Do We Have An Unwritten Creed?

judgeFor as long as I have been alive  we in the Churches of Christ have taken pride in having no creed but the Bible.  On the surface this is a worthy goal.  We have sought to “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.”  We have built pride in the fact that we are a “Bible toting/Bible quoting people.”  We always desire a “thus saith the Lord” to every question.  We want book chapter and verse for every question and doctrine.  We have even developed a hermeneutic standard that says every doctrine can be determined by either command, example or necessary inference.  Certainly a people with this foundation would never have a disagreement concerning what God wants for His children. 

21st Century Christian has published a book called “Churches of Christ in the United States.”  This is a book that lists recognized congregations of Churches of Christ in this nation.  In the 2009 edition the largest congregation among us, the Richland Hills Church of Christ was omitted.  This omission was not an oversight.  This church did not request to be left out.  This omission was purposefully done by those who edit this book.  It might be worthwhile to note that in this book churches who hold various views are included with a designation of those views.  Let me share what I mean.  We list those who are non-institutional along with those who believe that the Lord’s supper should be consumed from one cup.  We find a place for  those who believe it is a sin to have a Bible class program.  On and on I could go.  The question that begs to be asked is this, “What did Richland Hills do that made them so different from the other groups that continue to be listed in this book?”  In my opinion they have stepped outside the unwritten creed.

One church can teach as a matter of salvation that we must drink the Lord’s supper from a single container and that congregation is still accepted as a congregation of the Lord’s church even though they bind as doctrine commands of men.  Another congregation can teach if you worship God in a building that contains a kitchen you can’t go to heaven.  We may disagree with their doctrine but we recognize them as brethren.  On and on I could go.  What makes Richland Hills different? 

As most of you know Richland Hills now has a Saturday evening service.  This service is an instrumental service.  Is this doctrine any worse than the binding doctrines of our non-institutional brethren? Does the establishment of this service change the fact they are a congregation of the Lord’s body.  What about the vast majority who continue to worship on Sunday?  Are those still considered Christians?  Have they ceased to be part of the body of Christ?  This has nothing to do with whether Richland Hills is still part of the body of Christ.  I doubt we can determine if God has removed their candlestick.  They remain a Church of Christ in the United States.  Their problem is they have crossed the lines of the unwritten creed.  The  inconsistency is appalling.  We don’t need  better understanding of God’s Word.  What we need is a huge dose of humility.  We aren’t a group of trained theological lawyers.  We don’t have perfect understanding.  If we did there would be no differing opinions. Despite our huge theological egos, we remain simply children of an almighty God depending on His grace and love for salvation.

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8 Responses to Do We Have An Unwritten Creed?

  1. Brian says:

    is that foto of wierd al yankovic?

  2. I don’t know. It is an internet pull.

  3. Dennis says:

    Dell,
    I’ve grown weary of our Pharisaical brethren. You have perfectly described them in this and other posts. They are so blind. I pray that you can reach a few. God Bless. Dennis

  4. Thanks Dennis,
    I hope so as well. Unfortunately hypocrisy hiding behind hermaneutics is not good.

  5. Don says:

    Dell,
    As we are aware, it is not unusual for the rigid portion of our fellowship to become the standard as it pertains to such concerns…they have been doing it for a long time. I find it interesting how certain people can consider issues from an inclusive point of view and how others have to view things exclusively. You are right…we become judges when WE have to decide who is in and who is out. Besides, I thought that baptism was our key issue by which we decided who is in and who is out? I am thankful that the Spirit and the brethren in Acts 15 did not side with the Judaizers and say that the Gentiles had to be like them, or the Gentiles would most certainly have been left out of the Churches of Christ in the United States. And…just because the church mentioned has chosen to be inclusive does not mean that they do not have an acapella service — they do… and thus, they are an acapella church. Blessings, Don

  6. Ed Whittington says:

    Dell,
    Decisions made regarding how an individual church reaches out to its community is its own business. Excluding them from a fellowship list does smack of judging them as being wrong in their decisions. It is hoped that all churches take seriously their role and opportunities in presenting the gospel to their potential harvest field. The central focus of any church should be in the presentation of the good news of Jesus Christ and therefore all activities of the church should engage this overall purpose. To exclude from fellowship on the basis of how a sincere church is trying to reach its community is wrong. This decision to isolate is based upon the idea that since you have reached different conclusion on the how to do this work than I or we have, then you are not studying the scriptures closely enough. The fact of the matter is more likely to be that they have struggled with the urgency of the task and have made prayerfully decisions guided by Biblical principles. To judge these decisions from outside the situation is dangerous and serves no purpose except to distract us from our primary goal of presenting the gospel. By believing that we have all the answers to every theological question ever asked we can become complacent in our own search for truth, which should be on going, as we submit to the transformational process (Rom. 12;1,2) directed by the spirit of God. The real question my be, are we helping people find a loving merciful Savior or are we trying to convert people to our way of doing church? James says that mercy triumphs over judgment. That certainly is wise advice in such matters. Warmly Ed.

  7. Thanks Ed,
    I appreciate your thoughts. I hope things are well with you. God Bless

  8. Jan Cox says:

    Wonderful post! I listen to Rick Atchley often. I find him to be a wonderful preacher. Why can’t people spend as much time spreading the good news of Jesus to others, as they do finding fault. The time spent looking for someting to criticise could be much better spent telling someone about Jesus! Richland Hills is not just a Sunday church, they work in the community (and even further) daily. Shame on us when we look for the speck in the other man’s eye and don’t see the beam (or post) in our own!

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