The Restoration Principle - Alfred T. DeGroot - Tertullian

Alfred T. DeGroot rejects a Restoration Movement because no church father such as Tertullian taught it. Acceptance of instrumental music in worship is permitted because there is no New Testament Pattern and those who seek such a restoration movement are labeled "sects" by DeGroot and sectarians by Rubel Shelly and other latter day prophets of a new wine in a new wineskin worship.

Quotes are from The Restoration Principle, Alfred T. DeGroot, p. 39, Bethany Press

Alfred T. DeGroot   The Restoration Principle
Alfred T. DeGroot   Rejecting Tradition
Alfred T. DeGroot   Subtracting Music
Alfred T. DeGroot   The Instructor
Alfred T. DeGroot   Cyprian
Alfred T. DeGroot   Justin Martyr
Alfred T. DeGroot   Lactantius
Alfred T. DeGroot   Tertullian

Tertullian is one of the proof-text persons used to prove that there was no interest in a pattern for Christian Worship.

Because DeGroot's motive is to denounce churches of Christ as "sectarian" for refusing to add instrumental music as worship, it is fitting that all of the "fathers" denounce instrumental music as a pagan force which had not -- during their times -- dared to be used in Christian worship.

On page 44-45 DeGroot invalidates any Restoration Movement which does not practice the Agape feast and appeals to Tertullian as authority. It seems, perhaps, Paul restricted the Agape when he told the Corinthians to take care of their hunger and thirst at home then they could eat the Lord's Supper. And the professionals were blights on the love feast. So we restore the Agape outside of the assembly in myriads of "pot lucks."

Of Alexander Campbell's comments on Slavery as a matter of opinion (rather, we might say, as a matter of church force) DeGroot notes that:

Alfred T. DeGroot: "The latter is a defensible attitute dot take when a church with power in its forms rather than in its person-to-person relationships and with fixed items in its salvation schema is presupposed. Tertullian apparently did not entertain this presupposition, In De Spectaculis he dissociates himself from such literalism, saying:

...For the faith of some, either too simple or too scrupulous, demands direct authority from Scripture from giving up the shows and holds out that the matter is a doubtful one, because such abstinence is not clearly in words imposed upon God's servants."

"The lack of an apostolical diagramed church order is attested in the time of Tertullian by his failure to use such an idea just when it would have proved most valuable. Indeed, he regarded lightly "the faith of some, either too simple or too scrupulous (which) demands direct authority from Scripture," to use his words." (p. 77)

Tertullian in De Spectaculis notes

For such is the power of earthly pleasures, that, to retain the opportunity of still partaking of them, it contrives to prolong swilling ignorance, and bribes knowledge into playing a dishonest part.

To both things, perhaps, some among you are allured by the views of the heathens who in this matter are wont to press us with arguments, such as these:

(1) That the exquisite enjoyments of ear and eye we have in things external are not in the least opposed to religion in the mind and conscience; and

(2) That surely no offence is offered to God, in any human enjoyment, by any of our pleasures, which it is not sinful to partake of in its own time and place, with all due honour and reverence secured to Him.

But this is precisely what we are ready to prove: That these things are not consistent with true religion and true obedience to the true God.

There are some who imagine that Christians, a sort of people ever ready to die, are trained into the abstinence they practise, with no other object than that of making it less difficult to despise life, the fastenings to it being severed as it were.

They regard it as an art of quenching all desire for that which, so far as they are concerned, they have emptied of all that is desirable;
        and so it is thought to be rather a thing of human planning and foresight,

        than clearly laid down by divine command.

It were a grievous thing, forsooth, for Christians, while continuing in the enjoyment of pleasures so great, to die for God! It is not as they say; though, if it were, even Christian obstinacy might well give all submission to a plan so suitable, to a rule so excellent

Chapter II.

Then, again, every one is ready with the argument that all things, as we teach, were created by God, and given to man for his use, and that they must be good, as coming all from so good a source;

but that among them are found the various constituent elements of the public shows, such as the horse, the lion, bodily strength, and musical voice.

It cannot, then, be thought that what exists by God's own creative will is either foreign or hostile to Him; and if it is not opposed to Him, it cannot be regarded as injurious to His worshippers, as certainly it is not foreign to them.

Beyond all doubt, too, the very buildings connected with the places of public amusement, composed as they are of rocks, stones, marbles, pillars, are things of God, who has given these various things for the earth's embellishment; nay, the very scenes are enacted under God's own heaven.

How skilful a pleader seems human wisdom to herself, especially if she has the fear of losing any of her delights-any of the sweet enjoyments of worldly existence!

In fact, you will find not a few whom the imperilling of their pleasures rather than their life holds back from us. For even the weakling has no strong dread of death as a debt he knows is due by him; while the wise man does not look with contempt on pleasure, regarding it as a precious gift-in fact, the one blessedness of life, whether to philosopher or fool. Now nobody denies what nobody is ignorant of-for Nature herself is teacher of it-that God is the Maker of the universe, and that it is good, and that it is man's by free gift of its Maker.

But having no intimate acquaintance with the Highest, knowing Him only by natural revelation, and not as His "friends"-afar off, and not as those who have been brought nigh to Him-

men cannot but be in ignorance alike of what He enjoins and what He forbids in regard to the administration of His world.
They must be ignorant, too, of the hostile power which works against Him, and
perverts to wrong uses the things His hand has formed;
        for you cannot know either the will or the adversary of a God you do not know.
        We must not, then, consider merely by whom all things were made,
        but by whom they have been perverted.
We shall find out for what use they were made at first,
when we find for what they were

Alfred T. DeGroot: "The lack of an apostolical diagramed church order is attested in the time of Tertullian by his failure to use such an idea just when it would have proved most valuable. Indeed, he regarded lightly "the faith of some, either too simple or too scrupulous (which) demands direct authority from Scripture," to use his words." (p. 77)

We have said before, and it is elementary Bible, the ekklesia is a school of the Bible like the synagogue. It has no diagramed patternism other than meeting to do "a school of Christ" in the words of the Campbells and Paul.

What DeGroot pleads elsewhere is that the "scrupulous" are those "sectarians" who demand a direct command for introducing instrumental music.

But, Tertullian shows in chapter II above and expounds below in chapter III that those who wanted to engage in the instrumental music or drama demanded a direct command to give up the show and music.

Therefore, those "too scrupulous" are those, in our analogy, who engage in instrumental music as worship.

Tertullian shows that a spiritual person does not need a command to cease a doubtful or divisive practice.

Chapter III.

Fortified by this knowledge against heathen views, let us rather turn to the unworthy reasonings of our own people; for the faith of some, either too simple or too scrupulous,

demands direct authority from Scripture for giving up the shows,
and holds out that the matter is a
doubtful one, because such abstinence is not clearly and in words imposed upon God's servants.

Well, we never find it expressed with the same precision,

"Thou shalt not enter circus or theatre, thou shalt not look on combat or show; "as it is plainly laid down, "Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not worship an idol; thou shalt not commit adultery or fraud." Ex. xx. 14.

But we find that that first word of David bears on this very sort of thing: "Blessed," he says, "is the man who has not gone into the assembly of the impious, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of scorners." Ps. i. 1.

Though he seems to have predicted beforehand of that just man, that he took no part in the meetings and deliberations of the Jews, taking counsel about the slaying of our Lord,

yet divine Scripture has ever far-reaching applications: after the immediate sense has been exhausted, in all directions it fortifies the practice of the religious life, so that here also you have an utterance which is not far from a plain interdicting of the shows.

If he called those few Jews an assembly of the wicked,

how much more will he so designate so vast a gathering of heathens! Are the heathens less impious, less sinners, less enemies of Christ, than the Jews were then? And see, too, how other things agree. For at the shows they also stand in the way.

We may understand a thing as spoken generally, even when it requires a certain special interpretation to be given to it. For some things spoken with a special reference contain in them general truth. When God admonishes the Isrealites of their duty, or sharply reproves them, He has surely a reference to all men; when He threatens destruction to Egypt and Ethiopia, He surely pre-condemns every sinning nation, whatever. If, reasoning from species to genus, every nation that sins against them is an Egypt and Ethiopia; so also, reasoning from genus to species, with reference to the origin of shows, every show is an assembly of the wicked.

Chapter X.

Let us pass on now to theatrical exhibitions, which we have already shown have a common origin with the circus, and bear like idolatrous designations-even as from the first they have borne the name of "Ludi," and equally minister to idols.

They resemble each other also in their pomp, having the same procession to the scene of their display from temples and altars, and that mournful profusion of incense and blood,

with music of pipes and trumpets, all under the direction of the soothsayer and the undertaker,
those two
foul masters of funeral rites and sacrifices.

While Tertullian would allow customs without a law -- such as the veiling of women under the Old Testament -- he speaks of traditions which did not contradict Scripture. And it is a fact which he notes that instrumental music was always the tradition of the pagans and never the tradition of the church.

So as we went on from the origin of the "Ludi" to the circus games, we shall now direct our course thence to those of the theatre, beginning with the place of exhibition.

At first the theatre was properly a temple of Venus; and, to speak briefly,
it was owing to this that
stage performances were allowed to escape censure, and got a footing in the world. For ofttimes the censors, in the interests of morality,

put down above all the rising theatres, foreseeing, as they did, that there was great danger of their leading to a general profligacy; so that already, from this accordance of their own people with us, there is a witness to the heathen, and in the anticipatory judgment of human knowledge even a confirmation of our views.

Accordingly Pompey the Great, less only than his theatre, when he had erected that citadel of all impurities, fearing some time or other censorian condemnation of his memory,

superposed on it a temple of Venus; and summoning by public proclamation the people to its consecration,
        he called it not a
theatre, but a temple, "under which," said he,
        "we have placed tiers of seats for viewing the shows."
        So he threw a veil over a structure on which condemnation had been often passed,
        and which is ever to be held in reprobation,
        by pretending that it was a sacred place; and
        by means of superstition he blinded the eyes of a virtuous discipline.

Chapter XV.

Having done enough, then, as we have said, in regard to that principal argument, that there is in them all the taint of idolatry-having sufficiently dealt with that,
        let us now contrast the other characteristics of the show with the things of God.
        God has enjoined us to deal calmly, gently, quietly, and peacefully with the Holy Spirit,
        because these things are alone in keeping with the goodness of His nature,
        with His tenderness and sensitiveness, and not to vex Him with rage, ill-nature, anger, or grief.
        Well, how shall this be made to accord with the shows?

For the show always leads to spiritual agitation, since where there is pleasure, there is keenness of feeling giving pleasure its zest; and where there is keenness of feeling, there is rivalry giving in turn its zest to that.

Then, too, where you have rivalry, you have rage, bitterness, wrath and grief, with all bad things which flow from them-the whole entirely out of keeping with the religion of Christ. For even suppose one should enjoy the shows in a moderate way, as befits his rank, age or nature,

still he is not undisturbed in mind, without some unuttered movings of the inner man. No one partakes of pleasures such as these without their strong excitements; no one comes under their excitements without their natural lapses. These lapses, again, create passionate desire.

If there is no desire, there is no pleasure

Chapter XX.

How vain, then-nay, how desperate-is the reasoning of persons, who, just because they decline to lose a pleasure, hold out
        that we cannot point to the specific words or the very place where this abstinence is mentioned,
        and where the servants of God are directly forbidden to have anything to do with such assemblies!

I heard lately a novel defence of himself by a certain play-lover. "The sun," said he, "nay, God Himself, looks down from heaven on the show, and no pollution is contracted."

Yes, and the sun, too, pours down his rays into the common sewer without being defiled. As for God, would that all crimes were hid from His eye, that we might all escape judgment!

But He looks on robberies too; He looks on falsehoods, adulteries, frauds, idolatries, and these same shows; and precisely on that account we will not look on them, lest the All-seeing see us. You are putting on the same level, O man, the criminal and the judge; the criminal who is a criminal because he is seen, and the Judge who is a Judge because He sees.

In De Corona (The Crown)

It is true that Tertullian speaks of custom or traditions which they observed during Baptism but these did not interfere with the act of Baptism. He speaks in chapter IV of veiling women without a direct Old Testament command. But this would not interfere with or add an "act of worship." Furthermore, of The Crowning which the Returning Jews would not do even though they played instruments, Tertullian notes:

Indeed, in urgently demanding the warrant of Scripture in a different side from their own, men prejudge that the support of Scripture ought no less to appear on their part.

For if it shall be said that it is lawful to be crowned on this ground, that Scripture does not forbid it,

it will as validly be retorted that just on this ground is the crown unlawful, because the Scripture does not enjoin it.
What shall discipline do? Shall it accept both things, as if neither were forbidden? Or shall it refuse both, as if neither were enjoined? But "the thing which is not forbidden is freely permitted."

I should rather say that what has not been freely allowed is forbidden.

Alfred T. DeGroot in The Restoration Principle denounces churches of Christ as sects for defending the non-introduction of instrumental music because the church Fathers did not suggest the need for a Restoration Movement. We believe that Tertullian has proven DeGroot wrong.

Tertullian defends the revealed Word as the only authority for faith and worship.

Tertullian constantly urges a Restoration Movement back to that which is revealed in the inspired Word

Tertullian, like all of the fathers, is emphatic that instrumental music as worship is the custom or tradition of pagans.

In agreement with Paul, Tertullian points to the Words of inspiration as our authority except for customs or traditions which are part of culture but not part of the act of worship.

Therefore, the historical urge of Luther, Calvin, Alexander Campbell, Thomas Campbell, and Tertullian gives us reason to have a Restoration Movement back to the church of the New Testament is still valid.

Tertullian and the Fall of Women

Tertullian, The Shows, or De Spectaculis, Modern Religious Drama and Music

Kenneth Sublett Comments Welcome

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