Vol. 5, No. 7
~ Page 14 ~
No one likes to be misrepresented. It's neither honest nor fair. It is the equivalent of lying, and we all know that lying is wrong (Exodus 20:16; Colossians 3:9). Solomon tells us that God hates a lying tongue (Proverbs 6:17). Jesus identified the devil as the father of lies (John 8:44). Anyone who claims to follow Christ must surely speak the truth, and must never intentionally misrepresent his own or another's positions! In an ideal world, the truth would always be told, but ours is not an ideal world. As a result, we find ourselves frequently misrepresented.
I have heard it said that we in churches of Christ think we are the only ones going to heaven. But that is a misrepresentation of the truth. We are not in the business of determining who will be in heaven and who will not. Judgment is in the hands of Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). Our focus is not on who is right, but what is right. We believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, and we seek to teach and do what is contained therein. The Lord, not us, will make the ultimate determination as to who will and who will not enter heaven. Anyone who tells you otherwise is misrepresenting the facts.
It has been said that we in churches of Christ believe in water salvation. It is another misrepresentation. It stems from the fact that we teach what Christ and his disciples taught regarding baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:20-21; etc.). We do not believe that there is any miraculous power in water to wash away sins. This is accomplished by means of the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 1:5). However, the Bible demands baptism. How is it possible to be faithful to Christ and teach anything else?
It is argued that we believe in a salvation of works, and not of grace. Again, we are dealing with a misrepresentation. No one can work his/her way to heaven. None of us can earn our salvation. We are undeserving of the grace of God as manifested through Jesus. We can never earn, achieve or merit salvation on our own. We believe that salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is a misrepresentation to say that we believe anything else. What sticks in the craw of our critics is the fact that we believe that saving faith must be expressed through humble obedience (Hebrews 5:8-9). This is exactly what the Bible teaches!
Early in our history as a nation, two prevailing views surfaced in respect to the supreme law of the land, the United States Constitution. One view, championed by Alexander Hamilton, favored a strong federal government and a loose interpretation of the Constitution. The other, championed by Thomas Jefferson, advocated States' rights and a strict interpretation of the Constitution. Both men were part of President Washington's cabinet. Hamilton headed the Treasury Department and Jefferson was Secretary of Foreign Affairs (Secretary of State). These two parties came to be referred to as the Federalists (loose constructionists) and the Antifederalists (strict constructionists). Although the parties have long since faded from the American scene, what they represented remains a part of the basic fabric of American politics.
One of the first battles in the new administration was fought over the establishment of a national bank. Hamilton supported the proposal while Jefferson opposed it. Jefferson argued that the Constitution said nothing about a national bank. There was no provision for it. Hamilton countered that the Constitution did not prohibit it. The Constitution did not say, "Thou shalt not have the government engage in the banking business." Hamilton won that fight. The next President was John Adams, a Federalist. But, Jefferson continued to preach the doctrine of respect for the Constitution, and when the third election for President came around, Jefferson prevailed. The pendulum has been swung back and forth ever since.
But, enough of history and politics. We now turn to the subject of religion and the Bible. Again, we confront two competing philosophies in respect to the Word of God. Loose constructionists argue that the Bible is a living book constantly changing and evolving. Strict constructionists argue that the Bible is the inspired, authoritative, inerrant Word of God, and unchanging. Loose constructionists argue that we are free to accept anything not specifically prohibited in Scripture, and strict constructionists counter that we must reject all that is not clearly commanded. It seems that loose constructionists have carried the day. They have done so by totally ignoring some passages and by reinterpreting others to compensate for perceived social, cultural or gender bias on the part of the original authors. This has occurred in spite of the clear statement: "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it" (Deuteronomy 4:2).
Whether one should be a strict or loose constructionist in the political arena may be subject to debate, but when it comes to the Bible, only a strict interpretation of the text should prevail!