Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 13, 1968

The Methodist Change, Or The Trouble With Creeds Is ...


Jefferson David Tant

Among other things, they are so changeable. These thoughts have been prompted into expression on paper by the recent events in Dallas, Texas, concerning the uniting of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren, accompanied by a revision of the governing creeds.

I have in my possession two or three copies of the DISCIPLINE OF THE METHODIST CHURCH, the latest edition dated 1956. On page nine the book is styled as "The Constitution, The Articles of Religion, The General Rules, The Constitution of the Methodist Church." On page one under the heading "Episcopal Greetings," we have this revealing statement: "We have therefore expected that the DISCIPLINE would be administered, not merely as a legal document, but as a revelation of The Holy Spirit working in and through our people." (Emphasis mine - JDT) The language is unmistakably plain: THE DISCIPLINE OF THE METHODIST CHURCH IS, IN THE EYES OF HER BISHOPS, A WORK OR REVELATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, evidently on a par with the Bible, for the Bible makes exactly the same claim concerning itself. We further note that on page 131, under the heading "District Superintendents," paragraph six states that a duty of the D. S. is "to take care that every part of the Discipline is observed in his district." And now comes the question — WHICH DISCIPLINE?

A few weeks ago I sat in the midst of a high school sociology class. A Mr. Sneed, prominent Methodist minister in Atlanta, was lecturing the class concerning Methodism. One point to which he gave particular notice was the moral purity required, by the discipline, for Methodist ministers. Included in this moral purity was abstinence from tobacco and alcoholic beverages. He applauded these requirements for moral purity, and he was glad to be governed by them.

But by coincidence, on THE VERY DAY that I sat listening to Mr. Sneed, his church, the Methodist church. convened in Dallas and "voted to eliminate its written law prohibiting ministers from smoking or drinking." (May 1, 1968) Remember, now, that "written law" was, by the church's own words, "a revelation of the Holy Spirit." So here is the situation. Until Tuesday, April 30, the "revelation of the Holy Spirit" expressed through "written law" that it was prohibited for ministers to smoke or drink, that such was a sin, and that such would call for the trial and eventual expulsion of a man from the ministry, if not from the church. Now, on Wednesday, May 1, one of two things happened (if the Bishop's statement be true): (1) The Holy Spirit gave a new revelation declaring that what was a sin the day before is no longer a sin, or (2) the church rejected the revelation of the Holy Spirit and through man-made law declared that it was no longer sin to engage in these practices.

The truth of the matter is that the Discipline is NOT a revelation of the Holy Spirit, but merely the fallible work of fallible men. But the point is that the Discipline is LAW and CONSTITUTION to the Methodist Church. Thus the faith of Methodists rests in an ever changing, ever revised set of rules. And this happening of May 1 is not a new or unique occasion. Another notable change in the Methodist Discipline took place about 1910. Before that time, the Methodist teaching concerning Original Sin (borrowed from the Catholic Church) stated that an infant, dying in infancy without, baptism, was eternally lost. AFTER THE CHANGE, such infants, according to the revision, were not lost. Who can believe the Holy Spirit was behind such confusion? The Baptist Manual has also made a change in its teaching concerning the nature of man in recent years.

The Presbyterian Church changed its creed in 1961 to allow "social" drinking, and is in the midst of a sweeping revision now of its Confession of Faith. The proposed changes include a much more liberal view of the Virgin Birth, the inspiration of the Scriptures, etc. The great Catholic Church is in a stew over possible changes in Church Laws concerning Birth Control, marriages for the "clergy," and other reforms, having already instituted some in recent years, such as removing the penalty of sin for eating meat on Friday.

All of this simply reemphasizes the weakness of MAN-MADE laws, creeds, manuals, disciplines, catechisms, etc. and it also gives great comfort to those who are dedicated to the defense of simple New Testament Christianity. Those who reject denominational creeds, names and practices, who are content to abide within the "doctrine of Christ," (II John 9) have the assurance that their faith does "not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." (I Cor. 2:4)

The laws to which these Christians submit are not subject to confusing changes every few years, because they have the assurance of the Son of God that "heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (Matt. 24:35) They know their "creed," the New Testament, does not need periodic revision and "updating" because an all-knowing and all-wise God provided in the inspired Scriptures all that was needed to make the man of God "complete, furnished completely unto every good work." (II Tim. 4:16-17) They have no fear that the Word of God will lose its power and become a dead letter, for they have the assurance that "the word of the Lord abideth forever." (I Peter 1:23-25)

Furthermore, these members of the Lord's church have a healthy respect for the word, understanding the warning made in Gal. 1:6-10: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema (accursed). As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema (accursed)."

How wonderful to have such a sure and stedfast hope as an anchor of the soul (Heb. 6:19), a hope which springs from an unmovable faith in the eternal word of God. Would that all men would be willing to lay aside denominational names, creeds, and practices, and stand upon the Word of God.

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