, but, in matters of the church, it is far better to follow the pattern or mold of that church governed by apostles endowed with the Holy Spirit than denominations whose very founders even condemned the use of instruments. Luther and Wesley even warned against party names, and for Christians to not bear any man's name but Christ (
If it was authorized, there is no record in the New Testament of instruments being used. There is a gap in Christian history that mechanical musical instruments were not authorized. It is the "missing link" in doctrine. If there is a missing link between a doctrine and the apostles, who were guided by the Holy Spirit into all truth (more on this matter in the final round argument), then the doctrine ought to be rejected. The guide is the Bible and the early church, under the oversight of the apostles guided into perfect truth by the Holy Spirit. I will give you the opportunity to make a conclusion for or against the position before I present the final evidence. Pardon the phrasing of my initial question.
Your counteractions:
1.I have proposed that they are expressly forbidden by the principle of exclusion. There is no command to use them, therefore they are not authorized by the New Testament, which I also affirm to be our standard for Christian worship, church organization, etc. Also, if only singing is authorized, nothing else will do.
2.My last questions were part of an argument I hadn't laid out yet…I apologize, but challenge you to answer in light of my presentation.
3.My entire argument and evidence presented is the basis for this belief.
I sincerely thank my opponent for considering this evidence, and I look forward to the completion of this debate.


Hey, sorry about my lateness. I was in Chicago with my family.

You keep listing the amount of people who did not use instruments in the Church, and where it says instruments are not used. My simple counteraction to your whole second argument is:

Where in the Bible does it say musical instruments are not permitted in worship?

Again, I say; David played the lyre, and Chrysostom had the audacity to say his strings were lifeless?

Some passages of David's LYRE which had great impacts on people's lives:

1 Samuel 16:16
Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better."

1 Samuel 16:18
One of the servants answered, "I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the LORD is with him."

1 Samuel 16:23
Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.

1 Samuel 18:6
When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres.

1 Samuel 18:10
The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully on Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand

1 Samuel 19:9
But an evil spirit from the LORD came on Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the lyre, Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape.

My opponent has ceased to give examples of why mechanic musical instruments aren't acceptable to God or to the New Testament, ergo, I urge you to vote for the negation of this topic.
Debate Round No. 2


You beg for the vote prematurely, as we have one more round to go.
Your arguments, which is true of most who take your position, are all from the Old Testament.
We are discussing Christian worship, not Jewish worship.
If the Old Testament applied to Christians, they could not eat pork or worship on any day but Saturday per the Levitical law and the Ten Commandments.
As a Christian, one should not be bound to the old law as it was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14).
There is no command to meet on Sunday rather than Saturday in the New Testament.
Are the Seven Day Adventists correct in Saturday worship? God forbid.
By the example and pattern of the New Testament church, under guidance of apostles and the Holy Spirit of God, we can know that they met on Sunday to take the Lord's supper (Acts 20:7).
To eat the Lord's Supper on any other day of the week is to go beyond what is written.
To add or take away from "sing" and making "melody in your hearts" is unauthorized by the New Testament.
Mechanical instruments are an addition; they go beyond that which is written.
Though no commandment exists, it is not authorized.
Please answer this argument, from the New Testament if possible.
My "missing link" argument is not to indicate that some say this and some say that on the matter.
This argument has no answer when W. Terry Varner spoke out against "Kingism" in his book 'Studies in Biblical Eschatology'. To know a doctrine to be false by the absence of any practice of it among the early church IS a viable argument that must be answered.
Polycarp, among them, may have met John the Apostle in person and learned from him, so his shared belief in a capella music might have been founded in a teacher inspired by God.
Explain why no church adopted the organ until the 8th century.
It wasn't an issue of popularity, because certain musicians were used in Jewish worship, as you have proven to show.

LIPSCOMB "Neither he [Paul] nor any other apostle, nor the Lord Jesus, nor any of the disciples for five hundred years, used instruments. This too, in the face of the fact that the Jews had used instruments in the days of their prosperity and that the Greeks and heathen nations all used them in their worship. They were dropped out with such emphasis that they were not taken up till the middle of the Dark Ages, and came in as part of the order of the Roman Catholic Church. It seems there cannot be doubt but that the use of instrumental music in connection with the worship of God, whether used as a part of the worship or as an attraction accompaniment, is unauthorized by God and violates the oft-repeated prohibition to add nothing to, take nothing from, the commandments of the Lord. It destroys the difference between the clean and the unclean, the holy and unholy, counts the blood of the Son of God unclean, and tramples under foot the authority of the Son of God. They have not been authorized by God or sanctified with the blood of his Son." (David Lipscomb, Queries and Answers by David Lipscomb p. 226-227, and Gospel Advocate, 1899, p. 376-377)

Therefore, use of mechanical instruments is a man-made doctrine of personal taste and should not be confused with the doctrines of God (Mark 7:8).
With Scripture as the only inspired guide we have today, we must speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.
If one can add mechanical instruments, why not add Buddhist prayer wheels, incense, etc.

MCGARVEY "We cannot, therefore, by any possibility, know that a certain element of worship is acceptable to God in the Christian dispensation, when the Scriptures which speak of that dispensation are silent in reference to it. To introduce any such element is unscriptural and presumptuous. It is will worship, if any such thing as will worship can exist. On this ground we condemn the burning of incense, the lighting of candles, the wearing of priestly robes, and the reading of printed prayers. On the same ground we condemn instrumental music." (J.W. McGarvey, The Millennial Harbinger, 1864, pp. 511-513.)

To say that we are not bound by example would throw away meeting on Sunday, the Lord's Supper on Sunday, the collection plate, etc.
You seem to think some people teach it, some don't, but it is taught by those closer to the source and scholars who have an interest i following the pattern of the New Testament alone.
Sola Scriptura - Bible only.

CAMPBELL "[Instrumental music in worship] was well adapted to churches founded on the Jewish pattern of things and practicing infant sprinkling. That all persons singing who have no spiritual discernment, taste or relish for spiritual meditation, consolations and sympathies of renewed hearts should call for such an aid is but natural. So to those who have no real devotion and spirituality in them, and whose animal nature flags under the opposition or the oppression of church service I think that instrumental music would... be an essential prerequisite to fire up their souls to even animal devotion. But I presume, that to all spiritually-minded Christians, such aid would be as a cow bell in a concert." (Alexander Campbell, recorded in Robert Richardson's biography, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Vol. 2., p366)

MCGARVEY "It is manifest that we cannot adopt the practice with out abandoning the obvious and only ground On Which a restoration of Primitive Christianity can be accomplished, or on which the plea for it can be maintained. Such is my profound conviction, and consequently, the question with me is not one concerning the choice or rejection of an expedient, but the maintenance or abandonment of a fundamental and necessary principle." (J. W. McGarvey, Apostolic Timer 1881, and What Shall We Do About the Organ? p. 4, 10)

MILLIGAN "The tendency of instrumental music is, t in , to divert the minds of many from the sentiment of the song to the mere sound of the organ, and in this way it often serves to promote formalism in Churches" (Robert Milligan, Scheme of Redemption, p. 386).

PINKERTON "So far as known to me, or I presume to you, I am the only 'preacher' in Kentucky of our brotherhood who has publicly advocated the propriety of employing instrumental music in some churches, and that the church of God in Midway is the only church that has yet made a decided effort to introduce it" (L. L. Pinkerton, American Christian Review, 1860, as quoted by Cecil Willis in W. W. Otey: Contender for the Faith).

STONE "We have just received an extraordinary account of about 30,000 Methodists in England, withdrawing from that church and connexion, because the Conference disapproved of the introduction of instrumental music to the churches. The full account shall appear in our next. To us, backwoods Americans, this conduct of those seceders appears be the extreme of folly, and it argues that they have a greater taste for music, than they have for religion. Editor." (Barton Stone, Christian Messenger, vol. 3, No. 2, Dec. 1828, p. 48 in bound volume)

WEST "Apostasy in music among 19th century churches that had endeavored to restore New Testament authority in worship and work began, in the main, following the Civil War' In 1868, Ben Franklin guessed that there were ten thousand congregations an not over fifty had used an instrument in worship." (Earl West, Search for the Ancient Order, Vol. 2, pp. 80, 81)
All quotes from

Thank you for your consideration.


yuri.ramocan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by yuri.ramocan 6 years ago
I'm used to Public Forum format. I'm not sure what this is,
Posted by Malac 6 years ago
This is the same as asking if it's appropriate to wear Nike shoes to church.
Posted by TheLaw 6 years ago
Interesting topic, I might accept it.
Posted by FREEDO 6 years ago
Is this guy for real? XD
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
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