by Al Maxey

Issue #355 ------- July 11, 2008
What is a diary as a rule? A document that is
useful to the person who keeps it. Dull to the
contemporary who reads it. Invaluable to the
student, centuries afterwards, who treasures it.

Sir Walter Scott {1771-1832}

Diary of a Believer
A Quest to Break Free
from Religious Mediocrity

The great Irish playwright, novelist and poet, Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), well-known for his biting wit, and also for his rather controversial lifestyle, observed, "I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train" [The Importance of Being Earnest]. Diaries can be a fascinating read, for they give us insight into the innermost recesses of the very soul of another, and through their words we experience their joys as well as their sorrows, their hopes and fears, and their journey through life. Who, for example, has not been touched deeply by the moving diary of a young German-born Jewish girl by the name of Anne Frank (1929-1945) that documents her harrowing, horrific experiences while hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in World War II?

As one reads through the inspired Scriptures, one will find evidence of what might be classified as personal journals or diaries. A few noted scholars of the biblical record, for example, see the book of Ecclesiastes as an extremely well-written journal of King Solomon's quest for that which brings ultimate meaning to life; a record of various pursuits, with accompanying personal observations as to whether or not these activities brought any happiness and/or fulfillment. He ends his journal with the conclusion that true contentment is to be found only in relationship with one's Creator. Some scholars also see the book of Acts as part personal diary of the physician Luke, especially in the famous "we sections" of this historical document which details some of the acts of the Holy Spirit through the apostles as the church of Jesus Christ was formed, and as it expanded throughout the then known world. There are also those scholars who have suggested the Song of Solomon constitutes a beautiful, poetic, journal-like expression of intimacy between lovers. Indeed, at times one is almost tempted to feel guilty for sneaking a peek at this personal diary in which some extremely intimate thoughts are penned.

Nevertheless, in spite of all that has been written about them, pro and con, diaries and journals are here to stay. They provide an outlet for the thoughts and feelings of men, women and young people; a place where one may genuinely pour out one's very heart and soul. And, now and again, these intimate works are shared with the public ... and on rare occasion that sharing becomes memorable. Such has been the case with a diary that has recently been offered to the public by the woman who kept it. Her name is Sheila G. Gibson, and she was raised within an extremely legalistic wing of the Churches of Christ, an experience that truly challenged her personal well-being repeatedly and on a great many levels. In some ways it is a love story, and in other ways almost a horror story. Yet, ultimately, it is the journal of a courageous young woman whose faith would not be shackled or shattered by the rigid religiosity of the sect within which she was raised. It is a tale of triumph.

The title of her fabulous book is The Diary of a Believer. It is only 165 pages long, and very easy reading, but it will truly touch your heart. It may be purchased on, for those who prefer doing business online. Also, I would encourage you to check the web site devoted to this book [The Diary of a Believer] as well as Sheila's personal Blog Site. I'm pleased to have Sheila Gibson as a Reflections reader, and equally pleased to be able to take this opportunity to highly recommend her book to all of you. You really need to get a copy of this book and read it. It will "speak to you" as no other book has in a long time! On the back cover of the book it states: "The Diary of a Believer is the story of one believer's quest to break free from spiritual mediocrity in order to discover, know, and love the Lord described within the Holy Scriptures. It chronicles the journey that Sheila Gibson began as a young girl inside a common, traditional, Christian organization known as the Church of Christ. It explores the blueprints of religious patterns often used to seek Christ within that group of believers. It also reveals the disturbing lengths that some brethren will go to to protect those traditional formulas and doctrinal boundaries within the brotherhood."

In her Introduction, Sheila writes, "The Diary of a Believer chronicles the spiritual journey that I began in early childhood inside a fundamental Christian setting. It spans years in which I grossly misunderstood my own Creator and Lord as little more than a judge watching His children, awaiting our inevitable sin. Waiting not to redeem, but to punish, perhaps even with a hint of joy. ... The Diary of a Believer explores the blueprints commonly used to seek God through established religion, which often leaves its seekers doubting and unfulfilled in their faith. Formulas breed complacency, and complacency breeds mediocrity. Mediocre is what I found my own spiritual life to be until I began searching outside the spiritual fences erected long ago by well-intentioned, albeit misguided, brethren. ... The composition of this book was inspired by the desire to share what I've learned along my journey with my children, family and friends. But I also find it fitting for others who feel lost in the maze of Christian tradition. It's for those who've bought into the lie that says you must earn your salvation under the guidance of specific church doctrine." It's my strong belief you will all most definitely benefit from reading this book, and I urge you to get a copy.


The Maxey - Broking Debate
on the Doctrine of Patternism

On June 8, 2008, in message #11,609 posted to the Contending for the Faith Internet discussion forum (a gathering of roughly 125 persons largely consisting of the faithful readers of the publication "Contending for the Faith," which was originally edited by the late Ira Y. Rice, Jr., and is now edited by David P. Brown), Darrell Broking, an occasional writer for this very ultra-conservative publication, issued this appeal: "List, I would like to find an anti-patternist who would be willing to have a written debate with me. If you know one who denies that there is a New Testament pattern to which we must conform, then forward this email to him." To make a rather long, involved story short, and following a fair amount of negotiation between Darrell Broking, David Brown and myself, a formal written debate was agreed to on two specific propositions dealing with the concept of Patternism. They are:

The New Covenant writings ARE the divine pattern which
must be followed for both fellowship and salvation.

Affirm --- Darrell Broking
Deny --- Al Maxey

The New Covenant writings CONTAIN specific requirements
and expectations of our God, few in quantity, that are
essential for both fellowship and salvation.

Affirm --- Al Maxey
Deny --- Darrell Broking

Darrell and I will each be given four posts per proposition. Under the first proposition, Darrell will provide four affirmative posts, after each of which I will offer a rebuttal. This procedure will be reversed during the second half of the debate: I will provide four affirmative posts, after each of which Darrell will offer his rebuttal. Thus, there will be 16 posts in all, with a two week time limit between each. Although David Brown will be the moderator of this debate, since it is being placed on his Internet group Contending for the Faith, he has nevertheless agreed that he will not edit or modify our respective posts in any way. In an email to me dated June 13, David Brown wrote, "Absolutely nothing will be altered, changed or edited about them. The posts will appear on ContendingFTF just as they left each disputant's email to us." David Brown has further agreed to advertise this debate in his publication "Contending for the Faith." In an email dated June 18, he wrote, "Al, I will advertise your debates page address --- --- in Contending for the Faith as we have discussed advertising it. However, the advertisement will first appear in the July 2008 issue of CFTF. This is the case because the June issue is already in the mail." I've chosen to take this man at his word that he will indeed advertise this debate within his publication as he has pledged to do, though I have been told by several people close to me that they don't believe he will actually carry through with his promise; that his fear of exposing his readers to anything that Al Maxey might write will finally override his previous promise (or that he will bury the ad in some small, dark corner of his magazine so that few will see it). I suppose time will tell. However, until David Brown demonstrates otherwise, I will take him to be a man of his word. My suspicion, however, is that he most certainly will not give it the same prominence that I have in this present issue of my weekly Reflections (and which I will give it in subsequent issues). I am thrilled at the opportunity to engage in such a dialogue, and I want ALL of my readers to know about it, and to examine what Darrell and I both have to say. Is David Brown equally excited about sharing this opportunity with HIS readers? It would certainly raise some interesting questions if he isn't.

As many of you know, I have little use for oral debates, as I believe they are little more than grotesque public spectacles, not all that far removed from the appalling display of the ancient gladiators who hacked one another to death for the amusement of the crowds. I have never participated in such, and I never will. However, when two individuals agree to sit down and engage in a reasoned, respectful, rational dialogue with one another on some matter over which they differ, and they are willing to give this process ample time for responsible reflection, then there is great potential for good in such an exchange. Legalistic patternism has plagued the church for generations, and it is one of the causes of the schism and division we see today. The fragmentation of the Family of God is in large degree caused by this evil doctrine. Thus, I welcome the opportunity to expose it for what it is before the very crowd most influenced by it. Paul was willing to go wherever the Spirit led him, even into the midst of those who opposed him the most, if he could proclaim the beauty of God's grace and liberty in Christ Jesus. I am willing to do the same. I ask that you pray for me as I take advantage of this God-given opportunity to share the good news with those still enslaved to legalistic patternism. Pray that the Spirit will give me the boldness to speak as I should, and the words to convey His Truth, and pray that hearts will be softened and transformed, and that barriers that have divided us far too long will begin to crumble. Please bookmark the above web site for this debate (Darrell has already posted his first affirmative, and my first rebuttal is now online). Follow along in the months to come as the message of grace is taken into all the world via this medium.

Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
Publisher: (301) 695-1707
Reflections on the Holy Spirit
A Published Tract by Al Maxey
Order From: J. Elbert Peters:
Readers' Reflections

From a Baptist Missionary in Peru:

Brother Al, The issue regarding the use or non-use of instruments within your denomination thankfully does not exist within my own sphere of fellowship. Indeed, it would be laughable, if not so tragic, that such nonsense could even exist in any church. Such men who make it an issue are simply devoid of an understanding of the grace of God. The use or non-use of instruments comes within the scope of Christian liberty. Just like Paul explained about eating meats or not eating meats, being careful not to harm another believer. Every church is different, and each has its own "fingerprint," which just demonstrates the variety and liberty that should exist in the Body of Christ. Brother Al, may the Lord give strength to your arm so that you might liberate many. However, I don't envy you having to deal with such issues constantly within your denomination!

From a Christian Church Pastor in California:

Dear Brother Al, Long ago I concluded that the real issue that has polarized our two Stone-Campbell heritages was NOT musical instruments. That was merely the issue we all debated. However, it wasn't ... and still isn't ... the real issue. The real issue is a mindset, an attitude, and a method of interpretation. While reading your last Reflections -- "A Sectarian Shroud of Silence" -- it occurred to me again that the real issue with the ultra-legalistic patternists is not musical instruments. That is indeed the place where they have dug in their heels, but the actual issue is nothing less than their pride which has run amok, resulting in a self-destructive, paranoid fear of change. If they were ever to admit that their CENI hermeneutic is faulty, then, as you said, "The walls of separation will come down and they will be faced with fellowshipping those they previously considered apostates. This is a change they fear with all their being, and they will literally flee for the hills before ever admitting the fallacious nature of their hermeneutic. To do otherwise places their very existence at stake -- and they know it." Unadulterated pride has taken over their lives, dominating them inside and out. They are motivated not by reason, not by love, not by Truth, not by grace. They are driven, dominated and defined by pride, which, as you said, will never allow them to admit the flaws of their CENI hermeneutic. And that pride will precede their destruction ... guaranteed. Yea, it is already happening before our very eyes! The walls of separation are crumbling, and this is good news!! I saw and felt it at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures. You and I are experiencing it in our ministries. Praise God that He is changing hearts in both our fellowships. The time has come for unity, brotherhood and fellowship. It is a marvelous thing to behold, because it is the work of the Holy Spirit of God, not the work of men. Thanks for such a stimulating issue of Reflections. I'm glad to be alive in these exciting days where we are witnessing the repairing of the breach!!

From a New Reader in Kentucky:

Bro. Maxey, I recently stumbled onto your Reflections when doing an online search. I am still reading through the first year of your archives, and I love them very much! I was raised in the very conservative Non-Institutional (or "anti") sect of the Church of Christ church. I taught in it for many years, and did quite a bit of preaching. My studies kept bringing me into conflict with their doctrine, however. I was vocal about questioning our traditions, and I was eventually driven out. I have now been within the Christian Church for about ten years, but still have some very good friends who are "change agents" in the mainline Church of Christ church. One is an elder at a very significant congregation here in ---------, Kentucky. I intend to read through all of your Reflections in your online archives over the next few weeks. May our God and Savior keep your heart pure and genuine in Jesus Christ. You are doing a great service!!

From a New Reader in California:

Bro. Al, I ran across your article Born of Water and Spirit -- Reflections #212 -- while doing research on the Internet on this topic. Your article was the best discussion I found on the matter by far. I would love to receive your Reflections regularly.

From an Elder in Florida:

Brother Al, "A Sectarian Shroud of Silence" was an excellent article. The way you distinguish between the so-called Church of Christ "Law of Silence" and the Scriptural "Law of Specificity" is exceptional. To substitute anything in place of God's explicit will is very much different from fearing that I will go to hell for using my own prayerful wisdom in areas of genuine biblical silence. In my judgment, the Church of Christ's "Law of Silence" is the most dangerous thing about the CENI system of interpreting God's will within the Scriptures. It gives preachers and elders the authority to ADD "prohibitive commandments" to the text of God's revealed Word, and that is very dangerous business [Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:19]. By the way, instrumental praise within our Father's New Covenant House is NOT an "issue of silence." Instrumental accompaniment to praise is specifically authorized in the words of Jesus when He employs the Greek word symphonia, or the praise of many instruments, in the Prodigal Son account. We're all prodigals who have come home to our Father's House through Jesus, and our Lord makes it specifically clear that praise (beyond singing a cappella) IS fitting in our Father's House. Our sectarian blindness is apparent when we ignore the Luke 15 passage and limit our discussion about music in the Father's House to a discussion only of psallo (originally instrumental praise) and ado (accompanied or unaccompanied singing) in the Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 passages.

From a Reader in West Virginia:
[This brother posted the following to a couple
of Internet Stone-Campbell discussion groups]

Fellow Listers: I have just finished reading the latest Reflections by Al Maxey on "A Sectarian Shroud of Silence." Al has written many such articles on Legalism, Patternism and the Law of Silence. I believe Al Maxey to be the most important spokesman in the church today against these obviously unscriptural tenets. I also think Al Maxey is correct in saying that the advocates of Legalism, Patternism and the Law of Silence and Exclusivism are losing this battle, and that the churches they represent are diminishing in numbers. Thank the Lord for this development. Truth will prevail.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Just a quick note to let you know that having an opportunity to gather with the saints at Cuba Avenue Church of Christ, and to meet you and Shelly for the first time after I don't know how many years of Internet friendship, was indeed one of the highlights of our vacation this year. I just hope one of these days we will be able to get out that direction again when we have more time to spare so we can spend some personal time together. I finished reading your last several Reflections last night, and want to say that I couldn't agree more with you regarding your study of 1 Cor. 12:13 ("Immersed by One Spirit"). We have let the idea that every time immersion is mentioned that it means "in water" take control of us, and in so doing we've completely disregarded the context in numerous passages where water is not at all in the picture. Regarding your last Reflections ("A Sectarian Shroud of Silence"), the traditions of men are very much like the quicksand I was once caught in on the Rio Grande River when I was a young man. I learned very quickly that if you get rigid when in the grip of the sand it will just suck you under even quicker, and it will hold you there while you suffocate. If you relax, allowing for freedom of movement in a slow, relaxed way (as if slowly swimming) before it pulls you under, you can basically "float" on the surface of the quicksand, and you can survive its awesome suction, which seeks to pull you downward, binding you forever. Ultra-traditionalism, patternism and legalism are all part of that deadly "quicksand" that has gripped us for such a long time, and is seeking to pull us downward.

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