The Future of the Progressive Churches of Christ: The Christian Standard’s June 13, 2010 Issue, Part 8 (Follow Up Questions re Baptism)

Understandably, given how many readers are in Restoration Movement denominations or else have Restoration Movement roots, the question of baptism keeps coming up when I propose treating other denominations as fellow believers and Christians. Baptism has long been a boundary marker for those in the Churches of Christ and independent Christian Churches.

I addressed the question from a theological standpoint in the series on Imperfect Baptisms, but there’s another way of looking at the question that is rarely addressed. You see, it wasn’t that long ago that I also believed that those not baptized by immersion were lost even if they had a submissive faith in Jesus. And it was during that phase of my study that I learned something very interesting: we are not alone.

The Roman Catholics baptize adult converts by immersion for the remission of sins, and they have always done this — although not always uniformly. European cathedrals typically have a separate baptistry that is designed for immersion. Recently, many (not all) American cathedrals have built baptistries for immersion.

The Eastern Orthodox have always baptized adult converts by immersion or dipping — except they do it three times — and theirs is also for the remission of sins.

All Baptists baptize by immersion and some do so for remission of sins. Yes, really. I know some personally. Not every pastor follows denominational teaching and not every Baptist denomination adheres to Zwinglian teaching.

The Wikipedia says,

Baptism by submersion is also practiced by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), although the faith does not suggest rebaptism of those who have undergone a different Christian baptism tradition. …

Seventh-day Adventists believe that “Baptism symbolizes dying to self and coming alive in Jesus.” They practice full immersion baptism.

Anabaptists perform baptisms indoors in a baptismal font, a swimming pool, or a bathtub, or outdoors in a creek or river. Baptism memorializes the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.[Rom 6] Baptism does not accomplish anything in itself, but is an outward personal sign or testimony that the person’s sins have already been washed away by the cross of Christ.

Also listed as practicing baptism by immersion are Christadelphians, Trinitarian Pentecostals and various “Holiness” groups, Christian Missionary Alliance, Assemblies of God, and Oneness Pentecostals. For denominations outside the Reformed/Calvinist tradition, baptism is almost always for the remissions of sins.

The Plymouth Brethren baptize believers by immersion, but take a position similar to the Southern Baptists as to its effect. The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel is also immersionist.

Now, if all these groups practice baptism of believers by immersion and most do so for the remission of sins, why don’t we treat any of them as part of “us”? — unless, of course, we are rank sectarians who believe that only those in the Churches of Christ are saved?

You see, I think it’s a respectable position to hold that baptism by immersion is essential for salvation. I held to that position for many years. But how can we say that our reason for treating “the denominations” as damned (or too uncertain to fellowship) is solely our view on baptism and then treat denominations as damned even when they agree with us on baptism?

And because we really don’t consider anyone else worthy of our fellowship, it’s entirely fair to ask: why not really?

Now, it’s not sufficient to point out some severe error by one group or another. The question is: why not fellowship any of them? If baptism is really the reason we don’t cross denominational lines, why not cross the line to at least one other immersionist group?

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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45 Responses to The Future of the Progressive Churches of Christ: The Christian Standard’s June 13, 2010 Issue, Part 8 (Follow Up Questions re Baptism)

  1. Pastor Mike says:


  2. Alan says:

    Some have held that it is not sufficient merely to practice baptism for the forgiveness of sins. They contend that one must understand this to be the purpose of baptism at the time one is baptized, in order for the forgiveness to be granted. Some even further contend that one must accept that a correct knowledge of the purpose of baptism is essential, in order to be forgiven. Those who believe this will not fellowship one who was baptized for forgiveness of sins while not believing it to be prerequisite to forgiveness.

    So, there are many ways these folks would justify their refusal to embrace others who immerse for forgiveness of sins. When you hold the most extreme view, hardly anyone else qualifies.

  3. God himself doesn’t propose to judge a man until after he dies, so why should we?

  4. Nancy says:

    Because it's not baptism that is really the line of demarcation. It's baptism AND the worship traditions that the CofC holds sacred.

    Alan brings up the idea of a "correct" knowledge about baptism in order for it to be valid. Isn't that a relatively new requirement. I was not taught that in the church of my youth or any of the subsequent CofC's I was associated with. Is that the conventional CofC teaching today?

  5. Rich W says:

    True story.

    I know a former Baptist minister who was baptized for the forgiveness of sins just about three months ago. He now worships with a cofC. He believes his mission from God is to show his Baptist friends what the bible really says.

  6. Jay Guin says:


    Alexander Campbell considered the idea that a convert must know his sins are being remitted as heresy, and he roundly condemned those who refused to accept Baptist immersions. That was the view of most of the next generation, including David Lipscomb, who edited the Gospel Advocate until well into the 20th Century.

    However, Austin McGary founded the Firm Foundation to combat Lipscomb's "error," creating two schools of thought, which John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine refer to as the "Texas school" (narrow and ultra-legalistic) and the "Tennessee school" (must less legalistic and yet still very much caught up in the Regulative Principle (silence is a binding prohibition)). The Texas school eventually took over the Gospel Advocate and therefore most of the churches in the Southeast, but there remain many pockets where the more generous Tennessee school prevails.

    K. C. Moser and G. C. Brewer would be good examples of Tennessee school preachers — and they were widely condemned by many and yet also very influential. Foy Wallace Jr. would be the prototypical Texas school preacher.

  7. JMF says:


    Yes, that is the standard belief. In fact, I was just booted out of teaching a class at my church because I did not hold that view (even though baptism was not a matter of discussion). An elder asked me away from class one day if I felt you had to be baptized for the "right" reason to be saved, and I answered honestly. I also said I had no intention of telling anyone else my feelings. Alas, I was fired.

  8. Rich W says:

    The bible says several explicit things about baptism:
    it's for forgiveness of sins,
    it saves,
    it washes away sins
    it makes us in Christ,
    it starts our new life
    and others.

    I'm not aware of any place in the Bible where it explicitly says baptism is for obedience.

    Why is baptism valid even when the person has no comprehension of any of the explicit purposes the God's Word actually states?

  9. Jay Guin says:

    Rich W,

    What subjective intent does the Bible say the convert must have for the baptism to take? I know of plenty of verses that speak to the effect of baptism. But what does it say about the requisite intent of the believer?

  10. Jim Haugland says:

    "And the Lord added to their number those who were being saved." (Acts 2:47) I'm amazed that some think that role (i.e., those saved & added) is ours to determine! Does one have to understand everything that God understands (if that was even possible), accepts & scripture teaches regarding baptism & the Holy Spirit before one receives it ? I didn't, but I received Him because of my faith in God's promises in Christ, not what any man may have thought or believed about baptism or the HS! It is God who saves & gives the HS based upon ones confession of Christ as God's Son & on ones faith in a very personal resurrected savior, not mere sinful man & his thoughts as to what one must completely understand before ones baptism is effacious. What man can understand another man's heart? Can one recite all the "right" things regarding Jesus & baptism & yet have a heart of unbelief? Is God soverigrn or not? Is His power to save based soley upon our baptism & complete understanding of it? When I was baptized some 56 years ago, I was taught that the indwelling of the HS was through the word only. Does that mean I didn't receive it? Of course not! My lack of complete understanding doesn't limit the power & soverignty of God to save whoever He desires to save & give His Spirit or He is not soverign! Is baptism for God or penitent sinners? If God's soverign power to save is soley dependent upon my "perfect" baptism, then He is not omnipotent & salvation is then dependent upon man, (i.e., what he does rather than God); sounds dangerouly close to works salvation to me. "What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy (Rom 9:14-16). At last there is hope for that poor man alone on the proverbial island who comes to believe but no one is there to baptize him!

  11. Rich W says:


    I like to keep it simple. Any of the explicit bible statements concerning the purpose of baptism is good enough for me. God doesn't expect perfect exegesis to become a Christian.

    To check, I will usually ask the person when they were saved. If it is different from their baptism I figure we need to study some more.

  12. Rich W says:

    Excuse me. I meant to say to Jim:

    If I let exceptions become the rule, then I become the judge. When I let the words of God lead me, then God becomes the judge.

  13. Tom Forrester says:

    Jay poses a question:

    "Now, if all these groups practice baptism of believers by immersion and most do so for the remission of sins, why don’t we treat any of them as part of “us”? — unless, of course, we are rank sectarians who believe that only those in the Churches of Christ are saved?"

    Maybe that's (still) it. At least that's the belief of the congregation I grew up with. Someone from another denomination claiming to having been baptized was looked on with suspicion. I remember hearing comments like "how can his baptism be valid if he was not added to the right church?" That question seems to get to the core.

    I realize it's not a popular thing for members of the coc to say they are the only ones saved. No one wants to be known as a rank sectarian and statements like that certainly put a damper on evangelism. But I personally know members who in fact truly still believe this very thing.

    I found the same thing true of the mormons (LDS). Their young 'elders' like to come to our house now and then (my wife's a great cook). The subject of baptism has come up and they absolutely believe that baptism is essential and required. However they teach that one must be baptized by someone who is either a priest after the order of Melchizedek or by someone of the Aaronic priesthood. So, if someone joins their group from a different denomination, they need to be re-baptized. It's more than a coincidence that they have a monopoly on both priesthoods. They, of course, believe they are the "true" church.

  14. Jay Guin says:


    You want be surprised to learn that much LDS baptismal theology comes from the Restoration Movement by means of Sidney Rigdon, who was a RM preacher and then left to join with Joseph Smith! Yes, they based their baptismal theology on ours!

    Rigdon lost the battle for control of the Mormons on the death of Joseph Smith, and so created a schismatic LDS group —

    "After the succession schism, Rigdon solidified and led an independent faction of Mormonism, often referred to as Rigdonite. The Latter Day Saints who followed Rigdon separated themselves and settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On April 6, 1845, Rigdon presided over a conference of the Church of Christ, which he claimed was the rightful continuation of the church founded by Smith."

  15. Jay,

    Not only the Mormons, but also the Christadelphians got their baptismal theology from Campbell. In their case, it was through Dr. John Thomas who was much more rigorous in rejecting people from other groups than was Campbell. Some of our ultra-conservatives today sound more like Thomas than Campbell. Of course, neither of these gentlemen are the standard for us to follow – except as they follow Christ.

    When I was a missionary in New Zealand, a man came to one of our services with a list that filled a page of doctrines he must understand and accept before the Christadelphians would baptize him. He asked me just what he needed to believe to be baptized. I was then in my late 20's or early 30's and had never seriously considered that question. I replied to him that all the Bible said was to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.

    Now, about 4 decades later, I would answer the same – in spite of those who want to believe that Philip's preaching concerning the kingdom in Samaria (Acts 8:12) just had to include all of the 5 acts of worship, the organization of the church, the difference between the church and the worship in the temple, and anything else that is on one's agenda that day!

    Let's get back to Paul's procedure: preach Christ crucified and risen from the dead! Other things will fall into place.


  16. Alan says:

    Jerry wrote:

    Not only the Mormons, but also the Christadelphians got their baptismal theology from Campbell.

    Alexander Campbell's famous answer to the Richmond Letter was in response to activities by Dr. John Thomas, who was rebaptizing people who had not understood the purpose of baptism at the time of their own immersion (circa 1830). Thomas was considered a heretic for that position and was eventually pushed out of the Restoration Movement over the matter. He subsequently founded the Christadelphians. So that denomination's baptismal theology was so far beyond Campbell's that the two could not remain in fellowship with one another.

  17. abasnar says:

    There is still a difference whether we treat baptized persons as being one with us or a whole denomination that also/mainly baptizes infants. If someone comes to Christ in an Eastern Orthodox setting and gets baptized, he is my sister or brother. There is no doubt about that. But as for the denomination it is quite different – because I cannot view the hosts ob infant-baptized attendants on the same level as th scattered few amongthem whio have been converted and baptitzed on their confession of Christ.

    If I look at the baptists and most evangelical churches, there is a lot more common ground – even if we view baptism itself a little different (I agree with Alexander Campbell 100% on this). There is unity in the Spirit. Yet there are some different issues:

    Why holding fast to denomnational names and creeds?
    This must not mean we cannot cooperate or do things together – but denomationalism is a sin that we should – politely and in love – address.

    The understanding of salvation as a process vs. a one-time-event
    This is probably even more important than the correct understanding of baptism. For even a correct (perfect) baptism does not guarantee us a ticket to heaven. We have to bring the fruit of the kingdom (Mt 21:43). Whether it is the complete concept of Calvinism, or just the doctrine of Unconditional Eternal Security or even "Easy Believism" or "Prosperity Gospel" – these understandings of the gospel may become a hindrance for cooperation, esp. in Evangelism. They need to be addressed – and again we will be confonted with denominational walls that need to be torn down.

    Female church leadership
    As it became common among so many denominations (even among an increasing number of churches of Christ) that women may preach to and teach the church or even become elders/pastors I see a very big issue to discuss with these denominations or congregations. This development is against the unity of the church (1Co 14:34-36) and needs to be addressed as well, especially since the pressure of our egalitarian society increases almost on a daily basis.

    Divorce and Remarriage
    Since our divorce rate is so high, it became common for many churches to just acept the situation and give more allowances that the NT offers (remain single or reconciliation 1Co 7:11). If one church holds to a stricter standard, Christians who still want to remarry after a divorce can easily change the denomination and "receive God's blessing" on their adultery. This is also a very tough issue when we speak about unity – we have to address it.

    I could add quite an impressive list of issues, that are not primarily on a theological level, but on the level of obedience to Christ's Commands. Baptism suddenly does look like a minor issue, doesn't it? (And I didn't even mention IM 😉 )


  18. Alexander,
    I acknowledge that the issues you raise are important to some, even many. But any one person's understanding or point-of-view on these issues is at the very least disputable.

    So, who is to say what God's position is?

    To me, you're making a case for a legalistic position regarding salvation. And which of these matters will God's grace not forgive, if one of us takes an errant position.

    If my heart seeks after God, and in spite of that, I believe something erroneously, will God condemn me in the end?

  19. Alan says:


    You make interesting points. There are serious disagreements and it is not easy to keep them out of the way. But maybe we shouldn't turn those disagreements into barriers to fellowship. I think 1 Cor 3:10-15 and 1 Cor 4:1-5 may provide at least part of the answer. We should leave the judging of such matters to God. Our fellowship should be based on faith in Jesus and submission to Jesus as Lord. And we should realize that just because someone doesn't agree with us doctrinally on certain things, that doesn't mean they aren't submissive to Jesus.

  20. I don't find "denominationalism" noted in the scriptures as a sin. So my brother's assertion of this is extrabiblical. I do find divisiveness in that category, however. And while that reality should be addressed, we need to get the beam out of our own eye before we start speaking to others about it. The CoC has historically been one of the most divisive and divided of the denominations, and has trumpeted such a stance as a badge of honor rather than a sin of which to be repented. While I am refreshed by Jay and others who do not continue in this tradition, they are unfortunately the exception which proves the rule.

    While we continue to judge the salvation of certain people based in part on when they were baptized or what group they are affiliated with, we have disqualified ourselves from speaking to OTHERS about divisiveness and division. And let us be clear, when we refer to one set of believers as "infant-baptized attendants" rather than "brothers and sisters", we do indeed enter into that judgment and demonstrate the very divisiveness which we so rightly identify in others as a sin.

  21. abasnar says:

    I acknowledge that the issues you raise are important to some, even many. But any one person’s understanding or point-of-view on these issues is at the very least disputable.

    So, who is to say what God’s position is?

    Maybe we'll find out when we sit together, open our Bibles with an open mind and discuss these things.
    Leaving them diverse as they are is no soultuion, nay, it's a hindrance for unity.

    I don't really care if my position wiould be proved wrong is such a meeting, as long as God's will becomes clear to all of us and we start obeying. – Back the Declaration and Address of 1809 as a guideline? (I think it is a very realistic proposal)


  22. Alabama John says:

    Baptized and added to the church.

    God does the adding and to what, we don't.

    It doesn't matter what we or you call yourself afterwards, all were added to the church. Agree, argue, like it or not.

    But, but, which church? Identify by what mans name is constantly asked???


    The Church!

    Enough said.

  23. Rich W says:


    Thanks for commenting here. You said,

    The CoC has historically been one of the most divisive and divided of the denominations

    This is certainly the premise of Jay and many commentators here. I agree the divisiveness is larger than necessary and wrong. However, I haven't observed that we are anywhere the worse. The Baptist church has and continues to split. Does anyone know of a Baptist church that doesn't include a split within it's name for distinction (Landmark, Emmanuel, Southern, Primitive, United, Missionary, etc.)? Also, the mainline denominations continue to split. Even Jay admitted the other day that the Presbyterian Church USA (different than the Presbyterian Church American) is splitting over votes at corporate levels.

    I still haven't figured out how changing our doctrines to more closely match the other groups (who are dividing at similar rates) will help us. I personally believe there are much higher level social issues causing our problems.

  24. Jay Guin says:

    Rich W —

    If "Any of the explicit bible statements concerning the purpose of baptism is good enough," then why focus on the one question of when forgiven occurs? Why not ask if they were baptized into the death of Jesus? Or, as Paul asked in Acts 19, whether they received the Spirit when they believed? Or whether you appealed to God for a good conscience? What makes Acts 2:38 the one, defining passage above all others?

    Indeed, if the question is whether they are saved, as opposed to whether they were baptized properly, why not ask the questions John asked in 1 John to test the salvation of his readers? Do you have faith in Jesus? Do you love your brothers? Etc.

    Now, as I've said many times, I do believe that baptism of believers by immersion is intended by God to be normative — but I don't think the essence of salvation is found in the believer's understanding of baptism. It's really in whether God has given that person his Spirit. You see, our initial salvation is about God's work in us, evidenced by circumcised hearts. I see things much as Barton W. Stone did.

  25. Jay Guin says:


    You're quite right. The Christadelphia cleaved off the RM after Campbell declared John Thomas a heretic.

    By the way, Campbell used "heretic" in its biblical sense, that is, an ungodly division. Hence, to Campbell, if someone were to insist that Baptists joined an RM congregation be re-baptized, he'd be a heretic because insisting on re-baptism would declare the Baptists damned and so divide them from the church. Thus, mere doctrinal error did not a heretic make. Rather, one is only a heretic if he draws salvation lines more narrowly than God — an interpretation that certain encourages us not to draw lines where God didn't draw one.

    (Act 24:14 ESV) But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect [KJV: "heresy"], I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets,

  26. Jay Guin says:

    Alan and Jerry,

    Thanks for bringing up Dr. Thomas. It's astonishing that Campbell condemned and declared as "heretics" those who hold the views on baptism now standard in 20th Century Church of Christ theology. I get upset every time I read a Gospel Advocate issue that celebrates our Restoration Movement heritage — all the while teaching exactly the opposite of what Campbell stood for.

  27. Alan says:

    If “Any of the explicit bible statements concerning the purpose of baptism is good enough,” then why focus on the one question of when forgiven occurs?

    In fairness, forgiveness of sins is "almost" the only purpose of baptism that was taught to candidates for baptism prior to the baptisms in Acts (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16). But in Acts 2 and Acts 19 they were also taught about receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, so if pre-baptism teaching were the criteria then an understanding of the receipt of the Holy Spirit would also be necessary. Yet we've never taught that part to be essential.

    Baptism is one of the first principles that a new convert should know at least something about (Heb 6:1-2). But the Hebrew Christians apparently didn't learn that lesson very well, and yet it didn't seem to have invalidated their baptisms.

    So I don't think we've been mistaken to insist that new converts should know something of what baptism is for.. and forgiveness is an obvious purpose to teach at that point in time. We should teach that! However, if a person is baptized without having been correctly taught, the fault lies with the teacher IMO.

    BTW, I think it was David Lipscomb who said that for a baptism to be valid, the convert needed to understand at least one scriptural reason for being baptized. He didn't insist on which reason they had to understand.

  28. Jay Guin says:

    Rich W,

    The first time I taught on the Restoration Movement's history, I drew a chart showing the flow of groups into and out of the RM. During Campbell's life, the flow was almost entirely one of merging groups that often had serious disagreements. After the Civil War, the flow reversed, as we split and split and split — although in many splits, both sides kept the name. The theology changed and so the resulting unity changed.

    It's not that our theology needs to match some other group's theology for unity to arise. It's that our theology needs to match the Bible more closely. That's really quite enough. And Stone and the Campbells were much, much closer to the scriptures than the 20th Century Churches. They weren't perfect by any means, but they were dramatically ahead of the men who followed them — and the fruit of their labor shows it.

  29. Rich W says:


    There's an interesting paradox here. You say that the external behavior called baptism is normative but not necessary if the person's heart is correct. I'm saying the outer behavior isn't valid unless the internal purpose is correct.

  30. Aaron says:

    I get upset every time I read a Gospel Advocate issue that celebrates our Restoration Movement heritage — all the while teaching exactly the opposite of what Campbell stood for.

    This is exactly why I don't read the Gospel Advocate anymore (or publications like it).

  31. Rich W says:


    It’s not that our theology needs to match some other group’s theology for unity to arise. It’s that our theology needs to match the Bible more closely.


    And Stone and the Campbells were much, much closer to the scriptures than the 20th Century Churches. They weren’t perfect by any means, but they were dramatically ahead of the men who followed them — and the fruit of their labor shows it.

    I'm still studying this one. What I have learned so far is that Alexander Campbell very persuasively appealed to people to leave false belief systems and join one based on the Bible. However, when it came to making a call on an individual's salvation status, he was very hesitant to criticize unless the person was very openly obstinate. People routinely questioned what seemed like a major inconsistency in what he preached but his dynamic personality and eloquent speech and writing skills seemed to calm most flare ups. Future RM generations saw the inconsistencies and choose various ways of dealing with them.

  32. Alabama John says:

    Anytime the proof of faithfulness is who is running the tightest ship, the tightening will become more profound with time. That's what has happened.

    No wonder we are in a divisive problem. Fingers pointing in all directions. For each one pointing at others, 4 are pointing back at the most faithful its believed.

    This ridiculousness must stop!

    The devil couldn't of planned this any better if he orchestrated this thinking himself.

    Well, maybe he did!!!

  33. Royce Ogle says:

    Campbell was right to be "very hesitant to criticize" as to the salvation of a person. Only God knows the heart, Jesus could "see" faith. It is God's perogative alone to decide who is and is not safe. We can make judgements on what someone teaches, observe their lifestyle, but we should be careful to not exclude those God has included.

    The best and highest is to love everyone, even our enemies. We are to "content for the faith" but "the faith" is not particular views on divorce, worship styles, kitchens in the church, etc.

  34. Nancy, Re Yours of Sunday Morning:

    I know a case where a 12-14 year old boy, whose father was a deacon in a Church of Christ, was baptized, always having been taught baptism for remission of sins. The preacher asked his father to baptize him, which he did.

    The deacon, not being accustomed to baptizing, forgot the magic, essential words, "for the remission of sins."

    The next week, one of the elders who had been out of town found out what had happened and insisted the boy be baptized again.

    The preacher involved told me this story.

    Sad, isn't it.


    "The faith" is not a particular view on exactly when God forgives our sins either. In fact, as I've seen from you more than once, He forgave us when His Son died for us and poured out His blood on the Mercy Seat in the Tabernacle not made with hands!


  35. Alabama John says:

    When Jesus prayed on His last night on this earth on this earth He prayed that we can be one As you are in me andI am in you. John 17:20.
    God wants unity and that we love one another and show it and be recognized because of it. John13:35.

    Shouldn't we every effort to keep it.Eph 4:3.

    I like what Max Lucado says that we we are not told to build unity, but to keep it.

    I like his quoting Paul Billheimer when he says: The continuous and widespread fragmatation of the Church has been the scandal of the ages. It has been Satans master strategy. The sin of disunity probably has caused more souls to be lost than all other sins combined.

  36. Alabama John says:

    Glad typing is not a requirement to obtain heaven.

    Wish there was some way to edit.

    Now, if all of you would just agree with me on everything!!!

    What an attitude HUH? Sound familiar?

  37. Alabama John,

    Well, I agree with you – at least when you say you're glad typing is not a requirement for heaven.

    Also on what you said above re. unity!


  38. Jay Guin says:

    Rich W,

    There's nothing inconsistent between the two positions. I think they're both true. I just think we define the required internal purpose far too narrowly.

  39. Tom Forrester says:

    Alabama John,

    I like your comment regarding Jesus’ prayer. So perhaps we should list off the things upon which we do have unity. I’m sure unity doesn’t have to comprise everything in life. For instance, I would not shoot pool for money with anyone whose first name is preceded by the name of a state.

    Seriously, are we not unified in our love for God and people? In serving? In relationship with Jesus? We do community projects with those from different denominations and we’re all simply seen as Christians and we plant seeds of the kingdom together. When we go out with the Union Gospel Mission to take sandwiches to people living under overpasses, my opinions on baptismal theology and instrumental music are not of any great significance.

    In the prison, we sing, study, pray together and for each other. These men are from all kinds of denominations (even LDS, JWs, Wicca, etc). They obviously have no agreement in much of anything other than receiving and bestowing the blessings of Christ.

    What is our common bond?

  40. Jay Guin says:

    Rich W,

    I think Campbell's influence disappeared for a couple of reasons. First, we should realize that his irenic, unifying theology survived, but not in the Churches of Christ. But through Robert Richardson, Isaac Errett and others, his unifying teachings were preserved.

    But, as you note, some of his disciples focused more on the Ancient Order of Things, and less on unity. I think this has a handful of causes —

    1. Campbell could be hard to follow: long sentences, big words, and all. None of his followers had the benefit of his education and reading. He was simply misunderstood by many.

    2. Although he sometimes made clear that his teachings on worship and organization were not intended to be creeds or to define the boundaries of the church, you could read several issues of the Millennial Harbinger and never learn that. He assumed his readers understood him better than they did.

    3. Many of his converts came from Separate and Particular Baptist traditions with roots in Puritanism that tended to define the church in terms of acts of worship and such like. Indeed, the Landmark Baptist movement of the mid-19th Century in Tennessee was clearly a major influence on 20th Century Church of Christ theology. He and his disciples failed to adequately instruct converts from those streams — which seem to have been particularly strong in the South.

    In short, for all his genius, Campbell was not a great communicator and did a poor job of making sure his followers understood things as well as he did. Following his death, the RM divided into camps led by differing editor-bishops, each persuaded he was the one true interpreter of Campbell. And so here we are today.

  41. Alabama John says:

    Thanks Jerry!


    Our common bond is the love for Jesus and each other. That was the first two commandments with promise wasn't it.

    Without that love all else is counted as Paul says dung!

    I understand all too well what you are saying. All too well!

    How tragic that we won't fellowship one another but will those far from our beliefs regardless of how their efforts different from ours are bearing good fruit for our Lord.
    John had that problem in Mark 9:38 because he was not of our group even though he was having good results and for the right reason. John and the deciples were wrong.

    God has unity in Heaven and wants us to have unity here.

    Mark 9:37 where Jesus uses the word acceptance four times in one sentence. First step to unity!

  42. Rich W says:


    Thanks for the added information. I appreciate learning your insights.

    I agree concerning Campbell being hard to follow. I seem to have to read a section at least five times before I feel somewhat confident I have figured out the gist of it. If a paragraph has three sentences it sounds like he is taking two different sides to the same topic.

    The inconsistency I see is the super strong emphasis that Campbell placed on people to change to one uniform "Christian System" and yet none of it is a salvation issue. How can the Christian System be so important and yet have nothing to do with salvation? Those two poles don't seem to be compatible. Campbell constantly referenced the Bible in the development of the faith system and usually referred to his "opinion" when not committing to a salvation issue. It seems very natural for the next generation to take the system farther. I'm not saying that makes it right. It just makes it logical that anyone not liking aspects of Campbell's system would want to downplay it and those wanting to embrace his system would want to enforce it.

  43. Royce Ogle says:

    Many of us have made baptism and a host of other things litmus tests of unity/fellowship. Not a word of scripture supports most of these tests.

    Consider a different view. Just before he would be betrayed into the hands of those who would crucify him Jesus poured out his heart to the Father in intercession for his followers. Near the end of this great high priestly prayer he shifted his focus away from those who had been close associates and friends to those of us who would believe on him because of the witness of the disciples.

    John 17:20-25 records the requests of Jesus praying for his people who were yet to be saved. The heart of the passage is vs 21. "that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me."

    I believe his prayer was and is answered. The body of Christ, the church universal, is in unity. That unity is centered on the person and work of Jesus and not on hundreds of other issues. Either God answered Jesus' prayer in the affirmative or he did not. I believe he did. I have had sweet fellowship with people from many different groups and our common faith in Jesus makes us one.

    Remember Jesus words in Matthew 7, "MANY will SAY…" and he will declare "I never knew you". On earth today there is a "professing church" (they "say" they are Christians..). And there is the true church, the "possessing church". According to Jesus own words "many" in our churches are counterfeit, religious but lost. He (Jesus) "never knew" them. They will not have unity because they reject Jesus in favor of good works, religion, ritual, and self righteousness.

    We are not once asked or commanded in scripture to "make" unity, we are told to "maintain" unity. God is calling a people to himself from every tongue and tribe and the sum total will be "few" ("few travel the narrow road") compared to the "many" who travel the broad path to perishing.

    We should take seriously bible injunctions to test ourselves to see that we are in "the faith".

    I am one with every person everywhere who is sincerely trusting Christ and his work alone for salvation and I am one with the Father and the Son.

    I can claim nothing but Jesus' worth and work on my behalf. Unity is a gift, a result of God's grace work of bringing sinners from all the earth from all ages to himself. Christians are safely ONE in Christ.


  44. abasnar says:

    I like what Max Lucado says that we we are not told to build unity, but to keep it.

    I said it already, but since the same misunderstanding is being mentiond so often, I'll rpeat it, because I think it is quite important to understand this.

    The church at Paul's time was not yet divided. So in his days it made perfect sense to say: "Keep the unity". And when there were developments that threatened the unity, he urged them to repent (as i 1st Corinthians).

    But today the church is divided – no, shattered into thousnds of pieces. To say: "Keep the unity" is actually ignoring this reality. There is no unity we could keep any more! It's gone, it's dissolved, it's broken …

    So we've got to RESTORE unity. And this starts by calling denominations ans evil thing. It also starts by seeing true Christians in all of these denominations. There is a spiritual unity between us, that God has created. But we have to realize it by getting to know one another. As long as we are scattered throughout all the denominations we are not united. So the unity is only spiritual, but there is not "one body" that acts like "one body" (one of the 7 ones that describe the kind of unity Paul has in mind).

    For those who believe whole denominations can be changed: This never happened for the better, only for the worse.
    For those who believe whole congregations could change: Yes, this happened, when congregations broke their union with their denoination in order to become one with Christ's church (e.g. Springfield Presbyterian church)

    But he most common way to unity is to leave the denominations.

    But – again – saying we have to keep the unity is denying the fact that there is no untity.


  45. Louis says:

    I think all the CoC thunderings over baptism texts miss the crucial point.

    What is the baptism that saves?

    Everyone wants to talk about "baptizo" meaning immersion. Ok. Immersion is not the same thing as submersion, as many assume. But let the point stand.

    Everyone wants to talk about "eis" meaning "for, toward, into". Ok.

    Now let's ask the crucial question. Immersion into what?

    Not a single passage says "water" at this point. Not one.

    The immersion that saves you, say the NT writers, is immersion into THE NAME OF JESUS.

    1 Peter 3.21–perversely considered by the Coc to be a prooftext for water immersion–tells you the opposite. "The baptism that saves you" is expressly said *not* to be a physical washing. As soon as the writer bring up water as a metaphor, he starts taking pains to explain that the water isn't really it. It's as if he knew some CoC people were going to come along 1800 years later and get it wrong, so he wants to be sure he clarifies. The baptism that saves is not a physical bath, he says. What is it? It's "the answer of a good conscience to God."

    Q. What of those people who pour?
    A. Has a good conscience answerd to God and put on the name of Jesus?

    Q. What of those people who sprinkle?
    A. Has a good conscience answerd to God and put on the name of Jesus?

    Q. What of those people who are sprinkled as infants, and then own the act later in a ritual of confirmation?
    A. Has a good conscience answerd to God and put on the name of Jesus?

    Q. What of those people that put a hand on the TV set and accept their personal saviour?
    A. Has a good conscience answerd to God and put on the name of Jesus?

    If the answer to that retort question is yes, you have no grounds to say nay. All NT criteria have been met.

    The NT tells you that immersion INTO THE NAME is what saves. Sure, people often act out the metaphor with physical water in various ways. But the water doesn't do it. Water rituals were made for human beings, not human beings for water rituals.

    Immersion that saves is immersion into the name. It is the response of a good conscience. When you have these things, you have it.

    You've been told this. In so many words. Plainly. In some of your most frequently read, commonly quoted texts.

    Yet CoC theologians keep going over and over the prooftexts, always missing the doughnut to talk about the hole. Always wanting to save the "denominations" from their bad water management.

    It's been 200 years, folks. Get the message already. It's been right in front of you the whole time.

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