2. Does Greg agree with Moser?
I don’t think so. Here’s an article by Greg for Forthright magazine, “Know the Time” (May 9, 2002).
Worship is changing. Congregations bring in all manner of deviance, pandering to every selfish whim. Entertainment replaces reverence. Emotionalism replaces obedience. The spirit of this age replaces the Spirit of Grace.
Church government is changing. Freelance organizations misappropriate the work God intends for the church of Christ. Mercenary professionals usurp the divinely authorized assignments of pastor, deacon, and evangelist. Congregations become fraternal societies, existing to meet the needs of their members. They are no longer a fellowship of God’s people, gathered in obedience to His will. …
Already much error, previously carefully hidden, now openly affronts the brotherhood. If the pace of apostasy continues, the division will be complete within the next five years. While we do not rejoice in the falling away of those who were once our brethren, we rejoice in the purification of God’s church.
Notice that Greg is warning against apostasy — sins that damn and take one out of the church.
Greg expands the themes sounded in this brief article in a series of articles in the August 2007 issue of the Gospel Advocate, each beginning with the lead “You Know It Is a Different Religion When …”
Now, perhaps I’m wrong (I hope so), but I can think of no interpretation for “a different religion” other than “not Christianity.” I mean, Christianity is but one religion, and it is the only religion where salvation may be found. And so “a different religion” seems to plainly imply apostasy (damnation, falling away).
The church of Christ is dividing into two irreconcilable camps. On one side are those who have kept the same faith; on the other side are those who are experimenting with a wide range of differing faiths. …
(“You Know It Is a Different Religion When … They Change Their View of Authority” page 34). This is the theme sentence of the series of articles, and “differing faiths” also surely implies apostasy.
Congregations, schools and other institutions previously following one religion have embraced a different religion. …
Those Christians who continue to uphold the complete truthfulness of Scripture have kept their faith that God has spoken through Scripture. Those who have abandoned their faith in Scripture have abandoned their faith in the God of Scripture.
(“You Know It Is a Different Religion When … They Change Their View of Authority” page 34). Greg is speaking particularly of God’s Holy Fire, a book published by ACU Press, which has a section disputing inerrancy.
If I read Greg correctly, he is saying that those who consider the scriptures inspired and authoritative (which the authors of that book do) but don’t accept the inerrancy of scripture are lost.
Speaking of those who consider those improperly baptized to be saved, Greg writes,
Lowering the boundaries between the church and other religions weakens the meaning of being a Christian. It is an apostasy of attrition. …
We must never, however, blur the lines that make being a Christian distinct from belonging to a different faith.
(“You Know It Is a Different Religion When … They Redefine Who Is a Christian” page 36).
Thus, if I follow Greg correctly, those who consider Baptist or infant baptism sufficient are apostates, even if they are themselves properly baptized.
Regarding the introduction of the instrument into Restoration Movement churches and women taking on leadership roles in worship, Greg writes,
The problem was not just the instrument but, more to the point, the lack of faith in scripture. …
Worship defines a religion. Changes in worship are often the clearest sign of a fundamental shift from one religion to another.
In our day, changes in worship are highlighting a change that has already occurred in the hearts of men and women. Congregations that use instrumental music in worship and that use women to lead in worship have already lost their faith, if you define “faith” as trusting and obeying the Lord.
(“You Know It Is a Different Religion When … They Fundamentally Change Worship” page 37).
Regarding parachurch organizations (nonprofits supported by churches), Greg writes,
From the late 1800s through most of the 20th century, churches of Christ agreed the New Testament provides a pattern, and the only way to be the church that pleases God is to follow the pattern God provided in Scripture.
… The overwhelming majority of churches of Christ embraced educational and benevolence institutions as expedient means of doing the Lord’s work. …
When is an institution a danger to the church? Two related problems exist. When institutions embrace false teaching, in essence when they become purveyors of a different religion. Christians must recognize association with error is a sin against God. Further, and more subtle, institutions also threaten the Lord’s work when they become parasites, draining resources away from congregations.
(“You Know It Is a Different Religion When … They Abandon Restoring the Church” page 39).
To summarize, Greg contends that we fall away (are damned, become apostate) if we –
- Reject the doctrine of inerrancy, even if we consider the scriptures inspired and authoritative, or
- Believe God saves penitent men and women of genuine faith in Jesus if baptized other than for the remission of sins, or other than by immersion, or when an infant, or
- Worship with an instrument, or
- Allow women to lead in worship, or
- Support parachurch organizations that engage in false teaching, or
- Allow parachurch organizations to drain resources from the congregation
Comparison of Moser and Tidwell
While this contrast of divine and human righteousness is before us, it is a good time to say that the difference between these two kinds of righteousness is the basis of the conflict between law and works and grace and faith. Law demands works, and works result in human righteousness. Grace calls for faith, and faith accepts the divine righteousness. Hence, if salvation, or righteousness that saves, is by the law, Christ died in vain.
Moser feels compelled, understandably, to explain why Christians shouldn’t sin despite being saved by grace. He gives several reasons, for example —
The Christian is not driven like a slave, but led like a son. He serves God not through fear, but through love. He lives righteously because he hates sin and loves righteousness–that is, he does right because he wants to do right. And he wants to do right because he is a “new creature.” Righteousness is as natural to the Christian as sin is to the unsaved. The Christian is a free man under Christ.
(This will become clearer as we consider Moser’s views on the Spirit.) What Moser does not argue is that we must be in obedience to God’s laws for fear of damnation.
However, Greg plainly argues that those guilty of any number of errors will be damned. Indeed, it’s hard to see how anyone can be confident in his salvation. Must we get every single doctrine and command right? I mean, we read in Greg’s writings that because this or that matter is an error, it results in apostasy (damnation). Greg does not explain how a given error produces apostasy. The argument seems to be that since it is error, it damns.
Thus, grace is not received while those in doctrinal error remain in error. While Moser declares, “Repentance does not make one righteous,” Greg seems to argue that one hasn’t repented until he is no longer guilty of the sin and thus becomes righteous.
And if man had been saved by law, his own obedience would have saved him. Since we are saved by the blood of Christ the principle of salvation must be faith in the sense of trust. This principle places saving power in Christ crucified, not in human achievement.
and he writes,
And today some speak of Christianity as just another “law” which demands works. Their forms of thought and expression would be entirely appropriate for an administration of pure law. They would need no change if the cross of Christ had never existed. …
When the cross is lost sight of one naturally drifts back to the SPIRIT and GENIUS of law. He talks of law and works, not of grace and faith. But the principle of law demanding works of human merit makes void the grace of God. … Whether we think of the Law of Moses or some other “law” the principle and result are the same. Law is law as to principle. If Christ brought law (John 1:17), then man is saved upon the principle of works. His death is for naught and grace is made void. “Grace is no more grace.” Grace then would be no different from law and faith no different from works. But Paul always contrasts law and grace, works and faith. He said, “The law is not of faith” and reminds us that under the law man sought justification on the ground of what HE did (Gal. 3:12).
If I am not forgiven of my doctrinal error until I am no longer guilty of that error, then I am saved by my works, not by grace. Indeed, what do I need Jesus for?
Obviously, we have to get faith and penitence right. Moser explains this very carefully. If we deny Jesus or rebel against him, we are no longer saved. But if I remain true to the faith and penitence I had at the beginning, I’m still saved by grace through faith.