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The Preceptor - February 2001 - Vol. 50, No. 2 - Pages 4
(36) - 8 (40)
Unity In Diversity (Part 2)
BY WAYNE PARTAIN
Unity In Diversity With
To The Deity Of Christ
Some brethren teach that while on earth Christ never had or never used a single divine attribute, that for all practical purposes He was just a man like the apostles. This heresy was a spinoff from the controversy over sins of weakness and ignorance that supposedly are covered by grace and shouldn't affect fellowship. Many of us were insisting that man is not born with a corrupt nature that causes him to sin, that he does not have to sin, but sins by choice. But then some went overboard saying not only that Christ never sinned and that He was just an ordinary man, that when He came to earth He had emptied Himself of His divine attributes. In the April, 1987 issue of Faith and Facts, p. 12, brother John Welch affirmed concerning Christ that "Whatever qualities and characteristics had been his as divine were foregone. Whatever privileges and powers there might have been were stripped from him. He was a man." Later he somewhat modified this by saying that while on earth Christ actually possessed divine attributes but that He did not use them.
Throughout this study on unity in diversity we are emphasizing how brethren who teach false doctrine have to redefine and reinterpret well known Bible terms and concepts. The same is true here. A very unnatural definition is given even to the term Deity, for Christ is said to have been God without the attributes of Deity (or without the use of them, which is the same thing, for if He had not used them, there would be no way to know that He possessed them).
Christ is called God in many texts of NT (Jno. 1:1; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 Jn. 5:20). To say that Christ was God without having or using (demonstrating) the attributes of God is to deny the Deity of Christ. He made Himself equal with God (Jn. 5:18) - without displaying divine attributes? "Before Abraham was, I am" (Jn. 8:58) identifying Himself with the I AM of Ex. 3:14. "Philip said to Him, Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us. Jesus said to him, Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, Show us the Father?" (Jn. 14:8,9).
Think about this: Philip and everyone else were supposed to have understood that when they looked at Jesus, they were seeing the Father. And yet some of our brethren tell us that Jesus never used or displayed a single divine attribute, but only used human attributes. When the people looked at Jesus, what did they see? What did the Samaritan woman see? A Jewish male. And yet Jesus is saying here that they were supposed to be seeing the Father. How? Obviously because He was demonstrating divine attributes. It is inconceivable that they or we should see the Father in Jesus if He only used human attributes. If for all practical purposes Jesus had been just like Peter and John - using only human attributes as they did - were the people supposed to see the Father in them also?
The people could see the Father in Christ because He was "the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person" (Heb. 1:3). They could see the Father in Him, "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9).
He forgave sins (Mk. 2:5; Lk. 7:48), which only God can do (Mk. 2:7).
He was worshipped (Matt. 2:11; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33, etc.), but only God can be worshipped (Matt. 4:10). How could anyone, especially a gospel preacher, read such texts and say Christ never used or displayed divine attributes?
So what does Phil. 2:7 mean? Paul says that Christ "emptied Himself." He did not say that Christ emptied something out of Himself, but that He emptied Himself, He humbled Himself (v. 8). In the same sentence (v. 7) Paul uses two modal participles to explain how He emptied Himself: taking the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of men. That's how he emptied Himself.
Did the use of his human attributes in any way deny his Deity? No one thinks so! And by the same token the use of divine attributes doesn't deny humanity. So this whole controversy was completely uncalled for. Read Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Both friend and foe said, "This man." They didn't question His humanity. They questioned His Deity.
But in this study the main point is that other brethren who do not agree with this false teaching concerning Christ nevertheless do not take it seriously, but treat it as opinion. Errors on marriage-divorce-remarriage receive much more attention from our brethren who are fighting against unity in diversity than this error on the Deity of Christ even though this doctrine obviously is a denial of Christ. Christ without the attributes of Deity or without the use of such attributes is not the Christ of the Bible.
And yet apparently some do not think it should affect fellowship. One brother flippantly said, "Oh those brethren believe in the Deity of Christ." I deny this. Like the Watchtower people they are preaching "another Jesus" (2 Cor. 11:4), not the Jesus of the New Testament. This heresy is just another case of unbelief. It's pure modernism!
Unity In Diversity With
To The Days Of Creation
Some non-institutional brethren are now teaching that the days of creation were not literal consecutive 24 hour days, but rather geological ages of millions of years. This reminds me of the fellow who worked for one of the national parks as a guide. He was showing a rock formation to some tourists and said, "It's five million and eight years old." They asked how he could be so exact and he replied, "When I started to work here, they said it was five million years old and I have been working here eight years."
All of our lives we have been taught and clearly understood that in the beginning in six literal days God created the heavens and the earth, but now we are being told by some of our own brethren that we can't be sure of that and that we need to reinterpret the Scripture.
Gen. 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." But now we are being told that this no longer means what we always thought. Rather it means that God caused the "Big Bang" to gradually produce the heavens and the earth. "The Big Bang theory is now the standard explanation for how the energy and matter resulting from the beginning came to be distributed as it is today Genesis affirms the fact of the beginning but not the process" (Hill Roberts, Genesis and the Time Thing, page 7). In this same work, page 17, he argues that the age of the universe is between 12 and 16 billion years and that the age of the earth is approximately 4.6 billion years.
In another work called A Harmonization of God's Genesis Revelation and The Natural Revelation, (p. 6) brother Hill says, "How long was the sixth day? It only took God a day to decree the creation of the rest of the animals, and even man. As observed for the other days, once God decrees - it happens. Also as before, the natural processes set in motion by those decrees appear to take a significant amount of time."
Gen. 1:5 says, "And there was evening and there was morning, one day", but now we are told that a day could well be a million or even a billion years.
The point should be made clearly and emphatically that the only explanation for teaching that the days of Gen. 1 were millions or billions of years is to try harmonize the Bible with evolution. There is absolutely no other reason for making the days of Gen. 1 long periods of time.
Paul tells Timothy (2 Tim. 4:4) that some "will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables." Evolution is one of the most popular fables that man has invented. Evolution is pure Science Fiction. It's comic book stuff. It's as far out as Star Wars. It is a "cunningly devised fable," and just as Paul says, many (including our own brethren) are turning away from the simple truth to accept this fable. Gen. 1 is an explicit crystal clear statement of the creation. Language could not be clearer or simpler. In the beginning, in six literal consecutive 24 hour days God created the heavens and the earth. If this cannot be understood as saying just what it says, then we might as well give up on the rest of the Bible.
If Gen. 1 does not mean what it says, why should we think that Gen. 2 that tells of the creation of woman is literal? Or why should we believe that Gen. 6-8 speaks about a literal, world-wide flood. And, incidentally, in Genesis and the Time Thing brother Roberts compares the flood of Noah's day to the 1993 floods of the upper Mississippi River so far as its geological effect. In other words, it was just a local flood. In Genesis 7:2,3 God told Noah that the purpose of the ark was "to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth," but just imagine such a project to escape a local flood! And what about the rainbow? Was it to be God's guarantee that there would be no more local floods?
Exodus 20:9-11, "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day." This text confirms beyond all doubt that the six days of creation were six literal consecutive 24-hour days. Otherwise the Sabbath law would make no sense at all.
Mark 10:6, Jesus said that "in the beginning He made them male and female." This does not mean as some are saying "the beginning of marriage"; it means just what it says: the beginning, the beginning of creation, Gen. 1:1. It took place on the 6th day, which fits perfectly under the heading of "in the beginning." This text proves that the history of the earth is the history of man!
Ps. 33:9, "For he spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast." The Bible nowhere says or hints that God spoke and that it took millions of years for it to happen. It happened immediately. Compare Mark 2: 12, the paralytic "immediately arose and took up his bed." The text doesn't say that Christ started to heal him but that it took twenty years to happen. And yet we are now being told that when God spoke, it just started to happen but was not completed for millions or billions of years.
What does this have to do with unity in diversity? Brethren who don't necessarily agree with trying to harmonize Genesis 1 with evolution have shown a very tolerant or indifferent attitude toward this false doctrine and see no problem with fellowshipping those who teach it. They say it poses no real threat.
Brother Ferrell Jenkins is a brother who for many years has been respected as a very capable and careful Bible teacher. Many of us have profited by his preaching and writings. However, in his speech at Florida College, Feb, 2000, Making Sense of the Days of Creation, and on his website http://bibleworld.com/daysgen1.pdf he refuses to affirm that the days of Genesis 1 are literal and he expresses much tolerance toward those who say they were not literal. He says he cannot say that the days of Genesis 1 "MUST be long ages," "But on the other hand, I can't say they MUST be 24 hour ages." So he does not believe that the Genesis account of creation must be taken literally. And he urges tolerance for teaching non-literal views of the creation account even including the material distributed on a CD Rom by Hill Roberts at the 1999 Florida College lectures (A Harmonization of God's Genesis Revelation and the Natural Revelation and Genesis and the Time Thing).
Brother Jenkins says, "There are good arguments both ways"; he speaks of "equally capable men who reached opposite views on this issue"; and affirms that "there are just some things so difficult that I may not be able to draw the same conclusion you've drawn"; so he concludes, "Let us be less crisis minded"; let's not be "dogmatic" about it and accept brethren who come to different conclusions. We are told not to "concentrate so much on these matters and get busy trying to teach the lost," as if we could preach to the lost without affirming that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and all things therein in six literal consecutive 24 hour days.
Also on his website Ferrell publishes material from Hill Roberts, Tom Couchman and others who either teach outright error or a tolerance of error (unity in diversity).
Brother Hill Roberts says this question has no doctrinal significance: "The Bible nowhere makes the age of the earth or the timing of Genesis a matter of any doctrinal significance at all, and especially so in the gospel of Christ ... Showing that God is Creator is a central part of Christ's gospel message is not the same thing as the age of creation, or the timing of Genesis days."
Tom Couchman says it is not of first importance. "The apostolic message gives a special position ('first importance') to the incarnation, death, burial, resurrection, baptismal submission to and disciplinary imitation of Christ. It gives no such place to the creation account of Genesis 1-2."
This is pure compromise. It's an attempt to harmonize the Bible with evolutionary theories. This is precisely the message of the so-called New Unity Movement, which was based on a resurrection of Calvinistic teaching that grace covers doctrinal error. It's the doctrine that there is a "core gospel" consisting only of Christ and initial obedience to the gospel, with everything else being "doctrine" that should not affect fellowship. This is "unity in diversity"!
How can brethren justify
fellowship with such false doctrines?
(1) The idea of some is that they should fellowship them in order to teach them out of their error. But when a person's teaching and fellowship are in conflict, his influence goes with his fellowship, not his teaching. The classic example of this is J. W. McGarvey who learned that the hard way. He was opposed to instrumental music and would not hold membership in a church that used it, but he did have fellowship with other churches that did use it. In his declining years he admitted that no more than about a half dozen young preachers who had studied under him would oppose the instrument. He came to realize too late that your influence goes with your fellowship.
Why is this? It is because that when one fellowships error, this indicates that he accepts and approves that error, and even though he teaches against it, such teaching is considered to be merely his opinion and carries no weight.
(2) Another of the principal arguments in favor of such fellowship is that many godly brethren have disagreed, for example, over marriage-divorce-remarriage down through the years (as if to say, "if they couldn't solve it, what makes you think we can?"). What does this indicate? That besides express statement, command, example and inference we have another way of proving Bible truth: i.e., whether or not brethren have agreed on it down through the years!
One thing for sure: if it Matt. 5:32; 19:9 is not clear, then neither are Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38. No Scripture is clear to the person who is determined to not accept it.
3) Another objection is that those of us who defend the truth have a bad attitude. We've been called paranoid, extremists who have our own agenda to promote, perennial gossips and fault-finders, vultures, etc. This has a very familiar ring to it. It's just what we heard back in the 50's when we opposed the sponsoring church and church institutions. It's amazing what a sweet disposition these brethren display while describing our bad attitude.
4) With regard to such false doctrines fellowship is justified on the basis that faithful brethren don't divide or disfellowship over a number of other things where there are disagreements. Different lists are drawn up anywhere from a dozen to a hundred different matters over which non-institutional brethren supposedly disagree and yet continue in fellowship. Many of the things listed are way out in left field. Some are legitimate concerns of conscientious brethren. And some are matters of doctrine that should and must affect fellowship. But all the mocking and taunting about "who's got the list" sounds more like political wrangling than serious deliberations by gospel preachers.
5) There is considerable discussion of Romans 14 which deals with matters over which brethren should not disfellowship, but even a cursory reading of this important chapter reveals that Paul discusses matters that are neither commanded nor prohibited, hence not matters of "the faith," but rather of the faith (subjective) of different brethren. If a brother thought that it was wrong to eat meat, he would sin if he ate (Rom. 14:23). It would involve sin for him. But that is not the issue before us. We are discussing matters that are sin for everyone, at all times and under all circumstances. Whoever puts away his wife except for fornication and marries another commits sin and whoever denies this fact is guilty of sin; whoever teaches that Christ did not use a single divine attribute while on earth is guilty of denying the Deity of Christ; and whoever teaches that the days of creation were not six literal, consecutive, 24 hour days is guilty of denying God as the Creator. These false doctrines and practices do not fit in Romans 14.
Brethren who fellowship such errors indicate that they do not really think that sin is involved, because it is elementary that Christians and churches of Christ must not fellowship sin. In other words, they do not really have settled conviction regarding these matters even though they call them error. This is why they can fellowship them. They may claim that they do not agree with them, but in practice they do.
We must speak up! Isa. 58:1, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and declare unto my people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins." Elders, preachers, Bible class teachers, parents and everyone else must speak out against fellowshipping such error.
We need to raise our voices in strong protest not only against doctrinal error but also against having fellowship with those who teach error. We need to denounce the spirit of compromise that prevails among many brethren today. Speak up in private conversations, over the phone, in writing letters, in Bible classes. The voice of a godly woman carries much weight. She influences her own husband and children, other women of the church and brethren in general. She needs to speak up every chance she gets! Young people are greatly affected by these controversies. They need to study as never before and have strong conviction and the courage to stand up for the truth.
1 Tim. 6:12, "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life."
The words of Jeremiah (2:13) are applicable today: "For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water."
Also we are seeing much of the same spirit that Isaiah denounced (30:9,10), "For it is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord; that say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits."
Remember also that with God there is no respect of persons. We read in Matt. 22:16, "Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth, nor do you care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men." This text says, literally, that Jesus did not look on the face of any man. In other words, it didn't matter who it was. Truth is truth. Error is error. Right is right. And wrong is wrong. In dealing with any person, even if it is our dearest brother or sister, even a relative, so far as truth is concerned that person should be "faceless." We should want the truth, and nothing but the truth, because only the truth will set us free.
As Paul tells Timothy (1 Tim. 5:21), "I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality." So if one of our most beloved preachers teaches error (any error, on whatever subject), we must not show respect of persons. We must speak out against that error. We must not stay quiet because we hold him in such high esteem, or because he has done so much good in the past. It doesn't matter who teaches it, error condemns. We must not exalt men above Christ and the truth.
So we must speak out against every expression of unbelief and modernism. Too many today are emphasizing fellowship to the point of compromising the truth; they have it backwards, the cart before the horse. It is imperative that we teach and defend the truth and let fellowship take care of itself.
Kerrville, TX 78028