Thinking Out Loud

March 21, 2010

The Top 100 Issues That Divide Us

When the blogger at Free In Christ started his blog in July of 2008, he noted his indebtedness to a book by Cecil Hook also called Free in Christ.   Not being a regular follower of that blog, and so not having read everything in between then and now, it does appear that 21 months later, he hasn’t stopped blogging his admiration for the book.

Recently, he cited Cecil Hook’s list of 100 things people disagree on in the churches of Christ.    Rather than simply link to it — many of you never click anyway, and even fewer leave comments — I wanted to have this list recorded here.    I’m not sure about the order in which these are listed, but here it is:

1. taking of oaths
2. serving in the military
3. inflicting capital punishment
4. using force to defend oneself or others
5. voting for political candidates
6. serving as a government official
7. engaging in political activism
8. Christmas or Easter programs
9. letting a non-member lead prayer
10. lifting hands while singing
11. joining a ministerial alliance
12. indwelling of the Holy Spirit
13. work of the Holy Spirit
14. baptism of the Holy Spirit
15. prayer for healing
16. the Trinity
17. special providence
18. how God answers prayer
19. fasting
20. translations of the Bible
21. use of Thee and Thou in prayer
22. authority of elders
23. who selects and appoints elders
24. qualifications of elders
25. tenure of elders
26. elders presiding at the Lord’s Table
27. qualifications of deacons
28. deaconesses
29. enrolling widows
30. addressing disciples as Major or Doctor
31. long hair on men
32. midweek contributions
33. dimming the lights during prayer
34. singing as the emblems are passed
35. use of church buildings for secular activities
36. use of pictures of Jesus
37. use of symbols such as the cross
38. use of steeples and stained glass windows
39. use of the term Sunday School
40. passing of the collection baskets
41. eating in the church building
42. grounds for disfellowshipping
43. support of colleges from the church treasury
44. divorce for any cause
45. remarriage of a divorced person
46. preacher officiating at a wedding of a divorced person
47. disciples marrying non-members
48. preacher officiating for a mixed marriage
49. use of an instrument in “church” weddings
50. method and type of inspiration of the Bible
51. re-baptism of Baptists and Christian Church members
52. the “five items of worship”
53. use of choirs, choruses, quartets, solos, etc.
54. serving the Lord’s Supper on Sunday evening
55. serving the Lord’s Supper other than in assemblies
56. integration of races
57. smoking
58. total abstinence from alcoholic beverages
59. membership in fraternal orders
60. contributing to public charities
61. use of Bible class literature
62. youth directors, youth rallies, youth camps
63. the six days of creation being literal days
64. the extent of evolution
65. the operation of Christian hospitals
66. awards and prizes for church activities
67. debating religious issues
68. ministers of education, ministers of music, etc.
69. benevolence to fellow-disciples only
70. the baptismal “formula”
71. formal confession before baptism
72. going to law against disciples
73. dedicating babies
74. signing contribution pledge cards
75. children’s homes under eldership or a board
76. dancing
77. women wearing shorts and slacks
78. women wearing slacks to church services
79. girls leading prayer in family devotionals
80. girls leading prayer in youth devotionals
81. clapping hands during singing
82. buying VBS refreshments from the treasury
83. the present day activity of demons
84. applauding in the assembly
85. use of God’s name as a by-word
86. use of euphemisms of God’s name in by-words
87. use of contraceptives
88. abortion
89. adopting out an illegitimate child
90. women working outside the home
91. Children’s Bible Hour
92. busing children to services
93. “What is to be will be.”
94. bodily resurrection
95. if we shall know each other in heaven
96. degrees of reward and punishment
97. whether heaven and hell are literal places
98. dress code for men serving the Lord’s Supper
99. whether Christ came in AD 70
100. a name for the church

The unnamed blogger follows the list with a brief discussion here, but I’m wondering if you think there’s anything there that shouldn’t be or anything that got left out?

And now, for today’s bonus item:

This is the “disagreement hierarchy.”  Anyone know the origin of this?   Here’s an article (without the chart) which would seem to attribute this to Paul Graham.

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December 10, 2009

Christians, Alcohol, and James MacDonald

Recently, the radio program Walk In The Word repeated a couple of programs featuring a message James MacDonald gave at Harvest Bible Chapel on the subject of Christians and alcoholic drinks.   MacDonald believes in total abstinence.   In other words, zero consumption of alcohol.   If there was a way to even further that position by inserting a negative number, that would be his position.   Don’t touch that bottle.   Don’t even look.

James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Northwest Chicago and host of the Walk In The Word radio program

James MacDonald is the kind of person you would probably listen to and decide you’d like to meet.   His radio show has a cool theme song.   He takes himself seriously but not 100% seriously.   There is a fair amount of honesty and transparency.  There is a request for money at the end of each broadcast but it’s tempered with some empathy for the pitch-weary listener.

But it would probably be a short meeting in which he would dominate the conversation.    James is a strong personality.   He understands brokenness, but projects having it all together.    Frankly, if there were 30 kids in a classroom, I think James would be the bully; and I’ve said that to a few people lately who agreed the analogy fits.

So if James says stay away from alcohol, you know you’d better do what he says because if you don’t it’s SIN.   That’s capital-letters SIN.

Of course, James believes Christian women should be homemakers, and it is a requirement of his male staff that their spouses not work, something he shares in common with Mark Driscoll.   I’m not sure if this means to do otherwise would be capital-letters SIN, but disobeying him certainly would.   I’m also not sure how he accounts for the various female staff members who work at Walk in the World and Harvest Bible Chapel.  But it shows that he has strong opinions on many issues that are non-issues elsewhere.

Sometimes, James MacDonald appears to get it wrong.   Occasionally everything from scientific statistics to Bible texts seem to get misquoted or misapplied.   Sometimes, this is due to the fact he’s broadcasting older sermons; one trusts that with today’s wisdom he might say some things differently.

He has six points for abstinence:

1. Because drunkenness is a sin and not a disease.
2. Because alcohol impairs wisdom.
3. Because alcohol is an unnecessary drug.
4. Because alcohol is destructive.
5. Because alcohol is addictive.
6. Because wisdom calls me to set it aside.

Some of them are given to subjective interpretation.   Let me explain.

I love Christian rock music.   For many years, I earned an income selling contemporary Christian music.   But every so often, I ran into people who were on that part of their journey that involved leaving the secular rock music scene.   And for them, Christian rock was not acceptable.    For most of my friends and customers however, Christian rock — the music, the concerts, the means of learning scripture and doctrine — was totally acceptable.

So I think that yes, alcohol is wrong for some people, especially if there is a family history of alcoholism or any addictive behavior for that matter.

But some people, like Zach Nielsen, don’t think you can make blanket statements on this subject.

Zach Nielsen writes the popular Christian blog, Take Your Vitamin Z, and is Pastor of Music & Teaching at the Vine Church, a church plant in Madison, WI -- just a few hours from James MacDonald -- starting in 2010

At his blog, Take Your Vitamin Z — a blog where eight different posts in one day is not unusual — Zach devotes six posts to engaging MacDonald’s six points.  You can read those posts here:

Ultimately, Neilsen concludes:

…Churches should not be divided on these types of issues. When it comes to this message, I fear that Pastor MacDonald has contributed to an ethos at his church that is unhelpful and unbiblical. We should be communicating freedom on extra-biblical matters and not give such a strong word on one side or another. Most Christians are spring loaded towards legalism and we should not add fuel to that fire.

I’ve deliberately avoided engaging the actual issue here. (Personally, as I indicated in the footnotes of a blog post a few days ago, I generally don’t drink, but I also don’t “not drink;” if you get the distinction.)   I think you should save opinions on the actual issue for Zach’s blog, if comments are still open.

As I commented there, I “find myself returning to Walk in the Word, as I think there is a need for people to confront their sin, as James so often reminds us.   But then I find myself getting frustrated with his style, and needing to take a week or two off.” and like Zach, find myself  “living in the tension of a similar ambivalence” when it comes to Walk In The Word.

On one level, great admiration for the man and what he has accomplished, and on another level a recognition that as Christians, we simply can’t depict everything in black and white.

A viewpoint and personal stand that James MacDonald has constructed on this issue is fine for sharing over coffee with someone who asks, but it should never have been presented dogmatically as either a Sunday sermon, or a prescription for all Christ-followers in all places, all situations, at all times.

HT: Though I have Take Your Vitamin Z bookmarked, I was alerted to this series there by Darryl Dash.

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