Here are the concluding letters in the e-mail discussion I had with one of the preachers aligned with the one cup sect of the denomination known as the “Churches of Christ”. Again, read for what it is worth.
J. James Albert
OPA: Dear brother Albert,
Thank you for your response to my answers of your questions. You seem to think I dodge about everything you ask in my answers. Do you dodge when I ask you about fellowship of Baptist, Methodists, ect. Baptist think they are baptized because they are saved. Do you agree? Is this a part of the doctrine or as you say didache, and if it is can you fellowship them? The Methodist sometime baptist for the remission of sins, per my grandmother years ago. Your unity in diversity will never work in matters salvation in Christ, worship, or even godly living. You have to admit if you are honest that many who claim to be Christian are totally ignoring the scriptures yet, you say maybe their understanding is not as yours or mine. True, but the question is do you fellowship the ones named and many more that could be named. How about the Mormons that believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God, and who baptize for the remission of sins, also confessing Christ as the Son of God as we do. Brother, your unity in diversity as you understand it will not allow you to censor these, disfellowship them or any other in this world that claim to have a different understanding of plain scripture. You problem seems to be that you know you must face Jesus in judgment as we all will and you are scared to cut fellowship with anyone except those who deny that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Maybe their understanding in not as yours and mine. Yes we must teach such people, but not fellowship them in their sins.
Brother, I do not know anyone in the church that believes we are saved by our works. Do you? We are told plainly that our works will be the criterion by which we are judged. Do you deny that? Our works are conforming to the commands of God. Our faith is either dead or alive depending on whether we have complied with the will of God regarding our works. You seem zeroed in on faith alone. So are the Baptist and many more. You mentioned grace that you depend on along with faith. We have access “by faith into this grace wherein we stand.” But faith is a live faith because of our doing the will of the Lord. You say I think you are a false teacher. Yes, brother Albert I think that. I wish I did not but your California letter of long ago convinced me. Is there anything you will contend for that has to do with the “faith once delivered”. Unity in diversity will not allow you to as you understand it per your belief that others might not have the same understanding you do, therefore, fellowship them because they are your brothers in Christ!
Brother Ervin Waters whom I love to this day and respect him for what he did in the past for the cause used the same argument you use concerning a different understanding. Brother Albert I love you too but cannot fellowship you in the positions you take. Tell me plainly could you worship with those who use cups, classes, instrumental music such as the digressive church, Christian church, Disciples of Christ. Do you fellowship them? Is their practice contrary to the “didache” as you mentioned. As to preaching Jesus and Him crucified, and he is the way, I have neighbors all around me that believe that and are not members of His church. Estranged from God as Eph.2:16 teaches. They have adifferent understanding so could you call them brethren in Christ and in the fellowship ? Don’t dodge as you say I do (which I do not) I believe what I wrote you will stand and is sound. I realize you do not think so. Brother Albert again, I love you but I fear for you as you do no doubt for me. My studying the Bible has not caused me to give up the things I have tested and tried as true, but it has caused me to examine myself whether “I be in the faith” as Paul said. Who caused the division in the Lord’s church by adding what I have asked you about. Who stands on a thus saith the Lord? The condemnation stands with those who caused the split. Rom. 16, and Paul said to avoid them. Do you? I have written this in love and too, would like an answer from you. I think you have “dodged the things” I ask you before. “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but reprove (expose) them. Eph.5:11. How can something unscriptural, cannot be found in the New Testament be exceptable to the Lord ? Keep studying as I will and maybe we can get closer to the truth.
JJA: Dear brother,
Thanks for your last reply, although I was a little disappointed. I thought you might answer the questions you dodged – numbers 1, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 11. What is so difficult about answering: “Has a brother in Christ who interprets the scriptures to teach the idea of ‘unity in diversity’ denied ‘the faith’?” Of course you said that you “do not” dodge. By implication I presume your answer is “yes” because I think “unity in diversity” is the only unity possible and you have called me a “false teacher”.
Brother, as I assess this exchange, I see as one of the basic differences in our thinking and practice the following: You assert we are not free to differ, but free to divide over “disputable matters”. I assert we are free to differ over such matters, but not free to divide. Very simply, you do not receive me and others who do not agree with you relative to select “disputable matters” even “as Christ also received us, to the glory of God”.
Let me re-answer some of your assertions and questions, perhaps clarifying my thinking for you. You say that “unity in diversity” “will never work in matters salvation in Christ, worship, or even godly living”.
1.) It worked in the first century. Are you so daring to assert that the first Christians were in complete agreement and their unity was not a “unity in diversity”? They didn’t even have the New Testament as we have it to guide them. Some kept various aspects of the Law of Moses. Some believed in idols. Some even denied the resurrection. There was much more significant diversity than generally used in the Churches of Christ as the rationale for many of our present-day divisions. Are you like the apostle John who wanted Jesus to exclude a person who was “casting out demons” in Jesus’ name because “he does not follow us”? Jesus made it clear that his followers can have differences and still accept each other. He said “For he who is not against me is on our side. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Mark 9:38-41). Jesus rebuked John for being a party man or sectarian on that occasion.
2.) “Unity in diversity” was part of the genius relative to the early success of our spiritual forefathers in the American Restoration Movement. For example, there were differences over whether God’s children should be called Christians or disciples, over baptism, over the Holy Spirit, and over the Lord’s Supper. Many of those associated with bro. Stone observed it quarterly rather than every Sunday. Aylett Raines embraced universalism for many years. It was later in the 19th century when brethren began to draw lines of fellowship relative to “disputable matters” and demand conformity in thinking in such matters, and then the divisions began.
3.) It works for you and your party except in the items of your unwritten creed. Brother, there were reknowned leaders in the one cup, no class segment in the span of my lifetime who at one time or another did not draw lines of fellowship on these issues. Some changed, some didn’t.
4.) I have seen it work. For some time in Armona we had a brother who assembled with us and participated in all facets of the activities of our assemblies who believed it was scriptural to use cups and classes. He was a blessing to us and never caused problems over the issues. He was still a member of our congregation when he passed this life. Also, a few years back we had a brother who assembled with us who didn’t buy the concept of “unity in diversity” and he also was still a member of our congregation when he passed this life.
Now to the Baptists, Methodists, Mormons, Presbyterians, Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, those of the sects of the denomination known as the Churches of Christ, including the one cup sect, etc., I answered this question in my comments on your response to question number five. I try to “relate to other believers on the basis of the light they have been privileged to enjoy, just as God does us”, but let me elaborate.
I can welcome any believer, and should welcome any believer, as long as I don’t have to violate my conscience, and he is not guilty of blatant or persistent moral turpitude or manifesting heresy – the party spirit. I welcome him as a believer, a disciple or Christian, not as a Baptist or Methodist or even a one-cup party man. If he expresses belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, expressing that faith in baptism, and obeying him according to his knowledge and understanding of God’s will, I welcome him. This is what God does with me and you.
John said, “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus has come in the flesh is not of God” (1 John 4:2-3a). John did not say that it is a believer’s affiliation or position on “disputable matters” that determines whether or not a person is of God. Do those believers from “the denominations”, as you say, need to learn and grow? Certainly, and so do I. Did not Jesus say, “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” (John 12-26b)? God doesn’t turn His back on any person who responds to Him and strives to live according to His will as he understands it. Peter said in the household of Cornelius, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” If Peter were here today he could well substitute denomination or sect for “nation”.
I don’t sweepingly classify those in what we have traditionally called “the denominations” as totally ignoring the scriptures or demean their claim to be believers or Christians. I try to relate individually. I take their word just as I do yours. God is the judge of their hearts, not me, and I prefer to err, if I do so, on the side of love and forbearance than on the side of condemnation. You wrote about God rewarding us according to our words, do not the scriptures teach emphatically that He will reward us according to the way we have treated others? Should we treat those in “the denominations” as unbelievers? Do not some of those in “the denominations” put many of us to shame relative to the production of the “fruit of the Spirit”? Are they not Christians?
Unwittingly, you do the same as myself. If a believer assembles with you from one of “the denominations” or from those who use cups, classes, instrumental music, you share with them in the observance of the Lord’s Supper do you not? There is no greater manifestation of fellowship than passing the Lord’s Supper to a fellow believer.
Our spiritual forefathers instigated a movement to “unite the Christians in all the sects”. They looked for the image of Christ and not exactitude in “disputable matters.” I think there are Christians in all sects today and I welcome those who believe and obey according to the light they have been privileged to enjoy. There are many more aspects of this welcoming of believers that could be addressed, but this present discussion of “unity in diversity” is not the forum in which to discuss them.
Brother, I know believers who think we are saved by our works. They see works as a determinative factor in our salvation and not an indicative one. In a sense that is what you are telling me relative to your position on fellowship and the concept of “unity in diversity” whereby you call me a “false teacher”. On that note it is interesting that John calls those “false prophets” who have denied that Jesus has come in the flesh, yet you call me a “false teacher” and won’t answer question number eight.
Brother, not to demean you, but I think you are confused about fellowship. We don’t fellowship denominations, institutions, organization, cups, classes, instrumental music, etc. We share a fellowship with believing persons. We don’t “fellowship them in their sins” unless we actually participate with them in their sins. Fellowship is not endorsement and we don’t have to violate our consciences to recognize believers in Christ. The brother in Christ who believed it was scriptural to use cups and classes who met with us at Armona is a good example. Those who differed did not violate their consciences.
Brother, those who differ with us on cups, classes, etc. are not fully responsible for our present divisions. There were, and are those, on both sides who manifested and manifest the party spirit, including making laws to fit the attitude and positions.
Romans 16:17-18 does not have to do with brethren who differ relative to “disputable matters” per se, but those who are contentious about them, draw unscriptural lines of fellowship, and are thereby divisive. Excuse me, but your quoting of Ephesians 5:11 to apply to those brethren who differ with us on “disputable matters” such as cups and classes and instrumental music brings a chuckle to me. Such are not under consideration. Notice verse twelve. Paul said that “it is shameful to speak of those things which are done by them in secret”. We sure do a lot of talking about those brethren who use cups and classes and instrumental music.
Finally brother. I think we have just about reached a dead end of this discussion unless you want to comment upon what I have said in this e-mail letter. In the meantime I will probably publish our discussion in a future “California Letter”. I will NOT use your name unless you notify me that you want me to identify you. Bless you brother and I will keep on studying.
OPA: Dear brother Albert,
Thank you for the reply. I do think we are separated and have differences as to unity in diversity. There are differences in things that have to do with the individual brother or sister and the choices they make such as The hair, Christmas, Holy Spirit ect. I am willing to let God judge the matter with them that practice such. I do have patience with those of like persuasion but do not see where I am to withdraw myself from them. I am doing my utmost to determine what the Bible teaches concerning those things that concern us in worship and obedience to the gospel, and the worldly sins of 1 Cor.5:11. Do you recognize what Paul said about accepting those things. I will readily teach and patiently try my best to get those that are guilty to repent and be reconciled to God. If not, I will not fellowship them. Will you ?
Brother Albert, you dwell on the idea of “disputable matters” and then mention who you will accept. What you call disputable matters, I call them opinions. The doctrines taught in the scriptures are not disputable matters to me. Yes they can be matters we discuss in the light of a thus saith the Lord to come to an understanding of a clearly taught passage and as you sometimes say bring them to an understanding, or as Paul said “a knowledge of the truth”. Can we have fellowship with them if they refuse to except the truth of the discussion.? Brother do you try to bring those in Armona you mentioned that differ with you in matters of worship such as cups, classes, instrumental music ect. Those that believe in such though they meet with you in worship, if they insist you have cups on the table of the Lord, or classes and disturb the church where would you stand and what would you do. Jimmy, if we had such meeting with us in Turlock and believed these thing causing no problems we would not ask them to leave, but we would let them know what the scriptures taught on such matters and that we accept no other. We would not use such in the service such as teaching or whatever. Do you use those who differ on the worship ? We still have love and respect for such but we do not respect their belief on such that has split the church in the past.
You said you chuckled in my use of Eph.5:11. I believe verse 12 applies and anything else that comes under the unfruitful works of darkness. Remember the context of Paul’s teaching goes on to say; “But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light.”… ver. 13 “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. Ver.17 Is the word of god light, and can we understand the will of the Lord ? There is a sure “plain” of understanding we can come to. It is not an impossibility. Brother Albert, I sincerely believe you have closed your heart to sure things that concern the will of the Lord. Your answers and teaching are clear to me that you pick and choose as you claim I do in the things you will not allow that violates your conscience. Remember we have a conscience too !
You mentioned the restoration period where they had differences on doctrinal matters. Yes I agree with you and I also recognize they were coming out of the maze of denominationalism and doing their best to arrive at the truth. They were certainly not going from it but going toward it. True many would not have the truth on matters of doctrine where the Bible speaks and the split came when some contended for the things you cannot read. Alexander Campbell said something to this effect; “it was not he that kept the first commandment that wrought havoc in Israel, but he that made the golden calf”. Would you say that Aaron’s understanding was lacking and that Moses should have overlooked his promotion of idolatry. I feel you would not, but brother Albert the same principle applies when it comes to denominationism and digression. Remember the people were crying for a God to go before them forsaking Moses the lawkeeper and giver of God’s will to the people. Aaron gave in to the wishes and wants of the Israelites. The times now we are experiencing are no different since religion and so called Christianity is asking: “what do the people want ? They are tailoring their religion to satisfy the people. You seem to think we are not the judge nor can we judge anyone. Paul made it clear we can judge between brethren in Icor.6 and Jesus said to use “righteous judgment” Would not righteous judgment be using the truth to judge ? My brother, I have full sets of the Evangilist, Millennial Harbinger, Christian Messinger, Lard’s Quarterly and many other works published by the disciples of Christ Christian church, independents, ect. One thing you wrote caught my attention; You consider the denominations as sects yet you make it clear you would fellowship them and named a few. You classify the church of Christ (one cup) with them) Brother, do you consider yourself a sectarion ? I believe the church of Christ is not a denomination. However: I recognize that some who claim to be the Lord’s church are rapidly being “grafted into” denominations. They are giving up the faith once delivered, no contending for it, and using the language of the denominations. I never read of denominational baptisms nor many other things that separate us. You my brother are closer to the “standard” of fellowship they promote than what the scriptures teach!
If you publish our discussion in your California Letter, whether you use my name or not, I request the privilege of answering it and you publish my answer in your paper. Would that not be fair exchange. I would keep it short if you will. Thank you again, and I do believe we have come to the end of this discussion unless you print something that misrepresents me. I do have then the privilege of answering you. Let me know and I will really appreciate it. Brother Albert, again I do not agree with you but I love you as I have always loved brethren. I cannot agree and fellowship you in the practice you are involved in and espouse.