27 Sep 2007

Seeking True Unity, Part 2: Who Said You Could Do That? The Case of Steve Higginbotham

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Church History, Kingdom, Ministry, Restoration History, Unity
Here I begin with brother Higginbotham’s case to the court … but first …

A Preliminary Distant Voice on UNITY  – T. B. Larimore

May the Lord grant that I may die before I sow discord among the brethren. I have never done so yet—never. I have never introduced, advocated, agitated, said, or done anything that could tend to dissever church, family, or friends. I love the sentiment of the son of America who said, “If I have not the power to lift men to the skies, I thank my God that I have not the will to drag angels down.” … If I cannot bless, then let me not live … Lot chose the cream of the country, all the best of the land. Abraham was satisfied with that which was left, the refuse, rocky and rough. So far as earthly possessions and carnal concessions were concerned, his motto seems to have been: ‘Peace at any price’ in preference to strife among brethren. … {Before we divide} remember that he that soweth discord among brethren is an abomination unto God … Remembering Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Gethsemane—Christ, Calvary, and the cross; remembering, we are dying dust … Remembering the loved who loved us long ago, and all the pure who love us now, remembering that none of us liveth unto himself … let us stand up for Jesus and battle for his cause … let us all be, do, say, and live thus … be one as Jesus and Jehovah are one.” (Sermon on “Unity” in Biographies and Sermons, ed. F. D. Srygley, pp. 43, 46, 49-50).
Summary of the Prosecution’s Case
Our counselor, Steve Higginbotham, approaches the witness but addresses the jury. His goal is to establish what he feels is the bedrock for his case—biblical authority. His opening statement really states the matter quite succinctly: “How one understands the authority of Scripture is the single most important ingredient to achieving unity among God’s children … Any attempts to ignore the centrality of the authority of Scripture, will ultimately fail” (p.9).
In the next section we quickly learn from our counselor that we are not talking about the authority of the Bible per se but rather the realm of “the silence of Scripture.” He points to the American Christian Missionary Society and instrumental music as the sources of rupture of fellowship a “century ago.” The lawyer leads our witness quite affectively to accepting the conclusion that silence is “prohibitive” rather than “permissive.” It is not necessary to appeal to any learned human for a correct answer; rather he says it can be found directly from Scripture itself. To prove that silence is necessarily prohibitive Hebrews 7.14, Joshua 6.1-26 and the flood narrative of Genesis is appealed to.
Counselor Higginbotham knows he has, perhaps, proved to much with his arguments regarding the prohibitory nature of silence. Thus he immediately tries to convince the jury of a distinction between “aides” and “additions.” Returning to Noah’s Ark he says that God was explicit about the kind of wood (“gopher wood”) and but not on the kind of tools used. Tools were an “aid” but a different kind of wood would be an “addition.” (We will not ask what kind of wood “gopher” wood might be, I think this is a poorly chosen illustration).
With rhetorical flare our counselor closes his speech by revealing the slippery slope that he believes some are on. He asserts that some simply deny the need for biblical authority. And without authority we may end up with instruments, popes, “baptism for the dead,” and animal sacrifice.
The parting words to the jury are chosen carefully indeed. These are the words, “For my part, I will not fear that God will be angry with me for doing no more than He has commanded me” (quoting Richard Baxter).
Questions & Thoughts from the Jury … If the Judge will Allow
Agreements: First, I want to commend Steve for his faith in the authority of the Scriptures. It is my observation that this kind of “case” or discussion can only take place among a people that takes Scripture with the utmost seriousness. Everyone else would simply dismiss this out of hand! In a moment I will make some counter points to Steve’s case but first we need to recognize that we do have commonality here. And for the record I believe that Rick Atchley and Bob Russell believe in the authority of the Scriptures (I mention them by name because they are mentioned in Seeking True Unity). Indeed they affirm both the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. Together Again is many things but it is not the work of unbelieving liberals!
Demurs: Second, for my part it is precisely because I take the authority of the Scriptures seriously that I disagree with his opening statement and central argument. Is it really true that the “authority of Scripture” … according to the Scriptures … is the “single most important ingredient to achieving unity?” Do the Scriptures themselves affirm this? Do they by command? Example? or Inference? I think not. This is not an attack upon the authority of the Scripture rather it is a recognition of what the Scriptures actually say. The counselor has brought an assumption – a presupposition – forward and granted it supreme authority. This foundational assumption cannot be sustained by the Bible.
If within Scripture, within the NT, unity is not based upon the centrality of the authority of Scripture then what is it based upon? It is based upon the Gospel message itself. This truth was fundamental to the Stone-Campbell Movement. Robert Richardson, author of the Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, published a small book on the foundational Principles of the Reformation which was widely praised. He notes that the movement set out to demonstrate the “distinction between what may emphatically termed THE CHRISTIAN FAITH and doctrinal KNOWLEDGE” (p. 27). The error of the sectarians, according to the early SCM, was “they suppose this Christian faith to be doctrinal, we regard it as personal … The Christian faith, then, in our view, consists not in any theory or system of doctrine, but in a sincere belief in the person and mission of our Lord Jesus Christ” (p. 44). In one of his articles about the principles of the “current reformation” he makes this truthful and needed observation:
Men have lost sight of the obvious distinction which is to be made between the Bible and the Gospel. As the Bible contains the gospel, and its ancient records are important in elucidating and confirming it, they have become so intimately associated … that they {sectarians} have lost sight of the just distinction between them … It should never be forgotten that the Apostles and first preachers of the gospel had no Bibles, and not even a New Testament, to distribute; and that there was no such thing among the early Christians as a formal union upon the ‘Bible alone.’ Nay, rather it was a union upon the Gospel Alone; for in those days, the gospel possessed identity, and enjoyed a distinct and determinate character.” (Richardson, “Reformation, IV” Millennial Harbinger [September 1847], 508, his emphasis).
What Richardson writes is plainly true in the New Testament itself. The folks at Corinth had no Bible to question each other about its centrality to unity. The book of Ephesians which is laced with concerns for unity does not seek it on the basis of biblical authority. The church a Philippi was not turned to a discussion of biblical authority when its unity was threatened. Neither the Bible nor the New Testament’s authority was the ground of unity in any of these apostolic churches. Rather the work of God in Christ is the foundational basis for unity at Corinth and the creation of the “ONE new man” in Ephesians and it is the Gospel story of self-emptying in Philippians that is the “central” issue for unity. The church at Corinth makes an interesting study in unity and doctrinal and moral chaos … I dare make the claim that the problems faced by the church in that fair city are magnitudes greater than those facing Churches of Christ internally or Churches of Christ and the Christian Churches. In our efforts at to maintain the unity God has already paid dearly for we need to impress the Gospel upon the issues and ourselves … this is after all what Paul and Peter did. It would be a very long time after Paul that there was unity based on the Bible as we know it today.
The crux of the matter, as important as it may be (and it is important) is not biblical authority in spite of the counselor’s claim. While addressing the jury he shifts from authority to hermeneutics. Interpretation is a different issue than authority. He is correct when he says “how to interpret the silence” of Scripture (p. 10) is important but it is not true that how one understands silence is the same as authority. If this is the case, the core is not the “centrality of the authority of the Bible” as he stated in the beginning, but rather for his case the real core issue is interpretation in a way that he approves. I do not believe that “division was inevitable!” (p. 10). It was not inevitable in Corinth and it was not inevitable in the 19th century and it is not inevitable now. Division occurred precisely because people demanded homage to their interpretation rather than to Jesus Christ as Lord.
Third: About “aids” & “additions?” One of the most interesting matters about silence is that no one is consistent on it. Every thing that Counselor Higginbotham defines as an “aid” other folks with equal zeal for biblical authority call an “addition.” This is a fact. And most interesting of all is that the Bible is “silent” upon a distinction between an “aid” and an “addition.” Paul never gives us any guidelines on how to distinguish between them. The counselor has created an idea then used it to justify his aids while condemning others’ additions. If we are going to be “silent where the Bible is silent” then how can we speak about something the Bible never talks about … aids and additions. For an examination of the “Regulative Principle” that governs this whole area I recommend John Frame’s article: A Fresh Look at the Regulative Principle  And in A Gathered People we offer some perspective on this area of hermeneutics as well (Hicks, Melton, Valentine, pp. 110-112, 119-120)
Fourth: The Fear Factor. This to me may be the crucial difference between myself sitting in the jury and the counselor attempting to persuade me of his point of view. I have just as much desire to get “it” right as my brothers Jenkin(s), Sanders, Higginbotham, Greene and Baker. I pray and I study hard because I want to get “it” right. I spent years learning Hebrew, Greek and Latin so I could get “it” right. And at one point in my life I lived in great fear of not having “it” right. I do not seek to do my own thing … I want to do God’s thing. Yet, I do not live in fear of not getting “it” right anymore! In fact I know that I do not have “it” right inspite of my very best efforts to get “it.”
This is the TRUTH the God the Cross reveals in the Death & Resurrection of the Messiah. I have finally come to accept the biblical truth that God would rather let Jesus die than condemn me. And what God did for me he also did for my imperfect brothers and sisters. The wrath of God has been extinguished against my sin (this includes my religious error!). The reason I am the object of God’s mercy is precisely because I don’t get “it.” I am not presuming upon God’s grace rather I am embracing what the Scriptures clearly state themselves.
Higginbotham says, through Baxter, “I will not fear that God will be angry with me for doing no more than He has commanded me” (p. 15). This reminds me of a few passages from Jesus. Jesus once taught about some servants that did only their “duty.” Even very careful servants confess “we are unworthy servants we have only done our duty” (Lk 17.10). Jesus told another story about three men and a master. Each man is given some money. According to the story we have in Matthew, the Master never told them to do anything with that money. But two servants immediately go out, without any instruction (i.e. authority!) from the master, and begin spending and risking his property. One servant decided to “play it safe” and guarded the master’s money with his life. He would not risk loosing the master’s money, he would not risk the displeasure of the master, rather he protected the master’s money. Is it not interesting that in Jesus’ story it is the men who went out on their own, seeking to enlarge the master’s holdings, were praised and granted even more responsibility! Why did the master not say “how dare you. Who authorized you to spend my money?” Rather we read “Well done, good and faithful (interesting choice of words there!) servant.” Is it not interesting that the servant who did exactly as the master said (nothing!!) is condemned. But why is the servant condemned? He is judged precisely on the basis that he imagined the Master to operate (Matthew 25.14-30). Jesus’ parable speaks volumes about the “fear factor.” The safe servant had constructed an idol of his own making.
Does our salvation depend on having the minutia correct? Only if the blood of Jesus is meaningless. Does our unity depend on the minutia? Only if the blood of Jesus is meaningless.
Final Words
Yes I have said nearly as many words as the prosecution. I am “wondering” out loud about the arguments put forward. I find them unconvincing.
Unity is based upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact unity is the creation of God himself. God MAKES us One! It is the Gospel that saves us and it is the Gospel that broke down the barrier of division to create a unified and new humanity in Christ Jesus. It is the Gospel and not all the issues we argue about determine either our relationship to God or to each other. It is precisely because the Gospel, and not uniform interpretation that allowed there to be a Stone-Campbell Movement in the first place. Because contrary to Counselor Greene’s claims that there was “little difference” between Campbell and Stone’s groups (p. 30) there were deep and profound theological differences between the groups (more on that later). I firmly believe that if that unity meeting was taking place today unity would not happen for the very reason it does not today. But, praise God, they united, as Richardson says, upon the Gospel. Unity is “inevitable” when we let the Gospel reign supreme. But when the Gospel is dethroned division will follow …“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” … PaulShalom,

Bobby ValentineSeeking True Unity Review Part 1 can be accessed HERE
Seeking True Unity Review Part 3 can be accessed HERE

23 Responses to “Seeking True Unity, Part 2: Who Said You Could Do That? The Case of Steve Higginbotham”

  1. Royce Ogle Says:

    Excellent post Bobby!

    The only true unity, the “unity of the faith”, that we are to maintain, comes about because of our common faith in Jesus and Him alone. I contend that our unity is not based upon the gospel (the story) of Jesus, but upon Jesus Himself. We are not called to put our trust in the story but in the Christ of whom the story speaks.

    Grace to you,
    Royce Ogle

  2. Gardner Hall Says:

    Bobby, this is great stuff. Thanks for presenting it. I especially appreciate your love and avoidance of sarcasm even though you disagree with the authors. I’ll try to keep comments brief though it’s tough. I’m thinking out loud in several of them and trying to make points in others:

    * Seems like we’re still struggling with the categorization game. Which elements in the scriptures are part of the essential “gospel message” and which involve “doctrinal interpretation?” Obviously there are weightier gospel matters (Matt.23:23), matters of individual application which shouldn’t affect fellowship (Rom. 14) and probably some matters of collective action that fall somewhere in between. Isn’t our challenge in this area to determine which Biblical principles are important enough to stand for even if that costs us the fellowship of others?

    It is easy to say that unity is based upon Jesus alone, but how can we separate Jesus from his teachings? We all feel compelled to reject certain tenets that we feel violate the basic teaching of Jesus. We all draw lines somewhere. We just have different concepts about where God wants us to draw them.

    * Regarding the inevitability of division among those who claim to be God’s children, what about 1 Corinthians 11:19? Shouldn’t we separate ourselves from those who cause divisions? (Rom. 16:17) Should not someone have taken a stand in the second and third centuries against those leading God’s people towards Romanism? Shouldn’t someone have opposed the modernization in the Disciples of Christ denomination that has caused its decline? Wouldn’t such opposition have caused division, even if correct?

    I suppose that the inevitability of division can be compared to the inevitability of sin. Technically, I suppose it’s not inevitable that we sin. But we do! In the same sense, you could perhaps say it’s not inevitable that there be division among those trying to follow Christ. But there is! And we have to learn to grapple with it. I agree with you that insistence on “our” interpretations on every point isn’t the answer, but neither is the surrendering of convictions. May God have mercy on all of us!

    * The point in which I agree with you 100% is that we don’t have to get everything right to go to heaven! Thank God for his grace! However, faith motivates us to want to carefully follow his revealed word and we are drawn to others who share our own concepts of how best to go about that process. We are uncomfortable with the idea of participating with others in ways that violate our conscience (Rom. 14:23). Some of us feel that we should speak out about the same types of misconceptions that led to the development of Romanism and the loss of “saltiness” in the Disciples Denomination. Does speaking out about such trends make us divisive?

    Perhaps LaGard Smith was right in his basic point that there are different types of fellowship (although I didn’t like the terms he used to describe them) and we just have to make the best call we can about which type of fellowship we can have when there are significant differences. Then we trust in God’s mercy.

    I’m enjoying fellowship with you in this blog! God bless, Gardner

  3. ben overby Says:

    I cringed when I read the statement that the basis for unity is the authority of scripture. I think you nailed the issue. Amen. I’ll keep checking in. I really wish we had a site where we could invite the authors, and others, to a bit of dialogue.

  4. Falantedios Says:

    Dear Royce,

    But HE IS the Gospel. The news is not just the newsPAPER. The news is what happened. The news is what IS. When the storyteller tells the story of himself, he and the story are one.

    in HIS love,

  5. Falantedios Says:

    Speaking out can be divisive, but it is not inherently divisive. That depends on the content of the speech.

    Some convictions must be surrendered to the truth. The Jews had to surrender their way of being God’s people. The Gentiles had to surrender their way of being good people.

    Other convictions can be held, but not enforced upon others. Paul never said it was wrong for Jewish Christians to keep the Sabbath or circumcision or the food rules. NEVER. He said it was an abomination, anathema, to make those convictions equal to the Gospel.

    “We just have different concepts about where God wants us to draw them.” Another way to say this would be that we see different lines when we hold up God’s Word and let it shine into the world around us.

    How do we overcome the problem of the 7 blind men and the elephant?

    I know that the God some brethren describe is not the God I see in Jesus, the image of the invisible God. How do I know whose vision is impaired? I’ve heard it preached that “God hates divorce and Jesus hates the instrument.” When that is the mindset, and anyone who disagrees is anathema to the local congregation… how does one escape?

    in HIS love,

  6. john dobbs Says:

    Thanks for the good review Bobby. We need to be clear about our commitment to Jesus above tradition and interpretations.

  7. Steve Puckett Says:

    Well said, bro. I sigh when I think of our narrow focus and our continued inability to lift up Jesus to the world because of our pettiness.

    I am fully convinced that most of our arguments and belief systems are culturally imbibed and not thoroughgoing theological studies.

    But I am encouraged that God will absolutely save us all–every single person, regardless of tribe, who follow Jesus. If that’s not the gospel truth then surely our faith is futile.



  8. Falantedios Says:

    Phil Sanders posted a response to Bobby on his blog




  9. K. Rex Butts Says:

    Great post…

    I hope over time more and more people will recognize the distinction between scripture and methodologies for hermeneutics and biblical interpretation. BUT more importantly, I hope more and more peopel will recognize that the departure for our faith and thus unity as well is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  10. Brian Nash Says:

    I had the opportunity to share in some of Bobby’s thinking yesterday before he wrote this blog. Like Bobby, I deeply respect those who hold to the authority of the writen word, but I also deeply respect thos who hold to the authority that has been given to our Lord Jesus. I know that Bobby shares this conviction with me and I am greatful for his sharing with all who are willing to “listen.”

    Grace to all of you, my brothers in Christ,


  11. Gardner Hall Says:

    Thanks for your loving and thoughtful comments. You make me think!

    I agree with most of what you say in principle, although there would probably be some disagreements about specifics. For example you say, “some convictions must be surrendered…” But here again our problem is determining “which convictions?” I will “surrender convictions” (as far as demanding full agreement for fellowship) on some matters of personal judgment such as fighting in the military, even though I feel strongly about that issue. However, what should I do with my Christadelphian friends (brethren?) whose mistaken interpretations cause them to deny the deity of Christ, at least my understanding of it. They are a part of the “Restoration Movement Heritage.” There are some tough calls out there! It’s easy to speak in general principles, but tough when getting down to the nitty-gritty of specific issues.

    Incidentally, it was Malachi who said that “God hates divorce” (3:16) and I don’t think his mindset was wrong. I think I know, however, what you meant.

    Will check out Phil Sander’s answer to Bobby that you’ve been so nice to find for us. May God be merciful to us all. In Him, Gardner

  12. Falantedios Says:

    Dear Gardner,

    Thank you for reading my offering hopefully and not cynically.

    I agree that there are REALLY HARD choices and decisions and conversations to have. Oh, how I agree!

    I agree so much that I am constantly humbled, because (not to sound terribly arrogant) but I know how smart I am and how well-read I am. If men and women smarter, better-read, better educated in the original languages, closer in time to the original happenings… if THOSE men and women struggle to answer these questions, I believe that I must hold my convictions humbly.

    Thomas Merton has a book titled, “A Vow of Conversation.” I’ve never read it, but the title sticks in my mind because THAT is who I want to be. I want to promise to converse with anyone at any time about anything.

    I know I don’t have all the answers. The problem is, I know that everyone who pretends to have them all, they don’t have them either. But sometimes THEY don’t know it, and they don’t want to converse. They want to dictate. They don’t want to admit that there are any tough calls out there. They’ve made their calls, and that’s it and that’s all. Since I don’t have all the answers, I’m expected either to move in lockstep with them, or find another family to worship with.

    When those who thought to dictate to Jesus came around, he shifted his methods. He switched to parables and to provocative and eloquent actions. I’m praying and practicing to be able to do the same.

    in HIS love,

  13. Gardner Hall Says:

    Amen on that last post!

    As you can tell, I’m no “scholar” either. Though I admire some who have dedicated their lives to scholarly research and appreciate their work, I am comforted by the words of Jesus that his truths are often more apparent to little children than to the wise and learned (Matt. 11:25) and the words of Paul that there weren’t many “wise” or “influential” among primitive Christians (1 Cor. 1).

    I suppose the key to understanding God’s will regarding unity, fellowship or any issue, regardless of the level of formal education we have been able to attain, is that we approach it as humble children, not as experts or lawyers.

    In Him, Gardner

  14. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Thanks everybody for the good discussion going on.

    Gardner I am most pleased with your comments. I will not dwell here in detail about what is essential to the gospel or “doctrinal matters.” I recall that you have both Kingdom Come and have A Gathered People. In both of those books an attempt is made to highlight themes that float near the heart of the story. In A Gathered People chapter 7 will be of interest to you (but that chapter builds on all the rest so don’t read it first).

    I cannot but say that unity is on the Gospel alone because there is no other kind in the NT. The Ethiopian certainly never dreamed of union on the bible … unless we mean the LXX. Some of our preachers used to chide the Baptists because the made it harder to get in a local Baptist church than heaven (i.e. one did not “have” to be baptized to get to heaven but they did a local church). It seems that some of our own preachers also feel it is easier to get saved than to be united with brothers and sisters. None of the issues were ever once made a condition of salvation (fellowship with God) so why are they for fellowship with “us.”

    We do draw the line somewhere but we don’t have to imagine those lines. The NT gives guidance on blatant immorality, attacks on the person & work of Christ, teaching works salvation … those who create division

    My reading of 1 Cor 11.19 is slightly different than yours. I do not think Paul is making a statement of how things should be. Rather in light of the his severe condemnation of such division (1 C 1.10-17; 3.1-23) and their importing those divisions to the Table of UNITY … I interpret the statement to be sarcasm. Their carnal disposition serves as a catalyst for highlighting their fractured state.

    I join you in your prayer that God will have mercy upon us. Division is here … and it IS sin.

    Now brother I do not deny anyone the right to share their convictions. I believe in the freedom of speech (see chapter of Kingdom Come). I believe we are free to think, I think we are free to love and fellowship, and I think we are, ironically, free to “fail.”

    My fellowship with you does not demand that you give up your convictions. When Stone and Campbell came together in 1831-32 neither gave up any conviction. They did not ask each other to give them up, rather they asked each to be true to the Truth in Jesus Christ and did not impose their understandings as tests of fellowship. And contrary to Counselor Greene’s naive and unhistorical claim the difference between Stone and Campbell were immense … greater than those separating the Non-Institutional family from the “Institutional” family or the non-ivory keys family and the ivory keys family. But the miracle of unity happened (being the student you are of our history I recommend, if you have never read it, Dean Mills “Union on the King’s Highway: The Campbell-Stone Heritage of Unity {College Press, 1987} it is the most comprehensive study available on the “union” of the StonedCampbells 🙂 A great read.)

    I too praise God for his grace. How I wish we would learn to “apply” grace to our relationships with one another … we do it in our marriages (hopefully) and Paul shows us how to do it in our churches … this is the gift of Philippians.

    Gardner I too relish our fellowship and if you are ever in AZ let me know.

    Bobby Valentine

  15. Gardner Hall Says:

    Thanks as always for your response and spirit. I want to respond in turn even though I have to leave Saturday to be out of town all next week and am behind in preparations! This, however, is more enjoyable and enlightening than packing underwear! I’ll be as brief as I can (no pun intended) in commenting on a few of your points.

    * Though you are right that the eunuch, Corinthians and others couldn’t be united on the basis of N.T. scriptures that they didn’t have, their attitude towards the revealed will that they did receive through N.T. witnesses and prophets must have affected their relationships with other disciples. Though God’s revealed will for us is in written form and theirs was primarily in oral form, attitudes towards it (in whatever form God has given it) do affect unity and fellowship. That’s why both you and I would agree on the need for separation from various sects out there in the world that do not have a proper attitude towards God’s revealed will to us.

    * My basis for deciding about the type of fellowship I can conscientiously have with others, and God’s basis for deciding with whom He can have fellowship isn’t the same thing. He’s omniscient and I’m not! I can’t always know to whom God will extend his mercy. Though I pray that it will be extended far and wide (sometimes universalism sounds appealing), the bottom line is that it is up to him to determine how far he will extend it. Therefore, my decisions about what types of sharing I can have with individuals with whom I disagree must depend on practical scriptural principles that my finite mind can comprehend. I must ask questions like, (1) will this type of fellowship “endorse” error (such as the development of Romanism, modernism, etc.) or allow it to continue unchecked? (2) Will a type of fellowship force me to participate in something that will violate my conscience? (Ro. 14:23) (3) Will it glorify God in every way? Though I may feel in my mind that certainly God will extend his mercy to brethren who I feel are quite wrong on many issues, that judgment is solely God’s, and therefore my decisions about the level of sharing with errant brethren must be based at least in part on those practical questions I’ve mentioned before and others.

    * I think you’re right about 1 Cor. 11:19.

    * I have fellowship in several ways with many brethren who disagree with me on “institutionalism” especially among Hispanic congregations here in the Northeast. (Fortunately, they haven’t experienced the bitter and unfortunate battles of the 1950’s and 60’s.) With some, however, I am not allowed to express my concerns about the issue (even though I try to be diplomatic) and they are the ones who then cut fellowship with me. I generally think it’s best to let the other fellow cut the fellowship in such situations, even as I try to keep lines of communication open. I have had certain kinds of fellowship with almost every type of baptized believer, although that doesn’t necessarily mean I would recommend that all preach or teach where I work.

    * Those who are more “conservative” (I hate the label, but I’m too lazy to think of an alternative) on various issues are required to give up convictions in certain circumstances in the name of unity. I’ll quickly reference the overused example of instrumental music (sorry). In the current controversy, who is generally expected to give up their conviction? Though there are some appreciated exceptions (I think of a godly couple from the Christian church who worked with us in Nigeria when I was kid), usually those who cannot conscientiously use it that are the ones expected to give up their convictions about the issue in the name of unity. While it is true that Christ didn’t die for a cappella music, and it certainly wouldn’t be considered a “weightier matter,“ I still have pangs of conscience when asked to praise God with it. I just don’t think that using it is imitating early Christians. What can I do regarding those who insist that if I worship with them I must blend my voice with drums, guitars and other instruments that I associate with the entertainment culture more than worship? I know of no other thing to do, but to study with them, pray for God’s mercy for them, but then seek out those with whom I can worship without violating my conscience. What other recourse do I have?

    Gotta go, Thanks again, Gardner

  16. Anonymous Says:

    If y’all ever get tired of the church of Christ squabbles over here, I’ve found you can have a refreshing break over on the reformed (Calvinist) blogs. They cycle pretty regularly into discussions about Arminians (aka Free Willies). You still get to argue, but it is a new and refreshing exercise and nothing is ever settled, just like here. But they are pretty funny. They still have their righty-tighties and lefty-loosies, too, just like “us”. Go on over … think of it as a way to clean your palate.

    Here are some examples of the fun you can have:

    Jokes: You’ve heard of the Calvinist TULIP? Well, Arminians have the daisy … you know, He loves me, He loves me not …

    Art work: Some really funny posters by righty-tighties dissing lefty-loosies: http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/posters.htm

    Clever writing:
    -The Arminian Monster
    -Reformed Eye for the Arminian Guy
    -Arminian Grace (sung to Amazing Grace)

    Great stuff!


  17. Gardner Hall Says:

    Thanks Kate! I suppose whether I should worship with a guitar or not is light stuff compared with whether I’m automatically doomed or not. Thanks for the suggestion and putting my problem in perspective!

  18. preacherman Says:

    Excellent post brother.

  19. Matt Says:

    I just read the most “interesting” review of Kingdom Come. I will have to remember who wrote it but it referred to the book as “theobabble” and claimed that there were big words that no one can understand in it like eschatology. It was pretty absurd. Let me know if you haven’t read that review yet and I will dig it up for you.

  20. Falantedios Says:

    John Waddey calls Hicks and Taylor’s “Down To the River” theobabble, but I haven’t read a review of KC that calls it that.


  21. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Matt I have not seen it. Is it online?

    Bobby Valentine

  22. Matt Says:

    I believe it was from “Christianity Then and Now”‘s latest issue. You should have a look.

  23. Matt Says:

    And Bobby, don’t you know that ending a post with “Shalom” is just plain theobabble? Why not use plain English? 🙂

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