What is the Real Issue in Churches of Christ?

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It isn’t women’s roles. It isn’t instrumental music. It isn’t clapping or dancing. If I had to boil down to what our real issue is it is this – how we read scripture and the presuppositions we bring to the table when we read the Bible. A necessary and related discussion is our view of grace and the Holy Spirit. Our view of grace and Holy Spirit should be part of our presuppositions coming to scripture and how we read and understand the Bible and our reading of the Bible should feed back into our view of grace and the Holy Spirit. We have made our search for unity about the symptoms rather than about the deeper issues. It is hard to play checkers if someone is playing chess and the other person is playing ping pong. What we really need is a larger discussion on how to read, understand and apply the Scriptures. That is our underlying issue and out of that discussion will come a healthier understanding of opposing views on the symptoms (instruments, women’s roles, etc).

7 Responses

  1. I think a core problem is our lack of tolerance for differing views. We can’t have the larger discussion on how to interpret scriptures until we come to accept that none of us have all the answers and we are willing to listen to someone who disagrees with us. I have been part of very few open discussions where traditional views can be challenged and where we go to scripture with open minds, trying to put aside our preconceived ideas.

  2. I heard a wise teacher, years ago, describe that we in the Churches of Christ are not really legalists. That is, we don’t really believe that we’re going to heaven (or not) based on doing everything right.

    He went on to say that we’ve tended to be rationalists, that we think we’re going to heaven (or not) based on believing everything right.

    Which is nuts, if you think humans are fallen and incomplete.

    This perspective has a terrible effect on our study and theology. If we think any adjustments to our beliefs mean that we were “out” before that, or are “out” now, if we don’t get it just right.

    1. I remember well Jimmy Allen telling Dr. Burks that these young people don’t believe that the group using IM is going to hell for doing so. It wasn’t just that you did not use IM, but that you had to believe that the group who did use IM was going to hell or you would be going there too. Now this was a messed-up argument but it was stereotypical hard-line cofC.

    2. One of the psychology professors at Harding used to say, “Topical study is the root of all heresy.” In other words, when you start with a position, you go out to find scriptures to support it.

      So, start with scripture.

      But it goes deeper than looking at various verses. It’s not just about “knowing scripture,” as important as that is. It’s thinking / learning / studying about what scripture IS.

      Is it literal (well, depends on what type of literature you’re reading)?

      Is it inerrant (not necessarily the same as, “God breathed.”)?

      How much of it is from God? How much is human / cultural?

      In the old-time / hardline Churches of Christ, we’ve tended to operate from a set of assumptions without even being clear on what they are, or questioning them.

  3. You have to read more than one verse before you can figure out what it means. Too often the cofC read two verses of scripture in the whole service. Some services had none read aloud.This kept the sermon from clashing with the Bible reading. We all knew which superseded the other.

  4. Hello, thanks for this post. I agree with you completely that we need to understand the core problem and that how we read and understand the scriptures is core or root cause for our disfunction. Can i just add that it is also our picture of God and what this picture tells us about his nature. Seeing Jesus and how God sacrificed himself on the cross should relate a picture of God’s nature that heals all our wounds.

  5. I mostly agree with the “topical study” thought, although it does have it’s place at times, but we tend to base our theology on having a point, then proving that point, while not listening to the scriptures. We pull points from this scripture and add to other such points.
    Preachers today are basically correlators and reorganizers of the same information that anyone can read for themselves.
    The concept of ‘faith saves” and “baptism saves” are based on this ” derived pointalism”…we forget that the over all arc of the scriptures is “God delivers” or “Jesus saves”.

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