Free In Christ

Finding Freedom in the Churches of Christ

Archive for July 2008

Baptism: Its Mode, Its Method, Its Madness

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I found this article recently and I think that its contents should be greatly considered.  We have errored on our teaching about baptism and this has caused us to separate ourselves from our other brothers and sisters in Christ.  Please take time to consider what this man has to say

http://www.eternalsecurity.us/baptism.htm

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Written by freeinchrist

July 31, 2008 at 5:21 am

An Interesting Series

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Today I found an interesting series on cofc teaching on baptism from outside the cofc.  I have to say that this study is interesting and well done and exposes many problems with cofc baptismal teaching. The first installment is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LlsWYf0PEc

There are 14 parts total.  I ask that you will look at this with an open mind and consider if any of what this man says might be true.  I must say, though, that some of his “humorous” comments are inappropriate mocking and I don’t endorse making fun of others to try to prove them wrong.  The scholarly part of the presentation is worth watching and I hope many will take to heart what he is saying.

Written by freeinchrist

July 30, 2008 at 10:03 pm

A Big Preacher Mistake

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I heard a sermon today that was given by an older preacher in the church of Christ.  His sermon contained 3 stories from military history that he then compared to our Christian walk.  My first thought was: Is this really a good idea?  In today’s political climate and culture shift is it really a good idea to assume that the people you are speaking to will support the military?  I don’t think that it is.  I don’t support people who kill and I don’t believe that Christians should be involved in the military (I will probably write about this later) and their are so many like me that a preacher can easily ruin a perfectly good sermon by using illistrations that offend the audience.  Older preachers often assume (wrongly) that their audience supports whatever America supports.  This isn’t true.  If we don’t learn to speak to the younger generation, we will never keep them in the church.  Just a thought.

Written by freeinchrist

July 28, 2008 at 3:28 am

When We Really Went to Church

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Recently, I had an experience that I wanted to share with you.  An elderly relative of mine is reaching the final stages of his life and has been in the hospital for several months.  This godly man requested that we come to his room on Wednesday nights to have church with him because he enjoyed it so much.  We did this and I was able to attend this improptu service. I was surprised by what I saw. I saw church for the first time in months. 

The people that I was with are extremely traditional church of Christ members who believe all the old doctrines and ways and who I clash with on a regular basis (although they don’t probably don’t know this).  Sitting in that hospital room, however, we were in much more agreement and they didn’t even know they had changed. 

The service consisted of one man reading the book of James to the group while everyone else listened.  Nobody told him that he had to do this, he just thought that this book was full of wisdom and should be read (he was right).  After that some of us had questions about what was read and these were discussed until the person’s question was as best answered as could be in a few minutes.  Both men and women were allowed to ask and answer the questions.  Although women are not allowed to teach in the church building in the church of Christ, the change in atmosphere was enough for them to cast off this unbiblical rule and just be a family (in more ways than one).  I often find that if you get out of the church building, the cofc will no longer practice their rules about women’s roles.  This is refreshing because it was nice to hear the wisdom of godly women for a change.  Then somebody suggested that we sing a hymn and we did. Then another request. Then another.  Nobody determined how many songs would be sung or who would lead them.  We just sang as a family the songs of our faith and that was enough.  The ending of the “service” was something great.  It simply consisted of someone saying “its getting late” and needing to go home.  We all said goodnight to our sick relative and went home. 

It was nice to finally go to church.

We didn’t need

  • A set day
  • A set time
  • Set songs
  • The same prayers
  • A three point sermon
  • Elders to control the service

 

We just needed each other and that is what the church always needs.  This was truly church for those present.  We need to get to the point that church is what we make it into.  We don’t need the trappings of organized religion to please God. We need to start being the church instead of going to church.

Written by freeinchrist

July 26, 2008 at 4:49 pm

A New Path 6

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False or Mistaken?

Today, I am going to talk about something that is very common among members of the churches of Christ; the labeling of one as a “false teacher”.  We are warned of false teaching in the Bible and it seems that cofc’ers see it everywhere we go.  We see it so much that many in our tradition would view our group as the only true teachers while everyone else is a false one.  The slightest error in doctrine and we slap the label on the teacher with little to no restraint.  But are we so sure that we are making this judgement accurately? I am not and this why:

There is a difference between being “false” and being “wrong”:  It takes more to be a “false teacher” than just being wrong.  Apollos was wrong when he was preaching the Gospel inaccurately but was never called a false teacher.  Aquila and Priscilla were not told to avoid him or not listen to him. They corrected him, yes, but he was not shunned or thrown out of the church for teaching what he was teaching. He made a mistake. He was never a false teacher.

There is a difference between labeling and intelligent conversation:  Sometimes we use the label “false teacher” when we really have no intelligent argument against the teacher.  We believe them to be wrong because they don’t teach what we believe but we really don’t know how to intelligently counter the argument.  We use the label so that we can categorize a person so as not to deal with what they are saying.  If we disagree with some idea, we should know why and be able to communicate that to others.  Labeling the other person is a way of dehumanizing them so that we can feel better about hating them.  Calling a person a “false teacher” makes our hate sound Godly but I don’t believe that it is.  A person with a new idea is not always a false teacher. They may be making a mistake.

There is a difference between “false teaching” and a “false teacher”:  You may not think there is much of a difference but there really is.  There is a difference between a good Christian who makes an error in doctrine and an evil person.  For example, a person who is right on many other points of doctrine may fail on one point and unknowingly deceive others.  This person does not know what is wrong with what they are saying and they are not trying to hurt anybody. They are making a mistake.  Another teacher may be an incredibly sinful person who is just teaching to make money (or some other sin).  This teacher may be teaching correct doctrines and really helping people to grow in Christ. This person, however, is the false teacher according to Scripture.  This is the thing about Scripture: you can teach everything right and still be wrong.  The second man is the false teacher while the first (wrong) man would go home justified.  He might be making serious mistakes; but is not a false teacher.

We should be careful about labeling people.  A label doesn’t solve the problem it just creates disguised hate.  “False teacher” is not the only such label. Terms such as liberal, anti, progressive, and even conservative should not be tossed around in the church.  These things hurt people and are not at all accurate.  When you throw a label on something, you probably haven’t confronted the issues and had intelligent discussion with people on both sides. We should be careful what we say when dealing with brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with us.  So before you use the term “false teacher” maybe try and consider whether using that term is the Christlike thing to do and whether the teacher is “false” or “mistaken”.    

Written by freeinchrist

July 13, 2008 at 1:05 pm

A New Path 5

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Backwards Theology

We must be careful in the “new” way of reading Scripture that we don’t accidentally participate in what I like to call backwards theology. Backwards theology is sometimes referred to as “scholasticism” but I don’t find that many people use that term so I came up with my own (I may have heard it somewhere but I’m not sure).  When it comes to the Bible, BT is when we read our current situation into Biblical texts instead of letting the Bible inform us.  Our example from Ephesians in “A New Path 3” is an example of where the cofc has made a passage about acappella singing when it never had that meaning to the original audience.   

You may not think that BT is very common, but it may be more common than you think.  When you read the word “church” in the Bible; what do you think of?  Do you think of a building with pews in it?  Do you think of an institution or denomination?  If you do, you have just done backwards theology.  In Acts 20:7 when they take communion; do you imagine that they used a cracker and grape juice? That they had no other food present? That they took an offering afterwards?  Do you imagine that Paul’s sermon on this occasion had three points?  That he ended with an invitation and invitation song?  If so, you may be making a serious error when reading many passages that deal with the early church. 

A very important thing about doing exegesis (see “A New Path 3” for more information) is making sure that we are letting the Bible speak for itself.  It means what it meant.  We must let the Bible educate us instead of us trying to make the Bible fit in with things that we have done throughout history.  There may be nothing wrong with the way that we have chosen to live out the Christian faith but it is wrong to read those things into Scripture to try to claim that they have always been true.  This is a major error among churches of Christ.  We have read our patterns into Scripture when Scripture is not as specific as we would like it to be.  I hope to get more precise on how we have done this in future posts but, for now, I think if you will keep this in mind as you read, many past abuses of Scripture will be changed and you will be able to read Scripture more in line with the way it was written. 

Written by freeinchrist

July 12, 2008 at 2:02 pm

A New Path 4

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A New Law

After implementing a better way to read the Bible, I would expect that some new things would start to come to light for the believer.  One of these is that the commands are not just arbitrary commands to be obeyed but are based on principles.  These principles give us more of a commitment to obedience because they create a greater purpose for it.  However, I think there is a deeper question here: If commands are based on principles, what are the principles based on?  This might sound a little strange, but it is one of the most important ideas if we are truly to grasp what Jesus is trying to tell us.  It is the basis of everything that we are supposed to do.  It is the New Law. It is love.

The Pharisees counted the number of commands in the Law of Moses as 613.  I can count the commands of the New Law on one hand (with two fingers even).  The New Law could be put this way:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Luke 10:27) (NIV)

Two simple commands.  Love God, love neighbor.  The foundation of the Christian faith given in two sentences.  What all of the principles are truly based on.  Can it really be that simple?  I am glad to tell you that the answer is “yes”.  This is the basis of the freedom in Christ that I am trying to proclaim here.  Jesus didn’t want us to spend our lives wrestling with the precise details of every possible doctrine and idea.  He wanted us to love.  Jesus didn’t want us to figure out our own set of 613 and take pride in the fact that we obey them better than everyone else.  He wanted us to love. Jesus didn’t want us to spend all of our time nit-picking the doctrine of the denominations. He wanted us to love. 

The New Law is evident in many other passages of Scripture as well:

But seek first his kingdom (love others) and his righteousness (love God), and all these things will be given to you as well. (Mt. 6:33) (NIV)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress (love others) and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (love God). (James 1:27) (NIV)

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love (love others) and of self-discipline (love God). (2 Tim 1:7) (NIV)

How long are we in the church of Christ going to be looking for a rule that is better than the one that Paul gave:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  (Gal 6:2) (NIV)

After all of the years I spent trying to figure out every detail of biblical teaching, I felt quite foolish to discover that the New Law was only one thing: love.  After hours of biblical study to determine what God wanted for me, I found out it was love all along.  He wanted my love.  For Him and for those He created.  It was so easy that I nearly missed it.  That is what we in the church of Christ have done by always insisting on our own way.  We have missed the love that Christ had planned for us to live in.  We looked so hard for a set of rules that we could take pride in keeping that we missed the love and kept the pride.  Think about it and listen to these words from Paul:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor 13:1-3) (NIV)

You can know everything about the Bible and still not know anything about it.  If you missed the love of Christ, you have missed everything.  I spent many years with knowledge but am only starting to live in love.  Join me.

(A great book on loving God and others is The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others or  40 Days Living the Jesus Creed both by Scot Mcknight. You can also read Scot’s blog at http://www.jesuscreed.com )

Written by freeinchrist

July 7, 2008 at 4:09 pm