Talking Past Each Other

by Greg Tidwell

Jay;

You have done a good job of summarizing my beliefs. You wrote:

To make sure we’re not talking past each other, we want to be sure we’re understanding you when you say “place one in danger of divine judgment.” We take the phrase to mean that God is patient with his children. Error does not necessarily immediately damn, but for certain errors (not all errors), God will at some point lose patience and damn. Moreover, we will generally not know when God has given up on someone, only that at some point he will.

If that’s your meaning, then we agree with the principle — we just want to be sure we’re understanding each other.

One emendation, however, is in order. It is my conviction that no error fits into the category of perpetual indulgence. Error is to be opposed, not accepted.

And yet, I am glad God is patient – as you rightly observed.

As a freshman at David Lipscomb College (as it was then) this point was driven home by Carrol Ellis in a Bible class. He opened the first day of class by asking all of the students who had ever taken anything that belonged to someone else to stand. He then asked all of the students who had ever told an untruth to join their classmates in standing. (we all, of course, were standing)

Dr. Ellis looked around the room with his head in his hands and cried out, “This school has put my in a room filled with thieves and liars!”

Do liars go to hell? Yes, the Bible says so. Then, what hope do I have of heaven? (Convicted liar, that I am) Left to my own devices, I have no hope. And in my depravity, I am not alone. “There is none righteous, no not one.”

Robert Hooper introduced me years ago to the work of Joseph De Maistre, who once observed: “I do not know what the heart of a rascal may be, but I know what is in the heart of an honest man; it is horrible.”

We must all, with humility, trust in God to save through the grace revealed in Jesus Christ.

I trust in the grace of God, and commend his grace to all for their salvation.

The grace of God, however, is not licence to embrace error and does not set aside our need to strive for precision obedience to the will of God.

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11 Comments on “Talking Past Each Other”

  1. Alan Scott Says:

    Greg,

    It is good to stand against error. It is also better to understand what is error in God’s eyes, and what is error against one’s opinion. I see much of this discussion as pursuing this end. Some error, as Jay points out such as aganist the inspiration of God’s Word or against the Divinity of Jesus, is clearly going against God’s specific revelation and the basis of His path to salvation. However, most things that have been categorized as “error” are not clearly against what God has spoken but instead against what some have interpreted as against what God meant.

    Can it not be more clear than that? When we say, “This is what God means” we are no longer using God’s word as our measurement but using our own judgement.

    We have got to move past using our interpretation as the measure of holiness and obedience, and use Jesus as the measure. And in all, obey the Spirit’s instructions from Romans 14-15: “Do not allow anyone to call evil what you consider good,” “Accept one another just as Christ accepted you.”

    God bless,
    Alan Scott

  2. Alan Says:

    It is my conviction that no error fits into the category of perpetual indulgence.

    Let me see if I understand. Are you saying that we must reach perfect understanding and practice of every doctrine of scripture before we die, or else be damned?

  3. Ed Boggess Says:

    Conversion is a transformation of one’s heart or will and life. We are transformed from following lies of the devil to following truth revealed by the Holy Spirit. Enthroned in our heart is the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, from conversion onward, our one sole desire should be to follow his will and please him. So, yes, we all, if we truly love Jesus, will try to always do his will, follow his words.That is who we are! Disciples! So what merit is it to ask, “must we reach perfect . . .?” That should be the goal of every disciple. “We all stumble in many things” but that does not create an excuse for desiring less than our Lord’s will. The only purpose I can imagine for raising a question of must we be perfect to be a disciple, is to justify a position that lowers the bar of true discipleship. Surely we both agree that it is only by the grace of God and not by trusting a righteousness of our own that we are saved. So the real question is, can one be a genuine disciple if he is unwilling to accept the authority of God? Greg has clearly stated that rejecting God’s authority (however it may play out) does not represent true discipleship.

  4. Alan Says:

    So what merit is it to ask, “must we reach perfect . . .?” That should be the goal of every disciple.

    We all agree that should be our goal. Do you think that someone who uses instrumental music in worship doesn’t have that goal?

    The only purpose I can imagine for raising a question of must we be perfect to be a disciple, is to justify a position that lowers the bar of true discipleship

    No, you can imagine another reason. Two people sincerely striving to obey God come to different convictions about some issue. Must each of them reject the other as apostate? That is the question we are supposed to be discussing.

    So the real question is, can one be a genuine disciple if he is unwilling to accept the authority of God?

    No. The real question is, can two true disciples come to different conclusions from the same scriptures? Do you have so much confidence in your reading comprehension skills that you admit no uncertainty on any biblical subject? What if you are wrong about something?


  5. So, it seems to me, that the question becomes which errors will God perpetually indulge (thus calling us to forebear as well)and which will he not (thus calling us to conform to his own actions)?

  6. Charles McLean Says:

    I think this is precisely the question, and I appreciate John Mark for stating it clearly. When we begin to try to quantify the discipline or the mercy of our own Father, we run into obstacles. One man says that nothing qualifies for “perpetual indulgence”, so I suppose that a believer who has borne bitterness against his doctrinal foes for 50 years and dies of apoplexy in the middle of a tirade is in danger of hell fire. Or are we speaking of our views about what constitutes sin, rather than our sins themselves? Are we saying that God will show us patience and mercy for our ongoing evil habits, so long as we acknowledge that, yep, that’s probably the wrong thing to do? Is it worse to spend my life with the “wrong view” on divorce, or to regularly practice refusing to love my neighbor?

    Some seem to propose that God in his grace tolerates a certain level of sinful actions or omissions, which any honest man has to acknowledge are an ongoing issue with him. No one dies perfect, after all. But these same folks seem to offer that God will at some point draw the line and damn the person who refuses to acknowledge his “errant position” on MDR or baptism.

    It seems to me that if God is willing to accept the blood of Jesus as propitiation for sinful “acts and ommissions” of believers, then it is not unreasonable to think that He in like manner covers doctrinal errors for those who have faith in Christ.

  7. Charles McLean Says:

    And if our conformity to the likeness of Christ is a matter of right doing, then who of us is great enough to claim to be anywhere near the arrival point? If, rather, this is a matter of God working his will in us, then we find ourselves in the hands of his loving discipline, rather than finding ourselves in the dock, desperately trying to defend ourselves in the face of a pending death sentence from a holy God.

  8. Ed Boggess Says:

    You ask, does an IM practitioner have that goal? Everyone converted has that goal. Two differ. One believes the other’s practice goes beyond what is written. The first cannot conscientiously join in the practice and believes to that degree his brother is in error. To do otherwise is to betray his own discipleship, his efforts at following Jesus. Could one or the other be wrong? Of course. But to expect either to ignore their difference is simplistic.

  9. Alan Says:

    Ed Boggess wrote:

    You ask, does an IM practitioner have that goal? Everyone converted has that goal.

    If Greg and Phil can make that statement, we will have made real progress. Then we could stop talking about progressives as if they were unwilling to submit to the authority of GOd. They are not unwilling.

  10. Ed Boggess Says:

    Ananias and Sapphira did something I would think twice before doing and presumably gave the lion’s share away. I would have patted them on the back, even if I thought they were holding a little back! God did not forbear! So I see myself as a poor judge in deciding such a question as this. Instead, I suppose I will try to encourage truth and discourage error of all kinds. As for forbearance, I think Lipscomb got it right when he said as long as a fellow showed evidence of trying to please God, whether his problem was moral or ignorance, he chose to forbear. After all, who know the heart of a man but the spirit of man within him?

  11. Glenn Dowling Says:

    I line up with Charles McLean’s comments clearly stated in his last paragraph:

    “It seems to me that if God is willing to accept the blood of Jesus as propitiation for sinful “acts and ommissions” of believers, then it is not unreasonable to think that He in like manner covers doctrinal errors for those who have faith in Christ.To that I say a heartly, “Amen!”

    My fear is that some well meaning, committed Church of Christ leaders are teaching “perfection” as if we can improve on the work of Jesus Christ. From the point one receives Jesus Christ as their Savior there is no time in their life they will ever be more saved. Are their degrees of obedience more pleasing to God? – Yes. Are they any more saved? No. Otherwise, one is engaging in “self-righteousness” or Phariseeism. Surely, God cannot be pleased with that.

    Isaiah 64:6 describes our “righteousness” as filthy rags. We are saved by the blood of Jesus


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