A brother in Christ has recently criticized me for asking too many questions for which he says I have no answers, and for not being definitive relative to some “disputable matters”. This reminded me of a statement once made by Bertrand Russell: “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” I like to think that I’m somewhere in-between these two points. I’m sure about some things – like my salvation is by the grace of God and trusting in His Son Jesus Christ. It is not because of any accumulation of knowledge or perfect understanding and applied methodology on my part. Then I’m not “full of doubt”, but I have some doubts when it comes to some of the assertions and positions relative to doctrines and issues and traditions that have concerned us, and which we have used as excuses to divide brethren over the years. I have some rather strong opinions in some of these areas, but I could be wrong, and I’m not hinging my salvation or anybody else’s upon my surety or my intelligence in “disputable matters.”
With all of this vented let me complete this letter with a number of questions and quotes for your thinking and meditation. My purpose will have been served if they provoke these. The questions and following quotes do not necessarily coincide.
1.) Who among us has the authority and right to dictate binding directives when the scriptures are silent about such procedures?
2.) “Although it is not always easy to distinguish between them, a safe guide is that truths on which Scripture speaks with a clear voice are essentials, whereas whenever equally biblical Christians, equally anxious to understand and obey Scripture, reach different conclusions, these must be regarded as non-essentials . . . In fundamentals, then, faith is primary, and we may not appeal to love as an excuse to deny essential faith. In non-fundamentals, however, love is primary, and we may not appeal to zeal for the faith as an excuse for failure in love.” (John R.W. Stolt, from his book Romans: God’s Good News for the World, p. 374).
3.) Is Christianity a religion or a relationship?
4.) “The paradox of religion is that by all human standards it should work. Religion’s chief tool in binding man back to God is law, and we all know that law is good, therefore religion must work. The truth is that the law is good when it is used lawfully. It is here that religion fails, for it neglects to see that law is not the way for man to be at one with God, nor can man bind himself back to God through obedience to a law or through the practice of religious ritual (Gal. 3:21, 222). Therefore, it is not lawful to use law (religion) as a mediator or a bridge between God and man. The lawful use and purpose of the law would be to view it as a school master or a tutor that was put over mankind until men had enough self-knowledge and God-knowledge to seek God through faith. When men become of age, they no longer need religion. The scripture tells us that a man becomes of age when he realizes that he cannot approach God though religion, but must come through simple faith in Jesus Christ.” (From the “The Goal of Religion” written by Lyle Duell)
5.) Is the use or non-use of instrumental music a salvation issue?
6.) “You also won’t like the sound of this, either, but my opinion is that most churches of Christ do more harm than good. They are not workgroups of resourceful, committed students of the teaching of Christ, which I think is the Biblical definition of a local church. Rather, they are groups of ‘non-students’ who aren’t expected to be resourceful, but dependent on the preacher. They give assurance to hordes of people who are not even disciples of Christ, and drive away a lot of the best and brightest. Failing to skillfully handle problems, they expose noble and naive saints to some pretty treacherous people. In many cases, those who study the least and behave the worst are having more influence than those who study and teach and try to behave themselves toward those with whom they disagree. Something is seriously wrong with this picture!” – Samuel G. Dawson, What Is Wrong With Most Churches of Christ & How They Can Avoid Distinction, p.8)
7.) What is the basis for human rights if there is no God and we evolved from animals and have no eternal purpose for living?
8.) “While earlier forms of evangelicalism had been theologically generous, laying emphasis upon personal devotion to Jesus rather than fidelity to theological dogmas, a new stridency within the movement around this time led to a hardening of attitudes. The quality of a person’s faith was now judged by doctrinal correctness rather than a love for Christ. The warm-heartedness of earlier versions of evangelicalism now gave way to increasingly dogmatic and impersonal constructs of the Christian faith which repelled as many as it attracted.” (Alistar McGrath, writing on the shift in attitude and posture of evangelicalism that began to take place around the middle of the 19th century which contributed to the rise of atheism, in his book The Twilight of Atheism)
9.) Is all truth equally important?
10.) “God does not view differences of opinion in the area of freedom as a bad thing. The inevitability of such variance of thought is not seen as a flaw in an otherwise beautiful plan. It rather represents one more situation in which the supernatural character of the church, and its observable distinctiveness as a living organism, may be manifested before the world.” (Garry Friesen quoted by Larry Deason in “The Righteousness Of God”, p. 304)
11.) If we can’t trust our brains to believe in God, what can we trust our brains to believe?
12.) “Nothing should separate us from each other unless it is something that separates us from God.” – G.C. Brewer
J. James Albert