11 Mar 2016

Voice from a “Subversive” Journal, 1968: Instruments vs Love

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Carl Ketherside, Church, Church History, Jesus, Love, Patternism, Preaching, Precision Obedience, Restoration History, Sectarianism, Unity

Mission MessengerIt is always more or less detrimental to the ascertainment of truth to allow our previous conclusions to assume the position of fixed and fundamental truth to which nothing is to be at any time added either in correction or enlargement. On the contrary, we ought rather to act under the conviction that we may be wiser today than yesterday” (Alexander Campbell, 1840)

In the little spare time I have, I have been rereading through the works of Carl Ketcherside (which were given to me as a gift of grace by his daughter). I am currently in volume 9 and hope to finish the set in the near future. There are pages that I find myself in disagreement. There are pages that I eagerly say “Amen” too. All is very good reading no matter where he comes down.

Yesterday I read a short article by David Reagan in the October 1968 issue of Mission Messenger. Perhaps it was the year “1968” that caused me to be sensitive to the passage (I always like to find out about the time I was born). It is called “A Moment for Thought” and I would like to share this brief article with you. I share it because I think Reagan makes us look in the mirror and examine ourselves …

“A Moment For Thought” by David R. Reagan

“I recently read about a poll conducted among American Catholics. The most startling revelation of this poll was the fact that more than 60% of American Catholics feel that abstinence from meat on Friday is more important than Jesus’ admonition to ‘love our neighbor as ourself.” [sic].

Rather shocking isn’t it? In fact, I would go so far as to say it is downright appalling and pitiful that so many “Christians” could have such a warped concept of what Christianity is all about.

Yet, before we get on our self-righteous high horse and start condemning the ‘pagan’ Catholics, let’s pause for a moment and ask ourselves how members of the Church of Christ – the “New Testament church” – would respond to a similar question. Suppose, for example, that the same pollster were to ask the stalwart members of our brotherhood the question, ‘Which is more important, abstention from the use of musical instruments in the worship service or the command of Jesus to ‘love your neighbor as yourself”?

I have no doubt our response would be so overwhelmingly in favor of abstinence from musical instruments that we would make the Catholics look wishy washy in their preference for abstinence from meat.

Similarly, I think I know what the response of our brethren would be if the same question were worded differently – “which is more important, regular church attendance, or love of neighbor?” or, “which is of greater importance, the systematic observance of the Lord’s Supper upon the first day of the week, or the love of one’s fellowman?” Again, I have no doubt that the love of man would finish a poor second among our brethren.

Our explanation of the Catholic response would be the classic one, ‘What can you expect from people who never study the Bible, but simply do what the Pope tells them?” How would you explain the fact that we who pride ourselves on our Bible study would agree with the Catholic response?” (Mission Messenger, October 1968, p.158 in volume 9 of the Works of Carl Ketcherside).

End of Quote

This is a thought provoking voice from the past. I have been meditating on the question now for a day. I am not so sure where we might come down 47 years after this short piece was written. But the question is an important one . . . and how we respond says volumes about who we are as the People of God.

One day a scholar in the torah came to Jesus and asked, “which is the greatest commandment of the Law? Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

6 Responses to “Voice from a “Subversive” Journal, 1968: Instruments vs Love”

  1. Mike Price Says:

    Well he thinks he knows me when he asked, “which is more important, regular church attendance, or love of neighbor?” or “which is of greater importance, the systematic observance of the Lord’s Supper upon the first day of the week, or the love of one’s fellowman?” and then says, “I have no doubt that the love of man would finish a poor second among our brethren.” Interesting how he has placed himself in the seat of the Judge! I thought only God could read hearts. Using brethren as he did is inclusive of all of us, but of course not him!

    First, he must not understand what God’s intent was since regular attendance is about loving my brethren and so is love of my neighbor, so I would do both, because both have to do with loving others.

    Second, he must not understand what God’s intent was since taking the Lord’s supper regularly has to with loving Christ and loving the body of Christ maintaining unity which is an act of love as is love of my fellowman, so I would do both.

    He was wrong on both counts in reference to me his brother in Christ. You can find extremes on both sides of the fence and he is just the extreme on one side. This is not so much a thought provoking voice from the past as it is a sad voice that has always existed in the past as well as the present. Promoting his own self-righteousness, knowledge and illumination as he takes the position of the the enlightened. This is offensive to say the least. Dividing generally works from a false premise.

    • Bobby Valentine Says:

      Mike, I appreciate your comments deeply. I do not disagree that coming to the gathering is an act of love for God and our brothers and sisters. Or it ought to be such. All obedience should be an expression of our responsive love to God. It is not without significance the greatest commandment is “reduced” to the “second” greatest commandment in James, Paul and John however. Liturgy should be a response of love no doubt. But liturgy is not equivalent. I think Reagan’s piece is designed, not to be self righteous but to provoke an examination of how or why our answer would be much different than a Roman Catholic on the matter of eating fish. I am no one’s judge and do not pretend to be. I take the article as a chance to examine my own presuppositions on who God is.

  2. Travis Says:

    Bobby, good thoughts. I differ from Mike’s view of the point the author was trying to make. I too see too many people taking what I consider to be a legalistic approach to defining love. Love equals X, Y, Z works being done properly (IM, Lord’s Supper, acappella singing, etc.). However, that’s not the example Jesus used to illustrate love. The Levite and the Priest were obedient-minded folks, yet it was the Samaritan who broke cultural rules to help someone in need who was the one who is said to have loved his neighbor. From my experience, we have a tendency to gloss over how we love others and define our love for God by how we obey rules. I think the author’s point is spot-on and still applicable, even after nearly 5 decades.

  3. Jeff Brown Says:

    Thank you for the post!

    It is mystifying how we as God’s people distort God’s values. How do we defend our passion for issues that Jesus never made so much as a public statement about? And at the same time shrug our shoulders over things that Jesus devoted his life to?

    I think you are right… it is easier to see in history than it is to see in the present tense. It is far easier to see in others than it is to identify within us. I wonder… what have I devoted myself to that God cares nothing about? What am I not concerned about that God is deeply devoted to?

    It is jarring to think how badly we miss the boat, but not surprising.

    I am reminded of that scene where the disciples were arguing about rank and file in the kingdom… all while Jesus was predicting and preparing for his passion. We may not know what we are asking for when we ask to be on his right and left when he comes into the kingdom (there were crosses on his right and left). But he knew exactly what he was asking for when he looked out to his right and left from the cross to pray, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” I think as Jesus looks over the people who wear his name today, among the right and the left, he has always known who we were and how badly we would distort his message and still he took up his cross and our place. I’m thankful for a God who is bigger and better than my ability to follow Him.

  4. Dwight Says:

    If asked the question that you propose would have to say they are both important, but love reigns supreme. It is therefore interesting that we will argue that attendance to assembly is vital and yet miss it because we are in dirty work clothes. Hmmmm? And many would argue that a person involved in a personal study or prayer or thought to God is less important than assembly. In this case Paul should of (as he had done in the past with the help of angels) broke out of jail to assemble. Where was his heart…with God in what ever state he was in, despite not being in another state of assembly.

  5. Robert Limb Says:

    This mercifully short article has flaws, which have been pointed out. I could add another: opinion poll questions are notoriously difficult to conceive, and much progress has been made since the ’60s. For instance, Catholics could have replied that it was important to insist on fasting because everyone knows that we are supposed to love our neighbour.

    I think Mike Price is reacting to Reagan’s hunch about the brotherhood of his day, and his “I have no doubt” is a patent generalisation, and as we all know generalisations are all wrong, (including that one). So I am in sympathy with his irritation on that score.

    I am left with what I consider to be two genuine and important questions.

    First, do we realise fully how easy it is to see faults in others whilst being blind to them in ourselves? As a footnote to that I sometimes wonder if we think that we have had our beam surgically removed at baptism, so it’s OK to work on the mote in our brother’s eye.

    Secondly, how de we approach doctrinal differences, whilst still maintaining our love for our neighbour? If you don’t think musical instruments are a problem, then you are not really addressing this question. Some people do, and some of those people DO have a Christ-like attitude to those who disagree. I know, I could name some of them. To test your own “tolerance” (not a good word, but I hope you understand what I mean) replace it with an issue which you think is problematic. Having a “pastor”? Having a female pastor? Accepting homosexuality? What about a church that says it can cure cancer by laying on of hands? Or which maintains that “Theocracy” means that you do what the pastor tells you, unquestioningly?

    Have I made my point?

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