An Open Letter to the Leadership of the CFTF Lectures

To: lectures@churchesofchrist.com

Subject: Lectureship Question for Spring church of Christ

Brothers in Christ,

I’ve been deeply disappointed by the recent Profiles in Apostasy lectures and believe they reflect a seriously false understanding of the scriptures that is doing great harm to the Churches of Christ.

I particularly disagree with the implicit premise that any doctrinal error necessarily damns. I mean, you’ve even declared Phil Sanders apostate over his views on the Holy Spirit, even though for my entire life this has not been considered a salvation issue in the Churches of Christ. It seems that you’ve greatly expanded the category of salvation issues.

I’m sure you have your reasons for disagreeing with my understanding of the scriptures, and I think those reasons need to be considered in a forum where both sides can be heard by the largest possible audience. Therefore, I’d like to invite you to a dialogue regarding when a Christian becomes at apostate at my website, http://oneinjesus.info. This site is among the most popular in the Churches of Christ, having received over 50,000 page views in January.

I would offer you unfettered access to my readership to explain how you decide what issues are apostasy issues, and I’d offer a format that allows you to post and respond as you have opportunity — as we all have other commitments.

Your posts will receive the widest publicity within the Churches, as I have readers from all segments — one cup, no Sunday school, ICOC, non-institutional, conservative, progressive, and even the independent Christian Churches.

Please consider this invitation prayerfully. Are you willing to explain and defend the scriptural basis on which you damn so many leaders within the Churches of Christ in a fair and open forum?

Jay Guin

Tuscaloosa, AL

PS — This email is being posted at my site as open letter

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35 Responses

  1. Jay,

    I appreciate your willingness to offer the chance for the CFTF guys to defend themselves. I seriously doubt that you will have any takers. It is one thing to make accusations and even lie in a room full of your supporters. It is quite another to defend what you say using the Scriptures.

    I appreciate your ministry.

    Royce

  2. Jay, I wish you would follow after Gamaliel’s wisdom and stop picking fights with a side you are intent on destroying. If it’s not of God, it will come to nothing. I’m just a little more astounded every day how your language is morphing more and more into the same spirit as the conservatives — crush the error of the other side. You are doing great work by promoting deep and important understandings of scripture and God’s community. You just need to drop your obsessive war.

    You’re also starting to get more and more proud of this site. There seems to be a growing spirit of self-importance about it, which is a little bit disturbing. I once worked with a man of God who was good at what he did, and he started to realize it, then started to proclaim it, and then started to hold it over people, then started to claim power because of it, then saw himself as untouchable, then… took a great fall. Hubris. Don’t go there.

  3. All I can say is wow (toCary’s post above). As someone who has been a member of a conservative church all my life, I think Jay’s intent is a good one. I’d personally like to see more dialogue between the different groups. I find myself, I guess, really a “moderate” — don’t agree 100% with either side — and enjoy this website because it forces me to think about what I believe and what I’ve always been taught.

  4. I agree, all I can say to Cary’s post is WOW. Most of what I have seen on this Jay’s blog, has been open-minded, intellectually stimulating, and scriptural. Jay, keep up the good work! I’m sure its probably discouraging sometimes when you get disbarraging remarks from readers.

  5. Cary, I’m sure you understand that Gamaliel’s advice in Acts 5 is highly ironic. Consequently, it can be used as a precedent for people who want to say, “Let it go.”

    But it can also be used by people who want to oppose a movement: There are now over 2 billion believers on planet Earth. “See what happens when you let things go?” When I was a student at Freed-Hardeman, speakers at the annual lectureship always took the second view. They were prepared to denounce something and sometimes began by noting that Gamaliel’s advice was bad.

    It requires wisdom in order to correctly apply wise sayings.

  6. Jay, I had considered doing this myself at my own blog – but yours has a higher readership for sure, and you seem to have more time to devote to the project (evidenced by “Grace Conversation” as well as as this blog)!

    Cary, if we don’t dialogue – if people within the same fellowship can’t talk to each other, other than by launching pot shots over our self-built walls – how can we come to consensus on anything? It’s not war that Jay is proposing, but negotiations.

  7. Jay,

    Thank you for offering this opportunity for peaceful dialogue. I will be praying that our brethren on both sides of the grace divide will take advantage of it.

    in HIS love,
    nick

  8. Jay:

    As admirable as it is to want to dialog with the opposition, if it is true that they are liars and slanderers, then I think you’d be better off not conversing with them, lest you become the target of their lies and slander.

  9. But Joe, those are precisely the points – there’s no such thing as bad press, and only by exposing liars and slanderers (and more importantly, their audience) to grace and truth can Jesus be truly glorified. If one of their audience follows the potential dialogue here at OneInJesus and sees the marked difference between the CFTF teaching and attitude and the progressive teaching and attitude, it is worth being harangued at any number of lectureships.

  10. Jay,
    I am impressed with your willingness to have dialog with those who oppose the points of view you would promote. I gleaned these points from another blog somewhere (I can’t remember where), and they seem good reminders to all if anyone should take you up on your invitation.

    Blog posts and comments should focus on the issue at hand, . Practice healthy communication, including:

    (1) Support claims with evidence.

    (2) Do not question the intelligence, spirituality, beliefs, or motives of anyone, including those who post or comment on this topic.

    (3) Do not tell someone what they believe; instead, ask them.

    (4) Comments should relate directly to post content.

    (5) Avoid sarcasm; it seldom makes a positive contribution.

  11. Well at least everything has started off on a positive note, look at the first comment, using things like “defend themselves”
    accusing and lying.”I seriously doubt that you will have any takers” I see this working nearly as well as the last time it was attempted.

  12. @Rachel: All I can say is wow (to Cary’s post above). As someone who has been a member of a conservative church all my life, I think Jay’s intent is a good one. I’d personally like to see more dialogue between the different groups.

    I believe all of Jay’s intentions are good (I worked for him and very much appreciate him – he’s a great leader who loves God).

    And, true dialogue is fantastic and productive. But I think we need to admit that this isn’t really an invitation to dialogue, anymore than the many calls to accountability are that conservatives issue towards those they think have gone apostate. It’s “come try to defend yourself so that we can show you directly how wrong you are.” Nobody is going to be in a place to truly listen on either side, because we already know what our conclusions are and it is just an attempt to get others to see them. Jay makes that very clear in his letter. You may disagree, but I think the proof is in the pudding throughout much of this site.

    Much of what Jay writes on this site truly is deep, intellectually challenging, and valuable. But he makes no bones about his ongoing fight with conservative theology, and a good portion of this site takes on that battle. Thus, the big deal he’s making about the CFTF lectures. Most highly influential progressive leaders have moved beyond distractions like that because they are not interested in warring with the conservatives anymore. It’s a quagmire.

  13. Also, the best way to validate what people like CFTF are doing is to react to them with letters like this. Stop giving them attention and their influence will fade.

  14. So do we just write off those whom we should love, whether they love us or not, Cary?

  15. Keith, I don’t see how not engaging people in fruitless battle means not loving them?

  16. How do you know the dialogue will be fruitless?

  17. Jay, good luck on your offer. I have watched some of the video from the CFTF lectures. These men don’t seem particularly sensitive to intellectual persuasion. I do see your point in asking, however. At some point this may become a matter of casting pearls before swine. After all it was the religious leaders that Jesus made reference to when he used that phrase. Maybe study is in order to understand just what makes a hearer a “swine”. God bless.

  18. GraceConversation.com was a thorough yet sad experiment in people not trying to embrace, understand, and love each other but extensively and exhaustively trying to prove each other doctrinally wrong. It ended in bitterness and odd pronouncements of intellectual victory from Jay and Todd – very little humility. It appears that Jay is itching for GraceConversation pt 2. His anger wants it (see previous post).

    As I’ve said many times, there is a lot of excellence in this site, and Jay does fantastic work with a love for God. Let’s grow the excellence and let go of the war-mongering. As it is, this site is not actually about unity, but it could be.

  19. Great idea, Jay. I hope one of them will take you up on your offer. I think it would be a very interesting conversation.

  20. 50,000 hits in January is not really that much Jay. My website http://www.lgchurchofchrist.com got little over 67,000 hits in January and I am from a small congregation and I am not known by that many. The Gospel of Christ Website http://www.thegospelofchrist.com/ gets over 500,000 hits each month, which is way more than yours and mine combined. I am not for sure why you consider your website one of the most popular in the COC because I know that Christian Courier and many other COC websites that get around the same hits as The Gospel of Christ.

  21. Cougan, “hits” are not the same as “visits.” A “hit” is a request made of the Web server for each separate item stored on it: the page itself, every graphic on that page, every script called by that page. A page may have one or two up to dozens of these elements.

    Jay misused the word “hits.” I imagine that he meant “visits” or “pageviews.” Click on the Sitemeter graphic at the bottom of his right-hand column to see the number of visits and pageviews his site has received.

  22. Cougan,

    I’m working on a post answering your questions. I hope to have it up first thing in the morning.

    Matt Dabbs has been ranking sites for the last couple of years. I have no idea what the difference is between a “hit” and a page view. My 50,000 figure is based on WordPress’s page view statistics. OneInJesus is always near the top of his rankings.

    Alexa ranks internet sites based on traffic and other factors, and is used by advertisers, for example, to determine how much to pay for advertising on a site. The lower the number, the more popular the site.

    My Alexa rank is 298,061 as of today. Your church site has a rank of 8,334,311 and the Gospel of Christ ranks 3,627,404. Google is ranked 1. (I have the Alexa toolbar loaded in my browser, making it very easy to gather these figures.)

    Wayne Jackson’s Christian Courier site has an Alexa rank of 268,223, which is better than mine and likely the highest ranked site among the conservative Church of Christ sites.

    And please understand that I’m not saying any of this to embarrass you or demean your site. There are only a few Church of Christ sites that would rank higher than yours. (I’ve helped Matt with some of the figuring now and again and know about where your site would fall.) I’m just trying to explain why I said what I said.

    Now, having said all that, my Alexa rank and relative rank among Church of Christ sites is pretty well known to most of the readership already thanks to Matt’s work — and I have a hit counter meter on the site, which I’ve had since day one. I didn’t think I was revealing anything particularly newsworthy to the readership.

    Rather, I figure that the CFTF crowd is not very aware of me or this site. After all, I didn’t make their list of apostates. It seemed to me that they’d need to know what their audience would be to make an informed decision whether to accept my offer — and the bigger the audience, the more attractive the proposal. I hope so.

    I don’t know how many unique visitors I get a month, but whatever it is, it’s a very, very small percentage of the people in the Churches of Christ in total. I don’t think I’m very well known at all in the CFTF circle.

    Besides, maybe they’ll decide I’m worthy of being in Profiles in Apostasy #2 — which means someone else won’t be. And that would be a very good thing in my book.

  23. Jay,
    Thank you very much for your efforts on this site. Obviously, “fair and balanced”, allowing all sides to be voiced, and considered. Nothing wrong with a site which has such a good history of open discussion, to invite people to ‘openly discuss’ their view points. It’s all in the attitude and spirit that it’s done. Since I came across your web site, I have admired that you you treat each person honorably, and with a Christian attitude.
    Thanks again, and I look forward to reading the discussion when those you invited come on board.
    Jack Exum Jr.

  24. Jay, I like the offer you extended to the CFTF brethren. The subject of Apostacy is one that needs to be discussed in CofC circles. The Church will receive a blessing from a study of Apostacy, the blessing of unity. God Bless!!

    PS: Many One Cuppers “hit” your site

  25. I don’t think I have the wisdom to know if Jay’s proposal is a good idea or not. If the problem with the CFTF folks is ignorance then education could have a beneficial impact on the situation. And as a general rule I am all for education about both scripture and theology.

    I have heard some elders in the CofC say that education won’t fix the problem b/c the problem is not ignorance, but rather the condition of the heart. I am not suggesting that these men were saying they were adept at judging the hearts of other particular people. They were just speaking of the situation in general.

    To the extent that each side presents their point of view and talks past each other no one can hope to gain much. It there are a few that really listen to each other and pray for the Spirit’s guidance in their hearts and heads then much good could come about, at least in the lives of those few.
    Peace,
    Randall

  26. Pastor Mike,

    Amen. Plase remind me of these if the dialogue should happen.

  27. Thanks for the information Jay. That number does not embarrass me at all because I have done very little to promote it. I am unfamiliar with the ranking system you have mentioned. When you said 50,000, I was thinking hits and not page views. Sorry about the misunderstanding.

  28. Jay, I listenned to some of the lectures and, generally, heard unloving unspiritual attacks in the portion I heard. I have know frame of reference of how large a platform the messages have, but I would agree there is a message in need of gentle, kind instruction to be turned from error. In reference to the question whether it is wise or unwise to engage, as is common in scripture, the tention comes from the fact that both are right. The principles are laid out in 2 Timothy 2 and have more to do with the heart and the methods than whether or not engagement is a good idea. Avoid quarelling but engage with gentle kind instruction is the principle I’m left with from the following text. Grace and peace:
    “Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his, and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

  29. Ahh…”Contending For The Faith” magazine. Now that brings back memories…the first magazine I ever got “written up” in. 🙂

  30. Why not DEFEND the enemies of your enemies: for instance KC Moser as an old but newly found foundation.

  31. Jay – I think the offer was noble. However, I think I would have to come down ion Cary’s side, though for different reasons. I have known the person who was driving the CFTF forum. I knew his family in West Palm Beach. He apparently has the same unloving spirit as his father. That is – there can be no compromise on any point he believes. I have heard others who thought very much the same say in front of a class that they understand the Word of God perfectly. Now when you have that attitude nothing can be said which could cause one to change their outlook.
    There is one word which is anathema to the ultra-conservative mind – compromise. That is the entire problem with us who are not of their mindset, we have compromised our faith.
    It seems to me that the instructions Jesus gave his disciples in Luke 9 and 10 would apply in these situations- Warn them and leave them alone.
    Those who will think for themselves will soon understand where the errors are if they read material like yours and Al Maxey and Cecil Hook (where I was first “corrupted”). I notice that they seemed to have dropped Max Lucado, I wonder why.

  32. Jay,

    I haven’t commented in a while. Thought now would be as good a time as any!

    Good luck with the CFRF crowd. If you think I’m hard to “reach”!! No, seriously, we in churches of Christ have always struggled with placing priority on judgment and not acting in love. To many times we have confused righteousness with being right. I do believe we need more gentleness today and I confess I have not always practiced when it comes to my views. It is easy to attack certain believers as thieves of liberty or legalist or Pharisees because they do not agree with my convictions. I confess to wrestle with this. Some of “my heroes of the past” have proven to be legalist.

    But I do want to say this. It is fashionable today to characterize those of us in churches of Christ who are more “conservative” or “middle of the road”, who are concerned with discernment and sound doctrine are often accused of fostering a pharisaical, divisive attitude. And to top it off, it’s often delivered with all the smug superiority and condescension of an older sibling, it said, “Go away, kid – you bother me.” And trust me, I’ve experienced plenty of this—some on this blog!

    When good men like Phil Sanders and William Woodson and others are “crucified” and personally vilified and attacked by the progressive folks, it shows that little progress in healing division, restoring fellowship, or reversing any of the trends which produced the division in the first place is being made.

    But that’s really beside my point. I really just wanted to make a “plug” for the recent annual Affirming the Faith Seminar in Oklahoma City. This event is in only its third year and it continues to grow every year. This year’s attendance made a significant jump to over 1,100. Even more impressive is the fact that this program is the cooperative effort of 21 Oklahoma City area congregations.

    If anyone is interested in listening to this year’s lessons, go to http://www.affirmingthefaithok.com Some are still standing firm in the “middle” and growing.

    Robert Prater

  33. Robert, I’ve missed you!

  34. Robert,

    You make a very good point. No matter how much Christians might disagree with one another, it does not justify character assasination nor villanizing one another as God haters. There is a lot that someone like Phil Sanders to whom I would have disagreement. Yet no matter how wrong I think Phil may be on some issues, I no better than to confuse what I believe our misunderstandings on his part with his love for God.

    With that being said, I don’t know of any so-called progressive in the CoC that has labeled a more conservative brother as a God hater. If they have, they are just as wrong as Johnny Oxendine’s comment regarding John Mark Hicks.

    I believe for us all, it is time to reread and hear once again the Apostle Paul’s exhortaion in 1 Corinthians 13.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  35. Jay:

    Prayers, sir. God has brought you and this entire field of discussion to surface now and for His reasons. There are so many of us out here who read OIJ, grapple with it, study the scripture, and then begin to connect dots full of Grace and share the good news. If the Leaders of either sides don’t get it don’t worry the pew grunts like us will. Keep blogging the Word of Truth. Call to task those who you are led to reach out to, let God sort them out. Peace be with you and your family.

    Neal in Vero

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