Replanting a Denomination: In Reply to Hank

Hank asked,

As a “Neo-Conservative” (dubbed that by a leading progressive), who is trying to follow along, I have to ask what is meant exactly in saying that we need to change?

Take, for example, the typical old school “sound” congregation wherein there is the following:

1. The women do not lead prayers in the presence of men. Neither are they elders or deacons. Neither do they preside over the “Lord’s Table.” They do not teach classes with men in them. They do not lead singing. They are not the paid preachers, etc, etc, etc,.

Would the need to change include changing the above situation regarding the role of women? If, so which of the above specifically? If some of the changes would be good and acceptable to God…are there ANY that would not and therefore be sinful?

Further, assuming a church changed all of the above, and that one or more of the changes were against the will of God (contrary to the Scriptures), what should the rest of us say (or think to ourselves) about that church?

Please know that I am sincere in writing the above and am genuinely interested in your thoughts.

Also, what advice would you give in regards to the following —

Suppose there is a well respected brother who believes AND TEACHES that babies are born guilty of sin and that God desires only certain individuals to be saved. That the rest do not come to God BECAUSE God in his Sovereinity did not choose and/or call them. That it is not God’s will for them to ever be saved.

Suppose there is another brother (in the same church) who is convived that such “doctrine” (teaching) is totally wrong and in many ways damaging to the church and the furtherance of the gospel.

Should he oppose the man and his teaching (in love, and with the proper motives and attitudes of course).

Or, should he “respect” the beliefs and teachings of the man, accept them, and not speak out against them? For the sake of “unity”?

Hank,

You are wrestling with important questions. Let me suggest a different way of looking at these issues.

First, determine the boundaries of the Kingdom as the scriptures teach. We often approach the scriptures looking for what is and isn’t error, presuming that error damns. That’s, well, presumptious. The question is: what do the scriptures teach are the boundaries of the Kingdom, that is, who enters the Kingdom and who leaves the Kingdom?

I’ve covered this question many times in here and in books, posted here as ebooks, and at GraceConversation. The boundaries are faith and penitence. And only faith and penitence.

Second, the fact that penitence is a boundary tells us that God has commands that he wants us to submit to. We let him tell us which are most important, and he repeatedly tells us that the commands to love God and love our neighbor are not only the most important commands, they are the only commands.

Third, of course, there are profound implications to these commands. For example, the command to love God means to love him exclusively. We can have no other gods before him. Just so, the command to love our neighbors requires that we don’t commit adultery, don’t bear false witness, etc.

Moreover, the two commands compel us to join in God’s redemptive mission — to redeem his people, to redeem the Creation, to redeem individuals. God expects us to be evangelistic, to work to relieve poverty and suffering, and to work to protect his creation (consistent with using the Creation for mankind’s good). “Love your neighbor” and “love God” compels no less.

Fourth, consistent with the foregoing, indeed, driven by the fact that God loves us, God gives us wise counsel and instruction for how to live well. He wants his people to be part of a redeemed community, living together in love, with God in their midst through the Spirit. And he gives us good gifts.

Among those good gifts are baptism and the Lord’s Supper — along with the family of God, the church, and the opportunity to live in a loving community that anticipates the perfect community we’ll have with God — and each other — in the new heavens and new earth.

It’s a mistake, I think, to reduce baptism and the Lord’s Supper to commands to be obeyed. That tends to make them works and it takes the joy out of them. Rather, we should see them as gifts God has given us — and that we’d be fools indeed not to accept these gifts from someone so much wiser than us.

Another gift we receive from God is the community of the redeemed, the church. God wants us to be part of this community, because that’s what’s best for us and because it’s necessary to service in his mission, that is, there is no other way to truly respond in love to what God has done for us. He saved us into his Kingdom.

Now, each of these points is rich with meaning for our lives individually, our lives together, and our lives with God. But our calling to be like God — and that means to be people who love and who act sacrificially on that love. And God equips us with his Spirit, our Helper, to strengthen and encourage to this task.

Fifth, God saves his people to reverse the injury done to them, to the Creation, and their relationships with each other and God due to the Curse of Genesis 3. Therefore, he calls us back to the relationships described in Genesis 2 — one man and one wife, united, and one flesh, walking together with God. Therefore, our redemption says a lot about our marriages and our sexuality.

Hanks asks,

Would the need to change include changing the above situation regarding the role of women? If, so which of the above specifically? If some of the changes would be good and acceptable to God…are there ANY that would not and therefore be sinful?

Two points. First, I do not read the scriptures as you do regarding the role of women. My views are laid out in the ebook Buried Talents. But let’s ignore that for the moment and skip to your question.

If a church violates God’s will regarding the role of women in worship, that is, of course, sin. But if their violation is not rebellious against God, but reflects a prayerful, serious study of the scriptures, it’s covered by grace. That doesn’t make it right, just forgiven.

Further, assuming a church changed all of the above, and that one or more of the changes were against the will of God (contrary to the Scriptures), what should the rest of us say (or think to ourselves) about that church?

Assuming my church considered some other church to be in error in its treatment of women, what should we think? We should think that they are sinners, forgiven by the grace of God and therefore in full fellowship with us.

I don’t know why we’d talk about that church at all — other than, perhaps, to that church. Talking negatively about other churches — behind their backs — is not a loving thing. Rather, if we are genuinely concerned about their error, we talk to them. Isn’t that the underlying principle of Matthew 18?

But, of course, there are many thousands of churches in this world, It’s not our mission to straighten them all out. There wouldn’t be time left to accomplish our actual mission to the lost — and other churches aren’t lost. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be churches at all. Grace gives us permission to obey Romans 14 —

(Rom 14:1)  Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.

Hank then asks,

Suppose there is a well respected brother who believes AND TEACHES that babies are born guilty of sin and that God desires only certain individuals to be saved. That the rest do not come to God BECAUSE God in his Sovereinity did not choose and/or call them. That it is not God’s will for them to ever be saved.

Suppose there is another brother (in the same church) who is convived that such “doctrine” (teaching) is totally wrong and in many ways damaging to the church and the furtherance of the gospel.

Should he oppose the man and his teaching (in love, and with the proper motives and attitudes of course).

Or, should he “respect” the beliefs and teachings of the man, accept them, and not speak out against them? For the sake of “unity”?

I reject the notion that babies are born in sin and I reject the Calvinist doctrine of election. I’ve written extensively on election here and have repeated stated my opposition to infant baptism. However, I nonetheless respect the beliefs and teachings of those I disagree with. Those views have been held and taught by some of the greatest Christian theologians in history — and many of millions have come to Jesus and done very effective missions work holding those views.

And so, the answer is “both.” You should lovingly oppose the view and you should respect the view. You should treat those who disagree as brothers. But brotherhood does not require agreement on everything. Just faith and penitence.

Which brings me to your first question, “What is meant exactly in saying that we need to change?”

First and foremost, the Churches of Christ need a better theology salvation. Some already have gotten there, but many have not. We don’t need to be less legalistic. Less legalistic is still legalistic. We need to be not legalistic at all. Salvation is by faith, not works.

Second, a better theology of grace allows us to change things that help us fulfill our mission as the body of Christ. You see, once you understand grace well … you begin to understand how much of what we’ve taught regarding worship and such like simply aren’t biblical doctrines. And this gives us freedom to be more effective in God’s Kingdom.

I’ve written several series on changes needed in the Churches of Christ. When I began this series, I mentioned one in particular: “A Lover’s Quarrel,” based on an article by Leroy Garrett. That’s a pretty good agenda for change.

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42 Responses

  1. Hi Jay,

    Thank you for addressing my response. You make a lot of good points with which I agree. But, if I may, I would like to look further into two of the points you make.

    First, you wrote:

    “If a church violates God’s will regarding the role of women in worship, that is, of course, sin. But if their violation is not rebellious against God, but reflects a prayerful, serious study of the scriptures, it’s covered by grace. That doesn’t make it right, just forgiven.”

    My question is coming from a practicallity standpoint. You see, if and when people have differing convictions pertaining to whether or not a certain role for a woman is sinful…how can it be played out in a harmonius way? Suppose (for argument sake), that it is in fact sinful for a woman to lead the “openning prayer” on Sunday morning. Although the offender may in fact be forgiven of such (as well as those who allowed her to lead it) — what about the others who are convinced that the entire situation is against the will of God and therefore an act of sin (however “honest” it may be on the part of the offenders)? Would they not be compelled to at least remove themselves from situation (perhaps only after attempting to show where and why they believe it is sinful)? Or, do you suggest that those who believe the practice is against the will of God simply “take part” and/or “go along with” the (in their minds) sinful act for the sake of “unity”? And if so, where would the line be (if at all)? Suppose a new member wants to pray to dead saints? At what point do you believe one should feel obligated to oppose and try to stop whatever it is they believe to be sinful?

    Which goes right along with second second point you made. Where you wrote:

    “And so, the answer is “both.” You should lovingly oppose the view and you should respect the view. You should treat those who disagree as brothers. But brotherhood does not require agreement on everything. Just faith and penitence”

    Please clarify what you mean in suggesting one should lovingly “oppose the view”? BTW, I ask this because the senario is very real and I want to do what is right. I want to “show mercy” (knowing how much I require myself) but at the same time, I don’t want to “go along with” people who are teaching as true what I believe to be in direct conflict with the scriptures. Especially when the untrue teaching, IMHO, makes God to appear unjust.

    Thank you

  2. I believe a congregation should always be studying, examining, and reexamining scripture together. That means 1) scripture must be interpreted within the context of each particular congregation, and 2) members must be open-minded towards, and willing to consider, alternate interpretations. It also means that church better love one another, and love others, regardless of their chosen interpretation.

    And I, like Hank, want to see how all of this is going to be played out in actuality. Here are two (of many) options I was thinking about:

    1. There could exist a truly interdenominational congregation in which members may have differing beliefs on scores of issues — and simply allow one another to disagree. Someone mentioned in a recent reply they were familiar with a church in which individual members decided for themselves whether to baptize their children as infants or to support believers’ baptism, immersion or sprinkling, etc. That seems great, until Hank wants to know what he’s allowed and not allowed to teach. The role of the preacher / minister / pastor / teacher / etc is greatly limited here, because he is probably going to be asked not to broach the “following 463 subjects” in scripture… Or at least not to choose a side. But I don’t think that’s all bad. Personally, when I teach, I try to offer several different options and beliefs that are common among Christians and even some reasons for each of them. I do, however, share which I believe is the best option and why. Maybe that’s a possibility in a church like this? But in order for this church to be interpreting scripture together, they’re going to have to address these issues at some point — they can’t just ignore every teaching that might bring disagreement. They might decide, though, to address those issues — and then allow members to make their own decisions concerning them. This would require a great deal of love and respect.

    2. Another congregation interprets scripture together and decides it’s important that they, as a group, have a set or prescribed teaching or belief on certain subjects (I don’t think anyone would argue ALL subjects). Now this doesn’t mean everyone whose name is on the roll agrees on every subject; it only means that the church’s “official” teaching is set (until the group readdresses one of these texts and might change their official stance). If members have great love and respect for one another, some may choose to stay, even if their belief(s) are not the official doctrine of the congregation. But they would know that was the case.

    Personally, I believe the decision as to whether a church is going to have an official line and teaching on certain issues… belongs to each individual congregation. And that congregation, as they interpret scripture and seek God, will decide what is needed for them. I have no problem with a church that says they’d prefer to have ‘blank’ as their set belief on original sin. That is a congregational decision. And I have no problem with a church that teaches two options, and asks members to pray and continue in personal study in order to come to a conclusion. That is also a congregational decision.

    What is not a congregational decision is how to treat other believers who do not agree with you — whether they be visitors, members, a congregation down the street with the same name, or another church denomination entirely. In my opinion, this is one area where change is needed in many Churches of Christ. If a church decides women are not to be in leadership, and prayer is leadership, so be it. That, to me, is their decision. Then if they decide to teach that from their pulpit, that would make sense to me. They haven’t stepped over any lines as I understand — until they bind that interpretation on others or refuse Christian fellowship to others because of it.

    Warning — Off-subject: But if you want to know the change I would bring about, it would be to create churches and “systems” that are more capable of interpreting scripture together — and then encouraging one another to live out what they’ve learned in obedience. I’m thinking smaller groups without paid staff and “professional” teachers.

  3. JB,

    Very well said. Personally, I think that option #2 is the only real and workable scenario. Unfortunately (for some I guess), is that for the church to teach, enforce, and uphold their “official doctrine,” they will have to say from time to time that _____ is right (not sin) and that _____ is not right and therfore something sinful (against the will of God). They will also have to disallow whatever it is that goes against their official teaching (things they believ to be sinful). They could do this over and over again and I don’t think that it (in itself) makes them “legalistic” “judgmental” or “unloving.” Of course, they would be required of God to be loving and respectful of those with whom they disagree at all times. They shouldn’t ridicule and put down. Neither should they ever feel (or act) superior and more “righteouss.”

    At least, those are my current thoughts.

    I also like the idea of smaller groups without paid staff and “professional” teachers. But that seems real hard and challenging these days and where I live….

  4. Hank,

    I’ll be posting something in a few days responding to your recent questions. I greatly appreciate your persistence in asking these questions. I think you’ve helped me to clarify my thinking and writing. Thanks.

  5. I am baffeled by all the yip yap about what you call sinfull doctrine. I would spend more time teaching what the truth is, that how to live like Jesus in every situation and how to spread the word in your family and community.

    We have a great deal of liberty in worship styles but that liberty also requires responsibilty to keep it reverent and simple but with the enthusiasm of a very gratefull person.

    Hank you worry too much about trivia and I’m sure trivia is important to you and is part of your salvation to micrometer every detail of worship. I don’t understand your treatment of the female. The new testament had examples of female deacons and I am sure they were able to testify in the assembly. When does a woman pray and prophesy with her heaf covered.

    Forgive the scolding but we spend more time fretting about the one hour per week getting worshio perfect and no time about what we do during the rest of the week. If you think that set of rules that are in Todd Deavers book are relevant I sincerely believe you are lost trying to obey rules. Read Galatians.

    Why are continually fighting each other over trivia and not cooperating as the interdenominationals are doing. The one I know in my old sub division April Sound give 10% of their contribution to the poor. And yes I wrote ther mission/vision statement four years ago. Their motto was right out of the Salvation Army…Meeting the needs of people through the love of Jesus Christ. We have been active in severeal Evangelical Churches who you would take exeption in some areas but one great work they perform is evangelism. Those they bapyize they also teach or disciple which the coC does a lousy job at.

    You need to practice a little more toleration.

    Bob

  6. Toleration of what Bob?

    Do you believe that it is possible for a Christian to believe and teach (even practice) things which are contrary to what the Bible actually teaches? If so, do you think that is good, or bad?

    And congratulations on writing that Salvation Army mision/vision statement for that interdenominational church in your old subdivision. I bet they have a lot of interesting teachings there. That is, if they teach anything at all?

  7. I have Hank’s concerns for the universlal church. Yes there can be variation in congregations but are there limits? Can I fellowship a Universalist who isn’t sure of what God is, if Jesus is man or God, Bible inspired, or Satan exist. Witchcraft? No problem that’s just another valid expression of man relating to the Supreme force.
    The opposite of this can come from Paul’s suggestion to accept the weaker Christian, that is give up freedoms for their beleifs. The logical conclusion of that is a congregation that opposes almost everything anyone has a problem with; no womem leaders, restrictive music style, etc. Sounds like a very conservative c of C congregation except with more love than legal. Out of love for those with reservations to have women leading we don’t, out of love for those who beleive straying from 4 part harmony acapella is wrong, we don’t, etc. See how for love an ultra conservative congregation could be built? Of course the next generation forgets the love for the weaker brother, and makes up convuluted arguments to justify “sound doctrine”.
    See that the most loving congregation could be the most accepting or the most restrictive? Sadly over time the acceptors can evolve into stand for nothings and the restrictive into legalistic, have an argument againist everything, you know sort of like Saducees and Pharasees.
    Just pointing out the extremes ot the paths discussed above. Need to find a middle way.

  8. Yup

  9. Hank

    They teach much more on salvation and baptism than you do. Your in a legalistic box and can’t get out.

    I pity your wemon. Do you agree that a woman can pray and prophesy with her head covered? That is one many doctrines I could sight in your narrow line of legaistic reasoning. Don’t knock the Salvation Army they teach Jesus in places you would not go, slums drug areas etc.
    Give me a list of sinful doctrines. I believe instrumental music is ok. Your basis of interpetation is flawed. like your whole approach to teaching the lost. Do you and your congregation have an active evangelism effort or do you visit the new person. Do you counsel in a drug or substance program. I ll bet not.

    Like so many of you little doctrin bashing groups your all talk and no work.

    Sorry to be so blunt but you sound like a pity party. Bob

  10. Hank asked in part, “Do you believe that it is possible for a Christian to believe and teach (even practice) things which are contrary to what the Bible actually teaches? If so, do you think that is good or bad?”

    The problem is that great men and women who are equally as devoted to the Lordship of Jesus and the authority of the word of God as you or me will make different conclusions as to what the Bible teaches and thus what practices they should approve.

    In my view there are some foundational truths that allow no tolerance, they are very few and without them there is no Christianity. The death of Jesus for the sins of the world, the burial of Jesus, His bodily resurrection, and that He will come again. There are others but these are most important.

    There is room for discussion about the doctrine of sin, how one becomes a sinner, at what age one becomes guilty before God, and on and on. We should be devoted to each other because of our common faith in Jesus so that differences on non essentials do not divide and cause ill will among us.

    I’ll use myself as an example. I believe with all my heart and soul in the eternal security of the believer based upon the promises of Jesus himself and the perseverance of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know anyone else in my congregation of about 800 who agrees with me. I have never tried to push my belief down anyone’s throat and it has never been a problem. I am accepted as a bother who loves God and loves my local church. It doesn’t bother me that Jay for instance disagrees with me in the strongest terms. I love Jay because of his evident love for Jesus and the gospel and his quest for truth. He doesn’t make demands of anyone as a test of fellowship and he is right.

    Biblical unity is not based on agreeing on Restoration History, or what Lipscome or Harding taught, our common faith in Jesus Christ our Lord is what makes us one. If we refuse to love and accept each other on that basis we prove we are not the genuine item.

    Royce

  11. Royce

    You and I would be great friends in this world. I agree thar there are basic and immutable beliefs that should be taught.
    The holy spirit fixes the dillema Paul exlpains in Romans 7 by the fact that is we if don’t have the spirit we are not his or do not belong to him Romans 8. We are continually sanctified by the spirit. The congregation will see that in you and your faith will help them understand.

    It sounds like your description of love is great. God accepts us as we are and the holy spirit that lives in us continually transforms us by renewing our mind.

    As you have read We have worked with several churches that were not “church of Christ” and have found them to teach sound doctrine. The perception of most ministers in the coC about the evangelicals or interdenominationals is wrong. They teach the basic foundation truths that the coC does. The exceptions are most have instumental music and different modes of baptism all of which they explain from the bible. You are right good and honest men who disagree on the interpetation ogf the word.

    It would do some of the goodcoC preachers and elders to expose themselves in an open dialog with thse brethern. They are good spirit guided men and women.
    There are three reasons for non fellowship. They are those who deny the divinity of Christ, those who are immoral and those who cause division or trouble makers. Mant doctrines other than the basic doctrines a matter of opinion and interptation.

    The Salvation army is an organization dedicated to the Gospel being spread and the poor being fed. I have seen where they go in the inner city. Fools go in where angels fear to tread. They will help any one regardles of status. Most of those being helped reek of alcohol and drugs and would not be welcome in our assemblies.
    Thank you for you honesty.
    Bob

  12. I’m going to side (I think) with Hank for a bit. Though I don’t know if I’d side with him on many of the issues themselves, it seems to me that a church should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they want to present a unified front on issues by teaching them a certain way.

    The main question didn’t seem to me to be about what is right or wrong on the issues presented. I understood it to be: When saved members of a congregation believe (after honestly searching and studying scripture) differently on particular issues, is it right for one to question another in love? Might it be right for one of them to be asked not to teach what he believes in their Sunday school class? OR do all members show their unity by refraining from attempting to correct one another? And does the church show it’s proper understanding of salvation by faith by not taking a firm stance on any other issue?

    If I’ve gotten the question right, then I think for one member to attempt in love to show another what they believe to be truth is not only permissible, but expected. And I think for one church to choose to teach a certain side of an issue is also appropriate.

    But maybe I’ve misunderstood the question…?

  13. Thanks JB (if I may call you that), that is exactly what the issue was (and still is).

    And although I don’t recall even saying WHAT I believe here…the attacks, name calling, bashing, and false accusations are quite astounding. I mean, one guy (Bob) admits to “scolding” me.

    And although I haven’t even here said what I believe specifically, check out what has been written to me in the above posts:

    1. I was told that I should “spend more time teaching what the truth is, that how to live like Jesus in every situation and how to spread the word in your family and community.”
    2. That I “worry too much about trivia” and that “trivia is important to (me) and is part of (my) salvation to micrometer every detail of worship.
    3. That Bob doesn’t “understand (my) treatment of the female.
    4. That I “…spend more time fretting about the one hour per week getting worshio perfect and no time about what we do during the rest of the week.”
    5. That I “need to practice a little more toleration”
    6. That the Salvation Army teaches “much more on salvation and baptism than (I) do.”
    7. That I am in a legalistic box and can’t get out.”
    8.That my women should be pitied.
    9. That I have a “narrow line of legaistic reasoning.”
    10. That the Salvation Army teaches “…Jesus in places (I) would not go, slums drug areas etc.”
    11. That my “basis of interpetation is flawed. like (my) whole approach to teaching the lost.”
    12. And then finally, (after all of that) I was asked — “Do you and your congregation have an active evangelism effort or do you visit the new person. Do you counsel in a drug or substance program. I ll bet not.”
    13. Oh, two more zingers were added —
    a)”Like so many of you little doctrin bashing groups (I am) all talk and no work.”
    b) And that “I sound like a pity party.”

    All of that because I asked:

    “what advice would you give in regards to the following –

    Suppose there is a well respected brother who believes AND TEACHES that babies are born guilty of sin and that God desires only certain individuals to be saved. That the rest do not come to God BECAUSE God in his Sovereinity did not choose and/or call them. That it is not God’s will for them to ever be saved.

    Suppose there is another brother (in the same church) who is convived that such “doctrine” (teaching) is totally wrong and in many ways damaging to the church and the furtherance of the gospel.

    Should he oppose the man and his teaching (in love, and with the proper motives and attitudes of course).

    Or, should he “respect” the beliefs and teachings of the man, accept them, and not speak out against them? For the sake of “unity”?”

    But, I guess it’s easier (however un-Christian) to attack and put me down unjustly than to answer my honest question(s).

    Whew!

  14. James wrote, “I think for one member to attempt in love to show another what they believe to be truth is not only permissible, but expected. And I think for one church to choose to teach a certain side of an issue is also appropriate.”

    Agreed. I mean, the scriptures plainly teach that some are called to be teachers. Teachers teach, and teaching requires that you try to change minds. But teaching does not require rote uniformity.

    The elders are right to teach what they believe to be true. They are also right to permit people who disagree to be members, so long as they are penitent believers. And they may decide that certain errors not be taught. But they don’t have to have an official position on every issue — even when they have a strongly held belief.

  15. “And they (they elders) may decide that certain errors not be taught. But they don’t have to have an official position on every issue — even when they have a strongly held belief.” — Jay

    I agree with both sentences.

    Also, I know you said you would write something more specific soon, but the above pertains to my remaining question.
    Namely, that if they in fact have the right to decide that “certain errors”…. “not be taught,” — what does that mean exactly?

    1. Which “certain errors”?
    2. And how far can they go in making sure that they “not be taught”? (what courses of action/discipline may they take regarding individuals who persist on advancing said “certain errors”?)

    ** Thank you again Jay for giving me the respect to keep asking this.

    Hank

  16. I too would like to see what the errors are that are sin. It would assist us all if we knew a list of these things.

    It is imposible to expect a perfect church from us because we all err from time to time. Show me a perfect church and when I join it will not be perfect.

    The church of Christ, disciples of Christ and the conservative Christian Church all are a part of the Stone Campbell movemenr of restoration. They all have many sub sets especially the church of Christ.

    Please will the true and pure church of Christ step up?We all need to love each other in spite of our flaws and tolerate our differences and each other.

    How much time will it take for us ti unify? Believe me when you step into one of the three, especially the church of Christ you don’t know what to expect or how you will be treated. We have been members of twenty one and still am puzzeled.We moved a lot being in the oil business. They are all different and all have a certain degree of acceptance.

    Blessings

    Bob

  17. Hank

    which certain errors, how will they be stopped and what will be the punishment. Sounds very legalistiv to me.

    Have you ever personally withdrawn from another brother or sister? Have you ever told one df your children to leave the house because of their behavior?

    There are only three reasons for withdrawel.

    Think about what you are saying. It is a very painfull action but designed to bring the one in error back to the flock. So you had better have a lot of toleration and a lot of time to swing that person back to your interpetation of erroneous doctrine. It may takeyears and a lot of friendship in between.

    Bob

  18. Bob Harry, you wrote:

    “We all need to love each other in spite of our flaws and tolerate our differences and each other.”

    Does than mean you will take back the list of things you either directly accused me of and/or implied about me which were false assumptions on your part?

    Things you said about me like:

    1. I should “spend more time teaching what the truth is, that how to live like Jesus in every situation and how to spread the word in your family and community.”
    (do you actually know how much time I currently spend doing as much)
    2. That I “worry too much about trivia” and that “trivia is important to (me) and is part of (my) salvation to micrometer every detail of worship.
    (Do I, really? Are you sure?)
    3. That I “…spend more time fretting about the one hour per week getting worship perfect and no time about what we do during the rest of the week.”
    (Are you sure I do that?)
    4. That the Salvation Army teaches “much more on salvation and baptism than (I) do.”
    (Are you sure, Bob?)
    5. That I am “in a legalistic box and can’t get out.”
    (What do you mean by that, exactly?)
    6. That I have a “narrow line of legaistic reasoning.”
    (Why do you say that?)
    7. That the Salvation Army teaches “…Jesus in places (I) would not go, slums drug areas etc.”
    (Do you know where I have gone and/or still go?)
    8. That my “basis of interpetation is flawed. like (my)
    whole approach to teaching the lost.”
    (is it? are you sure? In what sense?)
    9. That I am “all talk and no work.”
    (am I? are you sure? why do you say that about me Bob?)

    Bob, would you consider my “basis of interpretation to be flawed” if told you that I felt as though you owe me either an explanation of why you have said the things you have about me or, an apology?

    I submit this post because you talk much about “not fighting,” of “toleration,” of “acting like Jesus” etc., etc., and clealry you have not here manifested such practices. And I feel that as your brother in Christ, I owed it to bring it to your attention.

    Hank

  19. I do still have sincere and genuine questions relative to the actual matter at hand here, but am wondering if I should refrain from asking them — if they will just cause you to stumble so much?

  20. Bob, you ask me:

    “which certain errors, how will they be stopped and what will be the punishment. Sounds very legalistiv to me.”

    Well, here is what I actually wrote:

    (Regarding the idea that elders have a right to decide that “certain errors”….”not be taught”)

    “Namely, that if they in fact have the right to decide that “certain errors”…. “not be taught,” — what does that mean exactly?
    1. Which “certain errors”?
    2. And how far can they go in making sure that they “not be taught”? (what courses of action/discipline may they take regarding individuals who persist on advancing said “certain errors”?)”

    Bob, you say that sounds very legalistic. Am I right is concluding that you DO NOT believe that the elders (or anyone else in a church for that matter), have any right to see to it that “certain errors” NOT BE taught? Which would imply that you believe that people have the right to teach whatever “certain errors” they choose to and that the rest of the church simply has to allow it. Is that what you believe? If not, then I would like to see you clarify your position.

    Which is why I ealier inquired as to whether or not you even believe that “certain errors” exist?

    With all due respect Bob, it appears as though you have no problem with Christians teaching and/or practicing whatever error they happen to believe and/or practice. You imply that there is no line between truth and error and that even if there was one…a church (a Christian) would be totally out of place in attempting to “stop” it, for to seek to do so, would make them leagalistic.

    If I have mistaken your actual position here, please clarify.

  21. Hank

    I know all too well doctrinal errors in the coC. We started out in the non calss non located preacher church and had worshiped with the one cup brethern. We had been taught that it was a sin for our ladies to cut their hair and wear pants to church. This was taught and any deviation was sin. Any one who went to a church that had “located preachers or sunday school were guilty of doctrinal sin. any one who taught differently was branded by the elders and disfellowshiped.

    Now we no longer believe that and we no longer believe that instrumental music is a sin. You possible believe that any one who would teach that it was ok to play a piano in church worship or to do so with church music at home would be sinning. Better yet anyone who believes instrumental music is ok but does not practice is still in sin. Just where does this insanity stop.
    I do not believe in original sin. The folks at the interdenominational church that do, did not teach it. In fact their class material came from a baptist group.
    The Elders should monitor what is being taught especially if it is contrary to the Gospel. Most congregations do monitor and pretty well know the person doing the teaching.

    I don’t know where you came from or where you worship but it sounds that you are from the moderate or conservative church.

    I don’t have a clue of what you are calling error. Be specific. I have seen it all.

    Bob

  22. Hey y’all,
    It is worth noting that Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone had significant disagreements on many issues. Among those issues were 1) who is Jesus – Campbell took the orthodox view and Stone would Not affirm the doctrine of the Trinity or that Jesus is God; and, 2) what Jesus accomplished on the cross – Campbell affirmed the view of penal substitution atonement and Stone denied it.

    I wonder if it is a good thing or not that neither one told the other what he had to believe, teach or allow to be taught on these fundamental doctrines of Christianity. Today the arguments are over less importance issues even though we still have many among us who disagree over these more significant issues.

    I have even heard some argue that these issues are difficult to understand so we should allow a lot of latitude on them but issues like IM and believer’s baptism by immersion are easy to understand so we should not allow differences of belief and teaching on them.

    I’ll return to lurking now.
    Peace,
    Randall

  23. One preacher put it this way. “Don’t tell me I can’t and I will not tell you that you have to” (the context was worship styles)

    Royce

  24. Hey Randall

    Right you are. Our last congregation out of the fie Elders there were two who disagreed on certain issues that some would call doctrinal but they allowed us to persue the issue at hand..

    Can’t recall but didn’t Stone believe that baptism was not essential but later was baptized. Have you read Barton Stone book. If he were alive today and view the modern church he would have a stroke.? In his era a deck of cards and idle time and play were sinful.

    I too believe the essentiallity of baptism but would differ about IM. I do not press or teach anything that would offend the local church.

    The Elders should monitor what is being taught but in todays world the churches of Christ are very diverse in what they believe and what is allowed. Richland
    Hills in Fort Worth Texas versus a very conservative church in Kentucky probably view what many would call doctrine very differently.Like I told Hank in the Churches of Christ there have is a very broad span of doctrinal issues. I have seen them all.

    Have a blessed night

    Bob

    Not too many practice evangelism in my opinion.

  25. The Pharisees gloried themselves over rules and regulations. The Pharisees assumed the worst of others.

    Matthew 12:9-10 “And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—that they might accuse Him.”

    Many are just like that today, “our congregation doesn’t do that!!”

    The Pharisees viewed others as inferior.

    Luke 18:9-11 “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.”

    People like the Pharisees want to feel morally superior and in control of others. These people usually only convert people that are already quite legalistic, instead of sinners who need to be saved.

    Bob, when you have attempted to answer such a person saying what you needed to say the best thing to do then is to let it be just as Jesus did.

    Mathew 15:12-14 “Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”

  26. Anon

    Amen. You have humbled me and you are right.

    Our only concern should be to feed the poor and be a light in darkness to the lost to find Christ.

    The discussion above really is a waste of time. People will believe what they want. Thank you good friend whoever you are.

    I for obvious reasons do not get engaged in Church politics and discussions over doctrie. Like C.S Lewis said I don’t take sides

    Our goal in what time we have left is too let the
    spirit lead us to serve our master to help those who can’t seem to find their way.

    God bless your intervention.

    Bob.

  27. Again Bob,

    (Regarding the idea that elders have a right to decide that “certain errors”….”not be taught”)

    “Namely, that if they in fact have the right to decide that “certain errors”…. “not be taught,” — what does that mean exactly?
    1. Which “certain errors”?
    2. And how far can they go in making sure that they “not be taught”? (what courses of action/discipline may they take regarding individuals who persist on advancing said “certain errors”?)”

    Bob, you say that such sounds very legalistic. Am I right is concluding that you DO NOT believe that the elders (or anyone else in a church for that matter), have any right to see to it that “certain errors” NOT BE taught? Which would imply that you believe that people have the right to teach and practice whatever “certain errors” they choose to and that the rest of the church simply has to allow it. Is that what you believe? If not, then I would like to see you clarify your position.

    Which is why I ealier inquired as to whether or not you even believe that “certain errors” exist?

    With all due respect Bob, it appears as though you have no problem with Christians teaching and/or practicing whatever error they happen to believe and/or practice. You imply that there is no line between truth and error and that even if there was one…a church (a Christian) would be totally out of place in attempting to “stop” it, for to seek to do so, would make them leagalistic.

    If I have mistaken your actual position here, please clarify

    *** Lastly, do you really not see ANY wrong in all of the false accusations and slander which you have directed at me? Just because you refuse to address the fair and honest question(s) I have asked?

    While Jay wrote that he would “….be posting something in a few days responding to (my) recent questions” And that he greatly appreciated my “persistence in asking them”….

    Let it be known here that while NOBODY else has taken it upon themselves to address the specific questions I’ve asked. At least one has instead opted to slander me. Which must be some type of logical fallacy?

    The reason I have invested so much time here is in hopes that the discerning reader will discern.

    Hank

  28. Hank

    Goodby. The spirit has spoken to me to invest my time talking to the lost.

    Bob

  29. Nice Bob…..

    However, I am not exactly sure of whatever “spirit” it was who told you to say goodby to me without apologizing and/or addressing the honet questions you were asked.

    I trust that every honest reader here will see you for what you are. You have treated me as a very unfair and dishonest man and perhaps your attitude will encourage others to be more Christ-like?

    At least I hope….

  30. And after ALL the injustices of which you have been shown guilty… for you to merely write:

    “Goodby. The spirit has spoken to me to invest my time talking to the lost”

    Is it any wonder that “conservatives” are leary about what “the spirit” is “speaking” to people nowadays???

    Perhaps you are doing more hrm than good…

    I trust that the good and honest people here will draw their own conclusions.

    Have others here noticed?

  31. Hank,
    I’m sure it is no surprise that many Christian fellowships hold various theological positions and that the leadership of those fellowships frequently make decisions regarding what will and will not be taught as correct doctrine. My personal opinion is that this is a good thing.

    A very few years ago I had a discussion with one of the elders at the congregation I attended. During that conversation I suggested that at this congregation one person might be teaching one thing in a class while simultaneously another person in another class right down the hall might be teaching an opposing position and the elders seemed to be okay with that. The elder agreed that was the case. I don’t think that is an ideal situation.

    OTOH, it is part of our heritage that particular doctrines (at times of tertiary importance) are rigidly taught and emphasized as if they were more significant than they are. Sometimes only a caricature of opposing points of view are presented; and I fear this is often done as much through ignorance as design. In my opinion this is a sad situation.

    There are fellowships that make it a point to emphasize their teaching regarding the nature and attributes of God the Father, Jesus and his work and the work of the HS. Sometimes they also do a good job of presenting opposing viewpoints and discuss why they disagree with them. On secondary doctrines they may present the position of their fellowship, but also add it is a secondary doctrine and that they do not question the standing before God of anyone that holds a different view. They simply point out the beliefs of the church leadership and the practice of that particular congregation.

    All this can be done in between brothers and sisters in full recognition that our salvation in based on the grace through faith in Jesus and not on believing and practicing correctly on a plethora of issues.

    My preference is for this type of approach. I consider it very important that we realize who Jesus is. The orthodox doctrines of the Godhead, the person and finished work of Jesus, and the work of the HS may be flawed in that they depend in part on human reason – and since we are finite, fallen people our doctrines almost certainly are flawed as well. I still think it is important to teach these orthodox doctrines as I know of no better explanation. I also think good theology is always practical in that it builds up the church and encourages us to walk more like Jesus. If it does not do this I may question how good that theology really is.

    But to place so much emphasis on the secondary and tertiary issues as we have seen for so long at the expense of a more appropriate emphasis on primary doctrines has led us to offend much of the rest of the professing Christian world. At times I feel like we have succeeded in little more than creating division even within our own fellowship – just look at how many ways we have split and even now discuss whether the “progressives” and “conservatives” should become separate fellowships or somehow learn how to co exist; and we we sometimes use the same words as the rest of Christendom but mean different things by those very words – makes me feel like I’m part of a cult. Don’t you think this heritage of the last 125 years demonstrates how far we have missed the mark? When I look at so much from Daniel Sommer’s Address and Declaration and the events at Sand Creek, to the attacks of folks like Foy E. Wallace Jr., to the current “Profiles in Apostasy” that Todd Deaver advised us of: see website – http://www.churchesofchrist.com/lectures2010.php – I am embarrassed to let others know this is how my church family would represent their Lord. It is not really much of a surprise that someone would simply walk away from a conversation with those overtones. Don’t you feel the same way?
    Peace,
    Randall

  32. Randall,

    Ultimately, I believe that our responsibilty as Christians is to “be in charge” of our own selves. In terms of what we believe, what we practice, what we teach, how we live, how we speak etc…..

    When it comes to the church, I kind of think it should be (kind of) the same situation. When the Lord spoke to the seven churches of Asia, he spoke to them individually and he clearly wanted them to take care of their “own selves.” He did not speak to them all as if they all stood or fell together. One could repent and be forgiven, another could refuse to repent and be lost (have their candlestick removed). They were each responsible for their own house seperately. Ephesus, was not responsible for, Laodicea. Smyrna was not responsibe for Philadelphia, etc.

    I believe that the more people there are who go to church regularly and call themselves Christians the better it is. But, I also believe that I should focus my attention and concerns on my own church/congretation. I should do my part to bear their burdens, to encourage and edify them, to hold them accountable, to teach and admonish them, to seek to prevent them from teaching and practicing whatever things there are that me aginst the will of God — all the while expecting them to do the same to/and for me.

    With all of that in mind, when I think about questions like, “does the church need to change?,” I can’t help but to think of the congregation of which I am an active member. Because your church is not my church (in the way that Smyrna was not Laodicea) and my church is not your church. When I think of the question, “Where have we gone wrong?,” I think of myself, my family, and my church (and the churches I have been a part of in the past). I don’t think about any section, or group, or denomination of churches.

    And while we all owe it to everyone in the world to uphold and defend whatever it is we believe, we are only responsible for actually policing ourselves. I try not to think about what “our heritage” is currently teaching. I disagree with the lectureships that seek and attempt to make fun of, put down, and chastize other honest individuals, their books, and/or their churches. OTOH, I disagree with the idividuals, the books, and the churches that seek to change my church when they are no part of it (in the way that Corinth was not a part of Galatia).

    I agree that God wants the leaders of their houses to run their houses well. And I believe that in every house there has to be certain rules in place in order for them to run at all. And while certain rules may vary from house to house, thay all must have some rules and they must be adhered to (or what good would they be?).

    If in the Joness house it’s allowable to do drugs and for the children to have premarital sex, while I can tell my house that the Jones’ house is tripping and will have to answer to God, I’m not responsible for them. I am not going to be embarresed by their behavior. I am not associated with them in any way (except maybe as neighbors and as Americans). And if in the Rogers’ house there are way too many rules like no eating in the living room, no tv at all, lights out by 8 pm, no soda for anyone ever, well…that’s too bad for them. All I can do is try do make fair and God pleasing rules for my house and do my best to enforce them (and to live by them myself — which is hard enough for me to do).

    But, as long as it’s not illegal

  33. I was trying to erase that last paragraph and hit submit by accident. I will finish my though quickly. Sorry about that..

  34. My point is that the war between the “progrssives” and the “conservatives” will be greatly reduced when we all get back to worring about our own churches ONLY.

    I will not call you a believe anything and allow anything liberal because you don’t adhere to my specific beliefs against Calvinism, worship bands, and women preachers.

    And you don’t call me a legalistic Pharisee whose trying to be saved by works and perfect doctrine because at my church we refuse to teach Calvinisn, don’t allow worship bands, and the women don’t preach.

    If we both believe the other to be off, well….God will judge. But we all have the right (I argue the responsibilty) to have and enforce whatever we believe to be the will of God. And without being called names.

    Or trying to strong arm the other to change their convictions. I wish people had more.

    Sorry for writing so much above. I feel better though 🙂

  35. Hank,

    In a few posts, you’ve mentioned your disagreement with efforts to change the beliefs of other congregations. It seems a natural conclusion of church autonomy. But I disagree — some. There are three areas where cross-congregational persuasion is very important.

    First, and most importantly by far, arises any time a congregation is in danger of losing its salvation — because it no longer stands for faith in Jesus, because it no longer stands for living a penitent life, or because it seeks justification other than by faith. If I love my brothers, I will implore them to return to the foundation of their salvation — and in no uncertain terms. It’s not about autonomy. It’s about love.

    And, frankly, the Churches of Christ have a serious problem with seeking justification other than by faith. (Hence, this blog.)

    Second, we were called to a mission. If a church fails to honor its calling — the purpose for which they were saved — they may be in grace, but they are denying themselves the blessings of joining with God in his mission — and they are failing to help those they should be serving. It’s not my place to damn them or separate from them. It may well be my place to instruct them better. Love can do no less. (Hence, this blog.)

    Third, whatever doctrines that Bible truly teaches, they are for our own good. Having the correct position on pacifism or election, for example, means we’ll be better able to honor the God whom we love. Again, if you disagree with me on those subjects (and many very good people do), we remain in fellowship, but we still need to talk. After all, I’m no apostle and I may be wrong. You may be wrong. Talking is a good way to learn from each other and grow closer to Jesus together. And there are usually ethical and missional implications. (Hence, this blog.)

    The governing ethic is not congregational autonomy (at best, an inference from scripture that cannot contradict the scriptures’ plain teachings) but love for our neighbors.

    Now, in the first case — salvation issues — I cannot sit by silently and watch people put their souls in jeopardy over false teaching. I have to teach what I believe — but gently and in love.

  36. Jay, This comment to Hank reminds me that my responsibilities to my fellow believers where I worship extends to ALL believers, even in other churches of Christ and even in other denominations. I understand that I cannot interact at the same level with those I don’t meet with but I am to love and care about them too. And, as you point out that includes speaking the truth in love even when they disagree.

    Royce

  37. Fair enough, but it only creates somewhat of a “viscious cycle.” For example, you wrote:

    “First, and most importantly by far, arises any time a congregation is in danger of losing its salvation — because it no longer stands for faith in Jesus, because it no longer stands for living a penitent life, or because it seeks justification other than by faith. If I love my brothers, I will implore them to return to the foundation of their salvation — and in no uncertain terms. It’s not about autonomy. It’s about love.”

    In stating as much, you assume the ability do determine whether and when and where each church/congregation is in “danger of losing its salvation — because it no longer stands for faith in Jesus, because it no longer stands for living a penitent life, or because it seeks justification other than by faith.”

    But, are you really able to determine all of the above? For example, if my congregation believes that to use instruments is against the will of God (and if we actually teach that)…..are we automatically no longer standing “for faith in Jesus”? Are we automatically no longer “living a penitent life”? Are we automatically seeking “justification other than by faith”?

    In the above situation, do you really feel the need to “implore them to return to the foundation of their salvation”?

    And if so, what does that mean? Would you tell them that they are wrong and that they should start using instruments themselves? Or, would you tell tham that they are alright in not using them, but that they shouldn’t teach it to be wrong?

    I mean, where would it end? After all, isn’t that the very problem were having to begin with???

  38. Hank asked,

    For example, if my congregation believes that to use instruments is against the will of God (and if we actually teach that)…..are we automatically no longer standing “for faith in Jesus”? Are we automatically no longer “living a penitent life”? Are we automatically seeking “justification other than by faith”?

    Of course, not. Why would I think such a thing? Teaching that X is sin is a far cry from teaching that X damns.

    I don’t proceed from legalistic presumption that all error damns. I start with God’s grace — that for the household of faith, sin is forgiven.

    Indeed, the very definition of legalism would be to assume that because X is error, X damns. That kind of reasoning denies grace and seeks salvation through works. Only those who manage to discern doctrine perfectly and obey what they discern go to heaven. Who could meet such a standard?

    A penitent person who believes instrumental music is sin will not use instrumental music — nor would I ask him to. I’d only ask that he be open to learning the heart of God better.

    There are those who claim that those in error commit error in rebellious spirit (that is, they are not penitent), thereby justifying their condemnation of them. That is to argue from a transparent lie — a lie that requires that our opponents be demonized as worshiping and doing good and sending missionaries with a rebellious spirit. It’s just not true.

    Those who reject my authority do not thereby reject God’s authority. I wouldn’t be so arrogant.

    On the other hand, when you argue that all error damns, you are very much at risk of seeking justification other than by faith. And that’s not a good place to be at all.

  39. I agree. It is not my place to say that “your error” damns. It is only my place to not do and speak out against whatever I believe to be error.

    The challenge here is that we all have varying opinions relative to whether a certain thing is error or not.

    Which is why it was a good idea for God to have set up our churches as autonomous. And why it is a good idea to worry about “our own houses.”

  40. Jay, (small tangent) I think it is important to qualify that mercy is available for penitent sin or ignorant sin, but not for conscious practiced sin or excused sin.

    While I don’t believe Romans 7 is meant to be the frequent norm for a born again believer, I do think it express the right attitude toward sin: “What I do, I hate.” If a “believer” doesn’t hate his sin but rather excuses it, that is rebellion and tramples underfoot the blood of Christ.

    But I assume that is what you mean.

  41. Pilgrim,

    Absolutely. This is what I mean when I speak of the absolute necessity of penitence.

    (Heb 12:15) See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

    This oft-overlooked passage refers to —

    (Deu 29:18-20) Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison. 19 When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.” This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. 20 The LORD will never be willing to forgive him; his wrath and zeal will burn against that man. All the curses written in this book will fall upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven.

    Scary stuff.

  42. Hello i am kavin,its my first time to commenting anywhere, when i read this post i thought i could also make comment
    duee to this good piece of writing.

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