October 1, 1987 Issue

Johnny Elmore


In the latest issue of One Body, Summer 87, Leroy Garrett, editor of Restoration Review and well-known for his liberal postures, takes H.A. (Buster) Dobbs to task for his editorial in Firm Foundation, (Jan. 27, 1987), in which he announces his intention to speak on "The Hermeneutic of Silence" at Restoration Forum V in Cincinnati, defined as a meeting "among brethren in the Restoration Movement in the interest of unity." Garrett pedantically points out to Dobbs that there is no such thing as "a hermeneutics of silence," and that it makes as much sense to speak of "The Geography of Nowhere," or "The Physics of Nothing." Since Dobbs said that he was asked to speak on this subject, I have an idea that someone else selected the name of his topic for him. If Dobbs were not already quaking in his boots, he well should have been when Garrett reminded everyone that he has a Ph. D.

However, Garrett does get right down to the meat of the issue when he reminds Dobbs: "If there is a 'law of silence, it has to work both ways. Back to our brother who objects to a plurality of cups on the ground of silence (and because it plainly says, 'Jesus took the cup), dont we have to concede that he is right, that the Bible is silent about cups and that they are an innovation -introduced by no one less than C.E. Holt and G.C. Brewer?"

Garrett is trying to justify all kinds of looseness, of course, but he is right! Dobbs and his brethren should just come on out, as Garrett has, and shell the corn down and admit "that the Bible is silent about cups and that they are an innovation." Garrett can see it, others can see it, and they shall have "no rest day nor night," who condemn the instrumental music people for using instruments of music in the assembly on the ground that the Bible says nothing about it while ignoring the fact that the Bible is also silent about individual cups in the communion. I personally hope Garrett and others continue to hold Dobbs feet to the fire until he and his brethren give up the "silence of the Scriptures" argument or admit that they are wonderfully inconsistent.

But remember that Garrett is trying to justify the instrumental music people. He tries to head Dobbs off at the pass by ridiculing the argument made on gopherwood and the ark by saying: "The Church of Christ case against instruments is having a hard time of it if we still have to march out that old saw of Noah and the gopherwood, as you indicate you plan to do in Cincinnati. It is hard to believe that our editors today can be so shallow as to write what you did...The problem with this argument is that it proves more than you want to prove, for everyone who seeks to make a law out of his opinion can use it. 'Jesus took the cup. Is that not specific enough? Then why your plastic cups of a different kind and size?"

Apparently Garrett thinks that Dwaine Dunning made a touchdown and a home run too, when he tried to meet the gopher wood argument by saying that Gesenius in his Hebrew lexicon defined "gopher" as "resinous wood, not a specific tree." Dunning argues that pine, fir, cedar, cypress, spruce, and hemlock could have been used, according to this definition (One Body, Spring, 86). Now isn't that a wonderful objection? So what if "gopher" does simply mean "resinous wood"? That is still specific, and would exclude all non-resinous wood. The gopherwood argument stands and it will take more than ridicule to tear it down, but it is inconsistent for Dobbs to make an appeal to it so long as he uses cups.

But Garrett thinks he has discovered that churches of Christ use "two different kinds of music every Sunday vocal music and written music." He argues: "If you can have written music to aid your singing, why cannot your brother have instrumental music to aid his singing?" This is simply a new twist on the old, worn-out song-book argument. I am surprised that any man would make such a puerile argument, even one with a Ph. D. impediment. Garrett must have studied music at the same place he got his degree! Every singing school I ever attended defined music as "tones (musical sounds) systematically arranged so that they sound pleasing to the ear" or some equivalent definition. Written "music" does not make sounds (unless someone drops a songbook). Oh, but he says: "Consult your dictionary as to the meaning of music." Yes, and the dictionary also defines baptize as to "dip into water or sprinkle with water." Will Garrett accept that definition? Yes, he probably will.

I have to have a degree of sympathy for brother Dobbs and those brethren who use Sunday School and individual cups. They are in the unenviable position of having to defend those innovations while trying to oppose instrumental music in the assembly. All the while, we are told that many of their members - some say as many as ninety percent-would not oppose instrumental music in the assembly, and that most of the remaining ten percent are gray-headed. No wonder! One of their preachers admitted that in many towns they have "the worst singing of any group in town - worse even than a herd of lukewarm Episcopalians" (One Body, Spring, 87).

Many of their preachers are out on the plains of Ono, meeting with modern Sanballats and Tobiahs of the Christian Church who have tried to deter them with love feasts and scholarship and now resort to outright ridicule. Clearly, their position is untenable. What will they do? Will they retreat to firmer ground or goon to wider digression? We shall wait and see, but it appears that many have already made their decision

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