Amazing Grace: Patternism Articles in New Wineskins

The recent series of articles in New Wineskins regarding the errors of patternism have triggered a response at the From God’s Breath blog edited by Scott Shifferd Jr. I was actually quoted! Shifferd’s posts responding to the articles are-

(actually replying to a blog post by Royce Ogle)

“Patternism?”: Why Christians Must Observe Biblical Examples

New Wineskins’ Confusion over Christ’s Patterns

I’m not going to dispute his arguments here. Rather, I just want to observe the difference in publication names between the conservative and progressive writers. This blog is called “From God’s Breath” — which is tantamount to a claim for inspiration, isn’t it? Of course, we also have The Gospel Advocate — a claim that what is advocated is the gospel — and The Firm Foundation, which is a reference to —

(Eph 2:20 KJV)  And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

If The Firm Foundation really is the firm foundation, then it’s the apostles, the prophets, and Jesus Christ himself! That’s quite the editorial board! Or maybe it’s a reference to the old hymn —

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!

The hymn uses “firm foundation” to mean the word of God. And then there’s Truth Magazine, Bible Truths, and The Spiritual Sword. “Spiritual Sword” is from Eph 6:17, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” I mean, what’s the difference between saying “spiritual sword” and “word of God” or even “Holy Bible”? And don’t forget Words of Truth, Power (used as a synonym for “gospel” per Rom 1:16), and The Gospel Journal.

Now, compare these to New Wineskins, Grace-Centered Magazine, GracEmails, Reflections, Grace Digest, One in Jesus, Out Here Hope Remains, John Mark Hicks Ministries, Kingdom Living, God Hungry, aliens and strangers … not a single claim to inspiration in the lot. Rather, the emphasis in the progressive literature is on unity, grace, ministry, and life in Jesus, whereas the emphasis in the conservative literature is quite different.

Now, of course, the progressives believe in the Bible, believe it’s inspired, and believe they’ve interpreted it well. And certainly anyone who teaches about the Bible should intend to teach the truth, but it just seems that there are two very different approaches to truth here. You see, I don’t see progressives claiming authority, but it seems to me that the conservatives are doing just that.

For example, and I admit this is a bit extreme, but it makes the point — Shifferd writes,

You are a poor blind guide in this matter. What prejudice that you show in judging patternists by your own pattern! Don’t you know that we are to be imitators of the Christian example (1 Cor. 4:16-17, 11:1; Eph. 5:1; Phil. 3:17; 1 Thess. 1:7; 2 Thess. 3:7, 9; Heb. 6:12; 3 John 1:11))? Do you not know the words for example and pattern are the same (2 Tim. 1:13; Rom. 5:14, 6:17; 1 Thess. 1:7; Phil. 3:17; 2 Thess. 3:9; 1 Pet. 5:3)? Has Christ not set a pattern for us in worship? Do you not follow a pattern for baptism and the Lord’s Supper even if just simply calling them these names? Open your eyes. You who call others Pharisees! For the Pharisees were not patternists according to the Word. Their pattern was their traditions. These were man-made inventions, which went further to neglect God’s instructions (Matt. 15, 23, Mark 7). Pharisees were just as much liberals as they were legalists. Do not be a white-washed tomb and condemn churches for having the same problems that so many had in the 1st centuries. You’re not going to change any minds with this contempt.

It’s a transparent attempt to sound like Jesus — and while we should all seek to imitate Jesus, we have no right to claim his judgment or authority. And while Shifferd doesn’t make such an explicit claim, the claim is implicitly there when he declares that his words are “from God’s breath” and he writes as though standing in the sandals of Jesus.

I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem right, somehow. But maybe it’s just me.

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24 Responses

  1. AARGH!!! Yet another implication that if we don’t get “the pattern” EXACTLY RIGHT, we are all going to hell!!!!

    So what is our salvation based on? Our faith in Christ, or exact adherence to “the pattern”, whatever it is?

    If it’s the latter, I’m totally screwed!

  2. That’s the essence of grace: you’re not “totally screwed.”

    As for the legalists, their time is winding down; this response to the New Wineskins article appears to be a diversion from their usual practice of ripping each other apart.

  3. What tends to bother me most is the near blindness to the mechanical logic used in arriving at these patterns. I don’t think this debate is really about whether or not there is a pattern, it is about what the pattern looks like. The “patternists” (which perhaps is an unfair designation) tend towards elevating their inferences to the level of explicit commands; they become, to them, necessary inferences. But there is very little that is truly necessary about the bulk of these inferences. The “patternists” want us to look past their syllogistic Babel with their scaffolding of proof-texts, and assume as commonsense their system of church. The so-called progressives, on the other hand, try to see the person behind the precepts…For them, there are rules, order, and reason—a pattern even—but this pattern is, in my view, nuanced from a wider biblical context, moving with the flow of the biblical story, as opposed to the picking and choosing of verses from here and there to make a nice and neat, perfect blueprint.

    One says, ‘if you LOVE ME, then you will obey my commands’ the other says, ‘if you love me, then you will OBEY MY COMMANDS.’ For me, this is an issue of putting the cart before the horse…and I suppose there are dangers on both sides. Personally, I’d rather deal with the mess of the former than the icy rigor of the latter.

  4. Jay,

    There seems to be a philosophical inconsistency in the two posts today. I’m sure this isn’t intended.

    The first concerning the 30hour fast and the proper emphasis on serving rather than what the fast does for us is spot on. This concept comes up frequently in your posts and I appreciate this emphasis.

    The second post today (or last yesterday) concerning the names of older publications and newer publications seems to reflect the opposite.
    The older names reflect the authority of God reminding us we are to be devoted to Him (serve). The newer names containing grace topics is a reminder of what God does for us. In an extreme, this is a selfish motivation.

    Like the 30hour fast uses modern marketing knowledge to recruit but misses the real issue of service. Likewise, the newer names of communications use modern marketing but miss the real issue of service.

    I personally don’t see any reason to criticize any of the names given (new or old). They reflect the thought processes of their time. All are biblically based to varying degrees.

  5. I sent Scott a quick response last night to the third article you list that was virtually identical to Edward Fudge’s. I added, “I hope it stirs some good discussion.” He hasn’t approved it as a comment yet. Maybe that’s because I linked the “Patternism” issue’s index page to my comment under “Website.”

    Am I the only one who doesn’t understand what he means by “confusion” when he prefaces excerpts lifted out of the context of the articles themselves with lines of scripture and accusations?

    Maybe that’s because I have read all of the articles.

  6. Trying to follow all the links made me dizzy.

  7. Jay,

    Are you really criticizing the names of publications? Since those are our brethren, how about trying to give the most charitable understanding of things we can? “The Spiritual Sword” and “The Firm Foundation” could refer to the *objects* of study, and not at all make as pretentious a claim as you assume it to make. Did you write these brothers and ask them if by “From God’s Breath” they meant to claim inspiration for their articles? Did you give them the benefit of the doubt?

    Truth is, i probably don’t agree with quite a bit of what is published in these journals. But scrutinizing the names of their publications just seems like a low blow.

    –Guy

  8. konastephen,

    While I think you’re right, to me the deeper problem is the patternists’ insisting on using the pattern as a test of salvation and fellowship. I wish we just disagreed about what the rules are. But we also disagree about how to be saved.

  9. Rich,

    I don’t think it’s remotely biblical to call a periodical or blog “From God’s Breath” or even “The Firm Foundation.” Both are synonyms for the word of God. And neither publication is the word of God.

    The reason they aren’t the word of God isn’t because they’re conservative or because I disagree with them. They’re not the word of God because they aren’t inspired. Neither is One In Jesus.

    When I chose a name for this blog, I thought about these things, because I could not in good conscience adopt a name that claimed authority. Jesus spoke with authority — and that’s one thing that made him different from the rest of us. The only website that could use such a name would be BibleGateway.

  10. Keith,

    One reason I decided not to post a reply is I couldn’t follow his thinking very well.

    Do I correctly perceive that nearly all conservative blogs moderate comments and nearly no progressive sites do? If that’s true, reckon why that is? I really don’t know.

    I suspect it’s for the same reason the Gospel Advocate only publishes letters to the editor that praise their work. It’s an interesting phenomenon. There’s a master’s degree for some cultural anthropology students in there, I suspect.

  11. So if I started a ‘conservative’ blog and didn’t moderate comments, would that break that theory completely?

  12. Your experience matches mine, Jay. The sort-of exception would be Seek the Old Paths. They don’t have comments, but at the bottom of the Web pages duplicating their printed publication, they’ll print excerpts from letters to the publishing staff … even ones with reasons why they’re requesting that their subscription be stopped!

  13. Jay,

    Using your same logic, then no site or publication should include grace in it’s name because God is the only source of grace.

    I appreciate that you put careful thought in the name of your site. However, I don’t see a problem with those you have identified (at least from a name perspective).

    Both Firm Foundation and Gospel Advocate used to publish opposing opinions at times. I guess one need ask the current editors why they no longer do so. I suspect it’s a reaction to the current progressive movement.

    I know of some college professors who teach world religions from a neutral perspective to show respect. They have later learned a student or two became interested and pursued another faith (Muslim, Hindu, etc.). The professors have wondered if such a seemingly respectful method was actually inappropriate from a Christian perspective.

    The minimal moderation of your site makes it more interesting. I don’t think it makes it more Christian.

  14. Jay:
    I noticed an interesting statement by you:

    “Rather, the emphasis in the progressive literature is on unity, grace, ministry, and life in Jesus, whereas the emphasis in the conservative literature is quite different.”

    It surprised me, given the March 2010 Gospel Advocate issue that was focused on ministry to young people (The World Our Young People Face). It looks at ministry, grace, and life in Jesus — living as children of light.

    And further, I continue to wonder if your recent satire regarding vocal music was actually an expression of graciousness — grace of Christ applied to all of our relationships — and I missed it (i.e. your comment in “Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey”). Your satire sounded more like some of the harsh Bible debates I have heard in Bible classes — both Progressive and Conservative. Your comment seemed to me to ignore what Paul urges when he talks about living as children of light — i.e. life in Jesus.

    I hope you retract your statement; it is inaccurate.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  15. Bruce,

    If you’ll read me in context, I was speaking of the choice of the name of the periodical or blog. But the statement holds true as to the content of the publications.

    From the March 2010 issue of the Gospel Advocate, p 27 —

    The liberals among us, however are simply not going away. It is no surprise: “[E]vil men and seducers,” Paul said, “shall wax worse and worse., deceiving, being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13 KJV).

    This is in contrast to the “far right among us.” I think he’s talking about people like me.

    From the January 2010 issue, p. 35 —

    Does this not make us wonder if authorized worship might be a salvation issue, especially when done by people insisting on being allowed to do as they please instead of respecting the worship established by Christ and the apostles? …

    What right have we to suggest that any of God’s commands are such that willing compliance with them is not a salvation issue? … Do we have the right to label any command of God as unnecessary and “not a salvation issue”?

    From the February 2010 issue, p. 28 —

    To walk in the light is to submit humbly to God’s commands. Those commands pertain to our walk of life, our worship and our preaching. When Paul commanded the Thessalonians to “stand fast and hold the traditions you were taught”, it included living a life of Christian morality and adhering to God’s pattern for the church in worship and in structure.

    If one does not walk in the light by being obedient to the will of God, that person has put himself out of fellowship with God and His people.

    (citations omitted).

    The editorial policy of the Gospel Advocate remains distinctly sectarian — damning those who worship or organize churches contrary to their opinions, regardless of the state of their heart. And they distort the scriptures unconscionably to achieve that result. They teach a works salvation.

  16. Jay:
    Yes, I know the context of your statement — and how you seemed to extend your comment beyond the context.

    I noticed that you did not quote from the multiple articles in the March 2010 that talk specifically of ministry, grace, and life in Christ.

    Let me offer that part of the definition of “grace” is for all of us to express graciousness to others by hearing all that they have been saying — and acknowledge it. You could have chosen numerous other quotations from the March 2010 issue that I suspect you and many (maybe all) others reading OneinJesus.info would affirm with strength.

    It seems to me that study should be factored into the discussion (and your assessment/statement) — just as should comments and Biblical studies in OneinJesus that honor the risen Lord.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  17. Jay, you asked why some bloggers moderate comments. For over 3 years, I did not. However, I had to start moderating comments on my blog. It had nothing to do with people who disagreed with my understanding of theology or anything like it. I kept receiving pornographic spam comments. At first I would delete the comments as soon as possible. Unfortunately, they would be up for hours before I would see them on most days. Although few people would have seen the spam, it still bothered me. For hours at a time, people were getting access to advertisements for pornography in my comments section. Eventually, I became tired of the hassle and disabled comments. After a couple of months, I enabled the comments again, but this time they must be approved by me so that no pornography gets past me.

    Other bloggers may have had to do something similar for similar reasons.

  18. Terry,

    I’m not familiar with Blogspot software. In WordPress, we’re provided a free spam filter that’s 99% accurate. I might have one spam leak through a week at most.

  19. Jay,
    It’s possible that blogspot can do the same. If so, I don’t know how to find it or get it to work. I’m not the most competent person on a computer (and it’s possible I’m not alone in my incompetence). But I’m okay with what I’m able to do with it at the moment. If I find out more, I’ll try to incorporate it into what I’m doing.

  20. Bruce,

    Grace does not teach that I should characterize the teaching of the Gospel Advocate as something it isn’t. Of course, it’s true that not every article is sectarian. But it’s a sectarian periodical. It works against unity. It teaches a false gospel — and a counterfeit grace. It’s deeply creedal in its doctrine. Their view of Christianity leaves readers unsure of their salvation and afraid.

    To me, the harm they are doing to the Lord’s kingdom greatly outweighs the good done by their less sectarian articles. And I would not want any reader to think I recommend or endorse that magazine, because I consider its teachings aggressively malignant. There are better places to get good materials on raising teenagers where the lessons are built on a healthy understanding of the Bible.

    To be clear, it’s not just that I disagree with them on some point of doctrine. There are plenty of authors and periodicals I can recommend even though I disagree on various points with the writers. But when the magazine denies justification by faith and insists on a works salvation, it’s guilty of the Galatian heresy, which jeopardizes the salvation of those deceived by such teachings. And how could I allow anyone to be deceived by such teachings?

    I’ve often been accused of being “just like the conservatives” because I find this teaching damning. But we all believe there are damning teachings. Sadly, the Churches of Christ, because for so long we’ve been guilty of the Galatian heresy, have not taught the Galatian heresy. And so, when we learn grace (thank God!), we tend to treat the Galatian heresy as error but not a damning error. And so we feel little urgency in persuading our friends trapped in this kind of legalism, because we figure grace covers that error, just like it covers many other sins.

    But Paul declares seeking justification other than by faith as to “fall from grace” and to be “severed from Christ.” Indeed, he calls it “another gospel.” Therefore, this particular error carries with it particularly dire consequences. I’d love to treat this like a disagreement over how many children an elder must have — think and let think. But I can’t. Indeed, I can think of nothing less gracious than to treat this dispute as inconsequential.

    It’s a conclusion no one wants to hear. I don’t want to hear it. After I discovered this teaching, I spent several years trying to avoid the consequences — but ultimately concluded I have to teach it. I truly wish it weren’t true. But I’ve yet to see a credible argument to the contrary — as much as I’d love to see one.

    And as I doubt this has been detailed enough to persuade anyone, I’ll see if I can post something to explain my thinking. Give me a few days. In the meantime, the full-length argument is in the ebook I’ve posted, Do We Teach Another Gospel? http://oneinjesus.info/books-by-jay-guin/do-we-teach-another-gospel/

  21. Jay:
    I am glad of your belief in the grace of God — your commitment to Ephesians 2:1-10, for example. Positively speaking, I think that is what I hear. I believe Ephesians 2:1-10 as well. Also, I am confident we agree that the grace of the Lord can be ignored; people can choose darkness. The risen Lord’s messages to the seven churches of Asia highlight and Paul’s message in Ephesians 4:17-5:21 reveals the threat. I certainly cannot speak about every 21st century congregation, but I will share that the one I am part of believes Ephesians 2:1-10.

    Let’s move on. Jay, no matter what conclusions you reach regarding an editor, you ignored writers who expressed grace, ministry, and life in Jesus (and the more-harm-than-good suggestion does not allow license either). Your statement was inaccurate. Your not having a problem with that heads toward the very polarization I have heard in too many Biblical studies (both Progressive and Conservative). I have said enough here; I will let you consider.

    How about pointing OneinJesus at a dangerous threat beyond supposed patternism and the like. Based on multiple surveys of late, it appears to be consuming the nation — whatever the name on a church building. Folks seem reticent to acknowledge a moral deity who has spoken in Scripture. They would rather “play with” practical New Age religion, Wicca, and the like (lets them be “right” in their personal, mystical religion). Rex Butt’s comments some days back were excellent. That, as much as any subject I have seen in OneinJesus, is crucial — and untouched.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton

  22. Bruce, there are any number of sites – Like Christianity Today, for instance – where that topic might reach a larger number of receptive hearts.

    As I understand Jay’s goal for his blog, it’s to try to find some common ground of understanding to promote unity among believers, beginning among those in the Restoration Movement, with which he is most familiar.

    Jay’s blog does that, with a remarkably wide audience.

    I understand that you were put off by one of his comments on a video, but Jay has never made a secret of where he stands … on anything, as nearly as I can tell. (I found the video too tragic to make anything about it humorous, but that’s just my taste in humor.)

    I don’t believe Jay is the first or last believer to share a little sarcasm as a relief valve for pent-up frustration. I don’t think his comment approaches the mean-spiritedness of some of the videos from CFTF, but if the targets of those personal attacks are willing to shrug them off, I think I can do the same for a little humor that doesn’t really connect with me.

    If I’ve mis-characterized you or your blog in this, Jay, I apologize.

  23. Keith:
    Quickly, thank you for taking the time to pen your note. To confirm, I have forgiven the satire.

    My youngest son tells me the same thing happens often in university chapels. Not only do the students around him not sing, they also sneer and laugh at those who do. My oldest son has suggested to me that he thinks it is a symptom of a general rebellion against authority (both civil and religious) within a good bit of his generation (perhaps partly the result of wars, terrible economy, etc.). That has prompted me to think back on the 1960’s and 70’s and the “Age of Aquarius” some.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Mortoin

  24. Bruce,

    Do you have a blog? Just curious.

    –Guy

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