Brothers in Error

Written by Drew on October 16th, 2006

The year 1906 marks the official split between the churches of Christ and the Christian Church. To be precise, the division actually began in the middle nineteenth century and gradually progressed into the twentieth century. The date “1906” is being used as the banner year because it was on this year that the United States census reported a distinction between these two groups.

The split occurred over a difference in attitude toward biblical authority. The churches of Christ believe we should “speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent.” In other words, where the Bible authorizes, we should act; where there is no authorization, we should refrain from acting. This principle has governed the way Christians have used their New Testaments since the church’s inception in the first century.

The Christian Churches have much in common with the churches of Christ. However, they do not feel they need biblical authority for every practice relating to salvation, worship and Christian living. Therefore, they are comfortable with instruments of music in worship and other innovations not expressed or implied by the inspired record.

This being the 100-year anniversary of the division, certain leaders are seeking to foster unity between these two groups. It is important that Christians learn what was really behind the division in the first place. This will allow us to weigh with true balances the actions of those who would like to see the churches of Christ and the Christian Churches join hands in a display of what is being styled as “brotherly love and a real-life commitment to what was important to Jesus.”

Last summer several of these Christian leaders met at the North American Christian Convention, an annual, lectureship-style meeting affiliated with the Christian Church, in Louisville, Kentucky. Jeff Walling, who preaches for the Providence Road Church of Christ in Charlotte, N.C., was one of the keynote speakers at the convention. Near the close of his address, he skillfully invoked a somber mood using a symbolic gesture: He exchanged his worn, personal Bible — the one his 89-year-old mother gave him in memory of his late father — to Dave Stone, minister of the Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, who in turn presented his Bible to Walling.

As Stone handed his Bible to Walling, he said, “The great thing about these Bibles is that they are exactly the same. They are the same translation. They are God’s word.”

Walling then turned to his emotionally-charged crowd and said, “…if somebody says, ‘Well, he’s a brother in error,’ you tell him, ‘Do we have any other kind?’

“We are all in error,” Walling added. “That’s why we come every Sunday to say, ‘God, forgive us.’”

So here’s the unity platform for the liberal side of the churches of Christ. Concede that you are in error, that the Christian Church is in error, and deny there is any real problem on either side–that’s what Sundays are for.

The New Testament takes brothers in error a little more seriously. Read God’s Word carefully. The Lord does not want us to be in error. He does not resign himself to the fact that the church is always going to be in error. Instead he recommends that faithful brethren jerk the wayward members of their spiritual family out of the fires of error before it’s too late.

James wrote, “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders [“errs,” KJV] from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:19-20, NKJV, emphasis mine). The word translated “error” is plane, a word indicating the faltering of an individual who has been led astray by deceit. “Error,” as it is used in the New Testament, is more than sin. It is sin that has been programmed into the mind of a sinner by a false teacher. James taught that, if we should see a brother or sister caught in the error of a false teacher, we have a responsibility to “save” him or her from their error.

Similarly, John warned that we should not “believe every spirit” but rather “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 Jn. 4:1). Elaborating on this the apostle continued, “Whoever knows God listens to us [i.e., the apostles]; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 Jn. 4:6, emphasis mine). In retelling the speeches of the North American Christian Convention, nobody mentions a plea towards Scriptural authority. Nobody “tests the spirits.” My question is, how else are we going to know who has the Spirit of truth and who has the spirit of error? A tear-soaked exchange of family heirlooms will not do it. Instead of exchanging their Bibles, these men should have been reading them and turning to them for guidance!

Those who preach against instrumental music in worship are mocked for their “narrow-mindedness.” “Why don’t you get to the heart of Christianity,” our critics might ask, “and concentrate on bringing people to Christ? Why don’t you stop quibbling over things that do not matter and work towards bringing spiritual stability to the church?” All I can say in response to these objections is that there can be no stability in the church as long as error is condoned. Peter said, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability” (2 Pet. 3:17, emphasis mine).

Many of us are not fooled by the emotional theatrics that characterize the 2006 unity movement. We are not ready to give up the fight against error.

 

13 Comments so far ↓

  1. Scott says:

    Thanks for addressing this serious subject. I would also ask those who hold to Walling’s position to consider 1 Cor. 5:11. Were not these brethren in error?

  2. World Evangelist says:

    Drew, this is an excellent article and I thank you for it!

    John Maddocks, a brother in Christ in Toronto, Ontario.

  3. Josh Woods says:

    Drew, I appreciate your acknowledgment that members of the Christian Church are at least our brethren. Sadly, I’ve encountered some good people who insist that a member of the Christian Church is not a member of the body of Christ, regardless of the fact that the Christian Church is identical to the Churches of Christ on baptism and practically everything else except worship music. Even if we’re baptized for the remission of sins, people have explained to me, that remitting simply won’t take if we’re baptized into any religious group but the “one true church” (i.e., Church of Christ).

    Yes, I put a big “C” on church because, in the view explained above, the Church of Christ is clearly a denomination.

  4. The Berean Examiner says:

    What a tragic commentary. It is the same sad, biased reasoning that the anti-instrument party has been preaching for years, and what has been the fruit of it?–split churches, dying churches, and no souls being saved. That might seem critical, but is it untrue? Can the churches that find that kind of argument compelling point to rapid growth? They bear no fruit, and rationalize their failure as “contending for the faith.” How sad.

    The irony is that Drew had better hope that God tolerates error more than he does. First, Drew impugns the motives of brothers he has never talked to, which Scripture clearly condemns. Second, Drew slanders them by implying that they/we don’t think error is a big deal, which is untrue. Third, Drew contradicts Paul in Romans 14 by teaching that one cannot accept a brother in error. Finally, Drew presumes to speak for God by implying that his human reasoning on a matter where God is silent is sound enough to be God’s own thoughts, and worth dividing the body of Christ over. So Drew is guilty of much error. Again, I am thankful that God is willing to be more gracious than Drew is. Someday Drew will be, too.

  5. Drew Kizer says:

    Okay, I’ll bite.

    First of all, you would have to be completely ignorant of the history of this division to say that all that has resulted from refraining from instruments of music in worship is “dying churches” and “no souls being saved.” At the time of the 1906 census, the Christian Churches outnumbered the churches of Christ. Eighty percent of churches associated with the Stone-Campbell Movement incorporated the instrument into their worship services. Twenty percent did not. Today the non-instrumental churches of Christ outnumber the Christian Churches by around 100,000 members. Has the instrument brought growth to the Christian Church?

    Now on to my “error.” I did not make assumptions in my post. I didn’t have to. All the information I needed was printed in the Christian Chronicle. A direct quotation from Walling is the only thing I addressed.

    Next, Romans 14 does not speak of “error.” It compares weaker brethren with stronger brethren. There was nothing wrong with esteeming one day over another or eating only vegetables. These are not comparable to instrumental music in worship, which God has not authorized. By the way, BE, stop printing whole chapters of the Bible on my blog. We have Bibles.

    Finally, silence is prohibitive in Scripture. Silence is what condemned Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-2). Silence was frequently used to prove Jesus’ greatness (Heb. 1:5, 13; 7:14). There are plenty of biblical examples showing this interpretive principle to be true.

    The implications involved in the silence of an authoritative document like the Bible ought to be plain. When God specifies an activity, we ought to respect him enough not to change his instructions by adding other activities to his command. But when God’s Word is not respected, these rules seem unimportant.

  6. Joey says:

    Thanks for your voice on this matter, Drew…well done initial thoughts, and well done response in your comments.

    If the “unity” between the two groups is SO important, why wasn’t it done before 2006? The plans were made months and even years ahead by some…100 years of “disharmony” isn’t alright, but 99 is?

    Thanks again, Drew…more needs to be done and said about this crucial issue…

  7. The Berean Examiner says:

    Drew said “silence is prohibitive in Scripture” as you can read above. Readers, For you information, “The Spiritual Sword” latest issue is on that subject.

    Drew, thank you for your reply to my comment.

    Good news Joey, On my end, more is being done and said about this “crucial” issue.

  8. The Berean Examiner says:

    I’ve just talk to Brother John Waddey, who preaches for the West Bell Road Church of Christ in Surprise, AZ (http://www.christianity-then-and-now.com/html/index_about_the_author.html), on the phone and he told me that he saw the music issue as a very big “crucial” issue now. He told me that there is a lot of churches of Christ that is dealing with this “problem”. My questions for you are “How big of a problem do you see with this crucial issue now days?” What do you see as the future of this crucial issue and for the churches of Christ in general?

    For your information, A M did a “reflections” called “Shouting Above the Silence – A Reflective Review & Rebuttal of The
    Spiritual Sword’s Stand on Silence”(http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx269.htm)

    Drew, I tell people about both sides of the picture. Why I don’t fear telling people where they can read about both sides of the issue. Because I have the truth and in the long run, the truth will win out. The truth has no fear. The reason that you fear people reading the other side is because you do not have the truth.

    If you cannot handle the heat of the truth, then get out of the kitchen. If you can’t run with the big dogs of truth, then stay on the porch.

  9. Anonymous says:

    It’s a good thing that subject-verb agreement is not a requisite for salvation.

  10. The Berean Examiner says:

    Jeff Walling and Dave Stone understand that . . .
    division is sinful.

    Jeff Walling and Dave Stone understand that . . .
    by it’s very nature, division weakens and destroys.

    Jeff Walling and Dave Stone understand that . . .
    “United we stand, divided we fall.”

    Jeff Walling and Dave Stone understand that . . .
    “…Every Kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation: and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matt. 12:25).

    Jeff Walling and Dave Stone understand that . . .
    Internal division weakens and sometimes destroys congregations of the Lord’s people (Gal. 5:15).

    Jeff Walling and Dave Stone understand that . . .
    Religious division is possibly the greatest hinderance to the cause of Christ (John 17:20,21).

    Jeff Walling and Dave Stone understand that . . .
    the Bible condemns division (Gen. 13:8; Prov. 6:16-19; Matt. 12:25; Rom. 16:18; I Cor. 1:10-13; I Cor. 3:3; I Cor. 12:25; James 3:13-16).

    Jeff Walling and Dave Stone understand that . . .
    all Bible passages that demand Unity, by implication, condemn division.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The Berean Examiner needs to understand that not all division is sinful and that unity is not to be had at any cost. Our unity is to be based on the truth (cf. Jn. 17:17). Apparently Paul did not have unity (i.e., fellowship) with brethren Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom he had “delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:20).

    What the Berean Examiner inadvisedly argues for is not unity, but rather a disjointed union with no real regard for sacred principles.

  12. The Berean Examiner says:

    What exact “sacred principles” are you talking about? Are you talking about eating in the church building, having Sunday schools, using multiple cups in the Lord’s Supper, supporting orphan homes?

    You need to understand what are the transgressions deserving discipline.

    Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment, brethren. There are some among us who, if they had their way, would cast from the family of God any and all who differ with them over even the smallest tenet of their tradition. Yes, these are legalistic extremists, and they have done untold damage to the One Body. To listen to them, severing fellowship is the justified result of daring to take any view different from their own narrow perspective. Thus, people are cast off right and left for such weighty “transgressions” as eating in a church building, reading the “wrong” version of the Bible, supporting a college, school of preaching, or children’s home out of the “treasury,” using multiple cups during the Lord’s Supper, having a Sunday School, and on and on and on we could go … ad infinitum … ad nauseam. This casting off of those who differ with us on any of a thousand and one matters of personal perception, preference and practice — matters about which God has never even spoken within the pages of Scripture; matters based only upon assumptions, deductions, inferences, and traditions elevated to law — is shameful and perverted. Indeed, to be perfectly blunt, it is such factious people as these who Scripture identifies as being in need of discipline. We shall notice this momentarily.

    Based on the actions of the legalistic, patternistic extremists in the church, one would almost think the NT documents contained a list of thousands of transgressions so severe that they each warranted the severing of fellowship! The reality is: the NT documents contain only NINE, and what they are will likely come as a surprise to some! Any brother or sister in Christ who refuses to repent of any of the following specific sins, following loving counsel and warning, is to be withdrawn from our fellowship:

    Sexual Immorality — The situation in Corinth that Paul addresses in 1 Cor. 5 is a perfect illustration. “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife” (vs. 1). In 1 Cor. 6:18 Paul commands, “Flee immorality.” We have been “bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body” (vs. 20). In the inspired writings of both covenants, those who deliberately choose to engage in immoral activities (and there are a host of things that fall under this category), and who refuse to repent of such, are to be cut off from the people of God … Thus saith the Lord.

    Covetousness — In 1 Cor. 5:11, Paul informs us that we are “not to associate with any so-called brother” — that we are “not even to eat with such a one” — if they are guilty of any of six specified sins. Those who are “covetous” made the list. Paul says that this particular sin, along with several others named, will result in destruction at the hands of God Almighty. “It is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come” (Col. 3:6). If God won’t fellowship such persons, then neither should we. The Greek word employed in both of the above texts is pleonektes, which means “one who is greedy; one who defrauds another for the sake of gain; to try and get the better of someone, or take advantage of them.” Such persons must be cast from the family of God; we are to have absolutely no association with them!

    Idolatry — This also is on Paul’s list of the “sinful six” in 1 Cor. 5:11, as well as the enumeration of transgressions in Col. 3:5 that will incur the fierce wrath of God. Anything one places on the throne of their heart in the place of the Lord, and to which they give devoted service, is an idol. The very first of the Ten Commandments is: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me!” (Ex. 20:3). The second command speaks of fashioning any kind of image, form or object to represent these false deities, and then worshipping and serving such (vs. 4-5). “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24). There are many “masters” that compete for lordship over our hearts, minds and bodies. If you place any of them above the Lord, you are to be cut off from His presence, and from the presence of His devoted children. For two excellent commentaries on the folly of idolatry, please read: Isaiah 44:9f and Romans 1:18f.

    Reviling — This too is listed by Paul in 1 Cor. 5:11. It is the Greek word loidoros, which is “a verbally abusive person; one who tears down or slanders or gossips about another.” Such persons are listed among those who will never inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10). Jesus, our great Pattern, “while being reviled, did not revile in return” (1 Peter 2:23). Those unwilling to follow the example of Christ in this respect are to be removed from the fellowship of His genuine followers.

    Drunkenness — Again, this is listed in 1 Cor. 5:11. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).

    Extortion — This is another of the sins enumerated in 1 Cor. 5:11. It is also listed in 1 Cor. 6:10 as one of the sins that will keep people from inheriting the Kingdom of God. It is serious! So serious, that those who engage in it here on earth, if they profess to be Christians, are to be removed from the fellowship of the church. It is the Greek word harpax, which means “a swindler; one who pillages and plunders; to seize away from another like a wild animal (to be ravenous like a wolf).” “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15). The word translated “ravenous” is the same Greek word. It depicts one who seizes and plunders another like a wild animal. Such creatures should not be among the sheep of our Lord. They must be driven out.

    Wickedness — “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (1 Cor. 5:13). This is the Greek word poneros, which means “evil; wicked.” It is sometimes used in conjunction with laziness or inactivity (as in Matt. 25:26 and Luke 19:22). Obviously, there is no place in the One Body for those who are given over to a life of evil and wickedness. They must be removed.

    Disorderliness — “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life (“that walketh disorderly” — KJV) and not according to the teaching (“tradition” — truths handed down) that you received from us” (2 Thess. 3:6). In the early years of the church they were not blessed with the completed Bible, as we have today. Thus, much of the teaching was handed down or passed along (which is the significance of the term “tradition”). The Greek word translated “disorderly” or “unruly” is ataktos, which is a military term signifying disorder in the ranks; those who are out of step. We must walk in the footsteps of our Savior and Guide; those out of step with Him are to be pulled out of the ranks so that they do not cause the rest to get out of step with the Lord.

    Divisiveness — “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11). The word translated “factious” is the Greek word hairetikos, from which we get our English word “heretic.” It simply means: “one who creates or promotes factions, a party spirit, or divisiveness.” Literally, it signifies one who is willing to divide over personal opinions. The unity and harmony of the One Body are quickly destroyed by such a one, thus they must be stopped at all cost. Those willing to divide the church over their personal or party perceptions, preferences and practices are to be cast from the fellowship of the saints. “They must be silenced” (Titus 1:11); they must be “reproved severely” (Titus 1:13). Paul instructs the saints in the city of Rome, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them” (Rom. 16:17).
    Interesting, is it not, that none of the many things the church has typically divided over for generations is to be found in the above list!! Where are musical instruments, Bible classes, multiple cups, drinking fountains, kitchens, fellowship halls, meals in the building, four part harmony, praise teams, and a zillion and one other “weighty matters” that have divided the people of God? Where are they? I’ll tell you where they are — they are in the minds of factionists, sectarians, and legalistic patternists (who seek to lump all of their countless assumptions under the umbrella of the “teaching/tradition” of 2 Thess. 3:6 — a feeble, fallacious argument). Frankly, brethren, these factionists have ignored God’s list of sins that He declares merit a severing from the One Body, and have chosen instead to substitute a list of their own devising! In so doing, Drew, Anonymous and the others have only succeeded in becoming the very ones HE declares to be worthy of disfellowship! How ironic! How pathetic!

  13. Drew Kizer says:

    Plagiarism is another sin. It is the work of a liar and a thief.

    The Berean Examiner has been warned before about using others’ comments as his own. On top of the harm it does to the writers whose work is stolen, it clogs up my comment space and moves the comments away from the original article, since the material that is cut and pasted rarely bears any relevance to the discussion at hand.

    I have been patient, but I am now forced to ban the Berean Examiner from posting comments in this space. Maybe after a few months I will be gracious enough to allow him to come back, after an apology. But don’t look for him any time soon.

    Let’s take a moment of silence. If anyone has any last words, feel free to share them here.

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