By Mike Willis
The June 1980 issue of Restoration Review contained several articles by its editor Leroy Garrett which demonstrated that the move into full-fledged sectarianism is progressing at an exceedingly rapid pace. Frankly, I can see no difference in the denominationalism being promulgated by Garrett and in that which most other Evangelical denominationalists are stating, except that a good many of them are more firmly committed to the inerrancy of Scripture. In this article, I would like to mention several items in the June issue of Restoration Review to keep you posted with reference to the apostasies of the grace-unity movement.
“The Fallacy of Humpty Dumptyism”
Garrett cited a quotation from Humpty Dumpty, in which Alice is supposed to have said, “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more or less,” to charge that Christians are treating words of the New Testament in exactly that manner, giving them whatever definition they so well please. One such example of giving words whatever meaning pleases the individual which was cited by Garrett was “baptism.” Garrett wrote,
Humpty Dumpty even works havoc with baptism, which, among us at least, is made to mean immersion, which is a very risky definition. To say that baptism in New Testament times was by immersion is one thing, but to say that baptism means immersion is another. It is highly unlikely that when Paul refers to “one baptism” in Eph. 4:5 that he means one immersion. Really, “one Lord, one faith, one immersion” makes little sense. Would anybody ever suppose there could be two or more immersions? Almost certainly the apostle is saying that there is but one initiation or means of induction for all people, Jews and Gentiles alike, which is the point he is making (p. 104).
A finer example of “Humpty Dumptyism” could not have been given than is given in this paragraph! Leroy Garrett, thou art the man. Every Greek lexicon which I have ever consulted defines baptisma and baptiza to refer to an immersion in water or the act of immersing in water respectively. However Garrett comes along and redefines the word to mean “an initiation” or “means of induction.” And just which Greek lexicographer did he quote? None at all! “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more or less!”
Actually, Garrett is moving toward extending the right hands of fellowship to those who have never been immersed in Christ. In order to do this, he must reach the conviction that immersion in water is not essential to salvation. In the May 1980 issue of Restoration Review, he wrote,
This method, which in our shallow sectarianism we have all but ignored, would be almost as startling to us. Just to mention a few assumptions that could be questioned: how strong is the evidence in Scripture that tongues have ceased? or that a collection is to be taken only on the first day of the week? or that money becomes “the Lord’s money” when it is put into “the church treasury”? or that singing can be only acappella? or that there is congregational singing to start with? or that immersion is essential to salvation? or that drinking per se is a sin? (p. 83).
Notice that Garrett was raising the question of whether or not the Scriptures actually teach that immersion is essential to salvation. This is an assumption which those stooped in “church of Christ tradition” make, not what the Scriptures teach, according to Garrett!
Because of this belief, he is willing to state that these in Presbyterian, Methodist, and Catholic churches are his brethren in Christ despite the fact that they have never been immersed in water for the remission of their sins (cf. Restoration Review, Vol. XI, No. 1, p. 2; Vol. XIII, No. 1, pp. 2-3; Vol. XVI, No. 5, p. 291, No. 9, p. 367; Vol. XX, No. 9, p. 168; Vol. XXI, No. 4, p. 77; Vol. XXII, No. 5, p. 83).
A further denial of what the Scriptures teach regarding baptism was evidenced in such statements as the following:
When “remission of sins” is connected to baptism as it is in Acts 2:38, we must be careful to recognize that a term can be used in different senses (“When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less!” -is that what you mean brother Garrett?) in different contexts. Surely “remission of sins” does not relate to baptism the same way it does to the blood of Christ, as in Mt. 26:28 . . . .
Is not remission of sins actually realized through faith in the blood of Christ rather than by any external act? This means that “remission of sins” in Acts 2:38 is in some sense different from the other two references . . . .
The Bible itself makes an effort to distinguish between form and substance in reference to baptism. 1 Pet. 3:21 cautions that baptism does not in itself cleanse, but it is “the answer of a good conscience toward God.” The same passage says baptism saves, but again this cannot mean saved (“When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less!”) in the same sense that faith in the blood of Christ saves. Baptism typically or formally saves, or as Peter puts it, it is “the like figure” or it is the “answer” of a good conscience, which shows that a believing obeying conscience in what Christ has done is what really saves.
Frankly, I have never heard a Baptist say anything different from this with reference to the purpose of baptism. Consequently, it is not surprising to read that Garrett thinks that we are making too much of baptism (Restoration Review, Vol. XXI, No. 2, pp. 27-32). Comparing baptism to circumcision, Garrett said, “Baptism is our assurance that such surgery has been performed by the Spirit of Christ in our hearts” (Ibid, p. 31). That sounds a good bit like baptism is an “outward sign of an inward act”!
Yes, I would have to agree that there is some “Humpty Dumptyism” in the church of Christ and one can get a pretty good dose of it about anytime that he reads a copy of Restoration Review!
Truth Magazine’s Articles On Instrumental Music
Truth Magazine recently ran six special issues discussing instrumental music in worship. When this material was prepared, I did not expect that brethren who have departed from the Scriptures, such as Leroy Garrett, would get much enjoyment from it. Rather, I worked to get this material together for those who were willing to “gladly receive the word” and who would “search the Scriptures to see if the things taught were so.” Consequently, I am not much alarmed at Garrett’s displeasure in this material.
He was particularly alarmed at Joe Neil Clayton’s article, “Instrumental Music And the Silence of the Scriptures” (22 May 1980). He wrote,
There is yet another journal among us that has a series going on instrumental music, Truth Magazine out of Dayton, Ohio, though it is a Texan that authors the lead article, “Instrumental Music and the Silence of the Scriptures” . . . .
In other ways, if there is an organ in the church that shows that the people do not have the right attitude toward the Bible. The Ohio journal says this: “The absence of mechanical devices of music in our meeting houses serves as a witness to our adherence to a respected principle of Bible interpretation, the prohibition of divine silence.” The article closes with this daring judgment: “The Christian who consistently exalts the will of God above man’s through an application of this principle, will never worship God in music, except by singing” . . . .
The music question is not a matter of some of us honoring the authority of Scripture and others not, but a matter of interpreting the Scriptures differently – or a matter of interpreting the silence of Scripture differently, if you like. The brother who referred to the “prohibition of divine silence” as a respected principle of interpretation would favor me with the name of any hermeneutical authority that cites such a principle. This would have to mean that God prohibits anything that the Bible is silent about. If this is true, we are all under condemnation (pp. 106-107).
I can name several hermeneutical authorities which had the same concept toward the prohibition of the silence of the Scriptures as brother Clayton mentioned, such as the following: Moses (Lev. 10:1-2), the author of Hebrews (Heb. 7:14), Peter (1 Pet. 4:11), Paul (1 Cor. 4:6), and John (2 Jn. 9-11). Each of these men, inspired though they were, warned about going beyond that which is authorized of God by condemning the practice of things unauthorized (though not specifically condemned) by God. I doubt that these men are considered “hermeneutical authorities” by our good brother, however; they are merely inspired men, not respected scholars!
Inasmuch as brother Garrett is more than a little enamored with restoration leaders, it might be of interest to him to know that Thomas Campbell was one who expressed this same hermeneutical principle. He said, “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.” Robert Richardson dates the beginning of the restoration movement with the utterance of this principle of unity (Memoirs of Campbell, Vol. I, pp. 236-237). To demonstrate how this principle was understood, Richardson added, “Thus the silence of the Bible was to be respected equally with its revelations, which were by Divine authority declared to be able to `make the man of God perfect and thoroughly furnished unto every good work’ ” (Ibid, p. 237). This was immediately perceived by some present to exclude infant sprinkling (p. 238).
Later, Campbell wrote, “Nothing ought to be received into the faith or worship of the church; or be made a term of communion amongst Christians, that is not as old as the New Testament” (Declaration And Address, Centennial Edition, p. 17). He continued,
Thus have we briefly endeavored to chew our brethren, what evidently appears to us to be the heinous nature and dreadful consequences of that truly latitudinarian principle and practice, which is the bitter root of almost all our divisions, namely, the imposing of our private opinions upon each other, as articles of faith or duty; introducing them into the public profession and practice of the church, and acting upon them, as if they were the express law of Christ, by judging and rejecting our brethren that differ with us in those things; or, at least by so retaining them in our public profession and practice, that our brethren cannot join with us, or we with them, without becoming actually partakers of those things, which they, or we, cannot, in conscience approve; and which the word of God no where expressly enjoins on us. To cease from all such things, by simply returning to the original standard of christianity – the profession and practice of the primitive church, as expressly exhibited upon the sacred page of New Testament scripture, is the only possible way, that we can perceive, to get rid of those evils. And we humbly think that a uniform agreement in that for the preservation of charity would be infinitely preferable to our contention and divisions: nay, that such a uniformity is the very thing that the Lord requires, if the New Testament be a perfect model a sufficient formula for the worship, discipline and government of the christian church. Let us do, as we are there expressly told they did, say as they said: that is, profess and practice as therein expressly enjoined by precept and precedent, in every possible instance, after their approved example; and in so doing we shall realize, and exhibit, all that unity and uniformity, that the primitive church possessed, or that the law of Christ requires (p. 35).
Brother Garrett, will you accept the venerated Thomas Campbell, from whose writings you are so wont to quote, as a respected hermeneutical authority for the silence of the Scriptures principle? Will you accept the terms of unity which he laid down in the Declaration and Address rather than those laid down in Restoration Review? Personally, I do not believe that you will do either!
To further demonstrate the manner in which the early restorers understood the prohibition of divine silence, read the following comments from Richardson’s Memoirs of Alexander Campbell. This section appears immediately following the enunciation of the principle “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.”
It was some time after Mr. Campbell sat down to afford opportunity to those present to give, as he had requested, a free and candid expression of their views, before any one presumed to break the silence. At length, a shrewd Scotch Seceder, Andrew Munro, who was a bookseller and postmaster at Canonsburg, arose and said: “Mr. Campbell, if we adopt that as a basis, then there is an end of infant baptism.” This remark, and the conviction it seemed to carry with it, produced a profound sensation. “Of course, said Mr. Campbell, in reply, “if infant baptism be not found in Scripture, we can have nothing to do with it” (pp. 237-238).
Campbell and the early restorers understood divine silence in exactly the same manner as we understand it today with reference to using instrumental music in worship. Who has departed from (1) the Scriptures and (2) the plea of the early restorers, brother Garrett?
Yes, there is a difference in attitude toward the authority of the Scriptures as you very well know. The writers of the Christian Standard have accepted the principle that we can do anything in religion except what is expressly prohibited; we take the position that we must have positive divine authority for what we practice and that anything for which there is no positive divine authority is wrong. Many recognized historians of the restoration movement have stated that these different concepts toward authority were responsible for the division, your statements to the contrary notwithstanding.
The “Dirty Dozen” In Anti Country
This third article in the June 1980 issue of Restoration Review related Garrett’s visit with several people who have broken away from the conservative brethren in Clearwater to begin their own “free, open Church of Christ.” These people were former students at Florida College; some are descendants of gospel preachers. All had been attending congregations opposed to the sponsoring church and institutionalism.
The problems in the Northeast Church came to a head when John Foster read an article entitled “The Nature of the Assembly” in a Wednesday Bible study. As the facts were reported to me, another young man had been scheduled to speak. He called on Wednesday morning telling the man in charge of selecting speakers that he would be unable to take his turn. He suggested that John Foster would be willing to speak in his place. The man making the assignments contacted brother Foster and made arrangements for him to speak that night. He requested specifically that brother Foster not deal with anything controversial, since he had already earned some reputation for creating problems over words to no profit. Whether intentional or not, brother Foster arrived at the meeting after the singing of the first song. When he began reading the material, he requested that no one make any comment until he had finished reading the entire article.
Nearly the entire hour was spent in reading the article. After it was finished, brethren began to express disagreement with the material. Someone requested to know the author. Leroy Garrett was identified. The local preacher, in offering the invitation, announced that false doctrine had been taught in the assembly that night and dealt with some of it. The next several months were used to expose some of the heresies taught in the article. The net result was that a group left the church and eventually established another church.
There are several observations which I would like to make regarding this incident and article. They are as follows:
1. The grace-unity movement is not dead. Some would like for us to believe that the issues pertaining to graceunity are behind us. That simply is not true, as this incident very well demonstrates. The doctrines circulated by Garrett and Ketcherside are identical with those presently being circulated by most denominationals. They are the kinds of doctrines which most people want to hear today. Consequently, we are going to be forced to preach on the themes of the grace-unity brethren to keep the church grounded on the subject. The untaught church is in a dangerous, unenviable position.
2. The grace-unity movement is sectarian. While shouting peace and unity out of one side of his mouthi Garrett (and others identified with him) laud and praise the establishment of open, free Churches of Christ. They praise the divisions created by those adhering to their false doctrines. Hence, they are effectively working to divide the church over unity! To be a member of this new sect, there are several specific doctrines which one must believe. He must, for example, agree that doctrinal differences over usage of mechanical instruments of music in worship, the sponsoring church, church support of human institutions, premillennialism, etc. should not be grounds of breaking fellowship. He must believe in a gospel-doctrine distinction. He must not use the pulpit to oppose those who practice any of the above mentioned items. Without accepting these tenets and some others, an individual cannot be a member of the grace-unity sect! Hence, this movement is sectarian to the core.
3. Their concept of worship is ridiculous. The article which brother Foster read by Leroy Garrett was described by Garrett in these words:
. . This is what got all of us into trouble. The “dirty dozen” were still a part of the Northeast Church of Christ, and when it came time for John Foster to give his lesson to the congregation on a Sunday evening, he chose to read this article I had written five years before.
“It was so clear,” he told me, “and expressed what I had been thinking.” He was confident they would accept it with the enthusiasm he had. But the essay would be disquieting to anyone with such an institutional view of the church as to suppose that “worship” begins and ends within certain prescribed hours at a building and confined to “five acts of worship.” The article notes that all of life is worship for the believer. I even dared to suggest that a woman is worshipping or serving God in the kitchen as much as in “the sanctuary,” and that a Christian is worshipping when playing with the kids at the park. But the most offensive suggestion was that one may be worshipping when she takes her dog walking (p. 111).
This article would be rather repulsive to me, I would have to admit. I too would become alarmed and charge the one presenting this material with teaching false doctrine.
I am not upset with the idea that one’s entire life is a spiritual sacrifice to God (Rom. 12:1-2). No person to my knowledge is denying that. The Christian who approaches his service toward his family with reference to his obligations to God is certainly doing what the Bible teaches. No one would affirm that all worship is confined to the assembly.
However, the main thrust of these comments is not to emphasize the necessity of a person living acceptably before God twenty-four hours a day. The main thrust of these comments is to deny that there is a pattern for worship. The idea that there might be “five acts of worship” is what is being criticized. This is being done in order to set aside the affirmation that there is a pattern for worship. If there is no pattern, there can be no violation of that pattern. Ilenying that there is a pattern for worship, these brethren do not consider instrumental music (for example) to be a violation of that pattern.
The idea that “washing dishes” and “walking a dog” are worship is ridiculous. When Madelyn Murray O’Hair is washing her dishes and walking her dog, is she worshipping? If walking the dog is worship for the one holding the lease, is it worship for the dog on the end of the lease? If an atheist is helping a Christian wash dishes, is the act worship for one and not for the other? When a Muslim washes dishes, is she worshipping Allah or Jehovah? You can see that this position leads to utter chaos!
I would like to propose a discussion, call it dialogue if you prefer, between Garrett and myself or between someone who is a member of this open, free Church of Christ and myself. I will deny the following proposition if anyone of them is willing to affirm it. I think that it correctly represents what they believe: Resolved: There is no revealed pattern of worship in the New Testament. This discussion could be carried simultaneously in Truth Magazine and Restoration Review. If this does not represent what you believe, let us correspond to specify our differences and proceed with the discussion.
The result of the following of Garrett’s material for the brethren in Clearwater has been the establishment of a sect which has its own unique form of worship. It was described as follows:
It is understandable that the new church has no treasury. There is no “offering” on Lord’s day. Having no professional minister to pay and no edifice to maintain, assembling as they do in a home, their concern for money is mostly for the needy. For this purpose they raise money among themselves as the need arises (pp. 112-113).
I wonder if these brethren believe that the matters in which they are unique are binding patterns that all brethren must conform to in order to be saved? That would come with poor grace from those denying that there is a pattern for worship, if it were true.
The movement of the grace-unity brethren toward the mainstream of Protestant denominationalism is going forward at more rapid speed than might be expected. They are compromising on doctrinal items in a matter of months which has taken the Christian Church nearly a hundred years to compromise. They see no difference in the Lord’s body and Protestant and Catholic denominations. They see nothing essential in immersion being the action of baptism, remission of sins being the purpose of baptism, and the penitent believer being the subject of baptism. They see no pattern for the organization and worship of the church. Consequently, they are racing, not just moving, toward the mainstream of Protestant denominationalism.
I ask, “What makes such a person a member of the body of Christ?” The only connection which men such as Leroy Garrett and Carl Ketcherside have with the church of Christ is historical. He claims connection with the church of Christ because he was brought up in it, not because he believes what the Scriptures teach. The truth of the matter is that he lampoons nearly everything which is unique about the Lord’s church.
The direction in which he is leading people is not toward Christ, it is further and further away from the revelation of God as found in the New Testament. Frankly, I intend to give my energies to opposing this movement. How about you?
Truth Magazine XXIV: 32, pp. 515-518
August 14, 1980