Thank you Tim for writing because it has made me think about where I am, where the church is, and where God may want us to be.
First of all, I disagree with an underlying theme of your message, that there is a unified broad set of principles that are completely consistent, or at least were completely consistent throughout the churches of Christ. Due to the autonomous nature of our churches that is impossible. Only if there was a hierarchical structure that enforced a certain creed, would that be even a possibility. Many of the journals within the brotherhood were started because of disagreements between different influential members of the church. While the variations that exist today may be more extreme, they are nothing new. Indeed, nothing is new under the sun.
Even in the first century, variation of what was acceptable within the churches was a struggle. The church in Rome varied greatly from the church in Jerusalem simply due to the Roman or Jewish influences. The New Testament has stories of Christians who didnt see eye to eye, whether it be eating certain meat, celebrating holidays, circumcision or who baptized you. The answers given in scripture werent always a required monolithic lock-step behavior of believers.
However, I do believe that there is a set of core beliefs that must be kept. The following set of beliefs is not comprehensive, just a good start: God created the heavens and the earth. Jesus is the Son of God. He came to earth, was crucified for our sins, and was resurrected on the third day. The Bible should be our only guide to determine what Gods will is for us.
I know of no one who believes that the church of Christ is all wrong. I believe from the most conservative to the most liberal church there are many tenets that we are all in agreement. The bigger questions are what are fundamental core beliefs and what are true disputable matters. The few articles I have seen on disputable matters list items such as time or length of worship service, order of worship, number of songs and the like. The problem with a list like this is that none of these are in dispute. Only the very argumentative would dispute by singing one less song or if the minister preached for 5 extra minutes that a church was no longer scriptural.
Not all change is good. We do not need to embrace every shiny new idea that comes down the pike. But if God fearing people like Stone and Campbell or even Luther and Wycliff did not see problems in their respective churches and risk change, it is unlikely that the brotherhood of the churches of Christ would exist today.
Over the years, my opinion has changed over a number of principles that were common in the church of Christ of my youth: King James is the only version that should be used, interracial dating is wrong, the six days of creation must be taken literally as six 24 hour days, among others. But if you and I have come to different conclusions on these and other topics, must we also disfellowship each other? Often it is stated that one hasnt studied enough, or is deceived, or sometimes even evil
could it not be that two Godly people or elderships study an issue and come to different conclusions?
So many of our disagreements occur over style of worship which precious little is mentioned in the New Testament. Dont you think there is a reason why the word sing is found less than ten times in the New Testament but love is found over 250 times? What are we emphasizing? Must every church come down on the same side of issues like Sunday School, clapping, or even praise teams to stay in fellowship? Especially when none of these things are even remotely addressed in scriptures. I have read arguments for and against these issues. I agree with some but have found none to be definitive. Do some churches struggle with turning worship service into entertainment? Yes! Do some churches struggle with immorality? Yes! Do some churches struggle with greed? Yes! Do some struggle with losing their first love? Yes! Do some churches struggle with pride in who they are like the Pharisee praying at the temple? Yes, and it may be all the same church, be it liberal or conservative! But can we not stay in fellowship as we struggle together to do Gods will?
I know of no church that has split where one side was innocent. Both sides are complicit in allowing Satan to divide the Lords church. We need to be very careful about divisions in the church. We need to examine ourselves that we are not still worldly with jealousy and quarrelling like Paul preaches against in 1 Cor. 3. I am not a Bible scholar and definitely do not have the answers to all the issues of the day. But I do not see how either side can be placed with the blame of being the hammer driving the wedge. The church of Christ is neither mine nor yours to keep, but is the Lord's. If the Lord is moving the church to change it will happen regardless of our theologies. However, if the changes happening now are not of God, He is able to maintain His church.
This website states as its purpose is to prevent churches from splitting. What I have found is that it has been used to make splits that have occurred to be as painful as possible. Not always, but often, I have seen how this website has been used by one side or the other to lash out at their former brothers. The level of smugness on both sides I found to be repulsive, even ungodly. Some of the discussions in the Sunday School in Exile section I have found to be informative and fruitful. I enjoyed debating with Dr. Crump (and others), whom I respect and have found to be respectful, about the movie The Passion of the Christ. Unfortunately, most of the discussion stays in the churches section where many times it is dated, inaccurate, or just name-calling.
This is probably the last time I post on this website, since Ive pretty much concluded that most have taken sides and few minds are willing to engage in honest discussion about issues in dispute. Hopefully my comments will prompt what I believe would be more fruitful conversation.
Tim, you are more than welcome to use my comments, as long as they are used in the manner that they were given. If you plan to edit my comments, I would appreciate if you would send me the edited version for my approval. (Ill email you directly my email.)
I. Quoting Dave "Unified broad set of principles that are completely consistent, or at least were completely consistent throughout the churches of Christ."
RESPONSE: How many different congregations have you attended with the thought of making that congregation your home? I have attended 48 with this thought in mind. These 48 were in 5 different states. I found reason other than the basics not to attend - of which most was a lack of love - They all had the same basic believes that are what the church of Christ is known for:
a. GOD is "the" Father
b. JESUS is "the" SON
c. No man comes to the FATHER except through JESUS
d. the BIBLE is "the" word of GOD
e. the BIBLE is our "only" source for instructions from GOD and Man Made Doctrines are false
e. Baptism is a must for salvation
f. Musical instruments are not authorized for use in worship service
g. Leaders of the church are to be men and only men
h. Elders are to be selected from the congregation as the shepherds of the congregation.
i. Deacons assist the elders with specific duties being assigned to them
j. Preachers preach
k. The congregation members help with teaching, leading prayer, leading singing, etc
l. the Lords Supper is to be taken every Sunday in remembrance of JESUS
m. adding to the word of GOD is a sin
n. Worship service has a specific (detailed by GOD) acceptable format
o. but in all things The two greatest commandments are the most important.
This is what I believe TIM is speaking of.
Now we have many who have come among us who wish to change these things.
1. Instruments in Worship
2. Female elders, deacons, preachers, lead prayer, lead singing, etc
3. AND as a result they are adding to the "WORD of GOD"
To this I also add to the Question Tim asked " Why are they still here?" and "Why did they come among us?"
These items above are the "true" foundations of the church. Those who want these things changed are not wanting GOD's truth. They want man's truth and the two are not the same nor are they compatible.
JESUS himself said there is truth and non truth;
The Children of the Devil
John 8:42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? 47 He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."
Any one, including Tim or myself, that adds to or takes away from the word is adding to or taking away from "the" truth... GOD's truth and it is sin to do so.
I Corinthians 4: 6 "Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." "Do not go beyond" that means do not add too.
If a man (or woman) is not following GOD's word, if they are altering GOD's word, if they are not obedient to GOD's word, AND they refuse to change, they must be removed from GOD's church family before they corrupt others.
II. Quoting Dave - "I know of no church that has split where one side was innocent."
Because you don't know of this does not mean it didn't occur. Even in the situation that you know of personally. In every circumstance, when some one leaves or splits a church there is at least 1 side that is always wrong.
Separation from GOD's church is not healthy. Dividing or leaving a congregation is not healthy.
Regardless of who is innocent and who is guilty - the ones who are attempting to change GOD's instructions are wrong.
A preacher once said "While musical instruments in worship are not an issue of salvation - obedience is." AMEN! So I quote again - I Corinthians 4: 6 "Do not go beyond what is written."
III. Quoting Dave - "If the Lord is moving the church to change it will happen regardless of our theologies. However, if the changes happening now are not of God, He is able to maintain His church."
First -The LORD will NEVER move HIS church to a change that goes against the WORD HE has already printed - NEVER.
SECOND - We are his soldiers and we are NOT to allow changes that are against HIS word. If we stand by and let the lost become the leaders then we are as guilty as they are. Anyone who is deliberately, perpetually and arrogantly disobedient to GOD is lost. Any one. Baptized or not.
I'll not have my children and wife attend church anywhere that the absolute truth and nothing but the truth is observed, practiced and taught.
Make no mistake - I am not speaking of perfection or a lack of guilt. I am speaking of GOD's truth being the 100% desired goal. Seeking perfection in ourselves and others is guaranteed to fail. We can never be perfect BUT we can relentlessly pursue perfection and that's what teaching the absolute one and only truth is.
Members of the church of Christ, who want to add to what is written or take away from it, regardless of their reason, motivation, or influence need to repent,leave, or be asked to leave.
There are so many other religions that do any or all of these other things that they want, they don't need to cause dissension in the church of CHRIST by staying where they are - just leave.
I am a fifth generation member of the church yet I do not know the truth to be what it is because of this. I rebelled to the church's teaching believing that other religions had to be right too.
So until I was 24 years old I attended and even became a member of other religions and reluctantly, at 24 years old, walked into the church of Christ building because I knew that they taught the truth. EVERY other place I went did not.
The simple way to test the truth in any situation is:
1. ask a spiritual question
2. if the answer is "I believe" or "we believe" they have just told you that the answer is man's answer and not GOD's.
3. If the answer is GOD says and they are scripture and let you discern the truth for your self, then you now that they are at least seeking the truth.
If they cannot substantiate what they say by backing it up with scripture that say what they say - it cannot be the truth. It is that simple. GOD has not made HIS word so confusing that the average person cannot understand it. Any one can read the truth and know it's truth if GOD is their Father. This is JESUS words not mine.
John 8 47 "He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."
In summation - my point and I believe Tim's point is - there is only one truth - GOD's truth. AND we, HIS children know this, accept this and as HIS children we must insist upon this.
Given the opportunity we will love, pray, and work with any who does not understand - to understand. BUT in the end if they do not understand - we must fall upon the truth - once again John 8 47 "He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."
If they are not GOD's child they can only be the devils and the devil wants to drag the rest of GOD's children away from GOD. We are required to tell the devil to depart and this also goes for HIS children.
Do not be deceived - there is only one truth, one GOD, one Savior - JESUS - so there is only one way. GOD's way. I am writing a book entitled
" GOD's Word is Not Subject to Interpretation" - it is subject to understanding, acceptance, and obedience.
Enforcement of the truth can offend - many things JESUS said offended people. Once again the offended people were not GOD's children.
The truth is Dave - those of us who are GOD's children are fed up with those who want to pervert GOD's word. We want them to get in line or quietly go away. We are willing to acknowledge their right to believe what they believe. In return, they must let us believe what we believe and leave us as they found us. Living in GOD's truth.
I love GOD and If I have said anything HE disapproves of, I ask HIS forgiveness and all others that I have sinned against.
To All Christians - "A Little Less Conversation and a Little More Action Please" quote from Elvis Presley 1971