Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Attack Ad on Mark Henderson and the Quail Springs Church of Christ

In my previous post, I mentioned my distaste for the ad that appeared in "The Oklahoman" last week, the one lambasting Mark Henderson, preacher for the Quail Springs Church of Christ. The ad violates the standard of Christian propriety. It also contains several errors which, if recognized, would have prevented it from seeing the light of printed day.

Before I talk about that, though, I want to clarify something: I don't intend my criticism of the ad to be a defense of the decision made by the Quail Springs elders and their preacher. I still prefer, and would argue for, a cappella worship. But in addition to that, I have my questions about the way in which this change at Quail Springs was made. Maybe there was due process before the decision was announced. However, from this distance it seems as though many members at Quail Springs were surprised. Was that the case? I don't know. Either way, preachers and elders should pay close attention to that section of Christian ethics that would fall under the heading "the ethics of congregational change."

About the ad: I said, among other things, that it contains a good bit of Scripture twisting. What follows are three of the more glaring examples:

2 John 9

The ad states that instrumental music in Christian worship takes a person “outside the doctrine of Christ.” But take another look at the passage in context. A reading of 2 John clearly shows that “the doctrine of Christ” refers specifically to the doctrine that Christ came in the flesh. So how does the music question fit into that? One thing I've noticed is that people sometimes want to place anything and everything under the heading "the doctrine of Christ." That way, if you happen to cross one of those many lines, then you're outside of the doctrine and, according to the verse, don't have God. That's nonsense.

Galatians 5:4

“You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” The ad states that this verse applies to pro-instrument people when they refer to Old Testament passages that mention instruments in the worship of ancient Israel. But once again, the meaning of the verse and its application in the ad have absolutely no connection. In Galatians 5:4, Paul is speaking against the idea that Christian men must be circumcised in order to be true members of the family of God (see the many references to this in Galatians 5:1-12). Another part of the mindset in the Galatian churches was that all Christians had to observe the various "days and months and seasons and years" of Judaism (Galatians 4:10). Contrary to the ad's mishandling of the passage, the question of whether it's proper to appeal to the Old Testament for a certain practice is nowhere in view.

Romans 16:17

The authors of the ad cite this verse as the basis for their marking of the Quail Springs preacher. But had they done the least bit of study, they would have discovered that Romans 16:17 gives no support for the practice of publicly branding another Christian.

For example, twenty five years ago, Dr. Jack P. Lewis published the short article, “Mark Them Which Cause Divisions.” It first appeared in an issue of the Firm Foundation dated February 22, 1983. Five years later, it was reprinted in a collection of Lewis articles called Exegesis of Difficult Passages (Searcy, AR: Resource Publications, 1988) 111-115. Evidently, it should be required reading in preacher training schools everywhere. Here's how Lewis begins:

"The obligation, almost universally felt among our preaching brothers, to label other preaching brothers who hold positions thought to be erroneous, rests upon a misunderstanding of Rom. 16:17 which in the KJV and ASV reads:

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

Under the influence of the KJV and the ASV, we have men who apparently feel their chief mission in life is the branding in the eyes of the whole church all those who differ with them. We have a type of journalism whose chief function seems to be to attack the reputation of those who differ . . ."

Sound familiar?

In his characteristic style, Lewis goes into a study of the biblical text, giving attention to every fact. His conclusion is that Paul's meaning in Romans 16:17 is that Christians are to "take notice of" those who cause divisions. And, in 1611, the publication date of the KJV, that's exactly what "mark" meant. To quote Lewis again:

"The verb 'mark' in 1611 meant 'to take notice of'; it carried no connotation of branding. It did not suggest that one should do what the Lord did when he put a mark on Cain. . . . Today, apart from the phrase 'mark my word,' 'mark' is seldom used in the sense of 'take notice of' but does primarily carry the sense that it is most commonly understood by our people when they read Rom. 16:17. They register the meaning they know best, not asking themselves if that is the correct one."

Lewis concludes by saying that he has no problem with spiritual vigilance, but that he does have a problem with religious vigilantes. So should every Christian.

For the sake of comparison, you can see the ad here.


Arlene Kasselman said...

And when you know Mark and his heart, this makes you even more repulsed.

Bob Bliss said...

Frank, good post. I concur hardily. Your discussion of Romans 16:17 indicates how we have let certain words in the KJV dictate certain practices today by defining those words in our language rather than the language of 1611 or even the actual origin Greek definition.

preacherman said...

Great post Frank.
I hope we will love and keep in perspective and not try to judge the motives of Mark Henderson or Quail Springs or others that are making those decissions. I think God has called us above all to love.
I don't know that Paul would support putting a debate or issue such as this in the local paper.
1 Cor 13:1-13. Vs. 13, "And now these three remain: faith hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
We must love our brothers and sisters. You don't see authority in the Bible of one church disfellowshiping another church for a certain issue. And if we look at the churches in the NT they delt with sins. We see Christians uniting. We see Christians in the NT persevering and encouraging one another.
May we strive to answer the prayer in John 17. Let all men know we are His disciples by our LOVE.
Kinney Mabry

Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

Frank now you have gone to meddlin ... just give me the Bible, I don't need any of this context stuff, ;-)

Seeking Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

Darin L. Hamm said...

I think it may be a difficult road for Quail Springs. I hope the building is paid for.

They have lost their identity and they may find that while people don't have an issue with instruments they will most likely miss the fellowship they had with those who don't use them.

They may have felt they did a great job in explaining this but this decision is far more than a theological one for most people and in that no amount of explaining can prepare a group.

Matt said...

You say all that good stuff and then go and "Label" Mark Henderson and Quail Ridge down there at the bottom of the post!

Frank Bellizzi said...

Matt, I didn't catch what you meant here.

john alan turner said...

You have "labels" at the end of each post -- categories under which to file each blog post.

Matt was having fun with the irony of that.

Frank Bellizzi said...

Oh, I figured it was a joke but didn't get it. Maybe I should read my blog sometime. ;-)

Danny said...

Very good article and perspective Frank.

Sorry to hear of this going on. Thanks for adding your voice of solid biblical reasoning to this discussion.

Anonymous said...

Other Churches of Christ labeling other Churches of Christ and their leadership. Another fine example of how non-autonomous and denominational we are for a movement that claims to be just the opposite. How sad!

Ithaca Church of Christ
Ithaca, NY

Frank Bellizzi said...

Rex, it gets worse.

In a blog written by one of the authors of the ad, it is suggested that if Quail Springs wants to go instrumental, they should at least give up the name "Church of Christ" since that franchise is known for a cappella.

I'm not joking. The writer makes the comparison of someone going into a McDonald's and ordering a Whopper. If someone goes into a building with "Church of Christ" on the sign, says the writer, then he should be able to expect a cappella music.

It's hard to know how to start sorting out that kind of irony.

Amanda said...

Ephesians 5:19 says to speak to eachother with psalms, hymns & spiritual songs.

The very definition of a psalm is a song that is sung with the accompaniment of a stringed instrument. There is the authority that is given in the Word of God for use of instruments.

Frank Bellizzi said...

A couple of anonymous comments have been sent in response to this post. These comments report detailed information pertaining to recent events at Quail Springs.

I have no way of determining their truth. I also have no way of communicating with the authors because, again, they're anonymous. Some of the reports are sensitive.

Because they are sensitive, unverified, and anonymous, I have chosen not to allow them here.

Not long after I began this blog, there were a couple of people who, separately, decided that they were going to hijack "Frankly Speaking" for ugly purposes. That was the main reason I decided to go with comment moderation.

I welcome any and all comments, even ones that goof on me, point out that I'm off on something, etc. What I won't tolerate are mean, ugly comments ("flaming" I think it's called) or, in this case, comments that anonymously report things that might not be true and that are potentially libelous.

That said, I'm glad to say that I can count on one hand the comments that I've refused to publish.

preacherman said...

I think it is time to stop splitting over issues that don't matter. It is time for us to be ONE as He is One. It is time for us to love. You don't see in the Bible the Roman church telling the Corinthian church what to do, how to worship, womens role, etc. You don't see the Roman Church writting up the them in the Corithian local news. The brothers who did that need to REPENT! The need to understand that they are lost if the do not love their brother. I believe they need to read the letter of 1st John all over again. It makes me sick and the Lord too. I think we neeed to preach that those who cause division, strife, munipulation to get their way will one day stand before GOD and give an account. The Lord Hates Division!!!!!!!!!

I believe it is time for us to stop giving attend to those who are the squeeky wheels and use their money to black mail or munipulate the church and put our faith in God. God will provide.

It is time for us to stop fighting and start moving forward. It is time for us to show the world we are his by his disciple by the way we love one another. It is time to stop looking at the 1st Century church and saying
"Oh how perfect....they weren't perfect. They were so messed up and had so many problems such as a mother sleeping with her son and the church being okay with it. Believe in the worship of angels. Questioning the resurrection of the dead. Abusing the grace of God...." Sound pretty perfect doesn't it?

Let move forward and make a difference NOW! Let's be the church of the 21st century.

Larry James said...

This entire situation turns the bright spotlight on the "relevance" of a huge part of this religious movement. I mean really, in view of what we face in our nation and around the world, can the people who paid for this ad be serious? Absurd! And I believe Church of Christ preachers who know better should stand up and say so very clearly ASAP.

Anonymous said...

and you wonder why you churches of Christ are running ofF those who are non-beleivers. Such a shame that instead of reaching the lost for Christ, you Churches of Christ decide to bitch about what the church down the street IS doing. That's why I'm not a Christian. I DO NOT WANT TO BE LIKE YOU. PERIOD. IF YOUR GOD ALLOWS YOU ALL TO ACT LIKE THIS...HE'S NOT WORTH WORSHIPPING.

Anonymous said...

There are no more True Churches of Christ. So as for me and my house we will worship at home where it is safe from the wolves that have been allowed to take over the Chruches of Christ all for money in the Collection Plate.....!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!