Friday, January 21, 2011

What is the Church of Christ?

It occurred to me someone might actually want to know something about the Church of Christ.  I thought a short description was in order.

Theology and Doctrine
The Church of Christ descended largely from Alexander Campbell, a Presbyterian who rejected the historic and confessional understanding of the Bible.  Campbell was an Arminian who so strongly rejected his church roots that he decided to split off altogether and form a new denomination, but fearing the guilt he faced, decided to not call it a denomination.
Almost 200 years later the fruit of their decision is evident, without the creeds to anchor the church and with every believer left to understand things for themselves, there is no unity or common purpose in the group.
The good news is that the tattered remains of their thoughtful Presbyterians persist to some extent.  The liturgy is similar, they are Coventalist (as opposed to dispensationalist) in nature, (if you didn't understand that the general rule is that they believe the book of Revelation is past), and have simple singing (so simple in fact it's a-capella).  Their leadership is run by a board of elders.  If you are a church of Christer unhappy and wondering where to go outside of this group, make for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and return to your roots.

The bad news is that although they are believers they believe in utter incompetence of every other denominations understanding of the Bible. Their theology is not lifegiving, it's bitter, proud, arrogant, rote, joyless, mechanical, simple. Their faith is small, their boasting of their works great, their numbers collapsing, their studying dreadfully weak, in discipline unloving, in most things dreadfully, willfully ignorant and argumentative. But they are by in large real loving Christians who are captured by a dark wordview. Or perhaps I should say are members of a cult, trapped.
It's exactly what would happen if you reject your heritage and all it's greatest thinkers. They have been cast adrift having no solid foundation for understanding the Bible. 

Unique Markers
What really sets the CoC person apart and unique is their belief in the pivotal, all surpassing importance of credo-Baptism, communion at every church gathering, the rejection of all creeds, statements of faith, confessions and chatechisms, and their embrace of a-capella worship. Protestants, whatever else you do don't describe their position as Baptismal Regeneration- you will never understand them if you keep using that kind of language. The concept of being born again has no meaning, because that is predicated on a change in nature, or a change in state.  The protestant concept of justification means that a change of state is permanent, with the Church of Christ believer this is decidedly not the case.

Church Structure
Each church is run by an elder board of at least 2 but no larger than 9 men who have vocations not in ministry. They are responsible for ultimate policy decisions and official church discipline.  The church is supported by Deacons, men only, who take care of things, classroom staffing, communion passing, money counting, budget etc.  Men may become Deacons after they have young children (1 Tim 3:12), and Elders are appointed from the Deacons after they have teenage children who believe (in accordance with Titus 1:6). 
There are three kinds of Churches of Christ: the mainstream, the out of mainstream, and the antis. Even amongst the same group the churches themselves have little to no affiliation with each other, although some bonding occurs when out of necessity they will bond together, eg: to make a land purchase for a summer camp.  The mainstream is typically a larger congregation, more strongly liberal, the out of main is a smaller congregation that has likely split off of a main or an out of main (splitting is very common and happens on average every 5 years), and anti are defined by what they are against (ie: no kitchens in church, no doughnuts or food in church, one cup communion only). 

Talking to Them
Accept that they think you are likely stupid or shallow, and have not grasped their points about where you are wrong theologically. This is to be expected, as the only reason they have held together as a denomination is this glue. Sure hubris makes a terrible binding agent, but that's what you're working with.

They are most likely going to be very eager to do a Bible study with you, to correct your understanding of things, that's your opening.  As you study (most likely on a topic) go to a passage of scripture and press that clear meaning and that alone. Don't let up and don't let them squirm out of it, but instead show them there can only be one meaning and it's the obvious one.  Acts 13:48 comes to mind as a good example for this on showing predestination of the elect. You will not make any headway the first few times as they will be trying to convert you, but show a few such passages and press firmly. They will walk away in full disagreement, but pray for them and they won't walk away unchanged. It will likely take 6 to 8 months to fully deprogram them if you minister to them- do so with your whole heart.
They will be very glad you did.

Note: I was very amused when someone found this blog post while searching for "How to deprogram a Church of Christ person."  I'm glad there are people out there committed to such a good work.  If this is what you are after you are going to need a good block of time for continual study over the coming weeks.  If they are willing to study with you just ring the bells of grace in their ears long enough and God will break through. Personally I recommend Romans.  Not all of the CoC people are created equal, some who are very unhappy with the churches can be deprogrammed relatively quickly (a few months) but some who really loved the way they operate may take up to a couple years.  And, if you can, get them into another church service, to dispel their notion that all other Christians are stupid and unsaved.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Women talk more

1 Peter 3: 7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 

The likewise is connected with 2:17 in the concept of honor where honor is due.  Peter has been explaining to women that they were created to submit, (in the same way a slave is there to obey no less) and by doing this they bring honor to themselves and their husbands.  Earlier he had commanded all men to submit to the rulers and authorities in all places that God had put there, to give them due honor, and in the same way the 10 commandment demands honor for those due honor when it says honor your father and mother the principle stands that wives are to submit to their husbands. 
Now husbands have a different command than women, since women were made in the subordinate position as helpers to their men, husbands cannot bring honor by submitting to them, but instead are to do so by leading and guiding their families in love.  Or more specifically, husbands bring honor to their wives by living with them in an understanding way; if I might paraphrase, by listening to them.  Wonder why women talk more than men? Perhaps this delight is theirs (and ours) because God is trying to make it easier on us men.  After all, it's much easier to listen to someone who is both a willing and able communicator than it is to listen and lead someone who won't tell you their felt needs or opinions.
The next clause reminds them why they have the need to listen, because women are weaker.  Number one they are in the position of the subordinate, and don't have the final say, so the only recourse they really have is your attention and compassion.  But number two, women are more dainty and fragile, their beauty is in the thinness of the material, making them more vulnerable to emotional harm.  God made men strong and thick skinned so they could lead their family much more naturally than a woman could, and He made you thus to take care of her need, making your strength for her weakness.
Peter then adds, because really you are not leading a slave or a child, but a co-regent, a fellow heir.  Someone who is the other half of you, and so therefore do this in love.
I see the last statement as a follow on to all that he has said earlier.  If you as a man reject what God has made for you then He is going to reject you. If you don't think His plan is good and right then He will punish you for it.  If you are using your thick skin and great strength not to break a path for your wife but on her then He will use His greater strength against you.  If you lead without listening, then He will do the same, for you are going to be treated as you treat her, according to the measure you use it will be measured back unto you.
So  I propose that men delight in their woman's verbal skills.  Just imaging how much harder it would be to be a leader who listens otherwise.

Children's Play

I was thinking today about how ingrained it is in children to build and create things. To make order out of chaos.  We seem to have part of God's image in us that compels us to create.  Little boys seems to prefer creating the material, the fortress, the castle, the wall, the house, while little girls seems to prefer to create the immaterial, society, family, etiquette, communication.  This isn't watertight, as boys will take up a sword or gun to play army, but then again, a gun and an army are both material constructs.
It's further interesting to me how the woman who was created as a subordinate help mate (though co-equal in rights and value) is the one who is predominately inclined to the immaterial.  It could be because it's the job of the man to create, and the job of the woman to make ornate. Or then again maybe not.  More thought is in order.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Communism is indeed wrong

1 Corinthians 9:9-10 - For it is written in the Law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain." Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 
I'm not one who is terribly concerned about social justice or about activism, or political muscle,but this verse is pretty clear that the whole foundation of a communist government is decidedly anti-scripture.  Thought that was interesting.

In the vein of Prov 27:17 Rojikku also said something worth passing on, and I'll do the NIV thing and just capture the thought.  By examining the fruits of communism which are at every place evil and bitter we see the tree itself is bad.   From the invisible polluted roots (which is the idea of communism) we may see that it's based on bad footing, which was my point above, but from the fruit (the actions of communists) we see how rotten the whole thing really is.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Keeping the Church of Christ afloat

Preamble: This post arises because of my foundational belief is that a church lives or dies by it's theology; teaching a proper understanding of  God and His attributes is critical for a church to grow healthy Biblically.  If it can be shown that a church does not need to have correct theology to please God then my conclusions are not valid.

The theology of the Churches of Christ is being held up at this moment by two pillars: tradition and hymns- one is for all purposes knocked over, and the other is crumbling.  The result is that the CoC will soon collapse utterly because there is no solid doctrinal truth being imparted to the congregations.  What remains will be soon absorbed into more liberal churches. 
(Aside: for those of you unfamiliar with it, the CoC recognize no creeds, catechisms, or confessions.  They admit no document into the building or demand a member conform to a certain doctrinal statement. Therefore what they use to hand down proper theology lies in both tradition and what the people imbibe from singing hymns.  I am aware that there are plenty of sermons and bible classes, but these have no tether to the great theologians of old and are often not at all about the Bible.  That topic is for another time, suffice to say the formal training is not successful at imparting doctrine and can safely be discounted.)

The pillar of tradition has been kicked down for at least 30 years here in California.  CoC Churches are no longer doing what they once did, they are doing what is relevant, or emergent, or what will attract people. Those that are not have largely evaporated or died out as old people churches.

That leaves only songs to impart a right understanding of God from our wise ancestors to the members, but those face two dangers: the first is that new fluff songs like the Days of Elijah are displacing older, solid hymns like Amazing Grace leaving a theological void where the members fill in anything they like. 
The second danger is that many of the classic songs have been monkeyed with by CoC writers. I was shocked the first time I heard Holy Holy Holy which I learned as...Lord God Almighty, all thy works shall praise thy name... God in three parts, blessed eternally.  Some versions I sung growing up went ...God over all and blessed eternally.  Obviously the first song advocates the heresy of Modalism, the second denies the Trinity less explicitly.
The one bright side is that their a-capella format strengthens the impact of the words on the hearer, which is why I suspect they have lasted as long as they have.
The outlook is both bleak and bright.  Bleak because God is taking away their lamp stand.  Bright because He is lighting it elsewhere.

Monday, January 3, 2011

On "Common" Grace

The hyper-Calvinist asserts that God gives men no common grace. But if He did, then it would only be for their condemnation.

I had thought about a long answer, which postulates that a proper hermeneutic gives God maximal glory and cannot reduce His love to human sizes, but after considering it some more, I think it should be answered simply like this: is the idea of a God who dies for reprobates foreign to the Bible or to God's character? Not to a system of logic, to the Bible.
The proof:
Luke 6:27-36 - "But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

The high and hyper will still quail and argue it was not His intention to save the reprobate, but I take their argument and break them with it: assume for a moment God's only motivation for sending Christ to die for the reprobate was to show His love to the elect so they might better understand Him.  By sending His Son to die for the reprobate (whom He knows will reject Him) God shows us the highest and greatest amount of love our minds can grasp.
It's an unthinkable quantity. It's an absurd amount. It's frustrating and angering to think of how much He wastes simply to indicate how much more loving kindness He hasBut ultimately it humbles us into quiet reverence.  That Christ would do this thing is astounding, wonderfully, magnificently, a full expression of love from God who is love. It's a lot like when He came to the Earth knowing He would be rejected and killed in fact. And that too is something to meditate on.

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