In the spirit of the Restoration Movement, the focus of the remaining questions below is to try to establish that there are valid differences of opinions among sincere Christians, even as to important doctrines. (Perhaps God wanted it to be that way in order to enrich our faith experience and learn to live together as believers.)
These questions will probably generate some strong reactions. Leroy Garrett says that in the days of his sectarian understanding of these things, he “never lost a debate” in his own mind. Garrett and others like him say that it was only after fully understanding God’s love that he could truly put aside his party spirit to experience joy in the diverse opinions of his brothers —and with that a great burden was lifted from him. Even more than exploring what is the “best fit” interpretations of Scripture, we hope to demonstrate to all fellow believers in Christ that we ought naught to restrict our fellowship to those who are closest to us in doctrine.
Top of page Christian Unity
“I knew within my heart that something was not right with the way we dealt with each other as Christians. Hostility, jealosy, judging, ostracizing, and the like abounded. All of these were being practiced [in the church of Christ]. Grace and love were very rare. As I began to read and study, I realized that for about thirty years I had been duped, misled and brainwashed. I could not believe the magnitude of this deception. As the scales began falling from my eyes, I began to see more and more clearly, and I grew more and more angry. I have harbored a lot of resentment in my heart since my eyes were opened. But lately, thanks be to God, I have been able to let it go.” —– (testimony of a Church of Christ sister. For the rest of her testimony see Ashamed.)
RT – This remark speaks more against the sister than it does anything else (Philippians 2:12-16). If what she saw in the midst of the congregation where she was attending was so grievous, in what way and how might she have become a solution to the problem? She was duped, mislead, and brainwashed – did she not search the Scripture daily to see if those things said were true (Acts 17:11)? If that which was said was not true, and it took 30 years before the “scales” began to fall before she realized it.
No, this speaks more against her than anything!
Basis for Unity
1. Is it true that the CC believes that it alone is “the New Testament church?” Apparently only Churches of Christ—and only some of them (!)—qualify to be included in the “church of Christ.” Is it correct that members of other Christian denominations cannot be saved if they remain in those groups (or that saved members of other denominations would surely leave those groups in time)? Yet is it also correct, as Cecil Hook says, that there is disagreement among CC members on some 100 issues: chapter 1, Issues Before Us? There are some important issues on this list, including matters of life and death—war, abortion, euthanasia. Is it fair to ask this question: How can one be sure of his salvation if there is disagreement about what one must believe and do?
RT – As you have asked the question – flawed in the very wording – only those who are in Christ will be saved. Those who are in Christ are in His body, the church. Thus, if by “church of Christ” you mean the one revealed in the New Testament the answer is yes – and there is no possible, scriptural way for that to be wrong. If you mean the placard on the building you have asked a different question. With regard to the second question: 2 Timothy 2:19. There is NO man-made institution that has its sanction (authority) from God to exist. With regard to Cecil Hook, I can’t say (though I won’t dispute the remark). Is it significant how many topics might have resulted in disagreements? With regard to your last question: 1 John 5:3, 13; 1 Peter 4:11.
2. Members of the CC ask, “How can we accept professing Christians who are in error?” Given the diversity of opinion within your own group, every one of the group must be in error on some things, right? Hook offers some interesting insights into the divisions within the Church of Christ: chapter 25 beginning on page 87, Can Our Churches Unite. Is unity to be defined as getting people into a non-instrumental congregation and wearing the revered name of Church of Christ? Is the message that you proclaim intending to promote unity itself divisive?
RT – Another flawed set of questions! The questions are faulty in that there is no asking upon what basis unity is attained. Unity is based on the Scriptures (Ephesians 4:3). If one leaves what the Scripture explicitly teach then, by necessity that one has left the Lord. Will the Lord be unified with the one who has left Him?
3. Stone and Campbell’s original concept was to foster unity within the church. They recognized that even the apostles had disagreements, but in love they could remain united. How do you respond to Leroy Garrett’s charge that the CC has “rediscovered the horrid sin of partyism”—the pride of being right and exclusive and superior with an “arrogant demand for conformity.” Isn’t partyism such a horrible sin that it can prevent one from reaching the kingdom of God (Gal 5:20-21)?
RT – Leroy’s Garrett opinion is not all that important. What he has observed and has come to interpret is his own. Is he right? People will answer variously; from his perspective he has come to see it that way. It is also my observation that some local congregations are plagued with such sectarianism. Its meaning in the biblical scheme of things does not measure up, but it will be the Lord who will determine who belongs to Him (2 Timothy 2:19).
4. Garrett says, (chapter 46, Separated) “We do not work for unity; we rather accept the Spirit’s gift of unity to the church. We are already united with all those who are in Christ.” If he is mistaken, what do the many passages on unity mean (Jn 17:20-23, Rom 15:5-7, 1 Cor 1:10-12, Eph 1:10, Eph 4:1-16, Php 1:27, Col 3:11-16)? Is it a sin to fail to be in spiritual unity with your Christian brothers on the gospel—one fact of Christ?
RT – He is mistaken. Paul said that the Ephesians were to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. If the Christians today are to maintain the same, is there effort involved? Of course there is, and to say to the contrary is sadly mistaken. Moreover, Paul said that Christians are to live peaceably with all men – does this not include those who call themselves Christians (Romans 12:16-21)? Certainly, it is true that we accept the gift of the Spirit’s unity to the church, but to accept is to “reach out”, receive, and implement.