Physical Unity, Creeds, and Truth

I'm revisiting my church of Christ/Christian church church roots due to our visiting the Antwerp Church of Christ and conversations with friends.

God works personally. Everyday I am faced with situations in which I make decisions on what actions to make. Many of these are made without a direct commandment of Scripture telling me what is the right course of action. How we discern that right course of action by the grace of God through the Holy Spirit, studying scripture, filtering it through church history and our brothers and sisters in Christ, is still a method of discovering truth. Just because a truth is localized to our specific situation and circumstances doesn't mean that it isn't an important truth. Any truth reveals to us more of who God is. If we did not believe that there was a right course of action for us, then we would not be concerned about doing the right thing in areas where the Bible is silent. The fact that we are concerned about doing the right thing where the Bible is silent means that we believe their is truth outside of Scripture.

But I think that "We as Christians..." or "thus saith the Lord" statements should be used minimally and only in the instances where they are clear. Just because something is true in my circumstances and situation, does not mean that it would always be the right course of action for everyone to make. I think we need to avoid the common pitfall of only believing that there are clear truths when it comes to mental beliefs. Those mental beliefs without actions that stem from them are meaningless.

I've recently picked up my copy of Alexander Campbell's Christianity Restored. I've had it on my shelf since college. This apparently isn't in print any longer. My copy is from 1959.

Thomas Campbell and his peers came up with the Declaration and Address in 1809. In it they wrote:

"That this society formed, formed for the sole purpose of promoting simple evangelical christianity, shall, to the utmost of its power, countenance and support such ministers, and such only, as exhibit a manifest conformity to the Original Standard, in conversation and doctrine, in zeal and diligence;-- only such as reduce to practice the simple original form of christianity, expressly exhibited upon the sacred page, without attempting to inculcate any thing of human authority, of private opinion, or inventions of men, as having any place in the constitution, faith, or worship of the christian church;-- or any thing as matter of christian faith or duty, for which there cannot be produced a 'thus saith the Lord' either in express terms, or by approved precedent."

They even left room for a "thus saith the Lord" by approved precedent rather than direct teaching of Scripture. Maybe they will explain later what an "approved precedent" consists of, but it seems to me to be something that Christians have practiced through church history. The founders of the church of Christ/Christian church seem to exalt time as being a filter for truth. They even thought their original conclusion on unity was wrong except for what time showed them. (However, I do wonder what time now reveals about their teaching with the resultant schisms in their own movement.)

"The application of the principle already stated trimmed us so naked, that we strongly inclined to suspect its fallacy, and had well nigh abandoned it as a deceitful speculation. Time, however, that great teacher, and Experience, that great critic, have fully assured us that the principle is a salutary one; and that although we seemingly lose much by its application, our loss consists only of barren opinions, fruitless speculations, and useless traditions, that only cumber the ground and check the word, so that it is in a good measure unfruitful."

It is interesting that the founders of the church of Christ focused on establishing physical unity. We seem to be a people content with disunity when it comes to our physical state of Christianity. It is refreshing to read the writings of someone who cares about the church being one, as Jesus prayed it would, here on earth. They were discontent with us just being one spiritually like so many in the church currently emphasize.

"Tired of new creeds and new parties in religion, and of the numerous abortive efforts to reform the reformation; convinced form the Holy Scriptures, from observation and experience, that the union of the disciples of Christ is essential to the conversion of the world, and that the correction and improvement of no creed, or partizan establishment in christendom, could ever become the basis of such an union, communion, and co-operation, as would restore peace to a church militant against itself, or triumph to the common salvation,--a few individuals, about the commencement of the present century, began to reflect upon the ways and means to restore primitive christianity."

Here is another good chunk from that book. Then I'll be done for the time being.

"On examination of history of all the platforms and constitutions of all these sects, it appeared evident as mathematical demonstration itself, that neither the Augsburg articles of faith and opinion, nor the Westminster, nor the Wesleyan, nor those of any state creed or dissenting establishment, could ever improve the condition of things, restore union to the church, peace to the world, or success to the gospel of Christ.

As the Bible alone was said and constantly affirmed to be the religion of protestants, it was for some time a mysterious problem;--why the Bible alone, confessed and acknowledged, should work no happier results than the strifes, divisions and retaliatory excommunications of rival protestant sects. It appeared, however, in this case, after a more intimate acquaintance with the details of the inner temple of sectarian christianity, as in many similar cases that it is not the acknowledgment of a good rule, but the walking by it, that secures the happiness of society. The Bible alone in the lips, and the creed in the head and in the heart, will not save the church from strife, emulation, and schism. There is no moral, ecclesiastical, or political law, that can effect any moral, ecclesiastical or political good, by simply acknowledging it in word. It must be obeyed...The Bible alone is the Bible only, in word and deed, in profession and practice; and this alone can reform the world and save the church

We found it an arduous task, and one of twenty years labor, to correct our diction and purify our speech according to the Bible alone. And even yet, we have not wholly practically repudiated the language of Ashdod. We only profess to work and walk by the rules which will inevitably issue in a pure speech, and in right conceptions of that pure, and holy, and celestial thing, called Christianity---in faith, in sentiment, and in practice.

A deep and an abiding impression that the power, the consolations and joys---the holiness and happiness of Christ's religion were lost in the forms and ceremonies, in the speculations and conjectures, in the feuds and bickerings of sects and schisms, originated a project many years ago for uniting the sects, or rather the christians in all the sects, upon a clear and scriptural bond of union; upon having a "thus saith the Lord" either in express terms, or in approved precedent, "for every article of faith, and items of religious practice."

Watch out for the potholes.