by Al Maxey

Issue #409 ------- August 23, 2009
It appears to me that in Ethics, as in all other philosophical
studies, the difficulties and disagreements, of which history
is full, are mainly due to a very simple cause: namely, to
the attempt to answer questions without first discovering
precisely what question it is which you desire to answer.

George Edward Moore {1873-1958}
Principia Ethica

Cool Cats With Questions
More Queries From Readers

A fellow minister told me a number of years ago that one of the things that irritated him most about preaching was when someone questioned him about his lesson afterward. Frankly, I find such an attitude troubling. Personally, I am more than happy to consider any and all questions and comments from any person who listens to my lessons or reads my writings. I truly welcome such responses (as long as they come from an individual who is legitimately interested in rational, responsible, respectful dialogue about the issue, rather than from one just desirous of being judgmental and argumentative). Dialogue with others, especially when this occurs with those with whom one may differ on some point of perception or practice, can be some of the most spiritually productive times in our earthly sojourn. We shouldn't disparage them, but delight in them. They are golden opportunities from our Lord God to perhaps make a huge difference in the life of a fellow seeker of Truth, one who might simply be confused and in need of having "explained to him the way of God more adequately" [Acts 18:26]. And may we never forget that, in the course of such dialogue with those who would challenge us, it just may prove to be the case that we are the ones in need of enlightenment. Perhaps it was this that bothered my preacher friend more than anything else!! It's sometimes hard for us preachers to admit we don't "know it all."

As those of you who have followed my teaching ministry during past years are aware, I tend to get considerable reader response (of both a positive and negative nature), a handful of which I try to share in the section following each weekly article. I make an effort to respond to everyone who takes the time to write to me, even those who write merely to condemn me (or tell me that in hell I'll be "hopping from brick to brick looking in vain for a cool spot"). Some, obviously, I choose to deal with in greater depth than with others, but it is my thinking that if someone cared enough to invest the time to share his or her thoughts with me, I should at least acknowledge their effort and, if possible, respond in some way. Of course, with a few of my more hardened and harsh "fans" I employ a healthy dose of Prov. 26:5 --- "Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes." Most of those who write, however, are honest, sincere seekers of Truth, many of whom agree with my understandings of the Word. Some do not. Thus, they seek dialogue with me on those matters of concern to them. With them I am more than willing to converse. These brethren may not always like the nature of my answers, and may remain unconvinced of the validity of my teaching, but most have stated they appreciated the fact that I would at least come out and engage them, rather than hiding under my desk or fleeing to the nearest cave (as many of the legalistic patternists are prone to do). Maybe this vital distinction is explained by the fact that I do not believe Truth ever needs to fear intense investigation, nor should any person who is persuaded they possess Truth ever fear boldly defending it against all attacks and confidently answering all of those who question them with regard to the hope that is within them [1 Peter 3:15]. With these principles and perceptions in place, let me share with you just a few thoughts for your consideration; reflections prompted by a few of the emails I received this past week.

You Can't Use OT Writings

A brother in Christ from Ohio sent me the following email just a few days ago: "I am currently in a 'new member' class with one of our elders. Last Sunday, at the end of the class, we had reached the subject of, and had briefly discussed, instrumental music. I brought up a few questions, but the bell rang ending the class! This elder told me to go research the subject and we would discuss it more the following Sunday. That research led me to your web site, which has been extremely helpful to me on this topic. When I try to point out to these people something like Psalm 150, or something else like it in the OT writings, they quickly come back with, 'We're no longer under the OT.' I think this smacks of duplicity, as they don't hesitate to quote the OT if it's supportive of their argument, but they then turn around and 'won't allow it' if the passage quoted is not supportive of their interpretation or practice. I'm really not trying to be confrontational, it's just that something doesn't seem right, and I'm looking for guidance. How would you answer these people who say we're not to use the OT writings?"

First, it is truly indicative of the misplaced focus of far too many within our own movement that a "new member" class would spend any time at all on such an issue as instruments of music within a "worship service." I guess it primarily has to do with what we perceive persons to be "new members" OF. If our focus is on getting these people indoctrinated in the traditions and customs of our own particular segment of a religious movement, then such topics are perhaps of value (at least in a sectarian sense). If, however, we are more intent upon helping these "new members" of the universal One Body of Christ come to know Jesus better, and grow in relationship with Him, then such topics are absolutely irrelevant, if not actually counterproductive!

Second, the glaring inconsistencies of the legalists' arguments are indeed shocking, but never really surprising (at least not to those of us who have dealt with them for decades). They can look you right in the eyes, without blinking, with a straight face, without blushing, and profess some of the most pathetic nonsense that one has ever heard!! Such is the power of the delusion that God has permitted to come upon them because they love their tradition over the Truth [2 Thess. 2:10-11]. As for the tired argument that the inspired writings of the Old Covenant are not for those living under the New Covenant, that is simply not even consistent with the writings of the NT canon itself, which appeal to the OT documents countless times in order to illustrate and illuminate the principles and precepts of our Lord for His Church. Decades after the day of Pentecost, the apostle Paul informed the evangelist Timothy that the "sacred writings are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" [2 Tim. 3:15]. He then immediately states, "ALL Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" [vs. 16-17]. To the brethren in Rome the apostle Paul wrote, "Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" [Rom. 15:4]. I would think the term "whatever" would also include Psalm 150, although some of my brethren would cast it from the canon if they could.

The simple reality is: these legalistic patternists cannot allow those with whom they differ on the issue of instruments to appeal to the writings of the Old Covenant. Why? Because these inspired, edifying God-breathed documents clearly, repeatedly and emphatically declare God's complete approval of the use of instrumental accompaniment to singing in a worship setting. Their contention, therefore, is that with the arrival of the New Covenant our God changed His mind on this matter. Of course, there is not a single syllable anywhere in the writings of the NT canon that even hints at such a reversal (apparently He forgot to mention it), therefore they have manufactured the "silence prohibits" law of biblical interpretation. Since not even they themselves apply this consistently in their exegesis of NT Scripture, they then had to come up with the "law of expediency" so that they could allow those things about which Scripture was silent, but which were part of their personal and/or party preferences. Oh, what a tangled web we weave!! Dear brother, I can assure you that your elder friend will never be able to produce a single passage anywhere in the Bible (Old or New) that even remotely hints at divine disapproval for instrumental accompaniment. On the contrary, passages in both OT and NT writings can be produced that demonstrate exactly the opposite. The only argument he will be able to provide is the argument of silence, which is no valid, rational argument at all, and which I have repeatedly, and at length, refuted in my writings over the years (you'll find a good number of these in my Topical Index under the headings "Law of Silence" and "Musical Instruments").

Is Sprinkling "Baptism"?

A reader living in Norfolk, Virginia wrote, "I am a Baptist and have never been a part of a congregation that required rebaptism if the person coming to us had been previously immersed within a Christian group. I have, however, been a member of one that did require baptism of the person if they had only been sprinkled rather than immersed!! What are your views on sprinkling? I personally consider sprinkling unacceptable baptism, except when the person is extremely handicapped (to the extent that even assistance by others in carrying that person into and out of the baptismal pool is out of the question). I believe that since Jesus was immersed, and since we are to follow His example, sprinkling is unacceptable, and those who have been sprinkled should be baptized properly."

Is sprinkling "baptism"? Well, the short, technical answer is "NO, it is not." The Greek word meaning "to sprinkle" is rhantizo, whereas the Greek word meaning "to immerse, submerge, plunge beneath" is baptizo (the transliteration of which is "baptize"). If the Lord had wanted us to demonstrate our faith by being sprinkled, such instruction could easily have been conveyed to us by the use of the first of the above two words (and yes, the word "sprinkle" does appear in the NT writings, so it was well-known to them at the time). The reality is that the Scriptures exclusively characterize this demonstration of faith as an "immersion" (utilizing the second of the two words). Thus, one is led to suspect there must be some spiritual or symbolic significance to that fact. I believe that significance is spelled out for us quite well in Romans 6. The apostle Paul wrote, "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also with the likeness of His resurrection" [vs. 3-5].

There is tremendous symbolism in the act of baptism, just as there is within the various elements of the Lord's Supper. Symbols and figures mean something; they represent something. Thus, unless there is some compelling reason for doing otherwise, these symbols as given and as practiced within the Scriptures should not be discounted or altered. Paul informs us that our baptism represents a burial. Immersion is a fitting symbol or figure, therefore, of a spiritual truth our Lord sought to convey to our hearts and minds via this action. Does sprinkling adequately represent the concept of a burial? I think most would agree that it does not. Consider the following powerful illustration: Little Johnny's pet dog has died, and so Johnny's dad instructs him to take the little dog into a far corner of the back yard, where the dog enjoyed sleeping in the shade, and bury it. A couple of days later the dad notices the dog lying on top of the ground in the corner of the yard with some dirt scattered lightly over it. He calls Johnny into the room. "Son, didn't I tell you to go out and bury the dog?" The son replies, "I did, Dad." The father tells him that the dog is clearly NOT buried, but is lying on top of the ground. "But, Dad, I sprinkled dirt on him!" The father was incredulous! "Sprinkling is not burying, son!" "Well, the Pastor said it was," replied the son!

Yes, there may well be times in our ministries when we encounter special circumstances which may preclude a person being immersed in water. One who comes to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ on his or her death bed in a hospital, for example. They may simply be physically incapable of experiencing a full immersion in water. What is to be done in their situation? Those who believe that salvation is tied inextricably to the act of baptism itself will insist that this patient absolutely must be immersed even if it kills him, for he will most assuredly go straight to hell without it (regardless of God's grace or the individual's faith, repentance, confession and his calling upon the Lord). "If'n he ain't got wet, he ain't IN yet," as the old frontier evangelist might say. Others will argue that our gracious, merciful, compassionate Father will make just allowances in such cases, judging the heart of the man. I personally am convinced that this is the case. Our heavenly Father is not the ultimate Legalist; He's the supreme Lover! Love is flexible; Law isn't. If we're living under the latter, we're all in trouble. If we're living under the rule of the former, however, then there is ample opportunity for our Father to display grace and mercy to His children, even to the point of permitting some flexibility in the practice of symbolic acts that represent greater spiritual realities (such as baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the like). I would urge the readers to prayerfully examine my following articles: "What Would YOU Have Done? Challenging Cases Involving Immersion" (Reflections #67a) and "Ministering to the Dying: Discussing a Deathbed Dilemma" (Reflections #70). I would additionally urge a study of The Maxey-Hughes Debate --- Baptism and Grace: Regarding the Application of the Latter to a Special Circumstance Involving the Former.

Rebaptized or Restored?

Another interesting twist on the rebaptism issue involves the theology of the eternal security of the believer (sometimes termed "once saved, always saved") and the opposition position that a person, after having been saved, may fall away from that saving relationship with the Lord. If such a falling away is possible, and if such a one later chooses to return to the Lord, is that person required to again be immersed into Christ? In other words, does willfully removing oneself from a relationship with the Lord negate one's previous baptism? An interesting question!! It is outside the scope of this present Reflections to examine the above theology regarding a person's eternal security, and the connected issues of free will, predetermination, predestination, election, limited atonement, and the like, although I have covered these in a Bible study located on my web site -- A Study of TULIP Theology: Examining the Five Points of Calvinism In Light of God's Inspired Word -- for those who might be interested in pursuing this further.

With regard to the above, several readers wrote me with very similar questions. Consider the following two. A reader from Pennsylvania wrote, "A close friend of mine, who is a minister of the Gospel in the Churches of Christ, shared with me a conversation he had with a woman who was a Calvinist. He told her that he'd been baptized as a teenager, but had 'fallen away' during his college years to the point of becoming a severe alcoholic, along with a number of other vices, some with potentially life-threatening consequences. A number of years later he returned to his faith, and later became a minister. In the context of this discussion, he stated that he truly believed that, had he died during the period of his rebellion against God, he would've been lost. The woman's response was, 'If you believe you were lost during that time, did you get baptized again when you came back?' My friend stated that he had not. Al, how do your views regarding rebaptism figure in with the idea of one being able to lose (or not lose) one's salvation? Thanks for sharing your insights with us, and thanks for your powerful example as a defender of unity and faithfulness. May God continue to bless you and your various worthy ministries." Similarly, a reader from my own beautiful state of New Mexico wrote, "If you can fall away and lose your salvation, do you have to get rebaptized whenever you come back to God? It obviously raises the question of whether the person was really saved before! However, assuming the person truly was saved before falling away, would they need to be baptized again when they returned to the Lord? I'm trying to figure out my view of this, and it is something I'm having trouble making sense of."

May a son choose, of his own free will, to forfeit his inheritance and forever sever all ties with his earthly father? May a son turn his back on all he was taught by his father, choosing of his own free will to live by a completely different moral standard? May a son spend the remainder of his days on earth cursing and slandering his father, and all his father stands for? Yes, such is not only possible, but we can probably all think of actual cases where someone has done just that. It really happens. Does this mean that the rebellious person was never truly a legitimate son of his father? Of course not. Once he was begotten by the father, he is, and he will always be, the father's son. That does NOT mean, however, that this son will always be within the father's household, or even in good standing with and fellowship with the father. The son may indeed die apart from the fold of the father, forfeiting his inheritance, and yet such does not negate the fact that he was a son. Just being a son does not of itself assure that one will inherit the father's fortune; remaining in a relationship with the father, however, does!! The choice is ours ... unless we embrace the theology that men are without free will, and thus incapable of altering the eternal fate God Himself has chosen for us. I do not believe Scripture teaches such a doctrine; indeed, just the opposite. Time and again we are urged to choose whom we will serve, whether God or our own appetites. This ability to choose is just as valid after salvation as it is before, which is why there are over 2000 warnings (by some scholars' count) to believers against turning away from their Lord!! Such warnings are utterly unnecessary and pointless if that which is being warned against is an absolute impossibility!! Indeed, such warnings become a mockery and a deception, for they testify to a LIE.

Yes, a rebellious son may choose to remove himself from the father's household, severing ties with the father, and he may well perish in a distant land, impoverished, and outside the warm embrace of his father and siblings. What a tragedy. And yet, we know from our own experiences in life that it happens ... and Scripture warns us repeatedly lest it happen to believers as well. "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is still called 'today,' so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end" [Heb. 3:12-14]. This is clearly, without any argument, a conditional statement, both in Greek and English -- the result, therefore, being conditioned upon the choices made by the persons in question (in this case: believers). If we choose NOT to remain faithful unto death, then the consequences will be dire, for the crown of life is promised only to those who DO [Rev. 2:10].

But, let's just suppose that a prodigal son, perishing in the mire and slop of a worldly pig pen, far removed from the father's household by his own self-will, comes to his senses and resolves to return to the father. Let's further assume that he acts upon this resolve, heading for home with a broken and contrite spirit, grieved by his rebellion against the father. He may even consider himself unworthy to be called a son; perhaps willing to be assigned a place with the slaves instead, just as long as he is near to the father. As he humbly approaches the father, professing his spiritual destitution, what does the father do? Does he demand the son grovel at his feet? Does he beat him for his indiscretions? Does he insist the son go through some kind of ceremony to be reinstated as his son? Nope!! The father throws a party for him!! "This SON of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found" [Luke 15:24]. The son did not regard himself as worthy to be called a son [vs. 21], but in the sight of the father, he was still his son! Yes, he had been LOST. The father acknowledges that sad fact. But, he has returned, and as a result has been restored to his place in the family. No need for a rebirth, because he is still the father's son. What is needed is restoration to the father's household, and that was graciously granted upon the son's return. He was LOST, but now is FOUND; he was DEAD, but now LIVES. The son chose to leave the father's household, which led to his "lostness and deadness;" he later chose to return, which resulted in his "foundness and aliveness." The father acknowledges the reality of both conditions! So must we! And the father also restored the lost son without any need for a rebirth!! So must we! Paul spoke of a man in Corinth who had departed for the "far country" spiritually, but who had sought forgiveness from his spiritual siblings after experiencing discipline at their hands. Paul said to "forgive and comfort him ... and reaffirm your love for him" [2 Cor. 2:7-8]. No mention of rebaptism. Instead, "restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness" [Gal. 6:1]. This was a medical term which simply signified putting something back in its place after it had been dislocated. May we seek to do the same with our brethren who have fallen away so that we may rejoice at their restoration to the family.

Chiding while Defending?

A minister from the state of Tennessee who has for a number of years been somewhat critical of my teaching, although always in a fairly benevolent and respectful manner, wrote the following to me in an email dated August 16 -- "Al, do you find it ironic that you are critical of the divisions among Churches of Christ (i.e., One-Cuppers, No-Located-Preacher, No-Sunday School, Non-Institutional, etc.), while at the same time defending the right of all the different denominations to exist? I by no means applaud the divisions among 'us,' and I regret that, when the dividing issues arose, brethren were not mature enough to deal with them in a less divisive fashion (such as simply recognizing that different congregations preferred to do some things one way and some another -- i.e., the matter of classes, the matter of the care of orphans, etc.). I regret that they felt the necessity of drawing lines of fellowship between the congregations. To me, however, there is a tremendous difference between the kinds of 'issues' that have divided 'us,' and the situation that exists with the whole system of denominationalism. To chide the former while defending the latter is, to me, highly contradictory."

As I tried to explain in my response to this dear brother-in-Christ, whom I greatly respect for his many decades of service to the Lord, I believe he has completely failed to grasp the nature of my teaching!! I suspect a great many of you, my readers, are thinking much the same -- "This guy is totally wrong in his assessment of what Al is saying. He's not even close." This preaching brother seems to be strongly suggesting that I have been highly critical of factionalism within our own Stone-Campbell Movement, and especially within the Church of Christ wing of that movement, but that I defend the denominational schisms within the larger body of Christendom. Yes, I am indeed quite critical of factionalism, but I am also extremely critical and condemning of sectarianism and denominationalism. Whether this divisive, schismatic spirit exists within the Body of Christ universal, or within a local body of believers, it is equally deplorable. Clearly, I tend to focus more on the ills besetting our own movement, but that in no way suggests I either defend or applaud similar ills besetting the universal One Body of our Lord!! I recognize that my sphere of influence upon the One Body is limited, thus I seek to have as great an impact as I can within that portion of the whole wherein God has placed me. We are all called to blossom and bear fruit where we're planted. Thus, my teachings will quite naturally reflect this focus, thereby emphasizing some areas over others. This should in no way be misconstrued as criticism of one, but defense of the others. That is a fallacious and unjustified assessment.

Ideally, there would be absolutely NO named groups anywhere upon the earth within the universal One Body of Jesus Christ (not even a "Church of Christ" named group). We would ALL simply and only and forever be disciples of our Lord; one vast spiritual family of loving, accepting siblings, intermingling and fellowshipping with one another without any manmade barriers or walls of exclusion whatsoever (i.e., those erected around endless personal and/or party preferences, perceptions, precepts, practices and patterns). Unfortunately, the ideal, as in most areas of life, has eluded us. Why? Because we have gotten in the way!! Thus, the reality of the condition of Christendom in the world today (and it has long been so) is various groups of believers in Christ Jesus who have congregated and organized themselves around various traditions, customs, preferences and persons --- and, yes, this includes our own named/denominated group: the Church of Christ group.

But, I believe we have largely over the centuries been attacking the wrong enemy. Our tendency has been to attack anything and anyone that differs with US. The underlying belief (and it is very much a mistaken one) is that for the One Body universal to ever be united, every member must be in complete agreement. This is known as uniformity -- a concept never promoted in Scripture. Indeed, uniformity is contrary to the very concept of the unity of diverse elements of a body. We are a functional whole because of the fact that we are different in countless ways. Nowhere in Scripture are disciples called to surrender their personal convictions, or even cherished practices, and bow to some uniform form of religious expression (and just who, by the way, gets to decide what that one form is?). There were those disciples who walked along with the little band following Jesus, and there were those walking with Jesus who were outside that little band. There were those who ate meat previously offered to idols (and perhaps sold in the markets at a discount), and those who chose not to, but ate vegetables instead. There were those who regarded one day above other days, and others who regarded every day alike. There were, and are, those who value Sunday School classes for different age groups, there are those who don't. There are those who use one cup in the observance of the Lord's Supper, and there are those who use multiple cups. There are those who have located preachers, there are those who don't. There are those who prefer one version of the Bible over another. There are those who do not eat in the church building, and those who do. There are those who sing hymns of praise with instrumental accompaniment, and there are those who refuse. There are men and women who employ PowerPoint presentations to enhance their teaching, and those who aren't comfortable with it. Some have praise teams, and some do not. Some believe in the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit, some do not. Some believe the church "treasury" may be used for certain things, others would never think of using their "treasury" for such things. Some have one name on the sign out front, others have another name. Some don't even believe in signs or buildings, but will just meet in homes as "Christians." And on and on and on and on and on we could go.

What I'm about to say may shock some of you; others will understand completely! I do not believe that it is wrong for all of these various groups to exist! They are merely realistic reflections of the fact that humans differ, and that they tend to congregate with those who share similar preferences in certain areas of perception and practice. If I have come to the conclusion that it is wrong to eat a meal in the church building, then it would only be natural for me to associate with other disciples of Jesus Christ who share my convictions on this matter. The Scriptures nowhere condemn disciples of Christ gathering in groups supportive of their convictions. What Scripture condemns is disciples, whether individually or collectively, condemning their fellow disciples for daring to differ with them!! It is okay to be different ... it is NOT okay to divide over these differences. I don't have to agree with my sister, Rosemary, in order to be her brother in the flesh. We have the same parents, so we're siblings. We don't have to live in the same house; we don't even have to live in the same state. We don't have to like the same foods, or music, or sports team. We can be as different as night and day (and we are!!), and that is no problem. The problem arises when I condemn her for NOT embracing the same things that I like (and vice versa). My dear preacher friend from Tennessee seems to agree with me on this, for he's written that he deplores the lack of maturity evidenced when differences of perception, preference, and practice arose among brethren, saying that "brethren were not mature enough to deal with them in a less divisive fashion (such as simply recognizing that different congregations preferred to do some things one way and some another)." AMEN, brother. That is my point exactly!!

It is NOT the fact that we have many different groups that each provide a place of association for those with shared convictions on matters of personal preference, perception and practice that is deplorable! NO. It is the fact that too many of these groups, and those within them, condemn everyone else who is "not of US." No one group is the standard for faithfulness in work and worship; no one group is THE universal One Body of Christ in its fullness upon the face of the earth (although many believe themselves to be just that). It is the factional, schismatic, sectarian, denominational ATTITUDE that I condemn in my teaching. Being different, and associating with those of like cherished convictions and practices, IS NOT WRONG!! We can all still be one happy, loving Family in Christ Jesus even though we may be working and worshipping in differing associations (just as my sister and I can still be siblings, although living in separate states and enjoying different things). It is when we elevate ourselves and our preferences to the level of LAW, that we then begin to push away and condemn those "not of US," and it is this I deplore and condemn and teach against with all of my being.

I am not opposed to one cup congregations, nor am I opposed to multi-cup congregations. I could worship perfectly well in either, although my preference is for the latter. I'm not opposed to congregations that do not have Bible classes, nor am I opposed to those who do. The same with those who eat in their buildings (or have a fellowship hall) and those who don't. I could live with either, although my preference is for the former. I have no problem with groups who use instruments and groups who do not. I can praise my God with fullness of heart in either setting, although my own preference is for a cappella. I do not even have a problem with those who have chosen to associate with a heritage outside the parameters of my own Stone-Campbell Movement. I personally may not choose to embrace some of their unique perceptions, preferences and practices, but I certainly won't condemn them just because their way doesn't happen to be precisely the same as my way. MY problem is not with these differing associations themselves; that is perfectly understandable given the nature of human makeup. My problem is with the HEART of way too many of those within these various associations of disciples when they begin to condemn and castigate all those who dare to differ with them, insisting adamantly that unless everyone else on the planet see things and do things their way, then they are not their brethren and they are bound straight for hell.

Again, factionalism and sectarianism and denominationalism are attitudes evidenced in vicious actions taken against other brethren. The various groups themselves are not really the problem we face. It is rather some within these groups who evidence an arrogant attitude of religious superiority and exclusivism. Thus, as I have stated many times before, it is this I preach and teach and write against, all in the hope of reversing this attitude. My goal is not to get everyone to worship inside of a Church of Christ building. If that was my goal, then my ministry would be sectarian in nature. My goal is to get all of my brethren the world over, in whatever Christian association they may work and worship, to finally come to a realization that it is not uniformity of personal preferences and/or presence within a particular association that determines unity within the One Body universal, but rather it is our union with Jesus. It is not pattern, place or position ... it is PERSON. When this eternal truth finally begins to sink into the hearts and minds of my dear brethren, the factional and denominational spirit and mindset will rapidly diminish, and ALL of God's people, whatever their association might be, whatever their differing convictions, will regard one another as Family! It is time for the feuding to end, for the factional spirit to die, and for the One Body to be healed. May we each pray, "Dear Lord, let it begin with ME!"

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

Readers' Reflections

From a New Reader in [Unknown]:

Brother Al, Recently I stumbled across your article --- Daniel Sommer: Father of Ultra-Conservative Church of Christ Watchdogism (Issue #213). It was very instructional!! Thank you!! I grew up within a very conservative Church of Christ, and I knew that our beginnings had something to do with Daniel Sommer. Now I understand a little better what happened. As a young adult I witnessed the turbulence surrounding the once beloved, and then vilified, Carl Ketcherside (do you have any articles on him?). It really saddens me to see such mean-spiritedness and exclusivism among those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. I have now found true freedom in Christ, and thus am now free to love even those who have chosen to ostracize me! Tonight I read Unity or Uniformity? A Distressing Dialogue (Issue #200). It knocked my socks off!!! Like you, I too became frustrated some years ago and asked the legalists for "The List" of all the particulars of the PATTERN ... and I got the exact same answer you did: "It's all in the Bible; go find it yourself." Bro. Al, you do a wonderful job of identifying the very heart of these issues and sharing that information with all of us. This particular article is masterfully done!! I hope many will read it and begin to see the light. I so appreciate your term "legalistic patternism." This term accurately summarizes the atmosphere of my own "church" during my formative years, and there are too many today who persist in keeping it alive. Thank you for providing a wealth of good material which I plan to share with others!!

From an Elder in Florida:

Dear Bro. Al, With the bi-centennial of Thomas Campbell's Declaration and Address looming ahead of us, perhaps it would be good to also pay some attention to the Sand Creek Address and Declaration, adoption of which was promoted by Daniel Sommer. The latter document undid much of the good of the former. I am sure your readers would benefit from your analysis of, and your insights into, this beginning of the end for the conservative Churches of Christ. The insistence on purity in doctrine and practice at the cost of unity, even in disputable matters, and the willingness to castigate brethren as being "insincere" in matters of personal disagreement, have plagued our movement ever since!! Some light on the origin of these attitudes, as well as on the man who promoted them so effectively, should be enlightening for many!

From a New Reader in Florida:

Brother Al, I would like to be added to the mailing list of subscribers to your weekly Reflections articles. I attend the ----- Church of Christ here in -----, Florida. My greatest fear is that we, as well as many other believers, are being deceived by our own preconceptions of what constitutes truth --- whether these come from our own desires or from what we have always been taught. I am afraid that I may be perceived as a "maverick" here for that very reason. Thank you, Al, for daring to quest after Truth, rather than be satisfied with the traditional status quo.

From a New Reader in Texas:

Dear Bro. Al, I was just introduced to your writings today by my uncle. I really enjoyed your article on accepting others as fellow Christians without worrying about agreeing with them on every issue. If possible, I would like to be placed on your mailing list so that I can read your articles regularly. Thank you!

From a New Reader in [Unknown]:

Brother Al, I was doing some research on the Internet on the hymn "Night With Ebon Pinion" and came across your article Abba! Father! From the Anguish of the Anointed to the Assurance of the Adopted (Issue #291). I was very much touched by it. In fact, I made a copy of it, abridged it, and am using it as a talk before the Lord's Supper. I would be very pleased if you would add me to the subscription list for your Reflections.

From a New Reader in Ohio:

Dear Brother Al, I have just been reading some articles and Bible studies on your web site. I had been searching for some background on instrumental music in the church. I recently was baptized at a Church of Christ here in Ohio, and I really like your insights on the Scriptures and the Church. I was raised a Methodist, but haven't really been a practicing Christian for most of my life (I'm 47). Would you please sign me up for your Reflections? Thank you for your work, and may God continue to work through you!

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Brother Al, Your insights into many of the "issues" which the Churches of Christ face have been most meaningful to me, as oft-times I have wondered if I might be alone in my thinking!! Sadly, we don't feel free to discuss many of these issues within our own congregations for fear of being called "liberals" and "trouble makers." Legalism still seems to be the norm in most of our congregations, and yet we wonder why our numbers are dwindling. Thank you so much for standing for Truth in the face of adversity!

From a Reader in New Mexico:

Bro. Al, I just finished your last Reflections, and enjoyed it (as always). As you said about the fellow being baptized in the Jordan, I personally have no desire to do that, but if he did, then it is fine with me!! I was about 12-13 when I was baptized. It was in a river, at night, with the headlights of cars turned on the river so people could see, and so the preacher, hopefully, wouldn't drown me. Why did I choose that night (it was during a Gospel meeting)? I don't know. I know that I had been putting it off for a few months. Anyway, that day my class had been on a field trip, riding the school bus for about 40 miles for some purpose or other. When we got home, we learned that another bus had been involved in a crash, with two or three of the kids killed. They were older than I was, but I knew them. I started thinking --- what if that had been me? So, was I baptized that night because I was scared? Probably that was a part of it. I've taken my baptism out and examined it a lot of times over the years, but I have never felt any reason to do it again. I do wish, however, that I had known/understood more about God's gift of the Holy Spirit, as it probably would have helped me handle some tough times in my life a lot better than I did.

From a Reader in Virginia:

Brother Al, Thank you for the terrific ministry of your weekly Reflections. I really look forward to them each week, and I also share many of them with my Sunday School class. Teaching the Bible is the greatest joy in my life, and I want to teach it correctly so that it will glorify our Lord.

From a Reader in New Mexico:

Bro. Al, I completely agree with you that not all matters are essential for us all to agree on; there can be harmony in spite of our differences. Yet, in our own church we still find those who fight with others over these NON-essentials. Why must we be forced to submit to another's opinion on these matters, when doing so hinders our own personal and small group worship? I find it very discouraging when trying to reach young people, and actually seeing progress being made with them, only to be "reined in" so that a few in the congregation might not have to feel "uncomfortable." I find this very, very frustrating. On another note, I really wanted to thank you, because of thoughts brought up by your Reflections, and also by your preaching on Sundays, that have brought concepts and challenges to our hearts and our minds that have prompted my husband and me to get into the Word more and reaffirm what the Bible says. Thanks for those probing questions that allow our minds to think, and which challenge us to get closer in our relationship with God and each other by delving deeper into His Word.

Clarification -- At the beginning of my previous issue of Reflections, I gave a quote from Charles Evans Hughes (1862-1948). In referring to his many notable accomplishments, I stated that this distinguished person had served as the "Chief Justice of the Supreme Court." Although this man was indeed a member of the Supreme Court, and although he did serve as Chief Justice, it is technically incorrect to refer to the person in that position as the "Chief Justice of the Supreme Court." His actual title is -- Chief Justice of the United States. In point of fact, he is the head of the judicial branch of the federal government. The official title of the other eight persons on the high court is -- "Associate Justice of the Supreme Court." This distinction in the title was brought to my attention by a good friend and dear brother who worships in the congregation where I serve, and who is retired from the federal government. I was unaware of this distinction, and thus am more than happy to make the correction here. --- Al Maxey

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