To help readers new to GraceConversation, we’ve listed the substantive posts below in logical order.
Just a final note to thank Todd Deaver for his invaluable contribution to this effort. Although my by-line shows up on more than my fair share of posts, the readers need to understand how valuable Todd’s efforts have been. He is a remarkable intellect and talent, who will surely have much more to contribute to the Kingdom in years to come.
Please buy a copy of his book Facing Our Failure. It’s a remarkable piece of research clearly demonstrating the intellectual bankruptcy of conservative Church of Christ theology — bankrupt because the conservative Churches of Christ have never been able to articulate a theology of who does and doesn’t fall away. No one has refuted Todd’s work. It remains unchallenged.
Here at GraceConversation, three of the most well-known, widely published ministers of the conservative Churches of Christ have failed to articulate a coherent position, and when we called them on their failure, they quit. (Greg left the conversation earlier for entirely legitimate reasons independent of this dialogue.) I’m disappointed that they gave up, but not surprised. After all, in over 100 years of debate, the conservatives have never come up with a consistent rule for whom they consider saved and whom they consider fallen. And in my many years of discussing this issue with conservative ministers, every one has left the conversation when asked to state a clear position.
I’m especially disappointed that Mac Deaver quit, as I see his disagreement with his son Todd as a microcosm of the division in the Churches of Christ. We are called to be peacemakers and to bring reconciliation. And I don’t know any way for the two sides to reconcile except through dialogue — and it takes two to have a dialogue. If someone would rather debate than converse, rather quit than confront the weaknesses in his views, reconciliation cannot happen. Mac has made a tragic choice for both his earthly and his spiritual families. I pray that God softens his heart.
And I want to thank the many who logged in and read these posts — especially those who commented, and more especially those who disagree with me. Seriously. There’s no point in the dialogue if everyone already agrees!
I remain willing to continue this conversation about the issues that divide the Churches of Christ. I’d only want to take on the effort with a well-known representative of the conservative Churches. And, God willing, one day someone from the conservative Churches will be willing to discuss his views in this forum. In the meantime, we’ll leave this website up and the materials available as a resource for anyone interested. And I’ll keep participating in the comments. I love comments.
For further material on the topic, Todd’s Bridging the Grace Divide blog and my own OneInJesus blog could be helpful. Readers may also be interested in two online books I wrote: The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace (also available in paperback here or here) and Do We Teach Another Gospel?
by Todd Deaver
Jay and I have now finished presenting the case for our position on apostasy. We have argued that there are three ways a saved person can fall away:
- A Christian falls away when he no longer has faith. “Faith” means faith in Jesus.
- A Christian falls away when he is no longer penitent. Equivalently, a Christian falls away when he no longer submits to Jesus as Lord. Equivalently, a Christian falls away when he willfully continues to sin.
- A Christian falls away when he seeks to be justified other than by faith in Jesus.
Drawing from a wide range of scripture, Jay demonstrated that this position is consistently and repeatedly affirmed in the New Testament.
We believe our conservative participants amply demonstrated that their position on apostasy is incoherent. Our conservative friends actually disagreed among themselves, presenting two conflicting positions on apostasy. Greg and Phil argued that all doctrinal error, if not repented of, condemns; Dad restricted damning error to those wrong doctrines that lead one to sin. Read the rest of this post »
by Jay Guin
Let’s take a moment and reflect on what the scriptures teach us about church discipline.
Let’s look again at this chart from an earlier post.
|To become saved||Baptism||To stay saved|
|Hear, believe, confess the gospel||Faith||Accept Jesus as Son of God||Faith||Accept Jesus as Son of God||Faith||Faith|
|Repent||Penitence||Accept Jesus as Lord||Penitence||Accept Jesus as Lord||Love||Love|
|Accept Jesus as Savior||Accept Jesus as Savior||Only||Hope|
Notice that church discipline fits into the same categories as our salvation. Read the rest of this post »
by Jay Guin
I need to address a difficult topic. Sometimes people divide a church for good reason. What if the leadership of the church does not require the members to have a genuine faith in Jesus? (Faith) What do you do if the leadership of a church is eaten up with the Galatian heresy and insists on damning those they disagree with on all manner of topics? (Hope) What do you do if the leadership of the church has no love for the lost or needy? (Love)
Each of these kinds of problems strikes at the heart of the gospel. These are not like disputes over the color of the foyer, the song selection, or even whether to use instruments. These are disputes over whether the church will honor the truth — the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In such a case, it seems to me that the first order of business is found in some of the passages earlier quoted, such as —
(2 Tim. 2:25-26) Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. Read the rest of this post »
by Jay Guin
Consider this oft misused passage —
(Rom 16:17) I urge you, brothers, to watch out for [“mark” in the KJV] those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.
This is written to many preachers in the 21st Century Churches of Christ. It’s not about those who disagree on instrumental music or elder re-affirmation. It’s those who claim the power to damn over questions that have nothing to do with the gospel, like instrumental music and elder re-affirmation. Such men should be fled – not honored or catered to. They certainly shouldn’t be made ministers or elders.
You see, “contrary to the teachings you have learned” especially means contrary to first 15 chapters of Romans, including Romans 14 and 15. Many in the Churches of Christ have “marked” men contrary to the grace taught in Romans, and thereby have become the very men that Paul tells us to watch out for. Read the rest of this post »
by Jay Guin
This is one of the most abused verses in all of scripture (which says a lot!):
(2 John 1:7, 9-11) Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. … Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.
The “doctrine of Christ” is plainly the doctrine of his incarnation. Read the rest of this post »
by Jay Guin
We generally cannot distinguish someone who is struggling with his penitence from someone who has abandoned Jesus altogether. In such cases, I think we have to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume we’re dealing with a Christian but a Christian who is struggling with sin and needs to be confronted and perhaps even to be disfellowshipped.
However, where it’s clear this person has so left Jesus that he has become an enemy of the Kingdom, our response is dictated by several passages –
(2 Tim. 3:2-5) People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
Does this passage, fairly read, describe those who –
- Use the instrument in worship (or don’t)?
- Accept the “Pauline exception” to the prohibition against divorce (or don’t)?
- Refuse to build a fellowship hall with church money (or do so)?
- Allow couples who divorced and remarried before baptism to join the church without first divorcing (or don’t)?
Obviously, not. Read the rest of this post »