Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 24, 1966
NUMBER 29, PAGE 2b-3

"Voices Of Concern

Sewell Hall

Is it possible that there is indeed a denomination among us known as Churches of Christ? A book entitled Voices of Concern, edited by Robert Meyers and published this year by Mission Messenger, asserts that there is. The book is a compilation of seventeen essays subtitled Critical Studies in Church of Christism. These essays are written by various individuals, most of whom "have left the Church of Christ segment of Christendom."

This book is not to be lightly dismissed. The very fluency of the writers, the variety of aspects from which they view their subject, and the obvious validity of some of their criticisms cannot fail to have an impact upon the reader. For some, the book will fan into flame sparks of discontent already alive within them and encourage complete abandonment of their present faith. Others, it is to be hoped, will gain insights into the causes of apostasy which will enable them to correct conditions that are justifiably criticized and to deal intelligently with those objections which are unreasonable and unwarranted.

Radical Changes

All of the authors have made radical changes. According to their own accounts, most were once quite militant in their stand for verbal inspiration of the Scriptures and strict adherence to the New Testament pattern. Now many are in the most liberal denominations and those who are not consider themselves misfits in what they term the "Church of Christ denomination."

At this point, the obvious question is, "Why?" It was to supply the reasons that this book was written. They are as varied as the personalities and philosophies of the writers, and the variety of these is remarkable. Indeed, the editor himself felt moved to remark upon it and to make some apology for the disagreements and inconsistencies to be seen among the critics. And whom should he blame with it all but the Spirit of God which, he says, "really does move at liberty like the invisible air, and it impels men in various ways!" A better explanation is probably that the critics had little to unite them but a common objection to the church. Having rejected the standard by which any church should be judged, they are forced to rely on human wisdom which is always contradictory.

To analyze each essayist to determine why he changed would require the writing of a book as lengthy as the one under review and considerably more information than is revealed. Consciously or unconsciously we all tend to conceal some of the real reasons for our changes. There is strong evidence that personality clashes and psychological factors had their part in some of the changes. One very candidly states as he looks back to the time of his change: "It is my opinion that at that point in my adolescence I would probably have rejected any religious view with which I had been brought up." This may well have been the case with others who were not aware of it.


Though each case cannot be considered, there are some fallacies which are so common as to demand attention. None accepted all of these, but probably all of them accepted at least one.

That independent thinking always produces eccentricity and revolution. It is a striking fact that all of the writers, without exception, were reared "in the church." Also notable is their obsession with the value of "independent thinking" and revolution. One who is so obsessed must prove his independence and proving it requires deviation from past beliefs, conduct, and associations, regardless of what they were. Changes under these conditions were predictable. But one who feels bound to reject all that he has been taught is just as controlled in his thinking as one who feels that he must accept it all.

One who has been well taught, even when he proves all things, may find that he has little or nothing to discard.

That magnifying weightier matters demands minimizing externals. No scripture was more often cited than the first part of Matthew 23:23 where the Lord rebuked the Pharisees for neglecting justice, mercy, and faith while emphasizing the tithing of mint, anise, and cumin. The criticism based on this text is obvious and in many instances justified. Yet, the implication that the externals, represented by tithing, should be disregarded is clearly refuted by the Lord in the latter part of the verse where he said, "these ye ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone." To this latter part not one critic referred.

That the various denominations they have joined, by accepting them into fellowship, have proved themselves less sectarian and more charitable than the church. Most of the writers show scars of conflict with their brethren in years past, but marvel at the liberty with which they are allowed to pursue their ideas in their new fellowships. It is significant that those who have joined denominations have joined those of liberal theology. Naturally those who believe there is no pattern can be more tolerant of variations among others who take the same view. We surmise that they would become somewhat narrow-minded and "close to new ideas" if some of us joined up with them and tried to teach them the identifying marks of the church and the conditions of salvation as taught in the New Testament.

That Christianity is basically institutional. Most of the critics would deny this concept, yet it is apparent all through their writings. When they decided that the church of Christ was a denomination, instead of leaving it to be a Christian only, they joined other denominations. When disenchanted with the Restoration Movement, they became enamored of the Ecumenical Movement, the basic plan of which is a union of institutions rather than of individuals. And the lack of institutional involvement in current sociological problems formed the chief basis for the charge of neglecting weightier matters, in particular justice.

That preaching obedience unto salvation is denying salvation by grace. This has been shown time and again to be fallacious by the very persons here assuming it. Though some among us may think that they were saved by works of merit, we need to teach them rather than leave them.

The Real Problem

Though these fallacies are to be seen in the reasoning of most of the writers, they do not form the real reasons for their changes. The real reasons are clearly stated by some, but not by others. With but one or two possible exceptions, the changes made were made because of a completely changed attitude toward the scriptures, their inspiration, their integrty, and their authority. Once these things are even doubted, the church of Christ (capitalized or not) becomes a ridiculous organism. It is significant that no one changed because he found a fellowship where he could serve more nearly according to the pattern of the New Testament church. They were not concerned with that. As one stated, "Why should the church of the twentieth century want to be like that of the first?"

"Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and in him ye are made full." (Colossians 2:8-10)

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