I wrote this comment over at Scott Aniol’s blog Kara Ministries Weblog, and, after seeing it was nearly a blog post in and of itself, thought I would revise it a bit and post it here. You can find the original thread here.
I believe that every “application” of a Biblical principle is built upon some extra-Biblical “minor premise.” Calling it a “minor premise” is a simplification, really. But it illustrates, I believe, what is going on in application. There may be an entire string of argumentation informing us as we move from Bible to “application.” But demanding that the Bible address every situation, and saying that, if the Bible does not address it, the matter of concern is simply “helpful” or “unhelpful” (not “right” or “wrong”) is a pretty stilted understanding of the Bible. That is exactly the problem: the Bible says “dress modestly,” but does not exactly tell us what modesty is. It says, “worship reverently” but it does not tell us explicitly what every expression of reverent worship is. The principle is the same in both instances. Here are some examples of what I mean:
Major premise from the Bible: Immodest dress is not permitted by the inspired Scriptures (1 Pet 3:1-5; 1 Timothy 2:9-10; etc)
minor premise: Every low-cut blouse worn by a woman is immodest dress.
Therefore, Every low-cut blouse worn by a woman is not permitted by the inspired Scriptures.
mp: The crucifix in a jar of urine is irreverence towards Jesus Christ.
Therefore, the crucifix in a jar of urine is condemned by the inspired Scriptures.
MP: Reverent expressions are characteristic of the proper worship of God (Hebrews 12:27-29).
mp: Some gospel songs are not reverent expressions.
Therefore, Some gospel songs are not characteristic of the proper worship of God.
The principle from Scripture must be, of course, true. My point is not that every minor premise is right. That, of course, is the question. My point is twofold: 1) that the minor premises are always statements about matters outside the realm of what the Bible directly addresses; and 2) that if the minor premises are true, the conclusion of the above syllogisms are as binding on our lives as the Bible itself. And if I am right about that, I am free to argue for their validity in the interest of true and pious religion. If I am right that some gospel songs are not reverent, I am right in banning them from worship. For someone to say, at this point, that the question becomes “helpful” or “unhelpful” because the Bible does not address reverent worship as explicitly as he (or any of us) would like or because it does not give us a comprehensive list of songs and styles and even performances which are reverent, limits us from saying anything is right or wrong. Otherwise we cannot condemn the blasphemous art. I am not saying that what is right or wrong should be done with a spirit of pride or self-righteousness, but that it nevertheless should be said, and sometimes earnestly and even with zeal.
Is the heart of the worshipper of importance as well? Absolutely. No one is denying that. But to say that is where the question ends neglects the other imperatives in Scripture. In John 4, It is not like Christ shrugged off the woman’s theological question about who was right about the place of worship, the Jews or the Samaritans. He answered it in verse 22. Let us not say that we worship God only “in spirit.” We must worship him in spirit “and in truth.”
You ask, Do you really contend that the issue of musical style is a) that clear, b) that pervasive, c) that important?
A) The issue is clear enough, though not explicitly demonstrable from the Bible (just like low-cut blouses and the appalling crucifix).
B) This does not matter. I think the principle of reverent worship is pervasive.
C) It is as important as blasphemous art or immodesty, if not more important. After all, we are talking about how we worship the One True and Living God.