Archive for April 2009

Proceeding According to Plan

April 24, 2009

by Todd Deaver

Near the end of his post in which he provides “Some Answers,” Greg says,

However, if we are not in agreement as to the Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Inerrancy) and if we are not in agreement on God’s Way of Salvation (How One Is a Christian) then I cannot see the possibility of progress on the many other issues which trouble us.

Greg, you may remember that at our Nashville lunch we came to an agreement on this matter, which was subsequently confirmed in private e-mails. Jay and I fully accept the inspiration and authority of scripture, and this was confirmed in your first post (“As We Begin“) as a point of agreement: “we are agreed that God has spoken authoritatively in Scripture and that the Bible is a reliable and sufficient source for Christian teaching.” As we told you then, Jay and I haven’t studied the inerrancy controversy in any depth, but neither of us is inclined to argue against inerrancy. That is not a point of contention in this discussion.

Our agreed focus is on what the Bible teaches. If you show that the Bible teaches your view of apostasy, Jay and I will accept it as God’s authoritative will. So please, let’s carry on.

Also, we agreed in Nashville that apostasy would be the first issue on the table. To a certain extent Jay and I do differ with you and Phil over who is and isn’t a Christian, and we are more than happy to address those differences in this forum. But, as we’ve discussed, there are good reasons for dealing with apostasy first–and the scope of God’s grace for Christians–before dealing with the scope of God’s grace in conversion.

We aren’t dodging the issue; we look forward to dialoguing with you about it. We do appreciate your accommodation to our preference on this point.


Getting to the Real Issue

April 24, 2009

by Todd Deaver

Greg and Phil have offered a series of posts that have greatly helped us understand their positions and their thinking. Their thoughtful posts deserve a thoughtful reply. Because we are now at the heart of the issue, we’ll need to put up several posts to fully respond. To avoid unduly testing the patience of our readers, we’ll spread these over a few days.

The posts that are coming are –

  • Proceeding According to Plan, by Todd
  • Apostasy Lists by Leaders Among the Conservative Churches of Christ, by Jay (in response to Greg’s request that Jay post such a list)
  • Phil’s and Greg’s Position on Apostasy, by Todd
  • Aren’t Some Errors Covered by Grace? by Todd
  • The Repentance Requirement, by Todd
  • Exegesis of Texts Cited by Greg and Phil, by Jay

Proposition One Response from Phil

April 21, 2009

by Phil Sanders


Please pardon my late reply, since I have gone through a grueling few weeks. I have held four gospel meetings and attended three lectureships since mid-February. I am just now catching my breath.

I echo your appreciation to Jay for hosting and coordinating this discussion. He has gone to great lengths to accomodate you, Greg, and me. I am thankful for the opportunity of exploring with you an important matter.

My proposition is: The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that doctrinal error can lead to eternal damnation.

In some cases I think many people were reading more into what I was saying than the proposition actually says. I am not saying that any brother who ever thinks for a moment any wrong notion is lost. There is more to be said than this. I am saying that people who continue to entertain and press beliefs that are false and harm others are sinning. Doctrinal error can lead to eternal damnation.

Doctrinal error can lead to eternal damnation, and yes I believe this can be any doctrinal error. It is so because error is equated in God’s eyes with sin. Any sin can lead to eternal damnation. Doctrinal sin is not less evil than moral sin. Doctrinal error has led a multitude of souls astray from God.

Galatians 1:6-9 and 5:4 are sufficient to show that doctrinal error can lead to eternal damnation. Those who are in error are misled by a lie, a falsehood. God will punish all liars (Rev. 21:8). What some are calling “mistaken,” the Bible calls blind (Matt. 15:14; 2 Cor. 4:4). Being blinded does not keep people from falling into the pit.

Paul’s discussion of the apostasy with the Thessalonians has some mysteries, but he notes that those who do not love the truth are vulnerable to a “deluding influence so that they might believe what is false” (2 Thess. 2:10-12). Belief in the false and lack of love for the truth are matters of salvation.

Jesus spoke clearly to the Pharisees, who went beyond the Scriptures with their oral Torah, in Matthew 15:6-9, “So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

The Pharisees thought they were right with and close to God in spite of the fact they were teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. Jesus makes this observation about the Pharisees and man-made doctrines in Matthew 15:13-14: He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” False doctrine can indeed cost the souls of both the deceiver and the deceived.

Now as to some other matters: I do think there are some qualifiers.

Repentance is always a qualifier. Those who repent of moral sin can find forgiveness, and those who repent of doctrinal error can also find forgiveness. Time plays a part in this. 2 Peter 3:15 reminds us to regard the patience of the Lord as salvation. God does not want anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance, and this included those who were caught up in falsehoods in 2 Peter 2. I am constantly amazed at how what we believe influences how we live. One of the reasons false doctrines are evil is that they inevitably lead to sinful attitudes and behavior. Our ethics arise out of what we believe and value. Error in thought will inevitably lead to error in life. Paul’s epistles bear this out repeatedly. God desires all to repent. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 says:
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

I am concerned, however, there are some who are suggesting on a practical level that being “mistaken” somehow dismisses the need for repentance. The sprinkled person to them does not have to be immersed. The restoration plea is built upon the need to come out of the world and to return to God’s teaching; this was the means by which divided men could unite. Restoration begins with repentance and demands correction. Repentance is the gift of correction. The God-breathed Word corrects (2 Tim. 3:16-17); it does not leave one in error.

Grace teaches correction (Titus 2:11-14); one may not continue in moral or doctrinal error. How can the misled, deceived, sprinkled infant say he has faithfully repented in later years, if he does not correct the situation with an immersion? Those who have misled others by giving them false hope in humanly substituted sprinkling and in faithless infant baptism do immeasurable harm. They speak of grace and leave the soul broken. Where, then, is the love of the truth?
Is an error sufficient? Where is the righteousness grace teaches? Where is the correction? Would you wish to have your children or grandchildren stand before God only having been sprinkled as an infant for baptism? If you say no, then why are some content to let other people’s children fall victim to false hope and a lie?

Would I be kind to a person in error? Of course, and I have many times met such a one. Would I leave this person with false hope in their sprinkling? No, God expects me to teach them better “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

Should a person repent of error, God grants forgiveness. A sprinkled infant is not forgiven of sin, because an infant is not lost (Rom. 7:9). But to suggest that one can continue to go through life deceived in false hope (right with faith but wrong in ritual) is not kind. (A sprinkled infant does not have faith, by the way.)

A second qualifier in my mind is in the area of maturity. We are all growing. Not all men have knowledge as they ought. James 3:1 suggests that the mature teacher will be judged more strictly than others. Hebrews 5:11-14 says some “have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”

I do believe in patience with people, giving them time to grow and learn. Peter notes that we should regard the patience of the Lord as salvation (2 Pet. 3:15).

Patience, however, is granted so that people will come to repentance and not perish (3:9). Some who were untaught and unstable were distorting the Scriptures “to their own destruction” (3:16). Peter said, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (3:17-18).

There comes a point when God’s patience has an ending; and there comes a point when we must discipline the person caught up in error. If God’s patience has no ending, then Peter’s admonition for them to be on their guard so that they would not be carried away with error is absurd.
Should we be patient with each other? Yes. How long? Till a person hardens his heart and stubbornly refuses to come to the truth. Paul said that we should “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned” (Tit. 3:10-11).

I am sure there is more to be said.

An Apology to John Mark Hicks

April 20, 2009

by Greg Tidwell

In a comment to my post, John Mark Hicks wrote:

I think you mischaracterize our (Greg Taylor and myself) position in Down in the River to Pray. We actually state that salvation is both an event and a process (cf. pp. 254-55), and that the baptismal event is a moment where we encounter God, experience his grace and are assured of our salvation. Baptism is a means of grace; an event of grace, a moment when God does something salvific.

I also think your language is a bit imprecise in characterizing our position. While you write that we believe that “all who respond to the gospel in any way may be part of the family of God” (emphasis mine), it is more precise to say that we believe that God receives those who trust in Christ, submissively seek God from their hearts, and obey him according to their knowledge because God values mercy over sacrifice and faith over ritual. At the same time, God gives us ritual as means of encountering him, receiving his grace and concretely experiencing assurance. Ritual is God’s gift to his people but it should not be exalted over faith or nullify faith simply because the ritual was misunderstood, misapplied or mistaken by sincere believers whose hearts fully trust in Jesus.

John Mark is kind to offer this fuller explanation, and I trust he will accept my apology for any misunderstanding I have caused concerning his position.

Talking Past Each Other

April 20, 2009

by Greg Tidwell


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.

Some Answers

April 20, 2009

by Greg Tidwell


I admire your persistence and appreciate the passion for understanding which drives you forward. You have been gracious and patient in approaching our areas of disagreement and I am honored to discuss these matters with you, with Todd and with Phil.

Jay writes:

We cannot progress in this discussion until you’ve answered these questions. We could talk about what the Bible says about inerrancy and baptism, but that would hardly provide a comprehensive understanding of the doctrine of apostasy. Those two doctrines raise issues that are quite different from, say, the role of women and instrumental music. However, if you no longer consider the role of women and instrumental music to be issues that place one in danger of divine judgment, we need not concern ourselves further with those issues in this apostasy discussion.

I have repeatedly resisted parsing error into acceptable and nonacceptable categories. To put forward that something is contrary to the will of God, but is acceptable, would not be a way I will proceed.

At this point in our discussion (not wanting to be obdurate) let me say that, yes indeed, I feel disregarding the authority of God’s Word concerning male spiritual leadership, and I feel embracing unauthorized worship places one in danger of divine judgment.

However, if we are not in agreement as to the Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Inerrancy) and if we are not in agreement on God’s Way of Salvation (How One Is a Christian) then I cannot see the possibility of progress on the many other issues which trouble us.

Further, while my beliefs are a matter of public record, I see little value in this forum of composing a syllabus of my particular doctrinal convictions.

In Reply to Greg’s Posts

April 19, 2009

by Jay Guin

What doctrinal errors place one in danger of divine judgment?

In “Not Man-made Checklists but a Scriptural Rationale,” we asked whether Greg stills holds to the teachings he expressed in the articles quoted in that post. In those articles, Greg specified several issues that place one in danger of divine judgment.

Greg responded with respect to two of the doctrines he considered in his articles,

What I am saying is that when one no longer believes in the complete truthfulness of God’s Word, or when one no longer believes in God’s Way of Salvation, then one stands in danger of divine judgment.

We appreciate Greg offering greater specifics on these two issues, but Greg hasn’t responded either way regarding four other issues that he said will cause one to have “a different religion” —

• Worship with an instrument, or
• Allow women to lead in worship, or
• Support parachurch organizations that engage in false teaching, or
• Allow parachurch organizations to drain resources from the congregation

Greg, do you contend that those four issues place one in danger of divine judgment? Or are you saying that of those doctrines mentioned in your articles, only the two — inerrancy and baptism — place one in danger of divine judgment?