The Future of the Progressive Churches of Christ: The Christian Standard’s June 13, 2010 Issue, Part 1.5

Some take issue with a principle I consider very nearly axiomatic: denominationalism is sinful. That’s what I think.

Now, some kinds of denominationalism are worse than others. The worst kind is the “we’re saved and you’re not” kind. I think the Bible is entirely clear that all with a submissive faith in Jesus as Son of God and Lord are saved and hence members of the only church there is.

But the other kind is bad, too — although not nearly as bad. I have friends who are Baptist, and they like to say things like, “I’m a Christian first and a Baptist second, but Baptist is a very close second.” It’s right and good to recognize that the Baptists are a subset of Christians in general, but I just get this feeling that the attitude comes very close to —

(1Co 1:12 ESV) 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”

Now, I pick on my Baptist friends because Baptists have long rejected creedalism and accepted other denominations as fellow Christians. And this is good, and they do in fact sometimes cooperate with churches of other denominations. So — in theory — the Baptists are right. And the progressive Churches of Christ are moving in a very similar direction. We have doctrinal differences, but many among the progressive Churches would be inclined to say, “I’m a Christian first and a Church of Christer second, but the Church of Christ is a very close second.” And they’d mean it.

But is this really what the scriptures command?

(1Co 1:10 ESV)  I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

(Rom 15:5-6 ESV)  5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,  6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s go a little deeper — past the prooftexting. The biggest internal issue that Paul confronted in his ministry was the division between Jews and Gentiles. Many Jews demanded that the Gentiles be circumcised and honor Jewish food laws to be saved. The Gentile Christians were delighted to worship Jesus, but didn’t want to become Jews. How did Paul respond?

Well, think how we’d respond today? If we had two ethnic groups that took tremendous pride in their ethnic heritage, who spoke different first languages (Greek was the second language of many, if not most), who had different food scruples, and who had different attitudes toward worship, wouldn’t we say something like, “Let’s celebrate our diversity! And if the two groups want to form different denominations, have separate lectureships, have separate ministries, and only cooperate in token ways, that’ll be just great, so long as they recognize one another’s salvation! Praise God that we can form distinct fellowships and yet recognize each other as brothers and sisters in Christ!”

That’s very 21st Century thinking. It’s not Paul’s thinking.

(Gal 2:11-14 ESV) 11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.  12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.  13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.  14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

All Peter did was refuse to eat with Gentile Christians — and Paul declared him condemned because his conduct violated “the truth of the gospel.”

(Eph 2:14-22 ESV)  14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,  16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.  17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.  18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,  20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,  21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

V. 14 says that the death of Jesus removes the wall that divides Jews from Gentiles. Jesus died to bring all together to form “one new man in place of the two, so making peace” (v. 15). The cross therefore binds us into “one body” (v. 16) — making us into a single “household of God” (v 19), built on a single foundation, which is a temple (singular) “in the Lord” (v. 20), indwelt by the Spirit (v. 21).

Paul repeats the concepts of “one body” and “one Spirit” in chapter 4 to re-emphasize that, as Thomas Campbell wrote, the church —

is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one; consisting of all those in every place that profess their faith in Christ and obedience to him in all things according to the scriptures, and that manifest the same by their tempers and conduct, and of none else as none else can be truly and properly called christians.

Now, imagine Paul telling the Jews and Gentiles to form separate denominations and to cooperate in token ways here and there. I really can’t think of anything less Pauline than advocating that we resolve our differences by separating. Indeed, Paul told the Corinthians,

(1Co 3:4 ESV)  4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

Paul doesn’t argue that they were damning each other — only that they were divided by having divided loyalties. How is this even a little different from “I follow Luther” and “I follow Wesley” and “I follow Campbell”? All would declare that they follow Jesus first and the men second, but they follow the men into division, which is not the same as following Jesus.

The problem, you see, is that we’ve been divided into denominations for so long — 500 years — that we don’t know how to do church any other way. We are so eaten up with denominationalism that when we try to escape it, we do so through the denominational structure — counting on state and national denominational institutions (or colleges and periodicals in our case) to lead the way. We can’t even imagine finding unity other than via our precious denominations.

Sorting ourselves into denominations is therefore sinful. They could be even more sinful, but division is division is sin, and denominations are, by definition, division.

To quote Thomas Campbell again,

That although the church of Christ upon earth must necessarily exist in particular and distinct societies, locally separate one from another; yet there ought to be no schisms, no uncharitable divisions among them. They ought to receive each other as Christ Jesus hath also received them to the glory of God. And for this purpose, they ought all to walk by the same rule, to mind and speak the same thing; and to be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment.

I guess I’m just old-fashioned that way.

Now, there are obvious challenges to leaving behind our denominational structures, but rather than just assuming there’s no better way, I think we’d do well to consider how we might do just fine without them. But that’s for a later post. I haven’t quite figured it out yet. But I’m working on it.

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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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63 Responses to The Future of the Progressive Churches of Christ: The Christian Standard’s June 13, 2010 Issue, Part 1.5

  1. Gary Cummings says:

    Jay,
    I think you are right about this, but I saw a sign at a church we attended a few times. It is the motto of the the Church of God (Anderson/ Reformation):

    'SALVATION MAKES YOU A MEMBER."

    I like that a lot. I have always personally been a little queezy with names of church like "Lutheran", "Mennonite", or "Wesleyan". That labeling is a direct violation of Paul's instruction in 1st Corinthians. I do recognize however that there are followers of Christ in those fellowships of faith.
    Just my 2 cents,Gary

  2. Guy says:

    Jay,

    i'm don't see how your criteria for what constitutes "denominationalism" can be avoided.

    The first kind which you said is the worst is the "we're saved and you're not." If everyone with a "submissive faith" were to say that sentence, and by "we're" they meant to include everyone else with a submissive faith, then, according to you, they haven't said anything untrue, have they? Should they refuse to recognize that dividing line between the lost and the saved? If people with a "submissive faith" only recognized-as-brothers/functionally-organized-with other people with "submissive faith," is this not a new denomination by the criteria you've given?

    –Guy

  3. Guy says:

    Jay,

    You often speak as though the doctrinal differences between denominations simply don't matter, and we could just agree to disagree yet still have a functional unity. But i can't help but think these differences are the basis for that division and the division will likely never disappear completely without consensus on at least some of those differences.

    First, some of the disagreements codify or at least imply a division in loyalty. Take for instance Catholic belief in the office and authority of the Pope. How is this not analogous Paul's mention of "I follow Peter," "I follow Paul," etc.? Also, how can a Catholic see you as a brother or faithful brother if, according to his beliefs, you refuse to submit to God's source of revelation and authority? What if someone came to you and said, "i'm a believer but i don't accept the Bible as coming from God or an expression of divine authority, and therefore, i can't submit to anything it says"? Could you have any sort of real, functional unity with that person? Yet, it seems to me, a Catholic consistent with his own beliefs has to view you similarly. This is just one example, but i think plenty others could be meted out, and the point is that unity can't be had in these cases *unless* doctrinal positions are changed. (Unless of course you're willing to accept dissonance between your beliefs and your behavior.)

    Second, i think there is a psychological factor here that is not easily discounted. We may be able to come to some clearly worded definition of "Christian" or "saved" which does not include various minutiae about doctrines and such. But i don't think people acquire their identities from those kinds of definitions alone. Those minutiae can provide distinctive-marks by which a person measures their own identity as a "Christian." –For instance, a particular view of the Lord's Supper. Someone who has taken the Eucharist as a Catholic or member of an Orthodox church for decades has done it very differently than you and i. And the particular way that ritual has been carried out for him for years is wrapped up in how he understands himself to be a "Christian." Do you think such a person could easily just come into your building, sit down next to you, do the LS completely differently than he's done it thousands of times throughout his life, and think nothing of it? Be okay with it? Not feel like he lost something vital? Not feel like he gave up too much?

    Maybe that doesn't make the sort of psychological factor quite as clear as i'm hoping. But i bet you could imagine a wife who's made her husband breakfast every morning since they were married, and then he dies. The morning after his death, she doesn't have him there to make breakfast for. Making breakfast for someone might seem like one small spec of a person's day, but surely you can imagine that such a ritual could deeply embed itself into her identity–the way she sees herself. i'm not saying that all identity-forming marks are good, but i'm say, just think about the gravity of what you're asking someone to do, and ask yourself how easy it would be for you to take such psychologically-embedded marks and no longer identify with them.

    –Guy

  4. Rich W says:

    When a Church of Christ morphs progressive to the point it is virtually identical to the Christian church down the street but doesn't' want to change its name to reflect the change in thought, is it really seeking unity or is it seeking uniqueness?

  5. Gary Cummings says:

    When I was a student at Brite Divinity School from 1972-1974, one of my professors hoped that the rest of the Christian world would adopt the name "Christian Church", and then in parentheses underneath put Baptist, Lutheran, etc). Not a bad idea really.
    Churches of Christ should to the same perhaps:
    Church of Christ (Progressive), Church of Christ ( Non-Institutional), Church of Christ (Non-Sunday School)), Church of Christ (One Cup), Church of Christ (etc).
    Just a thought.

  6. abasnar says:

    but many among the progressive Churches would be inclined to say, “I’m a Christian first and a Church of Christer second, but the Church of Christ is a very close second.”

    The problem (?) I see, it puts the indivudual salvation first and thus it cannot really answer the question concerning denominations. Of course every denomination consists of individuals. But today we tend to see everything from an individualistic point of view.

    Saying "I am Christian first and a member of this or that denomination" puts (which is maybe not intended) the indivisual over the church. They could also say: "I am a Christian first, and so if my preacher or my denomination teaches something I don't agree with, I won't follow." There are some good Biblical reasons for such a statement, but in the end it denies church-leadership. The "I" becomes the "regulative principle".

    So I'd rather speak of Christian Churches than of Christians. i'd say (and I do say): "This or that church is First a Christian Church and it stands in the tradition of the Baptists, Methodists, Restoration Movement, …" It would be dishonest to deny these traditions (even our own ones), and knowing and understandingthese traditions helps us to understand each other better.

    And as a second step, that is challenging to all of us: Are we willing to overcome the traditions of men as they divide us from one another?

    To say it a little differently: A church doesn't have to be perfect first to be a Christian Church. Every church has its flaws and errors. But, are we willing to come closer to Christ?

    Alexander

  7. Gary Cummings says:

    How about
    Church of Christ (RM 2.0)
    This would be the sectarian, divisive standard Church of Christ.
    Then maybe Church of Christ (3.0) for the Progressive Churches.

    Church of Christ (1.0) would be form the early 1800's with Campell, Stone and others up to 1906, when the Churches of Christ "officially severed from the Disciples of Christ, under the leadership of Daniel Sommer and David Lipscomb.

  8. Roger C. says:

    Denominations have been with us for a lot longer than 500 years. The Church that Jesus established had its factions that the Apostles had to control. Soon after, the Gnostics were a problem. And the Maronites. All of them tried to claim the name of Jesus, but by "Jesus," they meant different things.

    There were several other problems, and you end up at the Council of Nicea with the Christians who believed that Christ was not created, and the Christians (Arians) who believed that He was created.

    Then you had Christians who believed that Christ wasn't human.

    Later, you had Christians who believed that Jesus had two completely separate persons within Himself, and that "Jesus Christ" was the human and "the Son of God" was divine. These can be found now in the Assyrian Church of the East.

    After that, some Christians believed that Jesus had a "new nature" that was a mix between divine and human, versus others who believed that there were two natures inside Him, but not two persons. The ones who believed in the "new nature" are now part of the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

    Then there were some Christians who believed Jesus had only one will, not both divine and human wills. After that, some Christians believed that Christ should not be represented with pictures or statues and that pictures of other Christians were idols. Some believed that they were appropriate.

    The ones who believed they were appropriate became the Eastern Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic Church. Then you have the split between East and West. Then the Eastern Church "locks down" because of the rise of Islam. The Western Church is still rocked by the occasional schism, with popes and anti-popes.

    FINALLY we get to the Reformation. And then it really blows up.

  9. Roger C. says:

    I guess my question is, how much do we have to agree on to consider each other "Christian?" If I say "I love Jesus," but I mean a created being who had multiple persons inside himself, but if you say "I love Jesus," and mean a being who was uncreated, both human and divine, with both natures, unmixed, with two wills, and who you could take a picture of, can we really say we worship the same god?

  10. Mark says:

    Jay I believe you are interpreting backwards. You first conclude denominational-ism is wrong then go to Bible to prove it. Paul is not talking about denominational-ism. One of the reason I know this is because the very definition of the word “denominational” is a modern term. But too is a play on words that does nothing but confuse people of what we mean. The word “divided” is two fold: one is just doing math the other is cutting something up. Paul says the church is divided into parts1 Cor 12. or we can say the church is denominated. Paul also asked is Christ divided? Meaning cut up on both sides of the arguing. The problem is seen in 1 Cor.3:3 “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you.” You see it the behavior, such as racism, arrogance, being mean spirited and controlling. But as far as organization and ministry the church is divided into parts. But all these part represents the whole. Even more we have to then understand our parachurch organizations that run schools and relief agencies, orphanages, missions. Are they divided or denominated? Are they part of the whole or are they factious radicals.

    Our contentions over long and often convoluted words do nothing but destroy the Spirit. Non-denominationalism is just another one of those words like non instrumentalist, non institutional. Denominational-ism is not sinful or wrong. People are wrong. Its the behavior which would have to be the opposite of 1 Corinthians 13. Paul's fight is not over pragmatism or convenience it for the spirit of oneness. This oneness is brought out by diversity the parts of the whole. Paul is not seeking compatibility he is teaching the highest principles of truth that is Love.

  11. Jay Guin says:

    Mark,

    I'm not arguing over words. I'm arguing against division. The reality is that a progressive Church of Christ is far more likely to cooperate with another Church of Christ 100 miles away than the Methodist Church a block away. And the same is true of Methodist Churches and Baptist Churches.

    For example, in my hometown, the Baptists have a county association of Baptist congregations through which they cooperate. No one else is invited.

    Just so, the Churches of Christ will cooperate with each other to support an orphanage or foster care association — as will the Baptists and Methodists. We don't invite those of another denomination to share the ministry with us.

    Now, nondenominational church planting and other sorts of good works is a growing phenomenon (Praise God!), but the default position for most denominations is to prefer cooperation along denominational lines and to routinely and mindlessly associate only with those churches of the same denomination.

    And some of the denominational lines are in fact racial lines. There are plenty of all-black and nearly all-white denominations. There are at least a dozen black denominations among the Baptist Churches alone.

    This is not to pick on the Baptists. The local black Churches of Christ have there own joint activities that the white (and mixed) Churches aren't invited to.

    Now, there are very understandable historic reasons for these divisions — but there's no biblical basis that justifies preserving these divisions. They are, in fact, wrong.

    You mention the sin of being "controlling." Amen. But part of what keeps us separate is the desire for control and our arrogance. To unite, we'd have to immerse ourselves into a much larger community where we have less control and less ability to have our own way. And that requires immense humility — and trust in the power of the Spirit.

    Division by any name weakens the church. It deprives Jesus of the power of a unified front and image. And it denies each of us the talents of the others.

    And it divides us in the very communities that we are called to serve. Imagine the power of all churches in a town uniting to evangelize the city and overcome homelessness and poverty. Surely it would make a huge difference.

    Yes, we are all getting better at it. No, we are not close to biblical teaching.

  12. Jay Guin says:

    Roger C,

    It's an interesting question as to where to draw the line of what "faith" saves, but the reality is that 98% of the believers in your town agree with the Nicene Creed and Apostles Creed. In fact, it's more likely that a member of the Church of Christ will reject conventional Trinitarianism than a Baptist or Methodist.

    The post-Nicene church managed to fight and kill each other over the nature of the Trinity. I think Campbell and Stone (who disagreed on this question) had it right. If you agree on what the Bible actually says on the subject, you should be treated as a fellow Christian (as to this issue) even though your speculations might be different from mine.

    Campbell was careful to insist that Christians not only not bind their speculations but not preach on them either — as they only lead to division. If an issue is essential to salvation, the Bible will address it plainly. I think that's wise teaching.

  13. Jay Guin says:

    Alexander,

    I'd agree with much of what you say. One problem with denominational affiliation is it hardens positions on what are often third- or fourth-tier issues. When a congregation realizes they need to change their interpretation on a given issue, they risk being expelled from their denomination — a very difficult thing for many.

    We should find our identity in Jesus, not in a subset of Christians or a particular interpretation of doctrines that the Bible may not even clearly address. And, in my view, we should make every effort to have no other identity at all.

    We should be Christians only and not the only Christians. And this happens to be an approach to Christianity that is very appealing in contemporary America. It's crazy that returning to our own roots would be so controversial and so difficult.

  14. Jay Guin says:

    Guy,

    I agree that some churches have practices and beliefs that I cannot participate in in good conscience. I do not buy into Calvinism, but I don't see it as a salvation issue. I therefore could certainly cooperate with Calvinists in nearly all things.

    But I don't agree with Alexander Campbell's argument that we should unite by having a single order of worship. Rather, in a highly diverse culture, missiology teaches that we should have multiple expressions of the gospel that allow people to worship within their culture.

    Thus, a congregation in the suburbs might have a very different worship service from an inner city congregation. Our unity isn't built on a common worship style. It's built on a common Savior.

    And, yes, I entirely agree that traditions come to define us in a sense. And I have no problem with church A having different traditions from church B, so long as both are consistent with the gospel. Again, Campbell's push for a strict uniformity was a huge mistake, leading to changing traditions into salvation issues.

    So I have no problem if the Episcopalians keep kneeling and the Baptists do not. In fact, there's merit in allowing the Spirit to blow as he wills so a uniform tradition doesn't evolve into a law.

    Now, in some communities, unity will require humble compromise. We just can't have a black church serving the same geographic area as a white church. It's wrong. But it would also be wrong for the whites to impose their traditions on the blacks. They need to humbly submit to one another and find a practice that best brings them together as a single body.

    You see, one of the biggest reasons the early church grew was its reordering of social stratification. Slave owners worshipped in congregations where their own slaves were elders! They didn't have separate congregations so everyone could be comfortable. It wasn't about being comfortable.

  15. Mark says:

    Jay
    “I’m arguing against division”
    I think this is a very good and like other issues we should fight for it because goes to our highest core principles. But I see a lot complexities in what we mean by division. Culturally there is no longer a standard of respect one gives to a church. Church shopping could look just as divisive as a uncooperative spirit. Another thing is not autonomy a form of division? I like your thinking but see a need to find clear cut meaning in division. Cooperation in ministry as an over arching ecumenical goal is a great thing. But to do so congregation would need to be retrained in the idea because they would see that as sin to cooperate.

  16. Gary Cummings says:

    Jay,
    I believe that the doctrine of the Trinity is very important and that it is a Biblical doctrine. Also Stone and Campbell did disagree on this. Stone was a modalist and Campbell attacked the doctrine of the Trinity at various times.
    Also there was and is an ambivalence in the Rest.Movement about the Trinity. This ambivalence has led to the farout errors of Dr. James Tabor of THE JESUS DYNASTY fame. It was the lack of clarity in the Churches of Christ that led Tabor, a brilliant man, to reject the Trinity teaching and to embrace only a human Jesus who did not rise from the dead.
    There should be some good systematic theology taught in the churches of Christ in any area. Get a good textbook on the topic and use a decent translation of the Bible (ESV), and spend a year doing this in a group of congregations. It is not good theology, but bad theology which divides.

  17. Guy says:

    Jay,

    You wrote:

    "Campbell was careful to insist that Christians not only not bind their speculations but not preach on them either — as they only lead to division. If an issue is essential to salvation, the Bible will address it plainly. I think that’s wise teaching."

    Who gets to decide what the Bible addresses "plainly"? The Bible plainly teaches pacifism as far as i'm concerned. You clearly don't agree. So do i get to preach it or not? If not, why not? Because *you* don't think it's addressed "plainly"?

    –Guy

  18. Guy says:

    Jay,

    You wrote:

    "You see, one of the biggest reasons the early church grew was its reordering of social stratification. Slave owners worshipped in congregations where their own slaves were elders! They didn’t have separate congregations so everyone could be comfortable. It wasn’t about being comfortable."

    i agree with this substantially. And while it's not quite on topic here, it seems to me that the entire "seeker sensitive" approach to doing church and evangelism is about making the "unchurched" comfortable.

    –Guy

  19. Gary Cummings says:

    Jay,
    Not to rehash, but the Bible clearly teaches the divinity of Jesus in many places. The book of Hebrews calls Him God. Now Jesus is God according to the Bible. So is He the Father? No. Is He is the Holy Spirit? NO. Is He the Son of God? Yes. The doctrine of the Trinity is implicit and important. Some like you and Campbell and others may call it speculative, but I do not.

  20. Bart E says:

    "That’s very 21st Century thinking. It’s not Paul’s thinking."

    So enforcing everyone to be together even though they hate one another makes more sense than having separate ministries while accepting that each other are saved?

    Sounds to me like our 21st Century thinking makes more sense than Paul's. We do live in the 21st Century, not the first, after all.

    Paul's way clearly failed in the end. Was there a sustained movement of churches that included both Jews and Gentiles to the present day? No. His forced in-your-face togetherness was less effective than "you can have your own churches and we can have our own, if it has to be that way, but we'll accept each others salvation."

    If Paul hadn't been such a hard-nosed [JFG: vulgarity deleted] about it, perhaps the Catholic church wouldn't have bolderized whatever original Christianity looked like. Perhaps the original would have been robust enough to stick around.

    The mistake of the conservatives is in believing in inerrancy and that the apostles had the best ideas. Sometimes modern ideas are better. Does the form of church government advised by Paul work? No. If it did, we wouldn't supplement it with ElderLink.

    Does Paul's way of training pastors work? No, if it did, we wouldn't have universities.

    The first thing a progressive church of Christ must do is jetison the special pleading that argues for a progressive or liberal view of Scripture while pretending to still believe in inerrancy and that the apostles had the best way to do everything. That is the patternism of the conservatives!!!

  21. Edward Fudge says:

    Actually, Christian Standard has not “recently” started publishing articles from non-instrumental CoC folks. I had a stream of articles published there from about 1961 forward for about 20 years, and in the 1970s the Standard was publishing material from about six of us in “non-institutional” CoCs.

    Cordially,
    Edward

  22. Bart E says:

    In other words, without an explicit almost credal repudiation of inerrancy, progressive churches are just legalism lite, just conservative churches in the making. As long as you keep enough of inerrancy and patternism around, you'll be back to one-cupping it in 50 years.

  23. Jay Guin says:

    Bart E,

    I'd appreciate your refraining from profanity and vulgarity. It's a lot of trouble to have to edit your work. And that sort of language greatly detracts from your arguments. It's hard to believe you're a serious student of the Bible when you write like that.

    (Eph 5:4 NIV) 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

  24. Laymond says:

    Gary Cummings said, "but the Bible clearly teaches the divinity of Jesus in many places. The book of Hebrews calls Him God"

    Gary we might want to look at all the other things the bible refers to as "god" Moses for instance, how about money,? Jesus said "man" was called god, yeah I know these places are not written with a capitol "G" but neither was the word in Hebrews, until a man got hold of it.

    Gary said "He the Son of God? Yes." and Gary was right in my opinion, but the word "begotten" in my opinion has a bearing on whether or not Jesus was eternal with God. If the three are co-equal and co-eternal, why is one called "The Father" how could a being called "Father " exist before the creation of anything, what was he Father of. No Gary the "Holy Spirit" existed alone, The Holy Spirit created the heavens and earth, and placed man on it, at that time The Holy Spirit became known as "Father" and the two remain as one even today, and Jesus like everything else came after "The Holy Ghost"

  25. Jay Guin says:

    Laymond,

    (Heb 1:3 ESV) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

    Imagine a candle. The candle is lit, a flame appears, and around the flame is a radiance, a "brightness" (NIV) that comes from the flame itself. The radiance is begotten of the flame. But the radiance is just as old as the flame.

    The Hebrews writer then explicitly addresses Jesus as "begotten" of God —

    (Heb 5:5 ESV) So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you";

    This quotes the coronation Psalm —

    Psa 2:7 I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you.

    "Begotten" here refers not to conception but to coronation. Indeed, the Hebrews writer says that "begotten" is a reference to Jesus' being appointed by God to his task as high priest, but God made him a high priest — by "begetting" him.

    And then there's —

    (Heb 11:17 NAS) By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son;

    Of course, Abraham had several children (Gen 25:1 ff), and Isaac wasn't even his first. Thus, the most recent translations say "only son" or "one and only son" meaning, in reality, the only son of promise

    The Louw-Nida Greek lexicon explains —

    58.52 monogenh,j, e,j: pertaining to what is unique in the sense of being the only one of the same kind or class – 'unique, only.' to.n ui`o.n to.n monogenh/ e;dwken 'he gave his only Son' Jn 3.16; to.n ui`o.n auvtou/ to.n monogenh/ avpe,stalken o' qeo,j 'God sent his only Son' 1 Jn 4.9; to.n monogenh/ prose,feren o` ta.j evpaggeli,aj avnadexa,menoj 'he who had received the promises presented his only son' or '… was ready to offer his only son' He 11.17. Abraham, of course, did have another son, Ishmael, and later sons by Keturah, but Isaac was a unique son in that he was a son born as the result of certain promises made by God. Accordingly, he could be called a monogenh,j son, since he was the only one of his kind.

    You see, etymology (the orgin of a word in history) of a word often fails to give its true meaning. Yes, "only begotten" is built out of a word referring to the physical fathering of a child, but by the First Century, "only begotten" meant "unique in its class." This is not to deny the begotten nature of Jesus — as Heb 5:5 specifically uses "begotten" not "only begotten" — but to argue for giving First Century words their First Century meanings.

    Hence, even very conservative current translations translate "only begotten" as "only" or "one and only." Thus, the ESV uses "begotten" only three times, each time in a reference to Ps 2. We've seen Heb 5:5. There is also —

    (Act 13:33 ESV) this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, "'You are my Son, today I have begotten you.'

    In Acts 13:33, the begottenness of Jesus is shown by his resurrection — not his birth — because "begotten" is a reference to God declaring him "Son of God" in the sense of King or Messiah. It's Jesus' resurrection that proves beyond all doubt God's declaration that he is the Messiah and Lord.

    (Heb 1:5 ESV) Hebrews 1:5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"? Or again, "I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son"?

    Heb 1:5 is a reference to God's declaration that Jesus is "Son of God" in the Ps 2 sense of king. This is one of several coronation or kingship passages applied to Jesus in Heb 1, and the argument hinges on using "begotten" in its Ps 2 sense.

    Now, I absolutely agree that Jesus is begotten of God, but being begotten doesn't make him a created being. Rather, Jesus owes his existence to the existence of God. He is the radiance of God.

  26. abasnar says:

    you’ll be back to one-cupping it in 50 years.

    (smile) … and overcome the "newly" introduced practice of multiple cups from the 1880s (because then they inevented/discovered germs – something the Lord obviously ignored when sharing His cup with the disciples). Actually, sometimes I see a lot more openness to the word of God among progressives than among conservatives. Progressives tend to think a lot more about ongoing restoration than conservatives, who believe they already got it.

    Using One Cup in communion again would be a great progress. Going back to real wine, mixed with water as well. Combining it with a real meal would be great, and worshipping in living rooms absolutely New Testament.

    You can't really discuss these things with the conservative wing of the COC. They twist the scriptures to prove that only grape juice was drunk by Jesus and His disciples, and desparately try to argue from 1Co 11:34 that "eating in church" is prohibited, overlooking 1Co 11:33. And the like.

    So I really cherish the openness among the progressives compared to the conservatives. Going back to using One Cup (and the NT-patterns) out of love for Christ's Church, that would be great.

    But I also share the concern that some mentioned: They might end up as a more or less typical liberal Evangelical church. When I hear of women teaching in the assembly (e.g.) it gives me the creeps – that's divisive and should not even be thought of (1Co 14:36).

    But in general: We are all students of Christ, not masters. So the church will change as it progresses towards Christ. In this sense: A church that isn't progressive is not a church of Christ.

    OK – back to One Cup? ;-)

    Alexander

  27. Laymond says:

    Jay said, "Imagine a candle. The candle is lit, a flame appears, and around the flame is a radiance, a “brightness” (NIV) that comes from the flame itself. The radiance is begotten of the flame. But the radiance is just as old as the flame."

    What you are saying here then, is Jesus depends on God for his existence.?
    (but is the radiance as old as the candle? I believe God struck the match)

    Jay also said "“Begotten” here refers not to conception but to coronation. Indeed, the Hebrews writer says that “begotten” is a reference to Jesus’ being appointed by God to his task as high priest, but God made him a high priest — by “begetting” him."

    Here I understand you to say, they are equally eternal, but definitely not equal in authority. ?

    That is not what the "Trinity Doctrine " said.

  28. Laymond says:

    Jay said, “only begotten” meant “unique in its class.”

    but Jay is it not the word "only" that determines the uniqueness of a thing?

  29. Gary Cummings says:

    Laymond,
    Unique and only can function as synonyms. Jesus is the unique only "ontological" Son of God, indeed, He is God the Son, Hebrews 1:8 has God the Father addressing the Son as HO THEOS. HO THEOS is only reserved for ontological identity in the New Testament, hence Jesus is God the Son, ontologically (from the very beginning). SO this is much more than using the term THEOS to people like Moses or others.
    Jay is right about the etymology of MONOGENES, it means "one of a kind".
    In John 1:18, we have the term MONOGENES THEOS HO referring to "the only/unique begotten God. This is Jesus. John also as Jesus claiming the title of I AM for Himself on several occasions. Some of these just mean "I am this or that", but there are non-predicated I AM sayings, and this indicates that Jesus identifies Himself ontologically with the I AM of the burning Bush and YHWH of Israel.
    Laymond, actually, my experience of God within the Restoration Movement was mixed: some were Trinitarians and knew it, some were Trinitarians and did not know it or use that term, others were like the JW's (Jesus was a created being), and some were modalist Sabellians (I was influenced in this direction for a while). Also looking back I would have to say that a good many COC folks were Bitheists (Father was God , Jesus was Son of God, and no clue about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was just a feeling one had when saved or "the power of God" in action.
    I do believe Christology is important, because if Jesus is not God, He can't save us by grace. We are left to ferret things out with the use of proof-texting and CENI interpretation and sniffing out "patterns". All of this in an effort to save ourselves by our doctrinal purity and obedience.
    Jesus is God the Son, He had always existed in union with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. There was never a time when Jesus did not exist in full essence with God.

  30. Gary Cummings says:

    Abasnar,
    There are hygenic reasons not to use a one cup approach to communion as practiced in some COC's. In this world of deadly viruses, it could be a lethal experience.

    The only way I would do this is to be given or take a piece of bread and dip it in the wine (yes, real wine) and then partake bread and wine at the same time. This has been done in Methodist and Mennonite churches I have attended and it is a sound practice (nothing against it) and hygenic as well. Also having communion at the end of a fellowship meal is very biblical, as well a footwashing connected with the practice. Several times I have had a fellowship meal/communion/ footwashing at a church and it really spoke to my soul and reminded me of who Jesus is and what He did for me.

  31. abasnar says:

    I understand that concern. But it might be an overreaction, too. BTW we in our church practioce both forms. In two or three house churches it is one cup, in the general assemblies we use multiple cups. (And in our house church we practice foot-washing once a year – be welcome to participate next September :-) !)

    I think in a small group the hygienic risks are a lot smaller, and those who suffer from a cold could partake last. Which is how we solve the problem.

    What surprized and amused me (after having overcome my irritation) was the effort some conservatives put in to prove by the word "metonymy" that it is neither clear nore relevant whether Christ used one or m ore Cups. Instead of simply acknowleding that multiple cups were introduced (in th US) in the 1880s because of hygienic reasons. I experienced the change in an Evangelical church in Vienna in the 1990s (we are always a bit behind), when AIDS became "popular".

    But that is just a side-remark. I appreciate your words.

    Alexander

  32. Gary Cummings says:

    Alexander,
    Thanks for the thoughtful note. The only person from I'll drink from the same cup is my wife. There are just too many viruses and bacteria, thanks to the overuse of antibiotcs. I like the practice of dipping the bread in the wine (one cup of wine) and then partaking. It is the practice of several churches and is not anti-Biblical.

    I really do think that footwashing is a good practice to maintain, along with the common meal and communion. How many times a year is left up to each assembly, as I do not think we can make a rule about that.

    By the way, where in Germany do you minister with Die Gemeinde?
    Frieden, Gary

  33. Jay Guin says:

    Mark,

    I agree that autonomy — as we practice it – is a form of division. We've taken Western individualism, extended it to the congregational level, and decided that the "body" of Christ is solely the congregation or the denomination — and that's very wrong. You see, if the "body" is the church-universal, then we have to recognize the value, indeed, the necessity of being joined and cooperating with the other churches in our community.

    (Rom 12:4-5 ESV) 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

    Paul includes himself in the "we" even though he is not a member of the Roman church and had never even attended it. The "body" in this passage is the church universal — and that means we are designed and gifted to work as a single body toward a single purpose in a coordinated fashion.

  34. Laymond says:

    Gary said, "I do believe Christology is important, because if Jesus is not God, He can’t save us by grace."

    Are you saying that you believe that the plan of salvation/ "forgiving grace" originated with Jesus Christ?
    If so I assume you also believe "The Law" originated with Moses.
    Jhn 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, [but] grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

    I understand the plan of salvation, originated with God the Father. Just as the "Law" did.

    Jhn 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

    But you are right, only God can forgive sins.

  35. Jay Guin says:

    Gary,

    I'm not familiar with this story, but I can't imagine how the teachings of Stone or Campbell could cause one to deny the resurrection. Their preaching was very resurrection oriented. They would have considered him lost. I do, too.

  36. Jay Guin says:

    Guy,

    Campbell would actually say "explicitly" rather than "plainly." He and Stone went over the Trinitarian passages, agreed that each speaks the truth, and left it at that. That's "plain" in my vocabulary. They disagreed on what inferences to derive from those passages but not on the passages themselves. And that's where Campbell drew the line.

    Now, you will surely realize that this rule is not as easy to apply as it first sounds, but it's still a good rule. The closer we stick to the words of the text, the less division we'll create. Of course, the bigger cure is to grant grace where God grants grace, which means only deny grace where God denies grace. And those of us who teach need to be careful not to create division by voicing our inferences and speculations. That doesn't mean we can never draw an inference — but it does mean we have to carefully explain the difference between my opinion and God's word — and by showing humility in teaching, teach humility in our exegesis.

    Most Christians have a very shallow understanding of the Trinity and have very little interest in the doctrine — they just accept what the Bible says about God, Jesus, and the Spirit and leave it at that. And I'm not inclined to cross-examine them beyond that.

  37. Jay Guin says:

    Guy,

    The seeker-sensitive movement is about making the lost comfortable as opposed to the saved — which I somewhat, kinda agree with. We are the ones committed to a sacrficial life. They should see our willingness to sacrifice in our worship because we worship a sacrificed being.

    But the lost should be very uncomfortable — not because of our music — but because coming to church means hanging around with addicts fighting to defeat addiction, people of different races, people with failed marriages who are trying to become better, the desperately poor, people with mental illnesses, etc. Church should be a very uncomfortable place for people from outside because it should be a very different place from what they're used to.

  38. Jay Guin says:

    Edward,

    Thanks. I stand corrected and I'm delighted to have been wrong. I had no idea the CS had been that broad minded for so long. I guess I just assumed that they were as narrow-minded as I was at the time.

  39. Jay Guin says:

    Laymond,

    The scriptures address the authority of Jesus explicitly.

    (Mat 28:18 ESV) 18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

    (Joh 13:3-4 ESV) 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.

    As between Jesus and the powers that exist in the creation, the Father has given all authority to Jesus. That does not mean Jesus has authority over the other members of the Trinity. Nor does it mean he has more authority than the Father or the Spirit, in other words, the utterances of all three carry equal weight, but the task of destroying all rivals to God's power has been given to Jesus along with the authority to do so.

    This conclusion does not contradict the Nicene Creed any way that I can see. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicene_Creed

  40. Jay Guin says:

    Laymond,

    There is no "only" in the Greek. The word is monogenes. "Mono" means "one." "Genes" is from "genos" meaning race, nation, or class. Hence, it means "one of a kind."

    "Begotten" in Ps 2 (LXX) and related passages is gennao, meaning to beget or conceive, literally. Of course, the meaning in Ps 2 is metaphoric.

  41. Gary Cummings says:

    Laymond,
    Only God can forgive sins, and Jesus forgave sins at times before healing people. If Jesus is not God , then we are not saved.

  42. Gary Cummings says:

    Jay,
    Dr. James Tabor is "the scholar's scholar" He was raised in the Churches of Christ, educated at Abilene (BA and MA), then switched to the Worldwide Church of God along with Brent Graves (MA-Greek-ACC), They both taught at at the Armstrong College.for a few years. Tabor came bacl to Abilene, completed his MA in Greek, then preached for a while in North Texas with the Churches of Christ. My friend Brent introduced me to him. Tabor was brilliant as a scholar, then went to the University of Chicago and got his PhD in Early Christianity. He wrote his dissertation on Paul's Vision on the Damascus Road. This study of Paul led to his rejection of Paul as an expositor of the Gospel and also a rejection of the Gospel of John. Tabor has supervised many archaeological digs in Israel, and finally announced he was an Ebionite, a community of early Jewish Christians that basically died out after 70 AD. Tabor always denied the Trinity, then decided than Jesus was only a man and not God. Then he threw out the resurrection and atonement of Jesus, and has sided with the James Cameron filmmaker on the lost tomb of Jesus at Talpiot. The so called discovery says that Jesus burial box was there. Tabor tends to say that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was probably impregnated by a Roman soldier named Pantera. Tabor wrote his FAMOUS book THE JESUS DYNASTY and now has written a sequel which dismantles the entire Biblical faith. I did not imply that Stone and Campbell approved of denying the resurrection, but that the rejection of the Trinity leads to a lot of things, like Tabor;s many heresies, and the false Christologies of the JW's , Christadelphians, and LDS (all of whom had some connection with the original Stone Campbell movement.
    The Trinity is a first tier doctrine, not a speculation as Campbell states and you seem to infer.

  43. Laymond says:

    (Mat 28:18 ESV) 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

    Jay, in order for a thing to be given, there has to be a giver. and I believe Paul said all authority was given, except over the giver.

  44. Jay Guin says:

    Gary,

    Campbell carefully distinguished between the actual words of scripture and inferences drawn from those words. Inferences may well be true, but they can't be terms of communion. As Thomas Campbell wrote in the Declaration and Address,

    6. That although inferences and deductions from scripture pre-
    mises, 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 evident-
    10 ly 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 be-
    long to the after and progressive edification of the church. Hence
    it is evident that no such deductions or inferential truths ought to
    15 have any place in the churchs's confession.

    The Campbells often referred to anything other than faith in Jesus as the Messiah as "opinion" and anything inferred from scripture as "speculation." It's not revealed in so many words and thus inferred. If it's inferred, it's subject to error, becase we are imperfect. Therefore, our speculations cannot be grounds of communion even if they are clearly (to our minds) true.

    Should it be enquired concerning the persons included in this
    40 description of character, whether they be Arminians, or Calvinists,
    or both promiscuously huddled together? It may be justly replied,
    that, according to what we have proposed, they can be nominally
    neither, and of course not both; for we call no man master on
    earth; for one is our master, even Christ and all we are brethren–
    45 are christians by profession: and, as such, abstract speculation and
    argumentative theory make no part, either of our profession, or
    practice.

    To me, Calvinism is plainly untrue, but I reach that conclusion by inference. There are, after all, verses that seem to support Calvinism. Therefore, my speculations on such matters are not terms of communion and I may be united with Calvinists in the universal church of Christ.

    Now, that is not exactly how I'd argue the case, but it's a helpful approach and analysis, as it begins with exegetical humility. In Campbell's vocabulary, the Nicene Creed is speculative — even if exactly true — because it's built on human inference. Worse yet, it uses a non-scriptural vocabulary: "essence" and "person" and such like. Again, that doesn't make it false. It's just not manifest on the face of scripture and therefore not a term of communion.

    And what shall I say of the twelve or fourteen sects of Baptists–many of whom have as much affection for the Greek and Roman church, as for one another! It were useless to furnish other evidence in proof that human opinions, inferential reasonings, and deductions from the Bible, exhibited in the form of creeds, can never unite Christians; as all their fruits are alienation, repulsion, bickering, and schism. No human creed in Protestant Christendom can be found, that has not made a division for every generation of its existence. And I may add–the more thinking, inquisitive, and intelligent the community which owns a creed, the more frequent their debates and schisms.

    But the Bible will do not better, if men approach it with a set of opinions, or a human symbol in their minds. For then it is not the Bible, but the opinions in the mind, that [113] form the bond of union. Men, indeed, had better have a written than an unwritten standard of orthodoxy, if they will not abandon speculation and abstract notions, as any part of Christian faith or duty.

    But all these modes of faith and worship are based upon a mistake of the true character of Revelation, which it has long been our effort to correct. With us, Revelation has nothing to do with opinions, or abstract reasonings; for it is founded wholly and entirely upon facts. There is not one abstract opinion, not one speculative view, asserted or communicated in Old Testament or New. Moses begins with asserting facts that had transpired in creation and providence; and John ends with asserting prophetic or prospective facts, in the future displays of providence and redemption. Facts, then, are the alpha and the omega of both Jewish and Christian revelations.

    Alexander Campbell, The Christian System "The Foundation of Christian Union."

    Of course, there are many "facts," Campbell would say, regarding God revealed in scripture — that Jesus is the logos, that Jesus is begotten of God, that Jesus is Lord, etc. And these are facts on which he would insist.

  45. Jay Guin says:

    Laymond,

    Yes, and that matters because … ?

    It's a mistake, I think, to treat "equal" in Trinitarian thought as meaning "the exact same." That makes the 3 persons of the Godhead effectively one god. They are different. Only the Father is begetter. Only the Son is the sacrifice and incarnate. Only the Spirit is living water within us. These aren't just roles they choose to play that they could interchangeably have played. They are not identical.

    But they have a common will and mission and so they speak with identical authority and toward the identical goal. And so, yes, the Father gives authority to the Son. That doesn't disprove Trinitarian theology. It only shows that unity is possible with diversity — that we don't have to be the same to enjoy an intense, utter unity. And that's important.

  46. Gary Cummings says:

    Jay,
    'I think "speculation" in in the eyes of the person using that word. Whatever Campbell decided was speculation, it became speculation. I , along with the bulk of the Christian world, do not believe the doctrine of the Trinity is speculation but sound Biblical teaching. One of the most important, if not the most, is who is Jesus. A man or God. Those are the only two options. The doctrine of the Trinity is the best description of who Jesus is: God the Son.

  47. Laymond says:

    Gary, if Jesus was God, what would be so unusual about him rising from the grave, to return to heaven?
    and what would be unusual about his defeating death, if he couldn't die, gods do not die.
    Now if Jesus was a creation, that would be a great feat, a feat to prove we also might rise from the dead, and ascend to be with God. I believe that was the point.
    Rom 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
    Col 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

  48. Laymond says:

    Jay asked "Yes, and that matters because … ? "

    Well, I thought we were speaking of the authority of Jesus. and his equality to God.

    1Cr 15:27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under [him, it is] manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
    1Cr 15:28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
    In my opinion, Paul seemed to think Jesus was a subject of God and would return to being so once his mission was complete here and he ascended to heaven. Please explain what Paul meant.

  49. abasnar says:

    That Jesus was begotten shows that He has an origin.

    But this origin was before anything else was created (Pro 8:22-32)
    Being begotten is also something entirely different than being created (although a begotten one is also created, not all that is created is also begotten), because a created thing (not begotten) is always from "material" other than the creator. But to beget someone means, the begotten one comes from the Father and has the same nature as the Father.

    The world was created out of nothing.
    The Son came forth from the Father.

    So it is perfectly safe to say, Jesus Christ is God as the Father is God. He is as JHWH as the Father – in fact, verses from the OT referring to JHWH are atrributed to Christ in the NT (e.g. Heb 1:10-12).

    And it is also right to say, than the head of Christ is God (the Father) as in 1Co 11:3, that the Son is in submission to His God.

    So the Father and the Son are two distinct Gods, and yet they are one as Jesus said (I and the Father are one). So the oneness of God does not mean just one person, but rather one deity. The Father, the Son and the Spirit are of the same deity. All are to be worshipped accordingly. One represents the other:

    Joh 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,
    Joh 14:23 Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

    Rom 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
    Rom 8:10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
    Rom 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you …

    Do you see how The Spirit that dwells within us is equated with both Christ and the Father? That's what I mean with "one represents the other" – they are not exchangable, they are distinct, and still they are one in the sense that whoever honors the Son honors the Father (Jo 5:23), whoever believes the Son believes the Father (Jo 14:1), and whoever sees the Son sees the Father (Jo 14:9).

    It is not too complicated, actually, but still far beyond our understanding. But it is nothing that we really have to understand in order to have unity in Christ. We must avoid divisive debates on things that are far beyond our capacity of understanding. We can speak of God only in anthropomorphic terms, knowing full well that God is infinitely bigger than could be expressed in our words our thought in thoughts. That's why we should not try to put Him into our systematic theology, but we should worship Him according to His self-revenlation in Christ.

    Alexander

  50. Laymond says:

    abasnar, I don't understand how you can go to the extent you did to explain the relationship between God, and Jesus, then say we really can't understand what you said. Why not just read what is written. The prophecy of Jesus is written, and the realization of that prophecy is written, why not just accept them.?

    Isa 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, [in whom] my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
    Isa 42:2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
    Isa 42:3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.
    Isa 42:4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.
    Isa 42:5 Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:

    This is Jesus Christ, servant of both man and the almighty God. we are not supposed to serve Jesus, we are to follow Jesus in the service of the almighty God.
    If you don't believe me ask Jesus.

    Mat 12:15 But when Jesus knew [it], he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all;
    Mat 12:16 And charged them that they should not make him known:
    Mat 12:17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
    Mat 12:18 Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.
    Mat 12:19 He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.
    Mat 12:20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.
    Mat 12:21 And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.

  51. Jay Guin says:

    Laymond,

    You missed some key proof texts —

    Dan 7:14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

    Luk 10:22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."

    Joh 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God,

    Mat 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

    Luk 22:29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom,

    Yes, Jesus came in the form of a servant. That's plainly stated in —

    (Phi 2:5-11 ESV) 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    But notice carefully that Jesus became obedient. He took the "form of a servant." But these aren't foreign to God's nature. Rather, Jesus reveals God's nature. This is poignantly described in —

    (Joh 13:3-5 ESV) 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

    Jesus, knowing he'd be resurrected, granted the universe as a kingdom, and returned to the Father, washes feet — not despite his majestic status but because of it. Foot washing was the work of a slave. It was nasty work.

    Joh 5:19 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

    Joh 8:16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.

    Joh 8:19 They said to him therefore, "Where is your Father?" Jesus answered, "You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also."

    Joh 10:30 I and the Father are one."

    Joh 14:9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, Show us the Father ?

    Joh 15:23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also.

    Jesus reveals God's nature to us. God is Lord and King, but also a servant who'd rather die on the cross than see us lost. This is the heart of God, shown to us through Jesus.

    Yes, Jesus is a servant, and we are called to be servants like him, but we are also called to be like God. And there's no contradiction.

    You see, our problem with seeing Jesus as one with God is that we have trouble seeing God as being like Jesus — but Jesus reveals God.

    Now, for Jesus to be obedient, he had to take on human form, so that disobedience became a possibility — so that he could be tempted. This is how a perfect being can "learn obedience" as Hebrews says. You can't be obedient until disobedience is a possibility.

    Just so, Jesus, by taking human form, because susceptible to death. God cannot die, and Jesus could not die while in heaven with God. But in human form, he could die. There is no other way for his obedience on the cross to matter.

    And, again, in this context, the equality of God and Jesus is not that they are exactly the same. The very verses you point to show that. They aren't equal in the mathematical or logical sense of being the very same thing. They aren't. My right arm and right leg aren't equal — but they are united and have a common purpose and will. They've never disagreed. And yet one could die while the other lives.

    It's not a perfect metaphor, but maybe it helps a little.

  52. Laymond says:

    Jay, if you get there before I do send me an e-mail, I would sure like to know who is right.
    Jay, I don't believe I have ever said Christ didn't come from God, I just don't believe he is "The almighty God"

    I don't see how one could read and refer to Isa. 42, or mat. 12. and say Jesus is not from God with a straight face. by the way most of your proof texts support my thinking. not the trinity doctrine. you know the trinity is comprized of three.

  53. Guy says:

    Jay,

    On paper, seeker-sensitivity may sound nice. But i don't think it really works that way in practice. What happens is style is made as trendy as possible. And it turns out that it makes the "contemporary-tastes" members of the church very comfortable and the way they always wanted things to be anyway. That's hardly sacrificial. Further, edification is usually shallow because seeker-sensitivity assumes we're always talking to people who know nothing–none of the terms or doctrines that we *assume* we're already familiar with. Sadly, many members are not. So members learn not much of anything from each other while non-members are made to feel good and generally remain unchallenged.

    Perhaps there are some churches that would prove my assessment wrong, but that's how it appears to turn out typically to me. And i don't see how that's advantageous to anyone–the members, the non-members, or Christ.

    i agree that church isn't about making some subset of the congregation happy. It's about edification and need. And what i need is not always (in fact, quite rarely) concomitant with how i want and prefer and enjoy for church to be conducted. i don't see how just wondering what kind of music a non-Christian visitor likes is conducive to that end.

    –Guy

  54. Guy says:

    Jay,

    You said,

    "That doesn’t mean we can never draw an inference — but it does mean we have to carefully explain the difference between my opinion and God’s word — and by showing humility in teaching, teach humility in our exegesis."

    How do i know when something is merely my opinion and when it is God's word? There are people who interpret the gospels in such a way that Jesus was just a man, but still consider themselves His followers (i've read at least one article from such a man). i would gather that you think such a teaching is heretical and means that person does not have saving faith in Christ. But according to that person, that's just your opinion, and not God's judgment on the situation. Now it might seem so clear to you because you feel like you can demonstrate just how wrong they are by sticking very close to the words of the text. But how is that any different from how a conservative CoCer views the matter when discussing something with you? So again, how do i know when something is merely my opinion versus being God's word?

    –Guy

  55. Jay Guin says:

    Laymond,

    I'm just trying to show that the fact the Son is sent by the Father and the Father gives authority to the Son does not contradict classic Trinitarian theology.

    By the way, Jesus is called "Lord" and "Savior" in the NT. Who is called "Lord" and "Savior" in the OT?

  56. Jay Guin says:

    Guy,

    What did I say about seeker sensitivity?

  57. Jay Guin says:

    Guy asked,

    How do i know when something is merely my opinion and when it is God’s word?

    Well, in Campbell's view, either it is the text or it's opinion. In my view, that's the wrong question. The correct question is: who is my brother? And I've addressed that one here many times.

    I do agree with Campbell that we must distinguish confidence in the text from confidence in our interpretation of the text. That's called humility. But I don't think that humility means I have to accept just any interpretation as true. But I do have to accept you as Jesus accepted me — by grace, through faith (Rom 15:7).

  58. JMF says:

    Jay,

    Guy's post at 9:33 speaks to something I consider often, and really challenges me. In fact, if you are taking requests, that is a topic on which I'd like to see a series.

    I get what Guy is saying. What do you say when someone says that the resurrection is a metaphor for dying to the old and becoming anew in love for each other…but Jesus didn't REALLY come back to life.

    You get the point. Even in the simplest terms, how do we decide what is true?

    I feel Guy presents a false dichotomy when he suggests that either: a) you accept people who says that Jesus is just a metaphor or, b) respect 20th Cent. COC legalistic perfectionism.

    But, I can't come up with a logical argument as to the difference.

  59. Jay Guin says:

    JMF,

    The text is clear that belief in the resurrection is essential to salvation.

    (Rom 10:9-10 ESV) 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

    There are some non-negotiables, and the scriptures make those clear. Being clear doesn't make something non-negotiable, but if it's a salvation issue, it'll be clearly stated to be a salvation issue. And no one until the 20th Century thought otherwise on this subject. Again, the fact that no one thought otherwise for a long time doesn't make it non-negotiable, but the non-negotiables will be strongly reflected in orthodox thought across the centuries. The Spirit has been powerfully effective for a long time.

  60. Guy says:

    JMF,

    Please identify for me precisely the place at which i said the only alternative to Jay's proposal is to "respect 20th Cent. COC legalistic perfectionism." In fact, please identify for me where i said there is *only one* alternative view at all to what Jay proposes.

    –Guy

  61. Guy says:

    Jay,

    Even if the "right" question is "Who is my brother?," that question still presupposes that there is some correct answer we are able to interpret from scripture, which in turn presupposes that we were able to discern between what the text actually teaches and what is merely our opinion. Clearly we assumed some criterion of distinction in proposing anything akin to "The Scriptures teach X."

    i'm not meaning for this to get far afield. My point is there are people who consider themselves Christians who would view even the very minimum standards you've presented here as merely your interpretation and not what is necessarily implied by the text. You may believe that practicing homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle. A member of the United Church of Christ may see you as having a very poor interpretation of the text. Do you embrace those who consider themselves Christians yet who openly practice lifestyles which you interpret the Bible to deem sinful? i don't mean "Who get's to decide what's mere interpretation?" to be trite the in least. Establishing that criteria precedes the ability to accurately and consistently answer "Who is my brother?" But, of course, establishing criteria also creates a significant difference between you and those who have chosen different criteria.

    –Guy

  62. Guy says:

    Jay,

    Your quoting of Romans 10 takes the issue at hand for granted. You quote it, and then you act as though what you infer from it is obvious or clear. You read "and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead," and you *infer* that this refers to a literal, historical space-time event in which the human Jesus was (somehow–miraculously) physically re-animated after having been literally dead.

    i happen to agree with you. But not everyone does. Karl Barth would be a prime example of someone who didn't think the text taught a space-time-historical resurrection. Karl Barth could read that passage right along side you, tell you he believed every word of it, but still not believe the same things you believe or meet the minimum requirement you're calling for here. So again, who gets to determine which is mere human-interpretation and who gets to determine what is really what the text means? You or Barth?

    –Guy

  63. Jay Guin says:

    Guy,

    I don't buy the Postmodern position on the understandability of truth. My concern is that the person working next to me in the prison or homeless shelter believes the gospel — so that he can teach the same gospel.

    I have no interest in judging denominations. That's old-fashioned ecumenical thinking. And I can't go around judging each person involved in a good work — it's just not practical. But we should not work with people who deliberately violate the scriptures or who otherwise don't appear to be saved — except as people to be brought to Jesus. And I hope we have lots of lost people working with the church — so that they may be brought to Jesus through service. It can happen.

    Might there be churches in town that are so caught up liberal theology they can't tell the difference between the lost and saved? Yes, there are some highly secularized churches. They can't be given a position of doctrinal authority. But since we're not merging churches, just working side by side, there'd be no position of doctrinal authority in the united church!

    Now, consider this. One of the best ways to convert someone is to get them involved in church work while they learn about Jesus both from the Bible and from those they work with. Well, that's true of secular, nominal Christians, too. We won't persuade them to have a real faith by shunting them off to the side.

    The real test will come when we work together for evangelism. The true liberal will have no interest, and we'll just have to go our separate ways.

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