Errors of the Church of Christ (17) – Hermeneutics (2)

5. Isn’t the Bible silent on many things which Churches of Christ do or use: church buildings, “placing membership,” plan of salvation, shaped notes, four-part harmony, audio and visual equipment, “five acts of worship,” worship leaders, located preachers, youth director, campus ministers, pitch pipes, tuning forks, Sunday school, greeters, ushers, collection plate, invitations song, church budget, pledge cards, “laying contributions at the elders’ feet,” prohibitions against helping community organizations, song leader, grape juice, auditorium, etc? Nothing wrong with these, for sure. But they are indeed traditions, no?

RT- Yes, the Bible is silent on many things. In things that pertain to God, however, Christians are to teach and do only that which the Lord wants taught and done. For instance, the idea of a church building violates which of these two things? Moreover, the audio and video equipment violates which of these two things? Yes, they are traditional with some. Rather than seek to learn what can’t be done or used, why not seek to learn what the Lord wants done with regard to teaching and doing?

6. Cecil Hook documents in his books Free to Change (chapter 33 beginning on page 113, Hermeneutic) and Free as Sons (chapter 20 beginning on page 56,Pattern) that: “Let’s Face It: None of us is willing to follow those three rules consistently. We accept what seems to fit our understanding, and we reject or overlook teachings of the same classification that do not fit our mental picture.” How about taking a minute to read the articles on these links. So we ask, is the pattern you seek in church not there after all? Is Hook correct that patternism is evidence of legalism? Does such patternism subtract from the focus on Christ?

RT – Since I have already dealt with the idea of “pattern”, and that you also follow a pattern, I will dismiss the question. “Patternism” is legalistic in accordance with what standard? Moreover, you need to define what you mean by the use of the word/term “legalism” when you ask this question. Does following a pattern subtract from a proper focus on Christ? Will chaos help one focus?

7. What is the vital factor which God sees to be known by him? Is it loving God (1 Cor 8:2-3 f) or the code of rules that you suppose to be the law of Christ?  If patternism is so important, why do you limit your patterns to the book of Acts? Why not follow the pattern of Jesus, who consistently tended to the weak, sick, and needy?

RT – This first question is terribly flawed. Are YOU going to prioritize what is vital and what is not? Is 1 Corinthians 8:2-3 more important than 1 John 5:3? Perhaps you can and will explain the comprehensives answer of our Lord to a religious leader as spoken by Him in Matthew 22:37-38. Those faithful to the Lord’s teachings do not limit the teaching to the book of Acts only; the entirety of the New Testament is used.

8. What is the core message of the Bible? Is it, as Abilene Christian and Pepperdine professor Thomas Olbricht insists that it is: the “mighty acts of God” and “God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit?” Or is it rather “commands, examples, and necessary inferences?” Should it not be the faith, hope, and love realized in the lives of believers through the power and grace of God?

RT – Does the New Testament speak of a “core message”? Everything starts with obedience to the two great commands mentioned in Matthew 22; following that, all God’s laws are built on this foundation (which is Christ). To speak of something being more important than something else – when the same Author gave both (and all) is quite misguided. Perhaps it might be better if we just teach what the New Testament says and not try to prioritize anything the Lord said – unless He has done so.

9. These formulas bring up a long list of questions that we might ask, especially regarding necessary inferences. It seems that what is a necessary inference varies even among CC folks. But suffice it to wonder whether a “necessary” inference becomes any doctrine or practice that someone in the Church of Christ deems necessary (or whether the formula is a necessary tool to exclude many other Christians and Christian practices). Since these formulas are not specific commands in the New Testament and since “necessary” seems to be merely an interpretation, shouldn’t others necessarily infer that these formulas themselves are traditions of men rather than the word of God? See Al Maxey’s comments on Necessary Inference.

RT – Assuming you know something about the study of logic, I will give a definition of inference: when something is inferred it is implied. To deny this is to deny logic. “The forming of a conclusion from premises by either inductive or deductive methods; the conclusion itself” (Gordon Clark, p. 136). “…we may say that reasoning or inference occurs whenever we assert something to be true on the ground that something else is true” (Boyd Henry Bode, p. 2). Thus, all correct inferences are necessary.  It has been said many times that those who turn against logic have done so because logic has turned against them!

10. Are examples and incidental details in the Bible binding? How does one answer the issues raised by Mr. Hook’s explanation on this: chapter 2, Law and Principle? Is it the detail or the purpose that is important, such as at the Lord’s Table? Is it correct to assume that breaking bread on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7f) is binding? Remembering that the Jewish day was from sundown to sundown, and since this gathering in Acts 20:7 was at night, it had to be on what we know as Saturday night. Is the CC’s insistence on a Sunday Communion therefore breaking this New Testament example? Since that was the only such instance in the New Testament, how can one be certain to the point of law that this was not an isolated example? How can you even be certain that this was Communion rather than a fellowship meal? Would Jesus pronounce a woe on such sacred cows?

RT – There is an old adage that has much merit: if we do what they did we will get what they got. Restated: if we follow the examples and patterns of the apostles and those who lived in the first century under their tutelage, then that which they received we will receive as well. Question to you: Is this false? Let me address Acts 20:7. The first thing to note is how the various translations render the verse. The NKJV, NET, NIV, ESV, and NASV all read “on the first day of the week.” Thus, your “Saturday night” attempt to negate a proper hermeneutical approach is dismissed. Second, since the early Christians came together on the first day of the week to break bread and then to hear Paul preach, here is a good pattern for us as well. Concerning whether “communion” is in view or not, let us reason together on this a bit. Did the disciples come together to eat a “fellowship” (or potluck) meal, is that how you read this? What did Paul say to the Corinthians when they gather together (1 Corinthians 11:18, 20)? The Corinthians gathered together for impure reasons when they should have gathered together for a singular reason (11:23-26). Isolated example? Is communion to be an isolated example, and not a weekly one? Communion a sacred cow?! Interesting association you make, and one that is rather unfortunate.