KEITH SHARP: "I will not debate..."

ell, it appears that the debates with Keith are not to be. He and I have signed two propositions (see them below) that he agreed to affirm. One on "the church" and one on "elders"and their work. These two would give us enough to discuss for at least four nights, two hours each night.

From the start of these discussions, I told Keith that framing propositions for me to affirm would be difficult if not impossible; especially any that he would deny. For example, since I dont believe that Scripture says anything about "the local church" institution, it should be obvious to any objective person that I do not have an affirmative position on that subject, only a negative one. Yet Keith demands that I take an affirmative on "the church" or he will not debate. His last letter was an ultimatum:

"I will not debate you unless you sign affirmative propositions which accurately, clearly, concisely differentiate our positions on both the ekklesia and the eldership."

He lays down an impossible condition and he knows that. How can I frame an affirmative proposition about some thing I do not believe exists with divine approval? I deny that his "local church" is scriptural. It is from man, not from God. He edits a paper entitled WITH ALL BOLDNESS. Has the editor's "boldness" failed him? He refuses now to affirm and defend the propositions he has signed.

l am willing to affirm what I believe about "elders" and their work. Certainly there were elders among the early disciples, but they were not the rulers over some "local Church of Christ" corporation for the obvious reasons that there wasn't any such institution in that day. The people of God have only "ONE Lord" -- Jesus Christ! There is no teaching in Scripture authorizing an Eldership (Board) to "rule over" the Lords saints and order their lives and their service to God.

Here are two propositions about "the elders that I did agree to affirm because they state my position:

I. The Scriptures teach that the elders among the disciples of Christ are appointed by the Holy Spirit to serve as shepherds/pastors of the flock of God among them (the elders) and they are to lead the disciples by teaching Gods word and by example.
II. The Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ, requires (has "appointed") that the elders among the disciples/saints of God are to voluntarily serve as shepherds / teachers among them (the elders) by teaching Gods word and proving to be examples to the flock; and this is their allotted charge.

I will affirm either of the above, but Keith will not sign in the negative of either one. I dont blame him. He knows those propositions are in harmony with Gods teaching. Those propositions state what I believe and teach. Hence, the truth is that he cannot deny what I believe and teach on this subject; and he knows that -- NOW! He must concede that my position as stated in those propositions is the truth of God! Dear reader, you must understand these facts and what they mean. I am willing to affirm what I believe and teach; but it is the truth and he dares not deny it. Compare those propositions (statements) of truth with the proposition about "the elders" and their work that he has signed to affirm (See below).

It seems that Keith has had an awakening to the facts and he now wants out of the debates. He makes demands for propositions for me to affirm that he knows I do not believe or teach. Since I refuse to sign such propositions, he thinks that this will "get him off the hook." At the beginning, he was eager to get on with the discussions, but that was before he understood what I DO believe and teach. I keep telling you (the readers) that these preachers do NOT clearly understand what we are teaching; and therefore more often than not they misrepresent us, even in "Special Editions" of their papers. In my opinion, they can not afford to let themselves clearly understand, for if they did, truth and honesty would compel them to acknowledge that it is indeed the truth of God! And coming to that conclusion would place them in real jeopardy. Their hired professional Preacher employment by "the local church" organization would have to go. Their livelihood becomes a "blinding fac-tor"! It is so sad. They are in a hireling position and they must please and obey their EMPLOYER, "the local church" and its Board of Directors. They must comply with their "Job Description" or their employment is gone. My heart goes out to them. May God have mercy upon them. Well, since Keith refuses to debate unless I comply with his absurd conditions, it appears he has deliberately put up conditions with which he knows I cannot comply, thus giving him an "out". However, we have the two propositions that Keith and I both have signed, and we could have the debates with these propositions as he wrote them.

Here are the propositions:

Proposition No. I
Resolved: The Scriptures teach: (1) that a local church of Christ is a group of Christians in a certain locality who agree to assemble together on a regular basis, to do the Lord's work together as a collectivity (i.e., functioning unit, organization), and to submit to oversight from within the group; (2) that a disciple joins a local church upon his request and with the consent of the local church; (3) that a local church of Christ, when fully organized, has officers known as "elders" (i.e., "bishops" or "pastors") and "deacons"; (4) that each local church is autonomous; (5) that Christians are obligated to join and to be faithful to a local church of Christ; and (6) that these characteristics are part of a binding New Testament pattern.

Keith believes and preaches all of that and signed to defend everything in it.

Proposition No. II:
Resolved: The Scriptures teach that men enter the office of elder in the local church by human appointment upon meeting divinely ordained qualifications and that elders have authority to rule the local church in all its functions within the limits of New Testament authority.

I will gladly deny those propositions, so why cant we get on with the debates? They cover two of the basic issues between us. What else do we need in order to have the debates? It remains to be seen if the WITH ALL BOLDNESS editor will defend the propositions that HE wrote and has signed. We hope his "boldness" will return! -- CAH