Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jury member?

In 2006 Dale Jenkins, Jeff Jenkins, Steve Higginbotham, Mike Green, Mike Baker, Wayne Hatcher and I embarked on a project to produce a book entitled, Seeking True Unity. The book has done very well, and only a few copies remain for sale. Brethren have appreciated the book and have even invited some of us to speak on the topics of the book.

Recently a blogger friend has set about the task of reviewing the book. He is a brother and acquaintance of mine. He said some nice things about the book. Bobby Valentine and I have exchanged views several times and find ourselves only occasionally agreeing. Our book dealt with the issues surrounding the 1906 division between the Christian churches and churches of Christ.

Among Bobby's comments on the book, I found this one interesting and somewhat misleading:

Thus as I read and reflected on the prosecutions arguments, as a member of the jury, it occurred to me that what I was actually hearing was actually an apology for the status quo .For division. I kept hearing, through the testimony, why it is good for “us” to remain basically as “we” are. We are told that some “refreshing changes” are being made but we never find out what they are.

Knowing Bobby, I am not surprised at his assessment of making the division for the split our fault for maintaining the status quo. Bobby would like to cast himself in the role of a jury member. In point of fact, he is more like a witness for the defense.

I have little inclination to defend anything but what he calls the status quo. We are, after all, to hold to the apostolic traditions (2 Thess. 2:15). It was the introduction of an innovation, the unauthorized or strange worship (among other matters), that caused the estrangement. They left us. We did not leave them. We could not go with them into their error.

Truth unites, and that is the meaning of seeking true unity. Forming a union with error, compromise, and innovation is not the unity for which Jesus prayed. The path to unity is when all men set aside their own opinions and remain under the headship of the one and only Lord. To have unity we must all conform to His will, not suspend it so that we can permit innovation.

So Bobby, we look forward to your further installments. As for freshness, being committed under the leadership of Christ, rather than capitulating to culture, is the freshest thing I know.

Phil



19 comments:

K. Rex Butts said...

Of course it is debateable whether or not instrumental worship or acapella worship has anything to do with the apostolic teachings/traditions. I know, I know... You would argue that it does. But others would ague it doesn't. I just wanted to point that out.

Any ways, it is good to see that you and Bobby can have disagreements and still call each other "brothers" after all. There is still hope for Christian unity apart from uniformity.

Phil Sanders said...

Rex,

Bobby and I disagree on many things, but I do call him brother and am fond of him on a personal level. He is an ardent student and well read. I respect the fact that Bobby does his homework. I too feel that Bobby's heart wants to do good. But I feel he is misguided by the current popular trends away from Christ and toward the culture of the times.

I have no desire, Rex, to be an American Christian or to impose my American ways on the many students I have taught in other countries where I have traveled to preach and teach.

I respect the fact that many of my teachers have connections to Campbell, Stone, Lipscomb and others. However, I was not baptized into their name; and they were not crucified for me. I bow to the one and only Lord.

1 Thess. 2:15 notes that some of the traditions were written, others given orally. I have loyalty only to the practices I know they gave and were practiced early on. My desire, and the desire of my six brethren is to bow the knee to Jesus and hear the instructions he gave through his apostles. I have no other loyalty. I believe in restoration, because the Bible teaches it not because Campbell and others taught it. Neither Campbell nor Lipscomb had holes in their hands. I agree often with Campbell, but he is not my Lord. I know Whom I have believed.

kindly,
Phil

K. Rex Butts said...

I know what your desire is and I respect that. I suspect that if you believe that Bobby Valentine is misguided by popular trends then you would feel the same about me as well. And from reading some of your writings and blog post, I can say that there are things which I do disagree with you on. Despite the disagreements, I do see in you a desire to serve one Lord and that I can respect and admire.

Your brother,

Rex

Christian said...

Good Day :) God is Love, May you experience God's Love this Day, may we really learn to Praise him in all things :) Lets Share God's Love today :) You are Loved!

Falantedios said...

Dear Phil,

Which sect listed in "Churches of Christ in the United States 2007" is holding to the apostolic traditions?

Only the ones with the same little marks beside them as Concord Road?

Which group is following the pattern precisely enough? Which ones have run ahead? Which ones have fallen behind?

"The path to unity is when ALL men (including Phil Sanders, et al) set aside their own opinions and remain under the headship of the one and only Lord." - emphasis and parentheses mine

One man recently wrote, "...self-focused living can thrive particularly well among us who are devoted to Christian ministry... when we presume that our own motives are absolutely pure, but then ferociously dissect the possible motives of others..."

It frustrates me, Phil, that you do have such a strong desire to serve one Lord, but require that all others that so desire must serve according to your opinions about Scripture. About silence. About Aids vs. Additions. You have conclusions, and those who disagree with you have opinions.

Respectfully,
Nick Gill
Frankfort, KY

Phil Sanders said...

Dear Nick,

I have no desire to have everyone in the church agree with me. I have great desire that every member of the church agree with the Truth that the Lord gave to us and with which He sanctifies us. Unity can only come through that means.

I might point out that most of the designations used in the directory have to do with social and ministerial distinctions, not doctrinal differences.

Do I have a desire for some churches of Christ to come out of error? Of course. So does Jesus.

kindly,
Phil

Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

Phil,

I just discovered your response to my review. We are brothers and in Christ we are united. You are very kind in your words.

I however, not surprisingly, see some things the other way around. I do not think I have surrendered to culture rather I have embraced (to the best of my ability) the story of the Gospel. We are all encased in culture however. This includes you. I happen to believe your approach is also a surrender to culture.

And I am part of the jury, :-)

May the Lord bless you and keep you and make his face shine upon you.

Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

Falantedios said...

I disagree with your distinction between social, ministerial, and doctrinal differences.

Those who disagree with you on the Lord's Supper practices believe the difference to be VERY doctrinal. Likewise differences about supported ministers, Sunday School, eating in the building, owning a building, donating to orphans' homes, etc.

You've marked out for yourself a certain position on a sliding scale. Those on your left are condemned. Those on the right, well, "they're our odd cousins. I love them, but they're definitely odd." Those who are "sound and balanced" may fellowship with you.

The problem is, others have staked out for themselves other positions on the same scale, and defned those positions with great tenacity and passion, and they think they are "sound and balanced" too. Everyone THINKS they are sound and balanced.

If you are not in error, then why don't you want everyone to agree with you?

in HIS love,
Nick

Phil Sanders said...

Nick,
I am well aware that 9 out of 27 different designations are doctrinal in matter, but MOST (what I said) were not. Further, if you take the entire group of nine they are really only about three issues that have divided among themselves. Such unwholesome division is not the will of the Lord. There is a difference between aids and additions. It is never right for people to divide over matters of opinion (aids), but we cannot give our approbation to the unauthorized addition to our worship.

kindly,
Phil

Gardner Hall said...

Phil,
I will enjoy the exchanges between you and Bobby. He has welcomed me to comment in his blog even though I am stricter than he is on many issues and probably "more conservative" than you on some as well. These are challenging discussions because all of us "draw lines" somewhere regarding our fellowship with others. In other words, it's not a matter of whether lines of fellowship should be drawn, but rather, where? May God help us as we strive to apply his will in these matters.

Phil Sanders said...

Gardner,

This is certainly not the first exchange Bobby and I have had and will likely not be the last. We maintain a mutual respect for each other in spite of our deep differences.

I appreciate your willingness to enter into the exchange. I don't try to out-liberal or out-conservative anybody. I actually don't like labels. I want us all to be simply Christians, following the will of the Lord. In doing so, I do have to draw lines at times. There are some things I simply won't believe or practice.

Bobby and I have differed over several things. I don't think he desires to be rebellious. He simply listens to people who have this notion that we ought to change--the kind of change I think is destructive. So round and round we go--caring and confronting at the same time. We are both passionate about what we believe.

Where we draw the lines has to be settled by Scripture, and we all ought to hold each other accountable in this regard.

We will need God's help, because none of us can trust his own judgment alone. I'm not always right, and I know that. Nor are any of the restoration leaders always right. We all need correction, which is healing when heeded.

Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the apostles when inspired, and the prophets are always right.

Phil

Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

I do attempt to listen but it is to the voice of Scripture.

Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

Phil Sanders said...

Bobby,

I sincerely pray that is the case.

Many things said by our progressive brethren are so unlike Scripture (sprinkled infant sisters, approval of man-made religion, obedience to systems that deny the truth, and open fellowship) that I don't see how they are listening.

Phil

Vonnie said...

Phil,
Have you ever considered the idea that Bobby and others are trying to open the scriptures more fully for our understanding and "we" in the traditional churches have Christ have actually made the "changes" from the original intent.

Phil Sanders said...

Vonnie,

Have you ever considered that the truth is clear and simple and able to be discerned? that baptism is an immersion of a penitent believer so that sins may be forgiven (read Rom. 6:3-7 more closely)?
That singing is the way the early church worshiped musically?
that the Lord's people observed Lord's Supper observed on the Lord's day?

I am not a member of the "traditional" churches of Christ. I am a Christian and a member of the Lord's church.

Phil

Steve Puckett said...

I'm curious about these kinds of discussions. I fully embrace all Bible believing Christ followers. Where does Scripture ever command any kind of restoration. As i understand the word, following Christ is the goal and it's only culture or one's cultural heritage that pushes one down different paths.

Peace.

Phil Sanders said...

Steve,

you are certainly correct that culture pushes people down different paths. The Bible calls us to unity and to Truth, the basis of that unity. When culture short-circuits Truth, then the Christian must obey God rather than man.

Many people who say they believe the Bible do not follow it but teach or practice error (cf. Matt. 7:21-27). Restoration is basically repentance. When we learn something is not the will of God, we cease doing or believing it. We restore Truth and cease error. We restore the Biblical practice and cease the worldly. Restoration is basically doctrinal repentance. Restoration does not embrace error; it corrects error with Truth.

kindly,
Phil

Steve Puckett said...

Thanks Phil. I was pretty sure that the concept of "restoration" as put forth by the restoration fathers is not a clear biblical concept, that is, nowhere are we told to restore the church as it existed in NT times. We are encouraged everywhere to follow others as they follow Christ. We are told that if we love Christ, we will follow his commands. In other words Christ is the one we follow and not some humanly devised system. Even at their very best restoration movement churches are still one humanly devised expression of believers' attempts to follow Christ. That's why all Christ followers must cling tenaciously to the grace of God as expressed in his loving sacrifice of Jesus on the cross–it's the only way any believer will be received into God's presence.

Peace.

Phil Sanders said...

Steve,

All repentance is a human effort, but that does not mean that restoration is somehow wholly human and outside the will of God. We repent because God instructed us to. In Revelation chapters 2 and 3, churches were told to repent of their lack of love, false doctrine, and immorality. Their repentance was restorative. We have what God desires of us. Restoration, it seems to me, is pretty clear. You quit doing what is wrong and human and you start doing what is right and Biblical.

I have never been a member of the restoration movement. I determined to be a member of the body of Christ and to serve Him.

God bless,
Phil