A Nation Awash In Immorality

by Tom Wacaster

My daily morning routine between about 6:30 and 8:00 includes a walk on the treadmill, precious time in reading God's word, and a quick glance at the Dallas Morning News [at least when I stick with my routine, and not necessarily in that order]. Those three activities provide strength for the physical man, strength for the spiritual man, and mental stimulation for making an occasional comment to our subscribers regarding various challenges we face each day. Occasionally I will tune in to FOX news to get that "fair and balanced" report of the news, or run up the internet and check Yahoo news for what has happened in the world while I was sleeping. I have learned from experience that it is indeed true that "there is nothing new under the sun," and today's news is a rehash of yesterday's news as well as a glimpse at what might very well happen tomorrow. In fact, you can take just about any item that makes the newspaper headlines, evening TV news, or the "world wide web" of news, change the names and places, and predict what will be in the next day's paper or television news report. It has been six years since we moved away from Harris county [home of Houston, Humble, Baytown, Sugarland, et al]. Each year, somewhere around January, Harris county would report the number of homicides for the previous year. In 1997, give or take a year [the memory is not what it used to be], Harris county issued a nine month report on homicides for the simple reason that killings for that year had exceeded all previous year totals for twelve months. By late September homicides had exceeded 750, and it was predicted that before year's end they would surpass 900 [if I remember correctly, the year closed out with a record number of homicides, the number exceeding the 900 count]. That means Harris county averaged more than two homicides PER DAY [or seventeen per week, and seventy five per month].

Having moved to beautiful East Texas the "local" news is not necessarily what might be happening in Talco, or Mt. Pleasant, or even Clarksville or Paris. Cable news stations carry at least one Dallas News station, and one Shreveport, Louisiana station. The local newspaper stands carry the small local papers, containing 90% advertisements, and a few items of news that might be of interest to those who have lived most of their life in these small town communities. Beside the local newspaper vendors one can pick up a copy of the Dallas Morning News. Here are some of the headlines from the front page of that paper [or inside section "A" - that is the section that contains world news, Dallas community news, and some national news]: "Song blamed for shootings"; "DISD credit card theft"; "Doctors accused of intentionally killing Katrina victims"; "Lottery firm under suspicion"; "Dallas Cowboy injured in freeway shooting." Now, what does all that have to do with God, man, salvation, the church, or life in general? It is this - a nation cannot long endure when its citizenry has become so immoral that the nation is characterized by that immorality rather than moral uprightness. The inspired writer put it this way: "Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people" (Pro. 14:34). When this nation was founded it was the intention of our forefathers that this grand Republic maintain allegiance to God first and foremost. They did not envision a "secular" state where God is excluded from the laws and thinking of society. James Madison is credited with these words: "We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for selfgovernment; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God." The fact is, dear reader, that our nation is literally awash in immorality. This past week the headlines in the Dallas Morning News brought those "major stories" to our attention. But what of the hundreds, yea even thousands of "stories" that go untold. They are reflected in statistics regarding child abuse, broken homes, petty theft and embezzlement, dishonesty in the work place, cheating in the classroom, gang initiations, and white collar crime. And what more shall we say, for the time will fail us if w e speak of Hollywood, TV programs, pornography, gambling, homosexuality, and political powers that want to remove God from every vestige of our daily life. Oh yes, our nation is awash in immorality. Tragically, we have become too blind to realize this undeniable truth.

It has been more than half a dozen decades since McGuffey's Reader was a regular textbook in our public school system. William McGuffey was not just an educator; he was a man of integrity and moral uprightness. But he was a man of great wisdom. He once penned these words:

"If you can induce a community to doubt the genuineness and authenticity of the Scriptures, to question the reality and obligations of religion; to hesitate, undeciding, whether there be any such thing as virtue or vice; whether there be an eternal state of retribution beyond the grave; or whether there be any such being as God; you have broken down the barriers of moral virtue, and hoisted the flood gates of immorality and crime. I need not say that when a people have once done this, they can no longer exist as a tranquil and happy people…Avarice, perjury, ambition, and revenge would walk through the land, and render it more like the dwelling of savage beasts than the tranquil abode of civilized and Christianized men" (William McGuffey, quoted in Power Lectures, The Parables of Jesus, page 320).

I fear that we are rapidly becoming this "dwelling of savage beasts." Only history will tell. But the fact it, history is not on our side. General Douglas McArthur wrote:

"History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline. There has been either a spiritual awakening to overcome the moral lapse, or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster." We stand at a cross roads in this decade. Shall we turn the tide, or shall we remain awash in immorality? Only time will tell.

Avoiding Denominational Speech Patterns

 by Hugh Fulford

In order to maintain an undenominational stance in the religious world, members of the body (church) of Christ must avoid the use of denominational language. Surrounded as we are by those who do not use a biblical vocabulary, it is easy to pick up their unbiblical terminology and/or to use biblical terminology in unbiblical ways. Consider the following expressions which we as New Testament Christians should avoid.

"I'm Church of Christ." This reflects a denominational view of the church. We are Christians, disciples of Christ, saints, brethren, members of the church, but we are not "Church of Christ" or "Church of Christ-ers"! A number of years ago a good Christian woman said to me, "I'm Church of Christ all the way!" While I appreciated her spirit of loyalty to the cause of Christ, I was appalled by her sectarian and denominational manner of expression.

Church of Christ preacher, etc. We would not refer to a gospel preacher (the proper and biblical term to use) as a "church of God preacher," a "body of Christ preacher," or a "kingdom of heaven preacher." Yet all of these phrases (and various others) are biblical descriptors of the church, and all of them refer to the same entity. To speak of "Church of Christ" ministers, schools, colleges, papers, etc. is to be guilty of using a biblical descriptor in a sectarian manner. Further, since the church does not determine the doctrine to be taught, it is not "Church of Christ" doctrine or teaching that we are to set forth, but rather the doctrine of Christ and His apostles as revealed in the New Testament. To speak of "Church of Christ" doctrine conveys the notion that we are a denomination, with our own humanly devised doctrine. Still further, since "church" and "congregation" have the same meaning, the height of redundancy is reached when one speaks of "a congregation of the Church of Christ" or "Churches of Christ congregations." It is the same as saying "a church of the Church of Christ" or "Churches of Christ churches"! When Paul had in mind several local churches/congregations, he spoke of them as churches of Christ (Romans 16:16) and churches of God (I Corinthian 11:16), but both expressions referred to the same people. The observant reader of the Scriptures will discover several other descriptors of the redeemed people of God, none of which is ever used in a sectarian sense. The church of the Bible does not have a formal, patented "name," and the effort to give it one is but a move-however unintended-in the direction of denominational status.

Reverend, Pastor. Both are biblical terms, but both are popularly used in non-biblical ways. "Reverend" applies to God, not to man. (See Psalms 111:9). "Pastor" is one of several words used in the New Testament to describe the work of an elder of a local church. In fact, three sets of words are used to describe this function: 1) Elder/Presbyter, 2) Bishop/Overseer, and 3) Pastor/Shepherd. In New Testament times, each church always had a plurality of such men, never a single "pastor." (See Acts 14:23; 20:17; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:5). I have served as a minister/evangelist/preacher of a number of congregations, but I have never been a "pastor." By well-meaning people I have been called "Reverend Fulford," but I eschew the title.

"We don't believe in music in the church of Christ." On the contrary, we do believe in music in the worship of the church, but we insist on having only the kind authorized by the New Testament-vocal music, the music that is made by "singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19), the music that is made by "singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Colossians 3:16). Loyal churches of Christ leave mechanical instrumental music exactly where God left it-in the Old Testament as a part of the Jewish religion, not in the New Testament as a part of Christian worship!

The above is not an effort to "make a mountain out of a molehill"; rather, it involves a principle that lies at the heart of our effort to be the undenominational church of the New Testament and to use terms in such a way as to convey that biblical position. The apostle Peter exhorted, "If any one speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God" (I Peter 4:11a). As people committed to the restoration of apostolic Christianity and to being the church that Christ established, let us heed this divine admonition. We can live in the 21st century without having to adopt denominational theology, denominational thought patterns, and denominational speech patterns.

(Note: Even the most casual reader of the New Testament knows that Jesus did not build a denomination (Matthew 16:18). The question, however, that many apparently do not want to deal with is whether people today can be members of what Christ established without being members of any denomination. It should be obvious that if there ever was a time in the past when people could become members of what Christ established without joining any denomination, then such is still possible today. But the progressives among those of us who have done so are embarrassed by the concept, are ashamed of the plea, and want to do everything within their power to move us to denominational status. They shall not pass.)

Hugh Fulford
October 22, 2013

Are There Sincere Christians In Every Denomination?

by Tom Wacaster

The title to this article derives from a statement made by a brother in Christ at a preacher’s forum in 1983.  Since that time our brother (albeit, apostate brother) has widened his circle of fellowship to embrace many of those in error.  Others now parrot this new-found doctrine, and efforts at unity with the denominations finds increasing popularity, leading eventually to participation with them in their vain worship.  All of this is done under the guise of seeking to uphold and maintain the restoration movement.  But the implications of such a position will lead a man to abandon the principle of the restoration movement rather than uphold it.  If I believed for a moment that a man could be a ‘sincere, knowledgeable, devout Christian’ and stay and work within the framework of denominationalism, I would immediately cease to preach and plead for a return to the ancient pattern.  Some have been so bold as to do this, but we think to the detriment of their soul’s salvation.   That it is possible for a man to become a Christian and then somehow become associated with a denomination, I do not deny. But for such a one to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and remain in that denomination, and then claim that somehow he is still in fellowship with God and acceptable in His sight, we deny.   Brother Alan Highers addressed this issue in a most forceful way: 

There are at least two senses in which we might expect to find Christians caught up in the errors of denominationalism. First, one might obey the gospel, become a Christian, and be faithful for a while, then apostatize, forsake the truth, and join a denomination. Second, one might study the scriptures, learn the truth, and obey the gospel, but thereafter become affiliated with denominationalism for lack of understanding about the New Testament church.  In the first case if the individual is knowledgeable about the church, he cannot be sincere in joining a denomination. In the second instance if one is sincere, he cannot be called knowledgeable.  The issue, therefore, is not whether one who is a child of God may sometimes become entangled in denominationalism, but whether he can be sincere, knowledgeable, and devout in so doing. If one is knowledgeable as a Christian, he will know that denominationalism is sin (1 Cor. 1:10). One who is sincere cannot knowingly participate in that which is sinful; therefore his knowledge would preclude his sincerity in becoming affiliated with denominationalism.  On the other hand, if one is sincere as a member of a denomination, it must be because he feels he is doing right. That sentiment, however, would signify a lack of knowledge; therefore, his sincerity in belonging to a denomination would exclude the possibility of his being knowledgeable. Consequently, if one is knowledgeable, he could not be sincere; if he is sincere, he could not be knowledgeable. In this context, the terms are mutually exclusive” (Fifth Annual Spiritual Sword Lectures, page 305).    

Sincerity is essential in one’s faith, but it is not the secret talisman that makes all things right and somehow determines what direction we should go.  The Proverb writer clearly declared, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; But the end thereof are the ways of death” (Pro. 14:12).  Saul of Tarsus was sincere, but he was wrong. 

In an effort to bolster up this new fancied doctrine, we hear of some who claim, “We are Christians only, but we are not the only Christians.”   This is not a new phrase, but we think it has been used in a new way.   It is imperative that we define the word “we.”  If by the word “we” someone is referring to the New Testament church, then one cannot scripturally declare that we are not the only Christians, for all Christians are members of that church and only that church. How could it possibly be otherwise in light of the Scriptures?   It should be clearly understood that the word “we” is being used by some of those infected with liberal tendencies to refer, not to the New Testament church, but to those Christians who have not affiliated themselves with a specific denomination.  Such individuals perceive of the church of Christ as a segment of the church rather than then church as a whole.  Their message is clear, though blatantly false:  “We (Christians who are undenominational) are not the only Christians, but we are Christians only (in the sense that we claim nothing more).    The late N.B. Hardeman declared:

I do not claim, and have never so done, that those who have taken no stand with denominations are the only Christians upon the earth; but here is the contention: Having simply believed and obeyed the gospel, we propose to be Christians only. Now, there is a wonderful difference between saying that we claim to be Christians only and that we claim to be the only Christians.  The Bible clearly predicts that the Lord’s people, some of them, will be engaged in a state of confusion; and the Lord bids his people come out of that state and just stand, if you please, as humble Christians only.  The confusion of the twentieth century is denominationalism.  There is no doubt about that (Tabernacle Sermons, Volume II, page 253).  

Another restorationist pioneer, and one time editor of the Gospel Advocate, brother F.D. Srygley, was once asked if there were Christians in the denominations. He answered: 

When there are Christians - not the best variety of Christians, to be sure, but the same sort that lengthen the lists of members on all ‘our church books’ — in saloons, on the race track, at the theater, in the ballroom, around the gambling tables, in the calaboose, behind the jail doors, in the penitentiary, and on the gallows, it should not create surprise or start a scandal if a few of the meanest specimens of them should occasionally be found temporarily in the most respectable and pious religious denominations of this degenerate age and God forsaken country.  If there are Christians ‘in all denominations,’ or in any denomination, they ought not to be there, and the sooner they get out the better (source lost).  

If it is the case that there are ‘Sincere, Knowledgeable, Devout Christians’ in every denomination, then let us ask how they got there.  They were either baptized into that denomination, in which case they were not baptized into the proper sphere.  Or, having once obeyed the Gospel, they then “joined” that denomination, a step or action that is foreign to the New Testament.   Why can men not be satisfied with the simplicity of God’s word and the beauty of His pattern?  We plead with all men to abandon man made institutions and return to the old paths, and walk therein.