Quail Springs Church of Christ “Disfellowshipped”: Proud to be a Campbellite

quailsprings.gifI’ve been reading a lot of literature from the right wing of the Churches of Christ lately — just wondering where they are in their thinking nowadays. The notorious ad in the Oklahoman is, of course, one example of right-wing thinking, and I earlier posted a series on Dave Miller’s A Plea to Reconsider. I’ve lately been reading Frank Chesser’s The Spirit of Liberalism and Phil Sanders’ blog as well.

And I’ve come to realize just how very, very far we’ve drifted from the original vision of the Restoration Movement — as well as the scriptures. And this drift is built on certain false understandings regarding human nature, two of which I want to address here.

They are lies — not that these men are liars. Rather, they’ve been deceived by the Father of All Lies regarding how real people act and think.

Fortunately, we have a truer, deeper, better understanding of human nature as revealed in the scriptures, available to us by reading the writings of Thomas Campbell. Campbell was right because, well, he was a better Bible student and student of human nature than many of today’s preachers.

Read both understandings and decide for yourself: which better reflects the human condition and a gracious God?

First lie

“I can judge the hearts of my enemies, and they all sin knowingly and so deserve their damnation.”

Ultimately, the goal of much right-wing literature is to prove that their opponents are damned. It’s not good enough show their behavior is unwise or even sinful. No, they must be damned for their error.

It’s easy enough to show that those who deliberately continue to sin are lost (Heb 10:26-27 says so). It’s easy enough, or so they imagine, to show that they sin. All that remains is to show that their sins are “knowing” or “deliberate.”

The Oklahoman ad, for example, declares,

Seeing that the case has been proven, it comes down to a respect or lack thereof for God.

The argument is that, because the authors feel they’ve proven their point, those who disagree do so out of a lack of respect for God. They can’t imagine that someone might disagree out of a lack of respect for the authors — a very different thing!

Similarly, they argue that those who disagree with the authors do so out of presumption, relying on 2 Pet 2:10 —

(2 Pet 2:10a) This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority.

The argument is that those who disagree with the authors do so from a “corrupt desire” and because they “despise authority.” But these three ministers are not the sort of “authority” Peter refers to.

Just so, in A Plea to Reconsider, Miller condemns Rick Atchley with this reasoning —

Yet, consider: what honest, sincere person, having heard the pure Gospel, having learned what God has done for us in Christ and the rich spiritual blessings that accompany that sacrifice, would balk at complete submission to Christ simply on the grounds that the worship of God excludes a humanly-devised, mechanical contraption? Answer: only one who has not had a genuine change of mind (repentance), and who is reluctant to render complete allegiance to Christ to the point of abandoning fleshly allurements!

Miller presumes to know Atchley’s heart so well that he can find that he has not repented of sin because of his insistence on worshiping God with an instrument.

The overriding theme of Frank Chesser’s The Spirit of Liberalism is that “liberals” do what they do knowing it to be wrong but not caring.

Now, the reality is that none of these authors knows the hearts of all their opponents. How could they? There are millions of them!

More importantly, what would make anyone think that a believer would go to church, donate to the Lord’s work, volunteer for Christian service, and worship God Almighty with an instrument believing he was sinning in so doing? What kind of human acts that way?

I mean, if I have a rebellious heart, why go to church at all? It’s easy enough to imagine why a few people might act this way — but not people by the millions.

The obvious truth is that these worshipers of God use an instrument because they believe it’s consistent with God’s will. It is therefore false — a lie from Satan — to declare that they all intend to violate God’s commands in so doing.

Lie 2

While God may overlook error in the immature, at some point the mature become accountable for getting doctrine right.

Phil Sanders writes,

That we are all imperfect, having imperfect knowledge and living imperfect lives, is not under question. What is under question is if ignorance is a license to self-made religion. Are we to assume that we can (because the water is presumably muddy) act on our own initiative? Do we really think that ignorance grants us the right to presume upon the grace of God?

Now I can perceive a novice or babe in Christ being judged less strictly. The disobedient who did not know the master’s will will be beaten with few stripes rather than many. What of the church leaders who, departing from a unified view, presume to embrace out of a supposed uncertainty the right to self-made religion? Will not teachers incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1)? Will not leaders who grant permission to go beyond the instructions of Scripture be held accountable? Can people plead endlessly they lack certainty (all the while acting without evidence from the New Testament)? Do people never have to repent of self-made religion? Can they knowingly continue to practice their presumptuous ways?

Notice the cleverness of the argument. He begins by conceding that a new Christian won’t be held accountable for all error. After all, it takes a while to learn all the truth.

But by the end of his argument, he’s concluded that the leadership of a church always violates Biblical teaching on worship “knowingly.” No one disagrees honestly!

It’s just not true that there comes a magic moment in our lives when we suddenly have perfect Biblical knowledge. It doesn’t happen for anyone, ever. God holds us accountable to study his will. He holds us accountable for faith in Jesus and a penitent heart. He does not require us to agree with any of these authors to go to heaven.

A truer understanding

Rather, Thomas Campbell got it right nearly 200 years ago when he wrote the founding document of the Restoration Movement, the “Declaration and Address” —

5. That with respect to the commands and ordinances of our Lord Jesus Christ, where the scriptures are silent, as to the express time or manner of performance, if any such there be; no human authority has power to interfere, in order to supply the supposed deficiency, by making laws for the church; nor can any thing more be required of christians in such cases, but only that they so observe these commands and ordinances, as will evidently answer the declared and obvious end of their institution. Much less has any human authority power to impose new commands or ordinances upon the church, which our Lord Jesus Christ has not enjoined. Nothing ought to be received into the faith or worship of the church; or be made a term of communion amongst christians, that is not as old as the New Testament.

6. That although inferences and deductions from scripture premises, when fairly inferred, may be truly called the doctrine of God’s holy word: yet are they not formally binding upon the consciences of christians farther than they perceive the connection, and evidently see that they are so; for their faith must not stand in the wisdom of men; but in the power and veracity of God — therefore no such deductions can be made terms of communion, but do properly belong to the after and progressive edification of the church. Hence it is evident that no such deductions or inferential truths ought to have any place in the churchs’s confession.

7. That although doctrinal exhibitions of the great system of divine truths, and defensive testimonies in opposition to prevailing errors, be highly expedient; and the more full and explicit they be, for those purposes, the better; yet, as these must be in a great measure the effect of human reasoning, and of course must contain many inferential truths, they ought not to be made terms of christian communion: unless we suppose, what is contrary to fact, that none have a right to the communion of the church, but such as possess a very clear and decisive judgment; or are come to a very high degree of doctrinal information; whereas the church from the beginning did, and ever will, consist of little children and young men, as well as fathers.

Have you ever wondered why a unity movement became divisive? It’s simple. We’ve forgotten our roots. 200 years ago, Campbell saw what caused Christians to divide from each other — the very same things that divide us today — an insistence that only those with “a very clear and decisive judgment” may be saved, an insistence on imposing inferences on people who disagree with those inferences — and an insistence on filling the silences of the scriptures with commands.

If only we’d have listened, our history would have been a much better one. Indeed, we’d be united on the basis that Campbell urged —

9. That all that are enabled, thro’ grace, to make such a profession [of faith in Jesus], and to manifest the reality of it in their tempers and conduct, should consider each other as the precious saints of God, should love each other as brethren, children of the same family and father, temples of the same spirit, members of the same body, subjects of the same grace, objects of the same divine love, bought with the same price, and joint heirs of the same inheritance. Whom God hath thus joined together no man should dare to put asunder.

(Campbell says nothing of baptism as he and Alexander came to their conclusions re immersion much later.)

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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0 Responses to Quail Springs Church of Christ “Disfellowshipped”: Proud to be a Campbellite

  1. Alan says:

    But by the end of his argument, he’s concluded that the leadership of a church always violates Biblical teaching on worship “knowingly.” No one disagrees honestly!

    Implicitly, Sanders is saying that he knows his view is correct. He allows no possibility that his logic and his inferences are flawed. That is a dangerous assumption to make.

    1Co 8:2-3 The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.

  2. Phil Sanders says:

    Dear Jay,

    You have apparently been quite busy defending yourself and criticizing the people who placed the ad in the newspaper. My suggestion to you is to talk to them. I didn't have anything to do with that ad and live in another state. Perhaps it is better for you to engage them. I do believe that Mark, the elders, and the Quail congregation have chosen to go in the wrong direction, creating division and compromising the truth.

    The vision of the Restoration Movement was not ecumenical. The vision of the Restoration was not ecumenical (join hands but stay in error). The vision of the Restoration Movement was not to develop new, self-made religion. The vision of the Restoration Movement was unite believers in the truth. Before Jesus prayed for unity, he prayed for his disciples to be sanctified (set apart) in the truth.

    The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) urges believers to be trained so that they may "observe all things whatsoever I have commanded." This is a process that the Lord wants observed. It is clear from Scripture that people grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18). But there is a point of maturity which Christians do reach, a functional maturity where they by practice can discern right from wrong (Heb. 5:12-14; Eph. 4:11-16).

    The Lord expected Thyatira and Smyrna to discipline the false teaching among them (Revelation) and rebuked them for their toleration of error. Error is a salvation issue (James 5:19-20), and the mature should train the immature and watch for their souls to keep them from straying.

    As for instrumental music, I will happy to point to my study at http://www.God-answers.org. Go to online tools. I will also offer my book, "Let All the Earth Keep Silence" at the Seminar.

    kindly,
    Phil

  3. Jay Guin says:

    Phil,

    Thanks for joining the discussion.

    I sent my article explaining my disagreement with the three ministers who published the ad to the ministers for comment before posting. Several days later, one posted a comment on this site expressing his views.

    I have offered to post any reply they have alongside my own materials. I have also offered to engage in an on-line discussion regarding what causes someone to fall from grace. So far, they've not agreed to do so.

    I make the same offer to you. I'll be glad to post here or on both our sites an exchange of views as to when a Christian falls from grace. I think our readers would benefit from such an exchange. I strongly feel that the truth emerges best when all sides are allowed to be presented. I won't moderate your posts (I don't moderate anyone's posts) — say whatever you wish.

    The biggest issue the Churches of Christ face, I believe, is with regard to the doctrine of falling from grace. You and I are going to disagree on one issue or another, and we can only consider each other brothers in Christ if the disagreement doesn't cost one of our souls.

    I believe the Bible strongly supports Thomas Campbell's views on who my brother is. Obviously, much of the Churches of Christ disagree. It would be a worthwhile and interesting conversation.

    Regarding your post, I've not suggested an ecumenical policy, not in the "ecumenical movement" sense of the word. I do believe that unity is a gift of God and that we've often refused to accept the gift he's given us. For those in grace — baptized, penitent, believers — grace covers doctrinal errors, other than those that would take one out of grace — loss of faith or loss of penitence.

    Manifestly, one who worships contrary to what he knows is right is impenitent and in serious jeopardy of his soul. But "know" is not "should know." We should all be perfect. We aren't, and so God extends grace to us in our weakness.

    The verses you cite don't say "There comes a time when a Christian in grace has to get all doctrine right or else lose his soul." There is no such verse.

    Moreover, no one really teaches that — although some have said some things really close to that. Rather, all the writers tolerate some disagreement. However, the writers and opinion leaders among the conservative Churches disagree as to just what is damnable and what is not.

    Dr. Ralph Gilmore in the FHU debate over instrumental music opined that clapping with the music in worship is an "aid" not an "addition." Frank Chesser in The Spirit of Liberalism says clapping denies the faith! It's easy to come up with plenty of such examples.

    Even the most prominent and presumably most mature among the conservatives can't agree on what's permitted and not and what damns and doesn't. And I've yet to hear anyone from among them give a rule for just what doctrinal error is covered by grace and what error isn't.

    Dr. Gilmore actually declared in the debate that he could find no scripture answering that question — and yet he argued strenuously that grace doesn't cover error as to the instrument.

    On the other hand, Thomas Campbell's views are easily taught, understood, and applied — and had we remained true to his original vision, we'd still be united today. More precisely, we'd all acknowledge the unity that God has given us today.

  4. Steve says:

    Well said, Jay, in both your post and in your reply to Phil. I do wish there was a better forum for discussion that allowed for disagreement in grace and not in condemnation.

    Peace.

  5. Jay, Alan, Phil, Steve and the other readers,

    I just wanted to let you know that my brother in Christ, Al Maxey, two latest "reflections" are on this subject.

    Talking about Dr. Ralph Gilmore. I found this doing a Google search. A Cappella Music: How Can Churches of Christ Stay Together? is a series of lessons presented by Dr. Ralph Gilmore from Freed-Hardeman University on September 28-30, 2007 at the Rockledge church of Christ in Rockledge, Florida. They are posted on the Palm Beach Lakes Church of Christ, website. " http://www.pblcoc.org/V2/index.php?option=com_con… " is the website address.

    Please pray for me, You see, I am an Undercover Missionary working in the legalistic patternistic Churches of Christ. I tried using my real name but that did not work out too good so I am now working as a undercover missionary which is working out great.

    Thank you for praying for me,
    Undercover Missionary
    undercovermissionary@gmail.com

  6. Jay Guin says:

    UM,

    I'm listening to Dr. Gilmore's last tape. Some good and some bad. Mostly bad.

    1. He's clear that it's wrong to judge the motives of those who disagree on doctrinal issues. Good.

    2. He misuses the NT term "truth." The verses he quotes are speaking of the gospel, not anything someone finds true in the Bible.

    3. He falsely analogizes instrumental music with the gay bishop in the Boston Episcopalian diocese. He argues that because we must repent of homosexuality (true) we must also repent of instrumental music to be in the church. He fails to distinguish between known sin and disagreements over how to interpret the scriptures. If he's right, we must repent of ALL doctrinal error to be saved.

    4. He demands unity "on the word of God." Amen. What about grace isn't in the word of God?

    5. He accuses the progressives of being Postmodern. Not so (on the whole). I'm certainly the farthest thing from a Postmodern. Rubel Shelly has an annoying habit of trying to teach through a Postmodern lens — but this teaching is not what drives the progressive movement. Not even close. I mean, the movement predates the word "Postmodern." Was Thomas Campbell a Postmodernist?

    6. Argues that Christians must obey Jesus. Does anyone argue to the contrary? The question is not whether we are to obey (of course, we are), but whether there is grace for those believers who fail to do so despite trying.

    7. He falsely analogizes progressive Churches to emerging churches, quoting Dan Kimball (whom he misunderstands). It's a frivolous argument.

    8. "The instrument per se is a small issue compared to a larger issue." Do you obey the Bible? Dr. Gilmore started by saying he wouldn't question motives. And he ends by questioning motives. The progressives are trying to obey the Bible. Of course. How can he say otherwise? He is judging their motives.

    9. He argues that we ought to be a cappella "to be safe." Hence, he finds safety in rule keeping. The NT warns us against exactly this attitude.

    10. He analogizes progressives to those who lie to their parents — willfully disobeying. Again, he judges motives.

    11. He makes the argument from silence. Says wrong to baptize babies because Bible is silent on infant baptism. He then argues that it's wrong because doctrine of original sin is wrong — which proves the Bible isn't really silent on infant baptism, doesn't it?

    12. He says that if "principle of silence" isn't true, then "nothing in the Bible means anything at all." After all, if silence isn't binding, then Noah could have built the ark out of something other than gopher wood. But, of course, God wasn't silent on this subject. He spoke. He said, "Gopher wood"! How is this not obvious?

    It's just one strawman argument after another. Nothing new or even interesting.

  7. Mark says:

    Jay,
    I really appreciate your work. It is thorough and fair. I just have one teeny little bone to pick. At some point, we (meaning everyone who is hung up on the so-called Law of Exclusion) are going to have to set aside Noah and his ark and look somewhere else for our ammo.

    There is no such thing as “Gopher wood!” The translators of the KJV transliterated the Hebrew word “gopher” because they didn’t know what it meant. The lexicon says it is an unknown term. The NIV opts for “cypress,” while others suggest that it may be pine.

    We have a century’s worth of arguments that Noah had to make the ark out of gopher wood because the command excluded all other kinds of wood when it’s possible that the command was generic, rather than specific. “Hey, Noah, go collect some wood and build an ark according to the instructions I give you.”

    I’m not trying to be a pain. The “Gopher wood” argument just grates on me.
    Peace,
    Mark

  8. Scott says:

    Are you saying the restoration movement was to restore unity apart from restoring obedience to the Scriptures since no one can really understand them completely to be of the same mind and judgment, and observe all things?

    Are you saying that we cannot see that someone has repented because this is judging someone’s heart? From what you wrote above that is what you said, and then you judged Miller in the same way.

    How does Campbell’s words agree with you at all unless you’re implying that these 3 men added to the Gospel?

    Which one of these 3 men actually said, “I can judge the hearts of my enemies, and they all sin knowingly and so deserve their damnation”? Have you judged their hearts?

    Did you mean to imply that rebellious people do not go to church especially not millions of people?

    In your comments, why do you recognize that the specifics of baptism exclude infant baptism, but then scoff that there is that God’s commands exclude alternatives? Was this dishonesty or disregard?

    Are rules and commands different? How? Is singing a rule and is baptism a command? Are those who love God keeping His commands also following rules?

    You’re right that you do have a very different understanding of human nature than these men.

    When would you say that someone falls from grace?

    May we all find grace and peace in Christ.

  9. Charles says:

    Wow. All I have to this is Galatians 1:6-10. I agree with Thomas Campbell. we need to be silent where the Bible is silent. There were instruments, clapping, capacities from praise teams, and whatnot in the 1st century and yet he never said he wanted any of it. It is said that conservatives claim to know the hearts of their opponents better than they really do and then people make ignorant statements about worship and presume to now what God wants better than those who recorded his direct will. Ain’t Hypocrisy grand?

  10. Theophilus Dr says:

    This is an interesting inconsistency, isn’t it? Those who published the ads didn’t follow their own “Speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent” rule But then, if they had been consistent with what they were saying, they wouldn’t have said anything. Hmmm.

    Maybe the “silence of scripture” argument doesn’t apply to everybody, just to some people. But then, by what authority does someone get to select, and by what authority is that someone appointed? Must be self appointed?

    BTW, check out the recent posts on the thread: Quail Springs Church of Christ “Disfellowshipped”: A Proposal for Reclaiming Unity.

    To God be the glory, great things He has done.

  11. Price says:

    I thought you could only be "dis-fellow-shipped" from a Denomination ?
    Aren't the individual churches…well….. individual in leadership and congregational authority ?? Is there a State Church of Christ authorization body in Oklahoma that monitors all the worship services and teachings of the various individual churches and approves or disproves their use of the sign out front ?? Really. Exactly how is that different from a denomination?

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