History Of The Church Of Christ
July 21, 2006
This is a revision of my 2002 article titled, "History Of The Church Of Christ". I noticed that most people never make it to the end of that article. I have decided to reverse the chronology, working backwards through the history, rather than forward. I hope that this encourages more people to examine the true history of the Church of Christ, as well as to see where we need to go from here. Bernie Parsons
History Of The Church Of Christ
By Bernie Parsons - May 30, 2002 Revised July 21, 2006
To Whence From Here?
New Radical Reformation Needed
The answer to our problems is to recapture the spirit of the radical reformers without becoming disciples of men. Campbell was so appalled by the Calvinists--for good reason--that he overreacted, and placed too much emphasis on theology as a science. (The application of "science" to almost everything in his time was a fad.) The presence of the Holy Spirit within the individual Christian is an idea that is often rejected in the Church of Christ, although scriptural, because the Calvinists abused the scriptures in regards to the Spirit. Campbell, in resisting this abuse, leaned upon logic instead. However, the Bible itself tells us that God's truth does not always conform to the reasoning and logic of man.
1 Corinthians 2:4-7 "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:"
1 Corinthians 2:12-14 "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
Romans 8:9 "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
Using "science" and logical reasoning to find the commands of the Bible substitutes the devices of men for the Spirit of God. Man's wisdom does not override the guidance of God's Spirit.
1 Corinthians 1:18-21 "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."
The truth is not found in the Calvinistic search for a sign, nor is it in the Campbellite quest for scientific discovery (wisdom), but rather is found in Jesus Christ, and the wisdom of God:
1 Corinthians 1:22-24 "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God."
Were we to substitute the words Calvinists and Campbellites, the words would still ring true.
"For the Calvinists require a sign, and the Campbellites seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Calvinists a stumblingblock, and unto the Campbellites foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Calvinists and Campbellites, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God."
The use of science to discover the truth has fostered a blind search for "hidden truths", with the result that the radical restoration movement has ground to a halt, and the remnants of the movement are falling apart. Each little faction thinks that it is the "one true church" and all else are hell-bent hypocrites. Unfortunately, these factions continue to splinter even further under the "scientific" inquiry method that continues to produce strange, new doctrines.
1 Corinthians 2:4-10 "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
"Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."
I propose the abandonment of the so-called science of hermeneutics, and the abused practice of "necessary inference", and a return to a spiritual assessment of ourselves against the scriptures, measuring ourselves comparative to the will of God, not by the measures of men. (Read "Spirit & Truth".)
2 Corinthians 10:12 "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."
Instead of turning to science, and man's wisdom (logic) for the answers, why not turn to God?
James 1:5-7 "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord."
The church (the body) of Christ
Christ established His called-out assembly almost 2,000 years ago, which is rightly described as the church of Christ, because it is His. (Read "What's In A Name".) The Bible plainly describes many of the early church's practices and under-girding principles. The reformers attempted to rediscover Biblical principles and practices, but were too burdened by Catholicism and Protestantism. We need a new radical reformation in which we by-pass both these approaches in an attempt to uncover and understand Christianity from the first century AD. It will not be found in Judaism, as some would suppose, because the early Jewish Christians often tried to impose their life-style upon the Gentile converts. In fact, many of the scriptures used by the Calvinists to justify their doctrines are a perversion of Paul's struggle to get the Jews to quit trying to impose the Law of Moses upon the Gentile Christians.
The answer lies in Jesus, the Word made flesh. If we study His teachings, and His life, as well as those of His chosen Apostles, we will begin to move away from the baggage of our Catholic and Protestant heritage. This will require the ability to cast off any and all of those trappings, and accept what the Bible teaches. It will mean a radical change in our approach, in our beliefs, and in our practices. Isn't that what growth is all about? If we never change, we will never mature, but remain spiritually stunted. The scriptures tell us to grow up to match the size of our head, Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-16 "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
We must recognize those doctrines that are mere tradition, mark them as such, and allow others to deviate from them as desired. We must cast off the doctrines of Catholicism, Protestantism, and even the American Restoration, when they are not scriptural. We must desist from following men, whether it be the Pope, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Alexander Campbell, or David Lipscomb. Instead, we must follow Christ Jesus in all things, for He walked as His heavenly Father directed. We in the Churches of Christ say that we are non-denominational, yet have evolved into a denomination with our unwritten creed that we pass from one generation to the next. Let us be Christians only, disciples of Christ only, serving our God in Spirit and in truth.
We are not a Protestant denomination, unless we behave like one. Let us understand that the Restoration Movement, though a laudable event and a move in the right direction, was built upon the Protestant Reformation, which was itself a rework of the Catholic Church. We can only be the true church of our Lord when we learn the teachings of Jesus, become a follower of Him, and worship God in spirit and in truth. Let's not defend the trappings of Catholicism-cum-Protestantism as the teachings of Jesus Christ. Let's look past Campbell, past Calvin, past Luther, past Catholicism, and learn the ways of God as presented to us by His Son Jesus, and His Holy Apostles. To do this requires a new Radical Reformation. We simply need to become a part of the body--the church--of Christ.
God bless all!
Love, in Christ,