Archive for August 2009


August 28, 2009

Just a final note to thank Todd Deaver for his invaluable contribution to this effort. Although my by-line shows up on more than my fair share of posts, the readers need to understand how valuable Todd’s efforts have been. He is a remarkable intellect and talent, who will surely have much more to contribute to the Kingdom in years to come.

Please buy a copy of his book Facing Our Failure. It’s a remarkable piece of research clearly demonstrating the intellectual bankruptcy of conservative Church of Christ theology — bankrupt because the conservative Churches of Christ have never been able to articulate a theology of who does and doesn’t fall away. No one has refuted Todd’s work. It remains unchallenged.

Here at GraceConversation, three of the most well-known, widely published ministers of the conservative Churches of Christ have failed to articulate a coherent position, and when we called them on their failure, they quit. (Greg left the conversation earlier for entirely legitimate reasons independent of this dialogue.) I’m disappointed that they gave up, but not surprised. After all, in over 100 years of debate, the conservatives have never come up with a consistent rule for whom they consider saved and whom they consider fallen. And in my many years of discussing this issue with conservative ministers, every one has left the conversation when asked to state a clear position.

I’m especially disappointed that Mac Deaver quit, as I see his disagreement with his son Todd as a microcosm of the division in the Churches of Christ. We are called to be peacemakers and to bring reconciliation. And I don’t know any way for the two sides to reconcile except through dialogue — and it takes two to have a dialogue. If someone would rather debate than converse, rather quit than confront the weaknesses in his views, reconciliation cannot happen. Mac has made a tragic choice for both his earthly and his spiritual families. I pray that God softens his heart.

And I want to thank the many who logged in and read these posts — especially those who commented, and more especially those who disagree with me. Seriously. There’s no point in the dialogue if everyone already agrees!

I remain willing to continue this conversation about the issues that divide the Churches of Christ. I’d only want to take on the effort with a well-known representative of the conservative Churches. And, God willing, one day someone from the conservative Churches will be willing to discuss his views in this forum. In the meantime, we’ll leave this website up and the materials available as a resource for anyone interested. And I’ll keep participating in the comments. I love comments.

For further material on the topic, Todd’s Bridging the Grace Divide blog and my own OneInJesus blog could be helpful. Readers may also be interested in two online books I wrote: The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace (also available in paperback here or here) and Do We Teach Another Gospel?

The End

August 28, 2009

by Todd Deaver

Jay and I have now finished presenting the case for our position on apostasy. We have argued that there are three ways a saved person can fall away:

  • A Christian falls away when he no longer has faith. “Faith” means faith in Jesus.
  • A Christian falls away when he is no longer penitent. Equivalently, a Christian falls away when he no longer submits to Jesus as Lord. Equivalently, a Christian falls away when he willfully continues to sin.
  • A Christian falls away when he seeks to be justified other than by faith in Jesus.

Drawing from a wide range of scripture, Jay demonstrated that this position is consistently and repeatedly affirmed in the New Testament.

We believe our conservative participants amply demonstrated that their position on apostasy is incoherent. Our conservative friends actually disagreed among themselves, presenting two conflicting positions on apostasy. Greg and Phil argued that all doctrinal error, if not repented of, condemns; Dad restricted damning error to those wrong doctrines that lead one to sin. (more…)

Discipline: Conclusions

August 27, 2009

by Jay Guin

Let’s take a moment and reflect on what the scriptures teach us about church discipline.

Let’s look again at this chart from an earlier post.

To become saved Baptism To stay saved
Hear, believe, confess the gospel Faith Accept Jesus as Son of God Faith Accept Jesus as Son of God Faith Faith
Repent Penitence Accept Jesus as Lord Penitence Accept Jesus as Lord Love Love
Accept Jesus as Savior Accept Jesus as Savior Only Hope

Notice that church discipline fits into the same categories as our salvation. (more…)

Discipline: Holy division

August 26, 2009

by Jay Guin

I need to address a difficult topic. Sometimes people divide a church for good reason. What if the leadership of the church does not require the members to have a genuine faith in Jesus? (Faith) What do you do if the leadership of a church is eaten up with the Galatian heresy and insists on damning those they disagree with on all manner of topics? (Hope) What do you do if the leadership of the church has no love for the lost or needy? (Love)

Each of these kinds of problems strikes at the heart of the gospel. These are not like disputes over the color of the foyer, the song selection, or even whether to use instruments. These are disputes over whether the church will honor the truth — the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In such a case, it seems to me that the first order of business is found in some of the passages earlier quoted, such as —

(2 Tim. 2:25-26) Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (more…)

Discipline: Those who teach a hope based on works

August 26, 2009

by Jay Guin

Consider this oft misused passage —

(Rom 16:17) I urge you, brothers, to watch out for [“mark” in the KJV] those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.

This is written to many preachers in the 21st Century Churches of Christ. It’s not about those who disagree on instrumental music or elder re-affirmation. It’s those who claim the power to damn over questions that have nothing to do with the gospel, like instrumental music and elder re-affirmation. Such men should be fled – not honored or catered to. They certainly shouldn’t be made ministers or elders.

You see, “contrary to the teachings you have learned” especially means contrary to first 15 chapters of Romans, including Romans 14 and 15. Many in the Churches of Christ have “marked” men contrary to the grace taught in Romans, and thereby have become the very men that Paul tells us to watch out for. (more…)

Discipline: Those without faith in Jesus

August 25, 2009

by Jay Guin

This is one of the most abused verses in all of scripture (which says a lot!):

(2 John 1:7, 9-11) Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. … Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.

The “doctrine of Christ” is plainly the doctrine of his incarnation. (more…)

Discipline: Those no longer penitent

August 24, 2009

by Jay Guin

We generally cannot distinguish someone who is struggling with his penitence from someone who has abandoned Jesus altogether. In such cases, I think we have to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume we’re dealing with a Christian but a Christian who is struggling with sin and needs to be confronted and perhaps even to be disfellowshipped.

However, where it’s clear this person has so left Jesus that he has become an enemy of the Kingdom, our response is dictated by several passages –

(2 Tim. 3:2-5) People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

Does this passage, fairly read, describe those who –

  • Use the instrument in worship (or don’t)?
  • Accept the “Pauline exception” to the prohibition against divorce (or don’t)?
  • Refuse to build a fellowship hall with church money (or do so)?
  • Allow couples who divorced and remarried before baptism to join the church without first divorcing (or don’t)?

Obviously, not. (more…)

Discipline: The member who is struggling to repent

August 23, 2009

by Jay Guin

Several passages deal with members who are wandering from the faith but haven’t yet left the faith. They are struggling in their submission to Jesus as Lord.

(2 Thes. 3:14-15) If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

Plainly, the disobedient person under consideration is still a brother in Christ. He is impenitent, but not so much so that he is lost – at least, not so far as we can tell.

The goal of the disassociation is to shame him. Now, obviously enough, this means the action must be taken while he still cares what the church thinks. He must still be part of the community – so much so that being expelled could bring him to repentance. For this to work, the thought of losing the friendship of his brothers and sisters must be unbearable.

If the man can simply move his membership to another congregation or leave the church altogether and be content, then it won’t work. The solution isn’t to insist that other congregations honor the decision (although, as a rule, they should). The solution is for the church to have such a dynamic love that members can’t bear to lose it! (more…)

Discipline: Introduction

August 22, 2009

by Jay Guin

This is a continuation of the progressive posts on what causes a saved person to fall away. And that’s important, because these teachings on church discipline won’t make any sense to someone with a very different understanding of grace. You see, it all fits together. It has to fit together, because it all comes from the same Mind.

Now, the New Testament says quite a lot about disfellowshipping or excluding various people from the church. These verses are often interpreted this way –

* I am right

* You are wrong

* You must leave

Simple enough, I suppose, but completely removed from the heart of God shown through Jesus and the scriptures. (more…)


August 21, 2009

Perhaps a chart would help explain how all this fits together —

To become saved Baptism To stay saved
Hear, believe, confess the gospel Faith Accept Jesus as Son of God Faith Accept Jesus as Son of God Faith Faith
Repent Penitence Accept Jesus as Lord Penitence Accept Jesus as Lord Love Love
Accept Jesus as Savior Accept Jesus as Savior Only Hope

The first column is the Plan of Salvation as we’ve traditionally taught it.

The second column follows the language that Todd and I used in our first several posts.

The third column expresses the same thoughts in Jesus-centered terms. “Faith” is accepting Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. “Repentance” is accepting Jesus as Lord. But there’s a third element that Gal 5:4 helps us focus on — accepting Jesus as Savior. You see, he’s not really our Savior if we try to be our own saviors. It’s not until we add “only” to faith and repentance that we stop trying to sharing the role of savior with Jesus.

The fourth column, labeled “Baptism,” marks the line between becoming saved and being saved.

The fifth and sixth columns repeat the second and third columns, because the standard for being saved is the same as becoming saved.

The seventh column borrows its language from Gal 5:6b —

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

“Love” fits in the slot for repentance and for accepting Jesus as Lord because love fulfills the law. “Only” fits into the slot in parallel with “Savior” because it’s the “only” that allows Jesus to save — rather us having to save ourselves.

The final column take the familiar triad — faith, hope, and love — and shows how it parallels our salvation. “Hope” is both the new heaven and earth that await us at the End of time and the confidence we have that we’ll actually be there. And that confidence is found in the “only” — in our trust in Jesus to save us. (more…)