This is an essay, published in 1969, by Carl Ketcherside (Church of
Christ) which kicks the problem of "true church-ism" dead in the balls. If every
Church of Christer would really understand what this essay is saying,
there would be no more arrogant C of C'ers running around bashing everyone else
on the planet.
The original essay is at:
The influence of this little journal* now reaches far
beyond the limits of the particular religious segment in which I grew up and I
am deeply indebted to a kind providence which has lent wings to my words beyond
their deserving. However, my concern for our immediate problems is in no sense
lessened. As one broadens his acquaintanceship he need not forget those with
whom he is more closely allied by choice and circumstances.
*NOTE: The journal was "Mission Messenger", which has been put up on line
I have a deep sense of compassion for those of my
brethren who are the constituency of the Churches of Christ. They are heirs of a
movement which began as "a project to unite the Christians in all of the sects,"
but they were fragmented into so many rival factions and warring tribes that any
real witness attempted by them for unity is virtually negated among thinking
people. Even the type of approach toward unity by most of them only serves to
widen the existing chasms and create new cleavages.
The reason for this is quite understandable. Our brethren
have a veil over their faces in the reading of God's message and they cannot
distinguish between the divine revelation and their own human interpretation.
They confuse their deductions with his declarations and seek to bind all equally
upon the hearts and consciences of those who are willing to be servants of God
but are not willing to be slaves of men. Unless our brethren are transformed by
the Spirit and renounce their false premise they are destined to become the most
narrow and antagonistic sectarians of our age.
At the risk of becoming offensive when my only aim is to
be objective, let me be as specific as possible. One of the mainline journals
published in Texas in defense of Church of Christism has a very personable and
well-informed editor. He is, of course, as all such editors are, caught in a
partisan trap which makes it essential for him to trim his sails according to
the factional winds, and this means that he cannot keep a straight course but
must steer by tacking from one week to another. Thus his editorials must veer
from left to right and back again, as the passenger load shifts from one side to
This method may eventually land him, or a succeeding
pilot, close to the goal, but it is a costly way to travel and makes for a lot
of seasick voyagers who are going along for the ride. Recently our fellow-editor
has had to take note of other godly, sincere and consecrated brethren in the
Lord who are heading for the same goal but who see no harm in using instrumental
music in conjunction with their expression of praise unto the Father. How does
he justify our fragmentation of God's wonderful family over such an issue?
The answer is made over and over. "It is a question of
the authority of God's word." It is just that simple. Our Texas editorial
brother respects the authority of the Bible. Those who have instrumental music
reject and despise that authority. They do not recognize the Lordship of Jesus
over their lives. If they say that they do they are dishonest. If they did they
would throw the instrument out, confess their sin for ever having thought it was
justified, and then the loyal brethren who have always respected the authority
of the word would forgive and receive them, and we would all be one. Unity is
that simple! It is just that easy!
Is it really? In order to keep you from becoming more
confused I will designate the editor of whom I have here been speaking as Editor
Number One, for there is another paper published in Texas, and its editor also
opposes instrumental music. But he is equally opposed to the support of Herald
of Truth and orphan homes which Editor Number One endorses and defends. Editor
Number Two says it is simply a matter of respect for the authority of God's
Word, and that division between them is wholly unnecessary and caused by Number
All that Number One needs to do is to repent and renounce
Herald of Truth and the institutions, and acknowledge his sin in once defending
them, and the loyal brethren who have stood for the truth will forgive him and
receive him, and unity will follow as day follows night, or better, as night
In the meantime. Number One calls those who use
instrumental music "liberals", and those who oppose Herald of Truth "antis." He
brands the first as sectarian and the others as extremists. He calls them
hobbyists. Number Two brands those who use instrumental music as "liberals" but
he also labels the supporters of Number One as "liberals." He tries to put them
in the same boat, but Number One refuses to allow this. He thinks that his is
the only boat that has a ghost of a chance of making the crossing. Number Two
laughs at this. He thinks that Number One is already on the rocks and doesn't
However, this is just the beginning of sorrows. There is
another paper published in Texas by a genial and perceptive editor. He is
opposed to instrumental music and Herald of Truth, but he is also opposed to
Sunday Schools, of which Number Two is an ardent defender, even to the point of
pushing and promoting the sale of literature to perpetuate the classes. Number
Three says that it is simply a matter of respect for the authority of the word
of God. He concludes that he reveres the Lordship of Jesus whereas Number Two
rejects and denies it.
Number Three declares that unity is not a complicated
matter at all. It can be achieved very easily. All that Number Two needs to do
is to study the Bible without his preconceived prejudice for classes, repent and
renounce the classes, and send a letter to the loyal paper asking for
forgiveness, and the faithful brethren who have remained sound on the issue will
receive him, and together they can labor to help the world see the glorious
majesty of the kingdom of heaven and the awful sin of having Sunday Schools.
As the situation now stands. Number Three regards Number
One and Number Two as "liberals." He also regards those who use the instrument
as "liberals" but he thinks that Number One and Number Two are more dangerous
than those who use instruments because they are more nearly like the genuine,
and the counterfeit dollar that is most like the original will fool the most
people. The genuine is represented by Number Three and the folks who oppose
Sunday Schools. They are the real true Lord's church. Number One and Number Two
Number One and Number Two both agree on one thing and
that is that Number Three is an "anti" and an extremist. He is a hobbyist and
would rather oppose the Sunday School than to have peace. They both agree that
he does not need to have a Sunday School to be accepted by them. All he needs to
do is to keep still about the Sunday School they have and quit trying to
proselyte their members by making it appear that the Sunday School is like the
Do not become bored or aggravated with my little recital
for there are at least two dozen of our factions, all of which deserve mention.
Just to say there are twenty-five divisions in the non-instrument ranks doesn't
impress us very much because we are all holed up and hibernating in our own
monasteries and we never meet any of the others. Thus we can shrug them off as
inhabitants of Never-Never Land. But when we get right down to the nitty-gritty
of it, they are all here and must be reckoned with in all of the inglorious
shadow which they cast over a once noble unity experiment. They are all alive
and kicking--especially the latter!
So let's move along to Number Four who edits a paper in
California. He opposes instrumental music, orphan homes and Sunday School
classes, but he also opposes individual cups on the Lord's table, while Number
Three endorses these. Number Four declares that Number Three is not sound in the
faith. He has caused division and offences contrary to the doctrine. He must be
marked and avoided. He says that peace can easily be restored. All that is
required is for Number Three to begin respecting the authority of God's Word by
renouncing individual cups and requesting forgiveness for his sin in
countenancing their use. The prodigal simply needs to return to the Father's
house and take up life again with his "elder brothers."
Meanwhile, Number Four says that Number One, Number Two
and Number Three are all "liberals." But Number Three calls Number Four an
"anti" and an extremist. The others do also but they are not "bugged" by him so
much, because Number Three is between them and Number Four.
But this has gone far enough! If you don't get the point
by adding two and two together, you'll not get it by tacking twenty more on. If
you think all of this is funny, you are mistaken. There is nothing more shameful
than to see the children of God split up into warring tribes, hacking away at
each other with the sword of the Spirit, blunted though it may be by their
rashness and ignorance.
What we have done is to carve out a restoration totem
pole with a couple of dozen grotesque figures squatting on each other and
representing the traditional image passed along to us by our factional
forefathers who were just as wrong as they were sincere. We may have inherited
their sincerity but we have also adopted their errors. Look up and down the
entire pole and every party considers every other either sectarian or extremist.
A sectarian is one who has what we oppose, an extremist
is one who opposes what we have. This is unvarying in its application. So here
we are, all carved out of the same trunk, and every one of us is a sectarian to
some, and an extremist to others. That is, all of us except the one on the top
and the one on the bottom. There are no sectarians for the one on top for no one
has anything which he does not have. There are no extremists for the one on the
bottom for he has nothing which anyone would take time to oppose. The one caught
in the middle has an equal number of sectarians and extremists to bother with.
Let not Editor Number One flatter himself that he is
better than the others because he is "nearer right" for this would be denied by
every other on the totem pole. He would be charged with being ultra-liberal, for
what he calls "nearer right" is what they tag as being more liberal. Besides
this, the spirit which puts him where he is, is the same identical spirit which
puts the rest of them where they are. The Church of Christ in Texas (or anywhere
else) which denies fellowship on the basis of an honest opinion regarding
instrumental music or the millennium is just as bigoted and intolerant in spirit
as the lowest faction on the totem. It does not manifest itself in as many items
but the sectarian spirit is not really a relation to things at all, but an
attitude toward brethren.
And if Editor Number One were to be "converted" by Number
Two he would automatically increase the number of things regarded as tests of
fellowship, and decrease the number of those whom he regards as in it. Thus,
fellowship has little to do with relationship to Jesus, but is regulated purely
by the rationalization of human minds up and down the scale of all those
controversial items dreamed up and drummed up by those who confuse being
sticklers for opinions with standing for the Lord. In the final analysis this
hinges fellowship on the mental meanderings of the most extreme and anti-social
This crazy-quilt pattern results in absurd simplistic
propositions for eliminating division. Editor Number One suggests that if those
who use instrumental music love their brethren more than they do the instrument
they should give it up and thus restore peace by removing the cause of offense.
Since he has adopted the policy of peace by surrender of offending items, Editor
Number Four now has a tool for effectively removing individual cups from every
congregation in the land. Instead of debating the issue, which always
intensifies the sectarian spirit, all he needs to do is to plant a brother in
every "cups church," as he comically and quaintly refers to them, and let these
infiltrators demand that what the brethren preach on the instrument they
practice on the cups. "What is sauce for the goose is applesauce for the
Seriously though, what is our difficulty? It is not a
question of attitude toward authority at all. Our brethren who keep parroting
this moss-covered cliché should realize they are divisive. I know brethren who
love Jesus as much as anyone on earth and they feel justified in using
instrumental music, not because they do not study the Bible but because they do.
The point is that they highly regard the authority of God but they just do not
acknowledge the authority of Texas editors. And they can tell the difference!
They insist on reading the scriptures for themselves. They acknowledge the
Lordship of Jesus but not that of men.
Editor Number One does not regard Number Two as the
supreme court and both reject Number Three from the same position. How shall we
extricate ourselves from our predicament? We can do it by refusing to play God
with the consciences of other men. Not one of our petty divisive issues has one
thing to do with fellowship in Christ. We are in that fellowship because we are
called into it by God. We are children of God by the Spirit, and not citizens of
a pro or con party on any of these matters.
Our brethren do not need to accept instrumental music,
the pre-millennial interpretation, cups, classes or colleges. All they need to
do is to accept brethren. But I am asked, "Shall we accept brethren in error?"
Certainly so. There are no other kinds of brethren. No one knows it all. No one
is infallible. If brethren accept you they will have to do it in spite of your
error. You do not accept the error because you accept the brother, any more than
you have to become cross-eyed because a brother in your physical family has such
And all of this talk about "full fellowship" is sheer
poppycock. It is wholly without scriptural warrant and has been conjured up by
little minds and dwarfed hearts. God has no stepchildren so we can have no
half-brothers. If we are in his family we are in it wholly or not at all. The
idea that you can be in partial fellowship is like loving the right side of your
wife and hating the left side. You cannot parcel God out and you cannot carve up
his spiritual offspring either.
I have some brothers who use instrumental music and some
who deplore its use. I have some brethren who think Jesus will precede the
millennium and others who think the millennium will precede Jesus. I have some
brethren who support the Herald of Truth and never look at it, and others who
never support it and always look at it. I have some brothers who attend where
there are Sunday Schools and others who could not be dragged to such a place. I
have brethren who pass a container of wine to every person, and others who pass
every person a container of wine.
They are all my brothers, not because we share the same
opinion but because we share the same Father. I was not begotten by a class nor
born of a glass, and no position on either will ever affect my relationship in
the wonderful family of God. Nothing will ever blot out for me the cross which
makes us one, not even if it is as big as a pipe organ or as little as a
"communion cup." I have a deep sense of compassion for those who are trapped in
ridiculous factional positions. I know exactly how they feel. I know their
inconsistencies, their vain professions and their empty protestations. And I
pray for all of them to be delivered from the dead albatross draped about their
We can never offer anything tangible to a world hungry
for peace and serenity so long as we think that because men differ with us over
music or the millennium, cups or classes, that they are disowned by the Father.
Our fathers were wrong when they made the deductions of men on music a test of
fellowship. I do not care how honest and earnest they were--they were wrong!
And I was wrong when I followed their factional spirit
and made tests of union and communion out of opinions about music, homes,
colleges, and all of the rest of that motley horde of things which we turned
into devil's wedges to splinter and divide the royal family into which we were
adopted through grace. No man is wrong when he speaks out against that which he
cannot condone in the family, but that man sins who destroys the family ties
over matters of difference.
I refuse to continue in the wrongs of yesteryear and
perpetuate the consummate folly of factionalism. I refuse to project the
arrogant and silly position that we have a corner on "respect for the authority
of the scriptures." I regard all of "our" editors in California and Florida as
my brothers. I love all those who squat on our totem pole, even those who detest
one another as brothers in error. But I go farther than that-- much farther. I
receive and accept as my brothers and sisters all those upon this whole wide
earth whom God regards as his children. It is not their attitude toward a
restoration totem pole that makes the difference, but their attitude toward the
blessed cross of Calvary. We carved out the totem pole but God drove the cross
into the earth. I have brethren on earth who never heard of Alexander Campbell
or Barton Warren Stone. So long as they come to Christ they need not come by any
group of men. We are saved by the grace of God and not by the favor of the
"Church of Christ."
Let us have done with the silly bickering which has
negated our influence and made us the laughingstock of serious people in our
generation. Let's remove the stigma of schism which manifests itself in six or
seven divisions in some cities, with brethren hurling thunderbolts of wrath and
indignation at one another over the air waves. Shall we perpetuate our shame and
glory in it? I thank God that our younger men and women are seeing a vision that
their fathers have not caught. It is with these that the hope of our future
lies. They are sick of the rehashing of the outworn arguments and the dishing
out of slanted interpretations which are dishonest and irrelevant.
I pray that our brethren will sing out for freedom and
speak up for liberty in Christ Jesus. We can no longer be held down and held
back by skeletal hands reaching out of partisan sepulchers. Do we esteem the
praise of men in our own little segments as of more value than the praise of
God? The fact is that the kingdom of heaven is greater than any of our factions
or all of them put together. Let us find the way to unity of the Spirit by
rising above the smoking ashes of our hopes, slain and burned by our unwritten
It is time for a new day to dawn. We have led in
dividing, now let us lead in uniting. We have walked the dreary path of strife
and left it strewn with the bloody corpses of our slain hopes, now let us
resurrect the ideals which gave us birth and unfurl the flag of peace as the
rallying standard for the Christians in all the sects. Now is the accepted time.
Today is the day of our salvation! It is for such a time as this that we have
come to the Kingdom. Let us not fail!
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