Recently I had an e-mail discussion with one of the older preachers aligned with the one-cup “Old Paths Advocate” (OPA) party. It was instigated by some questions I sent him with the following sentences being part of my prefatory remarks: “It is my understanding that you and I differ over the subject of ‘unity in diversity’ relative to God’s children. In the hope of clarification, learning, and understanding, I would like to ask you some questions. Thanks in advance for your responses.”
Following are the questions, his initial responses, and my first remarks. Read it for what it is worth.
J. James Albert
1.) JJA: Are you in 100% agreement doctrinally with all of those in your fellowship?
OPA: Concerning salvation we have agreement. Do you when it comes to salvation?
JJA: Your answer is a dodge of the obvious. I did not ask you if those in your fellowship are in 100% agreement about entrance into the fellowship of God’s Son, response to the gospel or being saved, but “Are you in 100% agreement doctrinally with all of those in your fellowship?” Unless you are a blind, unthinking sheep, or a parrot, you know full well you are not in 100% agreement doctrinally with all of those in your fellowship, and you practice that which you verbally deny and oppose. You imply such in your answer, and later so indicate in your remarks about the “hair question.” You know very well there is not 100% agreement doctrinally in your fellowship on such issues as Christmas, divorce and remarriage, the Holy Spirit, and many others. There is not even 100% agreement about salvation if you take into consideration the concept of grace.
2.) JJA: Do you think to be scriptural you have to be 100% in agreement doctrinally with those in your fellowship?
OPA: To be scriptural all of us must take heed to ourselves and to the doctrine, continuing in them, to save ourselves and them that hear us. Do you believe that? Can we read a “thus saith the Lord in our practice, and must we to be right?
JJA: I agree “all of us must take heed to ourselves and to the doctrine”. I do this and can read a “thus saith the Lord” in what I practice. Yet you don’t respect my right to do so, but instead want to impose your interpretations upon me. You don’t give to me the same right to study and draw my own conclusions as I give you. It’s your thinking or way, or I am a “false teacher”, as you call me.
If you mean by “save ourselves” that we do so meritoriously, I am in disagreement. I do not see a “thus saith the Lord” in all that your practice, yet I think you are saved. That’s because we are saved by grace, not because of our own personal righteousness, rightness, or works. Would you daresay you are saved by your own righteousness, rightness, and works? I would think not! Jesus Christ is our savior, not self.
3.) JJA: Are “disputable matters” relative to the “didache” part of the gospel?
OPA: Disputable matters are a weakness in man’s person. The word of God is what it is. We make it disputable because of dissatisfaction on our part. Is it impossible to agree on the word of God. Perhaps a lack of study promotes the disputable matters. Brother Albert we find ourselves arguing with God and can’t win! They are a part of the “faith once delivered”. I not why not?
JJA: In a sense you are right: “disputable matters are a weakness in man’s person”. We are the finite striving to understand the infinite. Sure sometimes, maybe often, “a lack of study promotes the disputable matters”. As to making it “disputable because of dissatisfaction”, I don’t know of any sincere brother who is so motivated.
Brother, we will never agree 100% doctrinally while in this earthly state of existence. We should strive to agree, but we will never arrive at 100% agreement in our earthly sojourn. That’s why “bearing with one another in love” is necessary to our “unity in diversity”. Forbearance is not needed when there is agreement. When we coerce and force and make laws to get brethren to conform to our interpretations of the “didache” we cause divisions.
One more point here. “Disputable matters” have to do with disagreements among brethren who have responded to the gospel and are in the fellowship. They are not part of “the faith” which has reference to the gospel, not interpretations of the didache.
4. )JJA: Are “disputable matters” relative to the “didache” conditions of salvation?
OPA: Yes sometimes they are.
JJA: That’s a dodge and smacks of creedism and another or “different gospel” as per Galatians 1:6-9. Where in the scriptures are persons told what they must believe about “disputable matters” of the “didache” in order to be saved? Do you preach “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” and/or “disputable matters”? Do you preach that persons should put their faith “in the wisdom of men” or “in the power of God?”
5.) JJA: Do I have the same right to interpret the scriptures and draw my own conclusions as do you?
OPA: Yes we both have that right. The question is do we come to the conclusion of what the Bible says and not what it does not say. I was surprised to read you had changed your position on just about everything. May I ask why? Brother Albert can you fellowship those in worship who use cups, have classes instrumental music. If so how far can you go. Would that include the Baptist, Methodist, or any one else Do you have to have scriptural foundation at all. Maybe unity in diversity allows you to fellowship them. When do you draw the line, if in fact you do draw it? Please let me know.
JJA: Brother, you have to admit that when it comes to being in fellowship with you, you do not accord to me the right to interpret the scriptures and draw my own conclusions as you do for yourself. I have to agree to conform to your interpretations or as you say, I am a “false teacher” to be blackballed or excluded. Thus you practice an inconsistent “unity in diversity”, at times insisting that fellowship is conditioned upon agreement and endorsement relative to the “didache” and at other times ignoring these conditions.
Not to brag, but I think I have grown over the years and thus I changed my views on some issues. Most important though, I hold to the Head Jesus Christ through faith. Probably the biggest change I made is in trusting him fully for my salvation rather than trusting fully or partially in my own righteousness.
I presume that over the years through study you grew and changed your views on some subjects as well. God expects us to grow and change.
Fellowship is not a matter on one’s position per se as to the scriptuality of cups, classes, and instrumental music. Fellowship is a state into which we are called by the gospel and not by our agreement on “disputable matters”. The bottom line in fellowship is that we have to relate to other believers on the basis of the light they have been privileged to enjoy, just as God does us. I perceive and understand the scriptures to teach that we should “draw the line” on those “who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh”, blatant moral turpitude, and heresy.
6.) JJA: If I have the same right to interpret the scriptures and draw my own conclusions as do you, who is to say whether you are right or I am right should we differ in our interpretations?
OPA: Who has the right? The Lord’s word is the true interpreter. Can you and I see it alike brother Albert. Is it an impossibility for us who are able to read and understand to come to the same conclusion?
JJA: You dodged again brother. You didn’t answer my question. We see a lot alike and we can see a lot more alike, and I hope we would, but as I said earlier we will never come to the same conclusions 100% of the time while we are in these earthly bodies. In the meantime you do not treat me as an equal brother in Christ, but as a “false teacher”.
7.) JJA: Is there a person or group of persons who are the authoritative, official interpreters of the scriptures for our day and age?
OPA: Official interpreters? I never heard of such, but maybe you have. Please enlighten me on this and who you have reference to. I always thought the apostles and inspired men who penned the truth were the true ones. Do you agree?
JJA: You are right, there are no official interpreters of the scriptures for this day and age. Yet you have declared yourself correct on the matter of “unity in diversity” and other “disputable matters”, judged me, and called me a “false teacher”. Sounds to me like you are officially interpreting.
8.) JJA: Has a brother-in-Christ who interprets the scriptures to teach the idea of “unity in diversity” denied “the faith”?
OPA: That depends who we have unity with. Since you believe in unity in diversity may I ask how diverse can a person or persons be before you will not fellowship them. When it comes to personal answering for our personal sins such as the “hair question” so called, I know I will not answer for them. When it comes to the worship I really have a problem with those who digress and then justify it by the scriptures which is not a justification. Have you come to that conclusion? In other words can your fellowship them.? Unity is founded always on the word of truth.
JJA: Once again you dodged and didn’t answer the question. Has a brother in Christ who interprets the scriptures to teach the idea of “unity in diversity” denied “the faith”? In my comments on number 5 I answered your question about diversity and fellowship.
Brother, don’t those who differ with you on Christmas, the “hair question”, divorce and remarriage, the Holy Spirit, set order of worship, etc, etc. “digress and then justify it by the scriptures”? We don’t have to personally answer for the viewpoints of those who think it is scriptural to use cups, classes, and instrumental music anymore than for these issues.
Unity is found in Jesus Christ who is “the truth”, and not in our interpretations, knowledge, and opinions relative to the didache. Because we have been deceived by such an idea is one of the reasons we are so divided. Fellowship comes first and prevails over these differences. Not agreement first, then fellowship. We should be ashamed of what we have done to so many God-fearing, sincere, spiritual brethren.
9.) JJA: How do you think a brother who interprets the scriptures to teach the idea of “unity in diversity” should be treated: castigated, considered an erring brother, demeaned as a digressive and false teacher, unfaithful impugning his motives, blackballed, “disfellowhshipped”, or “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” and esteeming others better than one’s self?
OPA: In the brotherhood I have confidence that when a brother has promoted such as unity in diversity in worship, obedience to the gospel to be saved, godly living and has such a love in his heart that he can promote and fellowship that which is so foreign to truth he must be marked. Brother Albert I for one have marked you as a false teacher. I read your letter for a long time thinking you would change. You came across against the brotherhood so long and strong with false doctrine that you lost the respect of the brotherhood. You talk of castigation, blackballing, ect. Perhaps you might examine yourself in such. Your “new found” doctrine cannot be in the word of God!
JJA: Brother, I accept the obvious. We have unity in diversity and it is the only kind possible. The scriptures give us instructions as to how to relate within this unity, I teach that we should be obedient to God’s will. I teach godly living. I don’t “promote and fellowship that which is foreign to truth”. Fellowship is with believing persons, and I’m in fellowship with believers who err just as I err and you err, but that doesn’t mean I endorse others’ errors. You and I are in fellowship with God. Does that mean he endorses our errors, or am I the only one in error?
10.) JJA: Are our intellectual reasonings or interpretations relative to “disputable matters” more important than our relationship as brethren-in-Christ/God’s family?
OPA: Who makes them disputable matters. Yes brethren in Christ are very important and should be treasured always. The disputable matters are what separates brethren. Unity in diversity never solves doctrinal issues. It “sweeps them under the rug” and then trust in God that he will judge it alright in the end.
JJA: Yet again you dodged and did not answer the question. Are all “disputable matters” the fault of those with whom you disagree as you imply? I don’t see brethren in Christ as being important and treasured if you exclude and sacrifice them for your interpretations relative to “disputable matters”. That’s loving only in words.
11.) JJA: Do you assemble with any women who cut their hair, or with any men who think such is scriptural, and if so, do they violate 2 John 9a?
OPA: I explained that one in one of your previous questions
JJA: You didn’t really say whether or not women who cut their hair, or men who think such is scriptural, violate 2 John 9a. You dodged again.
12.) JJA: Do all of those in Christ possess the same intellectual abilities, knowledge, and understanding?
OPA: No more than we all have the same talents or abilities.
JJA: Certainly we don’t have the same intellectual abilities, knowledge, and understanding, or as you say, “the same talents or abilities”. That’s why “unity in diversity” is the only unity possible.
13.) JJA: Are you, or anyone you know, fully knowledgeable and 100% correct in all of your interpretations of the scriptures?
OPA: No brother, anymore than you. I do know what I read and can understand enough to know what the Lord expects of me in worship, obedience, living. Has He given us all things that pertains to life and godliness and then we can’t understand? Are we dissatisfied with his will we DO KNOW, and then promote questions that gender strife? “foolish and unlearned ones”
JJA: Brother, if you are not fully knowledgeable and 100% correct in all of your interpretations of the scriptures when it comes to “disputable matters”, how can you declare me to be a “false teacher”? Also I think I “know what the lord expects of me in worship, obedience, living”, and I’m striving to do my best even though I know that is not enough. I’m not “dissatisfied with his will”. I want to be regarded as your full brother in Christ and for us to build upon our relationship as spiritual siblings and upon where we agree. Basically though what you are saying to me is that what YOU KNOW is absolutely right and I am wrong, and my questions are “foolish and unlearned ones” that “gender strife”. To say the least, that is indicative of a number of unscriptural things.