We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cultic Doctrines of the Churches of Christ

Unusual doctrines of the Churches of Christ run from legalism to heresy. The first legalistic error is the teaching that the name of their churches are in line with the New Testament, and their names are the only biblical names. However, when we examine Scripture we find that term “church of Christ” is found only once in the New Testament (Rom. 16:16) and it is only descriptive, not a title. In several passages the church is described as the “church of God,” but often in Scripture the church is just called by the name of the town.

The Lord’s Supper
As with other Campbellite churches, the Churches of Christ claim that communion is a weekly requirement and absolutely essential to Christian worship. Some individual assemblies even assert that only one cup may be used and that they could not fellowship with another assembly which used individual cups during communion. “Unless providentially hindered, each member considers this weekly appointment as binding. In many instances, as in the case of illness, the Lord's supper is carried to those who are hindered from attending the worship.” (Batsell Barrett Baxter, Who are the churches of Christ and what do they believe in? http://church-of-christ.org/who.html)

Response: While it appears that in the New Testament Christians celebrated communion weekly, it is a logic fallacy to say it is therefore mandated. As for the single cup, there is no evidence that only one cup was ever used, and, in fact, it appears from studying the Passover meal that each person had their own cup or cups.

Instrumental music
Churches of Christ prohibit instrumental music during worship service because they believe there is no mention of musical instruments in the New Testament except for a negative reference (1. Cor. 13:1). Therefore, as their reasoning goes, musical instruments are prohibited. This is certainly a legalistic misuse of Scripture.

Firstly, even if the New Testament did not mention musical instruments, it would be a non sequitur logic fallacy to say it therefore followed that instruments are prohibited. Secondly, the New Testament often commands the worshiper to sing songs, and the Old Testament numerous times refers to musical instruments being used in worship. Even in Revelation there are several references to harps being used in worship.

The truth is that in the New Testament we see two places where the church is to worship with “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Col. 3:16, Eph. 5:19). In Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words we have the following explanation for the word “psalm”: pslamos primarily denoted ‘a striking or twitching with the fingers (on musical strings)’; then, ‘a sacred song, sung to musical accompaniment, a psalm.’”

The Holy Spirit and Trinity
One of the early founders, Barton Stone, determined the doctrine of the Trinity was man-made, and that the Holy Spirit was “the power of force of God.” Stone wrote the following about the Holy Spirit: “I understand the Spirit of a person is not the person himself. We often read in the Bible that the Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father, but we never read of either the Father or the Son loving the Spirit as a person, or of the Spirit loving the Father or the Son.” (Craig Branch, “The Stone-Campbell-Scott Movement,” Areopagus Journal, Vol. 9, No.5, p.15) Alexander Campbell agreed with Stone that the Nicene Creed’s teaching on the triune nature of God was “humanistic philosophical creation.” (Branch, p.15)

While the official stance of the Campbellite churches maintains the orthodox teaching on the Trinity, this historical foundation can be confusing, and some members have been known to hold these unorthodox views.

Baptism
As with some other denominations, the Churches of Christ believe that baptism is required for salvation. They teach that, although actual forgiveness of sins is through faith in Christ and his shed blood, formal remission of sins can only be had in baptism.

As cited by Craig Branch, Alexander Campbell stated, “I do earnestly contend that God, through the blood of Christ, forgives our sins through immersion - through the very act and in that very instant…. No one has ever received pardon by faith only. Water baptism, with faith as the principle of action, is the means through which God by the power of the blood of Christ imparts remission.” (p.16) Campbell claimed that baptism was not a work.

As pointed out by Dr. Hugh F. Pyle in his book, The Truth About the “Church of Christ,” if baptism saves a us, then the person doing the baptism becomes our savior! (p.94)

(A peculiar teaching is that a Christian can lose his salvation, but when he returns to the church and is again saved, he does not need to repeat his baptism. Baptism saved him the first time, yet he does not need it to be saved again!)

Works
The Churches of Christ believe there are six steps to salvation: hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized, and obey the New Testament commands. Teachings by Church of Christ authors demonstrate just how serious Churches of Christ consider works and salvation to be intertwined. The following examples are cited by Dr. Hugh F. Pyle (p. 12):

“Going to church is pre-eminently essential to going to Heaven.” A.G. Hobbs, Is Church Attendance Essential?
“Good works are not necessary to becoming a Christian, but they are essential to being a faithful Christian, and we cannot go to Heaven without faithfully performing them.” John H. Banister, God’s Way of Salvation.
“We affirm that one is saved at the point of baptism.” Evangelist L.L. Applegate (reference not cited).

By adding baptism, and the 6th step to salvation (that of obeying the New Testament commands), the Campellites have made salvation dependent upon works. When we look at the New Testament, however, it plainly teaches that the only thing necessary for salvation is faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, and that works are of no benefit for salvation.

Legalistic views on the name of the church, the Lord’s Supper, and instrumental music in church, mixed with some confusion about the Trinity, and heretical views on baptism and works, puts the Churches of Christ in the category of being a cultic church group.

5 comments:

Committed Christian said...

Very informative, that is one group that I never cease learning something new about! There is so much to it...I'll pass this along to a friend!

Anonymous said...

Yes very informative. I would like to add that indeed some C of C churches do believe that one must be baptized again and again, especially if you had committed a "big" sin. I attended one of these churches when a new Christian and was quite confused by this. You are right on with the term cultic, as well. Some of these C of C churches border on being a cult, such as the Boston C of C, of which my former church in Denver was an offshoot.

Lois said...

There are many friends of mine who are C of C. One of them explained to me that it is a "fellowship" not a denomination, so each body has its own standards. For instance, she explained that her congregation is "no music by choice" meaning they believe the use of instruments is a choice, and not a salvation issue. She also said that after the Civil War, the southern group (C of C) couldn't affort pianos in their churches, so didn't use them. The northerners (Disciples of Christ) did use instruments.

I think also one of their general beliefs is that the spiritual gifts all died out with the Apostles. Perhaps that ties in with their views about the Trinity that you wrote about.

I'm not sure I would call them a cult, but it's important to be discerning about their teachings. Thank you for this article.

Anonymous said...

Dear Brother,

If you are going to say that there is something wrong with the church of christ non instrumental you will have to put all of he Amish and Mennonites into your judgements. I have fellowshipped with church of christ people for 40 years and never ever ran into anything that you have posted here.
The Boston church of Christ is a cult. It is not, and has never been a part of Church of Christ non instrumental. I went to a church of christ instumental bible college and know that they are doctrinally the same as free will baptist congregations.
Church of Christ (Disciples of Christ) is separate and very liberal on all issues and is not a part of Church of Christ instrumental or non instrumental. Further more each congregation is completely independant of the other. It is not a denomination.
It will be very serious for you to make charges upon and entire group of believer's without knowing the whole truth.
May our Lord give you better wisdom to teach. The responsibility is greater on you.
Katy

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Katy,

There is indeed something wrong with claiming the use of instrumental music is not permitted in worship, because it is an unbiblical claim, which I demonstrated in my post at http://watchmansbagpipes.blogspot.com/2008/11/are-musical-instruments-unholy.html

In that post I noted that Mennonite sects did the same, but to my knowledge it isn’t “all” Amish and Mennonites who have this practice. It really doesn’t matter who holds to this belief, it is still unbiblical and legalistic.



I understand that not all Church of Christ assemblies practice everything mentioned in this article, however these are the predominant teachings, which I gathered from books by ex-members, as well as sources cited in the article.



I know full well about the spin-off cult of the Boston Church of Christ, which was not a topic of this post. I am also very familiar with the history of the founding of the Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ and their various divisions. This article was a general overview of only the Churches of Christ.



While I understand there is no “denomination” as such, it’s sort of like saying the Plymouth Brethren aren’t a denomination. Yet both groups have conferences, both groups have associated schools, etc. There is certainly a common history and belief system.



Again, while not ALL Churches of Christ continue to hold to the cultic doctrines outlined in this article, they all did so at some time in the past, and most still do so today.