I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the title of this series of posts. To those who aren’t familiar with the “movement” I am discussing, the title is probably confusing or uninteresting. At best, it’s unfamiliar. To those who are a part or have been a part of the “movement” then it may mean many different things. Some may feel as if I am being petty, some may feel as if I am being belligerent, and some may actually feel a sense of relief that someone else has the same thoughts and feelings they have. I confess, the title was meant to get attention but I’m not so sure I fully thought about what I wanted to say before I threw out there on the internet for the world (or in my case, the eight or nine of you who read this) to see. I had an idea that I thought was interesting so I just jumped into it without planning too much.
I do feel as if the first two posts were productive. I was able to discuss my upbringing and how it affected my theological views. I was also able to discuss some differing views and reflect upon how those in my own faith group look at those who hold them. It wasn’t my intention to come across negative or to suggest that all who identify with the RM are close-minded, theological zealots who want to burn all heretics at the stake. While it is true that I have met some folks who are not far off from that mentality, the majority of the people I know and interact with are not quite that zealous. Honestly, I believe that those who are a bit over the top are probably like that because they do desire to biblical truth shared with others. I may not always agree with them on the lesser details and I may not always like their methods, but I have to commend them for being serious about Scripture.
However, I feel like we all need to have that same attitude towards those who aren’t in the RM, regardless of what denomination they affiliate with. Are some of them more liberal in matters of Scripture? Yes. Are some of them in error when it comes to their interpretations? I’m sure of it. I still believe that we are to respond in love and grace. If we really do believe people are in error and we truly want to see them come to a correct understanding of Scripture, shouldn’t we be doing so in a way that shows the love of Christ? Shouldn’t we leave room for grace and mercy? If there is any one thing that causes me to use a title like the one I have, it’s the fact that so many in our group are legalistic and unforgiving. As I stated in a previous post, we fuss and fight with each other over things that we KNOW are not essential. How in the world can we expect those outside of our group to take us seriously when we try to confront our differences?
I discussed baptism in those first two posts because that really does seem to be the issue that causes the most division. I have openly stated that I believe baptism is commanded of all believers. Based upon Acts 2:38 I have a difficult time separating it from the process by which we are saved. I don’t even like wording it that way because it seems as if I am saying that a process (a “work” is what saves us. That has been one of the accusations leveled at those of us in the RM. If I’m being honest, I’m not so sure that some of us don’t believe that. I confess that I don’t know how it works. I don’t believe that there is anything in the water that literally washes away sin. I don’t believe something magical takes place there. I do believe that the Bible says baptism is part of it. I have had more than one person use the “place where we get the gift” explanation and it does make sense. But in my head I still have to ask, “What happens if you’re on the way to that place and you don’t get there?” Are you lost?
There is no water in our baptistry at the moment. I won’t get into all the reasons why and I am not interested in having a conversation about it. I only share the information here so that I can illustrate my point. IF baptism is the EXACT moment you receive the forgiveness of sins, given through the blood of Jesus, and you HAVE to be there at that EXACT moment to receive it; what happens if you don’t get there? What happens this Sunday if someone comes forward, confesses his sins, repents of them, and expresses the desire to be immersed according to Scripture? We will not be able to baptize him at the very moment. We will either have to drive to another church or bring him back later that evening after we fill the baptistry? My question? Is he Christian before we immerse him? What happens if he gets killed on the way to the other church? Is he okay?
It may sound like I am being silly but I have known people who would suggest that he isn’t saved until he comes up out of that water. It doesn’t matter what his intentions were? He was not baptized when he died so he is not saved. It sounds so insane but I assure you, there are people who believe it. That, to me, sounds like baptismal regeneration and it’s my understanding that we don’t believe that. So, what do we believe? It may seem as if I am picking on those within the RM and I guess that in a small way, I am. I have heard and participated in these types of discussions my while life. Do we immerse those who were sprinkled as infants? Do we re-baptize those from other denominations because they had a faulty understanding of what baptism meant before they joined our group? I was re-baptized as an adult after having many discussions concerning this issue. I came to the personal decision that I had no clue what I was doing when I was baptized at eleven. My only conclusion was to be immersed again. Was it necessary? I know people on both sides of that debate and I myself have been on both sides. Where do I stand now? Honestly? I’m still working on it. To me it comes down to this simple question. How much does one need to understand? Can a child have a deep enough understanding to make that decision? I know many who will say, “No.”
I don’t have a problem with people having different opinions. I really don’t. I have opinions that are probably different than many of my peers. I am actually thankful that there is diversity. I go back to that motto I learned years ago: In essential, unity. In opinions, liberty. In all things, love. I really wish that everyone in the RM truly believed that. I do feel like there have been some honest discussions about how to proceed into the future. A lot of people are serious about their faith heritage. It is important for them to be a part of the RM and they are serious about bringing others into it. I think there is a very fine line between promoting our heritage and proselytizing for it. I think back to friends of mine throwing away gospel tracts because the Baptists left them. I think about classmates mocking those within Pentecostal and Charismatic circles. I can remember adults telling me that folks in those worldly denominations were going to hell if they didn’t accept the truth.
At what point do we cross over from being a movement devoted to biblical truth to being a cult who believes we are the only ones who have it right? That question frightens me because I know some people who seem to be right on that line. I can remember visiting a foreign country several years ago and one of the guys I was walking with pointed to the non-instrumental Church of Christ facility and basically said that they were lost and going to hell. I really couldn’t believe it. After all, they are a part of the RM. They are probably even more conservative than most of us reading, especially when it comes to baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and many of those issues that separate us. I don’t understand how one can look at the Church of the New Testament and really believe that our little group is the only true remnant left. It sounds so terribly arrogant.
I know that most of you reading this do not feel that way. Truthfully, I really haven’t met too many people who are THAT zealous for the RM. I would be lying if I said I didn’t know some. Perhaps you know some of them too. It just goes to show that whatever is left of the RM is fairly schizophrenic. That is probably the reason I can say that I am not a part of it. When it comes right down to it, I just don’t believe that there IS a movement to belong to.
I have more thoughts about it. I still want to discuss the Lord’s Supper and a couple of lesser issues, but that will have to wait. Grace and peace to you all.