Unity, Part III

The next thing I wanted to express a few things about is fellowship.  Exactly what does constitute fellowship?  What I mean is: Who is a Christian?  That is, who should be acknowledged by anyone in the Restoration Movement as so, without debate?  Now this is where things can get extremely controversial to a Church of Christ (CoC) member.   First off, I must say that there is a very clear line to be drawn in the sand about a few things. The top things have to include: 1. God exists, 2. Jesus a) lived, b) died (was killed on a cross), c) was buried (in a tomb that was later found empty), and d) was raised from the dead, and 3. The Bible is a written communication from God through people to people.  Without these beliefs, a person is NOT a Christian.  (Now other things beyond that might be debated as to whether they are necessary for salvation from a belief and practice standpoint, but I’m not dealing with that here.)  To stay focused on Loren’s sermon on Oct. 1, he specifically listed 8 or 9 things that fall into the category that I am talking about.   Furthermore, he limited the discussion to those groups that claim to be IN the Restoration Movement, thereby not including current Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopals, Catholics, or other groups.  To summarize, if someone denies that Jesus is the Messiah, then s/he is not a Christian. 

Now the reason I am belaboring this is that there is really no “slippery slope” as to who is a Christian or what they might practice, if they hold such core beliefs.  Now, when I say that someone (in a religious sense) is a liberal, I refer to someone who does not believe that the Bible is inspired, etc.  This is very frustrating to hear someone say (in the CoC), “Well, you know, they have become liberal” on point X, Y, or Z.  ‘Liberal’ and ‘Conservative’ are, in fact, relative descriptions of ideas, views, approaches, etc.  (I must also add that a ‘Liberal’ political view might not necessarily be in conflict with a ‘Conservative’ Christian’s beliefs (e.g., taking care of the poor).  The political and religious spheres overlap mightily, but are not strictly parallel.  This topic could go on for a while in another post — but not now!)  Anyhow, this ‘liberal’ labeling is part of the problem with trying to unify the disparate factions of the Restoration Movement.

The fellowship issue is a major problem for those in the CoC that follow “picket-fence” theology.  What I mean by that is ALL beliefs are the same with regard to salvation; e.g., no instruments, Lord’s supper every Sunday, Jesus was raised from the dead, be at the church building for every meeting, etc.  This is plainly illogical.  The newer model that came into its own in the mid-80’s to early 90’s was the “new hermeneutic” (or least this was what I thought was being referred to) that basically said, “No, salvation issues are not like a ‘picket-fence’; they are more like a ‘bulls-eye’.  That is, the most important issues should take priority: Jesus was killed, buried, raised from the dead, etc., and then other debatable issues flow outward on the “bulls-eye”.  It seems to me these fringe issues away from the “bulls-eye” is what Romans 14 is dealing with (keeping in mind the Jerusalem elders’ letter from Acts 15).  The specific issue in Romans 14 was meat-eating: right or wrong?  Paul made it clear that there was nothing wrong with eating meat; however, in certain circumstances, one who was able to eat meat should refrain from eating it.  However, this Scripture has been twisted and manipulated by the Pharisees in our midst to control what a congregation may practice and believe — I mean, someone might be “offended” by X, Y, or Z, so we would not be following the Word if we did that, right??!?  I say this principle has been abused mightily.

Well, I extend the fellowship of Christians to more than some in the CoC.  That much I can say.  To move on, since the Restoration Movement aimed to restore the first century church, what exactly did that entail?  What was the preaching about?  Was the first century church unified?  I want to say more on this in my next (and likely final) post on Unity.

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Published in: on October 7, 2006 at 10:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

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