One of the most common questions people ask us is why we don’t use musical instruments in our worship. There are different ways to answer and explain. Here is one way that may seem strange at first, but if the person thinks about it he will answer his own question. This particular response is for someone who is in some church other than the Catholic Church.

A person says, “Why don’t you use musical instruments in your worship?” You can ask him, “Why are you not a Catholic?” He will probably think the question is irrelevant and may even be impatient. That is understandable. He’s asking you about worship where you attend and you’re asking him about Catholicism. What does one have to do with the other?

If you can get a person to explain why he is not a Catholic and lead him to give Bible reasons, you will have laid the ground work for answering his question.

He may say something general like, “I just don’t like all the ceremonies” or “The leadership is corrupt.” Ask him about specific doctrines and practices in the Catholic religion: Do you believe that having a Pope is biblical? Is it right to pray to Mary and to certain ones they call “saints” instead of praying to God? Is there anything wrong with burning incense or sprinkling holy water in worship? Does the Bible teach that only a priest or another member of the Catholic clergy can offer communion to those attending worship?

The goal is to help the person to see that these things are unbiblical. He may not know the Bible well enough to base his objection on the Scriptures. But that is an open door to discuss the Bible as the authority in these matters and find a point of agreement. You will have to be persistent in a kind way. If you can get him to make a biblical case against these practices, then you have common ground.

This person may not see the point. He may ask, “What do all these things have to do with instruments of music? That’s what I’m asking about.” Be patient and help him to see that they are parallel. If it is wrong to have a Pope or pray to Mary or burn incense in worship because there is no biblical authority for them, then the same reasoning applies to musical instruments in worship. There is no difference between these things as far as their lack of New Testament authorization is concerned. They stand or fall together.

There are many examples of this principle in the Bible. God told Noah to build an ark of gopher wood (Gen. 6:14). Would Noah have been right to say “God didn’t say I couldn’t use other kinds of wood so I’ll use something else”? The Lord told the Israelites to offer lamb for the Passover (Exod. 12:3-6). What if they had said, “A horse is worth more, so we’ll honor God with that”? God told the Jews that He would chose a specific place for them to offer sacrifices (Deut. 12;1-16). Would they have been justified in building a temple somewhere else and offering sacrifices there? This was the very question that the Samaritan woman brought up to Jesus fifteen hundred years later. Did it matter? The Lord told her it did (John 4:20-22).

An illustration that hits closer to home with most people today is the Lord’s Supper. We know that the food of the communion is to be unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine (Matt. 26:26-29). What would be wrong with adding other foods like cookies or soft drinks? This would be adding to what the Lord said. We have no authority to do this. But what is the difference between adding to the food of the Lord’s Supper and adding to the only music God authorizes in New Testament worship—singing and making melody in the heart (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16)?

Let us hold to the anchor of the truth stated in Colossians 3:17:

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

-Kerry Duke