We’re working our way through Leroy Garrett’s book: What Must the Church of Christ Do to Be Saved? The paperback is $7.95, but it’s also available in Kindle edition for $0.99. For $0.99, it’s really an offer you can’t refuse!
Now, by “saved” Garrett doesn’t mean that he questions the salvation of the individual members of the Churches of Christ. Rather, he is concerned to save the Churches of Christ as a “viable witness to the Christian faith. What must it do to escape extinction in the decades ahead …?”
Chapter 12 is entitled “Abandon our claim to exclusive truth.”
There is a liberating truth that would go far in saving the Church of Christ from the obscurant course it has followed during the century of its existence: We can believe we are right without having to believe that everyone else is wrong. … If we are right, everyone else has to be wrong. Not so. If we are true and faithful Christians, then no one else is. That does not follow. Our raison d’etre depends upon our being the one and only true church. Wrong again. (pp. 140-141).
One of [the Restoration Movement's] mottoes was, “We are Christians only but not the only Christians.” It was never their claim that they were the only Christians, the only true church, and they were not exclusivists. Alexander Campbell left the Presbyterians and was “forced out” (as he saw it) by the Baptists, but he never broke fellowship with either and always considered them Christians. …
It is a little known fact that the first congregations of the Campbell movement, Brush Run and Wellsburg (both in Virginia near Bethany, Campbell’s home) were members of a Baptist association of churches, the first the Redstone association, the second the Mahoning association. A third congregation in Pittsburg, led by Thomas Campbell, sought membership in a Presbyterian presbytery and was turned down. … When he went to Nashville to oppose Jesse Ferguson, the Church of Christ minister who was conducting seances with the dead, he first spoke at the Methodist church where he was introduced by the bishop who offered support for the difficult task he had in their city. (pp. 141-142).
Now, let’s not misread what Garrett writes. Criticizing “If we are right, everyone else has to be wrong” is not a Postmodern claim or a claim of moral relativism. Rather, it’s an effort to push us back to biblical thinking and away from 21st Century (and 20th Century) thinking.
You see, we’ve defined “truth” as “whatever is in our tracts.” Thus, we teach the “truth” about instrumental music or the frequency of the Lord’s Supper or the name of the church. But these things are not “truth” as the Bible uses the word.
Truth, you see, is the good news of Jesus the Messiah —
(John 14:6 ESV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
(Eph 1:13-14 ESV) 13 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, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
The truth is what and who you are taught in order to have faith and receive the Spirit. And we teach the very same truth as the Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians. Yes, of course there are some intellectuals in some of those fellowships who deny the truth, but the Presbyterian who attends the church that’s on Main Street in your hometown, he believes the truth. As do we.
Therefore, if we would just recognize what “truth” truly is, we can easily realize that we can disagree with the Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians about just all sorts of things and yet agree on truth.
(Amo 3:3 ESV) 3 “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?”
For me to walk with you, we don’t have to agree on the number of acts of worship. We do have to agree on where to begin and where we intend to get to. And we can enjoy debating Calvinism vs. Semi-Pelagianism as we walk together.
Along with being a unity movement, we exist in order to be a productive part of the Body of Christ, filled with the Spirit and bearing its fruit of love, joy, and peace. We exist in order to be an intelligent and responsible community of believers sensitive to the needs of a suffering world. We exist in order to become more and more like Christ by being a servant community. We exist in order to help redeem fallen humanity by being the salt of the earth and the light of the world. And always a pilgrim church, whose home is not in this world, that is living in time but for eternity.
All this is our raison d’etre and it is more meaningful when we see ourselves, not as a church that has exclusive truth, but as a people always in search of truth, especially as it is revealed in Jesus Christ. And always eager to accept other Christians as equals and join with them in the unending search for more and more truth. (pp. 151-152). (pp. 151-152).