This comment was posted on the sermon video, Neither Catholic Nor Protestant. It was posted, no doubt, to serve as a criticism of the church of Christ. However, when someone is honest in their examination of the church of Christ, and then criticizes what they see in that examination, their criticism actually becomes an endorsement. The commenter thought these things were an indictment of the church of Christ. Here’s the comment:
The Church of Christ is known for its insistence that it is not a denomination. Its members claim to be simply the church that one reads about in the Bible. Furthermore, in order to add credence to its claim, many of its congregations use a lowercase “c” on the word church to emphasize their belief that it is a biblically based description rather than a denominational name. Such semantics have resulted in the creation of an institutional identity based upon the denial of institutional identity. Like most non-Catholics in America, Church of Christ members claim the Bible as their only authority. But they go a step further than most and view the Bible as a detailed blueprint for all matters pertaining to the faith. This posture is given expression in statements that frequently appear in their literature. As noted above, they claim to “call Bible things by Bible names” and to “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.” For this reason, Church of Christ members are particular regarding terminology. In fact, in the early days of the Stone-Campbell Movement the word Trinity was avoided because it was not found in the Bible. In his search for Christian unity, Campbell latched on to the idea that it was attainable through what he called the “restoration of the ancient order.” He thought that the solution to sectarian strife could be found in leaping backward to the first-century church. He believed that was possible through meticulous Bible study aimed at uncovering the “New Testament Pattern.” True to its roots, the Church of Christ today retains the primitivist emphasis on “restoration” and the “New Testament Pattern.” The Church of Christ is characterized by strict congregational autonomy and simplicity of worship. Two of the trademarks of the Church of Christ are its weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper and its rejection of instrumental music in worship—only a cappella singing is used.?@BibleAlone on YouTube: https://youtu.be/ATs4GDJ8Yos
Now, notice what @BibleAlone is actually criticizing the church over.
- We insist that we are not a denomination.
True, but where’s the criticism – or the reason that someone should be critical of such an insistence? Christ denounced and rebuked the denominations within 1st Century Judaism. Our Lord is our example and pattern for the Christian life. If he condemned denominationalism, and He did, then I will condemn denominationalism. So, where’s the problem with that.
- We claim to be the New Testament church.
Again, why is this something that should be criticized? Isn’t it good to simply follow the pattern found in the New Testament of Christ for the work and worship of the church of Christ? We don’t just make that statement as an unfounded claim. We can prove it!
- We have made an “institutional identity” out of denying an “institutional identity.”
I don’t even know how to make any sense out of that. Again, we follow just the clearly revealed pattern for the organization of the church. Since we don’t find any “institutional identity” beyond the local congregation in the New Testament, we do not recognize or participate in any unscriptural organizational structure beyond the local congregation. So, again, the criticism is that we actually follow the New Testament for what we do. And, how exactly is that a bad thing?
- We claim that the Bible is our only authority.
It’s not just a claim. We can prove it! It is true that most groups claiming to follow the Bible aren’t actually following the Bible. If everyone did that there wouldn’t be thousands of different churches. They would all be the same because they would all be following the same pattern. Didn’t Jesus pray for the unity of all believers? He did! (John 17:20f). And, He said the source of such unity would be their word! So, yes, we follow the Bible and the Bible alone.
- We believe the Bible is “a detailed blueprint for all matters pertaining to the faith.”
That is true. We do believe the Bible is “a detailed blueprint for all matters pertaining to the faith” because the Bible says it is everything we need to be the complete person of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Bible is how God gave us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). So, if the Bible makes us complete and gives us all things for life and godliness, what else do I need? It is a blueprint, so to speak, for how to become and live as a Christian (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:14-17).
- I’m not sure why anyone would be critical of calling Bible things by Bible names and being silent where the Bible is silent. These are just ways of emphasizing the fact that we follow the Bible and the Bible alone. The words of the Bible were given by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13), so why shouldn’t we use the words the Holy Spirit gave to talk about things the Holy Spirit revealed? How is that a bad thing?
- Yes, we believe that sinful sectarian divisions can be eliminated by returning to the original New Testament pattern for the church. All the divisions in Christendom would disappear if everyone just follow the New Testament for the work and worship of the church. Diversity of lifestyle would disappear if everyone followed the pattern of Christ for their lives. This is the only way believers in Christ can be unified! (cf. John 17:20-21; 1 Corinthians 1:10; et al).
- Yes, we do strive to be meticulous Bible students. And that should be criticized why, exactly? Aren’t we supposed to be meticulous Bible students? (2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Peter 1:10-11; 1 Peter 2:1-3; et al).
- “Strict congregational autonomy,” yes (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). “Simplicity of worship,” yes (2 Corinthians 1:12; 11:3). “Weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper,” yes (Acts 20:7). “Rejection of instrumental music” in favor of a capella singing, yes (Ephesians 5:19).
So, after looking at this long list of indictments, we find the basis for all these things in the Bible – not Stone and Campbell! How is it something to be criticized and ridiculed to simply follow what the Bible says? Having examined all these accusations, we find them to be true and justified according to God’s word. We do these things because God said to do these things! And, thus, the criticism becomes an endorsement. Thank you!