Four Reasons Why I'm Church of Christ

A couple of weeks ago I had a Skype conversation with Tony Jones and the class he was teaching for the Missional Leadership graduate program at Rochester College (directed by my good friend Mark Love).

Before we got into the conversation Tony started me off with a question about why I was a member of the Churches of Christ. On the surface, it doesn't seem like I'm a good fit for the Churches of Christ. Is that impression right?

Here's the answer I gave Tony.

To begin, there are two kinds of Churches of Christ. Some people call these "liberal/progressive" or "conservative/traditional" Churches of Christ. This split isn't formal, but it's widely recognized within the movement. However, I don't like these labels as they aren't very descriptive.

Here are the labels I prefer. There are ecumenical Churches of Christ and there are sectarian Churches of Christ. The ecumenical Churches of Christ have a sense of church history and about where they fit within that history. Consequently, ecumenical Churches of Christ see themselves as just one part of the church universal and, thus, extend the right hand of fellowship to other Christian communities. By contrast, sectarian Churches of Christ don't have a sense of church history and, thus, feel that they are a faithful replication of the 1st century church (e.g., many of these churches have "Founded in AD 33" inscribed on their cornerstones). As such, sectarian Churches of Christ feel that they are the true and only apostolic church. All other churches are forms of heresy and disobedience, a willful refusal to worship according to the New Testament pattern. Consequently, it is widely believed in sectarian Churches of Christ that all Christians outside of the Churches of Christ are in a state of rebellion against God. Thus my label "sectarian."

A lot of people, when they hear "Church of Christ", think of the sectarian Churches of Christ. And as should be obvious if you read my blog, I don't fit into that mold. Thus the questions like the one Tony asked me: Why are you a member of the Churches of Christ?

However, I don't worship with a sectarian Church of Christ. I worship with an ecumenical Church of Christ. And, as I've said on many occasions, I find the ecumenical Churches of Christ to be one of the best places to be within contemporary Christianity. Not that we don't have our problems, but I think the ecumenical Churches of Christ have a lot going for them. Of course, I'm biased in this assessment as my history and biography are a huge part of this.

With that backdrop in mind, here are the three reasons I gave to Tony (plus one extra) as to why I like the Churches of Christ.

1. Keeping it Local: Congregational Structure
Churches of Christ are radically congregational in structure. Each church is independent. There is no hierarchy, conventions, or bureaucracies. Each church is left to govern itself as it sees fit.

The benefit of this, for me at least, is that my church life is very local. I don't give any attention, say, to how the evangelicals and emergents are getting along, or to how the Southern Baptists are receiving the newest version of the NIV, or to how Rome is getting along with the American bishops. All I have to focus on is my life with the Highland Church of Christ that meets on 425 Highland Avenue in Abilene, TX. I'm not a part of a larger movement, conversation, or organization.

I'm just a guy with a blog who goes to the Highland Church of Christ. That's it.

And here's the deal. Truth be told, finding a church home is all about your experience at the local level. If the people in a church love you and you love them I don't think it matters much if that church is Catholic, Church of Christ, Baptist, or Episcopalian. At root, the question "Why are you a member of the Churches of Christ?" (or anything else for that matter) really isn't that critical of a question. If you're happy at the local level then a lot of the global stuff can slide. In fact, a lot of complaints about the global level are really complaints about the local level. When you hear someone say, for instance, "I hate the Churches of Christ" this person is more likely saying that they hate the Churches of Christ they have had experiences with. We don't hate (or love) abstractions. It's all local. The loving and the hating.

2. The Noble Bereans: Biblical but Non-Creedal
The Churches of Christ are non-creedal. We don't have a statement of faith. Nor, incidentally, do Church of Christ universities. According to most Churches of Christ creeds are "the teachings and traditions of men" and, thus, highly suspect. We just use the bible as our guide for faith and practice.

Theologians in the audience are now scratching their heads. How, it might be asked, do you regulate your doctrine without a creed? Good question. Answer: Mainly via tradition and an unspoken creed. The creed is more implicit than explicit.

But an unspoken creed leaves a lot room for diversity. For example, while most members of the Churches of Christ believe in the Trinity (at least implicitly), there is a strong Unitarian strain within our movement. Why? Well, the word "Trinity" isn't in the bible you see. That word, and by implication that doctrine, is a "teaching of man." The examples can abound here. Members of the Church of Christ are generally amillennialists. But you do run into people who believe in the Left Behind stuff. Historically we're Arminian but more and more Church of Christ folk are adopting Reformed beliefs.

It's getting to be a bit of a mess. And that's the point. This theological elbow room works for me. I just add my mess to the mix.

What holds the mess together (at least for now), and is a distinctive mark of our movement, is the consistent and ubiquitous appeal to Scripture. If there is one verse that describes the Churches of Christ it might be this:

Acts 17.11
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
What truly marks the Churches of Christ is this: we examine the Scriptures daily to see if what is taught is true.

So that's what I shared with Tony. What marks me as Church of Christ isn't theology or doctrine. Again, we're non-creedal. What marks me as Church of Christ the centrality of Scripture. How I keep going back to Scripture, day after day.

For example, think about this blog. Have you not noticed that this is a Church of Christ blog? If you can't see this conduct the following experiment. Scroll down to the end of this page and count up the number of Scripture references you see across the posts. Go back a couple of weeks and count them all. Then go to a favorite Christian blogger of yours and do the same, counting up all the Scripture references and quotations.

If you do this you'll see the difference. As best I can tell, as I mentioned to Tony, I quote Scripture more than any other Christian blogger I know. Shoot, I quote more Scripture than a lot of fundamentalist bloggers. Do you know why?

I'm Church of Christ.

3. No Flag Waving
The third reason I find the Churches of Christ congenial is that we're not nationalistic. We don't have flags in our churches and we don't have patriotic displays on the Fourth of July or other national holidays. Of course, this practice varies from church to church. But generally speaking, we don't wave flags.

(Note: In the last decade or so there do seem to be a few Churches of Christ who are drifting toward evangelicalism. Consequently, these churches are slowly becoming politicized and, thus, are starting to wave flags and obsess about election cycles. This is a new and worrying trend.)

In short, there a bit of an Anabaptist and anarchist thread running through our movement. Largely due to people like David Lipscomb, an early leader in the Churches of Christ (and founder of one of our schools, Lipscomb University, where I once taught) who was a pacifist and advocated that Christians shouldn't vote or serve on juries.

So, in a world where Christianity is becoming more and more politicized and where "God and Country" idolatry is an increasing problem, I find the Churches of Christ to be a nice oasis from the political madness of contemporary Christianity.

4. "Welcome each other, as Christ has welcomed you": Open Communion
I didn't mention this to Tony, but I think he would have liked (see his post here) this fourth reason about why I prefer the Churches of Christ: Open communion.

If you attend a Church of Christ you are welcome to take communion. To be honest, I don't think the Churches of Christ have thought much about this topic, but that's our practice. If you are sitting in our pews on Sunday you are welcome to take communion as the trays are passed. The implicit theology is clear: You are welcome at the Lord's Table. No one is left out.

(A story about this. I think this practice of open communion in our churches was one of the most profound and affecting things that the SoulForce--an LGBT advocacy group--riders experienced when they visited our campus in 2006. When SoulForce arrived on a Sunday night they had dinner at a local Church of Christ where there was a communion service afterward for our college students. The SoulForce riders attended the service and, per our practice, were welcomed to partake of communion with everyone in attendance. As I remember it, this act of welcome, and the implicit theology it incarnated, was the most profound experience of the visit for the SoulForce riders.)

To be sure, there are good things and bad things about open communion (as there are good things and bad things to closed communion). But given the vision of radical hospitality I paint in Unclean it should be obvious that I prefer open communion.

So there you have it. That was my answer to Tony. Why do I like the Churches of Christ? Four reasons: congregational/local structure, non-creedal but biblical, strains of Anabaptist/anarchism, and open communion.

I also like the acapella music, the Arminian soteriology, the high view of baptism (and that it's believer's baptism), the taking of commuion every Sunday, the use of Sunday school, the lack of clergy, and the amillennialism/preterism (which keeps us clear of the Left Behind stuff and zany ideas about the state of Israel).

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96 thoughts on “Four Reasons Why I'm Church of Christ”

  1. Sounds like you have some good reasons to me. I've met both kinds of Church of Christ. As a campus minister, I regularly had to support such students in IVCF because others confused the denomination with the cult (which also had a presence on campus).

  2. I'm thankful for you Dr. Beck.  After a few paragraphs, I found myself smiling.  Even though our church doesn't say "Church of Christ," that is the tradition I was raised in, and there are a number of things that you said that I still deeply value.  When asked about my background, I often point out my gratitude for my heritage in the Lord and cite a few of the things that you mentioned in this post.  :)

  3. Thank you Richard, really interesting - my formative Christian years (new birth + 6 months to ten years were spent in a British House Church, which as part of a later Restorationist movement seems to have many similar features. Today, however, and for the last 14 years I have been Anglican (Episcopalian) - a church which formally denies many things I believe in and believes many things I deny.  This has been a (mostly) enriching experience over the years.

    Why am I an Anglican when I don't really believe in clergy, hierarchy, formalism and monarchy? Well my wife, whom I fell in love with 14 years ago, is a life-long Anglican, and as submission was important in my tradition but not in hers the only way for us to work that out in practice is for me to submit to her. I'm also pleased that we worship in the expression of the Body of Christ which is geographically closest to where we live - the fact that it happens to be Anglican is neat.

    I think we can get quite obsessed with finding or creating the "perfect" model of Church, whether we are seeking to restore some lost NT model or create something afresh. I also think an ethic of consumerism has drifted into our habits of shopping around for the church that "suits me best." I like some of the work you have been doing with the Greek Orthodox church - I suppose you can't get more removed from CoC than that. For me Church shouldn't be "just how I like it" - I need to be challenged by people who are 40 years older than me or 30 years younger than me, who have met with Jesus in very different ways in their lives. I need to break bread with those who are rich as well as those who are poor, with those who are unread as well as those who are learned and with those for whom a classic hymn stirs their heart as much as a prophetic interpretation of tongues might do for me. Its not easy but it is very much worthwhile.

    I suppose my church is not just the Anglican building down the lane ... I suppose it is here too.

  4. Do you think the ecumenical CoC is going to stick around for much longer, though? I have a thoughtful friend who frequently expresses his concerns that the ecumenical branch is turning toward a vanilla evangelicalism ... that the ecumenical move is somewhat based in wanting to be like "everybody else".

  5. Thanks, Dr. Beck, for the reminder of my heritage. I grew up in the sectarian branch, and for the most part all four of your points were true in those congregations.

  6. I am still amazed that we share such different views but so often I agree with so much of a post. I am not Church of Christ. I grew up in an American Baptist Church that had a Southern Baptist preacher. We knew no one of that at the time. It was just our little Baptist Church. In college I fell in love with the Christian Church, one of the other splinters from the Restoration movement-so much for unity-and love much of the same things you mentioned. Christian Churches do tend to be more political, though. I could live with a little less of that most days.

    I do disagree with you strongly on one point. Bring the instruments in the building and put them on stage.

  7. I was in Tony's living room for this Skype conversation.  The thoughts you shared with us were so helpful.  

  8. Very well stated. For those of us who have chosen to fight the good fight and not flee to the Community Church Movement, we need to rethink on occasion just why and how the Church of Christ can remain relevant in the 21st century Kingdom of God. Thanks for your thoughts. RWW

  9. Like the thoughts, mostly agree.  However, our strengths can also become liabilities. The danger in not having a written creed is that it can lead to the impression that you really don't have a creed (i.e. "we just follow the Bible") when, in fact, you do, as you even acknowledge in your post.  Ironically, this is exactly what led to the sectarianism you distance yourself from in this blog (because after all, we are just following in the Bible, so what's wrong with everyone else who disagrees with us?).  

    Closely related is our (yes, I am one of you!) disdain for formal theology.  This looks strong on the surface, because "we are just following the Bible," but if we really can't discern the difference between Unitarian and Trinitarian theology then we are in sad shape (biblically, historically, and theologically).  It demonstrates in ignorance of history and, I believe, an overly simplistic approach to Scripture.  The doctrine of God is far more consequential than church governance, yet your post would seem to indicate that we really don't like to bother about that "doctrine of man" kind of stuff.  In my opinion, this lack of theological sophistication is a weakness and not a strength and is prevalent in both segments of the Church of Christ you identify, though probably more so in the sectarian side.  

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 

  10. Yeah, I noted this drift toward evangelicalism in the post. I think a lot will depend on the universities and the churches in the towns with our schools. If those university town churches and our bible programs can highlight the CoC distinctives in contrast to evangelicalism then some anchoring could happen.

    I'm thinking of a post later this week to make the CoC/Evangelical contrast more clear.

  11. Cult?What is your definition of a cult?I agree, one of them is no more than a denomination.

  12. Awesome blog... more people should be able to thoroughly explain why they are where they are!

  13. Totally agree. As I state in the post, there is a theology at work. It's just not formally stated, confessed, or written down. And that's a bit of a problem.

    But the problem is different depending upon if we are talking about sectarian or ecumenical Churches of Christ. Most of your concerns about the "we just follow the bible" are worries for the sectarian Churches of Christ. But you don't see a lot of what your describe in the ecumenical Churches of Christ. In the ecumenical churches what you are seeing is growing theological awareness but one that isn't formally grounded. Nothing is regulating this theological awareness and exploration. Thus what we see a growing theological bricolage where people are shopping around and borrowing theology from all over the place. Some are grabbing Catholic/liturgical stuff (e.g., celebrating Lent), some are grabbing Reformed stuff, etc. And this undisciplined borrowing, though overtly theological, is creating its own set of problems.

  14. Thanks for the honest and interesting statement.

    I'd be interested to know in which ways the Churches of Christ differ from Evangelicalism.  Scot McKnight quotes another author (forgot the name at the moment) who defines the marks of "Evangelical" as 1) commitment to the primacy of scripture; 2) commitment to salvation as understood through the Cross/death of Jesus; 3) commitment to a personal "new birth" experience; 4) expressed in personal acts of piety and corporate fellowship in a local church.  My husband came to faith and spent his teenage through college years in the Church of Christ, and I went to worship with him a lot when we were in college.  I found these marks very much in evidence there.

    Something I came to understand years ago, and one of the things Emergents acknowledge and that had me hanging with them for quite a while, is the understanding that what each person actually holds is an interpretation of scripture, and we usually associate with others who come to the same basic interpretation.  That's why the adjective "biblical" standing by itself really doesn't say much.  I'm sure you know people who quote scripture liberally -pun intended- who do not hold to the same interpretation you do.  ISTM that every group of Christians makes the claim to be "biblical".  So I find it somewhat surprising that you, Richard, with your interests and heart and education, would fall back on that.  The rest of what you wrote gives much more definition of your understanding of "biblical" than that you simply quote a lot of scripture and hold the bible in high regard.

    Again, interested in the comparison/contrast with Evangelicalism.  Thanks.


  15. My guess, FWIW, is that Dr. Beck will offer a distinction between *formal* evangelicalism, which holds firmly to the tenets you and Scot specified, and *popular* evangelicalism, which is the institutional trend that has co-opted formal evangelicalism and given it an unfortunate, public face, nuance-free language, commercial assumptions, and overtly political tone.  Put another way, popular evangelicalism has sort of colonized erstwhile formally evangelical institutions and distorted them into something only distantly recognizable.


  16. Let's not forget that another good reason for being a member of the Churches of Christ is that when we sing, we can sing not just hymn # 728 but also hymn #728B.  :-)  Great post!

  17. Very interesting summary Richard, thanks for sharing it.

    As you stated that they are mostly Arminian in their theology, how does your church react to your universalist views? Are those views something you have learned to avoid sharing in order to avoid controversy, or are they welcomed by others who, though they may not necessarily agree with them, are still open enough to listen to them?

  18. I've only shared sharing those views openly over the last few years. So it's a work in progress. I'm sort of a test case for the CoC. :-)

    The key, I think, goes back to #2 above. If I ground my views in Scripture, and am willing to keep going back to Scripture with openness, then I'm being faithful to our movement. In fact, man who really opened up the issue of hell in the CoC is Edward Fudge who literally wrote the book on annihilationism (The Fire that Consumes). The point being, a diversity of views about hell have been a part of our history.

  19. "I'm thinking of a post later this week to make the CoC/Evangelical contrast more clear."I would be interested in that as well.

    "Let's not forget that another good reason for being a member of the Churches of Christ is that when we sing, we can sing not just hymn # 728 but also hymn #728B.  :-)"
    LOL! I haven't attended a C of C in over 20 years, but I still remember 728b. All the verses, all the parts. What a great song, and what a great shared experience.

  20. I'd agree with what qb said. If evangelicalism is defined by the four points above then, yes, we'd be evangelical.

    Historically, though, no one in our movement has never owned that label. We still don't own it. Shoot, most people in the CoC would stare blankly at you if you asked them if they were evangelical.

    I think this is mainly because, in our sectarian past (and present), we CoC folks thought evangelicals were going to hell (along with everyone else). So, obviously, we'd have distanced ourselves from that rabble. :-)

  21. Helpful post. Thanks for the term "ecumenical Churches of Christ." I also identify with "I just add my mess to the mix." Blog on, brother.

  22. Helpful post. Thanks for the term "ecumenical Churches of Christ." I
    also identify with "I just add my mess to the mix." Blog on, brother.

  23. Thank you for this post, Richard! My own thoughts on this mirror yours. I also remain in Churches of Christ because of family connections and just out of pure and the "dance with the one who brought you" philosophy. These are obviously social, not theological, reasons, but they're powerful nonetheless.

  24. Reading this made me smile, coC ex-pat as I am. There's an irony here, too. Over the last few weeks it's occurred to me that my unbelieving status derives pretty directly from the scripture-centered nature of my coC upbringing. Had I been raised in a less Bible-centric tradition I rather doubt I'd have ever called myself an atheist.

    I remember being in an Old Testament survey class at ACU. We had a grad student subbing for the prof. This grad student started bringing up all kinds of textual problems, historical problems, etc., that he was learning there. After class I asked him if he thought God could actually predict the future, which my reading of scripture caused me to doubt. He said he wasn't sure.

    He told me that one of his fellow students had left school and the faith entirely after what he'd learned. This was my experience, too. The Book isn't necessarily reliable, so how does one remain a believer?

    And yet it moves, one might say. There is something to this God business, even if it isn't what I was raised to buy into.The acceptance of the SoulForce people at communion blows my mind a bit, and yet isn't surprising. I know my religious tradition was deeply hetero-centric, but I cannot imagine anyone ever being denied a seat at communion. The theology and community values implicit in that escaped me till till you pointed at it today. Thank you.On my mind recently - like, a lot: How does the scripture-based journey jive with commentary from the likes of Bart Ehrman (whose spiritual journey eerily calls to mind my own) and John Shelby Spong, etc? (And of course countless others who haven't written books about the things they learned at seminary.) Given the problems in the text, how do we base anything on the book itself?This is a new struggle for me, one that, even as I wrestle with my own lack of belief in a deity, is leading me to take seriously a trip back to school. Seminary, to be precise. Which confuses my fellow unbelievers and my sectarian coC-based family alike. I'll confess as I've been re-entering religious studies from my new perspective I find myself starved for good conversation. Maybe I should return to Abilene. I dunno.I can say one thing for sure: my coC upbringing soaked me in a love of the Bible which I have never been able to shake. Mainly 'cause I don't really want to.BTW, Your post made feel like sharing video from a show I wrote about growing up in this tradition. It's specifically about the need to find a scriptural root for one's beliefs. It's funny, too. I hope you don't mind me sharing.

  25. :) I get it.  Still seems the differences are very minimal, but we are what we self-identify as being part of...

    Up until about the mid-2000s, I would have agreed with you about what you like about CoC, and I still find the non-sectarian CoCs "a good place to land" if your conscience doesn't permit you a complex liturgical expression.  (Everyone has a liturgy; it's just that for most Protestants it's a very simple one consisting of songs, announcements, sermon and communion, in the accepted order within the particular group.  Just try putting that hymn - 728 or 728B - in some other slot!)

    Things were changing for me even before that time, and I came to find that EO theology offered an interpretation of scripture and the meaning of Jesus Christ and his Act that made better sense to me.  I went from feeling like I was in the Evangelical Wilderness to feeling at home, because the EO interpretation was mostly what I had come to believe even before seeking entry into the Orthodox Church.  American Religious Consumerism?  Possibly.  I like to think that God had at least something to do with leading me there...

    For the record, I know most people identify Orthodoxy with the Greeks, but it's correctly Eastern Orthodoxy.  It's the life/outlook/belief system of most of the entire Eastern church, not just the Greeks.  There is no difference in the Greek and the Russian expression of the theology or dogma, e.g.  If you're interested in an excellent short -but thick and flavorful- treatment of the major underlying difference between RC and EO (no, it's not simply the fact of the Pope, or of the Filioque), the best I know of is "Church, Papacy and Schism" by Philip Sherrard; make sure it's the 3rd (latest) edition, purple cover.  Eighth Day Books in KC is an excellent source for this and many other titles.

    The upcoming answers to the latest questions in Rachel Held Evans'  "Ask A ...." interview series will be given by Frederica Mathewes-Green.  That series would be near the top of my exhibit list of evidence for the view that we cohere with those who have basically the same interpretation of things.

    Continuing to read your writings with appreciation.  I'm glad I happened on your blog.


  26. Thanks for the clarification about Greek vs. Eastern. I'll start switching over to Eastern Orthodox.

    About Scot McKnight's list. Again, I own that list. It describes me and the CoC. So the pushback isn't about the application of that list to the CoC. It's about if Scot's list is actually what people have in mind when they hear "evangelical." Scot's got a project he's working on, he's trying to create a big tent for evangelicals. And I wish him the best with that. It's just not a project, historically speaking, the CoC would care about.

    For example, Rob Bell and John Piper are both Christians in my book. Though I agree with one more than the other. They can wrangle over who gets the label "evangelical."

    In the CoC we have a saying, "Christians only, but not the only Christians." In our sectarian past we've not lived up to that sentiment. But it's a part of our history. And I think it represents the part of our tradition.

    "Christian" is the only label any of us need.

  27. I wish there was as much of a difference in the sectarian and ecumenical Churches of Christ as noted here but I'm afraid there isn't that radical of a difference. I tried to make my way as a minister in this denomination and found I wasn't welcomed by either. Truth is, if you hold firmly to your beliefs that are progressive, the denomination doesn't want you around.

  28.  Oooo, sounds like me -- except on account of the "there is something to this God business", I don't identify as an atheist. Adding you to my feed reader. =)

  29. You make an important point. I think it's harder being a preacher than a member. Members like me have a lot of elbow room. Ministers don't.

  30. I have also observed a tendency toward generic evangelicalism and away from from traditional CoC practices among a number of ecumenical CoC churches.  The move of some CoC congregations to adopt instrumental music in worship, in part or all together, is a simple example of that shift. When we drop the sectarian views and practices, then there is less of a
    tendency to necessarily hold the view that distinctly CoC practices are
    inherently "sanctified." In my own local congregation we have been struggling for years over how strongly to hold to certain traditional CoC practices vs. adopting practices that are more commonly accepted in ecumenical Christianity, and have gradually been moving further and further in an ecumenical direction, much to the distress of some members. There is considerable tension between the people who want to hold on to traditional views and interpretations of scripture vs. those who hold a more ecumenical, and consequently also a more evangelical, view. Highlighting the CoC distinctives in contrast to evangelicalism raises questions about the basis for those distinctives. We can refer back to scripture, an approach I fully support. However, the shift away from a sectarian view has, I believe, been based on a shift in exegetical and hermaneutical practices, particularly a shift in how to address the silence of scripture and how on how to determine how essential some of our "CoC distinctives" really are. What isn't essential starts to become negotiable, or a "matter of opinion" (Romans 14). At that point, how distinctive is it really?

  31. I'm church of Christ because Richard Beck is. 

    Seriously, great post. I do have some push-back for the first two reasons. But the latter 2 I can fully resonate with.In terms of local autonomy, I've often felt that even though I didn't go to a sectarian church, I was always having to apologize for them. "A rotten apple spoils the whole bunch, heh heh heh" I would say. But if I were honest, in my experience, the whole barrel often felt rotten outside of urban contexts. I often wished there was a signifier or formal recognition of these ecumenical churches. Apologizing and clarifying my little spot on the spectrum really wore me out. Another issue is that when a C of C no longer conforms with other Churches of Christ and they live into their autonomy, they become cut off and excommunicated from "sister churches." It's no fun when you're an ecclesial island. And lastly, being non-creedal (except for the creed "No creed but the Bible" which you hinted at) seems to work against ecumenism. If there was openness to, say, the Apostles Creed, therein lies the connection to church history and an ecumenical perspective. I still find plenty of theological wiggle room within a church that professes the Apostles' Creed. We've also been guilty of venerating Saint Gutenburg with our implicit sola scriptura creed. When you're having a conversation about universalism, it devolves to a versus of verses: your verses against theirs. It just wears me out. Theology has such a small place in so many C of C circles. So I'm grateful that you're opening that circle here. 

  32. I wonder why it must be that way.  Is it really all that hard to give one's preacher room to probe, question, provoke, if it's all done with a thoroughgoing humility and community-mindedness and openness on all sides?

  33. We really do need more theology. Personally, I think two of the five
    bible classes that every ACU student must take should be an
    Introduction to Theology and Church History. Every graduate should be
    able to talk, at least a little, about Nicaea, Constantine. Augustine,
    Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Barth, Tillich, Yoder, etc. I mean, shouldn't
    every graduate have some degree of theological and church historical
    literacy? It's an outrage that we aren't doing this.

    But what do I know. I'm just a psychologist. :-)

  34. I doubt there's any lawful reason. Though I think fear is playing a huge part. 

    It's probably all context-dependent, situation specific. A certain preacher with a certain church with a certain issue at a certain time probably could make the journey together. But that's quite a few contingent pieces to get lined up.

  35. It's all a part of a grand troll-reduction strategy. If you're the kind of person willing to look up "Arminian soteriology" odds are you're a curious person looking for conversation. If you're not interested in looking it up, odds are this blog isn't for you.

    That's my strategy: Make people work.

    Pretty genius, huh?

    Or pretty dumb.

  36. Added your blog too. We should have a party!

    Hm. Actually, maybe we should, blogwise. That could be fun.

  37. I'm glad for those who have a place to fit in, and there are lonely days I wish I had that communal sense of church home. I guess I can't be too sad about not fitting in with the denomination I hail from, though, given that the coarseness of the right-fighting and posturing eventually pushed me to find a theology more true than what it displayed, both in preaching and in practice. I do appreciate my fellow "heretics" here, and the exposure to some writers and thinkers (and vocabulary) I otherwise wouldn't have known about.

  38. As an immigrant by choice and a linguist by trade, your title stood out to me. It's quite North American to say 'I'm [of x denomination']' although I'm not sure I've seen 'I'm Noun' before rather than 'I'm Adjective'. That's new. You don't get that nearly as much in the UK, if at all, in my experience. I think it may apply if you're an Anglican but it seems to me most other people would take the label 'Christian' and that's about it. Your denomination is something you 'do', in a sense, rather than something you are, intrinsically. I think many North America Christians would put their denominational label above their faith label, which I find interesting.
    In much the same way that I think Brits would be more likely to say 'I vote Conservative' rather than 'I am Conservative' while on this side of the pond people say 'I'm Republican' not 'I vote Republican'.
    I'm not sure where I was going with this, except it's something I've noticed. In my experience, boxes and labels are more prevalent this side of the Atlantic (ie the North American side).

  39. I didn't scroll down before posting. But yes, Christian is the only label we need. Agreed.

  40. I have the good fortune to attend a C of C which has somewhat left the traditional C of C view of women in worship. We have women who lead prayer, and serve communion. However, that is really a small part of what women do at our church. I can imagine what some of you may think, but we believe it is where the Spirit has led us

  41. Hi Ben,
    I hear all that and you make a lot of good points, similar to the ones I think Tyler was making in this thread.

    Still, don't you think it's a bit ironic that you're looking at all the creeds and traditions looking for a place to land or to create some unique combination? The point is, you're right, there are huge weaknesses to our tradition. But it also has a degree of openness and flexibility to it that is a strength. I'm not excommunicated for being a universalist. I can can use icons in my prayer life. And you can accept for reject filioque and stay in the CoC! I'd rather not romanticize the creeds. People were killed.

  42. Great assessment . . . I offered similar thoughts awhile back, and we share a lot of the same rationale for our association within this group: 

  43. Ben,
    I was running out the door when I wrote my response. I wanted to add a clarification.

    I don't want to say the CoC should be creedless. What I'm trying to affirm is the Restoration ideal of a quietism in regard to the creeds. Again, the Restoration Movement was a unity plea, to adopt a quietism toward the creeds in the name of Christian unity. That is, it's less about being anti-creed than a willingness to adopt and explore all creeds, something both you and I are doing in our personal walks. This theological stance is something I like about the CoC. Because here's the deal, if graduates of our CoC schools are coming out and saying that the doctrine of the Trinity is the definition of "true" Christianity and the basis of Christian unity then, well, I think something has gone terrible wrong in our schools.

    But again, I love the Trinity! I'm just not willing to base Christian unity upon it. Personally I believe in it, communally, as a member of the CoC I'm a quietist about it. Is that a recipe for chaos? I think so. But I think that's the price of Christian unity.

    Does that make any sense?

  44. This may seem off-topic, but it stems from some of the other
    comments on this post discussing the lack of a clear distinction between what
    Richard called “ecumenical” and “sectarian” Churches of Christ (which, in my
    opinion, sounds a lot better than “liberal” and “conservative").  Some have lamented that the sectarian
    Churches of Christ gives the ecumenical churches a bad name.  If only, one might imagine, that there were a
    clear and set separation marking the two, such as a different name?


    I have thought about this. 
    Let me give my quick background: I was raised in the Churches of Christ
    and have attended and worshiped with many churches in the broad theological
    spectrum.  I would say that I was mostly
    raised in the sectarian tradition, but my personal preferences lean towards the
    ecumenical (hey, I’m an ACU Bible grad…it happens).  I have seen the good and the bad of the
    Churches of Christ, and while I love them and even currently serve as a
    minister for one, I would never claim them to be perfect.


    That said, I think applying a distinction, either formal or
    informal, between the two sides of the spectrum would be going in the opposite
    direction of where we, as the body of Christ, needs to be going.  I believe that very little good comes from
    applying more and more “distinctions” and “labels” to Christianity, which are
    really more like “walls” or “barriers.”  Isn’t
    there enough of this already?  I’m a Christian, but I’m not ____ (Lutheran,
    Methodist, Catholic, etc.)  Instead,
    what if we were to promote unity?


    Personally, I would like to see the gap between sectarian
    and ecumenical Churches of Christ, which grows farther and farther apart with
    each generation, be bridged.  A hundred
    years after the formal split, many are seeking to bridge that gap between
    Churches of Christ and other Restoration Movement churches (i.e. Disciples of Christ).  Would it take a hundred years to do the same
    with the sectarian and the ecumenical?  I
    hope that this is not the case.


    The fact is, there is a lot of anger and even vitriol between the two.  As someone who often stands in between them, I see very little cooperation or even recognition between the liberal and
    conservative wings of the Churches of Christ. 
    This, to me, is very sad and I believe the body of Christ hurts because
    of it.  Though someone may disagree with
    you, do not see anything beyond that. 
    As I often have to remind myself, “Don’t think that they are bad.  Think that they are wrong.”  There is a difference between being bad and
    being wrong.  I can love someone even if I think that they're wrong.


    Without adding more to the length of this comment, it is my
    hope that we, as God’s people, (and not just within the C of C, but the entirety
    of Christianity), may learn to celebrate our differences and not see them as impassable
    walls.  May we not hope for division, but
    pray for unity.  After all, if we can’t
    live and worship with each other here on earth, how can we hope to do so for
    eternity in heaven?


     ...and yes, this assumes that you believe that “those other people” are going to heaven, too.  ;-)

  45. I don't think this is off topic. I think what you are saying is very prophetic and important.

  46. I am a minister and am surprised at your blog and your replies to others. It sounds as though you welcome any belief as long as it has to do with "experience." Just because we quote lots of passages and let people know it, does not mean we stick to them like Christ wants us to. 

  47. Nice to see these reasons articulated.  I think many of us feel similarly.  I agree about the sectarian/ecumenical divide.  It is very significant in my experience.  I would never fit in with a sectarian CofC but my ecumenical congregation is a place of great grace and blessing.  Thanks for the post!

  48. Interesting; one of my first reactions to the list is to object to being formally "non-creedal" as a strength because of the *lack* of diversity it generates. As the post states, we regulate our theology via (unrecognized) tradition and unspoken creed. And precisely because that tradition is basically denied, ignored, and rendered invisible, we can't critically assess it. We can't question what we can't admit even exists. And the result is an almost baffling doctrinal uniformity, especially given that there's no organized body or structure or creed that we can point as the Thing that mandates uniformity. And it generates a pandemic ecclesial anxiety regarding heterdoxy and our generations of self-appointed heretic detectors. 

  49. I've shared this on facebook and the congregation is sharing it, I've e-mailed it to the church folks and am probably going to print it off and make it available to folks at church.  Very well put.  Thank you.

  50. It is ironic that you speak of examining the scriptures, yet you basically have the theology of "you're okay, I'm okay."  God's word is clear.  We are "okay" only when following Jesus, obeying His commands, and trusting Him...not doing whatever we want and accepting just any doctrine.  In John 14:15 Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." and in verse 17 speaking of the Holy Spirit, "that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him..."  Yes, it would be easier for us if every denomination was a saved people, but it's not a reality.

  51. "God's word is clear."

    That's the funniest thing I've heard all day. For example, I'm guessing,
    Sandy, you don't speak in tongues. Am I  right?

  52. It does make a lot of sense. I understand very well the issue of Christian unity, and it is significant. As you said, people were killed! 

    My objection is more along the lines of the alternative move to place Scripture ABOVE Creed. I don't think the Creed should be treated as a rigid in/out litmus test. I would probably want more uniformity in Christian faith and practice than what you are proposing as it concerns traditional "orthodoxy" (by "orthodoxy" I'm thinking of the historical sense, not the nasty fundamentalist kind), but I still see your position to allow people 'in the doors' without having to sign off on everything.

    Again, my real objection is about treating Scripture like its the criterion by which everything else is judged. As you pointed out, when you take Scripture as the criterion, you lose a robust theology. The Bible says very little about the Incarnation, Trinity, Deification, the Church, in contrast to the fairly robust understandings of all of these things within the first few centuries of Christianity. And I think that is an unnecessarily loss. 

    As I envision it, the creed is a means of grace to the church. Saying it every Sunday in a liturgical setting is a reaffirmation of our faith and hope by re-remembering the Christian narrative of God's economy of salvation as Father, Son, and Spirit. If, as you suggest, it becomes an epistemic bullying tactic, it should be rethought. But I don't want to sell all of the life-giving doctrines of the early church because of a strange idea that the Bible has to be primary, and anything else is suspect. To me it's all suspect epistemologically; but that doesn't mean that one source (Scripture) ought to be given privilege, nor that epistemology is the only concern since the Creed can be used soteriologically.

    All this to say, I disagree, but yes it makes sense! :) 

    I appreciate your gracious response too. I try to be fair because I enjoy arguing about this kind of stuff. But it is commonly not received nearly as graciously and thoughtfully as you have responded!

  53. Works for
    me, and I'm always a day (or two) late. Probably because I keep getting distracted
    by looking things up like Arminian soteriology, which then compels me to look
    up and study things like The Five Articles of Remonstrance... which, of
    course, makes me think I need to understand who Johannes Wtenbogaert really was
    and how he might become, if not immediately but in the distant future, relevant
    to my current spiritual journey. And, dang it!, where can I get a copy of his Tractaet – I love controversy and this
    bit really blew a hole in the wall between the Calvinists and the Gomarists!

  54. I'm really glad you posted this and that I saw it because it's something I needed to read. My home church is a pretty even split between the two types you named, and the sectarian side has been bucking up against me lately, so it helps to see these reasons and remember that they apply to my situation too. Thanks.

  55. I hear what you are saying. In fact, something you said in your first comment really has my wheels spinning. This is pretty profound and generally awesome:  We should "view Scripture primarily as a means of grace rather than a way to test the truth or falsity of beliefs."

    Scripture as a means of grace. That'll preach.

    Two other random thoughts:

    1) I actually think creeds are in our future, at least at the CoC schools. At root, the CoC is defined by an ecclesiastical expression--the CoC is defined by how we "do church." Theologically, though, as you point out, we are "hollowed out." There's nothing on the inside. We are defined by church practices.

    But those practices are changing. Some of the CoCs are becoming egalitarian or instrumental or just dropping the name "Churches of Christ." So when those practices start to change what is "left over" to define the movement? Our identity had been maintained by the homogeneity of our Sunday morning worship assemblies (and a few other things). But that's fading. And given that we are theologically hollow inside, like a cheap chocolate Easter bunny, there is nothing to hold us together.

    And it's at that point where the creeds might "fill us in" a little bit.

    2) In a different vein, I also worry about an equivalence being set up between the creeds and theology. This happens when a lot of one's theological education is picked up in church history classes as happens a lot in CoC schools. Which is fine, it's just that chuch history classes can create a sense of nostagla. This was my point about not romantizing the creeds. To be sure, the creeds are theological and they regulate theological discourse. But the creeds are no replacement for good theological thinking. When theology is reduced to the creeds we get the "positivism" that Bonhoeffor worried about in Barth's theology. It's this nostalgia for Nicaea and the positivism it produces that I'd like to push back on a bit. If only as a corrective and dissenting voice.

  56. Richard,

    I'm a full-time minister for a church of Christ and I really like your statement about baptism in the PostScript, calling it "believer's baptism." I get uncomfortable when we start drawing lines in the sand and saying things like only baptism (that is, only the ACTION of baptism) or only faith. It seems to be to be very clear that the process of salvation is far more complex than that, and not just a process of just saying a prayer or just getting wet. I knew this already, but I hadn't heard it phrased just like that. Kudos.

    O, and yes your absolutely right. If you want to really study the text of the Bible, go to a church of Christ. 

  57. Hey Tyler,

    You made some great points, the only thing I would say is don't judge small rural Churches of Christ too harshly.  I've been preaching at one outside of Abilene for 3 year now and they could school some of the big urban churches I've been to on community and hospitality.  I think if we gave them a chance (like Mike Miles was talking about way up there at the beginning of the posts), there would be a lot of good relationship to be had there.  And, truth be told, being with the people out at where I preach (they are all wonderful by the way which is certainly not the case in every church) has kept me sane and grounded during my time in the GST. 

    That being said, yay for the Apostles' Creed, theology, and Church History!

  58. I've spent thirty years being raised in Religion but not having Faith. Recently I've been drawn to Christianity and Apologetics. And after reading at and here it would seem that C of C is something I really want to explore. I understand your expansion in (1) but I have yet to find a local Church I've felt leaves me w/ the freedom to explore Freedom and Science in the ways I am wired for.

    So my question is... how best would I go about finding an ecumenical "Churches of Christ" Church? Thank you very much for considering my question, Cheers, -Pk

  59. What is it, Richard, about John 14 that is unclear?  Did I say something wrong?  

    You lost me on bringing up speaking in tongues.    

  60. "But an unspoken creed leaves a lot room for diversity." Maybe in theory, but not in practice. Too many members are willing to set aside the goal of church unity for the sake of controversy.



    At the end of your article, you wrote these
    words: “If you read and trust your Bible, so will you [I know this may not make
    sense to you, but please keep reading]!” But, IF you put your TRUST in God, He
    will LEAD YOU in what bible to TRUST IN, for there are MANY!!!


    You mention of your “COMPREHENSIVE” series on the
    religion of Islam [my favorite subject in these last days]! But, WHY does it
    NEED TO BE so “comprehensive?”


    All you NEED KNOW about Islam is that it is
    ANTI-Jesus AS THE Son of God!!! Since you are a preacher-teacher of the Word of
    God, you KNOW what this means, right?


    Islam believes the Jesus is simply a PROPHET of
    Allah, so WHY the concentration on the teachings of the Koran? Jesus ALREADY
    said that “He that BELIEVETH on the SON [not the Prophet of Allah] HATH
    EVERLASTING LIFE: and he that BELIEVETH NOT THE SON shall not see life; but the


    Aside from THIS FACT, what else is there for the
    believer to concern himself with Islam? If this religion does not believe that
    Jesus is God’s Son, then WALK AWAY!!! 

    One more thing: ISLAM is NOT A THREAT to true
    Christians, because, "...GREATER IS HE THAT IS IN YOU, than he [SATAN, the
    father of LIES] that is IN the world" (1 John 4:4), AND, "...the
    gates of Hell SHALL NOT PREVAIL against IT [the church, that is, "the
    called out ones"]" (Matt. 16:18).


    Jesus said, “…a GOOD tree BRINGETH NOT FORTH
    corrupt fruit; neither doth a CORRUPT TREE bring for the good fruit” (Luke


    The CORRUPT FRUIT doctrine of the Church of
    Christ is the belief that “WATER BAPTISM” washes away sins. It doesn’t!


    Water baptism is A WORK THAT IS DONE, performed
    by the individual! God said, “…not by WORKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS [and baptism is a
    “work” of righteousness] which WE have done, but ACCORDING TO HIS MERCY He
    SAVED US, by the WASHING of regeneration [not in a RIVER or a BAPTISTERY], and
    RENEWING of the Holy Ghost;


    “…which [MERCY] He SHED ON US ABUNDANTLY through
    Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being JUSTIFIED [not by our obedience to
    baptism, but…] BY HIS GRACE, we should be MADE heirs according to the HOPE of
    eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).


    The washing of REGENERATION spoken of here is the
    PROMISE MADE BY GOD, and WRITTEN in the Old Testament:


    “Then will I SPRINKLE [not as a Catholic priest
    sprinkles] CLEAN WATER [the word “clean” means “pure,” and the “water” is the
    Word of God] upon you, and YE SHALL BE CLEAN: from ALL your filthiness, and
    from ALL your idols, will I CLEANSE you.


    “And A NEW HEART [a new mind] also will I GIVE
    you, and a NEW SPIRIT [your spirit] will I PUT WITHIN YOU” (Ezekiel 36:26), and
    YOU WILL BE “…a NEW CREATURE: old things are PASSED AWAY; behold, ALL THINGS
    are become NEW” (2 Cor. 5:17).


    But this is a WARNING to you that follow after
    Church of Christ doctrine:


    “…IF OUR GOSPEL BE HID, it is HID to them that
    are LOST: in whom the god of this world HATH BLINDED THE MINDS [the hearts] of
    them which BELIEVE NOT, lest the LIGHT of the GLORIOUS GOSPEL of CHRIST [not
    the gospel of various religious], should SHINE unto them.


    SECT or CULT], but Christ Jesus the Lord; and OURSELVES your servants for
    Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:3-5).


    Please visit our website at


  62. This is the COC I remember. I don't know if any of our local COC's are still following this kind of .. "format?" but I do find this somehow comforting . I attended Christian Home and Bible Scool for several years in my youth . Beautiful campus but for the emotional make up, I do not find that it was that helpful. I found they could be just as hypocrictial as any group. I am glad to see you mention the LGBT group and I do have hopes that you welcome them with open arms. No one should be deprived of the right to a spiritual life, no matter  what walk of life they are, and I feel strongly that of most religions that the COC would be open to them. Especially at this time of extreminisms. Umm... that is all I have to say for now.  peace

  63. "Note: In the last decade or so there do seem to be a few Churches of
    Christ who are drifting toward evangelicalism. Consequently, these
    churches are slowly becoming politicized and, thus, are starting to wave
    flags and obsess about election cycles. This is a new and worrying

    Why is it worrying if you are so 'ecumenical'? I grew up in the sectarian sort, and I frankly would have appreciated more politics. Sermons on "all Democrats go to hell" would have been great. It might have kept me from leaving. (Yeah right.)

  64. I have been a member of the churches of Christ for 15 years. I don't really see anything that could be identified as Libertarian/Anarchist with in it's theology.


    Do the Scriptures authorize the use of "instrumental music" in worship? The short answer is, YES!

    Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (NASB)

    PSALMS DEFINITION: Primarily denoted a striking or twitching with the fingers (on musical strings), then, a sacred song, sung to musical accompaniment, a psalm. (Work of reference: Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words)

    HYMN DEFINITION: A song to harp, a pulling or twanging with fingers. A sacred song or hymn. (Work of reference: Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary)

    There is the argument that psalms found in the Old Testament are different than the psalms in the New Testament. The meaning of the word psalm did not change when the New Covenant came into force. The Day of Pentecost did not mark the change of the meaning of the word psalm. There is not one verse of Scripture that indicates the definition of psalm has been changed or altered. There is no dictionary Greek or English that I know of that has changed the definition of psalm.

    The Book of Psalms defines the meaning of a psalm.

    Psalm 81:2 Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery. (KJB --Cambridge Ed)

    A psalm was sung with musical instruments.

    Psalm 81:2 Raise a song, strike the timbrel, The sweet sounding lyre with the harp. (NASB --1995)

    A psalm was sung with musical instruments.

    Psalm 81.2 Bring a psalm, and strike a tambourine. Play lyres and harps with their pleasant music.(GOD'S WORD Translation ---1995)

    A psalm was sung with musical instruments.

    Psalm 81:2 Take a psalm, and bring here the tambourine, the pleasant harp with the psaltery. (American King James Version)

    A psalm was sung with musical instruments.

    Psalm 81:2 Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. (ESV--2001)

    A psalm was sung with musical instruments.

    Psalm 81:2 Take up the psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with psaltery. (English Revised Version)

    Ephesians 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, sing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. (NKJV)

    The word psalm means the same in the New Testament as it does in the Old Testament. God did not changed the meaning of psalm and men have no authority to do so.


    I am interested in you response. You can google search my blog at, steve finnell a christian view.

  66. It turns out that a psalm is a song: none of the Bible is metrical so you cannot sing it tunefully.
    You can READ a song, you can Recite a song or SPEAK (Eph 5) a song, you can sing a song WITH an instrument. However, Psallo means pluck with your fingers and NOT with a plectrum: nothing more, If you PLAY a PSALM you need two words. Or better, among even common people the Greeks used compound words such as PsalmOdia OR LURAOdia. A hymn is a prayer: Jesus and the Apostles SPOKE a hymn and WENT OUT: I like that patternism. It turns out that the LOGOS or LEXIS is opposite to ODE.

    It turns out that Christ in the wilderness defined the Qahal, synagogue or ekklesia to EXCLUDE any vocal or instrumental rejoicing because the PURPOSE DRIVEN CHURCH was to Rest, Read and Rehearse the Word.

    The Campbells called Church as A School of Christ and Worship as Reading and Musing the Word of God. Paul and Peter define that function only after all of the hypocritic arts and crafts are silenced. Then, you have 167 hours a week to be a david: sing, dance, play, go NUDO and boast about making himself vile (that halal word).

    Jesus asks: Could you not tarry with ME for one hour? Apparently not. Since the kingdom does not come with religious observations I pronounce a pox on all of them. It turns out that Lying Wonders includes all of the performing arts and crafts: Jesus paid it all and we don't need to give tithes and offerings to see our "investment" diverted.

  67. Open communion? The Lord's table is certainly not open to everyone. This is a dangerous thing you practice. The Table is for God's people alone as they are the only ones who can commune with God.

    Also, anyone withiut a creed actually does have a creed by default. Since it is not carefully articulated, there is room for it to be ever changing.

    Arminianism promotes the idea and belief that I can take some credit for my salvation since I make the move toward God. Dangerous, dangerous stuff. Wow. Our salvation, our hope, and all of our merit comes through Christ and Christ alone.

  68. I read your blog on music and to tell the truth, it made absolutely no sense. It was a lot of "copy and paste", but not too many logical points. I still have no idea what you meant to say, and I took the time to read the whole thing. In your own mind, it may make sense to you, but to those of us outside your synapses, it is very disconnected. It looks very impressive, but in all actuality, it is without true substance.

  69. I only "copy" the Biblical Text and define words by copying from a resource never used by those who violate the direct command to SPEAK; The Word of LOGOS is defined as the opposite of personal experiences, rhetoric, singing, playing instruments, acting, dancing or anything out of the human imagination. Logos or Word means Rational or Spiritual since worship is only IN the place of the spirit when we attend the School of Christ: that is a one-piece pattern. Notice Paul's command obeying Christ in the wilderness:

    Ephesians 5:19 SPEAKING to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
    Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were WRITTEN AFORETIME were written for our LEARNING,
    that we through patience and COMFORT of the SCRIPTURES might have hope
    Romans 15:6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    This was the faithful practice before even singing was imposed in ad373 and that split the east from the western churches. Now, I posted the meaning of the SPEAK LOGOS definition which can only be interpreted by how the word is used in the text at the time Paul wrote. Be informed that I don't believe there is any church which practices what it means to be a CHRISTIAN obeying His command to teach and observe what HE COMMANDED. That includes the Prophets by the Spirit OF Christ and the Apostles who left us a memory. Being an honest old man I PASTED what the SPEAK words meant to Jesus and Paul.

    computation, reckoning, IV. inward debate of the soul, reflection, deliberation

    Regulative and formative forces, derived from the intelligible and operative in the sensible universe, Opposite to epithumia , Opposite Pathos A.
    that which happens to a person or thing, incident, accident, OPPOSITE
    emmetra Modus 2.
    The measure of tones, measure, rhythm, melody, harmony, time; in poetry, measure, metre, mode:
    a, um, adj., = mousikos.

    I Noted that LEXIS or LOGOS is the OPPOSITE of OIDE or singing which is called a SPELL, INCANTANTANTATION. John in Revelation 18 called it SORCERY. Sorry, I don't know any other way to explain it. Don't get hurt: COPY or QUOTE "that which is written for our learning." THEN if you are a disciple DEFINE the words are they were universally understand when Jesus spoke the LOGOS and Paul wrote.

    Worship is in the PLACE of the sanctified spirit as it "gives attendance" to the reading or listening to the word being PREACHED by being READ. This is probably not something you have heard in song or sermon so back to the Bible where Christ told you NOT to give your food money for the free water of the Word. I will respond to any questions but go back and read the meaning of PSALLO which is the only reason people have for turning school of Christ into "a theater for holy entertainment' as they say.

  70. What is the danger you see?
    Jesus did some risky stuff, having meals with some pretty dodgy characters.
    They probably didn't realise it, but they were communing with God- in a more real, physical, tangible way than we enjoy now.


  71. Have you not read? 1 Corinthians 11:29: "For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgement on themselves."

  72. Ok, so you allow people who worship a false, unbiblical God (i.e. a non-trinitarian deity) into your communion and allow them to call themselves Christ-followers, because you all are too ecumenical to have a statement of faith, but you specify and mandate a-cappella music out of some vague notion that it isn't in Scripture? What is the deal here? I don't understand.

  73. Dr. Beck -

    Thank you for this blog. I was brought up in the Southern Baptist Church tradition in Oklahoma and have followed God's guidance in my life to minister through music. Attending Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary and serving for over 30 years in SBC churches, well, you know where I'm coming from. In the town I currently live in here in Texas, there is one CoC congregation which my daughter now has begun to attend on Wednesday after school and evening activities.

    The church I serve in is in another town about 40 miles away, so it is hard to connect my kids with my church except on Sunday mornings. She has been going with friends to their Wednesday night activities and so far its been okay, with her attending several Baptist Churches, a Methodist Church and a Lutheran. Since usually Wednesday youth times are not heated theological discussions but more general topis, I haven't had much worry about her going along - until now.

    My understanding of CoC belief comes from an encounter I had as a high school student with a neighbor girl two doors down. I really liked her and wanted to spend time with her, so much so that her dad sat me down for a talk. She told me he wanted to talk to me about 'church' and since I had been going all my life and was pretty active as a youth, I thought it would be a breeze and he would be impressed with my spirituality. During the talk I heard some things like "our church is the only true church and we can trace our church all the way back to Pentecost"... and "Baptism in our church is the only way to go to heaven". Well, for my young ears this was very strange to hear. I asked him, "so your telling me that I'm not a believer and I'm not going to heaven?" He said that was correct. I stood up, looked into his eyes and told him he was mistaken, because I was a believer and Jesus lived in my heart. And if this was a prerequisite to being friends with his daughter, I wouldn't be back... thank you very much.

    From that time on that was my impression of CoC, and for the most part it has been correct in the situations I have found myself in through the years. But then along comes Oak Hills and Max Lucado. I was on the staff of a very large Baptist Church in San Antonio which would switch out pastors with Oak Hills so I would find myself leading worship with a CoC pastor that didn't sound at all like a CoC pastor, and certainly didn't read much like a CoC pastor. Not long after that Oak Hills separated themselves from the CoC monicker. But I wondered how it was possible for a church like Oak Hills to be CoC with such a vast difference from what I had known.

    With this background and desire to understand, I hit the internet and started looking. What I found was quite a bit of positioning and accusations from two different sides of the CoC spectrum, but seemingly not a spectrum at all but two very different sides in polar opposition. That's when I stumbled on your post and realized that when you take the regenerational baptism issue and the "true church" out of it, the open CoC congregation looks a lot like a Baptist church - well except for the music which I will disagree with mainly because I'm an instrumentalist and have worshiped for years while playing and singing.

    You gave me a reason to go and visit with the youth director at the church and I found a very solid, strong and concerned leader that was in charge of the program me daughter would attend. Thankfully this congregation is not a fundamental CoC and one like you belong to.

    Maybe one of my daughters could possibly attend ACU in future years and I will encourage her to take a class from you! Thank you for your witness...

  74. And it says there, "So let a man examine HIMSELF." Not let you examine him. Howbeit, it would seem prudent in any church, especially one as particular as the churches of Christ on baptism, to ensure that they only allows those who are at least baptized to partake in the communion.

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  76. A sectarian is a heretic: in general that would claim that churches of Christ IMPOSED or began to do something divisive contrary to the historic views of the church. That means that you cannot become a SECT simply because you refuse to begin to do what you have never done. The REMNANT is always tiny and abused.

    Pharisaios 1 a Pharisee, Separatist (from pharash, to distinguish), one of a sect who separated themselves from other Jews as affecting superior holiness.

    Jesus called the Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites. In the Ezekiel 33 version the Spirit OF Christ named self-speakers, singers and instrument players. The mark was that people had no intention of obeying. Would it make one a heretic to take notice of the Word of the Spirit in the prophets?

    Christ the Rock defined the Qahal, synagogue, ekklesia or Church in the wilderness:
    It was INCLUSIVE of Rest (from seventh day worship), Reading and Rehearsing the Word of God
    It was EXCLUSIVE of vocal or instrumental rejoicing or any self speak beyond the command to PREACH the Word as delivered by READING the Word.

    Paul understood the "pattern" and outlawed self-pleasure: Areskos or Placeo in Romans 15 so that the purpose of coming together (synagogue) was "to use one mind and one mouth to speak that which is written for our learning" or Scripture for our comfort as the way to glorify or praise God.

    A sectarian or Haireô Act., take with the hand, grasp, seize, having taken up [the song], Od.8.500. It means to take other people's property for your own use. Churches of Christ who followed John Calvin who proposed to Restore the Church of Christ. He explained the pattern which was defined for the wilderness and did not change when Jesus came.

    Therefore, it would not be kind to call Churches of Christ heretics just because they try to obey the command to come OUT of the WORLD for which Jesus never prayed: Jesus came to seek and save a LITTLE FLOCK who were not OF the World and where speaking the Logos or regulative principle will always get you hurt as a tiny, exiled community: Christ used the word UMBRELLUM a place to part spirits translated into the heavenly kingdom which does not come with observations meaning religious operations not related to the WORD.

  77. Paul wanted everyone to be silent so that "we might all be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth." The problem was that men might stir up wrath (Orge, orgy) and women would teach over: people's imagination was thought to be proof that they should speak as inspired.

    1Timothy 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
    1Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, [Theos]
    and one mediator between God and men,
    the MAN Christ Jesus;
    1Timothy 2:6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

    That's why He gets the right to speak when we teach that which has been taught-- at least one hour out of 178

    Acts 2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly,
    that God [Theos] hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified,
    both Lord [Kurios] and Christ.

    If you just follow the "pattern" and read the text, would that make you excluded?

  78. Richard,

    I don't think you understand "the noble Bereans." The Bereans were not noble because they "searched the Scriptures." They were "noble" because they accepted both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. In other words, the Bereans were more noble because they were Catholic, and the Thessalonians who were not noble acted like Protestants (or like the CofC). Put differently, your reason for being a member of the Protestant Church of Christ is actually a reason not to be a member of the Protestant Church of Christ. I explained this more here:


  79. Please check out several posts on this blog, countdown to sinai is most popular, followed by counting the cost.
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  80. Just don't do International Church of Christ or International Christian Churches with Kip McKean ... They are based on the Church of Christ but then take over your whole life, want to control everything you do, who you marry, and take as much of your money as possible, too. Not a healthy variant of the CoC at all.

  81. Nice article. I left the Churches of Christ in 1971 over their cultish sectarianism. I commend for this article. However I have some different views about the COC's, even the "Non=sectarian" or ecumenical COC's. The COC has plenty of creeds: "No creed, but the BIble is a creed.", "We speak where the Bible speaks, and are silent where the Bible is silent" is a creed. CENI hermeneutics is actually quite terrible. The COC, for the most part (90%+) supported the Vietnam War, and I was persecuted by the Churches of Christ for my opposition to that war and all wars. Also, for the first 100 years of its existence, the COC was a white racist church. It was founded in 1889 by Daniel Sommer, who was pro-war and a racist as well. He was joined by David Lipscomb, a splendid man (who was an abolitionist, and pacifist). Lipscomb traded these principled stands to join with Sommer and in 1906, the Churches of Christ were officially born. Some pacifist sentiment lingered until just after WW1, and then the COC got rid of the pre-mill folks and the pacifists, so that by WW2, most COC folks were ardent nationalists. There is so much wrong with the COC, it is best to just let it decompose on its on. I truly hope the progressive COC's will lead they way, first by recognizing the pro-war and racist past of the COC, and then just dissolving into the universal body of Christ.

  82. The whole "I'm Noun" in this case is because there's no corresponding adjective for those who attend the Churches of Christ, so in this case "Church of Christ" is used both as noun and adjective. With the multiplicity of denominations in North America, and with no government-sponsored Church in the US, a situation is created where there are these denominational labels. It is even more head-scratching when one considers that the movement that spawned the Churches of Christ was formed to unify Christians in the Americas!

  83. My wife and I have begun attending a Church of Christ since there are some logistical barriers that prevent us from attending the only Disciples congregation nearby. And bear in mind that the Churches of Christ and the Disciples of Christ are theological siblings as well, so there will be strong similarities.

  84. This was an interesting article about why you are Church of Christ. My husband and I just moved to a new city and we are trying to find a church that we like going to. Maybe we will check out this church and see how we like it. I will have to suggest it to my husband and see what he thinks.
    Emily Smith |

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