Issue #248 -------
May 8, 2006
Until thy feet have trod the road,
Advise not wayside folk.
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
I get quite a few questions from the readers of these Reflections. I make an effort to answer the majority of them, although don't typically go into the depth that one finds in my weekly articles. Every now and then a question will come along that I feel might be of interest to the other readers, so, after gathering several of these, I like to send out a special Q&A edition. Such past special Reflections, for those who may want to examine them, are articles: 4, 54, 59, 102, 111, 116, 171. These special editions cover a fairly wide range of rather intriguing questions, and I have sought to respond to each of them in a way that is thorough, as well as somewhat more concise than my regular style. I shall seek to do the same with the current questions.
I have selected four questions from among the many that have come to me over the past month -- two dealing with challenging issues facing the brotherhood, and which have impact upon our unity as the Family of God, and two challenging biblical texts that some readers have found puzzling, and have thus sought help interpreting. The location of one of the readers is unknown to me, while that of the other three is quite diverse -- Arizona, Alabama, and Honduras. Two of the readers hold Ph.D. degrees, one of whom is the President of a college in Honduras. The reader from Arizona is a minister of the gospel, and a good personal friend. All four of these persons are devoted disciples of Jesus Christ and active workers in the Lord's vineyard. They are also supporters of this Reflections ministry, for which I sincerely thank them.
The first question comes from the educational leader in the nation of Honduras. He poses a most intriguing question, and one we have probably all pondered at one time or another, especially those involved in overseas cooperative efforts. He writes:
The word autonomy means: "self-governing; existing or functioning independently." When a congregation of believers is said to be "autonomous," it essentially is its own highest earthly authority, and is not governed or regulated by any outside forces. There is no district, regional, or national hierarchy under whose oversight these numerous local assemblies fall, and to whom they must submit in matters of doctrine and practice. Not all Christian denominations enjoy such congregational independence, as we all know. Indeed, few value the freedom of self-determination as much as those within Churches of Christ. Many feel it was "born on the American frontier," and was a natural product of a spirit of independence and freedom that many of the early pioneers evidenced in many areas of their lives. Others argue it was a reaction by those who broke away from the domineering spirit of "high church" ecclesiastic authoritarianism. The Protestant Reformation, as well as the American Restoration Movement, both evidenced elements of this desire for greater individual and congregational independence. Others maintain, however, that autonomy really dates back to the NT church itself. The reality is, there are about as many theories as to when, where and why congregational autonomy originated as there are theorists. It may well be more of a yearning within the hearts of men who long to be free, which crops up repeatedly throughout history, than a single historical event that spawned all subsequent quests for independence.
There are aspects of the concept of congregational autonomy that I believe are valid. There are also aspects of it, as too often practiced among us, that can be quite harmful ... even deadly ... to the life of a body of believers in a particular geographical location. Positively, I believe it is good for believers in a local setting not to elevate mere men to levels of authority and power over the church never intended for them by our Lord. Such hierarchical elevation eventually led to a Pope enthroned in Rome, a "college" of red-robed Cardinals, and a clergy caste system that borders on both the absurd and the abominable. It is little wonder that men have longed for religious independence from such oppression throughout Christian history, just as the growing multitudes longed for that freedom from the tedious tenets of Jewish rabbinic tradition during the time of Jesus. Autonomy is certainly preferable to autocracy!
One is also far more likely to appreciate the Lordship of Jesus, and the Sovereignty of God, if not forced to submit to the authority of human councils, boards, and potentates. As for spiritual leadership in a particular fold, shepherds appointed to the Lord's flock should know their sheep and be among them; effective shepherding is not done from an executive suite 600 miles away! Pastors should be in the pasture ... pastoring! There are no executives in the church ... only servants.
On the other hand, we need to be painfully honest and brutally blunt with ourselves regarding the concept of congregational autonomy. As promoted by some today, it is about as far removed from the practice of the early church as one can get. There are some "non-cooperation" brethren who hide behind this concept of "autonomy" in order to avoid any and all united efforts with parts of God's family with whom they would just as soon not have association. They withdraw into themselves, shutting out all others, under the guise of "autonomy." It thus becomes the watchword for "acceptable" dissociation and exclusivity. Frankly, I don't believe it is the intent of our Father that His children, either individually or congregationally, be "autonomous" in the sense of "existing or functioning independently." The more we distance ourselves from one another, avoiding involvement with one another in cooperative efforts to further the mission of the One Body on earth, the more that dissociation deteriorates into dissension and division, and the more that separation devolves into sectarianism. One of the greatest failings of the Churches of Christ, in my opinion, is the tendency of congregations to "go it alone!" In so doing, we have lost sight of the fact of FAMILY, and we have thereby facilitated factions. Existing and functioning independently has been, to be perfectly blunt, our downfall.
Congregations of believers, regardless of their location, should be joining hands in accomplishing the work of evangelism, benevolence, and any other area where the combined energy and resources of God's family can better meet needs and touch hearts. This notion that money from other "treasuries" must never mingle with money from ours, or that congregations can't "cooperate" with one another in foreign missions or acts of benevolence, is ludicrous. It's time for these cloistered Christians to come out of their closets and rejoin the family as we collectively seek to do the will of our Father. When it comes to doing the will of God, we need to abandon this notion that we "exist and function independently" of one another. Let's join forces, and in so doing we shall be a more effective and powerful force for good in the world about us. Does this mean Christians in distant lands can dictate to a congregation with regard to local internal matters (such as Bible class materials used, versions purchased for pew Bibles, how much to pay the preacher, etc.)? Of course not. The Christians in a local work are the one's who are best equipped to govern such matters. But, in matters relating to our great mission as the people of God, we need to seek greater unity, association, fellowship, and active partnership with one another.
Malicious Meddling From Afar
The next question also comes from a learned doctor, who, like the above brother in Honduras, is concerned about the "long arm" of some disciples in this day and age of instant global communications. It deals with the fact that some within the church seem to feel "called of God" to hound and harass those with whom they differ, no matter where on this earth those brethren may be found. Indeed, some have gone to great lengths to make life a "living hell" for those they are determined to defame and destroy. He writes the following:
Yes, I have personally been on the receiving end of such vicious vilification, and in most cases it has been at the hands of people who have never met me, never heard me preach or teach, and never bothered to attempt to engage me in open, honest, respectful dialogue with regard to the matters they perceived to be amiss in my teaching. A good example is Curtis Cates, the Director of the Memphis School of Preaching. A number of years ago, while I was still preaching in Honolulu, Hawaii, I was informed by someone that they had read about me in a book Curtis Cates had recently published. This was the first I had heard of this. I managed to secure a copy, and Cates had indeed devoted a few pages to informing his readers that Al Maxey was a dangerous threat to the church. He had me sandwiched right between Rubel Shelly and Max Lucado, as I remember. I had never met Curtis Cates, had never had a conversation with him (verbal or written), and he had never bothered to contact me in any way prior to publishing his attack. He had simply read an article or two that had been published in IMAGE magazine, and, based upon his reaction to what he read, he determined the Churches of Christ throughout the earth needed to be warned about me. I tried to communicate with Curtis, but to this day have never been able to get him to respond with a single word of explanation. Curtis Cates is just one of many such persons over the years who have launched a sneak attack and then fled like the wind to cower in their caves. In my estimation, such people are beneath contempt.
I do not mind people challenging any of my teachings. Indeed, I fully expect it and even welcome it. I have always encouraged people to examine very, very carefully everything I preach and teach, and to approach me if they believe something I have presented is contrary to Truth. I do not want to teach falsehood, and yet, being a fallible human, I know that I am a long way from possessing perfect insight into the Will & Word of my Sovereign Lord, and, thus, I will most certainly at times be mistaken in my teaching (as we all are). Who among us is not?! Therefore, I truly invite, as we all should, responsible dialogue with respect to my teaching. I am not personally offended, nor do I feel personally threatened, by those who differ with me. I am a firm believer in the truth of Proverbs 27:17 -- "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Yes, sparks may fly, and the iron may become heated, but the end result is a more effective tool. Differences need not result in division or dissension. If differing brethren will simply approach one another in a spirit of love and respect, being willing to dialogue with one another, instead of engaging in diatribe about one another, a positive outcome is far more likely.
Not all brethren in the church, however, are possessed of such a spirit. Sadly, too many feel "called of God" to be the Good Shepherd's personal "attack dogs," and so they spend their lives roaming far and wide searching for those whom they may eviscerate for "the good of the church and to the glory of God," much as Saul of Tarsus did until he came face to face with Jesus and had a change of heart and focus. Until some of our brethren truly see Jesus, they will most likely continue to "lay waste" the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. Naturally, they seek to "justify" their behavior by an appeal to Scripture. Two of the ones that they drag out and dust off most frequently are the two mentioned above by the good doctor.
The two statements that are lifted from these passages to "prove" the validity of the vicious vilification of the hapless victims of these attack dogs are: "tell it to the church" and "rebuke in the presence of all." With these two proof-texts firmly in hand (much like Saul with his letters from the high priest -- Acts 9:1-2), such persons feel fully justified in their global assaults against those brethren with whom they differ, even regarding their actions as "service rendered" to the Lord. Jesus warned His disciples of this very thing! "They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or Me" (John 16:2). Paul admitted that he was under this same delusion -- "So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 26:9). Some of our brethren today are just as deluded, and just as much in need of a "Damascus road experience" with Jesus Christ. They need to hear from His lips, just as Saul did, "Why are you persecuting Me?" Yes, those who afflict the children of God, afflict Jesus! "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" (Matt. 25:40). Those words need to have a chilling effect upon some of our hot-headed siblings!
Like those 40+ men who took a vow neither to eat nor drink until they had killed Paul (Acts 23:12ff), all because they didn't care for his teaching, there are those today who, similarly, are determined to do all in their power to destroy the lives and ministries of those with whom they differ. I can name several persons who, because of my teaching, have vowed never to rest until I have been personally discredited before the people of God. They are so opposed to my teaching that one individual even declared that he would lie, if necessary, simply to put a halt to my effectiveness in reaching those within the Non-Institutional Churches of Christ. This person has indeed hounded me for years, and I have no doubt will continue to do so. I have had men call the elders where I preached trying to convince them to have me removed; I have had men in other states threaten to take out full page ads in our local paper warning the community of my "heresy;" I have been vilified in books and periodicals ... and every one of these men have fled for a hole in the ground when I confronted them and requested that they engage me in an open study of the issues from God's Word. That ought to give you some idea of the type of person with whom the Lord's people have always been afflicted. Yes, the One Body has always had more than its share of malicious meddlers. They are a curse to Christianity; a blight upon the brotherhood; a cancer in the church. And God will deal with them! Reciprocity!! They will reap as they have sown! See: Reflections #172.
Let's make an important distinction here, one that will take us back to the question posed in this second section of this issue of Reflections. If you are personally aware of actual sin in a person's life, or are personally aware of genuine false teaching of such a nature that the eternal well-being of others is truly at risk, then you have an obligation to speak out to that person and/or to that teaching. You do NOT have the right to circumvent that direct appeal by assaulting him or her behind their back to as many people as you can. The goal should be to correct and restore, NOT to defame and destroy. Those who rush to judgment and rush to print, without having attempted some dialogue with the person in question, are behaving contrary to the will of our God. In Matt. 18:15-17 Jesus stated that telling something to the church was the LAST step, and must follow several previous steps of personal appeal. This is typically not done by those who spend their time attacking those within the brotherhood with whom they differ. As for Paul's advice to Timothy, accusations against an elder were not even to be listened to unless there was substantial, substantiated evidence, and the elder was not to be rebuked before all unless he continued in that sin (thus indicating he had been previously approached privately). These passages in no way validate the practice of those who go about attacking the Lord's servants based on hearsay or speculation alone, and who, when confronted about their allegations, run with their tails tucked between their legs to cower in some dark corner.
God would have us speak out against the sins of this present darkness. I seek to do so in these weekly Reflections. I will also at times speak out against the teachings contained in published articles or books, if I feel these teachings constitute a threat to the One Body. I will even note certain persons, on occasion, whom I feel, from personal experience, have taken a stand in opposition to Truth. However, one thing I have always tried to do is contact these persons and engage them in dialogue, both before and after I "go to print." I extend to them a courtesy that has rarely been extended to me. I inform them of my concern and invite them to respond. Some do, and I have placed these exchanges on my web site, and have featured them in my Reflections. Most refuse dialogue. The KEY, in this age of instant global communications, is to responsibly seek dialogue with a brother or sister in Christ before "telling it to the church." Informing the church of genuine threats is an obligation we must not shirk, however let us make sure we follow the proper steps leading up to that impartation of information. One of those steps that must NOT be circumvented, but too frequently is, is a personal appeal to the person in question for dialogue designed to forego the need for further action.
Stretching Forth The Hand
A good personal friend of mine, with whom I worked side-by-side for a number of years in the ministry, and who is now preaching in the beautiful state of Arizona, wrote me recently to ask a question with regard to a particular practice mentioned on occasion in the New Covenant writings. It involves stretching forth one's hand, or making some motion with the hand. Is there any spiritual significance to this action? Here is his question:
The first thing to note is that two different Greek words are used in the two passages above. In Acts 26:1, Luke uses the word ekteino, which means "to stretch out; extend." In Acts 21:40, he uses the word kataseio, which means "to wave the hand; to beckon for silence." This second word may also be found in the following passages: (1) Acts 12:17 -- "But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison." (2) Acts 13:16 -- "Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand, he said, 'Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen!" (3) Acts 19:33 -- "...and having motioned with his hand, Alexander was intending to make a defense to the assembly."
In the passages where the Greek word kataseio is employed, the sense is clearly that of waving one's hand or hands for the purpose of gaining the attention of the crowd and silencing them sufficiently that one may speak. We often see people do the same today. Even little children will wave their hands in the air to gain the attention of those with whom they desire to speak. There is probably nothing more significant to this "motioning with the hand" in these passages than that. The Expositor's Bible Commentary makes this observation with regard to the Acts 13:16 passage: "With a gesture of his hand (typically Jewish) and with his words, he invites them to listen to him" (vol. 9, p. 425). Dr. F. F. Bruce writes, "the verb kataseio is used to denote a gesture inviting silence and attention" (Commentary on the Book of the Acts, p. 488).
With regard to the Acts 26:1 passage, however, some scholars believe there may be a different reason for the hand motion. In fact, it is a "stretching forth" of the hand, rather than a "waving" of the hand. Paul is before King Agrippa, who has already given him permission to speak, thus there is little need to wave the hand for silence. No prisoner, after all, would dare to wave a king to silence so he could speak!! That would be disrespectful, and could invite a harsh response. Further, as noted, the king was already prepared to listen, and had informed Paul of such. Thus, some feel Paul's stretching forth of the hand in this passage may be more of a sign of respectful greeting. Dr. Bruce concurs with this interpretation -- "Agrippa, turning to Paul, told him that he might state his case, and Paul, raising his hand in salutation to the king, proceeded to do so" (ibid).
The Focus of "One Faith"
The final reader question for this particular issue of Reflections comes from a brother in the great state of Alabama. He was preparing for a sermon he was to deliver on the topic of Unity, and sought some input with respect to authorial intent and focus in Eph. 4:5 where Paul speaks of "one faith." Here is his question:
Frankly, if Paul's concept of "one faith" is reduced to a common commitment to abiding by some legalistic blueprint, then I have completely failed to grasp Paul's teaching regarding our salvation by grace through faith! Paul went to great lengths to try and persuade his fellow believers that they must abandon this fallacious mindset that continually sought justification, and even redemption, via placing their trust in the performance of works of law. And Paul was not just talking about the Mosaic Law ... he meant any system of law. The "faith" for which disciples of Christ are to earnestly contend (Jude 3) is not a list of rules and regulations. If so, one would think these legalistic patternists would leap at the opportunity to share the fullness of that list ("the faith") with all who sought the specifics of it. Quite the contrary! I have yet to find a single one of them who will provide it. Indeed, they become furious if pressed for it. "Contenders" for the faith? Contentious is more like it!
No, the "one faith" is not a pattern, nor is it trust in a pattern. If it was, the people of God today could never be unified. Why? Because no two of them will ever fully agree on the nature of that pattern. There is no more divided and divisive religious group on the face of the earth than the legalistic patternists. They have fought and fragmented so many times they can't even keep track of their divisions. Our oneness will never be found in uniformity of practice. The prayer of our Lord (John 17) can be realized, however, when we truly come to perceive the significance of the seven "ones" found in Eph. 4:4-6. The "one faith" involves our allegiance to, and trust in, a Person. "'One faith' in the one Lord unites all true believers. Faith here is personal commitment to Christ, yet it is not purely subjective. It involves a recognition of who He is as the Son of God and the Savior of men. It is thus 'one allegiance and one profession of allegiance'" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 56).
In Philp. 3:1f, the apostle Paul went into quite some depth describing his previous misplaced trust/faith. It was a confidence that was fleshly in nature because it relied upon one's relationship to law keeping, and one's status in the whole community of law keepers. In time, he came to realize this was all about as useful to one's relationship with God as a pile of dung (vs. 8). Where faith must be placed is in the Lord. Thus, Paul changed the focus of his faith, so as not to have "a righteousness of my own derived from law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith" (vs. 9). Paul, in his epistle to the Ephesian brethren, clearly stated: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as the result of works, that no one should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). The "one faith" -- saving faith -- is faith in Him, NOT our trust/faith in various works of law and how well or precisely we are able to perform them.
Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest declares that this "'one faith' is not the Christian Faith as a system of doctrine and its respective responsibilities. It refers to the principle of faith by means of which all the saints enter into salvation" (Wuest's Word Studies, vol. 1: Ephesians & Colossians in the Greek NT, p. 96). In other words, it is not faith in a system that saves, but faith in a Savior! This one faith is "not objective in the sense of creed, but as denoting the one instrument of receiving salvation (Eph. 2:8), the one belief in the one Savior by which we are justified, adopted, and in other ways blessed" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 20: Ephesians, p. 147). This is stressed again later in this same commentary: "Not one creed ... but one faith in its subjective aspect, through which the one Lord is apprehended. ... It is not, therefore, an external unity that this faith builds up, but a union of spiritual character, wrought by the grace of God. This principle or grace of faith has a thoroughly uniting tendency, because it brings us near to the Savior, and the nearer we stand to Him, we stand the nearer to one another" (ibid, p. 162-163). One faith in one Lord will unite us in One Body; whereas misplaced faith in various perceptions and practices, or systems of law, will at best only bring a uniformity of externals, and such can have only one ultimate result: the separation of those who differ into feuding factions. We have enough of that already!
From a Reader in Colorado:
Brother Al, I just finished reading your excellent new book Down, But Not Out. Since I am in a second marriage, and have many friends who are also, I am very pleased with your emphasis on God's Ideal, God's mercy, and God's forgiveness. It is not God who can't or won't forgive the sin of divorce, but rather the brotherhood who is short on mercy and forgiveness. I have a couple of suggestions for your future teaching on MDR. First, I suggest that the church (and our society) needs to change from describing people as being "divorced," to describing them as "single again." No one should be treated as though they had a scarlet "D" on their chest after they have repented and God has forgiven them. Second, I don't believe that those who are single again, or those Christians in a second marriage, should have to grovel before other Christians (who have "perfect" marriages) as if they have leprosy. God's forgiveness is complete, and we have no right to hold the forgiven, forgotten past over their heads. My wife and I have been through a lot of grief and pain over our failed first marriages, mostly inflicted by brothers and sisters in Christ, and we have a lot of compassion for those who are single again or remarried. Thanks again, Al, for your fine book on this subject. Olan Hicks (who wrote the Foreword to your book) is a good brother who has helped us through our difficult times. Keep up your good writing, and your good Bible studies.
From a New Reader in Mississippi:
Dear Al, I am an elder in a small Mississippi congregation. I would love to receive your Reflections. I have been receiving them from a friend. As I have read them they have challenged me to think beyond what I have always been taught. I just wish I had known ten years ago what I know now! I would certainly approach things a little differently. Thanks so much!
From a Minister in Alabama:
Brother Al, "The Boles Manifesto" was a great article. I appreciate your approach in this article. As a young minister, many of my young brothers and I just don't see the reason for there to be any separation in these two groups. Actually, I believe that it is time for this situation to be mended. Let's all move on to the "bigger fish to fry." I would even venture to say that not only do I not see a real need for this division, but many of my preaching brethren and I are even considering taking ministry positions with our instrumental brothers and sisters. May God bless us all as we seek to understand the true value of unity in Jesus, rather than attempts at unity through personal opinions and/or traditions.
From a Professor in [Unknown]:
Bro. Al, having a Ph.D. in genetics, and having been a professor of biology for nearly four decades, I applaud your statements made to a reader who enquired concerning the origin of the black race. In my judgment, we have to ignore some rather solid evidence in demanding a young earth view and a literal six-day interpretation of creation. I would say the same thing about a world-wide flood that destroyed all life except Noah, his family, and the few living creatures that the ark would hold. Ignoring evidence that seems to contradict a literal interpretation of some of the Old Testament may seriously hinder our efforts to convince people that Jesus is the Christ.
From an Author in Delaware:
Al, What a fascinating and sad study of Leo Boles' "unity" speech. You certainly identified the inconsistencies in his arguments, but I find the most telling remark in the sermon to have been, "It is my duty to find fault with everybody and everything that is wrong..." I have to wonder if Romans 14 was missing from Bro. Boles' Bible, or how he missed, "Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand" (vs. 4)? This principle was so important to Paul that he repeated it twice more (vs. 10, 13). Not only was Bro. Leo Boles wrong in asserting that his opinions formed the basis of unity, he was wrong about his duty. Instead, it is the duty of every Christian to find unity in everybody and everything that is right. In Romans 14-15, Paul deals specifically with food (as well as holidays), an issue that is clearly settled in the NT (Acts 10:9-16), yet Paul insisted on unity with those who observed food laws. If we are called to unity with those who practice differently in areas that are clearly defined, how much more are we called to unity with those who practice differently in areas of silence or ambiguity?! Al, thanks for bringing this historic speech on sectarianism back to light. May it serve as a counter-example as we now again seek unity with our brethren in the Christian Churches, as well as all those who put their hope in Christ Jesus. We need not sacrifice our convictions to attain unity; we need only to sacrifice our arrogance in believing it is our duty to "find fault with everybody and everything that is wrong." Al, I thoroughly enjoy your Reflections!! Given the "buzz" your writings are creating around the brotherhood, I know God is blessing your ministry!
From an Author in Texas:
Al, If you have never done so, please read the Boswell-Hardeman Discussion on Instrumental Music in Worship (known popularly as the Hardeman-Boswell Debate), which was reviewed by me in the April 6 issue of The Spiritual Sword. Bro. Boswell never produced -- over the course of 11 speeches -- one single verse authorizing the use of the instrument in Christian worship. The reason is obvious -- no such verse is available! If it were, the Christian Church people would have cited it years ago. True to Garland Elkins' prediction, the Boles "manifesto" (as you labeled it) was not answered by you. You can charge brother Boles with sectarianism and legalistic patternism all you want to, but such charges do not answer his arguments.
From a Reader in Kentucky:
Brother Al, I'm blessed every time I read your writings! May God continue to bless your mind with clarity and insight. May He grant you the courage to continue writing in the face of opposition and criticism. In an age when people are taught from an early age to simply memorize and regurgitate information, we need those (like yourself) who will challenge us to think. Thanks for making me think, brother!
From a Minister in Kansas:
Al, One Cup man here! I was checking out your latest article when I noticed a response from a doctor in Kentucky. He mentioned the Norway Ave. Church of Christ in Huntington, West Virginia. I grew up in Huntington, and know exactly where this congregation is located. Most of my family still lives around there, and there are ten or more One Cup congregations within a fifty mile radius of Huntington. I'll be holding a gospel meeting nearby in September, and will contact the brethren at the Norway Ave. congregation to see how things are going with respect to fellowship with the other Churches of Christ in the area. Keep up the good work, Al.
From a Minister in Alabama:
"The Boles Manifesto" was a good read, Al. Do you ever wonder what you are doing in a Church of Christ church?! In 2004 our family traveled to eastern Europe to work with the brethren there for about a month (we had previously lived there for two years, right after the Berlin wall fell). On our way back we spent a long weekend in London, England. Sunday morning we attended a small, conservative Church of Christ. It was a small group of about 20-25 people, with a few struggling teenagers, and the sermon was focused on "issues" among Churches of Christ -- instrumental music, the use of money from the budget, etc. I thought to myself, "How in the world is stuff like this going to help these young people and their families live in a godless society?!" It was tragically uninspiring and discouraging.
That Sunday evening, however, we attended the All Souls Congregation, where John Stott (a favorite writer of mine) had been the Rector for several years. It's an Anglican group, but generally very progressive. The entire service was uplifting. There were probably about 1500 in attendance, and one whole section was absolutely packed full of young people of all different nationalities. It was wonderful to see that much interest on a Sunday night in London! The sermon was as good and as uplifting as any I have ever heard. It was on grace! The contrast between those two churches we visited was amazing. If my son were ever to be in school, or working, in London, I know where I'd encourage him to attend most of the time!!
From an Author in California:
Brother Maxey, One has to wonder how Bro. Boles could be an advocate of the Sunday School movement and still be a member of the "one true church" (which didn't have Sunday Schools). Probably Boles used multiple cups as well. Of course, the "no exception" One Cup, No Sunday School brethren think they are the "one true church" and we are digressive. The speech made by H. Leo Boles in Indianapolis in 1939 and the proclamation by Daniel Sommer at Sand Creek in 1889 [Reflections #213] have been two of the most disastrous to unity in the history of the American Restoration Movement. Sometimes I flatter myself by exclaiming about the inconsistencies of these brethren, then I wake up to reality and realize my own past and present, and am so thankful for the grace of God.
From a Reader in Florida:
Al, Thank you for reviewing Boles' speech for us. We certainly have a long history of sectarianism in the church, and I just thank God that we have people like you who are willing to help us perceive this truth and do something about it. Brother, people are now starting to do to me what they have been doing to you. I just got an email from a brother in Christ who told me he is not willing to discuss our differing views, and simply told me that I was "going to hell." The preacher and elders here have declared you to be a "false teacher." I wrote to them: "If Al Maxey does not speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11), then please show me where he does not. If Al Maxey does not teach the same thing as the Bible, then please show me. I would be interested in knowing what Al Maxey teaches that specifically falls into the 'false teaching' category. Would you please show me through a study of the Bible where Al Maxey is wrong? You have degrees in the Bible, so it should be no problem at all for you to show me where Al Maxey does not teach the same thing as the Bible." They have refused to substantiate their charge against you. Al, please take good care of yourself! We, your Reflections readers, need you for a long, long time to come! Your Reflections have been a big help to me, and also to a million others. Thank you!!
From a Minister in Arkansas:
Al, I applaud your well-stated article on the Boles speech, especially in view of the 100th anniversary of the so-called "split." Too many today have concluded that the ancient church has been fully restored, and that it is therefore unnecessary to search for Truth. However, as you point out, when we do this, we, like Boles, set ourselves up as our own god. While I don't desire to elevate Alexander Campbell to sainthood, I do appreciate our heritage and its struggle for biblical purity. Many today need to go back and read the "Lunenburg Letter" [Reflections #115], the dialogue between Campbell and a lady from Virginia. She was shocked that Campbell would embrace those of "other faiths." He, to her great discomfort, disdained the notion that there are no Christians in the world except for ourselves. In 2006, may we learn from our own history!
From a Minister in Oklahoma:
Bro. Al, I must applaud your effort in responding to the "The Boles Manifesto." I just can't understand what gets into people that keeps them from seeing the obvious. I think it must be pride; just old shameful pride that keeps their ego intact and won't allow them to admit that they just might be wrong. I'm starting to believe that some men's pride will not allow them to see truth, even when truth is so obvious, and when it is staring them right in the face.
From a Minister in Florida:
Al, I thought perhaps you might like to see this. It is from my son (after I had sent him your article "The Boles Manifesto"). He wrote, "I have a feeling that Boles got up and spouted off what he thought his backers at David Lipscomb College wanted to hear. Look at those pictures of him 20 years apart. Maybe they are too brief a glimpse at him, but I believe you can tell a lot from a man's face. He definitely looks like a sectarian hardliner, and considering some of the preachers that I have seen from Kentucky and Texas, they all tend to get that same look on their face whenever someone even so much as whispers that they might have a different opinion from theirs. I think this type of 'preacher' drives more away from Christ than they gather!"
From a New Reader in [Unknown]:
I would dearly like to subscribe to your Reflections mailing list. Our church is currently encountering those who are legalistic and unwilling to change. I find your web site refreshing. Edward Fudge recommended your web site to me. Thanks!
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