Early church fathers and musical instruments


i just read this article


seems like the eCF thought all players of instruments were sinning and they were excommunicated if they didn’t give up their trade.

not only that, they thought the instruments themselves were evil. and this was a pretty uniform sentiment.

obviously things have changed. but how did we go to this being considered a mortal sin to embracing instruments? how is something a mortal sin for a while and then not?


The issue of musical instruments within worship is intrinsically neutral. That is, it is not a matter of faith or morals, so the regulation of their use is completely changeable with the whims of society and culture, but when ratified by the pope.
In other words, the use of instruments falls under the category of a Church discipline, not a doctrine/dogma.

Other issues in this “discipline” category are things like the use of the Latin language, eating meat on Fridays, and the posture used when receiving Holy Communion. If any of the early Church fathers were to dislike these three things, that is nice to know but in no way affects the morality of these things today, as long as we follow what the Church says about them today.
Eating meat on Friday is not intrinsically wrong. But it becomes wrong if the Church says so.
At the other extreme would be something like abortion, which is intrinsically wrong and which can never be changed by the Church.


I don’t think that author’s analysis is entirely correct. It was still the age of the Fathers when Pope Vitalian was pope, and organs began to be used in the churches in his time. That is the only counter-example I can think of at this moment, but I think a bit of research would produce more.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says that organs were adopted in the Catholic Byzantine Empire from its foundation, which happened in 331 A.D. I think there is more to the story here than the author of your article knows about.

closed #4

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