24 Oct 2007

Seeking True Unity #5 : Same Song, Different Century: An Interaction with Jeff A. Jenkins

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Books, Kingdom, Ministry, Mission, Restoration History, Unity

Preliminary Distant Voices

I regard the Sunday School as an innovation. I can’t see it in any other light.”
– N. L. Clark, “Editorial Notes,” FF 23 {29 Jan 1907}, 4

Where, oh where is the Bible authority for Sunday School?”
– N. L. Clark, “Debate with Whiteside,” FF 22 {13 Nov 1906}, 4
A Summary of the Prosecution’s Case

It has been pointed out in prior installments that I have been using a courtroom metaphor that derives its existence from the book Seeking True Unity. The metaphor is a good one and I mean no disrespect through its use at all.
We have heard from several members of the panel for the prosecution so far but we hear from Jeff Jenkins now for the first time. Brother Jeff informs us that worship is “now one of the most controversial issues in the church of our day” (p. 37). At the heart of the worship wars is none other than instrumental music.
Jeff approaches the jury box and he asks a very good question “Does God regulate our worship to Him?” After responding to Mike Cope (p.38) who opined that IM does not matter to God, Jeff asserts that it matters a great deal because God has in fact regulated worship. Indeed Jeff says, “Before we make the bold assertion that it doesn’t matter how we worship God we should carefully consider the biblical material” (p. 39). This is an interesting statement for I have never heard anyone claim that it does not matter how we worship God, including from Cope! Jeff appeals to Cain (Genesis 3) and Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10) to show that “obedience matters to God” (p. 39). I agree obedience matters to God.
Then Jeff informs the jury that “thousands of wonderful, loving, highly educated brethren” could not be guilty of “shoddy hermeneutics” on matters of biblical interpretation (especially on IM). He then lists these men and says “These men are hardly the kind of men who would build their teachings on ‘shoddy hermeneutics!’” (p. 40).
According to Jeff there are, apparently, some who are trying to convince those in Churches of Christ that our music is “peculiar to churches of Christ.” (Again I have never heard or read such a claim). No he says. Rather a cappella is not a tradition but instrumental music is “definitely an addition.” Jeff concludes his presentation by stating it is of paramount importance of how we interpret the Bible. We must worship not only from a “right heart, we must also worship as He has commanded” to which our brother cites John 4.24 (p. 41).
Deliberating with the Jury

In many ways I am deeply sympathetic with the prosecution on this matter. I have wrestled with the instrumental music issue off and on for years. I agree with Jeff that our lives—our worship—is regulated by God. Life and Assembly are overshadowed by the Lord God of the Universe. Of this I have no doubt. I also agree that worship is a hot topic and I have even published a book, along with John Mark Hicks and Johnny Melton, on the subject called A Gathered People: Revisioning the Assembly as Transforming Encounter (2007). The fact is I have no desire to introduce instrumental music in my local congregation. I love Darryl Tippens recent small booklet That’s Why We Sing: Reclaiming the Wonders of Congregational Singing (2007). You can order this for 3 dollars at 1.877.816.4455 toll free. Thousands of these were handed out at the Pepperdine Lectures. A cappella music, when well done, stirs my soul. It can be harnessed and used powerfully in the assembly to glorify God and edify the saints.
Yet I remain unconvinced that instrumental music should divide the family of God. Worship has always, not just recently, been a subject of heated debate. In our own history for the last 125 years there has been nearly constant warfare over what the assembly can and cannot do.
Mack Lynn states that the total number of Churches of Christ in the U.S. stands slightly above 13,000. About 3,400 or one-fourth of these congregations are distinguished by some doctrinal issue which keeps them separated (or Distinct!) from the larger group. The issues change with the times, major issues that have divided us in the past include:

1875-1890 Rebaptism, card-playing, dancing, going to the theater, reading fiction, and going to baseball games

1890-1910 instrumental music, blue laws (Sabbath question), use of tobacco, pacifism, role of women, role of the Holy Spirit
1910-1940 premillennialism, use of prepared Sunday school literature (i.e. Gospel Advocate Quarterly), congregational autonomy

1940-1960 non-institutionalism, non-class, kitchens in the church building, one-cup, Holy Spirit, and mutual edification

1960-1985 bible translations, Holy Spirit, pacifism, marriage, divorce and


1985-1999 authority of elders, rebaptism, hermeneutics, women’s role, worship


The opening quotes above by N. L. Clark are directed to the Sunday School issue. This issue actually split our fellowship. In 1925 R. F. Duckworth published an exclusive list in the Apostolic Way of churches because “congregations were being imposed by Sunday-School preachers coming into their midst claiming to be sound, and while there, sowing the seed of discord” (quoted in Ronny Wade, The Sun Will Shine Again Someday, 44). These brothers believe the work and worship of the church is also “regulated.” In fact they look at “us” and say we have done exactly as the Christian Church as done: failed to interpret Scripture properly at best and rejected biblical authority at worst! 

Deliberating on Hermeneutics

I do not believe the Bible, or the NT, is a “love letter” from God. This lingo originated in an analogy first used by Mike Armour and Randy Fentor to emphasize both the occasional nature of the epistles and the love dimension of them. This analogy has never had a major following though some to the right “love” to play on it for all its worth. But in many ways it is a better analogy than that of a constitution or case law. 

I believe the Scriptures are covenantal documents. In the canonical arrangement accepted by the church there is a plot, or overriding story, or narrative to these documents. One might say scripture is more like a drama divided up into “Six Acts.” Those Acts are Creation, Fall, Israel, Jesus, church, New Creation. These “Acts” witness to the mighty acts of God throughout as of primary concern. The people shaped by the acts, and goal of God, is told throughout and shapes life and assembly. Jesus emerges as the living embodiment of the Word of God and values of the Kingdom … he is our pattern for life before God (see A Gathered People for more detailed discussion of this, pp. 152ff). There is in fact a pattern but it is not what is frequently argued about … John says the Word became flesh … he did not say the word was “written.” 

I think the term “shoddy hermeneutics” is inflammatory and not helpful for the conversation. But I do think that there have been some arguments that are not quite satisfactory that are used to disprove instrumental music. Gopher wood is one such argument. 

Gopher wood is a classic argument used in our debates with our playing brethren. It is even appealed to previously in Seeking True Unity (p.13). It is claimed that God gave a specific command and if Noah used another kind of wood he would likely die. In fact Thomas B. Warren claims that since God “specified” gopher wood that if “he [Noah] had used some other kind of wood he would not have been saved” (When is an ‘Example’ Binding?, p. 115, his emphasis). This is mistaken hermeneutics at best! There is not a shred of evidence that “gopher” wood was a specific type of wood. In fact you will not even find “gopher” in any modern translation. Way back in 1835, Alexander Campbell himself pointed out how erroneous the KJV is in Genesis 6.14. Campbell used this as one of his proofs that the KJV was full of mistranslations. Campbell suggested rendering the term as “make yourself an ark of cypress wood” (“Mistranslations, No. 3, Millennial Harbinger {April 1835}, 150). The NIV follows Campbell’s suggestion. The term refers to a wide variety of resinous wood. The LXX translated the term simply as “squared timber” or “wood cut into lumber.” Many theological mountains, including the fate of Noah, have been hung on a grossly abused text.

Leviticus 10 is another text that is simply abused. It is appealed to by Jeff himself. I grew up on Nadab and Abihu. I even made it through Bible college without ever actually having studied the entire text! The rest of the chapter did not and does not serve the prosecutions case at all. But the second half of the chapter show Eleazar and Ithamar violating a real “specific” command. They were told what to do and how to do it and there would be no variation. But they did violate the specific commands and were not burned up like their brothers. Did God violate his own rule? If all that was involved in the the first half of the text was some technical violation then explaining the rest of the text becomes exceedingly difficult. Or is something else going on in the text as a whole. God is not a God of technical precision, nor of precision obedience, and Lev 10.11-20 proves it beyond a doubt. It seems that v.8 provides the needed insight into what is going on in the text. Moses did not suddenly, and arbitrarily, in the midst of tragedy decide it was a good opportunity to speak of the evils of whiskey. The word of Moses has direct relevance to the tragic death of Nadab and Abihu. They had the audacity to show up in the holy Presence of Yahweh and offer their unholy drunken worship in front to the entire assembly. God dealt with that arrogance swiftly. But the disobedience of Eleazar and Ithamar is a completely and totally different matter. God accepted their sacrifice and covered their sin with his grace because their hearts were completely different.

I would suggest that Jeff has also misinterpreted John 4.24. This is a crucial text as he rightly points out but he buys into the polemical use of that text rather than let the Gospel of John tell us what it means. We have a lengthy discussion of this text in A Gathered People, pp. 133-136. The interpretation of this text needs to be governed by two iron-clad rules, context and context! Historical and Literary. The question in context is which temple should be worshipped in (Gk, en). Readers of the Gospel are informed in chapter 2.19-22 that Jesus himself is declared to be the “temple” of God. Jesus is the new temple according to the Gospel. In this new temple worshippers will worship in (en) Spirit and truth. The contrast is between temples, it is not between physical, fleshy, immaterial and inward. Jesus is not saying that Israel did not worship in according to the “truth.” Jews worshipped according to the “Book” just as surely as Jeff, Phil and Mike imagine themselves to worship by the “Book.” Rather the emphasis is type and anti-type. In the new temple of Jesus worship transcends the “shadows” and ushers us into the reality of the very thrown of God (in the language of Hebrews). To worship in Spirit is to do so in and through the agency of the Spirit of God. There is no example in the Gospel of John where “spirit” means sincerity! Except for three places where the context clearly means the person of Jesus, every other occurrence means the Holy Spirit (1.32,33; 3.5,6,34; 6.63; 7.39; 14.17,26; 15.26; 16.13; 20.22). “Spirit” means “Holy Spirit” in John 4.24 (see Raymond Brown, Gospel According to John: Anchor Bible, 1.180-181; Craig Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, 1.615-616; and many more). The Holy Spirit is our “link” to the new temple of Jesus. 

The word “truth” in John 4.24 does not mean “according to the command” or “by the book.” The term occurs 55x in the Gospel and consistently takes on a typological meaning. For example law came by Moses but truth by Jesus (1.17), the snake was lifted in the wilderness as Jesus would be on the cross (3.14). The context of John 4 is NOT truth (i.e. biblical revelation/ideas) vs. falsehood (i.e. unscriptural ideas) but shadow versus reality. To worship the Father in Spirit and truth is to praise the Father in his new temple in the power of the Spirit. We worship, as we wrote, “the Father in a Triune way—we worship the Father in the Spirit (eschatologically) and in the Son (the true temple)” (A Gathered People, p. 136)

This does not mean that God is not interested in proper worship but it does mean that these texts are not about what they have been asked to support by the prosecution. So I agree with my beloved brother Jeff that how we interpret the Scripture is of critical importance. So important that we need to let our polemical use be subjected to some rather close scrutiny. 

Some Final Reflections

First, saying that numerous respected brethren could not use faulty hermeneutics does not prove a single thing. The brethren on the other side point to an equally large number of brothers who have advanced degrees, prayed and studied and came to the exact opposite conclusion on instrumental music. They probably don’t like being told that they have build their case on “shoddy hermeneutics” any more than brother Jeff does. 

Second. as I pointed out to brother Phil (who never gave a reasoned reply) if Paul and the church in Jerusalem could worship in the Temple including participating in the sacrificial rituals (along with music!) then I have a hard time believing Paul would loose any sleep over instrumental music (see Acts 21). Further, and this has been stated many times, if God is dead set against instruments then why does he allow them in the throne room.

Third. This is directly related to the last statement. If, as I believe to be the case, that the Holy Spirit does carry us into the very throne room of God during our worship then in some sense we DO worship with instruments. We join the great universal church that surrounds the throne of God and we join them in their praise of the Holy One of Israel. 

Fourth, The rational given for excluding my brothers on the other side of the keyboard from fellowship is the exact same rationale that Duckworth and many others have used to exclude both Jeff and myself. Jeff will protest by saying that those brethren have bound their opinions and fail to discern expedients and aids. But it is dubious at best to draw theology from an idea that Scripture is also “silent” as the grave on. There is not an iota in the text about discerning the difference between aides and additions.
Fifth, I am a Christian first and then a member of the Stone-Campbell movement. That heritage is not canonical but God has worked in it just the same. And that history, especially the union of Stone with the Christian Connexion, the welcoming of the Dunkards congregations associated with Joseph Hostetler, the right hand extended to Alyette Raines and the miracle of Stone and Campbell coming together gives me reason to believe there is insufficient grounds given for with holding my hand from one whom the Lord Jesus Christ has brought into the family and is attempting to live in covenant and obeys his will to the best of their ability … how could I do otherwise?

Sixth, in light of the problems at Corinth … far more severe than Richland Hills or Southeast Christian Church … I can only follow the great apostle’s example and thank God every time I think of them. I can only rejoice in the “grace” that has been given to them in Christ Jesus. And I can only extend my hand to those who are of the “Church of God.” This is what Paul did. Why can’t we?

“The nearer we come to Christ’s cross, the nearer we come to each other. How can our divisions and our enmities be maintained in the sight of his bitter suffering and death? How, in the light of Christ’s ‘open heart,’ can we remain closed and be fearful about the church? And how can we, grasped by the outstretched arms of the suffering God upon the cross, clench our fists or with unrelenting fingers hold fast to our separateness?” (Jurgen Moltmann, The Passion for Life, 84-85)

See Seeking True Unity #1 HERE
See Seeking True Unity #2 HERE
See Seeking True Unity #3 HERE
See Seeking True Unity #4 HERE
See Seeking True Unity #6 HERE


Bobby Valentine

24 Responses to “Seeking True Unity #5 : Same Song, Different Century: An Interaction with Jeff A. Jenkins”

  1. Falantedios Says:

    Further, I might point out the interesting contrast of Hebrews 9:1. The writer seems to clearly suggest that particular ordinances for worship practice were as much a part of the old covenant as was the manmade tabernacle.

  2. Kent Says:


    Great job again! I very much appreciate a couple things about this post.

    (1) First, I appreciate you pointing out that these gentlemen are proof-texting these scriptures to support their views. When I read these positions, I am always blown-away by the scriptural references in the defenses. Then, I actually get my Bible out and look at the scriptures that are cited and I wonder if we are not reading from the same Bible. These people make huge distinctions about the “Old Law” and the “New Law” and then they cite scriptures from the “Old Law” to support their positions. I especially appreciate your breakdown of the gopher wood and the Nadab and Abihu stories.

    2.) I truly, truly appreciate you including quotes from the great N.L. Clark in your post. After you finish writing about Moser you should consider writing about Clark. What an amazing figure whose work has largely been forgotten. I grew up in the No Bible Class (NBC) Churches of Christ. We were not antis. We just didn’t have Bible classes. I have actually just started ministering here in Fort Worth for a church that has historically been a part of this group. All in all you will find that these churches are more open than mainline churches except for the one issue. They have been very influenced by Garrett and Ketcherside.

    The thing about NBC churches and premillenial churches and anti-institutional churches and one cup churches and others who have been separate from mainline churches is this: those churches never intended to make their particular beliefs tests of fellowship. In each case it was the mainline churches that made them tests and cast those groups out. I mean, look at R.H. Boll and the premillenial controversy. He held his views but never meant to be separated. It was others who cast him out in a sense.

    So, thanks for your comments. And, here is a link to a paper on N.L. Clark by a good friend of mine who wrote this several years ago for Doug Foster’s class at ACU.

    Kent Benfer

  3. Kent Says:

    Sorry, here is the link to the paper.


  4. Terry Says:

    Thanks, Bobby!

    It’s amazing how such poor arguments can have such a long life. I have tried to kill that Gopher wood argument for years, but it keeps coming back–kind of like theological “Pop-Up Gopherwood”!

    May we learn to read with discernment, and treat each other with the Spirit of Christ.

    Terry Seufferlein

  5. Steve Puckett Says:

    Amen brother! Preach on. Christians first and secondly, and far less significantly, restoration movement members. Anywhere God has a child I have a brother or sister.


  6. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:


    N. L. Clark was an amazing person for many reasons. I have read a good deal on him but need much more. He was editor of the Firm Foundation when he tangled with R. L. Whiteside and firmly embedded in the Texas Tradition (see Kingdom Come for more on that). And he was solid in his opposition to things like the SS. But there was another side to Clark. He was gracious and, I believe, did not try to make the SS a test of fellowship. Others however went beyond him (like Duckworth). J.D. Phillips who also was influential in that section of the Body underwent a conversion through an association with R. H. Boll and absorbing the writings of K. C. Moser (so there is a connection you see, 🙂 J. Ervin Waters went through a similiar breakthrough. These men show us that it is possible to hold deep convictions without making them a litmus test for fellowship.

    You probably are aware of the recent book that came out of the NBC Churches of Christ called “THE REFORMATION OF THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT” (GraceTalk Conference 2007 Papers and Responses). I just picked it up at LCU and it is “hot” off the press. I think it can be ordered at this number 812.327.0072


    It is amazing how the “gopherwood” argument keeps coming back. Most folks don’t seem to know that the word “gopher” is simply the untranslated Hebrew term in Genesis 6.14 because the KJV translators did NOT know what it meant. And then to hang theological mountains on it makes it even worse … Warren has Noah drowning …

    Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting.

    Bobby Valentine

  7. Gardner Hall Says:

    I keep on telling myself that I’m going to stay out of all of this, but your comments are so stimulating and there is such courtesy and patience on this blog (unlike others), I’ll toss in a few ideas.

    * You are absolutely right in “A Gathered People” about John 4:24,25 and in this post about the feeble appeal to “thousands of highly educated men” who oppose instrumental music. If we were to take polls of “educated men” to determine our approach to worship we’d be more fouled up than we could imagine in a hurry!

    * I’ll consider further your points on Leviticus 10, though still unsure of them. One point I do make along this line is that if God just considered unauthorized action without taking the heart into consideration, why didn’t he send down fire to destroy Israelites who ate the Passover without going through the required cleansing requirements (2 Chron. 30:18-20)? God’s patience in 2 Chron. 30 doesn’t mean, however, that I should have participated with the Israelites in their error.

    Though you may be right about the textual ambiguity concerning “gopher wood,” can we still not accept the principle that if God specifies something, we are presumptuous to go beyond it? Take the Lord’s Supper for example. Are bread and fruit of the vine specified? Could we at least agree that it would be presumptuous to substitute hamburgers and French fries for that memorial? Wouldn’t that principle be true even if describing the New Testament as a covenental document?

    Your points about Paul and instrumental music in the temple and instruments in Revelation prove too much. If they mean that instrumental music is no problem in our corporate worship, they would also mean that all other temple practices and symbols describing heavenly worship in Revelation would be no problem in N.T. worship.

    Isn’t our problem here that we are trying to either limit or expand the limits of fellowship to define a nationwide or worldwide brotherhood? Should that really be a concern? Shouldn’t our concerns about fellowship be more congregational? I have had fellowship with many brethren with whom I disagree on diverse matters (instrumental music, premillennialism, the covering of 1 Cor. 11:2-16; killing as a soldier, etc.) as long as I am not forced to violate my conscience. However, I feel no compulsion to define a national or international fellowship as worthy or unworthy of my communion. That would be sectarian. I may recommend some faithful congregations I know about in an area to travelers, and even warn about some that I feel are putting their candlesticks in danger (Laodicea, Sardis), but why do I have to define one of the wings of the “Restoration Movement” as found in Mac Lynn’s directory (or Independent Christian churches) as either lost or unworthy of my fellowship? Can’t I leave final judgment up to God, even as I strive to work with a local body of believers who share my perspective about worship and collective work without forcing me to violate my conscience?

    Hope this isn’t too long. It’s your fault for being so thought provoking! God bless

  8. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    My friend, Joel Solliday, he intended to make the following comment but could not. I attach his comment just as he emailed it to me.

    “I’ve heard all too many misguided sermons on Nadab and Abihu aimed to keep us walking on eggshells in our worship.

    However, I’ve yet to hear one on 2 Chronicles 30 (except my own) where
    Hezekiah called for a celebration of the Passover and invited the northern tribes. They had not purified themselves appropriately, and they ate the Passover in a manner “contrary to what was written.” (2 Chron. 30:18)

    They also held the Passover celebration a month late to give the northerners time to arrive.

    They broke the rules of the sanctuary (30:20) and were unclean. Hezekiah prayed for their pardon because they had set their hearts on seeking God.

    God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and healed the people. In other words, a sincere heart set on seeking God was what mattered to God, much more than the written rules and procedures.

    Read it. Preach it!”

    Joel, thanks for the comments. BTW I have preached 2 Chronicles what a powerful and monkey wrench throwing text.

    Set the Text free … let it rattle our cages.

    Bobby Valentine

  9. John Dobbs Says:

    Beautifully Done, as always, Bobby. Keep writing friend.

  10. cwinwc Says:

    The “card-playing” stand brought back a childhood memory. We were visiting relatives in Kentucky when I was about 9. I asked to play cards and was swiftly rebuked. Then the “Rook” cards were brought out which kept us “safe” since they weren’t those dreaded playing cards.

  11. Falantedios Says:

    I KNEW Rook was crazy-popular in the brotherhood for a reason!!!!! I mean, it is an alright card game, but now I understand the overwhelming popularity.


    Your “proves too much” argument is with Paul – I think – and not with Bobby’s line of thinking. The rule of thumb that I’ve been taught is, “What it meant is what it means.” If the non-atoning aspects of Temple worship were not sinful for NT Christian participation in the first century, then can they be sinful in and of themselves today? I believe there are times and places where the setting would make them sinful – places where they would suggest that Christians are just like pagans. That is part of my struggle with IM today – in many settings it does not reflect God out into the world.

    With reference to 2 Chron 30, I agree that God’s mercy does not imply that purification was irrelevant to him. It simply places it in its proper place and context. If Hezekiah waited until everyone was pure before uniting God’s people in worship, we wouldn’t have this episode to discuss at all.

    With reference to the Lord’s Supper: Bread and wine are specified, in the context of a real meal. The Passover meal was not incidental, as many brethren proclaim. Furthermore, I find it ironic that the same brethren that use “the testimony of centuries” to defend a capella worship reject that same testimony on the leaven vs. unleaven issue, but that is a whole different issue as well.

    On worldwide fellowship, I tend to agree with your perspective. We should let God handle the global fellowship issue and immerse ourselves in local fellowship and kingdom work. However, many brethren have a craving for control (about which I’ve recently blogged over at Fumbling) which will not let them relinquish to God control over fellowship.

    The parable of the Samaritan suggests that our business is to be finding ways of bringing people into fellowship with us, not looking for ways to exclude them.

    Further, I think that Paul’s language both in 1 Cor and in Romans suggests that eventually he expects our consciences to be trained out of “weakness”. That’s easy for me to say, because my conscience isn’t pricked in the same places as yours! My local body just isn’t quite as concerned with protecting my conscience as the brotherhood is with protecting the popular weaknesses of conscience. One of our songleaders loves to select certain songs that I feel guilty when I sing, but I feel guilty when I don’t sing. So I sing, and I pray for forgiveness, because I will not make my conscience a test of fellowship. That doesn’t make me better than anyone else – maybe I’m reading the conscience passages wrong and I SHOULD make an issue of it. Divisiveness, though, seems to be blasted a lot more than intentionally ignoring one part of one’s conscience in favor of another part. I don’t know. Maybe I’m double-minded and condemned like James says, and I just don’t know it yet.

    in HIS love,

  12. K. Rex Butts Says:

    While I understand the need to interpret the Bible as acurately as possible, there is one fatal flaw that is made by the traditional arguments being presented by the authors of “Seeking the Truth.” The fatal flaw made is the assumption that fellowship is dependent upon OUR ABILITY to correctly interpret scripture correctly and subsequently practice that interpretation. In fact I would argue that much of the thought in the 20th centur CoC has made salvation (and there for fellowship) dependent upon whether or not we can interpret scripture correctly.

  13. Gardner Hall Says:

    Your comments are, as always, worthy of thought.

    Wouldn’t Jewish ceremonies in the temple and Christian worship have been separate? I visited a new congregation that met in a karate studio, even as karate practice was going on in the next room. It was noisy but that doesn’t mean that karate was a part of their worship. (A new meaning for “Karate for Christ?”)

    I don’t think the double-minded man of James refers to honest seekers who are weighing different points of view, but rather individuals who don’t trust God, but still make requests of him. We should be growing out of weaknesses, but sometimes it takes a while!

    Thanks again, Gardner

  14. Falantedios Says:

    Dear Gardner,

    As usual, you are kind and brotherly, and I appreciate your encouragement. It’s not easy in the brotherhood when you don’t have a ‘popular’ conscientious objection.

    I think that wherever and whenever Christians gather to glorify God, Christian worship occurs. When a Christian worships God, Christian worship occurs. I think one would be hard-pressed to prove that the early Christians went to the Temple out of expediency or because they had nowhere else to meet. This obviously did not hinder the earliest Christians everywhere else in the Roman Empire. That difficulty lends credence to the idea that the earliest Christians went to the Temple for a greater purpose – because they sought to participate in the worship there. Nowhere does Luke even suggest a reprimand for it.

    Further, Acts 21 cannot be explained in a way that fits the “Seeking True Unity” worship paradigm. Paul blasts the Galatians for BINDING the Law on new converts. He blasts the Roman Jews for following the Law zealously but rejecting the Messiah. Then he participates in Mosaic Lawful worship as a Christian???

    I propose that Paul, the early Christians, and we (because ‘what it meant is what it means’) are free to worship God according to the pattern set forth in Christ. This freedom will not violate the moral law, nor will it impinge upon the nature of Christ’s once-off atoning sacrifice.

    in HIS love,

  15. Falantedios Says:

    Dear Gardner,

    Your thoughts had me up late thinking last night, because I could hear an idea skittering across the back of my mind.

    Worshipping with Integrity, or

    Discerning the Body, or

    Why we need a hopeful understanding of fellowship at a world-wide level —

    I don’t know yet at the beginning of this writing how this will directly relate to drawing fellowship lines beyond the local level, so please be patient as I work out my thoughts in writing. The most basic sketch takes Paul’s teaching about the powerful work of God in Eph 2:1-6 and lays it over Paul’s warning in 1 Cor 11:29.

    If we ARE the body, and we have been raised together into God’s Shekinah presence right-here-and-now, then the things taht we do as a local family ought to manifest or reflect that reality. What’s more, what I do, how we worship at Holly Hill in Frankfort must reflect into this community the same kingdom life, the same healing love, that PaLO VErde reflects, that Chimala reflects into Tanzania, that an unnamed secret assembly in Southeast Asia reflects. The clearest example of Christians failing in this way is in the prosperity gospel movement. Try worshipping like that in the Third World. It doesn’t fly because it lies about God and offers no hope at all in reality. Our brotherhood worship practices tend to reflect more of a 1st century Essene stance than a prosperity gospel stance, but as long as our tendency is to reject the rest of the world, what we reflect out into that world will be darkness.

    My favorite way to foster this integrity comes from the horizontal aspect of Lord’s Supper worship. On the Lord’s Day, around the world, Christians gather around the table to proclaim the unifying and sustaining power of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Disciplined prayer and worship offers this potential daily, but not with all the resonances, the spiritual power of the Supper.

    We are not unified around the table while we hold something against one who Christ calls our sibling.
    We are not in control.
    We are slaves to God’s restorative power, to God’s agenda of setting the cosmos right.

    in HIS love,

  16. Gardner Hall Says:

    Sorry for the restless night. I have those too.

    As I think about what you say, I realize that you are absolutely right that in a broad sense we do have fellowship with other Christians throughout the world. I think of texts like 1 Cor. 1:2 where Paul referred to “all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” As I partake of the Lord’s Supper I can help but think of brethren in China, South America and other parts of the world doing the same thing, and yes we have fellowship with them in a sense. We share the Lord’s body even though we don’t know each other or even where everyone is.

    Perhaps a better way of phrasing my point might be something like this: when thinking of limiting fellowship (1 Cor. 5) shouldn’t our concerns be local and congregational rather than picking out some “wing of the Restoration Movement” (how sectarian!) to determine whether I can positively have fellowship with “that wing” or not.

    I remember a loving couple that became members of a congregation in Ohio that I knew. Shortly after expressing the desire to be members someone found out that they believed in instrumental music in worship. Thankfully, the congregation wasn’t composed so much of “Texas tradition” people who would demand them coming forward and recanting their position. So, there were no problems. The brethren didn’t look upon their fellowship with the couple as “fellowship with Independent Christian Churches” but rather as fellowship with “Bob” and “Rosemary” (not their names). They were a great blessing to the church. Now, if Bob and Rosemary had decided to insist on a chamber orchestra or rock band in worship, there would have been problems and the congregation might have had to discipline them. In such a circumstance, however, they wouldn’t have been disciplining “the Independent Christian Church” but rather, Bob and Rosemary.

    However, in the current controversy, the question doesn’t seem to be so much how to deal with challenges concerning fellowship at a congregational level, but rather which “wing” or “wings” of the Restoration movement the “mainstream” can have fellowship with in lectureships, “church schools” and other venues apart from the local congregation. Or even worse, the question in the minds of some seems to be, “Which wing or wings are the true church?” This is all very sectarian. Perhaps what you mentioned in an earlier post about the desire to “control the brotherhood” also has a great deal to do with the problems.

    Thanks again, Gardner

  17. Darin Says:


    Well written post as usual. It would seem to me that looking at the text for what it says, not how it fits an already cherished paradigm, should shake people loose, but that is just my take.

    The Christ is Paul’s focus, not a system, and whenever someone put a system before Christ he comes to the defense of the cross. When someone’s actions didn’t keep people from Christ and the cross his actions seem to reveal he doesn’t care.

    If it was all about a system and Christ then Paul’s words in Acts 28 to his fellow Jews are very strange. Instead of informing them that he had a new way to worship, a correct new pattern, he assures them that he has done nothing against the Jewish people or the customs of their fathers. He promises he has kept the Jewish pattern.

  18. preacherman Says:

    Excellent post Bobby.
    Keep up the great work brother.

  19. Keith Brenton Says:

    I wonder if Jesus’ answer to the question about 2 Chron. 30:18-20 might be, “The Passover was made for man – not man for the Passover.”

  20. Falantedios Says:

    Or, Keith, perhaps even:

    All worship praxis was made for man, not man for worship praxis.


  21. Brad Says:

    For thousands of years, man tried to please the unseen forces that influenced crops, the hunt, and (seemingly) life and death. If things went well, you gave of your stuff to please “the gods”. If things went poorly, you gave of your stuff to *try* and please them. Either way, you had no way to know where you stood with them. But the result was the same: rituals.

    And right in the middle of the story of man trying to please “the gods” with rituals, God himself comes in and says, “No. I have come to make peace with you, and to bless you.”

    What an incredibly radical thought in the history of mankind that “the gods” don’t have to be pleased by the work of man!

    In fact, God says in Isaiah 1 that He had no need for the blood of bulls, and for all the sacrifices. The writer of Hebrews in chapters 9 and 10 reflects on this, showing had God had given them rituals to take care of the human conscience, but not to take care of sin.

    The coming of Jesus was all about the end of powerless rituals that had no way to deal with sin. The people in ancient Israel felt like they were right with God because they performed the correct rituals. But that methodology was a shadow, as the Hebrew writer would say. Jesus completed the work of God by taking us from trying to please God with our actions, to being pleasing because He purchased us with a singular sacrifice of blood that indeed was powerful enough to eliminate the problem of sin.

    If, then, He eliminated this problem of sin, why do we return to it like a dog to its vomit? Why are we so busy trying to define sin, and who is saved? That is the business of God. The entire old testament is about how man can’t possibly follow the law to please God! Why do we continue to try, when the whole explanation of why we need Jesus is because we can’t obey the law?

    The story of Jesus is the most radical story of all: You don’t have to please God with perfect obedience, and perfect rituals. He is pleased with the work of Jesus, and that is more than enough.

    If the question is “What do we have to do to please God?”, then our God is the same ambiguous being that every other culture has ever worshiped. The question should actually be, with reverence and awe, “Why would He choose to make peace with me?” A heart that is asking the latter has no problem dealing with “issues” that trip up those who ask the former, because it understands that the incredible story is not about how well man can obey, but how perfectly God saves in spite of our inabilities.

    Obedience is natural to those who have been saved. A desire to understand the heart of God and join Him in what He’s doing on the earth is the life of one who understands that He doesn’t have to stress about being pleasing to God.

    Getting your rituals exactly right will not impress – or honor – God any more than the blood of bulls.

    Dealing gracefully with your brother – especially if he disagrees with you – will.

  22. Ken Says:

    “the welcoming of the Dunkards congregations associated with Joseph Hostetler”

    Sorry Bobby, but the only reason Campbell et. al. accepted the Dunkard congregations is that Hostetler convinced a large number of them to drop their Dunkard distinctives and reform themselves according to the “ancient order”.

  23. Ronzoni Says:

    History marches on, driving us forward, while some stay back to fight a rear-guard action. Good luck, people!

  24. Tim Thompson Says:

    Thank you Bobby! I always have and always will look for the best way to honor,serve and obey my Lord. I know that I am an insufficiant vessel in many ways and pray that the Lord will work through my weeknesses and failings and use me. Having grown up in a non-instrumental congregation, I have always found our arguments for division both upsetting at best and arrogent and ungodly in many instances. I still prefer a cappella singing, but the only scriptures I can find for our “singing from the heart” do not include anything that would lead me to believe that there is any circumstance, even with an instrument, that I should not sing to God from my heart. And never ever do I find any reason for dividing myself from anyone who is saved by the grace of Jesus and part of the family of God, (or to judge them to be such for our differences in opinions on these matters). If Paul confided in the Corinthians as brothers, even when some did not acknowledge the resurrection of Jesus and the many other “unscriptural” and ungodly things that were present in that congregation, what makes me think that I have a superior knowledge so as to regulate disunity in Christ’s body. If there is a problem, then we need to deal with it quickly and discisively in our local body, but we also need to do it gently with a view of united spirits in the Spirit. I have wrestled with these things in the past and will continue to wrestle with them… But then Christianity is at least a wrestling match for any of us. May God bless us with dislocated hips so that we can know who He is and whose we are. It is by GRACE that we are saved… Blessings.

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