January 22, 2007

This past Friday and Saturday, the elders, deacons, and some other older men in our congregation shared in a retreat. On Saturday I spoke to the group about being devoted to one another, from Rom 12:10. Setting the stage for this passage, I shared some thoughts about the church at Rome which I also shared here in my previous post. Then I made the point that “one another” includes more than just congregations sharing our background as part of the ICOC. I specifically mentioned the mainline churches of Christ and the independent Christian churches as two groups that practice biblical conversion including baptism into Christ. Members of these churches have been united with Christ in his death and resurrection, just as we have. And if we are all alike united with Christ, we must therefore be united with one another. So therefore these groups are part of the “one another” to whom we should show philostorgoi, the kind of love that is seen in a close family.

The message was well received by all who were present. Then on the next day, one of the deacons spoke to me very briefly about that point. He indicated that the message caused him to reconsider his impression of me being conservative. He said that my comment about these other Restoration Movement groups was not conservative, but “aggressive”. Time did not permit us to discuss this in more depth at the time. But it made me think about what it means to be conservative.

I suppose his original impression of me as a conservative must come from my views on things like Bible study, the role of women, and children in worship. On all those topics I have publicly taught what he might consider a conservative understanding. And I think he regarded my comments on Saturday about the other Restoration Movement groups as progressive rather than conservative.

The primary definition of conservative at answers.com is:

1. Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.

That definition presents a paradox in my case. In many areas I have advocated returning to traditional views that have been abandoned for a decade or two. I favor the traditional views, and therefore I advocate change. Is that being conservative?

Many of the beliefs I have blogged about on this site come from what I consider a conservative view of scriptures. The “traditional views and values” are defined by scripture, and we don’t have a right to change them. So I don’t think I have a right to make rules not found in scripture. And I don’t think I have a right to draw lines of fellowship not drawn in scripture. I make every effort to hold to those principles rigorously. To me, that seems very conservative. But those conservative principles lead me to positions that some people consider liberal. (permitting musical instruments in worship, for example).

In my opinion, the ICOC congregations in the past drew lines of fellowship in some unjustified places. (This area has been changing in many congregations, but it needs a stronger and more public focus.) Based on my conservative view of the scriptures, I do not think all the lines that were drawn in the past can be defended biblically. I strongly advocate change in that area. I guess that makes me a progressive-conservative.

Whatever the label, let’s aggressively work to take down walls that God did not erect.


  1. Alan, I have found the more I have embraced unity with those who are brothers (biblically, not by denomination or man-made distinctions) the more I am “conservative” in my convictions, but more liberal and flexible in my opinions. i.e. On the topics of theology and salvation doctrine I hold convictions – perhaps gaining depth in understanding, but not changing. But in areas of methodology, structure and defining (ministry) success or failure; these have moved from the conviction slot to the opinion category. As I grow more “liberal” to some in some areas (opinions), others perceive me as “hard line” in others (theology & salvation doctrine). I also see terms such as “conservative” and “liberal” as tools for division. The bible doesn’t use labeling; only those with Christ or without. One man’s conservative is another man’s liberal. Thanks for being a great example of balance between the desire for unity and sticking to your core biblical beliefs. Sincerely, Phil Spadaro

  2. Alan,I hate terms that are unbiblical: ultra-convervative, convservative, progressive, liberal, purpose-driven, on and on and on and on and on…….I hope as Christians we can stirve to be godly. As churches we can strive to be Biblical. When someone asks me what is your church, wanting to know are we conservative or progressive, I tell them we are Biblical. I tell the church I work for a small country church of 35 members…”It doesn’t matter what you think or say or what I think or say…Then I hold up the Bible and I say it matters what God thinks and says.” We need to be Biblical. I believe that we are Biblical then God will bless His church, ministers, elders, deacons. So when someone asks me what I am I’m Biblical. Striving to do God’s will, because that’s what matters in the end anyway. Great post.Sounds like a great retreat.God bless you. Keep up the great posts and you are always welcome on my blog anytime.

  3. I appreciate this statement:Whatever the label, let’s aggressively work to take down walls that God did not erect.Sisterly,Paula

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