By Bobby R. Holmes
In the September 30, 1993, and December 31, 1993 issues of Sentry brother Shane Scott had an article entitled “The One True Church.” Brother Scott is a very talented young man who does a good job in writing. However, he used a portion of an article that I wrote entitled “Bible Baptism vs. Baptism For the Remission of Sins” in which he grossly misrepresented me. I have no desire to harm brother Scott in any way and have written him (November 9th, December 8th, and December 28, 1993) urging him to correct this, but he has refused to do so. I am left with no alternative but to correct the misrepresentation myself lest I be labeled as one who believes and teaches falsely regarding the Lord’s church.
My article appeared in “Guardian of Truth” (June 3, 1993, page 330). When my article appeared in GOT brother Scott challenged it and wrote a response to it. After talking to Mike Willis, editor of GOT, brother Willis urged him to talk with me about it before presenting his response for publication. Brother Scott wrote me a letter June 29th in which he stated that he disagreed with some of the points I had made regarding the church of Christ being the one true church. He also included a copy of his response to be published. I immediately called brother Scott and we talked about my article.
Brother Scott thought from my article that I believed that the church universal was made up of local churches. After we talked, he under-stood that I did not believe that. I told him clearly that I had never taken that position. I told him that I did not claim to be a writer and perhaps could have worded my article better had I been one. I suggested that he go ahead and send his article to GOT for publication if he so desired and I would answer it to the best of my ability. He stated that it would not be necessary to do that since he now knew that I stood for the truth on the subject. We had a pleasant conversation and I thought that the subject was closed.
Then on September 30th his article “The One True Church” came out in Sentry. On page 12, paragraph 2 he states:
To illustrate the deficiency of this view, here is a quote from a recent article in a brotherhood pa-per: “There is only one church and that is the church you can read about in the Bible that honors his (Christ’s) name, is organized ac-cording to his dictates, works and worships according to the pattern he has given. No church but the church of Christ can truthfully make that claim” (author’s own emphasis). When this author says that the only church that can truly claim to work, worship and be organized as the Lord instructs is the “church of Christ,” in what sense is he using that phrase? He cannot mean the church in the universal sense, since it performs none of these actions collectively. He certainly cannot be using “church of Christ” in the local sense, since he said there was only one church which was right, and I know of many local churches obeying God’s will. He was using the phrase “church of Christ” to describe some sort of institution that blurs and merges the concept of the universal body and local churches. Such an unbiblical institutional concept has more in common with modern denominationalism than it does with first century apostolic teaching.
Brother Scott knows that I believe that the church universal is made up of the saved throughout the world. He also understands I had reference to the local church in my statement, “the church you can read about in the Bible that honors his name, is organized according to his dictates, works and worships according to the pattern he has given” (1 Cor. 1:2; Phil. 1:1). Brother Scott knows what I mean by what I wrote because I told him so before he wrote his article in Sentry.
What brother Scott is reacting to is “church versus church” preaching. My article was written to point out that denominationalism is not the same as the Lord’s one true church! What can be seen of the Lord’s church is seen in the local church! It is “organized ac-cording to his dictates” with its own elders, deacons, etc. (Phil. 1:1). It “worships and works according to the pattern he has given” as it meets regularly to lay by in store (1 Cor. 16:1-2), partakes of the Lord’s supper (Acts 20:7), teaches God’ s word (Acts 20:7), prays, sings and uses the Lord’s funds in helping needy saints (Acts 11:28-30) and supporting those preaching the gospel (2 Cor. 11:8-9). Who would deny that?
Why the clamor and challenge concerning “church versus church” writings and preaching? It seems to me that there are some brethren who include some of those in denominational churches with the saved of God simply because they were “baptized for the remission of sins.” My article hit a tender spot.
The bottom line of it all revolves around the subject of revealed religion versus unrevealed religion. Revealed religion is seen in the organization of the local church, its work and worship as described above versus the unrevealed religion of denominationalism. In brother Scott’s article Sentry (pp. 11-12), he states:
However, sometimes we use a highly denominational concept of the church when we evangelize. An approach which I used to use (emp. mine, b.r.h.) is what I call the “one true church” approach. I would begin by reading all the verses which talk about the one church. Then I would show the prospect the identifying marks of the “one true church”: It’s led by elders (1 Pet. 5:1-2); uses only vocal singing (Eph. 5:19); takes the Lord’s supper every Sunday (Acts 20:7), etc. But this presentation is based on taking the principle of the one universal church, then applying passages to it that are actually describing the work, organization, and worship of local churches.
When I wrote of the “one true church you can read about in the Bible that is organized according to his dictates, works and worships ac-cording to his pattern” I was writing about revealed religion. Have we reached the point that we cannot preach the difference between revealed and unrevealed religion?
I would not for a moment judge the heart of brother Scott as to his motive for knowingly misrepresenting what I believe but, the fact is that he did misrepresent me and I do not want those who read my article and then read his article to thank that I hold to such false teaching.
It seems to me that he was so desperate to find something that would prove an imagined evil (emphasizing the church to the neglect of Christ) that he was grasping for straws when he used my article as evidence. There may be some among conservative brethren who hold the view that the church universal is made-up of local churches but, brother Scott knew when he wrote this article that I was as opposed to them as he is. Why he left the impression that I believed that the church universal is made up of local congregations, when he knew that was not true, I will leave for him to explain.
In the meantime, let me assure you that I have not out grown preaching that contrasts the Lord’s revealed religion (his church) from humanly devised religion (the denominations of men). Brother Scott seems to indicate that he has made some changes in his preaching and teaching as to the subject of revealed religion versus unrevealed religion (note: “An approach which I used to use. . .,” Sentry, pp. 11-12). In a letter from him dated January 11, 1994 he states that he has not outgrown preaching that contrasts the Lord’s revealed religion from humanly devised religion and “categorically denies that he has.” Inasmuch as he has criticized how his brethren abuse “church versus church” preaching and he says he has not outgrown it we will be looking for a series of articles from him to show us how it should be done.
Again, let me say that what can be seen of the one true church is seen in the local church in its God-given organization. No, the church universal is not made up of local churches. It is made up of the saved throughout the world. When one teaches and preaches the difference between the denominational churches (unrevealed religion) and the local church arrangement of God’s people (revealed religion) in organization, work and worship he is preaching the Truth! I have used an illustration that I believe is appropriate. “If you want to see just how crooked a stick is, hold it up beside one that is perfectly straight.” In preaching the difference between revealed religion and unrevealed religion one is doing just that.
I sincerely regret having to publish this correction of brother Scott’s article and only resort to submitting this article after my repeated attempts to persuade him to correct it failed. I do not hold any animosity toward brother Scott, although I believe he has publicly misrepresented me.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 18, p. 8-9
September 15, 1994