Maxey - Martin Dialogue

An Email Exchange Between

Al Maxey, Minister/Elder
Cuba Avenue Church of Christ
Alamogordo, New Mexico


David Martin, Pastor
Solid Rock Baptist Church
Bartlett, Tennessee

Comments by Al Maxey

Saturday, August 3, 2002

I want to express my sincere appreciation to David Martin for responding to my article in which I sought to clarify what I perceive to be some serious misconceptions he has about the churches of Christ. It appears that David is now willing to engage in a reasoned, respectful dialogue with me on the various points enumerated in both his article and mine. For that I am most grateful. I would also like to applaud an obvious "kinder and gentler" spirit evidenced within his response to me. I hope and pray that David and I can engage in a dialogue without any acrimony and pejoratives. They truly serve no purpose when two honest hearts (and I pray both of ours are) are simply seeking to better understand God's Word and another's interpretation of it.

By the way, David, I am going to ask a favor of you, or pose a challenge to you, whichever way you choose to view it. I have presented a thorough response to your original article and would appreciate it if you would place a link on your web page to my response to your challenge. I have placed a link to your challenge on MY web page so all can read what you said about the churches of Christ. I respectfully ask that you now place a link on YOUR web page to my published response. I would also respectfully request that you offer our current dialogue to your readers. Truth has no reason to hide, does it? You should not fear having your readers read every word of this exchange. I have no problem with people I know reading it, so I can't imagine why YOU would. Thus, I am asking you to make this dialogue between us available on your web site. Will you do so, David? I would like to hear your response to this request.

In his opening statement David observed, "You confirm that much of what I say is true within a certain segment of the 'church of Christ' congregations, and from whom you appear to distance yourself." David, I'm glad you qualified that statement by pointing out this is "within a certain segment" of the churches of Christ. You can suggest just about any doctrine or practice known to man and there will be SOME within SOME congregations who probably embrace it. I dare say I could make the same observation about the Baptist churches, or any other group. Yes, some of the doctrines and practices which concern you also concern me, and I do indeed seek to distance myself from affiliation with doctrines and practices I consider opposed to the teaching of the Word. I also seek to expose such false teachings and refute them from the Word.

No one particular religious heritage, however, has cornered the market on Truth, David .... Nor is any one religious heritage the embodiment of all that is wicked and in opposition to divine Truth. It is furthermore unconscionable to judge an entire group of believers based on the false views of a few within it. I believe that is exactly what you have done in your original article in which you listed the thirteen questions you did not believe any Church of Christ preacher or elder could ever answer. Your assertions and conclusions were unfair and false generalizations. I believe I answered them acceptably and biblically. If I did not, then show me specifically where I failed to do so. By the way, you charged that none of us could answer ANY of them, so if I answered even ONE of them acceptably in your sight, then your premise is false and needs to be retracted.

David's Response #1

David wrote, "I agree with you that there is diversity of beliefs and practices among the Baptists, and that is true of the CoC as well. ... My discussions with CoC people have been those in the Southern U.S. and the ones that I have had input from are what you call extremist." I am glad to hear you admit this, David. You now acknowledge that there is much diversity among churches of Christ, and that YOUR experience has been limited to southern "extremists." How then, David, can you issue a scathing denunciation of the churches of Christ as a whole based on a limited experience with regional extremists?!! Is that fair? If I judged all Baptist pastors the world over based on my encounter with your friend Ray Meier, would that be an accurate assessment of all Baptist pastors? Hardly! In fact, I have had Baptist pastors from as far away as England write to me in the last few days asking me to please not make the mistake of assuming they are all like Pastor Meier. Some of these leading Baptist pastors, and even the Editor of one of your major Baptist journals, wrote me privately and apologized for Pastor Meier's crude comments. They are NOT typical or representative of the group as a whole. And neither are YOUR experiences with the "extremists" of our heritage. THAT is where you made a serious error, David. I hope you realize that fact now.

David, you further observed, "There must be a core set of doctrines that a group adheres to in order to be orthodox. ... Is there any authoritative source from where I can obtain the core beliefs of the 'church of Christ'?" Yes, David, there IS someplace where you can turn to find these "core beliefs" --- it is called THE BIBLE. One of the primary historical tenets of the churches of Christ has been: Where the Bible speaks we speak, where the Bible is silent we are silent. Although in actual practice this does not always occur, nevertheless it demonstrates a mindset which truly characterizes the vast majority of the group --- we seek to be biblical. Our final source of appeal is the Word of God. We may not always interpret it exactly the same, but we all turn only to it for our guidance. We don't rely on church councils to determine our doctrine or practice, nor do we have officials over districts and regions to whom we appeal. Each congregation is entirely self-governing, and the Bible is the source of final appeal in all matters.

Are there a few distinguishing characteristics of our fellowship? Yes. Most of the churches of Christ (not all, but most) will observe the Lord's Supper every Sunday. Most (not all) will refrain from using instrumental music in the public assembly. Most (not all) proclaim the need to demonstrate one's obedient faith by being immersed. Although you and I will likely differ on numerous points of interpretation on other assorted matters (as will many of the members in the churches of Christ), these are typically the three that stand out to most other groups as the distinguishing marks which set us apart. I would be happy to discuss with you ANY of these three (or any other doctrine or practice about which you are confused or seek additional clarification) in greater depth in the coming weeks and months. Again, I only ask, respectfully, that you make this discussion available on YOUR web site via a link. I'm sure some of your fellow disciples could benefit from this examination of God's Word and clarification of our respective beliefs and practices.

David's Response #2

David observed, "You ... affirm that my understanding of the doctrines of the church of Christ as held by some within your fellowship are correct." Again, notice the qualifier: "by some." Yes, your understanding of the doctrines of the church of Christ are indeed held BY SOME. They are NOT held by the majority within this fellowship, however .... and that was your mistake. You have thrown out the baby with the bathwater! As mentioned earlier, there is tremendous diversity among the members of our heritage with respect to interpretation of the Scriptures and implementation of divine principles. Even within a single congregation there will be great diversity. UNITY in the presence of great DIVERSITY is a reality clearly evidenced in our congregations, and in our brotherhood. We are united IN HIM, but are very diverse in our understandings and applications. And that is perfectly fine! One does not have to be my TWIN to be my BROTHER.

You have been exposed to southern "extremists." Thus, you have a "southern extremist" perception of "Church of Christism." I can assure you that if you had been exposed to a different group within this fellowship you would come away with an entirely different perception of our fellowship. Again, I caution you NOT to judge the whole by the failings of a few. You wouldn't appreciate it if we did it with the Baptists, and we don't appreciate it when you do it with us. If I applied your "reasoning" here to your fellowship, I would arrive at the conclusion that ALL Baptist pastors where just like Ray Meier!! I really don't think you would want me to infer such a "fact," and I know the majority of Baptist pastors would be horrified at the thought!!

David's Response #3

David concluded, "Then we are in agreement that the views that I am opposed to deserve to be exposed as the perversions of scriptural truth that they are." I would agree with some of your views, David. I would also disagree with some. Some of what you perceive to be "perversions of Scripture" are probably no such thing. Some undoubtedly are. The same could be said for some of YOUR teaching, David.

What I DO agree with, however, is that if someone or some group is teaching something that is contrary to God's Word, then we all need to stand up and oppose that error. I believe some of what YOU teach is error, David, and I hope in the course of our dialogue to address some of those concerns. No group has cornered the market on Truth, nor is any one group the epitome of error. There are matters of concern in BOTH of our groups, David, and we should BOTH be willing to examine these areas with open, honest, receptive hearts. Neither of us has "arrived," thus there is likely something we both may yet learn from the other. Both groups have room for improvement, and it is rather arrogant for any person or group to assert otherwise. I'm sure you would agree.

David's Response #4

I had asked if David believed anyone could be saved outside of his own fellowship. He replied, "I would like to answer that question with a resounding YES. Salvation is not in religion or religious duties or ceremonies, but is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. ... As the Bible says: 'Salvation is of the LORD.' It is not of a church, denomination or religion." All I can say in response to this is a resounding AMEN!

David went on to discuss his view of what constitutes entrance into a saved condition. He wrote, "Anyone who will receive Christ as their personal Saviour God will save .... if that person will repent of his sins and put his/her complete faith and trust in Christ and what He did on Calvary for them." I would agree with this up to a point, David. However, I notice you have seemingly left out any need for this person to RESPOND to this offer of salvation, other than an inner conviction. David, do you believe the teaching of Hebrews 5:9? --- "He became to all those who OBEY Him the source of eternal salvation." What do you think OBEY means here? What constitutes this obedience unto salvation?

If you say it is faith only, then would you not agree that this faith must be demonstrated in some way? In what way has Christ obliged us to demonstrate our faith so as to receive this gift of life? Is confession of Him a demonstration of this faith? If we fail to confess Him, will our faith alone save us? "Many even of the rulers BELIEVED in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not CONFESSING Him, let they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God" (John 12:42-43). Were these rulers saved by their faith alone? It surely doesn't sound like it. There needed to be some demonstration of that faith. What about repentance? Must faith be accompanied by a turning away from sin and a turning toward the Lord? What about immersion? This is the one that gets most people. But, the Lord required it. Is one willing to submit to baptism, or will that person refuse to submit? If they refuse to obey this command, will their faith alone be sufficient to save them? Will God extend salvation to those who willfully and obstinately REFUSE to obey Him?

A few weeks ago, David, I wrote an email to you in which I bluntly and pointedly asked you, "Can I still be saved eternally if I absolutely REFUSE to be baptized?" Remember that? Here is what you wrote back to me, "Hypothetically, yes." For these obstinate rebels who refuse to obey their Lord and demonstrate their faith in Christ Jesus, David has declared --- they are still saved. I have a problem with this. You are extending the assurance of everlasting life to those who willfully refuse to acknowledge and obey the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe we need to examine this teaching of yours in the light of Scripture, David. Could this be one of the "perversions of Scripture" of which you speak?

David stated above that one must "receive Christ." I would like to ask David if he would specify exactly HOW one goes about "receiving" Christ Jesus. What does the Bible require of one who would "receive" Christ? Is there any kind of visible demonstration at all? If there is, David, do you consider this visible demonstration to be a meritorious work? If not, why not? I look forward to your response.

David's Response #5

David stated, "I would venture to say that there are far more CoC churches than Baptist churches that believe salvation is in their church. I personally do not know of one Baptist church that would teach such nonsense." I have found a few, just as you have found a few churches of Christ who teach this. I'm sure this mindset exists in other groups also. It is hardly unique to any one group. It is a mindset that permeates them all to some degree. Whether your group or mine has the larger number of such disciples would be difficult to determine. The fact that BOTH groups have any at all is deplorable. Rather than chastising one another, the more profitable course would be for each of us to engage in cleaning our OWN houses, rather than spending our time pointing out the dirt in the other's. Agreed?

Perhaps Jesus phrased it best when He said, "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye" (Matthew 7:3-5).

David's Response #6

David stated he has met those in the churches of Christ who "equate baptism with being washed in the blood. This is heresy, and if you do not believe this Mr. Maxey, then you are not the same stripe of CoC that I have debated with." As you have already admitted, David, your experience is limited to southern "extremists." I would be no more accepted by the "southern extremists" than you!! Thus, you correctly observe I am not of "the same stripe."

Nevertheless, I firmly believe that there are positive benefits attached to one's immersion. The reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit certainly seems to be connected to both repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). So also does the washing away of sins (Acts 22:16). So also does salvation (Mark 16:16). So also does being clothed with Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:27). So also does participation (symbolically) in His death, burial and resurrection (Romans 6:1-11).

I'm not sure there is any passage which specifically uses the wording "baptism equals being washed in the blood of the Lamb," however the concept of a washing clean is certainly a biblical one. Notice again Acts 22:16 --- "And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name." Notice carefully the Greek grammatical construction here, David. The phrase is literally:

anastas baptisai kai apolousai tas hamartias sou

This would literally be translated "Rise up, be baptized and wash away your sins." The word "apoluo" conveys the concept of procuring cleansing through an act of washing. That washing would be a reference to the act of baptism. Both "baptize" and "wash away" appear as 1st Aorist Imperatives (2nd person singular), and they are connected by "kai." Thus, the two are inseparably linked together in this grammatical construction. Paul is commanded to rise up and cleanse himself of his sins via the washing of baptism.

You may have Rev. 1:5 (KJV) in mind here: "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood." You will find very few other translations that use the word "wash" here, David. The actual Greek word means "to loose, free, unbind." We have been set free from our sins by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The waters of baptism are a symbol signifying this freeing that has occurred in the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord. Through this visible, obedient demonstration of our faith we receive His gift of cleansing of and freeing from sin. Does baptism itself cleanse us? Of course not. Even Peter tells us this (1 Peter 3:21). Rather, it signifies the cleansing HE provides through the shedding of His blood. But, unless you are willing to RECEIVE that cleansing as prescribed by Scripture, it will not be yours. In my opinion, you have lessened the importance of this visible demonstration of faith, if not negated it altogether. Again, that concerns me, and I think we need to discuss it.


David, I again express to you my appreciation for beginning this dialogue with me. I pray we can both maintain a Christian attitude in our exchange; one that will bring glory to the Father and edify those reading our discussion. I once again challenge you to place a LINK to this dialogue on your web page, and also a LINK to my article in which I addressed each of your thirteen "unanswerable" questions. I believe this is the fair and honorable thing to do.

I eagerly await your next email, David, and your response to the questions and challenges I have posed.

With Christian Love and Concern,

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