Misquoted by Omission

A couple of weeks ago, the editor of a church bulletin that we receive quoted (and attributed to me) a couple of lines from an article I had written for the bulletin of the church I attend … but only a couple of lines.

Long-time or overly-thorough readers of my blog would have recognized it as a better-organized rewrite of one of my posts here.

Since it was only the first couple of lines of the paragraph, he used that partial quote to say that my position was “oppositional” to God’s word; implying that I did not value what God wanted in worship.

This brother and I disagree on many things, but the importance of what God wants in worship is not one of them.

I felt maligned, and after waiting a day or so to cool down and meditate and pray on the matter, I wrote him a private letter on plain white paper sent in a plain white envelope, which said (in part, so that no identity is disclosed herein):

Dear ________ ,

I couldn’t help but note that you quoted me in your bulletin article in the series on the contextual study of John 4:
“Some ways that you worship God are probably really different than some ways I do. A few of mine wouldn’t make sense to you or ‘speak’ to you at all; and vice-versa. My guess is that I don’t have a right to require you to adopt mine any more than you should expect me to adopt yours.”

But the quote stopped there, and did not include the next lines:
“The final arbiter on any given point would be God, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t pleasing Him be the goal? Wouldn’t it please Him for me to feed you by participating in the ways that nourish your spirit, and for you to reciprocate for my hunger? Could that be why He calls us to dine together in the first place?”

So it appears that what I wrote was “oppositional” to what God wants; pointing out only the social aspect of our corporate worship at the expense of God’s will.

If there were truly something that you have against me and/or what I have written, I would have preferred the courtesy of being approached privately before the matter went public, as Jesus advises in Matthew 18:15-20. (I hope I am following the spirit of that instruction in this letter – at 2:08 a.m., I am also trying to resolve this in my heart before worshiping with my church family later this morning.) I am a reasonable person and would have been glad to try to illuminate any misunderstanding you might have had.

What I wrote, I had hoped my church family would read in light of the golden rule applied even in our worship together, as well as Paul’s observation that “love does not insist on its own way.”

Doubtless we see many things differently, you and I, but I do try to be fair and portray both the love and righteousness of God in what I write; His justice and His mercy.

We are all creatures gifted with different tastes, you see; even in what speaks to us in worship. I frequently kneel when I pray, because it speaks powerfully to me of the servant relationship I should have with my Master and King when I worship and petition in prayer. I would not dream of requiring it for everyone, because scripture does not. However, it does often exemplify it as a natural reaction of people who – sometimes suddenly – recognize the majesty of the Almighty.

His power and sovereignty humble me.

They force me to be honest about the possibility that yet someone else may have supplied you with that partial quote and may have been less than honest with you about its context.

So I hope that, if that is the case, you will pray for that person and his/her intentions, just as I pray for you and your congregation – and I sincerely hope that you will pray for me and be forgiving if I have done, said or written something to have prompted this friction. If I have, and have become callous enough that I cannot call it to mind, I am truly sorry.

Your brother,

Keith Brenton

I don’t know if I handled the situation well or even correctly. I did pray for the fellow that night, and it gave me peace to be able to worship the next morning with my church family.

If you have read both my article and his, I just wanted you to know that his words did not escape my attention, nor did I choose to do the convenient thing and ignore them. If not, I regret having wasted a few moments of your time with this post.

I respect a zeal for God’s word and God’s house. I believe that Jesus had such, and that it consumed Him. I like to believe that I have a good measure of it, too – but that I also have a good measure of love for God’s children, too. And that they are supposed to balance each other.

I have no respect for reading into anyone’s words a meaning and agenda that are not expressly there, and portraying them as such by conveniently omitting the controverting evidence when quoting. I hope that was not the intent. I hope it was an honest mistake; a quick scan rather than a thorough reading, or a torn page, or poor wording on my part that was easily misunderstood.

But I have received no reply to my letter.

23 thoughts on “Misquoted by Omission

  1. Since I’m not really a “long-time” reader, I guess that means I fall into the “overly-thorough” category??? I guess…if you say so…Although I did not read his article and, in fact, have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, I did read this response you’ve posted, and a waste of my time it was not, because it is very heartfelt, and moving…almost to the point of tears. I’m sorry that such honesty and sincerity has not yet warranted a response from this brother. Regardless, I hope that God grants your heart peace in this matter. It sounds to me like you handled the situation well–the way a follower of Christ might–and I have to tell you that I respect you all the more for it–and for dealing with the problem, rather than ignoring it. <>I hope it was…poor wording on my part that was easily misunderstood.<>Hmm. Doubtful…at least if they did, indeed, have the opportunity to read the whole article. Interestingly enough, I posted this same article of yours, in its entirety, over on my blog at about the same time the condensed version appeared in our bulletin. I posted it because I felt that it really did have that balance of God’s love and mercy—zeal for His word and love for His children. How anybody could misinterpret that is beyond me. Keith, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the transparency with which you write, as you share with us, your faithful, though possibly overly-thorough, readers such as me. Thank you. Much, much love.–mmlace

  2. Keith, you should know by now that worship must be “God’s way.” Though God did not give us direct rules and commands for every scenario of worship it is up to us to read between the lines, look to the men who lived before us to see what they did (knowing we can pick and choose as we like since they are men like us), and somehow know that when God is silent on an issue we can and must determine what he means by his silence. The WAY we do things matters so much to God that he expects us to analyze his silence and we better come up with the right answer on every silent thought. You do remember Nadab and Abihu, don’t you. (I know it was a totally different set of circumstances, but that story does get your fear going, so it should do the trick).That means we already know or should know “God’s way” in all things about church and worship and even the salvation he gives us. Just ask us. Misquoting, maligning, and even demonizing those who don’t see things our way (“God’s way”) is acceptable if we do it to protect God and what we have decided that he wants from us. If we are not afraid to misquote and lift stories out of context from the Holy Bible, think how easy it is to do with your words or my words.Just listen to the conversations around you in the office, in some of the classes and in the pulpit. Don’t you subtlety and even directly hear that we know what to do and how to do it, not like the church down the street? When we continue to teach that we have the truth and that we do things “God’s way” so any deviation from our way is a deviation from “God’s way”, that teaching leads us to the conclusion that people who do not worship, organize, staff, or fund things the way we do are not following “God’s way” so they must be following the world, e.g. Satan. It’s a step by step transition but one too many insist upon teaching. It is not surprising to me that the editor did what he did and that he has not responded to your letter. He is protecting “God’s way”. Many will argue that he has a “right” to his opinion as if he is judged by the USA government instead of the Lamb of God. It happens with many topics. Next time he and those with his point of view may insist that church kitchens or church gyms are not “God’s way” or that ONLY acapella is “God’s way” (or as generally is more PC but has the same intent and outcome, acapella is the “scriptural way”). That teaching leads us to judge the worship of others. As was done to you by the editor of the bulletin. And judging others is something God was not silent about.

  3. VIC, please don’t include accapella in your list cause that is a distinctive mark of the church of Christ and we will lose our identity if that is taken away. SM

  4. There certainly are those who would rather die than that we lose our distinctiveness, lest “this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large; for there is but one body, and one spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling.”

  5. Keith, you and Vic are going to be branded divisive trouble makers if you haven’t already. They will say you want instruments and that if you hate the Cof C then just leave. They dont want to talk about this. They already know what is right and you should quit stirring up trouble. just leave them alone. Mo in M

  6. To my brother Keith whom I hold up as one who is trying to be a disciple of Christ…….and a HUGE encouragement to me to do likewise, your letter was a footwashing! You spoke the truth in love, with a forgiving spirit and a Christ-like attitude…..I don’t know how the letter could have been more of a blessing than it should have been to that other brother. I hope I am wrong, but my guess is you will not hear back from him. The institutional legalistic crowd seems to bear that kind of fruit. So what is to be our response? Love and forgive, just like you did…..but also not cow-tail to their legalistic approach and mindset. Just as Jesus didn’t cow-tail to the legalistic Pharisees during his time here. I know this incident has to be discouraging to you, but that is just Satan at work. Don’t let it get in the way of your journey, brother! You are too much of an encouragement to SO SO SO many of us, so don’t let one incident like this divert your attention away from this ministry of yours. You have a gift…..a TREMENDOUS one!In closing, let me ask SM in a whisper…….is your identity REALLY dependent on your convictions about instrumental music? I sure hope you said that without thinking. Who are we called to be “distinctive” from?DU

  7. A pharmacist does not fill a prescription for Zocor with Milk of Magnesia and tell his customer that the doctor didn’t say not to use Milk of Magnesia. The architect prescribes concrete of a certain strength, and the builder does not mix it to a lesser strength and then, when it breaks, say “You didn’t tell me not to make it of lesser strength.” If a person invites you to dinner at six p.m., you don’t come at 9 saying, “You didn’t tell me not to come at 9.” In the same way, when God specifies the use of vocal music in Christian worship, we can be sure we are pleasing him only if we limit ourselves to singing as he specified.

  8. Keith, your response was far kinder than any I have sent. I am humbled. I’ll try harder next time. Most of the time (since we get hate mail two to five times a week and written up a couple times a month) I just ignore it; considering it a tar baby. Your way was better.We are brothers. I have no doubt — NONE — that you and I will spend eternity with Jesus. I pray that the one who misquoted you will also spend eternity in glory. I wish them no ill at all. Since you have reached out in kindness, I am content to follow your lead. May God increase your tribe.

  9. SM, I’ve heard similar analogies – and those on the other side of the issue have theirs:A pharmacist might fill a prescription for Zocor and tell the patient to take a Tums if there’s an immediate need.An architect may prescribe concrete of a certain strength and the builder may choose to reinforce it with extra rebar.A person might invite you to dinner at 6:00pm and you show up with a nice host gift, which the host did not request.Analogies don’t help all that much to illuminate the fact that instrumental music was introduced to worship in the Old Testament, that God never specifically recorded any objection to it in scripture, and in fact permitted the recording of great joy associated with it – and that it was never forbidden or made a requirement, nor was it a requirement that was specifically repealed.It’s not a requirement today, either; nor is it forbidden. It’s a choice – much like standing or remaining seated or kneeling while praying or worshiping in song. It’s a choice – much like using PowerPoints or using song books or doing without them as one might at a campfire devotional.I also happen to believe it’s a choice like eating meat was to those who read the book of Romans in century one.But I do not believe that God intends for those with weaker faith to remain weak in their faith forever – but to increasingly trust Him and His righteousness and mercy in matters He has left open to choice.

  10. No one can prove that instruments are pleasing to God. Why do what we cannot be sure of? We don’t know if it is a salvation issue or not and that is the problem. No one can be certain about instruments in worship. How will God judge? Lets do what we can be sure of. The command to sing excludes instruments. Look at Nadab and Abihu in Lev. 10 and read 1 Sam. 13:13, 2 Chron. 26, and Heb 7:14, 1 Cor. 11:23. We cannot add pork chops and gravy to the Lord’s Supper. If we say we can add instruments because it doesn’t say not to, we will be in danger and may depart from the truth in other areas too. We will be divisive and denominational if we add instruments. Besides, instruments will decrease the participation of singers and will lead to entertainment. We cannot focus on the meaning of the songs with instruments. There are very good reason not to use instruments. We must follow the NT church as our model. Using instruments will weaken our stance in restoration. Let’s lead in taking the way we can be sure of.

  11. SW, no one can prove that church buildings are pleasing to God. That doesn’t keep us from using them. Why do that when we can’t be sure of it?We do know if it is a salvation issue. Nowhere does the scripture say to believe, be baptized and worship without instruments in order to be saved.God will judge with perfect righteousness and perfect mercy. Do you trust Him? Or are you afraid He is sitting at the edge of His throne, gritting His teeth and waiting to say at judgment, “You! All of you who worshiped me with all your heart but used an instrument to do so, all of you to hell forever!” Is He so anxious that any should perish and that few should have everlasting life?No one is talking about adding pork chops and gravy to the Lord’s Supper. That’s another analogy, a comparison, and it doesn’t illuminate anything.What areas of truth would we depart from by adding kneeling to our worship? Lifting holy hands in prayer? The slippery slope argument doesn’t apply to people who know what scripture does and does not say. Those who know and care know what they must do, what they should do and what is left up to them.Have you ever been to a worship where instruments were used? Watched one on television? Can you be certain they will decrease the quality of singing? The concentration on the lyric? Or is that simply a myth; an unproven hypothetical?Following the New Testament church is not even at issue here. We don’t know whether they used instruments or not. And there are very good reasons to use instruments, too … such as music written to include it (as many of the Psalms were).On one point I can agree: introducing instrumental worship in an environment where it is not wanted would be divisive.But being openly hostile and condemnatory toward those who choose it in good conscience is equally divisive.We can lead in the way we can be sure of by saying, “We honestly do not know from scripture that instrumental praise stopped being pleasing to God.”

  12. Both from the Old and New Testaments we learn that we are to worship God only as God has commanded and we must refrain from adding to our ways to worship what He has not commanded. Instrumental music in Christian worship is not commanded. Singing is commanded.Some Old Testament verses speak of using instruments in the praise of God, but these are speaking of the type of worship when the people offered animals as sacrifices and burned incense, and rubbed blood on the horns of the altar. God wants Christians to worship only as He has commanded in the New Testament. He has commanded us to sing but has not commanded us to use instruments. We can sing in worship and know it is pleasing to God but we cannot use instruments with the same assurance.The church, when under apostolic direction, did not use instruments in worship. There is no mention in the scriptures of the use of instruments when the apostles and other inspired men were directing the worship. Two thousand years of Church history is also clear that no instruments were used in worship in the early church. The Jews and the pagans all around the early Christians used instruments in worship, but the early church did not. The very word “a cappella” means “as in the chapel” or “as in the church.” It was nearly a thousand years after the church began before instruments began to be used at all. If we are seeking to follow the New Testament plan for the church, then we will not use instruments. Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic theologian opposed them in 1250 AD. The leaders of the Protestant Reformation, such as John Calvin and Martin Luther spoke against them. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church and Charles Spurgeon, famous Baptist preacher in London , opposed them. The question of instruments was a major factor in the division between the churches of Christ and the Christian church in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Those who seek to justify the instrument on the basis of its not being specifically forbidden in Christian worship, thus begin to use the approach of “whatever is not forbidden is acceptable,” and that brings in other unwarranted changes as well.Conclusion. Those who seek to follow the plan for worship outlined in the New Testament, then, will have no trouble with this decision. Instruments were not commanded for Christian worshipand were not used for over a thousand years. Adding them is divisive and often leads to other departures. One can sing unaccompanied and know for certain that such worship is pleasing to God for it has apostolic approval. One cannot use an instrument in worship with the same assurance.

  13. SM, at this point in the conversation I will follow the advice my mom gave me when I told her I was going to join the debate team in high school.I think you’ve done a much better job defending your position in this last comment, and I appreciate your input. I used to agree. I don’t now.All of the men you quote have indeed expressed their opinions regarding instrumental worship. To me, their opinions fall short of scripture in weight and authority.The logic you use, as I have pointed out before, can also be used to defends all kinds of other opinions – such as whether to meet in a building owned by the church – and lose their merit with me there. (Though the period of time in which church buildings were not used by the early church is only two or three hundred years, at best guess.)The argument “whatever is not specifically authorized is not acceptable” also brings in unwarranted changes, too – a belief in salvation by works alone, an attitude of self-righteousness and divisiveness based on legalism, in the extreme.Imposing that pattern on a church is just as wrong as imposing instrumental worship on a church that doesn’t want it. I can’t conscience either.So I close my responses to you.Mom’s advice was, “Never argue with someone who enjoys it too much.”

  14. 1. Instruments in worship matter so much to God that he spoke NOTHING about it. Talk about straining at a gnat.2. Does it seem unlikely to anyone besides me that God will condemn you to hell for something he never even mentions? That sounds like a “gotcha” god to me.

  15. On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.All other ground is sinking sand.In Christ alone my hope is found He is my light, my strength, my song This Cornerstone, this solid ground Firm thru the fiercest drought and stormNo guilt in life, no fear in death This is the power of Christ in me From life’s first cry to final breath Jesus commands my destiny No power of hell, no scheme of man Can ever pluck me from His hand Til He returns or calls me home Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

  16. I love that song.And the insertion of the lines from “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” are just plain brilliant in that arrangement.

  17. An interesting observation……SM never said ONE WORD about what you had written being butchered by the editor of the church bulletin or the fact that this editor didn’t have the decency (kahoonas) to contact you before the bulletin was written. It reminds me of how the Pharisees never commented on how wonderful it was for Jesus to have healed someone. They were more concerned with the fact that He had done it on the Sabbath.Legalism will cause you to value the wrong things. I also still wonder who we are supposed to be distinct from?DU

  18. Just to put my two cents in thos long debate about music in the church. The church I attend we have music.. lots of it. Even more than that, we have taken tunes from the secular world, and changed the lyrics. I am sure by what SM said, we are all going to be burning in hell. But if he/she wants to be so dogmatic, then he really needs to look at history. The early church met in homes. They took communion every day. They ate together every day. They studied the apostles teaching every day. SM, does your church meet everyday in homes? If not then you cannot be sure what you are doing is pleasing to God. Food for thought.

  19. Pingback: Gonna Need More Fingers | Blog In My Own Eye

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