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Fulton County Gospel News

a work of the mammoth spring church of christ

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Public Discussion

By Ted J. Clarke

In line with brother Marvin Rickett's article, "Are We Campbellites?", we ask you to consider the following comments. The apostle Peter said, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (First Peter 3:15). The word "reason" in the verse above means "a defense," meaning that each one should be ready to give a defense of his or her faith to any who ask why one believes a particular way. The apostle Paul spoke of the same readiness in Philippians 1: 17, saying, "I am set for the defence of the gospel."

Nearly forty years ago, when I began studying the Bible seriously to see if it provided what I needed to make my life happy and productive, I was genuinely impressed that members of churches of Christ seemed very open and willing to study what they believed the Bible taught. Many in other religious groups seemed to resent being questioned about what they believed and why. In order to try to find the true church out of the hundreds claiming to be Christ's church, I bought or borrowed a number of books and religious tracts that discussed the differences between what the Bible teaches and what is taught in the denominational world as religious truth. It used to be that denominational groups were willing to try to prove their doctrines by the Bible in public discussion. Over the years since certain men lead an attempt to restore the New Testament church, hundreds of religious public discussions have been conducted between preachers for the churches of Christ and representatives of almost all of the major denominations. In studying these discussions, time after time I have seen the truth shine as bright as the sun and noted the utter failure of denominations in trying to prove their doctrines from the Bible!

Eventually, most denominations realized their inability to sustain their teaching from the Scripture and quit engaging in such public discussions. They will not give their members the opportunity to see their doctrines tested by the opposition in comparing them with what the Bible says. Ignoring what Peter and Paul said in the Scriptures above, it is now considered inexpedient and politically incorrect to challenge someone's faith and ask that they test it by what the Bible teaches. Just like the Roman Catholic church tried for centuries to keep their membership ignorant of the Scriptures by keeping the Bible out of their hands, leaders of Protestant denominations promote a similar type of ignorance by refusing to test their faith by considering a public discussion of what the Scriptures teach in comparison to what their various doctrines are. It is also sad to note that there are now many in the churches of Christ who have lost their bearings and are adopting many of the false doctrines which were shown in previous generations to be in error. These brethren, like most members of denominational churches, are refusing to accept challenges to their faith and ignore calls to restudy what they have accepted as religious truth. They cannot prove their newly adopted doctrines by the Bible and will not even attempt to do so. They rebuke those who challenge them to respond to First Peter 3:15 as being arrogant and unkind. Were our Lord or Peter or Paul arrogant and unkind? Certainly not!

Our Lord was involved in religious controversy throughout most of His personal ministry on earth. For one section as an example, read Matthew, chapters 21-23, where Jesus confronted the religious errors of the chief priests and scribes, the elders of the people, and the religious sects of His day (Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians). Jesus challenged these people and their beliefs because they were opposed to the teaching of God in the Scriptures. He likewise defended His teaching as being of God and according to God's word (John 5:39- 47; cf. Isaiah 8:20). All of the gospel accounts give multiplied examples of such activity by our Lord. He did not leave people in religious error unchallenged!

The word of God is the "final answer" in regard to what we must believe and teach (Second Timothy 3:16-17; Jude 3; Second Peter 1:3). We must not add to it, detract from it, or modify it, lest we be found to be false teachers and be lost (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:5-6; Revelation 22:18-19). We stand ready to give an answer (to make a defense) to anyone who asks us a reason concerning the hope in us, and we will try to do that with meekness and fear (First Peter 3:15; cf. Philippians 1:17). We believe that we are giving book, chapter, and verse from the Scriptures for all we teach and practice in religion. We want to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent. We desire to call Bible things by Bible names and do Bible things in Bible ways. Only by doing so can we have God's approval.

Myself and many others stand ready to affirm in public discussion (or privately) that the church of Christ (of which I am a member) is the New Testament church that our Lord promised to build and is Scriptural in name, origin, and practice. We try to affirm those principles of Scripture every time we publish the Fulton County Gospel News. If that affirmation is true (and I truly believe it is true), then those churches which differ in the essential elements involved in that claim are not Scriptural and are unacceptable before God. If you have an interest in challenging our faith in the public arena, or to defend your beliefs against what we are teaching, we will do all that we can to organize a time and place to do so with you or a suitable representative of your persuasion. If we are in religious error, we want to know it, and if you are teaching or practicing doctrines that will cause you to be lost, we hope you want to know so too.

We have no desire in controversy merely for the sake of being contentious, but we believe that there are serious issues that will affect the eternal destiny of those who violate the will of God. Remember, according to First Peter 3:15, you have an obligation to defend your faith, and according to the Great Commission you have a responsibility to promote and contend earnestly only for "the faith once for all delivered unto the saints" (Matthew 28:8-20; Jude 3). Someone has correctly noted that, "Truth has nothing to fear from an honest investigation." The inspired wise man said, "Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom' and instruction, and understanding" (Proverbs 23:23).

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