The Revelation: History of Interpretation in the Churches of Christ

lion-dove-lamb-yeshuaI grew up in North Alabama. The northern realms of Alabama at one time had the highest number of Churches of Christ per capita in the world. This is not a good thing. The large number of congregations was the result of a large number of church splits.

The church of my preschool years split twice before I left for college. My home congregation cleaved off the original church over the orphan’s home issue — whether church funds might be used to support orphanages. Really.

All the other congregations in the area were “non-institutional,” although we said “Anti” — pronounced with a certain curl of the lip. So I grew in a world where supporting orphanages out of the treasury was considered “liberal.” Fellowship halls damned. Youth ministers were considered with great suspicion.

Foy E. Wallace, Jr.

Orthodoxy — soundness — was defined by Foy E. Wallace, Jr. Among his many pet issues, Wallace pushed hard against the Churches of Christ’s historic pacifism and premillennial and postmillennial teachings. (We had some in both camps.) Wallace considered premillennialism a step toward Universalism, and hence surely damning.

In  his 1966 commentary on the Revelation, Wallace argued for a Preterist, amillennial approach to the Revelation, that is, no actual thousand-year reign and fulfillment of the prophecies before or at 70AD. And so he interpreted Rev 21 as describing the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD —

This triumphal administration of judgment has been wondrously portrayed in the scenes of the apocalypse, depicting the end of Judaism with the fall of Jerusalem; and the triumph of Christianity in the glory of the New Jerusalem, the church of the Lord of all glory. Before its march of advance the evil powers of paganism collapsed and the empire of heathenism crumbled.

Really? Well, Judaism did not end in 70 AD, as we still have Judaism with us 2,000 years later. The Temple cult — the sacrifices, etc. at the Temple — ended. But Judaism continued.

Christianity did ultimately triumph, in the sense that Christianity has survived long after the Fall of Rome, but that happened hundreds of years later. Christianity did not suddenly take over Rome in 70 AD. Rather, Jewish Christians fled Jerusalem and found refuge in other cities in the area.

The impact of the fall of Jerusalem on Christians outside of Judea was not great. The impact on Judaism was, of course, huge. The Jews had to rethink how to be Jews with no Temple. And it’s likely than many Jews found reason to convert to Christianity at this time. But no historian would find in Rev 21’s victorious language a description of the horrors suffered by the Jews in Jerusalem or the flight of the Christians from the encompassing Roman armies.

RaptureDespite having defined much of Church of Christ doctrine in the mid-20th Century, Wallace’s arguments re the Revelation did not catch on.

On the other hand, he was nearly completely successful in his opposition to pre- and post-millennial interpretations of the Revelation. In fact, I managed rapture2to graduate from Lipscomb without knowing the meaning the “Rapture.” I had to look it up when the “In case of Rapture, this care will be unmanned” bumper stickers came out.

Clarke’s Commentary

More influential — in my admittedly limited experience — were Clarke’s Commentary and Barnes’ Notes.

Clarke’s Commentary is from 1831 and remains popular among many in the Churches of Christ due to its opposition to instrumental music (see the commentary on Amos 6:5). As to the Revelation, Clarke declined to adopt an interpretation (from his Introduction to the Revelation) —

I feel myself at perfect liberty to state that, to my apprehension, all these prophecies have been misapplied and misapprehended; and that the Key to them is not yet intrusted to the sons of men. My readers will therefore excuse me from any exposure of my ignorance or folly by attempting to do what many, with much more wisdom and learning, have attempted, and what every man to the present day has failed in, who has preceded me in expositions of this book. I have no other mountain to heap on those already piled up; and if I had, I have not strength to lift it: those who have courage may again make the trial; already we have had a sufficiency of vain efforts.

Despite so saying, Clarke’s commentary largely ties the visions of the Revelation to events in the history of western Europe — all the while denying any confidence in his understanding of the visions.

Following Clarke, the Churches of Christ have largely ignored the Revelation in their teaching.

Barnes’ Notes

On the other hand, Barnes’ Notes, from 1834, was popular in the Churches of Christ at least until the 1950s and 1960s (just notice how often it’s cited in articles from that time), and Barnes took a historical/futurist perspective. That is, he tied the visions in Revelation to particular events in the history of the Western church.

In the Gospel Advocate commentary series, John T. Hinds’ 1936 volume on the Revelation adopts Barnes’ approach nearly wholesale. (He says so.) Like Barnes, he ties the visions of the Revelation to Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire — making the Revelation essentially a history of Rome and western Europe written in advance.

For example, regarding Rev 8:12, Hinds writes,

If the three preceding interpretations are correct, the fourth trumpet vision found fulfillment in some devastating power that came against the Roman Empire, the same western division affected by the preceding powers. According to historians the Western Empire ended in A.D. 476. In the last half of the century the most of the Western Empire was controlled by barbarians and the emperors at Rome were only such in name. The rule was exercised by a patrician, the officer of highest military rank. In 476 the soldiers under Odoacer mutinied and ousted Augustulus, the young emperor, from the throne, and offered submission to Zeno, emperor at Constantinople. The former glory of both emperor and senate was gone, and Odoacer by authority of the Eastern emperor ruled Italy as patrician for fourteen years. (Decline and Fall, Vol. III, p. 512.) So ended the Western Empire; the rulers lost their power, yet enough was left to show the light had not been completely extinguished; or, if so, it would be restored by another and different kind of ruler in the city of Rome.

… This in time led to the inauguration of a new spiritual ruler in the imperial city who, with the title of Pope, claims to be the universal father of the church.

But, somewhere in all this, Hinds (and Barnes) failed to notice that Asia Minor (modern Turkey) was not part of the western Roman Empire, and did not fall to the barbarians, but was part of the Byzantine Empire — a continuation of the Roman Empire that stood until defeated by the Ottomans nearly 1,000 years later — in the 15th Century! Why would seven churches in Asia care about the distant future history of Europe? Why would the history of Asia Minor be ignored in all this?

Asia Minor has had no Pope. They became Orthodox. They had national patriarchs, and they never submitted to the authority of the bishop of Rome. And yet influenced, I’m sure, by Luther, Barnes and Hinds identify the Pope as the Antichrist.

The dangers of the historical approach

I recall a sermon delivered during my childhood based on this passage —

(Rev. 12:13-14 ESV)  13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.  14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 

The theory was that each “time” in verse 14 was one year or 365 days, so that 3.5 years x 365 years produced 1277.5 years of the church hiding in the wilderness.

He concluded that the church became “apostate” under Pope Gregory in about 590 AD (although other preachers said the church went apostate in the Second Century when bishops were appointed over elders, as the church was no longer “scripturally organized”). This yields a date of 1867 for the church to leave the wilderness — being about the time of Alexander Campbell’s death.

Hence, the Restoration Movement is the true church, the church had been in hiding over 1200 years awaiting the arrival of the Restoration Movement, no one was saved during this long window of time, and the Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, etc. are all going to hell. (And, yes, it makes no sense.)

This was not straight out of Barnes’ Notes by any means, but it shows the ease with which a historical approach to the symbolism can be manipulated to produce “proof” of whatever you wish to prove.

More Than Conquerors

In 1939, William Hendriksen published More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation, taking a radically different approach. Hendriksen interprets the Revelation as a series of highly symbolic, parallel sections.

While rarely preached in the Churches of Christ, Hendriksen’s book will be found in many a Church of Christ library. We’ll cover his ideas in the next post.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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33 Responses to The Revelation: History of Interpretation in the Churches of Christ

  1. John says:

    Wonderful article. A good history lesson is so important; helps those of us who grew up in the CoC remember from where we came; and regardless of how much we change or progress, what we were is still a part of the recipe of we have become.

    The minister of my hometown congregation, a very good man whom I remember with love, was a great admirer of Foy Wallace and an avid reader of Wallace’s commentary on Revelation. He also held the “No Judgement” position; that the Bible does not teach a literal time when all people will stand together as “the sheep and the goats”; that the judgment took place in 70 AD. He and his father, also a preacher, had tried teaching this during the 1950s, but backed off when it started causing problems. It has been many years, and it is difficult to remember everything he said in conversation regarding Wallace, but to me his “No Judgement” view was linked to his admiration for Wallace. Did you ever hear of this view while growing up in Alabama?

  2. Price Futrell says:

    So, Clarke’s Commentary is the source of the Amos anti-IM argument ? 1831…. Wow !! I’m reading your blog on this but it’s difficult for me to engage since like you I’ve been exposed to countless theory to its meaning and application… I’ve never taken a strong position on the “end” as I don’t think it matters all that much.. We win. That’s good enough for me…But, the history of commentary today was very interesting…

  3. David Himes says:

    I wonder what the rationale was to include Revelation in the canon of the NT

  4. (Third attempt at commenting; hope they don’t all show up!)

    I’d throw Halley’s Bible Handbook into the mix. Written by a Restorationist preacher in the 1920s, it was very popular in the 20th century, and is still sold today. (Today’s version is owned by the Billy Graham Association and was heavily edited) The handbook was used as a textbook in lots of Christian college classrooms. It was also a standard reference work for CofC Bible teachers.

    Halley taught a futurist view, with the Pope as the antiChrist.

  5. John says:

    I no longer own one; but does anyone remember what view the Johnson’s New Testament With Notes took? Wasn’t it premillennial?

    By the way, regarding Wallace’s fear that premillennialism would lead to Universalism; he certainly missed that one.

  6. John F says:

    And a Spiritual viewpoint from Otis Gatewood. Our beloved Milligan saww the 2nd coming about 1027 or 1928.

  7. Jeff Hennen says:

    B. W. Johnson contended for the western historical approach, with the book essentially divided into two halves–The “Pagan Persecution” and “Papal Persecution.”

  8. Jim H says:

    If the Revelation was written in the latter 90’s, it’s interesting that the letter makes no reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the center of obedient sacrificial Judaic Righteousness.

  9. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    John,

    Johnson’s commentary on the Revelation begins at http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/view.cgi?bk=65&ch=0. He seems to avoid finding a specific future history. Thus, he defines “Babylon” as “Babylon — The city which carried Israel into captivity. Hence, a symbol of any power that renders them captive, whether it be Pagan or Papal Rome.” However, his comments are consistently anti-Catholic. He sees references to demon worship as symbolic of veneration of saints, for example.

  10. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Tim,

    Thanks for mentioning Halley’s Bible Handbook. I have a distinct recollection of reading a futurist/historical commentary as a teen — and I bet that’s it. I pretty much read Halley’s cover to cover at one point in my studies.

  11. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Price,

    W/o a doubt, Clarke’s is the origin of the Amos argument. The CoC kept Clarke’s unabridged in print for decades after its real usefulness because of this one very bad bit of exegesis.

  12. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    John,

    I take it that by “No judgment” you mean “no Judgment Day”? I’ve always understood that to be a possible logical consequence of the full Preterist view, but never heard it taught. And in North Alabama, we believed both in Judgment Day and judging others over their opinions about Judgment Day. We found it best to not to take a position — except we very strongly believed in a Judgment Day. Without a Judgment Day, we wouldn’t have known how to conduct a gospel meeting — which were always much more about the dread of hell than the glories of God.

    In “God’s Prophetic Word” Wallace teaches a general resurrection and judgment at the end of “this dispensation.” http://www.retainthestandard.com/Foy%20E%20Wallace%20-%20God's%20Prophetic%20Word.pdf page 355. This was published in 1945.

  13. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Jim H writes,

    If the Revelation was written in the latter 90’s, it’s interesting that the letter makes no reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the center of obedient sacrificial Judaic Righteousness.

    Only if the Revelation was written to deal with Second Temple-period Judaism. If the primary target was paganism, the Temple’s destruction would hardly need to be a centerpiece of the Revelation.

  14. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    David Himes,

    Revelation in the history of forming the NT. The interpreter can learn much about how Revelation should function as canon from the history of its canonization. H. Gamble aptly characterizes the canonization of Revelation as “fitful and uneven.” Until the time of Constantine, who used the book’s imperial imagery for self-promotion, Revelation was not recognized as canonical in some important regions of the early catholic church. Opposition to its canonicity was most keen in the East, where skeptical judgments were sustained over the recommendation of Athanasius, and continued to be exercised by some of the most influential leaders of early Christianity (e.g., Eusebius, Gaius, the Cappadocian Fathers). Later, this perspective continued among the Protestant Reformers who generally held to a low view of Revelation’s suitability as canonical literature, although for different reasons (Krodel, Revelation, pp. 13–31). Today, there are still some non-Chalcedon (i.e., Nestorian) Christian communions who reject the canonicity of Revelation and follow the Peshitta, an ancient Syriac version of the Bible that excludes Revelation along with 2 Peter, 2–3 John, and Jude. And the Eastern Orthodox do not include readings from Revelation in their liturgy—tantamount to a rejection of its canonicity.
    Actually, Revelation was not used during much of the second century; at least it was rarely cited in the writings of the early Fathers. According to Farmer, not until the emergence of the cult of martyrs during the late second and early third centuries did Revelation become prominent as part of a “martyr’s canon.” This accords with two prominent features in the history of Revelation’s canonization. First, the usefulness of Revelation was more quickly discerned by those believers on the margins of Christianity, such as the Montanists and chiliastic sects, who were largely rejected by mainstream Christians and by the surrounding society because of their sectarian tendencies. Their response toward history in general, informed in part by the ideas and images of apocalypticism, corresponded with their “outsiders” status. Their hope for history was placed at the end of history and in sources beyond history, rather than within history in the resources available from the elite of the sociopolitical order. Second, the elevation of Revelation’s importance for faith among Christian sects became an issue for the leaders of mainstream Christianity, who were suspicious of Revelation’s canonical status for fear that sectarian fanaticism was partially produced by their use (or abuse) of it. Also, the concerns over the apostolicity of Revelation expressed by influential Roman teachers, such as Gaius and Dionysius, were often less about the trustworthiness of Revelation per se, and more about the socioreligious legitimation of groups like the Montanists or the monastic cult of martyrs, who used Revelation as their “canon within the canon.” The issues at stake were often more political than canonical.

    Robert W. Wall, Revelation, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 27–28.

  15. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    David H, also —

    Tregelles (New Testament Historical Evidences) observes: “There is no book of the New Testament for which we have so clear, ample, and numerous testimonies in the second century as we have for the Apocalypse. The nearer the connection of the witnesses with the Apostle John, the more explicit their testimony.” Revelation came into the hands of the seven prominent churches in the province of Asia immediately after it was written, which already means a great deal as regards its writer, the Apostle John, its date, and its promulgation in the churches. Other churches in the territory over which John presided must have soon secured copies.
    Nevertheless, Revelation was not universally accepted. The Peshito (= simplex, sc. versio), the oldest Syriac version of the New Testament, dated in the second century, contained neither Revelation nor II Peter, II John, III John, and Jude. The history of the Peshito still needs clearing up. Whether the reason for omitting these writings was the same in each case we do not know. We note further that there is no reference to Revelation in some of the early writers in whose writings we should rather expect to find such references. It cannot be stated that they did not as yet possess Revelation. Those of a later time who pass by Revelation seem to have had their special reasons. The nature of Revelation and the difficulty of its interpretation were evidently deciding factors. Many writers of this time make very little use of Revelation for this reason alone.
    The early chiliasts, Papias himself being one of them, did not further the acceptance of Revelation by their chiliastic misuse of it. We have seen how this reacted on Dionysius and on Eusebius. The latter classed Revelation among the antilegomena. The simple fact is that Revelation was not universally accepted. Yet the Council of Laodicea (some time between 343 and 381) placed Revelation into the canon if we may consider its 60th canon genuine. So did the Council of Carthage in 397. Ever since that time Revelation has maintained its place in the canon. Yet because of the historical fact that it was not universally accepted during the first centuries many place Revelation among the deuterocanonical books which are indeed canonical but form a separate class for the reason indicated.
    Luther applied his subjective criterion not only to James but also to Revelation and wrote in 1522, “My spirit cannot adjust itself to the book.” He thought the apostles should write in plain language and not in symbolical terms or in visions. He retained Revelation and the other antilegomena in the canon but did not number the pages on which these were printed. In 1545 (Erlangen edition, vol. 63, 158–169) he corrected himself, which we should not fail to note. Zwingli was radical and declared outright, “Not a Biblical book.” Though in his commentary he does not expound Revelation, Calvin maintains the apostolic authority of Revelation, and his judgment is recorded in some of the Reformed confessions.
    In arriving at our estimate of the canonicity of Revelation we must not let the pronouncements of individual church writers and church leaders weigh unduly. This applies not only to the men we have already named but also to the large number of commentators of all the past centuries to the present day. Their interpretations present a bewildering and an unsettling tangle. It would require libraries and years of labor to compile a firsthand inventory. Most of the popular expositions are reverent enough but are rather light, make an effort to be timely and to bring applications, and thus carry only slight conviction. The factor that placed Revelation into the canon and has made its canonical position impregnable is inherent in the book itself. What scholars have done with these visions or may yet do, is of little importance in this respect. The rank and file of Christendom has been content not to penetrate behind every veil; it has ever felt the presence of God and the majesty of Christ although the details of the visions remain enigmatic. The fanatics, who make a specialty of Revelation and of its most mysterious parts, have not disturbed the host of sober minds in the church; rationalistic critics have been entirely passed by.
    Here is the place to confess anew: “I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints!” This church has ever recognized the voice of God in Holy Writ.

    R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation, (Columbus, OH: Lutheran Book Concern, 1935), 12–15.

  16. Dwight says:

    Not that long ago I heard a lesson where Amos was used to condemn IM, even while it was admitted earlier that God had commanded it. There is a big disconnect here.

    One study on Revelation offered multiple views that was very good. The speaker of course leaned towards one view, but other points were not so rejected as evil. What we don’t often realize is that a strict interpretation on Revelation is often more opinion than knowable fact.

  17. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Jim H,

    Regarding Robinson’s argument for a date during Nero’s reign,

    One of the more detailed, fascinating, and convincing defenses of the early date for the Apocalypse is that of Robinson in Redating the New Testament. The argument is multifaceted and complex but central to the discussion is the relative paucity of evidence from Roman sources for serious persecution of Christians during the reign of Domitian. Revelation seems to be penned against the backdrop of serious persecution and impending threats. Robinson attempts to demonstrate that this circumstance fits snuggly in the context of the Neronian era, but that no substantive case can be presented for a similar situation during the reign of Domitian.
    However, Robinson’s position is based on an essentially preterist reading of Revelation, an interpretation unimpressive at best to this commentator. If the book of the Revelation is intended as prophecy or the revelation of a future trajectory for the people of God, then the threats of impending persecutions are both understandable and accurate. Further, more recent writers like Hemer have called attention to the black clouds gathering on the Christian horizon and signaled by such events as the issuing of the curse of the Minim (a Jewish curse against Christians) and the growing estrangement of the church from Judaism.
    Upheaval within the Roman Imperium, social and economic pressures, efforts to prop up the decadent religions and gods of the empire, and the irresistible spread of the new faith called Christianity were clearly working together to set the stage for serious persecutions for Christians at the end of the first century—even if these did not fully materialize during the reign of Domitian. References to the “temple” in the Apocalypse, though with no mention of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, are not sufficient grounds to establish an early date. In fact, the absence of the destruction may actually be strong evidence for a date of AD 95. An event, however cataclysmic, that took place 25 years earlier may not have merited mention but could certainly explain the apocalypticist’s interest in future temples.
    Robinson has presented the best case possible for a date prior to AD 70. But in the end even Robinson’s theorizing is inadequate. The widely accepted date of approximately AD 95, placing Revelation as the last book of the New Testament, still appears to have better support. The first evidence for this arises from the virtual unanimity of the earliest witnesses. Charles notes, “The earliest authorities are practically unanimous in assigning the Apocalypse to the last years of Domitian.” He proceeds by appealing to Mileto of Sardis, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Victorinus, Jerome, and Eusebius.
    This argument is buttressed by Charles when he notes that the AD 95 date best accounts for the apparent familiarity that John exhibits for early New Testament books. The enforcement of the imperial cult was unknown until the days of Domitian, and the possible appearance of the Nero Redivivus myth form other lines of evidence for the later date.19
    G. K. Beale provides one of the more complete summaries of the case for the late date. He claims that AD 95 is “the consensus among twentieth-century scholars.” He proceeds to point to some evidence for significant persecution under Trajan around AD 113. He further notes the condition of the churches in Asia Minor as a measure of development reflecting a date in the last decade of the first century. Beale cites the fact that the use of Babylon as a descriptor for Rome did not occur until after AD 70 as perhaps “the strongest internal evidence for a post-70 AD date.”
    The preponderance of the evidence favors the date for the composition of the Apocalypse to be AD 95. Majority acceptance of this view in every era of church history bears testimony to the paucity of evidence supporting the earlier Neronian date. Certainly, acceptance of the date at the end of the first century eases the hermeneutical task and provides insight into the interpretation of a number of texts.

    Paige Patterson, Revelation, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, The New American Commentary, (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012), 39:22–23.

    I have access to dozens of electronic commentaries — most written in the last 40 years or so — and I’ve yet to find a commentary arguing for a pre-AD 70 date other than Foy Wallace’s.

    I do believe that many NT prophecies speak to the fall of Jerusalem. Some would call me a partial Preterist for that belief. But I don’t think Revelation deals particularly with the fall of Jerusalem — nor can I imagine anyone who lived through that horror (read Josephus’s account!) would find Rev 21 or 22 to have anything at all in common with the death of over one million God-worshiping Jews (who denied Jesus but were nonetheless beloved by their Father). Jesus wept over the prospect of what was to come.

    (Matt. 23:37-24:1 ESV) 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

  18. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    I believe that the commentaries that you are consulting are not portraying a overall concept of Revelation which you or I can be comfortable believing. Many of them are not in agreement with each other. Is there a good reason why these are so opposed to each other as to interpretation of the text. Could it be that almost all have missed the intended message? Are they really portraying a message (of hope) that could be understood by the suppressed and persecuted Christians of the first Century? For that matter is that not the same purpose that Christians today should read and understand the visions in Revelation? If it really is to be hope for all Christians throughout history, beginning from it’s writing, wouldn’t it be reasonable that even though we could see evidence that some event in history might fit well within a given vision, why would we want to limit it to only that event? Other than to attempt to place ourselves into a timeline, predicting future events. We have been informed many times that history repeats it’s self. There is nothing new under the Sun, the whole of history is in a constantly revolving cycle. I am not attempting to say that Revelation does not contain some events which will be one time occurring, but that many events are reoccurring with different content, people, nations, governments. Therefore, we have to apply the principles and concepts that are underlying the visions into our own time frame to be able to recognize the actions that we should take to avoid the same result which was rendered under the vision.

  19. Craig Baugh says:

    How about adding Rick Oster at HST. He’s written a commentary on the first three chapters. (Seven Congregations in a Roman Crucible: A Commentary on Revelation 1-3) Had his class on Revelation back in 1983. And he’s somebody in the Churches of Christ who is still alive.

  20. David Himes says:

    Thanks for the conical history material, Jay

  21. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry wrote,

    I am not attempting to say that Revelation does not contain some events which will be one time occurring, but that many events are reoccurring with different content, people, nations, governments. Therefore, we have to apply the principles and concepts that are underlying the visions into our own time frame to be able to recognize the actions that we should take to avoid the same result which was rendered under the vision.

    I agree. So do Gorman and Hendrikson.

    I mentioned Clarke’s, Barnes’, and Wallace’s commentaries by way of historical background to our own understanding as denomination, not to comment their conclusions. I think they are all mistaken.

  22. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight wrote,

    One study on Revelation offered multiple views that was very good. The speaker of course leaned towards one view, but other points were not so rejected as evil.

    Thanks for reminding me to say this: I don’t think the views I disagree with are evil. They are certainly not damning. In fact, I probably write with far more certainty than I feel. But the way I work through these things is by writing my way through the question to see whether all the questions can be reasonably answered with a given theory. But who knows what even-better theories may show up at some point in the future.

  23. Larry says:

    Mr. Guin,

    You commented that you were once a part of the “non-institutional” mindset. What was the #1 thing that caused you to alter your thinking on that? Perhaps you could start a new post dealing with that topic.

    By the way, I personally wouldn’t place membership at a congregation that used its funds to support an orphanage…primarily because I believe it is without authority.

  24. Larry says:

    Now that I’ve gone back and read what you wrote again, it appears to me that your congregation was the exception in the area where you lived. Is this accurate? Pardon me if I’ve misinterpreted; it’s not as clear to me as perhaps it should be.

  25. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    We were the liberals because we thought — in theory — that a church could support an orphanage out of its treasury. We in fact passed a separate collection and did not commingle the two. Nonetheless, we were “liberals,” and the daughters of the NI members could not date the sons of the liberal churches for fear of an unequal yoking.

    Some of my best friends growing up were the sons of the NI preachers in the area. I did my best to lead them astray by tempting them to help orphans. They taught me to how to gamble, play pool, and enjoy a hand of poker — using a Rook deck stripped of the 14s and Rook card and a Carom table. Evidently a rectangular table is sinful because it’s a gambling device but a square table with rings instead of balls is fully authorized.

  26. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry asked,

    You commented that you were once a part of the “non-institutional” mindset. What was the #1 thing that caused you to alter your thinking on that?

    I grew up in a town of less than 7,000 — with three Churches of Christ — two NI and one liberal (to use the vernacular). All the churches in the county (outside the town) were NI. The daughter of one NI preacher was best friends with an older sister of mine. The son of a local NI preacher was my best friend for 6 or so years. I had a crush on a couple of daughters of NI preachers (not at the same time). And I’ve heard the Anti and Liberal cases argued at three different dinner tables and from all three pulpits.

    So what’s my no.1 convicting argument? Not sure. It’s more along these lines —

    1. My friend could not go to a Christian college (I went to Lipscomb), and so he went to a state school and learned to smoke pot and quickly left the church in rebellion against his parents’ legalism. I have been upset about this for about 40 years. They were not severe or bad people. They just badly misunderstood God. And their children couldn’t find it in themselves to worship the only god they knew, the god of their parents.

    2. I saw the mess the legalism and rule-making and terror of God made of those families up close. I had other friends who were the children of NI preachers. And while not all left the faith, all struggled mightily. None enjoyed the freedom of inquiry I was given by my parents — resulting in a much stronger faith. Fear and faith do not co-exist well at all. I’ve known that since the 5th grade — by watching my friends. I saw the fruit of their belief system.

    3. My thinking has been — literally since junior high school — that the whole authority concept imports a foreign concept into the NT. It was a tentative conclusion at the time. It became a firm conclusion by my mid-20s. And I’ve posted often on the topic. There simply is no basis to insist on knowing whether a proposed action is “authorized.” We’re asking a question the Bible doesn’t seek to answer. After all , the scriptures give us not only the answers but the questions. Wrong questions lead to bad doctrine, which leads to children who lose their faith.

    All the proof texts and arguments in favor of imposing an authority regime on the NT are incorrectly interpreted, badly out of context, and contrary to the great narratives of scripture.

    I’ll make you this deal. Give me 3 to 5 of the strongest arguments for requiring authority to support an orphanage (or instruments or whatever), and I’ll explain the reasons for my disagreement. You’ll be welcome to rebut.

    Now, this is hardly a problem unique to the NI churches. Every single doctrinal split in the CoC after the Civil War has been over whether X is authorized — except the current conservative/progressive split, in which the progressives dispute the authority question altogether having seen 150 years of splits, division, divided families, and disheartened children. Hence, CENI hermeneutics are entirely rejected by the progressive camp, whereas the conservatives unite on CENI but cannot unite on how to apply the rules — because they are also foreign to NT thought. They are, quite literally, taken from 19th texts on how to interpret statutes. If you start by assuming a legal system — you find a legal system. But it’s not really there. It’s there solely by assumption. Eliminate the assumption and the NT changes into something radically different.

  27. Larry Cheek says:

    In my experience CENI is promoted to the status of God. Possibly, “2Th 2:11 ESV Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false,” is being employed as an aid supporting those who rely upon it’s use.

  28. Larry says:

    Mr. Guin,

    Thank you for your reply. What you went though as a child sounds disheartening to me. As an adult, I personally reflect back on my own negative experiences as an opportunity to grow and find out exactly what the problems were/are. I would agree with you that making tests of fellowship out of such things as an “unequal yoking” on the dating scene, rectangular tables vs. square tables or where one attends college are absolutely ridiculous and without scriptural merit.

    It sounds to me like the “anti” brethren you were surrounded with growing up were regurgitating traditions not based on the truth of the gospel.

    As far as your deal with me…I think it would be better to make reply to one of your older blog entries (A Plea to Reconsider: Must We Have Authority?). If you don’t mind, perhaps we could continue there? That post has examples that are already spelled out; such as, where’s the authority to eat a cookie, and so forth. Since it’s your blog, I’m constrained to your rules. I don’t want to get into a long, drawn out debate, because I simply don’t have the time to do so, and I know you don’t either. I always enjoy fresh perspectives I may not have entertained before, and I know you’re capable of providing them. I’d be delighted to hear what you think about my reasoning, and where it may be inaccurate. If not, please let me know.

    To Larry Cheek: While I don’t disagree that some elevate “law” over “love”, one could just as easily argue, in the opposite direction, that the “liberals” who reject “CENI” promote their feelings to the level of God. This is no better than some who claim to be “conservative” in their thinking. I’ve seen the pendulum swing in both directions. What this does is pit one group against another, which Paul said is not wise (2 Cor. 10:12).

  29. Mark says:

    “Fear and faith do not co-exist well at all.” This is a very spot-on statement. Fear that God is just waiting to send you to hell. Fear of other people in church ratting you out. Fear of being punished for expressing doubt by/and asking questions. This has caused a lot of problems.

  30. Alabama John says:

    After seeing many withdrawn from and how they were treated in the community afterward by those obeying the scriptures, you better be scared.

  31. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    * Since we have more than one Larry commenting here, could you add an initial or some other distinguishing feature to your name when you sign in?

    * How about “The Regulative Principle: All Churches Must be Painted Green” http://oneinjesus.info/2009/06/the-regulative-principle-all-churches-must-be-painted-green/? I like this as a starting point because it questions the logic underlying the authority argument.

    My email is jfguin(at)comcast(dot)net. Send me a response and I’ll repost my article followed by your rejoinder, and we’ll see where that takes us. I try to limit posts to 1500 words. Anything longer gets broken up into multi-part posts.

    * Then again, if you’d rather begin with “A Plea to Reconsider: Must We Have Authority?” — particularly the proper exegesis of Col 3:17 — I’m happy to start there http://oneinjesus.info/2008/01/a-plea-to-reconsider-must-we-have-authority/.

  32. Dwight says:

    Paul called the gospel the Perfect Law of Liberty, not because it put in place another set of laws, but rather because the law allowed liberty in doing many things that man was bound to in the earlier law. Just like in the Pirates of the Caribbean, where the code is more of a guideline, CENI should e as well, much like the five steps, etc. God doesn’t command them and they are things that should help us, but sometimes they get in the way when we elevate them to law status.
    As the church is the people and not an institution, the people were told to take care of orphans, one way or another. There is as much authority for orphanage homes as church buildings, etc.
    The money that goes to the contribution isn’t the church’s money, but God’s, which was aimed at the needy, so the argument that placing money into a building is more scriptural than supplying a need for people is ludicrous. This is true in many points where we deny one thing and then take in another. The conservative denomination has distanced itself based on things on one account that it openly does on another account.

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