If writers of commentaries like Barnes, Clarke, MacKnight, and church Fathers were with us today, would we offer our fellowship to them? Are we not fellowshipping them when we refer to their writings and quote them as authorities?
It is interesting how over the years we have quoted from and used the works of men like Barnes, Clarke, MacKnight, and church Fathers, but have been so negative toward them because of their denominational affiliation and lack of agreement with us on some doctrinal issues. The same is true relative to the writers of many hymns and songs we sing in our assembling. It has been said that if Alexander Campbell were to assemble with us today we would not consider him in our fellowship. We are quick to discount or disparage their belief, manifestation of the image of Christ, and spirituality because they didn’t/don’t subscribe to our unwritten creed. In the main, most Churches of Christ would not welcome these men into their fellowships today.
With no intent of being condescending or judgmental of my brethren in Christ in the Churches of Christ, I would welcome them and seek to learn from them as well as share some of my thoughts with them on doctrinal issues. Nevertheless, my welcoming them would not be based upon my quoting from and referring to their writings, for the basis of fellowship is not endorsement. The basis of fellowship is a calling of God through the gospel and a response of belief. The basis of fellowship is not our agreement in knowledge of the scriptures. At times through the years I have even quoted an atheist or agnostic as authoritative on something, but that didn’t mean I considered them in or would welcome them into my fellowship. The criterion is what they think of Jesus Christ. Do they confess “that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh?”