“Based on a True Story” Part 2

When we left off yesterday, that movement that was based around the simple idea that “where the Bible speaks we speak, where the Bible is silent we are silent” had grown to be the second largest Christian group in America by the middle of the 19th century… and then the War came…RI 010

There were rumblings of distant drums in the years leading up to 1861. How should Christians view the institution of slavery? Not surprisingly, the answer to that question often depended on whether you happened to be in the North or in South. When the shooting started, so did the shouting. Many Christians in the South became alarmed and outraged when their brethren in North started coming together to denounce slavery and secession, and by the time the War finally ended tensions ran pretty high.

As the years continued, so did divisions.  It seemed that there were two things that really caused problems in churches.  First was the fact that old grudges over the war and the associated emotions were difficult to ignore, and second was the fact that the victorious North began an economic boom, while the vanquished South struggled in deprivation and poverty, with its infrastructure and economy in ashes. In the North, things began to change in churches.  There were new ways to worship with new styles of music that hadn’t been available in prior years.  There was more money for things like schools and missionary groups.  In the South, people struggled to eat; new music styles and giving for schools and missions wasn’t even on their radar screens.

In time, that peculiar concept; “where the Bible speaks we speak, where the Bible is silent we are silent” began to be seen in a different light in the South.  The Bible doesn’t say a single word about missions groups and musical style… at least the New Testament doesn’t.  If the New Testament doesn’t say you can change musical styles, and if it doesn’t say that you can establish a missionary group other than a local church sending out its own missionary, then the Bible doesn’t approve of the practice, and since the Bible doesn’t approve it, that means the Bible is silent, and if we are silent when the Bible is silent, then it must be prohibited because the Bible is silent on the subject!

As a result of this thinking, by the turn of the 20th century, our friend’s unity statement had been turned into a division statement in those regions that had been ravaged by the war.  Yes, that’s right. “Where the Bible is silent we are silent” now meant to many that “silence” meant making a whole bunch of noise about prohibitions, with the inevitable result being that the unity movement was fractured, shrinking nd beginning to dwindle in numbers. Many claimed that the movement that had begun as a unity movement had been reduced to strict legalism…

That fracture continues to this day.

You might be wondering by now why I am telling you this story…

Things like this have happened n many church groups; things like this continue to happen. I approach Theology with the presupposition that where the Bible speaks I speak and where the Bible is silent, I am silent, and I take this to be a presupposition that allows for freedom and not restriction. Yes, my background is in what remains of this idea.   I understand how it became corrupted, and try to avoid falling into this same trap myself, as it has occurred to me that we can learn from the mistakes of the past. No, this is not to say that I am any more enlightened than anybody else, but it is to say that we can move more in the direction of following Jesus Christ as a unified Body of Christ than we have in the past.  I see it as a hopeful notion, rather than a misguided one, or as an impossible dream of the idealist. I hope others will think about it, too.

Here’s the key as I see it:  Can we, as followers of Jesus Christ, resist the temptation to demand that others see every detail just as we do and follow Him in unity?

I hope that many might think about this question, and leave their thoughts so that we may engage in a general discussion around the virtual  “kitchen table” so that something good might come out of a lesson that is “based on a true story.”

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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15 Responses to “Based on a True Story” Part 2

  1. jirehmine says:

    Good morning Don! I believe that as ‘elders’ or ‘grown-ups’ in the church it is our responsibility to ensure that we have open eyes to what our Father is doing. Not just in our own branch of religion, but in others. Each is unique and has a special place in the body for teaching and exhortation. That being said, I also believe that all Christians need to look at any ‘religious’ group or ‘denomination’ with love and prayer, being careful to ask our Father if that particular group is indeed following His Word or if perhaps they may be a wolf in sheeps clothing.

    I was raised as a Southern Baptist, and in a lot of ways that was good. I learned all of the ‘bible stories’ I was supposed to. But I also felt an unrest, a longing for more and began my search. I’ve been a member of Methodist, Presbyterian and non-denominational churches. I’ve gone to Catholic services, but never ‘joined.’ They’re all different with different views on what the Bible says and / or means. I don’t think any of them are ‘wrong.’ I don’t think any of them are ‘right.’ I do think they are following what our Father has for them – right now, with their members and people. Actually in this season of my life I am again asking God where He wants me to go to church.

    Why are my thoughts this way? Many years ago God taught me a lesson using two of my kids. They were young and we had moved to a new home with a park across the street! They couldn’t wait to go over there and swing the afternoons away to their hearts delight! It wasn’t long before they realized that there was a set of monkey bars and wanted to add that to their park time. Eventually they discovered many ‘hidden’ treasures in that little park, a see-saw, a basketball court, and in the winter a hill where they could go sledding. Now it wasn’t a big park, honestly it was rather small, but as they grew up they ‘saw’ things they hadn’t seen before. Nothing was new, nor was it added to the park, it was there all along. But we spent a lot of time in that park and they were growing up. It’s the same thing with our Father and His Holy Word. When I became a Christian the only thing I needed to see were the ‘swings’, that I was a sinner and needed God in my life. As I’ve grown up and spent more time with Him, developing a relationship, He has showed me more and more what His Word says – for where I am, in my season of life. It’s all there, I just need to grow more & more to understand it. A Bible verse that I may have read years ago that taught me something then has a new meaning now as I read it. And I continue to grow in things He wants me to learn! I now believe not only in the Holy Spirit, but in the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I believe in spiritual gifts, healing, speaking in tongues and so much more. I continue to grow in my relationship with my Father and He is always teaching me something new.

    So, until we all realize that all of our ‘seasons’ are in different stages, and that we don’t falsely accuse anyone of being ‘wrong’, that none of our ‘Christian religions’ are wrong, that we are all growing in Him at a pace that is right for each of us individually, we will continue to be ‘divided.’ When Jesus gloriously comes again we will be united, but I do not believe, even then, that we will all ‘be on the same page.’ He will love each of us where we are and we will each continue to grow and learn more about our wonderful Father!

    Sorry for the long answer, it’s just what I felt led to share! Love & Blessings!

    • Don Merritt says:

      Thanks for sharing your story and observations! I agree with you: we will be divided if we always feel the need to be Right, and the other believer must always be wrong. A wise pastor I know puts it this way, “God,” he likes to say, “casts with a broad net. No one congregation can bring in the whole catch. and there will be one that brings in the part of the catch that we might miss.” We needn’t shut the doors of any Christian group to work together for the glory of Christ!

  2. jirehmine says:

    Reblogged this on My Father's Legacy and commented:
    What do you think? Great food for thought!!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I believe with all my heart Don that this is what we must do. I honestly don’t understand why this is a problem? Why do people insist on arguing over little details that do not affect the HUGE ones that make us all Christians? My very own church included! Can you imagine if the worldwide Christian community stood together as one? Ya know, the way God intended in the first place? What a force! What a force for LOVE! What an army for PEACE! One community, one family ONE CHURCH! The mere thought of it gives me chills.

  4. cathyjo1958 says:

    Let’s always be ready to welcome all into the folk and say “Welcome my Brother, Welcome my Sister,” but is it that easy. It can be. It is like forgiveness… I have forgiven others and myself for my past it is gone – I have made mistakes and they are gone – washed by the Blood of Jesus. So if I can be commanded to forgive others and myself – God really commands us to be united in the Body too.

    I believe one day when we stand together in unity and sing Praises to our Lord – He might just think that is the time to come back. Please don’t fight over that… just my feeling that the time would be right.

  5. Pingback: “Based on a True Story” Part 2 | akleslieprice

  6. Sharon says:

    Prayer is the answer. When in earnest, humble prayer, we are focused on God Himself and we are stripped away to really hear His guidance. There is but one Holy Spirit that unites all believers. When believers pray together there is unity in their purpose. Just as the church is put together by God with different talents and gifts, each church has different purposes for the fulfillment of God’s purpose. The bottom line is prayerfully fulfilling His word under the guidelines of the Word of God. 2 Chronicles 7:14.

  7. Pingback: Based on a True Story: Epilogue | Life Reference

  8. paulfg says:

    Don – still catching up. Read today’s blog and had to backtrack. The saddest phrase for me was you saying no names/no ruffling feathers. I just do not get this division stuff. We all believe in God, we all believe in forgiveness, we all believe in love, we all believe God Jesus came and died so that we might live. And then we act like we know better than those simple truths. If we really believe in eternal life and heaven – do we really expect it to be as divided as the division today? And if not, why is it do difficult to “get it” without division today?

    I have a thought which is forming in conversation with “insideheahershead” (which I think is a beautiful place to be – Heather expresses stuff in a way that gives me a permanent WOW when I read) – and that is we struggle with “free”, we struggle with “love”. We are so hardwired that “give and get” we carry subconsciously and without awareness. And that the transaction stuff gets in the way without any awareness it is even there.

    This two-parter and the follow-up today – WOW! You clear the fog again and again with such love and gentleness.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Thanks Paul, and I agree with your thoughts here. On the ruffling of feathers, I am more diplomatic than I might have been in this discussion simply because I’m currently living in the middle of this (ridiculous) old struggle. My background is in the Campbell position on freedom and unity, but due to the geography of my current “home” I am worshiping in the midst of a group that is rooted in the Fanning position… without naming names once again, sorry. Yesterday I filled in in the teach part, next week I fill in the preach part. Quite frankly, I’d like to do my bit to end this nonsense, at least in a little way, in one place, in one town… Besides, this location is going to die one of these days if changes aren’t made pretty quickly, and that would be tragic considering the opportunity and the potential in this group to seriously advance the gospel here. For the first time since I arrived, I am slightly encouraged….

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