CHURCH DOCTRINE AND LOGIC

Earl W. Traut

or over a year now I have had to make major, difficult changes in my beliefs and practices. During 29 years as a "member of the church of Christ" I accepted many Bible "interpretations" as being true, although I did reject a few. As I think back over some of the intelligent, well-educated, sincere, dedicated men who "preached" and taught, it just seems incredible that they could have taught error. Even so, during these same years I discussed Bible concepts with "truth seekers" of various denominations who felt the same way about their "preachers" and teachers. Why did our beliefs differ?

Inasmuch as all who SEEK truth from the Bible have the same information available to them, why doesn't every one FIND the same thing (Mt. 7:7-8)?

There exists an insidious, and (as far as I know) unwritten, unspoken doctrine within the "church of Christ" that may help explain this phenomenon. It goes something like this: "If God tells us to do something, He MUST have provided us enough information to carry it out; otherwise God did not guide us into ALL truth and is imperfect. But we believe that God's revelation of truth IS complete. If we are wise enough we can find and fit together scriptures which will provide us ALL of the details we need".

For example, concerning the "Lord's Supper", Jesus said, "This do in remembrance of me". But Jesus did not tell us "how often". According to the teaching above, we MUST be able to prove from scripture all the details, such as "how often". You are all familiar with how this is done:

1. Acts 20:7 is used as an example of Christians assembling on the first day of the week to break bread. (Evidently correct.)

2. This is assumed to be a "regular" assembly "to worship". (There is no Bible evidence of it being either "regular'' or specifically "to worship").

3. It is assumed that "break bread" means "Lord's supper". ("Break bread" could instead mean "group meal", as in other passages).

4. "Inasmuch as this is the ONLY scriptural example of WHEN, then we MUST observe the "Lord's supper" on the first day of the week". (An example, perhaps; a command, definitely not!)

5. But item no. 4 is admittedly a weak argument, so here enters a "Church of Christ" logic system called "Necessary Inference". It goes like this: "The Law of Moses didn't say how often to observe the Sabbath, yet EVERY Sabbath was observed. Thus in Acts 20:7 we 'necessarily infer' that we must observe the 'Lord's supper' on EVERY first day of the week'. (But this is not an "inescapable conclusion''. It is comparing apples to oranges. An Old Testament command is not necessarily comparable to a New Testament example. Observing a day is not necessarily comparable to remembering a person).

Perhaps there is no limit to how far "Church of Christ" logic can be carried. Some Christians even use these kinds of logic to determine "order of worship". The assumption is made that Acts 2:42 describes a "worship service" and that "five acts of worship'' must be done in the sequence given, thusly: "... and they continued steadfastly," (read: 'assembling regularly to worship'), "in the apostle's doctrine," (read: 'preaching') and in the "fellowship" (read: 'all singing together and contributing to the common treasury'), and in the breaking of bread, (read: 'sharing in the communion'), and in prayers (read: 'two closing prayers').

Many more examples can be given of "Church of Christ" logic, such as a mandatory "common treasury", mandatory assembly to "worship", "authority of elders", etc. In each one of them, men seem to have learned to "think above the things which have been written" (1 Cor. 4:6). Paul's simple instruction of how to obtain understanding is quite different from "Church of Christ" logic: "... by way of revelation was made known to me the mystery, as I previously wrote in brief, as to which, reading, ye can realize my understanding in the mystery of Christ" (Eph. 3:3-4).

Let us re-examine each of the things we believe and re-read the scripture on which they are based. Then let us limit our belief to ONLY what those scriptures state. Let us clear from our minds all "necessary inferences", "syllogisms", "church doctrines" and other systems of "church" logic. None of these follow Paul's method of obtaining understanding.