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Monday, November 01, 2004

Restoring what? Bad theology?

Leafing through one of the area's free community papers, I came across this ad written by minister Donald R. Cooper, for the Church of Christ in Wadsworth, Ohio which he pastors:

In our last article we pointed you to the challenge which Christ issued to His disciples when He said that one who desires to follow Him must first be ready to deny himself (Matthew 16:24). May we look further into what Christ requires of those who desire to follow Him. Might we consider that a disciple of the Lord must "take up his cross." From this passage we learn that there is something that man must do to please the Lord. No man is saved by faith only. Nor is man saved by grace alone. These two virtues are certainly involved in man's salvation, but neither one is sufficient by itself. This truth should be obvious from our text, and there are many other passages in the New Testament which support this fact. Denying oneself requires more than faith only or grace alone; taking up one's cross requires more than faith and grace; following Christ requires more than faith and grace. Perhaps we ought to consider Hebrews 5:8,9 which remind us of the importance of obedience in the plan of salvation. Don't be misled. Take God's word as your guide (2 Timothy 2:15).

I've never read so much bad theology in such a small space. One only has to read Romans 3 to see that Mr. Cooper has everything wrong:

19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

As far as I know, Churches of Christ like this one are products of the Restoration movement, which was supposedly all about getting back to the Acts-era church and losing all those nasty creeds and confessions that divide believers up. "Theology" was a bad word for many of the movement's founders; they saw the work of the church to be benevolence and missions, not doctrine such as rightly dividing the Word and properly understanding and administering the Sacraments.

The really creepy part: I was raised in a Restoration movement church. No wonder I got so burnt out on modern evangelicalism. Though the church I grew up in worked hard to hide its Restoration foundations (they labeled themselves "non-denominational", all sermons generically consisted of "love God, love your neighbor" -- average modern evangelical fare), all their ministers were from Restoration Bible colleges, and many of their statements of belief were taken right from the mouths of the movement's founders.

Also on the ad they placed the tagline: "A friendly church." I can agree on some level. All the people at my old church were very friendly. In fact, the only thing that made it hard to leave were the friendships that I had there. But doctrine like Cooper's is not "friendly" at all. It's downright hideous.

My question: If you're going to believe that salvation is by works, why not just be a Roman Catholic?