By Mike Willis
In the last issue of the paper, I cited several instances in which brethren have capitulated to denominationalism. Their acceptance of denominationalism has not occurred through departing from the Lord’s church to join hands with an already existing denomination (although several have done this, such as Athens Clay Pullias, former head of David Lipscomb College, the instances cited were not of this nature); rather, these persons have accepted denominationalism as an acceptable method of working to serve God without leaving the church of Christ. They have simply admitted that the Lord’s church is no different from human denominations.
As an example of the attitude toward denominations which is becoming more widespread among the liberals, notice the following quotation because it depicts the attitude which is becoming acceptable.
When I say this (i.e., Athen Clay Pullias having left the churches of Christ to become a member of the Presbyterian Church – mw) is no problem to me, I simply mean that I do not conclude that a brother necessarily rejects Christ when he leaves what we call the “Church of Christ.” Going to the Presbyterians might be a matter of conscience, not a lack of it, an act of faith and not faithlessness. Even though I went through the same course of study as their ministers (a classmate of mine at Princeton is now the Stated Clerk!), I could never become a Presbyterian. I prize my heritage as a “Christian Only,” and I cannot be run off, and certainly not bought off. (Note: Garret admits that he stays with the Churches of Christ because of historical heritage; it has nothing to do with the Scriptures as to why he is a member of the Church of Christ rather than a denomination. mw) So I choose to remain among Churches of Christ, where I am not fully accepted, than to go to the Presbyterians, where I would be accepted. But some of my sisters and brothers differ with me, and so some of them become Presbyterians or something else, having had it with the Churches of Christ . . . .
I do not believe, of course, that the United Presbyterian Church is the church of Jesus Christ, but neither do I believe that what we call the Church of Christ is the church of Jesus Christ . . . .
An honest confession might be good for the soul and for the party. Some of our folk, even our leaders might be better off among the Presbyterians. They might actually be closer to Christ than when they are with us, as impossible as that may appear (Leroy Garrett, “What Do You Do When Your Leader Goes To The Presbyterians?”, Restoration Review, Vol. XXI, No. 4, pp. 76-78).
This attitude toward denominationalism is growing. Truly it is sweeping through the ranks of the liberals, but one would be naive to believe that there were none among us with the same attitudes.
What Acceptance of This Attitude Means
There are some logical consequences that follow when one accepts the attitude mentioned above. I would like to enumerate several of those consequences, although this list makes no pretensions at being exhaustive. You will, no doubt, think of many other items which could be added to this list.
1. It means that the wearing of human names is no longer considered sinful. For one to openly accept denominationalists into his fellowship, he must have reached one of the following conclusions: (a) that the wearing of human names is not sinful or (b) that God will go ahead and save the one who is sinning while wearing these names through some gift of His grace over and above that revealed in the gospel. The denominationalists have held this second position for years because many of them believed in “once saved, always saved.” Because God’s grace was somehow going to automatically be applied to the believer, what doctrinal differences they had were unimportant so far as salvation was concerned.
Yet, the Scriptures still condemn the wearing of human names. Paul wrote,
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor. 1:10-13).
So long as that Scripture remains a part of the New Testament, the Christian is obligated to oppose the wearing of human names. However, those who are willing to accept denominationalists as acceptable children of God must reach the conclusion that the wearing of these names does not separate a person from God’s grace. Hence, he can no longer preach against the wearing of human names. By the way, how long has it been since you read an article in Restoration Review, Mission, Integrity, Ensign Fair, and Outreach on such a subject? For people so interested in unity, they seem so little interested in ridding the world of these sectarian names which divide the religious world.
2. It means that one is no longer opposed to human creeds. When one is willing to accept denominationalists as people standing in an acceptable relationship to Christ, he has reached a position which demands that he believe that allegiance to a human creed does not separate one from God. Let Leroy Garrett, Carl Ketcherside, R.L. Kilpatrick, and others rant and rave all they want to about the unwritten creeds of the churches of Christ; so long as they accept denominationalists as brethren acceptable to God, they are logically compelled to accept the position that allegiance to a human creed, whether written or unwritten, is not wrong in and of itself. Hence, those who are willing to accept denominationalism as acceptable to God must give up their opposition to human creeds.
Human creeds are unable to be defended. The word of God is sufficient to furnish the man of God unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:16-17); it contains all that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3-4); it is understandable (Eph. 3:3-4). Hence; there is nothing needed in addition to the Bible to lead one to salvation. The human creed which contains more than the Bible is unacceptable because it contains too much; the human creed which contains less than the Bible is unacceptable because it does not contain enough; the human creed which contains the same thing as the Bible is not needed so long as we have the Bible. Surely no man can write better than God! Yet, those who accept denominationalism must be willing to admit that human creeds are acceptable with God; allegiance to human creeds does not separate one from God.
3. It means that one is not opposed to perversions in the organization of the church. If one is going to accept denominationalists as people in fellowship with God and, therefore, with all others who are considered Christians, he must be willing to accept the denominational organizations invented by men. That the denominationalists do not follow the Bible pattern for the organization of the church each of us would admit. Indeed, the denominationalists themselves make no claim to being organized like the New Testament church, Yet, if one is going to accept denominationalists as men acceptable to God, he is going to be forced to admit that being involved in the perversion of the government of the church does not separate a person from God. Hence, he can no longer preach about the perversion of church government as practiced by Catholics, Protestants, or our liberal brethren who have accepted the sponsoring church arrangement.
4. It means that one must consider it possible for a person to be saved in a multitude of fashions. Those who are willing to extend fellowship to Presbyterians, Baptists, and other denominationalists (including Catholics), must be willing to admit that one can be saved without faith, repentance and baptism. Some of these denominations teach that one can be saved through infant sprinkling; hence, a person is saved without faith, repentance, or immersion in water. Others teach that the penitent believer is saved without baptism. The Catholics truly teach a system of salvation by works. Yet, those who teach that good people in all denominations are going to be saved must be willing to admit that there are a multitude of methods of being saved. They cannot teach that faith, repentance, confession, and baptism are essential for salvation so long as they admit that some are going to be saved without having done these things. They can speak of “brethren in prospect” all they please; the truth of the matter is that they believe that there are people saved in all denominations who have not submitted to obedience to the gospel plan of salvation. Hence, they cannot preach on the plan of salvation anymore.
By the way, how long has it been since you read a good lesson in Integrity, Restoration Review, Mission, Ensign Fair, and Outreach which taught the gospel plan of salvation? Do the writers for these journals believe that men can be saved in a multitude of different ways?
5. It means that one must accept the conclusion that perversions of the worship of the church will not separate a person from God. When a man accepts the conclusion that there are saved people worshiping in human-denominations, he is forced to conclude that the perversions in worship practiced by these denominations do not separate that person from God. Hence, any and every item of worship can be perverted and one can still die and go to heaven. The Lord’s Supper can be observed any day of the week and perverted so that it is not observed each Lord’s day, the items on the Table can be changed, and its purpose can be perverted without separating the ones who participate in it from God. The prayers can be offered through the name of Mary without separating the ones who offer them from God. The singing can be taken away from t-he congregation and performed by a choir or special singing group, mechanical instruments of music can be added, and other distortions occur without these changing separating a person from God. Free-will giving ‘can be perverted to tithing without it separating a person from God. Yes, all of these denominational distortions can occur without a person being separated from God if one accepts the conclusion that there are saved people in all denominations.
The conclusion to this is that one gives up the Bible as his objective standard for determining right and wrong when he decides to deviate from the Bible pattern in one point. Those who are presently willing to accept denominationalism as acceptable in the sight of God have departed from the Scriptures. They are a people who are associated with the church of our Lord Jesus Christ only in a historical way; they do not believe the truths taught from the Bible and reached from the pulpits; rather, they are members of the Church of Christ because they were brought up there and they are “proud of their heritage.”
The acceptance of denominationalism is fatal to the, restoration of the New Testament church. Those who are committed to going back to the Bible, practicing the things revealed in the Bible, believing the promises made in the Bible, and obeying the commandments of the Bible have nothing in common doctrinally with those who are willing to accept denominationalism of any form. I hold no animosity toward those with whom I disagree in this -regard; I only recognize that we are walking in different directions. The times in which our paths cross, they cross accidentally. We cannot share those times because we are not going the same direction or crossing the same ground for the same reason. Hence, I see no means of extending fellowship to those who have accepted denominationalism.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 31, pp. 499-501
August 9, 1979