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This e-mail exchanges are a follow-up to the two-part article Churches of Christ. The e-mailers' comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.
... I read your pages on the Church of Christ. While much of it is accurate, some of it is not accurate at all. If you care to know more, read the following. Hope this is not too wordy. Gary
Not all Churches of Christ abandon the use of instrumental music. There are a large number of them who do use it (about 40 to 50%). Apparently the people who wrote the article had limited information. It is correct that the Boston movement is considered by most members to be separate from the church of Christ or the restoration movement as the Boston movement does not follow the New Testament pattern of worship / government. The belief in the necessity of Baptism does not fit the definition of a cult. No one is a cult just because they believe differently on certain points.<
Labeling a group a "cult" is a tricky business as everyone has a different idea of what a "cult" is. Groups can be so labeled on either theological or sociological grounds. In this case, the issue of requiring baptism to be saved is considered to be adding to the Gospel of salvation by grace alone. And that is a theological point of much importance.
> Following one man probably leads to the formation of a cult, but not following Jesus.<
Every religious groups which claims to be "Christian" claims they are following Jesus. This includes those that are headed by one charismatic (in the personality sense) leader. But you are correct that following one such leader is considered to be one sign of a cult from a sociological viewpoint.
> Of course the Romans labeled it as a cult because Christians "drank the blood of Jesus" in communion in the first century.<
Well the word "cult" wasn't around then, but yes, the supposed "drinking of blood" was one of several "charges" the Romans leveled against the early Christians to justify their persecution.
>The restoration movement idea is to totally follow the pattern of the first century church in every manner. There are some differences of opinion among congregations on a few items such as instrumental music. The churches of Christ are not anti-denominational, they are non-denominational and there is a big difference. (I will agree that there are some members who do not know enough about the Bible to understand what it teaches or what they believe and have denominationalized their beliefs in their social club/church.) There were no denominations in the first century. Denominations were created by men, not by the Lord.<
No there wasn't different denominations in the first century. But the fact remains is different groups interpret the Bible differently, and so we have the different denominations. And note, each of these groups claim to be "following the pattern of the first century church." It is just a question of different opinions as to what that pattern was.
>Churches of Christ members do believe that salvation is a free gift from God which has to be accepted by believers. God does not force it on Christians. However, it can not be earned by any works. No one has the ability to do enough or be good enough to earn salvation. Man kind is born into a sinful nature as Adam yielded to Satan and came under his power. All of Adam's decedents live in a fallen world. Christ's redeeming blood is their only hope. The churches of Christ do not teach these as they have been falsely accused so many times. That is where many have a misunderstanding about works. God expects us to do our part and He does His through the workings of the Holy Spirit. The condition of ones heart is evident by his works as I am sure most Christians would agree. God is not waiting to see someone slip up and be lost. He is helping us. We can reject Him and that is what is taught and believed by most in the churches of Christ.<
You are presenting a basic Arminian viewpoint of salvation here. It is not unique to the Churches of Christ.
> Because of the local autonomy, there are differences in beliefs and no one person to set forth a specific doctrine. The Bible (the inspired Living word of God) is looked to as the only source for beliefs. I know that (using only the Bible) is foreign to all denominations and that is why they have such a hard time understanding the churches of Christ.
Gary at Christian Banner Exchange
All Protestant denominations and churches claim to be basing their beliefs solely on the Bible. "Sola Scriptura" was the rallying cry of the Reformation. But again, different groups differ in their interpretations on what the Bible teaches.
Thanks for your comments. If you don't mind I will post your comments and mine as they appear above as a "follow-up" to the article so people can read another viewpoint on the subject.
>Hi Gary, Thanks for the email. Sounds reasonable.
I just came across an article on cults. Recognizing a Cult. Cultic beliefs differ from Christianity in 3 major ways. 1.)They devalue Christ, saying that He is not God incarnate in human flesh; 2.) They recognize another source of authority, a source of divine inspiration that they believe to be superior to the scriptures and give allegiance to a charismatic leader; 3.) They allow little or no freedom to question their doctrines, all their beliefs must be accepted and they allow no room for personal interpretation.<
As I said before, different researchers define the term "cult" in different ways. Hence why it is not that useful of a term. I use it as a heading on my site simply because it is a well known term, and there's no real adequate, simple substitute. But when it comes to actually evaluating a group, I usually try to avoid the term and simply explain what areas of doctrine and practices of the group I think are or are not Biblical, and leave it at that.
> I do not believe that the interpretation of the importance of baptism meets any of these requirements as a cult.<
Remember, the article you're referring to mainly deals with the Boston and Denver Churches of Christ. And the authors are clear that what applies to the Boston and Denver sects do not necessarily apply to other Churches of Christ. Moreover, the authors point out problems other than just beliefs about baptism with the Boston and Denver groups.
>You are correct in that the Romans did not have that term, but they did have the same inference.
Thanks for your time,
Gary at CBX
Not in the sense we have today. The Romans were pretty much accepting of any religious group, provided they did not claim to have the only truth, or the only God. Hence why the early Christians came under attack. Today, "cult" has a lot of implications that would not have concerned the Romans, such as "mind control" and the like.
>Subject: Church of Christ
First of all, I would like to compliment you on your articles concerning the "Church of Christ." I would like to tell you my story about them.
About 5 months ago a friend at work (We'll call him John) had a Bible out and was doing some sort of "Bible homework." I was very interested, because it is rare to see someone involved with the Lord these days, plus a little...okay, a lot of me just wanted to sit around and discuss Christianity.
At first the conversation was going great. I agreed on a majority of what he said. He told me that he belonged to the "Church of Christ"… I had never heard of them before until that day. Then he bought up the question about my "Baptism." I told him that I was baptized when I was 18. At the time of my baptism, I believed I wanted God in my life, Christ died for my sins, and therefore I was baptized. Then he told me that I wasn't baptized correctly. I asked him on what authority he based that claim. He told me that I never was a disciple. Upon hearing this, I was a little distressed that he was looking at me as a heathen, when in my heart I felt the spirit of the Lord pass through me at the moment I was baptized.
So I just brushed it off and listened to more of his preaching. He told me that the Church of Christ has been around since the first century, and further more he could prove it. So I said go on… I admit at the time I was being a little arrogant because I consider myself somewhat of a history buff. He couldn't prove it. He couldn't give me proof of what country or culture kept the "faith" alive. He kept on talking about the way the church has stayed the same, and the Catholics tried to simulate the first century Christians. I said, "Why is the Church of Christ limited to the first century? If nothing has changed, then the teachings would have withstood time, and we don't need to go back to the ‘basics' of the first century, especially since the church has been around the last 2000 years under the same name and gospel."
I told him that I do not recall in all of my Medieval studies ever hearing about the "Church of Christ" I remember learning about, Catholic's, Rosicrucian's, Lutheran's, Cathar's, Templar's…etc, but never "Church of Christ." I admit to being ignorant of the beginnings of this particular sect, but I do not recall learning about it in the Dark Ages or the late medieval time period. So he dropped that subject.
Then I asked him about a comment he made about not needing to preach or learn about The Revelation or the Old Testament. Concerning Revelation, He said "That book is not valid today because all those things have already have happened to the first century Christians. I then asked him if that were true, then explain all of the meanings of the prophecies and enlighten me, because this was news to me. He said that it was pointless because these were past events. And of course he could say nothing more about the Old Testament than what a common person knew from watching the Ten Commandments with Charleston Hesston. But again, he pointed out the fact that the Old Testament was irrelevant because Jesus said it was irrelevant in the New Testament. I asked him if he never read Jeremiah, and Ezekiel etc… how could he understand what Christ was referring to in his teachings. Again he said it was irrelevant.
Then he told me that he gave tithing to the Church of Christ every week, and professed his sins to his "group." I asked him why he needed the approval of man to feel forgiven. Plus, I told him that I was no expert on the Bible, but I recall a passage from Matthew somewhere that said, "give to charity in secret." If I were to give to anyone for the sake of charity, it would be an amount determined by me, and only God and I would know of such deeds. As far as meeting to discuss the Bible, I would only do it to learn together with other Christians with the Spirit of Christ residing over, not by a tape from an unknown minister and a group leader that determines the direction of my knowledge. And I most certainly would not stew over every sin of the week to feel more faithful. I told him, "I thought God said to give him our burdens and to ask him forgiveness and it will be granted."
Like I said, I am by no means a scholar Christian. I keep learning more and more every day. But I do feel this thing inside of me that compels me to avoid rhetoric such as that. I told my friend to beware of knowing too much. He said that I was wrong for saying that. I then told him for all of the knowledge of the Pharisees, and scribes thought they knew, Christ rebuked them too. And I told him that the more learning he does, and fails to see what is right, the harsher he will be judged. He told me that I was wrong.
He converted others the next few months before I left. Their conversions would be 1-2 weeks from the first meeting to the baptisms. I talked to a few members of his new "group." They all said that they felt no change and still much unenlightened. I was very sad at this because, as ignorant and young as I was at the time of my baptism, I did feel the Spirit of God enter into me, and growing everyday. I realized that I did not agree at all with what was being preached by the Church of Christ. I did however try to share some of my learning with the members of his group to give them some other views and perspectives to ponder. This made him angry. He basically treated me as I was the Devil trying to give Eve the forbidden fruit. His "group" was trapped, in what is my opinion, in a CULT. I am sorry that I did not know much of the Bible or my own faith to help those lost see what they were getting themselves into.
Well there you go, that is my story about my first encounter with the "Church of Christ." Like I said, I am by no means an authority on the Bible, or religion. But there is this thing inside of me, what I choose to believe is the Spirit of God, that tells me to not become involved in false preaching's as that.
Ps, I did love the wit in your articles.
Thank you for relating your story. It sounds like you handled the situation very well. Praise God for His leading in this matter.
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