The Fork in the Road: “The Way of UNITY between “Christian Churches” and Churches of Christ,” Part 4

My favorite conservative preacher — and newly minted editor of the Gospel AdvocateGregory Alan Tidwell posted this comment this morning —

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

I’d first like to thank Greg for posting the full text of the article at the Gospel Advocate website. The Advocate generally doesn’t post articles on the Internet, and we really couldn’t have much of a discussion on the topic without Greg doing that for us.

Second, Matthew Morine, the article’s author, has long been a reader and commenter here. Matthew has also written other articles for the Gospel Advocate, and yet Matthew maintains a blog listed here as “progressive.” Greg would consider him a progressive. Many here would consider him conservative. I’m not sure what that means except that, maybe, the labels aren’t all that helpful.

I do like Matthew. We’ve corresponded off and on. And this is even though he’s a Tennessee fan.

So here are my thoughts —

* The article is titled “Parallels of Division Within the Restoration Movement.” I would agree that our divisions have been parallel — except for the conservative/progressive division that is going on right now.

Until now, the divisions have been over what is “faith” vs. “opinion,” that is, what is authorized and what is banned by silence. Instrumental music, located preachers, church support for orphans homes, etc. (the list could be greatly lengthened) have all turned on whether a particular practice is deemed authorized by command, example, necessary inference (CENI) hermeneutics, or banned by CENI. Both sides agreed on CENI but each side had a different view as to how to apply CENI.

The current disagreement is different in kind. Rather, the (for want of a better term” progressive position is to reject CENI as a test of fellowship. Hence, progressives would contend that whether or not instrumental music is authorized, instrumental music is not a salvation or a fellowship issue. Thus, progressives seek to entirely escape the division triggered by CENI by finding a deeper, truer test of fellowship.

Not all progressives reject CENI, but all reject CENI as a test of fellowship.

Moreover, some progressives have gone a step further to consider penitent believers as brothers in Christ even if baptized imperfectly. It’s not entirely fair to characterize these progressives as fellowshipping the “unbaptized.” Rather, they would consider the baptisms received by, say, Baptists or even Methodists as flawed but sufficient by God’s grace.

Therefore, I see no parallels at all. The current disagreements are not about how to apply CENI. The old disagreements were.

* Matthew writes,

The churches of Christ from 1906 to 1980 enjoyed a relatively peaceful time of solidarity. although there were a few minor divergent paths of separation, overall, the church reaped the blessing of a strong core of faithful congregations moving on a united mission.

I’ll give a Matthew a pass on this due to his youth. I remember the split over institutionalism. Growing up, many of my friends were the sons and daughters of non-institutional ministers. That split was ugly and acrimonious.

Just so, there are still premillennial Churches of Christ that receive an asterisk in 21st Century Christian’s directory. Indeed, at one time in our history, they weren’t even listed. That controversy was largely over by my time, but the Churches were still reeling from the broadsides launched by Foy Wallace Jr. against the premillennial congregations — which he treated as damned.

The one-cup and no Sunday school divisions remain unhealed to this day. Today, the Memphis congregations are distraught over elder re-affirmation — labeled as apostasy by Contending for the Faith.

Indeed, it would take thousands of words just to list the issues which have been deemed salvation issues by one segment of the Churches or another. Greg and Matthew, both of whom are located preachers, should be thrilled that Daniel Sommer lost his influence. One of the reasons for the separation he triggered in 1889 was his objection to located preachers! And they were still controversial in my youth — although the controversy is now largely forgotten.

In short, to refer to those years as having “a few minor divergent paths of separation” is to — at best — romanticize the past. It was none too “minor” or “peaceful.”

The problem persists today. Indeed, the best I can tell, some among us still work hard to find new controversies to apostatize each other over. In fact, the Contending for the Faith crowd just recently declared Phil Sanders, an associate editor of the Gospel Advocate, “apostate” for accepting the personal indwelling of the Spirit!

So, no, it hasn’t been “peaceful.” And it’s still not. Even if there were no progressives, the Churches of Christ would still be divided and dividing. (Visit Alabama some time, and I’ll give you a tour of what division has done to the Church and its families.)

* Matthew lists three reasons for the 1906 split —

The Civil War

Daniel Sommer’s split took place in Sand Creek, Illinois, which is Union territory. However, I’d agree that, over time, most of the a cappella Churches were in the former Confederacy, and the after-effects of the War did tend to push the Southern Churches apart from the Northern Churches.

German liberalism

Theological liberalism had much to do with the split of the independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ from the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church). It had nothing to do with the divisions of 1889 and 1906 over the instrument and has nothing to do with the current division.

Sadly, the more conservative side of nearly every split has labeled the less conservative side “liberal,” seeking to tie to Rudolf Bultmann those who’d teach children in Sunday school, or support orphans from the church treasury or hire a preacher. But in each case, it’s been a slander and a grossly unfair tactic of tarring the other side by name calling.

Matthew continues,

Few progressive leaders would fully endorse the denial of absolute truth in churches of Christ, but the influence of this cultural mindset is being felt.

Oh, please … I’m not Postmodern. Neither is Al Maxey or Edward Fudge. Some years ago, we (and our predecessors) were accused of the “New Hermeneutic,” and then Situation Ethics. Before that, it was liberalism. It’s an old tactic of taking today’s bogeyman and tying one’s opponent to it.

Let me be quite clear. I am not Postmodern — even a little. Just the other day, I recommended to Greg D. A. Carson’s The Gagging of God, a thorough debunking of Postmodernism.

Because the philosophy denies man’s ability to be certain of anything, the leaders of progressive churches refuse to draw lines of fellowship, refuse to take definitive stances, and allow postmodern “I-am-fine-you-are-fine” attitudes to dominate the church.

And is it really honest and fair to accuse me of denying “man’s ability to be certain of anything.” Have I taught that? Ever? And just when and where have a made such an embarrassingly absurd argument? Or Al? Or Edward?

Hermeneutical forces

Now, here, I’d agree. The disagreement is very much about hermeneutics, that is, how one should interpret the Scriptures. Matthew writes,

The basic question concerning silence of Scripture is whether silence is prohibitive or permissive.

No, no, a thousand times, no!! That is not the argument. As I’ve argued here many times, that’s a false dichotomy, and it’s untrue to label most progressives as accepting the “Normative Principle of Worship” (silence is permissive). That is not the teaching.

Rather, the progressive view is to reject the question of authority — pro or con — and plea for a return to Scripture. The authority question comes, not from the Bible, but Zwingli and Calvin. Let’s instead let Paul guide us.

When Paul was asked what practices were permissible in the assembly, he didn’t refer to a list of x number of pre-authorized practices. Rather, he asked whether the practices edify the church.

(1Co 14:3-4 ESV) 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.  4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.

Paul concluded that practices that build up, encourage, and console the church are permissible. Those that do not, aren’t. And practices that don’t build up the church, such as speaking in tongue, may become permissible if they are done in an edifying way — such as by having an interpreter present. And practices that do build up the church — such as prophecy — may become impermissible if done in a non-edifying way, such as when the speakers rudely interrupt one another. Finally, Paul insists that practices be sensitive to unbelievers who might be present, so that they are moved to glorify God.

Paul’s approach is radically different from both Calvin’s Regulative Principle and the Normative Principle — and from 20th Century Church of Christ hermeneutics. The progressives therefore plea, not for liberalism or Postmodernism, but a return to Scripture. Let’s learn how to do hermeneutics from Paul, not Zwingli.

True Restorationism

In his teachings on the Ancient Order of Things — dealing with church organization and worship — Alexander Campbell specifically said his teachings on the acts of worship and on church organization are not salvation issues or tests of fellowship, as noted by John Mark Hicks.

The interesting question, however, is whether [Campbell] thought the “order” he discerned within the New Testament was a test of fellowship among believers. Did he believe that conformity to this order was necessary to salvation? Was it his intent to identify the marks of the church that defined the true church so that every other body of believers who did not conform to those marks was apostate and thus outside the fellowship of God?

This was implicitly raised in the Christian Baptist by one of Campbell’s critics. Spencer Clack, the editor of the Baptist Recorder, wondered whether Campbell’s “ancient order” functioned similarly to the written creeds to which Campbell mightily objected (CB 5 [6 August 1827] 359-360). Campbell’s response is illuminating. He maintained that his “ancient order” was no creed precisely because he had “never made them, hinted that they should be, or used them as a test of christian character or terms of christian communion” (CB 5 [3 September 1827] 369-370,

(emphasis Hicks). And therein lies the core of the progressive position. We ask that the Churches of Christ become, once again, true heirs of the Restoration Movement, a movement founded to return us to the original grounds of unity — not Five Acts of Worship, but faith in Jesus of Nazareth as God’s Messiah.

In the same article, Campbell writes,

Mr. Crawford of Chambersburgh gives the best definition of a creed of any of you human creed advocates: “It is a system of evangelical truth, deduced from the scriptures by uninspired men, printed to a book, and made a term of ecclesiastical fellowship.” (emphasis mine).

Campbell continues,

What then are you, brother Clack, contending about? About an ignis fatuus–a dead carcase; a dead letter–uninspired deductions? the apprehension of the theoretic truth of which depends upon the strength of intellect, and not upon faith at all. The apprehension of which never saved a sinner, nor edified a saint. If you were to issue from your press this day one myriad of such creeds, you would only poison the minds, inflame the passions, and scatter the seeds of discord throughout your churches. I do most earnestly beseech you, brother Clack, to abandon this heart-hardening–this soul-alienating–this discord-making–this strife-breeding course. Lift up your voice, and wield your pen in behalf of the superlative excellency, heaven-born simplicity, divine sufficiency, majesty, and power of the sacred writings of the holy apostles and prophets of Jesus our Lord. Call sinners to behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world, as he has been presented to us by his holy messengers–and exhort the saints to keep his commandments–to abide in his love–and to love one another for his name’s sake–and neither in the hour of death; nor in the day of judgment will it cause you to blush or tremble, because you have cast to the moles and to the bats the little book and all the sophistry which was attached to, and inseparably connected with, the keeping it in public esteem, as a form of sound words.

Amen. This is what today’s division is about. Will we deduce supposed truths and make them terms of “ecclesiastical fellowship”? Or shall we content ourselves to “call sinners to behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world” and “exhort saints to keep his commandments–to abide in his love–and to love one another for his name’s sake”?

PS — Alexander Campbell, despite his progressive views, was not influenced by Postmodernism, the New Hermeneutic, Situation Ethics, or German liberalism. He was influenced by the Bible.

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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85 Responses to The Fork in the Road: “The Way of UNITY between “Christian Churches” and Churches of Christ,” Part 4

  1. Jerry says:

    Labels usually tell us as much or more about the one using them than they do about the one of whom they are used. They may sometimes be useful – as when Paul spoke of “those of the party of the circumcision” or when Luke wrote of “those of the sect of the Pharisees who believed.” Yet, they always separate brethren – usually needlessly.

    As long as we teach that “being of the same mind” (1 Corinthians 1:10) has more to do with agreement in understanding of all points of Scripture instead of commitment to the one Lord as our Savior and guide, we will continue to divide over opinions. When we learn to respect one another and to love one another as brothers in Christ, we will be able to understand Paul’s teaching in Romans 14. How the same apostle could have written each of these texts is a mystery to many brethren – a mystery resolved in the main by completely ignoring Romans 14 while taking 1 Cor 1:10 and Romans 16:17 as “authority” to “mark” any who may disagree with them in any particular. It is more than passing strange that those who do this completely ignore “the teaching handed down” in the preceding two chapters of Romans, especially Romans 14:1 – 15:7.

    Like you, Jay, I can remember the acrimony accompanying the division over the “institutional” issue as well as divisions over understanding the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit – plus others. I did not personally witness the divisions over premillenialism, but I did hear Foy Wallace, Jr. speak on one occasion in the mid 1960’s. At that time, he was railing against the RSV, as I thought at the time because it did not use all of the peculiar wordings of the KJV or the ASV on which he had relied in his “debates” with the premillenialists – even after they had been effectively driven out of the fellowship.

    It is right that we give consideration to our hermeneutic – but that we not throw out the “baby” (Scriptures) with the “bath” (our opinions and inferences about them). I have appreciated your refusing to allow any to question the authority of the Bible in this forum – while being very open to discussion of varying understanding of the significance and meaning of those Scriptures. This is like Campbell in his publications – but very unlike most journals today.

  2. Rich W says:

    It looks to me that Matthew has done an excellent job of summarizing the major changes currently in place. I have been telling people we are in the late 1800’s again for quite some time. The splinters of the 20th century such as non-institutionalism, premillenialism, or the Holy Spirit, are nothing compared to what is happening now and the late 1800’s (thru 1906). These splinters maybe affected 5-10% of churches of Christ. The progressives are splitting us right down the middle for the sake of “unity”.

    Progressives may wish to believe they are independent thinkers, but they are really just following the patterns of our society in moving from “modern” decisiveness toward “postmodern” tolerance.

  3. It is the conservatives within the CofC that are the ones separating themselves from a billion or so other Christians. That is the postmodern irony of their honest and sincere desire for unity.

  4. GATidwell says:


    Two things for the record.

    First, I do not consider Matthew Morine to be a Progressive, although your listing of Progreeive Blogs included him. If I believed him to be Progressive, I would not have published his article.

    Second, I am deeply troubled by your exposé of Matthew as a UT fan. As a Comodore I find this heresy disturbing.

    GA Tidwell
    MA Vanderbilt, 1986

  5. Alan says:

    In the GA article, Mathhew Morine wrote:

    basic question concerning silence
    of Scripture is whether silence is
    prohibitive or permissive.

    That is a false dichotomy, a logical fallacy. And that fallacy has caused a lot of unnecessary division.

    Silence is neither permissive nor prohibitive. Silence says nothing. When we try to derive doctrine from what is not said, we ignore what Moses said about God’s word:

    Deu 29:29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

    Steeped in the Age of Enlightement thinking, our predecessors thought that we could know the answer to every question by properly applying logic to the scriptures. They rejected the notion that there are some questions we can’t answer. But there really are some things that we cannot know because they were not revealed. That’s not post-modern. It’s what God said through Moses thousands of years ago.

    Where the Bible is silent, we just don’t know. We need to get comfortable with that.

    The Regulative Principle rests on the faulty premise that silence is prohibitive. The principle is not stated in scripture. Those who build their doctrine on the Regulative Principle are already violating their own principle because the scriptures do not state that principle.

    Paul rebuked the Corinthian church for dividing into four parties following Peter, Paul, Apollos, and Christ. Each group was taking pride in its leader, focusing on differences in areas not specified in scripture. In effect they were dividing over matters of silence. Paul’s corrective instruction was that they should not judge between leaders on the basis of things not written in scripture:

    1Co_4:6 Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.

    So Paul expressly forbids divisions motivated by silence.

    Where scriptures are silent, we should use what we do know from scripture to form our opinion about what is best. And we must give others the right to hold different opinions. We (and they) may be right, and they may be wrong. If they’re wrong, that’s between them and God. Uninspired mortals are not authorized to draw lines of fellowship over things not written in the scriptures.

  6. Charles McLean says:

    Jay recounted some of the historic factionalism in the CoC. I was reared in the amillenial, non-Sunday School, multi-cup, located preacher, kitchen OK, cooperative segment of the CoC — Shelburne wing. There’s Matthew’s purported “solidarity” in reality. We had all the solidarity of marbles in a sack. One large external commonality in the label on the sack, but no real connections beyond our own little spheres.

    In considering Jay’s argument that the modern CoC division is of a different nature than the 20th century divisions, I am reminded of Solomon and the child claimed by two mothers. IMO, the old divisions argued over exactly how to divvy up the baby: vertically, horizontally, alphabetically… The current tribe of progressives seem to be saying, “WHO told us to chop up the baby in the first place?” Indeed, the basic assumption of using CENI to divide up the believers until only the right-thinking people were left in our fellowship is what is being abandoned by the progressives. One of the difficulties in discussion is that many traditional CoC folks cannot form reasoned arguments outside the old basic assumption. It is like speaking a different language, so we find ourselves talking past one another too often.

    I must say that I do not consider this sudden surge of simple wisdom among the progressives as a restoration of the ancient order. I see it more as waking from a bad dream, from a long-held delusion; the lifting of a fog and the appearance of a shaft of sunlight. If I may use a legal analogy, it is like the later renunciation of the Dred Scott decision by constitutional amendment. The Dred Scott decision stated that an African brought to America as a slave could never be a US citizen. When the 14th Amendment repudiated this doctrine, Congress did not try to go backward to a time before Dred Scott, but moved forward with a better application of the basic principles of this country.

    I hope I am not accusing the progressive brothers of something that would create even more mischief for them. But I now hear terms like “diversity of views” and “led by the Spirit” and “fellowship in spite of disagreement”, which are indicative of a move forward into a milieu which was largely theoretical even with Campbell. I would suggest that a light is dawning among the CoC wherein some of them can admit being led by the Spirit today without this being perceived as a departure from the “apostolic faith”. They can read the NT canon, not as black-letter law, but in the context in which it was written, and seek –even need– the Spirit’s guidance to apply that canon. The Holy Spirit to whom Jesus gave the task of leading us into all truth is alive and well and present in more than a volume of 27 books which He has already given us.

    The following may sound harsh, but it is what I see. Call if prophetic if you like, or just read it as an analogy if that makes you more comfortable. The traditional CoC is like a girdled tree. It can no longer grow from its trunk. The flow of reactionary power which long gave it life is being choked off by the Spirit Himself. Another flow of life, from the roots, is giving birth to new saplings, rather than branches off the old tree. Most of us in the South have seen groves of oak trees which demonstrate this reality. It is easy to find rings of oak trees out in the pasture, where the older central tree has died, but a ring of new trees have sprung from a common set of roots, trees which could only grow up outside the shade of their now-dead predecessor.

  7. aBansar says:

    I was reared in the amillenial, non-Sunday School, multi-cup, located preacher, kitchen OK, cooperative segment of the CoC — Shelburne wing.

    Which means you were rasied in the sum total ob aberration, Charles!

    I am preminellial, we have Sunday-school, our house churches use one cup, we eat together, yet we refuse to have a lcated preacher, and we cooperate only with other churches – Hayes/Basnar wing 😉

    But I love you anyway


  8. aBansar says:

    I must say that I do not consider this sudden surge of simple wisdom among the progressives as a restoration of the ancient order.

    As I (as a former Evangelical with a strong Anabaptist bend) bend see it, the progressives are more moving toward mainstream Evangelicalism with a slight ecumenical bend. But this is something that cuts Evangelicals down the middle as well (see John Mac Arthur vs. Saddleback – This is is not unique to the churches of Christ. Tha Roman catholivc Church in Austria si now struggling with the same “conservative/progressive” dilemma.

    So I think it is just a sign of the times, that afflicts most if not all denominations. Yes, there are parallels between the 1906 division and today, but we must not overlook the “Zeitgeist” of today.


  9. Charles McLean says:

    Hmm. Opposite ends of a very short stick, methinks, Al. But NOW I’m a pre-mil, charismatic, prophetic, women speaking, work with anybody who knows Jesus, eat together every chance we get, guitar-playing believer with unfortunate wise-guy tendencies. My evangelical friends think I’m a wild-eyed holy-roller and my Pentecostal friends think I’m a total buzz-kill. So, some changes have apparently taken place…

    Alexander, after careful consideration of all these things, I think this means that you can fellowship me in good conscience– after services, in the kitchen. Good to have that all settled. I’ll bring homemade bread if you can get your hands on some cheese… ;^)

  10. Jay Guin says:


    I had no idea you are a Commodore fan. I’m sure you’re thrilled with Coach Franklin.

    A few years ago, I took my oldest son to check out Vandy. The Admissions Officer told us how great Vandy is if you like football. She pointed toward the stadium — the Titan’s stadium — and explained how close the Titans NFL team stadium is to campus — all while standing under the shade of the Vandy football stadium.

  11. Bob Brandon says:

    In football, Vanderbilt gets to travel to Columbia to play Missouri on Oct. 6. Our James Franklin, starting quarterback, is Willie Franklin’s son. Jerry Rushford of Pepperdine came to Columbia this year for the home game against Texas to see two Church-of-Christ quarterbacks square off: Franklin and Colt McCoy’s younger brother for the Longhorns.

    Which reminds me. One has to realize that what passes for our mainstream right-wing is itself at an impasse. They keep squaring off, yet they don’t seem to be moving toward that winning season and bowl game. Featured writers like Morine prove just how shallow their bench is: there are so many other writers in our mainstream for every one like Morine and who have a better grasp of both our history and of theology in general.

    On the one hand, the contemporary mainstream right could go right ahead and peel themselves off the main group as yet another shedding yet invariably disappear into the Dub McClish chaos of feuding factions over who the better strainer and swallower. Watching these guys bicker as they all move toward the theological equivalent of heat death can be entertaining. I have no doubt that folks like Morine, Tidwell, or Sanders have no desire to go that route willingly.

    Yet they may have to as a matter of course. As they stay, they become the Washington Generals of our fellowship, the opposition who can’t or won’t concede anything yet cannot possibly convince the thoughtful (see your series; frankly, I’ve never seen a better dismantling of their opinions and that they actually went through with it is astonishing: as theological warfare, it’s Nagumo at the Battle of Midway). That they insist on portraying their rivals as moral relativists has gone from the aggressive to the ridiculous. They insult if only because they can do little else.

    At some point, the humiliation will probably become too much, and they’ll peel themselves off for their own sense of self-esteem. Whether they can sustain themselves is doubtful: they certainly lack institutional support for their resistance. Colleges and universities don’t make for good sanctuaries for reaction, especially if they need young payers of tuition to keep their doors open. They won’t get Freed, and they won’t get Faulkner.

  12. Charles McLean says:

    Sometimes, when you think everyone else is a tribe of homicidal savages, you circle the wagons in the middle of the desert. Trouble with this move is that you wind up shooting at everyone who rides within range… including those who might help you. The focus moves from crossing the desert to keeping the circle closed against the enemy– which is just about everybody. Such a wagon train is at the end of the trail and will travel no farther.

    After that — if I remember my John Ford westerns correctly– all that’s left to do is to wait for the water to run out.

    The smarter, or more desperate, pilgrims could strike out alone or reluctantly join a larger wagon train. But don’t underestimate the power of inertia. This sector of the CoC may well survive another hundred years as a scattered curiosity. After all, there are countless 30-member CoC congregations out there today, established in the forties and fifties specifically because they were anti-this or that. Their entire raison d’etre fell away 30 years ago, but the few remaining folks still cannot bring themselves to abandon their little rock building to fellowship with another CoC a mile away. (There are three of these within a mile of each other near my house.) Part of this is sheer habit; part of it is having a little club that runs just like you want it and a refusal to give that up. There will long continue to be a building with a sign and someone holding meetings there, until one too many generations dies off, and none of the remaining Hatfields can remember why they don’t like the McCoys. Then, someone is going to be able to pick up some small church buildings pretty reasonable.

  13. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:


    As my second favorite 20th Century Anglican wrote: “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort, you will not get either comfort or truth – only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.” (Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. Harper Collins Publishers, 1980. 32)

    I am afraid you are involved in wishful thinking, both concerning the role played by religious Liberalism in the 1800s and the similar lack of faith rampant among Progressives today. You repeatedly sidestep the difficult point that no progressive academician teaching in our theology departments affirms the Inerrancy of Scripture.

    Further, I must also note your own theological odyssey, as you are currently explaining away the essential nature of baptism. You would not have taken such a loose view a few years ago.

    The Progressives and the Conservatives among churches of Christ are at an insurmountable impasse. Wishing it were otherwise will not change this basic truth.

    GA Tidwell

  14. Jay Guin says:


    I would be very interested in learning how religious liberalism influenced either the 1889 or 1906 split. I certainly don’t think that the root of the IM/AC division has anything to do with liberalism. That division occurred simultaneously over IM/AC and the missionary society, and yet Alexander Campbell himself campaigned for the society. It was hardly the product of German liberalism.

    And Protestantism has never uniformly accepted the Regulative Principle. Indeed, until the Churches of Christ, the RP was taught almost exclusively by the Calvinist denominations. It’s hardly surprising that the RM churches did not uniformly adopt the doctrine. There’s no need to posit liberalism as a cause when Martin Luther didn’t buy the RP either.

    I’m saddened to hear you characterize our differences as “insurmountable.” Indeed, we are at an impasse. We have been for some time. But I work with clients to overcome impasses every day. In the spiritual realm, our Counselor is the Holy Spirit, and I’m completely confident that, with the help of the Helper, the impasse can be overcome.

  15. Jay Guin says:

    Bob wrote,

    Whether they can sustain themselves is doubtful: they certainly lack institutional support for their resistance. Colleges and universities don’t make for good sanctuaries for reaction, especially if they need young payers of tuition to keep their doors open. They won’t get Freed, and they won’t get Faulkner.

    I’m not sure I follow you. Freed is already thoroughly in the conservative camp. In a recent debate over whether instrumental music is a salvation issue, a professor announced — immediately before the debate — that it’s the position of the FHU Bible Department that IM is a salvation issue.

  16. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:

    Robert Brandon;

    I have, for the most part, let your sarcastic and personal remarks go without answer, as I know full well that I am out of step with most who participate on this blog.

    Many of the posters here reflect the gracious give and take of our host, Jay Guin, while others do not.

    I will, however, take exception to your unkind remarks concerning Matthew Morine. You wrote: “Featured writers like Morine prove just how shallow their bench is: there are so many other writers in our mainstream for every one like Morine and who have a better grasp of both our history and of theology in general.”

    Really. And what is your standard of “a better grasp of both our history and of theology in general;” is the standard that they say what you want said? That seems to be about it.

    For the record, Matthew has completed programs in religious studies at four brotherhood institutions, including both an MA and an MTh. He will soon have his D.Min from Harding Graduate School (sorry for the anachronism, but the current name of the institution escapes me.)

    While you dismissively put forward Matthew as evidence of a “shallow bench,” I want you to know there is no one I would rather have on my team. I am glad Matthew is my friend and a contributor to the Gospel Advocate.

    The younger writers such as Matthew, Brandon Renfroe, Dewayne Bryant, David Morris, and Chad Ramsey (Just to name a few) are a source of great assurance to me that the Gospel Advocate magazine will be able to offer something of value to the Lord’s church in the coming years.

    Best Always,

    GA Tidwell

  17. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:

    “Nothing indicates the wide departure from the landmarks of truth more clearly, that is taking place among those who started out to restore the ancient order, than the loose views put forth by some of the accredited teachers among them in reference to the authority of God. These show that the old standards have been set aside and new ones adopted.” (David Lipscomb, _The Gospel Advocate_, January 23, 1884, p. 49)

  18. Charles McLean says:

    Greg, I must confess that your observations and objections seem to be so generalized as to be largely incomprehensible. You allude to an undefined “liberalism” and someone’s equally vague “loose views” as defined by one long-dead brother. You do seem to be complaining that certain current CoC academicians have failed to sign some sort of loyalty oath to the Inerrancy of Scripture, and that someone is not teaching about baptism the way they used to.

    As to differing views on baptism, I would make the observation that CoC’s in both camps continue to immerse believers, and continue to teach the scriptures as the word of God. Whatever the specific disagreement on baptism or inerrancy, it does not seem to have had any tangible effect on the operations of the CoC as regards those two beliefs. Greg, for a person to cease to agree with you on a point of doctrine is no proof that he is wrong, as you seem to imply.

    Jay continues to mention specific issues which have driven division, but your posts so far seem to settle for distinctions without any tangible difference, and vague allusions to 19th century liberalism and “loose views” without anything specific in them other than a general sniff of disapproval. Greg, perhaps you have more specific objections to offer, but so far this is a poor man’s soup– it’s hot, and it’s spicy, but one fishes about in vain for whatever bits of meat he assumed to be there.

    I would note one thing you said which does trouble me. You said: “The Progressives and the Conservatives among churches of Christ are at an insurmountable impasse. Wishing it were otherwise will not change this basic truth.” This statement demonstrates a serious — and common– lack of understanding as to what makes for a “basic truth”. When we take an opinion (your “insurmountable”) regarding a situation (the “impasse”), we do not have “truth”, we merely have what we think of the current circumstances. It is not “basic”, nor is it “truth”. Unfortunately, this sort of unreasoned thought is also applied to how some folks understand the scripture and one another –and is also considered by them to be “basic truth”. This underdeveloped reasoning is more responsible for division as was that melodion that some angry men tossed out the church window.

    When I was a boy, most of my fellows in the anti-Sunday School clan were adamant about not having fellowship with the CoC’s who have Sunday School. (My mother, God bless her, once felt the need to make public confession of fault after attending a SS CoC service with our “errant brethren”.) But today, many of the preachers in these “non-class” churches come from churches who have Sunday school. These groups interact quite well in most places. What was once seen as an insurmountable barrier is a non-issue today.

    Greg, such “insurmountable impasses” seem to break down over time, because they are individual, and people change. You can set your feet firmly and say, “I will never change what I believe, not one jot or tittle, and will never fellowship people whom I see as doctrinally wrong!” That’s your decision. But this is not a basic truth, merely a personal stance. In my opinion, believers who take this position will find themselves increasingly isolated in the growing stream of believers who have found their identity in Christ Himself, not in what they believe about specific details about certain things which might or might not have been the rule of the day in the church in some time past. We will see shrinking islands of the adamant isolate, who base their fellowship on positions, rather than on a Person.

    The ironic thing about this situation is that the issues which so concern my isolating brothers will wind up being addressed by those other people who ARE in fellowship and can actually come together to talk and pray and seek God on such things. NOT by the continuing exchange of doctrinal artillery between one side of CoC Island and the other.

    And Greg, before you start taking offense at Robert’s description of your “short bench”– which questions another man’s reasoning– perhaps you should sheath your own sword as you posit the “lack of faith rampant among Progressives today”. You, sir, have no standing to judge the faith of another. In this particular case, I would suggest that you might have your own beam milled down a bit before reaching for your brother’s eye again.

  19. Todd Collier says:

    I always find it odd that our tolerance for “doctrinal error” doesn’t run both ways. For instance the mainstream CoC of twenty years ago would refuse to fellowship one who approved of ordaining a minister (to change the favored canard) but would long for fellowship with the one who refused fellowship to the mainstream because the mainstream used multiple cups in communion. We would demand the repentance of the one who approved a practice we condemned but would gladly accept without repentance the one who divided the Body over their own more conservative opinion. As another brother put it we push against others with one hand while reaching out with the other to those pushing against us.
    I always find it odd that those who ordain or use multiple cups or have Sunday School or recite the Lord’s Prayer or use instruments or host small groups are accused of dividing the Body when the majority of the Body ordains, uses multiple cups, has Sunday School, recites the Lord’s Prayer, uses instruments and hosts small groups. Isn’t the desire to draw closer to the larger Body actually a step towards unity? Why do we fear to draw closer to folks we have so much in common with and who we can quite easily work with to achieve great things for the Gospel? Are we afraid of some kind of infection? I fellowship every day with people I deeply disagree with, why should our Churches be any different?

  20. Charles McLean says:

    “I fellowship every day with people I deeply disagree with…”
    Thanks, Todd, for getting to the center of the matter so succinctly. I spend 40-50 hours a week with people with a wide range of viewpoints I don’t like and I don’t shun any of them. There might be activities in which I won’t join, but I do not dust my feet off on these people. I live my life in Christ not just before them, but with them. When Jesus ate with the sinners, I somehow cannot picture him just dropping by Matthew’s for a to-go box…

    Am I wrong in this? Should I disassociate myself from the unbelievers at my office? Or should I be holding myself apart from those who perform “unfruitful works of darkness” on Sunday only? (New policy: No talking to the heathen from 10AM to Noon, CST, or within 50 feet of the church building.) Or is this “separation in pursuit of holiness” only to be applied to people who claim Christ, and not to the atheists I work with?

    I will venture to say that if a person in your congregation falls away and is lost eternally, it won’t be because he was willing to share a hymnal every week with a lady who has improper views on predestination and women preachers.

  21. Jay Guin says:


    You’ve put your finger on the asymmetric nature of CoC fellowship. A fellowships B does not imply that B fellowships A. In fact, historically, we’ve freely fellowshipped those to our right (impose more laws than us) but refused fellowship to those on our left (impose fewer laws than us). The results is very little fellowship at all.

    The exception is what I call the “humility bubble” (/2008/02/the-humility-bubble-lesson-2/). We’ll fellowship just a little to our left, because there we see close questions that we aren’t too sure of ourselves. Hence, when I young, the word-only people would fellowship the personal-indwelling people, because they weren’t entirely confident of their position. Now, many of the word-only people are entirely confident and so more and more refuse fellowship.

    Obviously, this is a very unworkable scheme if unity is the goal! Indeed, unity in such a world depends on everyone agreeing with me, within the ambit of my personal humility — which is subject to change as I study more (and become either more pigheaded or more humble as I age).

    The unspoken assumption of this whole way of thinking is that it’s okay to bind where God doesn’t bind but damnable to loose where God doesn’t loose. I don’t find that doctrine anywhere in the Bible. The best I can tell, God considers both sin, but covers both by grace — for those who are in grace by virtue of having a genuine, penitent faith in Jesus.

  22. Rich says:

    Concerning why more respect for those to the right rather than to the left I can only speak for myself. Moving toward the right almost always means imposing constraints. Moving toward the left almost always includes removing constraints (at least in these discussions). We humans, especially the American kind, enjoy our freedoms and thus are naturaly attracted toward fewer constraints. Someone to the right usually has non-selfish motives. Someone moving left has a high likelihood, but admittingly not always, of following their normal human nature of wanting more freedom of choice. Jesus personally constrained himself to follow exactly as God said.

    Yes, I know there are both positive and negative motivations for both directions. I am going with the probabilities based on natural human tendencies.

  23. Jay Guin says:


    You earlier mentioned your concern with a failure of many professors to ascribe to inerrancy. You now allude to a supposed rejection of God’s authority. Let’s consider those one at a time.

    First, I’m aware of no one within the Churches of Christ who diminishes God’s authority, including his authority as exercised through the scriptures.

    If you take me as a typical example of progressive thought, I think I can safely say that I’ve cited more scripture than any other blogger in the Restoration Movement over the last few years. You may not agree with my conclusions, but I consistently reason from the scriptures, and I’ve not once questioned the authority of the scriptures. Indeed, I don’t even permit such discussions.

    But it’s not just me. Al Maxey and Edward Fudge never draw any conclusions by questioning scripture. All submit to scripture — even though you may disagree with them. In fact, I sometimes disagree with them, but I never question their submission to God’s authority as exercised through the scriptures.

    For that matter, if you were to read the literature from ACU Press/Leafwood, you’d find that their arguments are built on the scriptures. When, for example, Carroll Osburn (an ACU professor) teaches an egalitarian view of the role of women, he deals with scripture after scripture and does not ever suggest that we ignore a scripture as either incomprehensible or irrelevant. Rather, he deals respectfully with the text because he intends to submit to the text.

    Obviously, you disagree with his readings of the text, but he is not dismissing the text (as a true liberal would) or insisting on a purely subjective reading (as a true Postmodern would). Rather, he attempts to read the text in cultural and literary context. He reaches a different conclusion, but his approach is the same as yours — understand the Greek, understand the grammar, understand the context, seek to apply a First Century text in the 21st Century.

    Therefore, I object to the Lipscomb quote as having any relevance to the progressive/conservative conversation.

    It is, of course, true that there may be a blog commenter or a Sunday school teacher here or there who takes a truly irresponsible position, but the same is true of conservatives. There are plenty who argue in favor of the conservative position whom you would not want to be tied very closely to.

    And so, while we could each both point to someone in the other’s camp who would make the other’s camp look bad, the fair approach is to deal with the positions and arguments that typify the school of thought, and no one who typifies progressive thought rejects the auhority of God as exercised through the scriptures.

    One note: I don’t refer to the “authority of the scriptures” but to the authority of God as exercised through the scriptures, based on my reading the scriptures. 1 Cor 15:24-28; Matt 28:18; Psa 8; etc. God has turned over all authority to Jesus, of course, and via the Holy Spirit, God has given us the scriptures. But it’s ultimately God’s authority being exercised. Indeed, the NT writers routinely refer to the OT as words spoken by the Holy Spirit — and thus emphasize that the words carry the authority of God. Amen.

    The point isn’t to minimize our respect for the scriptures, but to remind us that we serve God and that God exercises his authority through the inspired texts.

    I realize these may sound like very fine distinctions, but when we are building something as important as an understanding of the nature of the scriptures, we must be as precise as possible in our thinking and thus in our word choices.

    (I refer the reader to N. T. Wright’s The Last Word, which makes the observation that the authority of the scriptures is actually God’s authority exercised through the scriptures.)

  24. Todd Collier says:

    Rich…What? Recheck those Gospel references- Jesus is constantly getting hammered- even to the point of being accused of trying to dismantle the Law because He refused to constrain Himself for the sake of the opinion of others. As Jay and others have tried to point out, we are not debating over the actual commands of God here, but what we either believe or disbelieve God intended in what He did not say or by the examples that may or may not be found in the text.

  25. Todd Collier says:

    aargh, silly laptop. I have to agree with Jay, no one who regularly posts here ever challenges the clear “thou shalts”or “thou shalt nots” of Scripture no matter how many times some try to paint the debate in such a light. The debates among us have to do with what silence means and the nature of grace and Christian liberty. In the light of our discussions Jesus would not be a traditionalist. The Gospels make it plain that He not merely objected to the “traditions” that surrounded the Law but that He also went out of His way to contest the issue with the traditionalists. He condemned laws made from the opinions of men that lead them to set God’s Law aside (such as the command that we be one and that we love each other.) His Apostles warned us not to go beyond what was written and not to submit to external man-made regulations that restricted behavior for a time but which could not change the heart. That we have made such things central to our identity as “the Church” and then condemned those who dared to disagree marks our movement as having come down on the wrong side of the Gospel story, not on the side of Jesus.

  26. Jay Guin says:


    Regarding inerrancy, see my recent post at /2011/09/inerrancy-an-essay/ I have nothing to add to that.

  27. Rich says:


    The entire sermon on the mount was about “you have heard” “but I say”. Most of those I says were more constraining. Example, you have heard it is wrong to murder, but I say it is wrong to hate your brother (paraphrasing). Moses allowed divorces but …
    Jesus also mentioned how his teachings were hard for some people to accept. Jesus kept the feasts and as far as I know every other requirement. I am not aware of any Old Testament law that Jesus violated. Do you? He didn’t follow some traditions/perceptions but it was always good to help others in need on the sabbath.

  28. Todd Collier says:

    Rich, you missed the whole point of my post. Jesus did indeed go for the heart of God’s Law but He castigated those who tried to add their own laws to God’s. Our debates here between “progressive” and “traditionalist” are not over the deeper meaning of God’s Laws but whether or not God made additional laws which are not written out plainly which must be enforced or we risk salvation. Also Jesus does not adopt a more strenuous “physical” standard but raises the internal bar. Rigorous controls on external behaviors are exchanged for renewed hears and minds. As Paul would later say those external rules “perish with using” as they prove utterly ineffective in making one truly Godly. The Sermon on the Mount focuses on bringing the inner man in line with the heart of God, not bringing a new set of ways to “keep Kosher.”

  29. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:


    Without belaboring the point. You write: “If you take me as a typical example of progressive thought…”

    I do not think of you as typical in any sense. You are an outlier. (If you were not my friend I might call you “odd” but let’s just say you are “special.”)

    While there are things (such as the essential nature of baptism) which you use to believe and which you have now (however agonizingly) abandoned, I have never once seen you call the accuracy of the Bible into question.

    In case I have been misunderstood or have misspoken, let me be perfectly clear: in my view, Jay Guin has never to my knowledge denied the accuracy of the word of God.

    I have, however, read your consternation with Abilene publishing books which deny the doctrine of Inerrancy.

    Which brings me back to my central assertion. If the doctrine of Inerrancy is important to you, you should not be part of the Progressive Movement among churches of Christ. (Let’s not quibble over definitions, I am using the term “Inerrancy” as it is generally understood in the religious world.)

    The Progressive Movement among churches of Christ does not put forward Inerrancy as an essential doctrine. But, hey, add that to the list of other nonessential doctrines.

    Thirty years ago I visited a Progressive congregation in Nashville. While visiting this congregation I attended a Bible class. It was a discussion class and the topic was “What do You Have to Believe to be a Member of Our Congregation?”

    The teacher wrote the question on the board and immediately a response came: “You don’t have to believe that the King James Bible is the only Bible.” The teacher wrote this on the board. Amusing, but immaterial.

    The list on the board got longer.

    “You don’t have to believe everyone who uses instrumental music is going to hell.” “You don’t have to believe the Church of Christ is the only church.” The list continued, highlighting all of the various and sundry things you didn’t have to believe.

    Finally a young lady spoke up. She could not have been more than a freshman in college. “You have to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

    Well, I thought, finally we find a starting point — the Good Confession. The teacher began writing on the board “You Must Believe that Jesus Christ is…” but he was cut short.

    “Just a minute,” cried a voice from the back of the room. “I don’t think we should say that.” It was one of the elders of the congregation. “Many of us have come to believe in the grace of God, and who am I to say that a Jew or Hindu or Muslim is not right with God.”

    The teacher wiped Jesus Christ from the board, and I determined never to visit that congregation again.

    Limbo Christianity. How low can we go?

    This travesty, in my view, is the end result of “unity at any cost.”

    We are, as Jay has noted, at a “Fork in the Road.” I have taken the right turn that seeks “precision obedience” (realizing all the way I will never live up to the absolute ideal of the Gospel). My Progressive friends have chosen the left turn. But look down the road and ask, “Where will we be when we get where we are going?”

    GA Tidwell

  30. HistoryGuy says:

    GAT has some merit in his post. I was truly shocked during our Trinity conversation given that you don’t believe the Trinity is a unity requirement. You presented “faith in Jesus” as a requirement, but when I asked you to define your Jesus and if it is compatible with the Mormon, JW, or Unitarian Jesus, you (and some others) did not answer.

  31. Bob Brandon says:

    “I was truly shocked during our Trinity conversation given that you don’t believe the Trinity is a unity requirement.”

    Spoken like a true Athanasian. At one time, long ago in the Church, it was not necessary to have a settled opinion as to the relationship among the Father, Son, and Spirit and had been that way for, oh, over two hundred years.

    Over two hundred years.

    Then someone had to pick a fight over it and drag the Emperor into it, and off they went.

  32. JMF says:


    While your anecdote displays a serious problem, can you possibly think the solution of your choosing is better?! To be the watchdog by the fence chasing away anyone questionable… after all, that is the only sure-fire way to keep that “hindu-loving elder” away?!

    Jay has mentioned time and again that things can get tough on the edges of fellowship. If we are to fellowship all with faith in Jesus, what do we do with Mormons and JW? Jay has admitted these are tough questions without easy answers. I’d say most of us agree — that the questions are tough. However, I also think the overriding Progressive ideal would be, “I’d rather love/fellowship and be wrong, than to mark/write up/disfellowship and be wrong.” Why? Because that would seem to be closer to the heart of Jesus…especially with us being so imperfect ourselves and all.

    It’s the difference between having a heart of inclusion vs. exclusion. Even as you suggest that Jay’s views on baptism have changed recently (I don’t know), the difference is that even if I disagreed with his outcome, he is still my brother. I don’t need to fix him before we can walk together again. Let’s see you try that: Offer up a minor change in your beliefs in one of your mags. How about suggesting that it would be a good practice to use actual wine instead of grape juice, and see how long until your editorship is revoked! A spirit of exclusion.

    You are basically CFTF-lite. You present the same thoughts/mindset except with a little bit warmer of a smile. And that is the logical end of your position if you follow it out. I know; I grew up cftf, and many of my friends at LU were mainline conservative like you. We believed the exact same things — except I also honored the verses about “marking those which cause divisions” and all. And my inferences were a bit more polished. Like the time I quit going to Crieve Hall because it was coming close to xmas time and some red flowers “magically” appeared up on the stage. 🙂 That was worldly and they were suggesting a connection to xmas and Jesus!! Right?

    So your personal limbo is to offer the same substance, just with a smile.

  33. laymond says:

    Jay said, “Obviously, you disagree with his readings of the text, but he is not dismissing the text (as a true liberal would) or insisting on a purely subjective reading (as a true Postmodern would). Rather, he attempts to read the text in cultural and literary context. He reaches a different conclusion, but his approach is the same as yours ”

    So Jay, which of these two Christians, Greg,or Carroll Osburn are not indwelled with the “holy ghost”
    Jhn 14:26 But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
    Jhn 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, [even] the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

    It is evident to me, and should be to you they are not guided in all things by the same internal guide.

  34. Alabama John says:


    On the flip side, many of us that are now progressives come from a background that would put just the opposite on the board but I’ve never seen that done as it would kill the subject of many sermons, condemning one thing at a time per sermon.

    What will send you to hell would be the normal question and ultimately the long list would include all that anyone believes or does except we few that attend where we are and all but a few of them except me and maybe you would be OK.

    I hope we will now stop all this condemning each other and really stop and consider what will be looked at in our lives that will really matter when we stand before the bar and our savior at judgment day.

    All the rest of this deep thinking and marking one another one way or the other seems pretty silly in the long run to me.

  35. Pingback: The Fork in the Road: “The Way of UNITY between “Christian Churches” and Churches of Christ,” Part 5 | One In Jesus

  36. Jay Guin says:


    I’m pretty sure I responded to you with words of Alexander Campbell. Here’s a longer quotation from The Christian System ( —

    Religious philosophers on the Bible have excogitated the following doctrines and philosophical distinctions:–

    ‘The Holy Trinity,’ ‘Three persons of one substance, power, and eternity,’ ‘Co-essential, co-substantial, [129] co-equal,’ ‘The Son eternally begotten of the Father,’ ‘An eternal Son,’ ‘Humanity and divinity of Christ,’ ‘The Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son,’ ‘God’s eternal decrees,’ ‘Conditional and unconditional election and reprobation,’ ‘God out of Christ,’ ‘Free will,’ ‘Liberty and necessity,’ ‘Original sin,’ ‘Total depravity,’ ‘Covenant of grace,’7 ‘Effectual calling,’ ‘Free grace,’ ‘Sovereign grace,’ ‘General and particular atonement,’ ‘Satisfy divine justice,’ ‘Common and special operations of the Holy Ghost,’ ‘Imputed righteousness,’ ‘Inherent righteousness,’ ‘Progressive sanctification,’ ‘Justifying and saving faith,’ ‘Historic and temporary faith,’ ‘The direct and reflex acts of faith,’ ‘The faith of assurance, and the assurance of faith,’ ‘Legal repentance,’ ‘Evangelical repentance,’ ‘Perseverance of the saints,’8 and ‘Falling from grace,’9 ‘Visible and invisible church,’ ‘Infant membership,’ ‘Sacraments,’ ‘Eucharist,’ ‘Consubstantiation,’ ‘Church government,’ ‘The power of the keys,’ &c. &c.

    Concerning these and all such doctrines, and all the speculations and phraseology to which they have given rise, we have the privilege neither to affirm nor deny–neither to believe nor doubt; because God has not proposed them to us in his word, and there is no command to believe them. If they are deduced from the Scriptures, we have them in the facts and declarations of God’s Spirit; if they are not deduced from the Bible, we are free from all the difficulties and strifes which they have engendered and created.

    We choose to speak of Bible things by Bible words, because we are always suspicious that if the word is not in the Bible, the idea which it represents is not there; and always confident that the things taught by God are better taught in the words, and under the names which the Holy Spirit has chosen and appropriated, than in the words which man’s wisdom teaches. …

    It requires but little reflection to discover that the fiercest disputes about religion, are about what the Bible does not say, rather than about what it does say–about words and phrases coined in the mint of speculative theology. Of these the homousios and the homoousios of the ever-memorable Council of Nice are a fair sample. Men are neither wiser, more intelligent, nor better after, than before, they know the meaning of these words. As far as known on earth, there is not, in ‘the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,’ the name of any person who was either converted or sanctified to God by any of these controversies about human dogmas, nor by anything learned from the canons or creeds of all the Councils, from that of Nice to the last Methodistic Conference.

    It is a virtue, then, to forget this scholastic jargon, and even the names of the dogmas which have convulsed Christendom. It is a concession due to the crisis in which we live, for the sake of peace, to adopt the vocabulary of Heaven, and to return the borrowed nomenclature of the schools of its rightful owners–to speculate no more upon the opinions of Saint Austin, Saint Tertullian, Saint Origen–to speak of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit–of the gospel, of faith, of repentance, of baptism, of election, of the death of Christ, of his mediation, of his blood, of the reconciliation, of the Lord’s supper, of the atonement, of the church of God, &c. &c., in all the phrases found in the Record, without partiality–to learn to love one another as much when we differ in opinion as when we agree, and to distinguish between the testimony of God, and man’s reasonings and philosophy upon it.

    Rather than explicating the Nicene Creed, let’s consider the meaning of the Christian confessions. The confessions, of course, give the very core of saving faith.

    In Rom 10:9, we are told to confess “Jesus is Lord.” “Lord” is the name given to YHWH in the Septuagint. Term means more than “Jesus is King,” although it certainly means that, too. In fact, Paul often substitutes “Christ” or “Jesus” in OT quotations regarding YHWH himself.

    Peter confessed, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” “Messiah” carries with it the meanings found in the prophets, including “Wonderful counselor, Almighty God …” as well as “Son of God” as meaning king in Ps 2.

    Thus, to enter the kingdom, one must confess faith that Jesus is Lord and Son of God, both God and Son of God. And the confessions are, of course, non-negotiable.

    Does that mean we must understand the “the homousios and the homoousios” of Nicea? I think not. Few of our members would pass such a test!

    It’s a fair reading of history that the Byzantine church fell to Islam because the church developed an obsession with the metaphysical nature of Jesus, holding councils and fighting over distinctions too fine for most to understand. The church lost its energy, lost its credibility, and soon the leaders of Christian Jerusalem welcomed the Muslims into the their city as rulers!

    I am an orthodox Trinitarian. Not all those in the Churches of Christ are. But all would agree that Jesus is Divine — a part of God in some sense — and ruler of the universe — that is, “Lord.” All would concede that Jesus is the Messiah promised by the prophets. All would concede that he is the Son of God, enthroned on David’s throne, in the heavenly Jerusalem, ruling the universe.

    Anyone with a lick of sense would find the Trinity a difficult thing to wrap one’s brain around. I’m not in the business of damning those who struggle to comprehend the incomprehensible and haven’t yet learned the magic code words.

    This is a far, far cry from those who’d make Jesus a mere man — a damning error. Or a god separate from Jehovah — that is, an idol. Yes, there are boundaries. Ultimately, the boundary is faith in Jesus, and faith is defined by the confessions found in the Bible.

    I can’t find the citation, but I recall that Campbell accepted Barton Stone, despite his unorthodoxy, because Stone affirmed all that the Bible says about God, Jesus, and the Spirit. Should we insist that salvation depends on believing things not found in the Bible?

  37. Todd Collier says:

    And as far as the doctrone of the Trinity is concerned the CoC has swung back and forth just in my lifetime and the change was expressed in how our hymnals dealt with a single song. When I was a little boy I remember singing from the old Sacred Selections – “God in three persons, blessed Trinity”. Then our doctrine changed and so did the song – Great Songs published it as “God over all and blessed eternally.” Then twenty years later Songs of Faith and Praise returned to the old traditional formula because CoC thinking had returned to the old traditional formula. During that time I was exposed to and in later years worked with several wonderful servants of God, some Trinitarian and some not, and they all got along famously together and other than occaisional library discussion about why we believed what we did, it never was a subject for fights or debates that interfered with our work. In fact anyone who came to us breathing fire about these doctrines would be asked to turn it down and be reminded that the Scriptures were not conclusive one way or the other on this issue.
    To my limited intelligence it has always appeared that we are pretty silly folk who fight about such tiny things as IM and kitchens while remaining totally unclear about the very nature of the God we serve. If we can get along with such a vital question left open, can’t we find unity on other far less important issues?

  38. Bob Brandon says:

    The first problem I have with Greg visiting a “progressive” congregation 30 years ago is that, back in the 1981-82 time frame), he was on staff as the apprentice minister at the West End Church of Christ, and I would wonder when he had time to visit elsewhere.

    The second problem is that his choices of “progressive” churches of Christ in the middle Tennessee area would’ve been extremely limited. For it’s part, Ashwood (now Woodmont Hills) was never heterodox even when they were irritating to some. The only real option would have been the Otter Creek congregation, which already had – even then – a well-established tradition for odd views. But Otter Creek was, and is, a well-known quantity and hardly representative of anything else in Nashville or Davidson Co. Every other congregation on Greg’s side of the county was quite orthodox regardless of size or resources.

  39. HistoryGuy says:

    Bob Brandon,
    The sarcasm in your post to me January 7, 2012 at 7:59 am almost masked your shear ignorance of the topic. It is okay if one does not understand the issues or what is at stake, but is willing to learn, for even Peter and the Hebrew writer tell us to grow in our salvation and understanding; however, your post appeared to be of a whole different nature. Bob, if I have misunderstood your intent, then I am sorry for using such strong language. Either way, I am happy to discuss the historicity of the Trinity/chronology issue with you (even if we disagree on the theological outcome)

  40. HistoryGuy says:

    We have discussed the Trinity issue in the RM several times, but I appreciate you giving the quotation again. Stone had evolving views and was quite slippery with his writing. Campbell tried to get Stone to affirm certain Scriptures while knowing Stone had a different definition of terms, which is why others took Stone to task. Campbell was wrong and knew it. Stone affirmed key Scriptures, but then qualified his statements; he took issue with the eternalness of the Son. Moving beyond Stone and Campbell, I am mainly interested in your boundary of fellowship with other groups today, as well as the Trinity in Scripture and the early church, where the Trinity was originally defended and fellowship established.

  41. HistoryGuy says:

    Consider that Thomas (John 20:28) gives one of the clearest confessions that Scripture has to offer on Jesus’ divinity when he calls Jesus, “my Lord and my God.” You know how this goes from here, which is why you are a Trinitarian (I am not mad at you or hostile towards you). How can Thomas, a monotheistic Jew, call Jesus (in the flesh) God, especially knowing that Thomas rejects polytheism and knows the person of God the Son prays to the person of God the Father (John 17:5), etc., etc?

    As a Trinitarian, you know the Scriptures relating to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit (you cited some on Jesus as being the same God of the OT). You also know that God by definition is eternal (among other characterizations); thus, there never is a time when God was not, which means there cannot be a time when Father, Son, and Spirit were not, which means the Son and Spirit must be as eternal as the Father. If there is a time when the Son was not (the word “created” necessitates a point in time when the Son did not exist), then the Son is not eternal, which means the Son is not God, and not only is Thomas’ confession wrong, but the Bible is also wrong. There are many other problems that would stem from such a conclusion, such as God the Son did not die for our sins (Acts 20:28). Since you are a Trinitarian, you know the topic can be simplified or taken to extreme complexities. At the surface level, Scripture says there is one God, and the Father, Son, and Spirit are (fully-eternally) God, but also the Father, Son, and Spirit are revealed as distinct persons, not modes. Does not Scripture reveal “one eternal being of God – indivisible and infinite – shared by three co-equal, co-eternal persons, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit?

    After challenging my source of the Trinity, depreciating the Nicene Creed, and then referencing Scripture as if it is opposed to my position, you ended your post with a profound question.

    Should we insist that salvation depends on believing things not found in the Bible?

    The answer is No, but your question challenges you, not me. Your question (1) reveals a misunderstanding of the issue in the early church and (2) either undercuts your very own Trinitarian position, or affirms my view admitting that the Trinity is a Biblical and unity issue.

    First, in the early church, the Trinity issue could not be settled by an appeal to Scripture alone because it was an interpretational dispute. It began in churches, not some high-theology of a select few. Once a council was called to settle the issue and keep the church from splitting, the Trinitarians demonstrated from (A) Scripture, (B) earlier liturgical and baptismal creeds, and (C) apostolic succession that the Trinitarian interpretation had been taught in the churches from the beginning, while a denial of it was a latter corruption.

    Secondly, the last part of your question ends with “…believing things not found in the Bible,” which comes after your critique of me claiming the Trinity as a test of unity. By asking such a question, you are saying (I suspect unknowingly) that the Trinity is not found in the Bible, correct? If you were not talking about the Trinity, to what were you referring? Since we are both Trinitarians, please explain how your question does not only undercut your Trinitarian view of Scripture, but actually affirms the Trinity is NOT found in the Bible.

    Jay, by your own standard, if the Trinity is found in the Bible then it is a unity issue, but if the Trinity is not found in the Bible, then you believe a non-Biblical view of God and should reject the Trinity and publicly renounce your Trinitarianism… Yes, I believe the Trinity is found in the Bible, what say you?

    Yes or No (please), is the Trinity found in the Bible?

  42. Bob Brandon says:

    “HistoryGuy,” my comment of January 7, 2012 at 7:59 am is an accurate historical statement. The nature of the relationship among the Father, Son, and Spirit is not a “salvation theme” (to borrow from Phil Sanders) or a fellowship issue until willful people with agendas and judgmentalism make it one in the Third century.

    On the other hand, your comment of January 8, 2012, at 2:13 a.m. is a willfully misinformed rant belying your moniker.

  43. HistoryGuy says:

    Claiming the Trinity is a judgment of the 300s is like saying the church did not have NT Scripture until 367; it is a false view that not only ignores Scripture, but also the historical reality of Trinitarian catechumen/baptismal creeds from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd century, and beyond. Whether Trinitarian or an opposing view, the church “judged” that there was only one truth of Scripture on the matter, which is why a council was finally called. Given that one of us has been misinformed (perhaps is it me?), I am happy to discuss the topic further.

    At least let me know where you stand (that is fair, correct?). Does Scripture reveal Jesus as fully divine and eternal God? Is the Trinitarian God revealed in Scripture?

  44. Bob Brandon says:

    My point is, which has not been refuted, that the nature of the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit does not become a matter of fellowship before the early 3rd century. I said nothing about it being a “judgment of the 300s” or any such nonsense. I merely pointed out a historical fact.

    I have no interest in opening a debate on the subject. It’s not a matter of salvation to have an opinion if I am fully convinced of the finished work of the Messiah on the Cross. I figure that there’ll be plenty of time in eternity to sort that out, if that even matters then. If you object to what I believe is a statement of fact, then point out some time before the disruptive bickering between Arius and Anastasius and among their followers that the issue of that relationship so disturbed the early Church.

    Otherwise, stop being a jerk.

  45. Jay Guin says:

    HistoryGuy wrote,

    Jay, by your own standard, if the Trinity is found in the Bible then it is a unity issue, but if the Trinity is not found in the Bible, then you believe a non-Biblical view of God and should reject the Trinity and publicly renounce your Trinitarianism…

    The method of butchering a lamb for sacrifice is found in the Bible. It is not a unity issue. The issues that define the boundaries of the Kingdom and, thus, that are true unity issues are far fewer than those issues touched on the Bible.

    You are making the same mistake made by the CENI crowd, who argue that because X is necessarily inferred from scripture, X is true, making it very word of God — and refusal to believe in X thus becomes a salvation/fellowship issue. I don’t buy it.

    Rather, I think you enter and leave the kingdom by the same road — a genuine, penitent faith in Jesus as Lord and Son of the Living God. If we disagree on the Holy Kiss, one of is surely wrong, but neither of us is damned or due to be disfellowshipped — even though the Holy Kiss is quite explicitly found in the Bible. You see, I can fervently and penitently believe in Jesus and yet kiss or not kiss.

    Thus, I refuse to make my own systematic theology a salvation issue. As Thomas Campbell wrote 200 years ago, such inferences may well be true, yet they cannot be terms of communion since we cannot make the ability to draw sound inferences a salvation issue. After all, we have 2000 years of church history to prove the inadequacy of our inferential skills!

    No, unity is defined by what must be believed to enter the Kingdom. That is enough to enter and thus enough to be unified.

  46. aBasnar says:

    You see, I can fervently and penitently believe in Jesus and yet kiss or not kiss.

    This is a dangerous statement: Where is the difference to, let’s say: “I can fervently and penitently believe in Jesus and yet dicorce and remarry or stay married.” We may add that we won’t get damned for such a thing, so why should I then be disfellowshipped?

    I do admit that the commands on the Holy Kiss are on a different level than the ones on marital faithfulness, because a kiss as a symbol of brotherly fellowship can indeed be substituted by an equivalent, but marital faithfulness cannot be substituted. But the logic I hear: I can be a true beliver although I do act contrary to God’s word can lead to “eclectic obedience.” Another new term 🙂

    Christ does not like that (Mat 5:19).


  47. Brent says:

    When I read Acts 2 I don’t come away with the feeling that Peter explained the nature of the relationship of Father, Son and Spirit as a part of the Good News. Of course, he might have offered a special new converts class where he explained the required beliefs regarding the Trinity before they were offered to have the baptismal cleansing. Of course I’m being silly. I just don’t sense that it was an issue for being added to the church. Why would we take something that was not explicitly stated as being a salvation determining factor for those first converts . . . and make it an issue over fellowship?

    This is not to suggest that there is not a right or wrong answer. I accept the trinitarian nature of God, but I do not base my salvation on it. I convince myself that I understand it . . . but at times I find that maybe what I really do is mentally consent to it but not really comprehend it.

    I take a simplictic approach to salvation . . . where I step into the shoes of those who heard the Gospel on the Day of Pentecost . . . where everything that was expected of them is expected of me . . . and nothing that was not expected of them is expected of me . . . for salvation that is. And to me, that is the only acceptable terms of fellowship. Wouldn’t we fellowship all of those who accepted the message and were baptized on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2? And also all who have done likewise today?

  48. Brent says:

    uh…what did I do that has delegated my comments to have to be moderated?

  49. HistoryGuy says:

    You made a sarcastic post to me and I responded with sarcasm, offered an apology if I misunderstood, and asked if you wanted to talk about it. We all take some intellectual pop-shots at each other on here, so I thought nothing of it. But, you responded with a low-level insult. I realized that your feelings were hurt, so I ignored it and opted to explain where I disagree with your assessment of history. But, after reading my post January 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm, you blatantly attack me personally again and call me a jerk. Brother, I am sorry you got your feelings hurt, but it is time to stop with the insults [/site-rules/]

  50. HistoryGuy says:

    I worked hard to summarize this post, yet answer your question; I pray it is sufficient.

    [ Bob says, it – Trinity – was not] a fellowship issue until willful people with agendas and judgmentalism make it one in the Third century

    We have a disagreement over motives and chronology of this idea within history.

    point out some time before the disruptive bickering between Arius and Anastasius [sic] and among their followers that the issue of that relationship [Father, Son, Spirit] so disturbed the early Church

    The triadic scheme is the default position of the church and is abundantly clear in writings that preceded Arius (Apostolic Fathers and several ECF). The Didache, 1 & 2 Clement, Shepherd of Hermas, Ignatius of Antioch, Barnabas, Justin Martyr, Tatian (before he embraced Gnosticism), Athenagoras of Athens, Theophilus of Antioch, Hippolytus, and Tertullian are several examples.

    Even before Arius and Nicaea, any teaching contrary to the full-eternal-divinity of Father, Son, and Spirit, as well as the full humanity-divinity of the Son was a unity issue. One did not have to fully understand these concepts to confess the1st, 2nd, & 3rd century baptismal/Eucharist Trinitarian based creeds, which were required for fellowship; however, if these concepts were denied, the confessor was denied fellowship. Thus, even before Arius, there was division between orthodoxy and various groups.

    It is probable that Arius was initially part of a sect taught by Lucian of Antioch who mixed his own ideas with those of the heretic Paul of Samosata. Regardless, in the 4th century, Arius began preaching his deviant views to large crowds, which caused a dispute with Alexander of Alexandria, not Athanasius. Of course, Athanasius became one of the most ardent defenders of the more clearly defined Trinity after Nicaea.

    The point that you are most interested is that before the 4th century and Arius, there were many controversies over the nature of Father, Son, and Spirit, but none were as widespread or personal [thus controversial] as Arianism. To be clear, Gnosticism, Docetism, and ALL forms of Monarchianism are multiple examples of conflicts that predated Arius and disrupted unity; some even had to be settled by synods. Not only were those of Gnosticism, Docetism, all forms of Monarchianism “not in fellowship” with orthodoxy before Arius, but after Arius, those adhering to Arianism, and eventually Monophysitism and Nestorianism were not in fellowship either. Unfortunately, there were always offshoot groups who were not in unity with the church.

    From the 1st century, the church had a vision of God as Trinity, and though it became more refined as time wore on and new opposition arose, the Trinity was always seen as a unity issue. Thus, I see it as a unity issue today.

  51. HistoryGuy says:

    I appreciate you taking the time to write [I know responses take time]. With all sincerity, please understand when I say, “You could have just said, no, the Trinity is not found in Scripture.” I disagree with your assessment that the divinity of the Father, Son, and Spirit is an inference from Scripture, and would posit that many Scriptures reveal the Father, Son, and Spirit as [fully divine] God. Good night, my friend.

  52. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:

    Not wanting to add fuel to the fire, but just simply. If you and I cannot say the Good Confession and mean essentially the same thing, you and I are not following the same religion.

    I cannot consider someone who denies the deity of Jesus a Christian in any meaningful sense.

    GA Tidwell

  53. Bob Brandon says:

    Many thanks, “Anathasius,” but I don’t believe any of us are asserting that Jesus isn’t divine. Even Arius believed Jesus was divine.

    What the discussion is about is the lack of necessity to divide over opinions. You obviously believe you must, a sentiment increasingly becoming the minority position in our fellowship.

  54. Alabama John says:


    The belief that has always been taught that not only those that deny Jesus which we can agree on, BUT, those that never heard of Jesus were all lost and in the same boat.
    Sure puts our loving, caring God in a bad light.

    Is that your position today or have you become more progressive?

  55. Charles McLean says:

    Greg identifies Jay as “special”. What I think this means is that as Greg has actually had substantive conversations with Jay, he finds that Jay does not match the profile that Greg has developed of “progressives” in the CoC. Greg’s conclusion? Jay is an outlier, and not really a progressive at all.

    There is a better explanation for your experience, Greg. A more scientific one, if you will.

    You have interacted with a self-identified member of the progressive clan and found that his detailed views are inconsistent with your hypothesized profile of progressives. It would be reasonable to consider that more detailed data indicates flaws in your existing profile. Greg, your own data no longer backs up your profile. Your profile suffered from a lack of substantive interaction with a thoughtful progressive, and it did not acknowledge that lack of data. Now that you have more data, you have a choice: either change your profile to reflect what you have learned, or marginalize what you have learned from Jay as irrelevant information from an outlier.

    The latter is a logical fallacy, which is called “affirming the consequent”. To wit: you have already decided what progressives believe, so when you ask a progressive what he believes and it turns out NOT to be what you claim progressives believe, this makes him not really a progressive at all, but something else.

    What is the old joke we tell? “I have my mind made up, don’t confuse me with more facts!” At least, I thought that was a joke. Maybe it’s not.

    I have the same problem with being a charismatic. When it turns out I speak in tongues, but I don’t believe in shouting “SHAMA-LAMA-DING-DONG” at the top of my lungs at church, then it confuses my conservative brothers who heard somebody do that once. I have seen and cast out demons, but I also believe in mental illness with both historic and medical causes. I believe in declaring what God has said, even when I don’t see it happening, but I have no use for the “name it and claim it” doctrine. I find myself in Jay’s shoes a bit, only on a different channel: a “holy-roller” who hasn’t rolled, who can actually discuss scripture intelligently and who recognizes that many things attributed to the Spirit are coming just from us. I am an advocate of scripture who also believes that it is not ALL that God has to say. I don’t fit the profile.

    I know CoC preachers who won’t have Sunday School or instruments and would faint at a woman teaching, but who allow clergy of other denominations in their pulpits regularly and describe the Bible, “Not as the Word of God, but as words from God.” They don’t fit the profile.

    I am of the opinion that people who insist on maintaining these pigeonholes for brothers they hardly know are going to have a harder and harder time getting anyone to fit in those boxes.

  56. Todd Collier says:

    I am a Trinitarian because the NT calls all three members of the Godhead by the same titles and assigns them glory, honor and praise. I am not a Trinitrian because an apostle wrote “God in three persons, blessed trinity” but because, as a theological construct, it best explains what the Scripture teaches. But I (or the ancient Church to be more precise) have to use my own reasoning to assemble the various bits (OT and NT) to arrive at that construct – it is never expressly revealed. Since it is a best guess construct and not an express statement of Scripture I have to extend grace to those who disagree with me. This is where our Fathers (in the 300’s) erred. And their errors did not stop at identifying the Trinity, they continued to divide and condemn over the “how” of the Trinity, straying way too far into Greek philosophy in an effort to answer questions they should have never asked in the first place.

    God warned Moses “What I have revealed belongs to you, the secret things belong to Me.” The exact nature of God and the Trinity and how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate to each other would seem to fit well within the category of the “secret things” of God.

    To divide over such issues is foolish, but also raises an imporant point. If we can work together having such divergent views on the very nature of God, what else can we put up with for the sake of unity?

  57. HistoryGuy says:

    Previously, you asked me to discuss some evidence that the church considered the relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit a unity issue before the time of Arius; I pray what I wrote was useful. I acknowledge that you believe the issue is a matter of opinion, but the early church — both western and eastern — considered it a matter of unity. Perhaps Jay will open a thread on the Trinity one day because the Scriptures, issue, and its consequences seem to be misunderstood; WE could all benefit from a discussion about it.

    [Bob says] I don’t believe any of us are asserting that Jesus isn’t divine. Even Arius believed Jesus was divine.

    I have no doubts that you believe Jesus is fully-eternally-divine [John 20:28; Acts 20:28] (please correct me if I am wrong). I thought you may find it interesting to know that Arius considered Jesus a divine-creature, but not divine as you (and I) use the word. Arius believed there was a time when the Son did not exist, which denied the Son’s eternalness, a required characteristic of our monotheistic God.

    In a letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia, Arius writes,

    … and before he was begotten or created or defined or established, he [the Son] was not [he is not eternal with the Father]… But we are persecuted because we say, “the son has a beginning, but God is without beginning”. He [Son] is from nothing. But we speak thus as inasmuch as he [Son] is neither part of God, nor from any substratum.

    In a letter to Alexander of Alexandria, Arius writes,

    We know one God-alone unbegotten, everlasting, without beginning… immutable and unchangeable… [The Son] is not everlasting or co-everlasting or unbegotten with the father… Nor does he have being with the father… God is thus before all as a monad and cause. Therefore, he [the Father] is also before the Son…

    With a smile and friendly voice I ask, Do you have unity with folks who deny the full divinity and eternalness of Jesus, your Lord and God [Romans 10:9, John 20:28]?

  58. HistoryGuy says:

    I have said several times people don’t have to have perfect understanding, but there is a base confession. What are some modern day groups or cults who profess saving faith in Jesus, but, due to thier view of the Godhead, you don’t have unity with, and why? I would truly like your thoughts. Thank you

  59. Todd Collier says:

    I guess I am odd. I see Scripture making a perfect case that Jesus is the eternal Word and somehow equal though different with God. I believe that anything less than that eliminates some major aspect or another of His work for us. If He was not “fully God and yet fully man” He cannot fully qualify for the roles the prophets and apostles ascribed to Him. So anyone who denies the divinity of Jesus is not able to accept the Gospel as given in the text. My personal Trinitarian doubts have always concerned the person and nature of the Spirit. I see the Scriptures as being less clear on that point. I then accept the concept of the Trinity by faith because that hs been the traditional view of most Christian theologians for two thousand years and because it makes sense from the text. But because I have to accept this third leg of the Trinity in faith I must respect those who cannot – by faith.

    The identity, nature and work of Jesus is central to the Gospel message. To my understanding of what is written a proper understanding of the Spirit is not.

  60. Charles McLean says:

    At least HistoryGuy has gotten us past rehashing the divisive issues of the 19th century and on to the divisive issues of the fourth century. I suppose that’s a good thing?

    So, some followers of Jesus hold to the concept of the Trinity and some do not. Very well. I might be interested to hear about the resultant differences in the everyday lives of the believers who fall on opposite sides of this issue. Not the theological differences, mind you, but the tangible differences in faith and practice which can be attributed exclusively to this difference in belief.

    For example, what is it that a Trinitarian may do that a non-Trinitarian may not do? Or vice versa? Do they receive eternal life from different sources or by different mechanisms? Are they required to respond differently to scripture in their own actions? When the Holy Spirit speaks to them, does this theological difference require them to respond differently? I guess I am looking for evidence that shows me the actual disparate real-world impact of this particular distinction.

    I ask this question not because I already think I have an answer, but because I do not. Frankly, I have never even heard the discussion of the Trinity go to this place… which is where I happen to live.

  61. Todd Collier says:

    As I posted before I was part of a staff that was half and half- didn’t keep us from working together, nor did it change what we did or really how we taught.

  62. Bob Brandon says:

    HistoryGuy wrote: “I have said several times people don’t have to have perfect understanding, but there is a base confession…”

    Here’s a good one; been around a long, long time; called the Apostles’ Creed (circa. 390 AD)

    “I believe in God, the Father almighty,
    creator of heaven and earth.

    I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
    who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
    born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, died, and was buried;
    he descended to the dead.
    On the third day he rose again;
    he ascended into heaven,
    he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
    and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

    I believe in the Holy Spirit,
    the holy catholic Church,
    the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins,
    the resurrection of the body,
    and the life everlasting.
    Amen. ”

    May be uninspired, but so are our conclusions about the text. I’m sure HistoryGuy will find some reason to object to it.

  63. Bob Brandon says:


    I have full fellowship with anyone who accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior. If you want to go beyond that and deny fellowship with anyone who denies your theological constructs, that’s your problem with God, not any problem that I am obliged to assist you with.

  64. Bob Brandon says:


    You wrote:
    “The latter is a logical fallacy, which is called “affirming the consequent”. To wit: you have already decided what progressives believe, so when you ask a progressive what he believes and it turns out NOT to be what you claim progressives believe, this makes him not really a progressive at all, but something else.”

    Sounds like a variation of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

  65. Todd Collier says:

    If we are denying fellowship over whether or not the Trinity is the true nature of God then we must disfellowship ourselves, our parents and many of the great preachers of the late ’60’s through the early ’90’s because during that time the official position of the acappella movement was that we didn’t believe in the Trinity as set forth by the standard theology of Christendom. In the congregations in Memphis the doctrine of the Trinity was equivalent to sprinkling, infant baptism, ordained clergy, pianos, flip flops, long hair, short skirts and talking about the Holy Ghost as signs of denominationalism. That shift was reversed in the early ’90’s and of all places was best reflected by our hymnology.

  66. Jerry says:


    When someone from a “Jesus-only” group once asked me if I would accept baptism in the name of Jesus, I said I would. When he asked me if I would accept baptism in the name of “Jesus only,” I said I could not. One uses the terminology of Scripture, as there are more places in Acts where baptism is in the name of Jesus, in the name of the Lord, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, etc. than there are where baptism is in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In fact, the only time where baptism is spoken of as being “into [not ‘in’] the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” is in Matthew 28:19.

    Similarly, if someone confesses Jesus as Lord, as the Son of God, as the only begotten of the Father, the unique Son of God or any of the other descriptions of Jesus found in the Bible, I would accept him. If someone insisted that I adopt a Trinitarian Confession of Faith, I am not sure that I could accept that. If he subscribed to that same Trinitarian confession, I would not (because of his understanding of the Trinitarian proof texts) reject him.

    What is the difference? If we both, regardless of our beliefs about the meaning of the texts, use only the words of Scripture to describe Jesus we can be united. If we begin using other words to talk about who Jesus is – and especially if we demand that other people accept our definition of those texts that describe Him – we will be adding our understanding to the text of the Scriptures and will thus introduce our qualifying statements to the Scripture.

    If someone objects that the other may hold a heretical view of who Jesus is, I will reply as did Alexander Campbell (perhaps in speaking of Barton Stone?) that regardless of how he may view those texts, if he confines his language to the expressions found in the Scripture, he will also be leaving others to understand those texts to the best of his own ability – without imposing his views on anyone.

    This is one of the critical principles in Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address, especially in his Thirteen Propositions. We must yield to others the freedom we demand for ourselves. Otherwise, unity will ultimately rest in the judgment of men, not in the fellowship of the Spirit and the Word of God.

    BTW, I am probably more Trinitarian than Arian. Yet I prefer not to use the word to describe the Deity or the Godhead. I do not pretend to understand the precise nature of the relationships that exist within that August Unity. I understand that love requires an object – and that the Deity has love within the Unity. Yet to try to distinguish them in their purposes and work, I find next to impossible.

    Furthermore, I believe that the history of the past 2000 years shows that most believers have similarly found it impossible to establish unity on the basis of a common understanding of those relationships. So, why don’t we just stick to the words of the Scripture and we will find unity instead of anathamatizing others because they do not see things the same way we do.

    Todd well said,

    Since it is a best guess construct and not an express statement of Scripture I have to extend grace to those who disagree with me. This is where our Fathers (in the 300′s) erred. And their errors did not stop at identifying the Trinity, they continued to divide and condemn over the “how” of the Trinity, straying way too far into Greek philosophy in an effort to answer questions they should have never asked in the first place.

    Bob, as I read the Apostles’ Creed as you recited it above, I find nothing in it except a statement of facts testified to by Scripture. Hence, I would have no personal objection to reciting it as a church. However, should I insist on it being recited as a condition of fellowship – or as a prelude to baptism? I think not – because though I believe the statements found in it are true according to my understanding of Scripture, I cannot require that someone else adopt my understanding in order to have fellowship with him or her.

    If this is true (and I believe it is) then how can I insist on someone adopting all of the things that I understand in the way I understand them without setting myself up as the arbiter of his faith?

  67. Brent says:


    You have said concerning the Apostles’ Creed, “I find nothing in it except a statement of facts testified to by Scripture.

    Then you state that you can’t use it as a condition of fellowship because you can’t require someone to accept your understanding.

    Is the Apostles’ Creed fact or “understanging” ? I’m not picking a fight . . . I’m just wondering how it can be both.

  68. Jerry says:


    I see nothing in that Creed that is unacceptable to me – because I believe every statement in it is taught by Scripture.

    Yet, at the same time, I can understand how some people may not accept that every portion of that statement of faith is taught in the Scripture, or least not as stated without some qualification.

    Are there parts of it that people would have to accept to be in the fellowship of believers? Yes there are. For example, if someone denies that Jesus is the only Son of God and our Lord he is to be rejected. On the other hand, I can easily see how some might not (through ignorance of the literal meaning of the words) believe in “the holy catholic Church.”

  69. Bob Brandon says:


    I posted the Apostles’ Creed not as any sort of basis for fellowship but to make a point that HistoryGuy appears resolved to avoiding: that the relationship among the Father, Son, and Spirit as a matter of theological speculation didn’t become a basis for rupturing fellowship until Anastasius decided to make it one in the 3rd century. One sad result was that it moved the Church into the quagmire of imperial politics for the sake of winning arguments. Folks like Anastasius ultimately conflated the Kingdom of God for the Kingdom of the world, and the Church has been burdened with that handicap ever since.

  70. Jerry says:

    Yes, Bob, I understood your purpose in posting the Apostles’ Creed. It was a handy reference to an historic creed for me to make my point that no matter how carefully we craft our “creed” it is still possible for people to object to it while remaining in the fellowship of believers.

    But, come to think of it, you can quote Scripture and still get, “But that’s just your opinion” – or “You are taking that out of context.” These issues, however, should not disrupt fellowship unless someone denies Jesus as Lord and the Son of God. The problem is that we (believers in general) have become contentious and sectarian over things where we seek for greater “precision” than God has been in the Scripture. Like Thomas Campbell, I see no fault in being as careful in our teaching as possible – but when we seek to demand that others accept our precise definitions to maintain fellowship, we fall under the condemnation of Titus 3:10-11.

  71. Bob Brandon says:

    I agree. Any of us can, and many do, use scripture to divide. Despite what we may convince ourselves otherwise, we all come to the text with the commentary of our own opinions. Paul wrote well when he penned “[w]e do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we aré the Lord’s.”

  72. Charles McLean says:

    Bob, you are correct, the “no true Scotsman” fallacy would also apply, and probably more directly. I will be interested in hearing from Greg on this.

  73. Charles McLean says:

    Greg made the following comment regarding Matthew Morine, which I had overlooked: “First, I do not consider Matthew Morine to be a Progressive, although your listing of Progreeive Blogs included him. If I believed him to be Progressive, I would not have published his article.”
    Greg, this last sentence puzzles me a bit. You seem to be saying that while you find Matthew’s article itself worthy of publication, it would become unsuitable for publication if you found out that Matthew otherwise held views different from your own. If I am reading this correctly, it seems foolish. One does not discard truth simply because it comes from a person not like himself. Do you use Thayer and Vine as sources? Neither man was conservative CoC. Do you ever use or quote commentary by non-CoC authors?

    Greg, your statement appears to advocate division for division’s sake. It seems to suggest, “Who cares if it’s true or useful? If it didn’t come from a member of our little clan, we won’t print it.”

    In my opinion, division for division’s sake is the very definition of divisiveness.

  74. Todd Collier says:

    But my dear Charles, that has indeed been our attitude for decades. That is why we ignore every Christian who lived from the death of John until the RM arose and even then we don’t quote Stone or the Campbells too much.

    It is amazing how other movements wind up almost deifying their founders. Other than hearing their names thrown out every once in a while, I never heard a word from ours growing up. Too bad too, they sure had plenty to say that we needed to hear. Of course that just might be why we heard so little of them.

  75. Charles McLean says:

    Todd, as a kid in the 60’s, we did not even acknowledge the visible existence of the church from about 200 AD until it was “restored” in 19th Century America. The true church for 1600 years was an undocumented, invisible, and underground group wholly unrelated to the heretics above ground who claimed to be Christians. I know this, because Jule Miller said so, and if it is on a filmstrip, it must be true!

    I heard the term “Campbellites” as a child and thought it had something to do with camels. Then I found out that this referred to a man named Alexander Campbell… but I never heard any details. I did not actually read anything from or about Thomas or Alexander Campbell until I started preaching part-time. Then, what I read was astonishing. I know, because I tried preaching some of it in my innocent youth and wound up standing outside the church with one hand holding my Thompson Chain Reference and the other trying to thumb a ride.

  76. Todd Collier says:

    Lol. That sounds so very familiar. And of course the word “Campbellite” was thrown out merely to proclaim that we weren’t Campbellites. My first non-KJV was a Thompson Chain NIV which – duct-tape binding and all – still sits on my prayer desk. Good wide margins, paper that didn’t let the ink bleed too much onto the next page and those wonderful outline notes quite useful for emergency sermons or Bible classes.

  77. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:


    You wrote: “Bob, you are correct, the “no true Scotsman” fallacy would also apply, and probably more directly. I will be interested in hearing from Greg on this.”

    I think the best example of this fallacy seen so far is Bob Brandon’s exclusion of the Otter Creek congregation from consideration because they were not representative of Progressive congregations.

    It has become obvious that every aberrant view imaginable is going to be tolerated by the Progressive movement.

    What was unthinkable a short while a go becomes commonplace today. Whenever a Progressive congregation gets too far ahead of the curve, the answer is “well, that is not representative of where we are going.”

    GA Tidwell

  78. Todd Collier says:

    Just as every aberrant outcome imaginable will be accepted by the traditionalists so long as it agrees with their opinions.

  79. Brent says:

    Back in the 1980’s when I was in my 20’s and working in a firm, one of my supervisors found out that I worshiped with a Church of Christ. He looked down at me one day and said something to the effect of, “You’re one of those Campbellites, aren’t you? We couldn’t stand the Campbellites where I grew up.?” I had never heard of Campbellites. But I knew it wasn’t a complement.

    Then one day, still in my 20’s, I found a Gospel Advocate book store. I looked all around and found a section of historical books. I bought 5 books that day. I learned all about the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery, the Declaration and Address, the Christian System, the Campbells, Stone, the Ancient Order of Things, Disciples of Christ, the Millennial Harbinger, the Stone-Campell Movement, and on and on. It was like sunshine. It was like . . . wow. I even snuck over and visited an independent Christian Church for a while . . . please don’t tell my parents! I’m too old for a spanking. Anyway, I was changed forever.

    About 10 years later I moved to a new city and was meeting my neighbor. He was a former coach. He started reminiscing about his days of college coaching. When he learned that I had graduated from Abilene Christian University he delighted to tell me that when he last took his team to play Abilene Christian University “his boys whipped those Campbellites all over the field.” I took no offense at it. I laughed right along with him. I was never so proud to be a Campbellite.

    Poor guy. His wife was standing right next to him when he said the word Campbellite. She blushed and walked inside. He did not sense her embarrassment. The next morning my door bell rang. And there stood the coach with his tail between his legs. His house was directly across the street, and I could see his wife looking out of the window watching. He said, “My wife has informed me that I may have offended you, and I have come to . . .”

    I stopped him before he could finish. “You did not offend me. More than anything, you entertained me. Keep the stories coming.” He smiled a great big smile, we shuck hands. Momma across the street was satisfied. All was well.

    It’s funny. That Gospel Advocate book store was the only “Bible” book store I had ever been in during my 20’s. My eyes were opened because of the books I found there. Those five historical books were the only books I ever bought there. And because of those books, I had an impression that “Gospel Advocate” stood for truth, sound reasoning, brotherly love, a commitment to unity . . . to breaking down the barriers that separate Christ followers.

    You know what my prayer is.

  80. Charles McLean says:

    Greg, I was really hoping that you might comment on your own remarks rather than changing the subject to address Bob’s earlier post. I would much rather discuss your remarks with you directly than to do so in third person. (Get my information from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.) I posited a detailed objection to the reasoning in one of your posts and was hoping you might comment on that, either to clarify your remarks or to point out where my assessment may be flawed.

    When Bob offered a correction to the fallacy I noted, I listened. I even found myself in agreement. I do that, sometimes.

    But you keep providing me with food for thought, so I will quote you again, if I may. You said, “It has become obvious that every aberrant view imaginable is going to be tolerated by the Progressive movement.”

    First of all, Greg, I have a pretty vivid imagination, so “every abberant view imaginable” is going to have to include, at least: human sacrifice, Santeria, Communism, polygamy, reincarnation, the Democratic Party platform, Shinto, Kaballah, phrenology, the designated hitter, transubstatiation, premillenialism, and the superiority of SEC football. Are these the “aberrant views” of which you accuse CoC Progressives? I can imagine some more if need be.

    Okay, I have had my fun. But seriously, Greg, here in your words I find an old rhetorical ploy of using the term “it has become obvious” to imply “it is true”, without bothering to present convincing evidence– or, in this case, any evidence at all. Also, I find the use of the undefined pejorative. Specifically, the use of the word “aberrant” without offering any contextual definition, but simply for its negative connotation. This combination approach is an attempt to produce for the reader an apparent negative fact out of thin air, and appears to be used here for the purpose of discrediting one’s opponents without the necessity of actually addressing anything specific.

    Greg, there is one big difference between the pulpit and printing press and the open forum. That is, when one is in the pulpit, he may offer ill-considered or unsupportable statements without fear of confutation. But here, the reader has just as much opportunity to examine one’s statements as the speaker had to develop them. There is no calling for the benediction to close the subject, nor is there the capacity to simply quash criticism– or to give ones self the last word, as some publications do. The beauty of open forum is that both a statement and any criticism of it are subject to public scrutiny.

    Yes, I have been openly critical of some of your statements. You will notice that I am critical of your statements with great specificity, and I do not engage in broad ad hominem statements. I respect open and honest disagreement among brothers, and this can be useful to the Body (I Cor 11:19). But it’s not so useful unless I hear your side more fully.

  81. Gregory Alan Tidwell says:


    So glad you found the Gospel Advocate Bookstore to be of help. I hope you will come back and buy some more books.

    Best Always,

  82. HistoryGuy says:


    If He [Son] was not “fully God and yet fully man” He cannot fully qualify for the roles the prophets and apostles ascribed to Him… anyone who denies the divinity of Jesus is not able to accept the Gospel as given in the text… My personal Trinitarian doubts have always concerned the person and nature of the Spirit, [but…]

    Thank you for you not only stating your thoughts [in all of your responses to me], but acknowledging what the issue is about (i.e. the gospel). I agree that in Scripture much less is said about the Spirit, but I hope we can agree (I do not want to put words in your mouth) that he [Spirit] is divine (Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor. 3:16; John 14:16, 26; 15:26). That said, I do not want to misrepresent you to others – you do not agree with my stance on unity.

  83. HistoryGuy says:

    From your post January 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm you asked some good questions that I think hinted at a practical application

    [what are] resultant differences in the everyday lives of the believers who fall on opposite sides of this issue… When the Holy Spirit speaks to them, does this theological difference require them to respond differently?

    I will try to give a summary, and ask you to remember that an in-depth summary is impossible. In short, the issue is first about “truth” and the nature of God as we press on to maturity (Heb. 6:1-3); the Trinity is God’s revelation to mankind impacting our understanding of community, love, gospel, prophecy, regeneration, and much more.

    Second, baptismal and liturgical elements, and everyday life flows from a Trinitarian understanding of God (Matt. 28:19; Phil. 3:3; Rom. 8:9-11, 26-27, 34; Gal. 5:16, 22). If we are led by any god but God, that is idolatry, yet we must be led by and have fruit produced in us by the Spirit [that is a problem if the Spirit is not fully God]. God is comforter, but so is the Son and Spirit. God intercedes, but so does the Son and Spirit. The Father, Son, and Spirit all brought about creation and salvation, but we have faith in and live by the ONE God of Scripture (1 Tim. 2:5-6; 4:10; 2 Tim. 1:10; Titus 3:4-8).

    Finally, if the Son and Spirit are not [fully-eternally] God, then when the Spirit spoke and gave prophecy [or, as you say, speaks today] the one listening and obeying would be guilty of listening to a false god and idolatry (Deut. 6:1, 4-9; 18:21-22; 1 John 2:26-27; 4:1, 4, 13; 1 Peter 1:10-11). Even our understanding of Scripture entails a Trinitarian understanding; we hold the Scriptures as the highest authority because they are from God [divine, eternal, omnipresent, etc ], but the Scriptures are also produced by the Son and the Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 2:20-21; John 1:1-3; 12:48; 14:24, 26). When people deny that the Father, Son, and Spirit are fully-eternally-God, they deny the divinity of the Scriptures they are standing upon, and that, practically speaking, has far reaching implications.

  84. HistoryGuy says:


    HistoryGuy appears resolved to avoiding: that the relationship among the Father, Son, and Spirit as a matter of theological speculation didn’t become a basis for rupturing fellowship until Anastasius [sic] decided to make it one in the 3rd century.

    Your representation of me, church unity, and the chronology of history are completely false. On January 9, 2012 at 1:27 am, I presented clear evidence debunking your historical misunderstanding. The Tri-unity of God [Trinity] was the default teaching of the church from the time of the apostles, and all those deviating from that teaching were excommunicated as heretics by councils, several even 70 years before Arius. Considering that I have listed a consensus among Apostolic Fathers and ECF, and even quotes from Arius himself [on January 9, 2012 at 3:53 pm], perhaps I would be more apt to listen to you if you would present some evidence instead of making untenable claims. It is like you are completely ignorant of the fact that Arius, or leaders of other movements before him, considered the Trinitarian view “heretical”. The correct vision of God was a unity among issue long before the 4th century.

    Folks like Anastasius [Athanasius?] ultimately conflated the Kingdom of God for the Kingdom of the world, and the Church has been burdened with that handicap ever since

    Please provide some evidence and list the source(s) where you read such prevarication. The testimony of church history is against you.

  85. Todd Collier says:

    As I said I lay my doubts aside and accept the full divinity of the Spirit “by faith.” but as I also said, acknowledging my own struggle requires that I extend grace to those who also struggle but lack the faith to simply accept. I do not see a full understanding of the person and work of the Spirit as necessary for unity – though I do see how different views make it very difficult.
    (Tonight in small group I had some startling realizations about the nature of the Trinity and marriage which I want to cook a bit before I post.)

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