Leroy Garrett’s second wish for the Churches of Christ is —
Let us resolutely and absolutely renounce our more recent sectarian heritage
It’s not unusual for us to have four or five different kinds of Churces of Christ in the same community, none of which have any fellowship with the others. We often “solve” problems by dividing. We have divided over both opinions and methods, which is contrary to the principles that gave us birth as a people.
Garrett reminds us that the Restoration Movement began as a unity movement. The original plan certainly wasn’t to create three new denominations, with one divided into dozen of sub-denominations that consider the others damned.
Our true heritage is founded, and well stated, in Thomas Campbell’s seminal “Declaration and Address” —
Instead of her catholic constitutional unity and purity, what does the church present us with, at this day, but a catalogue of sects and sectarian systems; each binding its respective party by the most sacred and solemn engagements, to continue as it is to the end of the world; at least this is confessedly the case with many of them. What a sorry substitute these, for christian unity and love.
Campbell describes what he wishes to end — bickering factions of Christians. And here we are today, 200 years later, being exactly what Campbell worked to eliminate. To quote Pogo, “We’ve met the enemy and he is us.”
The goal, of course, was to unite the denominations, not to create even more! The means of so doing was to eliminate unscriptural distinctions and unite solely on faith in Jesus —
That as it is not necessary that persons should have a particular knowledge or distinct apprehension of all divinely revealed truths in order to entitle them to a place in the church; neither should they, for this purpose, be required to make a profession more extensive than their knowledge: but that, on the contrary, their having a due measure of scriptural self-knowledge respecting their lost and perishing condition by nature and practice; and of the way of salvation thro’ Jesus Christ, accompanied with a profession of their faith in, and obedience to him, in all things according to his word, is all that is absolutely necessary to qualify them for admission into his church.
It’s enough, Campbell wrote, if someone professes faith in Jesus and commits to obedience to him as Lord. Therefore —
That although inferences and deductions from scripture premises, when fairly inferred, may be truly called the doctrine of God’s holy word: yet are they not formally binding upon the consciences of christians farther than they perceive the connection, and evidently see that they are so; for their faith must not stand in the wisdom of men; but in the power and veracity of God — therefore no such deductions can be made terms of communion, but do properly belong to the after and progressive edification of the church. Hence it is evident that no such deductions or inferential truths ought to have any place in the churchs’s confession.
Campbell concludes that inferences may not be tests of fellowship. We may not consider an inference “binding upon the consciences of christians farther than they perceive the connection.” The reason is simple enough. An inference is a human work. Our salvation cannot depend on such things. Even though an inference, properly inferred, is a truth from God, we cannot judge one another based on how well they do logic —
unless we suppose, what is contrary to fact, that none have a right to the communion of the church, but such as possess a very clear and decisive judgment; or are come to a very high degree of doctrinal information; whereas the church from the beginning did, and ever will, consist of little children and young men, as well as fathers.
You know, it’s astonishing when we have preachers who work through elaborate syllogisms, showing great learning and education, to reach some inference or other — and then declare as damned those not blessed with their same level of learning.
It’s all the more astonishing when we discover how often these men, despite their intelligence and schooling, are wrong.
You see, all that’s really required for unity is a little humility.