Responses to Darrell's Questions
Darrell's Answers to my Questions
Darrell declared in his response to my first question that he does not regard baptism as an "act of worship" by a penitent believer. I find that interesting. One of the best definitions of "worship" that I have heard is: "Worship is the expression of the devotion of one's heart." I may be way off base here, but if demonstrating one's depth of faith in an act known as baptism isn't an "expression of the devotion of one's heart," I don't know what is! It is an action motivated by love; a worshipful expression of one's devotion. When one comes and confesses the Lord and is immersed, there is rejoicing among the assembled believers and praise unto God for this lost one who is now brought into the family. Just as the angels rejoice in heaven, so do the saints on earth pour out their hearts in expressions of adoration to the Lord God for His saving grace in the life of this new child. In many congregations with which I've been affiliated we will immediately assemble ourselves around this person, hugging them and affirming our love and support for them. Is this not a worshipful expression of praise unto our Father as we embrace His newborn child? As we behold this spotless child, do we not glorify the One who begot him/her? I fail to see how this whole immersion process fails to meet the definition of an "act of worship," both individually and corporately. Darrell, however, believes that there are only FIVE official acts of worship, no more and no less.
With regard to my 3rd and 4th questions, I appreciate Darrell's forthrightness in his response. He admits: "It has been within the last five years that my understanding of inspiration and biblical inerrancy has been honed to the point that I can precisely articulate my belief that the New Testament is God's plenary pattern for all men living this side of the cross." In point of fact, dear readers, it has been far more recent than that ... just the last few weeks, to be precise. On Wednesday, March 19, 2008, in message #10,000 on the "Contending for the Faith" Internet discussion site (where this debate is also being published; a site operated by David Brown, the editor and publisher of the magazine by the very same name), Darrell Broking challenged me to an oral debate, half of it to be here in New Mexico, the other half in Tennessee. What was the proposition he himself wrote and declared he would affirm? Here it is: "Resolved: The Scriptures teach that there is a pattern in the New Testament writings to which conformity must be made." Hmmm. That sounds remarkably similar to the very proposition I will be affirming in the second half of this present debate; a proposition that now, just weeks later, Darrell Broking vehemently denies. I would say that is a rather radical change in a rather brief period of time. Indeed, Darrell Broking even issued this debate challenge to me again on Monday, April 14 (message #10,555), a message in which he added, "Al, you have a standing invitation before you. Take it. I am sure that we can discuss several of your damnable errors." It was this rather sudden, recent and dramatic "conversion" that led me to wonder, as perceived in my two previous questions to him, just what specifics might have been involved in this evolution (or, dare I say, devolution) of theological conviction. It must have been a stunning revelation indeed for Darrell to go from a willingness to debate one proposition to the opposite proposition within days.
With regard to my fifth question, Darrell Broking does not see any problem with taking up a collection on a day other than Sunday. Neither do I. There are legalistic patternists who do, however. Why? Because Paul wrote, "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him" [1 Cor. 16:1-2, KJV]. Well, there you have it, they declare: a command and a pattern! The day is specified; thus, all other days are excluded. I have even had people write me and declare that if one gives monetarily to the Lord on any day other than Sunday, they will go to hell. I had one man even write and say that he told one of the members where he preached (who came by on Monday, after having missed the assembly the day before, to hand in his contribution check) that this man would have to either wait until the following Sunday, or date the check for the previous day, so as not to "violate the pattern!" Such is the "reasoning" of the legalistic patternist. Most people realize, as perhaps Darrell does, that this passage is only dealing with a special collection for the relief of the saints in Judea. Indeed, Paul states these collections would be terminated upon his arrival. BUT, I wonder if Darrell sees ANY kind of binding pattern here with regard to special contributions? Would Darrell declare they may only be taken up or laid aside on the first day of the week? If not, why not? And what specific fellowship and/or salvation concerns does Darrell see in 1 Cor. 16:1-2? After all, if every word has bearing on our fellowship and salvation, I wonder what "laws" he might "infer" from this passage. What salvation "pattern" is portrayed here, Darrell? And don't leave a single word out, my friend, because they ALL apply!! Right?!
Well, Darrell Broking doesn't feel the day is binding with regard to collections, but he does feel the day is binding with regard to partaking of the communion. And yet, are not both based upon a singular example? A singular passage? Darrell says both these acts are "acts of worship" (two of the five), and yet "the first day of the week" is forever binding on breaking bread, but it is NOT binding on taking up a collection (whether that be a special collection or otherwise). Indeed, Darrell, in his response to question six, stated his belief that observing the Lord's Supper on any day other than Sunday constitutes SIN. Do you suppose this man will ever provide a single reference to where THE LORD ever said such a thing? Of course not. Our Lord's words, with respect to frequency, were simply: "As often as you do it." He left this observance within the realm of the non-specific. The apostle Paul affirmed that statement. And yet, Darrell is willing to elevate an assumption of "fallible men" drawn from a single example (Acts 20:7), about which there is much speculation, to a status of authority above a direct command of both an apostle and the Son of God. Further, he is willing to characterize any departure from this assumption of "fallible men" to be SIN, something that NO passage of Scripture has ever stated. If that isn't "adding to the Word," I wonder what is!!
Reflecting on Broking's 2nd Affirmative
Actually, I am being rather generous in characterizing his latest offering as his second "affirmative." More properly, as I perceive it, what we have here is more of a rebuttal of a rebuttal. But, be that as it may, let me make a few reflective observations on a number of his statements. In his Introduction he wrote, "As this debate continues to unfold, it will be evident that God's Word is on trial here." I would strongly disagree with this. The inspired Word of God is not on trial in this present debate (not by me, anyway), but the perceptions and assumptions of fallible men regarding His inspired Word are on trial here (at least by me). Darrell wrote, "In case you have not recognized it yet, Maxey is alleging that nothing that is implicitly taught (teaching which requires fallible men make inference) is or can be binding on men living today." He goes on to state, "to infer any matter means that a matter was implied not directly stated; hence, in the absence of a direct statement what is not specifically stated (i.e., silence) an inference must be made to determine the intention of the author or speaker." Although a bit difficult to follow, nevertheless his argument is clear: When God has said nothing about something, the "standard" (Darrell's word) we must follow to be in fellowship with one another (and ultimately saved) must be determined by the assumptions and inferences of "fallible men." Lest you think I'm fabricating this, note his own words: "In order for the Christian mind to be united with the mind of Christ (Philp. 2:5) and with all other Christians, it must follow the same standard, which must be determined through a process which includes judgment, i.e., inference, by fallible men."
Brethren, it doesn't take much "gray matter" to see through the fallacy of this line of thought. Our unity with Christ (salvation) and our unity with our fellow disciples (fellowship) requires that we follow the "same standard." However, that standard apparently is NOT clearly specified by the Lord in His Word, since that standard, at least to some degree, "must be determined through a process" that includes "fallible men" inferring these patternistic particulars from that which is never stated in Scripture. There is a term for this: "Theology ex nihilo" (theology out of nothing). Talk about subjectivism. They are not only adding to God's Word through such a "process," but that which is being added is the product of inferences of "fallible men." So, Darrell ... what assurances do we have that their inferences are not also fallible?! And we're to formulate a standard from this upon which all must concur in order to enjoy both fellowship and salvation?! And a part of this process of formulating this standard is to adopt the speculations of "fallible men"? No wonder the legalistic patternists are so fragmented!! Their "standard" is derived in part, by Darrell's own admission, from assumptions drawn from what God never said, and by men who are acknowledged to be prone to error by nature. Good grief. This would actually be laughable, if not so pathetic and destructive.
Inferences, assumptions and deductions (especially those drawn from silence) were most certainly never intended by our God to be regulatory in nature, as we are all finite, fallible men subject to countless fallacious assumptions, inferences and deductions. Darrell would most likely not want my assumptions governing him, thus why would I want his (or any other person's) governing me? What is good for the goose is good for the gander. This reality was stated quite eloquently in the year 1809 by Thomas Campbell in his now famous Declaration and Address:
Darrell declares, "Al's theory of micropatternism deconstructs the truth and renders spirituality to a fusion of subjectively compelling elements." Quite the contrary! Al Maxey's "theory" focuses completely upon what our God has specifically commanded of His people in clear, unequivocal statements within the inspired New Covenant writings. Thus, these are objectively compelling elements. There is nothing subjective about saying "Thus SAYETH the Lord God." Subjectivism comes into play when "fallible men" formulate "compelling elements" of some "standard" for fellowship and salvation by means of inferences drawn from what God didn't say! Now that is subjectivism!
I had made a statement in my first rebuttal to which Darrell took exception. I had written, "Brethren, the Family of God has been feuding and fragmenting for far too long, and, frankly, over matters that have absolutely nothing to do with our ultimate relationship with God or His children." Darrell reacted with these words: "If it is the case that the subject of the New Testament pattern has nothing to do with our ultimate relationship with God, then it is also true that the Bible is a perpetual lie and there is no God!" Well, that's certainly overstating the matter a bit, to put it mildly. Darrell Broking has clearly missed the point of my statement. He and I both believe there is a God-given "pattern" (for want of a better term) that is vital to both fellowship and salvation. We just differ as to what it is. He believes it is every single word of the 27 New Covenant documents, whereas I simply believe those inspired documents contain or reveal these expectations of our God. My point in my statement, however, was that the church has been feuding, fussing and fragmenting over doctrines and practices that have nothing whatsoever to do with God's requirements for either fellowship or salvation (although some have elevated these humanly devised and deduced issues to that status). What version of the Bible you read, number of communion cups, whether the wheat for the bread in the Lord's Supper is processed or not, fellowship halls, VBS, PowerPoint slides during the sermon, eating inside the building, Sunday School, fermented or unfermented fruit of the vine, located paid "pulpit preachers," four part harmony, praise teams, women's retreats, support of Christian schools and homes for orphans and the aged, clapping, singing during the Lord's Supper, taking the elements of the Lord's Supper to the sick, and on and on and on. All of these "enormously weighty matters," and the feuding and fragmenting of God's children resulting from such, are the result of a legalistic, patternistic mindset. With every new "revelation" of what some particular of this elusive "pattern" might be, yet another squabble arises among the patternists, and, in time, yet another faction emerges to further separate the Family of God. The harsh reality is -- there is no more divided and divisive group in all of Christendom than these legalistic patternists. They are constantly squabbling and separating from someone, and the reason is that none of them can agree on what the pattern really IS. It is this pitiful practice I was bemoaning.
Darrell wrote, "The perceptive differences of men can't be a big deal according to Maxey's theory, as long as those perceptions are the outgrowth of hearts directed toward pleasing God." Yes, brother, that is exactly what I believe Scripture teaches. Take a look at Romans 14. There are countless areas in which the disciples of Christ Jesus have perceptional differences, some of which are quite significant. The apostle Paul has given several examples in this chapter, and even refers to them as matters of "faith." These are deeply held convictions, so deeply held that for a person to violate them would be a violation of their conscience and thus a sin [vs. 22-23]. On the other hand, one of their brethren might hold a differing conviction and be perfectly acceptable before their God. "The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God" [vs. 22]. Yes, we can differ with regard not only to perceptions, but also with regard to practices. Yet, these differences should never divide us. There IS "unity in diversity" for those in union WITH HIM, and whose hearts are focused upon pleasing Him to the best of their ability, opportunity and understanding. OUR challenge within the Family of God is to learn to accept one another, just as our Father has accepted each of us (even with our various perceptional differences). The alternative, of course, and we see this every day, is that with each perceptional difference a new sect or faction arises. Frankly, I am sick of seeing the Body of Christ being dismembered by these legalistic, patternistic partyists. Thus, I pray that my brethren throughout the world will rise up as one and demand a halt to this sectarian squabbling and separating among siblings. Enough is enough!!
"Al charges that 'patternists' follow human assumptions instead of God's Word." So wrote Darrell Broking. Legalistic patternists do, for the very simple reason that they've devised LAW from their own deductions, assumptions, inferences and speculations with respect to biblical silence. Those who comply with a clearly stated "Thus sayeth the Lord" are simply evidencing an obedience of faith. There is a big difference between obeying what God said, and obeying what "fallible men" infer that God should have said, but never did. I can assure you that the vast majority of the division in the Body of Christ today (as well as in the past) is over the latter.
1 Corinthians 1:10
In both of his affirmative posts thus far in this debate, Darrell has referred to Paul's statement in 1 Cor. 1:10. He asks, "What does it mean to be united in the same mind and the same judgment?" I am glad Darrell asked that. I did a very in-depth study of this verse in Reflections #251: "Speak Ye The Same Thing," to which I would refer those readers who would like to pick this verse apart word by word to discover the meaning. However, being a realist, I know most will not bother to go examine that biblical evidence. Therefore, let me make a few observations here. This particular passage is frequently employed as textual proof that conformity of thought, uniformity of practice, and singleness of speech is essential to fellowship and salvation. Unless we are all in absolute agreement -- speaking the same things, thinking the same things, and practicing the same things -- then souls are in jeopardy, and indeed the non-conformists are to be cast from the midst of the "faithful." Of course, the question is: Who gets to decide what everyone must think, speak and practice? Each faction has its own patternistic list (which they will never, ever provide, even if you should plead for it, which I have been for well over 30 years now), and all others are judged to be either saved or lost simply by how well they comply or fail to conform. There are scores upon scores of such schisms among siblings within the Family of God, each demanding that all others "speak the same things" THEY DO. The result, of course, is the sad reality of a grossly dismembered Body, instead of a unified, functional whole. To demand of diverse disciples of Christ that each and every one of them must fully agree in thought, speech and practice with the most vocal and narrow-minded among us is a guaranteed formula for factionalism! We see it all around us, and it is shameful.
So what was the specific problem to which Paul alluded in this statement quoted by Darrell? Well, the party spirit was raising its ugly head in the church in Corinth. Disciples were beginning to rally to the side of mere men; elevating one ministerial mission over another; taking human ideas and promoting them to divine precepts. This can only result in "schisms" within the Lord's church (the very expression used in 1 Cor. 1:10), which is the Greek word schisma, meaning "a splitting apart." The Pulpit Commentary makes the following observation -- "Their 'contentions' are defined to be equivalent to 'religious partisanships' ... none of them were wise enough and spiritually-minded enough to hold aloof from parties altogether. They prided themselves on being 'party men'" (vol. 19, p. 5). But, it wasn't just diversity of preference with regard to personalities. There was also a tremendous amount of diversity of understanding among the Corinthian brethren as well. For example, much of this epistle deals with questions that were sent to Paul for resolution. "Now concerning the things about which you wrote..." (1 Cor. 7:1). Paul then talks about marriage and divorce issues, idols, spiritual gifts, the resurrection, the collection for the saints, and the like. There were problems associated with the Lord's Supper, and there was a case of immorality in their midst that would have made a pagan blush! Even when discipline was finally practiced by the congregation, it was not done with unanimous agreement ("...this punishment which was inflicted by the majority" --- 2 Cor. 2:6). With regard to the practice of spiritual gifts, not all had the same gifts, but each exercised what gift he or she had. We do not have to be identical twins to be brethren! Perfect agreement on all things is not only unrealistic, it is unachievable. Not only that ... it is undesirable! But, perfect agreement in all things is NOT what Paul was calling for in 1 Cor. 1:10.
So, what was Paul calling for in this passage? Let's examine it in more detail. The first statement Paul makes is: "Now, I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing..." (KJV). The problem in the city of Corinth was that the disciples there were making some extremely divisive declarations -- "I am of Paul ... I am of Cephas ... I am of Apollos," etc. A sectarian spirit was taking control not only of the hearts and minds of these brethren, but of their tongues as well. "This expression is used here because the Corinthians were saying different things (1 Corinthians 1:12), and Paul seeks the abandonment of such party slogans" so that there might be no more divisions among them (Dr. C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 42). B. W. Johnson, in The People's New Testament with Notes, states that this expression simply means the Corinthians were to have "no distinctive party declarations," and that the concept of being one in speech is "violated in the modern sectarian symbols and confessions."
When disciples of Christ are so focused on proclaiming and declaring their own party positions and patterns, their declarations are devoid of that "one heart and one voice" of which the apostle Paul speaks. There is one family! One Lord! One Father! One common hope of a common destiny! We are a called people of a shared Savior ... shouldn't we all be voicing this, instead of our countless sectarian shibboleths?! Paul longed to hear of his fellow brethren "standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel" (Philp. 1:27). There is indeed something that binds each of us together, but it is NOT our personal perceptions, preferences or patternistic practices. It is the glorious good news of God's grace poured out upon us in the life and sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. What is the key to understanding 1 Cor. 1:10? Brethren, it is 1 Cor. 1:9 --- "You were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." That which binds us all together as one, that which elicits from our hearts the praise of a united voice, is JESUS! When we cease proclaiming HIM, we then cease "speaking the same thing," and we begin proclaiming OURSELVES! "I am of Paul ... I am of Cephas." I am One Cup ... I am Non-Institutional ... I am Non-Instrumental ... I am Non-Sunday School. Brethren, it is time for our voices to unite in a common declaration: "We are one in Christ Jesus!" "We are in fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ OUR Lord."
The phrase "be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment" was not unique to Paul. "This expression was used in political circles to urge groups to compose their differences. This, most likely, is the sense in which it is to be taken here" (Dr. T. R. Applebury, Studies in First Corinthians, p. 20). There were differences in the church in Corinth. Paul urges them to settle those differences and make his joy complete. Differences are "settled" NOT by one side defeating the other, or by compromise, but by accepting one another in love. As clearly seen in the teaching of Romans 14, Paul is not advocating a forced uniformity (which is the "solution" of the party spirit), but rather unity in diversity, which is attainable IN HIM. True unity will never be found in uniformity of compliance to legalistic tenets or patternistic practices or party perceptions; genuine unity is only to be found in loving acceptance of all those in union with Jesus Christ. We are called into fellowship WITH HIM, a by-product of which is our fellowship WITH ONE ANOTHER.
Silence or Specificity?
Darrell Broking's following statement is so utterly astounding that I ask you to read it a couple of times and then ponder what he is actually saying!! -- "Hebrews 7:14 is one of several passages demonstrating that fallible men must make inference from the silence of Scripture in order to please God." Now, pick your jaw up off the floor!! As shocking as this statement is, it is nevertheless not surprising to those of us who have dealt with legalistic patternists over the years. They are so blinded by their dogmatism that they are genuinely incapable, in my view, of actually perceiving just how ludicrous their assertions are. To please our God, "fallible men" must formulate a standard specific to both fellowship and salvation from inferences and assumptions drawn from what the Bible doesn't say!! If that doesn't fill the heart of Satan with glee, I don't know what will, for this is nothing less than a recipe for religious rigidity and sectarian schism. God said nothing about it, so flawed men must fill in the silence!! All to "please God," of course!
Hebrews 7:14 reads, "For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests." There you have it, folks ... the "law of silence." Moses "spoke nothing" concerning priests coming from Judah. Therefore, silence is what excludes these men from serving. Right? The proponents of the so-called "Law of Silence" declare this is "proof positive" that "silence excludes and prohibits." Moses was silent about priests coming from any other tribe than Levi, therefore all other tribes are excluded by silence. Darrell confidently exclaimed, "God did not say that no other tribe could serve as priests in the Levitical Priesthood, God expected men to infer that truth because He said nothing about the other tribes! Hebrews 7:14 is the only verse of Scripture needed to demonstrate the fallacy of Maxey's false and damning doctrine." Those persons from Judah are "excluded by silence," says Darrell Broking. No, they are excluded by God's specificity. God was NOT silent here; He had spoken; He had commanded; He had specified. When God speaks, there is NO silence.
The tribe from which all the priests were to be taken was Levi .... and only Levi. Do you just suppose that might be why Darrell referred to it as the "Levitical Priesthood" in his above statement?!! "The Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to serve Him and to bless in His name until this day. Therefore, Levi does not have a portion or inheritance with his brothers; the Lord is his inheritance" (Deut. 10:8-9). Please see also: Numbers 3:5-10; 8:5-26; 18:1-7. "Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the sons of Israel, and the Levites shall be Mine" (Numbers 8:14). "They are wholly given to Me from among the sons of Israel" (Numbers 8:16). "I am giving you the priesthood as a bestowed service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death" (Numbers 18:7). God had made it very clear that no one from any tribe other than Levi would ever be allowed to serve in the priesthood. God had SPOKEN. God had SPECIFIED. He was NOT silent. Thus, the tribe of Judah was excluded from serving in the priesthood NOT because God was silent about Judah serving as priests, but rather because He had specified that only those from Levi could serve as priests.
This brings us to the Hebrews 7:14 passage. Judah was a tribe "with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests." Why was Moses "silent" about Judah with reference to priests? Because God had SPECIFIED the tribe of Levi. There was absolutely no need for Moses to say anything about Judah for the simple reason GOD HAD SPOKEN. God had specified. Judah is excluded from the priesthood NOT because Moses happened to be "silent" about them serving in that capacity, but rather because God had specified that priests would come solely from Levi. Thus, it is NOT silence that excludes or prohibits, it is specificity. This passage has nothing whatsoever to do with "silence," much less any so-called "Law of silence." When God has SPOKEN, there is no silence. These proof-texters, Darrell included, have only succeeded in proving their own ignorance and inability when it comes to sound biblical exegesis. Their wresting and manipulation of this text in a failed attempt to prove an untenable theory is a prime example of the "dogmatic model" of biblical interpretation. It is deplorable, and it is rejected by reputable, responsible scholars of the Word. Nevertheless, Darrell Broking sees it differently, saying, "If Maxey's theory is correct, then the book of Hebrews is an uninspired waste of paper and space."
The patternists also bring out the accounts of Nadab & Abihu and Uzzah. It is their firm belief that both of these events prove their view of the prohibitive nature of silence, and yet neither of these accounts has anything to do with silence, but rather with God's specificity. I have dealt with the patternistic dogma related to both of these biblical narratives in two separate articles in which I examine their arguments in some depth. Due to space constraints here in this present rebuttal, however, I shall simply provide the links where Darrell Broking, and those readers interested, may go and examine my refutation of these arguments by the legalists: Nadab and Abihu: The Nature of their Fatal Error [Reflections #63] and Did God Overreact? -- The Controversial Death of Uzzah [Reflections #23]. Also, simply for the sake of balance, I would suggest a study of the two brothers of Nadab & Abihu, who also sinned at this time, but who were shown mercy. What was the difference? Why did two of the four sons die, but the other two were spared? The answer will provide tremendous insight into the nature of our heavenly Father. That study -- Eleazar and Ithamar: An In-Depth Reflective Analysis -- may be found at Reflections #270. In each of these accounts one will NOT find any justification for the legalistic, patternistic views held by people like Darrell Broking. Indeed, these accounts refute their teaching, as the reader will very quickly see by studying the above in-depth examinations.
God Said To Sing
Darrell seemed amazed that I would refuse to characterize the use of instrumental accompaniment to singing as SIN. "How presumptuous of Maxey," he exclaims. Actually, it would be presumptuous of me to declare something a sin when God never did. Thus, I issued a challenge to Darrell -- "I challenge Darrell to provide even ONE passage, in either OT or NT writings, that even HINTS at divine disapproval of instrumental accompaniment to singing in a corporate worship setting." Naturally, he couldn't come up with one. What he wrote instead was the following: "When the fallible Maxey infers that God's will for the Levitical priesthood was Divine disapproval of Jesus being a priest on earth, then he will have his passage." This evasion will not be lost for a moment on the perceptive reader. The stark reality is -- Darrell can NOT provide even one passage that even HINTS at God's disapproval ... and he knows it only too well. Darrell's argument, therefore, is that our God specified singing, which, in his view, excludes anything else. Just for the sake of argument, let's assume that Paul is talking about a corporate worship assembly in Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 (which he is NOT, by the way). However, for the purpose of this discussion we'll defer to Darrell's assumption here. Now, let's notice what Paul is really saying in these passages.
Let's notice the latter of these two passages first. "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God" [Col. 3:16]. I don't see any expression of divine disapproval here; not of instrumental accompaniment to singing, or of anything else, for that matter. I see that we are to let the word of Christ richly dwell within us, and I also see that we are to sing with thankfulness in our hearts to God, but that can be done whether Bertha tinkles the ivories in the corner or not. I see that we are to teach and admonish one another wisely, and that one methodology for complying with this instruction is through the use of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Nevertheless, I see absolutely nothing in this passage that even comes close to resembling a prohibitive LAW with respect to instrumental accompaniment. Such a divine decree is not even hinted at in the passage.
In Eph. 5:18-19 the apostle Paul wrote, "Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and psalming (making melody) with your heart to the Lord." Just as the word of Christ is to richly indwell us, so also is His Spirit. Just as we are to sing with thankfulness in our hearts to God, so also are we to "sing and psalm" unto Him with our hearts. In other words, the focus of our God is inward, not on the externals. He is concerned about what takes place in our hearts. "God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" [1 Sam. 16:7]. Thus, one may be a deaf/mute, incapable of uttering any sound, yet still sing like the angels in his heart. One may indeed be playing a woodwind instrument, and at the same time singing with thankfulness in his heart. The singing and psalming mentioned in this passage are entirely internal in nature, and thus need not even be audible. God "hears" differently than man hears. Many will argue that since the singing and psalming are "with the heart," that this excludes instruments. If that is so, then it also excludes the instrument known as the vocal chords. There is nothing in that phrase that suggests any audible expression of this inner praise. Their argument totally misses the point, however. Paul is not attempting to establish a law of exclusion in this statement; he merely seeks to impress upon the minds of his readers that the praise our Lord regards is a praise of the heart. Our Lord lamented the worship of the legalists of His day, for "they honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me" [Matt. 15:8].
That which is to be given audible expression, as clearly proclaimed by these two verses, is the "speaking to one another" and the "teaching and admonishing of one another." Again, one of the methodologies for doing this is through the medium of song. From the very beginning of time, men have used music as a tool to touch the lives of those about them. It is one of the most effective teaching tools available to mankind. The Lord realized this, and encouraged its use. Nothing is said in either passage about whether such speaking, teaching and admonishing in song is accompanied by instruments or not, although when employing "psalms" one will note that many of them were accompanied by instruments, and even speak of such (see Psalm 150, just by way of a singular example). What we can safely say is that neither of these passages have anything whatsoever to say against the use of such instrumental accompaniment. Not one word. Such a prohibitive LAW is not even hinted at in these two passages. There is no evidence of divine disapproval. None! There is not even any legitimate basis for assuming such. We are simply informed that when Christians lift their voices in praise (whether accompanied or not), there are two audiences -- (1) God, who listens to the heart, and (2) our fellow men, who are more audibly stimulated. To appeal to these two passages as "proof" that God disapproves of instruments in our worshipful praise only shows the depth of the biblical and exegetical ignorance of those who make such an appeal.
Darrell wrote, "Maxey does not understand what it means to come to God by faith." My problem, according to Darrell, is that by "faith" Al Maxey "does not mean that regulations to be obeyed lead the obedient to salvation." Well, I'll have to plead guilty to that charge. I do not perceive "saved by grace through faith" to signify that we are led to a state of salvation by compliance with a list of regulatory LAW. That would make salvation the result of our own effort. It is not. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" [Eph. 2:8-9]. Darrell offered Abraham as an example of one whose faith + works resulted in his acceptance by God. However, notice the words of Paul with regard to Abraham: "If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.' Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" [Rom. 4:2-5]. Is justification, salvation and being reckoned as righteous before our God wages due for services rendered and for compliance with regulations? If so, then this is no longer "a gift," and we each have reason for boasting.
Darrell states, "Man's relationship to God is based on faith, which is more than just belief, but an appropriate response based on the pattern, which the doctrine of Maxey denies." Actually, I do not deny this ... IF by the phrase "an appropriate response based on the pattern" Darrell Broking is signifying a demonstration of faith through compliance with those few expectations of our Lord God clearly specified within His inspired Word. I have long taught that a mere profession of faith is not what our God is looking for; He seeks a demonstration of faith as well. This is what James, the brother of our Lord, meant when he spoke of "works" in James 2. He was NOT speaking of human effort to comply with some legal code, but rather of visible demonstration of one's faith --- evidence, rather than effort. Thus, he wrote, "I will SHOW you my faith by my works" [vs. 18]. Some, like Martin Luther, believed James and Paul to be theologically at odds over this. They were not. Even the apostle Paul knew and appreciated the value of evidencing one's faith --- "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" [Eph. 2:10]. Notice that this statement comes immediately after Paul said we are saved by grace through faith, and not of works. There are two different kinds of "works" in view. One speaks of a person seeking to be justified by his own effort, the other merely speaks of the evidentiary aspects of faith.
Yes, Darrell, there are indeed a few expectations of our God contained within these 27 New Covenant revelatory documents. If we profess to have faith in Him, He does indeed expect some evidence of such, and He has specified what that evidence is to be. For example, we know that "many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, lest 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]. It is pretty obvious that our Lord Jesus expected one of the demonstrations of faith to be a willingness to confess Him before men. After all, did not Jesus Himself state, "Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven" [Matt. 10:32-33]?
Darrell declared, "Maxey repeatedly alleges that brethren who are described as patternists are the modern equivalent to the Pharisees of the old dispensation." Actually, that is not quite true. I myself am a patternist in that I believe there is a pattern contained within the Scriptures pertaining to both fellowship and salvation. There is nothing wrong whatsoever with following GOD'S pattern. Those whom I characterize as "modern day Pharisees" are those who tend to set aside God's expectations so as to promote their own. Thus, I'm referring to those whom I term legalistic patternists. Darrell is absolutely right in suggesting that there is nothing amiss in faithfully keeping God's pattern (which I perceive to be infinitely smaller than what Darrell perceives it to be). The problem is when "fallible men" seek to bind as additions to HIS pattern their OWN assumptions. At this point they do indeed begin to resemble the Pharisees of old. Jesus rebuked them, saying, "Why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?" [Matt. 15:3]. "You have invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition" [vs. 6]. "In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men" [vs. 9]. Darrell wrote, "the problem resided in the fact that the Pharisees went beyond the pattern and taught their own doctrine." If by "pattern" Darrell means the commandments of God, then I agree with this statement. And brethren, that is exactly what the legalistic patternists are doing today!! Where God is silent ... they speak. Indeed, they are so bold as to call something SIN that not even God Himself characterized as such. They are masters at adding to the Word of God and making up laws to bind upon the church. Jesus spoke mockingly of these Pharisees in Matt. 23:2, a statement that is captured well in The Living Bible -- "You would think these Jewish leaders and these Pharisees were Moses, the way they keep making up so many laws!" Yes, their kind still exist in the church today.
Broking, a strong supporter of the above Daniel Coe, wrote in his last affirmative, "Maxey will not submit to God's pattern for men today; therefore, Maxey is the equivalent to a modern day Pharisee." Hmmm. According to Daniel Coe, I should be proud of such. Indeed, perhaps Darrell intended this as a compliment, since he never sought to refute Coe's above statement on the "Contending for the Faith" Internet list, even though I challenged the leaders of that group to do so [I would refer you to Reflections #284 for documentation of this]. But, Darrell goes on to say in his last affirmative, "Maxey's doctrine is the binding of a burden as heavy as that of the Pharisees of old, because like those Pharisees, Maxey also shuts 'up the kingdom of heaven against men;' for he will not go in, neither will he suffer 'them that are entering to go in.'" I will have to admit, I don't have a clue what Darrell is talking about here. I certainly have no desire to bind any manmade laws upon my brethren. Indeed, I seek to lift such burdens from their backs. Darrell is the one, in point of fact, who wants to bind every single word of the 27 NT documents as the pattern pertaining to fellowship and salvation, whereas Al Maxey simply seeks to restrict this pattern to the clearly specified commands of our Father, which we know "are not burdensome." Further, I am not trying to shut anyone out of the kingdom, and have spent years and years seeking to get my brethren to accept one another as members of that kingdom, rather than separating from one another over these "fallible man-inferred" legalistic rules and regulations. Thus, in what way I am perceived by Darrell as being "the equivalent to a modern day Pharisee" totally escapes me. Perhaps Darrell will clarify this for us.
The New Covenant
Darrell wrote, "Maxey spoke as an authority on the New Covenant, but never came out and stated what he believes the New Covenant to be, other than to allege that he is certain that the New Testament writings are not the New Covenant." Darrell is correct -- I do not believe the new covenant of our Lord God with those who come to Him through faith in His Son IS every single word of the 27 documents that have come to be known as the "New Testament." Even Darrell said, "The twenty-seven books of the New Testament are the disclosure documents of that specific testament." Well, which is it, Darrell? Are they the testament itself, or are they merely the "disclosure documents of that specific testament"? This statement seems contradictory with his allegation that the writings themselves ARE that new testament. No, I utterly reject the notion that the 27 books constitute the new covenant itself. They do indeed serve as "disclosure documents," in that they reveal the nature of this new covenant and its provisions, but that is as far as they go.
The word "covenant" is generally a legal term, when used of business and legal contracts, binding agreements, and the like, however with respect to human/divine interaction it tends to be regarded by most scholars as more relational than regulatory. Both before Christ and after, the relationship between deity and humanity has been characterized in terms of a covenant of marriage. God entered into a covenant with the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai. He became the "husband," and they became the "bride." A similar relationship now exists between Jesus and the church. When one looks at the idea of "covenant" in light of a marriage, for example, few would declare that the marriage license IS the covenant of marriage. The rings are not the covenant. Even instruction manuals providing guidance for marriage are not the covenant itself. They may be documents and symbols and signs of this covenant, but the covenant itself is really a deep, abiding relationship in which two become one, sealing that relationship with vows that commit each one to the other. Yes, both parties to such a covenantal relationship will have expectations of the other party. Those expectations may even be vocalized within the vows (or even written down in some legal agreement). However, neither the vows nor the documents constitute the covenant itself. That reality is truly in the relationship.
We today are in covenant relationship with the Father through the Son. God has made certain promises to us, and we have vowed to live by His expectations. We are sealed in this covenant with the Holy Spirit. That covenant is ratified by the shed blood of His Son. This covenant is discussed, and practical aspects of it are depicted, within the new covenant documents. But none of these ARE the covenant. That consists of the intimate relationship we now have based on vows and promises. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible states, "When referring to this heavenly covenant and its operational dynamic Paul's word of choice is not diatheke but epangelia ('promise'). Paul, like the Lord Jesus, thus expresses the idea that 'covenant' draws one into a living relationship of direct accountability to a partner, not conformity to religious traditions, institutions, and personnel who claim to mediate that relationship" [p. 290]. I checked several definitions of this term in various religious and secular sources, and the most common characterization of "covenant," when that pertained to God and man, was: "An agreement between God and His people in which God makes certain promises and requires certain behavior from them in return." At Mt. Sinai, God made promises to the people, and He also told them what He expected of them in return. They, in turn, made vows unto Him. Thus, a covenant was entered into. Yes, the books of law defined those divine expectations. The books of history documented the progress of this relationship (both positively and negatively). The books of prophecy foretold of consequences when the relationship was placed in jeopardy, and also of a day when a new covenant would be enacted. The books of poetry spoke of the beauty and blessings of this relationship. But, the 39 books themselves did NOT constitute that covenant. The same is true of the 27 books known collectively as the New Covenant writings.
The apostle Paul spoke of being a "servant of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit" [2 Cor. 3:6]. Life is never found in a written code, but in the Holy Spirit who indwells and empowers us. The only passage in the OT writings that speaks of this new covenant emphasizes this very point. "'Behold, days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah ... I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people" [Jer. 31:31, 33]. "This at once shows the spirituality of the new covenant. Its requirements are not simply given in the form of external rules, but rather the living Spirit possesses the heart; the law becomes an internal dominating principle, and so true obedience is secured" [The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 1, p. 796]. "But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code, but in the new life of the Spirit" [Rom. 7:6]. Then again, in contrasting the old and new, Paul wrote, "But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter" [Rom. 2:29]. Sadly, it appears Darrell is determined to return to the "letter of the law," rather than being led by the Life-giving Spirit of God. The principles and precepts of our new relationship with the Lord are written in the heart, not on tablets of stone. And when Jesus, at the last Passover celebration with His apostles, said, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood" [Luke 22:20; cf. 1 Cor. 11:25], I think He had far more in mind than the precise wording of 27 as yet unwritten documents. He was looking to the ratification of a newly restored relationship between fallen humanity and a holy God, the true essence of the new covenant. No, Darrell Broking's view is, in a word, fallacious. By the way, Darrell asked, "Is the name assigned to the collections of books from Matthew through Revelation a misnomer?" Yes, I believe it is. Which is why I generally try to take special care to characterize them as the New Covenant or New Testament writings or documents. They are not the new covenant itself.
Salvation: In Christ or In the Church?
"The more I read from Maxey's pen the more I wonder why he would even attempt to affiliate himself with the churches of Christ." Well, for the simple reason that this is my personal faith-heritage. My parents are members of this group, as were both sets of my grandparents. My wife's parents were also members of this group. My dad is, and my wife's dad was (prior to his death), an elder in this group. My maternal grandmother, Mae Zook, was a writer of ladies' materials and tracts (she passed away in 1968). Brother G. C. Brewer, one of the noted leaders within the Stone-Campbell Movement, was my cousin, although I never met him (he died when I was just a child). I have a deep love for these people, just as the apostle Paul did for the Jews [Rom. 10:1f], and thus desire to help them perceive the way of the Lord more perfectly. Yes, I could leave this association (which would undoubtedly thrill some people to no end), but I have chosen instead to remain within them and seek for responsible reform. Over the decades, I have become fairly well-known in this group, and I have some degree of credibility with a great many of them. Thus, I feel I can be far more effective by working within this movement, than by abandoning it. So, in other words, Darrell ... you're stuck with me!! If you would like to read a more in-depth accounting of my reasoning on this, I would refer you to one of my early articles: Reflections #20: "Why Do You Stay?" -- Rationale for Continued Association. By the way, for the sake of clarification, I am a member of the universal One Body of Christ Jesus, which includes ALL who are united with Him, regardless of religious affiliation or association. Although my association is with the group known as the "Church of Christ," I do NOT equate this group with that universal One Body.
Darrell wrote, "Unbeknown to Maxey, Jesus and His church cannot be separated." Well, yes and no. My wife, Shelly, and I are one (she is my "wife by covenant" -- Malachi 2:14), and yet we're quite distinct. Paul said that a husband and his wife "shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church" [Eph. 5:31-32]. Yes, my wife and I are one, and yet we are clearly two distinct individuals who are blessed to be united by covenant. Jesus and the church are one, and yet He and we are distinct entities who are blessed to be united by covenant. If you do something against my wife, Shelly, you have attacked me as well. What you do to her, in a very real sense you do unto me. Thus, as Darrell mentioned, when Paul was persecuting the church (the bride of Christ), Jesus said to him (on the road to Damascus), "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?!" [Acts 9:4]. Matthew 25 also applies here: "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me" [vs. 40, cf. vs. 45].
Darrell Broking believes that "salvation is in the church of Christ and not outside of the church of Christ." Indeed, he also stated, "No accountable person living this side of the cross can be saved outside of the church of Christ! Al, this truth is not going to fade away because of your perceptive theology." Frankly, I'm curious as to what Darrell means when he speaks of the "church of Christ." Is he referring to that universal One Body of believers which is made up of ALL of those who are united with Christ Jesus in a saving relationship? If so, then I would agree that everyone who is united with Jesus is also numbered among those who are saved, and they thus constitute His Body of called out ones. However, I suspect that Darrell, although he might give intellectual assent to the above, would limit this number of redeemed ones to those who actually assemble in buildings with a sign out front that reads "Church of Christ." My suspicion is that he would further limit this Body of redeemed ones to those who parrot his own party patterns and sectarian shibboleths. If I am wrong in this assessment, I would be overjoyed to have him set me straight on this misperception.
Nevertheless, I stand firmly behind my conviction that salvation is in Christ, not the church of Christ. Yes, the saved are numbered together into that one universal body of believers, but their actual salvation is NOT to be found in the fact of their association with that group, but rather is to be found in their union with Christ Jesus. Some might suggest this is "splitting hairs," but I regard it to be a vital distinction. Too frequently I see people trying to get someone into "my church" so they can be saved, rather than trying to get them into JESUS. Brethren, we need to be working to unite people with the Lord, and then let Him add these believers to His universal One Body. And dear brothers and sisters, please listen up -- when He does so, they may not choose to affiliate themselves with your particular little group, but that does not mean these people are not united with the Lord. Again, this was a lesson some of the apostles had to learn the hard way [Mark 9:38-40; Luke 9:49-50]. I would urge Darrell, and the readers as well, to please take a few minutes to read my study of this issue in Reflections #9 -- Added to the Lord. I believe, after examining several key Scriptures listed therein, one will have a better perception of the biblical truth that salvation is to be found in being "added to the Lord," who then numbers the saved together with one another in the One Body.
Gospel vs. Doctrine
Darrell asked, "Al, are the gospel of Christ and the commandments of Christ one and the same body of teaching, or do you believe that gospel is for the world and doctrine is for the church?" He then wonders -- "Will Al answer the question before him?" Well, Al Maxey has provided an in-depth examination of this very issue in Reflections #117 --- The Gospel-Doctrine Debate: Are they the Same or Separate? --- if Darrell Broking would care to examine it. But, to give him the short answer: No, I do not believe that these two are the same, but I do believe there are areas of obvious overlapping. Frankly, I am convinced there is a deeper concern hiding beneath the surface of such a question. Let me share with you the next to last paragraph of the above study:
There is so much more misinformation and confused exegesis in Darrell's second affirmative that could be addressed here, but let me simply close with the following brief thoughts. Darrell's assertion in this exchange, in spite of all the rabbit's we have chased through the woods, is that every single word of the 27 books of the NT canon is believed by him to constitute a pattern pertaining to both fellowship and salvation. In case the reader has forgotten it, here again is the very first proposition of this debate which Darrell Broking has affirmed: "The New Covenant writings ARE the divine pattern which must be followed for both fellowship and salvation." Please take note of Darrell's response to my following T/F statement -- "Every single word of the original 27 New Covenant documents is part of the divine pattern that must be followed if one would enjoy fellowship and/or receive salvation. True or False? True." Darrell has further declared that the NT (these 27 books) "is the revelation of God's will for man, every word of it!! Now Maxey, you are obligated by your denial of this timeless, absolute truth, to please tell us what part or parts of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament writings are not Jesus' Words. We long for your answer."
Well, since Darrell is apparently not interested in the salvific pattern of running about naked under linen sheets, let me give another. Paul wrote, "See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand" [Gal. 6:11]. In 2 Thess. 3:17 he wrote, "I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write." Perhaps Darrell will inform us all as to just how these words are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. Further, we will await his enlightened exegesis detailing how these statements are part of the pattern pertaining to both fellowship and salvation of disciples in the Lord's church today. Darrell, to borrow your own phrase: "We long for your answer."
One last comment -- Darrell provided the following quote of mine: "His legitimate need superceded [sic] the law." The insertion of (sic) was meant to suggest that I had not correctly spelled the previous word. Darrell, of course, prefers the spelling "superseded," which many do indeed feel to be the more correct spelling. This is a case, however, where both spellings have come to be regarded by many linguists as correct. According to one language scholar, "the 'c' spelling began to be used in Middle French and then appeared in English as early as the 1400s." One will discover a good many such variants between the British and American spellings of words, for example. "Saviour" and "Savior" are a couple of the more familiar ones. Thus, although my variant may not be his personal choice, nevertheless both are considered acceptable. It reminds one somewhat of the fact that we don't have to be twins to be brothers, we just have to have the same Father!! It is okay to be different. We don't all have to look alike, think alike, talk alike, dress alike ... we don't even have to spell alike!! In fact, there are clearly times when individuals can do things entirely differently, and both be right. Ahhhh, the beauty of God's GRACE.
Questions for Darrell