Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Gospel Advocate

The Gospel Advocate is one of my favorite magazines, and they let me write for them once in a while. If you are not subscribed to it, I hope you will. You can subscribe by calling 1.800.251.8446. (No, I don't get paid; I just love the guys there). The GA's last issue dealt with unity. They are my brethren, and I read them each month. I want to hear what they have to say, and I hope you'll read them too.

Neil Anderson urges us to take a stand for truth. Amen!
Several articles are greatly needed; and I was thankful to see one from the pen of my dear friend, brother, and mentor Jimmy Jividen.

Kerry Anderson asks, "If our beliefs on issues like worship, roles of men and women, and baptism are right, why should we apologize?"

We should not apologize for holding to a hermeneutic that goes back to the Scriptures. We should not apologize for saying no to humanly devised forms of worship and organization. We should not apologize for taking a view that it is presumptuous to act by our own authority.

The belief that silence is prohibitive (we should not believe or practice things not found in the New Testament teaching or approved examples) is not a flawed hermeneutic.

We are told by others (not GA) that a silence that forbids is divisive. Is it really? One speaker recently characterized all the division among churches of Christ as the result of this hermeneutic of silence. But a closer look at the situations at hand shows that personalities, not hermeneutics caused many of these splits. In many cases people began applying the hermeneutic before they had finished studying the text.

Now the situation is sometimes like a man who has a dispute with a person who is saved by faith only without baptism. If one thinks baptism necessary and another thinks it optional, they are divided. How do we decide between the two? We study the text and find that baptism preceeds salvation, that baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). By looking at the bigger picture we learn that the "faith only" view is unscriptural.

Likewise, one man thinks we cannot have multiple cups in communion for the fruit of the vine and another thinks it okay. The Bible says nothing about multiple cups. They are divided. How do we solve this problem? Well, we recognize that the word "cup" is a figure of speech referring to the contents of the cup not the container itself. In this case, the number of cups is of no importance. What they drank was to be one, not the number of containers. It wasn't a flawed hermeneutic that caused this problem; it is that misinformed people believed the wrong thing and could not accept the change. The speaker did not show his wisdom about the matter but his bias against the hermeutic.

Some think we ought not to have Bible classes, while others believe it okay. The Bible says nothing about Bible classes per se. So the speaker argued that that our hermeneutic is flawed, because people are divided over Bible classes. Is it really? Our hermeneutic speaks of expediency. An expedient is a lawful way to do what God instructs. The instruction is to teach the lost and to further teach the saved (Mt. 28:19-20; 2 Tim. 2:2). Alexander Campbell spoke of expediencies in his Christian System long before the division over the instrument. It wasn't the hermeneutic that is broken; it is that some didn't want the classes. Expedients merely help one do what God instructs him to do. The apostle Paul, for instance, took a ship to Macedonia in answer to the Macedonian call, even though there was no mention of a ship in the instruction. The ship helped him do exactly what he was instrcted to do (Acts 16:9ff.); that's what makes it expedient. Classes are an expedient way to teach God's word--that's all. They don't do something else--they do what God expects to be done.

That silence should be prohibitive not neutral is an implication of the fact that the Scriptures are all-sufficient(2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3; Jude 3). God spoke; He said what He intended to say; He said all He intended to say; and when He finished, He intentionally hushed. Because He didn't say more, it is presumptuous for people to add new forms of baptism or worship to the practices of the church. If God had wanted Christians to use instruments, He would have said so. He told us everything we needed to know for life and godliness. To go beyond the Scriptures and to practice a humanly devised form of worship or a substitute for baptism is to disrespect God. When God is silent, so should we be.

Now when someone hasn't respected God's silence and has added a new worship form (instrumental music), then the person who respects God's silence feels obligated to speak out against the innovation. The hermeneutic of silence keeps the church pure from the human innovations and practices of men. It keeps people from showing irreverence and disrespect to the holiness and the instructions of God.

Now if someone demands that we use the innovation (instruments of music), he is driving a wedge between himself and the one who will not innovate. Since in an assembly, everyone has to participate in musical worship, the one who seeks to remain pure from the innovation is forced either to join in the innovation (which is sin) and to violate his conscience (which is sin--Rom. 14:23) or to leave. He must either compromise with sin or separate himself from that innovation which is irreverent. It seems a bit unfair that those who innovate accuse the person who wills to remain pure with the division. The innovators almost always blast the committed man with namecalling: "legalist," "Pharisee," and "judge." Is he really?

Who caused the problem? When churches of Christ first began, they were all a cappella. In 1859 L. L. Pinkerton introduced the first instrument into the worship of the churches of Christ in Midway, KY. It was the irreverent innovation that called for a choice that the one who wishes to remain with the teaching of the Scripture cannot make. If he is to remain pure, he must side with what the Scripture teaches and cannot go with the innovation. Who caused the problem? The innovater, the one who brought in the unscriptural, unauthorized innovation. The right choice is to stay with Scripture, for to do otherwise is to separate oneself from God Himself.

In all ages God has shown displeasure with presumptuous innovation. Those who love God will not consider innovation as one option among many. They will keep themselves abiding in the word and so prove themselves to be true disciples (Jn 8:31).

Well, read the Gospel Advocate, subscribe to it. It's telling the truth about this controversy.


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