Monday, December 19, 2011
In light of my last three posts that share dialogue on unity and fellowship in which the "approved apostolic example" of Paul was appealed to ... especially his relationship with the Corinthians - I want to share some thoughts from the Stone Campbell giant Alexander Campbell on unity.
In the late 1820s as things heated up in the Redstone Baptist Association, pressure was brought upon Alexander Campbell. The drawing a line in the sand disfellowshipping kind of pressure! A group met together and "Resolved" not to fellowship Campbell and his "doctrines." What follows is his rather enlightening response - a response I believe needs to be heard in Churches of Christ today. It is more than worth reading.
"The Spirit of Intolerance
What means this intolerant spirit? I ask again, What is the meaning of it? Is every man who acknowledges in word and deed the supreme authority of Jesus of Nazareth as Lord Messiah; who has vowed allegiance to him, who is of good report as respects good works, to be sacrificed upon the alter of opinion, because his opinion upon some speculation, fact or doctrine differs from mine? Because, while he admits that Jesus died for our sins, he will not dogmatize upon the nature, extent and every attribute of 'the atonement,' is he to be deemed unfit for the kingdom of heaven? Admitting 'an election of favor,' is he to be given over to Satan because of some opinion about the the conditionality or unconditionality of that election? In one word, are we to understand that an exact agreement in opinion, a perfect uniformity is contended for as a bond of union? If so, let our Baptist brethren say so, Let them declare to the world that
'Tenth, or ten thousandeth, breaks the chain alike.'
That a disagreement in the tenth opinion, or in the ten thousandeth opinion, breaks the bond of union. If this be the decree, let it be published and translated into all languages -- let it be known and read by all men. If, again, a perfect uniformity be not decreed, but a partial uniformity, let it be proclaimed in how many opinions an agreement must be obtained; then we shall know who are, and who are not, to be treated as heathen men and publicans.
"What makes divisions now? The man who sets up his private judgements as the standard of truth, and compels submission to them, or the man who will bear with a brother who thinks in some things differently from him? No man can, with either reason or fact on his side, accuse me of making divisions among Christians. I declare non-fellowship with no man who owns the Lord Jesus in word and deed. Such is a Christian. He that denies the Lord in word or deed is not a Christian. A Jew or Gentile he may be, a Pharisee or Sadducee he may be, but a Christian he cannot be! If a man confess the Lord Jesus, or acknowledge him as the only Savior sent by God; if he vow allegiance to him and submit to his government, I will recognize him as a Christian and treat him as such. If a man cause divisions and offenses by setting up his own decisions, his private judgement, we must consider him a FACTIONIST, and as such he must be excluded -- not for his difference in opinions, but because he makes his opinion an idol, and demands homage to it.
"There are some preachers in the East and in the West -- some self-conceited, opinionated dogmatizers -- who are determined to rend the Baptist communities into factions by their intolerance. They wish, moreover to blame it upon us. As well might blame the sun for its light and heat as blame us for creating divisions. When we shall have cut off from the church any person or persons because of difference of opinion, then they may say, with reason, we cause divisions. Till then it is gratuitous. They are the heretics, not we. Yes, they are the heresiarchs, and will be so regarded by all the intelligent on earth, and by all in heaven."
Quote taken from Christian Baptist, Burnett's Edition, p. 651.
I believe these words of Campbell are incredibly relevant to our day. They deserve thoughtful and careful reading. The spirit of factionism, of dogmatism, of intolerance, and of homage to our own opinions is as rampant today as in Campbell's.