Brownlow’s “Instrument” Syllogisms [pt. 3.1]

Welcome back to “Questioning the Questions.” This is a continuation of the article entitled “Questioning… Instruments in Worship.” In this article, we will respond to Leroy Brownlow’s syllogisms in Why I Am A Member of the Church of Christ on why he doesn’t use instruments in worship to God. In the next post in this series, I’ll post my “God is a Lover of Music” article. This one was long enough already, so I decided to split them.

Brownlow’s Syllogisms

I gave a small lesson on syllogism’s in part two of this series you can refer to if you want more information on how syllogisms work. The main thing you need to remember is that there are three components of a syllogism: (1) the terms, (2) the propositions, and (3) the argument. If the terms are unclear, the propositions are false, and the argument is invalid, then the conclusion isn’t necessarily true. Alright, let’s dig in.

Argument One

Syllogism

  1. Every Scripture is given that the man of God may be furnished unto every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  2. No Scripture authorizes instrumental music in worship today (cannot be found).
  3. Therefore, instrumental music in the worship today is not a good work.

Response

First, we need to deal with the syllogism itself. There can only be three terms in a syllogism. For example:

All men are mortal. 
Socrates is a man. 
Therefore Socrates is mortal. 

The terms of the example above are as follows: Major Term – Socrates, Minor Term – Mortal, and Middle Term – man.

So, let’s restate the syllogism and identify the terms.

Every good work is authorized by Scripture. 
Instrumental music in worship today is not authorized by Scripture. 
Therefore instrumental music in worship today is not a good work.  

Terms: Major – Instrumental music in worship today, Minor – good work, and Middle – authorized by Scripture.

There are two terms we really need to focus in on: “good work” and “authorized by Scripture.” Let’s start with the latter first.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

First, we need to look at the verse before this passage: “…and that from childhood you [Timothy] have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation…” The writings under consideration are the ones that Timothy, the young son of a Jewish mother and grandmother, grew up with. These writings, or Scriptures, are the Hebrew Scriptures, what we know as the Old Testament. Unlike the false teachers Timothy is dealing with, Timothy was to “rightly divide” and use the Law “lawfully” (2 Timothy 2:15; 1 Timothy 1:8).

Whatever 2 Timothy 3:16-17 means, it is the Old Testament, not the New, that Paul has in mind. I don’t believe this passage has anything to do with a worship service that must take place every Sunday and have five acts, but if I did, this passage would actually endorse the use of instruments since the Scriptures under consideration are those Timothy was raised with, such as the Psalms.

Second, notice that this passage has nothing to do with “authorization.” It talks about how the Scriptures are “profitable” for teaching, etc. and it says that the man of God can be equipped for every good work, but it says nothing of authorization. In fact, good works don’t have to be “authorized.” There are lots of things we do that the Scripture does not “authorize.” The New Testament doesn’t function like the Law, so to speak of a “pattern” or a “worship service” is to speak where the Bible does not speak.

Finally, what are the “good works” in this text? Well, back in 2 Timothy 2:21, Paul wrote that those who are sanctified are prepared for every good work. On that basis, he tells Timothy to flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. Perhaps these works include the “work” of an evangelist like in 2 Timothy 4:5. The good works were also what the women were to adorn themselves with as in 1 Timothy 1:10. Some widows were selected for a special work for the church that had similar “qualifications” as the elders and deacons. Part of this was having a reputation of “good works” which included bringing up children, showing hospitality, and assisting those in distress.

Clearly the “good works” are not related to what kind of music we choose to worship God with. They refer to things we naturally should be doing as transformed believers.

This first syllogism, then, doesn’t make sense when the terms are thoroughly evaluated and defined by the context of Timothy.

Argument Two

Syllogism

  1. It is a violation of the Lord’s will to go beyond things which are written (1 Corinthians 4:6).
  2. Musical instruments in New Testament worship have not been written (cannot be found).
  3. Therefore, those who use musical instruments in the worship today violate the Lord’s will.

Response

First, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 4:6. The warning to not go beyond what is written is, ironically, a quotation of a Corinthian slogan which was popular among the philosophers or anyone who was “addressing those who sought to arouse discord” (Fitzmyer, Anchor Yale Bible Commentary; see also Keener, IVP Biblical Background). So, in the strictest sense, Paul was “going beyond what was written” since that phrase didn’t originate with Scripture, it was a popular saying of the day.

Here’s what Paul says: “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:6–7).

The saying in question is in reference to how they view men. Some were elevating Paul or Apollos to the same level as Christ, but as Paul said before, “So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God” (1 Corinthians 3:21–23).

This passage simply doesn’t work as a warning to “go beyond what was written” on Sunday morning. One of the main reasons, of course, is that the Scripture doesn’t command a weekly worship service with five ritualistic acts that must be performed according to a pattern.

Argument Three

Syllogism

  1. “So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
  2. The word of Christ does not give us instruments in the worship (cannot be found).
  3. Therefore, instrumental music in the worship is not an act of faith.

Response

In this syllogism, the “word of Christ” is apparently being suggested to be the New Testament writings, which were in the process of being written. In fact, Ephesians and Colossians, where the supposed “command” to sing and to sing only comes from, were definitely not written at this time.

But what is the “word of Christ?” In this context Paul cites over five Scriptures from the Old Testament to talk about the word of Christ, which is the good news! Faith comes from the gospel. This has nothing to do with instruments in worship, names on a sign (signs aren’t in the New Testament), or any other thing. This simply has to do with faith in Jesus!

What is interesting about this syllogism is that the expression “act of faith” is used which seems to me to be an allusion to Romans 14:23. “Whatever is not from faith is sin.” This passage isn’t talking about “authorized” acts of faith but opinions concerning meat, drink, and observance of holy days! He even says, “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves” (Romans 14:22). This doesn’t seem to be talking about an objective system of faith which every believer must adhere to or risk eternal fire. Instead, it is a passage about how things that we “do to the Lord” (i.e. worship) are subjective and personal. “He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord…” (Romans 14:6). That’s an act of worship!

Argument Four

Syllogism

  1. God has given us all that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3)
  2. What God has given does not mention instrumental music in New Testament worship (cannot be found)
  3. Therefore, instrumental music in the worship today does not pertain unto life and godliness.

Response

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

2 Peter 1:2–4

Just reading this passage, I’m not sure how it applies to the discussion at hand. I don’t wish to be mean, but I think that one could only make an argument against instruments from this passage if they were searching for anything that might possibly be used. It seems clear to me that the things “pertaining to life and godliness” were “grace and peace” from the verse before and the salvation and virtues listed in the passages following.

Again, this passage says nothing about five acts of worship that must be performed in a certain way each and every Sunday. To use this passage to condemn (or promote!) instruments makes no sense to me whatsoever.

Conclusion

These syllogisms do not prove that instruments cannot be used in a Sunday assembly of believers. Now, that doesn’t mean that they can. All this means is that the conclusions aren’t necessarily true. In the next part of this series within a series, I’ll take a closer look at Ephesians 5:19.

1 thought on “Brownlow’s “Instrument” Syllogisms [pt. 3.1]”

  1. Daniel, I really appreciate your in-depth studies. Your examples are superb. It is my prayer that this short essay will fall into the hands of many who do not know how to accurately interpret Scriptures. You have followed the basic rules of sound exegetical methods of applying the Scriptures correctly. I might add an additional thought. You presented your arguments with “audience relevance” in mind. Again, you applied three basic rules of interpretation: (1) CONTEXT, (2) CONTEXT, and (3) CONTEXT.

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