By Roy E. Cogdill
A Letter Dated January 25, 1974
San Marcos, Texas 78666
“The university furnished a list of students who mentioned that their religious preference was Church of Christ. Your name was on the list. That is the justification we have for writing you a letter.
AAs you probably know, there are two congregations of the Church of Christ in San Marcos. If you are a regular attendant at the University Church on Guadalupe, and are happy in the fellowship of the fine members of that congregation. we congratulate you. If, on the other hand you rarely attend, or have serious doubts about the views expressed by the brethren at University, please do not automatically become a religious dropout. ‘Copping out’ is not the answer.
“We suggest, for example, that you give some thought to the views of the Holland Street Church. Often we have been asked what we stand for, or what is the difference between our approach to religion and that of most Churches of Christ. Recently we have given a great deal of thought to this question and have tentatively reduced our answer to writing.
“One problem with answering such a question is that many questions about religious faith cannot be definitively answered, You have observed in some of your university classes that most education is like that also. In fact it is doubtful if you will know all the answers even when you graduate, Our approach to religion is some-what similar. We don’t know all the answers, but are trying to keep open minds and ‘grow in knowledge and wisdom.’
“But as we mentioned, we have put in writing some of our tentative answers. Since we think you might be interested, we propose to send you a series of letters, enclosing in each a short statement of our approach to a particular aspect of religion. You might want to file each away as you receive it, so that at the end you would have a fair knowledge of our viewpoint. If it interests you we would of course invite you to meet with us Sunday mornings at 10:30 and share with, us in the searching for answers.
Elders, Holland Street Church of Christ
This letter is rather subtle in a number of aspects. It gently suggests that there is some difference between what the Holland Street Church stands for and what the University Church stands for. If so, why? Does one of them not accept the teaching of the Bible on some point or has one of them departed from the faith? If both accepted the Bible as the standard of faith and teaching as well as practice, would they not be agreed? Is there more than one faith (Eph. 4:5)? If these brethren differ in what they believe and teach, they need to get together and see if they cannot resolve the difference or both of them cannot be the Church of our Lord.
The implication that there is room for serious doubts about what the University Church teaches is definitely implied. Have the Holland Street brethren pointed out to their brethren in the Lord, University Church, what these doubts are about and made any effort to straighten them out in their false teaching? If not, do they not feel a Christian obligation to make an effort in that direction?
This writer would suggest that there is serious room to doubt the attitude of the Holland Street Church toward the Word God and we base this charge upon what their letter said. They very definitely admit that there is a “difference between our approach to religion and that of most Churches of Christ.” They propose to state in severai letters to the students to whom they wrote this letter just what that difference is.
They warn in advance that many religious questions cannot be “definitively” answered. This means that there are many religious questions, according to these Elders, that cannot be explicitly and positively answered. This sounds not like the answer of those humbly admitting they do not know revealed truth, but rather like those who have the attitude that truth is “relative” and cannot be determinate or limiting. This is the broad view of revealed truth. There are many things unrevealed, of course, but in this realm they could seek until eternity and would never know the answers. It sounds though that they are implying that even with reference to many revealed matters, truth cannot be positively determined and that therefore each individual is to reach his own conclusion based upon and guided by his own “approach to religion.” When you hear people talking about “our approach to religion” it speaks of everything else but simple faith in those things to be “most surely believed” as they are revealed in the Word of God.
We cannot print the whole article that accompanied this letter but we must give you some quotations from it that highlight their “approach to religion.”
“We believe that God inspired the writing, preservation, and collection of the Holy Scriptures. We are not disturbed when scholars conclude that the formulation of this remarkable book was far more complicated than our small minds had previously supposed. Nor does it unsettle our faith when scientists find evidence that the creation of the physical universe was more complex than previously thought. The God we worship is so great that he could inspire the production of a book or create a universe in any way whatever.”
The above paragraph is the best preparation possible for a modification of the meaning of revelation and inspiration of the scriptures and a rejection of the simplicity of the Bible account of creation in favor of theistic evolution. We strongly suspect that this group of elders, and those whom they guide spiritually with their “approach to religion,” are guilty of both attitudes.
Here is another remarkable statement: “The Church existed and prospered for two hundred years before the New Testament as presently known was accumulated; therefore, Christians may very well be pleasing to God without understanding of or complete agreement on the exact meaning of every verse of Scripture.”
“As presently known” is a loop hole they have left for themselves. Do they mean by this with reference to the truth it reveals or in its arrangement? If the church could exist for two hundred years without the truths of the New Testament ‘ then it can exist now without the New Testament and this is just about the conclusion that must be drawn from all the article and letter say.
Now listen to this statement: “The Holy Scriptures are not, in our judgment a book of rules. Attempts to substitute a ‘law of Jesus’ for a ‘Law of Moses’ have been sources of division rather than unity. They have furthermore, served to narrowly restrict the flow of God’s grace through the Church. The love of God for human beings is no more expressed through a manual of rules than could hunger be assuaged by stones.”
We are hearing this from many different sources; denominationalism has always preached it. Calvinism is built around the idea. Ketcherside would have nothing to talk about if it were not for this idea. Many of the liberal brethren and a larger number of those who claim to be conservative than we would like to think, are advocating this idea through every medium they have. They seem to think there is some necessary conflict between law and grace. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Paul states, “being not without law to God, but under law to Christ” (I Cor. 9:21). There is no greater fallacy in religion today than the idea that we have no law to govern us today because we are under Grace. Grace has provided “the law of faith,” in divine revelation – “the gospel of the grace of God.”
But here is the “cap to the climax”: “We doubt that such passages as Acts 20:7 (AOn the first day of the week when we were assembled to break bread . . .@ ) and I Corinthians 16:2 (AOn the first day of the week, let everyone lay by in store as he has been prospered…@) should be any more used for legalistic formulations than I Thessalonians 5:26 (ASalute all your brethren with a holy kiss@) or John 13:5 (AYe ought also to wash one another’s feet@). In fact, we question the whole method, often used, of looking upon the Bible as a compilation of Acommands, approved examples, and necessary inferences.@ We look upon the Bible as a source of principles rather than a rule book, and upon the Gospel as good news about Jesus rather than a series of commands to be obeyed.”
Read it over again, brethren and weep! These men are purported elders of a purported Church of Christ! They are writing to young people who are being sent to one of the state universities in Texas and they are writing invitations to young people who are Christians, from Christian homes. telling them that if they want to worship as they please and live like the devil wants them to live, and yet call themselves members of the “Church of Christ” – “Come with us – for we do not believe the Bible is a divine law – it is more like a history book – full of principles but with no laws that have to be obeyed.” What a damnable doctrine to propagate concerning the “Scriptures breathed of God.” These people are not faithful to the Lord. They cannot be with such an. attitude. Their hearts are full of “spiritual adultery” and they are playing the harlot after the world.
There is no reason any longer to believe that because a congregation calls itself “Church of Christ” that it necessarily recognizes any duty of allegiance to Christ or necessity of submission to Him. Many of them are propagating infidelity and have thrown the Bible out of the window. Someone needs to paint out the sign “Church of Christ” and in its stead inscribe “The Synagogue of Satan.”
Truth Magazine, XVIII:35, p. 7-8
July 11, 1974