by Al Maxey

Issue #127 ------- May 26, 2004
Wherever God has built a church,
there the Devil will build a chapel.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)
"Table Talk"

The Mark of the Beast
An Investigation into Identification

I think we would all agree, without the least hesitation, that there are some things difficult to understand in the book of Revelation. It presents to our wondering view a seemingly endless parade of symbols and figures, the meaning and significance of which scholars have pondered and debated for centuries. Some of these have grabbed the attention of the public, thus giving rise to much speculation and countless wild theories as to current application. Movies and books have been produced in an effort to fan the flames of our imaginations. Perhaps the "Mark of the Beast" is the one apocalyptic item that has generated the greatest amount of secular, as well as religious, interest.

A reader of these Reflections from the great state of Alabama recently wrote the following: "I have seen you give thoughtful consideration to the issues upon which you write. I'd like to propose a topic for you to consider: The Mark of the Beast. This morning I received an email from a relative, and attached to the message was a PowerPoint presentation warning that a chip produced by Motorola for use in 'smart cards,' and to be embedded in the human body, is the 'Mark of the Beast' of Revelation 13. The creator of this presentation claims the optimal insertion points for the chip are the head and right hand. Would you consider doing an article in a future Reflections on this issue?"

There are several high-tech corporations seeking to develop a prototype of an implantable biometric chip for an assortment of medical, economic and security purposes. Applied Digital Solutions has even received patent rights to an innovative design which features a miniature digital transceiver that allows the person implanted to be continuously tracked by GPS technology. In time, if implemented widely enough, it is hoped this could be useful in tracking terrorists, locating lost or missing persons, the tracking of valuable property, following the migration of animals, and countless other uses limited only by the imagination. Some have seen the danger of a "Big Brother" society in the future where all will be required to have such a chip implanted if they hope to do business (much like the mandatory social security number in this nation). They have regarded such as fulfillment of the passage in Revelation warning of the "Mark of the Beast."

There have been countless theories as to what this passage means, and what this perplexing "mark" might be. Many years ago it was suggested that forcing social security numbers upon people was the mysterious mark of this beast. The "bar codes" which appear on most everything these days has also been suggested. The "666" has also generated tremendous speculation. It is said to be the number "of a man" .... Who is this man? Hundreds of names have been put forward throughout the years, with some ingenious mathematical manipulations occurring to show that John Kennedy, Adolph Hitler, Nero, Martin Luther King, or countless others are the long-awaited, dreaded "anti-Christ." Although most rational, reflective persons realize this is all simply food for fools, nevertheless there has been a feeding frenzy among the unperceptive masses. The result is a confused and concerned populace -- easy pickings for religious predators unscrupulous enough to "make a buck" off the ignorance of those about them.

Is there a rational solution to be found? Is Revelation so mysterious and complex that mankind is forever doomed to wonder at its meaning? Is it even possible for us to perceive the purpose and significance of this "mark," and to know the identity of 666? Although many fear exploring the pages of this highly figurative work, nevertheless insight is available to those willing to invest the time and effort to plumb its depths. In this current issue of Reflections we shall seek to shed some light on an admittedly dark subject.

Examining the Biblical Evidence

The "great red dragon" (Revelation 12:3), who is "the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world" (vs. 9), does not work alone as he endeavors to make life a living hell for the saints. In chapter 13 we are introduced to a couple of his key helpers upon whom he relies heavily. To fully understand the "mark" later discussed in this chapter, as well as the significance of "666," we need to become familiar with the identity of these hellish henchmen.

THE BEAST FROM THE SEA -- Rev. 13:1-10 -- The sea, from which this first beast arises, symbolizes various world societies and nations, characterized by their stormy upheavals throughout history (Hitler and Nazism, for example, arose from the restless sea of German discontent in the early 1930's). "The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues" (Revelation 17:15). "Who dost still the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the tumult of the peoples" (Psalm 65:7). "Alas, the uproar of many peoples who roar like the roaring of the seas, and the rumbling of nations who rush on like the rushing of mighty waters!" (Isaiah 17:12). "But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud" (Isaiah 57:20). See also: Jeremiah 51:42, 55; Ezekiel 26:3; and many other similar passages.

The beast which arises from out of the sea represents the evil and worldly powers which arise from out of the turmoil and upheaval of human society. Under the umbrella of this representation would fall such entities as governments, political movements, economic institutions, and the like. In short, any entity which exercises power and authority over those about it. These are the power structures of the world which arise from society; agencies which have compromised themselves with the forces of evil for personal advancement and power (see: Ephesians 6:11-12). Jesus would have us to know that there is a cosmic evil underlying those godless powers governing our daily affairs (when, indeed, those powers are given over to evil, rather than to good). In other words, it was not just the Roman Empire the first century disciples struggled against, it was the "great red dragon" which stood behind and empowered the Roman beast.

There is a seven-fold description of this first beast (Revelation 13:1-2). It has ten horns, seven heads, upon its horns ten diadems, upon its head a blasphemous name; it looked like a leopard, had feet like unto a bear, and a mouth like the mouth of a lion. A very strange looking beast. Although much time could be spent examining each of these figures, and their meaning, nevertheless they are incidental to the identity of the beast (which is the real issue of concern). We are assisted in that endeavor by an appeal to Daniel 7:1-7 in which we find a very similar vision. Daniel saw four beasts, whereas in the vision seen by John they are combined into one beast. The four beasts of Daniel were: The Babylonian empire, the Medo-Persian empire, the Macedonian empire, and the Roman empire. At the time of the vision of John, however, three of these kingdoms were past, thus he saw only a single beast (with the combined features of the four seen in Daniel), which was the evil Roman empire. The key point to note, however, is that it was under the dominion of the dragon (Revelation 13:2, 4).

One of the purposes of these worldly powers, when under the influence of Satan, is to speak out against God and His eternal purposes (Revelation 13:5-6). The powers of this world never miss a chance to undermine the Lord or His kingdom. This is done daily in countless subtle ways. The ACLU is a perfect example of just such an agency that has arisen from out of our society, and which serves the dragon. The influence of this beast will be felt for "forty-two months" (which represents the time from our Lord's ascension until His Parousia). These forces will wage war with the saints of God throughout this period of time (Revelation 13:7f), and they will win many battles in the lives of mankind. See: Daniel 7:21-27 for a close parallel. This beast's ultimate destruction is assured; the world powers serving Satan will be overthrown at the arrival of our Lord in glory. "And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone" (Revelation 19:20). That which is cast into this lake of fire is utterly, and forever, destroyed. Thus, the world forces arrayed against God and His people will never be found again in the new heavens and earth. They will be gone forever; no longer in existence. "But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:13).

THE BEAST FROM THE EARTH -- Rev. 13:11-18 -- The great red dragon's second agent, which he uses to carry out his evil schemes, is a beast said to arise from out of the earth. The fact that it arises from the earth indicates it has drunk deeply from the river poured out of the mouth of the dragon (Revelation 12:16), which is a river of lies and deception. This second beast represents falsehood and anti-Christian teaching. It is referred to elsewhere in this book as "The False Prophet" (Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). The purpose of this beast is to deceive mankind spiritually, preventing them from discerning Truth. It promotes a wisdom not from above, but a "wisdom" (falsely so-called) which is "earthly, unspiritual, demonic" (James 3:15). Paul depicts the "enemies of the cross" as those "who set their minds on earthly things" (Philippians 3:19).

This second beast is described as looking like a lamb, but speaking as a dragon (Revelation 13:11). It appears to mankind as innocent, attractive and harmless ... a gentle, little lamb. When it speaks, however, it reveals the evil that lies within ... it's character and heart are of the great, red dragon! It is a wolf disguised as a sheep; lies masquerading as truth. Satan is a master of deception, and so are his servants. "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15). "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24). "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Wherever Truth is proclaimed, one will find falsehood not far away. As Martin Luther once stated (see the quote at the top of this issue of Reflections), "Wherever God has built a church, there the Devil will build a chapel" .... and frequently it is difficult for disciples to distinguish between the two! Spiritual perception is required. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). John goes on to declare in this same passage that the anti-Christ "is already in the world" (vs. 3). Thus, we must be alert to the schemes of the dragon through this second beast.

In Revelation 13:12 we discover that this second beast operates under the authority of the first beast (godless governments and power structures and agencies), which in turn operates under the authority of the dragon. A type of "chain of command." False religion and teaching always seem to go hand-in-hand with evil earthly powers, and the two will often support one another. This was especially true in the first century (when Revelation was written), as can be seen in the emperor worship of the Roman empire. In the evil empire, and its false worship, each of which supported the other, and each of which was swayed by Satan, we see a perfect example of the two beasts of Revelation 13 at work.

As forewarned by Jesus, this "False Prophet" has the ability to perform great signs and wonders (miracles) in order to deceive mankind, and to make it appear that its false message is really Truth (Revelation 13:13; Matthew 24:24). Paul describes the coming of the "lawless one" as "the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved" (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10; see also: 2 Timothy 3:13). Those who are deceived by these miraculous workings will follow the beast (the false religions), and in so doing will share its eternal fate! "And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone" (Revelation 19:20). "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also" (Revelation 20:10). "And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:14-15). A horrible end awaits "those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name" (Revelation 14:11).

Again, with regard to making an image of the first beast (Revelation 13:14-15) we see the falsehood, specifically, of emperor worship, in which many had deified the emperor, created images of him, and were insisting he be worshipped as a god. Great persecution arose against those who refused. There is a clear reference here to Daniel 3:1-7. Such horrors have been repeated numerous times throughout history! False religions often work as the mouthpieces of godless governing authorities. Those who refused to give homage to the first beast (who refused to burn incense to the emperor and declare "Caesar is Lord") were killed, just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace. The two beasts of the dragon work closely together.

THE MARK OF THE BEAST -- Rev. 13:16-17 -- The last three verses of this thirteenth chapter are perhaps the ones which have caused the most confusion among biblical interpreters, and there are about as many theories regarding their meaning as there are people willing to provide them! If one keeps in mind the type of literature one is dealing with, however, the explanation is not all that difficult to discern. These are symbols and figures, and are NOT to be taken literally. On the other hand, they do represent objective truths. Our present goal is to discern those truths .... our key to doing so will be the Bible itself (our best interpretative tool).

These verses (vs. 16-17) inform us that all people the world over who are servants of the beast, and thus who are servants of Satan, regardless of their various positions or status in life, are marked people. It is only natural to find that the followers of Satan are "marked," for, after all, the followers of Jesus Christ are also said to be "marked" on their foreheads. Notice the following passages: "He who overcomes, I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name" (Revelation 3:12). "And I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him 144,000, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads" (Revelation 14:1). "And they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads" (Revelation 22:4). This name is their SEAL -- the seal of ownership. The Christian is set apart and belongs to God and Christ. This, of course, is not a literal, visible mark on the forehead, but rather a symbol of the fact that we are His followers and have His nature impressed upon our very being!

The "mark" that identifies whether a person is a servant of Christ or of Satan is the fruit produced in their lives. "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15). And how will we recognize these false ones? What "mark" must we look for? "You will know them by their fruits!" (vs. 16). The "marks" of both the children of God and the children of the devil are enumerated for us quite clearly in Galatians 5:16-24. Study the two lists well; one will then be well-equipped to spot the "mark" of Christ Jesus (the fruit of the Spirit), as well as the "mark of the beast" (the works of the flesh). In the focus of a person's thoughts and desires (the forehead), as well as in the focus of their many actions and works (the right hand), one's spirit (either Christian or anti-Christian) will be visibly evident.

THE NUMBER 666 -- Rev. 13:17-18 -- As previously noted, there are countless theories, some quite imaginative, as to the meaning of this number. Much use has been made over the years of Gematria, which is the assigning of certain numbers to certain letters of the alphabet, then totaling the numbers of the letters chosen. Thousands of people and organizations have been "marked" in this manner. Some have reduced "Nero Caesar," for example, to its Hebrew consonant equivalent "Nron Ksr" and applied numbers to each consonant, thus arriving at 666. Therefore, Nero is said to be the specific man in view in this number. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 125-202 A.D.), one of the early church "fathers," took the Greek word Lateinos and applied a number value to each letter and arrived at 666. Thus, he reasoned, the number referred to the Latin church. Adding fuel to this fire in much later years is the Latin phrase "vicarius filii dei" ("in place of the Son of God"), which is on the Pope's crown. It too can be made to equal 666. If the letters of the English alphabet have the following value: a=100, b=101, c=102, etc., then the name HITLER totals 666. On and on and on one could go with such manipulations.

Actually, the whole exercise is futile, for verse 18 tells us what the number 666 represents -- "For the number is that of MAN." Many translations place an indefinite article before the word "man," thus rendering the phrase "a man." However, in the Greek language there is NO indefinite article, therefore both "man" and "a man" are equally possible translations of the passage. It seems far more likely to me, and many scholars agree (such as Caird, Hendriksen, Milligan, Summers, Swete, and especially Lenski), that the Lord did not have a specific historical person in view here, but simply indicated the "number of MAN" -- it was/is the number of humanity, of mankind!

The ancient peoples of the Middle East placed great significance upon the symbolic meaning of various numbers. The number six, for many, aroused feelings of dread in their hearts (much like the number thirteen does for some today). To these people, the number six was an evil number, one filled with a foreboding of doom, for it always fell short of the sacred number seven. When this number is formed into an evil trinity -- 666 -- there was simply no greater representation of complete evil and doom. It is appropriate that the passage in Revelation says this number is the number of MAN, or a human number, for man, no matter how hard he may try, will always fall short of godly perfection! Just as seven is a number often used to represent absolute completeness and perfection, so six is the number of that which always comes short. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). "For the number is that of MAN" (Revelation 13:18). Just as six always comes short of the perfection of seven, so also does MAN always come short of the perfection of GOD. It is our condition. "666" is failure after failure after failure; it is "missing the mark" time and time and time again. This is not only the fate of mankind, but also the fate of the forces of evil. They too fall short, repeatedly missing the mark of godliness.

Concluding Thoughts

I apologize to the readers for the incompleteness and extreme brevity of this study. There is so much more that could be presented under each of the categories addressed above. Due to size constraints, however, I have sought to be selective in the material presented. Normally, when teaching this material in a congregational setting, or in small group or home studies (all of which I have done in years past), I will take much more time to develop the biblical and extra-biblical evidence more fully. One could spend much time very profitably examining the many symbols associated with the two beasts, for example, or studying in greater depth some of the historical background material presented in Daniel and other sources. I have only touched on those areas in this study, and will leave the readers to do further research on their own. Hopefully, I have stimulated sufficient interest to motivate greater research and reflection in these many peripheral areas.

Revelation is a complex and challenging book in many ways, but it is not beyond comprehension if one has a basic understanding and appreciation for the Old Covenant Scriptures. Although there is no direct quote of the OT writings, there are nevertheless over 400 allusions back to that inspired material in the book of Revelation. Thus, familiarity with those pre-Christian era writings is critical to a proper interpretation of this New Covenant apocalyptic literature. I have hinted at this in the above study, but have obviously not developed the concept fully in the context of this present article. I leave that to the reader.

The revelation of Christ to John, and from him to the disciples of that time and beyond, is a message of hope in the face of an ever-increasing global evil. It is a message of victory, when all seems lost; the hope of a new day, in the darkest hour of the night. Satan is a powerful foe, and his evil assistants (oppressive governments and agencies and false religions, and the human servants of each) are devoted to serving their master tirelessly. There is great power arrayed against us, but we are already "more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:37).

Satan, the great red dragon, and his evil associates (the two beasts) are to be cast into the lake of fire when our Lord Jesus comes in judgment. There they will be utterly annihilated, as will death and the grave (Revelation 20:14), as will all who have received the "mark of the beast" (the unredeemed of the earth of all eras). The lake of fire, the second death, will bring to an everlasting END all those who and all that which was arrayed against the Lord God and His Son Jesus Christ. When that ultimate and final destruction in the lake of fire is complete, there will exist ONLY righteousness and purity in the new heavens and earth (2 Peter 3:13). Just as the final book in the NT canon ends with this view of the destruction of evil and its adherents, and the preservation of righteousness and the redeemed of God, so does the last book of the OT canon end the same way. May we take comfort from this blessed assurance:

Reflections from Readers

From a Minister/Elder in California:

You are a brave soul. I don't know how you keep on going. It seems that everybody has you in their crosshairs. But keep reforming!!

From a PhD in Mississippi:

Another outstanding issue of Reflections! You might remember a couple of years ago in an email Bible discussion group, I offered my suggestion to another participant's demand for a viable alternative to CENI. I suggested the following: 1) What does the text actually say? 2) What does it mean? 3) Is there an application to me/us? Now, I grant you, that is a "bare-bones" hermeneutic, but it's actually very workable. Some might see a great similarity to what is currently called the "Inductive" method, and I would agree with that assessment. The great emphasis is on paying attention to what the text of scripture actually says. I continue to be amazed at how often people make "ex cathedra" declarations, only to ignore the fact that the text simply doesn't say what they argue it says. In my opinion, the most dangerous thing one can do with scripture is insist that one's perceived "inferences" are the only ones ... or "necessary." Sometimes they might be, but it's not always the case. My two cents, Al. Thanks again for requiring us to think.

From a Reader in Alabama:

Brother Al, As a follow up to another reader's request that Reflections #122 be published in the Athens, Alabama newspaper, I would like to see Reflections #126 published also. Most people in this town have never been exposed to any alternative to CENILE (LE = law of exclusion). Who knows, maybe honest seekers in Athens may accept this reasonable approach. Thank you for the encouraging writing. It helps me survive the closed-mindedness of Athens.

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, Law is tough. A sister-in-Christ related to me the other day that she knew of a situation in which a deaf man was not allowed to be baptized because he could not "HEAR" the Gospel. You can add that example to your "Just how Far will the Law-keepers Go to Enforce their Laws" list.

From a Reader in Louisiana:

I have never really understood why instrumental music is an issue in the Church of Christ, but it has been ever since I was a kid. The logic eluded me as a child ... so, of course, as an adult it continues to do so. I'm thankful for your way of looking at things. I have not done a great deal of research on hermeneutics, but it appears that it would be a subject worth the time to look at (and I would, except that I am working on a Master's Degree just now). I appreciated the four categories you gave in your suggested hermeneutic. I seem to do well with a structure. It was nice to see Reflections today. I am about to enter a break, and actually had time to read the whole thing!

From an Elder in Texas:

I appreciate your work, Al ... especially on Conditional Immortality. I attend a predominantly Non-Institutional church, but, as one of the elders, I am trying to unteach some things .... such as CENI, false concepts on hell, etc. Some other NI churches are suspicious of us, so I must be making some headway! By the way, I would love to see more from good minds like yours on what heaven will be like. I would also like to see you address the issue of moderate consumption of alcohol, as well.

From a Minister in Georgia:

I just finished reading your Reflections #126. I thought you did a good job with it. I admire your courage for going on record, again, about the instrumental music issue. I agree with your thoughts 100%. I especially liked your views about principle as opposed to law. I am convinced every law is based on some principle, but, invariably, the law is not as comprehensive as the principle. Also, invariably, we can always come up with a scenario in which the law seems inapplicable or even ill-conceived, whereas there are no exceptions to the foundational principle upon which the law is based. Jesus, I believe, established the principle of using principle in Matthew 22:37-40. In this passage, I believe Jesus is essentially telling us to do whatever we can to enhance our own and our fellow man's relationship to God. Hence, consistent with your own Biblical - Non-Biblical - Anti-Biblical - Beneficial hermeneutic, if some effort enhances a person's relationship to God, then do it. Contrarily, if some effort erodes a person's relationship to God, then don't do it.

Also, in application of the principle concept, I believe, in some circumstances, a Christian can do something that Christians normally would view as wrong. David did that when he fed his men the shew bread. Again, I admire your courage with the ideas you include in your Reflections. I am convinced that you do much good. God bless you.

From a Minister/Elder in New Jersey:

Well, you've done it again -- another excellent article (Suggesting Another Hermeneutic). The gospel writers, along with Paul, James, et. al., seem to be trying to announce to the Jews and all mankind that God is trying to restore a relationship with ALL His creation. The new covenant is now, as each of the past covenants has been, based on God's grace and man's living in obedience -- not to receive, but because of the blessings of deliverance, protection and provision from God. In each and every generation since Adam, God has reached with outstretched arms to man. Man has rejected, and continues to reject, His offer. By setting one section of inspired writings against another, by making the gospel of Jesus a replacement of, or in contrast to, the gospel of Moses, some have missed the whole story of God's patient, loving entreaty to bring man back into the loving relation that existed for a brief time in the beginning. Yes, I believe in Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, God Incarnate ... but not as "plan B." Rather, as the beautiful culmination, the explosion into bloom, the greatest demonstration of God's love; His final reach to man to come home.

From a Minister in Mississippi:

Al, I am thoroughly enjoying your Reflections, and have passed your articles along to several others. I am from a hotbed of decidedly closed-minded CofC'ers, where I do what I can to revive people to a recognition of Truth within a very conservative congregation. I was a bit taken aback by your recent Suggesting Another Hermeneutic, however. Perhaps I missed the thrust, but I don't think you've offered another hermeneutic at all; just a restatement of the same one. The difference between your phrasing and the typical CENI application in the Church of Christ is just the addition of a degree of humility. Frankly, I think the CENI is a perfectly applicable hermeneutic if the disciples on either side of an issue are willing to admit their own shortcomings in understanding the mind of God, and if they have a tolerance that is the natural outgrowth of persons who are aware of their own fallibility. Not trying to split hairs. I just happen to be one of those who believes we are all closer to the same page than we are willing to recognize.

From a Reader in Texas:

I am so thankful for you, and appreciate your excellent writings. I am in the process of reading through your Reflections in the archives, and think they are so needed by our brotherhood. If only the legalists could bear to read (and let soak in) something that doesn't line up exactly with what they have always thought, it would really help them. If only they would have a teachable and searching heart! You are bringing much encouragement to those of us who are still searching and needing help. God has gifted you with an excellent mind and a sweet spirit. May God continue to guide you and bless you in His service.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Al, great article on "Another Hermeneutic." One of your readers stated that a person had one of two choices. The second one was to let the "legal experts" tell us what the Word of God is REALLY saying. Isn't it strange that for years fellows like me hammered away at our audiences about how Catholics and Protestants were being spoon fed by their priests and preachers when they should be opening their minds to the word of God, and yet at the same time we had our "priests" or "legal experts" spoon feeding us?! Our own "legal experts" have led us into the many, many denominational divisions that now exist in the Churches of Christ. Each denominating group is following their own "legal expert(s)." Sad!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

I have been thinking about another hermeneutic for some time. Your article on this subject is good and has helped me to gain additional understanding. I admire your courage and congratulate you for being willing to take a stand on the sacred cow of instrumental music. I think you are right on. I personally prefer a cappella music. It seems to come more from the heart and understanding, and some instrumental music overpowers the singers. I would also have to admit that 50 years in the Church of Christ has established a strong habit. Where we get into trouble is when we figure our opinions are the official ones.

I'll have to admit that my many years of legalistic training caused my conscience to have some uncomfortable feelings as I read your article. Then I went back and read your article again ... and really read the Conclusion. You said it is somewhat subjective, and that removed my doubts. Because, as you said, all other methods are subjective also. The CENI approach is not only subjective, it is fantasy. Further study is always good, and your approach becomes clearer and more logical with each reading. Keep up the good work!

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