Why Is A Pitch Pipe Acceptable When A Piano Is Not?

by Bryant Evans on August 28, 2008

As we continue our discussion of questions raised by a denominational preacher we next turn to a common question which concerns worship. Our questioner wonders why we demand Biblical authority for all we do in worship but seem to ignore that requirement when it comes to song books, pitch pipes, microphones. He wonders why the difference?

First, the questioner is correct. We do refuse the mechanical instrument in worship. He is further correct when he notes that we typically use songbooks, microphones and even pitch pipes. There is a huge difference which we will try to explain.

Divine instruction and guidance may come from God in the form of a direct command. Consider Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19 where we are told to sing. Now, I know of no one who would argue that we mustn’t sing in worship. All Christian worship involves singing.

Divine instruction may come in the form of an approved example. these are occasions in Scripture where there is some activity carried out with the approval of God. Consider Acts 20:7 when the Christians gathered together on the “first day of the week…” Since this had the approval of inspired Paul we may then pursue such a practice (Sunday worship) knowing it is acceptable to God.

A third method of Divine authorization comes in the form of what is often termed necessary inference or simply inference. Consider the use of a song leader in worship. There is no specific command to use one nor is there an example, approved or otherwise to lean upon. Yet we do know that Christians sang in their worship (Colossians 3:16) and that worship was to be conducted “decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). Therefore, we may deduce or infer that a song leader is appropriate in Christian worship.

Now, from this last paragraph we begin to see why a pitch pipe or hymnal is acceptable. By using the song book we all are able to carry out the command to teach and admonish one another in an orderly fashion (Colossians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 14:40). Likewise with the pitch pipe. It gives the beginning note or pitch of the song so that the congregation may begin together and complete the song without distractions.

A fourth area we should consider is that of Divine silence. What happens when the Bible is simply silent on a subject? Here is an extreme example but I think it illustrates the point. Is it acceptable for a man to wear a navy blue blazer to worship on Sunday? We note first that there is no direct command to do so, nor is there an example of anyone in Bible times wearing a blue blazer. It is impossible to draw any inference from Scripture as to the appropriateness of the blazer. In short, the Bible is absolutely silent on the subject – nothing is ever said about blue blazers. Since nothing is said we simply judge it based on expediency. Is it wise or useful? Should a man choose to wear a blue blazer no one would object.

Now, in the case of mechanical instruments of music, God has spoken. He said “sing” which excludes all other forms of music including, but not limited to, playing.

Pitch pipes are not the same as playing a piano. A pitch pipe is silent before the singing begins and adds nothing to the worship. A piano however is an addition and is cannot be separated from the singing. A pitch pipe only aids the worship in an expedient and orderly fashion. No one consider the pitch pipe to be worshipful. However, all piano/organ players view their playing as worship. There is a great difference between the two. Since pitch pipes are never mention in any way,  they are appropriate.

Songbooks are never mentioned in any fashion, pro or con in Scripture. Therefore, it is appropriate to use them as an expedient aid to worship.

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