Defining the Question

by Jay Guin

I deeply appreciate Phil’s, Greg’s, and Todd’s participation in this conversation, because I think it’s desperately needed. I mean, just look at all the comments! We’ve barely cleared our throats, and we have comments in the hundreds. I am more convinced than ever that this is needed.

In fairness to our readers, I want to spend some time trying to narrow the question to something that can be profitably discussed.

I’ll start by explaining what the question is not.


The parties are fully agreed that it’s wrong and potentially damnable to intentionally violate what you know is God’s will. None of the parties believes that grace allows us to persist in known wrong with impunity.

If, for example, someone worships in a way he actually knows to be wrong, he’s not guilty of doctrinal error. His doctrine is right. Rather, he’s guilty of rebellion against the doctrine he knows.


Plainly, only those with faith in Jesus will be saved. Therefore, the parties are agreed that there are at least some doctrinal errors that damn. None of the four authors is a universalist or latitudinarian. If you read something that sounds like that to you, you’ve misunderstood.


Todd and I disagree with Phil and Greg regarding some issues related to baptism, but that discussion will come later. This one is about how to stay saved, not how to become saved.

Minimizing obedience

None of us is remotely interested in finding the least we can do to please God. We all know that God wants us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We would never encourage anyone to stray from pursuing exactly that. Again, if you think one of the authors says anything to the contrary, you’ve misunderstood.

God’s patience

We agree that God is patient with those who rebel against his will, but his patience is limited. Obviously, when we speak of someone having fallen away, we assume that’s God’s patience has reached its limit. Therefore, you’ll find I often speak in terms of someone’s salvation being in jeopardy, because God may not have given up on him.

God’s word

God’s word given through the scriptures is God breathed, authoritative, and true. No one will make an argument based on questioning the final authority of the scriptures.

The question

Other than as described above, what doctrinal errors will cause a Christian to fall away (no longer be saved, become an apostate, become lost) even if the Christian commits the error after prayerful study of God’s word, honestly believing that he is acting in accordance with God’s will?

(For the sake of simplicity, “doctrinal error” henceforth presupposes prayerful study of God’s word, honestly believing that he is acting in accordance with God’s will. “Doctrinal error” does not include a lack of faith in Jesus or rebellion against the Lordship of Jesus.)

The reason

So far as Todd and I can tell, the Churches of Christ do not have an agreed standard for answering this question. Even the mainstream, (for want of a better term) conservative Churches of Christ have no agreed standard that we can discern – and Todd has diligently researched the question in his book Facing Our Failure.

Now, the result is that the members struggle to know what they have to believe and practice not to be considered apostate, as each preacher and each periodical seems to have a different standard.

As a practical matter, this means a town with 5 congregations may well have 5 different gospels being preached as they have 5 different views of what someone must do to remain saved. The Churches of Christ are remarkably uniform when it comes to how to become saved, but we’re far from uniform as to what is required to remain saved – and that’s gospel, too.

Practical concerns

Inevitably in a discussion of this nature, someone will argue that it’s illegitimate to try to find the limit of God’s grace — as that seems to be trying to push God’s limits — a very dangerous practice. But there are very legitimate grounds to want to know the answer to this question.

  • As an evangelist, I need to know, at least in principle, who is lost. Surely, my time would be best spent converting the lost, rather than those who are already my brothers and sisters.
  • As an elder, I need to know, at least in principle, what congregations are sister congregations. Do I cooperate with a church that engages in X practice? Or do I treat them as non-Christians?
  • As an elder, I might disagree with a minister on staff on some issues, but if he’s in error on a salvation issue, surely he can’t be a minister at my congregation.
  • As a parent, I need to know what youth groups my children may participate in. I can’t have my child taught damning error at some other church’s VBS.
  • As an elder, I may be called on to disfellowship a false teacher for threatening the salvation of my church’s members.
  • As a Christian, if a friend holds a damning position on an issue, I really need to help him change his mind – or else no longer consider him a fellow Christian.

If someone sees worship with instrumental music as damning, then he’s bound to oppose unity efforts with instrumental churches and can’t treat churches with instrumental services as sister congregations. But if instrumental music is not a salvation issue, unity is compelled by God’s word. But, of course, if I consider instrumental music error but not damning error, I should certainly teach what I believe, but I can’t treat those who disagree as non-Christians.

Now, obviously we need to seek as much agreement as possible, not just on salvation issues. But common sense tells us that salvation issues are of a different order. They tell us who is a brother or sister in Christ. Surely we need to know the Bible’s teachings on who remains saved! And surely we need to try to agree on such a central doctrine – and to come to agreement, we have to talk about it.

Adding to God’s word

There is, I believe, a much more serious doctrinal problem than the practical problems I point out above. You see, there’s a missing doctrine. When we argue that a given practice damns, we typically argue using the following syllogism:

  • Major premise: All doctrinal error damns
  • Minor premise: X doctrine is doctrinal error
  • Conclusion: X doctrine damns

The readers know that I can cite countless articles, newspaper ads, etc. that argue along these lines. But no one truly believes that all error damns, although countless among us have argued in just those terms. But if some errors don’t damn, the syllogism doesn’t hold — at all.

If some errors don’t damn, the argument has to be —

  • Major premise: Only doctrinal error of this certain kind damns
  • Minor premise: X doctrine is doctrinal error of this certain kind
  • Conclusion: X doctrine damns

Right? I mean, we are telling our members over and over that this doctrinal error or that damns because it’s error, and yet showing a doctrine to be in error does not — by itself — prove that it damns.

Now, there have been efforts at times to define the standard: just what kind of doctrinal error damns and what does not? But as Todd has shown through very diligent research in Facing Our Failure, there is no uniformly agreed standard. And no one uniformly applies the standard they teach.

And I don’t believe the scriptures support any of the standards I have seen argued among my conservative brothers. And that is the real test: do the scriptures support the standard that our conservative brothers use to teach which doctrinal errors damn and which do not? If not, they are adding to God’s word, which is a serious mistake indeed.

But, frankly, I have found it very difficult to get conservative brothers to tell me the standard they use. I’ve had many conversations with good, thoughtful, Biblically educated, conservative men on this question, and it’s rare that one will come out and state the standard by which they decide which doctrinal error is a salvation issue and which is not. And if the brother won’t state his standard, well, there really isn’t any reason for me to agree with him.

This is the issue that is dividing congregation from congregation and brother from brother across the globe. If we could only agree on this one issue, most of our division would be ended.

And the first step to building the unity that Jesus desires us to have is for us lay our cards on the table: what is the standard by which we decide whether a given doctrinal error damns? Once the standard is stated, it can be held up to the light of scripture and tested.

I’m excited more than I can say to be a part of this.

Explore posts in the same categories: Apostasy

37 Comments on “Defining the Question”

  1. A good focus, Jay. If only doctrinal error of “this kind” damns, what is “this kind”? You fellows need to provide the answer. 🙂 I will read with interest as you four dialogue about that question.

  2. K. Rex Butts Says:

    Indeed, what is the *standard* used to determine what errors are salvation issues is the question that must be addressed. The readers are waiting to hear.

    Grace and peace,


  3. Randy Says:

    I am wanting this one answered as well. Who decides what errors are salvation issues? How is this determined?

  4. laymond Says:

    Jay , under Practical concerns you state.

    * As an evangelist, I need to know, at least in principle, who is lost. Surely, my time would be best spent converting the lost, rather than those who are already my brothers and sisters.

    ( would it not be best to do the very best we can by all people and let Jesus decide who is saved or lost?)

    * As an elder, I need to know, at least in principle, what congregations are sister congregations. Do I cooperate with a church that engages in X practice? Or do I treat them as non-Christians?

    (would it not be better to treat all people, not as what you think they are, but as what you are, a Christian?) With Christ as you example.

    I believe that could be what is wrong with the Church now, We treat people differently, who believe differently. bad impression in my opinion.

  5. Thumper Says:

    Agree completely.

    Where I attend, I routinely here that X is “not a salvation issue” but “Y is a salvation issue.”

    How to decide? The wisdom of the elders? The composition of the elders change over time. Therefore the wisdom of the elders changes over time.

    Yet, language used in publications by our conservative brothers routinely states that belief in X, which is said not to be a salvation issue, is “believing Jesus is a liar”.

    I do not expect Phil or Greg to give any answer to the question about how to decide.

    I am afraid they will come down on the side that essentially says “all doctrinal errors damn” which implies that they must have no doctrinal errors at present.

  6. Terrell Lee Says:

    I’ve read the previous posts and comments but this is my first response. I’ve read Todd’s book. Very important discussion!

    Jay, it seems to me you’ve summarized some important matters in a somewhat succinct and fair manner. For the readers, a simple and gracious response from Todd, Phil and Greg with “I agree” or “I disagree” with Jay’s assessment would be helpful. I know I’m asking a lot. Thanks.

  7. Richard May Says:


    My experience is that “error that condemns” is error that is plain to see. The strength of the argument makes the difference. And, I believe, the instrumental question has become the standard for measuring the strength of other arguments. Fellowship is maintained with with those who disagree regarding the indwelling of the Holy Spirit because the argument for indwelling by the word alone is a harder case to make than the acappella case. Those who refuse fellowship over instruments consider the argument so clear, it is actually a command. That’s why we hear “Ephesians 5:19 commands that we sing, not play.” Those who believe the indwelling arguement is clear, treat dissenters the same as they would treat those who use the instrument.

    Mostly likely, that isn’t true of everybody, but I’ve witnessed that idea from people with whom I have discussed this issue.

    Perhaps I should ask that question of Phil (hey Phil, by the way) and Greg. Does the strength of the argument make a difference in the fellowship question? Do you fellowship those who believe differently about the indwelling; and if so, does the strength of the argument have anything to do with that decision? Do you fellowship those who differ with you regarding divorce and remarriage? If so, does the strength of the argument have anything to do with that decision? On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being “it’s so obvious I have trouble seeing why others do see it” where is the how strong is the case for acappella to you?

  8. Richard May Says:

    The last line should read “… why others don’t see it….”

  9. James Thrasher Says:

    A few years ago, as I taught a class and was explaining exactly what a verse really meant, a sister in the class asked, “Who gets to decide what it means?” As I came crashing to the ground, this question became engrained in my memory, and has tempered my teaching since.

  10. Richard May Says:

    Jay and Todd, I would be interested in your answers, too. On a scale of 1-10, how strong is the argument for acappella assemblies? Does the strength of the argument have anything to do with your fellowship with dissenters?

  11. Royce Says:

    It seems to this observer that if Jay’s appraisal is correct, and I think it is, all 4 men believe the work and worth of Jesus is sufficient to get one into the family of God but not sufficient to keep him in. Because in the traditional view of churches of Chirst, Christians are kept by works (what they do), and no agreement is forthcoming as when you loose your salvation, our churches are filled with dear Christ followers who have no assurance of their salvation because they fear they have not been good enough. What a sad commentary on a Christian movement!

    How can you claim to be following the Bible and on one hand damn someone to hell who disagrees with your “silence of scripture” defense about IM, and on the other completely ignore dozens of clear passages that teach God keeps those who are truely His?

    Every person who is truely born from above, who trusts Christ with his whole heart will be kept in God’s care and will be raised to life at the last day. There is no security for make believers, church members who are trusting what they do, their charity, their baptism, or a host of other good things.

    People who live in habitual sin are not saved and have not been saved. There are wolves in sheeps clothing, wheat among the tares, and those who do mighty works, build great churches, but whom Jesus NEVER has known. His sheep know him, they listen to Him, and another they will not follow.

    I beg everyone, please trust Christ alone. He really did pay it all and when He said “It is finished!” it really was finished. We cannot add to what he has already accomplished for sinners.


  12. Wayne McDaniel Says:

    Royce, You have expressed the Lord’s favor to us very well. Those who want to exercise power over the faith of others will not be able to refute your words.

    I am delighted that you have introduced the foundational matter Jesus spoke of: the birth from Above. Not everyone who has been baptized has received the birth of the Spirit. Their baptism is much like a stillbirth. There is no calling out to the Lord in prayer that follows in their life.

  13. Alan Scott Says:

    I am really not comfortable with calling our disagreements “doctrinal error.” But I recognize what one Christian sees as “doctrional error” is seen by the other Christian as “doctrinal truth” or at minimum, “disputable matters.”

    I suppose that just like the terms “conservative” and “progressive,” it is relative.

    For example, if a “conservative” is actually going beyond what is written by condemning what God does not want condemned, how are they still “conservative?”

    And if a “progressive” finds themself rejecting conservative traditions because they are not aligned with the scriptures, wouldn’t that make the progressive more conservative than the conservative?

    The labels always fail (with a winking nod to Greg’s post about Cretans), but we persist is using them.

    If a doctrinal error is in fact only a disputable matter, then how is it an error?

  14. Jay Guin Says:

    Richard, I think judging such things by the strength of the argument makes the decision of who is saved and who is fallen away entirely subjective. What is obvious to me may not be obvious to you for any number of reasons. If the standard is how obvious the answer is to me, then my level of education and how much study I’ve done on the issue becomes your judge. And I am not your judge.

  15. James Thrasher Says:


  16. Richard May Says:


    Of course it makes the decision subjective. Whatever method we are using appears subjective. That’s why Todd wrote the book. People are just asking “How do we decide?” We certainly shouldn’t decide this way, but I know people who do. For how many people is this one of the methods to determine whether an issue is a “salvation issue.”

  17. Bob Brandon Says:

    I’ll throw this question out, then: is it practical/profitable to ask “what is the set of possible doctrinal errors that are described by the NT as understood by the original recipients of the texts?”

    What’s a better restatement (please…)?

  18. Richard May Says:

    Alan you are right that labels are going to fail at some point, but if the language of “disputable matter” is from Romans 14 in the NIV, then “disputable matter” is about doctrinal error.

    If it is OK to eat what you want, then to say it’s not is doctrinal error because Paul taught the truth in Romans 14 about eating: “I am fully convinced that no food in unclean in itself.” Despite the fact that Paul settled it, it’s still disputable.
    That’s funny to me – but sooooooooo important!

    Anyway, the doctrinal truth is “all foods are clean.” The doctrinal error is “you shouldn’t eat that.” Doctrinal error was a disputable matter.’

    To me, that means that a disputable matter isn’t some term that means “something we’re not sure God cares about.” A disptuable matter is something about which Christians dispute.

    Now, obviously, some things are obvious yet people dispute them; i.e. “the works of the sinful nature are obvious” but some will contend for the “rightness” of some kinds of sexual immorality. Surely we must make judgments about the obvious, but at least in the case of what we can eat, it’s disputable even though it’s settled.

    I’m sure that is completely unclear.

  19. Mark Says:

    “Plainly, only those with faith in Jesus will be saved.”

    May I add those with low IQ’S, severe mental and physical challenges and children do not need faith in Jesus to be saved.

    “No one will make an argument based on questioning the final authority of the scriptures.”

    Why not? Clearly knowing the story of the Bible is good enough to question the authority. But too the New Testament was not copied by the `church of Christ!!!! How is it copyist condemned by their own apostasy write a perfect book? I believe this is only the beginning of how we apply scripture. However I don’t want to distract from the topic at hand.

  20. “All food is clean” is actually a teaching (doctrine) of Jesus (Mark 7) and yet whether one believes that or not is a “disputable matter”?

    I would suggest that the denial that “all food is clean” is a “doctrinal error.” It contradicts the teaching of Jesus. And yet it is a doctrinal error that is not damning.

    Indeed, what is divisive and damning is when one takes the true teaching of Jesus and condenms others for not following it or if people separate themselves from others because they don’t believe it. In other words, it is damnable when it is used as a test of fellowship. Thus, when one who believes that all food is clean condemns another who does not believe or withholds fellowship over it, Paul says they are divisive and subject to judgment.

    “All food is clean” is not a “disputable matter” in the sense that it is disputable whether it is true or false. It is a disputable matter in that it does not matter whether one believes it or not because the kingdom of God is about righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit.

  21. Richard May Says:

    John Mark,

    Is this right? “All food is clean” according to Jesus (Mark 7) and Paul (Romans 14). So, the teaching that I can eat whatever I want is not disputable.

    For me to deny that all foods are clean is doctrinal error. In other words, if I teach that there are food restrictions,
    then I’m teaching falsehood, but you are saying that’s not “damning” doctrinal error. Is that right?

    Cause what I’m thinking, is that even though the issue was cleared up, some of the Roman Christians had experiences that made it so difficult for them to believe that – they just can’t see clear to believe that it’s ok.

    I’m thinking that in the mind of God, this deal is settled, but in the hearts of people, this is disputable because we bring to the interpretive table our own experiences and consciences. Paul, I hear you saying it’s ok, but I just can’t bring myself to believe it. Now what do we do about our relationship?

    Don’t judge. Accept each other. Right or wrong you’ve got a heart for doing right. Do what you believe to be right “unto the Lord” and Christ can make you stand (Rom 14:4).

    Is that off base?

  22. Richard, I think that is on spot. Roman Christians are explicitly permitted to believe doctrinal error as long as they don’t condemn others for believing otherwise because this does not belong to the essence of faith itself. At the same time everyone must submit to their own conscience in the matter without condeming others.

  23. K. Rex Butts Says:

    Sometimes it is tempting to try and be wannabe pope though…:-).

    Your brother in Christ,


  24. I’m not someone who will argue it is illegitimate to try to find the limits of God’s grace – just that it is dangerous, presumptuous and difficult. And that, in the end, God will judge all of us, especially with regard to – and apparently to the same degree that – the way we judge others.

    While this may prove to be an interesting mental exercise, I still have a vague feeling that in the end its value is the same as determining the number of angels who can dance on my pin-headedness.

    We may establish principles we are comfortable with and even agree upon – and the moment we legislate them, the exceptions and loopholes and what-ifs and uncertainties will start nibbling at our backsides as soon as actual infractions begin to occur or be accused. Judgment erodes into judgmentalism. Authority begets arrogance – and perhaps even more apostasy.

    Because a whole lot of what goes wrong in dealing with error is error in judgment, especially about praxis – how to deal with it.

    Would it kill us to just admit we don’t know “the answer” to “the question;” that it’s not incumbent on us to pass God’s laws by dotting where there is no “i” and crossing where there is no “t”, and then be willing to consider each instance of possible error in real life prayerfully, humbly, respectfully, firmly and graciously? To posit that there are, possibly, many answers to these question given the vagaries of life and sin in this world?

    Then maybe go out and help save some souls together?

  25. Les Bonnett Says:

    With great interest I will be reading / studying this discussion. I’m thankful for each of the participants and may we all be willing to go wherever the evidence takes us. Blessings.

  26. Robert Baty Says:

    > “latitudinarian”?

    Where did that come from?

    Robert Baty

  27. Terrell Lee Says:

    How does this sound?–“Doctrinal error” that condemns is error that (intentionally?) defies biblical teaching in such a way that the error causes theological loss in the teaching under consideration. Sure, that statement needs refining but does this move us a little farther down the road?

    And let us keep in mind that everything in the Bible is doctrine/teaching, since they translate the same Greek work, didasklia. Clearly clean and unclean foods are not as important teaching as faith, repentance, baptism; thus not all teaching is on the same level. Again, respecting a brother’s views about food is more important than the food itself.

  28. […] I asked Greg Tidwell to explain why he makes some doctrinal error salvation issues and some not. He responded that my demanding a checklist is legalistic. It’s been a long time since I’ve been called a legalist! […]

  29. Alan Says:

    I see 28 comments prior to this one on Jay’s article. But we’re still waiting for the conservatives’ answer to the central question.

    Richard May has offered a strong candidate:

    My experience is that “error that condemns” is error that is plain to see.

    I’d love to see discussion of that from the conservatives. Is that your standard?

    Let me suggest a slight adaptation of Richard’s comment. It appears to me that conservatives consider an “error that condemns” to be one which the person knows deep down in his heart is an error, but doesn’t want to admit it. When he doesn’t change his mind after being taught what the conservatives consider the irrefutable arguments against the error, it demonstrates a lack of submission to God’s word. I’ll attemt to formulate the argument similarly to Jay’s examples above:

    1) A person who refuses to submit to God stands condemned.
    2) Refusal to accept irrefutable arguments against a position one holds is a refusal to submit to God.
    3) Argument X is an irrefutable argument against the position held by person A.
    4) Person A does not accept Argument X.
    5) Therefore Person A refuses to submit to God.
    6) Therefore Person A stands condemned.

    There are several points where this line of reasoning could be challenged. But the most obvious and relevant is step 3. Who gets to decide which arguments are irrefutable?

    All of the church of Christ divisions that come to my mind right now are based on inferences from scripture. The question is, are those inferences “necessary inferences?” Or to put it another way, is that argument irrefutable? Is there really no logical alternative? It is not sufficient merely to show that the conservative position is the best alternative. To be a necessary inference, it must be the only alternative.

  30. Robert Floyd Says:

    This is one conservative’s take on the “error that condemns.” In a previous posting ( I presented a list of sins/errors that scripture states explicitly to be condemning. In addition, there is one other error that will condemn me: doing something I believe to be wrong (Romans 14; I Corinthians 8). The fascinating thing about Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8 is that they both present the principle that it’s possible for me to stumble and fall over based on my belief in something that’s not true: not because it’s not true, but because, believing it to be true, I violate it.

    There’s an interesting corollary to this when it comes to many of our doctrinal differences: if I believe something to be wrong, it doesn’t really matter whether or not I’m right. What counts is how I practice that belief. But, there’s a twist: a practice that I may believe to be wrong may, in fact, be right, in which case it’s perfectly all right for others to practice it, while it would be wrong for me to practice the same thing. Eating meat and observing religious holy days were mentioned in scripture. Let me extend the principle a bit.

    I believe, based on my study of scriptures, that instrumental music is wrong in worship. However, that’s based on my study of scriptures, with no clear statement one way or the other in the Bible about it (and I don’t count arguments that depend on a graduate level knowledge of nuances of Greek and Hebrew to be clear statements in the Bible). What does that mean? It means that I can’t worship in a congregation that uses IM: if I do so, I’m condemning myself by willfully engaging in an activity that, to me, is sinful. On the other hand, since I cannot find an explict condemnation of the practice in scripture, I can’t condemn those who use IM to Hell. Nor can I consider them out of fellowship. I can call them my brothers and sisters. I can break bread with them. In an a cappella setting, I can worship with them. Just because I can’t worship with them in an IM setting doesn’t make them any less my brothers and sisters. When we can ALL respect each other’s consciences without trying to bind them on others, we’ll go a long way toward the unity we need.

    As a conservative, I understand from scripture that I am not here to judge who is and who is not in fellowship. However, I am to judge with righteous judgment, i.e., the judgement of Jesus, based on His words and, by extension, the words of the inspired writers. In order to judge with righteous judgement, I must rightly divide the word of truth. One of the keys to doing so is establishing the context of what the writers are saying. It’s a decidedly nonconservative position to take a statement out of context and apply it to situations the writer did not have in mind (especially true of I John, where context is critical).

    I know that Jesus made it clear, in the parable of the wheat and the tares, that it is not my job to purify the church. He’s quite capable of taking care of that Himself. When I try to do someone else’s job, it’s usually a sign I’m not doing my own. As a conservative, I take as my job to study to understand God’s will for my life as much as possible and to do that, in the assembly, on the job, with my family, with the world as a whole. I may not always like God’s will for me; I definitely don’t always like what God has to say about me in His word. However, I’m not called to like everything God says, merely to believe it and do it…and that’s enough.

  31. nick gill Says:

    Be of good cheer, and be hopeful, brother! This conversation is far from over! This is no time for fear, but for courageous prayer and hope. Many conversations like this have gone the way you fear, but this one is still happening, so let us pray that it bears fruit in all our lives.

    May the Spirit of Christ push all of us to be transparent and then transformed into His image.

  32. Charles McLean Says:

    In the spirit of Jay’s focus, it seems one way to address this differentiation between “salvation issues” and other things would be to take a minimalist approach. What is the smallest number of statements of faith to which a man must agree in order for me to receive him as a brother? I confess that my “list” of these things has grown much shorter over the years. Most of the things which have fallen off my list over the years I still believe to be both true and important, but I do not believe that not having arrived at that particular revelation prevents one from belonging to Christ.

    I think this is a concept that may take some getting used to, and some may fear it as an opening to reject truth. But I think this fear is overstated. Does doubting a literal 144-hour creation period keep one from believing in Christ? How about questioning the “sun standing still” for Joshua? Or thinking Jonah’s riding around in a fish’s digestive tract for three days is metaphoric? It seems to me to be a wise course to at least consider just how short one’s “list of required agreements” could be.

    How long is your list?

  33. […] are a few realizations I have come to as a result of reading the comments on […]

  34. ED Boggess Says:

    If we were a denomination, there would be no problem with a question such as this. It would be immediately solved by referring to the creed or confession of faith. Early on creeds began to be formulated to answer your question: the Nicene Creed to alienate the Arians,the Athanasian Creed to affirm the Trinity, on and on. But our only creed is the apostle’s doctrine (the NT). Those added in Ac 2 knew little but had a disciple’s frame of mind. I have no doubt that they had many wrong ideas that were adjusted over time. Even Peter was surprised to learn that God was entirely impartial. You ask for that which we cannot supply! “The Lord knows those who are His.” Is this a failure? I do not believe so. It is God’s genius: wheat and tares growing together. He will judge. Then how can we operate on a practical basis? As an evangelist I teach what I understand the Bible to teach. As an elder I shepherd those I oversee as best I understand will lead to their health and growth. As a parent I judge for my children what is best for their spiritual needs. As for disciplining a strident sower of discord or a blatant and obstinate immoralist, elders judge on a case by case basis. Personally, I understand that others differ from me on many things and each of is seen as a matter of faith. So as far as possible I “receive them as Christ has received me” (with my flaws; forbearing and forgiving but also continuing to teach and instruct me). However, on corporate matters (IM for instance), I am bound for conscience sake to associate within the bounds of my conscience.

  35. Wayne McDaniel Says:

    Ed, I have read your post which reflects the spirit of humility. That spirit invites true brotherhood, being aware of our own remaining sinfulness, 1Jn.1:8. All who seek to maintain this, Eph.4:3, are in position to seek
    further oneness in understanding, Eph.4:13.

    Sadly, our flesh is inclined to try and distinguish ourselves from other sinners, and disparaging them is convenient in maintaining we are. If our conscience demands we refrain from singing praise with IM, we certainly should not. I suggest the reason is not that it is “corporate”, but personal. If singing while an instrument is being played is inherently wrong, then I ought not sing that way, even when I am by myself.

    I am glad that you introduced the words of 2 Tim.2:19. It seems to me that many in cofC think that the LORD CHOOSES NOT TO KNOW those who are His. In fact some of the words of Jesus
    may be “uncomfortably ignored”, eg, Mt.24:24, Mk. 13:20,27, Lk.18:7. Having grown up in churches of Christ, I know that those words of Jesus are uncomfortable for some.

    Isaiah made only one argument that Yahweh is the only God — He alone fortells the future,46:9-10. The late Homer Hailey drove this point home to his students. (Those that learned the OT prophets at Sunset in Lubbock, learned them indirectly from brother Hailey.)Isaiah made only this argument to show the supremacy of Yahweh. Why then do many in cofC find it hard to accept that the Lord knows those that are His, that He chose us, rather than we chose Him? In regard to the Lord’s CHOOSING, these scriptures cannot be explained away: Ps.65:4, 2Thes.2:13, Jn 15:16, Gal.1:15, Jer.1:5.

    All of us need to see how easily our pride deceives us in different ways. 50-60 years after the cross, John understood his remaining sin and need for confession, 1Jn.1:8-9. If all of us who gather in Jesus’ name asked ourselves, “What sins have I confessed to the Lord this past week?”, what would we recall?

  36. Royce Says:

    If only all of us (me included)would show the same common sense respect for others and have the same sort of goals in our roles in the kingdom as our brother Boggess we would be far better people and perhaps Grace Conversation would not be needed.

    Of course we claim the whole of the NT as our creed. Or, the whole of the Bible as our creed. I am not sure that creeds are all that bad. I would remind us all that David Koresh claimed to be following the Bible, as does almost every denomination. I have never quite understood why we should avoid telling someone what we believe and why.

    My theory is that all of us have a creed, a statement of faith, or a declaration of beliefs, we are just reluctant to share it openly.


  37. Wayne McDaniel Says:

    Royce, I am glad you have posted again.

    Barton Stone concluded that it is better to have written creeds than unwritten opinions that carry the authority of creeds. “This plan of uniting on opinions, whether contained in a book, or in the head, is not worth a straw, and can never effect christain union, or the union of primitive Christianity.”

    In 1831 Stone wrote, “a formal union on the Bible, without possesing the spirit of that book” would be “a stumbling block, a delusive snare to the world.”

    “O! for a revival of God’s own work in the world!” he often exclaimed. “May all that profess the name of Jesus be filled with the Spirit, and bring forth the fruits of love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, and goodness. Amen.”

    All of the quotes above from Barton Stone are found in ch.3 of Distant Voices, by Leonard Allen, c.1993, ACU Press.

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