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Proposition 8: Required Knowledge and Profession

November 20, 2005

In his eighth proposition, Thomas Campbell wrote:

That as it is not necessary that persons should have a particular knowledge or distinct apprehension of all divinely revealed truths in order to entitle them to a place in the church; neither should they, for this purpose, be required to make a profession more extensive than their knowledge: but that, on the contrary, their having a due measure of scriptural self-knowledge respecting their lost and perishing condition by nature and practice; and of the way of salvation thro’ Jesus Christ, accompanied with a profession of their faith in, and obedience to him, in all things according to his word, is all that is absolutely necessary to qualify them for admission into his church.

Cambell outlines two areas a person must understand for admission to the church:

1) That he is lost “by nature and practice”

2) The “way of salvation thro’ Jesus Christ

Then he states that this understanding must be followed by a dual confession:

1) Of faith in Jesus

2) Of obedience to him in all things according to his word

According to Cambell, a person who understands two things, and confesses two things, is eligible for admission to the church. Though the Cambell’s did not understand the role of baptism in the process until a few years later, it seems that this would fit well into the understanding of “the way of salvation”, and would be the logical next step after confessing Jesus as Lord (obedience to him in all things), thus gaining admission to the church. At least that seems to be how the Restoration Movement evolved on this topic.

It also seems clear from this proposition and the preceding two, that only the most basic and plainly stated truths about the “way of salvation” are required to be understood at this stage. No understanding of inferential truths nor human reasoning would be required. If Cambell was right, then it seems that only the words of scripture themselves, as spoken to people prior to their conversions, can be required. Those are all found in the book of Acts. The deeper truths about these matters found in the epistles were taught, not before conversion, but after. Those who first received those epistles had already been converted and admitted to the church, prior to having those deeper truths taught to them.

The clear implication is that someone who understands those very basic things, but lacks correct understanding on the subsequent teachings on the “way of salvation” or other topics, must be considered a Christian and a member of God’s church. It would be inappropriate to exclude someone who had understood Acts 2:36-39 but lacked understanding of Romans 6. How much less appropriate would it be for the church to exclude someone because of their understanding on topics such as the proper way to take communion, or the proper way to sing, or the proper leadership organization of the church, or the nature of the millenium, or the myriad of other complex issues that divide believers today.

In contrast to the vision of Thomas Cambell, many groups who call themselves Christian seek to distinguish themselves from the others by emphasizing their different doctrines, often as a requirement for admission into the church. This perpetuates the lack of unity that we see among professing believers in Jesus today. As a first step toward restoring the unity for which Jesus prayed, can we begin to accept as brothers all those who believe in Jesus, repent of their sins, and are baptized in the name of Jesus according to the plain and literal teaching given to the first converts in Acts 2–despite our differences on other subjects?

The entire series: Comments on the Thirteen Propositions of Thomas Campbell

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2 comments

  1. It seems as if many of our brothers have never read Campbell on these subjects.Campbell’s position on unity was a Biblical one and is stark and clear. Adding agreement, even on scriptural baptism, is an addition that should not be a consideration for unity.You can make all sorts of arguements for baptism, its mode, and its purpose and result, but you cannot make those arguements equal to faith in Christ as a test of Christian unity. To do so is unscriptural and only satisfies those who agree on only one view of water baptism.If those who are immersed in water with a view of that act seperating them from their sins are the only ones saved, then the only logical end to that line of thinking is that every single soul who lives now or ever lived on earth and was not immersed believing the same thing (for whatever reason) is lost.Neither the Campbells, Stone, or others who were the early reformers believed such a thing. Neither can it be proved by the Bible unless one pours into the text meanings never intended by the authors.Water baptism can no more be a hurdle for Christian unity any more than music, frequency and method of the Lord’s Supper, Sunday school, and dozens of other things imposed on the masses by immature or lost men.God saves now just as He always has, by grace though faith and only upon the merit and worth of Christ and His work on behalf of sinners.Upon that fact we can maintain unity. Everything else is not unity but conformity.Grace to you,Royce Ogle


  2. […] Campbell addressed this issue in his sixth, seventh, and eighth […]



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