11 Feb 2008

Anomalies in the Pattern, Lingering Questions

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Exegesis, Hermeneutics, Jesus, Ministry, Patternism, Preaching, Precision Obedience, Sectarianism
Anomalies in “The Pattern”

All Christians recognize the authority of the Bible. Some do not understand the nature of that authority the same way but it is recognized nonetheless. Various words like guide or model are sometimes used to help convey how biblical authority functions. Still others latch onto words like pattern, blueprint or constitution. Some postulate that the nature of this pattern is quite exact in its details. For example Roy Deaver wrote several years ago

“God has given mankind the pattern for building his life. God has given the pattern for Christian character (attitudes and conduct) and the pattern for the church (organization, name, doctrine, worship, plan of salvation, mission) …” (“We Must Recognize That the New Testament Does Set Out the Divine Pattern,” Firm Foundation [October 22, 1985], 2)

Deaver asserts that “the fact that the New Testament is designed to be our pattern is emphatically declared in numerous passages …” he goes on to cite 2 Jn 9; 1 Cor 4.6; Gal 1.6-8; and Rev 22.18,19.

One wonders if the New Testament, the book, is under consideration in any of these passages? I submit they do not. The Second John text has no “book” under consideration. First Corinthians has the Hebrew Bible under consideration (interestingly enough). And Revelation has only itself under consideration.

I embrace the idea that a “pattern” is testified to in Scripture. We need to let the Scriptures set our agenda and not our debate traditions. If the Pattern Principle is alive and well as it is articulated by many one has some difficult facts to account for in the life of the Living Word of God himself … Jesus. I will share three such “anomalies” with my blog readers that need to be addressed. For each of these there is no “biblical” authority for in the sense that there is a book, chapter and verse authorizing these things.

Jesus and the Unauthorized Cup of Thanksgiving

All three Synoptic Gospels testify that Jesus took the “cup” and gave thanks for it (Mt 26.27; Mk 14.23; Lk 22.10-23). Indeed in Luke we have the presence of two cups that were of the four on Passover’s table in Jesus’ day. This cup(s) which was part of the Passover ritual during first century Judaism became part of the Lord’s Supper as Paul testifies in 1 Cor 10.15 and 11.24,27.

The question that the rigid patternist must deal with, if they are to face the issues with integrity, is where did that cup come from and who gave the authority for it? One will search in vain in the Hebrew Bible for a command from God to have a cup (much less four of them) in the Passover meal. There is not a single verse in the “Old Testament” about a cup nor multiple cups in the Passover service. The cup became traditional for Jewish observance during the intertestamental period. There is no record before the second century B.C. for the cup as part of the meal. In fact the very first time the cup is mentioned is in that popular book known as Jubilees. In Jubiless 49 there is a lengthy discussion of the Passover and its proper observance. In verse 6 we read of eating and “drinking wine and praising and blessing and glorifying the LORD the God of their fathers …” This, as I said, is the first time in history wine/cups are a part of the meal.

Yet Jesus embraced this tradition without even raising an eyebrow as far as the record shows. Did Jesus not know that adding a cup to the meal was a violation of the pattern principle?

Jesus and the Unauthorized Synagogue

The synagogue figures prominently in the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus. We read in Luke 4 that it was Jesus’ “custom” to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath (v.16). The book of Acts also testifies to the importance of the synagogue for even diaspora Jews. The Talmud claims there were 480 synagogues in Jerusalem alone prior to the destruction of the Temple.

Like the cup in the Passover, the synagogue presents certain anomalies to the one who sees the Scripture through pattern eyes. There is no doubt that the synagogue was of vital importance to Judaism in Jesus’ day. There is no doubt that Jesus voluntarily and, apparently, approvingly associated himself with the synagogue. The question to be asked is where was the biblical authority for its existence?

There is not a shred of evidence of the synagogue in the “Old Testament.” There is no evidence that it existed at all in what we might call “Old Testament” times. The synagogue was a post-exilic religious development among the Jews. No one knows who started them or why, though there are speculations. The first mention of a synagogue in an inscription comes from Egypt (not Palestine!) and dates to the 3rd century B. C. (cf. Eric M. Meyers, “Synagogue” Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol 6, p. 252).

Why did Jesus participate in this unbiblical institution?

Jesus and the Unauthorized Festival of Lights

The last anomaly I call attention to is Jesus’ participation in the religious Festival of Lights. The imagery of this festival dominates John 10.22-39 and is mentioned explicitly in v.22 (i.e. Dedication, NIV). This festival celebrated the liberation and salvation of the Jews from the hands of Antiochus Epiphanes. The Temple was defiled by pagan sacrifices (the abomination of desolation of Daniel). In 167 B.C. the Maccabees regained control of the Temple which was celebrated in the Festival of Lights. We can read the adventures that lead up to the liberation of the Temple in 1 and 2 Maccabees in the Apocrypha.

There is no biblical support for this celebration.  It did not exist. There is no command, example or inference by which the Jews could have justified the creation of this religious holy day. Yet Jesus is in the temple for this feast. John fashions his story of Jesus with that festival as the backdrop to teach the truth about Jesus. I can only conclude that Jesus did not have a problem in praising God for the deliverance brought about by the Maccabees. There certainly is no record of him saying this was wrong.

The claims of those who assert that the NT itself is a constitutional pattern/blue print fail to demonstrate their case exegetically. Jesus certainly respected biblical authority as he was the Living Word itself. Yet he did not have a problem participating in the traditions of his people even when there was clearly no authority (no command), as some want to define it, for that tradition. Thus

  • he drank from the cup,
  • he taught in the synagogue,
  • he celebrated the feast of Dedication.
  • Jesus has put some anomalies in the “pattern.”

Seeking Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

37 Responses to “Anomalies in the Pattern, Lingering Questions”

  1. Falantedios Says:

    Until we stop bringing worldly definitions of authority and pasting them onto the Bible (itself not a “Biblical” word, as someone pointed out recently!), and until we grasp that the written word of God was not considered to be the whole of the Word of God until very recently, we will not escape such problems.

    Common sense will not save us from these problems. The Bible was not written with 21st century common sense in mind, but rather 1st century.

    Deductive reasoning will not save us from these problems. God has given us a story, and the question we must deal with is: How do you respond when your commanding officer steps to the front of the formation and says, “Once upon a time…”?

    in HIS love,

  2. Steve Puckett Says:

    Good thoughts bro. I received a copy of the Richland Hills & Instrumental Music: A Plea to Reconsider book in the mail at our church office. Having already seen it and it’s foolhardiness, I wrote “Return to Sender” on the envelope and put it back in the mailbox.

    I have a wonderful pastors group here in Melbourne and I have to say that these guys understand the hair splitting that goes on in churches of all denominations, but on some of our logic they join me in shaking their heads.

    May God help us all!


  3. Gardner Hall Says:

    I have thought particularly about the first of your three examples. No wine mentioned in the original Passover! I’ll offer two observations:

    (1) As Lord of the Sabbath, Passover, synagogues, feasts and everything, Jesus certainly had the right to participate in activities like these you’ve mentioned that are not specifically mentioned in the O.T. He would have infallibly known which were acceptable. However, since we’re not “Lords” of such things and not infallible, it behooves us (like that old KJV term?) to be very careful in thinking we are right to accept practices not found in the N.T. but that have come to us through historical tradition.

    (2) This type of reasoning can cut several ways. It’s easy to use it to deal with those who have scruples we don’t share. (I’ve used it, I hope legitimately, with my “one cup” brethren.) However, it’s practically the same point that Roman Catholics use when asking us to accept their traditions. They think that Jesus would accept their mass, vestments, sprinkling for baptism, holidays and that we should too! But, it’s not that simple! While it’s good food for thought, take this reasoning too far and you’re a Roman Catholic!

    May God give us wisdom, Gardner

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Gee, I think there are a lot worse things I could be than Roman Catholic! It might even be a bit presumptious to assume that Jesus would not accept their mass, vestments, sprinkling for baptism, holidays, etc… my goodness, if He accepts my best attempt(imperfect and ignorant though I may be) at worship and obedience, he surely has grace for the rest of the world as well!
    –Jeanne H

  5. Gardner Hall Says:

    This is not a question of the greatness of God’s grace. We pray that His clemency will be widely extended, even to those we feel to be giving too much attention to medieval traditions and are thus detracted from the simplicity of Christ. However, we should lovingly and humbly question any system or line of thinking that might cover up the simplicity of Christ’s teachings with human inventions. If such concerns are unimportant, let’s just all do our own thing.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    For a different perspective, take a look at Wayne Jackson’s article.


  7. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:


    I have read Wayne Jackson’s material quite carefully and found it quite unconvincing.

    Nick you are right that we need to see that the Bible is more Story than deductive logic.

    Steve, I am glad you have some folks you can share the foibles of religious folk with.

    Gardner, I hate to suggest this but it is almost a case of special pleading (if we are to appeal to logic here) to argue as you have. But should it not be the case that Jesus set the record straight. Jesus certainly was not adverse to rebuking those that needed it (cf Mt 23).

    Seeking Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  8. Gardner Hall Says:

    What line of reasoning should we use with our friends who use a similar approach to suggest that we accept sprinkling for baptism, the mass, the use of incense, holy water, etc.? I’m open for ideas!

  9. preacherman Says:

    Great thoughts brother.
    Keep up the great posting and challenging our way of thinking.

  10. Keith Says:

    Your comments on the synagogue resonate with me. I’ve always found it interesting that the NT church was modeled after the synagogue, a “unbiblical” practice.

    Perhaps Jesus should be the pattern we are striving to imitate. If so, the pattern is one of acceptance and love beyond the law, religious tradition and interpretive differences. The woman caught in adultery should have been stoned. Jesus, yet again, failed to follow the pattern. Praise God he did.

  11. Rex Says:

    Wayne Jackson’s article seems to read some of our own cultural world view back into the Jewish mindset. For example, because we are able to separate nationalism from faith, he assumes the Jews did so also with the Festival of Lights. That is a big and backwards leap on his part!

    Any ways… I am always dumbfounded as to just how protective some Restorationist (not all, just some) are when it comes to their “pattern” approach to scripture. They spend so much energy trying to hold together the pattern approach believing that scripture’s primary concern is to make sure we understand precisely what is to be believed as the absolute and only authorized form for church structure and worship. While I certainly don’t believe we can just take a hap-hazzard approach that makes it up as we go along, we must really question why Jesus spent so little time addressing worship issues (and when he did it was to address the motives — like praying in the streets).

    Instead of spending so much energy addressing assembly/worship practices, Jesus spent his time addressing relational issues between God and people as it relates to justice, compassion, grace, forgiveness, love, mercy, rightousness (daily ethical living), etc… And you know what… This is the same thrust of the entire NT. All of the theological/doctrinal passages lead to the so what — how we morally/ethically live out our calling as a redeemed community. And even the passages, such as 1 Cor 14. 26-35 or Heb 13, that do address aspects of worship do so not for the purpose of making sure we have the right form BUT FOR THE PURPOSE OF HAVING THE RIGHT FUNCTION — that is to live as a redeemed community built upon love for God and each other.

    I get a little excited about this because I spent two years working with a church in Memphis whose elders spent every waking minute making sure the church knew what the correct form of worship was and making sure the church knew who was abandoning that form. All the while, our building sat in the middle of a neighberhood that was over ran by crime and poverty. What was done about this? The doors would be locked so that the homeless could not come in for a place to rest. If you were an African-American, getting into the church building would depend on who greeted you at the door and whether you looked “Christian” or like you were from the streets. I left when I realized that the leadership was willing to allow the racism and injustice continue rather than actually take a stand for what was really important to Jesus.

    Our movement, the CoC, which continues to walk in the direction of upward mobility needs a good reality check. We call ourselves the church but sometimes I wonder if we even have a clue as to what it means to be church.

    May we all return to the scriptures and discover what is really important to God and then with humility, grace, and wisdom try to live out our calling to be the new creation!

    Ithaca Church of Christ
    Ithaca, NY


  12. Zack Says:

    Very interesting! I greatly appreciate your study on this. I like something else you stated in a blog entry some time ago about Paul fellowshipping with brethren in error in the Corinthian letters. Neither Jesus nor Paul seemed to have problems many people have today. Thank you and God bless you!

  13. Joshua L. Pappas Says:

    Hey Bobby!

    Interesting thoughts, some of which I have been periodically considering for some time. I am truly open-minded, and my love for you is genuine. However, your examples are not convincing to me.

    As for the Synagogue, it seems safe for me to see implied authority for it in the Lord’s mandate that his Law should be taught. At least that is the same train of thought that our brothers have used to justify church buildings for many years. Commands to assemble, teach, preach, etc. imply the right to procure the things that facilitate the carrying out of the command. I think that makes sense, and is a suitable answer in justifying the “pattern” mentality as far as the Synagogue is concerned.

    The argument about the four cups is one that I never encountered until last year, and it threw me for a loop for a while. However, upon studying Luke 22 more closely I have concluded it to be little more than an argument from silence. Jesus took a cup in v. 17, and then gave it significance in v. 22. I do not see it necessary to see two cups in Luke, and even if there are, there is nothing said about why the cups were there or that Jesus approved of the accepted four cups of that day’s custom. It’s just an argument from silence same as the one about Cornelius: since Acts doesn’t say he left the military, Christians can all kill in war, right?

    The one about the Feast of Dedication is the same–an argument from silence. Why did Jesus participate? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else now living. To overthrow strongly established principles such as the one about seeking the Lord’s authority for how we worship and serve him with dubious arguments from silence like these is dangerous in my view, but the Lord is the judge.

    As for John 8 (which someone above alluded to be an example of Jesus just casting aside the Law), it has been pointed out for a long, long time that the Law wasn’t followed when the mob brought the woman to Jesus. If she was caught in the act, where was her accomplice? The whole thing was sinful injustice in an attempt to do nothing more than trap Jesus. He didn’t fall for it. Since there was no legal mandate for such a woman to be stoned, Jesus showed her mercy and used it as an opportunity to save her soul. But, Jesus wrote the Law that said to stone adulterers and adulteresses properly convicted, so please do not accuse Jesus of despising his own Law.

    With love and wishing for peace and unity,

  14. Falantedios Says:

    What line of reasoning (in the sense of dialogue) should we take?

    Try, “How does your idea harmonize with the biblical story?” How does your practice or your ritual or your tradition reflect the Creator God? Does the Creator God see teachers and elders of the new covenant as holier or more magnificent than other believers? Then perhaps outward vestments ought not to be worn.

    Does the Creator God save men and women by killing their old life and raising them anew? Then perhaps burial in water more accurately reflects God’s ways. BUT, Almighty God delights in showing mercy, so perhaps those with a terrible fear of immersion or whose medical state makes immersion dangerous might be sprinkled (since this too is one of God’s ways of cleansing his people). This seems to be the thought process in the Didache, and I get frustrated with people who treat that document as if its authors were trying to make Christianity more popular or something!

    Does the Creator God treat one piece of property as holier than another? Than perhaps we should focus less of our resources on beautifying “the house of God” and more on expanding and beautifying the household of faith.

    Paul tells us in Romans 6 how baptism reflects the story of how God is saving the world. He tells us in 1 Cor 10 how the Lord’s Supper so reflects the story as well.

    I believe that the “infallible Jesus” argument proves too much.

    I might also suggest that Jesus, as the representative Israelite and the first-born of New Creation, has a different place in the story than we do. We are completing what HE began, not starting something else. Innovation is necessary (because we are not him and we are not called to recapitulate his ministry in Israel), but not in ways that reflect something other than the One True God we see in Jesus.

    in HIS love,

  15. Falantedios Says:


    I’m glad you’re taking part in this discussion! I love your input, and you are always wise and brotherly.

    I believe you unwittingly hold to a false dilemma on this matter. You spoke of someone seeking to “overthrow strongly established principles such as the one about seeking the Lord’s authority for how we worship and serve him…”

    This implies that you believe that either we continue with the current CoC methodology, or else we reject the principle of seeking the Lord’s authority. That is a false dilemma. We believe that the current system does not seek authority from Scripture the way Jesus did and taught his followers to seek authority from Scripture. Because we believe that his way is different from the way we’ve been taught, we are seeking to learn his way.

    You kind of dodged the whole import of the question about the cups.

    If you can find “Command, Example, or Necessary Inference” in the Hebrew Scriptures for adding a cup of wine to the Passover meal.

    How was the Law studied and taught before the Babylonian Exile? Surely it was not ignored until this Sabbath-meddling synagogue innovation came along! Show me “Command, Example, or Necessary Inference” from the Hebrew Scriptures showing where God desires his people to gather on the Sabbath in their local communities. Until then, local weekly Sabbath assembly seems to be running ahead according to how Brother Deaver teaches us to Ascertain Biblical Authority.

    Finally, the silence of Scripture FORBIDS a practice, doesn’t it? This is not a festival authorized by our canon of Scripture. Applying CENI to the Hebrew Scriptures will conclude that those participating in the Festival of Lights are guilty of unlawful worship, just as heretical and divisive as introducing the instrument in Christian worship today. Our Hebrew Scriptures are as silent about Hanukkah as the Greek Scriptures are about instrumental music.

    We must ascertain God’s authority on our practices. The extremes of the Regulative Principle vs. the Normative Principle only polarize the discussion; they create much heat and little light because both are found in Scripture in different ways. Neither is put forth by God as THE bedrock principle of ascertaining authority.

    We must seek that bedrock, and I don’t believe that anyone in this discussion is rejecting God’s authority by so seeking.

    in HIS love,

  16. Falantedios Says:

    PS – I agree with you about John 8(Jesus doesn’t lay aside the Law in that instance), but what about Mark 7:18-19?

    Where is Jesus’ authority for this teaching, coming as it does almost in the same breath as Mark 7:9?

  17. Kent Says:


    Thanks for taking this on. I appreciate your blog so much and your willingness to boldly take on some of these topics.

    I have said for a long time that until we address our approach to scripture we are going to have differences in Churches of Christ. It is no wonder that a group of people who are using the pattern method differ with those of us who don’t. Hermeneutics, in my opinion, is the biggest thing needing to be addressed amongst us.


  18. Falantedios Says:


    The pattern method is not in question, I don’t think.

    The NATURE of the pattern is up for grabs. What KIND of pattern are we seeking? Some seek a pattern of rules and regulations like the Colossian congregation.

    Paul tells us clearly what the pattern is: JESUS and Him only.

    in HIS love,

  19. Joshua L. Pappas Says:

    Just so everyone knows, I hold Bobby to be a friend of mine, and we agree about a lot, even if we disagree about a lot too. Bobby, I’m sorry that when I rarely post a comment here, it seems I’m always disagreeing with you, but I only do it, because you are wrong. ;-D

    Thanks. I think you are a discerning fellow.

    First, about your line of reasoning. It appears to be almost entirely subjective and presumptive. I echo the words of the Psalmist: Psa 19:13, “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins….” I can’t presume that God will accept something just because it seems reasonable to me. Either there is an objective standard or moral oblivion. I hope I’m not making this a false dilemma, but I can see no other logical option. If there is an objective standard, then it certainly could be looked at as a pattern, regulative, etc. Now, we may disagree about what the pattern is, but that it is a pattern we should agree. (Note: I recognize that Bobby, Nick and I do agree on this point.)

    I suppose that what I need is for someone to point me to a means of ascertaining the Lord’s authority for something other than direct statement (or direct command), approved example, or clearly necessary implication. In my view, many of the perceived arguments between the anti-CENI and CENI crowds would be gone if people didn’t make a bad argument and unjustly blame it on CENI.

    As for the passover wine and feast, maybe I am dodging the question, but if I am, it is because the Scriptures do not give me a clear answer. They are silent as to what is going on. Jesus lived out the fulfillment of the Law and the establishment of the New covenant simultaneously. With that in mind, maybe he had never used cups of wine in Passover observance all his life until that point when he introduced them as an element of Christian communion. Silly? Maybe. Who knows? What I’m getting at is one assumption is as good as another, because it is a matter of silence. On the other hand, passages like Col 3:17 ring as clear as a bell–at least to me, and all I can do is the best I can do, and doing the best I can do, I have to reject these dubious arguments that seem to me to plunge us into relativism.

    I wish I had the space to say this more thoroughly.

    As for the synagogue, let me clarify. I don’t believe that something being mandated and something being authroized are always one and the same. Study and teaching/preaching the Law of God has always been mandated. Therefore doing that is always authorized. Therefore finding an expedient way to do it is always authorized. What is expedient for one generation may not be so for another. Before the diaspora, the Jews taught the Law (when they did) in a variety of ways. The Synagogue system was what became expedient in the diaspora, and became the way of the church. Authorization for teaching God’s word from the Tabernacle, Temple, family home, street corner, mountaintop, and synagogue is implied in the holy mandate to do it. That doesn’t mandate that one use every means, but it is always mandated that he use some means.

    Concerning Mk 7:18-19, I think it is one of those tough spots when Jesus was fulfilling the old and inaugurating the new. Jesus’ disciples didn’t start eating pork until after Acts 10, so I know Jesus didn’t, but he did lay the foundation in his initial accomplishment and proclamation of the gospel of himself. since he knew what he was going to do, he gave himself the authority in and by the Law to do it (Deut 18:15ff).

    🙂 I hope this clarifies my position.

  20. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Keith I did not know you read my blog. I am honored. Glad to have you make a comment.

    Seeking Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  21. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Joshua I am not offended in the slightest. Do not apologize … As iron sharpens iron …

    Seeking Shalom,
    Bobby V

  22. Darin L. Hamm Says:


    I appreciate your words very much.

  23. Rex Says:

    Joshua said, “I suppose that what I need is for someone to point me to a means of ascertaining the Lord’s authority for something other than direct statement (or direct command), approved example, or clearly necessary implication.”

    The Apostle Paul said, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe…” (Rom 3.21-22).

    I am not trying to single out Joshua, I just want to use his statement to say the following… Though I myself am not a CEI person, I understand those who are. At the end of the day however, none of it really matters. No matter who may be right (we may both be wrong though), we all woefully fail at some point. It is too tempting to subtley place our faith in our own intellectualism (which in my opinion has happened in the past in the CoC). Such misplaced faith is an egregious error. We all must learn to trust (faith) in God whose grace is bigger than our intellectual capabilities and thankfully so. There are some teachings in scripture that appear pretty clear to me but for some reason they are not so clear to others. Regardless of the clarity, at the end of the day I still may be wrong. But I trust in God to save me despite my short-commings and errors — whether they be doctrinal or moral or both.

    Ithaca Church of Christ
    Ithaca, NY


  24. Falantedios Says:

    Dear Joshua,

    Thank you for your kind words. I think you are a compassionate and Christ-like man who humbles himself before Jesus Christ, the one to whom all authority has been given.

    The writer of Hebrews tells me that since I have a better high priest than the writer of the Psalms, I may enter boldly into God’s presence. Because I have a better sacrifice, I need not fear drawing near to him. Because I trust in his righteousness, I can trust him to present me blameless before his glory (Jude 24).

    You say, “I can’t presume that God will accept something just because it seems reasonable to me.” That is EXACTLY what you do with every single necessary inference and/or “authorization by implication” in your Christian life.

    My way of discerning the pattern is through humility, integrity, and community.

    I come to the text striving to recognize my preconceptions, and praying that my Father will soften my heart and bless me like Paul prayed for the Ephesians to be blessed. I know that without Him, I have no hope of wisdom (James 1).

    I come to the text striving to understand how each part fits into the story God is telling from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. God has invited us all into the story of New Creation; we each have a part to discern and play. Fitting my little story into the big story as seamlessly as possible – integrity.

    Community means that I do not interpret alone. I trust that God’s Spirit dwells among us who believe, and so I must share my ideas with the larger community, and consider the beliefs and ideas of other believers.

    You’re right, my method is subjective. I cannot approach the Scriptures in any other way. I am not and cannot be objective. I was not designed to be objective. I was designed to live in humility, integrity, and community with the One True Creator God.

    in HIS love,

  25. Joshua L. Pappas Says:

    I love you Bobby and appreciate your sincerity, and constant challenges. I’ll pick up your book and peruse its contents like I did with “Kingdom Come.” However, I still hold that one is arguing from silence, so to speak, to use the cups and feast as a means of justifying going beyond the word. I’ll give it more thought, I promise.

    Thanks for the wholesome thoughts Rex. I too believe there is grace for doctrinal errors along with all other kinds of errors. There is a big difference between an honest mistake and willful disobedience.

    Thanks for your honesty Nick. I appreciate your passion and candor, though it seems our views of things differ quite a bit. 🙂


  26. Falantedios Says:


    We’re not talking about “going beyond the word.” While that is what you see, that is not what we see.

    Should the Christian response to human slavery in 2008 be the same as described in Philemon? Send the slaves back and pray for the best from their masters?

    David Lipscomb was preaching civil disobedience over a century ago, and he was accused of “going beyond the word” as well.

    Our assumption in the brotherhood seems to have been that the nature of the authority God delegates to Scripture is that of a “court of appeals.” You go to Scripture to get a judgment, an “authoritative ruling” as it were.

    Quoting at length: “Much would-be Christian thought in the last two hundred years has tacitly conceded [that the real role of Scripture is educational] these huge claims, turning “Kingdom of God” into ‘the hope for life after death’ and treating Jesus’ death, at most, as the mechanism whereby individual sinners can receive forgiveness and hope for an otherworldly future — leaving the politicians and economists [and scientists] of the Enlightenment to take over the running, and as it turns out the ruining, of the world. This political agenda was of course a vital part of the Enlightenment project: kick ‘God’ upstairs, make religion a matter of private piety, and then you xcan organize the world to your own advantage. This has been the leitmotif of the Western world ever since, the new philosophy which has so far sustained several great empires, launched huge and horribly flawed totalitarian projects, and left the contemporary world thoroughly confused. Scripture itself, meanwhile, is muzzled equally by BOTH sides. It is squelched into silence by the ‘secularists’ who dismiss it as irrelevant, historically inaccurate and so on — as you would expect, since it might otherwise challenge their imperial dreams. Equally worrying, if not more so, it is squashed out of shape by many of the devout, who ignore its global, cosmic, and justice-laden message and treat it only as the instrument of personal piety and the source of true doctrine about eternal salvation.” (NT Wright, “The Last Word”, chap. 6)

    We’re not talking about going beyond the word. We’re talking about boldly exploring where the Word leads — out of the assembly and into the world.

    Scripture is not a depository of eternal truth, and it is not an appellate court. Scripture is the vehicle of God’s judging and healing authority in our communities and individual lives, the impetus that moves his purposes FORWARD in time, towards the New Heavens and New Earth.

    in HIS love,

  27. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Joshua I appreciate the kind words and the feeling is mutual.

    I have no desire to justify anything, I simply want to take the text seriously. What I call into question is the very assumption that drives the socalled Pattern Hermeneutic as having no basis in the Scriptures themselves.

    Seeking Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  28. Gardner Hall Says:

    I appreciate Nick’s remarks on my question. Nick, you were the only one who had the “gumption” to address it in detail. I believe that you are a deep thinker and I especially appreciate your fairness. I think your comments partially addressed some of the issues, especially the sprinkling. (Of course you couldn’t address all specifically.)

    I’ll think further on my “infallible Jesus” point but not ready to toss it out. He was the infallible interpreter! We’re not! I still think that implies discretion on our part.

    Of the three examples Bobby used, the wine/cups is the one that gives me the most pause. As for the synagogue, It is interesting to note that Moses did set up an organizational system for different numbers of Jews, including “tens” the number used to organize synagogues (Ex. 18:21, 25; Deut. 1:15). I think the synagogue was authorized (I know some don’t like that word) generically, (much like Bible classes today) as a way those ten could meet for mutual edification since nothing was really specified about the organization of that group. Jesus and his disciples went to the Feast of Dedication, just as they went to Sabbath worship. That’s where the masses were available for teaching. I think Joshua has good points on this topic. (Nice to have someone on the blog who shares my concerns.)

    As for the wine/cups, I’ll just say I’ll study it further.

    It is correct to say that Jesus is the pattern and yet Jesus, the pattern, has left us with teaching about how to serve him. Can we accept him as the pattern without analyzing his words? The issue is how to apply what he has told us about serving him without being presumptuous on one hand or pharisaical on the other. Yes, relational issues are extremely important but so is acceptable worship. It’s not one or the other or either/or, but both and all. Certainly our Catholic friends could and do say that their innovations “are worthy of Christ.” I think we need a more objective criterion than that phrase to help us stay on the straight and narrow.

    My main concern in analyzing this issue is that we must be very careful in applying a principle that seems to say “Jesus accepted innovations, therefore we should too!” that could be used to allow what most of us would agree to be way too much (for ex., inventions of Catholicism, Protestantism through the centuries). If a line of reasoning allows too much, it allows nothing.

  29. Joshua L. Pappas Says:

    Well said Gardner. I think we’re on the same page. I have no problems seeing the world-rescuing justice themes in the Bible, nor do I have any problems viewing it as a grand narrative that ends with a restoration of where it began AND seeing it as a “depository” of eternal truth. I have no problem understanding Jesus as the pattern, but all I know about him for certain I learned through the Scriptures. I just cannot accept a subjective view of truth, because John 8:32 teaches me it (he) is objective and knowable.

    For Bobby: I was born in Nashville and raised between Nashville and neighboring areas. My family has been in the Lord’s church in this area for more than a century and I was raised in what you call the Nashville Bible School Tradition. However, I just call it the truth. I thought that might interest you.


  30. Joshua L. Pappas Says:

    Oh, almost forgot… Nick, thanks for the challenge concerning slavery, civil disobedience etc. That taps into a very interesting (to me) train of thought that I’ve been following off and on for some time. Maybe I’ll go into it in detail sometime on my blog. We’ll have to see.

    My response is similar to my position on head-coverings in 1 Cor 11. There are principles in operation that have differing specific applications based on culture and custom. However, I cannot now say what I would do in every conceivable circumstance. The only apostolic example I have is of Paul sending an escaped slave back to a Christian. Would he have sent him back to a heathen? Well, I just don’t know. I think the Christian responsibility in a slave-owning society would be to buy slaves only to free them, and preach and teach until others see the light. A sermon and a march would not be a bad thing. But becoming an underground railroad in definace of the law? That is another matter.


  31. Falantedios Says:


    According to how I’ve been taught the Regulative Principle, when God makes a positive command about the way things are to be done, all other methods are null and void. This is the principle by which I hear IM interpreted, by which I hear the role of women interpreted, etc. So now we return to the synagogue setting. In the Law, the PRIESTS are commanded to be the teachers of the law. Just like in our day, it is taught in the brotherhood that men are commanded to be the public teachers of the Word… how then can Jesus participate in the synagogue when someone other than the one commanded by Moses is doing the teaching? Teaching the law is good, but only if it is done in an authorized manner.

    Jesus said, I AM the truth. That is the statement with which we must wrestle. He didn’t say, Scripture is the truth (even though it IS true). He didn’t say, “The books you are about you write will be the truth.” He didn’t even say, “All authority on heaven and earth is given to the books you are about to write.”

    He said HE is the truth, and that all authority is given to HIM.

    Objective truth, absolute truth, is a PERSON and not a compendium of information. Yet part of what we are given is an anthology of sacred inspired texts.

    If Jesus is the truth, then Jesus is the pattern. HOW he is the pattern is what we must work out in our lives every day.

    in HIS love,

  32. Falantedios Says:

    I cannot really express how wonderful this is to me: brothers who can speak the truth in love to one another. Thank you.

    in HIS love,

  33. Gardner Hall Says:

    Thinking out loud with you. Though priests had specific responsibilities, they weren’t the only teachers under the law. You had prophets (male and female), judges, etc. So there is no exclusive pattern there to be applied in the synagogues. As for the N.T., all are to teach but some restrictions are placed on some, not just women, in certain settings (1 Cor. 14; 1 Tim. 2).

    I’m not interested in any official “Regulative Principle” with capital letters. I am interested as one of the Shepherd’s sheep to understanding what he wants in the simplest way possible.

    Maybe I haven’t gotten your point yet, but I don’t see how you can separate Jesus as The Pattern as a Person, from concern about applying his words correctly. It’s a package deal! One goes with the other! I agree that some become so concerned about “the plan” they forget about “the Man.” I’m with you on that!

    Amen on speaking the truth in love.

  34. Falantedios Says:

    Dear brother Gardner,

    Believe me, I am incredibly concerned about applying his words correctly. If I thought one way was as good as another, this discussion would be just so much hot air. I don’t think this is just hot air. I think we’re disagreeing about a matter of great importance. In that vein, I fear that simplifying does more harm than good. God is complex. The world is complex. God’s plan for rescuing his good creation is complex. We can’t change that without doing serious damage to the integrity of the story.

    I believe The MAN IS the Plan.

    My assertion is that it has been assumed that church organization is the central feature of the New Testament. I am trying to put ecclesiology in its rightful place, as a function first of Christology and secondly of eschatology/mission.

    Jesus Himself, and personal and corporate discipleship to him, have been pushed out of the way by attempts to restore The Ancient Order of Worship.

    in HIS love,

  35. Gardner Hall Says:

    I agree with you that church organization has unfortunately been the centerpiece of N.T. teaching in the minds of too many. Just don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater in reacting against that! Jesus is the plan. His words are a part of Him. God bless,

  36. Joshua L. Pappas Says:

    For the record, I’m not a champion of CENI. I just read my Bible and try to follow it as the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  37. Royce Ogle Says:

    I have always been both amazed and amused that coc brothers and sisters spend so much time agonizing what can and can’t be done for an hour or two on Sunday morning. It seems as though that if God thinks it is as important as some of us do He would have been much more clear about it.

    The fact is that “The Lord’s church” was very much alive and well many hundreds of years before Mr’s Campbell and Stone were even born.

    In this particular dialogue I agree with bro’ Nick’s views on each comment. And, Bobby you have been a favorite of mine for a decade.

    I contend that if we refocus our energies on loving God and loving the people he said to love what we squabble over will fade in importance.

    I am fairly recent to the brotherhood (12 years)and have grown to love the rich traditions that call all of us to a humble Christian life and simple worship. Here I have found soul mates whom I love and who love me deeply. For that I full of gratitude.

    I have seen the steady winds of grace sweep over the brotherhood and it continues. More and more of our friends are finding their true identity in Christ who never fails.

    In Jesus,
    Royce Ogle

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