PROGRESSIVISM IN THE CHURCH OF CHRIST:
INSIGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
In a May 8, 2019 announcement from a once large and influential congregation in Texas advertising a conference among churches of Christ in that area, the following statement was made: “We look forward to partnering with our brothers and sisters in the __(city)__ area to work toward unity within our tribe in the Church.” Referring to the churches of Christ as “our tribe” reflects a glaring denominational view of the church.
This kind of thinking and terminology increasingly plagues a growing number of Christians, and is illustrative of how far some have drifted from the New Testament concept of the church. It demonstrates how desperately in need we are of going back to the New Testament and studying once again the fundamental truths concerning the church that Christ established.
When I speak of “the church of Christ” I speak of all those redeemed from their sins by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28). I do not have in mind only a part or a “tribe” of the blood-washed people of God. Every saved person on earth is a member of the body (church) of Christ (Acts 2:47). It is not to be divided into “tribes” (John 17:20-21; I Corinthians 1:10-13). Unless one is using the descriptor “church of Christ” in a restricted, denominational sense (which I do not, and no one else should), then all of the church (of Christ) (all of those cleansed of their sins by the blood of Christ) is all of the church (of Christ)! It cannot be made any simpler than that!
When the template of denominationalism is laid down over the churches of Christ it is easy for an undiscriminating person to think that these autonomous congregations constitute a denomination. This is the template used by the denominational world and our leftist brethren to judge the church of our Lord and to conclude that it is just another of many denominations.
But when the template of the New Testament is laid down over the churches of Christ they are seen for what they truly are—people who have only done and become what people did and became in New Testament times to be the church of the Lord. Under the template of the New Testament, denominationalism, with its multiplicity of names, creeds, doctrines, and practices, is seen to be a corruption of original, New Testament Christianity.
By what template do you judge the church of Christ?
According to our progressive brethren, the way for the Lord’s church to grow is for it to surrender its biblical convictions concerning homosexuality, divorce and remarriage for just any reason, women preachers, the use of instrumental music in worship, belief in everlasting punishment in hell, its opposition to denominationalism, its conviction that the New Testament is the pattern which the church is to follow in all ages, as well as other crucial matters. According to the leftists among us, we should “tone down” our preaching on anything of a distinctive nature, admit that “we also are a denomination,” and, in effect, “throw in the towel” on any and all efforts to restore and be the undenominational church of which we read in the New Testament. Never mind that the mainline denominations in America are not growing. If the churches of Christ will become like them, we will grow! Believe such foolishness? Who can?
In a recent joint-seminar with me in South Carolina on “Identity Matters,” Greg Tidwell, editor of the Gospel Advocate, made this telling observation: “We cannot gain strength through dilution…We do not make the Lord’s church stronger by making it more like the world or the denominations…Dilution comes from union with error.” May we have the wisdom to hear and to heed the voice of scripture and the voice of those who are unreservedly committed to the Bible as the divinely inspired and inerrant word of God, and the pattern for God’s people in all ages in all spiritual and religious matters.
If a man starts out wanting to deny the doctrine of eternal punishment in hell, he can (and will!) jump through all kinds of hoops and loops to “prove” what he has already made up his mind to believe about the matter.
If a man wants to believe the church of Christ is a denomination, he will jump through all kinds of hoops and loops to “prove” what he has already made up his mind to believe about the matter.
If a man wants to believe that baptism (immersion in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is not essential to salvation from sin, he will jump through all kinds of hoops and loops to “prove” what he has already made up his mind to believe about the matter.
There is no end to which one will go to “prove” that the Bible teaches what one has already made up his mind to believe about a particular matter. It is happening in churches of Christ today with reference to women preachers, instrumental music in the worship of the church, divorce and remarriage for any and every reason, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and a host of other vital matters that strike at the heart of what it means to be the church of the Bible.
From time to time, a leftist preacher in Alamogordo, NM will review one of my “News & Views” essays. Most recently he reviewed my April 30, 2019 issue on “Preaching The Church.” While he said he agreed with much of what I wrote, what really galls him is that I do not view the church as a denomination as does he. In an email to me he quoted a person who is a relative of an elder of a congregation I once served. The person (who he described as having “a big name” in “our tribe”) was quoted as saying of me, “I always loved and respected him and his lovely wife and still do, but I, too, have been greatly disappointed and upset at his (and many others’) inability to see their Denominational (sic) mindset.”
I find this both amazing and amusing. It is not I who has a “denominational mindset.” Both the leftist preacher who reviewed my article and the person he quotes “slip a cog” and want to impose on me their denominational mindset of the church. They are the ones who are fond of speaking of “our tribe,” “our tradition,” “the Church of Christ Church,” and other such denominational terms. My “mindset” is that the church (body) of Christ is the aggregate of all who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, though some of those redeemed souls have gotten themselves into religious associations and organizations of which they should not be a part. The church of Christ was not a denomination in the 1st century, and by adherence to the New Testament we can be today what they were then. That is what “disappoints” my critic and his devotees about my writings.
More than once, my critic has said that I could be “of soooooo much benefit to the cause of Christ if I could just see what others see,” i.e., that the church of Christ is a denomination. Sorry, but I will never “see” that for that is not what the New Testament reveals about the church. I will be of the greatest benefit to the cause of Christ by continuing to advance and plead for the biblical view of the church and its undenominational nature.
My critic will likely respond to this edition of “Hugh’s News & View,” and he is welcome to do so. I have made my views concerning the undenominational nature of the church exceedingly clear, and I will not get into an endless exchange with him. First, I do not have the time; second, it will do no good.
“Enter in at the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in through it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:13-14).
June 11, 2019