An Examination of Sovereign Grace Ministries and Getty-Townend For Use in Fundamental Christian Churches (Part 2)

No, Alex, the issue is NOT whether Psalm 150 is prescriptive for NT worship today. No one is arguing for that, so please stop arguing against it.

The point is whether or not certain styles of instrumentation or bodily movement or clapping are inherently wrong, as I was taught growing up. Psalm 150 and other OT texts demonstrate to me that God does not draw the line as narrowly as many would suggest, and even if these methods are not prescribed, they are most certainly not condemned.

Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

[Greg Long]

No, Alex, the issue is NOT whether Psalm 150 is prescriptive for NT worship today. No one is arguing for that, so please stop arguing against it.

The point is whether or not certain styles of instrumentation or bodily movement or clapping are inherently wrong, as I was taught growing up. Psalm 150 and other OT texts demonstrate to me that God does not draw the line as narrowly as many would suggest, and even if these methods are not prescribed, they are most certainly not condemned.

I realize that it may be difficult for you to get this but here is what you are responding to which is something I said:

[Alex Guggenheim] What is being examined is whether it is prescribed and if not prescribed-which it is not as I have argued and others have argued seeing its context which is to the Theocracy of Israel-whether it is wise and permissible form of ecclesiastical liturgy.

The statement represents the necessary process or chronology of the issue being examined. And first it has to be considered whether it is prescriptive and we all agreed so far that it cannot be explicitly prescribed. Then, if not prescribed which I noted I have argued myself due to its context, permissibleness in ecclesiastical liturgy has to be argued. In other words I was giving a CHRONOLOGY of how the issue is to be examined, not stating someone is arguing the point.

Now to the latter paragraph in your post I have not addressed a certain style or its inherent problems, maybe the OP did but I have not so you certainly are out of the ball park with regard to any arguments I have made but this may explain your earlier fax paus as well.


Alex, I don’t have much time to respond to your comments as I have more pressing demands today. Thank you for spelling out your thoughts on discontunuity regarding the Psalms in Christian worship. I don’t agree with every implication you draw, but we agree in principle on quite a few points.

Ephesians 5:19. This is not a reference to any application of a Psalm but the use of Psalms as instructing one another. Does this mean that any and all Psalms are to be taken out of context when we sing them as a form of doctrinal instruction?

Unnecessary inference. I said nothing about making any application of any psalm and ignoring its context. Of course, any psalm should be understood within its original context, and whatever applications are made would be limited by our New Covenant context. I explicitly said there were aspects of continuity and discontinuity in the use of Psalms in New Covenant worship. I’ve not addressed the topic of dancing specifically.

What is the point of making this point if you are not going to use it to address the topic at hand, dance? It becomes irrelevant or purposeless then.

[SBashoor] I’m using “binding” in a loose sense here. Particular commands from the Psalms might be binding in the same way that any other OT command might be binding, if it expresses a timeless requirement rooted not only in a particular code of God’s Law (e.g., Mosaic Law ) but the universal Law of God. For instance, commands to praise God, thank God, and sing praises to Him are universally binding. The particular forms required in the tabernacle or temple might not be.
Might not be? Again, if they are prescribed to the Theocracy of Israel then how might these ritual forms be binding to us? You keep leaving the door open with “might” and fail to substantiate the when and how OT rituals and form are binding today.
Give me at least one parallel example.


[Alex Guggenheim] 1. The temple was where God is and today that temple is in our hearts, either individually or collectively. So if you wish to invoke volume from the temple and its modern parallel I suggest you remain consistent and understand that the volume we ought to be experiencing is that which is within our hearts.

To me this is a non sequitur. Is singing only done only in our hearts? Is there no audible volume? I don’t feel as though your view does justice to the corporate nature of the church as God’s temple. That said, I’m no champion of excessive high volume in worship services, and that’s why I made that aside to begin with. Some folks in my flock left their previous churches because they cranked up the volume to disturbing levels. Very inconsiderate of those churches, I believe. Righteous exuberance needn’t entail excessiveness.

No but the singing mentioned in Psalm150 and that in the NT are not one in the same, their context are not identical. And if you are going to refer to the OT Sanctuary and attempt to transfers practices to the NT you have to maintain the integrity of the type which is fulfilled in us, our hearts, as the temple. So as to doing “justice” to the nature of the church as God’s temple, I believe ignoring that the OT Sanctuary is now the invisible and internal temple of God in our hearts where the praise and sound is to be voluminous before God, is not justice, if one is to worry about being just with the Bible and the fulfillment of types.

Now, if you wish consider the gathering together of NT believers as an assembly, you can, but you now have to look at NT protocols for the outward functions of assemblies which exist both in example and prescription the in NT and it is here you will find quite absent much of what is being suggested as legitimate ecclesiastical liturgy.


Of course, this whole thread is to discuss what forms are acceptable for Christian worship. Much of the discussion is necessarily dependent on inferences and presuppositions.

Good day.

You might believe the discussion is necessarily dependent on inferences and presuppositions but I do not. I believe there are many explicit theological markers which inform us as well as sound doctrinal conclusions that place boundaries and permits for ecclesiastical liturgy with conviction while indeed falling short of permitting us to claim those with whom we disagree are always guilty of failing to up hold Biblical dogma, though we may say with confidence and conviction they are unwise and in error.


Thank you for responding Coleman and explaining yourself. Actually, you most precisely said that whenever we use phrases like “baser emotions,” we engage in Gnostic thinking: “Actually, I believe this whole discussion of “baser emotions” suggests that we’ve adopted a kind of Gnostic dualism.” Your words. Then read your following paragraph. There are many kinds of Gnostic dualism, not just one. So when you say we have adopted a type of Gnostic dualism, you stated we have adopted Gnostic thought. It appears now, that you did not mean to say that. Perhaps if we continue for another week or two, you will finally get this one straight. But I think we are going to get weary. “Parallels to Gnostic thought” doesn’t mean much at all. Rudolph Bultmann found parallels to Gnostic thought all through John’s Gospel. My guess is we can take any number of sentences in this whole discussion and find parallels to some heresy. That is easy enough, Even heretics share Bible ideas with us.

I am certain you do not understand what I mean by Bible puritan. I explained it. I will make another attempt. By Bible puritan I meant we believe and state that nothing compares to the Bible. All other books or ideas are inferior to it. We will not read another book, no matter how sacred or sublime and spiritual, and place its ideas on par with the Bible. You obviously mean something else by the term Bible puritan. So I will have to dispense with it. As long as you hold to the Bible as I described, you cannot fall into Gnostic thinking. Gnostic thinking requires you to dispense with that idea. Gnostic thinking uses the Bible to create its own ideas, and intertwines them with other spiritual writings or concepts, which are just as good as the Bible. I am not quite sure you read what I said Gnosticism is. Or if you did, I am not sure you took me seriously. I am more certain with every post that you have never read much about Gnosticism, or any Gnostic writings, or ever spoken with a Gnostic. So far you have only tagged thoughts with the term, without showing much understanding what it means. But that will have to be that.

I am glad that you understand that all of life for the Christian is to be sacred (it is not always, because by definition sin is not sacred). I hope the Lord will grant you more such understanding. I first learned this truth when I was a young Christian, and I found it wonderful. Any number of preachers could have said it to me (and since have), but I read it as a sentence in something written by Bob Jones Sr. (I never went to his school): “To the Christian all ground is holy ground, every bush is a burning bush, and every place is a temple of worship.” I can only hope that you continue grow in this truth. I say that kindly and sincerely

And now I understand what you are really after, that we Christians are plagued by an insidious dualism. I am not convinced this is true, but we at least have finally gotten to what you really mean, and we are all entitled to our opinions, and I would be foolish to think I am right and you are wrong. I would like to wish you well in being the watchman against every form of dualism among your brethren, but I dunno. Anyway, now we are agreed, I think, no one in this discussion thinks like a Gnostic. And I am glad we have finally gotten there.

Dear friends,

I had promised to write up a formal reply to some of the issues in the previous postings here, but as I have again looked over the many issues, I realized a couple things:

1. Many of the issues are addressed, at a ‘popular’ or ‘laymen’s’ level in NEW HEART, NEW SPIRIT, NEW SONG. I realize it is rather self-serving to promote my own book, but it was published to speak to some of the questions raised in the postings. Also, the Examination article was written with the information from the book as a part of its foundation and presuppositions.
2. Some of the issues raised are really too complicated to deal with adequately in NHNSNS, much less in a series of blog postings.

Therefore, I respectfully ask any readers who may disagree with all or some aspects of the Examination article to look at the book and so be sure of what was meant, as well as to get a fuller context for the article.

Having deferred the discussion in this no doubt aggravating way, I will take some space here to highlight what I perceived as the dominant themes or problems of the posted responses to Part 2.

1. Reductionist understanding of music as a medium or mode of communication
2. Misunderstanding about the need to analyze musical sound
3. An idea that association is a complete non-issue
4. A misperception that the authors are against anything new or different

Without wishing to start a whole new discussion, which I would not have time to participate in, due to the start of classes at my college next week, I will risk making a few comments about each of the above. Defense of some of the comments can be found in NHNSNS; for some I hope to find further defense in the research I will be doing as part of my PhD work.

1. In the Scriptures, musical sound is frequently represented as communicating emotions or even facts. By communication I mean an activity in which at least one of the following happens:

  • information, sense, or emotions are portrayed, imparted, or conveyed via a medium
  • information, sense, or emotions are perceived in the medium used
  • engendering of emotion or thought via a medium occurs
  • a medium causes or is involved in any voluntary or involuntary physical/neurological response

At present I am working on a book that fleshes out a New Testament musicology on the nature of music, especially with regard to communication. In that work I hope to give as complete and nuanced a picture as I can of the topic. In the mean time, I can give the reader a summarization of how musical sound and an audience (as apposed to a performer) interact:

  • musical sound (all aspects/elements of music, the performing space/acoustic, and anything else outside of the receiver/listener) exists in time;
  • a receiver/listener experiences musical sound in a variety of ways, or through many ‘filters’, simultaneously;
  • some of the ‘filters’ are idiosyncratic (how the listener feels at the moment, his personal taste, his past experience with the particular piece or style, etc.);
  • some of the ‘filters’ are shared by a large part of a listener’s community, society, or culture (educational background, dominant music types in the society, age, gender, etc.);
  • some of the ‘filters’ are common to all people at all times and in all places (being a human, made in the image of God, fallen, having a physical body, etc.) Please see a brief discussion and report on research regarding a ‘universal’ emotion responses to music here.

All of these ‘filters’ are functioning when a person hears music, although they do not all necessarily function in the same way or to the same degree. Which leads me to drop in here some food for thought, from some correspondence with a colleague (I do this at the risk of alienating some readers – please feel free to skip the next section if you are not interested in a more academic discussion!):

Here is a summary of what I am seeing right now:

Romans 15.9 - singing is contextually synonymous with glorifying, confessing, giving thanks, rejoicing praising, lauding, and trusting, all of which include the idea of communication
I Corinthians 13.1 - a simile in which non-communicative sound is compared to non-communicative speech, which would imply that there is communicative musical sound
I Corinthians 14.7-8, 15, 26 - musical sound functions similarly to speech sound; communication is possible; communication can be impeded

I Cor. 15.52, I Thess. 4.16, Heb. 12.19, Matt. 6.2, Matt. 24.31, Rev. 8.2, 6-8, 10, 12-13, 9.1, 13-14 (9.14 implies the musical sound acted as a release or a more direct form of communication) - musical sound used as a signal (iconic use of specific musical sounds)

Ephesians 5.19, Colossians 3.16 - conveyance of text; implication of an enhancement of communication because of the inclusion of musical sound

Hebrews 2.12, James 5.13, Acts 16.23 - similar to Eph. 5.19 and Col. 3.16 - conveyance of texts expressing praise to the Lord, enhanced by musical sound

Matt. 9.23 - musical sound expressing sorrow (‘noise’ - an implication as to the type of musical sound produced)

Matt. 11.17 (Luke 7.32) - implication of different musical sounds evoking specific emotional and physical responses

Luke 15.25 - implication that the musical sound was enough to indicate the nature of an activity

Rev. 5.9, 15.2-3 - ‘saying’ with singing, implying that communication took place via the combined media of text and musical sound

None of this is very profound. I have been digging into the implications of the I Corinthian passages (see the rough draft chapters), and have spent much time also with a startling example of musical communication in Exodus 32. There, we have a scenario in which musical sound has radically changed (note Joshua’s lack of recognition of the sound, although he had certainly been a part of Hebrew music-making before this moment - Red Sea, song of Moses, etc.), in response to a radical change of theology (from Yahweh to the golden calf), which is further complicated by the fact that the Hebrews seemed to re-imagine Yahweh in the image of the golden calf (note Aaron’s statement about a feast to the LORD), rather than fully turn from Yahweh. It appears that the lyrics sung around the calf, with musical sound and singing style quite different from how the Hebrews sang in praise of Yahweh before this event, were actually similar to what they had sung previously. Hâlelyâhh (hallelujah) has changed in its meaning, and the music at the very least reflects that change. It may be, due to the implications of Col. 3.16, that the musical change helped impart the theological shift.

Further theological questions come to mind: within the broad spectrum of Christianity, how could groups representing extremely different theological landscapes sing common texts (both biblical and hymnic) and yet reinforce their own meaning of those texts? Perhaps the distinctive musical settings are a part of the conveyance of theological meaning. Coming at these ideas from the opposite end, are there any implications stemming from the fact that in many cultures significant segments of disparate religious groups seem to be drawn towards a religious gravitational center based on an experiential, mystical, or Charismatic theology of worship, the expression of which shares very similar musical styles?

How does this happen? What are the affects of combining differing modes of communication? In an effort to get a handle on this I spent some time in the writings of Lakoff and Johnson and began to imagine text creating image schemata (or drawing upon pre-existing, mind-embedded schemata), while musical sound was simultaneously do the same thing. What happens when these two (at least two, probably many more!) schemata are interacting in the human mind? How would the reception of one or both media be impacted by such an interplay, of which the listener or performer is likely unaware? Does the mind receive the text and its musical setting as two separate entities? Not likely, from the New Testament implications, as well as personal experience and observation. If there is cross-modal impact, is the impact equal between to the two media? If not, which medium has the stronger influence on the partner medium, and is thus less influenced by that partner?

Admittedly, I am no expert in Lakoff and Johnson’s ideas, but I have found them to be unsatisfactory in trying to disentangle the issues above. Nearly all of the articles I have read that apply their ideas of image schemata to music seem to be descriptive or speculative. Is it possible to empirically establish specific schemata to specific music sounds? Perhaps, but I have yet to see research that does this convincingly. However, L and J’s inclusion of neurological and physiological research point the way to one avenue of exploration: comparing neuro-physiological response to text only, music only, and text-music combinations could help. Comparing the same from participants from two or three radically different musical-cultural backgrounds could help establish how much of the interaction is culturally situated.

It would seem that to better understand the impact of multi-modal communication would give insight into the theological questions above. It might also help in exploring connections between seemingly disparate world-views or theologies (if two completely unconnected cultures share similar musical expressions/styles might that indicate similarity of worldview, although the sung texts might express great differences?). What about the producer? Are the interactions between modes in the mind of a receiver (audience) the same as in the mind of the performer?

Of course, behind all these questions are implications from empirical research into music and emotions, semiotics, philosophies of aesthetics, reception theory, linguistics, etc. At the very heart of it must be some kind of over-arching concept of human-music interaction. I have been hammering away at such a model for some time - a model that reflects the various ‘filters’ that impact human reception, calibrated to show the differing strengths of the filters; I am also trying to represent every aspect of musical sound - the music as it is - calibrate for the importance of each aspect on the innate, integral, or bioacoustic ‘meaning’ of a musical entity.

2. If musical sound is a mode of communication, then it is possible and important to not only try to understand what any particular piece of music is communicating (apart from the text), but how such communication happens. Thus, we have to delve into the ‘nuts and bolts’ of notes (horizontal and vertical), time and rhythm, timbre, form, performance, etc., in the same way a person might explore auto mechanics to find out how his car works (or why it doesn’t!). If we are not willing to do this, the conversation may be forever trapped in an “It doesn’t make me feel that way!” subjectivity, where the only musical compass is the individual.

3. Notably, musical and historical examples were sometimes cited inaccurately, with little or no context, in criticism of our inclusion of association as a criterion for determining whether or not a body of music should be used in fundamental Christian churches. For several bloggers, the very idea that a problematic association might preclude the use anything was foolish, ignorant, or unenlightened. To mention how a church in the past might have avoided the use of the piano or organ (or cello, for that matter), as if nothing could be more ridiculous, without actually looking into the context of the culture at the time (one of the ‘filters’ mentioned above), makes one wonder if the critic takes the doctrine of the weaker brother into consideration at all in any area of life. For Weberg and me to comment on and consider in our examination a contemporary association issue does not imply that we do not recognize that such considerations change with time and circumstance.

4. Neither Pastor Weberg nor I are in any way Hutterites or reactionaries when it comes to music or ministry.

All readers of the Examination article and responses have my sincerest wish and pray for a blessed new year of growing love for and service to our precious Saviour.

Director of music studies, Bob Jones Memorial Bible College

PhD candidate, Durham University

Doug, from my perspective, I have no problem that you want to stop at this point. I have grown weary of this discussion myself and am questioning the value of the time investment.

The perception I get from the way you write is that you think we are laymen and just need to read your book. I don’t know that I will read the book. But I would be extremely interested if you would publish the research about a model of human-music interaction referenced by you or your colleague in that excerpt you posted above.

It sounds like you are not in position to defend your #2 point above (based on that correspondence with your friend) and it is critical to almost everything you wrote in the 2nd installment of that article. We really are at an impasse until you feel comfortable actually defending statements like your prohibition on consecutive 7ths from a technical perspective.

Best wishes in your research and happy new year.

Hello, Greg,

Thanks for your follow up. Although we haven’t met, I trust you are having a great start to a new year.

Regarding your statement: “The perception I get from the way you write is that you think we are laymen and just need to read your book.” Nothing could be further from the truth and I apologize if I wrote anything in a condescending way. I think I did make clear why I recommend reading the book, so I won’t rehearse that again, but I certainly don’t have any illusions that a small paperback will answer all questions or sway all readers.

Regarding the research - I will publish it when it is complete and will make sure to post a notice in this forum. Perhaps you could take a look at the research results I have already posted (linked above). I think you will find the PDF write up interesting, if heavy on statistics.

Regarding your statement: “It sounds like you are not in position to defend your #2 point…” again I can only chalk that up to being unclear and inefficient in my writing. I do defend those ideas in the book, to a degree. Might I suggest that your misunderstanding of my original statement about consecutive 7th chords is part of the problem? I mentioned “heavy use of consecutive 7th chords” and did not pronounce a prohibition, merely a caution, especially when that particular technique is combined with some of the other techniques mentioned. If you honestly do not recognize the difference of emotive impact between a piece of music that uses unresolved dissonance extensively and one that does not, or the fact that elements do not work in isolation, but in context/combination, or that music can communicate (using my broad definition above) something appropriate or inappropriate for worship and edification, we are at an impasse.

I appreciate your comments and our brief conversation. Should you decide to read the book, I doubt you will find it earth-shattering, but perhaps we could correspond on some particulars.

Yours in Christ,


Director of music studies, Bob Jones Memorial Bible College

PhD candidate, Durham University