January 16, 2003
David, let me first express my appreciation for your well-written effort at rebuttal to my eighth article in my Reflections Regarding Responsible Reformation. This particular article was entitled From Whence Cometh Contentions? Your three page letter to me (dated January 15) shows you have a deep love for the Lord and a concern for unity and harmony in the One Body, as well as a regard for Truth that motivates you to take a stand against that which you perceive to be arrayed against it. For this I applaud you. I share your convictions and concern. I also appreciate Jerry forwarding my article on to you for your review and response. Many of the subscribers to Reflections are sharing these articles with family and friends, and I appreciate their efforts in helping me to get the message of responsible reformation out to as many believers as possible.
You began your comments by quoting Psalm 133:1, in which you added a comment of your own -- "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren (in and through Christ) to dwell together in unity!" You emphasized the word "brethren," correctly implying that our unity is to be with our brethren, and not with unbelievers. I agree. You also noted that both our unity and brotherhood are "in and through Christ." Again, I could not agree more! I have proclaimed for years, and continue to proclaim in these Reflections, that it is our Lord Jesus around whom we must rally, not the many differing personal perceptions, preferences and practices we all embrace. Rallying around the former will bring about unity of family, the latter will only achieve a contrived uniformity of factions .... a pseudo-community.
David, you referred to my article (From Whence Cometh Contentions?) as a "diatribe condemning people of Conservative religious or Fundamentalist Biblical beliefs." Actually, that is not true. I was condemning neither these people nor their beliefs. Rather, I was focusing on the attitudes that tended to facilitate factions within the One Body. I wrote, "It should be quickly noted, however, that this has nothing to do with the convictions themselves which are held by these people .... rather, it has to do with their attitudes toward them, and also toward those who don't hold to those cherished convictions." I also noted in the article, "Factions, schisms and divisions are not limited to either 'liberals' or 'conservatives.' There are 'liberal' factionists, just as there are 'conservative' factionists .... and 'middle of the road' factionists. It is not one's theology, necessarily, it is rather one's mindset that determines if one's position is going to be made a point of contention and separation between brethren." Thus, David, my "diatribe" was not against any particular group, per se, nor against their convictions or beliefs. It was against an attitude or mindset that tends to result in the separation of brethren. My point was, and this is easily demonstrated historically, sociologically, culturally, politically and religiously, that militancy tends to come more from the conservative end of the spectrum than the liberal. This is simply a fact easily demonstrated in many areas of life. Militancy and fundamentalism are far too frequently willing "bed-fellows." It was this tendency that I sought to address in my Reflections #8.
You stated that I was "holding up liberalism as being superior in nature to conservative thought." Again, David, it was neither conservative nor liberal "thought" (with regard to specific beliefs) that I was condoning or condemning. Rather, I sought to expose an attitude that can be found in both groups. My only point was that the mindset in question tends to be found more frequently in one rather than the other. Thus, the need for corrective action is greater in one group than the other. Again, this is an easily demonstrated fact in virtually all areas of life.
You wrote, "I found it most astounding that Jesus was not mentioned by name even once, with only a vague reference to a 'Person' and two about the church of Christ therein." Well, David, you must have a huge problem with the OT book of Esther, in which the name of God is never mentioned, and all references to prayer, worship, Jerusalem and the Temple are omitted. The reality is that authorial intent and focus will largely determine specific content. The fact that the word "Jesus" never appeared in my article is not something to become overly concerned with in light of my 30 years of ministry in which I have upheld HIM as the focal point of Christian belief and practice, and of unity.
In your third paragraph, David, you mention three things you feel very strongly about. I should point out that I am in total agreement with you on each of them.
With regard to the third point above, you wrote: "For instance: God tells us He is the only God and the Creator of all things, that He is a jealous God Who is extremely intolerant of belief in any other god. Should we call Him a liar and have fellowship with professed Christians who teach there are many ways to Salvation through other gods? God forbid!" God forbid, indeed! No, David, we should not fellowship such persons, and I have nowhere in my teaching suggested we should.
David, you then proceed to list five other matters of concern, questioning my position on each. In point of fact, I happen to agree with you on each of them. I'm left wondering, therefore, what the purpose of those six questions was and why you felt I might be in conflict with you on them. Notice these other five:
David, I'm again left to wonder why you addressed these questions to me. There is nothing in any of my Reflections, or any of my other writings, that even remotely suggests I might hold to these positions. You seem to believe my "call for tolerance" is a call to fellowship darkness. Far from it. It is simply a call to embrace our brothers and sisters IN CHRIST with whom we differ on numerous matters not addressed in the inspired Scriptures. The family of God has become fragmented into warring factions over these particular human perceptions and preferences, and I simply seek to call my fighting family back into sweet fellowship IN HIM. No, we should never be tolerant of that which is clearly arrayed against God and Truth, however we must become more tolerant of the countless differences we have with one another in non-salvation matters. It appears you have gravely misunderstood my purpose in these Reflections.
David, you declared in your letter to me: "Let no true Christian embrace anyone in pretended Christian fellowship that would bring another Gospel or preach another Christ!" To this I say, Amen! You further wrote, "We are to hold to Christ even if the entire world hates us." This gets another Amen! You also noted, "If Divine Truth causes division, then let division come!" True. However, if Tradition is causing division, then our brethren need to be called to refocus on Truth. Would you not agree? It is this I seek to accomplish in my Reflections Regarding Responsible Reformation.
David, you expressed my sentiments perfectly when you wrote, "Can we disagree about some doctrines? Surely! We can do so in His Love and still have true fellowship with one another!" Truer words were never penned, my friend. We are once again in perfect agreement. With regard to your friend, whom you mentioned in the letter, you stated correctly, "We will not allow any superficial doctrinal disagreements to separate us from His love and our fellowship with one another." David, once again you have stated the very essence of my own personal belief. You continued, "Nonetheless, we speak boldly and with passion about our doctrinal disagreements that the Holy Spirit thereby might reveal the Truth as touching each matter." That is also what I profess, David.
As you clearly note, communication is critical to effecting greater fellowship among genuine believers in Christ Jesus our Lord. We have allowed too many inconsequential matters to divide us. It is time to begin talking to one another, rather than talking about one another. That is another purpose behind my Reflections. Indeed, the focus of my ministry has always been to try and break down the barriers dividing God's people, and to help build bridges of communication and fellowship. It is time for the divisiveness to end, and I seek to bring that reform to the One Body one disciple at a time. To do that you have to show where the barriers are, and also where bridges need to be constructed.
David wrote, "It is never love to allow anyone to go away still in their sins without entreating them to repent and seek God's Salvation." I agree. Further, it is not a demonstration of love to allow your brethren to continue the attitudes and actions that divide asunder the One Body without seeking to call them to repentance and renewed fellowship with all true believers. It is this latter that I seek to accomplish in my ministry and through my Reflections. Surely you would support such an effort, would you not?
Your final paragraph in your letter to me began with this thought: "Behold how good and lovely are the wounds of a friend whose Conservative nature demands he warn others of the fate awaiting them if they continue in sin." We should all be "conservative" in this respect. Perhaps we could also say, however: Behold how good and lovely are the words of a friend whose "liberal" nature compels him to warn others of their divisive attitudes which are resulting in the dismemberment of the Body of Christ. There is just as much love in calling people to renewed fellowship as there is in calling them to repentance; indeed, the two are inseparable.
David, I have read your "rebuttal" several times and am puzzled as to why you wrote me. Every one of the concerns you expressed in your letter are also concerns of mine. Frankly, David, I believe you completely failed to perceive the intent of my article, and thus jumped to some erroneous conclusions as to the nature of my beliefs and ministry. It is my hope that this reasoned response to your "rebuttal" will facilitate greater understanding between us, and that we can work together to bring about this much needed reform of our family in Christ.
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