The Future of the Progressive Churches of Christ: The Christian Standard’s June 13, 2010 Issue, Parts 3 & 4 (Ephesians Gives the Answer)

[re-written and expanded]
We should not ask the question in terms of the future of the progressive Churches of Christ or the Restoration Movement. To ask about our subgroup is to assume that God wants our subgroup to have a future history distinct from his entire church. It’s a false assumption.

Rather, the correct question to ask deals with the future of the church: the real church of Christ, the church universal. And anyone with a lick of sense knows that it’s presently pretty messed up. We Christians are badly divided into thousands of denominations — and our members have lost patience with the divided leadership.

The leaders of the denominations have met in ecumenical councils and written papers and sought to negotiate compromise doctrinal statements — all to no observable effect. The ecumenical program is both noble and futile. It doesn’t work. It won’t work.

Rather, what we see happening is the membership, guided (I believe) by the power of the Spirit, deciding that denominationalism is wrong, pointless, and increasingly irrelevant. Families choose a congregation based on whether the congregation most closely approximates God’s will and whether the congregation is a good “fit” for themselves.

They increasingly test the church’s fit with God’s will in terms of the power of the gospel preached to transform lives and whether the church truly shows God’s love to each other and to their community. We are seeing a transformation from orthodoxy (right doctrine defined in Reformation terms) to better orthodoxy doctrine (defined in Sermon on the Mount terms) + orthopraxy (right living defined in Sermon on the Mount terms).

Now, we are by no means already there, but that’s the direction I see — amidst the false starts and other mistakes we’re all making. A couple moving into town will think nothing of checking out the local nondenominational “community” church, the big Baptist Church, the new Methodist Church, and even the Church of Christ. And the community church will have an advantage, because it doesn’t define itself in terms that no longer matter to the family. They really don’t care whether the church is a big fan of John Wesley or Alexander Campbell or whether the church has apostolic succession or congregational autonomy. They want to know whether the church will help them build lives and family in Christ.

And yet … it’s all but inevitable that for quite some time we Christians will disagree over Calvinism, apostolic succession, the role of women, and countless other issues — many traceable back to the Reformation and a few of more modern origin. And we aren’t going to get together through diligent study and negotiation over white papers. It’s been tried. It doesn’t work. Rather, the key is to declare such dispute to be of — at best — third-tier importance. They aren’t important enough to divide over. They may be important enough to cause a family to prefer church A over church B, but the same can be said of the quality of their nursery.

Yes, yes, I know that the Bible has clear, unambiguous, definitive answers to these questions and they matter — and they do — but they don’t matter as much as whether my child will be brought up among loving, caring, Christ-like Sunday school teachers in a church that will help me and my wife and my children become closer to God and live as God wants — even if they are Calvinists. I truly would prefer that my grandchildren grow up Calvinists who love and live for Jesus than Arminians who can’t stand church or the man who started it.

And, yes, yes, some will insist that we can have sound doctrine and sound practice, and they would be right, except it’s just not true everywhere. There are plenty of places where the choice is between legalists who get congregational autonomy right and who are miserably damning all others vs. another church that gets perserverance of the saints wrong, has a substandard organizational structure, and yet who love the Lord with a passion that drives them to contagious, sacrificial living.

In short, the first key to all this is to rearrange our priorities away from creedalism and toward Christian living.

(Eph 4:11-14 ESV) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,  12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

It’s all right here in Ephesians. The job of the leaders is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (NIV: “works of service”). We must teach our members to serve or, better phrased, to work to serve. Paul will get to doctrine, but he starts with the hard work of service. We don’t have to all be M.Div.’s. We do all have to be servants — because to be like Jesus, we must first be servants.

The service Paul has in mind has the effect of “building up the body of Christ.” The word translated “building up” or “edification” in some translations can also be used to refer to a physical building. Of course, Paul has earlier referred to the church as being built into a temple of the Holy Spirit. It’s much the same image. We serve others because somehow this helps God complete the work of building the church.

Well, as your parents taught you, hard work builds character. Sometimes it’s easier to do first and to understand and feel second. You don’t know whether you’ll love caring for orphans in a foreign land until you do it. Most real learning isn’t head knowledge but experience knowledge. And we can’t learn the joy of serving others until we try serving others. And when we do, we’ll become more like Jesus.

Therefore, the first thing we should look for in a congregation is whether the leaders will equip us for service so that we can grow through service. Now “equip” may well refer to classroom study or sermons, but only in part. It’s ultimately about getting off the pew and going to work.

This, Paul says in v. 13 will lead to “the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” That’s right — not negotiating white papers, not ecumenical councils, but serving others. Service leads to a body that’s more like Jesus and therefore more united.

And service leads to “knowledge of the Son of God.” You see, it’s the old cliche — “If you want to understand me, walk a mile in my moccasins.” If you want to have true knowledge of Jesus, don’t buy a book — go serve somebody!

Finally, Paul concludes that this process leads not only to maturity (or completeness or attaining the goal), but also to no longer being —

tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes

Hmmm …. Isn’t that the solution to denominational division — divisions resulting from winds of doctrine?

So how does being equipped for service cure doctrinal disagreement? That’s a big question, but the question isn’t “whether.” Paul says it does. We must therefore ask: “how?” Well, it’s about priorities. Or paradigms. Or worldviews. You see, we inherited the idea that any doctrinal error at all divides (or even damns!) from the Reformation. Luther and Zwingi damned each other other consubstantiation. And their spiritual heirs followed their example to the point of killing each other.

The creation of the United States changed the world in many ways — one of which was the fact we learned to disagree over doctrine and not kill each other. It was a big step, but hardly enough.

So when Stone and the Campbells agreed to merge their movements despite doctrinal disagreements, based solely on agreement on the gospel, that is, faith in Jesus, that was truly revolutionary. But they made a critical mistake.

When the Baptists disfellowshipped Campbell’s church, Campbell accepted their rejection and formed a new denomination — but a denomination that considered other denominations saved. He prayed for re-unification with the Baptists — but it wasn’t in his power.

Campbell couldn’t help the fact that he’d been expelled by the Baptists. But he failed to raise up a generation of leaders who would work against the denominational grain, but rather acquiesced in becoming a new denomination (accepting the reality while rejecting the term). Thus, when he formed the American Christian Missionary Society, he didn’t invite Baptists or Methodists to join.

But in light of the world he lived in, his behavior made sense. You see, within his lifetime, nearly every Baptist Church in Kentucky had joined the Restoration Movement. Many small denominations and fellowships had been absorbed into his Movement. So far as he could see, the Restoration Movement would defeat denominationalism by converting them all! But it didn’t happen. It was a remarkable, brilliant experiment, but it didn’t work.

The generations after Campbell entirely forgot the Movement’s founding principles, quickly moving from the rejection of creeds as tests of fellowship — doctrinal positions on dozens of non-gospel issues — to the enforcement of one of the strictest creeds in Christendom. We went from “no creed but Christ” to “no creed but the right positions on the issues.”

No, the solution isn’t found in persuading everyone to join our nondenominational denomination. The solution is to rid our minds of denominational thinking and, instead, to find that the gospel compels us to serve somebody. It’s only when serving Jesus becomes the most important thing that unity can happen.

It’s really this simple. If you want to bring God’s redemption to the housing project in your home town badly enough, you’ll ask the Baptists and Methodists to help — because the job is too big for your congregation or even your denomination. If you want to see God’s will done in your city as it’s done in heaven, you’ll get along with the Pentecostal Church down the road well enough to work with them on a Celebrate Recovery program to cure addiction and mend lives by the power of the cross. If you really want the gospel preached to all the lost, you’ll find a way to involve the other churches in town to share the workload, because you can’t do it by yourself.

You see, while the preachers usually say that love leads to service (and it does), it’s also true that service leads to love. It’s only when you’re feeding a stranger that you really begin to see Jesus in the stranger. You can’t walk past a person in need while seeing Jesus in his eyes.

And when you see Jesus in the eyes of those in need, well, you care much more whether that person is fed or finds salvation than whether your denomination gets credit or your church is the one that gets to grow by adding a new member. And that’s when the churches in town become the church in town. And that’s unity.

Therefore, what the Churches of Christ, independent Christian Churches, and every other church that serves Jesus needs to do is get busy serving Jesus by serving those who need him and us — and to do so cooperatively. I mean, just walk across the street, knock on the door of the pastor’s office, and ask them to help. It’s not hard.

And here’s another cool thing. One of the best ways to make a friend is to ask someone to help you with something. They can’t help you without deciding to like you. Invite them to help, and their image of you will change dramatically. And your image of them will change. And as you serve shoulder to shoulder, some of what’s right about your church will rub off on them, and some of what’s right about their church will rub off on you.

Who knows. Maybe you’ll develop a taste for kneeling or responsive readings. And maybe they’ll discover the value of being an un-denomination without layers of bureaucracy sucking resources from the service projects you’re doing together. It could happen.

So call me crazy, but to me, the future of the progressive Churches of Christ is the future of the church of Christ, that is, the church universal — unity discovered through service. You see, God has given us the unity. It’s a gift, not an accomplishment.

(Eph 4:1-3 ESV) I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Our calling is to “maintain” unity, not to create it. If we’re not united, it’s not God’s fault or even the fault of our ancestors. It’s our fault.

(1Co 12:12-13 ESV) 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

There’s one body. Those who divide it divide the body of the Lord. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to have to answer for that.

[to be continued]

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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93 Responses to The Future of the Progressive Churches of Christ: The Christian Standard’s June 13, 2010 Issue, Parts 3 & 4 (Ephesians Gives the Answer)

  1. Todd says:

    Well as for me and mine, we are going back to basics. 2/3rds of my teaching time is all about Jesus and Paul is brought in to explain how the early Church applied what Jesus taught. We don't argue about versions, cups, prayer words, worship styles, clothing, polity, or anything else that would ordinarily define us a CoC (or coC for the grammar challenged.)

  2. Guy says:

    Jay,

    This is all well and fine for those who already agree with you on the bare minimum required for recognizing each other as brothers and being open to fellowship. But there are people in lots of denominations who simply aren't going to be convinced that some doctrinal differences aren't deal-breakers. i've definitely met Baptists who thought my belief that baptism was for the forgiveness of sins meant that i taught "works-salvation" and therefore they couldn't, in good conscience, have anything to do with me in terms of fellowship unless i changed my view.

    If you listen to many teachers from the Reformed theology camp, you quickly get the impression that for them, Calvinism simply *is* the gospel and nothing less will do. You could tell these people, "Let's forget that and just focus on the gospel together," and they would look at you and say, "i am focused on the gospel."

    People from various religious groups, not just conservative CoC's, would disagree with your position on what comprises the gospel or what's "central" to the gospel. That's a doctrinal difference. You say that certain issues matter, but you still act as though we can go along to get along despite differences about them. Everyone might agree that some things are "third-tier issues," as you put it. But who gets to decide which issues belong in that category? Is an issue necessarily a "third-tier issue" just because you conclude that it is? Why shouldn't that Calvinist or that Baptist i talked about get to decide the point?

    Yes, Paul places far more weight on lifestyle-discipleship than many modern religious people do. But he also spends plenty of time elaborating on doctrinal positions as well. It seems like you want to say, 'well, obviously much-doctrine and little-lifestyle didn't work, so now let's try the opposite.'

    –Guy

  3. abasnar says:

    While I agree with most of the above, I have a remark on the following:

    Rather, what we see happening is the membership, guided (I believe) by the power of the Spirit, deciding that denominationalism is wrong, pointless, and increasingly irrelevant. Families choose a congregation based on whether the congregation most closely approximates God’s will and whether the congregation is a good “fit” for themselves.

    Isn't that rather something that parallels developments in society in general? You could call that post-modernism or maybe its already post-post … but it has to do with the fact that the society around us has dropped the hope of finding absolute truth, so relevant is only what has a personal impact, which works or is authentic. Denominationalism appears irrelevant, that's why it being dropped. Seeker Friendly, man-centered worship is the flipside – the preaching has to be relevant.

    The quest for the true doctrine and the true church of past generations might as well be influenced by a certain mainstream-philosophy in society (modernism, positivism). The RM would is also in part a child of the enlightment (esp. the way Alexander Campbell reasoned).

    This is probably not all bad. But I would hesitate to ascribe that to the Holy Spirit. Some also ascribe women's lib to the Spirit of God (and thus argue for female pastors – I heard that from a brother in the church of Christ).

    What you will also realize with the people you referred to is that they have a hard time accepting Biblical authority. You preach a word of God they don't like, and they reject it even openly. Not all of them, to be sure, but it is a hard time for sound doctrine.

    I don't think that unity will be achieved by forsaking truth, but we also should be aware that there are essentials that are necessary to have fellowship and to be saved. And these are rather few and simple things. I see them in the same chapter you quoted from, in the verses you skipped:

    Eph 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–
    Eph 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
    Eph 4:6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

    These seven Ones are indisputable. Then, based on that, follows Eph 4:11-16. And I do agree that service is the key to overcome a spirit of contentiousness.

    But I also firmly believe, that we have to insist on all seven Ones when it comes to unity and cooperation with other churches/denominations. The issue of baptism is the most divisive one among them. So this is a call to the whole church to rethink our Oneness based on Ephesians. This might result in interesting conversations on the leadership level in a community – I am convinced that we have to invite to such "round-table-talks".

    But an invititaion to unity is always an invitation to lay aside our creeds and denominational traditions (including our own ones). Otherwise – if we just accept Baptists as being in harmony with the whole church of Christ together with Pedobaptists – we sanctify the divisions, but won't overcome them.

    So far the ecumenical movement is all about accepting one another without laying aside what caused the division. Protestants and Catholics by now accept the baptisms of each other as valid. When it comes to the Eucharist, there is no way a Catholic could accept the Protestant's Lord's Supper, it is even forbidden for Catholics to serve the Eucharist to Protestants or to participate in the Lord's Supper in a Protestant church. So the goal is not unity, not overcoming the schism, but perpetuating them while accepting one another.

    This is like a divorced couple that decides to forgive one another, that confesses to love one another, but still lives in different cities with their new spouses. And they try to tell their kids: Hey, Mummy and Daddy ahve forgoven and love each other again. How credible is that?

    In the end, unity must be lived out also on the organisational and leadership level: There ought to be one church under one leadership in a community (city, district, neighbourhood) – if we envision this, privileges, status, property, structures, modes of doing things will eventually change. Are we willing to sacrifice our church in order to give birth tio the church of Christ (sounds like the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery).

    It was a strange feeling when the ICOC and the COC in Vienna became one – this was a fairly small accomplishment and seemingly insignificant – but it was emotionally challenging. Now it is one body, one hope, one Spirit, one Faith, one Lord, one baptism (the ICOC formerly did not accept the COC baptisms), one Father – a united church under one leadership, comprised of brothers from both backgrounds.

    Think about this when praying for unity with Baptists, Methodists, evangelicals of different traditions … don't be discouraged, just realistic.

    Alexander

  4. Royce Ogle says:

    Jay,

    A great post. I agree.

    The primary reason for the innumerable denominations and almost all of the factions, divisions, and splits have one common denominator. People have majored on minor subjects.

    Having observed preachers and churches closely for over 50 years I find that churches that keep Christ centered, gospel saturated, and are primarily busy in the ministry of announcing the good news about Jesus, thrive.

    I have had the joy of knowing Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Missionary Alliance, Bible Church, and Church of Christ people who are great witness for Jesus. They don't preach a denominational distinctive, they preach Christ. A review of the church in modern history will show that Calvinists, Armenians, and many who didn't know the difference led the way in foreign missions, soul winning campaigns, and other good works for Jesus.

    The question for each of us personally, and then broader for our congregations, is this, What is the the focus or our ministry? Unless the answer is a "Who" rather than a "what" we are likely off track.

    Royce

  5. Laymond says:

    What does the future hold, I believe Jesus said it best.

    Mat 12:25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:

    Eph 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–
    Eph 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
    Eph 4:6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

    These seven Ones are indisputable. (I agree)

  6. Laymond says:

    Royce said, " they preach Christ. " what do you mean by that statement? Do you mean they preach, what Jesus preached, if so what did Jesus preach in what some call the greatest sermon ever preached?
    Did he preach "saved by grace alone" ?

  7. Anne says:

    Have you ever noticed that when we talk of unifying it is always we (those of the church of Christ) must surrender all traditions and doctrines, but those we are unifying with do not surrender anything for the sake of unity? Do they surrender their beliefs in baptism? no Do they surrender their belief in instrumental music? No.

  8. Rich W says:

    Jay,

    Checking your recommendation here:

    Are you saying it is the right thing to fully fellowship and work with the Presbyterian Church (USA) in which the pastor and other members are practicing homosexuals?

    see http://au.christiantoday.com/article/presbyterian

  9. Darin says:

    Jay,
    This is a topic near and dear to me and I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts. In many ways it sounds like the experiment we have been trying for the past six years.

    I would like to throw some additional thoughts that me be out of place but struck me while reading your thoughts. I haven’t found a lot of people outside of progressive Church of Christ people who are interested in uniting around service. It doesn’t make it wrong but I think it important to understand.

    [quote]"Families choose a congregation based on whether the congregation most closely approximates God’s will and whether the congregation is a good “fit” for themselves."[/quote]

    To be truthful I would say the good fit for them has a great deal to do with current choices.

    The other thought is uniting in service is great but as has been mentioned, what do you do when trying to do that brings people who don’t agree with the seven ones that proceed the passage? You may find yourself just as far on the outside when you try to hold to the virgin birth or a physical resurrection.

  10. Jay Guin says:

    Guy,

    I agree that not everyone would join such an effort. Our sister Churches of Christ won't. And there are others. But I think you'd be surprised how large a percentage would choose to participate.

    You ask,

    But who gets to decide which issues belong in that category? Is an issue necessarily a “third-tier issue” just because you conclude that it is? Why shouldn’t that Calvinist or that Baptist i talked about get to decide the point?

    Actually, most denominations have this figured out, because it's pretty plain —

    (Joh 3:18 ESV) 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

    And I mean by "believes in him" whatever Jesus meant.

  11. Jay Guin says:

    Alexander,

    I entirely agree that the 7 ones of Eph 4 is a proper test. I just disagree that "one baptism" means a baptism without flaws. Otherwise, "one body" would mean a church without flaws — and I've seen that tried already. It didn't turn out well. And, yes, what I propose is very similar to the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery. I think we need to stop being a denomination.

    Imprimis. We will, that this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large; for there is but one body, and one Spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling. …

    Item. We will, that preachers and people cultivate a spirit of mutual forbearance; pray more and dispute less; and while they behold the signs of the times, look up, and confidently expect that redemption draweth nigh.

    Item. We will, that our weak brethren, who may have been wishing to make the Presbytery of Springfield their king, and wot not what is now become of it, betake themselves to the Rock of Ages, and follow Jesus for the future.

    For those not familiar with the text, this is the founding document of the Restoration Movement — and was written decades before Stone taught baptism by immersion and before instrumental music became an issue. The Movement was founded to escape the division of denominationalism — and the first step is to stop acting like a denomination. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Last_Will_and_Testa

    In my view, "what caused the division" is not our disagreements over the frequency of communion and such like. It's our refusal to apply the Bible's own standards for whom to fellowship. I'm not asking us to leave the Bible. We have to return to the Bible. Romans 14 is the practical application of the seven ones of Eph 4.

  12. Jay Guin says:

    Anne,

    To be like Christ is to be like him in his self-emptying and sacrifice. It's Jesus who washed the apostle's feet. It's Jesus who gave up everything for us. And we are called to be like him.

    But no one is asking that we give up a capella music or belief in baptism — only that we recognize that those who disagree with us are saved by grace, just as we are. This is not a plea for compromising practice or beliefs. It's a plea for living as our beliefs teach us.

  13. Jay Guin says:

    Rich W —

    I have no interest in fellowshipping with a denomination. I want to work with congregations and individual Christians. I'd just as soon the national hierarchy find work more profitable to the kingdom. And not all PC(USA) churches agree with the national office — especially around here.

    Now, having said that, there's a deeper answer — which is we should treat all Christians as Christians. The question is not whether I take offense at or disagree with their views, but whether they are saved according to the inspired text. And that depends on whether —

    (Heb 10:26 ESV) 26 … we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, [because then] there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,

    Now, for some Presbyterians, they are in fact deliberately teaching contrary to the scripture because they consider their secular philosophy a higher standard than God's word. That's impenitent. But that's not true of all Presbyterians. I doubt that it's true of most.

    (1Jo 4:6 ESV) 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

  14. Bruce Morton says:

    Jay:
    I read "But no one is asking that we give up a capella music or belief in baptism — only that we recognize that those who disagree with us are saved by grace, just as we are. This is not a plea for compromising practice or beliefs. It’s a plea for living as our beliefs teach us."

    Let me apply a question to your "living as our beliefs teach us" suggestion: Does Paul's work in Ephesus become a model or no when he confronted the divisions of beliefs the earliest Christians in Roman Asia were experiencing (including baptism)? Specifically, do we avoid discussing apostolic teaching about baptism — i.e. "agree to disagree" — or instead arrange for congregations to meet to search the Scriptures together regarding apostolic teaching about baptism?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  15. Bruce Morton says:

    Jay:
    Additionally, I noted: "The job of the leaders is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (NIV: “works of service”). We must teach our members to serve or, better phrased, to work to serve. Paul will get to doctrine, but he starts with the hard work of service."

    Let me suggest that your division of "works of service" from "doctrine" seems to miss a key phrase we read regarding the apostles' work (and some of our work as well): "the ministry of the Word." How about extending your discussion of verses 11-14 to include verse 15?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  16. Royce Ogle says:

    One of the things that has kept many coc churches isolated from fellowship and work with the true Church of Christ universal is our misplaced priorities.

    We have preached our view of baptism and singing only a cappella at the expense of the gospel of Jesus. Some evidently think they are the same thing.

    Our mandate is to announce the good news about Christ and what he has done for sinners. We are to join God in the ministry of reconciliation, we are not commanded to focus on a ministry of correction of other Christians. Our history shows that we have been "correctional" rather than redemptive in our teaching.

    If you hold the view that only people with the correct view of baptism and singing are saved, say it. That is our historical position though not one shared by most of the RM founders and not by the apostles.

    If we don't love other Christians 1st John is not good news.

    Royce

  17. Rich W says:

    Jay,

    Thank you for your response. You answered the specifics of my question well. Let me ask the question a little more generically because I believe the PC(USA) is really foreshadowing things to come.

    You have very well shown from scriptures that practicing homosexuality is wrong. We are in full agreement here. What I am looking for is whether or not it is a salvation issue within progressive theology.

    I have read multiple treatises from people who state that in their interpretation, the bible does not exclude homosexual practices. They typically use such things as context, cultural situation and broad meaning of the original textual vocabulary to show the possibility that the original authors were not addressing practicing homosexuality and therefore it is wrong to assume God intended such a constraint.

    I have seen here and elsewhere time and again that grace covers interpretation errors. Therefore, according to progressive theology, this is not a salvation issue and we should openly accept and work alongside such individuals in the name of Jesus Christ.

    Is that true?

    My motivation for asking is this, although this progressive view of how to work and fellowship sounds really, really good (it does), I predict it will bring several severely negative side effects in the future.

  18. Royce Ogle says:

    Rich,

    Practicing homosexual acts is sin, And, desiring to do them in your heart is sin too. So are the following things. "sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these." This is a fairly broad indictment against sin huh?

    Do we condemn homosexual sin and condone enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, and envy? We do, even in the lives of some of our leaders and call them "Sound" because of it.

    The log in the eye applies here. It is wrong to classify some sins into a class of super sins the Bible does not. ALL sin is wrong and a Christian is capable of committing them. Precisely why we need the atonement Jesus accomplished.

    Royce

  19. Rich W says:

    Royce,

    I think you and I are in agreement. However, the issue I raise is what happens when the person sincerely believes in Jesus and believes that any particular sin in Paul's list is in reality not. It's a matter of Biblical interpretation. What if it only applied in the 1st century, the original words have a different meaning than we see in the English or whatever?

    I know our society is trying to blur the lines. I know we have perhaps historically drawn too many lines. But where does progressive theology say that enough is enough when it comes to Biblical interpretation?

  20. Royce Ogle says:

    Rich,

    It isn't that difficult. Everything in that list (and more) is sin. I doubt you'll find much disagreement in progressive churches.

    I'll wager that where you do find folks who disavow what God says about sin are also not right on the person and work of Jesus.

    I believe 1st John teaches that those who practice sinful behavior as a lifestyle are not Christians. That goes for those who hate people not like them, the sexually impure, and folks who are divisive and slanderers.

    Royce

  21. Guy says:

    Royce,

    "Practicing homosexual acts is sin,"

    Perhaps that is just your interpretation.

    –Guy

  22. Royce Ogle says:

    Guy,

    I believe that would fall under the category "sexual immorality". Of course "sexual immorality" is much more than homosexual acts.

    I'm not sure why we tend to make some sins more sinful than others in our speech and practice. We give people who cause divisions in the church a pass and condemn others who worship differently than we do.

    Royce

  23. Guy says:

    Royce,

    i believe it falls into that category as well. But that's not the point Rich is making. The mere fact that you state it, and the mere fact that both you and i believe it–that does nothing to demonstrate that it's not merely our interpretation. There are people who interpret that "sexual immorality" category different than you and i. In fact, there are entire denominations which openly accept monogamous homosexuality as morally permissible, and they actually deal with the texts. How then does this matter of recognizing the difference between God's word and my interpretation apply to such a situation?

    –Guy

  24. Royce Ogle says:

    Guy, I'm sorry, I just don't get your point.

    Rich was hinting that there is no place to draw the line in who we decide to recognize as followers of Jesus. That was the whole point.

    Contrary to popular culture, there is absolute truth. What is and is not sinful is not difficult to discover, it is clearly stated in the Scriptures.

    The point I was making, and maybe did a poor job of it, is that first we can't find anyone still alive without sin to work and fellowship with. If we say we have no sin we are liars. Then I tried to point out that we avoid, not only those who practice and approve sexual immorality but those who habitually practice and approve other sins as well.

    There are people in our churches just as lost as those across town we are quick to condemn. That was my point.

    Royce

  25. JMF says:

    Guy/Rich W/Royce:

    To me it seems we are beating around the bush. The question seems to be, "Will we fellowship with homosexuals?"

    Again, I see the idea that we either fellowship gays or we fence ourselves off like we did in the 20th Century as a false dichotomy.

    Imperfect as we are, our fellowship lines will never be perfect. Know what, though? I say err to the side of unity…sure, we'll make some mistakes. But I'd rather fellowship 20 sinners as to not fellowshipping 1 saved person.

    I *think* I understand Jay's point, and it is making sense to me: we've tried to wait until we had made everyone doctrinally perfect before we'd fellowship them. And we are dying a slow death.

    Instead, let's start by fellowshipping ALL Christians — even if we have doctrinal differences — and let's go be the mission, together. And as we work together, allow the Spirit to work within us and bring us to the truth.

    That makes logical and spiritual sense to me.

  26. Jay Guin says:

    Bruce,

    You suggest that "congregations" meet to study baptism. I think you mean that the leadership should meet to study baptism. And while I'd study with anyone who wants to study, that's not an effective approach. If you doubt me, try it and see how far you get. It is, ultimately, the ecumenical approach I rejected at the beginning of this series.

    There are lots of things I would disagree with a Baptist or Methodist about. The point is that those disagreements should not prevent a functional unity. Right now. And unity will ultimately lead to a better understanding of the positions of each side by the other side. But the idea is to unite now, because if we wait until we agree on everything that we feel strongly about, we'll still be talking about it another 500 years from now.

  27. Jay Guin says:

    Bruce,

    (Eph 4:15 ESV) Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

    The "truth" is the gospel, as I covered in detail in this series: http://oneinjesus.info/index-under-construction/t… This is clear in the context of Ephesians, too —

    (Eph 1:13 ESV) In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,

    (Eph 4:20-21 ESV) 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!– 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,

    Therefore, "speaking the truth in love" is a reference to teaching the gospel. And we don't disagree with the other churches in town about the gospel.

  28. Bruce Morton says:

    Jay:
    So… does "the truth" also include all that is in Ephesians 4:17-5:21, for example, or is some of Paul's teaching in that text excluded from "the truth?"

    Also, how about dispensing with the distinction you made between "ministry" as service and the ministry of the Word. Okay?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  29. Bruce Morton says:

    Jay:
    I said what I meant. It would do congregations good to watch leaders chat and learn from each other. Your "functional unity" seems to ignore one of the most important needs of our time: a unity of understanding — which Paul was urging in Ephesians. Correct?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  30. Royce Ogle says:

    If "unity" means that all Christians agree about everything there is no hope for unity and never has been. However, if "unity" means the union we have in Christ and by that union, with each other, then certainly believers should have unity. We are to maintain unity, not make unity. We are already united in Christ, as we mature we are to act like it.

    Royce

  31. Bruce Morton says:

    Royce:
    I think you were directing the following at me: "If you hold the view that only people with the correct view of baptism and singing are saved, say it. That is our historical position though not one shared by most of the RM founders and not by the apostles." And I think you have added to the point with the above post. So, glad to wade in a bit.

    I hope you know that i will be overjoyed if the Lord folds into His presence all who pour, sprinkle, dip, and immerse. However, I also believe the risen Lord has spoken clearly regarding baptism into Him. We are acting with dishonor toward Him to not believe and share His Word with others regarding immersion as an act of God's grace — and acting on Titus 3:4-7, for example.

    Are such folks friends of mine. Yes, and I love them and we think together — and they tell me they welcome it. And in many instances I see people moving to common belief in our day (folks are listening to the Word from what i can tell).

    Should we get together with Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, and Catholic congregations on a Friday or Saturday and talk together, think together. read Scripture together? Absolutely. Should we act like all is fine relative to "imperfect baptism" (as Jay puts it)? No. That is where I believe some brothers and sisters are 1) typically affirming apostolic teaching about baptism and at the same time 2) choosing to act like melting pot America sets the standard for viewing apostolic teaching.

    Ephesus was just as much a religious melting pot as the U.S. Paul's forcible teaching in Ephesians and 1 and 2 Timothy reveals that the word "church" does not necessarily protect folks from Satan's efforts to confuse beliefs. When "unity" becomes no more than "American popular religion," we reveal that we walk the same path as Christians who gave away apostolic teaching and allowed it to get mingled with the Asian mystery religions in earliest Christianity.

    I will be glad to wade in to Christian music with you later, but for now will leave you with the writing I sent.

    Hope this clarifies.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  32. Royce Ogle says:

    Bruce, to be clear, you do believe that only those who have been baptized in the way you understand baptism are saved. Is that a fair representation of your position?

    We are to baptize those who become disciples, we are commanded to do so. However, I don't know where you find that water baptism is a means of grace, that it is efficacious. In your book you cite some men who agree with your view of water baptism and cite some verses that you agree on. You must know that there is a long list of well known, highly respected scholars who disagree with your position.

    In my view the sufficiency of Jesus is called into question if reconciliation depends on His finished work and …..??. Around 90 times the N T mentions salvation by faith in one form or another. They compliment direct statements of Jesus like " "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

    I think we should emphasize what the Bible emphasizes. Sorry, I have big problem with anyone who talks more about baptism and singing than about Jesus and the gospel.

    Royce

  33. abasnar says:

    However, I don’t know where you find that water baptism is a means of grace, that it is efficacious.

    I am tempted to answer (and I'll do it): I can't see how any one can't see that baptism is the outward act of receiving God's grace of regeneration.

    But when I write such a self-confident statement, I must admit, that I have been blind to the connection of baptism and salvation for about 20 years myself before I – very reluctantly at first – had to admit: Yes, that's what the scriptures teach.

    So if you don't see it yet or anymore – maybe something is blurring your eyes …

    You must know that there is a long list of well known, highly respected scholars who disagree with your position.

    Sounds a bit intimidating. Luther (with whom I disagree on a number of issues) was bold enough to stand up for a reformation, even though the vast majority of renowned scholars disagreed with him.

    I stood on the wrong side myself, I sided with "the majority" of Protestant Theologians.

    But still there is an even larger majority (if you take into consideration the Catholics or Eastern Orthodox churches) who believe that baptism is effecting grace. Unfortunately they believe it so much that they say faith is not even necessary and they apply it to children. But the basic understanding that baptism is a means of Grace – a scrament – goes back to churches of Christ in the 1st century. It was the Swiss Reformation who took away salvation from baptism … and basically all Evangelical have adopted the Swiss understanding of baptism.

    I think we should emphasize what the Bible emphasizes.

    Exactly – so why shall we accept a teaching that dimishes the meaning of baptism?

    Sorry, I have big problem with anyone who talks more about baptism and singing than about Jesus and the gospel.

    And I have a problem with anyone who cuts out a part of the Gospel – baptism is for the remission of sins. If you don't like it: HOW ELSE will you receive the promise?

    So, you obviously would have a big problem with me and vice versa. If that's how we start a conversation on unity – grand! Not very promising.

    I cannot see any sense in any effort for unity if we decide beforehand that the Methodists may keep their infant-baptism, the Presbyterians their Calvinistic Teachings … and the "Church of Christers" shall better not raise the issue of baptism. That's not striving for untiy, that's doing everything to keep the divisions alive.

    Lets skip the issue of IM, but I will never give in to a compromise on baptism. This is a dangerous thing to do, because it is so closely tied to salvation, that compromising here might eventually endanger many a soul! Not that God is unable to be gracious to unbaptized persons, but He did tie His promise to faith AND baptism. So we must not even think of teaching otherwise, and leave gracious exceptions only to Him.

    So, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians who only have infant sprinkling in fact lack a very important condistion for salvation. When we sit together and talk about unity, we must not be silent on this. For the sake of their souls, brother!

    If “unity” means that all Christians agree about everything there is no hope for unity and never has been. However, if “unity” means the union we have in Christ and by that union, with each other, then certainly believers should have unity. We are to maintain unity, not make unity.

    We don't have to agree on everything, but having "olny Christ" is not enough either. Eph 4:4-6 list 7 Ones that are indisputable – one of them is baptism.

    To say today – seeing all the divisions – "We are to maintain unity" is grotesque! This unity has not been maintained, so it needs to be restored. The church is broken into thousands of pieces and needs to be glued together again. So we cannot "maintain" unity, we cannot say: "You're a Baptist? That's great!" To say this would sanctify the divisions, that God calls a sin.

    Think about it … Baptism is no minor issue. It's the question where Christians are most divided. It is a very good starting point for restoring unity.

    Alexander

  34. Royce Ogle says:

    Why not be consistent in your line of reasoning and treat communion in the same way you are baptism? The churches you refer to believe we receive Christ in Holy Communion as we eat the bread.

    I didn't say "maintain unity" first, Paul did. (Eph 4:3) "Grotesque!"? What an utterly odd conclusion.

    Christians are more divided on the person and work of Jesus and his sufficiency for sinners than on baptism.

    As for divisions…. Wake up fellow! Among people who supposedly have baptism perfectly right and and at the forefront of all they teach…have you not noticed the divisions even among them? One group takes out a full page ad in a newspaper to condemn how others worship. Our history is one of fussing and fighting name calling and one group condemning the other to hell. Maybe you should open your eyes to the splits, fractions and factions, name calling, slander, and lying by US. Is it OK as long as you are right on baptism? Give me a break!

    Rail against the Baptists and others and pretend the coc is in perfect unity if you wish. Fantasy Island must be a nice place to live.

    Royce

  35. Anne says:

    So the most unified is the most right?

    "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn " 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law –
    a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' Matt 10:34-35.

    So how does this verse fit it to the whole unity picture?

  36. Guy says:

    People can sure be unpleasant and unkind to each other here at "one in Jesus."

    if anyone feels i've ever spoken to them in an unkind manner here, i'm really sorry and beg their forgiveness.

    –Guy

  37. abasnar says:

    Dear Royce:

    Why not be consistent in your line of reasoning and treat communion in the same way you are baptism? The churches you refer to believe we receive Christ in Holy Communion as we eat the bread.

    Of course that is a valid question. To some extend I do really believe what you quoted. I think the reformed view of the Lord's Supper (along with its practice in all conventional churches) falls far short from the original meaning.

    But baptism is one the 7 Ones in Eph 4:4-6, and that's why I give this issue a higher priority – not neglecting, that there is far more to restore than Alexander Campbell ever dreamed of …

    I didn’t say “maintain unity” first, Paul did. (Eph 4:3) “Grotesque!”? What an utterly odd conclusion.

    I know what you said, Royce. But this statement was from the year ca. 60 AD, but now we are in the year 2010 and several thousand divisions down the road.

    You cannot "maintain" unity, when unity has been destroyed already. That's my point – the unity in Eph 4 is more than just the spiritual unity in Christ, because Paul speaks of "One Body" and of shepherds and teachers, so he is referring to a visible unity.

    That's why I said: "Maintaining" unity in a situation like that is grotesque – we are called to restore unity.

    As for divisions…. Wake up fellow! Among people who supposedly have baptism perfectly right and and at the forefront of all they teach…have you not noticed the divisions even among them?

    Of course – where did I give you the impression that I justified them? The way progressives speak about conservatives and vice versa is sometimes terrifying. No, that is not good in the least.

    So certainly we should try to reunite the Restoration Movement first – and then you will see how easy it is to achieve unity … I strongly recommend everyone to read Barton Stone's (and other's) Last Will and Testament. What I like about the early Restorationists: They started out as Infant-Baptists, but they were willing to go deeper into the Bible and to rethink what they have believed all the past years.

    Some reasons for the schisms:
    a) Some gave up digging and searching the scripture in the mistaken opinion the restoration has already been completed in the 1800s.
    b) Some stressed Unity and compromised Scripture – the Disciples of Christ became an ecumenical and liberal church
    c) Some try to change things, but more on a pragmatic level – also sometimes ignoring the Scriptures and church history.
    c) General superficiality

    There might be many more reasons beside these … Non of them are good reasons. All cry out for repentence!

    Give me a break!

    Rail against the Baptists and others and pretend the coc is in perfect unity if you wish. Fantasy Island must be a nice place to live.

    I have the funny feeling that you don't really understand what I am trying to communicate. Have I ever railed agains the Baptists?
    If you call my statemnet, that being a Baptist is not praiseworthy (because it is a schismatic label), you obviously did not get the point.

    The point is: As long as we accept denominations (and act like one ourselves) we are opposing the unity of Christ' Body. As long as we are satisfied with mere cooperation on an informal level, we are sanctifying the divisions.

    If we really mean unity, let ALL denominations die to themselves. Anything less than that is feeding the party spirit.

    Now you may have your break. It is well deserved. 😉

    Alexander

  38. JMF says:

    Anne–

    If you go into verses 36-39 (Matt. 10:36-39), you'll see that he is talking about people that would deny Him (not have faith), and people that won't pick up their cross and follow Him (be penitent).

  39. JMF says:

    Why is there so much resistance to working together?

    I don't gather that Jay (or anyone else) is proposing that we lay down and give up what makes us unique. Nor do I think anyone is saying that we'll cease discussing and patterning ourselves in the most Christ-like ways possible (whether "we" are right, or "they" are).

    All I am getting from this is that Jay is proposing we get off of our fat rear-ends and start serving with our neighboring churches.

    Right now, we work with a couple other COC's in a 20 mile radius (in a decent sized city). We try and make a positive affect, but it is like trying to kill an elephant with a BB gun. We feel good trying, but we are obscenely ineffective.

    So, why not work with 5 other churches in a 5 block radius? Let's work together and make our 2 sq. mile area be the best it can possibly be. Let's eliminate homelessness in a 2 sq. mile area. Let's make sure everyone in that 2 miles is always fed. Let's make sure single moms get daycare. Let's have tons of resources so that marriages can be strong. Let's make sure financial advice is easy to attain.

    Do we have to reject baptism to make this happen? NO. Do we quit teaching baptism? NO. And maybe the Spirit works within our group of churches so that ALL of us come to some better truths.

    This is a viable proposal.

    Tom Forrester's posts on prison/fox hole relationships is profound. We should be thinking in those terms.

  40. Anne says:

    @JMF if you go back to the beginning of the chapter Jesus is talking to the disciples that he about to send out and that they are not going to find things easy. And in fact, that they are going to "stir up" trouble.
    I'm not trying to use this verse as an example that we should not agreeable with each other, but am just wondering if today we do not take too much stock in just getting along with everyone. I wonder if we are too afraid of appearing to be disagreeable for standing up for principles. We preach to our kids not to give in to peer pressure, but I think we forget that adults need that same lesson. I don't know this may not even be what Jay is getting at in these unity discussions, I''m just pondering a few things and haven't quite digested all my thoughts on this subject.

  41. JMF says:

    Anne–

    Good thoughts. But as far as us moving towards "getting along with everyone", well, I'd say we showed in the 20th Century that that wasn't our goal! I think we've (as well as many, many others) have gone the route of "disagreeable."

    I mean, Randall just made a really interesting post about John Calvin, and how he supported killing heretics. We know about the Crusades, etc…20th Century COC seems quite loving compared to those events.

    So, indoctrination hasn't worked…why not try love?

  42. Jay Guin says:

    Bruce,

    I've referred you to a series of posts that considers the use of "truth" throughout the New Testament. "Truth" means the truth that is the gospel. It is particularly the truth revealed in Jesus. It is most definitely not any true thing found in the New Testament. I have also cited to you passages in Ephesians itself that make this entirely clear.

    One of the most serious exegetical errors found in the conservative Churches of Christ is dumping all sorts of doctrine into "truth" as used in the New Testament — with the result that all sorts of doctrines become "gospel" and therefore salvation issues.

    That doesn't mean, of course, that nothing is true other than the gospel. It does mean that when Paul speaks of the "truth," he is speaking of the gospel. Now, notice —

    (Eph 4:15 ESV) 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

    Notice how the "work of service" leads to speaking the gospel, that is, evangelism. And this is, of course, the very essence of missional thought.

    Finally, some translations make a mistake, I think, to translate ????????? as "ministry," because to modern ears, that sounds like a church program. The word means service, especially under the instructions of someone in higher authority. The "work of service" simply means serving God by serving others.

  43. Jay Guin says:

    Bruce,

    Paul doesn't urge a "unity of understanding" in Eph 4 in so many words, but he does urge unity of the 7 ones. And he declares that if the leaders will equip the members for the "work of service," the result will be "unity of the faith" — that is, unity of those who have faith in Jesus.

    He further declares that this will result in "unity … of the knowledge of the Son of God." But this is knowledge of the Son, not knowledge of systematic theology. Paul's emphasis is on our relationship with Jesus and our understanding of him and the gospel. He is not focused on doctrine in general. Rather, his focus is narrowly and precisely on Jesus.

    And this, he goes on to say, will defeat being tossed to and fro by winds of doctrine. This is accomplished by growing up into the head, that is, Christ. Again, the focus is on Jesus. He doesn't say we'll no longer disagree over doctrine at all but that we'll no longer be "tossed about" as in a storm by doctrinal disagreements.

    You see, if we'll stay focused on Jesus, faith, and the gospel, the doctrinal disagreements won't tear us up or divide us. A dispute over something like, say, instrumental music won't create storms and waves, because we'll see that instrumental music is not a faith in Jesus/knowledge of Jesus question. It's not about the gospel.

    Paul wisely informs us that it's as simple as getting busy serving others and allowing faith to be the glue that unites us. It's a good plan.

  44. Jay Guin says:

    Anne,

    JMF is exactly right. Jesus isn't saying that Christians should be divided as though at war. Jesus promises peace to his church. He is speaking of the spiritual warfare that separates those with faith from the enemies of God.

    (Luk 2:13-14 ESV) 3 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"

  45. Bruce Morton says:

    Royce:
    You wrote, "Bruce, to be clear, you do believe that only those who have been baptized in the way you understand baptism are saved. Is that a fair representation of your position?" To answer: no.

    1) I do believe the apostles taught that baptism is by immersion, and is a washing away of sin as we participate in Jesus' death and resurrection — the work of God. Baptism is not our work; it is God's. And that is wonderful!
    2) I do not know that God will save those who have experienced "imperfect baptism." That is different from saying they are not saved. I cannot and do not know. Neither you nor I nor Jay nor anyone else on the planet should announce that people who experience "imperfect baptism" ARE saved or act as if they are. When we do so we express teaching and conclusions that extend beyond the Word of the risen Lord.

    I realize that it is not a position "Progressives" want to take because the strong current in postmodern America is to put away the differences, everyone get along, go to the church of your choice, etc. Ephesians should wake up all. Why does Paul talk about baptism! in Ephesians? Why didn't he just "get along" in Roman Asia? If we will take just a little time to let Ephesians soak in, it will inform us that melting pot America is in trouble. We are being spiritually deceived in the same way as were the earliest Christians in Ephesus and the region.

    Please take some time to compare Ephesians 5:26 and Titus 3:4-7. Also, you may want to see what Jay has written regarding Titus 3:4-7; He is on target. Finally, I will point you to Romans 6:1ff.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  46. Royce Ogle says:

    Thank you Jay. Your statements are true and concise and need to be said.

    The "gospel" is quite narrow and is only about Jesus Christ and what he has accomplished for sinners to bring them to God.

    Both baptism and the Lord's Supper are telling the story of the gospel in different ways and both look to a risen Lord who will come again. The whole of Scripture, OT and NT points to Christ alone as the only way to God.

    God only accepts people on the basis of what Jesus death, burial, and resurrection accomplished. God will never accept anyone based on what church they attend, if they do or do not use instruments in worship, how often they have the Lord's Supper, how many songs they sing, if they have no song leader, one, or more than one, and on and on….

    Jay, teaching the grace of God in Christ Jesus sometimes seems like a thankless task. But, reading some of your comments and comments on other blogs, at least a few are getting the message loud and clear. Keep preaching Christ.

    Royce

  47. Bruce Morton says:

    Jay:
    Certainly, Christ is at the center; that is not the issue. The aspect that seems to elude some "Progressives" at present is that a good bit of doctrine ripples out from the center as the Word of the risen Lord and should not be separated from the center, so to speak. Christ is speaking in Ephesians 4:17-5:21 and some of what is there is not what "Progressives" would consider "core" stuff. Hence my (rhetorical) question.

    Also, let me suggest that your comment to Anne ignores Paul's words to the Ephesian elders. Are not some of the enemies of God within the church — at any given time?

    In Christ
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  48. Bruce Morton says:

    Royce:
    How come I never get a "thanks" when I point to apostolic teaching (that Jay agrees with)? 🙂 Hmmm. Chuckle.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  49. Bruce Morton says:

    Jay:
    Briefly, let me try this again: Does not "serving others" also encompass the action of teaching others (i.e. "ministry of the Word")? Isn't that what Acts is showing us? Both are ministries — "serving tables" and "serving the Word." Correct? Specifically, seems to me that the actions of the apostles dissolve the distinction you are seeking to make regarding "ministry."

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  50. Royce Ogle says:

    Bruce,

    If it is doubtful, or questionable that God will save someone with "an imperfect" baptism. (I assume yours is "perfect") will he save someone with imperfect worship? How about imperfect obedience? How about being in an imperfect church?

    I will not change your mind and you will not change mine. Maybe I'm wrong, but I believe you think a person has a legal right to become a child of God if they do steps 1.2.3.4.5.6.

    Is everyone we immerse saved? The only sensible answer is "no". Why not? Because they did not have faith in Jesus is the correct answer. Baptism is not faith, it expresses faith. John's baptism was not repentance, it expressed repentance.

    There is no need here to repeat many of those verses Jay has posted that promise one who has faith in Jesus will be saved. I think about 90 times just in the New Testament the truth is hammered home. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'll err trusting Christ alone for my salvation.

    I'm done…

    Royce

  51. Jay Guin says:

    Bruce,

    If it's view that all NT teaching is core, then all NT teaching is as important to salvation as faith in Jesus. And that's wrong at many, many levels — including the fact that we can all achieve a measure of faith but we can't all be in perfect obedience. Perhaps I misunderstand you — and I pray I do — but you sure seem to be saying that everything is of equal importance to our salvation.

    I assume the passage you refer to regarding Anne is —

    (Act 20:29-30 ESV) 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

    That hardly contradicts the idea that, as I wrote to Anne,

    Jesus isn’t saying that Christians should be divided as though at war. Jesus promises peace to his church. He is speaking of the spiritual warfare that separates those with faith from the enemies of God.

    Yes, people within the church can fall away and become enemies of God. But when that happens, they are no longers brothers and sisters in Christ. Notice, though, that Paul isn't speak of mere differences of opinion re how often to take communion. He speaks of God's enemies as "fiece" and speaking "twisted" things. The word translated "twisted" carries the connotation of distorted or even deliberately deceptive.

    Now, we really have to learn to tell the difference between brothers and sisters in Christ and enemies of God. It should be obvious from many passages that unity of brothers and sisters is commanded – including the seven ones of Eph 4. To suggest that God expects and wants us to fall out fighting with brothers and sisters contradicts Jesus' teaching —

    (Mat 12:25 ESV) Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand."

    And there's a difference between disagreeing and being divided. You see, the person who insists on separating himself is the divider.

  52. Jay Guin says:

    Bruce,

    I certainly agree that evangelism is every bit as important as benevolence. Both are acts of love. But I was trying to explain the meaning of a portion of Eph 4 — and Paul tells us to equip for service, to serve, and then to be "speaking the truth in love." Speaking the truth is to speak the gospel. Hence, Paul says do the gospel and then speak the gospel.

    I don't take that to be an absolute rule. We see plenty of examples in Acts where the gospel was spoken first. But it's plainly great wisdom for how church leadership should lead — and I think the words remain true today. We have no credibility to teach the lost about Jesus if we don't first live for Jesus. Evangelism is essential — but not enough.

  53. Bruce Morton says:

    Royce:
    I hope you see that the reason baptism has such an energetic discussion is that it is where we participate in Jesus' death and resurrection — rising to walk a new life.

    As to doubtful or questionable salvation (it is not a case of doubtful — I do not know): I have friends who are Roman Catholic. It is not as if I am indifferent or uninvolved. But should I tell them, "yes, your sprinkling is fine" when I do not know that to be true (And yes, certainly I want the grace of God to save Roman Catholicism). How can either you or I say such a thing when baptism was intended by the risen Lord to be an immersion. That doctrine is clear from apostolic teaching. So, I teach what I know and not what I do not know.

    And I will leave to the Lord and to the hearts of those who are immersed into Christ whether their faith and repentance is real.

    Royce, when I read your announcing what I believe…. You misrepresent my beliefs and my heart. Not the most pleasant experience I have had today.

    As for imperfect worship, obedience, or church, let me suggest that the risen Lord's words to the seven churches of Asia provide crucial messages; they announce that not every group of people who wear the name "church" are honoring Christ — a remarkable statement that His grace has limits. Hence the reason to meditate on His Word and He will bless and guide us as we do.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  54. abasnar says:

    Well said, Bruce.

    A few more thoughts. Maybe it helps Royce to understand what we mean a little better.

    One cannot claim God's promise without meeting God's conditions.

    This is a very simple and true statement.

    God can extend His mercy and grace even when we don't meet the conditions for His promise.

    This statement is equally true.

    So how shall we deal with these statements in "ecumenical" conversations?
    a) We cannot erase God's condiotions for His promise – hence we have to teach and communicate them.
    b) We cannot claim God's mercy and grace outside the conditions He set forth.

    So we cannot say that God will accept unbaptized persons anyway as long as they have faith in Christ. Because faith is not the only thing required by the Lord.

    We cannot say that God will accept adulterers and covetous persons anyway as long as they have faith in Christ (and are even baptized), either. Becuse faith (and baptism) are not the only conditions to be met.

    The first group of people are not really added to Christ's church yet (1Co 12:13) and the second group should be put out of the church if they don't repent (Mt 18:15-20).

    So, concerning unity: There is no full unity among Christians from different denominations as long as they do not meet the conditions for salvation and fellowship with Christ. And if thers is no unity we should not pretend there is, but try to bring us and them closer to Christ. I am sure it is God's desire to lead unbaptized believers to baptism and fullunion with Christ's church – so those who (in this area) have more knowledge should teach the others as well as be taught by others who have a better insight on other things (Pattern: Prisca and Aquila in Acts 18:26).

    Please note: It is not about being of the same opinion in every theological detail (you don't have that in any church), but about the 7 Ones of Eph 4:4-6. The rest is a matter of learning and growing together in unity (Eph 4:13).

    Just to list a few issues that fall under "the rest"
    – The understanding of the trinity
    – Eschatology
    – Predestination and free will
    – Assurance of salvation

    Although we sometimes debate these issues zealously, these may not be divisive. We still love and respect one another as brothers, and understanding (e.g.) the trinity does not make you a better Christian at all. As well as having assurance of salvation does not mean you will be saved in the end (you might fall away from CHrist some day, and Christ might not hold to the doctrine of unconditional eternal security …). This does not mean there is no right or wring in these topics, but it is not that easy to find that out. We have to grow and learn together – and thus it is necessary to forsake our denominational creeds and boundaries in order to become open to God's truth.

    Alexander

  55. Royce Ogle says:

    It is interesting that in these discussions the churches of Christ are most always the standard, we alone are right and everyone else is wrong. Do you really believe that every member of every church of Christ is saved, just because they have hit all 5 (or 6) bases? Is God obligated to justify every person we baptize?

    I don't see much difference in the Galatians heresy and those today who add to the gospel and tell everyone else they are going to hell if they don't meet their conditions.

    Gal 1:6-9, Gal 5:2-6 Paul condemns those who add to the gospel, who preach "another gospel" which is really not another but a false gospel.

    You see, a church of Christ in north Alabama has a set of conditions one must meet to become a Christian, but a church in Tenn. has a different set of rules that are essential, and in Texas a church has a different set of rules. When you ask a legalist who is right? The answer is "I am", even though they aren't that up front about it

    There are men in our coc whose whole history is slander, lies about good men, division, and generally causing trouble everywhere they go, and yet their fans applaud them and think they are great men of God. The Bible evidence says they are lost.

    There will always be with us and in our churches tares with the wheat, boasters, proud of their self-righteousness, whose main focus in life is condemnation of other people who claim Christ as Lord.

    Wickedness is not only confined to the coc, every brand has them. I'm only making the point that we should not use our group as the standard for everyone to follow. Its too fractured, to complicated, too far from being what God intends to point to it as the model that everyone else should comply with.

    Abasnar ended his comment with this, "thus it is necessary to forsake our denominational creeds and boundaries in order to become open to God’s truth". I agree, and it applies to us too.

    Royce

  56. abasnar says:

    Abasnar ended his comment with this, “thus it is necessary to forsake our denominational creeds and boundaries in order to become open to God’s truth”. I agree, and it applies to us too.

    That's what I have said repeatedly, Royce. I never excluded "US" from the necessary steps closer to Christ.

    Alexander

  57. Laymond says:

    Amen Alexander.
    Royce said, "You see, a church of Christ in north Alabama has a set of conditions one must meet to become a Christian, but a church in Tenn. has a different set of rules that are essential, and in Texas a church has a different set of rules"

    Royce when I was baptized, if I remember correctly, and I do, I was asked one question. "Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God?" I was baptized in one of those Texas churches that get the rules from the bible,
    You are absolutely right when you say there is no salvation without Jesus, and the word of God which he brought to man. If you do not believe and have faith in Jesus, it is impossible to believe and trust in the gospel he preached. So that makes Jesus the foundation of salvation right there. First we must believe in Jesus, but that is not the be all end all, then we can believe in the word he brought.
    Luk 6:46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

    All who confess Jesus as the "Son of God" will not automatically be saved.
    Mat 7:14 Because strait [is] the gate, and narrow [is] the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
    Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

    I believe Jesus taught we have to put forth effort as well.

  58. Bruce Morton says:

    Royce:
    Do you notice that in an effort to dismiss immersion baptism as grace and an expression of truth you seem to unceasingly 'bash' churches of Christ as a group? Perhaps you can explain to me sometime how we get in the crosshairs of your writing… but everyone else is fine?! It would seem that everyone is fine… including churches of Christ, if the standard of "grace" I hear expressed here is extended to all — even grace toward supposed legalists. From what I have seen legalism has found its way into some (many) Roman Catholic congregations as well. So, are you okay with that, but ready to bash churches of Christ for what you see as theirs (ours)?

    Is it okay for churches of Christ to have a clear understanding of baptism? Seems to me that is good, not evil — provided we focus on Christ and realize that it is His Word that guides and His grace that saves, not our guiding and saving ourselves.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  59. Royce Ogle says:

    I oppose legalism, rule keeping, and self righteousness anywhere it supplants salvation by faith in Christ alone.

    I oppose the idea that "we" (coc) have everything right and every other group is wrong. It just is not factually true.

    The church catholic (universal body of Christ) is far different from the sum total of the churches of Christ.

    If you will bother to take an objective look at our group, are we seen as people who preach Christ and love others. Or, are we seen as mean spirited, sectarian, and focus more in singing than on the Saviour?

    It is flawed thinking to hold our denomination up as the be all end all of a model for Christianity.

    Thank God, people are learning about God's grace and many are becoming known for their love but the perception from the outside is not good in most cases.

    BTW I am for baptism. God commands it and we must be baptized and baptize those who respond to the gospel. I just don't believe as you apparently do that immersion is of equal importance to the gospel. Immersion is "one" response to the gospel, it is not the gospel. All of those many, many statements of Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John that promise those who truly believe on Christ will be justified, given eternal life, and resurrection are still true without qualification as Jay has repeatedly said.

    Bruce, you repeatedly use the term "the risen Lord" in reference to doctrine or teaching. Do you think he taught one set of truths before his crucifixion and different, even opposite truths after his resurrection?

    God has always saved people the same exact way. Those who take him at his word (faith) he counts righteous. That has never changed. Romans 4 is very clear. Abraham's example is not for him alone but for all who come to the Lord in faith after him.

    I would be curious to know exactly what some of you believe Christ's atonement accomplished. It seems obvious to me that at least some folks do not believe it was quite enough to take care of everything that needed to be done to appease an angry God, offended by sin.

    Royce

  60. Laymond says:

    Well Bruce, I haven't seen where Royce has called us "waterdogs" yet as some calvinest do. 🙂

  61. Anonymous says:

    Many people attending the COC and other denominations go to a preacher to be baptized believing that they can get salvation by being baptized, they are attempting to earn their salvation through performing a good work. God’s grace is Jesus coming from heaven to earth to die a cruel death to save sinners, no man who doesn‘t have God in their life can do what Jesus did, He rose from the dead! God’s grace gives us mercy upon Jesus’ work and worth, that is, through His sinless life and sacrificial death that paid the penalty of our sins, He bore ALL of our sins taking them away by His holy shed blood. That, my friend, is a price we can never pay. If you want to believe when you were baptized that you suffered as Jesus did on the cross, that you gave as much as God did…I’m sorry but I really do not believe that. I don’t believe you knew all of the sins you have done and would do. And you can never out give what God has given us!!

    You really don’t believe being baptized got you salvation since you really didn’t earn it at that moment but have to keep earning through other good works, if you don’t do enough good works to gain salvation even though you were baptized you are still going to be damned. How many good works is it we have to do to get to heaven, please tell us…this is a life or death answer people need to know!

  62. Laymond says:

    Royce said;
    "I would be curious to know exactly what some of you believe Christ’s atonement accomplished. It seems obvious to me that at least some folks do not believe it was quite enough to take care of everything that needed to be done to appease an angry God, offended by sin"

    Royce this is exactly what we get into, when we say Jesus is God. Jesus "the son/servant" of "God the Father" did everything that was asked of him, therefore he earned the right to be sitting where he is.
    Now we have to earn the right to be sitting next to Jesus in God's Kingdom.
    How did Jesus earn the right to be where he is? by obeying God.
    How are we to earn the right to be with Jesus where he is ? by obeying Jesus.
    Luk 6:46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

    Yes I believe there is a different standard that applies to us than did to Jesus, God set the standards for Jesus, Jesus earned the right to set the standards for man to achieve, which are not pleasing to God, as we see in scripture we do not live a sinless life, that is why we need a mediator, someone to speak for us. That someone is Jesus, the Son. Jesus blood on the cross bought us sins and all, and it also gave him the right to set the rules, and the power of judgment for mankind. No Jesus is not "God" but he sits next to him.
    And if we please Jesus we can sit next to him. Jesus death and resurrection did not take away man's sin, it gave Jesus the right to be judge, and he will do so on the last day.

  63. Bruce Morton says:

    Royce (and Jay, et.al):
    I am not convinced that all churches of Christ "have everything right" or that I "have everything right." But I have no doubt that what we have taught concerning baptism is indeed what the risen Lord has spoken. In immersion baptism God washes away our sins — as an action of His grace.

    Let me suggest something for consideration. I suspect that much of the feeling of "sectarian" by many in North America toward churches of Christ is associated with the very thing we are vigorously discussing. Since what churches of Christ and Independent Christian churches have taught about baptism is different from the larger group of believers in Jesus, we are judged "sectarian." And so the Progressive movement takes hold… so that churches of Christ move from being "sectarian." Everyone can agree with us… because we have embraced Evangelical theology or we keep believing what we have believed, but we keep it to ourselves — no need to discuss with other congregations. Voila, no more "sectarian."

    But the religious issue and trend in melting-pot America is broader than churches of Christ and broader than immersion baptism. The situation is similar to Protestants teaching that Mary should not be worshipped as the Queen of Heaven. The much larger group of Roman Catholics typically judge such Protestants to be "sectarian" and misguided at that point.

    So, what is "sectarian?" Simple answer from church history: a smaller group that teaches something different from the larger group.

    So, in the same way as "Progressive" churches of Christ have sought to address the label of "sectarian" in North America, some Protestants have decided to cease being "sectarian" by participating in the Rosary… as the first step toward crowning Mary as Queen of Heaven. Some Episcopalian and Methodist congregations appear to be leading the way at this point. So, is everyone in favor of our ceasing to be "sectarian" as the Vatican sees it?

    And to add, consider the kind Waldensians as medieval "restorers." They were killed for being "sectarian." Interestingly, much of their writing sounds like what you would find in the American Restoration Movement.

    As one voice, I am not convinced that "sectarian" is necessarily an evil term. What?! Did I say that in the early twenty-first century religious melting pot of America?! To confirm, I have decided to continue teaching that baptism is an action of God's grace (Romans 6:1ff.). Probably because I am mean-spirited, right?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  64. Bruce Morton says:

    Anonymous:
    Please understand that Scripture does not announce that "the preacher" must baptize. Who does the baptizing is unimportant — because spiritually it is God who is working (cf. Titus 3:4-7). I hope you will consider.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  65. Anonymous says:

    When did I say that?? I merely stated: Many people attending the COC and other denominations go to a preacher to be baptized believing that they can get salvation by being baptized.

    And why are you avoiding the question at the end of my comment?

  66. Bruce Morton says:

    Anonymous:
    Let me tackle your question now (glad to do). You asked, "How many good works is it we have to do to get to heaven, please tell us…this is a life or death answer people need to know!"

    I believe Ephesians 2:4ff. answers. By grace are we saved through faith. "Good works" are a consequence of His grace. And neither is baptism into Christ "a good work." It is God's work. Romans 6:1ff. announces. Hope this helps.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texa

  67. Anonymous says:

    Titus 3:4-7 “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

    This isn’t speaking about baptism, this is about the Holy Spirit "living water" who washes and renews us daily through His regenerating power. 2 Corinthians 4:16 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”

    John 7:37-39 “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."

    And you didn’t answer my question, here it is again: How many good works is it we have to do to get to heaven, please tell us…this is a life or death answer people need to know!

    Will you give us a list of the works we need to be doing and how often we need to be doing them to get to heaven.

  68. Royce Ogle says:

    Someone has been reading Watchtower Magazine!

  69. Guy says:

    Royce,

    You said:

    "If you will bother to take an objective look at our group, are we seen as people who preach Christ and love others. Or, are we seen as mean spirited, sectarian, and focus more in singing than on the Saviour?"

    Depends on who you ask. If you ask me, the Mayfair COC in OKC was my saving grace to survive a separation and a divorce. They stepped in and became my family and i shudder to think of trying to survive those periods of my life without the people of Mayfair.

    If you ask the orphans at the Casa de la Esparanza in Mexico that the Mayfair church supports, i doubt they'd say any of the bad things you said either. The Casa is our main mission work and we send a team down there every year.

    i know you might rebut, "well, that's the exception and not the rule." So? Do you really believe that makes it perfectly acceptable to nay-say over a million people just because of bad experiences with some? or even a majority of them? Will ranting against them blanketly motivate them to change? Would it motivate you?

    –Guy

  70. Bruce Morton says:

    Anonymous:
    Yes, I did answer your question, but glad to wade in further with you. Ephesians 2:4ff. announces that no good works "get us to heaven." It is by grace through faith that we are saved. "Good works" are the result of God's saving us by grace (Ephesians 2:10).

    Let me suggest that you take Titus 3:4-7 in hand and then notice how "baptism" is used in Mark 7:4. It is a washing; a cleansing. Just as it is when talking about our baptism into Christ. We are cleansed of sin by the blood of Jesus. In baptism we join Him in His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:1ff.). A wondrous, humbling teaching.

    Hope that helps.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  71. Bruce Morton says:

    Guy:
    I greatly appreciate your post. Similarly, when I think of churches of Christ, I am filled with joy, not bitterness. I have known the friendship and teaching of many humble, kind people. I can think of the teaching of many preachers who I believe are far from what Royce describes when he talks of "mean-spirited" people.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  72. Anonymous says:

    Yes, I did answer your question, but glad to wade in further with you. Ephesians 2:4ff. announces that no good works “get us to heaven.” It is by grace through faith that we are saved. “Good works” are the result of God’s saving us by grace (Ephesians 2:10).

    No disagreement with that!

    You say we shouldn‘t believe it’s Jesus’ blood alone that cleanses us from sins, but that the Mississippi River contains Jesus’ blood that cleanses us from our sins.

    I don’t agree with that.

    Mark 7:4 Jesus teaches that exterior washings do not clean us, washing the outside doesn’t make the inside clean.

    The inner being needs to be washed first, when the inner being is washed, then we will outwardly show that we have been saved, as we do when we go to get baptized as an outward symbol of the cleansing we already received.

    Outer action means nothing unless an inner cleansing takes place first, Matthew 23:25-26 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.” Being baptized means nothing unless we are cleansed on the inside first.

  73. Jay Guin says:

    Bruce,

    "Sect" and "sectarian" take on different meanings depending on the context. Their meaning to anthropologists, for example, is not necessarily the same as for most evangelicals or Americans.

    Yes, "sect" can mean simply holding a different belief. It can also mean considering all others damned. It can also meaning advocating death or violent reprisal for those outside the sect ("sectarian conflict" in the news).

    In most conversations on this site, "sectarian" means a small subset of Christendom that considers all others damned.

  74. Guy says:

    Jay,

    By that definition, the only people who are not "sectarian" are universalists. Even you believe that some people who think they are Christians aren't or aren't saved as they are or however you wanna phrase it. The difference then is only in degree. You happen to think that a far greater number are not damned than say someone in the conservative CoC. i suppose that makes you less sectarian, but i don't see that it makes you not one and a conservative CoCer one *categorically.*

    And it's starting to sound as though sectarianism is some sort of virtue that we should desire a certain degree of and shy away from a different degree of it.

    –Guy

  75. Royce Ogle says:

    Ok Guy and Bruce,

    Lets all just pretend that meetings like Contending for the Faith's recent gathering, "PROFILES IN APOSTASY" with no agenda but to slander and lie about good godly men. Let us just continue as if no faction is condemning another church of Christ to hell because of the way they worship. As Jay said, there is a huge problem and doing the same things we have historically done isn't going to change anything.

    I love the RM founders ideals. Primitive worship appeals to me, I love a cappella singing in worship, and I love it that for the last few Sundays we have had grown ups and kids baptized on Sunday morning. I appreciate that we should be "Christians only but not the only Christians". I am blessed to worship with the most loving and forgiving people I have ever known. There are many great churches in our brotherhood.

    Unfortunately, there are also many churches who believe and practice "we are Christians only and the only Christians". And, they yell the loudest and give all of us a bad rap before a watching world.

  76. Guy says:

    Royce,

    Where exactly did i (or Bruce) say that i believe the best thing to do is to pretend gossip and slander isn't happening? i don't believe that. (i'm guessing neither does Bruce.)

    i don't believe that slander is right. i don't believe gossip is right. That's why i don't think it's acceptable to deal with such events as you mentioned by slandering and making a spectacle of them. If i did that, then i wouldn't really be all that different from the people i'm condemning, would i?

    Does the thought of some conservative CoC preacher mentioning Max Lucado from the pulpit just to create shock about Lucado's teaching and shed a negative light on the man–does that thought bother you or seem inappropriate to you? Do you really think it's any different when you drop names of conservatives or conservative events just to create shock about the teachings or badmouth those people?

    –guy

  77. Laymond says:

    "Someone has been reading Watchtower Magazine!"

    Royce, are you the persecuted, or the persecutor ?

  78. Laymond says:

    If we look at how Jay described "sect" they all simply mean a group holding different views.

    "Yes, “sect” can mean simply holding a different belief. It can also mean considering all others damned. It can also meaning advocating death or violent reprisal for those outside the sect (“sectarian conflict” in the news)."

    All "sects" are not belligerent, or violent. actually a good description for "sect" is divided, or sectioned off from others.

  79. Laymond says:

    Guy, there are those who believe, what you say or do has no bearing on your salvation, and that gives them the leeway they need to persecute others.
    Not naming names, just saying if you are not being held accountable, why not.

    Mat 15:11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
    Mat 15:18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.

  80. Anonymous says:

    laymond, seems you are excusing the fact that just about every time Royce makes a comment on here you come right behind him already in attack mode.

    The very first comment Royce made on this post, Royce Ogle, on July 19th, 2010 at 10:53 am, you came right after him wanting to start arguing with him, Laymond, July 19th, 2010 at 11:18 am.

    This isn’t the first time this has happened, but you have done this many, many times before, anyone can go through the posts on here and see you attacking just about anything Royce says.

    The Scripture you quote applies to you too laymond.

    Mat 15:11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
    Mat 15:18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.

  81. Laymond says:

    Anon. Mr Ogle has commented 15 times on this thread alone, I have responded to his comments 4 times, one time was in response to a question he asked, another time was in response to a sarcastic comment on my answer to that question. you might be biased, because you believe as he does, and can't show in scripture why.

  82. Anonymous says:

    Laymond, Obviously you are upset that Royce and I can agree and that makes you biased, and perhaps you are upset that someone is actually pointing out that you like to start arguments a lot when Royce comments. As I said anyone can go through many other posts Jay has put on this blog and see that you certainly seem to enjoy attacking Royce.

    To be honest I chuckled a bit at Royce's comment about Watchtower Magazine…you do deny Jesus is God as the JW do…that was the point. And if you were honest you would admitt you have said things that were not very loving.

    I don't see any comments on this post where anyone who disagrees with you has tried to correct your view of who Jesus is, I guess they can accept someone when it comes to that kind of view rather than that of mine Royce's. Go figure!

  83. Laymond says:

    anonymous, with no name. If you call asking for clarification, starting an argument, then you are right.
    And if questions defile us we will never learn anything.

  84. Jay Guin says:

    Guy.

    The point is that "sect" and "sectarian" must be interpreted in context because they aren't precisely defined words. It's very nearly pointless to argue whether the Churches of Christ are a "sect" until you define your term.

    However, "sectarian" is used more narrowly than "sect" by most — and it normally refers to an exclusivist attitude or worse. Still, I think I'll swear off both words for the sake of clarity.

  85. Jay Guin says:

    Royce,

    The CFTF attitude is well worthy of note for several reasons — one of which is the refusal of most in the conservative Churches to condemn the attitudes and doctrines of their "ultra" conservative co-horts. I specifically emailed some leaders among the more mainstream Churches of Christ, asking them to condemn the CFTF lectureship. And while they're glad to condemn it in private, they refuse to condemn them in public.

    Part of this is the double standard: ignore them and maybe they'll repent all on their own, while the same preachers routinely condemn the progressives and others. Part is, I think, fear — not fear of the CFTF crowd but fear of opening the subject of how the CFTF's theology is different from mainstream theology — because I don't see much difference. Rather, it appears to me that CFTF is more consistent.

    For example, if the Regulative Principle were true — and it's not — but if it really is true that unauthorized church practices damn, then elders standing for re-affirmation would be a damning practice because it's not found in the scriptures by command, example, or necessary inference. And the CFTF contenders would say — with all sincerity — that they've branded even conservative preachers as apostate out of love, because their souls depend on their repenting of their unauthorized actions.

    The real reason you won't find a serious discussion of the theological differences between mainstream conservatives and radical conservatives such as the CFTF crowd is they drink from the same hermeneutical well and so the difference is one of heart and spirit, not theology.

  86. Royce Ogle says:

    You are precisely correct Jay. The CFTF, at least in their last conference, were so obviously unloving, unkind, and in some cases untruthful on purpose, I don't see how anyone could endorse them, unless you agree with them.

    Even Dave Miller, a conservative by the usual measure, was scalded re: Reaffirmation of elders. Even if one of their own missteps on their perceived doctrine, BAM! he is suddenly an apostate.

    What an ungodly mess.

    Royce

  87. Guy says:

    Jay,

    You wrote:

    "I specifically emailed some leaders among the more mainstream Churches of Christ, asking them to condemn the CFTF lectureship. And while they’re glad to condemn it in private, they refuse to condemn them in public."

    Do you find it an appropriate, acceptable, and godly action, then, when an ultra-conservative goes to lengths to stir up the mainstream (as well as other ultra-'s) to join him in publicly condemning progressives?

    –guy

  88. Laymond says:

    Royce said, "Someone has been reading Watchtower Magazine!"
    Anon. said "To be honest I chuckled a bit at Royce’s comment about Watchtower Magazine…you do deny Jesus is God as the JW do' "

    Just a few questions to determine whether Royce and Anon. are JW's as they call them. seems my agreement with them, determined I am a Jehovah's witness. Oh by the way, if you read Revelation carefully, seems Jesus was a Jehovah's witness.

    #1 Do you believe the holy spirit guides indiviguals, into truth that is not stated plainly in the bible.?

    #2 Do you believe Christians have the right to refuse military service?

    #3 Do you believe the only hope for life after death involves being resurrected by God.?

    #4 Do you believe that Satan is a spirit creature who is the ruler,prince of the world ?

    #5 Do you believe a place called hell, where sinners will live in a firey furnice forever, is not biblical?

    #6 Do you believe that two different places where people at death go to wait judgment, is not biblical?

    if you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you might be a Jehovah's witness.

  89. Jay Guin says:

    Guy,

    Let's consider some historical context here. The CFTF crowd is very influential in its part of the world. This is no trivial group that held the lectureship to name so many men — conservative and progressive — apostate. Indeed, Contending for the Faith has a significant circulation and a very powerful influence in these parts. And they declared Phil Sanders and Dave Miller, prominent and quite conservative conservatives, "apostates" for disagreeing with the CFTF editorial position on the indwelling of the Spirit and elder re-affirmation.

    Now, it's my view that this is a very dark sin — although not as dark as the full page ad run by similarly minded people damning Quail Springs. And in both cases I asked prominent conservative, mainstream Church of Christ preachers to declare this behavior as wrong. After all, if the mainstream Churches can't work up any moral outrage over this un-Christian, immoral behavior, the behavior will only continue and worsen — which hurts the image of all of us who wear the name "Church of Christ."

    I've publicly condemned these actions myself, but the CFTF crowd cares nothing for my opinion. I can only wish that more mainstream writers and editors would join my criticism and — perhaps — end the spread of this cancer. But they lack the will to do so — which, to me, speaks volumes about their theology. If they don't see this as deeply wrong, their theology is itself deeply wrong.

    If you want to be considered a leader in the Churches, I think you have to, you know, lead. And if the editors and writers sit by silently while their brothers behave contemptibly, their silence will be taken as endorsement.

    "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."
    — Thomas Jefferson

    Now, would I feel the same if I were the target of someone's condemnation? Absolutely. If someone will stand up and say I'm wrong, then I have someone to dialogue with, to learn from, and perhaps teach. My earnest desire is conversation with my opponents — even if I have to suffer their condemnation to get there.

    I asked the CFTF crowd (and the Quail Springs condemnors) to come here and discuss their views. They declined (the wife of one of the preachers who published the Quail Springs ad did come here and join the discussion). So, yes, I'd be thrilled if the ultra-conservatives and conservatives were to band together to condemn my work.

    But it is unfair to compare what I've done to "stirring up" the mainstream. It was the CFTF who declared them apostate. And the mainstream preachers were already well aware of that fact. I just wanted them to take a stand — in large part because I saw it as a teachable moment. My prayer is that the mainstream preachers will consider why it is that the CFTF is deeply wrong and then apply the same standards to their own teaching — because they are guilty of the same thing.

    So far as I can tell, the difference between the two groups, as perceived by the mainstream, is one of "balance," and there have been several articles promoting balance in their teaching lately. "Balance" is, of course, a very subjective standard that sounds really good because everyone considers himself the balanced one.

    So I try to teach and hope someone somewhere is listening — even if it means suffering insult and condemnation. Whatever it takes to spread the gospel of Jesus.

  90. Bruce Morton says:

    Jay, et.al.:
    There is a lot going on over the last day in this note chain (my Internet connection was down). So…

    Let me suggest that "Sectarian" typically means what those who use the term want it to mean. We need to get beyond "context" a bit and recognize the general theme of church history here. Others do. And those who use it often are the group who perceive a position of power. The Vatican, for instance, has no issue with using the term. And I see it used a great deal here — and am not convinced the uses are that far apart. It is often condensed down to whatever the larger group feels the smaller group ought to change.

    As for meetings that slander, I hope all of you know that I have no interest in defending such. But neither do I have an interest in watching "bashing" of any group of people going on and saying nothing, Royce. I continue to believe searching the Scriptures together and getting rid of arrogance will lead to peace and unity. I am optimistic; I hear Paul in his letter to Ephesus.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  91. Bruce Morton says:

    Anonymous:
    I saw your comment, "You say we shouldn‘t believe it’s Jesus’ blood alone that cleanses us from sins, but that the Mississippi River contains Jesus’ blood that cleanses us from our sins."

    To use your language, "When did I say that??"

    You seem to have questions about Romans 6:1ff. So, if you want to continue, let me ask what you believe Paul is saying in his teaching?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  92. Guy says:

    Jay,

    You wrote:

    "And in both cases I asked prominent conservative, mainstream Church of Christ preachers to declare this behavior as wrong. After all, if the mainstream Churches can’t work up any moral outrage over this un-Christian, immoral behavior, the behavior will only continue and worsen — which hurts the image of all of us who wear the name “Church of Christ.”"

    i don't know how else to say it other than, so far as i can tell, this puts you in the same boat as the people you're condemning. i don't see any significant difference between some churches publicly railing "progressives" (Quail Springs or Tulsa Workshop or whoever is on CFTF's naughty list) and what you're saying you've done. All this badmouthing of each other or each others' actions/teaching when you're neither Jesus nor an apostle nor a prophet is just downright immoral. i can't see any good in it.

    –guy

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