Perspective and standing with God

February 2010

Dear brethren,

Being a male chauvinist according to my wife, I was tempted to change the story to have the wife with the cloudy glasses. Ha! Seriously though, I am well aware that the message of this story can be applicable to me. I have my own perspective based upon my abilities, environment, history, knowledge, etc. as does everybody. I admit this and try to guard against it in my study of the scriptures and related practices. No mortal is 100% objective and knows it all perfectly as it is to be known. We are all growing and learners, or should be. We should recognize this and respect brethren regardless of where they are on the continuum of growth in the faith.

Unfortunately I don’t find this attitude, tolerance, and understanding in many party leaders. They think they have arrived and spend a lot of their energy and time trying to maintain the status quo, which is conformity to their perspective. They don’t want to be challenged or questioned. They refuse to seriously read opposing viewpoints. They have closed minds relative to “disputable matters”. They don’t want their followers to read any challenges or questioning of their viewpoints. Witness how many times you have heard in the last couple of years of brethren being “warned” about reading the likes of brothers Al Maxey and Dallas Burdette. Instead of engaging in fair and open dialogue they castigate and demean and blackball. All those who oppose them are apostates, dangerous, deluded digressives, erring brethren, false teachers, unfaithful, village idiots, etc. etc. You judge for yourself it this is right. Is this letting “each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3)?

Legalistic party leaders condition right standing with God upon their alleged correct knowledge or understanding of “disputable matters”. They place conformity to their opinions in these matters on a higher plane than brotherly relationships. They will “destroy” a brother who does not conform to their views. They refuse to “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind” relative to the party creed. Brethren, we need to clean our glasses and realize that right standing with God is not of our own ability, doing, or knowledge. (I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive to be obedient.) We are in right standing with God because of His grace and mercy manifested in His Son. “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4).

Relative to what I just wrote is our sectarian use of the expression “in the faith”. This expression is bandied about and somewhat whimsically applied by the non-sectarian sectarians in the Churches of Christ. It is made to mean that being “in the faith” is agreement with the hermeneutic and interpretations and methods that identify the sect, especially those relative to what is called “the worship” and its five acts. If you don’t agree that one- cup only is to be used in the partaking of the Lord’s Supper you are not “in the faith”. If you think instrumental music is acceptable with God you are not “in the faith”. If you believe in a “unity of diversity” you are not “in the faith”.

In the first place this usage of the term and concomitant practices smacks of creedism. It is taking human understanding, inferences and deductions drawn from the scriptures written to believers, and placing them on a level with the gospel and the inspired word of God. It’s really adding to both. Those who agree and align are welcomed into the fellowship and those who do not conform are blackballed, excluded, or withdrawn from. Yet there is not scriptural authority for withdrawal of fellowship on the grounds of ceremonies, forms, mechanics, methods, procedures, rituals, traditions, per se. It is not indicative of an eagerness to maintain unity and forbearance, but of a desire to have one’s own way.

It’s a failure to distinguish between “the faith” and “matters of faith”.  “The faith” has reference to the gospel, believing and trusting in Jesus Christ. Either you do or you don’t. “Matters of faith” are not conditions of salvation. They are not criteria for fellowship. “The faith” is. Sectarians make “matters of faith” their “the faith”, or at least a part of it. A believer who merely disagrees relative to “matters of faith” does not deny “the faith”, nor does that make him guilty of being an apostate, deserving of being called a digressive, erring brother, false teacher, unfaithful, or one who does not respect the authority of the written word.

Third, when you resort to creeds, whether written or unwritten, and their concomitant practices, you tend to minimize grace and turn to legalism and salvation by works. “In the faith” is made to mean that salvation is not a “gift of God”, but an accomplishment of own selves. Salvation is twisted to substantiate our creedal position.

Am I saying that we should not be concerned about our interpretations of God’s written word? No! In the final analysis my fellow believers, we are all erring brethren. Some of us may even be tares, but the angels of the “Son of Man” will “gather out” all “those who practice lawlessness” at “the time of harvest”. In the meantime let’s quit our harvesting in his behalf for I fear we are rejecting much “wheat”.

In Him,

J. James Albert

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7 responses to “Perspective and standing with God

  1. Pingback: California Letter « One In Jesus.info

  2. “They refuse to ‘Let each be fully convinced in his own mind’ relative to the party creed.”

    I’ve found that liberals (or progressives) are just as bad about this as are conservatives. The problem is this is the nature of organized religion. Did Jesus really come to establish an organized church or a personal religion? Judge for yourself by how much he says about worship assemblies (absolutely nothing). The liberal and the conservative are both deceived into thinking that Jesus established a corporate religion. Or is it rather that they know the truth but seek to deceive others in order to fill their coffers?

  3. We’ve got the Pharisee legalist ceremonialists on one side, and the libertine loon leaders on the other who tolerate everything. I see the only option as rejecting the whole mess altogether and just following Jesus without the lot of you.

  4. I agree with you that the nature of organized religion as it exists today is not as Jesus intended.
    Lately I have been called a “village idiot” and now a “loon”. Ha! Really I’m trying to just follow Jesus, believe it or not.

  5. At the end of your article here you use the terminology of the parable of the tares. Do you really think Jesus gave the interpretation of the parable of the tares that we find in Matthew 13:36? It doesn’t seem to really fit the telling of the parable itself. Notice how the devil’s sneakiness is gone in the interpretation. What happened to him sowing the tares at night while men slept? And in this context, where the parable comes right after the parable of the sower in which the seed = the word, and in a context in which in every other parable the seed clearly is the word, does it make sense that the seed in this one is people? It seems to me that Jesus gave no interpretation of the parable of the tares, but this was added later words put into his mouth. Because if you will notice the explanation of 13:36 is predestinarian. It asserts that the field is the world and the good seed are God’s children and the tares are Satan’s children, that is, that God sows his people in the world and the devil sows his people in the world, meaning everyone is now and and always was and always will be exactly what they are: either they’ve always been a child of God or of Satan, there is no room left for conversion or rebirth. This explanation of the parable is clearly mandmade. The real meaning of the parable seems to be that the field is the Scriptures and God has sown his good word in there, but the devil came when men weren’t expecting it (late 1st, early 2nd century?) and sowed his word in the Scriptures, and to us as servants (copyists) we are instructed not to physically alter the text but leave the corruption in there because we might remove wheat if we try to remove the tares, but as reapers (readers) we must first determine what things are tares and bind them to be burned (not believed) then bring the wheat into the barn (our systematic theology). The interpretation of the parable as given in 13:36 is clearly itself a tare and proves the interpretation I just outlined to be correct.

  6. my mother’s side of the family have pretty much all been coc for the past 4 generations. they were conservative but i didn’t know that until i was in my 30’s because until then i had never been in any other kind of congregation. i am 59 years old now and still confused. my father moved my mother, my sister and me to a small town in in georgia when i was 5 years old and my first memory of moving there was when we were stopped at a traffic light across from the first baptist church and my mother pointed at the building and said to me ” little sid, all the people who go to church in that building are going to hell!”. i never forgot that and it was a source of much concern when i learned that about half of the kids i went to school with went to church there! needless to say this event very much colored my view of God, the church, the meaning of ‘grace’ and everything having to do with my faith. i have read enough books,blogs and articles to fill up the read sea and still have no real spiritual moorings. i know many other people who grew up in the coc who are in a similar state. i’m not sure how much damage has been caused by all of the textproofing, debating, and so forth. i saw a congregation in which my grandfather was ans elder split over whether christians should support orphanges individually or as a group. another split over the issue of whether a piano could be brought into a building for a wedding. i remember thinking that maybe God isn’t as big as i thought if he really has time for this nonsense. i think i’m going to just stop reading all of this and let God do what he will with me.
    sincerely,
    tired in ga.

  7. Bro. Sid, I can both empathize and sympathize with you. I have lived through some of the same experiences and know of many others who have done likewise. Things are changing though. Keep the faith brother.

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