Free In Christ

Finding Freedom in the Churches of Christ

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Free In Christ: False Teachers

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Chapter 10 of Cecil Hook’s “Free In Christ” is about false teachers (or what we in the church of Christ call them anyway).

We have a tendency to think that any person who is wrong on any point of doctrine is a false teacher.  Cecil Hook didn’t think so and neither do I.

You see, false teacher describes the person’s character and not what they are teaching.  If a person is false than they are a false teacher (even if what they are teaching is true).  Cecil gives 6 examples in the book of people who were false teachers.  These were not people who made honest mistakes, they were people with false motives and evil intent.  These were false teachers.

Cecil also gives examples of people who were sincerely wrong about things but were not false teachers.  The one that comes to my mind is Apollos.  We are specifically told that Apollos taught the Gospel incorrectly until corrected by Priscilla and Aquilla but the idea that he was a false teacher is absurd.  Apollos was mistaken, but not false in the sense that the Scriptures seem to indicate would qualify one as a “false teacher” (there are many other examples given in the book for your review).

We have thrown around the term “false teacher” for far too long at innocent brothers and sisters who had Christ-like hearts.  Sure, some of their theology has been mistaken but they were not false teachers and should never be treated badly for trying to truly understand the Scriptures.

Remember, this book is available for free at Freedom’s Ring


Written by freeinchrist

May 25, 2010 at 8:00 am

Free In Christ: Our Creed

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In this chapter of Cecil Hook’s “Free In Christ”, he talks about the church of Christ’s insistence that we have no creed but the Scriptures.  Although this sounds good, we end up having an unwritten creed of all of our interpretations of the Scriptures that we bind on people and use against those who disagree with us.

Cecil than points out that when we baptized the convert, we only asked them one question:

“Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God?” No inquiry was made of his convictions or practices relating to eating meats, the use of God’s name as a by-word, present-day demon possession and exorcism, praying for healing, killing in self-defense, midweek communion, or any other of the many issues listed in Chapter One which may relate to his faithful practice of the Christian life. Do the convictions and practices of such issues matter? Some, like days and meats (Romans 14) and circumcision (Gal. 5:6), do not. Some may be sinful, though their status is debated by sincere and studious disciples. Different convictions on debatable issues can be held without disrupting fellowship.

This is true.  We never ask people what their beliefs on doctrine are before accepting them into the Church.  We only ask if they believe in Jesus.  This is right.  Isn’t it strange that we let people into the Church who have no opinion on doctrine but think they can be kicked out for having a wrong opinion?  Doesn’t make sense to me.  The basis by which you enter the body (faith in Christ) is the way that you stay in the body.

Cecil than tackles an idea that has become common in church of Christ thought.  This thought is that if two people disagree than one must be right and the other wrong or they must both be wrong.  It is not possible that both of them are right.  To the legalist, they cannot both be right but to Paul they could.  In Romans 14 Paul clearly states that those who eat meat sacrificed to idols and those that don’t can both be accepted by God.  He also applies this to keeping holy days.  Both those that keep them and those that don’t can both be acceptable to God.

This shows that legalism and patternism were not what Jesus had in mind for the Church.  If there were a pattern, you could not have this variation and have both parties be right, but this is exactly what Paul says is the case.

Next, Cecil talks about Jesus as our creed.  This is one of the most important things that I have ever learned.  We don’t actually follow the Bible, we follow Christ.  The Bible teaches us about Christ so that we can follow Him.  We don’t follow a legal code.  We follow Jesus.

The last thing that Cecil mentions is the practice of giving incoming preachers a questionnaire to determine what their beliefs are but still insisting that we don’t use creeds.  It is quite ridiculous when you think about it.  Also, how are we ever supposed to learn anything new if the preachers we hire all say the same things.  I am more than ok with feeling a little uncomfortable sometimes in order to learn something about God that I didn’t know before.  The important thing, is that our teachers have faith in Christ and point the congregation to Him (and not to their own agenda).  A good teacher does what the Bible does: points us to Jesus.

Written by freeinchrist

May 21, 2010 at 8:00 am

Great Resources From Edward Fudge

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Here is a link that I found from New Wineskins to some video lectures from Edward Fudge.  His work on eternal conscious torment has helped me tremendously and his GracEmail’s have been very helpful in progressing from traditional church of Christ positions to where I am now.

Written by freeinchrist

May 19, 2010 at 8:00 am

Legalism: When Love Just Isn’t Good Enough

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I’ve recently been thinking along these lines:

Isn’t legalism just a way of saying that loving God and others just isn’t good enough.

Let me explain.  In most cases we all know what the right thing to do is.  It is written in our hearts.  We all know that using an instrument is not wrong, we know that women can speak in church, we know that we shouldn’t be mean to homosexuals, we all know there shouldn’t be any wars, and we all know loads of other things that we use legalism to justify ignoring.  We use the Bible to justify doing what we know to be wrong but want to be right.

I guess some people want to limit the bounds of the family of God.  They want women to be subservient.  They want to hate homosexuals (and anyone else who doesn’t fit their definition of “normal”), they want to justify hating and killing their enemies and want to justify many other things as well.

Its a terrible shame when biblical interpretation is used to justify things that the Lord Jesus Christ would never approve of.

You can have your bible religion if you want it, but I want to follow Christ.  We all know what is right because it is written on our hearts.  Just had to get that off my chest

Written by freeinchrist

May 17, 2010 at 8:00 am

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Free In Christ: Gospel And Doctrine

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[I am aware that I got some of the chapters mixed around but I think I’m on track now.]

In this chapter of Cecil Hook’s “Free in Christ” we get to a discussion on the difference between Gospel and doctrine. Also, he discusses the difference between preaching and teaching.

Cecil shows that preaching the Gospel (in Scripture) is always used to talk to unbelievers. It is evangelism. Teaching doctrine is always for believers. The two are different subjects and have different audiences.

I will not go into all the the verses or quotes from the book here but would encourage you to read it for the fuller discussion.

So, how has the confusion between preaching/teaching and gospel/doctrine influenced how we think today?

Written by freeinchrist

May 13, 2010 at 8:00 am

CENI and Assumptions

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This is a great post from a couple of months ago and I thought I would like to it in case any of you missed it.  This really makes the church of Christ hermeneutic of CENI very difficult to accept.


Written by freeinchrist

May 11, 2010 at 8:00 am

Free In Christ: Lawyers

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The next chapter of Cecil Hook’s “Free In Christ” furthers his coverage of the topic of legalism.  It is absolutely necessary that he does this because our traditional legal way of interpreting the Scriptures has led to most of the problems in the church of Christ.

Cecil sums up the traditional approach this way:

We in the Church of Christ have developed some strange concepts of Christ’s law. We seem to conceive of a system of law half revealed and half concealed in biography, historical accounts, treatises, personal letters, and prophecy. Clues to the laws are scattered through these writings to be discovered, pieced together, and interpreted by studious lawyers of the Word. We must not trust anyone else for this, we are cautioned, though his talents, training, and dedication may be much greater than ours. We must become lawyers ourselves. Lack of literacy or academic training is no excuse.  It is like a child’s puzzle — a maze. If you are astute enough, you can be among the spiritually elite who are able to work their way through the maze. But if you make a wrong turn, which most religious people presumably have done, then you will find yourself in the dead end of eternal punishment. That is the verdict, at least, the lawyers of the Word render as they put on their robes and sit in judgment of all others. The majority of the most learned, sincere, and devoted students of the Word are lost in the interpretive maze, while lots of us simple folk breeze right on through to eternal glory.
I couldn’t have said it better.  We seem to think that their is some kind of Christian Law hidden between the narrative of the New Testament that has to be picked out to be obeyed.  We have taken a story and tried to obey it instead of trying to learn from it.
Cecil then makes the excellent point that most Christians throughout history didn’t have a Bible to read anyway (and couldn’t have read it if they had one).  This means that they couldn’t be lawyers; they didn’t have the ability to pick all of the laws out of the story to obey them.  This is fine because their salvation was not contingent upon keeping laws and neither is ours.
Cecil then goes on to illustrate three errors that we have made in interpreting Scripture.
The Legal Approach (legalism), Inconsistency, Scholasticism (which I have called Backwards Theology).
Cecil’s example of the Legal Approach is to give this example of a disciple of Christ:
A disciple of Christ must be a man of faith and conviction. He must love his wife and
children and rear his children in the faith. He must provide for his family. He must pay
his debts. He must deal fairly with his employees. He must love his enemies. He must
read and study his Bible. He must assemble regularly and lay by in store each week. His
speech must be becoming of a disciple, etc.
This description may seem right but actually there is an error in every sentence.
A disciple of Christ does not have to be a man; it can be a girl. A wife and children are not necessary;
an unmarried person can be a disciple. He does not need a family to provide for to qualify. Neither must he or she have debts, nor pay debts if that person is destitute or disabled. Enemies are unnecessary to qualify. He or she need not be literate or scholarly, or attend services if bedfast, etc. Yet, each of these qualities was listed as a must.
When you read the 1st description you read it accurratly because you did not read it legally.  You understood it as a general description of a disciple; not a legal description.  Cecil (and I) encourage you to go and read Paul’s qualifications for an elder in 1 Timothy and Titus and see what might change if you read it like the first example instead of the second.
Inconsistency is when we don’t apply the same rules to similar cases.  The example that Cecil gives is that we ignore the fact that Paul wanted women to wear head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11 due to cultural differences but make women be silent according to 1 Corinthians 14 although culture has definetly changed in regards to this.
Scholasticism (or Backwards Theology) is reading our present day back into Scripture.  Cecil’s example has to do with treating Sunday as a holy day.  The churches of Christ have traditionally said Sunday was the only day you could take Communion (Acts 20:7) and give to the congregation (1 Corinthians 16:2).  Both of these are cases of Backwards Theology.  Luke never says that the meeting in Acts 20 was a regular meeting that ever happened more than at that one time and more importantly never says anything about Sunday being a special day for Christian meetings.  The Bible never says anything about this.  In 1 Corinthians 16, Paul is taking a special collection due to a Jewish famine and never even says that this practice is supposed to continue (he also does not give a reason why he chose the first day of the week).  The Bible never gives Sunday more than a passing mention and never makes it a holy day.

Written by freeinchrist

April 27, 2010 at 8:00 am