California Letter: An Email Exchange

July-August-September 2011

Re: An e-mail exchange

Dear brethren,

Earlier this year I engaged in an e-mail exchange centering around the concept of “unity in diversity” with a brother-in-Christ in another state. That exchange constitutes the subject matter for this “California Letter.” He initiated the exchange as you will see below. I responded, including fourteen questions for him. He replied to my response by saying: “If I answer your questions forthrightly and candidly, will you respond in kind to a similar list of questions from me?” He sent me thirty. Ha!

I hope that you find the exchange interesting reading. The only other comment I will make at this time is that I would liked to have heard his answers to my other questions that appear throughout the change. Otherwise I’ll leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions as to who was the most candid and forthright and in keeping with the tenor of the scriptures.

In Him,

J. James Albert

To: J. James Albert

I have attached a copy of the November 2006 issue of the OPA. I believe the front page article by Bro. Billy Dickinson addresses this topic. Obviously, you don’t agree with what Bro. Billy wrote, but I would like to hear from you as to where you feel he is “missing the boat.”

Thanks

Bro ___,

I  have written on this subject many times so my views are quite well known.Essentially bro. Dickinson denies a concept that is an obvious reality and one that he practices even in denial. It is a reality that we cannot avoid and will be with us for as long as we are in this human state. In addition, I think bro. Dickinson makes some assumptions or presumptions and misapplies some scriptures.

1.)  Unity  in diversity is not “unity in error” because no one is advocating that anyone  violate his conscience. It is saying that interpretations/opinions/reasoned views are not the basis of fellowship. Conformity in knowledge is not the basis of unity in Christ. On the other hand those who advocate the conformity approach often coerce brethren into either violating their consciences or ignoring them so they can stay in their fold/party.

2.)  Those  who realize that the only unity that we can have is a unity of diversity do not consider doctrinal matters “inconsequential.” They just put them into a proper or scriptural perspective.

3.) Romans 16:17 is generally more applicable to those demanding a unity of conformity in knowledge and select opinions relative to “disputable matters” that those who recognize that unity can only be realized by recognizing our diversity. The former violate the “doctrine” about which the apostle has been writing. This in addition to their inconsistency in misapplying the passage.

At this point let me ask you some questions which might serve to clarify my thinking to you and your answering help me understand yours as well.

1.) Are you in complete (100%) agreement with everybody in your fellowship? 

No.

(So you do practice a unity of diversity.)

a.) Do you recognize as a faithful brother in Christ any believer who disagrees with you in interpreting the scriptures?

Yes.

(This  answer further confirms that you practice a unity of diversity. Also, so a faithful brother can be in error in interpreting the scriptures. Either the brother who disagrees with you is in error or you are in error. ? Which one of you is not abiding in the “doctrine of Christ”?)

b.) What about me?

No.

(I ask out of curiosity:
? Have I denied belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God?
? Am  I guilty of moral turpitude?
? What divisions have I caused?
? If  I were to assemble where you assembled on Sunday morning would you pass me the  Lord’s Supper?)

2.) What brethren do you know who are completely free from error, knowing and understanding all the scriptures perfectly? (Just 3 or 4 examples will do.)

I can name many brethren who worship God in spirit and in truth, who have never divided the church over an unscriptural practice, and who are not teaching false doctrine that would lead others into sin.

(You dodged and did not answer the question. I might say that you are sweepingly presumptuous in what you did say relative to both believers in your party and believers in other parties.)

3.) Is the basis of fellowship with God perfect knowledge and understanding, being free from error?

The basis of fellowship is walking in the light of God’s word. (1 John 1:6-6)

(Again, you dodged and did not answer the question. Obviously though from what you answered above “walking in the light of God’s word” does not mean being free from error.)

4.) Bro. Ronny Wade believes that the guilty party in a divorce cannot remarry, but other brethren believe the guilty party can remarry. Is either Ronny or those brethren who think differently from him in error?

Jesus said, “…and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” It is inconceivable to me how anyone can read that and still conclude that the guilty party is free to remarry. People who teach such are teaching error.

(So Ronny Wade is in a fellowship where brethren are teaching error.
? Is Ronny Wade a faithful brother in Christ even though he welcomes a brother
who teaches error?
? Would you welcome that same brother?
? The late brother E.H. Miller, a renowned one cup Church of Christ preacher,
believed that the guilty party could remarry; was he a faithful Christian?)

a.) To whom would you apply James 5:19-20?

I would apply it to anyone who “wanders from the truth” (NKJV). This
could be someone, for example, who quits the church. Another example would be someone who begins worshipping in error.

(A couple of questions:
? If a brother in Christ believed it was scriptural to use cups and classes, but assembled with you on a regular basis would he be “worshipping in error”?
? Would you be willing to stake your eternal destiny upon your interpretation of the scriptures being absolutely right relative to the use of cups and classes? In other words, when time is no more and you happened to be found wrong in your views, you would be subject to eternal destruction.)

5.)Bro. Alan Bonifay celebrates Christmas, but bro Jerry Cutter says Christmas is of the devil. Is one of them in error?

Yes, wouldn’t one of them have to be?

(So one of them is teaching error. So one of them is leading others into sin as you indicate erroneous teaching does in your answer to a.) and number 9. By the way your answer again confirms your practice of “unity of diversity”.)

a.) Is 1 Timothy 4:1 applicable to bro. Bonifay?

When you say that Alan celebrates Christmas, do you mean to imply that he intends for it to be a religious observance? If so, I would like to see evidence of that. Part of your problem is that you bring up all kinds of issues, often comparing apples and oranges, but they are not always parallel. Some issues involve personal matters, meaning that it affects the individual
and no one else. Do you really believe that this is parallel to adding cups in the communion—something that leads an entire congregation into sin?

(If Jerry Cutter is correct that Christmas is of the devil, what difference does it make it it’s a “religious observance” or not? So we are free to do sinful things if we don’t do them as religious observances? That’s the old sacred-secular ploy. It’s like the pharisaical mentality of getting around
caring for their parents by declaring their profit Corban. Whatever we do in word or deed is to be to the glory of God whether we classify it as a religious observance or not.

I’m not comparing apples and oranges. All “matters of faith” such as the intellectual issues/reasoning which serve as the focus of our divisions are personal matters. Alexander Campbell referred to them as “private” property and as he said it is not that the opinions per se may be wrong, but one’s conduct
in regard to them. You make agreement with our interpretations of select “matters of faith” conditions of salvation and standards of orthodoxy, basing fellowship upon conformity to your opinions. This is comparing apples and oranges. Further, such is an infringement upon brethren’s right to interpret the
scriptures for themselves and a cause of division.)

6.) Are there any brethren in your fellowship who believe or teach that divorce for any cause is unscriptural?

Yes. If they teach it, it doesn’t go unchallenged. I used to worship at a congregation where we quit calling on a man because he wouldn’t quit
teaching it.

(Here again you confirm “unity of diversity”, but indicate that brethren may not have the same rights as you because they are wrong and you are correct. The brother has the same right to present his views as do  you, and if you quit calling upon him merely because he differed that was  wrong, but it appears from what you say it had more to do with his conduct. Also, I presume you dealt with it in a credible, upfront way.)

7.) If the “unity of the Spirit” is not one of diversity why is it necessary to be “longsuffering, bearing with one another in love?

Preaching the word “with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2) never involves compromising with error. When people are left with the impression that error is of little consequence, something is wrong!

Perhaps that might explain why you are bidding God speed (2 John 9-11) to someone like Al Maxey.

Have you been patiently waiting for Al to give up his false views on the Lord’s Supper, baptism, the doctrine of Hell, etc.? If so, when do you thing you might begin to make some progress?

(You dodge somewhat. I have never said that brethren have to or need to violate their consciences by “compromising with error”. In fact, I have said just the opposite. You are in a fellowship wherein brethren teach error, are you “compromising with error”? In fact, when you intimidate brethren and demand
that they conform to your opinions in “matters of faith” to be in your fellowship, regardless of their views, you cause them to either violate their consciences or cause a division. Thus you violate 1 Cor. 1:10 and Romans 16:17.

Neither have I, or anybody I know, said that “error is of little consequence”. What we have said is that not all truth is of equal importance. As far as I know bro. Maxey has not denied that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, so when I bid him “God speed” I am not in violation of 2 John 9-11.

The method of seeking unity by excluding and dividing because brethren don’t agree in “matters of faith” which you embrace certainly hasn’t worked. It has just multiplied divisions. Much worse than having alleged false views about “matters of faith” is the manifestation of the party spirit. Bro. Maxey is not
a sectarian as are many of those who oppose him.)

8.) Will any believers be saved eternally who are erroneous in their interpretations of the scriptures?

Did it cause the person to sin? If so, did s/he die with God holding that sin against him/her? I believe the answer to those questions could potentially be “no.” In such a case, my answer to your question would be “yes.”

(Talk about equivocating! This sounds to me like you believe we are saved by our own correctness rather than the righteousness of Christ. Thus if we don’t clear erroneous or ignorant thinking that influenced our response to God with confession and repentance before we die we are doomed. Such is a basic
misunderstanding of being saved by grace. What if you made a mistake or had a misunderstanding about a “matter of faith” which had an effect upon your response to God and you died thinking you were correct and did not confess or repent? Maybe you are just planning to make a blanket confession to cover all
unknowns when your time comes.)

9.) Will a believer who conscientiously interprets the scriptures to believe that it is scriptural to use cups in the Lord’s Supper be automatically damned for that opinion being that he died believing such?

Not if it never caused him to sin. Teaching or practicing it would be a sin, though.

(So teaching an alleged erroneous opinion is a sin and for that we will be doomed. Who then can be saved? Who among us is an infallible teacher? You indicate that it is not necessarily a sin to believe something, but is to teach or practice it. You teach that “unity of diversity” is wrong, but yet you
practice it. Is that not even worse? Didn’t I read somewhere that Jesus said an overt sin was not necessary to be guilty of sin?)

10.) Who is the official interpreter of the scriptures for our day and age?

God.

(Your answer is a dodge. You know that God expects us to interpret the scriptures and there is no official interpreter among men, yet some act like their interpretations are from God Himself. “Knowledge puffs up”.)

Dear James,

If I answer your questions forthrightly & candidly, will you respond in kind to a similar list of questions from me? Here are my questions for you:

Could you be wrong in your views on unity & fellowship?

Yes there is the possibility I could be wrong. Who will assert they know it all based upon absolutely perfect knowledge and reasoning? Based upon my knowledge and understanding I think I am correct in my views, but if persuaded otherwise I would change. I have in the past. I am a Christian disciple even at my age. I would question the intellectual honesty of a person who will not admit to the possibility of being wrong in his views.

The bottom line though is that I am not relying upon my correct views in any “matters of faith” to save myself. Although I feel responsible to know and do God’s will to the best of my ability, I am saved by God’s grace. Hallelujah!

2.)    Do you believe and/or teach that baptism is absolutely essential to salvation?

I believe and teach that baptism is essential to salvation if a person knows that God wants him to be baptized, but baptism is not absolutely essential to salvation. I think those not accountable such as children and the mentally handicapped will be saved. Over the centuries I think there were possibly believers who were never taught the need to be baptized, as well as believers who misunderstood baptism for one reason or another, but I believe God will be merciful in all of these cases.

Do I know this absolutely? No! Nevertheless, knowing the nature of God I believe it to be true.

A person who indicates belief and knows God wants him to be baptized and refuses is rebellious in my opinion and will not be saved. Baptism is a condition of salvation, so to speak. It is indicative of faith and not determinative in the sense of being meritorious. We need to recognize the difference between conditions of salvation relative to “the faith” and “matters of faith” relative to sanctification.

a. If “yes,” could you possibly be wrong on that?

I am a finite person dealing with a message from the Infinite.

b. Who is the official interpreter of Acts 2:38?

No one in our day and age. If you know of such a person please give his or her
name.

If there isn’t one, should we extent fellowship to people who have never been baptized in Christ?

Not upon that basis.

If we were to do that, would that be Unity in Error?

No.

If not, why not?

Error is not the basis of unity in Christ, nor is correct knowledge and understanding of teaching directed to Christians or disciples. All of us are in error on one thing or another. Who will say he is united with God, in the fellowship of His Son, and is not possibly wrong in some of his interpretations
or understandings? Is our unity with God a “Unity of Error”?

Or, would it only be Unity in Error if we violated our conscience in doing it?

We can have unity and enjoy fellowship without anybody having to violate his conscience. We practice such, but are inconsistent in our application of this concept. I see the term “Unity of Error” as a dodge used by those manifesting the party spirit to cover for reality and their inconsistency.

Are you in fellowship with people who have never been baptized into Christ?

I don’t think so, but I am in fellowship with believers who have misunderstandings about baptism.

Do you believe abortion is murder?

I don’t believe all abortion is murder just as I don’t believe all killing in carnal warfare is murder or that capital punishment is murder. I believe there is some justifiable abortion.

Generally though I think abortion is wrong. Even if it not wrong per se I think I would tend to be opposed to its wholesale practice. I equivocate somewhat because of whether or not life begins at conception or at birth. I have “heard” a Church of Christ teacher argue forcibly from the Bible that life begins at birth, not at conception.

If “yes,” is it possible that you could be wrong on that?

You know my answer to this.

Suppose you know a man who is, in your view, a model Christian, except that he makes his living as an abortion doctor.

1. Would you assume him to be in fellowship with God?

This  is a tough question and I hope I never have to face this situation. I think this is a moral issue especially if he performs abortions indiscriminately, and thus would not be in the fellowship of God.

2.  Would you fellowship him?

No.

3. Why or why not?

If I didn’t think he was in fellowship with God then how could he be in my fellowship? I might add here that the issues over which brethren use as the basis for division are for the most part “matters of faith” and not moral turpitude. Brethren recognize moral turpitude as a basis of exclusion. Don’t you?

Do you believe that living the homosexual lifestyle is detestable to God?

Yes.

If “yes.” Could you possibly be wrong about that?

You know my answer to this.

If “yes,” should we extent fellowship to “Christians” who constantly engage in homosexual behavior & claim there is nothing wrong with it?

No more so than an adulterer or a fornicator. Again, this is a matter of moral turpitude, not in the category of “disputable matters” or “matters of faith” wherein we are not to deny fellowship or exclude.

Who is  the official interpreter of Romans 1:26-27?

No one in our day and age.

If God alone is the official interpreter of Romans 1:26-27, should we extend fellowship to people who are living that lifestyle?

God is the author of these verses and the ultimate interpreter, so to speak, but He is not at the present interpreting these verses for me or anybody else. Some people think their interpretations God’s. I don’t. He expects me to interpret them to the best of my ability and he will judge me in that regard.

Among other things I think He will be more concerned about the intentions of my heart, conscientiousness and honesty and sincerity that if I was absolutely correct in my reasoning ability and understanding.

In other words, suppose I was wrong and should have extended fellowship to practicing homosexuals, will He condemn me? If He saw in my heart that I did it maliciously, yes, but if that’s not the case and I did it ignorantly with an obedient heart I think He will be merciful. Do I know this absolutely? No!
Nevertheless, this is an aspect of faith relative to the human predicament.

Is there any such thing as being “digressive?”

We have used the word “digressive” in an unfair manner in my opinion, labeling brethren as “digressive” merely because they disagreed with us over “disputable matters” of “matters of faith”. In that sense we are all “digressives” from somebody’s perspective. To me a “digressive” would be a person who turned aside from “the faith” and that is not the case with the brethren who merely disagree with us on “disputable matters”.

If “no,” why do you withhold fellowship from certain “Christian” groups?

When it comes to fellowship I try to avoid sweepingly classifying and seek to deal with individuals rather than groups. By the way I believe there are reasons to exclude some from fellowship.

If “yes,” would it many any difference, i.e., would it matter if a person were digressive?

Yes.

Please explain why or why not.

If “digressive” is defined as a person who departed from “the faith” certainly it would make a difference.

I have studied what you wrote in your e-mail below regarding Romans 16:17, but I am still at a loss as to why/how it does not disprove your position on unity & fellowship. Can you please elaborate? I am especially in the dark regarding what you meant when you said, “. . . the ‘doctrine’ about which the apostle has been writing.” Please clue me in.

Brethren disagreeing with us intellectually and even different from us relative to execution of “matters of faith” per se is not what the apostle meant by “the doctrine” in Romans 16:17. A believer is not divisive merely for the above reasons. The  apostle’s concern was about the attitude displayed and the manner in which believers “handle” their opinions. In chapter 12 he exhorts us to behave like Christians and “Do not be wise in your own opinions”. He talks about love in chapter 13. In chapter 14 he writes of the law of liberty and not being judgmental. In chapter 15 he says that we “ought to bear with the scruples of the weak” and “receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.”

In brief, Paul is writing about manifesting a brotherly attitude, a forbearing loving attitude, rather than being motivated by the party spirit. That is the doctrine to which he refers, not having contrary or different opinions. Have over the years some of those brethren who differ with us over our traditional
opinions been divisive persons? Yes. On the other hand brethren who make laws based upon inferences and the silence of the scriptures and draw lines of fellowship on the basis of party-identifying opinions are just as guilty of causing divisions “contrary to the doctrine”. It is pathetically amusing that brethren want to focus all the blame for divisions upon those who question their interpretations. So often the case is that the divisive are doing the marking.

Can you please explain how James 5:19-20 is not at odds with your views on unity & fellowship?

James does not have reference to “matters of faith” wherein we can have diversity and where some demand conformity causing divisions. By wandering from the truth he does not mean differences of opinion, but something more serious.

If the former, it would be against the tenor of some other things he expressed in his letter, as well as contradict things the apostle Paul expressly stated in the first letter to the Corinthians and his letter to the Romans. Just think of yourself for a moment. I presume no one in your fellowship agrees with you 100%. So either you or they have wandered from the truth if “disputable matters” or “matters of faith” is what James meant by this.

I understand the Greek word or “wander” is the same word translated “deceived” in James 1:16. The “deceived” person is one who has wandered from the gospel which gave spiritual birth (James 1:16). This person is the “true” apostate, not one who disagrees on peripheral issues.

Can you please provide your exegesis of “. . . speak the same thing/AGREE/COMPLETE AGREEMENT … same mind … same judgment?” (1Cor. 1:10)

If this verse means we must be in “COMPLETE AGREEMENT” (as you insert) on “disputable issues” or opinions to be in fellowship with God and one another, then we are all doomed because that isn’t the case and never will be while we are in this human predicament upon earth and the apostle Paul speaks with a forked tongue. Paul had indicated earlier and later that this wasn’t necessary despite all of the misunderstandings of the Corinthians. He called them a “church of God”, “sanctified”, “saints”, and indicated they were in fellowship.

In brief, the context indicates that “to speak the same thing” means to desist from factional identification. The apostle is not demanding conformity of thinking about various issues of sincere brethren walking in faith and expressing their views in love. He is saying that making one’s opinions or party shibboleths tests of loyalty is not walking in love.

A brother in Christ once paraphrased the passage this way: “I implore you now my brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you stop your party cries so that the fabric of brotherhood will not be further rent and torn, and that you mend those rents which already exist by cultivating the same mind and the same judgment”. Having “the same mind and the same judgment” refers to the idea that they all should be concerned about the party spirit developing within their community and do something about it.

Ironically this was written by the apostle Paul to confront Corinthians about their party spirit and schisms which could lead to divisions, but brethren over the years have used it to justify divisions. What a twist!

Do you believe that every deficiency in knowledge/understanding of the scriptures automatically results in sin?

No.

Do you believe we have preachers who are teaching that all Christians must agree 100% on every topic?

No, obviously they would be foolish to do so. When that concept is asked in terms of a question it is rhetorical and points out absurdity in denying that we have a unity of diversity and inconsistency in the application of certain proof-texts used to justify exclusion.

If “yes,” may I please have their names?

Brotherly,

Now that I have your answers to my questions, I’d like to make a few observations, and ask you a few more questions:

(Following your observations and questions are some comments and a question from me.)

Why should anyone listen to you since you have nothing substantive to offer? You seem to have no real assurance of what you believe. You admit that you could be wrong in your views about unity and fellowship. However, you say that, even if you are wrong, it doesn’t matter anyway.

You also wrote that you are not relying on correct views in any “matters of faith” to save you because it is all by God’s grace. Why don’t you extend that same privilege to me & those I am associated with? Unless you are going to question our sincerity, don’t we have the right to reach our own conclusions about unity and fellowship without it placing our souls in jeopardy? Do we have to agree with your concept of unity & fellowship without it placing our souls in jeopardy? Do we have to agree with your concept of unity & fellowship in order to be right with God?

Al Maxey wrote the following:

These people, in my view, are not disciples of Christ…frankly, they do not have a clue about who He is. They are of their father the devil…may our God rain down upon them the death blow that they so richly deserve, so that their reign of terror may be forever terminated. (Reflections; Issue #476; 2/18/11)

Do you endorse this kind of language and judgmental attitude? Since I, too, am opposed to the unscriptural practices at Irving, do you believe that I am of the devil? Are you praying for God to give me the “death blow?” Does unity-in-diversity extend to everyone but me & the group I am associated with?

You wrote that baptism is essential to salvation “if a person knows that God wants him to be baptized/” What a pitiful answer! This proves that unity-in-diversity is subjectivism gone to seed, making one’s understanding & conscience the standard by which he will be judged (rather than Christ’s word – John 12:48). I could just as well argue that repentance is only essential to salvation if a person knows that God wants him to repent. No, repentance is necessary because God has commanded it of all men. (Act 17:30; Luke 13:3). Likewise, baptism is essential because the Lord has commanded it as a condition of salvation. (Acts 10:48; Mark 16:16).

You remind me of two of my coworkers I’ve been discussing religion with: They argue that some of the heathen who die having never heard the Gospel preached will be saved because God knows their hearts, and God knows how they would have responded to the Truth if they had ever heard it preached. Since you say baptism is only essential to salvation “if a person knows that God wants him to be baptized,” would you be willing to say the same about Faith as well?

In order to give yourself some breathing room, you made a distinction between “matters of faith” and matter of “moral turpitude,” but then you talked out of both sides of your mouth. Although abortion is certainly a moral issue, you admit that you had to “equivocate” (your word) in dealing with it. The point of the question had to do with your attitude toward the Scriptures. If your argument regarding fallibility & no official interpreter precludes Christians from acting with certainty on matters of faith, why doesn’t it do the same on matters of morality?

You then answered unequivocally regarding homosexuality; stating your belief that fellowship should not be extended to those who are living that lifestyle. You also said that, if you are wrong on this, the only way God would condemn you for withholding fellowship would be if God saw that you had acted out of malice. Question: Why don’t you extend to me & the group I am associated with the same privilege that you reserve for himself? You say that we are wrong for not extending fellowship to those who worship in error (like cups and classes), but do you believe we are doing it maliciously? If that is your charge, please state it plainly. On the other hand, if we are acting out of an “obedient heart” (doing what we honestly believe is right), do you believe God will be merciful in our case?

In responding to my question #8 about I Cor. 1:10, you said I had inserted “complete agreement.” Actually, I did not insert it – I was simply quoting it to you from the BBE translation. It’s interesting to me that, even though the verse says conformity was what was needed, you proceed to place an interpretation on it that has it mean the very opposite.

Thanks.

If I “have nothing substantive to offer” why are brethren agitated and concerned about other brethren being persuaded by what I say? Why do they blackball me and not consider me a faithful brother in Christ? Sounds like ad hominem coming from you.

My real assurance is Jesus Christ, not my own abilities. I don’t claim to have perfect knowledge, reasoning ability, or understanding. I didn’t say that even if I am wrong “it doesn’t matter anyway”. I’m not going to be saved by my correct views, but by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. He expects me to act conscientiously relative to my understanding and He will judge me accordingly. He will look into my heart and see if I trusted His Son and responded in loving faith. Let me ask you the same question you asked me.’? Could you be wrong in your views on fellowship and unity?

I do extend to you the privilege or right to come to your own conclusions about fellowship and unity. This is almost funny as you don’t extend to me the same right, dismissing me as a faithful brother and saying I “have nothing substantive to say”. Alexander Campbell once said, “But every true man, every free man, every noble man, every true Christian man, will always extend to others the liberties he asks for himself.”

Merely because you are opposed to alleged “unscriptural practices at Irving” doesn’t necessarily make you “of the devil”.  Some are acting like that though. Again, this is almost funny. You want me to include you under the umbrella of “unity of diversity” which I do, but you deny the concept and think it is wrong.

If a person doesn’t know God wants him to be baptized why would he be baptized?

There are, and have been persons, who don’t/didn’t know God wanted them to be baptized and who I think will be saved eternally. God doesn’t hold people responsible for what they don’t know does He? Would you want God to hold you responsible for what you don’t know or about what you may be wrong? Of course I don’t have you answer to the above question and maybe you are not wrong about anything. The same is true for repentance and faith as is true for baptism.

That’s why we preach the gospel so that persons will believe and repent and be baptized.

I admit I equivocated some in dealing with abortion and I explained why. Have you never equivocated relative to your understanding or have you always been immediately absolutely sure in your conclusions? I did reach a conclusion.

Acting with certainty is a matter of degree. I don’t consider myself infallible.  W.K. Pendleton, an associate editor of the “Millennial Harbinger”, once said, “…the religionist that professes to be beyond the region of error and the necessity of change, is but lost in his own darkness.” There is a difference between the “matters of faith” and moral turpitude. We’re essentially not in dispute about moral turpitude although some have not acted very ethical and moral relative to their positions regarding “matters of faith”. “Matters of faith”, wherein we may be right or wrong in our interpretations, are not conditions of salvation, yet you want to make them conditions of salvation. They do not affect the foundation of the Christian faith and are not the basis of fellowship. They are interpretations, inferences, reasoned views, opinions, acquired through study and learning by
believers. Moral turpitude is expressly condemned because it, like denying the gospel, and the party spirit, attack the very foundation of the Christian faith.

I think you are wrong relative to your position on fellowship and unity, yet I have not excluded you from my fellowship as you have me from yours, and I extend to you privileges you do not extend to me. For the most part I consider those who embrace a position similar to yours as being sincere and honestly seeking to obey God according to their understanding which I think is wrong for various reasons. This same accord though is not given to those outside the one cup party, mainly because of the party leaders and some of them have come across as malicious in their doings.

I am not familiar with the BBE translation. I stand by what I said in regard to 1 Cor. 1:10. To make the apostle Paul say that we must have conformity in “matters of faith” to be in fellowship and united in Christ is to make him contradict himself in both word and deed. Certainly agreement can enhance relationships, but conformity in thinking on peripheral matters is not a basis for fellowship.

Brotherly in Him,

JJA

Dear James,

After reading what you have to say, I see no reason to continue our correspondence. According to your own position, everything you have said about the Word of God or me amounts to nothing more than your opinion anyway. I have also concluded that you do not believe that my views on unity & fellowship affect my salvation. After all, I haven’t denied that Jesus is come in the flesh. Given all of this, I am satisfied with how our discussion progressed, and see no need to continue.

Yours truly,

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One response to “California Letter: An Email Exchange

  1. is good would like learning more

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