Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Problem of Patternism

For some patternism is a problem. We must wonder why...

The earth travels around the sun in a pattern. The moon travels around the earth in a pattern. Day and night, the seasons, seedtime and harvest, and the seven days of a week all happen in a pattern.

Every one of the trillions of cells in my body has a specific DNA pattern. My teeth, fingerprints, retina, bones, and muscles follow patterns. I remain amazed at my fearfully and wonderfully made body with its respiratory, circulatory, nervous, reproductive, and digestive systems. I thank God for my skin with its nerves that measure heat and pressure. I thank God for my balanced eyes and ears and nostrils. My brain (and yours) is the single most complex structure in the world with connectors between its billions of cells. Amazing.

In my yard I have oak, elm, maple, apple, and redwood trees. Did you know that every leaf on each of the trees has an identical vein pattern with every other leaf?

God's creation is full or order, design, and pattern. Everything God ever made, He made with intention. Everything is by His design and functions according to His will and glory. It is incredulous to me that some are suggesting there is a pattern in everything God ever made except God's family, God's kingdom, God's vineyard, Christ's body, the church.

Rigid patternism is to some heresy, legalism to the extreme. They prefer to speak of the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, as a nebulous, undefined organism made without order and capable of re-design in the re-maker's image. In their thinking it is a piece of clay that never quite takes form.

While the New Testament never debates baptism, the progressive non-patternists believe that any mode of baptism can be straightened out by a little prayer. While the disciples of the New Testament only baptized those old enough to believe, progressive non-patternists see little reason to disturb the peace of those baptized as infants. While the New Testament speaks of unleavened bread and fruit of the vine in remembrance of Jesus, progressive non-patternists feel no need to limit this memorial meal to bread and wine. While women in the New Testament did not assume preaching or leadership roles, progressive non-patternists see little need to remain within that culture. (Perhaps Eve came first?)

You see, rigid patternism means that we may have to confront our religious friends who didn't follow that pattern and ask them to correct an error. For the progressive non-patternist, it is much easier to ignore the Scripture and assure the person in error of God's grace anyway. After all, getting along and not offending is more important than anything--God won't mind... Or will He?

Are we not supposed to remain in the Lord's Word to be true disciples? (John 8:31-32)
Are we not supposed to handle God's Word accurately? (2 Tim. 2:15)
Is there not one faith handed down for all time? (Jude 3)
Is there not one body, one gospel, one baptism, and one faith? (Eph. 4:4-6; Gal. 1:6-9)

Am I not supposed to love the Lord enough to keep His commandments? Am I not supposed to avoid conforming with the world? If there are no patterns, how can I know anything?

Non-patternism is fuzzy thinking, muddy water, and self-contradictory. It doesn't represent the truth, because it is too busy chasing the changing cultural with all its relative truths.

Isn't the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus a pattern? (Rom. 6:3-7, 16-18)

think, think



Kathy said...

Beautifully said!

Our hearts are deceitful. God's ways are higher than our ways. We need God's wisdom to live by and he has provided what we need.

Anonymous said...

Thank You - Good Post

Keith Brenton said...

I object to patternism which holds up the church as its pattern rather than its Savior.

Phil Sanders said...


The pattern I am speaking about is the Savior's pattern. The church is the saved. The pattern of baptism is the pattern of the SAVIOR's death, burial and resurrection. The pattern of God's desire is the only pattern we can hold.

It seems to me that to separate Christ from his church, as if His pattern for the church were somehow unworthy of consideration forgets that the church was His idea.


Falantedios said...

The church is Christ's idea. LDBR is the ONLY pattern he provided for the life of His people.

The idea formulated and proof-texted and bound upon believers in hundreds of "Behold the Pattern" sermons across our brotherhood is man's idea.

in HIS love,
Nick Gill
Frankfort, KY

tom shiflett said...


Just do not say that there is a pattern. Just provide that pattern for us. Exactly what is the pattern that you are talking about?

You are doing the exact same thing that Brother Music did with his "Behold the pattern" book. The only thing that he said was to "behold the pattern" but he did not provide the pattern.

I will break it down real easy for you and the others. Just provide the pattern for us.

Phil, I hope that you enjoy your trip to West Palm Beach, Florida

Tom Shiflett

Phil Sanders said...


I have left many, many examples of the teaching God gives for us to follow on the website.

For the music issue, go to to the online tools and check it out under texts and sermons.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I agree with the above post...too many people are in love with their pattern instead of being in love with Jesus. Pattern theology is leading you down the wrong road my friend.

You waste so much time and effort on the less-important music issue instead of making the good news of Jesus your focus. Lost people can be saved, not having a righteousness of their own that comes by LAW but that which is by faith in Jesus...THAT is the gospel message you should be giving your attention to. (and yes, that includes baptism, but baptism is NOT the primary focus, faith in Jesus is)
Remember the church that lost its first love in Revelation? If our focus is on a pattern instead of on Jesus and him crucified, then we show by what we argue about that we too have lost our first love. It is all about Jesus, not a pattern!

Phil Sanders said...

Since you have signed off as anonymous, you must not want anyone to know who you are. Hmmmm.

Has it occurred to you that I value the commandments of Jesus because he does. The laws and rules of Jesus are the means by which He rules our lives. Without rules, the Lord does not rule.

But laws and rules are not some lifeless, ritualistic, legalistic, and empty form that has no meaning.

Jesus said, "“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (Jn 14:23) Interestingly, Jesus did the will of the Father "exactly" in order to show the whole world He loved the Father (14:31). Love and law are not exclusive.

Following the pattern was regarded as loving, respectful, and careful in the book of Deuteronomy and in the thinking of Jesus. To say that keeping His word is not central to Jesus is "sand" theology (Mt. 7:26-27).


Richard Roland said...


It appears to me that your article is an attack on the objections of some to the all-to-common pattern in our movement of conducting Campbellian 'scientific' exercises in teasing out of the holy scriptures laws or normative patterns that are not really there. Your rhetorical strategy was to set up a straw man consisting of the class of extreme antinomians and those who reject any and all scriptural authority, and then handily (as is always the case with straw men) bowl it over. Would it not have been a much more interesting and useful piece if you had grappled with the objections of those who do respect the authority of scriptures and the importance of obedience? Please, brother, put some serious "thought, thought" into a consideration of the possibility that there might be an element of truth there. I think you would agree about the seriousness of making laws where God has not.

With kind regards,


Phil Sanders said...


Logic pre-existed Campbell, and even Locke. Implication and inference, though not named so, was actually alive and well in the New Testament. As for patterns, they go all the way back to the ark.

I find it interesting, Richard, that I appeal to a Scripture and your mind goes immediately to the 19th century. To be honest, I am suspect of those who say they hold the word as their authority and by their actions prove the opposite. I am more persuaded by their actions than their pleas of orthodoxy.

Who is making laws God has not? If I worship with some, I must sing with a piano though there is no New Testament instruction. If I worship with some I will be led by women, though I find in the New Testament women are not to teach or have authority over men. If I walk with some, I will find myself in "fellowship" with the sprinkled, even though there is no justification for calling sprinkling baptism. Now, who has made the laws. Some have adopted these views and demanded everyone else accept them or be bullied and belittled as uncaring and "traditionalists."

Now just who is involved with man-made religion here. The presumptuous who dare to speak and act on their own initiative or those who call them back to following the teaching of Scripture? I am not making laws; I am calling errant brethren to come back to the law of Christ.


Jared said...

I agree with Tom. If there is a strict rigid pattern please spell it out for us. Leave nothing out. After-all God wouldn't expect us to follow a strict pattern without clearly spelling it out for us in His Word. Please tell me the exact pattern I must follow without leaving anything out.


jimcochr said...

What a paradox. The objectors to patternism fail to see the connection to loving the Lord enough to follow his doctrines and patterns as a way of being faithful to the Lord. Then these self appointed Gods object to folks who understand that connection as taking away the focus on the Lord. How pathetic. If the objectors would stop playing God and start serving God the issue would become moot. Or do you really think God doesn't get it in this day and age and needs help? If so you haven't really found the Lord. Wake up and decide whom you will serve.