December 1, 2002
I would like to welcome you to this first issue of a new email outreach devoted to effecting responsible reformation among the people of God who are scattered throughout the many sects and factions of Christendom. It is my firm conviction that it is past time for the disciples of Jesus to lay aside their weapons of warfare, and their inflammatory rhetoric, and to begin coming together as FAMILY in sweet fellowship.
The reflections that will be presented in these periodic mailings will seek to touch the hearts and minds of my extended family in Christ and to instill within each of you a greater desire for oneness and harmony. The dismemberment of the Body of Christ must cease, and we must begin the patient process of healing which can only come through a greater awareness of His grace and daily demonstrations of love one for another.
I urge you to join with me in this endeavor as we work together for a unified Body. Tell your friends and loved ones about this effort. Forward these reflections on to as many as you feel would benefit from being challenged to begin working and praying for responsible reformation. My prayer is that this periodical can reach throughout the earth for the purpose of promoting peace among the redeemed.
Let me hear from you. Encourage others to subscribe. Let's cease cursing the darkness and begin holding high the LIGHT for all to see.
Recently a noted brother in the One Body asked me a series of rather pointed questions pertaining to our "Restoration Movement." They were occasioned by his recent reading of my article Theology Ex Nihilo.
Below I will share with you my response to his respectful request. I pray it will prove challenging and enlightening to each of you who take the time to reflect upon it.
This brother stated:
Thanks for the kind words, brother. After reading your post, however, I had a severe flashback to grad school, and the specter of my final written & oral exams (a two day affair) loomed before me!! You posed some very thoughtful questions that would take volumes to adequately address. Obviously, I can't give them that degree of attention, so I hope you will settle for a few reflections far more shallow than your inquiries deserve. Perhaps others will contribute as well and provide additional insights.
This brother asked:
I'm not sure we can even truly characterize ourselves as a cohesive "movement" any longer. We have fragmented into so many warring factions that the only "movement" which adequately depicts the "Church of Christ" church is movement away from one another. What some feel began as a movement toward unification of brethren IN CHRIST, has tragically deteriorated into one of the most divisive and divided religious bodies in history.
Partly to blame for this drift from a noble goal of Christian unity is a woeful misunderstanding and misapplication of the CENI hermeneutic. Instead of serving as an interpretative tool, it has become a weapon in the hands of those determined to force their assumptions and deductions upon their brethren. The fallible inferences of mere men have been elevated to the status of divine declarations of law, the slightest deviation from which elicits the harshest of responses. It has become a recipe not for restoration or reform, but for rigidity and religious exclusivism & isolationism.
Yes, our "movement" has fallen prey to factional thinking. With each new perception as to what constitutes the "true pattern," a new "rallying point" is established .... and an already divided movement divides yet again. Have these factions formed over a declaration & defense of clearly revealed doctrines of God? No! They are the result of "theology ex nihilo!" Our divisions have not been over what God HAS declared in His Word ..... they have been over what He has declared nothing whatsoever about in His Word. In the wake of divine silence has come the deafening roar of human opinion (matters inferred, deduced and assumed), and when human opinions are made the rallying point of a "unity movement," division is never far behind.
This brother asked:
I would not say we had completely failed. Although my above comments focus primarily on the problems which have plagued us as a movement, some good has been accomplished. Brethren ARE beginning to reconsider the original intent of these early reformers. What we have become is certainly not what they envisioned. There is a growing desire among some within this movement to recapture that early vision of a spiritual fellowship of believers IN HIM. Barriers dividing brethren are being chipped away at (much as the Berlin Wall was taken down .... piece by piece); the light of freedom in Christ is increasingly shining through; there is a growing thirst to abandon our factional thinking, and to embrace our extended family.
Our movement lost sight of the noble goal of its leaders, and we drifted. However, I see that goal being reestablished here and there in grace-centered, Christ-focused bands of disciples. These fearless freedom fighters are proclaiming liberation, and they are helping the oppressed to slip through the cracks in the barriers .... one slave at a time!
As a movement, my grade would be low. But within the movement, fractured as it is, there shines forth a growing number of "A" students who may yet steer us back on course .... with God's help!
This brother asked:
Again, our movement is so fragmented that I'm not sure any one particular course of action could adequately correct the situation. As surely as one faction within this movement embraced such a singular course of action, other factions would reject it out of hand (simply because their "enemies" had favored it). The solution is to change hearts .... one disciple at a time!! You and I must resolve within our innermost being to devote the remainder of our lives to boldly proclaiming UNITY IN HIM, and to decrying the false theology that oneness lies in a forced UNIFORMITY to selected doctrines and practices. We must elevate Truth above Tradition; a PERSON above a PATTERN.
We must resolve to reclaim one precious soul at a time until the momentum begins to turn the movement back to the path leading to One Body united IN HIM.
This brother asked:
In response to your second question, the answer is: NO!!
As to the "great principles of truth," I would simply echo what I believe one can find throughout the sacred writings. We must learn to LOVE one another with all of our being. We must learn the meaning and significance of GRACE .... and then apply it. We must become a redemptive fellowship of believers, intent upon HEALING those who are Down, But Not Out (how's that for a shameless plug for my book?!!). We must cease shooting our wounded in the head, and begin lifting up the fallen and encouraging the faint of heart. We must become more ACCEPTING of those who differ with us; less judgmental; less condemning.
Frankly, it is not necessarily WHAT one knows that will prove redemptive in the final reckoning, but WHO one knows!! We are not saved by degrees of correctness to some elusive pattern of doctrine or practice, but by grace through faith.
We face a long, difficult journey. Focused on Christ Jesus, let us step out boldly in faith and begin that journey. Don't wait for another .... dare to take the lead!!!
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