I’ve edited several of Robert’s paragraphs from his comment posted earlier today. This is no disrespect. Rather, I just don’t want to unduly test the readers’ patience. The full text of his comment is still posted.
First of all, to answer your question, I would agree with position 2, “Some doctrinal error damns and some does not.” However, I don’t agree with you on where God has drawn the line because I don’t think it’s as simple as you hope and desire to make it. That somehow, God has to specify and exactly “spell out” which commandments we can disregard and disobey and which error we can hold to, practice and promote, yet will not condemn and which ones will. Too simplistic. It’s too “legalistic.”
JFG: God doesn’t have to do anything. Therefore, I’m not insisting that he has to doing anything. Rather, I’m saying that God has in fact answered the question in the verses I’ve cited in the earlier posts.
What I’m saying is that anyone who wishes to argue that a given practice necessarily damns has to defend that position from the scripture – or else he’s adding to the Bible – which is sin.
And I think most in the conservative church are guilty of adding to God’s word – which is every bit as wrong as subtracting from God’s word. They’ve invented a doctrine that people are damned for certain errors, which they pretend to defend from the scriptures by arguing that the scriptures say all errors damn – which is (a) not true and (b) not what they actually believe. It’s just that they can’t defend what they actually believe.
And it’s a seriously dangerous error, as it risks violating Galatians’ injunction against seeking justification through works.
(Now there’s a surprise for you, as you usually one to refer to people like myself as being more legalistic lol! And yes, I do agree that there certainly are “matters of preference” about which we should not raise an issue or judge one another. (cf. Romans 14)
You entirely missed my point. Romans 14-15 are not about matters of preference. The issues that Paul considers in those chapters are doctrinal issues, for reasons that I’ve previously argued.
However, when we come together in our assemblies to worship God, and especially the issue of Biblical authority behind our worship practice, we are dealing with an entirely different type of issue. This is no “minor” or “small,” or a “preference” or non-issue we’re talking about. I’ll come back to this point of acting presumptuously in worship.
Rom 14-15 is not about matters of preference. Whether to honor holy days, such as the Sabbath or Passover, were and remain serious doctrinal issues. Entire denominations have been formed over Sabbath observance. It’s not a matter of mere preference. These are issues addressed in scripture over which Christian disagree and divide.
But, let me try to deal with your question of “which error condemns and which errors do not?”
Did God have to specifically and exactly throughout the Old Testament and on into the New Testament spell out which errors would condemn and which errors would not? I think not.
Again, God doesn’t have to do anything. But if someone wishes to declare someone damned over a disagreement, he’d better have Biblical justification for it – and merely announcing that someone is in error does not even remotely prove the point.
There is a principle at play here that you and other progressive minded brethren in the church seem to struggle with accepting and recognizing. Changing the instructions of God in every age (especially in the area of worship) and in any circumstance is ALWAYS sinful and God condemns. That is not uncertain.
As I have repeatedly said, no one may intentionally disobey God’s will and be penitent. For those in rebellion to God’s will, Heb 10:26 ff pronounces very explicit rejection and punishment.
PLEASE stop accusing me of things I strongly oppose.
You actually raise this same non-issue several times in your post. I’ll not address it again.
<snipped lengthy discourse on Regulative Principle>
Dr. Stafford North I believe says it well:
‘In view of what God has said in both the Old and New Testaments about how important it is to worship only as He has revealed, and in view of the condemnation that falls on those who do not, surely adding a kind of music not used by early Christians when under apostolic guidance must be viewed as a matter of importance. Does this raise it to the level of a salvation issue? Clearly there are worship errors that do reach that level.
Are there worship errors that damn? Certainly. Willful disobedience of any of God’s commands condemns. Which is why I do not defend willful disobedience.
And here is the clincher: How can anyone be absolutely certain that God does not care whether one adds instruments or not? One may say he thinks God does not care, but there is no way, in view of all the Bible says about not departing from the revealed plan of worship, that anyone can be certain. Since we can be certain that singing without instruments is in harmony with God’s revealed plan, but cannot be equally certain that using instruments is acceptable, surely it is wiser not to use them.” (“Where Do You Stand on Instrumental Music? Where Should You Stand?”)
Why doesn’t the identical argument apply to one cup or refusing to support orphanages through the church treasury or fellowship halls or requiring women to wear hats? I know people in those camps, and they make the identical argument.
Consider your own argument on the lips of a no Sunday School proponent —
And here is the clincher: How can anyone be absolutely certain that God does not care whether one adds [Sunday school] or not? One may say he thinks God does not care, but there is no way, in view of all the Bible says about not departing from the revealed plan of [instruction], that anyone can be certain. Since we can be certain that [having no Sunday school] is in harmony with God’s revealed plan, but cannot be equally certain that [having a Sunday school] is acceptable, surely it is wiser not to use them.”
You see, there are several problems with this argument (I call it the safety argument) —
* The safety argument bans anything over which anyone can raise a doubt. It proves too much.
* The argument presumes that binding a rule is always safer than not. Thus, any fellowship that adheres to this argument will, over time, find itself accumulating more and more rules. History proves the obvious.
* It’s just as wrong to add to God’s word as to take away. It is no more safe to impose a rule God does not impose than to ignore a rule that God does impose.
* The argument contradicts grace. We are told that we can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence. We are banned from imposing rules made by man. But under this argument, our confidence is not in grace but in our avoidance of all risk – our own works — and on removing doubt by imposing rules.
* The argument flatly contradicts Rom 14-15, where regarding doctrinal disputes (not involving faith in Jesus, repentance, or seeking justification by works) Paul tells both sides to stop judging and looking down on each other and even refuses to give the right answer on the holy days question.
* The argument flatly contradicts the book of Galatians. Let try the same argument in First Century terms —
And here is the clincher: How can anyone be absolutely certain that God does not care whether one [is circumcised] or not? One may say he thinks God does not care, but there is no way, in view of all the Bible says about not departing from the [scriptures that require circumcision going all the way back to Abraham], that anyone can be certain. Since we can be certain that [being circumcised] is in harmony with God’s revealed plan, but cannot be equally certain that [not being circumcised] is acceptable, surely it is wiser [to be circumcised].”
Isn’t this just the sort of argument the Judaizers were making in Galatia? And Paul’s condemning of them is not that they performed the wrong works. He condemned them for seeking to be justified by works at all. The contrast Paul draws in Galatians is between works and faith in Jesus, not between wrong works and right works.
What did Paul say was the fate of those who sought safety in law keeping?
<snipped list of various worship issues>
Let me give you some more examples of what I’m talking about. Jay, how about congregations that favor a monthly or weekday obverstance of the Lord’s Supper? It is a fellowship issue? Error which could potentially condemn? Does God have to spell it out exactly and specifically in such matters? Is there not a principle that established of faithfully following what God has commanded us in this regard?
Yes, there’s a principle. I’ve stated it and written at length on it.
God will not condemn believers who misunderstand his will regarding the frequency of taking the Lord’s supper so long as they are genuinely penitent, that is, if they truly believe they are acting in accordance with God’s will. God will cover the error by his grace. That’s what grace is for.
<snipped question about willful disobedience>
<snipped list of controversies and questions about willful disobedience>
Let me come back your major premise and question, which I think is illegitimate and also quite frankly, an emotional ploy and tactic. (“After all, who among us could even imagine claiming to be without error on any subject or matter?”) Again, as I stated in my last post, I think you and others have “redefined” the subject of grace. I think your question misunderstands the nature of grace and salvation. There will never be no such thing as a perfectly “faithful child of God” whose only deviation from the will of God is the use of instruments in worship. No one’s salvation is dependent on their perfect sinlessness. G. C. Brewer said,
“We do not use instrumental music in worship because there is no authority for it in the New Testament. This is the position we take and this is the issue between us and those who use the instruments. Anything else that may be brought into the discussion is irrelevant and confusing. This is the issue. “It is not a question of who will be damned or who will not be damned. It is not a question of how good and sincere some people are who use instrumental music in worship–good and sincere people by the millions sprinkle babies, confess to the priest and count beads in prayer, etc. It is not a question of how far wrong a man may be and still be saved, or of how many things that we may do that God has not authorized and still be Christians. It is a question of what the New Testament authorizes us to do in worship and what it does not authorize. “When we obey God’s word we have God’s promises—including eternal salvation. When we refuse or fail or fall short of God’s will, God will judge us. We are told not to judge one another.” (A Medley on the Music Question or a Potpourri of Philology, Gospel Advocate Company, 1948, pp. 12-13).
Okay. Do you disagree with Dave Miller’s condemnation of Richland Hills?
Do you disagree with the Gospel Advocate’s conclusion that instrumental music, giving women improper roles in worship, and error in divorce and remarriage damn?
Do you disagree with the ad run against Quail Springs announcing that their minister is an apostate?
Is Dub McLish in error for refusing to fellowship not only Richland Hill and Quail Springs but all who fellowship them?
Would you serve on a board with Rick Atchley? Mark Henderson? Would you refuse in order to be “safe,” effectively disfellowshipping people while simultaneously saying that only God may judge?
I mean, does your willingness to let God judge mean that you treat those you disagree with as damned? Or do you treat them as saved? It seems to me that if you truly suspend judgment, then you should do as Paul commands in Rom 14 —
(Rom 14:4) Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
(Rom 14:10) You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
In the place where Paul says not to judge, he commands us not to look down on our brother, too.
Jay, Christians have eternal life by virtue of faith in Christ, and are to live by faith (Romans 1:16-17). <snipped lengthy discussion of 5 acts of worship> Moreover, we limit the day of eating the supper and giving of our means to Sundays, because that seems to be the clear of import of our Bible examples. By faith, we employ the same practices as revealed in God’s word. But outside of divine revelation, we have no basis for faith or religious action
Notice the contrast. You start by speaking of “faith in Christ,” which is quite Biblical. Then you confuse the Regulative Principle with faith in Jesus, asserting that doing anything not commanded is not “by faith.”
You see, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” does NOT mean that everything written in scripture is “faith in Christ.” The necessity of faith in Jesus does not require that I must have authority for everything, because that’s just not what those words mean. Rather, the “word of God” is the message about Jesus, regardless of how communicated.
In context, it’s speaking very specifically about the “gospel” or “good news,” and it’s a serious mistake to confuse “gospel” with “silences about how to raise money” and such like.
<snipped arguments previously made and addressed>
Lastly, let me do say this to try to answer further your question, about error that condemns and error which doesn’t Is there not a clear cut distinction between a heresy and an error and between a factionist and one with a mistaken view? One who holds a doctrinal error is not a factionist, but one who is push and seeks to gain disciples for his view. Heresy is not simply being honestly mistaken on a matter of doctrine, but the evil effort to create division within the body of Christ.
I think I agree. Let me explain. Let’s suppose that a church adopts instrumental music being, as you say, honestly mistaken. Now suppose a church down the road damns them and refuses all fellowship. Which church did the dividing? Plainly, the second. And I think they are at serious risk of violating Galatians – seeking to be saved by works rather than faith in Jesus.
And they stand under the command of Rom 16:17 —
(Rom 16:17) I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.
You see, the “teaching you have learned” includes, at the least, Rom 14 –15, which Paul had just taught. Dividing contrary to Rom 14 –15 plainly places one under the penalties of Rom 16:17.
This might mean that I would never brand a brother who holds I believe a personal conviction like your view on instrumental music (or Premillennialism view, etc.) as a “heretic,” though I would insist that those views are not according to scripture. But, we could still have unity and fellowship in the body of Christ as long as you didn’t try to “build a party” (which I’m afraid your blog is doing to some degree) and practice such as the leaders in the Chrisian Church have done in the past and continue to to in the present. If you were to do that, you would be a factionist, whether right or wrong in doctrine. Heresy is therefore a behavioral problem just as much as it is a doctrinal problem. Scriptures such as in Romans 16:17-18; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; Phil. 3:17-18; Titus 3:10)
Now, think carefully here. If I’m hearing you correctly, you’re saying I can be in error on Premillennialism so long as I don’t teach my views. Of course, if I’m right, then I’m free to push my views all I want. That can’t be right. It certainly isn’t much comfort.
In other words, you seem to say that you may push your views on instrumental music, because you’re right, but I can’t push my views, because I’m wrong.
Or you may be saying something entirely right, which is that we should teach without dividing. And if that’s what you’re saying, then I agree. But as I’m trying to work against division, and you think I’m a factionalist, then I guess you’re saying something else.
<snipped argument on intentional disobedience>
Now of course, a novice or babe in Christ will not be judged the same as a stronger and more mature Christian. My question is: What of the church leaders who, departing from a unified view, and grant permission to go beyond the instructions of Scripture be held accountable? Will not teachers incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1)? Can they knowingly continue to practice their presumptuous ways?
Again, tedious beyond words. No one is arguing that anyone may knowingly violate God’s word. Please stop beating this dead horse.
And “unified view”? So tradition is the test? And only tradition within the Churches of Christ? Are you really saying that the measure of my salvation is whether I violate traditional teaching in the Churches of Christ?
<snipped injunctions to obey God, which are not the issue>
In my next response, which will be in a few days (and which will be my last posting in our discussion), I want to come back to the historical position and view regarding instrumental music and the issue of fellowshipping error and unity today.
I’ll look forward to it.