An Untimely Response to ‘If a Tree Falls…’

…ἢ ἐῶμεν καὶ οὕτω ἡμῶν τε αὐτῶν ἀποδεχώμεθα καὶ τῶν ἄλλων, ἐὰν μόνον φῇ τίς τι ἔχειν οὕτω συγχωροῦντες ἔχειν; ἢ σκεπτέον τί λέγει ὁ λέγων;—Socrates1

The other day I was reading an essay found in the Feb. 2007 issue of the Gospel Herald entitled ‘If a Tree Falls…’ and thought perhaps I should take a shot at a rejoinder. The article’s main thesis is to reassert the ‘principle of silence’, as often heard in Churches of Christ circles. This hand-me-down of the Calvinist ‘regulative principle of worship’ attempts to justify, logically, that only that which is explicitly authorized by the New Testament is allowed in church worship—all else is forbidden— referring explicitly here, of course, to musical instruments.2 Naturally, though, this turns out to be an age old sophism—a mere play on words. And until we overcome the nature of this sophistry there is no point in arguing for or against the inclusion of musical instruments for when we gather together as the Lord’s church. Before we start, it is perhaps best to give a quick synopsis of the essay in question. The essay makes a couple of main points: (1) that truth is objective, (2) that God has told us how we are to worship Him, and (3) to show the importance of the ‘principle of non-contradiction’ in navigating everyday reality. I want to be upfront here and say that I emphatically agree with all three points—however, it is my contention, that as stated in the article, they all profoundly miss the mark of biblical truth. In what follows I hope to show why the doctrine espoused in ‘If a Tree Falls…’ misuses the ‘principle of noncontradiction’, confuses what God has told us about worship, and in the end is a dangerously subjective reading of scripture. After, I hope to offer an alternative to the views contested—even if just a sketch. So, if this is a sophism, as I assert, then in what manner? Well, the essay states unambiguously that we can either worship God only by the authority of the “commands, instructions or positive injunctions”3 that we find in the New Testament, or else we are obligated to worship God in every way not explicitly forbidden (e.g. dancing, animal sacrifices, incense, etc.) This point is then made further, in a surprising move in the endnotes, by invoking the ‘law of the excluded middle’—that there are no other options logically—it is either/or. Is this, however, the case? It is my position that this is an unfortunate usage of logic;4 that this is, in fact, a false dilemma—there are other options, if one were to look deeper. It seems that we are left in a similar position as when someone is asked, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” It is a classic either/or fallacy—there is more to the picture.

Subjectivity
But how is this so? Are we to look deeper into scripture to find some abstruse theology of freedom? No!—we need to look deeper into how we approach scripture—to the assumptions we bring to the text. This is where subjectivity comes into play.5 For in spite of the repeated claims to the objectivity
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“…or shall we let it go and accept our own statement, and those of others, agreeing that it is so, if anyone merely says that it is? Or ought we to inquire into the correctness of the statement?” (in Plato’s Euthyphro –9e) 2 For another example see ‘Richland Hills & Instrumental Music: a plea to reconsider’, David Miller, pp. 78-110 3 I take this to be roughly equivalent to the more common notion of ‘commands, [binding] examples, and necessary inferences’—or CENI for short. 4 I can find no formal deontic logic that follows this all-or-nothing approach. 5 Admittedly, ‘subjectivity’ is a sticky word. I’m using the term here in an epistemological sense, echoing Michael Polanyi [1958] that we, as the observer of the object of knowledge, always arrive holding prior truth commitments, values, and beliefs; that these are often held uncritically—thus subjectively. There is objective truth; but we, as the subject, are not disinterested observers. This is the ‘myth of objectivity’—that often those who argue the loudest regarding objectivity are themselves the most naïve regarding the various lenses they wear in interpreting the facts!

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of biblical truth, there is an obvious grid of non-biblical modern assumptions—i.e., nineteenth century presuppositions—brought to bear on the text.6 Such assumptions tend to lift isolated biblical propositions from the fabric of the narrative and arrange them into a constellation of meaning that would have been foreign to the first century believer. Put differently, it is good and right that we look only to the bible for our standard of truth and practices, and it is good that we use our logic and reason; but beyond this, are the questions we approach the bible with biblical themselves? Or are we asking questions that we feel require specific answers? For, in the end, it does not matter how strongly we hold these worldview assumptions—are they themselves biblical? The Church of Christ tradition7 has a well documented history of what is often referred to as a Baconian-Lockean reading of scripture8—that is, an inductive/deductive reading of the biblical text searching for clear and certain patterns for the assembly of the church. The Baconian side reads the book of the bible in the way Bacon and Newton read the ‘book of Nature’—drawing conclusions from ‘bare facts’.9 The Lockean side takes the perspicuity of scripture to an extreme and brings a grid of legal or constitutional questions to the text.10 Both tend to flatten scripture through the uniquely modern focus on ‘discursive reasoning’: distilling and mathematizing propositions by attenuating or eliminating the intuitive, which values language as image, metaphor, multivalent, affective, and parataxical (relational). It is through this lens of the CENI hermeneutic that scripture is forced to answer questions that it was clearly not written to answer. This coupled with the primary assumption that as long as we copy the form of what the biblical church did then we will be on safe ground, is a gross misreading of the biblical story. This along with the epicycles and hidden rules, ad hoc dispensations and unwarranted dichotomies, puts us at great discontinuity with the early church. Hence, the Church of Christ’s “traditional” hermeneutic—naïve primitivism—is dangerously subjective.
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Note, I do not believe that we can come to the text without our cultural assumptions and presuppositions. I do, however, believe that we ought to be aware of them, weigh them according to scripture. Not all ‘modern’ is bad—however, we should seek to ‘restore’ a 1st century hermeneutic! 7 I understand that the watchword ‘tradition’ is difficult for those who desire to view the church ahistorically and in the abstract—but since the church that the Lord instituted is made up of people of a certain time and place, and that it has been communicated person to person by speaking and hearing, we must then take into account culture and history. 8 For more on this particular hermeneutical stance see ‘The Organon of Scripture’ –J.S. Lamar [1859] or ‘Hermeneutics: A Text Book’ – D.R. Dungan (2nd Edition, 1888). Also see ‘The Churches of Christ’ – Richard T. Hughes pp. 43-44, 53 or ‘The encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement’ – p. 625. 9 It should be noted that Francis Bacon himself would never have condoned such a reading of scripture. The following passage from his The Advancement of Learning should show that he had a more mature epistemology and respect for scripture than any 19th century primitivists: “…in the free way of interpreting Scripture, there occur two excesses. The one presupposes such perfection in Scripture, that all philosophy likewise should be derived from its sources; as if all other philosophy were something profane and heathen….But these men do not gain their object; and instead of giving honor to the Scriptures as they suppose, they rather embase and pollute them…and as to seek divinity in philosophy is to seek the living among the dead, so to seek philosophy in divinity is to seek the dead among the living. The other method of interpretation which I set down as an excess, appears at the first glance sober and modest, yet in reality it both dishonors the Scriptures themselves, and is very injurious to the Church. This is, (in a word), when the divinely inspired Scriptures are explained in the same way as human writings. But we ought to remember that there are two things which are known to God the author of the Scriptures, but unknown to man; namely, the secrets of the heart, and the successions of time. And therefore as the dictates of Scripture are written to the hearts of men, and comprehend the vicissitudes of all ages; with an eternal and certain foreknowledge of all heresies, contradictions and differing and changing estates of the Church, as well in general as of the individual elect, they are not to be interpreted only according to the latitude and obvious sense of the place; or with respect to the occasion whereon the words were uttered; or in precise context with the words before or after; or in contemplation of the principal scope of the passage; but we must consider them to have in themselves, not only totally or collectively, but distributively also in clauses and words, infinite springs and streams of doctrines, to water every part of the Church and the souls of the faithful.” [Bacon, De Augmentis Scientiarum, book IX, chapter I] 10 In this manner the Church of Christ is also firmly situated in a liberal tradition of interpretation—epistemologically following in the footsteps of the now defunct philosophical trend called ‘Logical Positivism’—which died because it was self-referentially incoherent…

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Worship
Taking, then, this CENI method in relation to worship—and focusing only on music—we find some interesting oddities. First, we find the need to draw certain inferences and contrasts from the Old Testament to derive New Testament practices—that is, that while we are explicit that our authority must come from the New Testament for the particulars of church practice, we seem to use an Old Testament structure for this New Testament content. Thus, in the case of worship, we still see a ritualistic practice of sacrifice—that is, a fulfilling of a pattern of outward signs in order to please God. In this case verbally singing takes the place of Old Testament requirements. But is this what God is telling us about worship? It appears that in distancing ourselves from the narrative—in a modern attempt at objectivity—we have lost the plot of the story. Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 are certainly not prescriptive commands that exhaust the nature of Christian worship—even with the caveat of being “corporate” worship! Yet then surely some will ask, “Why then not animal sacrifices; why then not a return to temple worship?” and once again we show our incredible ignorance of our place within God’s story (Rom 6:1ff & Heb. 10). No; something happened in Acts 2—when the Spirit fell on the crowd gathered in Jerusalem, a new song started that dispelled the tune that had held sway since the Fall. This new song, but a whisper among the prophets, now made fully clear who Jesus was, and what His life, death, and resurrection meant for this world. Our true pattern is indeed Jesus (Heb. 8:5-6).11 We, as a community of believers, who are following after the early church, live our lives as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1-5). Our worship, then, should not be boiled down to what we do 1 or 2 hours each Sunday. But for the how and the what of our worship on Sundays, it must edify and encourage—it must retell and elucidate the Christian story that we are enveloped in. Now it should be painfully obvious that the scriptures do not set down a Leviticus-style ordering of what New Testament worship is to be.12 We should respect the silence of scripture in not making such an inference. For as we have seen over and over in the Old Testament the prescribed forms of worship can be duplicated while our hearts are far from Him (Mar. 7:6-8). And we should know better than to simply try and copy what the early church did—as if since they did X, we must do X. Again, runs the risk of missing the nature and plot of Christian worship. Christian worship is bound by the story of New Creation and God’s kingdom come—Jesus’ rule—the now and not yet (2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15). In song, in words, in melody, we sing of what God has done, and is doing. The inchoate church of the first century saw their lives as worship (Heb. 13:13-16). They sang because song is always prior to propositions. As Johann Georg Hamann puts it, “Poetry is the mother-tongue of the human race, as the garden is older than the ploughed field; painting, than writing; song, than declamation; parables, than logical deduction; barter, than commerce.”13 Worship is a reflection and a participation in the ministry of reconciliation that we are bringing into this world.

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“…Those who fix the reign or law of Jesus Christ after the death of Christ need to study the teachings of Jesus…All that Jesus Christ spoke or gave to the world constituted a portion of the will of Jesus that went into effect after his death…The laws of Jesus Christ are given in the sayings and teachings of Christ recorded in the four biographies of Christ…The law is given in the personal teachings of Jesus. The Acts of Apostles and the Epistles are the applications by inspired teachers of the king to the churches and the applications of the Bible to the facts of life as they arise in the. These applications and exemplifications of the truths of the Bible to the workings of the world greatly help in the study of the Bible by the common people. But there is not a truth or a thought in the application of these parables that is not in the teaching of Jesus…Jesus is the lawgiver. The whole law of God to the world is taught by him. The Acts of the Apostles and Epistles explain what the teachings mean, but they do not add to or detract from them. A change or modification in the teachings of Jesus would be treason against him and God.”—David Lipscomb, “When Was the Will of Christ Made?” Gospel Advocate 54 (2 May 1912) 554. 12 Should we not then rethink the CENI method in light of Col. 2:8-14, 1 Cor. 10:31-33, & Romans 14? 13 ‘Aesthetica in Nuce’, Kenneth Haynes (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

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The ‘key’ here is to avoid introducing strict modern distinctions of sacred/secular and public/ private unto our reading of the New Testament—and to not stack the New Testament facts into an Old Testament structure of outward signs. We ought not infer that God desires obligatory rituals, and strict forms of sacrifice to please Him. Everything we do and say must be as if the very oracles of God (1Pet 4:11; Col 3:17). The biblical definition of worship—whether in silence, prayer, reading scripture, communion, or in music—is to bow before our God who is holy (Matt. 4:10). There is no essential form of worship (John 4:21-24) except that which is predicated by our place within the narrative of scripture (John 14:12).

Misuse of Logic
Along with this subjective reading of scripture and a myopic view of worship, we also have the use of flawed logic. Don’t get me wrong—I think an inductive/deductive reading of scripture is beneficial14, and therefore, reason and logic is a prerequisite. We do have a pattern, as Christians, to follow—for it is our author who author-izes (John 5:39)—and this implies limits. But like Francis Bacon bemoaned, that like so many other models and methods, “…these appropriations…are simply a result of the confidence of a few men and the idleness and inertia of the rest.” That though the early Restorationists started in an honest search for trustworthy biblical truths, later still others came and “followed because [they] had a summary kind of method; in appearance [they] gave the art a form, but in reality [they] corrupted the labours of the older investigators.”15 Logic is so important—as followers of the Λόγος—we must be careful! Yet, the essay ‘If a Tree Falls…’ gives us a modified version of the ‘principle of noncontradiction’—at least one that Aristotle would have certainly found to be spurious. It was in Aristotle’s book we call the Metaphysics where we get the clearest articulation of the nature of the principle of non-contradiction16—where he brilliantly persuades that the PNC is at the very root of language and ‘being’ itself.17 It is here that Aristotle explicitly states that we must first define what something is—its essence—before we can apply the principle of non-contradiction.18 Otherwise we run the risk of making a fallacious statement—the trick of the sophists.19 So, how does this work? Well Aristotle starts on a program of categorizing all that there is. He creates a rather elaborate taxonomy of things, separating essences from accidents and arranging them in structures of genus and species. Once we have done this we can see how the principle of noncontradiction is applied. For instance: within the genus of trees we have many species (pine, fir, oak, maple, etc.), if I ask for maple wood then I am also not asking for all other species of wood within that genus. This should be self-evident. So, what is the problem with the article’s usage? Well, when someone attempts to enforce the principle of ‘biblical silence’ we are often given examples with clear taxonomical order—for instance this article uses the illustration of items on a Tim Horton’s menu20—however, we are never given a clear
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It is without a doubt that the restorationist plea, of a return to a simple faith based on the bible alone, has had many positive effects on church practice and organization—perhaps not unlike the early Pharisees with their “populist” views and focus on ritual purity. 15 …quotes taken from Francis Bacon’s preface in his ‘Great Instauration’. 16 “It is impossible for the same thing both to belong and not to belong to the same thing at the same time and in the same respect” (book Γ.3 1005b 19-20. see also 1011a 34b1) 17 In book Γ.4 of the Metaphysics Aristotle says that if we deny the principle of non-contradiction then we could not use words and thoughts to signify things. 18 One must digest all of Aristotle’s Organon before grasping this… 19 “…it is [the sophists] who realized that what is likely must be held in higher honor than what is true; they who, by the power of their language, make small things appear great and great things small; they who express modern ideas in ancient garb, and ancient ones in modern dress…” Plato’s Phaedrus - 267b 20 Other usual proof-texts include Noah’s Gopher wood, and Hebrews 7:14 (which the article also cites)—both obvious and explicit taxonomies.

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taxonomy of worship. What are the various species of worship? What is worship? It appears that those in the Church of Christ tacitly want us to assume that there are clear biblical categories for instrumental and non-instrumental species of worship. Yet no clear reading of scripture gives us this sense; that when we are encouraged to sing that there are other species of worship we are to exclude. No objective reading of the New Testament gives us the notion that the essence of worship is singing-only.21 No; it makes much more sense to see singing as an accident or circumstance of worship—even if for the early church it was the only choice. Hence, we can not use the principle of non-contradiction as expressed in the aforementioned essay. In all, the logic contained within ‘If a Tree Falls…’ needs to be rethought through.22 If the author of this essay lived in such a world where accidents and essences were that confused then he would have no right to be surprised next time he asked for a Tim Horton’s coffee and had it poured into his hands!23 As an aside, it seems that those who assert that when we are encouraged to sing, that it is a command to sing-only, perhaps have never heard of metonymy or synecdoche. If I buy something with plastic, am I bartering with a polymer? If I buy something with paper, am I trading for the value of wood pulp? Deriving an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’, is tricky business. It is often the case that we refer to something by part of what the whole is—especially when that thing is as ineffable as worship or love or faith. You cannot spell out these things with a list of 10, 50, or 100 specific instances.24

The Tradition of Christian Music
Of course, it is important to note that Christians did not use musical instruments for roughly 1000 years. This is important, and will play into any account of what worship is. It should be agreed that in the interest of tradition change is always slow—it takes a long time for a mustard seed to become the largest tree in the garden! It takes a long time to reshape the symbolism and structure of music and instruments. It should be fairly obvious that the early church was not attempting to imitate the shadow of the Jewish temple (though they partook in its worship—Acts 2:46), and neither did the early church desire to mimic pagan worship and their music. Instruments would have held deep religious symbolism that could not be removed in short order. But as time moves on so did the significance of the tools and mediums of communication. So we should not overlook the semiological aspects of music and instruments as time marched forward throughout this church-age. We should also then observe that “classical music”, like that of Bach and Handel, could not have been if it was not for the churches interplay with instruments. Yet indeed Christianity did have a hand in reshaping and refiguring what music and instruments are and what they mean. It is in many ways understandable why the Churches of Christ have taken the position that they have regarding instruments for use with singing. It was a laudable attempt to gain harmony among the individualistic post-revolutionary American throng—that if they could only agree on a method of interpretation then people would certainly agree on the output doctrine. However, since that time we
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Although out of the scope of this essay, it would be interesting—in following John Price’s third section of ‘Old Light on New Worship’—to give a psychological sketch of why people use this type of logic for safe and uniform social practices. 22 I have yet to hear a deduction from this interpretative vantage point where the inferences are “necessarily” drawn— therefore, it makes much more sense that the CENI should be instead called the CEI method. 23 Regarding propositional logic, it should be noted that commands or an [approved] examples are not properly considered propositions—as they do not make truth claims. For instance, if I say, “bring me a glass of water”, the statement is neither true nor false. Contrariwise, not offering a command for water is not the same thing as commanding not to bring me water. This should be obvious. To live otherwise is to deny, or squash, any notion of grace. 24 If, then, we are to stick with CENI mode of interpretation, let us heed bacon’s warning that, “there are two kinds of excess: one is that of those who readily make pronouncements, and make [their hermeneutical method] lay down the law in a magisterial manner; the other is the excess of those who have introduced a lack of conviction, and an aimless and endless questioning.” [Novum Organon, book I, aphorism LXII]

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have become aware of the inherent difficulties in using such a mechanical method of interpretation—of our own presuppositional baggage, bias and historical situated-ness. We have come to see that the socalled ‘common-sense’ philosophy was not so common—and in fact perhaps better stated as culturalsense, which was sometimes common non-sense. Thus, we have learned that we do indeed need to derive even our hermeneutic from the first century, if we are to be true to the Restorationist plea. If we fail to do this we run the risk of some serious error. We risk burying our “talents” in fear of the God of Nadab, Abihu, and Uzzah, in fear of the silence that our logical handrails cannot fill. So we need a right hermeneutic, a right pattern, and a true authority. Our answer is in Jesus—the truth, the life, and the way—He is our objective and personal truth!

Another take on Authority
In John 5:19 Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (ESV) Is it not obvious that our pattern is Jesus—His life and sacrifice? Is it not that we too derive our authority from what God is doing (John 20:21)? The Baconian reading, however, leaves us in a quasi-Deist state—God did stuff and then left, so it is our duty now to copy, irrespective of the why’s, what the early church did. Now I understand that this has been long and cumbersome—but I believe I have been successful in offering, at least as a prolegomenon, a way out of the detour and dilemma of the Church of Christ stance on instrumental music. It should now be clear that there is a subjective element in the hermeneutics evident in the aforementioned essay, which is hypo-critically mired in the legacy of modern liberal philosophy along with its obtuse and discursive rationalism. It should also be clear that its use of logic is often less than sound, and that the understanding of worship and music is cast in a merely deontic frame that is otherwise jejune and vapid in relation to the church’s role in the world today. Now, it is one thing to criticize an essay, but an altogether different thing to offer something better in its place. So what should we adopt if we leave the CENI hermeneutic ‘left behind’? Well, I know my limits. I will have to defer here such a proposal to one who has thought through and wrestled with this very question longer than I. Therefore, I encourage an honest reading of N.T. Wright’s narrative25 approach to scripture as a prime example of a restoration in true biblical authority: There are various ways in which stories might be thought to possess authority. Sometimes a story is told so that the actions of its characters may be imitated. It was because they had that impression that some early Fathers, embarrassed by the possibilities inherent in reading the Old Testament that way, insisted upon allegorical exegesis. More subtly, a story can be told with a view to creating a generalized ethos which may then be perpetuated this way or that. The problem with such models, popular in fact though they are within Christian reading of scripture, is that they are far too vague: they constitute a hermeneutical grab-bag or lucky dip. Rather, I suggest that stories in general, and certainly the biblical story, have a shape and a goal that must be observed and to which appropriate response must be made. But what might this appropriate response look like? Let me offer you a possible model, which is not in fact simply an illustration but actually corresponds, as I shall argue, to some
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Let it be understood that narrative is not to be read as against propositions and ideas—but that by drawing attention to narrative that we consciously acknowledged that all ideas and propositions are always situated (embodied) within stories. Also note that this is not to relegate the Christian narrative as merely one story among many—as if an island—NO! The Christian story challenges all stories as THE story.

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important features of the biblical story, which (as I have been suggesting) is that which God has given to his people as the means of his exercising his authority. Suppose there exists a Shakespeare play whose fifth act had been lost. The first four acts provide, let us suppose, such a wealth of characterization, such a crescendo of excitement within the plot, that it is generally agreed that the play ought to be staged. Nevertheless, it is felt inappropriate actually to write a fifth act once and for all: it would freeze the play into one form, and commit Shakespeare as it were to being prospectively responsible for work not in fact his own. Better, it might be felt, to give the key parts to highly trained, sensitive and experienced Shakespearian actors, who would immerse themselves in the first four acts, and in the language and culture of Shakespeare and his time, and who would then be told to work out a fifth act for themselves. Consider the result. The first four acts, existing as they did, would be the undoubted “authority” for the task in hand. That is, anyone could properly object to the new improvisation on the grounds that this or that character was now behaving inconsistently, or that this or that sub-plot or theme, adumbrated earlier, had not reached its proper resolution. This “authority” of the first four acts would not consist in an implicit command that the actors should repeat the earlier parts of the play over and over again. It would consist in the fact of an as yet unfinished drama, which contained its own impetus, its own forward movement, which demanded to be concluded in the proper manner but which required of the actors a responsible entering into the story as it stood, in order first to understand how the threads could appropriately be drawn together, and then to put that understanding into effect by speaking and acting with both innovation and consistency. This model could and perhaps should be adapted further; it offers in fact quite a range of possibilities. Among the detailed moves available within this model, which I shall explore and pursue elsewhere, is the possibility of seeing the five acts as follows: (1) Creation; (2) Fall; (3) Israel; (4) Jesus. The New Testament would then form the first scene in the fifth act, giving hints as well (Rom 8; 1 Cor. 15; parts of the Apocalypse) of how the play is supposed to end. The church would then live under the “authority” of the extant story, being required to offer something between an improvisation and an actual performance of the final act. Appeal could always be made to the inconsistency of what was being offered with a major theme or characterization in the earlier material. Such an appeal—and such an offering!—would of course require sensitivity of a high order to the whole nature of the story and to the ways in which it would be (of course) inappropriate simply to repeat verbatim passages from earlier sections. Such sensitivity (cashing out the model in terms of church life) is precisely what one would have expected to be required; did we ever imagine that the application of biblical authority ought to be something that could be done by a well-programmed computer?26

Concluding Remarks
In conclusion, and to sum up: we do indeed find objective truth in scriptures, and in following Jesus and the apostles we should know how to worship God, and, certainly, we must use reason and logic to discern our place in God’s story. But we need not trust those who abstract and demand asceticisms derived by the traditions of men. Thus I want to whole-heartedly concur with the concluding statement at the end of ‘If a Tree Falls…’ that:
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Taken from N.T. Wright’s essay “How can the Bible be Authoritative,” posted on his website, www.NTWrightpage.com (accessed April 15, 2009). I would emphatically encourage a thorough reading of the article in its entirety.

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“Put into practice, the real biblical principle of 'silence' will shake up the church. It will silence the voices that propose to 'speak' where God has been silent. And it will cause us to hear what Jesus has been saying all along—what He has commanded and authorized his church to be—in the New Testament.” So, let’s move away from a profoundly subjective reading of the bible, for it denies the worldview of the first century, their questions and their hermeneutic, and in its place imports a foreign, 19th century, grid of understanding. Let’s stop reading scripture like astronomers, blind to the plot and theme. Oh, how much ink Paul spilt explaining the paradoxical condition of being both free and yet a slave to Christ—and even without laying down a definition for what worship must look like. Just because the New Testament does not lay down laws, as it does in the Old Testament, it does not therefore mean God is indifferent! God wants a people who have His laws written on their hearts. So, let’s not allow those who heap on extra-biblical categories and their mechanical methods of interpretation to speak where the bible has not spoken. I can think of many good reasons to avoid including instruments in worship—since all forms of worship can become idolatrous (even singing-only)—and because our worship must be free of pragmatism, hedonism, entertainment, false doctrine, etc; if it is to cohere to the gospel—however, the rhetoric of ‘If a Tree Falls…’, appealing to a principle of prohibitive silence, is misguided at best. So let us put aside the false dilemma of ‘nothing but what is [seemingly] explicit’ or ‘anything goes’, and let’s start thinking and acting like Christians, finding our place in His story, worshiping Him as one body for what he has and is doing, and then taking that story to the world. Ryan Chubb —Waterloo, ON

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