Replanting a Denomination: Moser and Tidwell, Part 2

2. Does Greg agree with Moser?

I don’t think so. Here’s an article by Greg for Forthright magazine, “Know the Time” (May 9, 2002).

Worship is changing. Congregations bring in all manner of deviance, pandering to every selfish whim. Entertainment replaces reverence. Emotionalism replaces obedience. The spirit of this age replaces the Spirit of Grace.

Church government is changing. Freelance organizations misappropriate the work God intends for the church of Christ. Mercenary professionals usurp the divinely authorized assignments of pastor, deacon, and evangelist. Congregations become fraternal societies, existing to meet the needs of their members. They are no longer a fellowship of God’s people, gathered in obedience to His will. …

Already much error, previously carefully hidden, now openly affronts the brotherhood. If the pace of apostasy continues, the division will be complete within the next five years. While we do not rejoice in the falling away of those who were once our brethren, we rejoice in the purification of God’s church.

Notice that Greg is warning against apostasy — sins that damn and take one out of the church.

Greg expands the themes sounded in this brief article in a series of articles in the August 2007 issue of the Gospel Advocate, each beginning with the lead “You Know It Is a Different Religion When …”

Now, perhaps I’m wrong (I hope so), but I can think of no interpretation for “a different religion” other than “not Christianity.” I mean, Christianity is but one religion, and it is the only religion where salvation may be found. And so “a different religion” seems to plainly imply apostasy (damnation, falling away).

The church of Christ is dividing into two irreconcilable camps. On one side are those who have kept the same faith; on the other side are those who are experimenting  with a wide range of differing faiths. …

(“You Know It Is a Different Religion When … They Change Their View of Authority” page 34). This is the theme sentence of the series of articles, and “differing faiths” also surely implies apostasy.

Congregations, schools and other institutions previously following one religion have embraced a different religion. …

Those Christians who continue to uphold the complete truthfulness of Scripture have kept their faith that God has spoken through Scripture. Those who have abandoned their faith in Scripture have abandoned their faith in the God of Scripture.

(“You Know It Is a Different Religion When … They Change Their View of Authority” page 34). Greg is speaking particularly of God’s Holy Fire, a book published by ACU Press, which has a section disputing inerrancy.

If I read Greg correctly, he is saying that those who consider the scriptures inspired and authoritative (which the authors of that book do) but don’t accept the inerrancy of scripture are lost.

Speaking of those who consider those improperly baptized to be saved, Greg writes,

Lowering the boundaries between the church and other religions weakens the meaning of being a Christian. It is an apostasy of attrition. …

We must never, however, blur the lines that make being a Christian distinct from belonging to a different faith.

(“You Know It Is a Different Religion When … They Redefine Who Is a Christian” page 36).

Thus, if I follow Greg correctly, those who consider Baptist or infant baptism sufficient are apostates, even if they are themselves properly baptized.

Regarding the introduction of the instrument into Restoration Movement churches and women taking on leadership roles in worship, Greg writes,

The problem was not just the instrument but, more to the point, the lack of faith in scripture. …

Worship defines a religion. Changes in worship are often the clearest sign of a fundamental shift from one religion to another.

In our day, changes in worship are highlighting a change that has already occurred in the hearts of men and women. Congregations that use instrumental music in worship and that use women to lead in worship have already lost their faith, if you define “faith” as trusting and obeying the Lord.

(“You Know It Is a Different Religion When … They Fundamentally Change Worship” page 37).

Regarding parachurch organizations (nonprofits supported by churches), Greg writes,

From the late 1800s through most of the 20th century, churches of Christ agreed the New Testament provides a pattern, and the only way to be the church that pleases God is to follow the pattern God provided in Scripture.

… The overwhelming majority of churches of Christ embraced educational and benevolence institutions as expedient means of doing the Lord’s work. …

When is an institution a danger to the church? Two related problems exist. When institutions embrace false teaching, in essence when they become purveyors of a different religion. Christians must recognize association with error is a sin against God. Further, and more subtle, institutions also threaten the Lord’s work when they become parasites, draining resources away from congregations.

(“You Know It Is a Different Religion When … They Abandon Restoring the Church” page 39).

To summarize, Greg contends that we fall away (are damned, become apostate) if we –

  • Reject the doctrine of inerrancy, even if we consider the scriptures inspired and authoritative, or
  • Believe God saves penitent men and women of genuine faith in Jesus if baptized other than for the remission of sins, or other than by immersion, or when an infant, or
  • Worship with an instrument, or
  • Allow women to lead in worship, or
  • Support parachurch organizations that engage in false teaching, or
  • Allow parachurch organizations to drain resources from the congregation

Comparison of Moser and Tidwell

Moser writes,

While this contrast of divine and human righteousness is before us, it is a good time to say that the difference between these two kinds of righteousness is the basis of the conflict between law and works and grace and faith. Law demands works, and works result in human righteousness. Grace calls for faith, and faith accepts the divine righteousness. Hence, if salvation, or righteousness that saves, is by the law, Christ died in vain.

Moser feels compelled, understandably, to explain why Christians shouldn’t sin despite being saved by grace. He gives several reasons, for example —

The Christian is not driven like a slave, but led like a son. He serves God not through fear, but through love. He lives righteously because he hates sin and loves righteousness–that is, he does right because he wants to do right. And he wants to do right because he is a “new creature.” Righteousness is as natural to the Christian as sin is to the unsaved. The Christian is a free man under Christ.

(This will become clearer as we consider Moser’s views on the Spirit.) What Moser does not argue is that we must be in obedience to God’s laws for fear of damnation.

However, Greg plainly argues that those guilty of any number of errors will be damned. Indeed, it’s hard to see how anyone can be confident in his salvation. Must we get every single doctrine and command right? I mean, we read in Greg’s writings that because this or that matter is an error, it results in apostasy (damnation). Greg does not explain how a given error produces apostasy. The argument seems to be that since it is error, it damns.

Thus, grace is not received while those in doctrinal error remain in error. While Moser declares, “Repentance does not make one righteous,” Greg seems to argue that one hasn’t repented until he is no longer guilty of the sin and thus becomes righteous.

Moser concludes,

And if man had been saved by law, his own obedience would have saved him.  Since we are saved by the blood of Christ the principle of salvation must be faith in the sense of trust.  This principle places saving power in Christ crucified, not in human achievement.

and he writes,

And today some speak of Christianity as just another “law” which demands works.  Their forms of thought and expression would be entirely appropriate for an administration of pure law.  They would need no change if the cross of Christ had never existed. …

When the cross is lost sight of one naturally drifts back to the SPIRIT and GENIUS of law.  He talks of law and works, not of grace and faith.  But the principle of law demanding works of human merit makes void the grace of God. … Whether we think of the Law of Moses or some other “law” the principle and result are the same.  Law is law as to principle.  If Christ brought law (John 1:17), then man is saved upon the principle of works.  His death is for naught and grace is made void. “Grace is no more grace.”  Grace then would be no different from law and faith no different from works. But Paul always contrasts law and grace, works and faith.  He said, “The law is not of faith” and reminds us that under the law man sought justification on the ground of what HE did (Gal. 3:12).

(emphasis mine).

If I am not forgiven of my doctrinal error until I am no longer guilty of that error, then I am saved by my works, not by grace. Indeed, what do I need Jesus for?

Obviously, we have to get faith and penitence right. Moser explains this very carefully. If we deny Jesus or rebel against him, we are no longer saved. But if I remain true to the faith and penitence I had at the beginning, I’m still saved by grace through faith.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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14 Responses to Replanting a Denomination: Moser and Tidwell, Part 2

  1. I confess it is a continuing marvel to me that people read the entire text of the New Testament and come to the conclusion they can be righteous before God by being successfully obedient to rules.

    If that were true, Jesus' death and resurrection would have been unnecessary — at least according to the Text.

  2. One Cup Man says:

    I received copies of Moser's books several years ago and they have been a great help to me. Many years ago when I began to share the truth that God has always saved man by Grace through Faith I was called a Baptist, a liar, I was told that salvation has to be earned. One sister told me she could never say that she was saved. I replied, If you don't know maybe you aren't saved. Anyone who reads the NT should be able to see that salvation by perfect works is impossible. A meritorious salvation disappears the moment the first sin is committed. From that point on salvation is only possible by Grace through Faith. Praise God!!!

  3. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:

    Jay;

    You continue to ascribe to me the various inferences you have made from my writings. I should ask that you content yourself with what I have said, not what you are sure that I meant when I said it.

    Along the same vein, you have extrapolated many things that you are sure Moser may have meant from what he wrote. Simply (for I am a simple preacher) remaining with what Moser wrote, I can see no error in his teaching.

    I cannot imagine Moser would be eager to embrace the unimmersed as brothers, nor to whitewash those who deny the complete truthfulness of Scripture (and thereby calling God a liar.)

    While you have spun a great deal of verbiage highlighting the difference between your position and mine, I still do not see a single quote from Moser which would cause me to pull back from my complete endorsement of his writings.

    –Greg

  4. Randy Lucas says:

    Jay and Greg,

    If you can't even agree on what God wrote and what He meant by it, it comes as no surprise that you won't agree on what Moser wrote and meant by it. It appears there's even doubt about what Greg himself meant about what he wrote! It's obviously in your interpretations. Saved by graced through faith means different things to each of you, evidently.

  5. Alan S. says:

    Jay,

    On another forum one of our brothers, who is also an esteemed colleague of Greg's in the publication world, wrote that ACU has moved away from its historic connections with the Churches of Christ. When pressed what he meant by that bias, his reply was that Dr. Money holds different views on IM than Dr. Steverns or Dr. Morris. When it was pointed out that his magazine also holds different views from the Churches of Christ leaders such as Moser, Lipscomb, Richardson, Stone, and the Campbell's, and if that also meant his magazine had moved away from its historic connections with the Churches of Christ, he had no answer.

    I say this to illustrate that many of today's "conservative" spokemen in the Churches of Christ do not realize how different their view of Restoration differs from those who began the Restoration Movement. What began as a call for Christians to come out of the denominations and unite of the simple Good News of Jesus was hijacked into a call that you were NOT a Christian until AFTER you came out and joined the new movement.

    Blessings

  6. Todd Deaver says:

    Moser is considered so dangerous that he's being featured in an upcoming conservative lectureship called "Profiles in Apostasy" (alongside such apostates as Rubel Shelly, Leonard Allen, Carroll Osburn, myself, and others):
    http://www.churchesofchrist.com/lectures2010.php

    My suspicion is that a large number of conservatives would be both shocked and alarmed to learn that Greg endorses Moser's writings.

  7. bob Harry says:

    To you all

    Faith is my parachute that saves me from a fatal impact from a very high fall. Works wold be my effort to jump up before I impacted. It won't work. The law of sin and death can only be conquered by our faith in the cross and the blood of Jesus. Our santification is the continual washing by the spirit.

    C.S. Lewis stated that we trust God and will obey him rather than our own desires because we want to please him. We want to be with him and he wants us to be with him.

    Forgive the oversimplification of a complex rule that faith alone saves.

    Bob Harry

  8. Jay Guin says:

    Todd,

    I'm deeply disappointed not to be listed among such a fine group of apostates. Maybe I can be featured in Profiles in Apostasy #2.

    Reckon they'll have tapes of the lectures? I'd love to hear how they take on Facing Our Failure. (I'm sure sales will soar!)

    Readers,

    Please buy and read all the books featured for condemnation. All are well worth the reading.

    Tragic that these men are branding men such as Moser apostates. I'd truly prefer to meet my Maker in the shoes of the apostates than their critics.

  9. Jay Guin says:

    Greg,

    Back in GraceConversation, http://graceconversation.com/2009/04/20/talking-p… you wrote,

    Jay;

    You have done a good job of summarizing my beliefs. You wrote:

    To make sure we’re not talking past each other, we want to be sure we’re understanding you when you say “place one in danger of divine judgment.” We take the phrase to mean that God is patient with his children. Error does not necessarily immediately damn, but for certain errors (not all errors), God will at some point lose patience and damn. Moreover, we will generally not know when God has given up on someone, only that at some point he will.

    If that’s your meaning, then we agree with the principle — we just want to be sure we’re understanding each other.

    One emendation, however, is in order. It is my conviction that no error fits into the category of perpetual indulgence. Error is to be opposed, not accepted.

    (To be clear, your agreement with my summary of your position is a reference to the text you quote, not the material posted earlier by me.)

    It seems that your position is that all error damns, subject only to an indefinite time during which God is patient with us, giving us time to repent.

    Now, regarding Moser, I quote him and I quote the essay of John Mark Hicks from 17 years ago. I don't say much about him myself.

    So, I ask you, what did I say about Moser that you find in error? What have I said about you that you find in error?

    In fairness to you and Moser, if I'd said something wrong, I'd like the opportunity to correct it.

  10. Jay Guin says:

    Alan S,

    For the longest time, it was considered improper to characterize any of our universities as one of "our" universities or a "Church of Christ" university or the like. We enjoyed the fiction that the universities were unaffiliated, as there is no scriptural authority for churches to have affiliated universities.

    Now that we are unhappy with their behavior, we want to call them to account because they are "our" universities.

  11. Royce Ogle says:

    I followed the link in Todd's comment and read the line up of topics and speakers. It could be more accurately called "The Parade of Pharisees".

    Royce

  12. Guy says:

    Jay,

    Did you notice that in the lectureship Todd referenced, even Dave Miller is under scrutiny? i daresay that lecture probably represents the extreme conservatives and not the mainstreams because my guess is that Dave is farther "right" than Greg is.

    But whatever. all political games i think. i'm really not sure what purpose these posts are supposed to serve. If you're right, "A-ha, Greg! Got ya!"?? What was that worth? If you're wrong, "well, then Greg, not all conservatives agree, i guess." Didn't you already know that?

    While it may be different in degree, i'm just not sure how what you're doing here is different in kind from that lectureship Todd mentions. i mean, aren't you editor-bishoping by ranting about conservatives being off?

    –Guy

  13. Jay Guin says:

    Guy,

    I'm not entirely following your logic.

    First, I've not declare Greg apostate.

    Second, I'm not condemning Greg in a forum where he has no chance to respond.

    Third, I was responding to a challenge from Greg.

    Fourth, my intent was to draw Greg into a conversation about the fact he holds inconsistent views simultaneously. If Greg would thoughtfully seek to resolve the inconsistencies, he was gain some valuable insights into God's word and his relationship with God.

    (And I was quite serious in an earlier comment that, which I wish there were no such forums as the one Todd referenced, if there are going to be such forums, I wish my material was part of it. I don't find that embarassing at all. It is, rather, publicity for a viewpoint I wished to see further publicized.)

    Frankly, I much prefer to discuss my disagreements with the conservative viewpoint with conservatives — and I want to do it with the smartest, most able conservatives there are. And that means Greg is among my most favorite conversation partners.

    And I prefer to do it in a public forum, so both viewpoints are laid out side by side and readers can decide who is closer the scriptures.

    I had no intention of embarrassing Greg — and I only quoted material that had been part of our earlier public discussion at GraceConversation.

    I believe that it would have helpful both to Greg and the readers to investigate why Greg sees no contradiction in agreeing with Moser when many readers (and I) see a contradiction.

  14. Thumper says:

    Interesting lectureship topics at the CFTF home base.

    I will make a prediction. None of the basic problems Todd Deaver points out will be addressed. Circular logic will prevail.

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