[forthright] Freedom of Choise/Psallo

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From: Forthright Magazine <ba@...>
Date: Sat, 09 Oct 2004 11:44:18 -0500
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross


COLUMN: Field Notes

Freedom of Choice
by Michael E. Brooks

"I call heaven and earth as witnesses today
against you, that I have set before you life and
death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose
life, that both you and your descendants may live"
(Deuteronomy 30:19).

I had an interesting conversation with George, our
cook here at Khulna Bible College, the other day.

George: "What would you like to have for lunch
today?"

Mike: "I don't know, what do you have?"

George: "No, what do you want?"

Mike: "What about spaghetti?"

George: "No, I have tortoise curry, rice, dahl,
some eggplant and some salad."

Mike: "Okay, that will be fine."

In my experience, many "choices" turn out about
like George's menu. We have preferences and often
express them, but it turns out that we usually
have to take what is available. Selection,
economics, time, and many other factors work to
limit our actual options much more than our
theoretical selections seem to offer. But we
usually get by, at least.

That reality makes the fact of our moral freedom
of will before Almighty God truly amazing. He is
Sovereign of the Universe, Lord of all that is,
was, and ever will be. Yet he gives us genuine
freedom of choice. Moses offered the Israelites,
whom God had brought from slavery out of Egypt,
complete freedom as to whether to enter the land
of promise. Later Joshua would demand, "Choose for
yourselves this day whom you will serve" (Joshua
24:15). It was up to them. And it is totally and
completely up to us as well. We have that same
freedom of choice.

Not all accept this. There is a school of theology
that says that if God is truly all-powerful and
sovereign, he cannot be denied. For man to refuse
to serve him would be to limit the power of the
Almighty, by definition impossible. This school
demands either universal salvation or arbitrary
predestination. All the choices are God's. Man has
no say. Millions have believed these doctrines.

But the Bible plainly denies them, asserting in
their place the wonderful truth of free will. Just
as Adam chose death, so we may and must choose
between death and life. Does this limit God's
power? It would, if the choice was imposed upon
him from without. But it is God who gave us this
freedom. God does not compromise his sovereignty
when he places limits upon himself. It is he who
decided not to impose his all powerful will upon
man, but to invite sinful man, in love, to accept
God's grace and be saved.

This elevates man, not to the status of equal, but
to the nature of rational, thinking being, able to
do what his will and knowledge lead him to do. We
are made in God's own image, the image of one with
will and self-determination. It is that being whom
God finds worth saving, even at the incredible
price of the death of his own beloved son, Jesus.
Man is not a machine, a puppet, or an unthinking
animal whom God compels into fellowship. He is a
rational being, whom God invites. One with real
freedom of choice.

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COLUMN: Basic Greek

Psallo
by Kevin Cauley

Perhaps one of the most controversial words in the
discussion of music in the church today is the
Greek word "psallo." In the 1923 Boswell-Hardeman
debate on instrumental music, Boswell, who
represented the Christian church, set forth the
argument that instrumental music was permissible
in Christian worship today because it was included
in the Greek word "psallo." Brother Hardeman
argued that the word did not inherently include
the instrument, but required the context to
specify the instrument and that the instrument
specified in Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19
was the "heart." While we cannot cover the gamut
of ancient literature in this short study, I would
like to briefly look at the word "psallo" and its
meaning.

The "Greek-English Lexicon" by Liddell and Scott
is considered by most Greek students to be the
authority for English word translation. Regarding
the word "PSALLW," the first (I) definition they
write, which indicates the basic and most primary
use of the word, is: "pluck, pull, twitch ...
pluck the hair ... esp. of the bow-string ...
twang them ... send a shaft twanging from the bow
... a carpenter's red line, which is twitched and
then suddenly let go, so as to leave a mark." The
second (II) definition that Liddell and Scott give
is as follows: "mostly of the strings of musical
instruments, play a stringed instrument with the
fingers, and not with the plectron ...." They also
write, "2. later, sing to a harp" and they cite
Psalms 7:18 and 9:12 in the Septuagint without
qualification. But interestingly enough, they also
point to Ephesians 5:19 and 1 Corinthians 14:15
but not without qualification. They qualify the
word with the object of the "psalloing," namely,
"THi KARDIAi" (the heart) and "TWi PNEUMATI" (the
spirit). They recognize that the word in the New
Testament is used with fundamentally different
objects than in the Septuagint. It is not merely
the "psalloing" of the strings of a mechanical
instrument, but the "psalloing" of the heart
(Ephesians 5:19) and of the spirit (1 Corinthians
14:15). The instrument upon which we "psallo" is
specified. It is the "heart" or the "spirit" upon
which we play that is to accompany our singing to
God.

This all points to the fact that "psallo" does not
inherently involve the use of the mechanical
instrument of music. The instrument had to be
specified by the context in which the word was
used. Certainly, the word may be used to refer to
the mechanical instrument of music, and often was
used that way in many contexts. However, when it
came to the worship of the early church, the
"psalloing" that they did was upon the heart and
the spirit. The context particularly excluded the
use of the mechanical instrument by focusing upon
the heart and spirit as the instrument. It is for
this reason that early Christian writers held to
the necessity of singing, not as accompanied by a
mechanical instrument, but in making one's own
body the instrument upon which to sing praises to
God. Clement of Alexandria writes:

The Spirit, distinguishing from such revelry the
divine service, sings, "Praise Him with the sound
of trumpet;" for with sound of trumpet He shall
raise the dead. "Praise Him on the psaltery;" for
the tongue is the psaltery of the Lord. "And
praise Him on the lyre." By the lyre is meant the
mouth struck by the Spirit, as it were by a
plectrum. "Praise with the timbrel and the dance,"
refers to the Church meditating on the
resurrection of the dead in the resounding skin.
"Praise Him on the chords and organ." Our body He
calls an organ, and its nerves are the strings, by
which it has received harmonious tension, and when
struck by the Spirit, it gives forth human voices.
"Praise Him on the clashing cymbals." He calls the
tongue the cymbal of the mouth, which resounds
with the pulsation of the lips." (Emph. Added)

Chrysostom stated:

"David formerly sang songs, also today we sing
hymns. He had a lyre with lifeless strings, the
church has a lyre with living strings. Our tongues
are the strings of the lyre with a different tone
indeed but much more in accordance with piety.
Here there is no need for the cithara, or for
stretched strings, or for the plectrum, or for
art, or for any instrument; but, if you like, you
may yourself become a cithara, mortifying the
members of the flesh and making a full harmony of
mind and body. For when the flesh no longer lusts
against the Spirit, but has submitted to its
orders and has been led at length into the best
and most admirable path, then will you create a
spiritual melody." (Emph. Added)

Dozens more quotations could be set forth to show
that this was the consensus for musical worship in
the early church, namely, that it was the
individual Christian who became the instrument
upon which to praise God. The Greek word "psallo"
does indeed include the idea of "playing," but
that which is played must be specified by the
context in which the word is found. In Ephesians
5:19 and 1 Corinthians 14:15, the object is
specified, namely, the heart and the spirit. This
is why the word is universally translated in these
passages "sing" instead of "play."

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