Grace Under Fire

Written by Drew on March 29th, 2006

When Matthew Winkler was killed, not only did I promise myself I would not blog about it, I was also determined not to talk with others about the details of the case. To me, playing a game of “whodunit” over a case like this is about the most insensitive thing I could do. There are few families outside of my own as dear to me as the Winklers. I would never do anything to dishonor Matthew’s memory.

But it’s not just about Matthew anymore.

On Nancy Grace’s show Monday night, which airs on CNN Headline News, the discourse drifted from murder to theology. As a part of her report on Matthew’s slaying, Ms. Grace invited a Baptist minister, Tom Rukala, to shed some light on the church Matthew served. Already one wonders what journalistic standard dictates getting a Baptist preacher to represent the church of Christ. But as if this wasn’t enough, Rukala began to land a number of slanderous accusations against the churches of Christ, not the least of them being that it is a “borderline cult.” The entire transcript of this sad excuse for a news report is available here.

I’ve been reading the reactions of concerned brethren all day, and while several are encouraging action, few, if any, are responding to the charges. At first I didn’t want to say anything out of respect for the family, but someone needs to correct the error that has been broadcast on national television. There’s no telling how much damage Rukala was able to inflict on the church of Christ in the three minutes he was on air. In the interest of putting a rebuttal on record, I am responding to his charges here, in my little corner of the Internet.

As far as I can tell, Rukala misrepresented the church of Christ in at least four ways:

1. He stated that the “Church of Christ is a relatively new church…started about 150 years ago by Alexander Campbell.” Mr. Rukala knows this is not true. Campbell was one of our most illustrious preachers, but he did not found the church of Christ. His own words refute Rukala’s claim:

We have no system of our own, or of others, to substitute in lieu of the reigning systems. We only aim at substituting the New Testament in lieu of every creed in existence, whether Mohammedan, Pagan, Jewish, or Presbyterian. We wish to call Christians to consider that Jesus Christ has made them kings and priests to God. We neither advocate Calvinism, Arminianism, Socianism, Arianism, Trinitarianism, Unitarianism, Deism nor Sectarianism, but New Testamentism (Christian Baptist, vol. 1, p. 89).

The churches of Christ operate under the restoration principle. Simply put, this principle advocates restoring the first century church using the Bible as its sole guide, as opposed to attempting to form a new denomination shaped by man’s traditions. This being the case, the churches of Christ claim no origin but that which is recorded in Acts 2, where the church was first established by Peter and the apostles in the first century.

2. Rukala also charged that we claim we are the only ones going to heaven. This second error is based on the misconception just discussed. If the church of Christ is a denomination set up in competition with other denominations, then it may be true that we are a narrow-minded “sect” claiming we set the rules for who is going to heaven and who is doomed for hell. But our message is not “our denomination is better than your denomination.” We are not a denomination.

Evidently we have not done a good job getting this message across. And I do not deny that some members of the church of Christ manifest denominational attitudes. But these should not be looked upon as representatives for the whole. Every church has a few misinformed members.

A denomination is nothing but a subdivision of Christianity. When a group takes on a name that sets it off from the rest of the Christian world, like “Presbyterian” for example, it cannot continue to use biblical language. If such a group were to say, “Those in our midst are going to heaven, everyone else is going to hell,” they would be branded as judgmental, and rightly so. For God never said Christ died to save the Presbyterians.

However, saying you must be added to the Lord’s church to be saved is an entirely different matter. The Bible plainly teaches that Jesus saves only those who are in His body; outsiders will be lost (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:23). The church of Christ can stick to this biblical language because it has not compromised its position by taking on a denominational designation. When we say, “Jesus died to save His church,” we are saying nothing more than, “Jesus died for Christians.” Nothing else is implied. We’re not claiming that a denomination called the Church of Christ comprises the only believers going to heaven. It’s simpler than that. We’re just saying that in order to be saved you must obey the gospel to get into Christ’s body (Gal. 3:26-27). And everyone, without exception, in the Lord’s body will go to heaven. Those outside that body, sadly, are lost.

3. Ms. Grace’s “expert” added insult to injury by accusing the church of Christ of being a “borderline cult.” He went on to explain this is true because of our exclusion of others. We think we’re the only ones going to heaven, the only ones who have the truth, so we’re a cult.

The charge of exclusion has already been handled in the previous point, but since when is it cult-like to claim you are right? Did Jesus not encourage us to know the truth? (Jn. 8:32). Did the Father not tell us the only way to a relationship with Christ is learning? (Jn. 6:45). Was the Bible not given for our understanding? (Eph. 3:2). If so, then what is wrong with claiming to be right? And how does that give a group “cult” status? Mr. Rukala claims he is right. Has he started a cult?

4. Finally, Mr. Rukala claimed we resorted to tactics that are “unbiblical…unethical…and ungracious.” These are methods of “intimidation and pressure,” according to him. One example he cited was the alleged claim that “if you’re not baptized by one of their ministers, that you’re doomed to hell.”

The Bible says nothing about the one who administers the baptismal rite. The important thing is the convert’s heart. When he by faith repents of his sin, confesses the name of Jesus Christ, and is immersed in water for the remission of sins, the Lord adds him to His church (Acts 2:38-47). The convert is the one who is buried with Christ, by baptism, so that he will subsequently walk in “newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). That is why both Jesus and Paul focused on preaching and let their assistants do the baptizing (Jn. 4:1-3; 1 Cor. 1:14-16).

We use no other tactics than “preaching the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) and defending the faith “with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15-16). No, we are not perfect. But these are the guidelines we try to follow as we do our work.

When Nancy Grace wanted to learn about the church of Christ she ran into a problem: we have no governing headquarters. Every congregation is autonomous, governed by a group of men called “elders” (Titus 1:5; 1 Pet. 5:1-3). As one former journalist pointed out, when some low-level producer couldn’t find a high profile, church of Christ representative, he “got desperate and went for the first person with a pulpit robe.”

As absurd as it may sound to hardnosed television reporter like Nancy Grace, all she needed to do was turn to the Bible for an understanding of our core beliefs and practices. We are guided by no other creed (2 Tim. 3:16-17), and we have no other head than Christ Himself (Eph. 1:22-23).

The inspired historian Luke once noted that the religious leaders in Rome referred to the church of apostolic times as a “sect” and that it was ridiculed “everywhere” (Acts 28:22). Their choice of words is strikingly similar to the vociferous language used on CNN Monday night. Even though the bad press has no doubt done a lot of damage, it is nice to see that we are in good company.

 

31 Comments so far ↓

  1. J-Train says:

    Wow, that’s a lengthy comment! I’d just like to point out that to be defined as a cult, a group must have a “living, charismatic leader”, such as David Koresh, etc. Our autonomy protects us from such a charge, much more than a group that has a convention that governs and determines doctrine and tradition. At any rate, it’s sad that someone can so flippantly use such a word like “cult-like”, with the obvious intent of having the listener pull up all the emotions associated with that word and it’s implications, without proof or repercussions.

    -Joel

  2. almcfaughn says:

    Drew,

    Thank you for your post. I also have read many emails and posts about this (and published one myself). Several HAVE done what you have done and sent CNN or Nancy Grace an explanation. Others, like me, have questioned her journalism. The combination of both should show her (and, possibly, her superiors) that something is wrong.

    What a sad time to attack the Church.

  3. Drew Kizer says:

    Berean Examiner, you have to make your comments shorter! The “comment” section is not for you to paste lengthy diatribes on your favorite issues. If that is what you want to do, get your own web site.

    I had to remove your comment because I was afraid it would detract from the issue at hand: CNN’s slanderous accusations of the church.

    Perhaps we can discuss Campbell’s Lunenburg letter some other time.

  4. andy says:

    Drew,

    Just came home from a trip to Russia and landed in a hail of ignorance. Thanks for your efforts to clear up misunderstandings. I appreciate your scholarship and the skill with which you write and express yourself.

  5. Kyle says:

    I grew up in the churches of Christ. It is a cult.

  6. Lee says:

    Hello. I stumbled upon your blog, and saw that you linked to our blog about contacting Nancy Grace and CNN. Thanks for the link. Just to let you know, we have had over 1,100 page views of the website in a few short days, and our email box has been packed full of responses, letting us know that they did contact Nancy Grace and Tom Ruhkala and CNN. I believe that Nancy Grace got the hint/message because they had Rubel Shelly on her show. He wouldn’t have been my choice to represent the church, but he did alright! Nancy Grace of course did what she does best, cut him off when he tried to answer the questions. The church is being discussed all over the internet, and I see Christians popping up all over the place defending her as they should…the more the better! The door is open to share the gospel. People are curious about the church. We should all be using this opportunity to both defend and spread the gospel. God bless.

  7. Paul says:

    Joel said…

    > I’d just like to point out that to be defined as a cult, a
    > group must have a “living, charismatic leader”,

    So I guess Scientology has moved into the mainstream, now that its “living, charismatic leader” is dead. This is great news for the Moonies and the followers of Kip McKean in the Boston Movement. Once their leaders are dead, their movement is no longer a cult.

    Here’s a clue: a cult is a cult regardless of who is around to lead it.

    Rather than use a dictionary to make distinctions, you ought to look at the actual attributes of the thing in question to determine its nature.

  8. Luke says:

    Drew said…
    > The churches of Christ operate under the restoration principle. Simply put, this
    > principle advocates restoring the first century church using the Bible as its sole guide,
    > as opposed to attempting to form a new denomination shaped by man’s traditions.
    > This being the case, the churches of Christ claim no origin but that which is recorded
    > in Acts 2, where the church was first established by Peter and the apostles in the first
    > century.

    Drew, you really should have read my second tract a little more closely. If you want to be consistent with the first century church practice, as recorded in my letter to Theophilus, you would refer to the followers of Jesus as The Way. I don’t remember anyone giving the command to use the title “church of Christ.” Secondly, as I watch the co called church of Christ from up here, I see plenty of man’s traditions shaping your church (How many cups do you use in the Lord’s Supper? Does your congregation specifically support widows and orphans? Do you baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or just the name of Jesus? Do you take the Lord’s Supper everytime your congregants meet, or do you just wait until Sunday morning only? etc. etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum), affecting the way you read the legacy of our work as recorded in the Bible, and conducting your affairs among men. From our perspective, you are woefully inconsistent and have no right to rail against the perceptions others have of you based on the rich legacy of legalism you have fostered.

  9. Titus says:

    Drew said…
    We use no other tactics than “preaching the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) and defending the faith “with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15-16). No, we are not perfect. But these are the guidelines we try to follow as we do our work.

    Talk about smoking your socks! Son, where have you been?

  10. J-Train says:

    Paul,

    Your comments assume there are only two types of religious groups, cults and mainstream. This simply isn’t true. It’s not a “dictionary” definition I’m using, it is what philosophically seperates a “cult” from some other religious groups. One can have “strange” dogmatic practices and “odd” moral standards by which they live, and not be a cult.

    So here’s a clue Paul: Move past a high school education and look into what you post before you do so.

    -Joel

  11. Kevin Rhodes says:

    Drew,

    You handled the issue very well–succint, to the point, and with great care. I would hope that in the future those making comments would do the same. I find it interesting that people are critical of our being “exclusive” yet how can we read Acts 4:12 and John 14:6 without seeing exclusion? I think the “cult” label is just a convenient attack by ignorant people, similar to how “Nazi” functions in the political world. Those who use the term rarely have any understanding of what makes a cult a cult, but they do know that it is a good way to present a negative view without having to address the specifics of God’s Word.

  12. Paul says:

    Scientology is not a cult?

    My comments do not assume any such dichotomy. You’re simply reading into my words something that isn’t there.

    So here’s a clue to you Joel: Get out of your first grade education and learn to read.

  13. J-Train says:

    Really, Paul? Im just reading into your words?

    “So I guess Scientology has moved into the mainstream, now that its “living, charismatic leader” is dead.”

    It appears to me you assume if a charismatic leader dies, they become mainstream…your words, not mine. Again, I believe you need to study more on what differentiates a cult from other religious beliefs.

    I apologize for my dig earlier, it was ad hominem, and not typical of me. I just really don’t enjoy when someone defines something because of what they think, rather than what makes it so.

    -Joel

  14. Rob says:

    Joel said: “it is what philosophically seperates a “cult” from some other religious groups.”

    Joel – that which philosophically separates one group from another is the teachings of the respective groups, their philosophy, not who leads them. The structure of leadership is but one factor in consideration. I use Scientology as an example of a cult whose leader is dead. It is the doctrine and practice of Scientology that makes it a cult. When the Reverend [sic] Sun Myung Moon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Myung_Moon) dies, the Unification Church will still be a cult. A chicken without its head is still a chicken.

    So the next time you deem to lecture someone one their level of education, you ought to make sure you can reason logically and make clear distinctions.

  15. Paul says:

    “So I guess Scientology has moved into the mainstream, now that its “living, charismatic leader” is dead.”

    Do you know what a rhetorical statement is? It’s obvious that Scientology is a cult, and it’s leader being dead does not make it mainstream. My statement was meant to emphaisze the ironic consequences of your definition.

  16. Paul says:

    Thanks for your apology. That shows character.

  17. J-Train says:

    Again, to both Rob now, and Paul,

    When a charismatic leader of a cult dies, and no one then takes the place of that leader, they become extremists. No one refers to the extremist Muslim groups as cults. Why? Because they don’t have a living charismatic leader. We don’t hold a cult responsible for 9/11. We say an extremist group was responsible. And Paul…

    “Do you know what a rhetorical statement is? It’s obvious that Scientology is a cult, and it’s leader being dead does not make it mainstream. My statement was meant to emphaisze the ironic consequences of your definition.”

    The consequences of my definition would only be ironic if “mainstream” was the only other alternative to “cult”. It is not ironic, however, due to the various other alternatives (extremist, fringe element, etc.). Since it is not the case, your statement was not ironic, and I guess that’s where I missed your point. However, I still don’t see it.

    -Joel

  18. J-Train says:

    Rob-

    Ultimately, the point is, to be a “cult”, you MUST have a living, charismatic leader. I realize that the word has certain connotations that some would like to stick on groups like the scientologists. Just because a duck looks similar to a chicken, doesn’t mean you can go around calling it a chicken. It doesn’t work that way. And to directly adress another of your comments, who leads someone directly influences a groups philosophy. David Koresh used the bible all the time, but I know I would say my philosophical ideals are much different from his. So yes, I can reason logically and have made very clear distinctions, that are backed by the actual meaning of the word “cult” and simple, clear logic.

    -Joel

  19. Paul says:

    Joel, who says one MUST have a living, charismatic leader to qualify as a cult? That just simply might be one usage or way of thinking about it. Who is the controlling body that determines such iron-clad definitions?

    The irony in your statement (I wasn’t attempting to be ironic. The consequences of your communication was what was ironic) was that a group that is obviously a cult cannot be considered a cult by your narrow definition. When evidence doesn’t fit the theory, you change the theory, not the evidence. That’s rational thinking, son. The alternative is, well, cultic.

    BTW, if you will check the following Google search, you will see links to various definitions of “cult”, and not a single one of them uses the singular distinction that you use, and all of them are consistent with the notion espoused by Tom Rukala.
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&client=safari&rls=en&defl=en&q=define:cult&sa=X&oi=glossary_definition&ct=title

    Osama Bin Laden is still alive and regarded as a charismatic leader. Also, some consider Whabianism as an Islamic cult, not just some extreme group. For example, see the following:
    “I have written and spoken in the past of Wahhabism, the Saudi state cult”
    http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=17907

    “Wahhabism, especially as it attempts to influence American Muslims, is best described as a cult and should be dealt with as one.”
    http://www.washtimes.com/op-ed/20060214-102148-7766r.htm

    Here is an article about the ancient cult of Aphrodite.
    http://www.theoi.com/Cult/AphroditeCult.html
    Who was the charimatic leader of this group? The goddess Aphrodite? I know you don’t believe that.

    Here’s the point Joel. The term cult has a broader sociological and theological usage than the narrow definition you are stubbornly clingling to and promoting. I suppose (and I admit that I might be wrong) that you are stubbornly clinging to it because you don’t want to admit the broad and historic abuses that have occurred in the Churches of Christ because it will make you question your own salvation. Your identity is wrapped up in being a member of the Churches of Christ,and any criticism of it (valid or not) is taken as a threat against your very being.

  20. Paul says:

    But for others who may not take the effort to peruse the Google search results, here are the listed definitions of cult:

    Definitions of cult on the Web:

    adherents of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices
    fad: an interest followed with exaggerated zeal; “he always follows the latest fads”; “it was all the rage that season”
    a system of religious beliefs and rituals; “devoted to the cultus of the Blessed Virgin”
    wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

    In religion and sociology, a cult is a group of people (often a new religious movement) devoted to beliefs and goals which may be contradictory to those held by the majority of society. Its marginal status may come about either due to its novel belief system or due to idiosyncratic practices that cause the surrounding culture to regard it as far outside the mainstream.
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult

    In traditional usage, the cult of a religion, quite apart from its sacred writings (“scriptures”), its theology or myths, or the personal faith of its believers, is the totality of external religious practice and observance, the neglect of which is the definition of impiety. Cult is literally the “care” owed to the god and the shrine. …
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult_(religion)

    A religious group that follows a particular theological system. In the context of Christianity, and in particular, CARM, it is a group that uses the Bible but distorts the doctrines that affect salvation sufficiently to cause salvation to be unattainable. A few examples of cults are Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, Christadelphians, Unity, Religious Science, The Way International, and the Moonies. (See also Cults)
    http://www.carm.org/dictionary/dic_c-d.htm

    (cult) (kult) a system of treating disease based on some special and unscientific theory of disease causation.
    http://www.merckmedicus.com/pp/us/hcp/thcp_dorlands_content.jsp

    Veneration ( or honoring ) of a saint expressed in public acts, local or universal, and formally approved by the Pope.
    http://www.ichrusa.com/saintsalive/glossary.htm

    A religious group which denies the essential doctrines of Christianity. The term is usually reserved for groups founded after 1750.
    http://www.dtl.org/trinity/misc/glossary.htm

    A following of people.
    http://www.britishcouncil.org/ukinfocus-music-glossary.htm
    (noun) often attributive [French & Latin; French culte, from Latin cultus care, adoration, from colere to cultivate — more at WHEEL]; First appeared 1617 1 : formal religious veneration : WORSHIP 2 : a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents 3 : a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents 4 : a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator 5 a : great devotion to a person, idea, object …
    http://www.contecult.com/glossary.htm

  21. Barton says:

    I’ve been reading the argument above and ran a search on google for “characteristics of a cult” and the first website that came up was http://www.csj.org/infoserv_cult101/checklis.htm

    It is “ICSA resources, which gives information about psychological manipulation, cultic groups, sects, and new religious movements.” On their site they offer a list of characteristics of a cult compiled by Janja Lalich, Ph.D. & Michael D. Langone, Ph.D. The very first one given is: “The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.” I thought that this might be a significant addition to the argument that has transpired throughout the day. Let’s keep in mind what began the argument. The church of Christ is not a cult because it is not organized under a particular man who has directed its philosophy. The Lord is our only guide and His Word is what we adhere to today.

  22. J-Train says:

    I can cut and paste definitions that support my case as well…

    Joe Szimhart, a cult information specialist based in Pottstown, Pa., said that there are generally four characteristics that define cult behavior:

    Dependence on a leader.

    Compliance within the group, which could include a group jargon or common dressing habits. A group mentality when it comes to decision making. For example, he said that members will commonly avoid thoughts that are contrary to the group’s beliefs.

    Devaluing the opinions of outsiders. Szimhart said that the groups consider outsiders, such as family or friends who are not affiliated with the group, less enlightened. He said that cults will test followers before totally accepting them into the group.

    http://www.rickross.com/reference/bdx/bdx4.html

    cult ( P ) Pronunciation Key (klt)
    n.

    A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
    The followers of such a religion or sect.
    A system or community of religious worship and ritual.
    The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.
    A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.

    Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.
    The object of such devotion.
    An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=cult

    And if you read the Wikipedia entry, there is a lengthy discourse on how the definition is often disputed, as we are doing here today. Looking up attributes or characteristics of a cult yeild different results, and though I have work to do today, and am short on time, all of my philosophy text books define cult with the inclusion of a living leader. I think we need to use the word cult with great care, and throwing around the word is not a wise thing to do. Paul, I’d love to continue the discussion, and I have apologized for my ad hominem, but it continues from your end. If we are having a resonable debate (which I think we are, and I have enjoyed it), i would appreciate it if the tone was changed.

    -Joel

  23. Paul says:

    Barton – I appreciate the corroboration. I want to further emphasize that Tom Rukala did not say that the Churches of Christ are a cult. He said they had cult-like tendencies. According to the several definitions of cult listed under my Google search, his reference was consistent with the widest usage.

    “The Lord is our only guide and His Word is what we adhere to today.”
    That is certainly the ideal. But none of us are free from personal agenda or possess perfect, universal comprehension. We might desire that the Lord and His Word be our only guide, but all too frequently our human failings get in the way. The Churches of Christ are today split among several sub-sects that form their social cohesion not so much out of respect of the correct understanding of the Bible nor the leadership of a singular charismatic leader; rather, their cohesion maintains itself through familial legacy, tradition, and in some cases (as with several of my friends) threats of ostracism and emotional intimidation. Which is the one group that truly allows the Lord to be their guide in all and every aspect of their lives?

  24. Paul says:

    Joel –

    “And if you read the Wikipedia entry, there is a lengthy discourse on how the definition is often disputed, as we are doing here today.”
    That has been exactly my point! The definition of cult is not firmly established.

    From the Rick Ross site you quote:
    “Joe Szimhart, a cult information specialist based in Pottstown, Pa., said that there are generally four characteristics that define cult behavior:

    Dependence on a leader.

    Compliance within the group, which could include a group jargon or common dressing habits. A group mentality when it comes to decision making. For example, he said that members will commonly avoid thoughts that are contrary to the group’s beliefs.

    Devaluing the opinions of outsiders. Szimhart said that the groups consider outsiders, such as family or friends who are not affiliated with the group, less enlightened. He said that cults will test followers before totally accepting them into the group.”

    The term generally is used to mean “often but not in all cases.” As I examine two of the three characteristics given, they are entirely consistent with the experience I have had in the Churches of Christ over the last 40 years with a wide array of congregations.

  25. J-Train says:

    Well Paul two more things before I believe this discussion will cease to be productive:

    1. You asked, ” Who is the controlling body that determines such iron-clad definitions?”
    Now, we can get into linguistic philosophy and the epistemology of words, but it’s general usage, in a rational debate, should be the one used. We are not debating about a system of treating disease. I think that you would agree that the general usage includes a living leader, like koresh (see…there are generally four characteristics that define cult behavior). Which is why we don’t say a muslim cult attacked our country, we say extremists. You certainly can’t argue that. based on your closing comment, it sounds like YOU want the church of Christ to fit into the broadest definition of the word you can.

    2. I have yet to state that I am a member of the church of Christ (though I am), but you assumed it with no evidence. I really am sorry that you have had bad experiences with the church of Christ, but it appears you have more of an agenda than I do. and again, making statements like “I suppose (and I admit that I might be wrong) that you are stubbornly clinging to it because you don’t want to admit the broad and historic abuses that have occurred in the Churches of Christ because it will make you question your own salvation.” and “As I examine two of the three characteristics given, they are entirely consistent with the experience I have had in the Churches of Christ over the last 40 years with a wide array of congregations.”

    is purely ad hominem, and I’d appreciate it if it ceased.

    The burden of proof lies with those claiming an existential positive, and so far, just making sweeping claims with no evidence, or making assumptions on my religious beliefs and personal attacks on my feelings of security in salvation, does not prove your case. You stated yourself that I have shown character during this debate, so far I can’t say the same about you. Any honest and agenda free replies I would appreciate, otherwise….

    -Joel

  26. Paul says:

    Joel – this is the last post I’m going to make. I’m sure you’ll be happy about that.

    You said, “but it’s general usage, in a rational debate, should be the one used.”
    That is exactly right. And my point all along has been that the usage of “cult” has a very broad base. There is no single definition of the word. To understand the nature of something, one must look at all its parts, not a single term like you used: “I’d just like to point out that to be defined as a cult, a group must have a ‘living, charismatic leader’ “
    The term cult MAY be used to refer to a group that has a single, living charismatic leader. But the group might possess all the other characteristics of a cult without having such said leader, and it would still be a cult. What’s so hard about that? Language is not mathematics.

    Among theologians, the term “cult” is used in a way that Tom Rukala used it. That might have been insensitive and not well thought out given the circumstances, but he was technically accurate from one perspective. Can you not forgive him of that?

    I have never said that David Koresh was not a cult leader. I said that not all cults MUST have a “living, charismatic leader”. The variations in common usage bears that out. But we’re just going to keep going back and forth on this “I say it is”-“I say it isn’t” pattern until the cows come home.

    You said, “I have yet to state that I am a member of the church of Christ (though I am), but you assumed it with no evidence.”
    I absolutely admit that I didn’t have incontrovertible proof, but I had ample evidence. For example, earlier you said,
    “Our autonomy protects us from such a charge, much more than a group that has a convention that governs and determines doctrine and tradition.”

    In a discussion focused on the Churches of Christ, I had quite ample evidence to assume that you were not talking about the Plymouth Brethren as the group to whom you belong. Since you seem to know so much about logic, you would know that I was using evidence to draw an inference using inductive reasoning. If you want to learn more about the process of drawing inferences from evidence, there are some great works about Bayesian reasoning to be found on Amazon.

    If I had actually used an ad hominem, I would have said something along the lines of “You’re wrong because your mother wears combat boots” or “You can’t possibly know the definition of a cult because you aren’t Daniel Webster”. I never attacked your character, nor did I appeal to any lack of authority on your part. To quote Wikipedia: “Merely insulting another person in the middle of otherwise rational discourse does not necessarily constitute an ad hominem fallacy. It must be clear that the purpose of the characterization is to discredit the person offering the argument, and, specifically, to invite others to discount his arguments.” I’m sorry you feel insulted, but I did NOT attack your character.

    When I said, “As I examine two of the three characteristics given, they are entirely consistent with the experience I have had in the Churches of Christ over the last 40 years with a wide array of congregations” you should take that as exactly what I said it was: MY experience. Do you wish to discredit my experience? By it’s nature, it is limited, but broad and corroborated by many others. It was not a universal existential, as I had no intention of it being so. If I did mean it that way, I would have said that all the Churches of Christ are a cult. As it is, I said that my experience is consistent with 2/3 of the aspects given of a cult from your own reference at Rick Ross. Those aren’t good odds.

    Finally, Joel, everyone has an agenda simply because everyone has a perspective and an advocacy position. I have one, and I freely admit it. The agenda is this: to convince my brothers in the Churches of Christ that this issue is not worth getting our knickers in wad. If it is worth it, the Christ-like thing would be to approach Tom Rukala brother-to-brother and discuss it with him. Finally, Tom Rukala may have had some good reasons to make the statements he made. Maybe they were insensitive, not entirely well thought out, or altogether accurate, but you just might want to find out why. You might learn a lot rather than just attempting to prove to the world that we have all been unjustly and viciously maligned.

  27. J-Train says:

    Well, Paul, I have enjoyed it, but I agree with you…I think we’re just beating our heads against a wall at this point. Ad Hominem is an argument meant to appeal to the listener’s emotions rather than to logic or reason (you do realize that anyone can put info on wikipedia and it is often not quite right, though I am glad you looked it up). Questioning someones reason or motive is ad hominem. At any rate, I geniunely have enjoyed our discussion, you seem like an interesting person. If you’d like to discuss anything else, let me know, we don’t necessarily need to do it in such a public forum.

    _Joel

  28. The Berean Examiner. says:

    I emailed Al Maxey information on the “Nancy Grace and the Church of Christ” issue and asked him to make some comments about that. Good News, He did make some comments in his lastest “Reflections”(http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx243.htm). His comments about this issue is at the end in his “conclusion” heading. Let me encourage you to also read his comments on this issue.

  29. The Berean Examiner says:

    You are right. This time the “issue at hand” is this: “CNN’s slanderous accusations of the church.”

    “The second most important command is this: ‘You must love other people the same as you love yourself.’* These two commands are the most important.” Mark 12:31

    Yes, ““CNN’s slanderous accusations of the church” is bad but we need to remember ““The second most important command”. It seems to me that the issue at hand that we need to have is that we need to love the people affected by this. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what they are going through right now. Think about what his and her parents are going through. Think about what the people who are affected by this is going through. Think about our own Brother Drew is going through right now. Drew might have known him personally. They did go to the same college around the same time, I think, majoring in the same thing.

    Right now, we need to put our love for other people into action. Drew gave an example of his love for other people by providing us the address to send donations to the Winkler family fund.

    Campbell’s “Lunenburg letter” ties in with what he said in “Christian Baptist, vol. 1, p. 89” that you quoted from in your “Grace under fire” post. Your issue for “Grace under fire” is “CNN’s slanderous accusations of the church.” You will be able to see how these two things tie in after reading Brother Al Maxey’s Reflections #115 “The Lunenburg Letter” (http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx115.htm). “We are Christians only, be we are not the only Christians” is what he was trying to get across. If Christ did not die for the “Presbyterians”, then Christ did not die for “Church of Christers” either. Christ did for “Christians” not “Church of Christers.

    About the “Cut and paste”comment. Why reinvent the wheel? That is why AutoCAD have blocks and templates.

    As you can see, Drew wants me to keep my comments shorter so I need to comply with this. Drew, be glad that you did not post on the alcohol issue a year ago back when I was doing my very in-depth study on this subject.

  30. The Berean Examiner says:

    ARE WE A DENOMINATION?

    In farther corroboration of our anti-sectarian character and feelings now, that, under the blessing of Heaven, a very large party has been formed, in many regions equalling any other denomination; and in others, where we have had an equal ratio of preachers, surpassing them in numbers; we, as a denomination, are as desirous as ever to unite and co-operate with all Christians on the broad and vital principles of the new and everlasting covenant.

    A. C., vol. 1840, page 556.

    Source:
    Alexander Campbell(52 years old). Extract from “The Editor’s Response to Mr. Broaddus.” The Millennial Harbinger
    11 (December 1840): 556.

    By 1840, Alexander Campbell realize that the we are now a “DENOMINATION”

    It’s time to face the truth just like Alexander Campbell did. The truth is “The Church of Christ is a denomination.”

  31. Anonymous says:

    They are a cult. Just look at what ex-CofC members who have formed a support group say about the church and the Mary Winkler case. Says all you need to know and not more church cover up and denial.

    http://www.ex-churchofchrist.org/bulletin/viewtopic.php?t=1141&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=75

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