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Posts Tagged ‘Restoration Movement

Remembering the Old ICOC Days

When I was in high school a good friend of mine was baptized into the International Churches of Christ.  At first my reaction was one of joy that she had become a Christian.  Then she begin to evangelize me!  She began to tell me that I was lost because I had not been baptized in her church and was not a true disciple of Jesus.  She left me utterly confused.  I continued to talk to her for a few years and she remained committed to seeing me baptized into her church.  She was convinced that Acts 2:38 was not true of me, that I had not had my sins forgiven and was not a totally committed disciple of Jesus.

I continued to run into ICOC members as I evangelized on the campus of the University of South Carolina (Go Cocks!).  In fact, one day I was evangelizing in the freshman dorms (which are gone now) and ran into a group of about 10 African-American young men all studying the Bible.  I was impressed.  I spoke to the leader and his first question to me was, “What church are you apart of?”  I knew from his question that he was from the ICOC.

In those days (the mid 1990’s), the International Churches of Christ was led by Kip McKean who at that time was in Los Angeles.  He had converted to the Restoration Movement in the late 1970’s while attending the University of Florida at the Crossroads Church of Christ in Gainesville, FL under Chuck Lucas.  McKean left UF and eventually become the lead minister at the Lexington Church of Christ outside of Boston.  The church begin with about 30 people and by the late 1980’s, the renamed Boston Church of Christ had over 6,000 members and was the largest church in New England.  The Boston Church planted churches in cities such as London, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Columbia, SC.  Kip’s brother, Randy McKean, was the minister at the Columbia Church of Christ in those days.

The ICOC distanced itself from the mainline Churches of Christ and others in the Restoration Movement when they begin to teach that they, the ICOC, was the only faithful remnant of churches on the earth.  Thus my friends evangelizing of me was necessary since the ICOC was the only true church.  The ICOC utilized the shepherding movement tactics to teach their members to be disciples.  They taught in those days that a person had to be a disciple before baptism and thus before salvation.  A person had to be totally committed to the ICOC to show that they had repented of their sins and desired to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins.  After baptism, a disciple had to continue to meet one on one with an older disciple to be discipled, to keep them focused on Jesus, and to keep them saved.  It was a works-salvation message no doubt.  Grace had little place in the ICOC in those days.

In the early 2000’s the ICOC made major shifts.  First, Kip McKean resigned as world evangelist of the movement for family and personal sins (his daughter had apostatized from the ICOC and McKean had said, based on Titus 1:6, that no elder could be an elder in the ICOC whose children were not faithful).  Secondly, the ICOC rejected McKean’s “one on one discipleship” views in favor of more open relationships and not coercion.  Third, the ICOC rejected McKean’s “one true church” teaching.  Fourth, leaders called for McKean to repent of teaching “works” and not grace, law and not mercy.  Lastly, the ICOC rejected the teaching that a person had to first be totally committed before being baptized.  I met with leaders such as Douglas Jacoby and was grateful for their messages of grace, repentance as a movement, and a call to preach the gospel instead of works-righteousness.

What impressed me about the old ICOC was their zeal, their racial makeup, and no compromise.  I remember going to a local mall to pass out tracts and talk to people about Jesus and ran into a group of ICOC members.  They tried, as my friend before them, to evangelize me.  I briefly met with a guy from the ICOC named Brian who had been a Mormon and converted to the ICOC.  He moved from Utah and married a lady from the Columbia Church.  He and I met about three or four times to have “Bible talks” and discuss mainly baptism.  Brian strongly believed that we had to be baptized to be saved (1 Peter 3:21-22) and that baptism was only truthful in the ICOC.  He later fell away last I heard.

The downfall of the ICOC was works.  Despite their zeal (which I compare to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in trying to earn God’s favor through good works including evangelism), members struggled with guilt.  They didn’t pray enough.  They didn’t read their Bible enough.  They were not as good as a disciple as their discipler.  They were nothing like this brother or that sister in their zeal, their love, their passion, their commitment.  The focus was completely on doing and not on being.  In the midst of all this works, Jesus was lost.  Jesus was not the focus despite their members saying otherwise.  The people I met over the years showed little zeal for Jesus as much as they showed zeal for their discipler or the ICOC itself.  Often people came to “Christ” in the ICOC because of the influence of their discipler and not because of the truths of the gospel.

Grace too was lacking.  The grace of God in salvation was rarely mentioned.  I have an old ICOC Bible study here with me now and in the book, grace appears only once!  Salvation by grace is not mentioned at all except in refuting, in their minds, a false teaching of justification by faith alone.  Yet the New Testament is clear that grace is what saves us through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).  God’s grace was fully revealed in the giving of His Son for our sins (John 1:17).  Salvation is entirely by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 15:11) and not by works (John 6:29).  While faith works (James 2:14-26), saving faith does not work to obtain salvation that is brought to us by the grace of God in Jesus (Romans 4:5).  Our justification is by grace through faith in Christ (Romans 3:22-25; 5:1-11).

Thus our salvation is based on the work of Jesus and not our works.  Jesus is my salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  In Christ alone do I find peace with God and the forgiveness of my sins (Ephesians 1:7).  Baptism is the place for confessing that Jesus is Lord (Acts 22:16; Romans 10:9-10, 13) but baptism, by itself, does not save.  Only Christ saves (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Peter 2:21-24) and not an act on our part (Titus 3:5-7).  When Jesus said it was finished, it was finished (John 19:30).  Jesus offered Himself to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Hebrews 9:11-14) and He alone saves and not a church, a movement, or an act of man (John 1:12-13; 1 Corinthians 1:13-17).

The ICOC failed because grace saves and works destroy.  When a person gets caught up in a faith that is contingent upon good works to keep them saved or to produce righteousness, they soon grow weary in seeking to obtain God’s favor and blessing.  The truth is that God’s favor and blessing comes when we repent of our sins (Acts 3:19-20).  Jesus came to bring us peace with God (Ephesians 2:13, 17-18) and He is our mediator before the Father (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Hebrews 7:25 says that He lives to make intercession for us.  When we understand that our righteousness, our peace, our salvation is all based on the finished work of Christ Jesus, that brings true joy and peace.  Now I serve God not out of fear but out of love (John 14:15).  I obey God because of what He has done for me in the giving of His Son for my salvation and not because I am seeking to earn His favor.  I have His favor in His Son (Galatians 3:13-14, 26-27).  I find that His commands are not burdensome because I know that I am saved not because I do this or that but because of Christ (1 John 5:1-5).

The old ICOC produced massive fall outs and false converts.  Many came to the ICOC not because of Jesus or His gospel but because of the heavy influence of another.  The ICOC would do well to remember that salvation is a work of God (Jonah 2:9) and that we come to Christ not because of the works of the flesh but because of the Spirit and the preaching of the gospel (John 6:44; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).  Humanity does not love God nor can they obey His commands apart from His grace (Romans 8:7).  To teach that a person must be “totally committed” before baptism is to teach that a person must clean themselves first before their sins can be forgiven.  People cannot do this (Isaiah 64:6).  People do not love God (Romans 3:10-18) and we are asking them to love God and keep commandments before salvation in Christ by His grace.  That is not the gospel (Acts 16:30-34).  The gospel is not “go and do this to be saved” but is look to Christ to be saved.

We would all do well to learn from the mistakes and errors of the ICOC.  We would be wise to remember to exalt Christ in our evangelism, to make Him the focus and not a movement.  We must preach the gospel not just to the lost but to ourselves.  I will always need Jesus as my Savior because I am lost without Him (John 6:68-69).  Jesus is the One who alone saves me from the power and penalty of sin (Romans 6:23).  I pray that cults and those caught up in trying to earn God’s righteousness would realize that God is satisfied only with perfect righteousness which is found only in Christ (Philippians 3:9).  Stop seeking to earn God’s salvation or His righteousness and realize that we are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10 KJV).  Make Jesus your passion and not a person or any other thing.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/13/2012 at 11:11 PM

Jack Cottrell on Original Sin (Part 1)

Dr. Jack Cottrell is one of my favorite Arminian writers.  His books include The Faith Once For All, What the Bible Says About God the Creator, What the Bible Says About God the Ruler, What the Bible Says About God the Redeemer, Romansand Baptism: A Biblical Study.  Dr. Cottrell teaches theology at Cincinnati Christian University which is part of the Restoration movement and the Christian Churches.  I do recommend his books.

To open up our look at Dr. Cottrell’s views regarding original sin, I first will allow Dr. Cottrell to briefly give the major views regarding original sin.

1.  Pelagian View of Original Sin

This view holds that all humans are born in a state of spiritual purity, without any depravity or corruption and with free will intact.  All babies are born in a state of natural innocence,without bearing any guilt from the sin of Adam.  Adam’s sin only affects us indirectly, in that our sin-filled environment influences us to imitate his sin.  Thus Pelagianism really teaches that there is no such thing as “original sin.”  Many in the Restoration movement have held to this view including Moses Lard who wrote, “there is no proof that Adam’s sin ever touched or in any affected the spirit of one of his posterity.  The spirit is as free from its influence as though the sin had never been committed.”

2.  Semi-Pelagianism

This view is still too mild to be called “original sin” in any complete sense.  This view says that the only hereditary spiritual effect of Adam’s sin is a state of partial depravity.  Every baby is born partially depraved, having a soul that is corrupted with spiritual sickness or weakness with a bent or inclination toward sinning.  Still, it is not a “total” depravity; free will is not lost.  Also, as in the previous view, the child is born innocent, and thus free from guilt and condemnation.

This view was the view that prevailed in the early Church from Irenaeus to Augustine though of course it was not called semi-Pelagianism until after the theological conflict of Augustine and Pelagius.  During the Reformation, the Anabaptists held to this view and where greatly persecuted because of it and their view of adult immersion baptism.  This was also the view held by Restoration leaders such as Alexander Campbell.  Campbell wrote, “We are all greatly fallen and depraved in our whole moral constitution in consequence of the sin of Adam.  However, this does not involve an invincible necessity to sin; thus there is still freedom of the will nor does anyone suffer guilt and everlasting punishment as the result of Adam’s sin.”

3.  Roman Catholic Church View

This view agrees in part with the above view but also adds that we all inherit a state of guilt and condemnation from Adam.  An infant who thus dies in infancy remains in a state of limbo.  (Note that the RCC recently rejected the teaching of limbo and instead now places the infant in purgatory instead).  While the infant is in limbo, they are neither in a state of bliss nor pain.

4.  Classical Doctrine of Original Sin

This view was first proposed by St. Augustine and carried over into Protestantism by Martin Luther and John Calvin.  This view holds that all humans are born 1) in a state of total depravity or bondage of the will.  All infants are born with a corrupt spiritual nature and his free will is gone.  He is totally unable to come to faith and repentance apart from the sovereign intervention of God.  2) All are born guilty and condemned to hell because of Adam’s sin apart from the grace of God intervening.

Thus this view holds that all people are born without exception guilty sinners, lost, judicially under the wrath and curse of God.  As one Calvinist writer noted, “I became a wicked guilty sinner in the Garden of Eden.”

Up next Dr. Cottrell will take on the biblical basis for original sin as held mainly by those above.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/29/2012 at 6:10 PM

Coming Up Next On Original Sin Views: Jack Cottrell

Next week I plan on beginning a series of posts continuing my study on original sin by turning to Arminian theologian Jack Cottrell.  Dr. Cottrell is a professor of theology at the Cincinnati Christian University and is part of the Restoration Movement that begin mainly in the 19th century under the leadership of Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone.  Sometimes it is called the Stone-Campbell movement.  I respect Dr. Cottrell much.  His passion is for the Word of God and he is not afraid to ask the hard questions when it comes to various theological issues.

Dr. Cottrell’s trilogy on the doctrine of God is some of the best reading I have ever read on the doctrine of God.  It is by far the best Arminian work on the doctrine of God that I have ever read.  Even Calvinist theologians admit that it is the best work on God from an Arminian viewpoint . Dr. John Frame was the first to recommend Dr. Jack Cottrell’s books in his book, No Other God.  I would tell every Arminian to purchase those three works.  You are in for some deep reading but a solid biblical view of God as well.  Look at my suggested reading and notice the titles that begin with “What the Bible Says..” Dr. Cottrell’s book The Faith Once For All is his systematic theology text and is also very helpful for Arminians.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/15/2012 at 7:19 PM

What About Those Who Reject Total Depravity?

There are some who identify with Arminians who reject total depravity.  Most of those who reject total depravity would not claim to be Arminian.  For instance, F. Lagard Smith who wrote the book, Troubling Questions for Calvinists…and the Rest of Us, rejects total depravity but does not claim Arminianism either since Arminians hold to a form of total depravity much like the Calvinistic view.  Some like Dr. Jack Cottrell, author of the classical Arminian view on election in the book, Perspectives on Election, and the author of the book The Faith Once For All, rejects the Calvinistic teaching on total depravity and the Augustine view of original sin.  Most theologians from the Restoration Movement such as Douglas Jacoby or John Mark Hicks reject both Calvinism and Arminianism (as far as I know) mainly because they reject total depravity.

The question then arises, should we accept those who reject total depravity as taught by John Calvin or James Arminius?  While Arminius was not in full agreement with Calvin or total depravity (with regard to the loss of free will), Arminius did teach the traditional Augustine view that we are born depraved.  Arminius would not doubt agree that we are born sinful and that our only hope is the grace of God to move upon us for salvation.  Most Restoration teachers including Alexander Campbell, I believe, would reject such a teaching.  Dr. Jack Cottrell, for instance, teaches that we are not born “sinful” or that we are born totally depraved but rather we are born in a state of grace, saved if you will.  Because of the flesh and the world and the devil, we sin and at that point we are guilty of our own sins and thus in need of a Savior who is Christ the Lord.  In his book, The Faith Once For All, Dr. Cottrell lays out his viewpoint not just from logic but from the Scriptures themselves.  Cottrell examines all the major passages about original sin including Psalm 51:5 and Romans 5:12-21.  Dr. Cottrell believes that the Augustine view of original sin is not only illogical but unbiblical.

For me, the bottom line issue is what does the Scriptures say?  I respect what Augustine, Calvin, Arminius, Henry, or Wesley had to say about biblical passages but the main issue for the disciple of Jesus is what does the Scriptures teach.  We can learn much from great theologians in the Church even if we don’t fully agree with one another.  Yet should we draw the line in the sand and deny people salvation based on their rejection of original sin?  Jack Cottrell, for example, does teach that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  He denies that works obtain salvation or that we can obtain salvation by living sinless (since this is impossible).  What he denies is that infants are born sinners.  He believes that babies are born innocent of any transgressions of God’s Law and therefore are not judged for their sins since they have not sinned.  They are born in a state of what he calls “original grace” as Adam and Eve were in Genesis 1-2 before the Fall.  Jesus reversed the curse (Galatians 3:13-14) and now we are born innocent of sin.  After we reach an age of accountability before God and we sin, we then are held guilty for Adam’s sin.  No, says Cottrell, but for our sins are we held accountable (Ezekiel 18).

Some say that such a view is nothing more than semi-Pelagain.  Cottrell prefers “pre-Augustinian” as the correct view.  He believes that Augustine overrated to the Pelagian errors.  He believes that Calvin was nothing more than the teachings of Augustine preached anew.  In his estimation, Arminius did not move further enough from Calvin and Augustine.  He believes that Campbell did.

My point is not to really debate the issue.  I do find many of Cottrell’s views appealing.  You are free to read his books and examine them with the Scriptures but I believe that Cottrell does a good job of seeking to build his case for his rejection of original sin from the Scriptures and not from theologians who agree with him.  My point in writing this is simply to acknowledge that we must always preach Jesus as the Savior and seek to glorify Him.  Salvation is not found in Arminianism or Calvinism or any other isms but in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  Jesus is fully alive right now and He sits at the right hand of God.  We can pray to the Father because of Jesus (Hebrews 4:14-16) and we can be saved because of Jesus and His sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  Salvation is not found in a church or a denomination or a movement or in a creed but in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We must know Him (Philippians 3:9-11).  Jesus said that eternal life is found in knowing God personally (John 17:3).  Salvation is not found in crossing every T or dotting every I.  It is found in the Lord Jesus (Acts 4:12).  He alone is our Mediator before God (1 Timothy 2:3-6).  I am thankful that Jesus saves sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and not Baptists or Pentecostals or Arminians or any thing else.  He just saves sinners who come to Him and acknowledge that they have sinned and need His forgiveness (1 John 1:7-10).

Praise God for Jesus!

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