An amazing exchange of ideas was recently engaged on a public media when a brother said: Just a note for those who are really interested in the Bible. Not one word of it was written to correct the errors of denominationalism. Every passage dealing with division relates to those who are brethren who are not together. Let us learn to quit using The Book to attack denominationalism. It didn't exist when it was written.
Now, that statement has gone through a series of tests and explanations which render it worthless. The writer now says that scripture will correct all errors, but that : 1) There were no denominations when the Bible was written, and 2) None of the Bible books were DIRECTED at denominations to try to reform them. But, that is a useless point, for NO ONE is “using the Book to attack denominationalism”, much less read the book TO them in an effort to get them to reform their denomination. So, his original words were red herring words designed to create confusion, and ultimately had no practical value, and actually encouraged some weaker brethren to think they should not speak against the errors of denominationalism. If they do not see his newer admissions, they will think that they should not use the scriptures to point out the errors of denominationalism. Our brother’s latest explanation was:
On the use of scripture to teach about errors associated with the denominationalism we see everywhere we may certainly use scripture to oppose all error, but not one word in scripture was directed at denominationalism because it did not exist. On a similar note; when we argue there is no authority in scripture for Mormons calling children "elders" we need to remember, the Mormon church isn't authorized in scripture so they can call them whatever they want since they make the rules. I may well show that elders in scripture are older, married men with children, but not one verse of scripture is directed toward Mormon "elders."\
TB: But, this renders his original comment as totally useless except for purposes of confusion. He now says “we may certainly use scripture to oppose all error” including “errors associated with the denominationalism we see every where”. Well, that is all anybody EVER does. When he says “not one scripture was directed at denominationalism” when it was written, that is an immaterial point. Nobody today reads the scriptures as if it was DIRECTED at a denomination.
He says “I may well show that elders in scripture are older, married men with children, but not one verse of scripture is directed toward Mormon "elders."\. Well, then he is using scripture to correct the errors taught by the Mormon denomination even though the scriptures were not directed toward Mormon elders. So, what difference does it make if they were directed at Mormon elders or not? That is a useless point since no one believes that Paul was writing to a Mormon Church, and no one is trying to reform a Mormon Church. All who preach against the Mormon religion are simply using the scriptures to show the errors in teaching and practice that differs from what the scriptures actually teach.
His original comment indicated what we are “attacking” the denominations if we use the scriptures to point out the errors of denominationalism, and that we should quit using the scriptures to point out the errors of denominationalism since it did not exist when the scriptures were written. But now he says we may use the scriptures to show the difference between what the Mormon “elder” is doing and what the Bible says SHOULD be characteristic of “elders”. Well, that is all any of us ever do. When our brother does that, is he “attacking” or teaching? I don’t view teaching the truth to correct errors in denominational thinking as “attacking” anyone. I view it as teaching the truth in love in an effort to lead one out of error into the light of truth.
Now, the Bible was written to correct all errors, no matter where it comes from, and when we try to correct errors that are promoted by denominational people, we are not “attacking” them, but trying to teach the truth in love so that they too can be corrected by the scriptures (2 Tim.3:15-17), just as we have been corrected by the scriptures and just as we are being corrected by the scriptures.
We all have adjustments to make and the scriptures call upon us to continually work on making those corrections. The brother above said to ”Quit using the Book to attack denominationalism”, but who is using the Book to “attack” anyone? Was our brother “attacking” someone when he made the above comment? Words need to be used wisely, no doubt, but all errors need to be corrected, no matter if it is taught by preachers and teachers from denominations, or if the errors taught in denominations are brought into the church, or if we simply want to equip the brethren with knowledge of error that may potentially come from denominations into the thinking of our brethren, or if we want to equip brethren so that they can teach others the truth and lead them out of error.
Our brother was not too pleased that I tried to point these things out. At any rate, he began an effort to explain his meaning, but as he did so, his original message began to change a little at the time. Notice some further comments he made on this topic. Our brother said:
1. However, you never cited a scripture which pointed out the errors of any denominational body which was (were) directed at such a movement.
TB: When we teach someone in a denominational body we always teach the truth on Jesus, His Lordship, and how doing what Jesus says is not what is done in a denomination. Thus, those scriptures that point out “doing the will of God” or “doing what Jesus commands” are scriptures that begin pointing out the errors of their denominational body. I don’t know of anyone who contends that the scriptures were “directed at such a movement”, but only that the truth first directed to Christians is truth that Christians must use to correct any and all errors. Why would I need a scripture “directed at the Mormon Church” before I could point out the errors associated with the Mormon Church? It is an absolutely useless point to make in an effort to try to justify the error of his original comment.
I do not know of brethren who think that we should spend time trying to artificially “unite” the various denominations. So, if our brother above is upset about brethren trying to do that, then he is wasting his breath. Nobody makes those kind of efforts. We try to correct one person at a time and use the Bible to correct whatever errors that person has been involved in in their particular denomination, so that they do not stay in that error-teaching body. He further said:
2. As for not teaching on issues which may not be specifically addressed in scripture (Islam, for instance) that does not mean one cannot preach Christ. When we put forth the Savior of the world who died for men's sins, those who come to hiim will want to follow him correctly.
TB: Notice that our brother shoots his argument in the foot. By saying that they will “want to follow Him correctly”, he is unwittingly admitting that they might be influenced wrongly unless they learn HOW to follow Him correctly. But, to follow Him correctly, they must learn that they have been taught incorrectly about Jesus and their whole religion has been incorrect. Our brother tries hard to pretend that he does have to spend any time “correcting” people from Islam or from denominations, but he is fooling no one but himself. When you talk to a Muslim, you will have to correct his thinking about the Bible, versus the Quran. You will have to correct his thinking about Who Jesus is: Messiah and Mighty God, or just a human prophet. You will have to use the scriptures to correct his thinking, even though NONE of the Bible was originally written to the Islamic religion. See how utterly useless was our brother’s original comment except to create confusion which misleads some to think that they should not spend time using the scriptures to correct errors of denominationalism?
Our brother changed his original statement a bit more in an effort to cover over the error of his original comment. He says:
I really don't know what to say, but will say it anyway. All error should be corrected from the scriptures where possible. However, not one verse of scripture was directed at denominationalism to correct its errors. Denominationalism did not exist at the time the Book was written.
TB: Of course NO ONE, especially me, ever said that the scripture “was directed at denominationalism to correct its errors”. I have insisted that the scripture will correct all errors including those errors taught by denominations and their teachers. How am I wrong? I never seek to bash anyone or to cram things down the throats of people, but we do try to humbly teach the truth and correct errors that sometimes originated in denominations and filter into the church. Our brother should have stopped when he said: “All error should be corrected from the scriptures where possible.” Well, some error comes to us from denominations, and then it is possible to correct it. Some error in denominations are influencing them to talk about the “cult” and error of churches of Christ as they view it. That means that we have to be ready to defend the truth against the errors of denominationalism.
It is immaterial whether modern denominations existed when the Book was written. The Bible teaches the truth; modern denominations teach error, and therefore the Bible is written to correct error if it comes to us from within the church or if it comes to us from denominations outside the church. “All error should be corrected” and that is the stand our brother should have taken instead of arousing brethren by his original controversial comment.
In our day, there are many denominational preachers who misuse the scriptures to “attack” churches of Christ. They call us a cult or a denomination. We should “correct the errors of those denominational preachers” by standing up and contending earnestly for the faith. We should us the scriptures correctly and use them to correct those denominational errors. Our brother should have said this instead of the misleading comment he made.
Now, in summary, the scriptures are given to the man of God so that he can be “corrected” and help to correct others who are in error (2 Tim.3:16-17). When we are converting people to Jesus, there are times when we have to show that they have been taught “another Jesus”(2 Cor.11:3-4) and “another gospel”(Gal.1:6-10). We have to use the scriptures to “correct” the misinformation they have been fed for years and years. We have to be ready to show the difference between “faith” and “faith-only” which is learned in denominations. We have to be ready to show the errors people are taught that do not coincide with the scriptures. We have to be ready because some people want to know the truth, and some people need the truth contrasted with the errors they have been taught. We should not spend all of our energy and time bashing other religions and denominations, but we certainly would be wrong if we did not correct errors that are now in the church or correct errors that are in the minds of people outside the church so that they can know to come in. I say all this in love for our brother, and for all people who got the same idea from his words as I did. I do not wish to differ with anyone, but since we do, I want to set the record straight. We have to use the scriptures to correct error that is already in the church and error that can potentially enter the church via the teaching of denominations. No matter where the error is found and no matter when the particular error arose, the scriptures are given for “correction and instruction in righteousness”. God said it, and that settles it whether people want to believe it or not!
Terry W. Benton