Listen and Be Honestly Informed

Note: Parts of this article is written in the Filipino language.

Mga kasamang mangangaral ang gusto kong kausapin sa paksang ito. Sa mga ilang kursong itinuro ko sa seminaryo at sa isang malakihang lectureship na magtatatlong pong taon na ang nakararaan, ipinaliwanag ko ito pero mga ilan ay ayaw makinig. Paulit-ulit ko na ring ipinaliwanag sa ilang sinulat kong sanaysay. Pero di pa rin maniwala ang iba. Siguro totoo ang kasabihan na mahirap turuan ang matanda nang kabaw.

This is about the use of Amos 6:5 as a proof text by some, including a few Churches of Christ preachers, to directly negate the use of mechanical instruments in the Jewish and Christian worship. We should be careful about our interpretations. Kung mali ang basehan ng argumento lalong titigas ang paniniwala ang nasa kabila ng tinutukoy na isyu. Alam ng mga marurunong sa Old Testament na guro at estudiante na ang Amos 5:23 at Amos 6:5 ay hindi pagbabawal kundi pagtutuwid. Just as 1 Cor. 1:17 is not a prohibition of baptism kundi pagtutuwid na ilagay ang gawaing bautismo sa tamang lugar. The baptism of the Corinthians became reprehensible if they boasted on their relationship with their immersers who were Peter or Apollos or Paul. Gaya din ang 1 Cor. 11:22. Hindi ring pagwawalang saysay sa Hapunan ng Panginoon kundi pagtutuwid sa tunay na kahulugan ng ordinansa. The breaking of bread and drinking of the cup became vain if it was just a part of a drinking and feasting session.

If Amos 5:23 and 6:5 possess the language of the “negative prohibitive” hermeneutical principle among Churches of Christ, then all those mentioned in Amos 5:21-23 (like feast days, sacred assemblies, burnt offerings, grain offerings, peace offerings and songs) and in Amos 6:4-6 (lie on beds of ivory, stretch out on couches, eat lambs from the flock, eat beef, drink wine, anoint selves with ointment or lotion, reclining at fiestas and building palaces) should likewise be prohibited in the Mosaical Dispensation. But I don’t hear these same teachers/students declare the unscripturality of these other items. Bakit ang mechanical instruments of music lang ang pupulutin na bawal mula sa mga talatang ito? The inconsistency is obvious. Such way of reasoning is not a demonstration of intellectual honesty.

The language of Amos 5:23 and 6:5 is the same language in Isaiah 1:10-17. But I’ve not heard the users of Amos 5:23 and Amos 6:5 employ Isaiah 1:10-17 to deny the scripturality of animal sacrifices, in offering blood on the temple altar, assemblies in the temple court, burning of incense, feasts of the New Moon and Sabbaths, and prayers. Yet the style is the same. The listed items were provisions in the Law of God given to Moses. These items were not wrong in themselves. In fact these were commandments of Yahweh. But these became contemptible because of the moral and ethical failures of Judah. Religious life should be interwoven in social justice, the prophet said. Religion is not separated from everyday life.

Let me submit Matthew 23:1-36 as a working comparison in the language of correction and reproof and not prohibition. There are good deeds that are mentioned in this text. They are good and acceptable deeds if practiced correctly. However, these good deeds became negative in the discourse of the Lord because of the incorrect motivation and the inconsistent logic taught by the Jewish teachers.

Notice the pronouncement of woe or condemnation in Matt. 23: 13, 14, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27 and 29. Also note the negating deeds following the good deeds:

1. Good deed: Long prayers, v. 14. Long prayer per se is not a prohibited act. Among Churches of Christ and other religious groups there are overnight prayer meetings. These are longer prayer sessions than the prayers of the Pharisees. Sometimes there are prayers lifted up to the heavens by so-called “prayer warriors” who spend long hours in chapel sanctuaries. We commend their long prayers because we believe they are sincere.

Negating deed: Praying with the aim of devouring widows’ houses. The motivation is essentially wrong.

2. Good deed: Travel land and sea to do mission work, v. 15. This is not a prohibited at. Among Churches of Christ, mission work is highly desirable and intensely prayed for.

Negating deed: Jewish missionaries taught their proselytes traditions of men that make converts doubly sons of hell. See Matt. 15:1-9.

3. Good deed: Recognition of the temple’s sacredness, v. 16.

Negating deed: Making the gold in the temple more sacred and valuable than the temple.

4. Good deed: Recognition of the altar’s sacredness and value, v. 18-20.

Negating deed: Making the gift on the altar more sacred and valuable than the altar.

5. Good deed: Pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin according to the letter of the law, v. 23.

Negating deed: Neglect the observance of justice, mercy and faith – v. 23.

6. Good deed: Cleanse the outside of the cup and plate (washed and well dressed physical bodies), v. 24

Negating deed: Heart is bent on bribery and corruption , v. 24.

7. Good deed: Whitewashing tombs (practiced in the Philippines on All Saints Day), v. 27.

Negating deed: Microbes inside that represent hypocrisy and lawlessness, v. 27,28.

8. Good deed: Build tombs/monuments in honor of prophets, v. 29, 30.

Negating deed: Honoring their forefathers who refused to heed the moral reforms of the prophet.

In Matthew 23, our Lord did not prohibit the good deeds we listed down, but he was saying that these “good deeds” became reprehensible to the Lord because of the immoral and unethical lives of the actors. That is the same kind of hermeneutics in Amos 5:23 and Amos 6:5. The making of musical instruments and the singing to the accompaniment of musical instruments at the time of Amos were good deeds, but these became vain because of the wrong motives and the immoral and unethical social behaviors of the Jewish actors. ©