KEEPING ABREAST: REVIEWS OF BOOKS AND MATERIALS RELATING TO THE CHANGE MOVEMENTOctober 3 2003 at 6:13 PM
|John Waddey (no login)|
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KEEPING ABREAST: REVIEWS OF BOOKS AND MATERIALS RELATING TO THE CHANGE MOVEMENT
Ideas are spread by word of mouth or by print or electronic media. Those determined to change churches of Christ into a denomination of their own liking are issuing a steady stream of books promoting their views. Many immature and unsuspecting souls will be influenced by them. The author of the following reviews has assumed the unpleasant task of reading and evaluating all the books being circulated by promoters of change. He also makes a point of reading, reviewing and recommending those books and tracts that do a good job of responding to the agents of change and promoting the Master's message. Hopefully this page will be a useful resource for those desiring helpful information on this troublesome movement.
To share your ideas, to ask additional questions or to recommend other books for review, email the author @ JOHNWADDEY@aol.com
|This message has been edited by ConcernedMembers from IP address 220.127.116.11 on Oct 3, 2003 6:20 PM|
CHANGE AGENTS AND ALEXANDER CAMPBELL'S LUNENBURG LETTERS
|October 3 2003, 6:52 PM |
CHANGE AGENTS AND ALEXANDER CAMPBELL'S LUNENBURG LETTERS
In every generation those who have grown weary of walking the old paths of New Testament Christianity have sought to justify their departure therefrom by citing correspondence of Alexander Campbell called the Lunenburg Letters. On July 8, 1837 A Christian lady from Lunenburg, VA wrote Alexander Campbell the following lines:
"Dear Bro. Campbell: I was much surprised today, while reading the Harbinger, to see that you recognize the Protestant parties as Christians. You say, you find in all Protestant parties Christians.'...Will you be so good as to let me know how any one becomes a Christian? What act of yours gave you the name of Christian? At what time had Paul the name of Christ called on him? At what time did Cornelius have Christ named on him? Is it not through this name we obtain eternal life? Does the name of Christ or Christian belong to any but those who believe the gospel, repent, and are buried by baptism into the death of Christ?" (This letter and the follow correspondence is found in Campbell's Millennial Harbinger for 1837. Page numeration is from the most recent reprint by College Press (pp. 411-414).
Campbell vigorously defended his statement. He argued that there must be Christians among the Protestant sects or else there would have been no Christians in the world for generations prior to beginning of their restoration movement. But the Protestant sects he referred to all began in the 16th century or later. What was the situation in that long dreary period when corrupt Catholicism prevailed? He confused Christian individuals with organized, visible congregations and significant movements. Jesus said the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21). Even when the agents of the popes crushed every public effort to worship and serve God independent of his yoke, devout souls who obeyed God were citizens of his invisible kingdom. A righteous remnant; a handful here and there faithfully served the Master. So long as the sacred seed, Word of God, survived the kingdom would not fail (Luke 8:11).
He argued that Jesus promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the church (Matt. 16:18) and if there were no Christians in the sects, then Satan would have prevailed for centuries. Such, he reasoned, could not be. He misunderstood Christ's meaning in the passage cited. Jesus did not speak of the gates of "Hell" which our King James translators gave us. He said "the gates of Hades" would not keep him from building his church. (Campbell so rendered the word in his Living Oracles translation). That meant that even though he must die and go to Hades (the place of the dead) his plan would not be defeated. By this he spake of his forthcoming resurrection, after which he would build his church.
He argued that his plea to sectarians to come out of Babylon and be united with his brethren proved there were Christians in the denominations. He later explained that the term "Christian" had more than one level of meaning. It not only describes the true, obedient follower of Christ, but also describes people, projects and institutions that are dedicated to Christ and his Cause, even though they might not be fully or wholly pleasing to him. Thus we speak of Christian books, a Christian nation or the Christian World in contrast to the Hindu or Muslim world. In his last letter he insisted "They (his critics) only misunderstood me as using the term in its strictest biblical import, while in the case before us I used it in its best modern acceptation" (p. 567).
We would not question that there are many devout, god-fearing souls scattered in the denominations. Most who have spent their lives in evangelism have encountered such devout people. When an honest and humble believer, who desires above all else to serve God, sees the error of his association and finds the true church of Christ he will gladly abandon the inferior for the true and genuine.
He wrote, "I think there are many, in most Protestant parties, whose errors and mistakes I hope the Lord will forgive." This benevolent prayer is commendable for all who hope for heaven, even we who have committed ourselves to following His divine instructions without pause or let. Should God in his mercy grant such a blessing at the judgment, no saint will protest or complain. Yet it would be presumptuous for us to promise any person salvation without compliance with the will of Christ. We can only show a person the revealed will of the Savior and encourage them to submit to it. Those who in faith obey Him can rest on His blessed promises that their sins are forgiven; that they are saved and that heaven is theirs. Those who do not can have no such assurance.
Campbell also reasoned that some make the mistake of thinking that immersion is the defining mark of the saved, whether the baptized person lives a devout life or not. He reasoned that a godly profession was just as important as one's proper baptism. Hence if he encountered a member of a church that practiced sprinkling, yet lived a godly life of service and a brother properly immersed for the remission of sins who failed to live such a godly life, he would prefer the pious unimmersed disciple. Note that he makes his preference the determining factor. But he will not be the one to judge us (Rom. 14:10). He would not make immersion the single standard of Christian standing. Nor should we. Both proper obedience and proper living are essential! Being right in the form of baptism will not cover a refusal to imitate the Savior (I Cor. 11:1) and obey his will (Matt. 7:21). On the other hand the emphasis placed on baptism by the Master himself makes it impossible to grant brotherly recognition to those who have not submitted to it. Jesus said, "Except one be born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). If words mean anything, these tell us that baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit stand between every sinner and the kingdom or church of Christ. The question is, do we believe them? Saul of Tarsus was told to "be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). One cannot be saved until his sins are washed away. But that is accomplished when one is immersed as Christ ordained. Hence one cannot be saved until he has been properly baptized. We recognize that the water has no cleansing power. Only the blood of Jesus can save us (I John 1:7). The Savior has appointed baptism as time and place when that is done.
Campbell summarized by saying, "There is no occasion, then, for making immersion, on a profession the faith, absolutely essential to a Christian..." (p. 414). This statement is just as faulty as "Baptism is not necessary for salvation;" or "Regular observance of the Lord's Supper is not imperative;" or "Being a member of the Christ's spiritual body, the church is not essential;" or "Worshiping God with his people is not important." It is a door that admits every kind of error.
He concluded by saying, "So I reason and I think in so reasoning I am sustained by all the Prophets and Apostles of both Testaments" (p. 414). This is an interesting self-justification for an article that offers only four vague Scripture references in four pages filled with speculation and rationalizations.
When a storm letters came protesting his article, Bro. Campbell responded by saying "We gave it as our opinion that there were Christian among the Protestant sects..." (p. 506). Should he not also have granted the same generous presumption of salvation to the devout unimmersed within the Roman Catholic faith? If not why? Those who insisted that only those properly immersed are truly redeemed, Campbell labeled as Ultraists, i.e., extremists on the issue. He conceded, "We cheerfully agree with them (his critics), as well as with our sister ...that the term Christian was given first to immersed believers and to none else; but we do not think that it was given to them because they were immersed, but because they had put on Christ" (p. 507). Note that he never answered the lady's question about how one puts on Christ! It is when we are baptized into Christ that we put on Christ (Gal. 3:27). He labored to defuse the situation by saying, "Still my opinion is no rule of action to my brethren, nor would I offer it unsolicited to any man..." (p. 508). Change agents have presented Campbell's opinion as a doctrinal standard and promoted it whether solicited or not. He continued, "Therefore our opinion militates not against the value of baptism in any sense" (p. 564). But it does! For instead of the clear message of Christ which teaches that remission of sins is conditioned on proper baptism (Acts 2:38), his view says baptism is fine but if you don't do it, it is OK so long as you live a good and devout life.
Of the sister's questions posed in her letter Campbell wrote, "She proposed a list of questions, involving, as she supposed, either insuperable difficulties or strong objections to that saying...I answered them not: but attended to the difficulty which I imagined she felt in the aforesaid saying" (p. 564). It seems more likely he could not easily answer her questions and maintain his position so he "observed the passover."
Campbell rationalized, "Some of our brethren were too much addicted to denouncing the sects and representing them en masse as wholly aliens from the possibility of salvation..." (p. 564). While this case was true then and is yet true in some quarters, it does not justify taking a position that stands at odds with the revealed will of Christ. That some are uncharitable in the way they deal with members of other confessions, does not justify us in relaxing the standards of Christ. Better to try to teach the offending brethren to display a more charitable spirit in their preaching!
The editor conceded that to disarm sectarian critics who accused him of heading and building up his own party, "I consented the more readily to defend Protestantism; and I have...endeavored to show the Protestant public that it is with the greatest reluctance we are compelled to stand aloof from them..." (p. 565). Of those of other religious parties, he affirms, "they must certainly come over to us whenever they come to the Bible alone" (p. 566). He concludes the correspondence by saying, "A Christian is one that habitually believes all that Christ says, and habitually does all that he bids him" (p. 566). To this all can say a hearty amen!
The immediate response to Campbell's Lunenburg Letters was overwhelmingly negative. Campbell acknowledged receiving "numerous letters" from brethren who took exception to his expressed views (p. 561). He also acknowledged hearing from sectarians who taunted him saying, "Then we are as safe as you." and "You are coming over to us, having now conceded the greatest of all points;viz. that immersion is not essential to a Christian" (p. 561) He promised that he would be publishing some of the objections received but a search of the following issues of the Millennial Harbinger did not reveal a single one of them. A year later he began publishing a series by an unknown brother under the pseudonym Christianos that endorsed his position. Responses challenging the view were offered by T. M. Henley and M. Winans. When the discussion had run its course, Campbell wrote two concluding lessons that are crucial to properly understanding the Lunenburg controversy.
He wrote, "The word Christian has three distinct acceptations in modern times. It has a national, a sectarian and a scriptural meaning. Nationally it means one that is not a Jew, a Mohammedan...but a professor of the Christian faith. In the style of the sects it means something more and better than a Romanist, a churchman, a Presbyterian.... It means one who is supposed to be a follower of Christ in the moral virtues of his religion without regard to his tenets, in comparison with other sectaries. And scripturally it means one who has first believed in Jesus as Messiah, repented of his sins, and been immersed in water into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and who follows Christ in all his appointments. Such were they who were first called Christians. Now in this latter sense it can never be applied to any but to those who resemble the disciples described in the Acts of the Apostles; while in the first and second senses of the term there are many Christians among the sects..." (M. H. 1840, p. 164).
He continued, "But in this day of increasing light, I confess that in my opinion, the cases of involuntary ignorance are becoming fewer and more few; and that the hope of remission for many who do not, who will not examine and obey from the heart the Savior's precepts, becomes more and more feeble; and therefore there is no very bright side of the picture for those who are at ease in Zionwhose fear of God is taught by the precepts of men rather than by the oracles of Apostles and Prophets" (M. H. 1840, p. 165).
He further states, "Everything depends on the definition of this word Christian, before we decide where he may be found. The disciples of Christ were those who first received that name. Now what is a disciple of Christ? Are there any disciples of Christ among the religious sects? That there are no one of much intelligence can doubt. The phrase disciples of Christ did not uniformly represent those who believed and practiced all the same things...Now if we use the word Christian as used in Antioch, none can wear it unless he resembles the Antiochans in knowledge and practice: but if we use the phrase disciples of Christ' as commonly used in the New Testament, we may, perhaps, find many of them among the sects" (M.H. 1840, p. 128) "Now amongst the sects there are many disciples of Christ; but, perhaps very few to whom the name Christian would rightfully apply in the exact latitude of its meaning at the time of its first application" (M. H., 1840, p. 276).
Thus after some two years of contemplation and having taken heavy buffeting from his friends, the illustrious editor decided that he would like to rephrase his ill-stated words and offer his opinion that in rare cases some who in fact never had opportunity to know all the truth about the means of salvation might possibly find acceptance with God. This conviction is also expressed in Campbell's book The Christian System, in a footnote on p. 174-175.
Over a century ago the liberal element of the restoration brotherhood rediscovered Campbell's Lunenburg letters. With them in hand they justified abandoning the premise of restoring the one true church of Christ and chose to seek acceptance as a denomination among the family of denominations. Today they are found in the Disciples of Christ/Christian Churches. Some forty years ago, Carl Ketcherside and the first generation of our modern change agents found them again and put them to similar use. Bro. Rubel Shelly's book, I Just Want to Be A Christian, was built on the premise of these letters. Today, in the absence of Scripture, they are cited by our change agents as their authority to embrace denominationalism and those not born of water and the Spirit as their brethren.
While Campbell conceded that there were some few "Christians among the sects," our change agents leap from his particular concession to the general conclusion that all sects are equally acceptable to God as is the church of Christ and that all who believe in Jesus are therefore saved by the grace of God. If the premises of our change agents are true, the noble thing for them to do would be to immediately present themselves to their denominational neighbors and ask for their forgiveness for standing apart all these years. They should disband and cease to exist as a separate body of people and ask for admission to their nearest denominational church. The fact is, denominationalism is wrong in principle and practice (John 17:17; I Cor. 1:10;3:5). Change agents and their churches freely acknowledge themselves to be denominationalist. Therefore they are wrong and stand condemned by God and self.
What shall we say of our departed brother, Alexander Campbell? He was a brilliant man, an extraordinary scholar of Scripture, a capable preacher and leader, but he was fallible as are we all. Bro. Campbell did not found the church of Christ. That was the province of the Son of God (Matt. 16:18). The Sage of Bethany was not the author of our faith and practice. That is clearly set forth in the New Testament of Jesus (Heb. 12:2). His writings, brilliant and informative though they be, and of great historical interest, were not normative or binding for the church of his day, nor for us today. The careful student of Campbell's life and writings will find other inconsistencies and errors in his thinking. This in no way should detract from our appreciation of his life and work. The same would be true of any one of us. The greater question is, shall we cling to Campbell's mistaken views? Change agents doggedly cling to these letters because they seem to justify their prior decision to abandon the old faith and seek a new home in the ecumenical world of Protestantism. They provide balm for their consciences and give them a cloak of respectability as they bid the Bible way goodbye.
THE SECOND INCARNATION
|October 8 2003, 6:15 AM |
The most prominent of our self-appointed agents of change is Bro. Rubel Shelly of Nashville, TN. He and Randall Harris of David Lipscomb University are authors of The Second Incarnation. Their title reflects the creative idea that as Jesus was incarnate in his fleshly body, so he is now incarnate in his spiritual body the church (p. 48). While the idea is intriguing, it is not Biblical.
A common characteristic of change agents is their attempt to present themselves as theologians who have discovered new truths we non-theologians have failed to discern. This book is filled with ponderous theological jargon that suggests the authors have grown weary of the simplicity and the purity of the gospel (II Cor. 11:3). Enamored by their higher education in secular and denominational schools, the authors have come home to impose on us what they absorbed in that environment. When establishing their points, quotes of theologians seem to be preferred over scripture citations. They will doubtless impress their peers with their quotes from Tillich, Bultman, Bonhoeffer and others. It lets us know that the authors are widely read in the theologians of liberalism and that they have learned the obtuse vocabulary of the seminaries. Such is learned in graduate programs at some of our schools whose professors do not allow students to use references from members of churches of Christ in their research papers. The authors seem unable to discern between Biblical Christianity and the denominational version they have embraced.
Their method is to build and attack a straw man, charging those who reject their views with beliefs and practices not commonly held. They pick the most ignorant, out of touch, opinionated preachers; the most legalistic agitators and exhibit them as typical of all conservatives who oppose their program for change. In contrast, they present themselves and their comrades as loving, caring moderates, real scholars who only wish to save the church from self-destruction.
Change agents operate on faulty assumptions.
<> That they have discovered and are practicing a more spiritual, God-pleasing kind of religion than that known by the thousands of preachers, elders and disciples who have labored and served our brotherhood for the last 200 years.
<> That none but them know, understand and appreciate the grace of God. Long before some of them were born, great men of God taught us about Gods saving grace.
<> That none but them understand the blessings and benefits of the indwelling Holy Spirit in the Christians life.
<> That our concept of restoration means restoring a specific congregation from first century days.
<> That they have discovered a new and superior approach to Bible interpretation. With that they claim to have found the true nature of the church. In reality, it is the old, emotion-based, subjective approach of Protestantism. Their Bible is a story book, serving only as a source for quotes for sermons, but not for regulating and guiding the faith, worship and practice of the church.
<> That all of us but them are only interested in the doctrines and practices of the church and not truly dedicated to Christ and trying to be like him.
<> That all but them are narrow, bigoted, and legalistic.
<> That we claim that we are a perfect church and that we have attained complete compliance with every aspect of Christs will for us. Do you claim that?
How they view the church. Although the authors profess to love the church, their written words belie that claim. For they hold the traditional churches of Christ, who refuse to accept their changes, in contempt, or in condescending pity. The churches they love are their churches, i.e., those embracing their changes. Thus we have the right to reconsider our identity...Worship, life, mission, and evangelism all take on new appearances... (p. 241). ...for some people, a relationship with God is virtually synonymous with church activity: if the particular religious community of which they are a part were to disappear ...for them it would amount to the disappearance of God (p. 178). For their definition of the church they prefer that of Hans Kung, noted Catholic theologian, rather than that of the Scripture (p. 71): The meaning of the church does not reside in itself, in what it is, but in what it is moving towards... They do not accept the scriptural description of the church as the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13; Matt. 16:18-19). If the church were to claim to be the complete realization of the kingdom, its claim would be idolatrous....and appear hypocritical... (p. 76-77). They view the church today as a continuity from the first century which includes the corrupt Roman Catholic Church of the middle ages (p. 79). They do not see anything permanent or stable about the church. It is always fluid and changeable. What we must realize is that there is no finality for the church in any of its corporate manifestations (p. 63). The wine is the bubbling, churning gospel. It is the ever-arriving-yet-never-fully-realized-on-Earth kingdom of God ( p. 11) By their approach, any denomination or group of people who sincerely are trying to be like Christ are a true church, a part of his body (Chapter 3). They hope to bring about a shift of allegiance from denominational loyalty to Christ, but in reality they would turn us away from Christ to a denominational status (p. 57).
How they view the concept of restoration of original Christianity. The authors reveal that they no longer believe the concept of restoration is viable or desirable. Even if there were a perfect church, our proper task would not be to reproduce its forms... (p. 63). We reject a rigid pattern theology that simply proposes to transplant religious-cultural forms from the Bible to the ...21st century (p. 63). Instead they encourage each disciple to be like Christ. But to imitate Christ we must look to his New Testament to find out what he is like. If looking to the New Testament cannot tell us how to be a church, how can it tell us how to be like Christ?
How they view our worship. The tired, uninspiring event called worship in our churches must give way to an exhilarating experience... (p. 13). Chapter 6 is devoted to their vision for changes in our worship. Some of their ideas are harmless, others are not really new. But they are determined to find a way to undermine our acappella congregational singing with soloists, choirs (and as later information shows, instruments). They would make the Lords Supper part of a fellowship meal (p. 219). They assert that the worship of the early church was derived from the Jewish synagogue rather than ordained by the founder of the church (p. 135). Their concept of worship will include jubilation...perhaps with applause and cheering.... p. 140).
How they view Biblical authority. Embracing and espousing a New Hermeneutics or new way of understanding the Scripture, they propose that by looking at the story of Jesus we will be better able to do Gods will than by depending on specific scriptures that address given subjects. They are bold to say we reject a rigid pattern theology that simply proposes to transplant religious-cultural forms from the Bible to the ...21st century (p. 31). Scripture certainly does not present an absolute blueprint for building a church; it does however, provide the theological parameters for such a project (p. 36). A bare historical precedent is not binding in and of itself. In their reading of scripture they look for theological principles: eternal truths... rather than for commands and prohibitions or apostolic examples (p. 36-37). Their guidelines for determining what we should do are thoroughly subjective.
How they view the doctrines long held and preached by churches of Christ. Those of us who are insiders to the church have fallen into the rut of perpetuating fallibleeven corrupt and toxictheologies, projects and systems (p. 240). We honor and preserve certain cherished traditions, but we preserve them as traditions without consciously or unconsciously elevating them to the status of dogmas (p. 241-242). The purpose of their book is to offer a contemporary theology of the church (p. 42). To protect themselves, they seek to pre-paint those who resist their efforts as bad folks who become defensive, (and) mount an attack against the searchers, and try to discount those who have dared register their serious concerns by discrediting both their questions and their motivations (p. 242).
Those promoting these concepts of change do so in the name of saving the church, making it relevant for the 21st century and saving the lost. Yet almost all of them preach for congregations others (who did not hold their views) established and built up. They operate from meeting houses others paid for. They recruit young sympathizers from other congregations. The changes they promote are those Protestant and Catholic leaders were promoting in the 1960s and 70s. Our change agents are just now catching up to that bandwagon. They are descended from a long line of change agents dating from 1849. Men such as D. S. Burnett who introduced and championed the missionary society, L. L. Pinkerton who introduced the first instrument of music in worship, W. Carl Ketcherside and Leroy Garrett who for 30 years sowed their seeds of change, Chuck Lucas and Kip McKeen who wished to renew us and founded the Discipling Movement. How oft are we subjected to preachers, who while condemning the church for her divisions, problems and lack of progress, propose solutions that will certainly result in yet another conflict and division and thus hinder progress? These brethren should do the honorable thing and dissociate themselves from the Churches of Christ, which they so despise. When Bro. John Mulkey concluded that he could no longer endorse or preach Baptist doctrine, he stood before his Baptist brethren and announced his resignation and departure. He was an honorable man.
THE ROYAL LAW OF LIBERTY (A Review)
|October 15 2003, 5:23 AM |
Darwin Chandler of Sierra Vista, AZ has recently published The Royal Law of Liberty. It is subtitled "Living in Freedom Under Christ's Law of Love." The author was previously associated with churches of Christ and preached among us for several years. He has now abandoned his former faith. He says, "We were born into a denomination whose emphasis in all spiritual matters was firmly set in works-righteousness" (p. 1). The "denomination" of which he writes is the church of Christ. "Ultimately a break had to be made with the church of our birth" (p. ii). His present estimate of churches of Christ and his former brethren is one of scornful pity, condescension and hostility. We include his book in our reviews because he voices the same general message as the large family of change agents at work among us. His abandonment of New Testament Christianity and his departure from our fellowship is prophetic of what we can expect from hundreds of other disaffected champions of change.
Bro. C. declares that "2,000 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, His disciples still know little or nothing about the freedom for which Christ set us free" (Forward). But he is certain he does know about this freedom; only one of millions able to discover this truth. He surely does not underestimate his own wisdom!
The central thesis of his book is that God has but one law for His people; that we love our neighbor as ourselves. But then he remembers that there is at least one other law, that we must love God! Everything else he writes derives from this belief. He then concludes that there are no other commands, ordinances of statutes for Christians to be concerned with. Note the following: "We must forget about serving God via obedience to commands and concentrate on loving Him and other people" (p. vi). "Thus one may make a list of every individual law contained in the Bible, then strike through all of them and write over them, Love others as you love yourself'" (p. 4). We wonder why then did God go to the trouble of writing all those commands? He writes, "Thus under the Royal Law of Liberty we do not memorize rules, we just live by love" (p. 36). "If we love man and God we do not need to memorize codes of behavior that prevent us from harming people or dishonoring God" (p. 36). Just where has he learned this?
Bro. Chandler's system is not new; it is the ancient error of "antinomianism." Antinomianism is defined as, "an opposition to law, specifically, a rejection of the idea that the Christian's life need be governed by laws or rules" (Concise Dictionary of Theology). "The spiritualization of the law into the one precept of love to God, taught and exemplified by Jesus, encouraged some over- enthusiastic devotees to believe they had been exalted to such a height of spirituality and overmastering love to God that they needed to have no regard to moral precepts or to outward conduct..." (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. 1, p. 196). John Wesley rightly described antinomianism as "the doctrine which makes void the law through faith" (McClintock & Strong Cyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 264).
From Bro. C's book we can see how his doctrine plays out in the life of people.
A. In the Realm of Salvation: He argues that man is saved by grace alone. "It becomes obvious that salvation from inception to completion must be by pure grace else no one can be saved..." (p. 41). "Nothing human enters into this spiritual birth; it is all God's doing" (p. 42-43). What then of faith, repentance and baptism? His teaching is pure Calvinism. He then says, "We are saved, sanctified, justified, adopted, etc. If we believe, not if we obey" (p. 43). But he just said it was wholly of grace, nothing human enters into our salvation. Which assertion is correct?
B. In Daily Discipleship: He says, "Personal holiness will not be measured by how well we avoid sinful practices. Christ's likeness in us will not be recognized by specific behaviors, but by Christ's love in our life. What determines whether we are faithful Christians' will not be external things like church attendance, tithing, praying, worshiping, fasting, etc..." (p. 16). "If we live under this new standard of love, we do not need a list of rights and wrongs' because the Divine impulse of love reliably leads us to do what is right" (p. 38). We must ask, if God has eliminated all lists of right and wrong, why did he give us passages such as Gal. 5:19-20? He believes, "Those who are filled with God's love just naturally do the things God's law requires, even if they know nothing specific about the law" (p. 44). Thus a person in Africa who has never seen the Bible, heard or read a Christian message, will naturally keep God's law if he loves God! Believe it who will! But then Bro. C. teaches that God has no law for us today. How can this be?
C. In Moral Conduct: "Nothing is immoral unless it harms other people or dishonors God" (p. 38). "We learn from this that the fundamental right-ness or wrong-ness of any action is determined not by whether the Bible contains a specific law, but by the effect of that action on other people. If our actions do not harm others, or disrespect their person or property, then those actions are within the realm of personal choice (p. 149). Then what of pornography, or lust, or hatred that is not acted upon? He says, "All sex acts are inherently clean'... are inherently lawful'... are good'..." (p. 449). What of homosexual acts? Incest? Bestiality? He is intoxicated with his imagined wisdom.
D. In Worship: He takes strong exception to our conviction that, "we must have Bible authority for everything we do in faith and practice" (p. 24) and repudiates it. He believes "The Scripture simply does not teach that we must have Scriptural authority' for everything we do" (p. 24). "People can worship and serve God in as great variety as true love can motivate. It is literally true that there is no limit to the ways one may offer loving worship to God. He will accept every expression of love including those that other humans judge ridiculous" (p. 31). Would he include blessing of pets, interpretive dancing, magic performances, weight lifters for Christ, acid rock and other sordid things some misguided souls dare to offer to God in the name of Christianity? "He who offers instrumental music as a love offering to God, pleases God and worships him so much more effectively than one whose whole motivation is trying to find a law to obey...' (p. 28). He offers no Scripture to substantiate these claims. He states, "The mass of evidence" "allows women ...to minister and be leaders in Christ's church" (p. 447). With the wave of his hand he dismisses I Cor. 14:34 and I Tim. 2:12. He pits OT verses and others unrelated to preaching to cancel the message of those two clearly stated prohibitions.
E. In the Way We Read, Understand and Respect the Bible: "His (Christ's) law is not...the same in any sense, as living under rules, commandments and ordinances" (p. 41). "And we know that whatever is the purpose of Christ's law, it is not meant for salvation." "One cannot be saved by obeying Christ's law any more than one can be saved by obeying Moses' law" (p. 41-42). But Paul says that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death" (Rom. 8:1-2). He tells us, "God never intended that these laws be understood as being inherently valuable" (p. 23). "God is not pleased with the efforts of those who attempt to formulate church operations on the basis of the authority of Scripture'" (p. 36). Just how does he know this? What verse does he cite to prove it? He says, "We no longer need to carry the law-book (i.e. the Bible jhw), consulting it for every possible human situation requiring a moral decision. If people have God's love in their hearts...they will be able to know what is right and will be motivated to do it" (p. 44). He writes, "But unless the Holy Spirit is released to apply the word and bring it to life within our heart, that ministry (preaching the word, jhw) is worse than useless, it is deadly" (p. 143). That the word of God is dead and lifeless until the Holy Spirit enlightens the hearer is pure Calvinism. It also contradicts Paul declaration that it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe (I Cor. 1:21).
F. His Attitude Toward God and his Son and their Sacred Will for Mankind: "Jesus Christ abolished the entire structure of law/commandment/ordinance" (p. 145). What then of Jesus' teaching that only those who obey the Father will be saved (Matt. 7:21)? What of His command to teach disciples to obey all things he commanded (Matt. 28:20)? He says, "The church is oblivious to the fact that we are no longer judged by God's law" (p. 154). Is he oblivious to John 12:48 where Jesus said, "The words I have spoken will judge you in the last day?" Or what of Rev. 20:11-12? He says, "He (Paul) straightforwardly taught that man can no longer serve God on the basis of obeying lawall law, any law, even God's law" (p. 157). Such reckless boldness! He reasons, "Sin in transgression of law' so if there is no law there cannot be sin." "Since the only law' of King Jesus is the Law of Love, the only sin we can commit now is a violation of love" (p. 438). Of Jesus he says, "What distinguished Jesus above the crowd was not that He kept every jot and tittle of God's law perfectly. It was that He loved God with all His heart...what made Jesus holy' was not the perfection of his obedience but the depth of his love" (p. 6). This borders on blasphemy. See Heb. 5:8-9! He tells us, "Jesus never once advised holy' people to withdraw fellowship from those who were unholy' or unscriptural'" (p. 19). Has he not read Matt. 18:15-18, or II Thess. 3:6?
G. His Attitude Toward His Brethren in Christ: "Those who judge by standards other than love and that includes virtually all church leaders, theologians, community leaders..." (p. 37). Note how Bro. C. judges Christian leaders who make judgments based on God's Word, yet he judges brethren who are critical of false teachers such as himself. He writes, "We have been taught for generations that Christ gave us a law that replaces the law of Moses. Christ's law, we are told is the same kind of law as Old Testament law..." (p. 39). No knowledgeable brother in the church says this...it is the fabrication of a fevered mind. He asserts, "... the church does not know the meaning of grace.' After 2000 years, the church does not understand the meaning of the vicarious atonement' of Christ" (p. 154). Of all the millions who have professed Christ, does he alone know these things? He continues, "...God abrogated law as a means for being righteous...Sadly the church still has not received this truth after 2,000 years (p. 140). Evidently he only recently discovered this truth. Others have known and preached it over the ages. He says, "Attacking legalism is necessary for all those who truly desire to honor God's law and Him alone..." (But he includes every one who seeks to comply with Christ's revealed will as a legalist, thus his hand is raised against all but himself and his few sympathizers)! (p. 158). "We have referenced extreme human suffering caused by the church's error on such issues as race and slavery, witchcraft, salvation by grace, the Crusades, and so forth" (p. 447). Note how, typical of liberals, he blames the church (principally churches of Christ) for every sin and evil that has every transpired. Churches of Christ had no part in burning witches or the Crusades. While many Christians failed to do their duty regarding slavery and racism, others bravely met the challenge and did the right thing. Does he think he would have behaved in a superior manner had he lived in the turbulent era from 1800 to 1865? Has he a perfect record in dealing with other racial groups?
Fundamental Errors of Bro. Chandler's Book:
* He fails to understand that while salvation is a free gift of God's grace God has made reception of it conditional on obedience (Heb. 5:8-9)
* He fails to distinguish between the Law of Moses which has indeed been abrogated (Rom. 7:4), and the law of Christ to which Christians are now amenable (John 12:48; Rom. 8:1-2).
* He fails to understand that the two great commands to love God and our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39), are illustrative of all other laws, the foundation upon which they rest. They are not the only laws.
* Blinded by his antinomianism, he denigrates and dismisses the commandments of Christ and embraces the Situation Ethics of Harvey Cox of days past.
* Because of his faulty understanding of Christ's gospel he mistakenly embraces the errors of Calvinism; namely salvation by grace alone, enabling grace and divine enlightenment by the Holy Spirit.
* Because he holds a faulty understanding of legalism, he wrongly concludes that anyone who loves, honors and obeys the Will of God is a legalist. If that were so Jesus would be a legalist (Heb. 5:8-9).
* Like religious liberals of the 19th and early 20th centuries he holds a romantic and utopian view of humanity's ability to live by love without law. Their dream collapsed in the face of two World Wars and the horrors of Communism. His theory cannot survive the realities of human life and conduct.
* He mistakenly thinks he has found something new and different, when it is but ancient heresy that has deceived men in generations past.
Conclusion: Although we find the teaching and conclusions of Darwin Chandler faulty and thus reject them, we commend him for leaving the church he no longer believes in or loves. In this he is more noble than other agents of change who like him no longer love the church of Christ yet they lurk among us trying to seduce and destroy the faith of others.
|October 20 2003, 4:13 AM |
The Transforming of a Tradition is the title of a book edited and published last year by Leonard Allen and Lynn Anderson. It purports to examine the Churches of Christ in the New Millennium, identify their myriad problems and offer solutions that will save them from extinction. The several authors who contributed chapters to this book all share a common belief that the restoration plea is unworkable in our post-Christian age; that we must accept the fact that we are actually a denomination, in the same sense as are the Methodists and Lutherans; that we must cease to be a separate, exclusive body of people and embrace an ecumenical approach to Christianity.
They are certain that we have approached the Bible in a faulty way in days past and must learn to view it as a love letter from God or a story book about Jesus. They are sure that all of our large metropolitan congregations are going their way and that even small town churches will eventually follow their lead. As part of their plan they want us to embrace the liberal social agenda of the political left. We must get involved in the AIDS Crusade, the Civil Rights Movement, Care of the Homeless, Womens Liberation and other similar causes.
As I was reading Allen and Andersons book, the Associated Press carried an article by religious observer, Richard Ostling, that evaluated the situation of contemporary Protestant churches in America. The author points out that evangelical (i.e., conservative) Protestant churches are flourishing while the liberal churches are declining in a serious way. Citing a study by Randall Balmer and Lauren Winner entitled Contemporary American Religion (Columbia University Press), he notes that the mainliners (large Protestant denominations) built their strategy around ecumenism, while the most successful religious movements in American history have been exclusive, not inclusive. While the liberal churches were minimizing differences, Americans were looking for theological definition. He further observes that Evangelicals momentum stems from the centrality of the Bible... In the late 19th century, liberal notions about the Scriptures infiltrated U. S.
Protestantism from Europe...the liberals held a somewhat less exalted view of the Bible...and tended to see its tenets as time bound. The Evangelicals, by contrast, insisted that the simplest, most obvious reading of the Bible was the correct one. They take the Bible seriously... Ballmer and Winner are convinced that evangelicalism is helping spark a Christian intellectual renaissance.
Had I not known better I might have thought Ostling was referring to the change agents at work among our churches when he described the liberals attitude towards the Bible and their desire to embrace the ecumenical movement. All who have kept abreast of religious trends in America know that the liberal Protestant churches are declining, and short of a major turn around will eventually cease to exist. All the success stories are from the camp of the conservative evangelicals. Yet the liberals that have arisen among our people are wanting us to follow the doomed trail and failed projects of those dying Protestant churches. My recommendation is that they leave us, join the liberal Protestant churches and follow them to their fate. The rest of us can then devote our time and energy to serving God, following his Word and sharing Christ with the lost about us.
|November 12 2003, 4:32 AM |
Bro. LaGard Smith has given us a book entitled, Radical Restoration. Rather than help elders and preachers navigate through stormy waters now before us, Bro. Smiths approach to restoration would do irreparable harm to any church which chooses to follow his suggestions. He perhaps inadvertently predicts the fruit of his plan by saying, The very nature of radical restoration is such that the act of demolition is as vital as the act of creation. Invariably, wrecking crews must raze the old structure before they can begin to build anew (p. 39).
<ul><li>Smith would resurrect the mutual ministry practice of the late Carl Ketcherside and Leroy Garrett. To see just how successful that approach to teaching and church building is, one need only consult Mac Lynns directory of Churches of Christ in the United States. Those who do will note that congregations identified by a ME, i.e., a mutual edification symbol, are few in number and often as few as 10 or 15 in membership. That is the result of 75 years of mutual ministry without located preachers.
<li>He would confound the Lords Supper with a common fellowship meal. Paul addressed this question in I Cor. 11:20-23. He made it clear that the Lords Supper is not a meal where hungry appetites are satisfied. For those who wished to dine and commune together, he said, In this I praise you not. Coziness and intimacy are not ingredients of the Lords Supper.
<li>He would have our congregations abandon their public meeting houses and resort to private homes. He and others who are enamored with house churches seem to overlook that literally hundreds of our congregations began in homes of members. As they grew they eventually secured their own public places of assembly. Generally we build because it is more economical in the long run than renting and provides facilities that are designed to meet congregation needs. Also, because it gives us permanency and presence in a community that a rented hall cannot provide. His recommendation would forever limit the church to small home sized congregations that would be endlessly dividing into more small groups.
<li>He would have us consider the possibility of having one set of elders to supervise all the churches in a particular city. Even this concept has been floated before. It has flourished best in the diocesan concept of Catholicism with its citywide bishop, but it is not biblical. The apostles appointed for them elders in every church (Acts 14:23).
<li>To further complicate our survival, he would have us to exist without specific identify in a world of competing and confusing religious organizations. Although he cannot fault the Bible name church of Christ he would have us discard it for other, less distinctive, names that would not help the most diligent searcher find in which private home we are meeting. Also he evidently would have us discontinue placing our addresses and phone numbers in the yellow pages of the phone directories lest we by so doing join the ranks of denominations.
<li>He would have us operate without funds except those gathered for occasional emergency benevolent situations.
</ul>Granted, Bro. Smith is a learned man of the law and he is currently riding a crest of popularity on the campus scene. He would have been more convincing if he had first launched just such a congregation as he proposes and after ten years reported back to us with a progress report. But one need not have a PhD to perceive that his Radical Restoration will only result in radical decline and ultimate demise for those who follow his program. His suggestions are indeed radical but they have nothing to do with the restoration of New Testament Christianity. They might however eventuate in a new kind of church...one looking back to Smith as its originator.
THE CRUX OF THE MATTER
|November 19 2003, 3:10 AM |
The Crux of the Matter is a book recently published by Abilene Christian University Press and highly endorsed by Dr. Royce Money, president of that school. It is the joint work of Jeff W. Childers, Douglas A. Foster and Jack R. Reese, professors in ACUs Graduate School of Theology. The book is subtitled, Crisis, Tradition, and the Future of Churches of Christ. The authors present themselves as resolvers of our problems, but in reality they are part of the problem.
For readers not trained in the jargon of denominational seminaries, much of this book will be unintelligible mumbo-jumbo. For example, Truth without elegance is untrue, or at least incomplete (p. 209). Putting great stock in being theologians, they express their thoughts in dark, ponderous phrases to which the average reader may answer, What? Two of the authors being historians, prefer to attribute all major aspects of our faith and practice to influences wrought by men, institutions and events from the past, rather than to our commitment to the Bible. Our tenacity in clinging to our beliefs and practice they attribute to our loyalty to our traditions, rather than to Scripture. They are certain that we are what we are because of pre-restoration denominational influences such as Lutheranism, Calvinism, Arminianism, etc. (Chapt. 4). The authors do not oppose tradition; they love it and believe that it must be factored in when deciding what is right or wrong. Viewing matters through their theological spectacles, they confuse the sacred traditions of Scripture (II Thess. 3:6) with those of men (Matt. 15:6-9).
One must read 114 pages of the book before he reaches the thesis of the authors. It is, that while we may be Christians we certainly are not the only Christians. The fifth chapter is devoted to this theme which beginning in the 1960s was long propagated among us by W. Carl Ketcherside and Leroy Garrett. They dearly love Alexander Campbells Lunenberg Letters; elevating them virtually to the level of Scripture (p. 115). In this they join the Disciples of Christ/Christian Churches who have long done the same thing. Like the Disciples, they forget that Campbell was only a preacher in our midst, not our founder nor the authoritative interpreter of our faith.
On p. 117 they introduce one major thrust of their work, Many in Churches of Christ no longer believe that instrumental music in worship is a salvation issue. Later they acknowledge this is their position and the use thereof should not be grounds for disfellowship (p. 247). Their goal is expressed on pp. 117-118. Thus they call upon us to reexamine the possibility that we are just a denomination, instrumental music and all other issues...with a non-defensive, humble attitude... Interpreted that means, do not actively oppose their efforts to change us.
The authors cleverly mask their radical ideas with repeated use of perhaps, maybe, or some believe. This provides cover when they are called to account for their unscriptural views. They will be able to deny that they themselves say this; only that some may or may not have done so.
Readers will be impressed at the dearth of Scripture used by the authors when establishing their points. This is to be expected, since their newly discovered way of approaching the Bible does not call for scriptural proof of anything. Rather, they read the whole Bible as literature, listen to theologians, consider history and tradition and talk it over with a group of Bible readers and then seek a consensus based on their core gospel (i.e., those few basics facts they view as essential (p. 183). You can be sure that these men do not see the need for finding specific or even generic Bible authority for what they believe or practice. They liken our old approach to a stranglehold on a proof-text at the surface level and forcing it to become a direct rule (p. 183). The authors are a bit arrogant, implying that those of us not following their lead do not know how to correctly study and comprehend Gods book. They imply that they alone know to consider the type of literature a particular Bible book is; its historical, geographical background, context, etc. They may only recently have discovered these truths, but the reviewer learned them 40 years ago in Bible School.
There are twelve glaring points made in this book:
They reject our long held approach to ascertaining what is Gods will (p. 239). Our brethren have long believed that finding appropriate Scriptures referring to a question and determining what God says on the subject settles the point. Some things are determined by a command or prohibition. An example that reflects a command also is authoritative. By carefully comparing all that is revealed on the subject we can draw a valid conclusion.
They see no sin in using instrumental music in worship (p. 247).
They see no serious problem in erroneous teachings such as premillennialism since it is not one of their core issues (p. 246).
They think that we were mistaken to break fellowship with the Disciples of Christ/Christian Churches over such issues as instrumental music in worship and missionary societies.
They view the churches of Christ as a denomination of recent origin, full of flaws and flawed people (especially our past and present preachers who do not share their views).
They protest that they are actually the true conservatives rather than liberals (p.193-194, 254).
They believe we should not be a separate people but that we should participate with denominational neighbors in religious activities.
Based on their unqualified acceptance of Campbells position in his Lunenberg Letters, they seem to be willing to accept the unimmersed as fellow Christians (p.114-115).
They blame all the ills of churches and individuals on our patternistic approach to interpreting the Bible (p. 209).
Their mission is to convince conservative brethren to not react and oppose them when they introduce their innovations into our congregations (pp. 235ff). From their perspective, we should not see our present crisis with too much alarm (p. 256). They have no intention of abandoning their project or leaving for a denomination where such views are standard fare. They dont want us to protest or leave when they infiltrate a congregation and introduce their divisive practices. Such makes them look bad.
By introducing their new, denominational concepts they are causing tension and strife in congregations across the land, but in true form they blame those who object to their disruptive practices as the troublemakers (p. 231-233).
They have arbitrarily gone through the New Testament and identified what they call the core of the message. To them the core is the non-negotiables, all else can be taken or left behind. Their core doctrines include, the fact of God, Jesus is his Son, Christs death on the cross and grace. Only the things most near the core are worth fighting for. It is noteworthy that this core is the essence of every major Protestant creed. If put into practice we would be united with them around the core. Of course God says nothing about a core. It is the figment of their fruitful imagination. Thomas Jefferson had a similar concept of the core of Christianity. That notable Deist produced what is now known as the Jeffersonian Bible, with only the core preserved and all the extraneous materials omitted.
The authors of The Crux assert that Those who blaspheme Christ by damaging his church in the name of their own cause are especially corrupt (p. 187). They of course had in mind those who oppose their innovations. But the fact is, they are damaging his church and thus it is fair to say that they blaspheme Christ and are especially corrupt. The author has spent 45 years worshiping and teaching among our churches. He has read upwards of 2,500 religious volumes, but none were as deleterious as this. It is full of deadly poison and will cause harm to any congregation where its message is put into practice. Unfortunately this is the first of three books to be produced by this team of writers. We can only pray that their project will fail from lack of interest.
These professors and their president, who so warmly endorsed their book, are a classic example of how liberals gain control of a Christian school. If they had appeared at the Abilene Christian College prior to 1960, espousing such views, they would have been confronted by irate friends and supporters of the school and driven out. Now they dominate a school that others founded and financed and use it to undermine the faith their predecessors held sacred.
GOD'S HOLY FIRE: A BOOK BASED ON FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS
|December 3 2003, 4:57 AM |
Abilene Christian University Press has recently issued "God's Holy Fire," written by three ACU professors, Cukrowski, Hamilton and Thompson. It is highly endorse by Royce Money, ACU president.
This book is built on the faulty premises that we who are members of the churches of Christ do not accept the Old Testament as part of our canon of Holy Scripture and that we do not study it. I have often heard this false charge from denomination people, unacquainted with us. They were most likely poisoned by their preachers. These scholars from ACU, who claim membership in the Church of Christ, should really know better. Consider the following quotes:
"Eliminating the Old Testament from our canon severely curtails our understanding of the character and activities of God..." (p. 49).
"Recovering the Old Testament conversely could transform us more fully into what we have always sought to beChurches of Christ" (ibid.).
"Recognizing that the Old Testament functions just as fully as the New in the canon of the church...." (p. 63).
"Too often, we in churches of Christ have made a mistake in removing the Old Testament, for practical purposes, from our canon. The hole in Scripture has produced a hole in the practice of our faith" (p. 66).
Both of their assumptions about the acceptance of and study of the Old Testament in our churches are patently false and force us to one of the following conclusions:
Either the authors are totally isolated from the congregations of our brotherhood, beyond the campus of their university;
Or they are speaking of their own preaching and teaching;
Or they are deliberately setting up an impotent straw man which they can beat and batter in order to convince those who are unlearned and ignorant of the facts that they are doing the church some great service. The announced plan and purpose of ACU's "Heart of the Restoration Series" gives some credence to this last assumption. "This series will help stimulate discussion and make a meaningful contribution to the fellowship of the churches of Christ and beyond" (Preface).
It seems to this author that in order to successfully introduce the innovations which these men wish to impose on the church, they must seduce our people away from the conviction that Christ alone is head over all things to the church (Eph. 1:22); that His Word will judge us in the last day (John 12:48); that the church is founded upon the teaching of Christ and his apostles (Eph. 2:19-20); that God has instructed us to honor Christ above key representatives of the Old Covenant, Moses and Elijah (Matt. 17:1-8).
If they can persuade folks that we are amenable to the Old Testament, the same as the New, then:
They can have Scripture for instrumental music in worship (Ps. 150).
They can have approval for hand clapping and dancing in worship (Ps. 47:1; 149:3).
They can have women leaders of God's people, like Deborah and Huldah the Prophetess.
They can have holy days, fasts and festivals like Christmas, Easter and Ash Wednesday.
These things are all on the agenda of the "change agents." Thus it makes perfectly good sense for them to write, publish and promote such a book as this. Note carefully the following lines, "A major task facing our churches is the reintegration of the Old Testament into the regular teaching, thinking and practice (emp. mine JW) of the church" (p. 49). By the way, would these learned scholars please point out one congregation or one preacher among us that does not accept study, honor and teach the Old Testament as part of God's canon of Scripture? Shame, Shame!
Dr. Rick Marrs of Pepperdine writes that this book, promises to challenge and enrich current study of the Bible in our churches." Having read this book, this scribe is impressed with several things it will not do for its readers.
I. It will not increase ones confidence in God's Word for its authors believe we cannot know for certain the intent of Scripture writers. In this regard they assert, "Thus, it makes sense to avoid claims of absolute certainty. Although it is impossible to know with certainty what an ancient author intended..." (p. 169).
II. It will not help one be more submissive to the will of Christ because it teaches that we are responsible to Moses Law as well as that of Christ. "The question for the apostolic church was not whether the Old Testament exercised authority over them, they had no doubt it did..." (p. 57 and all of chapter 3). When Peter sought to equally honor Jesus, Moses and Elijah, God said, "This is my beloved Son...hear ye him" (Matt. 17:1-6).
III. It will not make one a better Bible student for the book's major premise is faulty: i.e., that there is no distinction between the Old and the New Covenants (chapter 3). Thus a novice might spend months or years searching through his Old Testament trying to find how to be saved. Or some new Christian in a distant mission field might be searching in Leviticus to learn how to worship God acceptably.
IV. It will not teach one to respect the Bible as the sure and certain message of God that will lead you safely to Him. The authors accept the possibility that the Bible has its mistakes, flaws and contradictions. "In numerous instances in the Bible, one finds apparent inconsistencies in the narratives. "Sometimes the narrative does not correspond to the historical record" (p. 40. See also their thoughts on pages 39-45).
V. It will not help one get to heaven for if you believe its message and follow the authors' advice you will be following a perverted gospel, different from that preached by the Apostles of Christ. Consequently you will find yourself alienated from the Christ and under a divine anathema (Gal. 1:6-7).
The book entitled God's Holy Fire is like a bowl of soup filled with chicken, noodles and vegetables and just a little of deadly poison. It should bear the warning, "Reader Beware!"
RENEWING GOD'S PEOPLE, A REVIEW
|December 11 2003, 6:29 AM |
RENEWING GOD'S PEOPLE, A REVIEW
Renewing God's People was written by Dr. Douglas Foster and Dr. Gary Holloway of Abilene Christian and David Lipscomb Universities. It is a recent addition to a growing list of titles designed to promote and implement "progressive" changes in doctrine and practice changes among the Churches of Christ. Recommended for use in adult Bible classes, it offers a revisionist interpretation of the history of the Restoration Movement of which we are part. If members can be successfully reeducated concerning the church, our past and what we believe, they will be more receptive to suggestions to introduce unauthorized changes into their congregations.
The authors' fawning admiration of Alexander Campbell's Lunenburg Letters (pp. 80-81), speaks volumes of their intentions. True, Campbell eventually came to believe that pious unimmersed people in the denominations would be saved. But Campbell was only a man. His beliefs and practices were no more authoritative than yours or mine. He was wrong on this matter as he was when he called for a national missionary organization. To these authors it seems if they can find a line of approval for their ideas from Campbell or Stone that is sufficient to trump any Biblical statement, no matter how plain.
A brief sampling of some of their ideas is enlightening. Note the following:
"...we do not claim to be the only Christians" (p. 82).
"...it was not just the (Civil) war but its aftermath, particularly Reconstruction in the South, that broke Christian Fellowship." They infer that rather than serious doctrinal issues such as instrumental music in worship, missionary societies, women in leadership, fellowship with denominational bodies and theological liberalism it was these social issues that separated us from the Disciples of Christ/Christian Churches (p. 91).
"Certainly the story of this (break with the Disciples of Christ)...is one of the most embarrassing parts of our heritage"
(p. 98). Why should it be embarrassing to us that they departed from the faith revealed in the New Testament?
"...although, we sometimes gave lip service to unity and being Christians only" (p. 113). Since 1930, "We talked little of Christian unity and practiced it even less. Fewer voices called for Churches of Christ to be truly non-sectarian" (p. 111). Perhaps this was the case in their congregations, but not in the city where this author grew up.
As their liberal cousins in the other realms are wont to do, they see no positive progress in racial attitudes among "White" Churches of Christ. They are impressed that the president of ACU went to Terrell, TX and made a public apology to the faculty and students of Southwestern Christian College for failures of past generations of his school's administrators. Such pilgrimages have become a sort of sackcloth and ashes experience for true liberals of our day (See pp. 108,117,121,122).
The authors near their conclusion with a glowing description of the bastions of "progressive," i.e., liberal thought and action in the church. Highlighted are Abilene Christian University, Pepperdine University, Rubel Shelly's Nashville Jubilee Celebration and Tulsa's Soul Winning Workshop. Special attention is given to the New Hermeneutic, developed by the change agents to help them evade the embarrassing limitations of Bible authority. An attempt is made at discrediting the law of silence mentioned in Heb. 7:12-14 (p. 129).
The authors reflect the typical condescending attitude toward all those not subscribing to their "progressive ideas. Conservatives tend to be unaware of or hostile to recent shifts in the larger culture" (p. 130-131). To them our approach to the faith has "led to a severe disconnection between doctrine and life" (p. 122).
The closing chapter, on the church as "a refugee movement" seeks to convince members of the Church of Christ to accept a denominational status; to back away from the Biblical name, "churches of Christ," to get more involved in the civil rights movement and to promote fellowship with our denominational neighbors. Before elders approve of this book being used in their adult Bible classes they should decide if they are ready to go where Foster and Holloway would like to take them.
A CHURCH THAT FLIES (A Review)
|December 17 2003, 6:20 AM |
Tim Woodroof of Nashville has recently published a book entitled, A Church that Flies (A New Call to Restoration in the Churches of Christ). His theme is "the advocacy for change and for the discovery of new expressions of faith that represents the true restoration spirit" (p. 139). He seeks to help us "discover unconventional forms for refreshed religious expression" (p. 138).
His confession about his relationship with Churches of Christ is found on page 141: "To tell the truth, my heart knew something was wrong years before my head caught on. I have never been comfortable with the sectarian rhetoric of the one true church.' Our exclusivism and isolationism seemed to me to stem from equal parts arrogance and insecurity." The reader of this volume will see a clear portrait of what the liberal change agents have in mind for the churches of our brotherhood. He will see just how far down the road the leading lights among them have already traveled. Bro. Woodroof is a well-educated man and a gifted writer. His advocacy of change is as eloquent as that of any man of their band. When the last shot has been fired and the smoke is cleared from the field of battle his name will be written large along side of Rubel Shelly, Lynn Anderson and Max Lucado. The question is, will it be on the list of those who were defeated or those who won the battle for the soul of the Churches of Christ?
His thesis is set forth on p. 9. "Central to this endeavor...is a willingness to...suggest it is possible to build a contemporary church that pleases God even if it does not look exactly like the church of the first or the nineteenth-century." He admits "Many of us are growing frustrated with a modern church that may look like the ancient church in the particulars but fails to function with anything like its power and life-changing dynamic. Some are beginning to ask whether it might be possible to be the Church of Christ today without the focus on forms that have become our hallmark?"
His intent is expressed on p. 18-19. "Some of us, reviewing the state of Churches of Christ at the dawn of the twenty-first century, are recognizing that drastic surgery is in order or else the patient may well expire on the table....For them the only kind of restoration worth pursuing has little to do with resuscitating ancient methods and much to do with recapturing an ancient vision of who God's people are and what business they are to be about. They no longer believe that the restoration of proper forms will ensure proper functioning in the church."
His liberal theology is reflected in the following lines. "It says, for example, that the church need not have either explicit mandate or permission for everything it wishes to do" (p. 25). Early on he declares "...I call into question our reliance on pattern theology..." (p. 29). "(Antioch) Christianity clearly establishes there never was the pattern' we have so vehemently asserted" (p. 143). "These Jewish Christians (Judaizers) were the first patternists' of the Christian faith. They had discovered-in those early, innocent years of the church in Jerusalema pattern for worshiping God..." (p. 162).
The goal of the change agents in general and Bro. Woodroof in particular is as follows: "That is a goal that has, I believe, the power to capture the children of the Restoration movement" (p. 21). These men are not content to transform their particular congregations into charismatic denominational churches. They see conquest and dominance of the entire brotherhood as their goal.
His contempt for the faith and worship of the church he grew up in and that his family has been part of is clearly expressed: "Clinging to old worship forms that cease calling us to a transforming experience of God in not faithfulness.' Indeed, it represents a greater threat to the church than the worship innovations' we have been taught to fear" (p. 71-72). The stand of our brethren on the following topics he labels as defense of mole-hills: Clerical titles, worship styles, organizational structures, our method of interpreting Scripture, the role of women, choirs, instrumental music, etc. (p. 120).
"Many of the practices and habits bequeathed to us by the church of our fathers have lost all connection to contemporary minds and hearts. Once-vivid forms, with the passing of time, have become dead ritual and mindless liturgy and instinctive tradition" (p. 135).
"The church must be constantly renovating its forms or innovating new forms that allow it to be God's living presence in this world" (p. 134).
He makes repeated, exaggerated or false criticisms of those preachers and churches who do not embrace his theology of change (p. 122). To him, our way of preaching and practicing the faith of Jesus is "beyond embarrassing. It is mortifying..."
As a well-trained false teacher is wont to do, he tries to disarm in advance anyone who would dare criticize his plan by shaming them into quietness. "Who can pay attention to the larger issues when policing the use of instruments requires such vigilance and concentration?" ( p. 123).
A major objective of these agents of change is to batter down our convictions regarding the use of instrumental music in worship. To do so they resort not to scripture arguments (those they don't have), but to special pleading. Their program is "a commitment to holiness and mercy and service. It has nothing to do with the musical forms we use in worship..." (p. 123-124).
Change agents like Bro. Woodroof are prone to unfounded assumptions. Note the following:
The Jerusalem church "was a congregation shaped as much by Moses and the customs of Israel as by Christ" (p.162)
"Jewish--Christian worship was virtually indistinguishable from the worship of orthodox Judaism" (p. 163)
"When at last, God forced the hand of the Jerusalem church and scattered those first Christians abroad" (p. 163.
The Holy Spirit had to "win from Peter the grudging concession" (emph. mine, jw) that Gentiles could be accepted into the church (p. 165).
Speaking of Antioch, he says, "In this church we have the first specific record of kosher food laws being ignored...by the Jewish Christians" (p. 165).
"Though we are told little about the manner in which the Antioch church worshipped, it is safe to assume that the forms used to express worship were drawn from their native culture rather than a Jewish one" (p. 165).
James and the elders of Jerusalem (agreed) "Gentiles would still be permitted to practice a different brand' of Christianity (emp. mine, jw). than Jerusalem Jews" (p. 171).
He assumes that the Ebionites (heretics of the late first and second centuries) "differed little from many of the first Jewish believers who populated the church in Jerusalem" (p. 172).
He assumes that David, on his own initiative, introduced instrumental music into the temple worship. He evidently is unfamiliar with II Chron. 29:25. Concerning those instruments, it says, "the commandment was of Jehovah by his prophets." But then, change agents are not known for their dependence on Scripture for their assertions.
His interpretation of the sins of Nadab and Abihu in offering the strange fire is remarkable. "The sin of Nadab and Abihu may have nothing to do with innovations' or some departure from specifically commanded procedures. Rather, the text (Lev. 10) suggests that the sin involved here was treating God and their important duties casually, carelessly" (p. 208). This sounds much like the interpretation gays give for the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. Rather than homosexuality, they say it was their lack of hospitality that God punished. When a man is intoxicated with the wine of liberalism, everything he views is distorted.
As I pored over the pages of Bro. Woodroof's book I was impressed with the thought, "Herein is clearly demonstrated the mind of a liberal change-agent. Bold and brazen, he is unashamedly determined to destroy the church as we have known her and from the rubble build a new one in his own image." Read it to know what they have in mind. As you do so, "Keep thine heart with all diligence" (Prov. 4:23), because the message of the book is deadly poison.
Is this Woodruff the preacher at Otter Creek in Nashville?
|December 17 2003, 11:10 AM |
Is this the one that preaces at Otter Creek in Nashville or is it his father? Thanks.
Re: Is this Woodruff the preacher at Otter Creek in Nashville?
|December 18 2003, 6:47 AM |
Tim Woodroof is a third generation preacher in Churches of Christ. He has ministered with congregations in Nebraska, Oregon, and Tennessee. He presently preaches for the Otter Creek Church of Christ in Nashville. He is also the author of Walk This Way (1999), a study of the Sermon on the Mount.
Otter Creek Church of Christ
5253 Granny White Pike
Nashville, Tennessee 37220 United States
E-mail Address: ottrcrk.aol.com
Web Site Address: http://www.ottercreek.org
THINGS YOU MUST KNOW ABOUT A Church That Flies [Otter Creek] and
Tim Woodroofs Message: A New Call to Restoration in the Churches of Christ
Vicki Atnip Administrative Assistant for the Youth & Children's Ministries
Melanie Brown, Associate Children's Minister
Janet Crothers, Children's Minister
Kay Duncan, Bookkeeper
Trina Gehl, Communications Coordinator
Scott Owings, Minister of Spiritual Formation
Emma Phillips, Administrative Assistant
Lee Ann Rice, Church Administrator
David Rubio, Youth Minister
Steve Sherman, Missionary in Residence
Brandon Scott Thomas, Music Minister
Tim Woodroof, Senior Minister
Major Responsibilities of the Music Minister
Leading the Body in worship that is designed to glorify Jesus, & be transformative for the Church
Serving the 60+ people involved in the music ministry in a pastoral nature by leading, encouraging, and equipping
Planning for major events (musicals, concerts, plays) surrounding Christmas & Easter
Organizing and executing our Summer Life Series. This includes special speakers, concerts, family event nights & evenings highlighting VBS & Camp
Encouraging a broader spectrum of Churches and the community through the ZOE Worship ministry (National and local seminars and worship recordings)
A word from Brandon ... It's that excitement that fuels me to go and share on a more national level with ZOE.
Major Responsibilities of the Senior Minister
Ministers the Word through preaching, teaching, and writing
Leads the Ministry Team to encourage focused, effective efforts
Works with elders on visioning and planning
Facilitates communication and problem-solving with congregation
Counsels on spiritual, marital, and pre-marital issues
Encourages a wider range of Christians through speaking, writing, and holding conferences
A word from Tim ... The validity of my wider work (writing, speaking) is rooted in an authentic ministry here at Otter Creek.
[The Senior Minister and the Ministry Team must increase and we, the elders, must decrease. There is a web page for each of the ministry team members with pictures and detailed job specifications and other information. There is not a single page for any or all of us, the elders of the congregationsome web formatting of the Change Movement era that is similar to those of a number of transformed churches of Christ. We work with humility behind the scenes. Hopefully, one of these days, well occupy even half of a page that lists all the elders nameseven without pictures and telephone numbers and e-mail addresses. (by Donnie Cruz)]
|This message has been edited by ConcernedMembers from IP address 18.104.22.168 on Dec 18, 2003 8:20 AM|
|December 18 2003, 8:43 AM |
From what I can see from Mr. Waddey's review adn the comments from the Otter Creek Church of Christ website is that this is the kind of church that Madison wants to turn into.
I guess my question is this, why doesn't Otter Creek get as much attention as Woodmont Hills?
|July 17 2007, 1:14 AM |
Does anyone know how to reach Trina Gehl? I am a childhood friend and have been unable to reach her. Thanks, Leslie
VOICES OF CONCERN WERE VOICES OF CHANGE
|December 28 2003, 1:19 AM |
VOICES OF CONCERN WERE VOICES OF CHANGE
Forty years ago a diabolic attack on the Lord's church was published under the title Voices of Concern. The editor of the volume was Robert Meyers, then minister of the Riverside Church of Christ in Wichita, KA. The contributing authors were men and women once connected with the Church of Christ, who had separated from it. It was published and distributed by Carl Ketcherside's Mission Messenger of St. Louis. The 17 articles ranged from bitter tirades against the church, her message and her people by those who had rejected the Scripture as their authority, to the pitiful meanderings of the ignorant and confused. Since there was a general pattern observable in all of the writings, the following review as applicable to all.
THE MESSAGE OF THE CONTRIBUTORS CONSIDERED
OUR REACTION TO VOICES OF CONCERN
- They were convinced that the Church of Christ is thoroughly legalistic. "...the object of Church of Christ concern is all too often a God of legalism rather than a God of love..." (Charles Warren, p. 200). "The scriptures were ...not written to be complete descriptions of anything or blue prints" (p. 39). "Why should the church of the twentieth century want to be like the one of the first? (p. 40). "This system (legalism j.w.) is a code of requirement, or what is often called "the plan of salvation" (p. 41). "Legalism sees sin as a violation of the written code" (p. 41). (All the above quotes are from J. P. Sanders). What he really means is, he objects to the command, "if any many speak, let him speak as the oracles of God" (I Pet. 4:11). Also he resents the fact that "sin is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4).
- They rejected the Bible as the verbally inspired Word of God. Nine of them expressed their loss of confidence in the Bible as a work of divine perfection. "I came to realize that rather than making the Bible alive, the verbal inspiration theory was killing the message of the Bible" (Logan Fox, p. 19). Even after his loss of faith, Bro. Fox continued to circulate among our churches.
- They felt that, "The Church of Christ should admit the reality of their denominational status and humbly confess the possibility that they might be wrong in belief and practice" (Ralph V. Graham, p. 140).
- They insisted that we should give up the idea of trying to restore New Testament Christianity. "Restorationism as advocated by the Churches of Christ is unhealthy...as a way of life." "Restorationism is irrelevant to man's needs" (Graham, p. 139).
- They argued that we should cease to object to the use of instrumental music in worship. According to them, " while it is most likely that the first church did not use instruments of music in their worship, (they are) not convinced on that account that it is wrong" (Wm. Reedy, p. 241).
- They insisted that the Church of Christ inhibited their intellectual inclinations. "The free man questions, tries, tests. He acknowledges no authority to which he does not freely consent as internalized truth. He is subject to no control above his own conscience. He does not obey because it is commanded, but because it is the way of truth and wisdom" (N. L. Parks, p. 80-81). "I did not have the feeling of personal security to enable me to speak freely of my doubts and growing disbeliefs" (Cecil Franklin), p. 78).
- They resented being pressured for their changing attitudes. "Looking back, I can see clearly how my studies, working experiences and association with believers of different denominations led me...into a ...broader Christian commitment than the restricted liberty afforded me in the Churches of Christ. Being quite outspoken in my preaching, talk, and writings, I found the restrictions placed on my freedom of expression intolerably frustrating. I and my congregation became subjected to the West Berlin type of isolation because of my views." (Graham, p. 129-130).
- They wanted to stay and help us see and accept their new found light, and were sad that they could not do so. "I have felt that if I am right and they are wrong, then instead of leaving them, I should share with them what I believe" (Fox. p. 25). "This book pleads with the Church of Christ to spare such men the agony of separation by creating an atmosphere in which independent minds may feel at home" (Meyers, p. 2).
- According to them, we should join the movement for ecumenical unity. "They should be willing to let consensus of rational opinion of all Christian scholars of whatever church and age be the decisive factor in matters of interpreting the Bible" (Graham, p. 141).
- They wanted us to believe they all love us and sincerely want to save us from our self-destruction. "I have no intention of leaving them so long as one of the churches is free enough to hear such compassionate strictures as fill the pages of this book" (Meyers, p. 262). Their hope was that this book would "so alter conditions that no other volume of this kind would ever need be written." (back dust cover). "Viewed sociologically or scripturally, the Church of Christ is not the church of Christ. Its members in a sense are neither Christian only' nor the only Christians'" (Parks, p. 84). "The church of Christ appears then as a lower middle class phenomenon on the make' at the socio-economic level" (Parks p. 73).
- We should be frightened because, according to them, almost all of our young intellectuals were leaving us and thousands of our members were clamoring for a change. "Many in the church of Christ are completely unaware of how many intelligent, compassionate Christian men and women have departed from them in search of freedom from dogma" (Meyers, p. 2). "Thousands are restless and dissatisfied with the aridity of exclusivism and authoritarianism" (Meyers, p. 3).
- We were already suffering from an incurable disease and they predicted we would soon be completely out of business. "There are many indications that the Church of Christ is showing signs of decadence and that it is running a marathon race with catastrophe...there is little manifest interest by those from without" (Carl Etter, p. 110). Etter's prediction was originally made in 1945. "Our system has had its day and we are even now, poised between two worlds" (Meyers, p. 261).
- They hoped that we would not seek to answer their charges, but accept them and adjust accordingly. "Those who read the contributions with a spirit of retaliation will miss its very tenor and mistake its real purpose" (back dust cover).
Considering the above, those familiar with God's word and loyal to it would agree that Voices of Concern are Voices of Apostasy! These people are apostates, like Judas who betrayed Christ; like Phygellus and Hermogenes who turned away from the apostle; like Demas who forsook Paul, like Hymenaeus and Alexander who blasphemed; like Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who concerning the truth have erred...whose words eat like gangrene; and a host of others who went astray down through the years.
"They went out from us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us: but they went out that they might be made manifest that they all are not of us" (I John 2:19). We should not be overly concerned because apostates have criticisms to make of the Lord's church.
Can we really expect them to have a favorable attitude towards that which have rejected? A guilty conscience compels them to discredit the church and its ministers, to somehow justify themselves and ease their sense of shame. Instead of being a great tragedy that they left us, we are much better off that they did. "For there must be factions among you that they that are approved may be made manifest among you" (I Cor. 11:19). Now we see their true colors! We should be most concerned about those who are still among us as traitors and subversives (Acts 20:29-31).
In reading the book, it is obvious that almost all of the contributors lost their faith in the Bible as the inspired Word of God and absolute authority in Christianity. This happened before their exodus. Nine of the seventeen writers frankly states or implied their rejection of this fundamental doctrine. This is well illustrated in their complaints and charges. Virtually none of them are substantiated by scriptural proof. Few Biblical reference adorns the pages of this book. I note some 28 references or allusions in its 263 pages.
Like the sectarians of the past, they had a burning, unyielding desire to make the church of Christ into a denomination such as they had gone into. Misery loves company.
Their smug assurance that the church of Christ, as it had existed for the last 200 years, was finished was humorous. Especially since in the same year in which their book was published, a news release announced that the Church of Christ was the fastest growing body in the country. No doubt there were bitter tears when they were confronted with this information. One is led to wonder how a poor, ignorant, legalistic bunch, as they describe us, managed to effect such a thing?
Editor Meyers claimed to be a minister of the Church of Christ. His production and encouragement of this diabolic attack on the Lord's church, the inspiration of the Bible and the doctrine of Christ marked him as one who bid them Godspeed and was thus a partaker of their evil deeds (II John 11). He was a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Carl Ketcherside's endorsement and praise of this book pointed out his true inclination. He desired to stay among us and wear the same name, but he had long since departed from the principle of restoring New Testament Christianity.
It is interesting to note the repeated references of the writers to their class as the most brilliant, intelligent and sensitive among us. Assuming their judgment to be right, I summon Paul to express the divine observation, "Behold your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh...are called; but God choose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise...that no flesh should glory before God" (I Cor. 1:26-29). No doubt this must be one of those areas where they had discovered the Bible to be errant!
Looking about, I wonder, where are the thousands who were waiting for the chance to grab their new liberal posture? Some of Carl Ketcherside's disciples went go that route. The Christian Churches were going that way. An occasional congregation among us has been subverted by men like those of this book. However, I fear their "thousands" was a wishful dream of their apostate minds.
ADMONITIONS FOR MY BRETHREN
- We should profit from the criticisms of this book. Negative preaching must be balanced with the positive and constructive message of the gospel. Doctrinal righteousness, to the neglect of the practical righteousness, is of the same category as faith without works.
- Cold, lifeless, ritualistic worship is not the New Testament kind. A warm and genuine spiritual love must fill our lives and worship.
- Smugness, self-righteousness and a refusal to listen, consider and study with those who have questions should not be our practice. Sometimes we show a lack of genuine interest and concern for those who have doubts. Some of them might possibly be salvaged if someone cared enough to teach them the way of the Lord more perfectly (Acts 18:26).
- The charge of political maneuvering and undue power being exercised by some few in the church must be frankly considered and corrected. Service must be the measure of greatness (Matt. 20:26).
- The fact that most of these men are graduates of Christian Colleges should be sufficient warning to the administrators that there might be a serious deficiency in the methods, manner and content of their Bible education program. "Take heed to thyself and they doctrine" (I Tim. 4:16), is a timely warning.
- Remember, many of these men have been connected with the teaching staffs of our schools, or desired to be. We must beware. We cannot allow the death shroud of "academic freedom" settle over our schools and shield those who would corrupt the faith of our students..
- All of these men had educational experiences at state or sectarian schools of higher learning. Educational degrees are no assurance of the soundness and quality of a preacher. Even a degree from our schools is no guarantee.
Know the man, know what he believes; first hand, before he is employed
- Five of these men left the Lord's church for the Christian Churches. Is this not because of a weakness in teaching and attitude on our part, concerning the Christian Churches? They are not our brethren! Surely a hundred years is enough for the Lord to remove their candlestick (Rev. 2:5). They have progressed to a full denominational stance. They admit this. We have no more in common with them than we do with other Protestant bodies. There is far more between us than an instrument of music! The authors of this book seemingly never learned that lesson. We need more instruction noting the differences between us and that body of people.
- They would liked to have stayed among us and shared their new found faith (or lack there of) with us. This should serve as a warning to the brotherhood today. Some who no longer share our faith are yet among us. They are spreading their error among our people. I "tell you even weeping that they are enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is perdition! (Phil. 3:18-19a).
That which was a small problem 40 years ago is now a major problem. The unbelief of those voices of concern has now spread across the face of our brotherhood. Today's agents of change are the lineal descendants of those past apostates. The objections of this book are synonymous with those of our promoters of change. Now, rather than departing, they are strongly entrenched among us. Brethren, we are under siege. Turning our heads or closing our eyes will not save us. The lines must be clearly drawn. Acting now will save us the disaster of a major apostasy and schism. Weakness, procrastination and compromise will be catastrophic. Better to lose a few apostates now than many later-on.
|This message has been edited by ConcernedMembers from IP address 22.214.171.124 on Dec 28, 2003 1:09 PM|
COME TO THE TABLE (A Review)
|January 4 2004, 12:57 AM |
COME TO THE TABLE (A Review)
Dr. John Mark Hicks is professor of theology at David Lipscomb University. His Ph.D. is from Westminster Theological Seminary. In this book, he has given us the latest chapter in the ever- evolving "change" theology that has captivated many of our young intellectuals. The book is the result of his "revisioning" the Lord's Supper. His thesis is, "Their supper (that of the early church) was home-based, a full meal with food and drink, and interactive fellowship at a table and characterized by joyous celebration" (p. 9). To put the book in proper context, readers should note that Dr. Hicks was active in a "Community Church" experiment while living in Memphis. Currently he is closely associated with Dr. Rubel Shelly and the Woodmont Hills Family of God in Nashville. That church served as his laboratory for testing his new concept of communion. When one has read this book he may well agree that Dr. Hicks and those of his kindred in the "change brotherhood" are much like the ancient Athenians. They "spend their time in nothing else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing" (Acts 17:21).
In general, the book is reflective of Hick's training and station as a theologian. In terms of readability and comprehension, this means that the average disciple, not trained in theological jargon, will not fathom a good 80 percent of what he says. The author is also a university professor. Readers will find his method and style dull and repetitious. For slow readers, or those loathe to read such materials, they can read his concluding chapter wherein he summarizes his twelve points for revisioning the Lord's Supper.
- In that he repeats his thesis that the "supper is a table rather than an altar" (p. 185). He evidently has us confused with the Catholic Church for it is their priests who observe the sacrifice of the mass. Our brethren have never done so.
- He insists that the "Lord's supper is a meal eaten at a table," not just "bread and wine" but a meal. "It is not the Lord's snack' but the Lord's supper," he says (p. 186). By this he means we should have a dinner meal with the usual provisions and then commune while thus engaged in the dining experience. Some folks read, "he took a cup" and insist that the communion wine must be served in that which has a handle. Some read "table" and insist that there must be a sit down table in order to commune. Strange, unfounded thinking.
- To Dr. Hicks, the Supper is "more than a mere symbol. It is a genuine communion with God through Jesus Christ in the Spirit. God is present at the table" (p. 187). In this he is remarkably close to Luther's notion that the emblems become the real flesh and blood of Jesus when taken.
- The supper should be "a time for sharing, prayer and conversation about what God has done for us... (p. 188). Earlier he calls it a "Jubilee festival" (p. 63). He would have it observed with "resounding jubilation or enthusiastic outbursts" (p. 97).
- He likes to say that we have "evoked images of blood and gore at the supper and participants feel guilty if they do not concentrate on the cross and Christ's death as they eat and drink" (p. 189). Paul, who did not have the privilege of studying at a modern seminary, taught that the Lord ordained bread and fruit of the vine to be taken in remembrance of his body and blood. In so doing we proclaim the Lord's death. He taught that eating and drinking the emblems in an unworthy manner would make us, "guilty of the body and blood of the Lord" (I Cor. 11:23-29). But Dr. Hicks believes that the supper is "focused on the resurrection of Jesus rather than the death of Christ" (p. 189).
- According to Hicks, the church should "revision the supper as a socio-ethical witness through shared food" (p.189). He sees it as "an example of economic ethics" as "the meal served the poor in the Christian community" (p. 190) and those of the world as well. "The church...should invite the poor, the disenfranchised and the outsider to share food with them as a witness to the grace of God" (p. 190).
- To Hicks, we should revision the supper as a moment of inclusiveness that transcends all cultural, ethnic and gender boundaries" (p. 191). Already we commune with any Christian man or woman of any race or station in life. But he means more. He wants the women to participate in the teaching and serving related to the observance of the supper. He faults those churches where "only men may serve the table" (p. 79).
- Bro. Hicks tells us, "At the table we ...we mutually pledge to "be there" for each other...we mutually commit to give our lives for each other..." (p. 191). This is one of the many new discoveries Dr. Hicks has made regarding the Lord's Supper. But he did not find them in the Bible.
- We should "revision the supper as the participation of all except the rebellious." By "all" he means whether they are Christians or not. Only rebellious sinners should not be invited. They need not even be believers in Christ. He reasons, "we do not exclude guests from singing, hearing the gospel or giving, and neither should we exclude them from the table" (p. 192). Per his logic even Hindus and Buddhists and others should share the holy feast just so they are not rebels to God.
- Per this book, we should "revision the supper as a family event, including children." "They are on the journey of faith, and the supper will shape the growth and development of that faith" (p. 192). If this logic be correct, would not baptism also be a learning event to shape the growth and development of children's faith? If not why?
- Dr. Hicks acknowledges that his plan is "difficult because it creates dissonance between ourselves and our immediate heritage. It is difficult because its implementation is fraught with logistic, practical and communal problems" (p. 194). And we would add it is fraught with Biblical problems. But such means little to the promoters of change who have already displaced Biblical authority with their own standards. It is also certain to cause strife and division when men try to implement such practices among those who know and love the Truth of God.
- Jesus asked "When the son of man cometh will he find faith in the earth?" (Lk. 18:8). Hicks has a different version. He asks, When the Son of Man returns, "Will he find a church sitting at table with each other, sharing their food, embodying the values of the gospel, and waiting for the Messianic banquet?" (p. 195).
In general, the reader will note that Dr. Hicks employs a new brand of hermeneutics to reach his conclusions. For example, he seems to make no distinction between the Old and New Covenants. He sees the O.T. festivals as a communion service and thus we are to model our Lord's Supper after them (p. 47). "Eating the Lord's Supper is analogous to eating Israel's sacrifices" (p. 47). He finds Christ sharing communion with people before he instituted the Lord's Supper. For every passage that speaks of Christ eating with anyone is, according to him, part of the communion story. Of course since the text does not imply his conclusions, he assures us it is found in the "theological meaning." "The table during Jesus ministry continues in the church when his disciples gather at the table. Jesus' table etiquette is kingdom etiquette..." (p. 63). The new hermeneutic even allows him to make the meal eaten by Paul and the hungry, storm-tossed mariners a communion (p. 201). Why has it taken the world so long to discover this new system? Another discovery is that "the Lord's Supper...was not a mere corporate worship ritual, but the daily experience of worship...in a community of disciples who ate their "common" food together" (p. 91). He also finds it acceptable to describe the supper as "sacraments" (p. 104).
As change agents are wont to do, he first reaches his conclusion then looks for supporting facts to prove his case. It seems not to bother him that to do so he must compare apples with oranges. For example, Jesus provided fish and bread for the five thousand (Luke 9:10-17), therefore we should have a meal for communion (p.57-58). Since those meal stories are the "theological basis" for communion, would it bother the author if someone proposed buttermilk and cornbread with our communion? While one of the first principles of the change gospel is that there is no pattern for the faith, worship, organization and work of the church, Dr. Hicks quotes with approval, criticism of folks like us for not returning to the "New Testament patterns" he thinks he has found (p.137). Contrary to most change agents, the author appeals to the law of silence to prove his point, but only in reference to the Didache, an uninspired document from the early church. Regarding the document's reference to the Lord Supper, Hicks notes, "Strikingly absent is any reference to the body and blood of Christ, or the traditional words of institution..."(p. 130).
Those brethren who cannot see or hear evil in the doctrines of the change agents, should know that in Hicks' view "the essence of the modern supper (our communion, jhw) is suspect because it has lost its table... (meal) form" (p. 121). "(T)he modern church dangerously distorts the supper..." (p. 126).
A similar view of the supper had arisen in the church in Corinth. In his rebuke of their practice, Paul asked, "What have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God..." (I Cor. 11:22). For those who know God's Word and love and respect it, the simple noting of Dr. Hicks' teaching on the sacred Supper is sufficient to demonstrate his faulty thinking. Perhaps you will agree that it is truly amazing what a fellow can learn at a seminary!
|This message has been edited by ConcernedMembers from IP address 126.96.36.199 on Jan 4, 2004 1:35 PM|
Re: COME TO THE TABLE (A Review)
|January 4 2004, 3:25 PM |
I'm sorry to say that I must disagree with you, Mr. Waddey.
Dr. Hicks teaches Theology of the Church and Systematic Biblical Doctrine, as well as Psalms, Deuteronomy, and other Bible classes (not just theology, as you previously stated), and he does a fine job of each.
The followers of Christ didn't sit in silence and bow their heads while passing around a little tray of matzo crackers or little discs of unleavened bread while sipping little cups of grape juice. The communion service described in the New Testament is not that small. You see it described almost everywhere as "breaking bread" and as "a feast". Most people that I know don't consider a quarter inch piece of cracker as a feast. Perhaps you do, but I don't know.
The verse that the church of Christ uses as the time of observance is Acts 20:7. I've seen so many posts on here that say things are taken out of context; however, this is one that seems to be MORE out of context than just about anything else I've seen. The ultracons want to do what they always do -- take out the part of the verse that defends their cause and throw the rest out. The WHOLE verse says, "On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight." Now, if that means we have to take communion every week, then whoever's preaching better keep on going until midnight, or we're disobeying the "direct command" central to the church of Christ dogma!
As for younger people (and the unbaptized) taking part in the Lord's Supper, what's actually wrong with it? There's nothing in the Bible that says the disciples or members of the church had to be baptized before they could partake.
Just because it's a church of Christ tradition does not make it Godly or right.
|January 4 2004, 9:21 PM |
The Meaning of the Fellowship Meal
John Mark Hicks: Several features characterize the fellowship meals of Israel. First, it is a moment of communion between God and his people. God eats with his people as the fat is burned to him.
God is present at this meal. It is eaten before the Lord as if God sits at the table with the worshipper. Thus, worshippers eat with assurance, thanksgiving and confidence as they experience communion with God in this meal. God comes to the table with his people as he calls them to a table to experience his communion.
It is a fact that Jesus fired the Doctors of the Law: they were so BLIND that they thought that the SACRIFICIAL SYSTEM would continue. Therefore, John Hicks is consistent with the REST OF THE BAND in attempting to make EVERYTHING CHRISTIAN into everything PRE-CHRISTIAN.
I don't know where John got the VISIONARY REVELATION that Paul compared the Lord's Supper to the SACRIFICIAL festivals of Judaism. These sacrifices were based on their LOSTNESS having repudiated God and been turned over to a NATIONAL festival. However, the FAT was for the Levitical priests. As Bruce White Judaizes with the PRIESTS demanding TITHES most of the TROUBLERS attempt to define their PATTERNISM by repudiating the sacrifice of Christ:
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Ro.14:17
The VISION of the Lord's Supper as feeding God denies the fact that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ has ended all sacrifices and symbols. The praise or fruit of the lips has REPLACED literal sacrificial meals.
THE ORIGIN IN BABYLON: NOT IN THE BIBLE
The idea of FEEDING, clothing, housing, singing to and having sex with him/her is raw end-time Babylon Harlot Worship. Because of ISRAEL'S "sitting DOWN to eat and RISING UP TO PLAY in musical idolatry, God TURNED them over to worship the pagan "gods." Therefore, the FIRST attempt to share their TABLE with their god had them SHARING FOOD WITH DEMONS.
"On the assumption that he is to be identified with the Philistine god, Lagrange thinks the idea is derived from the special prerogative of Beelzebub as fly-chaser (chasse-mouche). In the Babylonian epic of the deluge, "the gods gather over the sacrificer like flies" (see Driver, Genesis, 105). It was easy for the heathen Semites, according to Lagrange, to come to conceive of the flies troubling the sacrifice as images of spirits hovering around with no right to be there; and so Beelzebub, the god who drove away the flies, became the prince of demons in whose name the devils were exorcised from the bodies of the possessed.
THIS IS WHERE THEY ASSUMED THAT A SPIRIT GOD WOULD EAT WITH THEM EVEN IN "COMMUNION."
I appointed a sacrifice on top of the mountain peak'
Seven by seven I arranged the sacrificial vessels;
Beneath them I piled reeds, cedar wood, and myrtle.
The gods smelled the savor,
The gods smelled the sweet savor.
The gods above the sacrificer collected like flies.
When at length the queen of the gods drew near,
She raised the great bows which An at her wish had made.
"O ye gods, as I shall not forget the jewel of my neck
These days I shall not forget--to eternity I shall remember!
Let the gods come to the SACRIFICE,
Ken, I broke down and bought this book: it just grasps verses and NARRATES a theology of the Lord's Supper right out of vapors. I am ashamed that people will PAY to be misled.
|This message has been edited by ConcernedMembers from IP address 188.8.131.52 on Jan 5, 2004 8:15 AM|
COME TO THE TABLE to EAT fat with GOD?
|January 5 2004, 12:04 PM |
Jeremy, I think that you are just a SEED PICKER: but the message will get through WITH your help.
Jesus sent the Apostles/Evangelists OUT to preach the Gospel. He didn't send them out to make CANAANITES or CAINITE worshipers. He said to:
MAKE DISCIPLES by
Baptizing AND Teaching what had been taught
Peter DID this by telling ALREADY-BELIEVERS to repent AND be baptized AND
Jesus said MY WORDS are SPIRIT and LIFE (John 6:63)
Receiving A holy spirit or A clear conscience or CONSCIOUSNESS meant A co-perception given to DISCIPLES. ALL of the history of baptism proves that one simply COULD NOT be an unbaptized DISCIPLE
Proseltes and TRADE DISCIPLES clearly understood this to mean that the MASTER fabric washer (baptizer) would NEVER teach you his trade secrets or MYSTERIES until you had been baptized to become HIS student "like a little child."
Now, we have it: A DISCIPLE is a BAPTIZED believer who has turned from the OLD TRADE (an unbaptized guitarIST was excluded from the church of Christ in the Apostolic Constitutions written under the name CHURCH OF CHRIST about a.d. 205). They have gained CITIZENSHIP in the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus ADDED those being SAVED by obedience at BAPTISM to the CHURCH or SYNAGOGUE which is HIS BODY and His kingdom.
A DISCIPLE is a student of Christ. Therefore, we need to show you FROM THE BIBLE that Paul as a PREACHER dialoged or communed with his STUDENTS: he did not lecture out of his training in THEOLOGY OF CHURCH--whatever that means in commercial religio.
The DISCIPLES were identified as CHRISTIANS at Antioch as a major sender of evangelists--OUT.
Jesus Christ and the Bible clearly show that ONLY baptized believers are identified as CHRISTIANS. Even Max Lucado has to confess that the Bible knows of NO unbaptized "believer."
The very meaning of baptism FOR the remission of sins means that the apprentice "striking to BECOME a Tentmaker" would be grouped with the presumptious insane if he said: "I don hav ta be BAPTIZED: God gave me the GIFT and exempted ME from needing to be a STUDENT since God has predestinated me to salvation."
Believer's baptism REJECTS the ONCE sacrifice of Christ which, they hallucinate, was ONLY for the JEWS. "Now, God PREDESTINATES me to be SAVED: Now, HE must come (as in the Mass) and DIE ALL OVER AGAIN just for me so the MEMBERS will ADD me to the church." Believer's Baptism is a pagan baptism, repudiates the CROSS of the first century and identifies those who HAVE FAITH by believing the WORDS OF GOD as "A SATANIC CULT."
Jesus promised to EAT and DRINK with the disciples IN THE KINGDOM which is the HEAVENLY REALM of those ADDED to the church.
Heb 12:18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,
Heb 12:19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:
Heb 12:22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
Heb 12:23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven , and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect ,
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. Col.1:18
And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, Re.1:5
Heb 12:24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
Heb 12:25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:
Teleios (g5046) tel'-i-os; from 5056; complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); neut. (as noun, with 3588) completeness: - of full age, man, perfect.
The early CHURCH obeyed the direct command of Jesus: their HYMNING or PSALMING was TO GOD and not a SEEKER-SUCKER-STRATEGY. They went into PRIVATE PLACES to eat the Lord's Supper and considered the WATCHERS unworthy to enter into the "most holy place" alone with God. I am afraid that the THRILLS AND CHILLS are to REAP worship for the INSTITUTION and the PERFORMING CLERGY (women presiding OVER with a TUNE) which is assuredly NOT a synagogue of Christ.
The ARIANS were the first to make singing men and women into a PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION as an "evangelistic" tool to DENY that Jesus was God made manifest. I truly believe that OUTING theatrical performance to replace Lord Jesus Christ as the IN PRIVATE or IN SPIRIT Mediator in the quiet and dark Most Holy Place of OUR SPIRITS made perfect. John Mark Hicks and the other Judaizers trying to turn it into a JUBILEE simply has been BLINDED by the light of Jesus as PROPHESIED and therefore peddles STRONG DELUSIONS. It HAS NO relationship to A church of Christ. When God POURS OUT HIS SPIRIT in WRATH, He makes people into BUFFOONS speaking gibberish.
|This message has been edited by ConcernedMembers from IP address 184.108.40.206 on Jan 5, 2004 3:29 PM|
Response to Jeremy re: COME TO THE TABLE (A Review)
|January 6 2004, 3:47 PM |
Dear Bro. Jeremy:
Thank you for taking time to write and share with me your thoughts about communion.
First of all I remind you that my review was not a discussion of which courses Dr. Hicks teaches at Lipscomb University, but of the ideas he has set forth in his book, "Come to the Table."
Second by simply calling me or other brethren "ultracons" meaning ultra conservatives, you do not establish your case. Only if you can substantiate your ideas by God's Word will it stand. If it is based only on your feelings, human reasoning, denominational practices, etc. it will not stand the test.
Third the point of discussion about the scriptural way to commune is not whether we drink fruit of the vine from one cup or many, nor is it whether the cups are small or large. The only salient point is why do we drink? Jesus said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me" (I Cor. 11:25). Nowhere do we read that Christ taught, nor that early Christians understood it to be part of a common meal on a festive occasion. That is where human thinking runs contrary to God's revealed will. The size of the piece of bread we eat in the memorial is not the point of issue. If a congregation wished to have a large quantity of bread so all could have a bigger bite, there would be no criticism. But if you partake to fill you belly, you would have missed the point of the communion. After eating the Passover supper Jesus instituted the sacred memorial (Luke. 22:20). Paul rebuked the Christians in Corinth because they were mixing the communion with their common meals. He asked, "What have ye not houses to eat and to drink in" or despise ye the church of God..." (I Cor. 11:20-22). Being a memorial, whether we eat and drink a little or a lot, is not the point. The point is are you doing it for the prescribed purpose?
Your treatment of Acts 20:7 reveals much about you and your thinking. First you say "the church of Christ uses" this verse for the time of their observance. This implies that you no longer consider yourself a part of the church of Christ.
Second you say we take it out of context. Perhaps you could explain from this text why the disciples assembled that day? Why did Paul tarry seven days before his departure from Troas? When they broke the bread that day, what did they do? What day is the first day? Is there a difference in eating food for the belly and partaking of the Lord's Supper? Is this distinction made where you worship?
You evidently do not think that weekly communion is necessary, or that communion should be limited to that day. Since such is the universal practice of churches of Christ and the early Christians, why do you not go to a church that observes it after that fashion? Many denominational bodies could be found with such a view.
Third, your statement that since Paul preached until midnight, we must do the same if we are going to commune on the first day. This reveals that you are in desperate need of a good course in Hermeneutics, i.e., to study and understand the Bible. Specifically you need to learn to discern between things that are incidental and things that are essential.
Your railing against church of Christ traditions proves nothing. No church of Christ has closed communion. We do not interrogate those who commune. Rather we follow the Scripture that says, "Wherefore let a man examine himself, and so let him eat..." (I Cor. 11:28). We base our belief that the communion is for those who are Christians on Luke 22:29-30 where the Master said, "I appoint unto you a kingdom...that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom..." The kingdom of Christ is his church (Matt. 16:18). The only table and eating that are part of the kingdom is the Lord's Supper. It is for those in his kingdom.
The tone and content of your letter reveal that you are already under the influence of those who are promoting unscriptural changes for the Lord's church. I suspect you don't even realize what it is they are leading you into. I plead with you as a brother in Christ not to allow your teachers to poison you against the church for which Christ died. That you will open the sacred book and fill your mind with those eternal truths and let them guide you as you serve the Master.
Yours in Christ,