Doughnuts and Coffee and Harps at the Lord’s Table

(Freed-Hardeman Bible Professor Ralph) Gilmore agreed that the Bible requires Christian unity. But he said, “There can be no genuine unity without truth.”

The issue boils down to how one understands God when he’s silent about something, Gilmore said. Ephesians 5:19 calls for “singing and making melody in one’s heart to the Lord.”

That verse “tells you where you’re supposed to pluck the string – in your heart,” Gilmore said. “It’s a purely vocal reference.”
The same logic that allows a piano in worship could lead to doughnuts and coffee in the Lord’s Supper, he said.

~ Unity Discussion Takes Center Stage at Freed-Hardeman, Christian Chronicle

Or, more accurately, roast lamb and bitter herbs, I might add.

– Which is probably what was served at the paschal meal that Jesus celebrated with His friends on the night He was betrayed.

In fact, doesn’t that same logic demand that we add them to the Lord’s Supper, since they are implied by the word “Passover”?

As well as fermented wine? In one cup?

Come to think of it, isn’t every Lord’s Supper unscriptural if not observed in an upper room?

Preceded by a foot-washing?

Followed immediately by the singing of a hymn and a walk in a garden?

If we’re going to exclude everything that isn’t mentioned in scripture, shouldn’t we include everything that is? Am I going outside of “the truth” here, as Professor Gilmore sees it?

By the way, should we have plates when we celebrate the Supper? They’re not mentioned in scripture.

And aren’t pitch pipes and tuning forks also musical instruments?

Should we check our iPods and mp3 players at the door of the church as we enter?

For that matter, Is a building dedicated only to worship ever commanded or authorized for Christianity to sing and commune in? Or should we just meet in synagogues and homes and rented lecture halls belonging to Tyrannus?

Shouldn’t we handle snakes and drink poison and speak in tongues?

Shouldn’t our women wear veils and our men avoid praying while wearing their hats at all costs?

Shouldn’t we have slaves so that they can be obedient to their masters?

The fact remains that scripture never says anything negative about instrumental music. Harps and trumpets appear to be part of what takes place in the heaven pictured in Revelation. All sorts of musical instruments are mentioned in the Old Testament, and the playing of them is pretty much assumed to be part of the culture of the worshiper.

Pretty much like fasting is assumed to be part of the culture of the follower of Christ.

I’ve just enjoyed an especially uplifting and meaningful hour or so of worship that centered on the Lord’s Table. We were encouraged, like the travelers to Emmaus, to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Our worship was accompanied by a cappella music and ordinary wafers and the blood of the grape.

No doughnuts. No coffee.

No lamb; no bitter herbs.

No psalteries, sackbuts, dulcimers or timbrels. No harps, flutes or tambourines. No trumpets, ram’s horns, lyres or cymbals.

They’re all biblical instruments, depending on your translation.

But to conclude that they are forbidden by God in worship because of their absence in a couple of verses – notwithstanding their presence in many, many others – requires the kind of logic that produces doctrines like salvation by faith only (or confession only or baptism only, etc.), or infant baptism to allay original sin, or any of a few dozen others I could name.

I don’t know that my church needed anything more than what we had at hand this morning in order to see Christ and give God glory. I loved it. It was pure and expressive. It was my tradition.

But not everyone is a minimalist. Not everyone is a reductionist.

Not everyone cheats himself out of opportunities and avenues for drawing closer to God through worship because he’s afraid of things he sees in scripture that aren’t there.

Those “silence-of-scripture” interpretations are unholy ghosts that claim to be “the truth;” that insist on their own way (“Why don’t you just give up fill-in-the-blank for the sake of unity?”); that lead to self-righteousness; that imply salvation by one’s own bootstraps.

They are not included in Peter’s response to the question “What must I do?”

They are not listed in the prophet Micah’s response to the question “What does the Lord require of you?”

They are not expressed in what Jesus said was His commandment. Or what He considered weightier matters.

They do not even comprise what James calls pure and faultless religion before God.

I leave it to you to determine whether they glorify God; whether they draw people closer to Him and to each other in the unity His Son prayed for – or drive them further apart.

14 thoughts on “Doughnuts and Coffee and Harps at the Lord’s Table

  1. well, what can I say…your a heritic.that same logic is why when Peter answers in the verse and says be baptized (with no mention of water)we have to go threw linguistic agruments to show that it was implied here and not implied in the singing verses. I am feeling like Rod Sterling.

  2. “Gilmore agreed that the Bible requires Christian unity. But he said, “There can be no genuine unity without truth.”‘This is a true statment, because Jesus is truth!~ So….if we would base our unity on Jesus and not on all these other particulars, then we would have unity!Just a thought!

  3. Your last three posts have all prompted me to make this pronouncement, based on the following scripture:1 Cor. 1-16 (not just one verse, but a whole passage, mind you) speaks several times to the need for women to have their heads covered. However, there is no mention of other clothing. By the same logic applied to some arguments, I posit that it is not only scriptural, but the ONLY pleasing way to do church is for the women to arrive with their heads covered, but with nothing else.Isn’t that the way that argument works?

  4. Keith, words fail me in expressing how blessed I feel to have been able to read your last 3 or 4 posts. And this latest one is AWESOME!Thank you for your heart, and for your scholarship…….and for sharing both with us.I’M proud to be your brother!DU

  5. Thanks, Keith. I plan to share this column with several. God bless you, my friend. You are a gift to the community of faith.

  6. Thanks for the encouragement, folks – pegc, I have no argument with that part of what the professor said. Except that what he sees as “truth” may exceed what the Bible expresses as truth.don – you’ve got a point. However, women must wear those hats modestly. So they would, of course, have to be from the same milliner shopped by Whoopi Goldberg’s Guinan from <>Star Trek: The Next Generation<>.

  7. My point was exactly that. Truth is a person, Jesus Christ. So when he says there can be no genuine unity without truth, he is exactly right, because when we all point to Jesus and see Jesus as “truth”, then what do we have to argue about?I am so tired of aruging points that make not one iota of difference in our salvation!!!! If we focus on Jesus and the other points of contention will dissolve. I know I am simplifying things, but isn’t the kingdom really simple? Aren’t we the ones who complicate it? Maybe I missed the whole point, as I often find I do. But I wish, and my prayer is that we all play nice and quite judging and using scripture, scripture that often is a comment not a command, to prove our rightness!!

  8. I used to be one of the correctors. Now, praise God, I am open to being correctED. Thank you for shedding light on things that divide us that should not. It’s true that truth and unity go hand in hand…(what a concept!), but if we apply man-made “truth” we don’t come together, we fall apart. I’m tired of falling apart.

  9. What saddens me abut the whole thing is how these men prfess to speak for the entire FHU communi. I know for a fact that they do not. When is the silent majority going to finally stand up to this sinful behavior nd say “No more!” I don’t know if I’m more disgusted by the arrogance and condecention of Edwards and Gilmore, or the silence of those who sit by and let this happen.

  10. Keith, so true.Joel, right on.As a graduate of Freed-Hardeman, I’m embarrassed by this latest from the school, especially the way in which recent symbolic gestures between the Churches of Christ and the Christian Churches were interpreted and smeared. Shame on F-HU.

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