Churches of Christ: Why They Left: Chapters 3 and 4, Part 1

Why They Left: Listening to Those Who Have Left Churches of Christ by Flavil R. Yeakley, Jr.We are reflecting on Why They Left: Listening to Those Who Have Left Churches of Christ by Flavil R. Yeakley, Jr.

The first two chapters of the book give the raw data. The next few chapters summarize the reasons given for leaving the Churches of Christ by people who left. The chapters are based on 300 essay responses.

The approach is not entirely scientific, as Yeakley points out, as the survey resulted from an online questionnaire advertised via the Christian Chronicle. Only those former members who still read the Chronicle would be likely to know about the survey.

As the comments to this blog site have shown over the years, there are countless former Church of Christ members who still have a heart for the Churches and so who keep up with Church news via the Chronicle (and blogs). But there are surely even more who’ve completely severed all contact. Therefore, Yeakley’s survey applies largely to people who’ve left but who still have a concern for the Churches. He probably did not hear from the most angry of those who left.

Yeakley writes,

A few of the people who responded to this survey mentioned the false perception that members of the Churches of Christ believe they are the only ones going to heaven. Although that is one of the most common things one hears about Churches of Christ, I have not personally known of any congregation where that was taught.

I find this statement more than a little naïve. I’m a third-generation elder of the Churches of Christ. I grew up in north Alabama, which is notorious for its legalism. I attended Lipscomb. And I’d say that the majority view of those members I knew in my early years considered the Churches of Christ the only ones going to heaven — and only their particular sub-sect of the Churches at that.

The non-institutional Churches routinely (not universally, but routinely) damned the institutional Churches, and the feeling was often reciprocated. Moreover, the Baptists and Methodists were routinely called out for damnation from our pulpits.

And while the Gospel Advocate has become less outspoken in recent years, it wasn’t long ago at all that the Advocate damned all who disagreed with their views on baptism, instrumental music, the role of women, the authority of elders, and Pentecostalism. They plainly damned the instrumental Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. Under those rules, just who outside the Churches of Christ could be saved?

Now, in fairness to Yeakley, he lives in Arkansas, and my understanding is that Arkansas Churches are not been as sectarian as in other parts of the country, largely due to the influence of James Harding (the namesake of the university). Nonetheless, you really can’t read the literature produced by the conservative Churches and reach the conclusion Yeakley reaches.

I have on my shelves a book by Thomas B. Warren called Christians Only and the Only Christians written in opposition to Rubel Shelly’s I Just Want to be a Christian. I have Goebel Music’s Behold the Pattern and Bert Thompson’s Non-Denominational Christianity: Is Unity Possible? These men have argued strenuously that only the Churches of Christ (and not all of them) are going to heaven.

More recently, Dave Miller damned the Richland Hills Church of Christ in A Plea to Reconsider. Yep, he even damned those who worship in a cappella services.

And then there are the fine people who published a full page ad in the Daily Oklahoman to disfellowship Mark Henderson, then the pulpit minister of the Quail Springs Church of Christ, for daring to be the preacher of a church that added an instrumental service. And we shouldn’t forget all the Churches of Christ in Oklahoma that said not a word in protest.

I should add the brothers at Contending for the Faith, who’ve damned as apostate countless good men, even an associate editor of the Gospel Advocate, for failing to agree with them on every single point of doctrine.

Yeakley says,

Will God’s grace cover intellectual errors? It must or no one would be saved. That being the case, my personal belief is that when we get to heaven we may be surprised to see others we did not really expect to see in heaven — and they may be even more surprised to see us.

Well, that sounds right! Amen. But Yeakley wants to have it both ways –

[C]haracteristic of most denominations today today … [is they] judge other believers to be saved in spirit of what they see as serious errors in what others teach and practice.

So here’s the rule: intellectual error does not damn unless it’s serious error. Then it does.

Yeakley seeks to solve the paradox by suggesting –

A middle ground between the … extremes teaches what we understand the Bible to teach and leaves the judging to God.

Therefore, I suppose, when a Baptist Church invites us to a joint service, we tell them that we don’t teach what they teach and leave the judging to God — and don’t meet with them. Or do we? How does salvation agnosticism solve anything at all?

How can we avoid judging them when they invite us to work with them on disaster relief projects? Or Franklin Graham Crusades? Say no, and I assure you, they’ll feel judged.

I would like to suggest that the Bible plainly teaches where the line between damned and saved might be found, and that we’d do well to stop inventing new theories on the subject.

Those with faith in Jesus are saved. I’ve covered the essential elements of faith many times here. It’s more than mere intellectual acceptance. It requires a change in heart evidenced by a life that submits to God. And it requires that we trust God to save us by the blood of Jesus.

(Mark 9:23 NIV) “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

(John 1:12-13 NIV) Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

(John 3:14-18 NIV) “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.’”

(John 3:36 NIV) “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

(John 5:24 NIV) “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

(John 6:29 NIV) Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

(John 6:35 NIV) Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

(John 6:40 NIV) “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

(John 6:47 NIV) “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.”

(John 7:38-39 NIV) “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

(John 11:25-26 NIV) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

(John 12:46 NIV) “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”

(John 20:31 NIV) But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

(Acts 10:43 NIV) “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

(Acts 13:38-39 NIV) “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”

(Acts 16:31 NIV) They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-you and your household.”

(Romans 1:16-17 NIV) I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

(Romans 3:22-24 NIV) This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

(Romans 3:25-28 NIV) God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

(Romans 4:4-5 NIV) Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

(Romans 5:1-2 NIV) Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

(Romans 10:4 NIV) Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

(Romans 10:9-13 NIV) That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile-the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

(1 Corinthians 1:21 NIV) For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

(Galatians 2:15-16 NIV) “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

(Galatians 3:2 NIV) I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?

(Galatians 3:22 NIV) But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

(Galatians 5:6 NIV) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

(Ephesians 1:13-14 NIV) And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession-to the praise of his glory.

(Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

(2 Thessalonians 2:13 NIV) But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

(1 Timothy 1:16 NIV) But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

(Hebrews 10:39 NIV) But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

(1 John 3:23-24 NIV) And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

(1 John 4:2-3 NIV) This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

(1 John 5:1 NIV) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.

(1 John 5:3-5 NIV) This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

(1 John 5:13 NIV) I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

This is not complicated. The way in is the way out. If we’re saved upon coming to faith and repentance, marked by baptism (which need not be executed flawlessly), then we’re damned when we surrender our repentance by rebellion (not a single act of rebellion but a heart that is no longer faithful, penitent, or submissive toward God) or by losing our faith.

But the conservative and moderate Churches of Christ do not teach this. Rather, they prefer an entirely subjective, ad hoc interpretation of “serious error” — and damn for those errors the editors and preaching schools harp on, and yet grant grace when — purely subjectively — the issue seems unclear and not serious.

My view has the advantage of being supported by a whole lot of scripture and by the works of Barton W. Stone, Thomas Campbell, and Alexander Campbell. The conservative view is foreign to both scripture and the Restoration Movement — and is one reason so many children refuse to attend the Churches of their youth.

Refusing to judge while simultaneously refusing to fellowship is not the solution.  Pretending not to judge while we set up tests that only we can meet is not the solution. Taking seriously the plain teachings of scriptures about the nature of our salvation will work quite well, though.

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40 Responses to Churches of Christ: Why They Left: Chapters 3 and 4, Part 1

  1. Alan says:

    Mat 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
    Mat 7:22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’
    Mat 7:23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    Rom 1:5 Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.

    It’s not just believing. It’s believing that leads to obeying. So your argument really doesn’t solve the problem. At some point we just have to admit we don’t know everything we’d like to know about this.

  2. John says:

    I always shake my head in disbelief when I hear those of the CoC say “We have never said we were the only ones going to heaven”. I remember relatives who are preachers say, in every way that it could be said, that everyone not a member of the CoC is lost; then, when confonted by someone of another religous group their reply was “I never said that only members of the CoC are going to heaven”. Then they would top it off by something they thought was clever, and that was, “….not all of us are going to heaven”.

    A group cannot be the salt of the earth or a city on a hill by making up the rules and changing logic as it goes. The days when the CoC demanded that all discussion be on its terms are gone. Those of us who heard it know what we heard. Those of other churches know what they heard. When a preacher I knew personally would call other preachers in town before his radio program and say, “If you want to stay out of hell you better listen today”, then I know it was not my imagination.

  3. John says:

    One more point:
    I remember while in a Christian college in the 1970s that the name of Ben Bogard, a well known Baptist preacher and debater of the 1930s and 1940s came up. It was said by one of the teachers that when Ben bogard died a famous preacher in the CoC made the comment, “He was in hell before his feet got cold”.

    I think one thing to remember is that the years after the depression and WWII were hard times. It was easy by a wave of the hand to declare all who were not of the “truth” were lost. That was true even of many Baptists and Pentecostals. That is not to defend it to any degree. Just understand it. But churches have to mature and grow in grace and mercy just like individuals; however, it does take longer for churches. But many of us, in or short life span, do not have that kind of time.

  4. Todd Collier says:

    “A few of the people who responded to this survey mentioned the false perception that members of the Churches of Christ believe they are the only ones going to heaven. Although that is one of the most common things one hears about Churches of Christ, I have not personally known of any congregation where that was taught.”

    Ok, this made my eyes bug out. If Flavil doesn’t personally know of any congregation where this was taught he must not get out much. It was drummed into us from day one. It was so drummed into us that my poor grandmother fears for her salvation because she lives in a Baptist run retirement community.

    Dang it, to deny what was so plainly taught for so long ticks me off.

    Since January I have been preaching through the Sermon on the Mount and over half the time I have had recourse to the same teaching methods Jesus used with a twist: “You have heard it said by those who raised us… But Jesus actually commanded.” And that issue is also why I get very irritated with folks who accuse “progressives” of having disrespect for the Word. I love the Word and I search it dilligently to find out what Jesus wants these sheep of His to know. I preach from it and teach from it every day and I am angered again and again when the clear, plain, uncontestible teaching of my youth proves to have been invented out of wholecloth and pawned off on the innocent as God’s commandments. It was and remains spiritual abuse.

    I will never forget the day in 1983 that I listened to Amy Grant’s El Shaddai for the first time. A friend had loaned me her tape and I snuck it into my room and put on my airplane headphones so my folks wouldn’t hear. I wept like a baby as I listened because that song moved me in my soul and I knew I was hell bound because I had responded in such a strong fashion to music with instruments being played in worship. Then a few years later when I discovered the truth that God never condemned me for that in the first place I threw the whole kit out the window and started from scratch. But I could have just as easily thrown the whole kit out the window and walked away.

    Now I preach a very hard discipleship, so hard that some walk away, but in every case they really are rejecting Jesus – they want to keep “that” woman, or keep cheating their employer, or want the worldly lifestyle instead of a lifestyle of service. They are not rejecting something I just made up and wrapped in semi-appropriate Scriptural attire like so much of the doctrine upon which I was raised.

    Ok, spleen vented.

  5. Clint says:

    I’ve always found it interesting that while we may say we’re not the only ones going to heaven, our language reveals a contrary opinion. How many still use the term “the church” to refer only to the Churches of Christ (i.e. – “are you a member of the church?”). How many still refer to the Churches of Christ as “the brotherhood,” as if only those in the Churches of Christ are our brothers. How many insist on having a biblical name to the point of implicitly concluding those with an un-biblical name are in “serious error” (thanks, Jay, for bringing out the subjectivity of that term/view). How many voice concerns over the salvation of individuals who attend a church where the preaching is “unsound,” and implicitly condemn all those who attend a church whose preacher teaches what we disagree with, all the while forgetting that our own preachers are by no means perfect, and are bound, by the fallibility of their humanity, to preach error at least once (or twice :) ) in their careers.

    Even if we never “say” it, and even if we say we don’t believe it, if our language strongly implies it, then we need to think long and hard about our position on the matter. There is a way to oppose what we view as error without damning all those who commit those errors. There is a way to speak the truth in love. We just have not been very good at it.

  6. Orion says:

    Alan said: “At some point we just have to admit we don’t know everything we’d like to know about this.”

    I couldn’t agree more, so why don’t we allow more acceptance, love, and grace in the meantime. After all, if we don’t know it all we could be wrong.

  7. Ray Downen says:

    Jay piles scripture upon scripture to prove true his thesis: Those with faith in Jesus are saved. I’ve covered the essential elements of faith many times here. It’s more than mere intellectual acceptance. It requires a change in heart evidenced by a life that submits to God. And it requires that we trust God to save us by the blood of Jesus.

    But not one of those passages (or verses) teach salvation by faith alone, as is the conclusion Jay reaches. He speaks of faith and repentance “marked by baptism,” and that’s good. But the fact is that Peter mentions in telling sinners how to be saved that the believer MUST repent and be baptized in order to receive remission of sins and the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. Those who believe in salvation by faith alone of necessity add the requirement of repentance, which Jay speaks of as a life which submits to God. Why are some so reluctant to believe that Peter knew what it takes to become a Christian? And Paul echoes Acts 2:38 in Galatians 3:27. Surely we should teach clearly that repentance and baptism are no less essential than faith in Jesus as Lord for entry into His kingdom.

  8. Charles McLean says:

    Ray, “faith alone” is an oxymoron. So, the idea of salvation by “faith alone” — whether one is arguing pro or con — indicates a lack of understanding of what faith produces by its very nature.

    Those who read Jay and others clearly and directly say, “Salvation by faith,” and then object, “So you teach salvation by faith alone!” continue to exhibit this lack of fundamental understanding. OR, they are simply not listening, and force their own conclusions on people who are not offering those conclusions. OR they only have the one old argument, so they keep offering it, even when it is entirely off point.

    And, for the record, salvation by “faith plus works” (or salvation by Jesus’ works, thenceforth maintained by OUR works) is not a simple point of disagreement; it is another gospel entirely, not the one Jesus gave us.

  9. Orion says:

    Ray,
    Did you not read the first paragraph in your comment that you copied from Jay. “It’s more than mere intellectual acceptance. It requires a change in heart evidenced by a life that submits to God. And it requires that we trust God to save us by the blood of Jesus.”
    This is hardly advocating faith alone as you accuse him. Even in your own response you admit that Jay teaches that faith includes repentance and baptism. I’m not sure what your argument with Jay is, seems he is teaching the very thing you argue he is not teaching. What am I missing?

  10. Jerry says:

    Alan and Ray insist on obedience as a part of faith. This is necessary in the face of people who cheapen grace by making faith into an intellectual acceptance with no real submission.

    However, to bring up that canard in the face of Jay’s constantly insisting on faith as surrender, loyalty, and discipleship is IMO about like those who run to “If you love me you will keep my commandments” who habitually insist on “all my commandments” and imply “keep my commandments (especially those I think are important – like baptism, the Lord’s Supper, etc.) perfectly.” Then they add to those commandments many that are based on inferences heaped upon inferences.

    I agree that Flavil is naive – or blind to what is all around him. For a social scientist and statistician, he is very obtuse if he cannot recognize what is being taught in “our” fellowship. I have heard preachers declare loudly and long, “If you are not in the church of Christ you cannot be saved.” Then, if they are called on it, they define the church as all of the saved – but they insist that “we” are at least nearly the only ones who preach the pure gospel of salvation. While we recognize the theoretical possibility that others might stumble into this gospel on their own, when we meet someone with a path to faith that does not flow through “us” we tend to question them incessantly and insist that they be baptized again with our formula.

    In so doing, we deny the power and purity of the Word of God – and set ourselves up as the indispensable fount of wisdom and knowledge of the Scriptures. How this differs from the Catholic claim that grace is dispensed only through its ordained clergy is a mystery to me. (In this, I may be slandering the Catholics!)

  11. Charles McLean says:

    Jay calls Yeakley’s claim “naive”. This is like calling Saddam Hussein “a little pushy” or the government of North Korea “somewhat parochial”. While I appreciate Jay’s graciousness, and his supposition that maybe things are far different in Arkansas, Yeakley’s denial is just not credible. Not at all.

    If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck… even in Arkansas.

    I will repeat what I have asked any number of conservative CoC preachers over the years who have offered this lame and disingenuous dodge. I ask them if at sometime in the past, the CoC did indeed teach that “we are the only ones”, and they all acknowledge that. Then, I ask them if they have ever personally publicly refuted this error from the pulpit. The response is scuffling their toes in the dirt and looking at the ground. If they do answer, they observe that they don’t want to offend people for no good reason. Fact is, these brothers are either still holding to this ungodly doctrine, or they are hiding the truth to protect their jobs– because their paychecks are controlled by men who still hold this ungodly doctrine.

    I got my last pink slip from a CoC because I DID refute this doctrine publicly, and because even worse, I lived it out in my community by embracing people in other denominations. I have never been so proud. Heaven knows I have been smacked in the past when I did things wrong, or when I had the right doctrine but the wrong spirit, but this time, I finally got slapped down for doing something right!

    BTW, the preachers in my acquaintance who HAVE gone to the pulpit to publicly disavow this doctrine, well, I didn’t have to ask them. The word had already gotten out on them. There is still room for these preachers in many CoC’s… but not in most of them.

  12. Royce Ogle says:

    What Charles McLean said…

    I wouldn’t be as kind as Jay either. Either the author Mr. Yeakley is dishonest, or he doesn’t know enough about the churches of Christ to be writing about them. You figure it out.

    I also would not call the Contending for the Faith guys “brothers”. I have not seen any evidence that causes me to think they are brothers.

  13. hank says:

    Jay speaks of baptisms “which need not be executed flawlessly.”

    Lets remember and not forget that the word God used which we translate “baptism”, actually means “immersion”.

    Therefore, sprinkling and pouring (and anything other than an immersion) is not an imperfectley executed baptism. Rather, it is no baptism (immersion) at all.

    Considering such un-immersed “believers” to be Christians is NOT showing grace, love and acceptance. Its showing a disregard of the word and will of God

  14. John says:

    Yes, Charles, even in Arkansas. That is where I grew up. And the doctrine of the CoC being the only true church was spewed from many pulpits and from countless Bible class participants, so much so that I look back on it in embarassment; because, until my mid-twenties, I was one of them.

    I remember inviting a friend over to my house for dinner. He was making plans to go into seminary and becoming a Methodist minister. It shames me to say that I invited him over, not to share a meal with a friend, but to “convert” him. He felt ambushed and left hurt. I have asked God to forgive me of that thoughtless act. And I wish I knew where my old friend is. I would ask him to forgive me, too.

  15. Too many people assume that what someone says must be correct because the person has Dr. in front of their name and they publish things quoting data and statistics along with relevant verbiage. Statistics doesn’t make something a science. Many people don’t understand statistics, “but Dr. sure does – look at all those numbers. I don’t understand it, so I have to trust him and therefore his conclusions must be correct.” That misapplied trustful, assumptive thinking has not served the CoC well. This is one of many examples of internal manipulations of a tribalistic enforced uniformity. Saying it a little plainer, it’s a shell composed of humanistic thinking. It started with, “Oh, go ahead, you shall not surely die.” We have gone a long way toward accomplishing the first part.

  16. Johnny says:

    Last summer I married a lady who grew up in the CoC and attended a CoC church. I grew up in rural Baptist churches. We went looking for a church home, and I can tell you that it was clear I was not considered a Christian, at least two churches indicated to me that my baptism by immersion, after confessing Christ as Lord, was not sufficient. I had a friend who was a deacon say, “what is the big deal just get baptized again and make everyone happy” I refused to participate in what I considered a sham.

    Through the recommendations of Jay among others I found the Church we now attend. When I talked to the preacher and later one of the I was asked two simple questions
    “who do profess Christ to be?” and “have you been baptized?” After answering both of those questions I was told “why would anyone not consider you a brother, you are welcome here”

    I may not agree with them on everything but they accept me a a fellow baptized believer. I am now proud to be a member of the congregation.

  17. Price says:

    It seems to me we’ve just gone back to being a bunch of Pharisees with our Torah, Talmud and Mishnah and have lost track of the central theme. Jesus told religious leaders of the day that “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life.” John 5:39… Apparently eternal life was not in the rules that God Himself laid out for men to follow…eternal life was in Jesus…They missed that.

    Paul tells us in Gal 5:14 “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Telling people they are going to hell because they hold inferior theological positions isn’t loving. Telling a faithful follower of Jesus that his flawed baptism done in accordance with an imperfect understanding at that time is just cause to die in hell for all eternity isn’t loving.

    Perhaps we should try and go back to the concept that we are ALL imperfect and in desperate need of a Savior. The author of Hebrews says that we should go before the Throne of GRACE… Paul says we are saved by GRACE… There is no method that would provide us salvation on our own merit or our own ability… Even if one did have perfect understanding, there would be less than perfect adherence. How can one condemn someone to hell for not living up to the standards which even he cannot meet?

    To throw rocks at other imperfect followers of Jesus because they follow Him less perfectly than we (in our less than humble opinions) is to totally miss Jesus and Grace.
    Let him who is without sin/guilt/doctrinal imperfection…throw the first stone.

  18. cw says:

    While dining with Simon the Pharisee, Jesus asks him a question, ” Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?…..Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

    Why would I continue to attend a church that failed to communicate that my many sins have been forgiven and we’re free to love much?

    “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” I had no answer because the only hope I had was “boy, I hope I make to heaven.”

  19. aBasnar says:

    And the doctrine of the CoC being the only true church was spewed from many pulpits and from countless Bible class participants, so much so that I look back on it in embarassment;

    And yet there is a kernel of trut in it. The basic idea was (Last Will and Testament) to forsake all added creeds and names and to be simply Christians. Holding fast to the same creeds and additional names is holding fast to the divisions. It’s like saying: “I know that we are divided, and I just want to keep it that way.” That’s way I dislike ecumenism, because by ecumenism we confirm the divisions and show appreciation to denominations which we ought not.We should love all brothers and sisters in Christ, but we are called to be “nondenominational”.

    A church of Christ – defined correctly – has come out of the divisions and stands on a ground that is common to all true believers: The New Covenant as it is spelled out in the Scriptures, the unity which is defined by seven “ones” (in Eph 4:4-6). Therefore baptism (immersion) is of vital importance as well (as Hank pointed out), because one of the big issues that divide churches is infant baptism.

    A church of Christ – defined that way – is not a denomination even if it may work in a similar way. But it is an invitation to return to the ancient faith and the unity of the saints, either for individuals to “come out from amongst them” or for whole churches to die to themselves (as the Presbyterian congregation in Springfield); everything else is holding fast to the division, is accepting denominationalism.

    I do agree, however, that maybe often this vision got lost. And I do confirm that being in the wrong church does not automatically cost a person one’s salvation; and neither does it grant salvation when you are only in the right church. But such misrepresentations don’t invalidate the principle.

    It still must be our aim to come as close to the Will of God and to live it out best we can as individuals and as congregations (therefore all that is different than what is written is a hindrance for unity and something to work on). I won’t settle for less than being just a Christian in a church of Christ. This is part of the vision, and unless we are able to committ this vision to our children and new converts, we will end in self centeredness seeking our comfort more than the glory of God. And this will lead to the decline.

    Alexander

  20. Bob Brandon says:

    Alexander wrote: “Therefore baptism (immersion) is of vital importance as well (as Hank pointed out), because one of the big issues that divide churches is infant baptism.”

    Ah. And who divided over it? The immersionists.

    One is never forced into divisiveness; it always remains a choice of the enthusiast.

  21. John says:

    aBasnar,

    Being that there is no such thing as perfection, meaning that there is no such thing as a perfect church, just which imperfect church is closer to Christ? That the correct outward acts done by those whose inner person is not all it should be is closer to being the true church of Christ than by those whose hearts may be in the right place but “do” things incorrectly is a much cherished, yet misguided, ASSUMPTION of the CoC.

    But when I read the prophets and the gospels I see nothing of the “correctly done” by the imperfect heart being closer to God than the pure in heart who do religious acts incorrectly. The prophets over and over proclaim that rightousness is not “what you come to worhship to do”, but “being just and kind, and walking humbly with your God”; matters of the heart. And when Jesus’ disciples were judged for pulling grains of wheat and eating them on the Sabbath, did he not say “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”?

    “Assumptions” are often held by a person or a group because they feel that to give it up thows everything into confusion. But to study the Bible with a humble heart that cheriches getting back to the infant church as much as possible, yet understanding that our humility is not the only humility searching the scriptures is the key to being “blessed peacemakers”. The reality is that many Christian groups exist, even many CoC groups. The toothpaste cannot be put back into the tube. The best we can be is loving and humble, with a prayer that we are the salt for our communty and that our love is reborn in others.

  22. Alan says:

    Jerry wrote:

    Alan and Ray insist on obedience as a part of faith. This is necessary in the face of people who cheapen grace by making faith into an intellectual acceptance with no real submission.

    Yes it’s necessary. I guess if you spend all your time debating the church of Christ doctrinal controversies, it might seem like a canard. But when you spend most of your time persuading lost people to repent, it’s quite obvious that it needs to be said.

  23. Todd Collier says:

    Alexander you make a good Spiritual case that unfortunately misses our historical reality. Campbell saw the Church as larger than the denominations and called folks to drop the divisive identities to see themselves as Christians only. He did not however see himself as a part of a group that composed the only Christians.

    The modern CoC which exists primarily in the American South sees itself as a totally separate entity from the denominations and that their persistence in denominationalism makes them “non-believers.” So in fact the modern CoC has not merely become its own denomination (by any rational definition not used by an member of the CoC) but has become the worst of them all by having as its very platform a spiritual cry to “come out from among them and be separate.”

    In truth the modern CoC might have had its origins with Campbell-Stone but its development has followed a track that all of its founders would have strongly rejected as “sectarian.”

    Campbell saw the Church as bigger than the denominations. We see it as much smaller – even smaller than the numbers who attend in buildings with the right name on the sign.

    As I have rolled Flavil Yeakley’s statement that he never heard of “the false perception that members of the Churches of Christ believe they are the only ones going to heaven” I keep remembering it as not merely omnipresent in the Church of my youth but in fact central to our identity and sense of religious self-worth.

  24. Charles McLean says:

    Alexander, not only did the early vision of folks like Campbell and Stone get lost, it got replaced with something almost exactly the opposite. Campbell revolted against the exclusionary practices of the Scottish Presbyterians, who would seem rank amateurs compared to this tiny sliver of Christendom which traditionally denies even the salvation of everyone who does not agree with it in all particulars.

    The Springfield brothers who were willing to let their own fellowship die and become part of the larger body of Christ have been replaced by folks who will join with piano-playing believers “when they pry my cold dead fingers from my pitchpipe”.

  25. Charles McLean says:

    Jerry noted: “Alan and Ray insist on obedience as a part of faith. This is necessary in the face of people who cheapen grace by making faith into an intellectual acceptance with no real submission.”
    >>>
    So, this is a reactionary doctrine. A doctrine formed to combat a suspected heresy, rather than an affirmative belief. I have observed that most believers who claim this “necessity” do so even in contending with other believers who DO NOT claim such a “faith-without-submission”. There is the apparent supposition that if a person does not hold the same view of Christian works as we do, he actually holds this anti-submission position, and is just unwilling to admit it.

    These are folks who have locked the door of the pantry for fear that once someone finds out how good the food is, he will gorge himself and become unhealthy. This is a system far WORSE than law. Law only punishes you when you transgress. This is pre-emptive judgment; the practice of hiding the good news from you in the first place, lest you mishandle it later.

  26. aBasnar says:

    @ Charles and Todd

    I know the history of the beginning of our movement, and I have translated the “Last Will and Testament” and the “Declaration and Address” into German. I understand and agree with the positions set forth in these documents 100%. I disagree with the attitude you ascribe to conservative churches of Christ, as much and vehemently as you do. But I also disagree with the proposals of the progressive churches of Christ. they are as wrong as they accuse the conservatives to be (only in the opposite direction).

    Alexander

  27. Todd Collier says:

    What proposals are those exactly? I have given and am able to articulate exactly those items of my heritage with which I disagree. What concepts do I propose that you find disagreeable?

  28. aBasnar says:

    Well, the “progressives” are a bit very diverse, so anyone can say: “But this does not apply to me”; and you are definitely more favorable to the ECF (for instance) than others; nonetheless:

    Some – as I observed – have no problem to accept un-baptized (or infant-baptized) confessors as fully saved and fully in fellowship.
    Others embrace ecumenism saying that we ought to be in Fellowship with methodists and Presbyterians even.
    What makes all of this even more complicated is the definition of “What is fellowship?” – this was completely unanswered in the New Wineskins.
    What makes fellwoship also a lot more difficult is the attitude to scriptural commands such as the role of women in church – I’m speaking of commands that are expressly stated not about inferences from silence. This is based on a hermeneutics that is not rooted in the authority and inerrancy of scripture anymore. And – boy! – the answers to my simpl,e question: “Is the submission of women a command of the Lord of of men?” was as evasive and “scribish” as in the New Testament when teh scribes refused to answer a similar question concerning John’s baptism. Maybe this is another reason so many leave …
    All in all the original vision of restoring the Ancient Order of Things is as lost among the progressives as among the conservatives. Without restoration there will be no unity. IOW unless we striove to be as scriptural as possible, we settle for the lesser things.

    Alexander

  29. Todd Collier says:

    Thank you Alexander. If I may let me take a swing at some of these.

    “Some – as I observed – have no problem to accept un-baptized (or infant-baptized) confessors as fully saved and fully in fellowship.”
    Personally I do not accept non-baptized folks as being “in the Body.” Now whether we stand on ceremony as to exactly what method is the “only” method – even the ECF provided alternatives didn’t they and to fellowship those baptized as infants puts them in the same camp as Campbell does it not? Did he break off fellowship on that point?

    “Others embrace ecumenism saying that we ought to be in Fellowship with methodists and Presbyterians even.”
    For me here the water gets more cloudy. Unfortunately here in the US politics and faith have become seriously intertwined. There are Methodists and Presbyterians whom I consider brothers and sisters because they are baptized disciples of Jesus. But the main representatives of those groups as denominations have rejected the teachings of Scripture so as to follow different Gospels. I would not partner with a UMC for that very reason, though I might work together with individuals whose discipleship is more evident. (Though I privately wonder why they remain, but then again I would continue in any CoC God sent me to so…)

    “What makes all of this even more complicated is the definition of “What is fellowship?” – this was completely unanswered in the New Wineskins.”
    Good question – my grandmother is pretty serious about the “don’t even eat with.” She won’t invite her Baptist neighbors to breakfast on that point. Is fellowship sharing the Lord’s Supper, projects, worship songs, leadership?

    “What makes fellwoship also a lot more difficult is the attitude to scriptural commands such as the role of women in church – I’m speaking of commands that are expressly stated not about inferences from silence. This is based on a hermeneutics that is not rooted in the authority and inerrancy of scripture anymore. And – boy! – the answers to my simpl,e question: “Is the submission of women a command of the Lord of of men?” was as evasive and “scribish” as in the New Testament when teh scribes refused to answer a similar question concerning John’s baptism. Maybe this is
    another reason so many leave …”
    On this point I both agree and disagree. To me it seems that women elders and preachers would be unscriptural while at the same time almost no one takes what Paul says to its logical extreme. Most of us are struggling to find the center. Usually this will create disagreement. Do we a.) decide that everyone who disagrees with me is wrong and therefore out of fellowship? or b.) agree that some disagreement will naturally happen and accept each other anyway? On issues that are unclear from the text do we have a text that tells us which choice is appropriate?

    “All in all the original vision of restoring the Ancient Order of Things is as lost among the progressives as among the conservatives. Without restoration there will be no unity. IOW unless we striove to be as scriptural as possible, we settle for the lesser things.”
    But as I have pointed out there are somethings about which Scripture is crystal clear and others about which more human reason is required. You advocate for headcoverings and I respond with the “holy kiss.” Your quite reasonable arguments against the holy kiss are equally reasonable against a large number of other direct statements from Scripture. Let’s be open here – the reason we both find the ECF’s so useful is that they give us insight into the things the Scripture does not address while also helping us see how what the Scripture does say was applied. Even the ECF’s did not feel overly constrained to follow every jot and tittle of the text and allowed much diversity on several points over which the conservatives would deny fellowship. Most progressives are not pushing for a “the Church must look like this” concept but for a freedom to go where the Scriptures and the Spirit lead. Just as Paul envisioned a congregation where the Spirit had arranged different parts with different gifts to achieve the Spirit’s purposes how can we be so sure that the Spirit does not work with individual congregations in the same way?

  30. Phil Adams Jr says:

    Brothers All,
    I am relatively new to this site so forgive me if I step on toes out of ignorance. I am a church of Christ minister and have been for twelve years now. My Father is a retired church of Christ minister. I was raised in (and currently serve with ) a congregation that would label itself as conservative. I am a graduate of ETSP and Southern Christian University and soon from Liberty with a MA in counseling. Books by Warren, Thompson, Miller, Music, Turner, Woods etc etc adorn my shelves. I have hidden (for fear of being found out ) behind them books with authors like Lucado, F.L.Smith, Shelly and Leroy Garrett. For the past couple of years I have been more than struggling with what I am starting to perceive as a denominational attitude amongst my brothers.
    It is becoming increasingly apparent to me that we are becoming the denomination that preaches against denominationalism, instead of a fellowship of bodies of independent disciples all seeking to walk with Christ, guided only by the plain and simple truth of the Scriptures. While we have been very guilty of this attitude of us verses them, it is not solely the bugaboo of the Church of Christ.
    A while back I started working with our local food bank. Every Tuesday trucks are unloaded and bags and boxes are doled out to around 300 needy families. Peopling this county organization is a collection of area preachers, pastors and ministers, of whom I am the only representative of the “Church of Christ”. These area ministers tried very hard to have me join their “area-wide ministerial committee”. I politely declined, but their cajoling continued. Finally a retired Presbyterian minister cackled and told them to “leave that churchofchrister alone! He thinks you all are going to hell!” The hustle and bustle stopped and these fine friends and neighbors of mine looked intently at me wondering what my reply would be.
    I asked this collection of Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal and Community Church ministers the following question. “Did you invite the local 7th day Adventist, or the Mormon, or the local Catholic Priest? “Did you try and include those weird Baptists who handle snakes? Their answer was a sheepish no. “So…. no Mormons. No Catholics, no SDA and no snake handlers, and you are calling me judgmental?” That was four years ago and I am still not on their committee however I do “work” with them on an almost daily basis, which is light years more than my predecessor did.
    Some of my more rewarding Bible studies are with these fine men. When I ask them what they think of so and so, and what they believe, I will receive many varied answers all of which purport to come from a Biblical perspective. I recently asked a Presbyterian minister about salvation. “You and I teach very different things as it relates to our Salvation”. He replied, “well, yes we do.”. I then posited, “How can we both be right? We could both be wrong, but there is no way that we could both be right.”
    This brings me to my point for today and I know that it took a long time to get here. With all of this conversation (dare I say bickering) taking place, I fear that we are missing the point. There is an absolute right and an absolute wrong as it pertains to our mutual and individual salvation. There is an absolute right and an absolute wrong as it pertains to the makeup and practices of The Church Universal and local churches. The Lord adds to His Church those who are being saved. Conversely this means that there are individuals who are NOT added to that Church and who will NOT be saved.
    Brothers, it is most definitely NOT up to us to delineate, decide, decode or determine these parameters. Scripture has already done that. It is merely up to us to model and preach them to a lost and dying world. We are God’s plan to shine His Love and offer of Grace. If we do not, then who will?

  31. Orion says:

    Brother Phil,
    I appreciate your comment but am left wondering when you say:
    “There is an absolute right and an absolute wrong as it pertains to our mutual and individual salvation. There is an absolute right and an absolute wrong as it pertains to the makeup and practices of The Church Universal and local churches.”

    Which is right, observing holy days or treating every day alike? Eating meat or not?

    Doesn’t scripture allow us to follow our conscience in some things? How does this work in a world of absolutes? Does freedom in Christ really mean we are free?
    If scripture does not mention a practice are we free to practice or are we prohibited from the practice?

    Your absolutes are not very helpful. Please clarify.

  32. Todd Collier says:

    Welcome my brother Phil,
    A faithful servant of God and one with whom I “have drunk from the same canteen.”

  33. Phil Adams Jr says:

    My Brother Orion,
    Thank you for taking the time and having the brotherly love to consider me. I stand in need of wise counsel. In reply to my initial post you replied….
    Which is right, observing holy days or treating every day alike? Eating meat or not? Doesn’t scripture allow us to follow our conscience in some things? How does this work in a world of absolutes? Does freedom in Christ really mean we are free? If scripture does not mention a practice are we free to practice or are we prohibited from the practice?
    That was my point. Somewhere along the line in this left verses right argument we have forgotten the prohibition against condemning where God has not. The opposite is equally problematic. Many times we allow that which is not authorized. When Thomas Campbell said “Speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent” he was coming from a vastly different place than we are today. Have we become the Synod and Conference based system that he decried? Or has a desire not to be judgmental caused us to “wink at” error?
    Does The Church have distinct borders? And if it does, ( and I do believe that it does ! ) then where do they lay? And what do we say to those brothers who would either expand them without authoritative permission or contract them without governing authority ?
    Our God is not a God of confusion, however this struggling disciple is finding himself more and more confused.

  34. Phil Adams Jr says:

    Thank you Todd for the kind words. I will try not to backwash when I drink in the future.

  35. Charles McLean says:

    I’m trying to get my mind around this “fellowship” muddle. I am certain I don’t fully understand even what we really mean by “fellowship”, and I am not sure anyone else does either. So, I’ll leave that curiosity open for comment. Perhaps someone will weigh in on what precisely constitutes “fellowship”, especially when we use that word as a verb. Something biblical would be a bonus.

    Now, I am trying to understand the oft-repeated need to assure that we do not “fellowship” the wrong folks. Are we concerned that someone will see Joe The Baptist in our midst and conclude that we agree with all Baptist doctrine? If we welcome a Catholic, are we afraid people will think we have submitted to the Holy See? If we include in our group a guy who is living with his girlfriend, will that tell people we condone immorality? And exactly WHO is this whom we are afraid of misleading thus: is it unbelievers who wouldn’t know the difference, Presbyterians who wouldn’t care, or other CoC’s who might “mark” us?

    Or are we afraid that associating with someone who does not agree with us on all points will somehow corrupt us? Like letting the fat kid with chicken pox come to our birthday party? Are we afraid that if we let a charismatic be part of our group, we will soon be forced to roll around on the floor at every service? Or if we welcome a brother who was baptized by sprinkling, that a sudden revolt against immersion will erupt among our traditional CoC’ers, who will show up one night and fill up our baptistry with cement?

    Or do we simply not want to be face-to-face with anyone who does not already think just as we do– unless we first gird up our loins in combat gear? Are we tacitly concerned that our assumptions and presumptions and prejudices and cockeyed reasoning might be exposed by a church member who says, as did the boy about the Emperor’s New Clothes, “I just don’t see it.” Such an event could possibly even lead to –God forbid– change.

    I think this smacks of the Jews who looked sideways at Jesus for hanging out with sinners; a rabbi who ate with sinful people without castigating them all the time like he should have. Worse, it sounds like some extremely short-sighted disciples: “Boss, we caught a guy casting out demons in your name; he wasn’t part of our group, so rather than welcome him, we told him to knock it off and put those demons back where he got ‘em.” We don’t hold these people at arm’s length because they are sinners, but because they are a different brand of sinner than we are. Sigh.

    “Faith in Jesus may get you into the kingdom of God, but it ain’t enough to get you in OUR church. You gotta keep your visitor badge on until you agree to our terms of service.” Sigh again…

  36. Charles McLean says:

    Alexander wrote: “Therefore baptism (immersion) is of vital importance as well (as Hank pointed out), because one of the big issues that divide churches is infant baptism.”

    >>>Does this mean we don’t have to get into the immersion debate with those who are NOT divided over infant baptism? That’ll keep us from arguing baptism with almost the whole Protestant clan. It’s not a divisive issue among THEM. Or was that perhaps just a red herring, and we are going to go right on arguing baptism with believers who DON’T baptise infants?

  37. Orion says:

    Brother Phil,
    Thank you for your response. Thank you too for the encouraging testimony of the good works you are doing in the name of Jesus along side other believers in helping the poor of your community. Welcome to the conversation, I look forward to your insights.

    Brother Charles,
    Thank you, well said. I may be missing something about limiting fellowship, but you stated my feelings very well. When I think of fellowship I think of “who is my neighbor” from Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.

  38. Royce Ogle says:

    “1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:1-7)

    Does this passage apply in anyway to the context of the past several comments? I think it should, unfortunately most often it is simply ignored. Please don’t come across as a holier-than-thou know-it-all and at the same time expect others to think you are being Christ-like, it isn’t working.

    If you must be creative to discover something that could be passed off as love in a group, a church, or an individual, it’s a clue something is terribly wrong. Of course the religious are not unlike those religious zealots who demanded that Christ should be crucified. The had the right laws, they were in the right group, they were intolerant of those who disagreed with them, and they will not be in heaven.

    I really liked what I know about Alexander Campbell but some of those who claim spiritual kinship to him almost make me ill. Do you really think that when you stand before God and brag “I didn’t have anything to do with anyone who called themselves Christians unless they were exactly like me and our group.”, that God is going to say “Well done”?

  39. aBasnar says:

    @ Todd

    You wrote:

    Personally I do not accept non-baptized folks as being “in the Body.” Now whether we stand on ceremony as to exactly what method is the “only” method – even the ECF provided alternatives didn’t they and to fellowship those baptized as infants puts them in the same camp as Campbell does it not? Did he break off fellowship on that point?

    Campbell did – after they understood the significance of baptism – not serve the bread and the wine to unbaptized Christians. Otherwise he treated them as serious believers, though “not in the Body”. I take the same approach – leaving the question whether god will save them entirely in God’s hand. So – it seems – in this we are pretty much in agreement.

    I would not partner with a UMC for that very reason, though I might work together with individuals whose discipleship is more evident. (Though I privately wonder why they remain, but then again I would continue in any CoC God sent me to so…)

    That’s my approach, too.

    Is fellowship sharing the Lord’s Supper, projects, worship songs, leadership?

    The Declaration and Address frequently uses the phrase “terms of communion” – remembering that he was criticized for sharing the Lord’s Supper with a different Presbyterian Kirk I conclude that this document speaks of “full-covenant-fellowship”. After 1812 baptism was spelled out as well, but it is – although they did not see it in 1809 – included in the “direct commands and approved precedents”. So the question covered deals with: Who is in the covenant/the Body? Taking your position from the 1st paragraph I quoted, we allow every baptized Christian – regardless of their denominational background – to partake of bread and wine in our assembly (unless we know they live in open sin). And this might remind you of the letters of communion that are mentioned in the ECF (and also the NT): When you visited another congregation you had a letter from your elders that testified that you are a “member in good standing” and thus you were received and treated like a member of the church and not merely as a “guest”.

    A completely different issue is cooperation on various levels, like helping immigrants; or communication on interdenominational levels (Evangelical Alliance), pastors’ meetings and the like. Mutual respect is as nonnegotiable as 1Co 14:34-38.

    To me it seems that women elders and preachers would be unscriptural while at the same time almost no one takes what Paul says to its logical extreme. Most of us are struggling to find the center. Usually this will create disagreement. Do we a.) decide that everyone who disagrees with me is wrong and therefore out of fellowship? or b.) agree that some disagreement will naturally happen and accept each other anyway? On issues that are unclear from the text do we have a text that tells us which choice is appropriate?

    a) and b) are valid question as soon as we bow under the command of the Lord (which you do, but others reject).
    a) The Nestle Aland text says that those who disagree will not be recognized as prophets, the majority text says: they are ignorant. Either or, they act and believe contrary to God’s word and shall not have the lead in this. Churches who accept such a lead, however, put themselves in a position of ignorance, begging for chastisement and correction. It is a situation that hinders fellowship, or better: That disturbs fellowship.
    b) Both you and I cherish the ECF because they clarify some of the ambiguous passages. A proper application often needs a lot of background information. Women were allowed to prophesy and pray with a head-covering and yet to be silent at the same time. The answer lies in the completely different structure of the assembly which was in two parts: Love-Feast and the Lords Supper and Teaching. Raoughly aid: Chapter 11 deals with part one, where all sit around the table, eat and covers in a (hopefully) spiritual manner, break the bread and pray; chapter 14 deals more with teaching. But that’s a bit off topic here …

    You advocate for headcoverings and I respond with the “holy kiss.” Your quite reasonable arguments against the holy kiss are equally reasonable against a large number of other direct statements from Scripture. Let’s be open here – the reason we both find the ECF’s so useful is that they give us insight into the things the Scripture does not address while also helping us see how what the Scripture does say was applied. Even the ECF’s did not feel overly constrained to follow every jot and tittle of the text and allowed much diversity on several points over which the conservatives would deny fellowship.

    Exactly; but they truly would view some progressive churches with great suspicion (some conservative ones as well – the division between mainstream and Novatianists comes to my mind; or the struggles between North Africa and Rome).

    Well, we all have a lot to learn, haven’t we? And it is good to find so much agreement.

    Alexander

  40. Todd Collier says:

    Amen. And it is amazing to me how folks with so much in agreement often mutually assume a greater difference due to our (my) personal bias. May God prosper your work in His service.

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