Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 27, 1966

"Voices Of Concern" And Exclusivism

Robert Farish

The exclusivism of the church of Christ is highly objectionable to the editor and associate writers of "Voices Of Concern". Robert Meyers, the editor, claims that, "thousands are restless and dissatisfied with the aridity of exclusivism and authoritarianism".

Logan Fox says that "some of our people in the Church of Christ have left it to become members of freer fellowships". He also wrote, " as I seek now to understand how I was taught that the Church of Christ was the 'one and only true church', I find no particular name coming to mind".

The voice of J. P. Sanders contends that, "Time and experience have convinced us that there is no one pattern that is convincing to all right thinking people".

Laurie L. Hibbett elected to project her voice in second person, presenting her protests through an imaginary woman who was "seated alone in a pew near the center of a big Gothic church". This woman, seated in this Episcopal meeting house, is made to soliloquize about the Church of Christ. Among the things distasteful to her about it is its exclusivism. Mrs. Hibbett has her character in her 'trend of thought' presentation musing like this: "Church of Christ," I shall have to tell them, "is a misnomer when used exclusively, as this church uses it. Church of Christ is the generic term for all Christian churches of all ages. It belongs equally to all denominations and has always been understood to mean the whole state of Christ's church. As such it is neither identifying nor realistic when applied to a specific regional phenomenon with Christendom."

Other voices could be heard from the book lamenting exclusivism. In fact, few, if any, of the voices failed to comment unfavorably on exclusivism.

Note that these voices speak of the church as a denomination. The phrase, "Church of Christ", is capitalized. The church is regarded as a denomination among other denominations. Furthermore, it is a denomination in a real bad fix, withering and dwindling away, due to the draining off of its best talent into "freer fellowships". These voices are unanimous in the verdict that the more intelligent segment of the church is departing into "other" denominations, or lapsing into indifference and inaction.

Many of us can fervently pray, "Lord, hasten the day when all features denominational in nature have withered and fallen off". But those who have raised their voices in "Voices of Concern" are not interested in restoring the "one body" to its proper place in the hearts of men. Their attitude seems to be, that concern for the "one body", as it is set forth in the New Testament, is not noble concern due to the rejection of and opposition to the denominational concept by those thus concerned. How can one "give diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" without recognizing the unique character of the body? And how can one acknowledge with approval the "one body" without opposing the bodies many? The concept of "gods many", "lords many", "bodies many", "faiths many" etc. has always been considered superior by pagans. The Holy Spirit raised a voice of warning nearly two thousand years ago on the point of improper tolerance - "for though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth as there are gods many and lords many, yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him: and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and we through him" (1 Cor. 8: 5,6). No, Brother Fox, it is not because we "feel self-righteous" that we stand aloof and fail to participate with denominations or encourage them with a "God-speed" in any of their areas of error. We simply believe the Bible that there is "one body" of which Christ is the Saviour. The "one body" has Christ as its head. In order for any group to qualify as the "one body", it must hearken to Christ in all things. There is no reason to think that God is any more tolerant of 'bodies many' today than he was when the apostle drew the clear line of distinction between the Christian concept and the heathen concept.

The church of Christ is far too precious in the sight of God, the price which Christ paid for it too great, for those who love God and Christ to allow it to be cheapened by men equating it to human denominationalism. The church which has Christ's concern, the one for which he died and over which God made him head when he raised him from the dead, is the proper object of the Christian's concern. The Christian's concern should be for the church as it was in God's eternal purpose and as it was built by Christ in carrying out God's purpose.

These "Voices" accuse the brethren of exhibiting "exclusivism" in their teaching that baptism is an essential condition of salvation. Shades of the "accuser of our brethren"! Are they unaware that the Lord is the one who is "guilty" of this piece of exclusivism? He is the one who said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mk. 16:16). It was the Holy Spirit, who through Peter said, "Repent ye and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, unto the remission of your sins.." (Acts 2:38). This is by the authority of Jesus Christ. It is not by the authority of any denomination or even by the authority of the church of our Lord. Never mind now all the talk about your interpretation or my interpretation or anybody else's interpretation. Let us just tell the people what the Lord said and leave the understanding to the hearer.

The Lord is the lawgiver and the judge. Our duty is to preach the word and encourage people to hearken to all that the Son of God commanded. We are obligated to plainly and kindly teach the will of the Lord as it is revealed in the New Testament, with becoming dignity of conviction, frequently reminding ourselves that we are neither the lawgiver nor the judge. If we believe that Jesus is Lord, we will respect his teaching on obedience to the gospel, faith, purity, a manner of life worthy of the gospel, etc. , as well as his teaching on grace. The Bible doctrine of love, grace, kindness, consideration, mercy, purity, etc., is in harmony with the Bible doctrine of obedience. The same voice that said "by grace are ye saved" also said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved". Some have an extremely warped concept of what it is to acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Yes, the Lord's exclusivism applied to "purity of life", "ethical principles as well as doctrinal affairs". He requires us to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them; for the things which are done by them in secret it is a shame even to speak of" (Eph. 5:11, 12). Again, "I wrote unto you in my epistle to have no company with fornicators; not at all meaning with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous and extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world; but as it is, I wrote unto you not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, with such a one no, not to eat" (1 Cor. 5:9-11), and from the pen of the "apostle of love" comes this divine requirement of exclusivism in doctrinal matters, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 Jno. 4:1). This apostle goes on to say in his next letter, "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same bath both the Father and the Son. If anyone cometh unto you, and bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house, and give him no greeting; for he that giveth him greeting partaketh in his evil works" (2 Jno. 9,10).

The possibility of men understanding the bounds of the Lord's exclusivism and having the ability to properly apply the divine principle of exclusivism in the proper areas of morals, ethics and doctrine, is apparent in the fact that the Lord imposed the obligation to "try the spirits" and take action in harmony with one's findings.

That there are many things wrong with the church as it is in the world today is generally admitted by those who are concerned with walking by faith. Many church members have a low moral code, their behaviour being the index, and many declare by their actions that they have very little regard for ethical considerations. Few are making very strong attempts to live by the "golden rule". Much politicking for position and often power struggles disrupt the harmony of the church and disgust and repel all right thinking people. These sinful conditions as well as others are glaringly apparent but none of these is justification for forsaking the Lord. Despite all protest to the contrary, when anyone turns from the Lord's way as revealed in the Bible, that one has forsaken the Lord.