Still more comments

August 2009

Dear brethren,

Another month, more comments. I hope they incite or provoke your thinking in a positive, significant way and you don’t regard what I say as a manifestation of Commentatorio Stupidism. I’m sure those who read these letters askance will accuse me of that fallacy. Anyway!

Depressed Students

Recently an extensive poll was done by the Associated Press, surveying students at 40 U.S. colleges. A series of questions had been developed by medical practitioners to diagnose depressive illness. Eighty-five percent (Get that 85%) reported such feelings. They reported trouble sleeping, having little energy, and feeling down or hopeless. Eleven percent had had thoughts that they’d be better off dead or thoughts about hurting themselves.

That’s depressing isn’t it. I remember my college days, and I’m an OCD worrier, but despite some financial stress and other minor complaints, they were challenging, happy, interesting days which contributed to my motivation and motivated me as well, I’m sure that most of those with whom I related felt the same as me. No way did eighty-five percent feel depressed.

What has happened? It is my opinion that we are reaping the effects of the atheistic-oriented secularlist movement that has emerged in our society since the 1960s and is the basis of thinking and living for many of these college students and innumerable older people. They have bought the well-known words of Marx and Engels, that belief in God and religion is the “opiate of the masses.” For instance, they see Christianity as a burden or fraud.

At the same time that type of thinking leaves them empty. There is no meaning to the universe and man’s existence. How could you be truly happy and not depressed thinking that ultimately everything is pointless?

Our beliefs as Christians provide us with feelings of transcendence, promote family life bonding parents and children, provide us with a supportive community to deal with life’s bad moments, keeps us in touch with the past, helps us live in the present, and gives us hope for the future, teaches us gratitude and self-control, and makes life happy and meaningful. Not ha-ha happiness, but a simple contentment.

At least it is to do these things for us. Evidently we have not been doing a very good job of conveying the message because so many have retreated from being real to being antireligious secularlists. Then as I have been saying for years now, our divisions and legalism have contributed more immensely than we probably realize to this situation.

Women

Speaking of surveys, another recent one indicated that women in the United States today are generally more unhappy than they were 35 years ago. I can understand why and I don’t say this to lessen my chauvinistic upbringing in family, community, and Church of Christ. As with Blacks, over the years, the Churches of Christ have discriminated against women. Many men have interpreted that they are “the head of woman” much as many elders have interpreted “Obey those who rule over you,” to act arrogantly, despotic, and tyrannically. We have put a very narrow interpretation upon “There is neither Jew or Greek, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Nevertheless, even though we need to re-examine our positions and traditions, the Feminist Movement and the Gay Movement, supported by the secular-humanists have been very instrumental in the deterioration of the family in our society and have not made women really free and happy. Women deserve equal wages for equal work, and they deserve the right to vote, and other rights, but the right to engage in military combat, to function as a man in a marriage or partnership, or to be more accepted relative to sexual promiscuity and having children out of wedlock have not made women happy. These movements and some of these activities have undermined her womanhood and instead of elevating her have deprived her of benefits and privileges belonging to the fairer sex. (My wife forced me to write this.)

The Slogan

In the home of Abraham Altars in 1809 Thomas Campbell stated the slogan that has become the most often quoted non-biblical saying of the American Restoration Movement. “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak, and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.” Unfortunately the spiritual heirs of Thomas Campbell have twisted its meaning from what he and his son and followers intended and practiced.

As the twentieth century approached the heirs in the developing denomination known as the Churches of Christ applied this slogan in a way to disfellowship those who disagreed with them over disputable matters about which the scriptures were not specifically clear. They said silence was prohibitive. Yet these brethren established unwritten creeds and made laws relative to the silence of the scriptures. They relied upon deductions and inferences in many cases to support their positions. In other words they had a lot to say in areas where the scriptures are silent. The result was that the denomination divided into about two dozen warring sects, each claiming to abide by the slogan. Ironically, the denomination became a microcosm of the problems in the denominations wherein Thomas and his son Alexander wanted to “unite the Christians in all the sects.”

Thomas Campbell and his son and the early restorers did not view the silence of the scriptures as being prohibitive. The intent of that slogan was to not make “disputable matters” tests of fellowship as we have done. This is shown clearly in Thomas Campbell’s third and sixth propositions in his “Declaration Address.” The sixth reads:

Although inference or deductions from Scripture premises, when fairly inferred, may be truly called the doctrine of God’s holy word, yet they are not formally binding upon the consciences of Christians farther than they perceive the connection, and evidently see that they are so; for their faith must not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power and veracity of God. Therefore, no such deductions can be made terms of communion, but do precisely belong to the after and progressive edification of the Church. Hence, it is evident that no such deductions or inferential truths ought to have any place in the Church’s confession.

Unfortunately, contrary to the intent of Thomas Campbell, to this day, many still tout the slogan to support their theological opinions and interpretations and make them terms of fellowship. In so doing the evil of division is furthered and sustained by an attitude that is anti-Christian, anti-loving, and anti-scriptural. We sin against God by not receiving “one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).

In Him,

J. James Albert

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