"Mission To Korea" - May A Christian Ever Rejoice In That Which Is Sinful?
That which has occasioned the raising of this question is the appearance of an article in the Firm Foundation of January 5, 1954 by Captain Roland Johnson, stationed in Korea. This article is a narration of the alleged attitude and utterances of Brother Burton Coffman while in Korea on his recent mission. I have received independent information that this account constitutes a correct representation of his views and sentiments as touching the subject discussed. Hence, I am writing this under the impression that such is true, while recognizing the right of Brother Coffman to repudiate such sentiments as were therein revealed as his.
He is quoted by Captain Johnson as saying that Christians, members of the Lord's church, should cooperate with the chaplain in his work, and that they should do so on common ground; and, this, too, despite the unscriptural teaching and worship identified with such work. Then, when accosted and questioned regarding his own participation in religious services wherein instrumental music was employed, he replied he "does not object to its use, and in fact I'm glad they have it." Furthermore, there is attributed to him the statement that for twenty-five years he has preached baccalaureate sermons in the South, and the use of the instrument has not bothered him.
To be glad suggests that one is pleased by or delighted with that which makes them glad. Then, the use of instrumental music affords Brother Coffman pleasure when used by others in religious service when he is associated with such service or worship. It is quite true one may, and should be pleased with a thing when there is nothing wrong with it and it possesses the quality of producing delight, and not be bothered at all. Then, too, one may even derive a pleasure from that which is wrong or sinful as we read of "the pleasures of sin," but where the person knows it to be sinful there is experienced a perturbed spirit if the conscience is alive, functioning and tender. Too, a thing may be sinful and one not know this to be true, in which case the pleasure is unalloyed by a disturbed conscience or anxious concern for himself or whoever may be involved in the guilt attaching thereto. But when the pleasure is experienced, free from all perturbation or being bothered while recognizing the presence of sin, then the conclusion must be accepted that the conscience is either weak, defiled, seared or dead. May the brother be delivered from this obliquity. The explanation, however, may be thought to reside in the novel conception that in the use of instrumental music in worship the guilt of sin is restricted to the one playing the instrument and the one authorizing its use. But who is to authorize such a use of it? In the local congregation of the Lord's body only the elders or bishops are in possession of authority to regulate such matters, where the congregation has them. There authority is purely of an administrative kind, and embodies no such right as legislating an innovation into the worship. If, then, an eldership is so pliant to the will of the members as to place the instrument into the worship of the assembly, only they and the instrumentalist would be guilty of sin — regardless of how much satisfaction was experienced and concurrence expressed by the congregation as they joyously participate therein. With the possibility of finding an eldership sufficiently weak in the faith this approach might be attempted by some of the digressive minded brethren. Such reasoning, or lack of it, impeaches the principle of "particeps criminis" which is expressly recognized in 2nd John 8-9.
The most revealing and regrettable aspect of this entire affair is found in the acknowledgment that, notwithstanding some sin in the use of the instrument he is glad they have it and so use it sinfully. The condition of the heart of any person, Christian or not, who can avow they are glad when any person sins is well-night unbelievable. In the apostle's delineation of the degradation, morally, of the Gentile world in the first chapter of Romans, we find as the climax of all the filthy defilement therein assigned to them this statement: "Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same BUT HAVE PLEASURE IN THEM THAT DO THEM." (verse 32) Here the superlative degree of corruption is found in that of deriving pleasure from the knowledge others sin. It is incompatible with humanity, morality, and, supremely, Christianity for anyone to be pleased with or by any other sinning anytime anywhere in anyway. May Brother Coffman be delivered from the fallacy, falsity and the fatality of such thinking and grasp that conception of the Christ acid his teaching that will immunize him from such errors in the future is my sincere desire and prayer to God for him.