The Fork in the Road: In Reply to Greg’s Comment

Never ascribe to an opponent motives meaner than your own.

– James Barrie, Rectorial Address, St. Andrew’s, May 3, 1922

Before impugning an opponent’s motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments.

– Sidney Hook, “The Ethics of Controversy,” New Leader, February 1, 1954

Greg Tidwell, my favorite conservative preacher and the editor of the Gospel Advocate, posted the following comment,

Jay;

I think you have twisted this text because of your overriding agenda to make everyone of your Progressive brethren on their way to heaven in spite of the many heresies they have embraced.

There is a way that leads to life. (penitent faith in Christ) and there is a way that leads to death. John is making a dichotomy between these two ways.

This is analogous to the Progressive preoccupation about defining what is and what is not a “salvation issue.” The implication is often made that as long as something is not a “big deal” it does not matter.

Willfully embracing ANYTHING which is not the will of God. (Even something as “trivial” as instrumental music in worship or fellowshipping the unimmersed) may lead to death.

I know you want to whitewash all of your Progressive brethren in spite of their many heresies, even those who embrace Universalism and those who embrace Legalism, but in this agenda of inclusiveness you have done violence to the text.

GATidwell

I thought it would be instructive to consider Greg’s points in detail. I’ll work through his comment sentence by sentence.

I think you have twisted this text because of your overriding agenda to make everyone of your Progressive brethren on their way to heaven in spite of the many heresies they have embraced.

A classic rhetorical device to undermine an opponent’s arguments is to impugn one’s opponent’s motives. Thus, Greg imputes to me a motivation reflecting personal bias.

It is, of course, a classic ad hominem argument — and hence irrelevant and a distraction from the true issues that divide us. I mean, my arguments stand and fall by the test of Scripture. My motivations for making them are quite beside the point. The only proper refutation would be found in the text of the Bible.

But it does matter whether the accusation is true — not as determining who is right on entirely different questions — but whether the debate is being conducted in accordance with Scripture.

(2Co 12:20 ESV) For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish–that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

When we impute motives to an opponent, we subject ourselves to the requirement to do so accurately, or else be guilty of slander — a form of false witness.

The Churches of Christ (and not just the conservative wing) have long indulged in such argumentation. I suppose it must be effective in some circles, but it can hardly be justified on scriptural grounds.

My motivation is to know God as well as I possibly can — and I try to do that through my studies of the Scripture. I think Greg has the very same motivation. I no more wish to “whitewash” my progressive brothers than Greg wishes to whitewash his conservative brothers.

No one has 100% pure motives. We are all broken, flawed creatures. None of us can truthfully claim to be 100% free from bias. Does Greg suffer from bias in his reading of the text? Yes, if he’s human. So do I.

Therefore, to impugn an opponent’s motives is to accuse him of being human. I am guilty as charged! So is Greg. So are all the readers here.

The solution is not to descend into some kind of Postmodern refusal to acknowledge the discernibility of truth, but to approach the text and one another with humility. That especially means that we allow our opponents and friends to critique our views, to let iron sharpen iron, and to prayerfully seek to overcome our own errors of the past — never imagining that we might be so holy that we are free from error!

And I credit Greg with exactly that attitude. While I strongly disagree with much of what he says, I greatly respect his willingness to subject his thinking to the views of those who read and post here. The fact that he is willing to put his views out here to be parsed and criticized is a very healthy, very commendable thing. (And very few men in his position would do the same.)

There is a way that leads to life. (penitent faith in Christ) and there is a way that leads to death. John is making a dichotomy between these two ways.

I, of course, entirely agree that penitent faith in Christ leads to life. That is exactly what I argue for here at One In Jesus. I’m thrilled that we agree!

This is analogous to the Progressive preoccupation about defining what is and what is not a “salvation issue.”

It would be fairer to refer to salvation issues as a Church of Christ preoccupation! It’s not hard to find examples from the pages of the Gospel Advocate, even from Greg’s own pen, where that conservative publication has had no hesitation at defining what is a salvation issue.

The progressive agenda is largely to object to the conservative teaching and to find the answer in the pages of Scripture rather than in the ruminations of the Advocate‘s writers.

Many conservatives have lately taken to protesting being required to defend why issue X is a salvation issue and issue Y is not. Many feel free to render judgment damning their brothers over issue X, but they protest when asked to explain how they reached their conclusion from the Bible. It’s a huge, obvious gap in their theology.

But it’s simple enough. As Greg wrote, the test is penitent faith in Jesus. Amen! That’s the test! If he’ll consistently apply exactly that test, we’ll disagree about very little.

The implication is often made that as long as something is not a “big deal” it does not matter.

I’m pretty sure I’ve never made such an argument. I’m sure that countless Christians have stated that issue X or Y is not a “big deal.” But that is to state the conclusion, not the reason for the conclusion.

Indeed, whereas the conservative theory of what is a salvation issue often wanders into pure subjectivism, the progressive understanding is quite clear: penitent faith in Jesus leads to life. That which contradicts penitent faith in Jesus leads to death.

Willfully embracing ANYTHING which is not the will of God. (Even something as “trivial” as instrumental music in worship or fellowshipping the unimmersed) may lead to death.

Let’s proceed carefully here, as we’re approaching the heart of the conservative / progressive disagreement.

What does “willfully” mean? I would entirely agree that if I were to sing in worship to God with instrumental accompaniment intending to violate God’s will, I’d be acting in rebellion to God’s known will, and my soul would be in jeopardy.

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

But what if I worship in all good conscience? What if I prayerfully, sincerely, genuinely believe that God had no concerns about instrumental music? Then I’m plainly not subjectively in rebellion. My sin (if it is sin at all) is not willful.

(Rom 14:5-6 ESV)  5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.  6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

If I’m “fully convinced in [my] own mind,” then when I sing with a piano, I sing in honor of the Lord and give thanks to the Lord.

(Rom 14:3-4 ESV)  3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.  4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Therefore, for those who worship fully convinced, we are commanded not to pass judgment on one another — because both will “be upheld” by God’s grace. Neither side merits salvation. Both sides are saved by grace — or not at all. And grace is sufficient.

He who worships a cappella gives up the freedom to use instrumental music, laying it on the altar before God, because he believes God is pleased with this sacrifice. He who worships with an instrument believes that he honors God by placing the gifts of the instrumentalist on the altar, using God’s gifts for their highest imaginable purpose — to worship God.

Both do so “unto the Lord,” and both worship in penitent faith. Neither is in rebellion. Both is fully convinced in his own mind.

And, therefore, both are commanded not to judge or look down on the other. You don’t need CENI to discern a binding command here! (Why, oh, why do so many of my brothers trample this command?!)

Therefore, I agree with Greg, if he uses “willfully” to refer to an intention to violate what is known to be God’s will, but not if he’s referring to an honest mistake, made prayerfully and in subjective submission to God.

Greg next writes,

I know you want to whitewash all of your Progressive brethren in spite of their many heresies, even those who embrace Universalism and those who embrace Legalism, but in this agenda of inclusiveness you have done violence to the text.

Well, I just penned a 29-part series criticizing the “Available Light” theory. I earlier engaged in a dialog with Al Maxey in which I disagreed with his views on the subject (and those of other progressive authors). I’ve further been outspoken in criticizing those who teach such theories without submitting their theories to the authority of the Scriptures.

It’s a mistake, I think, to equate “Available Light” and the articles in the March issue of New Wineskins with Universalism — as Universalism argues for truly universal salvation whereas Available Light is not as encompassing.

But as Greg has indicated, the test is whether one’s sin is willful (being the antithesis of “penitent”). And someone like Al Maxey is far from a willful sinner! His views are driven by his reading of the Scriptures. I disagree with those views, but they are reached in submission to the text. (I’m not sure that the same can be said of all who’ve written on the subject at New Wineskins.)

Therefore, Al easily meets the test. He is a penitent believer in Jesus. In error (in my judgment), but unquestionably penitent. “Penitent” does not mean perfect or free from error. It’s measured by the heart. Therefore, I’m proud to call Al my brother despite our disagreement. I know his heart.

Just so, I’ve never met anyone who worshiped with an instrument intending thereby to be in rebellion against God! Why would someone worship God in intentional rebellion against God?

Thus, my views and Greg’s views are much closer to the same than it would at first appear. You see, when we look past impugned motives and false characterizations of our opponent’s views, it’s surprising at how much agreement can be reached.

I don’t want to be read as saying that Greg agrees with me on each point. That is for Greg to say. My point is that when you actually get down to the core issues, we are so close in our views that we can use the same words to express our views.

That does not mean that we use the words to mean the same thing. But it gets us close enough to allow for a highly productive conversation.

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98 Responses to The Fork in the Road: In Reply to Greg’s Comment

  1. Alan says:

    Let me quote a few passages, and then make a few comments:

    Php 3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
    Php 3:11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
    Php 3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
    Php 3:13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
    Php 3:14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
    Php 3:15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.
    Php 3:16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

    2Ti 2:14 Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.
    2Ti 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

    Tit 3:9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.
    Tit 3:10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.
    Tit 3:11 You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

    Paul himself wasn’t certain that he had already attained his goals. He pressed on toward completion, and called each of us to do the same. And he warned Timothy and Titus (two church leaders) to avoid quarreling. He instructed them to do their best to use scripture accurately. He warned them of the danger of divisiveness. Quarreling ruins those who listen. It can become divisive.

    When we disagree, we need to turn to the scriptures — to correct any misunderstanding in our own view — and not to quarrel. Then we should gently instruct (2 Tim 2:24-26) and then leave the rest in God’s hands.

  2. Grizz says:

    “I agree with Greg, if he uses “willfully” to refer to an intention to violate what is known to be God’s will, but not if he’s referring to an honest MISTAKE, made prayerfully and in SUBJECTIVE submission to God.” (emphasis mine, GZ)

    Jay,

    What you wrote here MIGHT make some sense IF you had written it without the bias. Frankly, at least part of your comment offends. Why refer to what the brother who is every bit as convinced and convicted of his position as a “mistake”? After all, you have admitted several times that it could be you who are mistaken. In fact, you have written at length that you believe the arguments against certain practices hinges on an argument from the idea of a universally applicable regulative principle that silence = prohibition. You have spent more than a little time in this blog debunking that divisive approach to ‘silence.’

    Admittedly you have a preference, which you have not been shy about stating. So why revert to the terminology of the detractor who rests on this unaccepting regulative principle of silence? If we are looking for acceptance, shall we not also offer acceptance … genuinely?

    And it was not only the one word (mistake) that offends. There was another equally offensive description of that brother’s views with whom one might disagree. It is the word “subjective” to describe his submission to God. Is it ‘subjective’ at all? Of course it is. All that any human does, to some varying extent, is subjective – because we cannot escape the limitations of being guided in some ways by experiences we possess and the lack of some other experiences. But does not that term suggest that there is still something lacking in his submission to God? Again, of course it does. It is a subtle slight, but not an invisible or imagined slight. Nuance is a sharp sword and too easily wielded by the one with highly developed vocabulary or even a certain skill with sarcasm.

    As it stands, your statement quoted above is NOT acceptance but rather offers only tolerance. Perhaps you would allow me to suggest a way to correct this slight?

    Try this:

    I agree with Greg, if he uses “willfully” to refer to an intention to violate what is known to be God’s will, but not if he’s referring to an honest offering to God, made prayerfully and in conscious and conscientious submission to God.

    Perhaps you could find more apt words. You may have a better thesaurus closer at hand than I do. I do not doubt that you would have removed the slight if you had perceived it before posting this blog entry. I do hope now that we can at least agree that it is a wise writer who treats the written record with careful recognition of and appreciation for the enduring nature and sometimes easily misunderstood intentions that can beset recorded transmissions.

    Blessings to the wise from the peanut gallery,

    Grizz

  3. JMF says:

    Jay said:

    His views are driven by his reading of the Scriptures. I disagree with those views, but they are reached in submission to the text. (I’m not sure that the same can be said of all who’ve written on the subject at New Wineskins.)

    (emphasis mine)

    While you don’t come out and say it directly, little is left to doubt that you question to penitence of “[some] who have written” at New Wineskins.

    I’d be curious to know how you substantiate that comment in light of the first half of this essay where you talk about submission, impugning motives, etc. Because is surely seems as though you are treating these other writers the exact the same way that Tidwell has treated you.

  4. Will it come as a surprise to anyone for me to say that I was and remain disappointed in the February edition of New Wineskins? I’m not posting this as an April Fool’s prank; I was genuinely disappointed.

    I had hoped the edition’s writers would devote some words to defining terms, and explaining those definitions from scripture. What does fellowship mean? Is there more than one kind? Is fellowship always intrinsically tied to salvation? Some wrote from the piint of view that it must and others did not, and in the end, a lot of folks were talking past each other rather than to each other possibly because we had different definitions or uses of the word in mind.

    I wrote my middle article to try to stimulate conversation along these lines — I had no intention of writing three articles for the same edition — but saw little interest in coming to any kind of common ground on the questions.

    And in presenting a wide variety of points of view within the edition, I was disappointed that the opportunity to deal lovingly and openly with differing points of view within a group of believers wasn’t perceived or pursued with any great enthusiasm.

    In short I felt the waters in which the issue of fellowship lies were stirred but not clarified, and I am sad that deadlines came and went, and though there was excellent writing representing quite a diversity of thought, there was little consensus.

  5. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    JMF,

    Read the comments of Scott Simpson following his article. http://www.wineskins.org/filter.asp?co_key=2454 There are several, and the software places them out of order, making the discussion very hard to follow. It’s a shame, because context matters so much in reading what others have written. Some of the earliest comments, which set the stage for the rest, are at the very end of the page, for example.

    Simpson denies that faith in Jesus is a boundary to the kingdom. He refuses to honor the command of John in 1 John 4:1-3 to reject those teachers in the church who deny that Jesus came in the flesh (John calls these “antichrist”). Simpson refuses to draw any lines between the lost and the saved based on confessing faith in Jesus. Indeed, he denies the knowability of who is lost and who is saved.

    In short, his theory of the gospel is not submitted to the text. And I’m not happy at all about having reached the above conclusions. I was desperately hoping that at some point, he’d stop and say, “No, X really is a boundary.” At least, I hoped he’d agree that we could exclude the antichrist from the church!

    A possible reading of Simpson’s article is that he is speaking not of the kingdom itself but with whom we associate, saying that we should associate with the lost to bring them into the kingdom, that is, that there are no boundaries to God’s love as expressed through the church, and therefore the church should be in intimate fellowship with the lost — and yet at the same time, the church must distinguish who is saved from who is lost for many reasons. Alexander, Adam, and I all posed that interpretation (per 1 Cor 5:12-13, for example), but Simpson refused to agree with that view.

    (1Jo 4:5-6 ESV) 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 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.

    How dare we make the judgment John refers to? Well, we are commanded to make exactly that judgment. But mistakes made in submission to the text do not place one in the category of “spirit of error.” As Leroy Garrett wrote in his newsletter today,

    Alexander Campbell distinguished between “errors of the heart,” which he saw as very serious, such as a factious spirit, and “errors of the mind” which is simply being mistaken, insisting that “even an angel may be mistaken.”

  6. Jerry says:

    Griz,

    I appreciate the spirit in which you wrote, but in Romans 14 Paul talks about diametrically opposing views on meat vs vegetables and observing days vs not observing days. To holders of each of the four views, Paul said do not judge another man’s servant. Instead, honor them because of their faith in Christ. Now obviously someone’s faith in Christ – or at the very least, his understanding of what his faith in Christ meant – was in error. In spite of this, Paul said to suck it up and recognize each other as brothers in the Lord.

    Now, in the book of Galatians this same Paul was stringently opposed to making the observance of days or the practice of circumcision mandatory. He recognized “right” positions on those issues – but evidently he did not believe them to be so important that they must of necessity break the fellowship of the body. This is in sharp contrast to the practice of the Churches of Christ for the past 175 years and of most of the religious world over the past thousand or more years.

    In Romans, Paul recognizes an honest mistake. In Galatians, he refuses to bow to those who want to enslave the servants of Jesus with the shackles of the law. Honest mistake vs seeking the enslavement of others? It shouldn’t be too hard to understand the difference. If I am honestly mistaken in my understanding of what God expects of me, that is one thing. If in refuse to fellowship you because you do not accept my mistaken view of what God expects of me, that is another. Of course, one of the mistaken views that we have is the very one that Paul addressed in Romans 14, a passage that is for all practical purposes excised from the canon of Scripture by many.

  7. JMF says:

    Jay –

    I understand the basis of your disagreement with Simpson’s words. I have no issue with disagreement.

    But in today’s essay, you’ve made the suggestion that Simpson isn’t penitent because of this disagreement.

    Tidwell would likely suggest that you aren’t penitent on a whole list of subjects, and he’d well be able to offer his scriptural basis for why that is the case. You’d disagree, but I doubt it would change Tidwell’s mind.

    And that leaves me seeing no difference between how Tidwell treats you and how you treat Simpson.

    And I’m not looking for you to prove Simpson wrong; I’m simply saying that you’ve made a judgement on his heart that he isn’t acting out of the best that he has to offer God. You are suggesting that he knows better, but teaches otherwise.

    Let’s consider faith for a second: I’m confident I have a good understanding of the way you’d define faith. Tidwell, however, would likely malign your definition of faith as rejecting obedience (you and I would disagree, but he and other remain unpersuaded).

    And Simpson is simply suggesting that saving faith is difficult to nail down(as I understand him through a cursory reading of the NW material). Is it belief in Jesus? The intellectual assent? Enough belief in Jesus to follow him? Is a ten year old capable of this faith? A four year old? What about the first time you hear about Jesus and it connects with you, even though you haven’t “confessed” him publicly? What about simply experiencing Christ’s love through another, and realizing that that is the best way to live?

    Are you prepared to define an *exact* moment that faith occurs?

    The point is, unless you can substantiate that you know for a fact that Simpson knows better — and is acting out of rebelliousness — then I don’t see how your treatment of Simpson is any different than Tidwell’s treatment of you.

  8. Charles McLean says:

    I think we should at least try to separate judgment of people from judging ideas. I have no problem with “Bro. Bubba’s idea is wrong,” but it goes a bit further when we say, “Bro. Bubba’s idea is wrong because Bro Bubba is (insert slight, insult, innuendo, or other ad hominem here).

    Can one not be a member of the church and be in error as to who constitutes the church?

    Now, it may be that certain underlying assumptions or doctrines feed other errors, and we are correct to challenge such underlying ideas so as to address root causes and not just symptoms. For example, using only acapella music means little or nothing, but the underlying regulative principle of prohibitive silence is a cancerous blight on the church and on any effort to grasp the message of scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit. But even those who hold that awful principle dear do not do so as a matter of personal failing or because they are not in Christ. At least, we are wrong to presume that this is the case.

  9. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:

    JMF writes to Jay:

    “Tidwell would likely suggest that you aren’t penitent on a whole list of subjects, and he’d well be able to offer his scriptural basis for why that is the case. ”

    While I have voiced my disagreements with Jay publicly and at great length, if I have ever insinuated that Jay Guin is impenitent, I apologize for the insinuation was unintentional.

    In spite of our disagreements, I have never had reason to doubt the sincerity of Jay’s faith.

    I must ask JMF to refrain from putting words in my mouth which I have never uttered. I have no objection to anyone taking exception with what I have actually said, but please do not speculate on what I would likely say.

    GATidwell

  10. Charles McLean says:

    Greg, you are perfectly correct to expect people to let you speak for yourself and express your own views instead of speculating. But if you would be a bit more forthcoming in these discussions, engaging in dialogue rather than simply making points and withdrawing, I think people would be less likely to speculate. I may disagree with a post you make, but I may be wrong in my disagreement. Or I may find that I see things closer to your view than I expected. But such revelation requires dialogue.

  11. Grizz says:

    Jerry,

    If I am reading what you wrote (and meant) correctly, you seem to be saying that (in the terminology Paul uses) either the ‘weak’ brother or the ‘strong’ brother is mistaken. And Paul accepts them both.

    My point, perhaps poorly made, was that in such disputable matters it is likely best to refrain from using descriptive terminology foreign to the text. This is difficult enough without using terminology that impugns the faith of the other brother whether one can see him/her through the ‘weak’ perspective or through the ‘strong’ perspective. ‘Weak’ and ‘strong’ say nothing about whether either of them is “mistaken” about the matter. ‘Weak’ and ‘strong’ rather put the emphasis where Paul and Jesus put it – on the point in the development/growth of their faith that they have attained. All of us are somewhere on that continuum from ‘weaker’ to ‘stronger’ and there are reasons validly applied to knowing and assessing where we (towards one another) make such a discernment (deliberately NOT calling it a ‘judgment’ here).

    When we introduce new terms to the text and get away from words carefully chosen by Paul (and do we not all choose words carefully when we sense there will be some ‘dispute’?), we run the very high probability of offending a brother rather than finding peace and acceptance for and from him. This is why I took issue with the idea of describing one or the other as ‘mistaken’ – since Paul says BOTH are perfectly acceptable to God ‘as is.’ Paul’s point seems to me to be that BOTH accept one another as BOTH have been accepted by Christ.

    In disputable matters it is not only likely but virtually certain that feelings become raw. At such a time one can only seek peace with one another by using the least offensive descriptors of one’s fellow disciple. Ad hominem is not only a logical error, but it is more (most?) importantly a relational error in judgment. Love avoids such offenses as much as possible, recognizing that the truth that is of over-riding importance is that we are to accept one another regardless of which descriptor (‘weak’ or ‘strong’) applies to either of us.

    Blessings,

    Grizz

  12. aBasnar says:

    @ Keith

    There are some sort of “open questions” I wound never ask in a Bible-study group, because they open a platform for the flesh to speak. The same happened in the New-Wineskins February Edition. But since we heard all sorts of flesh voice their opinion (mine not excluded, because I was really shocked and sometimes wrote furiously) we can see clearly where we stand.

    Oh, and the conversation between Greg and Jay once again confirms what you denied: There is a progressive wing/movement among the churches of Christ. And while I would not have put it in the same words, I do admit that many of those seemingly secondary issues that divide us can at least develop into a sin unto death, because they are put forth in a divisive way or provoke divisive reactions. Splitting churches is a work of the flesh, and those who do such things won’t inherit the Kingdom of God (= sin unto death).

    I think we all have to meditate deeply and seriously on this …

    Alexander

  13. Splitting churches is a work of the flesh. So is labeling others in order to exclude them, and I will not participate in it.

    Until issues involved the lordship, humanity, divinity, nature and character if Jesus Christ or moral behavior became so reprehensible that it denied these things, early Christians regarded the church as one and fellow believers as brothers in Christ – even when they disagreed on extrascriptural matters like the observance of holidays or the eating of certain foods whose origin was not known.

    I choose to do the same, Alexander, and I choose to believe that in the heart of most believers they know it’s true.

  14. Charles McLean says:

    I think that exclusion may be facilitated by labeling, but not created by it. I guess my question to folks who insist on pigeonholing certain other individuals or groups as “liberal” or “progressive” or “conservative” or “sound” is: what the purpose is of applying these tags? If we are doing this for the purpose of clarity, what is it exactly that we are trying to make clear?

    Some labels are mere conveniences, I suppose, and if they are admitted to be generalized and often inaccurate, they may have a small value in discussion by providing some concision. But we need to realize that such labels are like fire, useful in small controlled quantities, but inherently dangerous nonetheless.

    As to our terminology, we might be less proud of it if we realized how silly it sounds outside this little circle. Greg’s group might call Jay’s congregation “liberal”, to which descriptor the Epsicopalian Church down the street would say, “You’re kidding, right?”

  15. Charles McLean says:

    alexander noted: “Splitting churches is a work of the flesh, and those who do such things won’t inherit the Kingdom of God (= sin unto death).”

    Er, where does this idea come from? Dividing the body of Christ into mutually exclusive segments is undoubtedly an evil thing. But we did this LONG ago. Most of the organizations we call “churches” originated as “splits”. It is a fait accompli, and we are doing less than nothing to ameliorate it; we are actively making it worse by sharpening our competitive edge. So, in our current milieu of multiple religion clubs competing for market share among the area religious consumers, how it is that NOW a few (or many) customers changing local vendors is a “sin unto death”? If we are not already guilty of divisiveness for sustaining fifty mutually-exclusive religion clubs in our little town, I don’t see how we are any MORE guilty when somebody sets up Local #51 so they can do things differently from the guys in Local #38.

    IMO, Alexander’s statement sounds more like a way to defend the status quo than an effort to heal the breaches in the church.

    We do not divide when we start holding services in yet another startup location of the Franchise. We divided long before that, when we decided that having our own way in how we serve God was well worth the price of sawing off the rest of the Body of Christ. And those who flatly refuse to sign that particular manifesto are far too few.

    We need not all meet under the same roof in order to be one. But as long as we define everybody under a particular roof as “one”, we never truly will be.

  16. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:

    Charles;

    I feel I have been remarkably forthcoming, not only in this forum but in a wide range of electronic and print media.

    Jay launched this site largely in response to “the Gospel Advocate Creed” and often he has referenced my writings in that journal.

    I have nothing to hide, but cannot always spend the time to fully address all of the nuanced questions raised in this forum.

    GATidwell

  17. aBasnar says:

    Er, where does this idea come from?

    From Gal 5:19-21

    Alexander

  18. Bob Brandon says:

    “From Gal 5:19-21″

    I read text all the time in course of my job, and it’s part of my work to challenge misreadings of statutes against those who would take away the liberties of others. Even so, it is an endless thing to read those who would cite scripture not just as some sort of statutes that they clearly are not but to then cite them clearly removed from their own context. I suspect Alexander would do the same here with Gal. 5, and I would also hope it was merely by accident.

    In the context, it’s directed at those who would divide over legalisms and who would deny freedom in Christ. After all, Paul spends ch. 5:2-15 telling them that those who would divide over circumcision (parallel to our own day of congregational music, congregational polity, hermeneutics, or even distribution of the fruit of the vine at communion) that “Christ will be of no benefit to them.” For Paul then says “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts; the only thing that matters is faith working through love.”

    The real questions for those who would kick against the pricks now as then (see Acts 9) is this, and Paul tells their predecessors in Galatia the same thing: “[y]ou were running well, who prevented you from obeying the truth?” Paul ultimately speaks harshly to those who abuse their freedom then – and by extension their freedom now – by writing “only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you [Bob: and what Paul means here are those who would impose Jewish law as a salvation condition or salvation theme, not those who would oppose such true and unnecessary innovations] bit and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.”

    Paul was not inexperienced in the politics and pain of religious division; he had lived it his entire life, and he knew what it could do to – and not do for – a community of faith. What he saw growing up as a future Jewish rabbi he could also see in the young churches he had planted and watered. And he would recognize who was responsible and who was not, and he wasn’t afraid to say who, what for, and what should be done about them. Rolling over and surrendering to those who would so damage the Church with legalism was not one of those options.

    We shouldn’t be so shy either. You see anyone trying to draw lines of fellowship over inferences and personal opinions, over “salvation conditions” or “salvation themes” or such legalistic nonsense, and you see those who resist God’s will for His people. Let’s recognize the “self-mutilating” (ch. 5:12) legalists for who they are.

    The Church has always had to deal with this ilk, as well-meaning as they insist on thinking that they are, and the image of the Risen Savior has always stood in rebuke to them. After all, Matthew Parris recently wrote: “One of the reasons we can be pretty sure Jesus actually existed is that if He had not, the Church would never have invented Him. He stands so passionately, resolutely and inconveniently against everything an established church stands for. Continuity? Tradition? Christ had nothing to do with stability. He came to break up families, to smash routines, to cast aside the human superstructures, to teach abandonment of earthly concerns and a throwing of ourselves upon God’s mercy.”

    In brave determination to put each other first and foremost and not instead our own desires to control others and to tell others what to do, by relying upon the freedom to live freely in the shadow the Cross to the glory of God, and by confessing our weakness and throwing ourselves upon His Mercy, we become who we were always meant to be. Not otherwise.

  19. Charles McLean says:

    Greg, we are certainly not entitled to your responses to our questions. But your idea of being “forthcoming” appears to be mostly in the form of what discussion board veterans call a “chuck-and-duck”. That is, you are willing to put forth your ideas, but are subsequently unwilling to engage with others who would ask questions or challenge certain of your assumptions. You are essentially willing to preach at almost anyone, but to talk with almost no one.

    In this election season, Greg, we see this same thing with debating candidates. They are all coached to listen the the question, but don’t bother answering it. Just use the opening to “stay on message”. This is simply not very enlightening, whether coming from them or from you.

    “Jay launched this site largely in response to “the Gospel Advocate Creed”…”
    >>>
    Jay, this is the first I had heard about this. Any comment?

  20. Jeff B. says:

    Mr. Tidwell,

    I’m sure that you have probably been forthcoming in ways that I’m not aware of. However, here is what I AM aware of:

    You edit and write for a publication that does not posts its articles online for people to read and comment on/discuss;
    You do not engage in discussions or even answer clarifying questions that are asked on this blog, but rather leave “drive by” comments on this site (taking pot shots and the retreating from the discussion);
    The one time you actually agreed to engage in a substantive discussion wherein the strengths and/or weaknesses of your positions could truly come to light, you quit before the discussion could get very far beyond position statements (graceconversation.com).

    Because of these things, I wouldn’t call what you do “forthcoming.” You don’t seem to do anything to engage those who disagree with you in conversation. You show up, make your point, mix in some motive-judgments and other pejoratives, and then disappear. You don’t deal with counterpoints made by others. You don’t subject your views to criticism/critique. You don’t discuss the layers of nuance that are a part of any theology, but that don’t lend themselves to quick and easy dismissal. You seem to me to be the polemical equivalent to the drive-by shooter, hit & run driver, or papparazzi.

    So when another (JMF) tries to represent his/her perception of your position, you really have no ground on which to rebuke him/her for “putting words in my mouth,” especially when (s)he says that (s)he is stating your “likely” opinion — clearly indicating that it is his/her deduction from your words, and not your words themselves. In other words, by using the word “likely,” JMF wasn’t putting words in your mouth at all! If you want your positions to be represented accurately, then represent them yourself by engaging in the discussion. If you insist on drive-by commenting, you should expect that some of your views will be misrepresented.

    I would like for you to engage with us in the discussions that take place on this blog. I think that your voice is a needed one. Since you have a different perspective than most of us, you may be able to correct us and expose inconsistencies to which we are blind. If nothing else, engaging in the discussion would help us to better understand your perspective, and vice versa. Even if agreement is never reached, this mutual understanding can only lead to a more charitable handling of one another.

    So I humbly ask you to change your tactics. Either engage in a one-on-one discussion and stick with it, engage with commenters on this board, or find some other forum to participate in actual discussion. Your drive-by comments do nothing but incite emotional reactions and leave your positions (and those of the traditional COC) open to (mis)interpretation. They contribute nothing of a positive nature to the dialogue.

  21. eric says:

    Jay
    We could all (me for sure) learn a lot from the way you time and again respond to criticism with respect and humility. So thanks for the example. I think that is what will in the end lead to unity in Christ. Showing a love and respect for one another even when it seems we are being attacked. I love seeing it in action though I haven’t mastered it myself. I don’t know much about Greg though I gather he respects you even if he disagrees with you. The tone of his comment could have evoked an emotional response from less mature Christians. Me included.

  22. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Jeff,

    In Greg’s defense, he dropped out of the GraceConversation for health reasons. He was replaced by Mac Deaver, who later quit the discussion.

  23. Jeff B. says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Jay. I had forgotten that detail. I think my point stands nonetheless. I do find it interesting that, while Mr. Tidwell may have had a legitimate excuse for leaving Grace Conversation, every one of the “conservative” spokesmen in that discussion found a reason to bow out rather than engage in actual dialogue, much like Mr. Tidwell does on this forum. I know several members of the Deaver family, and I know that in those circles of fellowship, Mac is viewed as a master debater. Yet even he bowed out. Mr. Tidwell’s tactics on this forum, along with the consistent refusal of all who share his theology to engage in and stick to a substantive discussion of their beliefs have me convinced that, even if he had not become ill, he would have found a reason to leave. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I have seen no evidence that suggests that Mr. Tidwell is willing to engage in a discussion of substance.

    Furthermore, I don’t believe that Mr. Tidwell’s tactics on this blog are easily dismissed as his prerogative. In fact, I think that Mr. Tidwell is a perfect example of how social media (including blogs), while positive in so many ways, have contributed to the diminishing of substantive dialogue in our culture. The ethical standards that guide mature adult conversation should not be abandoned simply because the medium of that conversation is online as opposed to over a telephone line or in person. Let me explain …

    Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I assume that Mr. Tidwell’s would never walk up to a group of people who are having a conversation, declare “You’re all idiots who fantasize about killing puppies”, give the shortest one in the group a noogie, and run off while yelling, “See, I TOLD you I was right!” Furthermore, I assume that he wouldn’t treat someone that way over the telephone. However, he has somehow found it acceptable to do the cyber-equivalent here.

    If you comment on a forum like this, you have voluntarily entered into a conversation. Therefore, you have an ethical responsibility to see that conversation through. If you don’t have time, energy, or confidence enough to see the conversation through, then DON’T COMMENT. It’s rude and disrespectful, both to Jay and to those who participate in the comments.

    If what I have said above is generally true, how much moreso when the claims Mr. Tidwell is making have eternal implications. If Mr. Tidwell is right, then Jay and his readers NEED to hear what Mr. Tidwell has to say lest we burn in a torturous Hell forever. If he is wrong, then he is teaching a gospel other than the one preached by the apostles (Galatians). One would think the weight of the matters being discussed would motivate him to do more than take pot shots.

    Perhaps Mr. Tidwell feels like our minds are closed and there’s no point to discussing these things with us. However, I wonder if he realizes how many people read this blog without ever commenting who are truly searching for some answers. If Jay’s teachings on this blog are what Mr. Tidwell claims they are, then these souls are being put in eternal jeopardy by reading Jay’s teachings. As one who supposedly understands the “truth” that Jay denies, surely Mr. Tidwell would want to show these searchers why Jay’s blog is not the place to find their answers.

  24. Todd Collier says:

    Just my two cents but this string seems to have become about a person and not about the issues. I am not sure that this will prove ultimately helpful. I share the irritation with “drive by’s” and dropped conversations but they are a part of the medium not necessarily a sign of moral weakness or indicators of the relative strengths of the arguments. I stay out of arguments that don’t interest me, post “brilliant” arguments that go unanswered, and sometimes drop strings mid-argument because the discussion is going no where.
    The fact is that we discuss these things because they are important to us and who we are or were. It is also probable that some of these issues are irresolvable because of our mutually exclusive approaches to the text. But we must remain focused on those issues and not on the communicative habits of our co-respondents.

  25. Bob Brandon:

    Well spoken brother!

    Clyde

  26. aBasnar says:

    @ Bob

    In case you missed it: My point is that dividing churches is a work ofthe flesh and endangeres seriously our eternal inheritance. When Charles asked me where I did get that from, I pointed to Gal 5:19-21.

    Now, I do agree that Galatian deals with the division among Jewish Christitians who want to burden the Gentiles with the keeping of the Law and those with the correct understanding of the Gospel, that the Law has fulfilled its service at the coming of Christ.

    Yet Galatians 5:19-21 is about much more, it goes beyond this context into all areas of life:

    sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.

    None of these can be limited to the Law vs. Grace debate. And among these worls of the flesh (in an uncomplete list) we find rivalries, dissensions and divisions. Divisions is especially interesting since the Greek here is αἵρεσις (heresies) or “sectarianism”. That was the big issue in Corinth BTW, and here I’d like to add a parallel. In his strong rebuke of dividing the church according to preferred teachers Pauls closes:

    1Co 3:17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

    That’s very serious. And in this – I hope you can follow th line of thought – I do agree with Greg that all the seemingly minor issues that divide us and that we split over can become “sins unto death”. Because when we split over IM arent we creating heresies (in its original sense as division not as doctrinal error). Of course you always need two to have an argument; but I sense that those who insist on IM and press it against the leadership of a church or the long held tradition and won’t wait for unanimity are at least as guilty of splitting the church of Christ as those conservatives who break fellowship with every IM-congregation. And since we can openly speak of a “Progressive Movement” and even are able to define its characteristics, I say there has already been a division.

    And what you criticize as “Legalism”, Bob, is – for the most part – a reaction to the schism. I’d also admit that it is an overreaction. Let’s not confuse cause and consequence here. Simply put: If in an a-capella church a group wants to push IM, then who is the cause of the argument that follows? Those who want to introduce a change. If a split occurs because those who poush IM become impatient with the slow minds of the leadership, or if they are being put out of the church because of their divisive behavior; then this is a result of that. As a sad consequence, a split occured, and since this split was about IM, IM becomes an (unnecessary!) marker of fellowship. Understand me correctly: I don’t condemn anyone who uses IM – I just see it as being not the historic practice of the church (… I don’t want to warm this up in detail again). Therefore I don’t “disfellowship” churches that do. But splittingh a local congregation over this is different, WAY different. And in the consequence it did not split a congregation only but a whole movement. No, I don’t see the Progressives as innocent lambs in this, not at all. And I don’t agree with the too harsh reaction from the conservative side either. But I see what is before my eyes, and I see what happened among churches of Christ in Germany as well. And what came after IM – female preachers! And I tell you based on 1Co 14:34-38 that this is a direct transgression of a command of our Lord (on a way different level than IM). But enough of that, it’s heartbreaking …

    And this is my serious warning: Gal 5:19-21 says that those who split churches won’t inherit the Kingdom of God. In this I have great respect for Keith who fights against this labelling as “Progressive” and “Conservative” (although I think he simply closes his eyes to the facts).

    Alexander

  27. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:

    Alexander;

    I appreciate your desire for unity. The question before us is whether unity is formal or actual.

    Formal unity simply declares we are united, no matter how divergent our beliefs and practices may be. This is the unity which was promoted in the February issue of New Wineskins, and which I had earlier warned was a problem among Progressives. This is the trajectory which has been followed by the Disciples of Christ denomination, which is moving along in a unity plan with the United Church of Christ. It is entirely permissible to be an ordained minister within the Disciples of Christ and not to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. There are absolutely no doctrinal standards defining the Disciples as a group. Their unity is a formal unity. (While there are individual Disciples who believe in Jesus as Christ is beside the point, they do not have to believe anything in particular to be united with the Disciples denomination.)

    Actual unity requires some commonality of faith and practice. Churches of Christ are divided into two camps. One one side are those who believe and practice what formerly believed and practiced regarding the way of salvation, the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the prohibitive nature of the Bible’s silence, and the distinctive nature of the Lord’s church. On the other side are those who are going in a different direction on these issues.

    As I pointed out in an extensive series of articles in the Gospel Advocate, which Jay graciously reviewed on this blog, Progressives are practicing a different religion from the religion practiced in the past among churches of Christ.

    Pretending we can be united when we teach differing gospels is like saying the emperor is fully dressed when we can see he has no clothes.

    GATidwell

  28. Charles McLean says:

    Greg wrote: “Actual unity requires some commonality of faith and practice. Churches of Christ are divided into two camps. One one side are those who believe and practice what formerly believed and practiced regarding the way of salvation, the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the prohibitive nature of the Bible’s silence, and the distinctive nature of the Lord’s church. On the other side are those who are going in a different direction on these issues.

    Progressives are practicing a different religion from the religion practiced in the past among churches of Christ. ”
    >>>
    I agreed with Greg’s first sentence until he defined it. “Some commonality of faith and practice” is indeed essential for unity. But Greg’s definition of “some commonality” turns out to be “near identicality” and “strict conformity to existing doctrines, even extrabiblical ones, in almost every particular”.

    If Greg said we have to have commonality on who Jesus is and what he has done and who we are in Christ, I would agree wholeheartedly. But when “some commonality” actually means “complete adherence to the regulative principle as previously practiced”, then he is no longer talking about a faith centered on a common Savior. Greg tells us plainly that anyone who disagrees with his group on prohibitive silence is in fact “practicing another religion”.

    I, for one, have to agree with Greg on this very last point. And I thank God for it. Those who put their entire hope of salvation in Christ– rather than splitting their their confidence between the cross and their own Christian job performance– do indeed teach a different gospel than the CoC taught in decades past. And about time, too.

  29. Charles McLean says:

    Alexander said: “I do agree with Greg that all the seemingly minor issues that divide us and that we split over can become “sins unto death”. ”
    >>>
    No, no, and no. It is not the minor issues at all, it is the sin that underlies how we process those issues which is where we find the sin. A tells B to eat broccoli, and threatens to sue B if he does not comply; B hits A with a shovel. Who cannot see that the broccoli is inconsequential here? Failing to see this leaves us forever talking about how “the broccoli question” can get you sued or assaulted. This sad shallowness of thought keeps us from the real issues. When we admit that “I would rather never see you again that to tolerate your refusal to eat broccoli,” indicates a selfishness and hardness of heart that won’t go away even if you decide to EAT the broccoli. When our dividing ultimata are the result of pride and judgment and stubbornness and a lack of love (and they most often are), no amount of other people’s compliance with our demands will cure the sickness in our own hearts.

  30. Orion says:

    Greg,
    I think a definition of terms is in order. I completely agree with your statement, “Actual unity requires some commonality of faith and practice.”; if by faith you mean faith in Jesus as Lord, and by practice you mean loving each other as Jesus loves us. How do you define faith and practice?

    When you make statements like following;

    “Churches of Christ are divided into two camps. One one side are those who believe and practice what formerly believed and practiced regarding the way of salvation, the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the prohibitive nature of the Bible’s silence, and the distinctive nature of the Lord’s church. On the other side are those who are going in a different direction on these issues.”

    “Progressives are practicing a different religion from the religion practiced in the past among churches of Christ.”

    It seem as though you are promoting religious tradition as terms of unity. I have no problem with traditions, in fact they can be good and helpful. If however, we make our traditions into tests of unity we come dangerously close to being the people Jesus is talking to in Matthew 15 and Mark 7, setting aside the commands of God in order to observe our traditions.

    We need to let go of the notion that religion is what happens within the 4 walls of specified building and cling to the definition in James 1:26-27.

    Unity will never be realized if we continue to cling to our sectarian spirit.

  31. Greg, Alexander,

    I appreciate what you have said about “unity,” yet there is a part of this that is often overlooked, and it ought not to be so because to do so is to ignore the mission of the church, and to nullify scriptural instructions; which leads to disobedience. So, from scripture, I want to point out the divisive spirit in the logic of “Unify under accepted tradition or else be divisive.”

    To those who are seriously committed to unity, unity can be met under the banner of “Freedom in Christ;” not tradition; not legalism. Those who are not committed to unity will always view different as divisive. As I have stated in this forum under another thread: The problem of unity among Churches of Christ, is a problem of legalism and legalists. Let me place a disclaimer here: “Legalism” as I use the term is NOT NECESSARILY EQUATED WITH CONSERVATIVES alone and IN NO WAY I am calling you Greg or you Alexander legalists. You may or may not be. I’m not making that case here.

    I’m sorry that I did not take the time to make this post shorter or the humility to “throw some thoughts to the floor” for the sake of brevity as Mark Twain suggested.

    Many of our brethren maintain the view that New Testament law (or Christ’s Law (1 Cor 9:21)) is like that of Old Testament law, that is, purely a system of commands, regulations, and statutes; they are “New Covenant legalists.” As with OT legalists, they insist on keeping Christ’s Law selectively while condemning others who do not adhere strictly to their interpretations of selected aspects of Jesus’ law. Rick Atchley demonstrates this powerfully. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYflJaw1jY0

    In matters of regulations and rituals legalists excel. When you point out their lifestyle imperfections under their own standards of judgment, they appeal to grace. There are many NT scriptures that NT legalists tend to overlook, disregard or otherwise minimize. One such passage is the following –

    13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13–14)

    At the risk of sounding legalistic, I declare unity demands strict adherence to Christ’s Law! His law, you see, rejects legalism; so if we adhere to it strictly, legalism will be purged as freedom is embraced. The gospel requires us to boldly reject the burdens of religious traditions that were historically imposed by man’s legalism and currently retained by the same. The gospel requires freedom; it is part and parcel of the Law of Christ.

    What is freedom in Christ? It is the liberation of an individual to glorify God in whatever he or she does. It is equally freedom from the enslavement of sin as it is freedom from the bonds of legalism-inspired religious traditions. We often speak of freedom as an option for the individual Christian, not the church. But, as Paul wrote, freedom it is not an option! If we have been called to freedom, then freedom is only an option if we reject the calling. Freedom, incidentally, only is governed by love for God and others (Roman 14).

    It is that same freedom that Paul exercised in becoming all things to all men. It is the same freedom that we must exercise in doing the same.

    In Matthew 28:19–20, Jesus says -
    “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

    Historically, legalists have been unwilling to make adjustments to reach the world. Their primary objective is to maintain old traditions; therefore they see any adjustment as a wrong “turn;” one to the left of course!

    To the contrary Paul wrote: (1 Corinthians 9:19–23)
    19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

    According the BDAG, the word “slave” as used in verse 19 carries the meaning: “to make one subservient to one’s interests.” In doing just that Paul:
     Became like a Jew
     Became like one under the law
     Became like one not having the law
     Became weak (This statement is easy to misunderstand. In the context (See 1 Corinthians 8), however, Paul refers to those who, by their faith, could not eat meat sacrificed to idols as “the weak.”)
     Became all things to all men so that by all possible means he might save some

    So, the freedom of the gospel puts a vast variety of bait at the churches disposal; not to suit itself, but to accomplish its mission. Paul’s words tell us that in order to reach the lost one cannot be mired in the mud of legalism. One must know the ways of the lost, engage the lost and “become all things to all men so that by all possible means” one might save some. In other words, we must make evangelism – not denominational traditions – the main thing.

    A church can be united in its doctrine while at the same time that doctrine can be so far removed from the mission and message of Jesus that it undermines the authority of Jesus and Scripture. The fundamental problem with legalism is it not compatible with the gospel message – it is rejected by the New Covenant which now offers freedom as a replacement for the legalism associated with the first covenant.
    As expressed through the pen of New Testament writers, freedom in Christ liberates the Christian from religious directives that are not God’s and modes of behavior or rituals that did not originate with Christ.

    In the early church those religious directives and behaviors that robbed the churches of their freedom were taught primarily by believing Pharisees (Acts 15).

    In contrast to legalism Paul wrote :
    Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)

    James adds the following (James 2:12):
    12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom.
    James is contrasting the Old Testament (OT) law with that of the new. He is instructing Christians to “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom;” not one that enslaves. Peter wrote the same. Peter (1 Peter 2:16) says:
    Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.

    They are all saying, live free of legalism, but don’t use your freedom as a cover for wrong doing;.” use it to love God and (in the context containing those statements) love others.

    We say, “We speak where the Bible speaks and we are silent where the Bible is silent.” That’s not a bad saying. But I tell you, how it is interpreted either supports or violates the NT law. If it means that where there is no NT law we will not make any laws then it is true. If it means that silence does not give freedom of choice as individuals or as a church then it violates scripture. It if violates scripture, it is wrong and ought to be rejected. NT regulations for worship NEVER excluded freedom.

    Paul says “Plant your feet firmly therefore within the freedom that Christ has won for us, and do not let yourselves be caught again in the shackles of slavery” (Galatians 5:1)

    What the legalists of our time have done is they have told us how to hold a church meeting. Scripture does not tell us how to have a meeting. We are instructed to meet regularly, meet often and to edify one another diligently. We are instructed to build up one another in love and encourage each other in good works. The ways that we accomplish those in the meeting can change as long as the purpose of the meeting does not.

    As if there are five acts of worship only, often the question is asked, “Where is the scriptural authority for ‘additional’ acts of worship?” Is freedom in Christ not the authority for what some may incorrectly characterize as “additional” acts?

    The author of Hebrews writes:
    Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. Hebrews 9:1

    Note which covenant had an earthly sanctuary and regulations for worship. By the number of examples that we can cite, it is evident that under that same covenant freedom was not granted where there was no law.

    Drawing from the form of the first covenant, legalists infer that New Testament worship has regulations for worship also. But where are they? There are none – certainly not like that of the Old, because NT law and worship are not like Old Testament law and worship (Heb 8:9).

    The second covenant does not have an earthly sanctuary (John 4:19-24) and NT law informs us that where there is no law there is liberty. So the argument can be made that one of the NT regulations for worship is freedom. If there are NT regulations for worship, they are certainly not like that of the first covenant. NT regulations for worship are similar to these:

    Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

    1 Corinthians 14:40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
    The question of scriptural authority generally is answered by the freedom that we have in Christ and most certainly by Colossians 3:17. As I stated earlier, unity can be met under the banner of “Freedom in Christ,” certainly not through legalism and bondage.

    John wrote,
    “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

    John 1:17
    So Jesus’ law is rooted in truth AND grace.

    The good news of the gospel is freedom through the blood of Christ. Legalists have stolen freedom from themselves, their converts, and us. As a result, the freedom of the good news has been nullified by chains.

    blessings brothers,

    Clyde

  32. In reponse to Charles’ McLean’s comment of April 5, 2012 at 9:20 am, I say “Amen!”

  33. I disagree that there are two and only two different parties within churches of Christ. Those who meet under that sign have divided over dozens of differences, and they defy classification under any two labels, including “right” and “wrong” necause some of those differences are simply extra-scriptural differences of opinion.

    Classifying believers under two labels may serve the purposes of those who wish to parse and divide and put themselves under the “right” label and others under the “wrong.” But it does not serve to promote unity. Those who believe are one Body. Each is undoubtedly right about some things and wrong about others, and God has added us to this Body in order for iron to sharpen iron, among other things. But as long as believers are right about Jesus being the Son of God — right about the real gospel — they are right about the right thing.

    Gospel is not about the doctrines of men, but the good news of Christ.

    So, for instance there is no justification for calling IM/a cappella praise a part of the gospel when there is no doctrine in the scripture requiring, forbidding, recommending or condemning. It’s not there. We can argue about it for another 20 centuries and it will never save or condemn any one or any church. It’s a preference.

    It is not gospel, so it can’t be a different gospel.

    And while we fritter away the lifetimes of people desperate for God with arguments over doctrines that aren’t gospel and labels that aren’t accurate, there are others willing to share the one-and-only real gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected to bring us endless life free from sin and guilt.

    Now that is the gospel that I want New Wineskins to be sharing, and the folks who like to label and disagree will not say anything about three editions since the beginning of this year that have sought to dive more deeply into the heart, nature and character of Jesus Christ.

    So I would like to challenge those who write and those who edit and those who publish to be united in sharing that gospel, THE gospel, until we have followed the unending Way, exhausted the inexhaustible Truth, and lived the unending Life — until we’ve actually mastered the Master.

    I don’t think we’ll ever do that, but it will be worth our effort trying — and it will lead others to Him, rather than into ever-more divisive and judgmental camps proving their unachievable rightness with their unauthorized, unscriptural, unChristlike labels.

  34. Doug says:

    GATidwell said: “Pretending we can be united when we teach differing gospels is like saying the emperor is fully dressed when we can see he has no clothes”.

    I just spent 3 months worshipping at a IM Independent Christian Church and I can only say that there was no different gospel taught there than I will hear at my non-IM Church of Christ. Differing worship styles… yes, but the gospel taught was the biblical gospel. Now if differing worship styles constitutes a different gospel, the whole conservative side of the Church of Christ is teaching a different gospel because they differ in many ways from each other even to the point of resulting in claims of damnation due to the differences. Mr. GATidwell needs to get real and see the conservative side of the Church of Christ for what it is in its’ current state and quit pretending it is something that it is not.

  35. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:

    In reference to legalism and the binding of traditions:

    Most, if not all of our differences come down to a divergence on the nature and application of religious authority. I adhere to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura – the Bible alone speaks authoritatively. This doctrine, and the attendant doctrines of the inerrancy, perspicuity and sufficiency of Scripture adhere to faith in the Bible as the Word of God.

    This outlook characterized the main stream of Protestant thought from the early fifteenth through the late nineteenth centuries.

    Further, my view of Scripture’s authority is that it is regulative rather than normative. In other words, we may only include in Christian faith and practice those things that God has authorized through Scripture. This view of authority has been widely, although not universally, embraced by those who held the doctrines concerning Scripture enumerated above.

    Churches of Christ enjoyed a hundred years of profound agreement on these matters from the time of their division from the Disciples until the current Progressive movement arose in the late twentieth century.

    Yes, I know we divided — most notably over Institutionalism. Yet both sides of these divisions maintained the same view of Scripture, while differing on how the authority of Scripture was to be applied.

    In contrast the Progressive movement is all over the map in terms of its view of authority in religion. Some have embraced the Wesleyan Quadrilateral to establish authority, others emphasize a direct personal leading of the Holy Spirit, and a few try to hold to the old view of Scripture (yet their numbers have seriously declined and are completely absent from the leading men and women of the Progressive movement. No academic among the Progressives, for example, affirms the doctrine of Inerrancy.) The intramural debate among Progressives occasioned by the February edition of New Wineskins underscores the kaleidoscopic array of opinions existing concerning authority in religion.

    As to the binding of tradition and legalism: If my only reason for not using instruments (or dance, incense, or any of a host of things ) in worship is “we just haven’t ever done that.” This would be binding tradition. Of course there are many times where those we would categorize as Conservative have bound traditions. And yet, many among the “soft Progressives” do this as well, wanting to hold onto “Church of Christism” without believing the doctrinal underpinnings. Typical of this problem is a Progressive congregation of my acquaintance that wanted the freedom to send their youth to instrumental worship concerts and to practice fellowship with a nearby Christian Church (most notably at a sunrise Easter service.) The preacher of this congregation delivered a sermon outlining why instruments are completely acceptable to be used as worship. An elder of the church then addressed the congregation explaining what the preacher said was also the view of the eldership, but (importantly) instrumental music would never be used in worship at the worship services at their building. It is one thing, if instrumental music is acceptable, to say for the time being we prefer not to use instruments. It is something else altogether to make a rule saying instruments must never be used.

    I do not want to make the case for or against the regulative principle at this time. My point is simply, if you do not believe in the regulative principle you cannot with consistency oppose instruments, dancing, incense, or any other unauthorized practice except as your current preference, subject to changing whims. To oppose these things, apart from the regulative principle, is the binding of tradition.

    On the other side of the coin, if you accept the regulative principle, it is not a binding of tradition to oppose instruments, dancing, incense, or any other unauthorized worship practice. You are simply trying to follow the will of God in opposing these things.
    As to legalism, far too often it is merely implicitly defined as someone keeping me from doing what I want to do. In the Institutionalism debates of the 1940s and 1950s the charge of legalism was broad-brushed against those who followed a more restrictive course.

    Legalism, properly defined, is the belief that one may earn his or her salvation by the keeping of certain rules. Absolutely, there are those who would be characterized as Conservative who have practiced legalism. But, remember, Mike Cope in a Wineskins editorial explained that J.R.W. Stott was a Christian (in spite of not being immersed) because of all the good things he was doing. It is one thing to say you do not believe God requires immersion. It is something else altogether to say God’s way of salvation may be set aside because of the good works of the individual. This sort of thinking is rife among Progressives who routinely explain an open fellowship approach because of all the good people out there.

    Legalism in any form is wrong. We are saved by God’s grace, not by our rule-keeping. The question, then, is whether or not God’s grace is conditional. Some of the authors writing for New Wineskins seem to feel grace is unconditional, and I have noted this implicit assumption in other places among Progressives. I have also known a few members of churches of Christ who have embraced Calvinism and therefore believe grace is unconditional.

    Unless you are a Universalist or a Calvinist, you must believe that grace is conditional. I believe, to state an obvious point of distinction, baptism into Christ is a condition of receiving God’s grace. This is no more legalistic than Jay Guin’s belief that accepting Jesus as the Son of God is a condition of receiving God’s grace. It is not legalism to say God has revealed boundaries as to who is and who is not in grace.

  36. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:

    I find Keith Benton’s protestations laughable as he attempts to put forward the absurd and convoluted theology of New Wineskins while asking that the teachings presented in New Wineskins be out of bounds for discussion.

    Don’t publish something you do not want publicly discussed.

    GATidwell

  37. Once again, brother, I would have to ask you to point out to me where I have asked “that the teachings of New Wineskins be out of bounds for discussion.”

    I challenged writers, editor and publishers to unite on exploring the character and nature of Jesus Christ, the direct focus of three out of four editions of the e-zine this year. If you find that a laughable protestation, perhaps you would be so good as to explain what you find funny about it. To turn that — or anything else I’ve said — into the plea you’ve described would require a twisting of words beyond the imagination of most of us.

    You don’t do that with scripture, do you?

    My entire purpose in publishing all these editions so far this year is for them to be discussed. Discussion is different from dismissing something as absurd and/or convoluted — anyone can do that. If you don’t want to talk about Jesus in your publication, then don’t take the challenge.

    My plea, my brother, is not for New Wineskins or for the editorial policy I have amply explained before or even for my soul — but yours.

  38. Charles McLean says:

    Greg said: “And yet, many among the “soft Progressives” do this as well, wanting to hold onto “Church of Christism” without believing the doctrinal underpinnings.”
    >>>
    In other words, they want to accomodate and practice existing CoC traditions without condemning those who do things differently. I can see why that would be troublesome, if the central tenet of your doctrine is the canonization of your own practice and the condemnation of anything else. It’s not enough to do what I say you have to do, you have to think the way I do as well. I mean, what’s “Church of Christism” without rancor and superiority? A soft, progressive thing, I guess.

    Moving on, don’t these newly-identified Soft Progressives deserve their own “wing” in the CoC? We can call them the “Charminites”. I want to build tabernacles also for the Semi-Rigid Conservatives (the “Dirigibles”), the Firm-But-Adjustable Progressives (the “Gumbyists”), and the folks who will take whatever shape the existing pressure creates from either side (the “PlayDohnians”). I can also see the need for additional separate warehousing areas for the Impermeables, the Inert Gases, the Harrumphs, the Wobblies, the Immutables, the Reactives, and the Sentencing Commission.

    Lord, it is good that I am here… I figure a professional wall-builder ought to be able to make a good living in some portions of this denomination.

  39. Todd Collier says:

    Charles my brother, you have a gift! LoL!!!

  40. If I adhere to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. i.e., the Bible alone speaks authoritatively, is it not the same Bible that demands freedom over against what amounts to legalism?

  41. Charles McLean says:

    Isn’t “sola scriptura” an oxymoron? As the NT never makes any claim to be Sole Authority and Revelation, one has to step outside the Bible to find such a doctrine, which doctrine clearly states that we don’t consider anything outside the Bible to be authoritative…

  42. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Greg wrote,

    Churches of Christ enjoyed a hundred years of profound agreement on these matters from the time of their division from the Disciples until the current Progressive movement arose in the late twentieth century.

    Yes, I know we divided — most notably over Institutionalism. Yet both sides of these divisions maintained the same view of Scripture, while differing on how the authority of Scripture was to be applied.

    Exactly. The Regulative Principle (RP) does not provide sufficient guidance to actually answer the questions that is raises. Thus, two adherents of the RP can come to exactly opposite positions on institutionalism, one cup, Sunday school, located preachers, missionary societies, free will offerings, etc., etc., and yet both are applying the very same hermeneutic. There’s just not enough hermeneutic there to answer the questions.

    Is support for orphanages via the church treasury an aid or an addition? How on earth do you decide? What’s the rule? Some say take the most “safe” position, that is, bind a rule that God just might not bind — which doesn’t sound very safe to me at all. Others say enjoy the freedom we have in Christ, even if it risks violating a rule that God just might bind. How prudent is that? It seems the choice is made based more on the personality of the preacher — who has the greatest tolerance for risk taking — rather than something truly scriptural, such as, the gospel.

    Today, the Churches wrestle with whether clapping to the music is an aid or addition. Others debate whether elder re-affirmation is an aid or addition. The battles go on. None are resolved. Damnations and excommunications are hurled by self-appointed judges. And no one asks why on earth God in heaven might be upset by worshipping with by clapping or by elders humbly stepping down when they’ve lost the support of the church.

    No, the rightness of a rule depends on the debating skill of the editor, and no one ever tests these interpretations against the character of God as revealed in Jesus, the over-arching narrative of the Scriptures, or the gospel.

    After all, the RP is considered to be at the very core of the COC gospel (a very strange conclusion to reach regarding a doctrine that began with John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli), and so both sides feel compelled to damn those who disagree.

    Where I grew up, institutionalism was considered a salvation issue by both sides. Why? Because the other side was guilty of error and led by false teachers. Evidently all error damns under the COC version of the RP. You see, the RP, as applied, often leads to “I disagree; you are therefore in error; you are therefore a false teacher; you are therefore damned and excommunicated.”

    And any principle that so easily destroys fellowship is false.

    Obviously, there are sound hermeneutics that may be found in scripture. And there really are false teachers who ought to be excommunicated. But the RP is not the path to truth. We need to apply a hermeneutic that’s as old as the Bible, not a relic of the Reformation.

  43. aBasnar says:

    @ Charles

    You wrote:

    In other words, they want to accomodate and practice existing CoC traditions without condemning those who do things differently. I can see why that would be troublesome, if the central tenet of your doctrine is the canonization of your own practice and the condemnation of anything else.

    I don’t think such answers really serve the cause, since they bypass what is said and belittle it by exaggeration (ironic, huh?). We might as well put aside some ofthe issues like institutionalism, clapping or even instrumental music, but take some of the more weightier matters to get to the point:

    Things that I see as VERY problematic are:

    a) Blurring the term “fellowship” to mere ecumenism by incorporating unbaptized Christians – cutting out the “one baptism” from the seven “ones” in Eph 4:4-6 (I know, I am as repetetive on this as Bruce Morton is on whether Baptism is a work of God or not). But the reason I put this back into the discussion again is that, yes Faith in Jesus is unnegotiable for salvation, but each of the seven “ones” is equally unnegotiable for unity.

    b) I know, Keith won’t like to hear that again, but the New Wineskins had some articles that even left it open whether faith is Jesus is a MUST for salvation. Esp. Carmen’s article was quite … strange, to say the least. It is absolutely understandable that this issue was associated with universalism.

    c) Another big thing is the ordination of women as preachers and elders. This is contrary to a clear command of the Lord which is unnegotiable.

    Let’s just keep it here: Such issues break our unity into pieces. The reasons are not even these “symptoms”, but the underlying VERY different aproach to scripture and scriptural authority. What crept also into some of “our” Christian Universities is “enlightenbed” theology, higher criticism, that – in the end – makes our culture the standard by which scripture is to be understood, because (as is the premise) the Apostles wrote being led equally by culture and by the Spirit. So it becomes the task of “theological specialists” to discern what in the Bible is merely human and what are spiritual truths (In other words: an ordinary “lay-person” cannot accurately read and understand the Bible anymore). That’s how and why female preachers/elders are being justified, while each simpleton on the street if he reads what is written would acknowledge that this is contrary to scripture.

    You should be aware that such dramatic changes in how we read our Bible cannot happen without dramatic schisms and alienation. This schim, BTW, is not limited to the churches of Christ, but it is a cross-denominational split. Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics are equally divided on these issues (whether they maintain their institutional unity or not).

    By this, please understand me correctly, I do NOT limit correct hermeneutics to the Regulative Principle. I do cherish and apply it where it makes sense, but the RP is as limited as any other “method” of Bible interpretation. But we MUST accept the scriptures as inspired, authoritative and true word for word if we want to exclude human opinions, theories, expediences, inferences or wishful thinking from our teaching as good as possible. Unless we go by what is written we MUST go astray.

    Do understand, Charles, that I cannot recommend a way that is culture bound, because this is the broad way leading to destruction. There is a fork in the road, a divider, where Christians have to part ways. Some will choose a theology that is less offensive and more appealing to the world, and others will suffer a despised minority status in all faithfulness to the Lord and His word. The cry for unity always means: Come and join us on our way on our road. You cannot have unity while walking on different roads! Because the roads don’t lead in the same direction. You have to chose where you want to end. I don’t trust that the broad way will eventually still end up in the the Kingdom of God.

    Do you understand the underlying problem, Charles?

    Alexander

  44. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:

    Alexander wrote:

    “I know, Keith won’t like to hear that again, but the New Wineskins had some articles that even left it open whether faith is Jesus is a MUST for salvation. Esp. Carmen’s article was quite … strange, to say the least. It is absolutely understandable that this issue was associated with universalism.”

    Of course Keith doesn’t want to hear this again. New Wineskins has published heresy so removed from Christian faith even self-styled Progressives have had to take exception to the teachings of this flagship journal of the Progressive Churches of Christ.

    I believe that salvation is only in Christ. Because of this belief, I am convinced that New Wineskins is promoting heresy that could cost men and women their souls. I cannot imagine a more serious matter, and I completely understand why Keith does not want to own up to his complicity in propagating this heresy. I, also, would be ashamed if I had been caught promoting such teachings.

    GATidwell

  45. Good brothers, you both seem to have skipped the introduction to that article, and I would challenge you once again to point out where I have said it should not be discussed.

    Universalism is a difference that should be discussed. I disagree with it as an interpretation of scripture. One can discuss differences or simply label them, accuse heresy, condemn and walk away. Some made an attempt to discuss sustantively, which I deeply respect. Others chose the second option.

  46. aBasnar says:

    No, Keith, I have not skipped your introduction to this article – and I will not publish here what I wrote to you privately on this. The problem in your “open approach” (as mentioned somewhere else) is it opens a platform for all sorts of opinions. Of course you are not the author thereof, you need not even agree with them … but you invite the devil to speak. It depends of course what the motto of your publication is: If it is a pluralistic magazine for all sorts of writers who consider themselves serious Christians the outcome must be like this – and your editorial responsibilty is limited to ban offensive language, but you remain silent or indifferent to the errors promoted in the articles. But truth is never open to debate, and a Christian magazine would most likely work better by holding fast to clear doctrinal standards where the editor wisely chooses the articles and includes doctrinal responsibilty in his editorial oversight.

    I was a bit comforted however that you showed some kind of disappointment/remorse for the February issue. I sensed that you understood that this went too far. I only came back to it, because what was published (and many posts in the comments) show clearly where I see lies the difference between Conservatives and what many sum up as “Progressive movement”: the approach to scripture.

    I really see the two wings walking two different roads. There was a fork in the road a few decades ago, maybe, where the two parted ways. First still under the same name and hardly noticed by many; but now it becomes more and more evident that there are two kinds of Christianity around. As I said this is not unique to the churches of Christ, but a cross-denominational Split. The division between one-cuppers and multiple cuppers is a child’s play compared to this. Institutionalists and Non-institutionalists still agree on how to read and interpret the Bible; but “Progressives” and “Conservatives” quite often seem to read entirely different books. And in saying this, I add that there are many shades of lighter and darker grey in between; Jay is way more scriptural than some contributers on the New Wineskins. Still, when it comes to – e.g. female preachers – he also adopts this strange new hermeneutics. So sometimes it’s only visible in one or two points of doctrine and practice; but this new hermeneutics is like cancer that will ultimately destroy the whole body. Because it is a cross-denominational split, you can see what happens further down the road by looking at e.g. the Episcopalian church or the ELCA. And you will understand why these denominations also suffered splits right down the middle: The Missoury Synod in the Lutheran Church or the Continuing Anglicans who would not go along with the “liberal mainstream”.

    They also parted way, in fact, they had to. Because following the way of the Episcopalian Church would be a grave departure from the way of Life which is narrow. What is called the “Progressive Church Christ” is by and large heading the same direction. Of course you can say, the way “Conservatives” react is not always very brotherly or lovingly – but imagine how shocked they are and bewildered.

    Alexander

  47. Not remorse or regret, brother, but only disappointment — that there was not more discussion. What you have felt you have sensed, you have read into my response. Let’s just stick with the words at hand, as we should do with scripture.

    Imagine my bewilderment when what I say is twisted around to be used against me by those who disagree with me, or even just my editorial policy.

    Before words like “heresy” are freely bandied about, shouldn’t one check first to see if they are warranted by the criteria of scripture, rather than just by the opinions and interpretations of people?

    I’ve mentioned above what I’ve found to be those criteria — denial of Christ as revealed in scripture, and moral conduct which does the same thing. Have I missed something?

    Now, obviously, that calls for discussion and I realize that it’s easier not to. Having raised the issue, should I just cut and run now?

  48. And, as I’ve pointed out before, only two wings or roads and one fork doesn’t begin to describe the situation of division in the body.

    I admire folks like Jay who are willing to take on a task like Sisyphus — rolling the rock of unity uphill on the mountain of division — but even Sisyphus was mostly battling gravity, not divisive people pushing the easy downhill way against him.

  49. Charles McLean says:

    Alexander says: “We might as well put aside some of the issues like institutionalism, clapping or even instrumental music, but take some of the more weightier matters to get to the point. Things that I see as VERY problematic are:”
    >>>>
    How we got to the point where the first three items (and your list as well) ARE dividers of the Body is the very problem I was trying to identify. Before we get to your list of essential issues, let us understand that not every believer shares your list. Why we continue to divide over different lists is what hardly anyone wants to address, except to say that if you would just accept MY list, I could accept you.

    As to your list, part of it is over something Keith allowed to be written in Wineskins, which few believers (sorry, Keith) find authoritative enough to be an arbiter of faith, whatever is written there. This is what you consider to be truly worth dividing over? Sorry, Alexander, but over here at least, whether or not people who do not believe in Christ are indeed in Christ is not one of the dozen or so major dividers the CoC uses. Mainly, I think, because focusing on this might force them to accept other believers– like -gasp- Baptists.

    Then, women elders and preachers? First, find me in the NT the current autonomous local congregational model we employ, and then perhaps we can take up the idea of how NT “commands” speak to that model’s leadership. And how did you happen to pick this one out of the hat? Is this gender issue more important than bitterness and malice and judgment and pride? Alexander, I know more malicious and proud preachers than female preachers. Why do you draw the line on gender instead of these other more common issues? Arrogance and ignorance in the pulpit is “negotiable”, but gender is not?

    And this “blurring” which is so problematic, let us see about that. This worry appears to be little more than a rationale to eschew people who have not yet arrived at faith in Jesus, specifically, to keep them out of our sacred weekly meeting and away from our “autonomous congregation”. SO… please show me where Paul et al told us to keep unbelievers out of our meetings. (Or to make ‘em sit in the balcony, at least.) Unrepentant believers, maybe, but not unbelievers.

    Alexander, I would agree that there are underlying issues –which I contend DO create these surface symptoms– and one such underlying issue IS the variety in personal approaches to scripture and scriptural authority. Yours and mine apparently differ. But even there, how we see one another as we approach scripture differently is the challenge. Some people will work together to come to a better knowledge of the truth. OTOH, the traditional CoC view has been simple: if you’re different from me, you’re damned. I am in the narrow way; if you do not do as I do in all particulars, you are part of that broadway crowd. Hope your asbestos underwear is in order. I have all the answers anybody needs; disagree and be damned. There can only be one right way to interpret any passage of scripture: mine is right, accept it or perish. Even if you preach Christ and him crucified, you’re still leading people to hell if you don’t mutter the right incantation over ‘em when you dunk ‘em. I sense a theme emerging.

    The one constant is that no matter what, we do not change. Our views are truth, and therefore immutable. To even allow discussion of some deviating viewpoint is shameful. But anyone whose wisdom is so off the chart that he never need change anything he believes should, it seems, be able to produce more godly results. The traditional CoC makes a de facto claim of doctrinal infallibility, a standing claim of a flawless knowledge of the will of God for men. To the outside observer, such a state of perfection should be accompanied by more of the character of Christ than any other denomination. It isn’t. They bite and devour one another as effectively as anyone. They love one another no better than the folks at the denomination across the street. Or at least, a group so precisely attuned to the mind of God should be able to turn a few staffs into snakes to demonstrate divine approval of their positions. They can’t.

    I understand your underlying problem, Alex, I believe I do. I agree that there is a dividing line between “in Christ” and “not in Christ”. I also understand that the dividing line you have settled upon is the best that you have been able to devise from reading scripture. But — and here is where we differ– these two lines are not the same.

    I would like to offer an opinion that the growing number of people in the CoC who are considering universalist or “available light” ideas is directly a result of the most conservative of the denomination’s voices. Yep, the conservatives are making the room for universalist thought. Here’s how it works: the traditional CoC has offered some views which have been long and well challenged by Jesus-loving, thoughtful, reasonable members of the denomination. When conservatives refuse to ever reconsider even the most irrational of their positions, it costs them all credibility among reasonable people, especially reasonable young people. Credibility lost, the basics of the gospel they have taught are sadly also brought into question. When a CoC preacher insists that his view on MDR, for instance, is just as immutable and non-negotiable a truth as the resurrection itself, why should a thinking person give any consideration to either one?

  50. No offense taken, Charles! New Wineskins was never meant to be taken as authoritative; that distinction is reserved for Christ in scripture. I don’t think most folks contributing to it over the years have ever perceived as purporting to be so.

    It is, howver, an opportunity among many others to discuss matters of faith and perception. So it could run a debate about pacifism and just war a few years ago, for instance, without a compulsion to take sides.

    And what Greg describes as a proud flagship is pretty much an humble dinghy in troubled seas. I suppose it wouldn’t be dignified to tilt at a windmill sized for a back-yard garden, though.

  51. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:

    Many social commentators have observed that the magic phrase “just saying” is used to cover a multitude of ills. Many seem to think repeating the mantra “just saying,” provides license to say anything, however hurtful.

    And I cannot consider anything more hurtful than denying that salvation is in Christ alone.

    When New Wineskins publishes articles promoting Universalism, the editor should not hide behind the idea of floating concepts for discussion. Either salvation is in Jesus Christ alone, or it is not. If the Universalism promoted by New Wineskins is true, then that is the end of the story. If, however, men and women will lose their souls from believing what New Wineskins is teaching, that is a different story altogether.

    Jay has often pushed me to define what I believe will damn one’s soul and what will not. I have often answered in a very nuanced fashion, but on this issue let me be crystal clear. I believe New Wineskins is in complicity with promoting a teaching, which if believed, will cost people their souls.

    Let me say this again: Universalism is a heresy which will cost men and women their souls and it is reprehensible for any Christian to float this idea as something worth considering. To idly through out this heresy for consideration – “just saying” – is reckless.

    For my more progressive friends, this is a point of no return. If you are alright with Universalism being taught, there really is no common ground on which we can stand .

    GATidwell

  52. Greg, Universalism isn’t wrong because anyone says it is heresy, no matter who it is or what they edit.

    There are reasons it is mistaken. Jesus is not just telling stories in Matthew 25. There will be people who, having led evil and selfish lives, will “go away to eternal punishment.” It is a solemn warning. You can’t just ignore the parts of scripture you want to ignore and emphasize only the ones you want to emphasize. That’s dishonest, and I think that is in large measure where Universalism goes wrong.

    Reasons like this come to light in comments like this one. That’s why we discuss things: to bring truth to light.

    I’m not hiding behind anything. I’ve responded to your allegations to the point of absurdity; you simply either don’t read them or don’t recognize them. Or you believe I’m lying but just won’t come right out and say it.

    You’re free to disagree with my editorial policy, of course. On the other hand, when you say that I’ve said things I haven’t, or repeat a phrase as if I’ve said it or to imply that it represents my intention to promote Universalism — and anyone who can read the introduction to the article in question or my responses to you can plainly see it is not! — then I think you’ve crossed the line of judgment and making allegations and assigning motives you cannot possibly know. If so, that’s moving into a spiritually unhealthy area, brother.

    There is no idea or doctrine we should be unwilling to discuss with those who hold it, because as believers we love as He loves. Jesus was willing to discuss differences of doctrine with a woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria, Pharisees and teachers of the law in Jerusalem, and anyone anywhere who would converse with Him.

    That kind of openness to others was what was attractive to me about Carmen’s article, and my introduction reflects that. Openness to others is generally more attractive and persuasive than an approach which pronounces heresy and condemns on the spot.

    Thanks for responding. Feel free to respond to any or all of my other questions above at your leisure.

  53. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:

    Keith;

    There is one point you mention that I would like to address.

    You wrote: “Or you believe I’m lying but just won’t come right out and say it.”

    While I certainly disagree with your approach to the Universalist heresy, I do not believe I have ever questioned your honesty.

    If anything I have written implied that you are dishonest, I assure you the implication was unintentional and I apologize for the misunderstanding.

    GATidwell

  54. Please forgive me for wondering.

  55. aBasnar says:

    @ Keith

    Carmen explicitly stated that she expects to see all kinds of religions represented in heaven, and that – therefore – she enjoys the stories, food and rituals of all. But that said, I am done with this, we’ve been through that too many times already; and I still have the impression that you don’t see the huge problems in her article.

    @ Charles

    Yes, we should focus more on the disease than on the symptoms. The symptoms however show the various diseases, and the diseases are different when we compare the splits among the conservative churches and those between conservatives and progressives.

    Conservatives still share in the same convictions concerning the scriptures. They won’t question one iota of it. They differ in the strictness of their application rather than in the principles of how to read them. No, I don’t agee with the splits between institutionalists and non-institutionalists, one cuppers and multiple cuppers; but I do understand them. I am convinced that one cup was the orioginal practice, and I know for a fact that the multiple cups were not introduced before the 1880s. Grape juice was introduced by the temperence movement and replaced the scriptural wine. When I look at the discussions I read I always wonder greatly how sincere brothers try to defend their holding to such innovations with the Bible. They stress the phrase “fruit of the vine” or use this fancy word “metonymy” to make multiple cups and grape juice appear perfectly scriptural. But they still want to build their case on the Bible!

    Now, it is a human tendency to learn rather slowly, to adopt some things more willingly than others, to have blind spots … and at the same time see the errors only in the eye of the brother. Not that this is good, but this is the way it is. These splits among the conservatives are really unnecessary, and none of these even remotely touch a direct command of the scriptures or even a salvation issue. The only deal with more or less necessary inferences.

    The division between progressives and conservatives however lies on a different level. Here a new hermeneutics crept in that has its roots in the Enlightenment Philosophy of the 1700s (Semler, Lessing, Reimarus …). It developed into a “theological application” of the theory of evolution, dreaming that mankind evolves to ever higher levels of humanity. Therefore Paul and even Jesus were of necessity ignorant of many things we know today, their morals were culture-bound and therefore to a large degree inferior. This means, we have to discern where the eternal principles are in their writings/sayings and adopt them to the (far higher) standards of our culture. After all, it was US who abolished slavery and liberated the women, and it was THEM who supported all these injustices. I am very pointed on that, because I know very well that this is what is being said and written today by renowned scholars among the churches of Christ. They mix apples and pears (slavery and the submission of women are two VERY different things); but worse: They have a completely different understanding of inspiration, authority and inerrrancy of scripture.

    You know, Charles, Instrumental Music is so often put forth as the divider between progressives and conservatives; but IM is just a can-opener opening a Pandora’s Box. It’s used to drive the conservatives mad and make them look ugly, to make fun of the Regulative Principle and the “Old Hermeneutics”, and once this has been accomplished, a new (THIS new) hermeneutics is being introduced that gives way to all sorts of innovations and aberrations. And since not all take everything this new method offers, the progressive movement is as diverse as anything. There is a huge spectrum stretching from Jay Guin all the way to the above mentioned Carmen. So even in criticizing the movement (as a whole) we are forced to be too harsh to some and too soft to others which makes it extremely difficult to deal with it. It’s a no-win situation.

    A call to return to the old hermeneutics is the only remedy I see. Discussing this would be more to the point than discussing the symptoms.

    Alexander

  56. Bob Brandon says:

    Alexander wrote: “A call to return to the old hermeneutics is the only remedy I see. Discussing this would be more to the point than discussing the symptoms.”

    Fee and Stuart, “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth”, come to mind, pp. 26-27: “…[T]he only proper control for hermeneutics is to be found in the original intent of the biblical text… A text cannot mean what it never meant.”

    This “old” hermeneutic is nothing new at all. It was not handed down from on high. It is not inspired in and of itself. It is riddled with all the superfluities of innovation, of judgment, and of power. This “old” hermeneutic is nothing more than an effort by some to exert spiritual, religious, and even physical power over others.

    Congregational worship music is the exemplar on why this doesn’t work, and any number of folks have pointed out that the relevant passages have never been about congregational music; they’re all about edification. For those those who refused to budge on IM or non-IM being a “salvation theme,” context doesn’t matter. Never had. Original intent doesn’t matter. Never has. And ultimately, as a result, divine inspiration doesn’t matter. And these advocates cannot concede, cannot stipulate, and and, eventually, cannot admit. For all their devotion to literalism and to “inerrancy” (themselves hermeneutics), many are frequently eaten up with the ultimate heresy.

    And that’s sad. But some folks cannot be helped away from blasphemy, the urge to substitute their thoughts for God’s, inject them into the text, and then demand that they be regarded as wholesome spiritual food. They’re not going to convince us here, nor we them, but they can certainly be answered and, in answering, exposed.

  57. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:

    For those wanting to understand more about the Universalist heresy, Richard Beck, an Abilene Christian University professor, has provided an outline of his Universalist beliefs at http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2006/11/why-i-am-universalist-summing-up-and.html

    As I have noted before, this heresy is widely tolerated and increasingly embraced among Progressive Churches of Christ.

    GATidwell

  58. Richard Beck says:

    Just a comment regarding the charge of “heresy.”

    First, to say the doctrine of universal reconciliation is heresy is pretty ignorant, theologically speaking. No core creedal doctrine regarding, say, the divinity of Jesus is adjusted.

    Second, while I believe (or at least hope) in the eventual reconciliation of all humanity, I don’t teach it at my church. It’s not the consensus view of my eldership whom I am in submission to. Nor do I teach this view at ACU.

    And finally, I don’t hold the view dogmatically or make views regarding hell a test of Christian fellowship.

  59. Alexander,

    Your comments are a worthwhile read since there is wisdom in much that you write, but please permit me to take issue with your recent post to Charles.

    You said –

    Conservatives still share in the same convictions concerning the scriptures. They won’t question one iota of it. They differ in the strictness of their application rather than in the principles of how to read them.

    I’m baffled by the numerous wedge-driving, line-dividing statements that define people that you do not know; and with such confidence. But I want to understand it.

    Are you suggesting that conservatives read the Bible the same way, but differ on strictness of the application derived from the scriptures that are read the same way?

    Don’t you see a problem with that statement? I suggest that it reeks of a stronger stench of disregard for truth than that which you accuse “progressives” of having. If conservatives read in the same way, and so come to the same conclusions, why not apply in the same way? Do I understand you correctly?

    Further, are you suggesting that “progressives” question the authority of scripture?

    With regard to labeling; is one’s beliefs determined by his label or is one labeled based on his beliefs. I for one, do not question the authority of scriptures; but no matter our labeling, we all struggle to grasp the messages that the ancient texts deliver. Even within the same man-attributed labels, there are differences in interpretation and hence application of scripture. Don’t you see that?

    You said –

    “The progressive movement is as diverse as anything. There is a huge spectrum stretching from Jay Guin all the way to the above mentioned Carmen. So even in criticizing the movement (as a whole) we are forced to be too harsh to some and too soft to others which makes it extremely difficult to deal with it. It’s a no-win situation.”

    So who gets to determine who is “conservative” and who is “progressive?” The difficulty and “no win situation” correctly noted ought to suggest to you, et al, that lumping people together under labels for the expressed purpose of “criticizing” (i.e., judgment) is ungodly (especially under old hermeneutics), and it allows you to dismiss truth because truth, as you see it, cannot contradict long-held traditions of the church; hence it must be the work of “heretics” (i.e., “progressives) you conclude. Can’t you see that that is just wrong?

    Have we learned everything there is to learn from the Scriptures? Is there nothing else to be learnt?

    You said –
    A call to return to the old hermeneutics is the only remedy I see.

    Let me ask, “How old is the ‘old hermeneutics’ to which you refer?” I believe that our “old hermeneutics” is all too often very young. Does the young Regulative Principal accommodate freedom in Christ (FIC)? Is FIC scriptural? If it is, then I suggest your hermeneutics should accommodate it.

    As I suggested in a previous post, division, even among conservatives, is the result of our legalism (and its associated pride), not the submission of one side only to scriptures. We (I’m including conservatives) have not been perfect in understanding or application of that which we agree on! Don’t you see that we have more in common than that over which we disagree? Thank God for his grace!

    I agree with Greg – salvation through Christ alone is a big deal; we should NOT draw the line in the sands of fellowship there – IT HAS ALREADY BEEN DRAWN FOR US, for we are only one through and because of Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). If my sins do not demand the blood of Christ, then his dying was in vain.
    How about drawing the line of fellowship along the traditional Coc fellowship lines? No way! Our condemnation of our brothers over that which does not justify our condemning them leads to our own condemnation. Jesus says -

    1“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and BY YOUR STANDARD OF MEASURE, IT WILL BE MEASURED TO YOU (Matthew 7)

    James writes –

    12Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. MERCY TRIUMPHS OVER JUDGMENT [but not among CoCs?]!

  60. Jeff B. says:

    Mr. Tidwell has accused Mr. Beck of heresy. While not explicitly giving a definition of heresy, Mr. Tidwell indicates his standard when he says: “I believe that salvation is only in Christ. Because of this belief, I am convinced that New Wineskins is promoting heresy that could cost men and women their souls.” So does this indicate that Mr. Tidwell defines heresy as that which contradicts his own beliefs? Many in the traditional COC have, in practice, adopted such a definition, so this would not surprise me at all.

    I don’t regularly read GA or New Wineskins. However, based on the comments from Mr. Tidwell and Mr. Brenton, I don’t think the debate taking place here is about universalism — they both agree that it is an erroneous belief. Rather, this debate is more fundamentally about competing views of humanity (anthropology) and the nature of truth (epistemology/alethiology). Mr. Tidwell’s editorial approach is to (1) only publish things that he agrees with, and (2) only minimally (if at all) subject those beliefs to critical discussion. This approach seems to be taken because exposure to false teachings will only accomplish one thing –the common man will be led headlong into Hell. Ironically, if I recall the history correctly, these are very similar rationalizations to those used when the Catholic church objected to putting the scriptures in the hands/language of the “common man.” Compare the following: (A) “Commoners studying scriptures on their own will only lead to error and condemnation, so we spiritual elites had better protect them from their own spiritual incompetence by prohibiting their possession of the Scriptures.” (B) “Commoners being exposed to different interpretations of the Scriptures will only lead to error and condemnation, so we spiritual elites had better protect them from their own spiritual incompetence by avoiding any an all exposure to different interpretations of the Scriptures.” This reflects a negative anthropology because, without protective editors, people will inevitably embrace error. It also reflects a failure to recognize the Spirit’s active role in an individual’s acceptance of truth. Finally, it views truth as something that has to be “defended” and “protected,” presumably because it is not powerful enough in and of itself to prevail when contested.

    Mr. Brenton’s approach, on the other hand, seems to be that (1) people are already being exposed to a wide variety of ideas and interpretations of scripture, but often in ways that misrepresent those ideas and interpretations. Therefore (2) a forum whereby people can get an accurate understanding of, and discuss, those ideas and interpretations can be helpful. (3) Accurate representations of ideas are often best given by those who personally hold those views. (4) Exposing people to false teachings may put them at risk of adopting those views, however, this risk is at least neutralized by the benefit of equipping Christians with an accurate understanding of what they will combat, thus enabling Christians to be more effective in “rescuing” people from those false teachings. This approach reflects a more positive view of humanity, having confidence that sincere people will choose truth over error when presented with accurate understandings of each. It also reflects a more positive view of the nature of truth — truth will prevail in the marketplace of ideas when presented accurately by people are formed by it.

  61. Charles McLean says:

    “Many seem to think repeating the mantra “just saying,” provides license to say anything, however hurtful.”
    >>>
    Rather like some people say they are just “speaking the truth in love”? Pot, meet kettle.

  62. Doug says:

    Great discussion! I would request that GATidwell explain to the readers of this website, how, from the GA perspective, the GA helps achieve the prayer of Jesus in John 17:20-23 for unity of believers. This seems to be the crux of the issue between “conservatives and progressives”. We should test any principle of worship, any publication, any sermon, indeed… any teaching against the unity it produces within the household of faith in Jesus Christ. I would request the same from Keith Brenton as far as New Wineskins is concerned. Let’s test these two publications against the high priestly prayer of Jesus.

  63. For the record, the last time I can recall using the phrase “just sayin’ ” (before right now) was on February 16 when I tweeted,

    “If I feel the need to close something I’ve said with “Just sayin’,” then I probably should have swallowed it instead of said it.”

  64. Jeff B. says:

    That “just saying” rant really came out of nowhere, didn’t it? I’m still trying to figure out what the point was and what prompted it. Care to explain, Mr. Tidwell? (I won’t hold my breath.)

  65. Charles McLean says:

    Alexander wrote: “You know, Charles, Instrumental Music is so often put forth as the divider between progressives and conservatives; but IM is just a can-opener opening a Pandora’s Box. It’s used to drive the conservatives mad and make them look ugly, to make fun of the Regulative Principle and the “Old Hermeneutics”, and once this has been accomplished, a new (THIS new) hermeneutics is being introduced that gives way to all sorts of innovations and aberrations.”
    >>
    Pandora’s Box did not become full of all the evils of the world when Pandora opened it. Opening it simply revealed what what inside. The reason that exposing the regulative principle makes people look foolish and ugly is because that is the nature of the principle itself. I will not excuse those (and I have been as guilty as anyone) who inject smugness and superiority into the debunking of certain hermeneutic principles. But neither will I consider that such human folly changes the realities before us. Believers who are free may behave badly on occasion, but that bad behavior is inconsistent with freedom in Christ. OTOH, people who judge and condemn and divide while embracing the regulative principle are faithfully expressing the real character and results of that hermeneutic.

    I agree that IM is often used as a point of entry to criticize traditional CoC thinking– including CENI and the regulative principle, as well as to point out inconsistencies in applying those hermeneutics to scripture. I think this is mainly because this doctrine of prohibiting IM is such an egregious and indefensible example of the flaws in that method of understanding scripture. The problems with the traditional hermeneutic can be found all over, but there the errors may be more subtle. Addressing the ban on IM is just like shooting fish in a barrel.

    Now, I would agree that once we are set free, we can indeed run astray. To use a good Texas analogy, we sometimes behave like a bull in a chute at the rodeo. Bound and pressed and antagonized by the chute and the rider, the bull reacts violently when the gate finally opens. He bucks and spins and tries to rid himself of the man on his back. Once the man is dislodged, the bull calms down within a few seconds and will trot back to the pen.

    I think some believers do this. Paul wrote to some of them in Romans. Once we discovered that grace was a reality, why not just sin all the time? More sin, more grace! Yeah! We buck and spin and reject simple truth. But it is important to note that Paul did not correct this bad conclusion in Romans by reverting to the priniciple of law which formerly kept people under control, but by helping these believers toward a corrrect understanding of their spiritual identity. He posited an internal control by the life of the Spirit rather than the external control of law.

    Yes, sometimes the reaction to learning that we have been bound by men is to spin wildly for a bit in the more-open area we now inhabit. I’m not justifying this behavior, just recognizing it. Some people start dabbling in bad habits or bad theology or bad doctrine because they now know God is not going to strike them dead for touching such things. And yes, some do go astray and don’t return. But for most of us, the Holy Spirit is quite faithful to lead us. Where we have overreacted, He brings us around. He is the solution. We are free to live in any way consistent with who we are in Christ. Our life is in the Spirit.

    You seem to be offering a different solution: rope ‘em and get ‘em back in the chute, where they can’t hurt anybody. But it is for freedom that Christ set us free, not to be shoved back into yet another chute with a different sign on the gate.

  66. Jerry says:

    Charles, again you have hit the nail where it is meant to be hit.

    In my own experience, I grew up in a church community that railed against movies (of any kind in the theater), mixed swimming, dancing, etc. When I left home, I rebelled – and started going to all kinds of movies without discrimination. Until one day, I walked out of a popular movie asking myself “What are you doing here?” Wish I could say I’ve always been faithful since that day, but I have fallen – but this certainly illustrates the danger of trying to keep people “good” with rules and laws instead of the love of God in their hearts and the Holy Spirit walking with them every step of the way.

    Thanks for a good comment!

  67. Todd Collier says:

    Jerry, that is exactly the conversation I was having with my daughter yesterday. If we push man-made rules all it takes is for someone to figure out that anything we are saying is something we made up and we create rebellion. But if we follow God’s lead and teach His precepts without pushing our own we bring folks closer to God and find them trusting us with the rest of His word.

    I went through the same process in my teens- got so tired of the made-up “hedge” stuff that when I found a single wrong prooftext it undermined the whole foundation I had been raised upon. It took many years in the wilderness, a Thompson Chain NIV and”No Wonder They Call Him the Savior” to bring me home.

  68. Doug, it is an intriguing challenge, but I have no desire to participate or for NW and GA to compete. I would rather that both publications worked together to bring unity to the body of Christ by focusing on Him, the One whose Spirity brings and maintains unity.

    I would like to see them — large working alongside small — reaching the audiences to whom they are commissioned with greater depth of investigation of His identity, nature, character, teachings, life, death, resurrection, example, kingship, Sonship, Messiahship, prophecies, promises, instructions and expectations for us.

    To me, the high priestly prayer of Christ for the unity of all believers is a kind of penultimate capstone of His ministry but by no means the entirety of it. What we need to do is lift Him up so that He can draw all to Himself. Once there, we’ll find we are standing side by side, in unity.

    We might even find ourselves agreed that arguing over what God has not revealed in scripture isn’t even a fraction as important as proclaiming the Son He has revealed there.

  69. aBasnar says:

    @ Charles

    Certainly the Regulative Priciple has its limitations, but also it has its value. A-Capella-Worship – I would agree – cannot be argued for with the Regulative Principle alone, although it does bear some weight in this. Rather church history and typology play a major part in this as well. I think most of those who argue for IM miss the latter two and focus on the limitations of the Regulative Principle. We had probably thousands of posts on this in this Blog, so we won’t add to this.

    Let me try a different approach. Christ once asked his opponenents what they thought of John’s Baptism, whether it was from God or a human invention. The Scribes and Pharisees who would not dare to say either of both, although they actually did not believe it was from God, and answered: We don’t know.

    To illustrate our different approaches, we can take another example, asking the same question.

    E.g.: Is that women are to be silent in church a command of the Lord or just a cultural agreement? This is – aside of IM – one of the major dividing marks, because here we have a clear word in the Bible. OK, how is this question answered? “Modern Scholarship” already has made up their mind: “It’s cultural.” Yet they know this is contrary to what is written. And sometimes the answers given sound a lot like the ones Jesus received …

    See, the question is, whether express commands and approved precedents (Declaration and Address) are still binding or not. Conservative churches agree that they are binding, but they argue over more or less necessary inferences. Among the Progressives – as broad and diverse they are – I sense a different attitude, because – as in the above example – clear commands are re-interpreted as merely “cultural”. And this is the result of a different approach to scripture.

    When I spoke of Pandora’s Box I meant exactly this: They start with an opening question like IM and introduce a new hermeneutics that denies clear commands as being of Divine authority. It is already in the backs of their minds, that’s why some speak of a “Progressive Agenda” which sounds a bit like a conspiracy-theory. But there is more than a kernel of truth in it. In “Think Tanks” like ACU theories are being developed that soooner or later trickle down to the pulpits of our churches. OF COURSE Richard Beck says that Universalism is just his private opinion, yet he published this opinion on the internet. But he is not only a private person but also a public person. If any politician today would say: “Privately I do agree with a lot of what Adolf Hitler said”, he would get it trouble, wouldn’t he. These Thinktanks from ACU to ZCU confirm my non-institutional convictions. So, go to ACU and ask the Professors not about general themes like “Do you (still) believe the Bible to be God’s Word?” but more specifically: “Is that women are to be silent in the churches a command of the Lord?” (I read what Doug Foster wrote on this). They’ll get in trouble like the pharisees; or might even say it directly: It’s merely cultural.

    But in doing this they not only take out one command of the Bible, but the whole authority of the Book is at stake. Humans – “Modern scholars” (call them scribes) – begin to decide what God may have said and what not, based on their own cultural feelings. In affirming that God gave his revelation within cultural limitations they open the door for us to do the same: We must “acculturate” as well. In other words: We must conform to the world … instead of being seperate and distinct.

    This turns EVERYTHING upside down and inside out. Universalism as a private opinion of a professor at ACU is just another symptom; New Wineskins as well, just a symptom (and symptoms are a warning: It might be contageous!); Behind it is a completely different view on scripture, a view that robs God of his authority by saying His commands are to be “discerned” whether they were merely cultural or not. This is not only a highly speculative endeavor, but also VERY divisive. This tears churches apart across all denominations – the various issues may differ, the approach and the results are the same. This, Charles, is right from Hell.

    Alexander

  70. Alexander, the problem with universities and churches censoring and purging everyone whom anyone thinks is a heretic is that it eventually leaves one person at that university or church, because people won’t agree on everything.

    You say we have a command that women should be silent in church. Should slaves also obey their masters and masters treat their slaves well? Did Jesus order the woman at Jacob’s well to tell no one what had been said to her? Did angels wait until men showed up at the tomb to appear and commission them to tell the good news to others?

    Your disdain for “modern scholarship” is not a reason for failing to investigate scripture for historical context, audience, circumstances, and scope. Interpreting all imperatives in scripture as commands for all people for all time may be easy, but it results in wrong conclusions. You already interpret scripture with more discretion than that. You just differ in your conclusions but feel they are so authoritative you must bind them on everyone else. No matter how well-informed and intentioned they might be, they are your conclusions.

    There’s a great difference between saying, “This is how I interpret the passage” and “This is what the passage means.”

  71. Anthony says:

    The narrow mindset of the conservative wing of the CoC that spends more energy railing against anything that doesn’t fit their viewpoint that trying to be loving and healing is one of the reasons why I left the CoC and shook their dust from my shoes. “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care” is apropos here, and to me, I’m not seeing much real caring for individuals in some of the comments here. Preaching about the Beatitudes is all fine and well, until those principles get in the way of your agenda.

    Very sad.

  72. Doug says:

    Keith,

    I wasn’t trying to start a GA vs Wineskins debate. I was just interested in the visions of the two publications as far as promoting the unity of believers. I personally believe and have experienced that at least a degree of unity is possible among a much wider range of Christian than most CofC people would believe possible. Given that, it is hard for me to accept that we can’t have at least some unity among the various factions of the CofC. But, I was part of a group of people from the Church of Christ and Independent Christian Church who sponsored a joint fellowship meeting with Carl Ketcherside in the 1970′s so I know how difficult unity is to actually achieve. The meeting was denounced by the local Church of Christ’s and their members were advised to not attend. When you throw a party and no one attends, it’s very discouraging.

  73. Doug says:

    Keith,

    Coincidentally, along the lines of focusing on Jesus, I recently read the book “Beautiful Outlaw” by John Eldredge and it help me fall deeper in love with Jesus.

  74. Charles McLean says:

    Alexander says: “Behind it is a completely different view on scripture, a view that robs God of his authority by saying His commands are to be “discerned” whether they were merely cultural or not. This is not only a highly speculative endeavor, but also VERY divisive. This tears churches apart across all denominations – the various issues may differ, the approach and the results are the same. This, Charles, is right from Hell.”
    >>>
    Alexander, you have painted a very bright red line across the church, and I think I would like to see a little supernatural power to demonstrate that it is indeed God’s paintbrush you are using. This very concept of our being ruled by “New Testament command and example” is an extrabiblical concept. You appear to be telling us that any deviation from canonical rule is from hell. But you will not find any place where the New Testament claims such authority for itself. That claim comes from lesser, later sources and is merely inference from other inference, not Holy Writ. Jesus said clearly that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. Not that He will do so only temporarily, until a new canon of law and system of hermeneutics can be established. All that is extrabiblical addition. It is hardly even inferential, it is purely speculative, and in fact it eviscerates Jesus’ promise, turning from the leadership of God himself into leadership by how we read a book. “He will lead you into all truth” becomes “he will give you a book in a couple hundred years, after that, just consult IT if you need guidance”. If anything is hellish, trying to substitute a rulebook for the continuing direct guidance of the living God seems to more fairly fit THAT bill.

    Alexander, if you are indeed concerned with divisive RESULTS, I cannot imagine how you could continue to hold to the regulative principle, as division is historically its chief export.

    And please, minimizing this divisiveness does not make it any less poisonous. Even the “women speaking” issue you bring forward is inferential. What does “in the church” mean? In the church service, we infer. Are they to be silent in Sunday school? No, just in the “official” church service, we infer. Before the invocation? No, that would not be in the “official service”, we infer. Most CoC congregations even extend this concatenation of inferences to a woman standing up near the front of the auditorium. She can’t take a “leading part”, like passing a plate of crackers or waving her arm to keep musical time. And how silent is silent? Can we allow alto leads in a song? Can a woman say “Amen”? We do allow women to ask questions after the “official service” in the foyer, or in a ladies’ class. But Paul specifically says for them to ask their husbands AT HOME. We don’t even try to infer anything here, we just weasel around this “command” while building a whole inferential superstructure over a related statement. Who says women can ask questions of other women at a ladies’ meeting? Let them ask their husbands at home, as Paul supposedly commanded. Who says women can teach other women, except to be “keepers at home”, etc.? We have no such command or “approved example”. No, Alexander, this whole system of laws leaks reason like a sieve. The reason that we are so inconsistent with the application of the regulative principle is that if we were to try to apply it consistently, the resulting contradictions and foolishness would cause the church to scrap the whole thing in a month. And when you up the ante rhetorically in support of this hermeneutic, that does not plug a single hole.

    If we are wise, we “discern” the nature of what we read in the scripture by the Holy Spirit, not by either our own wisdom or preference– nor by the Holy Hermeneutic.

  75. aBasnar says:

    Alexander, you have painted a very bright red line across the church, and I think I would like to see a little supernatural power to demonstrate that it is indeed God’s paintbrush you are using.

    :-) :-) :-) So you want a sign, my dear scribe? I couldn’t help but laught out loud at that, Charles! Paul – who handed down this command f the Lord – had all the signs of an appostle, but those who wouldn’t want to listen, wouldn’t listen anyway. But in fact that’s more than sad, isn’t it?

    You appear to be telling us that any deviation from canonical rule is from hell. But you will not find any place where the New Testament claims such authority for itself.

    Christ said we are ro learn to keep ALL that He has commanded. That women are to be silent is a command of the Lord – or is it not? Well, what would a scribe answer to that? Maybe something like that:

    What does “in the church” mean?

    this comes very close to “Who is my neighbor”? I won’t tell you a parable to answer this, Charles.

    Alexander

  76. Orion says:

    Alexander,

    Some clarification on you statement:
    E.g.: Is that women are to be silent in church a command of the Lord or just a cultural agreement? This is – aside of IM – one of the major dividing marks, because here we have a clear word in the Bible.

    Can women sing in church since singing is not silence? How do you decide which command to bind, the command to sing or the command to silence?
    Can a woman teach a childrens Bible class? If there is a baptized boy in the class? If the baptized boy is her son? Why could a mother not teach her own son?

    To broaden the discussion to women’s roles in general. Can a woman pass communion? from front to back of the auditorium? from left to right on her pew? What is the difference? Is passing communion a position of authority that a woman could usurp from a man or is it an act of service?

    If the elders ask a woman missionary to share her mission report before the congregation from the pulpit and she refuses has she usurped their authority? Should he refuse such a request? On what grounds?

    Can a woman who has a “church” meeting in her home speak if a man is present? What if the man refuses to speak?

    Could the “clear work in the Bible” on many of these questions be “cultural” because many of the ways we conduct our “worship services” are cultural?

    I am not pressing for women elders, or even with the intent to expand women’s roles. Its just that I have had these same questions asked of me and am curious how you would advise they be answered?

  77. aBasnar says:

    Dear Orion

    Such clarifications are only worth discussing when there is an agreement that it is a command of the Lord.

    Then there are a few ways to come to the details:
    a) Context: What is the setting Paul is writing about in 1Co 14:22-39?
    b) What is the larger context? Paul is writing about the assembly starting from chapter 10 to 14 with some detours inbetween.
    c) Which light do other texts shed on this – esp 1Ti 2?

    d) How did an Early Christian assembly look and feel like? (Questions like meeting in houses, eating together, particiopatory meetings …) This is a very important question in order to avoid reading OUR worship styles back into the scripture.
    e) The testimony of the 2nd century (and to a lesser degree the 3rd century) churches of Christ has considerable value in our quest for the best and most consistent application.

    So, as to some details:

    Can a woman teach a childrens Bible class? If there is a baptized boy in the class? If the baptized boy is her son? Why could a mother not teach her own son?

    To broaden the discussion to women’s roles in general. Can a woman pass communion? from front to back of the auditorium? from left to right on her pew? What is the difference? Is passing communion a position of authority that a woman could usurp from a man or is it an act of service?

    We have created our own questions and problems, haven’t we? There are no pews in a NT church, there is no autitorium either. There were no Bible Classes as we know them. So all we can do is draw more or less necessary inferences for such situations that will never be fully satisfying. But accepting the command of the Lord as a command of the Lord is a necessary starting point.

    If the elders ask a woman missionary to share her mission report before the congregation from the pulpit and she refuses has she usurped their authority? Should he refuse such a request? On what grounds?

    Can a woman who has a “church” meeting in her home speak if a man is present? What if the man refuses to speak?

    First, Paul is speaking of the regular meeting of a local assembly, not of extraordinary meetings like inviting a missionary to speak and give testimony. Anyhow, a women who speaks or prays in any church-like setting should cover her head to show her acceptance of authority (1Co 11:2-16). A church meeting where only a fraction of the church and not even the elders are present is surely a different situation than what the norm should be. The same question could be raised: What if the only men in the church are mute? But these questions don’t help us to clarify the original question at all. They seek to find excuses in order to loosen what is clearly called a command of the Lord.

    Could the “clear work in the Bible” on many of these questions be “cultural” because many of the ways we conduct our “worship services” are cultural?

    The great big difference is: The NT churches were founded by the Apostles with Christ’s authority. What they introduced in one church they taught in other churches as well, and Paul – esp in the passage discussed – points to ALL churches. ALL are holding to the same practice and doctrine. ALL are respecting the Word and command of the Lord. That’s why the Corinthians cannot have their own way. (And that’s why this letter – unlike the others – was expressely addressed to all Christuans everywhere – 1Co 1:2)

    Today we have a mess. 2000 years of church history with all kinds of aberrations and innovations and half hearted or more zealous attempts to reform and to restore have created confusion as to how the church of Christ should operate and function. And yes, a whole lot WE do has its roots in our culture.

    But let’s make a little difference: Whether we sit down or lie down to eat is cultural and also indifferent, as long as we come together to eat. But if someone says: Lieing down to eat is as cultural as holding women in submission, we make a huge mistake (In other words: Paul had to keep women in submission because he wore sandals.). Why? Because Paul clearly could make the distinction between culture and God’s order, and he ALWAYS beased his statements on the role of women in church on the Word of God – NEVER EVER on culture.

    Some cultural things concern the way we eat, drink, dress, speak (language), sing, live … others the way we think, view God and people. The latter always need a transformation by the Gospel, no matter in which culture we live. The relationship between men and women is part of this. This must not follow cultural patterns but the Gospel, because – mark that – it is a type of the relationship between Christ and His church. Unless we claim equal rights for the Bride of Christ (“ecclesiastical women’s lib”) we cannot therefore agree to the egalitarian views of our society.

    Boy, that was longer than intended and still did not answer all your questions. But as I said in the beginning: Examine points a)-e) carefully and you will find many applicable answers.

    Alexander

  78. Bob Brandon says:

    Alexander:

    The second/third century does not control. Never has, and this has become a red herring in rightist circles in our fellowship. Proper exegesis looks for the underlying principle; proper application looks to the contemporary situation. Neither require any input from the second or third centuries, unless one is determined to be ruled by them. You have to decide for yourself in that regard. Our unique little fellowship resolved to look to the inspired text for guidance, not the commentary of the ante-Nicene fathers. We would do well to continue following that advice. See http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Last_Will_and_Testament_of_The_Springfield_Presbytery

    - Bob Brandon

  79. Charles McLean says:

    Alexander, my friend, calling me a scribe, avoiding either of my two admittedly long-winded major points, and then thumbing your nose at me with a generic platitude instead of speaking on point does not make for much of an answer in my book. This post was not up to your usual standard.

    As to the signs, your usual claims of authority vary between the writings of the ECF and CENI interpretations of the NT. I suppose I was wondering if that was all there is to it.

  80. aBasnar says:

    The second/third century does not control.

    Why not? Are the trustworthy men Paul spoke of (2Ti 2:2) so irrelevant that we can simply skip them in order to use a 21st century commentary instead of them? If I had the chance to listen to a close friend and companion of one of the Apostles, I’d take it.

    Alexander

  81. aBasnar says:

    Excuse me, charles, I was absolutely distracted by your “scribish” reaction (Signs, the question “Who is my neighbor / What does “in the church?” mean”) simply were eye-catchers for me. I thought you’d notice that yourself and were a bit more willing to smile at this funny situation as well …

    But let’s cionsider this one for a starter:

    You appear to be telling us that any deviation from canonical rule is from hell. But you will not find any place where the New Testament claims such authority for itself.

    Hm – canonical rule? A synonym for “Sola Scriptura”? Maybe, bvut my approach is a little different:

    Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
    Mat 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
    Mat 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

    Think about the following important aspects:
    a) Authority – ALL authority, in heaven and on earth
    b) Nations – ALL nations, regardless of their culture and times
    c) Commandments – ALL commandments are to be observed
    d) Time – AL(L)ways and forever

    Meditate on these four ALLs – they leave no room fopr any “cultural interpretation” of any of our Lord’s commands. Back to my example: Is it a command ofthe Lord that women are to be silent in the church? If so, then it is binding always and everywhere. And progressives who ordain women as preachers and elders they transgress a clear and positive command of the Lord.

    I take this as an example for an approach, Charles. We can substitute this by others. But try to grasp the principle.

    CENI has its value and it limitations, as has the Regulative Principle; the ECF are an extremly valuable source to get an idea of the original understanding of the scriptures; Common Sense might help as well; Faith in God is a MUST and dependency on the Leading of the Spirit as well. Church gistory and background history of the Ancient World is one of my favorite readings, Charles. I am not at all limited to one methodology, but I strive to getto the core of each passage of the scripture best as possible … and in doing this, I bemoan (!) the shallow and superficial and culture-driven work of modern scholars and the harm they do to Christ’s Church.

    Think about it, Charles: Is it a command of the Lord that women should be in submission? If yes – what are the consequences? If not: WHY not? Because Paul wore sandals?

    Alexander

  82. Jeff B. says:

    Alexander,

    I feel like I’m missing something that should be obvious in your reasoning …. but I’m missing it nonetheless. So to help me understand, could you answer some questions for me?

    1. Do you view “greet one another with a holy kiss” the same way as you view “women be silent in the church”? Both are imperative statements, given in God’s inspired Word, and could presumably therefore be considered “commands of the Lord.”

    2. I assume that your repetition of the phrase “command of the Lord” is because that phrase is used in 1 Cor. 14:37. However, your claim that a “command of the Lord” must be binding at all times and everywhere lacks either proof or explanation. Can the Lord not issue a command that is for a specific time and place only?

    3. Also regarding 14:37 … how do you know that the antecedent of “what I am writing to you” is each specific instruction he was giving, and not the overriding command to do things in an orderly way?

    4. What about “ask their own husbands at home”? Do you give this the same weight?

    I assure you that I’m not trying to “find excuses in order to loosen what is clearly called a command of the Lord.” I’m testing whether your interpretation can be held with any kind of consistency.

    5. How do you deal with v. 26, where men AND WOMEN are addressed when he says “each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation”?

    I guess the most important question in my mind as it relates to the overall discussion here is, “How do you know that a ‘command of the Lord’ can’t be limited to a certain time and place?’”

  83. Todd Collier says:

    Jeff, I’ve been using your #1 with conservatives for years and they always find some smart way to dodge the obvious and then deny that it applies to pretty much every issue they want to get worked up about. CENI simply doesn’t work to get us where we need to go so its users have to apply a certain amount of cognitive dissonance so that the Word approves of their choices while allowing them to condemn the choices of others. The simple truth is that we all make choices about which aspects of the Apostles’ teaching were eternal and which were not. For ourselves we revel in the liberty to make those choices. For some strange reason we do not extend the same courtesy to others.

    If “Greet one another with a holy kiss” is not binding on the modern Church then neither is any of the pet issues the conservatives claim. As a direct command only “love each other” appears more frequently and is equally represented in the directives of multiple apostles. Of you are going to keep women quiet, bind head coverings, enforce multiple elders, maintain five and only five acts of worship, require baptism for salvation, decide when and how communion should be observed and then enforce your decisions on others as a test of fellowship then you are sending yourselves to Hell if you reject “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”

    How do I know this, it is very simple and straight forward:
    Jesus said that whatever standard you judged others by would be applied to you. If you condemn another because they honestly and faithfully disagree with you on a point of text then you will be condemned when you don’t understand or follow the text. Further, if salvation comes because we faithfully keep Christ’s Law then we will be condemned if we fail on a single point of that Law. There is no grace at work for those who choose to be saved under the Law.

    Ignore the scriptures about the holy kiss and then judge your brother for the things he leaves out (in honest faith) and you bring the self same judgment on yourself. The difference being, your brother whom you condemned will stand because his Master will make Him stand, while you will be lost for putting yourself in God’s place.

  84. Bob Brandon says:

    Alexander writes:

    “Why not? Are the trustworthy men Paul spoke of (2Ti 2:2) so irrelevant that we can simply skip them in order to use a 21st century commentary instead of them? If I had the chance to listen to a close friend and companion of one of the Apostles, I’d take it.”

    Because 2 Timothy isn’t second/third century either. You’ve hit the wall all rightist eventually run into: the wall of uninspired tradition.

  85. aBasnar says:

    2Ti 2:2 reaches out to following generations:
    Paul – Timothy – trustworthy men – others
    for instance:
    John – Polycarp – Irenaeus are only three generations and we are already around 180 AD

    Alexander

  86. aBasnar says:

    Dear Jeff

    First let me state that there is a huge difference of not having restored all things to its original intent and practice and giving up practices that are good and direct applications of God’s Word. We are on our way, slowly but steadily recovering what has been lost (You probably did not address Footwashing, because you already know that we in our house church practice it ;-) ).

    @ 1: The Holy Kiss

    The command is to greet, the Kiss is a sign of affection. So the principle is clear. If you demand a holy kiss as the sole application ofthe intention than it’s like demanding a 1st century veil for the application of 1Co 11. But the specific headcovering varoes from czultuture to culture; nonetheless wiomen everwhere and in all times (until a generation ago) covered their heads in worship, using hats or various different scarves and mantillas. So we do greet each other affectionally, but more with a hug.
    (And – no – we haven’t yet repented from the rebellion against 1Co 11; but we are working on it.)

    Further: The Holy Kiss is on a different level of command than the silence of women. a) Paul never refers to the Lord when urging us to greet one another
    b) Paul never quotes scripture or a spiritual principle in the context of this command
    c) He doesn’t even call it a command!
    It’s a simple grammatical imperative, and a good thing to do. But it does not carry the same weight as e.g. the headcovering shich is called a command (in 1Co 11:17! Touto de paraggello …).

    @ 2:

    However, your claim that a “command of the Lord” must be binding at all times and everywhere lacks either proof or explanation. Can the Lord not issue a command that is for a specific time and place only?

    I tried to make my point with Mat 28:18-20 in my reply to Charles. Let me repeat it here:

    Think about the following important aspects:
    a) Authority – ALL authority, in heaven and on earth
    b) Nations – ALL nations, regardless of their culture and times
    c) Commandments – ALL commandments are to be observed
    d) Time – AL(L)ways and forever

    Second, the First Letter to the Corinthians is very unique in that it is specifically addressed to all Christins in every place (1Co 1:2), making it a very universal letter though dealing with very local issues. This means, Paul wants to be sure, these aberreations won#t happen anywhere else as well. And it is quite interesting in this context that in this letter Paul (I think) at least five times states that what he writes he teaches in ALL churches. 1Co 14:34 contains the same phrase.

    OK, the Lord can – and in fact did – issue commands that were only for a specific perios. So he changed the instruction on how the disiples should go and do mission (see Mat 10 and Luk 22). But the submission of women is clearly not a temporary vcommand, because it has its roots in the creation order and is a testimony to the angelic world (1Co 11).

    @ Also regarding 14:37 … how do you know that the antecedent of “what I am writing to you” is each specific instruction he was giving,

    That#s the nature of an apostolic writing. Unless Paul specifically ays: This my my private opinion (which he did in one occasion) we have to go by 2Th 2:15

    2Th 2:15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

    The sum total of the epistles contain basically everything he taught (in some places only orally, to other churches in written form) – and these writings are binding for all churches. That’s why so soon (2Pe 3:16) we had a collection of epistles that were regarded as scripture.

    @ 4. What about “ask their own husbands at home”? Do you give this the same weight?

    Yes. So much indeed, that we often have to answer the question what the unmarried women should do – (ask another brother.)

    @ 5. How do you deal with v. 26, where men AND WOMEN are addressed when he says “each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation”?

    Let me ask you: How does a pew and pulpit church apply this? Not at all, I suggest, yopu just have to ignore it. But as a house church we can apply this. But first: I read of “brothers” – this CAN include both sexes, but not necessarily. Now, how we do it: Each one present can suggest a hymn for singing, when there is time for fellowship in prayer, all can participate (we don’t pray from the pulpit in a house church); further our assambly includes tha Agape (Love Feast, and many encouraging and prophetic words are part of “table talks”).

    Now, I could write volumes on how to do house church by now, but you first have to know, that all these instructions are for the setting of a house church, not for a pew and pulpit church. These PP-churches are a far cry from NT church life.

    So, dear Jeff, I hope this clarifies a bit. The question is: What do you do with this? Study it until you find another weak point in it so that you can ask further questions?

    Alexander

  87. aBasnar says:

    Dear Jeff, my answer to you just passed the “moderation-checkpoint” :-)
    (Sorry it took a little longer, but it must have looked like a terrorist)

    Alexander

  88. Charles McLean says:

    Alexander wrote: Think about it, Charles: Is it a command of the Lord that women should be in submission?
    >>>
    We have made a major leap here, and in so doing, Alexander, you just hopped right over my question. Just flat ignored it and went on. In your post, you rightly point out Jesus’ claim that all authority has been given to him. But your resulting inference that we must follow all biblical commands skips a couple of steps. Here is what you argue:
    1. Jesus has all authority.
    2. We must submit to his authority
    3. BLANK
    4. BLANK
    5.We must submit to all biblical commands.

    I agree with #1 and #2 wholeheartedly. But you have left out any BIBLICAL linkage between “obey Jesus because He has all authority” and the main argument you have made about biblical commands. Actually, in this particular post, you ignored the need for ANY linkage and just moved forward on the assumption that the Bible now has all authority.

    I know what the common claims are for the intermediate steps of reasoning you have left out. But I don’t want to attribute leaky old reasoning to you. I would like to hear how you biblically connect the authority of Jesus and your proposal that the NT canon should be treated as essentially the same thing. I Tim 3 won’t even begin to get us there.

  89. Charles McLean says:

    “If I had the chance to listen to a close friend and companion of one of the Apostles, I’d take it.”
    >>>>
    Hmm. The Capital-A Apostles (or as Paul called them, the super-apostles) knew Jesus, and some of the earliest of the ECF knew some of the super-apostles, so that’s like a third-hand connection with Jesus Himself. So, I could be listening to somebody who knew somebody who knew Jesus. Not bad, I guess, and I would not ignore it, but since we as believers have a first-hand real-time knowledge of Jesus available to us via the Holy Spirit, I think I’ll continue to take THAT.

  90. Jerry says:

    2 Cor 11:5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles.

    2 Cor 12:11 I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing.

    Charles, I doubt that these “super-apostles” Paul speaks of here in 2 Cor 11 & 12 are the apostles of Christ. Consider, for example, the lead-in to 2 Corinthians 11:5. ” For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.” Sounds to me as if someone were seeking to lead the Corinthians into a different gospel by preaching a different Jesus. That does not sound like the apostles of Jesus to me. Also, in 2 Cor 12:12 (just after he said again he was not a whit less than the “super-apostles” he wrote, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. ” Thus, he contrasts “a true apostle” with the “super-apostles.”

    Sounds to me like false teachers were bewitching the Corinthians and taking them away from the gospel, trying to impress them with sophistry and wisdom of men and claiming greater knowledge than Paul himself possessed. I hardly think this would be one of the Twelve. I would hesitate to call these “super-apostles” Gnostics at that early age, but they do seem to demonstrate traits that eventually led to full-blown Gnosticism and denial that Jesus had truly come in the flesh.

  91. aBasnar says:

    @ Charles

    1. Jesus has all authority.
    2. We must submit to his authority
    3. BLANK
    4. BLANK
    5.We must submit to all biblical commands.

    I don’t see where you get the BLANKS from. Contextually I was speaking of Christ’s commands, and the reason I pointed to this was that Paul was referring to a command of the Lord in 1Co 14:34-38.

    Now we can ask: Does it mean ALL of Christ’s commands equal ALL biblical commands? What are commands of our Lord?

    Commands that are meant to be universal for His church in all ages until He returns. And we see them spelled out in the Gospels, but not only there. Why? Because the Gospels don’t contain all the Lord has said (as is obvious e.g. from Acts 20:35 or even John 21:25). These commands encompass our attitude, our life-style our relationship to the world, His church and church life … and – because it is a command of the Lord also, to be obseved in all churches – the principle of male leadership in His church.

    Commands that are not for all and not for all times are imperatives like: Go and get that donkey! or Distribute these loaves and fish to the crowds! Yet, that should be obvious.

    But we find these universal commands throughout the New Testament, because after His resurrection the Lord during the time of 40 days taught His disciples about the Kingdom – and these teachings are not included in the Gospels, because they report what he said and did prior to His resurrection. So His post-resurrection teachings are quite important, because in them He could built on the resurrection instead of just pointing to it as something that will happen. The death and resurrection of Christ have tremendous impact on the way we are to be redeemed and regenerated! Our whole understanding of baptism is liked to this, which is spelled out in detail in the epistels, not in the Gospels (exc. John 3:3-5).

    And so the Apostles were not only eye-witneses of His resurrection, but also trustworthy witnesses of His teaching both prior and past his resurrection. I firmly believe therefore that the formeost goal of Apostolic teaching was to hand down to us what they received from the Lord – and the core of that are the Gospels. But CHrist’s teaching are more than is contained therein. That’s why the term “Tradition” is of vital importance in understanding NT teaching:

    1Co 11:2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.
    1Co 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, …
    1Co 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, …
    2Th 2:15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
    2Th 3:6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.

    (Just a sample list) You see that Paul really avoided to speak of His own authority; He always referred to something that He received (from the Lord) and handed down to the church. Some make the mistake and conclude from the word “tradition” that he was referring to something cultural, but nothing could be further from the truth, when you read the verses in their context. These Apostolic traditions deal with the central truths of the Gospel (death and resurrection of Christ), the celebration thereof in the Lord’s Supper, headship and submission (headcovering), our walk as Christians; Paul goes so far as to say: All that he said and wrote is to be viewed on that same level, adding:

    2Th 3:14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.

    Now, in Paul’s letters we also find commands that are obviously not for us: “Get my coat I left in Troas!” for instance. And we have one quite rare occasion where Paul says: For this situation I have no command of the Lord, but I can give you my opinion.” Esp. this verse connected with “What I write to you is a command of the Lord” gives enormous weight not only to the “silence for women” but to the whole epistle.

    So, no I don’t need 1Ti 3:16 to build “my case” – I look at the attitude with which the apostles taught, what they understood as the Lord’s will, His commands that we are to learn to observe. Another one, just to close this, from Peter:

    2Pe 3:1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,
    2Pe 3:2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.

    Since the church is built on the foundation stones of the apostles (Christ being the corner stone) and these stones also are the foundation of the Holy City in Revelation I conclude that the teachings of the NT are to be viewed – as a whole – as the universal Will and Command of our King Jesus Christ. If theologians turn into lawyers debating whether or not this or that verse still applies to us today, I feel quite uneasy, because the Apostolic example is not to go beyond what is written (1Co 4:6)

    Alexander

    P.S.: I really seem to have missed what you brought forth and is still unanswered, but I am not sure what it is: Could you state it again, please?

  92. Jeff B. says:

    Alexander,

    I will begin where you ended:

    The question is: What do you do with this? Study it until you find another weak point in it so that you can ask further questions?

    Perhaps I am incorrectly reading your tone, but it seems as if you are indicating that an affirmative answer to the second question would somehow be inappropriate. If this is, in fact, your view, then I must disagree. You are espousing views that run contrary to my understanding of the Christian faith. It would be foolish of me to accept a wholesale re-defining of my faith without thoroughly considering it. I am only seeking to “test all things, and hold on to the Good” (1 Thess 5:21).

    The command is to greet, the Kiss is a sign of affection.

    An interesting reading of the verse. Actually, “greet” is the verb. But the command involves a verb, its object, and a prepositional phrase that serves as an adverb — “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” The whole thing is the command. Many who condemn IM often try to make the case that “psallontes” in Eph. 5:19 cannot involve the original meaning of psallo (plucking of strings), because the prepositional phrase “in your hearts” serves as an adverb, modifying psallo, in such a way to say that, if psallo still carried that meaning, the “plucking” takes place “in the heart.” So the prepositional phrase in Eph. 5:19 is considered a key authority in establishing the “law” against IM. I’m not sure if you espouse this argument from Eph. 5:19, but I find it interesting that your handling of Rom. 16:16 is completely dismissive of the prepositional phrase

    At any rate, you can’t just limit the “command” in Rom. 16:16 to the verb in the sentence.

    If you demand a holy kiss as the sole application of the intention than it’s like demanding a 1st century veil for the application of 1Co 11. But the specific headcovering varies from culture to culture

    So the command to have the head covered is applicable to all people in all times and in all places, but the specific head covering can be dismissed due to different cultural understandings? This seems fairly arbitrary. To oversimplify the passage, there are at least three increasingly specific teachings. (1) women are to present themselves in a way that doesn’t contradict their relationship to their husbands, (2)they do this by covering their head, and (3) the proper headcovering is a veil. You deny the universality of one in order to espouse the universailty of another. I am inclined to do the same. The only difference is that you go from #3 to #2, where as I go from #2 to #1. I still haven’t seen how your hermeneutical approach allows you to do this. Heremeneutically, it even seems pretty progressive. Be careful, Alexander. Next thing you know, you’ll be leading a praise band.

    More to come …

  93. Jeff B. says:

    Further: The Holy Kiss is on a different level of command than the silence of women. a) Paul never refers to the Lord when urging us to greet one another

    Why must he?

    b) Paul never quotes scripture or a spiritual principle in the context of this command

    Why must he? He is, after all, writing scripture.

    c) He doesn’t even call it a command!

    Again, why must he? I realize that he does sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that he is required to do so every time. When I am instructing my daughters, sometimes I say “You HAVE TO do this” and other times I don’t. Withholding those words doesn’t make my instructions any less binding on my daughters.

    Think about the following important aspects:
    a) Authority – ALL authority, in heaven and on earth
    b) Nations – ALL nations, regardless of their culture and times
    c) Commandments – ALL commandments are to be observed
    d) Time – AL(L)ways and forever

    No need to prove to me that Jesus is authoritative! I believe it and have based my life on it. However, taking this passage to mean that every command in the Bible is equally binding on us except some that are addressed to specific individuals (and apparently Rom. 16:16) is quite a stretch. Even Jesus spoke in generalities, and the Great Commission seems to be most naturally read as general (albeit extremely significant) instructions on the occasion of his parting. Forcing this statement to be understood unnaturally to refer to all the specific commands throughout the NT is an abuse of the passage, IMHO.

    the First Letter to the Corinthians is very unique in that it is specifically addressed to all Christians in every place (1Co 1:2), making it a very universal letter though dealing with very local issues.

    This epistle, like most (all?) was written with the understanding that it would be circulated. Its audience, therefore is primarily the Corinthian church, and secondarily the universal church. However, this understanding doesn’t come from 1:2, simply because the antecedent of “with all who call on the name of the Lord in ever place” is “called to be saints,” not “unto the church of God at Corinth.” In other words, it is part of the description of the Corinthian church. They were called to be saints along with believers everywhere.

    However, the fact that all scriptures are secondarily universal in their intent doesn’t change the fact that they were primarily local. It is the job of the interpreter to discern what is universal and what isn’t. It is my view that, in most cases, the principles are universal while the specific commands are local.

    But the submission of women is clearly not a temporary command, because it has its roots in the creation order and is a testimony to the angelic world (1Co 11).

    You use the word “clearly” quite loosely. What is clear to you or me may not be clear to someone else. And what is clear to you or me may be wrong nonetheless.

    There are different viable understandings of how these passages connect to creation, the meaning of the word “head”, the meaning of the reference to angels. None of these things are easily understood. It is a bit disingenuous for you to take passages that are universally recognized as being among the most difficult in the Bible and claim that your interpretation is “clearly” correct. Perhaps a bit of humility is in order.

    That’s the nature of an apostolic writing.

    It is? Please substantiate this claim.

    Unless Paul specifically says: This my my private opinion (which he did in one occasion) we have to go by 2Th 2:15

    Why? I understand that this is YOUR approach to hermeneutics. However, you say “we have to” have this hermeneutic. On what basis do you bind this hermeneutic on others? In 2 Thess 2:15, Paul was telling a specific group of people (the Thessalonians) to abide by the teachings he had given them. How does this one randomly-selected verse apply to things that Paul wrote to other people who weren’t a part of the same conversations? On what basis did you answer my question from 14:37 by jumping to an entirely different epistle? I’ll ask again more specifically, based on the text itself, how do you know that the antecedent of “what I am writing to you” is each specific instruction he was giving, and not a broader principle that these specific instructions have been given in support of?

    Yes. So much indeed, that we often have to answer the question what the unmarried women should do – (ask another brother.)

    While I disagree with your conclusions, I applaud your consistency on this point!

    Let me ask you: How does a pew and pulpit church apply this? Not at all, I suggest, you just have to ignore it.

    While this sentence is a diversion from the question I asked, I’ll answer it anyway. Most COC “pew & pulpit” churches ignore it, as you suggested. I bemoan this fact, but not because I view this verse as some sort of binding example or command, but because I see it as a beautiful picture of what gatherings of believers CAN be when FREEDOM in Christ are embraced and when the Spirit is given room to move.

    But as a house church we can apply this. But first: I read of “brothers” – this CAN include both sexes, but not necessarily.

    I take it to be a reference to both genders, partly because of the picture painted in 1 Cor. 11 where women are praying and prophesying in their gathering.

    Now, how we do it: Each one present can suggest a hymn for singing, when there is time for fellowship in prayer, all can participate (we don’t pray from the pulpit in a house church); further our assambly includes tha Agape (Love Feast, and many encouraging and prophetic words are part of “table talks”).

    Paul says “when you come together.” He says nothing about the rules changing when you are together “for fellowship in prayer” or “for the Love Feast.” He says “when you come together.” Yet when YOUR community gathers, your women are not silent — they can suggest songs, participate in prayer (I assume “participate” means more than “sit and listen”), and share prophetic words at your Love Feasts.

    Alexander, if these are truly universal laws, you seem to be taking some liberties. Yet you condemn others for taking liberties. You claim they are universal laws, but then you explain away parts of them as being merely cultural (i.e. the veil, the kiss). Yet you condemn others who take culture into account in their interpretation. You bind a hermeneutic on others without explaining how the Bible demands that hermeneutic.

    Yet I appreciate you and your willingness to discuss your views on here, as I see few “traditional/conservative/old-school/whatever” folks who are willing to do that. I also realize that my own views are wrought with inconsistencies and unresolved conflicts. The difference between us, however, is that I recognize that I have inconsistencies and errors in my theological constructs. I, therefore, refuse to bind my views on others.

  94. aBasnar says:

    Dear Jeff

    I was not sure what kind of a person you are, so I deliberately challenged you with my last sentence to tell me your motives along with your questions. The reason behind that is that too often such questions are asked not in the willingness to learn something new but to belittle the “opponent”.

    I don’t want to force my views on you, Jeff, yet as a congregation we have to make decisions on how to do things together. And if we strive for fellowship among churches of Christ we also have to come to agreements on many issues that have an impact on our fellowship. And the basic issue is how we read scripture and how we apply it.

    One of the reasons I speak with boldness is the “antiquitiy” of the positions I hold to. I regularly check and double check my views with the conclusions of those who sat at the feet of the Apostles. Charles somewhat scoffed at this attitude saying:

    The Capital-A Apostles (or as Paul called them, the super-apostles) knew Jesus, and some of the earliest of the ECF knew some of the super-apostles, so that’s like a third-hand connection with Jesus Himself. So, I could be listening to somebody who knew somebody who knew Jesus. Not bad, I guess, and I would not ignore it, but since we as believers have a first-hand real-time knowledge of Jesus available to us via the Holy Spirit, I think I’ll continue to take THAT.

    This means: “I, me, my Bible and my Holy Spirit are sufficient”. I call this naive and reality shows that this does not create unity. See, both you and I have the Holy Spirit, but we cannot come to an agreement on what the scriptures teach or how to read them (at least not in these areas we discuss here). Why? Because we don’t only go by the Spirit or the Bible, do we? If we are honest we must admit that the way we think and feel is shaped very much by the culture we live in and our innermost desires of the flesh, that are sometimes hard to supress and sometimes even clothe themselves in holy language to get their will.

    So, if I want to grasp the Spirit’s “first-hand teaching” on Jesus I cannot do it on my own, because for me it is hard to discern what comes from God, from my own culture or from my flesh. Therefore Paul said:

    Eph 3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
    Eph 3:15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
    Eph 3:16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
    Eph 3:17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
    Eph 3:18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
    Eph 3:19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

    Putting the Spirit filled people of other ages aside makes us rely on the saints of our time and culture only. Maybe/surely we feel more at home with their reasoning and way they express themselves, which is understandable. But neither Christ nor His Apostles were from our culture! To read them through our Western Eyes only makes us misread them – this is unavoidable. No matter how Spirit filled we are. Because Christ is not to be comprehended by us (you or me) alone but together with all saints.

    So having read a lot from the earliest witnesses – all of the first generation after the Apostles (Didache, Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Ignatius, Polycarp, Hermas) and quite a lot of the next generation (Justin, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus) I can say with confidence, that my views on these matters we discuss are as ancient as can be. Quite a lot of them were maintained throughout the centuries until recent times. Others got lost sooner or later along the way. Usually you can demonstrate how and why things changed.

    A few more recent examples concerning the Lord’s Supper (to illustrate): The multiple cups were introduced in the 1880s after the discovery of germs. I find it laughable when today some serious Christians try to argue that this is scriptural (using this great word metonymy) – not that doing it this way were an abomination, but we should honestly say that this is not the way it was at the beginnung and we miss out on part of its significance. The other more recent change was the substitution of wine by “fruit if the vine”/grapejuice, which has its roots in the temperance movement. Again brthers try hard to prrove that Jesus did not use real wine in the Lord’s Supper to justify their historically young practice as scriptural.

    You know, by doing such things we shove aside all Spirit Filled Christians throughout the centuries and rely on “innovative theologians” of our time and culture. The headcovering disappeared in the middle of the 20th century and was substituted by a whole set of various new interpretations of this text unheard of in 1900 years! Female elders and preachers came shortly afterwards, again enlarging the set of different interpretations to choose from.

    How you deal with this is your decision, Jeff. I resolved to back up my views nd understanding of the Scripture best as I can with the oldest available sources. Any doctrine or practice, that cannot be traced back to the 1st and 2nd century church I view with suspicion. The later it came up the more obvious it is that this was not what the Apostles originally taught or meant. hence my confidence, Jeff – I don’t mean it to sound arrogant, because I strive to submit to the Spirit’s leading not only within myself or my own culture and generation but throughout church history.

    Therefore I say – have to say – having female teachers or lders in not in line with the Spirit’s teaching throughout history, yea disconnected from the Apostles’ teaching by 1900 years! Ignoring this huge gap is impossible for me, and I fell I have to point that out to my brothers today that they took a wrong turn a generation or two ago; thus adding to the divisions we already are guilty of.

    Alexander

  95. Charles McLean says:

    Alexander, if you want to translate my words, it would lend accuracy to your effort if you consulted me beforehand. My statement does not exclude or demean the work of the Holy Spirit in ANY other believer, whether it be Peter, or Polycarp, or Thomas Aquinas, or Spurgeon, or you, or my aunt Mary. I was, OTOH, doing my best to debunk this “superiority of the ancient believer” cant which you and other antiquarians continue to present as established truth. This constant assumption that older is better is more an argument for wine or cheese than for inspiration. The revelatory power of the Holy Spirit is not winding down like an old clock. He did not keep better time and do a better job revealing Jesus to Athanasius or whoever wrote Hebrews than He does to you or me. The main limitation is our completely unbiblical presumption that the revelation which came to believers in 200 AD is more dependable that the revelation which came in 2000 AD. Also harmful is the idea that error in grasping divine revelation is a modern phenomenon; that Irenaeus is more dependable than Luther for no more reason than seniority.

    If the Holy Spirit had indeed moved into the book at the Council of Hippo, perhaps this would be the only reason that such an “authority of antiquity” might hold water. But as He lives in us today, there remains no clear reason to buy this doctrine.

  96. Charles McLean says:

    Alexander said:
    “Commands that are meant to be universal for His church in all ages until He returns.”
    >>>>
    And these would be? In the absence of direct language to this effect in the context of a recorded command, such a determination can only be made by inference. An inference about a command is still only an inference.

    The binding of inferences — and in this case, actually identifying inference AS command– is the worst feature of applied CENI.

  97. Todd Collier says:

    Alexander, did you see how easily you brushed aside a direct command? You looked for the focus of Paul’s intent (though I would wonder where in the Scripture you find the authority to do so) and then suggested a modern means of accomplishing the original objective. With a simple wave of your hand you toss aside a specific command because it seems reasonable to you to do so and did so for the same reasons you find disturbing when others make similar choices on issues about which you more closely follow the written text. To my way of thinking this is the biggest failing of CENI- on large issues it can produce broad agreement but on the “lesser” issues it causes chaos. And it does this in large manner because it makes it very difficult to determine what are “large”and “lesser” issues.

    As for the ECFathers however, as I have written before I share with you an appreciation of their value – not for establishing doctrine, but for showing us how the early Church applied what they had received. And also as I have written before as a “progressive” I find much more comfort in them than challenge. Even on the issue of IM – which you like to bring up – a dislike for the practice to be sure is coupled with an unwillingness to condemn it because the Scriptures obviously approve it. And none of their reasons for disliking it have anything to do with the writings of the apostles but with a desire not to be like the Jews or the Pagans. (Pretty much the same reason the CoC jettisoned a healthy view of the Holy Spirit, the doctrine of grace and Easter.) We should all know more about what the ECF’s write about the early church if for no other reason than to recognize the true dangers that can arise within a Body that lead to apostacy. Real apostacy where former believers are enthralled to the spirit of anti-Christ, not just folks who happen to disagree with me.

  98. aBasnar says:

    Charles, older (doctrinally) is generally (not always) more reliable. The ECF experienced Apostolic church-life first hand, some were elders trained and appointed by the Apostles themselves, they had no language difficulties since Koine Greek was their everyday language. What seems ambiguous to us was clear to them because they saw the original practice thereof (e.g. the order of widows). I don’t think I misread your statement, and I didn’t say you demean or denied them the Holy Spirit. I just recognized your unwillingnes to take them as a primary witness to Early Church life. And this leaves you with your own contemporaries who are as removed from the beginnings as you.

    Alexander

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