The Fork in the Road: “The Way of UNITY between “Christian Churches” and Churches of Christ,” Part 3


Boles next quotes extensively from the writings of J. W. McGarvey, a professor who was greatly admired by both branches of the Restoration Movement. McGarvey’s commentary on Acts helped establish the “plan of salvation” and the “pattern” of the “New Testament church” as fixtures in Church of Christ preaching and thought. McGarvey vigorously opposed the instrument, and many arguments used against it today are traceable to McGarvey’s pen.

And yet McGarvey approved the missionary society — which Boles condemns in his speech. And McGarvey refused to divide over the instrument. Indeed, James A. Harding rebuked McGarvey for his willingness to allow a supporter of the instrument to lead a prayer.

Now, knowing that, read what Boles quotes from McGarvey’s writings —

Our work is to check them and turn them back from their course; not to outstrip them in running after organs and compromises. The loudest call that comes from heaven to the men of this generation is for warfare, stern, relentless, merciless, exterminating warfare against everything not expressly or by necessary implication authorized in the New Testament. Such is my unwavering conviction; and my only regret is that I cannot fight this fight as it should be fought.

In conclusion, let me add that if any brother who reads this sees fit to style me intolerant, dictatorial, or self-consequent, I say to him that I claim to be nothing more than one plain disciple of Christ, and to exercise a prerogative which belongs to us all. It is my duty to find fault with everybody and everything that is wrong; and it is equally the duty of every other brother. In the full and free performance of this task lies only safety for the truth. Error alone can suffer in such a warfare, and she alone is afraid of it. If I have struck one blow amiss, let it be returned on me double, and it will be well.

McGarvey argues that he should teach what he believes and do so loudly. He rejects the idea that teaching what he believes is intolerant — but it’s not intolerant because he didn’t separate fellowship over it! This is why he refers to his opponents as “every other brother”! But Boles rips him out of literary and historical context to make it sound as though McGarvey agrees with Boles that unity is not allowed over the instrument or the missionary society.

What is “faith”?

We come at last to a series of arguments that are very familiar to those who grew up in conservative Churches of Christ. Boles writes,

It is well to review the causes of separation, to look at the steps more closely that have been taken in the departures; then you can see more clearly the scriptural ground of union. It is noted here first that “opinion” was made equal to the word of God. There should be a clear distinction between faith and opinion.

This language harkens back to the early quotations from “Raccoon” John Smith, who took his language from the Campbells. Smith plainly used “opinion” to refer to anything other than the “gospel,” which he limited to certain facts, commands, and promises and from which he excluded all inferences and deductions. But Boles imposes an entirely new set of meanings, utterly re-shaping the meaning of Smith’s words and the direction of the a cappella branch of the Restoration Movement.

Faith is a firm conviction resting upon clear and satisfactory testimony. “Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1.) We are told specifically how faith comes: “So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Rom. 10:17.) This settles it as to how faith comes; it comes by hearing the word of God. Where God has not spoken, there can be no faith, for “faith cometh by hearing the word of God,” and Christians, when they are loyal to God, “walk by faith, not by sight.” (II Cor. 5:7.) Opinion is an expression based on human judgment, without clear and satisfactory testimony; the word “opinion” signifies “what one thinks,” and in matters of religion it means what men think concerning matters on which the Bible is silent.

Now, the New Testament use of “faith” is faith in Jesus as we covered just a few posts ago. But Boles takes “faith” to mean anything taught in the Bible, that is, everything that is not expedience. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ, but not all that comes by hearing is “faith.”

Hence, to Boles, “faith” includes those things logically inferred from scripture unless it lacks “clear and satisfactory testimony.” That is, if it’s clear (to Boles), it’s “faith.” If it’s unclear (to Boles), it’s opinion. The standard has now become completely subjective with the editor.

The distinction between “faith” and “opinion” should be kept clear, for “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Rom. 14: 23.) “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” means when we do anything as service to God not clearly required in his word, we sin.

But Boles also declares that “in matters of religion [‘opinion’] means what men think concerning matters on which the Bible is silent.” Well, if that’s true, why are dividing over the instrument — on which the Bible is silence? How can silence both be a prohibition and an opinion? My best guess is that Boles finds the Bible not silent at all on the instrument, as silence implies a prohibition — which would be incredibly self-contradictory.

Boles abuses Romans 14:23, to make it teach the Regulative Principle — whereas Paul is actually teaching that we should tolerate disagreements among those with faith in Jesus. Again, we just covered the meaning of Romans 14 —

Community Disciplines: Community Disciplines: Romans on Discipline, Part 3 (chapters 13 and 14a)

Community Disciplines: Community Disciplines: Romans on Discipline, Part 2 (chapter 14b)

Community Disciplines: Community Disciplines: Romans on Discipline, Part 2 (chapter 14b)

Community Disciplines: Community Disciplines: Romans on Discipline, Part 3 (chapter 14b)

Community Disciplines: Community Disciplines: Romans on Discipline (Romans 14 and Galatians)

Community Disciplines: Romans on Discipline (Romans 14 and Love Feast)

Romans 14:23 says,

(Rom 14:23 ESV) 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Obviously, “does not proceed from faith” refers to eating contrary to one’s conscience, that is, one’s own subjective understanding of the scripture (not the editor’s conscience). You see, faith is a condition of the heart. Faith is belief in Jesus as Son of God and as Lord, and it includes a commitment. Therefore, sinning against one’s conscience, even if in error (that is, it’s not really a violation of God’s will), is sin because it is violation of the heart’s commitment to Jesus. This is plain and simple not the Regulative Principle.  Romans 14:23 doesn’t say that acting without authority is a sin; it says that acting contrary to your conscience is a sin. Those are not the same thing.

To bring things into the service of God which are based only on opinion is to substitute opinion for faith. This substitution separates man from God and causes division among men. To substitute opinion for faith is to rebel against God; it is to put the judgments of men as our guide, and thus reject the counsel of God. Christians cannot work together in harmony with two different rules of action.

Listen carefully. Boles uses “opinion” for “mistaken opinion.” See how subtle he is? He means if we bring things into the service of God in error then we substitute opinion for faith. In other words, silence produces opinion, and all opinion is forbidden!

Thus, if we celebrate holy days that God cares nothing about or refuse to eat meat to keep kosher, even if God doesn’t care about kosher, since we’ve added opinion (mistaken opinion at that!), we are separated from God, we cause division, we rebel against God, we reject the counsel of God, and good Christians cannot work in harmony with us! Except, of course, Paul disagrees.

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

Boles continues —

Jesus said: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt. 6:24.) There can be no harmony when a portion of God’s people are guided by human opinion and another portion guided by the truth of God; there can be no unity between “who walk by faith” and those who walk according to the opinions of men. “Shall two walk together, except they have agreed?” (Amos 3: 3.)

Boles says that to use an instrument is to serve the wrong master. Paul says that both do what they do “unto the Lord.” Mammon — the god of money and greed — is not remotely related to the question

For us to walk together, we must agree on where we’re going and that we’re going to walk together. But one can listen to his iPod on the way and the other can sing. We don’t have to agree on everything. But it really is necessary that we agree to walk together. And that means we must want to walk together.

The absurdity of Bole’s argument is that, if true, we can fellowship no error at all. He says, “There can be no harmony when a portion of God’s people are guided by human opinion and another portion guided by the truth of God.” Really? No error at all? None?

It’s no wonder that following Bole’s speech the broad dissemination of its text throughout the a cappella Churches, the Churches of Christ suffered a number of splits over countless issues of “faith” and “opinion.” After all, if I think Jesus will reign for a literal 1,000, and you disagree, Boles says I must treat you as damned. Oh, and the guy who thinks the Millennium is a metaphor, he must treat me as damned. And we both get footnotes in the directory of the Churches of Christ in the United States so no one accidentally worships in error by attending a congregation with the wrong position on the thousand-year reign.

How sad.

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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46 Responses to The Fork in the Road: “The Way of UNITY between “Christian Churches” and Churches of Christ,” Part 3

  1. Bob Brandon says:

    “Now, the New Testament use of “faith” is faith in Jesus as we covered just a few posts ago. But Boles takes “faith” to mean anything taught in the Bible, that is, everything that is not expedience. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ, but not all that comes by hearing is “faith.””

    In the same way, the inquisitors mangle II Jn. 4-11. And the mangling of the text is an article of faith for these people.

  2. hank says:

    What did Jude mean by “faith” when he wrote:

    “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

  3. Royce Ogle says:

    It is my firm conviction that people who divide and damn each other over what the Bible doesn’t say, or over opinions about what it does say, share one common problem. None of those who condemn others fully understand the good news about Jesus. They do not know that all of those who will be finally saved will be saved wholly upon the work of Jesus Christ.

    Those who believe they will be saved by Christ’s sacrifice plus personal “faithfulness” and being “sound” and being in a church on earth with the right name, etc, etc. Men who preach faith in a “gospel system” at the expense of a glorified savoir are as much in error as the ancient party of the circumcision.

    It is God’s lavish grace that teaches us to live holy lives., Men are not made holy by keeping the rules of self righteous hypocrites.

  4. Royce Ogle says:


    He had in mind the body of truth that Jesus paid the price in full for sinners and that salvation is only by faith in Him.

    I am positive he did not have in mind a cappella singing or two dozen other things coc people call “the faith”.

  5. Alabama John says:

    I agree Royce.

    In my experience men that have written books that have caused the most splits and hard feelings have done nothing to help further salvation, the church or the faith in Jesus.
    What they have done is keep their names and ideas alive way past their death.
    I wonder since God is not the author of confusion if where they are today if their minds have been changed.
    The problem with writing down a position you take as forever true is its hard to reverse as you learn more in your study and life experiences and have answered the prayers for guidance.
    Seldom do you see one of these stanch position takers change their stand and that alone shows a not so admirable trait. Would be interesting to see how their judgment goes.

  6. Jerry says:

    All of us think our opinions are the best ones available. The problem comes when we are so wedded to our opinions we try to make them equivalent to the Word of God.

  7. HistoryGuy says:

    I am not sure where to insert my following thoughts within the unity series, so forgive me if it’s in the wrong post. There is a presupposition at work which many seem unaware. The RM is a product of the latter Reformation that had divided over increasing interpretative positions far removed from the early church and even the intent of Reformation. The RM lacks a distinct systematic theology because it was diverse, and to articulate one would have created or admitted a division. This is not to say that I agree with them (I don’t), but it was the only way that Calvinist, Arminians, and Pelagians, and even (God forbid) Trinitarians and Arians could co-exist. Even the Pre, A, and post-Mil doctrines were not an issue until later in the movement.

    In its infancy, the RM was disconnected from the historical church and a bit idealistic, but somewhat embraced its historical identity as matters of orthodoxy arose and time wore on. Historically, all movements codify their positions over time. Note these are thoughts, but major division resulted over tangible elements. Thoughts can be set aside, but tangle elements are hard to ignore. The society was not the issue per se, but rather the authority and abuse over the church that came with it. Additionally, IM was not the issue per se, but rather a symptom of deeper disagreement. The same could be said of tongues, immersion, the visible church, and other tangible elements. Furthermore, most of the arguments for and against IM/AC were taken from various denominational argumentations, which preceded the RM AC/IM division.

    Still, two considerations are in order. First, we think past RM leaders absurd because we disagree with their hermeneutic; however, we must remember both groups embraced CENI (form of RPW), and essentially claimed that one group was no longer fully applying it, though both claimed to use it. To clarify, silence and fellowship became an issue among two groups committed to using the same hermeneutic. This same issue occurred between the CCC and DOC in the mid-20th century. Sadly, groups in the RM today cannot agree on a hermeneutic, much less how to apply it. Today, denominations using an agreed upon hermeneutic within their respective organizations are more unified than those without (i.e. compare Southern Baptist to division occurring among Presbyterians). Second, the AC position has been upheld for 2000 years by Christians from a variety cultures, preferences, and languages using a wide variety of hermeneutics. Thus, AC/IM does not stand or fall with the RPW, nor should AC be equated with CENI (which occurs here too often).

    You can see the biases from both sides in the RM movement as you read their work. Thus, I am essentially claiming a similar position, but applying it to the RM as a whole, traditional and conservative. The majority of both groups are working from a very limited scope disconnected from the early church. Yes, this is a return to the issue of interpretive authority, but then again that has always been the issue, even among the Arian controversy, the Great Schism, the Reformation, and matters in the RM today. Example: when you and Laymond disagree over the Trinity, who really says who is right since both appeal to Scripture alone? Apart from the early church you have no “orthodox Trinitarian” position. Even if CCC and COC agree on IM, where does that really leave unity at large?

    Where I differ with most here, even many AC advocates (though I am one), is my method. There are a growing number of scholars from all denominations (Catholic, Protestant, RM) who believe the way to unity is not through debating the symptoms, IM/AC, etc., but through examining Christianity (for this forum, the RM) and our interpretations from a bird’s eye view of the church as a whole, while emphasizing the early church’s understanding of Scripture and creeds, which sought to preserve the Christian vision of God and unity, and defend orthodoxy from misunderstandings and heresy. To avoid generalizing, let me say that each matter of division deserves a line-item examination. People of all ages have biases, but unless we are prepared to deny historical method and take an agnostic position, then we can certainly agree that truth abounds even among people with biases. — Parts of this will probably need clarification but my word count is maxed.

  8. rich constant says:

    boy oh boy jay.
    “history guy”
    needs his word count increased!!!!!

  9. History Guy, thank you. I loved your post; very insightful and analytical. I am developing a blog topic in this same direction; may I quote some of your above post? I couldn’t phrase it better. I will reference with URL link.

  10. HistoryGuy says:

    I deeply appreciate your kind words and did not know if my post would make sense given its broad topic. Please, feel free to use anything I put forth (I am not sure about copyright and Jay’s blog though). If I missed your cynicism, well… you are good, and the joke is on me 🙂

  11. Price says:

    History Guy !! Glad to see your post…More so that you are ready, willing and able !!

  12. David P Himes says:

    There seems to me to be an underlying matter in our unrelenting debate over doctrinal issues — and I think it’s our confidence in our own salvation. Which relates to our understanding of grace.

    Our lack of confidence in our salvation easily leads us to find markers upon which we can rely to build our confidence. So, we debate doctrinal matters to put more markers on our side of the ledger (which we are sure that God keeps updating, everyday).

    If we have confidence in God and his grace and forgiveness, then we can be sure of our salvation, regardless of how the doctrinal debates come out.

    I’m personally convinced that God will not abandon me, regardless of whether I worship with or without a musical instrument … because in either case, I seek to worship him in Spirit and Truth.

  13. History Guy, no cynicism, no joke. Too serious a subject — unity of the Spirit in the universal body of Christ starting by groups putting their private interpretive doctrines on the alter to set eyes on Jesus. AC vs IM, for example, is like two bald guys so occupied arguing about who had more hair twenty years ago they don’t see a tank about to run them both over. We in the CoC / DOC are missing an opportunity to show the denominational brothers how to really go back to the scripture and use peace and love to resolve humanly created conflicts that have no genuine scriptural merit. And the opportunity is in danger of being squandered because of idolatrous competive spirits and pride. I will try to have my post up in the “Hermeneutic and Doctrine” series within a week. If you check it out ( and don’t approve of the context of the quote(s), let me know by email ([email protected]) and I will revise or remove. Thanks!

  14. aBasnar says:

    There are a growing number of scholars from all denominations (Catholic, Protestant, RM) who believe the way to unity is not through debating the symptoms, IM/AC, etc., but through examining Christianity (for this forum, the RM) and our interpretations from a bird’s eye view of the church as a whole, while emphasizing the early church’s understanding of Scripture and creeds, which sought to preserve the Christian vision of God and unity, and defend orthodoxy from misunderstandings and heresy.

    To the point, HG! Thank you!

    What I remarked in one of the former “chapters”: It#s not about a law, but about the meaning. The RPW (as good and as limited as it is) seeks to define a legal standard; those who say “silence is not a prohibition” are no less legalistic in their approach – still asking: What is allowed and what isn’t.

    But once you get to the meaning of the various topics, it#s not about laws and commands (in the first place) but about applying /living out the truth. The ECF (as far as I understand them) had this approach – based on their typological reading of scripture which is very, VERY alien to the churches of Christ (both progressive and conservative).

    In fact: Itr doesn’t realy help to quote this or that “Church of Christer” in order to come closer to one another, because we still revolve around our legalistic Western way of thinking. To be a little more pointy: Calvin was a Lawyer, not a theologian – and this shaped a good deal of Protestant theology. Alexander Campbell was heavily influenced by the rationalistic academic approach of his day – and again this shaped the theology of the RM. Both lack the perspective from which the ECF read the Apostolic writings.

    In a word – again: It’s not about laws but about meaning.


  15. aBasnar says:

    It’s not about laws but about meaning.

    And therfore it is not about condemning one another – just in case this implcation was not immediately visible 😉


  16. Charles McLean says:

    If I am reading HG correctly, he suggests that the path to unity is to carefully retrace our steps back far enough to find a historic place of agreement held by the earliest believers, whose motivations were more pure than those of later disciples. I think this approach is looking for a virginal church whose views we might recreate in order to restore unity. If I am mischaracterizing HG’s approach, please feel free to correct me.

    This approach reminds me of Nicodemus’ question: “Can a man enter again to his mother’s womb?” The answer is no. And the question demonstrates that the questioner has taken a natural approach to a purely spiritual issue and may not understand the answer even if he hears it. I think this happens with us in seeking a place of agreement upon which unity might be founded. We are unified in spirit, as a reflection of our common spiritual DNA. Unfortunately, I think we have relegated this reality to the realm of mysticism and moved on to a more natural, intellectual form of unity, which is not really unity at all, but mere orthodoxy.

    We seem to be operating on the assumption that the basis for revelation available to the early church is no longer available to us, and therefore, we must search for that lost revelation in the last place we saw it. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would “take what is mine and make it known to you”. We have despaired of this happening in the modern day. For the most powerful source of unity is a common experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit among us today.

    The RM sees the early church not as an infant church in an immature state, but as a virginal bride, replete with all divine revelation, from which later believers have drifted away. This core belief of Restorationism leads us to a entropic view of the church rather than a developmental one. But this is not how a living body operates.

    We began as a small Jewish sect, one which accepted a Messiah not widely received. We hesitantly accepted Gentile believers after God convinced us to do so, but only grudgingly and by initially assuming that we were of course to convert them into Jews like us. We experienced heresies which struck at the core of the faith, and struggled to battle them. We have spread the faith throughout the known world, a message rife with errors and disagreement and human failure and mendacity. We have struggled and we have grown. We have not arrived, not in the least, and our disunity is evidence of that. But the body of Christ is a living, growing person, not a dilapidated house whose architect has gone missing and whose blueprints we are trying to recover from an ancient building permit office.

    Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and another they will not follow.” Believing this and hearing him today in the living person of the Holy Spirit– not just hearing human views on what we think he meant by what he said back then– is far more likely to give us common ground than the best laid plans to recreate a romanticized church of a bygone era, only without its power.

  17. Jay Guin says:


    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’d like to respond to a couple of your thoughts — although I find the overall analysis very helpful.

    To clarify, silence and fellowship became an issue among two groups committed to using the same hermeneutic.

    The founders of the RM likfly would have agreed on the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) because their eccelesiology was heavily influenced by their Calvinistic roots. But Stone, the Campbells, Scott, Smith, etc. did not make the RPW a salvation or fellowship issue. That came later. Thus, RPW was largely common ground, but strictly limited to the realm of what they’d call “opinion.”

    Post-Civil War, many in the next generation turned the RPW into a “faith” issue, that is, a test of fellowship and salvation — a radical departure from founding principles. They seem to have been heavily influenced by the Landmark Baptist movement out of Nashville.

    In the 20th Century, the CoC largely agreed on the RPW, extending the RP throughout ecclesiology, that is, to church organization, use of church funds, extra-congregational organizations, fund raising, located preachers, etc. Indeed, today some would declare the RP as a universal principle of grammar and the central hermeneutical principle in all realms of theology.

    This led to the ‘progressive’ movement, which is a return to the original RM principles of fellowship and salvation(soteriology), but also to a serious questioning of the RPW.

    Thus, there are two hermeneutical strands — What doctrines are necessary for salvation (soteriology)? How do we decide what is proper in the church (ecclesiology)? The two questions originally had two different hermeneutics — grace/faith and the RPW. The RPW swallowed up grace/faith in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. We now see grace/faith returning as to salvation and fellowship — and increasingly grace also becoming the hermeneutic of ecclessiology.

    Obviously, “grace/faith” is a woefully inadequate summation of current thoughts on ecclesiology, which is presently in a tentative, discussion stage. But RPW has been decidedly rejected by the progressive elements.

    There are a growing number of scholars from all denominations (Catholic, Protestant, RM) who believe the way to unity is not through debating the symptoms, IM/AC, etc., but through examining Christianity (for this forum, the RM) and our interpretations from a bird’s eye view of the church as a whole, while emphasizing the early church’s understanding of Scripture and creeds, which sought to preserve the Christian vision of God and unity, and defend orthodoxy from misunderstandings and heresy.

    I agree with stepping back and taking a bird’s eye view. After that, it depends on what means by “the early church.” If I get to pick the creeds, I’m good with that element of the proposal. Nicene and Apostles creeds? Or do we add to the list? There is a great deal in 4th century early church thinking that I’m sure we’d both reject!

  18. Larry Cheek says:

    Considering the views and disagreements within the last say even 50 years and the amount of translations each person can study which are accepted as written through inspiration (the cannon). How reliable could we consider the ECF be who were not considered inspired, but recording history of what they saw or believed wheather they had inspired documentation to guide them or not, we can only make assumptions. It is very obvious in this blog and others even with the great amount of highly educated men trying to read the inspired words (believeing that the Godhead was guiding the thoughts written would not error in writting so man could not understand without another mans interpration) remember the actual text of scripture was not written to the doctors of the law, scribes etc. they did not accept the teaching, it was written to the common people not highly educated and they understood the message. Is the text of the cannon actually so un-understandable today that we cannot fully depend on obtaning the message that The Lord intended without the history of all the devations that man has committed through many years of mis-understandings.
    Did not God instruct that the inspired word was all that we should need to guide us?
    If we believed this message from God, we would not depend upon the ECF writers.
    Do we ever use their writings in such a way that elevates their teachings or actions to be equal to or even greater than Gods inspiration?
    Larry Cheek

  19. Charles McLean says:

    “How reliable could we consider the ECF be who were not considered inspired…”
    Who was it, exactly, whose consideration of who was and who was not inspired we take as inspired today? And we do exactly that, doubt it not. For if the decisions as to what was included in the canon were not inspired by God, how do we know they made the right choices?

  20. Todd Collier says:

    I agree that the ECF’s were not inspired – as such. However their witness as to how the early Church interpreted and applied that which was inspired is very helpful. We should be a bit more familiar with their writings and attitudes. We should be able to quote them like we can quote Campbell, Stone or Luther and for the same reasons. In fact as our society becomes more and more “post-Christian” their viewpoints might be even more important for us than those of men who were trying to find a better path in an already Christianized civilization.

  21. It seems to me the Early Christian Fathers (ECF) were just as susceptible to their own biases as we are. Let’s face it, the model for the present Christian assembly, is essentially the assembly of the Jews at the synagogues. But, Jesus discounted that pattern when he spoke of “worshipping in spirit and truth.”

    I don’t mean to “discount” the writings of the ECF, anymore than I discount any writer. But I also do not find any reason to grant them weight above that of any other thoughtful writer.

    After all, for the most part, all of us are simply trying to figure out what the Text really means.

    I take note of the admonition that I will be judged using the same standard I applied in judging others … that encourages me to be very forgiving and tolerant of those with whom I disagree. My tolerance does not mean I consent, only that I decline to condemn.

    I have a friend who died about a month ago. Frankly, unknown to most people who knew him, I was aware of a pattern of mental abuse he inflicted upon his wife. Since his passing, even more things have come to light as my wife and I have helped his widow deal with things. In spite of what I know, I remind myself, I am just as much in need of forgiveness as he was, and as we all are.

    It’s acceptable, to me, to simply agree to disagree … and continue to love each other as Jesus loved us. We are accountable to God, not to our critics. And before God, we are all wrong.

  22. HistoryGuy says:

    Thanks for your thoughts. I will work up a good summary for you later. For the moment, please consider that your post exemplifies exactly what I am claiming the problem to be. Christians 2000 years after Christ disconnect themselves from church history to the point that they believe the Bible of God fell out of the sky ready to have the smallest points of doctrine interpreted by every individual that picks it up. They are so sure of this that they proudly disagree with what a plethora of earlier Christians found consensus upon. I only ask for people to study the issue. Truly, Gal. 6:11 does not have any bearing on salvation or liturgy; Paul had to teach and explain what resurrection from the dead means – 1 Cor. 15:35; and Peter says Paul wrote Scripture that people misinterpret – 2 Peter 3:16. Tradition has been abused, but in the first 300 years it was fairly reliable. These are but a few examples to demonstrate that some Biblical issues are clear and others are not, but neither should be diminished. Of course, the whole discussion about interpretation of the Bible presupposes that the ECF preserved the correct canon, which forces one to realize the Bible did not fall out of the sky. Thus, Christians today should seriously reconsider their method for accepting or denying what the early church found consensus upon.

  23. HistoryGuy says:

    — I am spring boarding off your very good comment, not attacking you.

    You asked (another person) how we know the ECF made the right choice in preserving the canon. I realize you pitched it as somewhat of a rhetorical question (and thank you for that), but I wanted to add something seldom considered by some here. The ECF not only defended their choice of the Canon by appealing to facts about the text themselves, but they also had to (and did) appeal to apostolic tradition (facts outside of Scripture). For many Protestants & RM folks, apostolic tradition cannot even be “considered – contemplated” for decisions over correct teaching or binding matters, unless it is Scripture (which interpretation is then argued), and that is nothing more than naivety and inconsistency run amuck.

  24. HistoryGuy says:

    Good thoughts. I’ll make a comment or two tonight. Good place to start is the Nicene Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon, and the Apostles Creed. Yes indeed, things started drastically changing in the 4th century. 🙂

  25. Charles McLean says:

    HG wrote: “For many Protestants & RM folks, apostolic tradition cannot even be “considered – contemplated” for decisions over correct teaching or binding matters, unless it is Scripture (which interpretation is then argued), and that is nothing more than naivety and inconsistency run amuck.”
    Speaking from the limited perspective of my history in the CoC, I think this naivete and inconsistency was often the result of our never even contemplating the question. As I think Jay has commented on elsewhere, there was the unspoken assumption that the NT canon simply sprang to life at some point, full-formed and with God’s divine seal of approval stamped on the original copy. I have suggested that this smacked more of Joseph Smith and the Angel Moroni than of the history of the church. The real miracle here is that such an obvious issue was never even discussed in the churches, much less addressed fully and reasonably by those who held their Bibles to a level of honor approaching that of a Fourth Person of the Godhead.

    I would question, though, the idea that while divine inspiration was needed to pen the scriptures, it was not needed to recognize them… that simple reason and historic precedent were sufficient to the task. What is of the spirit is not discerned by the flesh. The fact is that the “canonization” process was a very lengthy one and filled with disagreements which continue until the modern day. (Certainly there was long debate over the book of James, based not on some ongoing revelation, but on what were argued to be doctrinal inconsistencies with the Pauline epistles.)

    But we do not often open that can of worms, for fear that we might have to recognize realities like the one you bring up, HG, and sadly, for fear that we would have to acknowledge that the Catholic Church gave us this anthology of holy writ and defended it over the centuries. After all, how could someone who we insist is damned have brought this book to us? It’s too distressing to contemplate… so we don’t.

  26. Doug says:

    I really doubt that anyone will ever be able to conceive of a structure or technique which unifies the Church. That would include a structure that starts with ECF’s writings and teaching. One might think that the Church in say, 200 AD would have been in a much better position to do that than we are today. But in 200 AD (and 300 AD) the Church was still discussing what writings should be included in the biblical canon and so they probably could do no better than we could do today. It may be that the more things change, the more they are still the same.
    It seems to me that the best approach is one of mutual respect and forbearance. That sounds simple but it is not. Can we who see so much in immersion baptism ever really respect a peron who has been “baptised” by some other technique? After all, many of us have had little to do religiously with others who have followed a different religous path. We have little to no firsthand knowledge of their religiousity. It seems to me that maybe the CofC might be ready to make some baby steps towards unity but is far from desiring unity outside a certain small sect of the religious world.

  27. Jay Guin says:


    I’ve been thinking about these creeds.

    I’ve previously criticized the Nicene Creed, not for being error (I agree with it), but for pushing the church in the wrong doctrinal direction. /2011/06/real-restoration-acts-pauls-sermon-at-antioch-in-pisidia/

    I continue to hold that these creeds, even where true, tend to take us away from the heart of Biblical teaching and toward an orthodoxy defined on holding the correct abstractions. Thus, belief in abstract principles came to define “true Christian,” and those who disagreed about such abstractions — the Trinity, predestination, consubstantiation, etc. — became heretics.

    That’s not to reject abstraction but to reject the separation of the abstract from the real. Faith is faith in Jesus, a person who lives in heaven and rules over us, not faith in a creed (whether a true or a false creed).

    Thus, when we seek unity by adherence to early church creeds, we may find truths, but we risk overlooking the Truth — the gospel itself as found in the person of Jesus.

    Therefore, I am not excited at the prospect of finding unity in 4th century creeds — even very true creeds. We find unity in Jesus — by faith in Jesus. We follow Jesus. We teach, preach, and live Jesus. I’d far rather seek unity by studying the gospel, the kingdom, and the Messiah — all of which are Old Testament teachings that tell a story (a true story).

    Thus, the further we get from the Gospels, the death, the resurrection, and the ascension, the more danger we risk of worshiping the creed rather than the Christ. And, in the Churches of Christ, this is exactly the mistake we made. We define “faith” as faith in a silence-built ecclesiology and defend that idea against all evidence to the contrary. And have no unity.

    That’s not to object to considering what we might learn from the Apostles Creed, but to seriously doubt that therein lies unity. Indeed, thinking unity is found that way is a critical error, in my opinion.

  28. HistoryGuy says:

    Concerning the RPW … Overall I would agree. As the RM progressed, the hermeneutic became more defined, especially towards the 20th century. Lines were drawn over issues that were not existent or considered in earlier times. One could believe an issue to be sin and separate without invoking “hell bound.” You have interesting thoughts about the strands of the RPW; I will think on them. I posited that the RM agreed on the RPW, but differed over the extent of application. Most Protestants (Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian) used a form of the RPW because it was the only way to govern Sola Scriptura from individualism and essentially replaced the governance of papal authority or high church council. Note that “high” churches (Lutheran, Anglican, etc) normally adhered more to the NPW, but governed individualism and error through church council. Perhaps RM leaders should have considered the possible problems given the differences in application of the RPW between Baptist (loose) vs. Presbyterianism (strict & loose). Before the RM started, there were rifts over hermeneutics among Baptist, and by the 1780s Presbyterians were debating the application of the RPW (and still are even today). Given the denominational backgrounds of RM leaders, it was only natural for the RM to use the RPW… and only natural for them to eventually divide over it. Every movement since the Reformatoin (that embraces its method) starts well, but then becomes codified and splinters. The RM started by feeling its way through the dark, then developed some ways to handle issues, then divided; the progressive movement will be no different if it does not learn from the past and find more connection with history. I am no prophet, but if nothing changes in method, even the progressive RM will splinter in years to come.

  29. HistoryGuy says:

    Concerning your thoughts on creeds…I love your spirit, but the reality is that unity has its boundaries and you must mark them at some point. The RM loves to avoid creeds, but we all know the joke [the RM has unwritten creeds]. I hope you can laugh, but you have your creeds while trying your best not to adhere to any creed but the Bible. Embrace the creeds, my friend, it will get easier (ha ha).

    It is easy to say we find unity in Jesus and the kingdom, but then we must define who and what Jesus and the kingdom are. Those who proposed the creeds were seeking to protect, not an abstract doctrine, but the very heart of the gospel, the Christian understanding of God, the church, and salvation itself. Creeds such as the Nicene Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon, and the Apostles Creed were very carefully worded by devout Christians amidst great controversy, not over liturgy which is what we generally disagree on, but the very nature of God, the gospel, and salvation. Parties involved in the controversy surrounding these creeds were both claiming the Scriptural and apostolic high ground. Thus, the elements of the creeds won out because they had the actual supporting historical evidence to decide the interpretational dispute over Scripture. These creeds sought to preserve unity and convey the knowledge of God from people who were accidently or purposively corrupting the Scriptures.

    The creeds I chose to mention were mainly about the Trinity for a reason. That is, while I leave final judgment of heaven and hell to God, I am NOT in fellowship with those who deny the Trinity. With humbleness I ask, have you considered that you must define the Jesus you seek believers to be unified within, and do you realize that by claiming to be an “orthodox Trinitarian” you have already defined the Jesus you believe in while simultaneously affirming the creeds of which you are leery? Perhaps you affirm more than you realize, or you do not hold the positions you think you do. Here is a telling question: as a self-proclaimed “orthodox Trinitarian” concerned about unity, do you consider those who claim faith in Jesus, but deny the Trinity, to be in fellowship with you? I am enjoying the conversation, believe it will be very revealing about some larger issues, and look forward to your answer.

  30. Doug says:

    HG, you are confusing me over what RM means… is it Restoration Movement or Reformation Movement?


  31. Royce Ogle says:


    I completely agree with your summation. You said, “Therefore, I am not excited at the prospect of finding unity in 4th century creeds — even very true creeds. We find unity in Jesus — by faith in Jesus…

    Instead of revisiting creeds and evaluating the worth of worship practices and what a Campbell, a Stone, or a Luther (everyone God’s men…) said, I have a suggestion. Why don’t we each, carefully and prayerfully read the 17th chapter of the gospel of John. Unity in the context of Christianity is being one with the Father, with the Son, and necessarily with each other. It is no more and no less.

  32. HistoryGuy says:

    I confuse myself…. I may have mistyped terms, if so I am sorry. RM = Restoration Movement. Reformation/reform should be spelled out.

    We have explicit statements from Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Ignatius, and many other ECFs who did not consider themselves inspired, though they considered the writers of Scripture to be inspired. Whether or not the Spirit moved upon men directly or providentially is a question of theology; however, as FF Bruce says, “that the NT consists of 27 books which have been recognized as belonging to it since the 4th century is not a value judgment; it is a statement of [historical] fact.” The church recognized the canon, while simultaneously believing it to be closed (Canon is a standard). While the Syrian canon only sees 22 books, it still finds agreement that the canon is closed. Catholics of the 1500s knew this which is why they had to label additional books “deuterocanonical.” The historical realities about a closed canon should shape our thinking about Scripture today.

    Does John 17 present unity in a Unitarian Jesus or a Trinitarian Jesus? 🙂

  33. Jay Guin says:


    For the sake of the readers, I should point out that the Regulative Princple of Worship (RPW) was invented by Calvin and Zwingli in an effort to eliminate Catholic abuses. The Lutherans found the Calvinists far too strict, worrying that they were creating a new works salvation via the RPW. (They were right to be concerned.)

    Thus arose the issue of adiaphora, literally “indifferent things.” Some among the Lutherans proposed the Normative Principle (silence is permission). It’s often taught that the Anglicans and Methodists also follow the NPW, while churches with Calvinist traditions follow the RPW.

    Nowadays, there is very little conversation on the subject other than in churches that are struggling to define the RPW. Thus, churches from the Puritan tradition have developed a very elaborate doctrine of RPW, seeking to distinguish “aids” from “additions,” but they refer to them as “accidents” and “essences” (a vocabulary borrowed from Aristotle, of all people — A helpful introduction to and criticism of Puritan thought is at, and you’ll recognize how they’ve struggled to draw lines the same as us but have found a different vocabulary.

    Theoretically, Baptists and Methodists should disagree over what is permitted in church, but they don’t in any serious way. The controversy is largely forgotten because the old RPW/NPW divide has been replaced with a more missional approach: What best serves the mission of the church? Thus, rather than asking “Is it authorized?” most evangelical churches would ask “Does is serve God purposes for the assembly?” Obviously, violating a command or principle taught in scriptures could not satisfy this test, but neither would everything on which the Bible is silent. Only some practices on which the Bible is silent would in fact serve the purposes of the assembly.

    That leads to a far healthier question of why we are gathered as opposed to wondering whether hymnbooks are essences or accidents, aids or additions. We get away from an artificial, rule-based hermeneutic to a (to borrow a term) purpose-based hermeneutic. Ask about purposes and you talk about the Bible and God’s story as revealed therein. You ask about Jesus. Ask about aids vs. additions, and you run to Aristotle or Boles or Wallace for help, because you won’t find any help on such questions in the Bible.

    Alexander Campbell made it clear that fellowship and salvation did not depend (either way) on one’s position on Calvinism among many other -isms. Therefore, he surely would not have drawn fellowship lines over the RPW (a subset of Calvinism). However, he grew up in a Calvinistic household and lived in a part of the nation where church practices had been largely defined by Calvinistic roots. Hence, he certainly leaned toward the RPW — but never, ever as a fellowship issue. Nor did he actually teach the RPW so far as I’ve been able to find. Rather, he appears to have largely kept his thinking on the issue to himself. After all, he was a student of the Reformation and knew that the RPW/NPW divide had been brutal and fractious — exactly the result he was seeking to avoid by preaching against -isms and creeds.

  34. Jay Guin says:


    Campbell and Stone disagreed on the Nicene Creed. Campbell was a not-quite-orthodox Trinitarian, whereas Stone leaned more toward Unitarianism. After the two movements united, the two men engaged in a lengthy debate published in a series of articles on the atonement, which led to a discussion of the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy SPirit. You’ll enjoy:

    What Hicks doesn’t mention is Campbell’s willingness to remain in fellowship because Stone affirmed all statements about God, Jesus, and the Spirit in scripture. Stone did not contradict any express teaching but rather disagreed as to the inferences to be drawn. That was Campbell’s way of drawing a line.

    Now, I accept orthodox Trinitarian doctrine, but that doesn’t mean I draw lines of fellowship on whether the Spirit proceeds from just the Father or both the Father and the Son (the question which divided the church into Catholics and Orthodox). You see, when we start talking about “essence” (an Aristotelian term) we quickly find ourselves reaching beyond true orthodoxy to speculation. We have to be very careful not to damn those who disagree over nuance but have a genuine faith. And, yes, I know it’s hard to draw a line between “nuance” and “more than nuance.” Therefore, I’m inclined to think that the revelation we have in scripture will have to do.

    Maybe Campbell was on to something — although I’m certainly open to suggestions.

  35. HistoryGuy says:

    I began by asking about the Trinity because it is a foundational issue that I thought I knew where you stood, and could use it to quickly make another point, which has all but been lost in the recent posts. Now, it has become an issue in and of itself. We are not talking about IM/AC, the RM, or women’s roles; we are talking about the Christian vision of God. Stone rejected the Nicene Creed because he denied the Trinity. The creeds were carefully worded by its framers so that it would be rejected by those who deny the Trinity and that was the point; a heretic could not affirm the creed [I am assuming you know the history behind these creeds]. Campbell’s willingness to fellowship Stone only reveals how much he [and his idea of RM] had disconnected itself from the historical church. While Campbell remained neutral to Stone, Stone’s views were challenged by others.

    Without saying more about Stone, or properly exegting the Nicene Creed or Definition of Faith, I want to focus on what the key issue has become. First, nobody is ‘damning’ anyone. I said, “While I leave final judgment of heaven and hell to God, I am NOT in fellowship with those who deny the Trinity,” and then asked “are you, since you claim to be an orthodox Trinitarian?” I am surprised (truly) that you did not give me a clearer answer.

    Secondly, you said regarding the Trinity, “Therefore, I’m inclined to think that the revelation we have in scripture will have to do.” What I seem to be struggling to communicate, and what you seem to be missing is that when you claim to “accept orthodox Trinitarian doctrine” you are accepting the teaching that claims the “scriptural revelation” IS the orthodox Trinitarian position, which simultaneously denies and breaks fellowship with all other views. Orthodox Trinitarianism does not claim to have one of several possible interpretations of the scriptural revelation, but rather it claims to have the ONLY true interpretation (i.e. they are synonymous).

    When one believes the Trinitarian position is simply the best interpretation, but does not accept the orthodox Trinitarian position, he opens the door to fellowship non-Trinitarians, but renders his view defenseless against them.

    I hold an orthodox Trinitarian position, do not fellowship those who deny the Trinity, and affirm that John. 17:1-5 (among other texts) presents a Trinitarian Jesus. I apologize for not understanding where you stand on this matter, and will not press you further. I pray my previous comments specifically about the RM added to the conversation about unity within it.

  36. aBasnar says:

    For the sake of the readers, I should point out that the Regulative Princple of Worship (RPW) was invented by Calvin and Zwingli in an effort to eliminate Catholic abuses.

    This may be true for making a specific defintition or coining a term. But this approach to scripture is much much older. Take this quote from Tertullian’s treatise on the Soldier’s Crown (Coronoa Militis) – from Chapter three:

    An easy thing it is at once to demand where it is written that we
    should not be crowned. But is it written that we should be crowned? Indeed, in urgently demanding the warrant of Scripture in a different side from their own, men prejudge that the support of Scripture ought no less to appear on their part. For if it shall be said that it is lawful to be crowned on this ground, that Scripture does not forbid it, it will as validly be retorted that just on this ground is the crown unlawful, because the Scripture does not enjoin it. What shall discipline do? Shall it accept
    both things, as if neither were forbidden? Or shall it refuse both, as if neither were enjoined? But “the thing which is not forbidden is freely permitted.” I should rather say that what has not been freely allowed is forbidden.

    So, how old is the Regulative Principle? (BTW Tertullian goes on in the next chapter that where scriptures are silent, “custom” is the next place to look for the answer – in other words: Look, what the Early Christians next after the Apostles did and believed – HG’s and my approach).


  37. aBasnar says:

    I’d like to add something:

    Both Calvin and Tertullians were students of law (lawyers) – such as you are, Jay.) I suspect that arguing from “principles” like RPW or NPW is a “lawyer’s” approach to scripture. It has it’s value, but it has a danger: It treats God’s Word as a Law-Handbook which it is not for several reasons:

    a) Law-books are systematic – God’s book is relational. This means: Law books are topically arranged, while the scripture “evolved” in Real-life situations with no topical order at all.
    b) Law books strive to exhaustive – God’s book provides guidance. This means: Not everything is spelled out in detail, the church is always dependenton the guidance of the Spirit through their walk with Christ.
    c) The Law-Book approach reduces God to a Law-Giver (which He is), but leaves no room for a merciful Father, loving Bridegroom, tender Shepherd, close Friend and Companion.

    There is also a difference in the Law schools: Austrian law tries to define everything in the Law books, while (as I understand) American Law is large based on court decisions. American Law therefore has a bit more similarity to taking church history into consideration, while the Austrian Law is rather a “Sola Law-Book” approach.

    But think about it: Relational and under the guidance of the Spirit MUST lead us to the conclusion that we expect God’s voice to find in the “court decisions” of the Early church. An example in the NT is Acts 15. But the way the churches handles issues during the first few generations becomes crucial for understanding the scriptures. Interstingly they all agreed that scripture is the only infallible and inspired source of revelation; yet their testimony and life according to the traditions of the apostles handed down to them by the lives of apostolic churches become a valuable source for us. Those who shove them aside claiming “Sola Scriptura” are like lawyers who believe that all situations are covered by the Law Books, and no court decisions are in any way relevant in order to understand and apply these laws correctly.

    One more to “relational”: Unless we live in close fellowship with Christ, the Spirit won’t reveal us much. All we have are the letters of the book, we can study, twist and turn … but unless we are under the Spirit’s guidance, all our studies won’t profit us anything. As I said elswhere – and the more I think about it, the more I think this is very important: It’s not about laws but about meaning. The IM question will never be solved by a “legalistic” debate (= NPR vs. RPW), but only by understanding the spiritual meaning of the instruments in the OT in the light of their absence in the NT. This leads (among others) to Clement of Alexandria, the Odes of Salomo … the ECF.


  38. Jay Guin says:


    I think we largely agree. But we do agree that the RPW vs. NPW distinction misses the point, seeking to interpret the scriptures as though they are legislation, that is, legalistically. Indeed, many older books on hermeneutics (not just in the Churches of Christ) teach principles of interpretation taken from the law books on how to read statutes!

    Thus, we are forced to look for a better hermeneutic, and typology is certainly a part of the correct process, because it’s part of how Jesus and the apostles read the scriptures.

    The ECFs are worthy of our study, but I question many of their decisions and much of their reasoning. They were sometimes deeply insightful, even brilliant, but sometimes way off the mark. And some ECFs were better interpreters than others. That is, they were uninspired humans, but I read them for the same reasons I read Luther, Campbell, and Wright.

    However, I don’t place them above the other great scholars of the ages just because they wrote in the 4th Century. After all, most wrote a very long time after Paul, in a culture that was changing, just as ours changes today.

  39. aBasnar says:

    I place much emphasis on the Pre-Nicene writings, Jay (not the ones from the 4th century on). The reason is the great shift after Constantine. Second: The closeness to the language and culture of apostolic tines, and even the personal links to the apostles (2nd century). Therfore I listen to them more than I’d listen to Luther or Campbell.
    Yet, my goal is to listen to the Holy Spirit who also spoke through them. Thus to say: “They are unispired” misses the point. Since they had the Spirit of God, they truly were inspired! Yet, they were not infallible, they were children of their age and culture. The same applies to us: We are inspired, but not infallible. WE must weigh everything that is said, and compare it to the Word.

  40. Jay Guin says:

    Alexander wrote,

    We are inspired, but not infallible.

    I guess it’s a matter of definition. We all have the Spirit, all are led by the Spirit.

    (1 Cor 2 ESV) 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.

    But most contemporary Christians use “inspired” to mean so gifted by the Spirit that they are capable of infallible utterance. And by that definition, none of us is inspired — and that same holds true for the ECFs.

    Most take “inspired” for “God breathed,” which is a reference to Scripture coming from the Holy Spirit (“Spirit” and “breath” are the same word in Greek). Thus, the NT writers routinely refer to OT passages as spoken by the Spirit. And I don’t think anyone today measures up to that standard. Nor do the ECFs.

    Thus, we need a better term than “inspired.” I’d prefer “Spirit-led” from —

    (Rom 8 ESV) 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

    Now, I’m sure Tertullian was Spirit-led. So am I. So are you. Some of us follow that leading better than others. Some of us see God’s will in scripture better than others. But the degree to which Tertullian was Spirit-led is not measured by chronological proximity to the apostles. Simon Magus was barely Spirit-led at all — and perhaps not at all. No, you measure how close he came to following the Spirit’s leading by comparing his writings to scripture. The same is true of you and me.

    At most, he had access to a better understanding of koine Greek than you or I because it was his native tongue. But anyone who reads writings from the 18th Century know how quickly language changes even in this age of the printing press. It surely changed even faster back then — which is why you have different dictionaries for the Greek of the Fathers and for the Greek of the apostles.

    It’s speculated that the Fathers had access to an oral tradition that we don’t have, and they certainly were the heirs of whatever practices developed during the First Century. But we can only judge how true their practices were to the apostles by looking at scripture. And we can hardly presume that traditions not recorded in scripture were intended to be binding on us today.

    Therefore, I remain unpersuaded that I should give the ECFs any extra weight when it comes to doctrine. They are a critically important piece of history that shed light on First Century practices, but my respect for inspiration (in the traditional sense) is so great that I refuse to accept that we need to supplement the scriptures to find truth.

  41. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:

    I hope all of my friends on this forum (that would be Jay and one orher) would consider Matthew Morine’s outstanding article in the current Gospel advocate.

  42. Gregory,
    For me, the question is not the fact that we ultimately have doctrinal disagreements. But rather that, people on one side or the other choose to make good-faithed doctrinal disagreements a basis for fellowship.

    My reading of Matthew’s article is that he is willing, and by your recommendation, you are as well, willing to draw a line of fellowship to separate from other believers who have good-faith and well-thought-out doctrinal disagreements with you.

    To me, that view is not consistent with Jesus’ teaching of “loving one another, as [He] loved [us]”

  43. Charles McLean says:

    David’s point is well-taken. Fellowship which we grant to one another based on how well Brother A agrees with Brother B on Doctrines C through Z has nothing really at all to do with the church. The Spirit of God is as absent from such considerations as James Madison is absent from the halls of Congress. In this case, Brother A may as well be putting Brother B up for membership in his religious country club. Brother A can form or join such a club and keep B out if he likes, I suppose, even though such is an immature and carnal exercise of his freedom. Rather like the freedom to keep icky girls out of his clubhouse. One can only hope Brother A will grow out of his childish folly.

    As I note, Brother A is free to do this with his own religion club, but he is NOT free to sign God’s name to his conclusions. He is not free to rule that “B is not my brother” based on B’s differing with A’s interpretations of scripture.

    I have two sons. If one refused to speak to the other over a disagreement, that is sad and immature and I would try to get them to reconcile. But if one son were to go about telling people that my other son is not “really” his brother, I will become angry and discipline my son for such a slander. For in his words, one of my sons has publicly declared the other a bastard. As a father, that is an accusation I will not abide.

    My boys are brothers, not based on whether they agree or not, but based on what their father has done. Christians who reject one another based on their own views might do well to remember Miriam’s plight in Numbers 12.

  44. Price says:

    Gregory…what point was Morine trying to make in his article ? Seemed like he just wanted to disparage and label those that might disagree with the “official” position of his particular sect of the CoC…. I found it depressingly consistent with the divisive attitude that seems never willing to die.

  45. Royce Ogle says:

    Matthew tipped his hand in the very first sentence of the first paragraph.

    “…a history of God’s people in America”, followed by, “the
    history of the churches of Christ”.

    I have news for you. God had people in America (and in much of the rest of the world) long before Thomas and Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone came along. It requires a creative revision of history to conclude there were no Christians before the Restoration Movement was launched by the Campbells and Stone.

    It is that sort of sectarian spirit, with no facts either Biblical or historically, to support it that puts churches of Christ at odds with other Christians. Until our modern day “conservatives” understand Christianity the way Alexander Campbell did, talk of “unity” is of little use in my view.


  46. Pingback: The Fork in the Road: “The Way of UNITY between “Christian Churches” and Churches of Christ,” Part 4 | One In Jesus

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