Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood
A brother recently sent me an article, titled Starr's Church of Christ, penned by H. John Rogers, a liberal lawyer who evidently moonlights as a Methodist minister. This brother requested that we offer a response to Mr. Rogers' rampaging ridicule, and we are happy to oblige. We shall seek to counsel Counsellor Rogers while defending heaven's wonderful "Counsellor," whom Mr. Rogers has so egregiously and grievously offended (Isaiah 9:6; 1 Corinthians 8:12).
Introductory Preface: When he sent me a copy of Mr. Rogers' remarks, and requested a review, the aforementioned brother said, "be ready to be called some names!" This was said in a light-hearted, friendly fashion, but he knew that, given the tone and tenor of Mr. Rogers' statement, it would be necessary to identify and specify what we were talking about when we made the study which follows. Hence, in a private e-mail, I said to this brother:
As noted, Mr. Rogers lampoons the people of God with biting sarcasm and ridicule. He makes demeaning comments about their economic and educational level and misrepresents their positions on various issues (e.g., music, "closed communion"). He makes light of purity and the rebuke of sexual immorality and otherwise attempts to discredit those whom he obviously disdains. He can do all that and not receive one word of rebuke for his caustic comments. However, our response is what some will find objectionable. Some, who say they agree with us "in principle" (there's always a disclaimer!), will regard our defense with disgust, considering it to be "mean spirited" (Cf. 1 Kings 18:27; Matthew 23; Galatians 5:12).
They are quick to attack us for upholding "our traditions," as though they were not of God, not based and bound in the word of God, but they will not raise a single mini-byte against Rogers' rancorous rumblings and maligning diatribe. "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter" (Isaiah 5:20)! Now, though, we turn to Mr. Rogers' "profane and vain babblings" (2 Timothy 2:16).
Not since "a certain orator named Tertullus began to accuse" Paul, referring to the Lord's church as "the sect of the Nazarenes," have the disciples been so vindictively vilified (Acts 24:5- 9). It is the same spirit by which their Deliverer was cruelly crucified (Matthew 27:18). "For many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion....For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me" (Psalms 22:12, 13, 16).
In the same spirit as "the enemies of the cross of Christ" who referred to Peter and John as "unlearned and ignorant men," Mr. Rogers denigrates and castigates members of the body of Christ as those whose "educational level...is definitely below the 12th grade." Well, our learned lawyer friend ought to remember whose wisdom prevailed when his ancestral wise men met those "unlearned and ignorant men" (Acts 4:13; 6:7). If the faith is to be determined by human philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments and elements of the world, and not after the teachings of Christ, we freely confess that Mr. Rogers shall carry the day. However, despite the "definitely" low level of our academic achievements, we shall see how Mr. Rogers will fare against the weapons of our warfare.
Before we enter the fray with our lower rung "educational level" against Mr. Rogers' obviously higher level, he might do well to go and learn what this meaneth:
"....Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, the Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men" (1 Corinthians 1:19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 29; 3:18-21).
Not content therewith, attorney Rogers ridicules the economic status of Christians, those who are members of the body of the Lord (Ephesians 1:7, 22, 23; 2:16; 3:6; 4:4; 5:23). Citing Vance Packard, he avers that members of the body of Christ are way down on the economic scale with the charismatic Pentecostals. Again, Mr. Rogers, go and learn what this meaneth:
Further, Mr. Rogers, you may cite Packard to prop up your position, but we shall be content to call Paul to the witness stand: "We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labor working with our own hands: being reviled we bless: being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things to this day" (1 Corinthians 4:10-13). Sounds like Paul was on the monetary level of Packard's Pentecostals, doesn't it?
Too, was there a certain Jewish carpenter who had not "where to lay his head" (Luke 9:58)? Mr. Rogers, where would you and Vance Packard place such a fellow on the ladder of success today? Would the fact that this preacher was poor prove that his teaching was in error?
Mr. Rogers asserts, without proof, that "no musical instruments are permitted in their churches solely because the Bible does not specifically mention music in conjunction with either Jewish or Christian worship." They do greatly err who would affirm that mechanical instruments of music were not mentioned "in conjunction with...Jewish...worship." Of course, such worship is cited in the Old Testament, as Mr. Rogers knows right well (2 Chronicles 29:25, 26; Psalms 149:3; 150:3, 4). "Singing," though, is the worship of the New Testament church (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). In the Old Testament, there was singing and the making of melody on the harp, but in the New Testament there is "singing and making melody in your heart" (Psalm 150:3, 4; Ephesians 5:19).
No, Mr. Rogers, we do not "overlook David's lyre" anymore than we overlook his many wives when we teach that marriage is to be one woman, one man, for life (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Romans 7:2,3). Or, Mr. Rogers, would your Methodist church in New Martinsville, WV, accept a man who has a plurality of wives because David had them? If not, does your church "overlook David's wives" when it refuses polygamy?
With all his education and our lack thereof, Mr. Rogers cannot find a single Christian in the New Testament who was not also, at the same time and by the same process, a member of the church (Acts 2:38-47; 8:1, 3; 9:1, 13, 21; 22:19; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 2:16). I challenge him to confute and refute that statement. All he has to do is find one person in the Bible who was a child of God, but who was not a member of the church or body of Christ. Can you do it, Mr. Rogers? No, he cannot, because, indeed, "being a member of (the Lord's) church (is) co-extensive with being (a) Christian" (Acts 11:21-26; 18:8; 1 Corinthians 12:13).
Further, we challenge our learned lawyer to find "Baptists, Methodists, (and) Roman Catholics" referred to in the Bible. Can you do it, Mr. Rogers? Where are they? Show me a communion service in the Bible that included just one of the "Baptists, Methodists (and) Roman Catholics" to whom you alluded, Mr. Rogers. We find Christians, disciples, members of the body of Christ partaking of the Lord's supper in the New Testament, Mr. Rogers, but can you find just one Baptist, Methodist, or Roman Catholic who did so (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23-28)? I say you cannot. Your silence, sir, will say, "Amen."
There were no such denominations in the first century. Today, all who would work and worship after the New Testament order will do as they did and continue steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer (Matthew 28:20; Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17).
That Mr. Rogers may see the distinction between Methodism and the faith of the New Testament, we submit the following articles:
A church ad in a Wichita, KS, newspaper told of "a dramatic presentation of the story of...John Wesley, who formed the Methodist Church." The "hour-long play and slide show traces the story of Wesley's mission...and...preaching which won converts to the new faith."
The devout and devoted Mr. Wesley's work has hindered the progress of the gospel and often has not allowed the word of the Lord to have free course in the hearts of men (2 Thessalonians 3:1). His "new faith," Methodism, is not "the faith," nor any part thereof (Jude 3). All churches of the New Testament were "established in the faith" (Acts 16:5). They were not established in the Methodist system of faith then and should not be now. As there is "one Lord" and "one God," so there is "one faith" (Ephesians 4:5, 6). In the first century, men who were "obedient to the faith" did not become Methodists (Acts 6:7). They stood fast in the faith (1 Corinthians 16:13). They were urged and encouraged to continue in it (Colossians 1:23). They were warned not to depart from it by giving heed to seducing teachers and doctrines of devils (1 Timothy 4:1, 2; Hebrews 13:9). They were to keep the faith and earnestly contend for it (2 Timothy 4:7; Jude 3).
Thus, New Testament Christians knew nothing of the Methodist faith, nor of any other "ist" or "ism" of our day. They walked in "a new and living way" which was consecrated by Christ and dedicated by his blood (Hebrews 10:19-22). That way, "the way," was the only way, the all sufficient way; hence, it tolerated no other (Acts 19:8, 9; 19:23-26).
While we acknowledge the sincere life of John Wesley, we cannot uphold what he built. We also acknowledge the sincerity of many Muslims, but we cannot condone them and their work. Our opposition is not personal, nor a product of narrow-minded bigotry. It is, rather, a spiritual warfare which we wage and engage against every form of teaching which is not of God. "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish argument and ever pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5, NIV).
From the Wheeling, WV, Intelligencer, we extract the following. "Methodist pastors, upset about same-sex marriages and other liberal ideals that have received increasing support in the church, are threatening to pull out and start their own sect....John Christie, pastor of Mission City United Methodist Church in Santa Clara, complained that there are two religions in the United Methodist Church. 'One based on Scripture, and one that feels we are in a new age with new truths,' he said." Notice that cleric Christie believes the Methodist Church is "based on Scripture." It is good he sees the need for a church to be "based on Scripture" (1 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Peter 4:11). Further, it is right that he should "pull out" from those who will not be guided by the Bible (Deuteronomy 13; Isaiah 8:20; Acts 19:8, 9; 2 Corinthians 6:17; Ephesians 5:11). Also, we are happy to hear of his rejection of "same- sex marriages and other liberal ideals" (Hebrews 13:4). (At least he did not run to Romans 14 to include his erring brethren in the fold of fellowship! Wonder if Pastor Christie's critics will accuse him of being a "guardian of the party" or a "brotherhood watchdog"? Will his opponents claim that each local church's autonomy permits it to make its own rules about whether to accept "same-sex marriages and other liberal ideals"?)
However, it should be noted that the Methodist Church of which he is a member is not "based on Scripture." First, it has an unscriptural name. The New Testament church was not called the United Methodist Church (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 1:2). Second, the Methodist Church does not observe the Lord's supper "upon the first day of the week" as New Testament churches did (Acts 20:7). Third, Methodist Churches often employ fund raising methods which were not used by churches of the first century (1 Corinthians 16:2). Fourth, Methodist bishops are not overseers of only one local church as were New Testament bishops (Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1; Titus 1:5, 7; 1 Peter 5:2). Fifth, Methodist churches permit sprinkling to substitute for immersion as a "mode" of baptism. Baptism is immersion and was the exclusive pattern and practice of the New Testament (Matthew 3:16; Acts 8:36-38; Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12). Sixth, the Methodist Discipline says "that we are justified by faith only," while the Bible says, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (James 2:24).
Shall we hope that when Mr. Christie forms and fashions his new church that he will take these facts into consideration? No, rather, we trust he will simply resolve to follow the New Testament system of faith and practice. Pray that he will work and worship "in the apostles' doctrine" as set forth in the New Testament. The foundation, Jesus Christ, has been laid, and no man should venture to lay another. "But let every man," Mr. Christie and ourselves included, "take heed how he buildeth thereupon" (1 Cor. 3:11).
Hopefully, the articles above will help Mr. Rogers to see (1) how he has misrepresented the church of the New Testament and (2) how far removed the Methodist Church is from the church we can read about in the Bible. Frankly, since Mr. Rogers has so misrepresented the church of the Lord, is it likely that he has fairly portrayed Judge Starr and his work?
Mr. Rogers would do well not to make light of hell as he ridicules us and refers to it as "the everlasting bonfire." "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). Mr. Rogers, it is too serious a matter to make light of! Jesus said there is a broad way which leadeth to destruction "and many there be which go in thereat" (Matthew 7;13, 14). Jesus taught that all who worship him without his authority, walking after the doctrines and commandments of men, will be lost forever in hell (Matthew 7:21-23; 15:8, 9, 13, 14; 25:34-46).
Finally, in this connection, Rogers says that being a member of the elect "produces a quantum of self-righteousness." Mr. Rogers, are you saying that you and your Methodist brethren are not members of the elect? If so, if you are not elect, where does that leave you? If you are not of the elect, maybe you had better not talk too lightly about "the everlasting bonfire"! However, if you and your Methodist brethren are of the elect, then is it fair to say that your election of God has produced among you "a quantum of self-righteousness"? If not, why not? (Just here, Mr. Rogers, let me say that I believe you would be a most amusing witness to cross examine were we to get you on the stand! Let me say, too, may the Lord hasten that day. But more about that possibility later.)
Woven throughout Mr. Roger's essay is a snide disregard for the seriousness of sin and "moral rectitude." Several times, Mr. Rogers denigrates Judge Starr (Yes, it is correct to so refer to him as Judge Starr.) and his stand against sexual immorality. One cannot help but wonder just how our Methodist attorney would view President Clinton's "sexual peccadillos" if they had been committed against a member of his family (mother, wife, daughter, granddaughter, etc.). If one of Mr. Rogers dear, young family members had been used by the president as Monica Lewinsky was, would Mr. Rogers maintain his smug attitude or would he become "a spiritual descendant of Oliver Cromwell"? Reckon Mr. Rogers would join "such hard-core fundamentalism" and "harbor a deep and visceral loathing toward an avuncular, hedonistic 'Bubba' like our president," if it involved a precious lady in his family? If his answer is, "no," if he would dismiss it as a simple matter of consensual, raging hormones, not to be taken seriously as a matter of great moral outrage and indignation, let him explain that to his loved ones.
No, Mr. Rogers "the Church of Christ's teaching" is not that which focuses "heavily upon sexual contact." It is the Bible, the word of God that does that. It is the word of Christ that "focuses heavily upon sexual conduct" (Matthew 5:27, 28, 32; 19:9; Cf. Romans 1:26, 27; 13:13; 1 Corinthians 6:18; 7:2; Galatians 5:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 13:4). Mr. Rogers, are we to conclude that Methodists do not condemn fornication and adultery, that parents do not "focus" on such moral issues in teaching and training their children? If not, and if you and your Methodist brethren do teach against such immoral behavior, does that make you "Like other fundamentalist sects...(that)...(focus) heavily upon sexual conduct"? Tell us how "visceral" would be your "loathing toward an avuncular, hedonistic 'Bubba' like our president" were he to make improper advances and engage in immoral acts toward one of your family members. If it occurred, would it suddenly make you like "fundamentalist sects" that focus "heavily upon sexual conduct"?
Mr. Rogers says, "The only way to avoid damnation is to repent, be baptized, and join - and be accepted into - their denomination." Aside from calling the Lord's church a denomination and making it sound as though Christians are the ones who have defined the terms of entrance into the body of Christ, Mr. Rogers almost told the truth on us! No less an authority than Jesus the Christ said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). Speaking as the Spirit gave him utterance, the apostle Peter said, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:4, 38). Ananias (a "God-sent preacher" if there ever was one--Acts 9:9-11) said, "And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Those who were so baptized thereby entered the body, or church of Christ. The Bible says it in these words, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body" (1 Corinthians 12:13; Cf. Acts 18:8; Ephesians 1:22, 23; Acts 2:38, 41, 47).
One thing is for certain; namely, when folks were baptized in the New Testament, they were never made members of a Methodist Church. But that they were made members of the church of Christ, even an early addition of Hiscox' Standard Manual For Baptist Churches agrees, "It is most likely that when there was but 'one Lord, one faith, and one baptism' and no differing denominations existed, the baptism of a convert by that very act constituted him a member of the church, and at once endowed him with all the rights and privileges of full membership. In that sense, 'baptism was the door into the church.'"
There is more, much more, which could be said and, perhaps, should be said, in refutation of Mr. Rogers' false and misleading characterization of the church of the Lord. However, this shall suffice until we hear from Mr. Rogers.
Meanwhile, since I have preached several times in New Martinsville, WV, his home town, and in the surrounding area, and since our disagreements are fundamental and eternally fatal to one or the other of us (i.e., we both cannot be right before God, believing as we do--2 Jn. 9), I propose that Mr. Rogers enter into a public debate with me on our issues of difference in the New Martinsville area. (Another, follow up discussion can be arranged in the Houston, TX, area where I live.) I will affirm, "The Scriptures teach that there is one body or church of Christ, and that one must be a member of it through obedience to the gospel in order to be saved." Will Mr. Rogers deny it?
Accordingly, if Mr. Rogers will affirm: "The Scriptures teach that one is saved by faith only and that the Methodist Church is a branch of the body or church of Christ referred to in the New Testament," I will deny it. What say ye, Mr. Rogers?
It will not do for him to say that he does not believe in debate, for, as a lawyer, he is schooled in the art. Neither will it do for him to say that he does not believe in religious debate, for his piece under review is, in part, a religious debate. We propose an objective, rational discussion of the truth, as set forth in the Scriptures, wherein each speaker agrees to conduct himself "as it becometh the gospel of Christ," as he speaks "with all boldness" and "great plainness of speech" (Philippians 1:27; Acts 4:29; 2 Corinthians 3:12).
Should he refuse our proposal for debate, it will not be a surprise, "For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God" (John 3:20, 21).
So, Mr. Rogers, in the spirit of Acts 17:2, 3; 28:23, and Jude 3, we extend to you this sincere appeal for discussion of our differences (1 Thessalonians 5:21). You may contact me at
e-mail this author at email@example.com
Return to Watchman Front Page
return to January 1999 index