by Al Maxey

Issue #269 ------- October 11, 2006
Against the Word the unstilled
world still whirled about the
center of the silent Word.

T. S. Eliot {1888-1965}

Shouting Above the Silence
Reflective Review & Rebuttal of The
Spiritual Sword's Stand on Silence

From 1769 to 1771 an unknown writer, using the pseudonym Junius, sent a number of letters to the London, England Public Advertiser. The identity of this writer remains a mystery, though many have speculated -- Sir Philip Francis, Lord Shelburne, Lord George Sackville, and Lord Temple all being suggested. The insights of this individual into the ills of his own society are phenomenal. Of particular interest, within the context of this current issue of Reflections, is the following excerpt from a letter penned by Junius which appeared in the November 14, 1770 edition of the Public Advertiser --- "An honest man, like the true religion, appeals to the understanding. ... The imposter employs force instead of argument, imposes silence where he cannot convince, and propagates his character by the sword."

The mysterious Junius, from out of the distant past, and from a different continent, speaks to the source of many of the besetting ills of our societies today, both secular and spiritual. Where honest hearts prevail, greater understanding among men of diverse perspectives is promoted. However, when one's whims are promoted by force and imposed with little more to commend them than what isn't decreed, then chaos and schism quickly reign supreme. One of the most tedious tenets of the humanly devised CENI (command, example, necessary inference) hermeneutic is this so-called "law of silence," which in reality is little more than a tool for exclusion of all that differs (and all who differ) with one's personal and/or party preferences, perceptions, practices and prejudices. I have spent a considerable amount of time in previous issues of my Reflections dealing with the countless inconsistencies and fallacies of this interpretive device (one of the primary tools of these legalistic patternists). I would refer all of those readers who may not be familiar with my previous studies on this topic to the following issues: #12 ... #13 ... #14 ... #15 ... #15a ... #16 ... #21 ... #23a ... #101 ... #118 ... #124 ... #126 ... #138 ... #228 ... #230 ... #256 ... #261.

I find it rather interesting, though on another level not particularly surprising, that some legalistic patternists are now attempting to disguise this so-called "law" of theirs with a completely new name. Even they realize how objectionable this "law of silence" has become among most disciples of Christ, thus they are desperately seeking a more palatable presentation of it. For example, on the infamous MarsList, a known breeding ground for patternistic exclusion, one of the Non-Institutional preachers who is a member of this Internet group wrote an interesting appeal to the other members under the heading: "Proposed Name Change for the Silence of the Scriptures" [message #2521, Sept. 27, 2006] --- "Perhaps describing the 'Silence of God' as where we are 'Without Instruction' would be more palatable. This term carries a little less baggage ... maybe!" Their highly rigid, restrictive theology of prohibition and exclusion drawn from such "lack of instruction," however, is just as fallacious ... regardless of how it is disguised or by what it is denominated. A dill pickle is still a dill pickle, even if you call it a pork chop. Such transparent efforts only display a desperate need on their part to hide the obvious discrepancies, inconsistencies and outright fallacies of their legalistic theology and the various interpretive devices that they employ to bolster it. Perceptive disciples have seen their teachings and techniques for what they are, thus we are not fooled by this pathetic attempt at an outward reclothing of that which is inwardly corrupt. It seems Jesus had something insightful to say to the legalists of His day about whitewashing tombs [Matt. 23:27-28]. Same basic principle.

On the other hand, there are those who continue to declare with great pride their adherence to this "law of silence," and do so with no attempt whatsoever to disguise their support of such an interpretive device. Indeed, there seems to be a renewed effort among some ultra-conservative brethren to actually defend this dogma at any cost. A perfect example is the current issue of The Spiritual Sword, a publication of the Getwell Church of Christ in Memphis, Tennessee. The editor is Alan E. Highers. The October, 2006 issue, which is 49 pages in length, is on the theme: "The Silence of the Scriptures." The men contributing to this issue are: Alan E. Highers, Phil Sanders, Ancil Jenkins, Gary McDade, David Sain, David Pharr, William Woodson, Hugh Fulford, and Dan Winkler. Almost all of these men are well-known and well-respected in our faith-heritage, and, collectively, they represent centuries of service to conservative Churches of Christ. Some of these men I know personally, and I have the greatest respect for them as persons, although I certainly differ with some of their theological perceptions and perspectives. This in no way causes me to love them any less, however, or to regard them as anything other than beloved brethren in Christ. Their teaching, however, I regard as extremely dangerous, divisive and even potentially deadly.

The October, 2006 issue of The Spiritual Sword begins with a three page Editorial by Alan E. Highers. His first words are, "Churches of Christ endeavor to 'speak where the Bible speaks' and to 'be silent where the Bible is silent'" [p. 1]. In that same first paragraph this brother further observes, "To take away from the word of God is to remove that which God has spoken; to add to the word of God is to interject that which God has not spoken. To diminish what God has explicitly said is to violate speaking where the Bible speaks. To add to the word of God is to speak where God has not spoken and thereby to violate the silence of the scriptures. To 'speak' and to be 'silent' are equally valid principles in the scriptures." There is absolutely no question that our God does not intend for mere men to tamper with His revealed Truth. When God speaks it is not our place to add to nor take from that which He has spoken. Our responsibility is to listen and obey. "You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you" [Deut. 4:2]. "Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it" [Deut. 12:32]. "Do not add to His words lest He reprove you, and you be proved a liar" [Prov. 30:6]. "I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book" [Rev. 22:18-19].

Please note something extremely important here, however -- that which is not to be tampered with by men (neither added to nor taken away from) is that which God has spoken. Read the above passages again very carefully ... very carefully! These verses say absolutely nothing about the responsibility of men with regard to those areas about which God has never uttered a single word. True "silence" of both God and the sacred Scriptures is when our God has offered NO guidance from above, either for or against. How are we to approach such deafening silence? Is such total lack of divine declaration permissive? Is it prohibitive? Or, is it neither? Does God perhaps simply desire for His people to use sound judgment, determining their actions and attitudes in the face of such silence in accord with His greater guiding principles (such as love, compassion, mercy, etc.)? It is my conviction that the latter is the will of our Father. To boldly assert that utter silence is either proscriptive or prescriptive is to promote and impose man's will in such areas, and this will always lead to conflict, chaos and ultimately condemnation and castigation of our spiritual siblings. Thus, in the face of such silence we must each prayerfully, and with appeal to the guiding principles of God's Word, come to a studied conviction of His will in the matter, and then "the faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God" [Rom. 14:22], "each man being fully convinced in his own mind" [vs. 5], being careful not to harshly judge nor view with contempt those who arrive at differing convictions, but rather accept them in love as your brethren in Christ Jesus, just as God accepts you both [vs. 3], differing views and all. Such is the responsible approach to genuine biblical silence.

The problem, of course, is that in the face of such absolute, and genuine, divine silence with regard to a matter, some men have dared to speak for God; presuming to prescribe or proscribe as a matter of settled law for all the rest of humankind for the remainder of our allotted time upon earth. Brethren, that is not bringing honor to true divine silence; rather, it dishonors it. Bro. Rick Atchley, the minister at Richland Hills in Fort Worth, Texas, in a speech delivered at Abilene Christian University, and reported in the April, 2006 issue of Christian Chronicle, insightfully, and correctly, observed: "Where the Bible speaks, we speak; and where the Bible is silent, we have even more to say." Bro. Alan E. Highers retorted, "Most members of the church understand what it means to 'be silent where the Bible is silent.' Rick Atchley is not one of them" [p. 48]. Well, I beg to differ. In my view, it is Bro. Highers, and his co-writers of this issue of The Spiritual Sword, who have completely failed to perceive the significance of genuine biblical "silence," as I shall seek to demonstrate in the course of this review (and as I have sought to do in previous articles).

Bro. Alan Highers, in his opening Editorial, seeks to address Bro. Atchley's above comment. He wrote, "Some think 'being silent where the Bible is silent' means that we cannot say anything if the Bible is silent. If we say something, we are speaking where the Bible is silent. Therefore, since they agree the Bible is silent about instrumental music in the worship of the church, they declare that we cannot say anything about the practice because we must be 'silent' where the Bible is silent. Of all the absurd claims and contentions ever promulgated, this has to be one of the worst. It manifests that one does not comprehend the meaning of being silent where the Bible is silent" [p. 3]. Bro. Alan E. Highers has completely missed the point of Bro. Rick Atchley's statement (I hesitate to think he has intentionally misrepresented it). There is nothing wrong at all in discussing these countless areas of silence and in speaking our convictions. We all do plenty of it. What IS wrong, however, is elevating our own convictions in such areas of genuine biblical silence to the level of divine declaration and decree. Bro. Highers is certainly free to speak his convictions in the face of biblical silence; he is NOT free to introduce said personal convictions with a "Thus sayeth the Lord!" He is free to order his own life by those personal convictions; he is NOT free to impose them upon others as eternal LAW. It is this "speaking" in the face of "silence" that Rick opposes ... as do I. Therefore, if the Bible is truly utterly silent about the use of instrumental accompaniment in the singing of praises unto God in this present dispensation (and I believe that point is arguable), then men are entitled to reach their own convictions as to the significance of that lack of guidance, but they are NOT entitled to impose those convictions upon others, nor to withhold fellowship from or deny salvation to those who differ with them (as per the guiding principles of Romans 14). This is an abuse of silence, not a respect for it.

Alan Highers invoked the name of one of the giants of our movement: Bro. G. C. Brewer. In his book "A Medley on the Music Question" this beloved brother in Christ (and also my cousin in the flesh; we are descended from the same couple, he by one son, I by the other) wrote, "To remain silent means that we will stop practicing where the Bible stops teaching; that our practice in matters of religion is limited by the word of the Lord, restricted by divine revelation. That is what the motto means, as everyone should know." This sounds remarkably similar to a statement made by Bro. Greg Jordan of Indiana in the current issue of Old Paths Advocate (a publication of the one cup, no classes Churches of Christ) -- "If God has not uttered it, we must not practice it" [vol. 80, #10, Oct. 2006, p. 9]. Well, with all due respect to brothers G. C. Brewer and Greg Jordan, this just ain't so. There is not a congregation in our brotherhood that has not gone well beyond "biblical silence" with respect to various practices. Indeed, if a first century disciple came to one of our Sunday morning assemblies, even one of the most conservative congregations among us, and this disciple had the same legalistic mindset evidenced by some today, he would likely flee the building and disfellowship the whole bunch! If we were to truly "stop practicing" where the Bible "stops teaching," the changes in our "worship services," as well as other areas of daily ministry, would be so dramatic that the shouts of outrage would be heard clear to the moon and back! We could all begin by throwing out the Sunday School "heresy," get rid of our million dollar facilities and start using the money for benevolence, meet in homes in the evenings, observe the Lord's Supper in the context of a "love feast," do away with four part harmony in our singing, and ... well, you get the idea! Stop practicing where the Bible stops teaching?! Anyone out there really want to try introducing that next Sunday? Good luck!

Several of the writers for the October, 2006 issue of The Spiritual Sword paraded before us the standard scriptures which, in their view, prove their position regarding the prohibitive force of "silence." Frankly, these only show their confusion between God's specificity and God's genuine silence. The writer who came the closest to grasping this distinction in his article was Bro. Dan Winkler. His article was titled appropriately "God Has Spoken" [p. 35-39]. I thought his presentation was excellent, and I agreed with the vast majority of what he said. My only disappointment was that near the end of his article he retreated back into the standard "law of silence" fare in a couple of statements with regard to instrumental accompaniment. Aside from that inconsistency, he stressed over and over in his article the fact of God's specificity being determinative in whether one's actions or attitudes are acceptable in His sight. He says we should remind ourselves "that, with the Bible, 'God has spoken'" [p. 35]. "The specifics of God's spoken revelation prohibited the children of Adam from ..." [p. 36]. "The inhabitants of Babel took it upon themselves to countermand the specifics of this instruction" [p. 36]. "They were planning to do just the opposite of what God had specified" [p. 36]. "A people whose failure to respect God led them to disrespect the specifics of God's expressed will" [p. 36]. "It will lead you to disregard and disobey the specifics of that revelation" [p. 36]. "Nadab and Abihu forgot that God had spoken" [p. 36]. "When we do something other than what God has specified" [p. 36]. "Moses ignored God's specifics" [p. 36]. "We are obliged to give an 'obedient ear' to the specifics of His message" [p. 37]. "Jesus is a great example of someone who did just that, someone who obediently followed the specifics of that which God 'has spoken'" [p. 37]. "He respected the silence of God's specifics" [p. 38]. We could go on and on in this article, but you get the point. The specifics of what God has spoken is the key, NOT men's assumptions and deductions in areas where He has said absolutely nothing.

Let's be honest here, brethren --- most of what is promoted as binding or prohibitive today, based upon this so-called "law of silence," has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with biblical silence, but everything to do with divine specificity. When God SPEAKS, there is no SILENCE. As Bro. Winkler says in his article, we must respect "the specifics God has spoken" [p. 38]. This is not about "silence," it is about honoring what God has SAID. Nadab and Abihu are paraded before us as an example of those who violated "silence." Bro. Gary McDade, in his article on Nadab and Abihu [p. 12-16], wrote, "The case of Nadab and Abihu proves that action in a realm where the Lord has 'commanded them not' is prohibitive. ... Nadab and Abihu stand as case law in the study of the Bible warning people not to do that which the Lord has 'commanded them not'" [p. 13-14]. "The silence of the scriptures is prohibitive" [p. 14]. "What is the teaching, admonishing, and warning, then, from the case of Nadab and Abihu? The teaching: the silence of the scriptures must be recognized and respected" [p. 14].

Bro. Gary McDade's obvious error here is in his insistence that the deadly offence of Nadab and Abihu was a disrespect for the silence of God. That is simply false. Their offence was their disrespect for what God had spoken ... for divine specificity. God was NOT silent in His specification of the source from which they were to take their fiery coals. He had specified it quite clearly. They disobeyed His command. I have dealt with this in some depth in Reflections #63 -- Nadab and Abihu: The Nature of their Fatal Error. In that article I wrote, "Nadab and Abihu, in a flagrant act of irreverence, presented an offering before God that only the High Priest was allowed to make, in a location where they were clearly forbidden to be, using coals of fire taken from a source other than the one clearly commanded by the Lord God. Saxe & Jensen (Studies In Leviticus) cite this as 'no light offense,' but rather constituting 'flagrant disobedience and presumption.' Whether they thought one source of fire was as good as another, or whether they just didn't care, the reality is that these two brothers were in direct violation of a specific command of the Lord God. He had specified the source of the coals of fire; they had chosen another. That is NOT a transgression of silence, it is a transgression of specificity." McDade suggests, "the case of Nadab and Abihu will continue to be presented as a powerful example of the wrongdoing that occurs when the silence of the scriptures is not honored" [p. 15]. Wrong! Their example stands as a powerful reminder of God's displeasure when the specificity of His spoken word is not honored. Big difference!

Once Aaron's two sons, Nadab and Abihu, are presented to our view, Hebrews 7:14 is then paraded before us as additional "proof" of the prohibitive nature of biblical silence. Once again, however, this passage proves no such thing! "Our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests." See there?! Proof positive! How could anyone possibly question it? Moses was silent about priests coming from the tribe of Judah, therefore because of that silence we know that priests could not come from Judah! Wrong!! Priests could not be taken from Judah for the simple reason that God specified that priests could only come from Levi. Priests from Judah were excluded NOT because of Godly silence, but because of Godly specificity. God had spoken. This is not a "silence" issue at all. When our God has SPOKEN, there is no SILENCE. I would encourage the reader to examine Reflections #228 -- The Silence Syndrome: Arguing for Exclusion ... Again. In the section under the heading "Christian Courier" I deal with Bro. Wayne Jackson's woeful misuse of Hebrews 7:14 in far greater detail.

Nevertheless, several of the writers for this most recent issue of The Spiritual Sword insisted on trying again to slip Hebrews 7:14 past our radar. Bro. Highers wrote in his Editorial, "Obviously, the inspired writer meant something when he said Moses 'spake nothing' about Judah and the priesthood. To speak nothing is to be silent. How much clearer could the Bible be on this subject? There was no authority for serving as a priest on earth if one was from the tribe of Judah" [p. 2]. Highers' conclusion is clearly correct, but the reasoning by which he arrived at that conclusion is fallacious. There is no authority for a priest from Judah because God specified Levi, NOT because He was silent about Judah. God had spoken. Bro. William Woodson wrote in his article, "The silence of Scripture about a descendant of Judah serving as a priest at the altar prohibited Christ from so serving" [p. 30]. Again, this is false reasoning. The prohibition was NOT due to "the silence of Scripture" on the matter; it was due to the fact that God specified Levi. God had spoken, and in the presence of His declared will there is NO silence!

A Challenge to Bro. Phil Sanders

The first article to appear in the October, 2006 issue of The Spiritual Sword was by Bro. Phil Sanders, and it was titled "Do the Scriptures Teach by Silence?" [p. 4-8]. Bro. Sanders is the minister for the Concord Road Church of Christ located in Brentwood, Tennessee, and also serves as an instructor at the Nashville School of Preaching. He is the author of the book "Let All the Earth Keep Silence," which was released this year. Phil made a most interesting analogy in his article that I believe opened him up for a significant challenge, particularly with reference to his view of the prohibitive nature of biblical silence and the use of "silence" in the establishment of authority. I sent the following email to Phil (the full text is included):

What was Phil's response to the above challenge? The answer is: Silence. Complete, total silence! He never responded. I find that rather interesting, don't you? The apostle Peter commands that we are to be the kind of disciples who are "always ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you" [1 Peter 3:15]. Scripture certainly isn't silent on our Christian duty in this matter. Yet, time and time again, year after year after year, when proponents of the "law of silence" are challenged, the response of far too many is simply ... you guessed it -- Silence. Brethren, this ought to tell us something! Are we listening to these "sounds of silence" from those who advocate this law? If not, we should be. It is deafening.

In conclusion, I personally find nothing within the October, 2006 issue of The Spiritual Sword that convinces me that this humanly devised "law of silence," and the prohibitive force of it, is a valid hermeneutical principle. Quite the opposite. I have no doubt that the brethren who penned this issue of that publication are good, decent, devoted disciples of Christ. Some I know personally and love dearly. However, I cannot endorse their view of biblical silence. I believe them to be seriously misguided on this matter, and pray daily that their eyes may be opened (and I have no doubt they pray the same for me). Nevertheless, I embrace them as my beloved brethren in Christ, with whom I am in full fellowship, and just pray they feel the same about me. When we can dare to differ without seeking to destroy one another, we are on the right path to greater understanding, and we thereby seek to build bridges rather than erect barriers. May God bless these men for their centuries of collective service to Him, and may we all strive for greater devotion to His cause!

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Readers' Reflections

Thanks to John Clayton

I want to extend a very special thanks to Bro. John Clayton, a dear friend and supporter of my Reflections ministry. He has included one of my own articles -- The Great Belly Button Debate -- in the most recent issue of his publication Does God Exist? [Sept/Oct, 2006] which may be read online (if you aren't a subscriber and thus don't receive his publication through the regular mail) at Just click on the picture of that issue at the bottom of the page to read all the articles, or click on the title of my article to go directly to that particular study. John said some very kind things about my ministry, and I thank him immensely for his confidence. If you are unfamiliar with John's work, or if you do not subscribe to his periodical, I would encourage you to check out his web site and get to know more about this great man. You will be uplifted.

Special Preview

As most of you likely know, I am planning a very special issue of Reflections for later this month in which I will be presenting my vision for the future of our movement. I made request of the readers for input and have received hundreds of replies, many from very well-known leaders in our brotherhood. Bro. Leroy Garrett, for example [please see my article on Leroy in Issue #107 of my Reflections], was kind enough to send a very gracious response, and then chose to publish it to his own readers as well (for which I'm very thankful, as it was a fabulous response, and I hated for it to be wasted on my eyes only). Obviously, I would not have been able to place the entirety of his email to me in my upcoming issue of Reflections, therefore I hereby invite all the readers to examine that response in its entirety on Leroy's web site: When this page loads, just click on "Soldier On!" at the top of the list, then select "Essay #143." Or, you may go directly to that essay by clicking on the following title of Bro. Garrett's response: "Future of Churches of Christ". I am sure you will be challenged and encouraged, as I was, by what this beloved brother had to say.

May I also highly recommend a book by Bro. Samuel G. Dawson of Amarillo, Texas in which he too addresses this serious matter of the future of Churches of Christ. The title of this book is What Is Wrong with Most Churches of Christ & How They Can Avoid Extinction. Information about this work may be found at and you can even download a free .pdf format version of the book. It is about 120 pages in length and presents eight distinct problems that he believes need to be addressed by congregations of the Churches of Christ if they are to survive beyond the mid-point of this present century. I was given a copy of this book, and, after having looked it over, would encourage you to examine this brother's concerns. He makes some excellent points.

Another Reflections reader, and a fairly well-known writer within our faith-heritage, Buff Scott, Jr. of Arizona [who produces Reformation Rumblings], has just published a book in which he provides his view of the future of our movement. The title of this book is Mad Church Disease: The Blunders and Digressions of the Institutional Church. Bro. Scott was gracious enough to send me an autographed copy, and I thank him for his kindness in bestowing that gift. This will be a much different read than the thoughts of Bro. Leroy Garrett, but no less challenging (and at times troubling -- Buff has a much different view of the church than most of us. I don't often agree with Buff, but applaud his devotion and appreciate his ability to challenge one to think). Naturally, I would be unable to quote the entire book, or even significant parts of it, in my upcoming article, therefore I will simply (at Buff's request) inform you that this 80 page book may be purchased directly from this brother for only $5.65 per copy by requesting it at the address below [or you may email him at --].

From a Well-Known Leader & Author:

Al, I have just completed a study of John Newton as research for a book I'm writing. I must say that you did a masterful job in such a short article [Reflections #265] in covering the high points in Newton's life. Knowing about Newton's life and trials make Amazing Grace even more meaningful. Thanks for this great write! I enjoy and am challenged by your articles. Nothing is sadder than a closed mind. I have also just finished reading your book Down, But Not Out. It is well-written and goes much deeper than most of what we have written in the church. It challenges me to dig deeper into this vital subject. Al, I think we met once in Germany many years ago at a retreat. I, as you, am committed to the Truth, not traditions or man-made creeds. As the Master said: The truth shall set us free.

From Gordon McElvany in Texas:

Bro. Al, Good News!! We opened our new school -- Lamplighter Community Academy -- in western Ghana, Africa on the 25th of September with an enrollment of 267. We had so many that we had to borrow a church building nearby to handle the overflow. We will start construction of an additional building in January and we should be able to handle 400. All of these children will be taught Bible every day. Pray for this effort. It is so important. I am forwarding a sponsoring form to you just in case you know of anyone who might be interested in sponsoring a child in this school.

From a Reader in Texas:

Thank you, Brother Al. Joe Beam's model is very enlightening. It gives me some insight into, and a handle on, myself about where my spiritual growth has taken me in the last ten years. It's always satisfying to know that you are growing in the Lord. What is really comforting is to be able to define your growth in a way you can understand, and to know your growth is good, open and cautious. Love you a bunch, brother!

From a Minister in California:

Bro. Al, Thanks for pointing your Reflections readers to Joe Beam and his insight into the political dynamics at work in the Churches of Christ. For a Christian Church minister like me, Beam's model helps me understand the confusing shades of gray you must have to deal with. All the energy spent on "screening" fellow believers for "doctrinal perfection" must seriously impair the "go and make disciples" mandate from Jesus! Do you think that may have anything to do with the fact that so many Traditional and Zealot congregations are less than 100 members ... and shrinking rapidly? Your synopsis of Beam's model answered even more questions for me. Issue #268 is your best study yet in helping me to understand how tough it must be for the Al Maxeys and Rubel Shellys and Marvin Phillips of your fellowship to carry the ball into the court of such vitriolic opponents.

I suspect the mechanisms of Beam's expected division are already fully operational. His analysis that it is Zealot-driven is right on. That same Pharisaic legalism that ruled by intimidation also held first century Jews of Judea and Galilee in fear and bondage. But when Jesus rolled into town, His message of love, grace and forgiveness blew those oppressed Jews away! They flocked to Him by the droves, not just for the miracles, but for His transformational message of grace, which they had never heard from their own teachers and leaders. Alas, the Pharisees quickly regrouped, and within three years they shut Him down (or so they thought). Not much has changed with the Pharisees in 2000 years, has it? Oh for the day when we can be just Christians with no need for all the "brotherhood police" to tell us who we can or can't fellowship. Keep up the great work, brother! You are making an eternal difference!

From a Reader in Indiana:

Dear Al, What a wonderful article, and what a very accurate model with regard to categories of people described by Joe Beam. What a wonderful service he has done the fellowship of the brethren. I would also add an Amen to your observation that these categories are the same in the Non-Institutional branch of the Churches of Christ. I see myself as being among the former "Exasperated" from out of the NI group, now being positively influenced for good by being in a more "Open" church fellowship. Praise the Lord for His grace! Thank you for bringing all of this to our attention!

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Brother Al, Your latest article (#268) struck a chord with me in that I saw myself in one of those groups in Beam's model. I'm one of the "Exasperated" -- in fact, I'm done with the Church of Christ as it exists where I live. I now attend a Methodist congregation that embraces the grace of God and His personal involvement in the lives of His children. I no longer come away from an assembly feeling guilt; I no longer feel beaten down from the pulpit; I no longer worry about keeping "a list" of good works to be saved. I have been set free by the grace of God from the heavy yoke of the Church of Christ church; set free to simply be part of that One Church universal that you read about in the Bible.

From a Minister in New Jersey:

Al, Thank you for that wonderful article, and also for the link to Joe Beam's explanation. As you mentioned, his model could well be applied to those groups to both the right and the left of the current application. It even seems to me we could find the roots of our restoration heritage in the "Open," if not "Exasperated," of the Presbyterians and Baptists.

From a Minister in Kansas:

Brother Al, One Cup man here. I have just read your latest Reflections, and from what I know of our brotherhood, Joe Beam is correct in his analysis. As I have mentioned to you before, the leaders of the Old Paths Advocate bunch (one cup, no Bible class) are shaking in their boots, because more and more One Cup congregations are stepping away from the old traditional approach to fellowship and becoming more "Open." We are now willing to accept anyone who "obeys the gospel" as a brother or sister in Christ. We still use one cup in the Lord's Supper, but we no longer are willing to draw lines of fellowship between us and our brethren who use more than one cup. We have been pleading with our "Zealot" brethren now for years to cease this in-fighting that is destroying the church. Some have listened, but others just brand us as "digressives." Jesus said that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. I pray that we will pay heed to His words before it is too late.

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Bro. Al, It would appear that Joe Beam's analysis and prediction answers your question about where the Churches of Christ are heading in the next generation. There is bound to be a schism of some sort when we have the zealots requiring complete agreement with their opinion in order for one to be counted as a Christian. My mother told me about an old man in a rural congregation where we attended when I was young. He wanted to fire the preacher for using "the wrong Bible." This old man refused to accept any translation other than the King James Version, saying, "What was good enough for Paul and Silas is good enough for me!" He was convinced the KJV was the only "God-ordained version." People are still making that claim today. When we go about slandering our brethren for not agreeing with our own interpretations and opinions, we have ceased being followers of Jesus Christ. LOVE for each other is what Jesus said would be the mark of a true disciple.

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, My "off the cuff" reaction to this model is that I fall into the "Cautious" category -- straining to move to more freedom under grace, but still very much anchored in my legacy. The fact that I am 66 years of age gives some clue to my perspective. I have a great concern for "The Church." It is being destroyed by the fragmentation and discontent fostered by the never ending accusative mentality. Thank you, Al, for the stimulation you provide each week. I am really looking forward to your further discussion of this vital topic.

From a Minister in California:

Brother Al, As one who has given his life in preaching for the Churches of Christ, and who stands to the far left of "Open," drifting in and out of "Exasperated," the question with which I personally wrestle is this: If the kingdom of God exists beyond the boundaries of the "Churches of Christ" (and I believe for a fact that it does), then why is it so important that our sect of Christianity survive?! I love the foundation upon which our movement came onto the scene, and I love a great many aspects of our heritage, but my concern is not for the Churches of Christ to survive, but that people come to know the Lord Jesus and grow in the grace and knowledge of Him. Thanks, brother Al, for all that you do!

From a Reader in Texas:
[He and his wife just celebrated
their golden wedding anniversary]

Bro. Al, My question is -- Just how important is it that there be a survival of our Restoration Movement, or any movement, for that matter, in light of the truth of One Body of Christ? In other words, is the Restoration Movement church model really what we should be seeking to preserve? Oh that we could just all be Christians and love one another, showing the world what true Christianity really is!

From a Minister in New Mexico:

Bro. Al, There is one category you and Joe Beam omitted -- those who "will that this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large." Of course you will recognize the source as the famous "Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery" [Reflections #131]. The spirit of unity within the One Body can never be restored unless all Christians realize that every one of us is utterly, totally, completely dependent on the very same Savior and Lord rather than on our own particular "positions" regarding various disputable doctrinal issues. Every one of us must learn to accept one another just as our Savior accepted us, despite our human tendency to claim we are somehow more deserving of grace than our neighbor because they don't agree with us on some disputable matter. May God grant you the wisdom, Al, to lead all of us who are erring siblings to unity in Christ.

From an Elder in South Carolina:

Bro. Al, To be fair and balanced, the term "zealot" has a negative connotation, whereas "exasperated" seems like a sympathetic description. I think that there is danger in both extremes, yet I did not hear you say that loud and clear. After leaving home and serving in the military, I have been blessed to experience "far right" congregations with their stifling rigidity, and also "far left" congregations which exercised freedom at the expense of unity. I have come to appreciate the peace which is found within the middle ground. I still believe that traditional congregations can flourish with good leadership and outreach into the community. Within the middle, one can find balance and focus on Christ and the mission of the church, avoiding the distraction and dangers that come from either extreme. I guess you might best characterize me as a "cautious searcher" on doctrinal matters, but "open-minded" when it comes to evangelism and outreach. The term "satisfied" surely does remind me of the description of Laodicea -- lukewarm. Thanks for the stimulating thoughts, Al, and keep up the good work!

From a Reader in California:

Al & Shelly, The Lord bless you and keep you! Praise Him for your wonderful writings, Brother Al. You are a very special servant of the Lord, and you too, Shelly, for standing by your man!

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Brother Al, Thanks for your last issue of Reflections on "Delineation of Diversity." You do us all a great service by calling attention to Joe Beam's insights. God bless you!

From a Reader in Colorado:

Bro. Al, Thank you for this excellent study, and for sharing with me the study by Joe Beam. I am an exasperated searching zealot, but none of these descriptions are like the ones in Joe's model. I am exasperated with weak church leaders, searching for a fellowship of Berean brothers and sisters who are beavers for the Bible and who practice the first and second greatest commandments, and a zealot who wants to get the church on fire for the evangelistic/mission work of the Lord to His glory. Joe's model does paint an accurate picture of our dilemma in Churches of Christ, however. Perhaps you and/or Joe could address in a future article the stigma associated with the name "Church of Christ" -- as evidenced by congregations who have dropped that name from the sign and letterhead. I believe that stigma was caused by members who told "denominational" people that "we are the only ones going to Heaven." Woe to such arrogance! Bro. Al, in three weeks I will turn 62. I don't want to waste any more time babysitting half-hearted brothers and sisters who just want a social club. Tell me where the real Christians are and I will join them today.

From a New Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, I came across your web site while researching the topic of "legalism" in Churches of Christ. We are in a new Church of Christ in north Texas and, going by Joe Beam's model, we are probably in the "Searching" category. I have read some of your Reflections on your web site. Great information! I have also been studying Cecil Hook's books, and, of course, those by Leroy Garrett. Thanks for all your work in trying to straighten things out.

From a New Reader in Maryland:

Al, I've been reading some of your materials on your web site and would enjoy receiving your Reflections newsletter. I preach for the church in ------, Maryland. Thanks for sharing your writings.

From a New Reader in [Unknown]:

Al, I was forwarded your article and Joe Beam's article on the church. I whole-heartedly agree with you. I would like to be on your mailing list. Thank you!

From a New Reader in New Mexico:

Al, Please add us to your list of subscribers for Reflections We are presently enjoying reviewing your past articles. As time passes, I'm understanding more and more why God sent us to Alamogordo, and specifically to Cuba Avenue Church of Christ. You are such a blessing, and you will be in our daily prayers!

From a New Reader in India:

Dear Brother Al, I found your email address on the Internet and read your material with great interest from your web site. It is so beautiful and excellent. I deeply appreciate you, dear brother, for your wonderful efforts to strengthen the Lord's people. I obeyed God's Word and was baptized from a Hindu background, and I am now the preacher for the Church of Christ here in the coastal region of Andhra Pradesh, South India. We have a congregation of 87 members. We are always interested to study God's Word, learn the Truth more, and walk in the Truth. You are in our thoughts and prayers here, and all the brethren here greet you.

From a Reader in Alabama:

Al, You need to start preaching the gospel of Jesus. No one is listening to your ongoing ramblings. I am convinced that you and your buddies would not be happy with Jesus or His teachings if He was standing right next to you, literally.

From a Minister in NSW, Australia:

Al, Whilst I have not been in touch for a few months, I have continued to be blessed by your Reflections ministry. You are in my prayers constantly and I know that you are led and taught by the Spirit. Please continue to be encouraged, as your work is a blessing to many people. Your analysis of the issues within Churches of Christ in America was of great interest to me, as it parallels a lot of the current trends and issues within the mainline Churches of Christ in Australia. I have already shared this article of yours with some of the brethren here. As far as the knockers of your ministry -- forget them. Those who support your thoughts and teaching far exceed those who knock. You wouldn't have a mailing list of over 10,000 subscribers if you weren't faithful to the Word. Satan will always try and stop faithful preaching. Just continue to preach, Bro. Al, as you are led by the Spirit, and the message will go out. May God bless you as much as you have blessed me with your writings!

From a Missionary in Bolivia:

Brother Al, Thank you for your article on diversity. It was interesting and thought-provoking. As a missionary we are faced with the question of inclusivity and exclusivity on a daily basis. We are constantly required to evaluate what we believe and why. Thus, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about this very issue. May I offer the following insights on Bro. Beam's model: (1) Reluctance on the part of the "Cautious" and "Searching" to accept change is not always precluded by motivations of fear of the reaction of those further to the right. Many times I believe the motivation is love. These people are very conflicted, much like the children of a couple divorcing. How does a child choose between a mother and father? How do people in the middle choose between brethren they love on both sides of the spectrum? (2) The further you move in either direction on the spectrum the more exclusive individuals become. I would suggest that there are not only zealots on the far right, but on the far left as well. (3) I believe the key to restoring unity among our church family, and more accurately among individuals, is simply stated, but obviously incredibly hard to put into practice. The answer is to show a Christ-like, radical love for our brethren, even to those whose ideas may cause us to rankle inside. We must stop seeing people as backwoods hillbillies who simply cling to their beliefs out of ignorance and fear, or as elitist academics and "change agents" who are on secret, devious missions to reface the church as we know it. Al, I could go on and on, but will stop here.

From a Reader in Florida:

Brother Al, Wow ... Wow ... Wow! I can only shake my head. Joe Beam must have been sitting in the pews of several of the congregations of which I have personal knowledge (including groups in each category). It was amazing how many points he made that were right on target. Thank you for pointing us to his article, and also for your exposition of it. God bless you, Al. From: An "Exasperated" who is forced to attend "services" with "Zealots" in ------, Florida!

From a Ministry Leader in California:

Bro. Al, The analysis of the state of the mainline Churches of Christ by Bro. Joe Beam was very interesting. He used the old political science model of "radical, liberal, conservative, status quo and reactionary" to identify, in my opinion correctly, several different "flavors" in the mainline church. A very interesting thing is happening in our own congregation (formerly a part of the International Church of Christ). Several people from the local mainline church have begun visiting our congregation, and quite a number have placed membership. While we do not use instruments in worship, it's not from any doctrinal opposition -- it's just a matter of personal preference. Most visitors would not see much difference between us and any number of mainline congregations. I believe that the changes in the former ICOC have created a large group of people just to the left of where you are, and who are looking to be unified more than ever before. I believe that you and I have much more in common than you and the "Satisfieds," even though we're not on Beam's model. If those on the left side of Beam's model would look just a little bit farther to their left, they would find a large group of very dedicated, very hard working disciples who are much less "sinfully radical" than they once were. If there is anything the ICOC was guilty of, it was zeal without knowledge. But, God has been working on us, and I believe change is happening. I believe we can be very good for each other, my brother! I truly believe God has some amazing things in the future of our two movements! On the other hand, I don't believe the Zealots have a future at all. They are not baptizing their young people, and they are not bringing in any new converts. Not only that, they are eating themselves alive! They are doomed to becoming a footnote in history. I personally believe the future lies in the church shifting decidedly left.

From an Elder in Alabama:

Brother Al, Thanks for the synopsis of Joe Beam's observations about the state of Churches of Christ. My observation, which is based on long-time experience (I'm 73 years old, and preached for over 50 years), is that, until the last generation, most of our preachers were relatively uneducated. The education they had was provincial. Most guys in that situation find a "model" and follow it -- thus, people like Foy Wallace, Jr. had tremendous influence over aspiring preachers. They were very impressed by his flamboyance and boldness in rebuking all "false doctrines," and also all of the people who believed them. That mindset is still being promoted in some of our preacher schools. My conclusion is that if it weren't for the unlearned preachers among us, the churches would have far fewer problems and much less polarization.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Where do you suppose Jesus would fit into Joe Beam's model?

From a Reader in Delaware:

Bro. Al, As I sit here praying that God will intervene and prevent Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas from interfering in any way with the funerals of those precious, innocent Amish children who were recently murdered, as this group has been planning to do, claiming that their murders were an "act of God" in retribution for Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell's comments about their church, I am struck by how very short a step it is from the "Zealot" personality in the Churches of Christ to that of this hate-filled agent of Satan, Fred Phelps, with his demonstrations against military funerals, his "God Hates Fags" and "God Hates America" web sites, counting the number of days various dead persons are burning in hell, and many other outrages. If there was ever a case for justifying limitations on free speech, this is it!! The "Zealots" in our own midst might want to consider just how similar their harsh judgments are to Phelps' in many ways.

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