Profiles in Apostasy, Further Thoughts

I’m not planning to watch the videos. I might change my mind, but I know watching would make me angry, and being angry is not good for me. In fact, I’m not sure I’m doing such a good job of controlling my anger even without watching.

You might be interested to know that Dave Miller, who has been damned by the Contending for the Faith (CFTF) crowd along with the progressives, is not at all progressive. He’s the author of “A Plea to Reconsider,” which declared Richland Hills Church of Christ damned for adding an instrumental service.

He is declared damned by CFTF for supporting elder re-affirmation, a practice that many Churches have adopted where elders must be periodically re-affirmed by the congregation or else must step down. You see, the CFTF crowd finds no authority for this practice, and therefore it’s not only unauthorized, it damns.

This, of course, is the same argument used by Miller in his book regarding instrumental music applied to its logical extreme. You see, there’s nothing in the “logic” of the Regulative Principle that limits its application. If it’s unauthorized, it’s unauthorized, regardless of its expedience.

To quote Paul,

(Gal 5:15)  If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

The legalism Paul condemned in Galatians is the same legalism that infects much of the Churches of Christ today. And now we see one reason legalism is condemned by Paul in such severe terms — there’s no limit to rule-making and boundary drawing once you start.

And while we’re on the subject, you should check out this post on legalism at Jesus Creed. It’s very perceptive. And by remarkable coincidence, I also ran across this video from Mark Driscoll on 7 Ways to Tell If You’re a Fundamentalist earlier today —

It’s about 8 minutes long, but well worth the watch. (And, yes, I know Driscoll is a John Piper, Jonathan Edwards, TULIP Calvinist. And I’m a fan — warts and all. 😉 )

Now, regarding the significance of CFTF theology in the Churches of Christ — well, we are who we are, you know? They have significant influence — but they are not typical in terms of their attitude. But they have essentially the same theology as the rest of the conservative Churches; it’s just that most conservative Churches have enough of the Spirit not to be so bitter and caustic.

However, if you were to ask the thought leaders of the more mainstream conservative Churches — the guys who write for the Gospel Advocate, for example — whether they consider the men who have been condemned in these lectures to be in fact apostate, most would agree — although some would consider it bad taste to say so in such severe terms. Or some would refuse to say, responding that it’s God’s judgment, not ours — but even they’d say that these men have written things that will surely lead to apostasy.

Seriously: email a conservative preacher or writer you have a relationship with and ask him to declare CFTF wrong in their conclusion that these authors are apostate. Challenge them to say so publicly. I’d be very surprised — pleasantly surprised and thrilled to eat my words — but surprised nonetheless if we see a single conservative minister take a stand against these lectures.

However, I figure about half the Churches of Christ — in terms of membership — would be fairly characterized as progressive. Yes, as some readers have said, the grass is greener on the other side, but there’s an other side within the Churches of Christ. We’re not all like that.

Many, many conservatives have been persuaded to the progressive point of view. Others are uneasy with the conservative theology of the 20th Century and are looking for something better. And many of the leaders who are left are increasingly reacting by becoming all-the-more legalistic. And this pushes more members to re-think and re-consider the progressive viewpoint. I think progressivism is snowballing.

And so I may be being a bit Pollyanna-ish here, but I think God is showing the Churches how very wrong 20th Century conservative theology is by allowing these men and women to put their theology on full display. This is what 20th Century conservative theology leads to. If you are still within the Churches of Christ, you should prayerfully consider whether you should own or disown these lectures. Don’t walk by on the other side.

Finally, be in prayer for the men condemned by CFTF. Pray that God gives them courage to continue to boldly declare the truth — the true gospel of Jesus. Pray that their livelihood isn’t harmed and that, indeed, that God will prosper these loyal servants of his. And pray that the attacks they suffer won’t harm their relationships within their families or churches.

And buy their books. And buy an extra copy for your church’s library. And you might email them a kind word encouraging them. They’d appreciate it. I guarantee it.

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41 Responses

  1. Jay,

    Very sad to see this stuff going on, although I think you’re correct that it’s probably an explicit expression of beliefs that many others hold more implicitly.

    I also agree it’s what certain theology leads to. Some time back I blogged a series on gospel-centred hermeneutics; the post on patternism is particularly relevant to the coC context:
    http://unveiledface.blogspot.com/2007/04/gospel-centered-hermeneutics-part-8-why.html

  2. Hi again Jay,

    When I looked at that churchesofchrist.com site you referred to, I noticed an article on there about God blessing America (arguing that God’s blessing was now in question due to moral decline).

    I’d be interested in your views on this, as I’ve seen some similar thoughts expressed on websites of all kinds of American conservatives:

    – It begins by calling America a “great nation”.
    – It assumes biblically-based foundations.
    – It then goes on to take a fairly typical politically-conservative approach to blaming moral decline on social welfare.

    My question (as someone who lives in one of the non-American countries – there are a few of us) is, why all this talk about a “great nation”? Do Americans really think their country is better than others? It seems to be such a key starting-point for conservatives from Glenn Beck to these CoC guys.

  3. “Seriously: email a conservative preacher or writer you have a relationship with and ask him to declare CFTF wrong in their conclusion that these authors are apostate. Challenge them to say so publicly. I’d be very surprised — pleasantly surprised and thrilled to eat my words — but surprised nonetheless if we see a single conservative minister take a stand against these lectures.”

    Jay,
    Just curious. Have you emailed Phil, Greg or Mac?

  4. Mick,

    From the beginning of this nation the founders recognized and credited the “hand of Providence” in our ability to cast off the parent stem, in surviving internal pressures to disunion and in the formulation of the national constitution which assured our existence as a nation. This is not to say that they were “Christian” in the sense we would take it today. Few of them would pay attention to CBN, but most were believers in some sense of the word. Because our experiment was something new and because it had so obviously succeeded when all the odds said it shouldn’t the idea of “American Exceptionalism” arose. This was the idea that we were established by Providence to be a “city on a hill” that would challenge the old tyranies of Europe and the evils of colonialism. The Restoration Movement (along with other religious groups) actually pondered whether the new nation was the harbinger of the Millenium. So you have political exceptionalism which led to religious exceptionalism. Socially, though engaged in numerous “national sins,” there was a push to be “good” and to be a “righteous” nation as a part of our civilizing process. In the past century there has arisen a feeling that the “national sins” have become accepted and that many of the trials the nation has faced are a result of God’s removing His favor from us. This is why the more fundamental American preachers of every stripe talk about these issues. Even when I preached against abortion of Sanctity of Life Sunday in January I approached it from a “Do you love your country?” standpoint.

    To answer your question more directly, “yes” most old fashioned Americans think their country is on God’s “Most Favored Nations” list based on the proof of His care for us. Because of our rejection of Him in the past decades we fear removal from that list. Now really in times past England and Germany have felt the same way, but religion is long gone from their national stage as a major player. It remains on the stage here.

  5. Mick, you should order Myths America Lives By by Richard Hughes. It is short, pithy, and quite to the point.

    The short, unfair answer is: Yes, we do, as most nations do – but a whole mythology has developed over the years to support our “first among equals” worldview.

  6. I could not watch much of the videos on the referred website because it frustrated me to no end. I think it was better for me to stop it than to continue watching and become more and more angry.

  7. Mark Driscoll’s presentation is well worth watching. He makes great points reminding us of the Pharisaical approach to religion.

  8. Jay,

    I have watched some of the lectures at CFTF and the content was just as I expected,

    If I had not known Mark Driscoll and watched the video I would have thought he was talking specifically about legalists in churches of Christ. Unfortunately, our fellowship is not the only one with modern day Pharisees, they are every where.

    The missing element in the CFTF lectures is love. They sincerely believe that every man who disagrees with them is going to hell and seem glad about it.

    I have little respect for anyone who does not condemn such sinful and hateful behavior in the name of Christ.

    Royce

  9. Jay

    My good friend and neighbor was the minister at the New Braunfels independent Christian church. It took a while before he engaged in “church talk” Now I see why.Lynn Parker is the preacher of a COC in NB.

    Rick really came on when I mentioned that I was in favor of the fellowship union between us.He now knows better.

    Lynn’s COC webb page is about what you would expect. DO NOT and again I say DO NOT go and view the lectures. You will be on BP medication.

    Bob

  10. Jay,

    As sad as the CFTF lectures are, I believe that the men responsible are nothing more than nutjobs whose sphere of influence extends to those who they consider themselves to be in fellowship with. My family has dealt with attacks from these goons for the better part of a decade, if not longer. Trust me when I say their circle of fellowship is constantly imploding as they find some other supposed nuance in scripture to
    quibble over. I know several conservative preachers who have and will publically say not to have anything to do with these men because they are false teachers and have no love for the lost or the gospel. Whereas they might not agree with the content or theology of the books discussed, they have a bigger problem with Chumbly and his ilk.

  11. Jay

    Everyone is going to hell except me and you, and sometimes I wonder about you!!!

  12. I recommend everyone view the presentation of Leroy Garrett’s book. The gentleman declares Garrett a liar and in grave error with hardly a reference to the book. Oh yea, apparently an invitation is extended after each lesson. The isles must have been crowded!

  13. One of the CFTF speakers – I’ve already managed to forget which – felt Phil Sanders was as wrong as the “apostate” author he was reviewing because he said Sanders advocates for the indwelling and direct operation of the Holy Spirit today – not the Holy Spirit solely through the Word.

  14. It was Doug Post, at 35:34, in fact.

  15. Ahh… I’ve felt the sharp point of Bro. Post’s quill before myself.

    Yeah… I think I’ll just stick with missio dei and let the “teachers of the law” work it out amongst themselves.

  16. I would like to repeat a request I made (relatively late) in the previous thread on this subject. I would love to hear from readers of Jay’s blog who remain members of “mainstream” congregations in the CofC, whether topics Jay so courageously and routinely tackles here, are being openly and publicly discussed or confronted IN THEIR HOME CONGREGATIONS? I am referencing the “identity issues,” for example, or other issues that maintain the “one true church” mentality.

    I’m aware, of course, of the handfull of higher-profile “progressive” congregations that have openly addressed at least some of those issues, but I’m interested in knowing whether these topics remain “taboo” in most mainstream or moderate churches or whether the positive trend of discussions in ONLINE blogs and forums such as this one have produced any “fruit” in the form of open, public discussion by leaders and members in moderate congregations as yet.

    Has there been any discernable trend towards openness “in the pews” or “among the elder’s” in mainline churches that has led to reconsideration of these “unwritten creedal positions?”

    Along with most of you, I have witnessed (and benefited from) ONLINE discussions involving folks who are open to such consideration, but I am not aware of congregations that are engaged in the kinds of study and examination that takes place in the progressive, grace-oriented blogs. Has any of it sparked movement in the pews generally?

  17. Gary,

    No.

  18. Thanks, JMF. I keep hoping my experience, and yours, apparently, will change at some point — but maybe not in my lifetime.

  19. Gary,

    I honestly don’t know what to think. I have eye-opening conversations with friends, etc…but the whole “let’s play it safe” mentality is deeply ingrained into our COC brains. I’d identify my current church of attendance as “mainstream leaning conservative.” Meaning, it isn’t a mean-spirited fellowship (a la CFTF), but any type of progression is highly frowned upon and met with lots of resistance. In fact, my church just became the first church in our area (pop: 250,000) to have Sunday night small groups. Great, right? I think so. But what was disheartening is that it took THREE YEARS for this to occur, and it cost us some of our membership.

    I am trying to stay optimistic. For the last couple months, I’ve been putting together a strategy to get some men’s Covenant/Prayer Groups started with our men. We were starting it with the men in our small group, and we were going to hone it and then hopefully add more groups. I have “guy things” that I need prayer/thoughts with, and it wouldn’t be appropriate in the mixed small group setting. Anyways, we had our first meeting this morning. Rather, I should say “I” had our first meeting this morning, as nobody showed up (usual stuff, “absolutely I’ll be there!” etc). I am not down about it in the least, I’m doing what the Spirit leads me to do, some things succeed and some things fail. I’m cool with that.

    But at some point you question whether you are at the right place for your talents. I’m just at a point in my life where I want to be involved in a church where there is ACTION! I don’t want to just go to church three times a week; I want more. That is my beef with every COC I’ve been involved with. We go to church three times, and evangelism is defined by giving money to a church in Uruguay. I want and need more. And since I am 33yrs old and single, I’m not “qualified” for any leadership positions. So even though I am highly capable in that regard, I give my thoughts, sit, and wait.

    Yeah, I’m frustrated with the COC. So I’ll keep praying and searching for answers for what God wants me to be doing for him.

  20. Readers,

    Be sure to read Al Maxey’s comments, as he is one of the victims: http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx434.htm

  21. Mick,

    I need to be working on something that addresses these questions, because I’m supposed to teach a series on the church and politics starting Sunday. For now, you may want to check out the Political Church series from some time ago. http://oneinjesus.info/index-under-construction/theology-general/the-political-church/

    Let me just toss this thought in the hopper. If your Bible class is focused on the US Constitution and the writings of Thomas Jefferson, you are studying history and law but not the Bible. And I think Christians should get their guidance from the Bible. If someone is arguing theology from the Declaration of Independence, that’s a problem. Therefore, I focus my Bible classes on what I think the Bible says about politics. It’s an unorthodox approach to politics, I know.

  22. Randy,

    It’s a fair question. [edited 10:16: Email sent.]

  23. The good news about the conservative CoCs is that they are loosing all semblance of authority. 15 years ago when I was a student at the Memphis School of Preaching it was the preeminent place for a conservative to go. Now the conservatives are, as Wendell Winkler used to say, “splintering themselves into sawdust.”

    CFTF has apparently turned on them and are denouncing them as well as the progressives. At this rate, in another 20 years there will be no conservatives presence left to speak of.

    The sad part is that so many people who want to do the right thing are being taken in by the legalism of the conservatives. I pray that they see the light before it’s too late.

  24. Jay,

    I just read Al Maxey’s response to the CFTF’s attack on him that you linked in a comment. They not only attacked his theology, and lied about it, they even mocked his military service.

    I wrote a post today “The Parade of Pharisees” at Grace Digest. ( http://gracedigest.com/2010/03/05/the-parade-of-pharisees/)

    I appreciate you shining the light on these quacks.

    Royce

  25. Gary,

    As far as I know there has been no open discussion of these topics. I too benefit from the online discussions.

  26. Gary,

    You didn’t address this to me, but I know many an eldership that reads my material. And I’m sure they are graciously leading their churches to a more gospel-centered Christianity. I’ve had several requests to use my material in Sunday School classes — and I’m sure that most who use it don’t ask permission (there’s no need to).

    So the articles are having some influence — but it’s very difficult to measure.

  27. Tod, Nick, and Jay, thanks for replying.

    Nick, I will try to read Hughes’ book – even though I live on the other side of the world, these issues are hard to avoid. One thing I find interesting is encapsulated in your statement “Yes, we do, as most nations do”. I have pondered this quite a bit over the last few months, and I can see that most nations have some sense of patriotism but I really don’t think most nations actually think they’re “better” than others.

    Jay, looked at your series on Political Church, I’ve been looking for Wright’s paper on Paul’s Gospel and Caesar’s Empire today for another reason – it doesn’t seem to be at that link anymore. Totally agree with you that we need to align with just one Lord. Not sure the government is the only false contender though – big business, consumerism, etc., must be considered just as powerful?

  28. Mick,

    Nick’s suggestion about Richard Hughes book, “Christian America and the Kingdom of God,” is inspired. I urge you to get and read it. I think you will be blessed. We owe Richard huge gratitude, I think. He is a historian and author who came up through the ranks at ACU and Pepperdine and is now professor of religion at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. There is a great interview of Richard about the book that is available online. It aired 10/13/09 on the NPR – WHYY show “Radio Times.” The mp3 podcast is at:
    [audio src="http://www.whyy.org/podcast/101309_110630.mp3" /]

    I think what he has to say in the interview and in the book is directly responsive to what you’ve been pondering. Peace.

  29. JMF,

    I am grateful to you and the others who responded to my request about whether the progressive online discussions are filtering into open discussions in churches.

    Your response, and your situation, are particularly important to me. I would not presume to advise anyone regarding a specific decision about how to best serve and utilize their giftedness, but I would be willing to share my observations from considerable experience with such a situation if that would be helpful to you. I don’t want to monopolize Jay’s forum to do so, but would be happy for you to contact me privately and communicate via email if you are interested.

    I am now much older than you, but I spent about 20 years in a slow, patient, careful, respectful, but persistent effort to get my fellow members and leaders (in a sizeable congregation) to engage with the kinds of topics regularly discussed here. I did so in the belief that, having spent my entire life in those pews, it would be hard for the folks who knew me — and who knew I was not some wild-eyed radical newly-arrived on the scene and intent on turning things upside-down — would lend gravitas to the content of what I was trying to explore with them. But as you note, it is incredibly difficult to get even moderates or “compassionate conservative” folks to drop their stolid resistance and grapple with these crucial issues. In any event, if you think you might benefit from whatever insight I may have gained from traveling that particular path, I will be happy to share with you further. Blessings, my brother.

  30. Jay, thanks for your response. It is good to know that there is some level of engagement that may be taking place in the “field,” and I again give you my sincerest thanks for your prodigious efforts. It is a hard nut to crack, because so few can see the need. It is nearly impossible to get folks who are flying upside-down (to borrow an apt metaphor from Tim Woodruff and Dallas Willard) to see that it is them, and not others, who suffer from “itching ears” and just want to continue being scratched.

  31. Two Thoughts

    You’d probably consider me an ultra-conservative, but I think the CFTF lectures are awful. I don’t know who these men are, but there are more important things to worry about such as lost souls.

    Secondly, I’ve learned that books are published by man. They have errors. I haven’t read any of these books, but I’m sure they have some. We as Christians shouldn’t protect a book just because so and so wrote it.

  32. I am proud to be an American.

    However, Jesus came to found the church of Christ, not the United States of America.

    Perhaps our emphasis should be more on the former than the latter. Perhaps we should put more emphasis on improving our personal walk with Jesus, and less on politics. Perhaps our good nation would then be positively influenced by our Christ-like lives. These lives must be devoid of hypocrisy and a split allegiance.

    Perhaps becoming more and more like Jesus would be a full-time job. Personally speaking, I still have a ways to go.

  33. Gary,

    Thanks, I’ve downloaded the Richard Hughes podcast. I’ve got a huge reading list right now, so not so sure when I’ll get to the book. One of my reading goals this year is to read more widely from sources from developing nations, particularly Africa.

    John,

    I think you may just be right about it being a full-time job 🙂 Likewise a long way to go, but confident that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

  34. Carl,

    I’ve read nearly all the books mentioned. I don’t commend them because of who the authors are. While I know some of the authors, there are some I don’t know at all. I recommend them because they are good books.

    All must be measured and weighed against the Bible. But, to me, one of the great value in books such as these as they allow others to share their learning and ideas with me. And I grew when I read them. And I think anyone would.

  35. I learned a long time ago (the 80’s) to stay far away from the CFTF crowd. I have no patience for the level of criticism and lack of facts as they tend to display.

    With that being said. When I compare my Bible with most posts here I must remain conservative.

  36. Gary—

    I’d love to get your thoughts. I hovered over your name and it doesn’t go to an email address, however.

  37. Email addresses are invisible to all but me unless you type the comment box or you can ask me to forward it for you.

  38. Jay, please forward my email address to JMF. Thanks so much.

  39. Gary,

    Very glad to help.

  40. I am the wife of Dave Miller and just want you to know that your information is false. Almost 100%. In fact it is very humerus.

  41. Deborah,

    If I’ve said something wrong, please tell me what it is so I can make a correction.

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