I rarely give significant theological thought to meat, so while my last post asked about the propriety of serving idol meat at the Corinthian church picnic, most readers of this blog (the vast majority of whom have no reason to worry about the morality of eating meat offered to idols) could guess that I was up to something else.
The most contentious issue in any potential Christian liberty/Romans 14/1 Corinthians 8-10 situation is often whether the activity under debate is truly a thing indifferent. The brother who feels liberty to partake is (obviously) quick to insist that it is indifferent, but the brother whose conscience is pained by the activity almost inevitably insists that the activity is forbidden to the believer. For him to acknowledge otherwise (that is, for him to concede that the activity is an adiaphoron) is to acknowledge that he is the weaker brother. Such acknowledgment not only means accepting a certain stigma, but it also demands that the he cease his efforts to convince others that he is right.
If we shift topics from meat to music, those of us pressing for musical conservatism are asked to see music as an adiaphoron, and ourselves as the weaker brother. For the sake of discussion, let’s concede that argument: music is a thing indifferent; those who cannot in good conscience use certain music are weaker brethren who should not seek to restrict the liberty of their stronger brothers.
Even granting all of this, it seems to me that the employment of the very music which pains the conscience of the weak brother in the gathered worship of the church is relevantly akin to the Corinthian church serving idol meat at the church picnic. (For those who insist that idol meat is not a thing indifferent, substitute the unclean meat from Romans 14; the point goes through either way.)
I concede that what I’m suggesting here invites the potential of being handcuffed by a perpetually offended minority of the church; undoubtedly, there are practical limits of this kind of deference. Nonetheless, I still think that the basic principle is sound.