Gospel Advocate, November 2009, part 1

We get three copies of the GA each month thanks to the White Rock Fund, a parachurch organization of Christ in Dallas.  I am not GA hater.  I sometimes read some articles.  I sometimes agree. I sometimes lose interest just by looking at the table of contents.  I feel that it can be repetitive, as if their rotation of topics is too limited for me.

But I wanted to share some thoughts of the most recent issue this week for discussion, debate, dialogue.  All hopefully done in a kind spirit. I will put away my satire for awhile.

First up, three quotes I wanted to tie together from three different contributors.

“I have reviewed every book, lecture, article and letter that I could locate within my possession on how to discern authority in the Bible.  If there is further study on the subject that might shed additional light, please share it with me.”  p. 21 Alvin Jennings.

Brother, I don’t doubt your efforts, sincerity or your humility.  But you would agree that Truth is not based on those three things.  I actually agree with most of your article.  What I disagree with is the mentality that all it takes is more info to clear up everything.  Many brethren just as studied and sincere have reached different conclusions.  The answer is how do we handle this.

I will write more about the issue theme of Authority later but let me sum up my concern:  the issue isn’t a belief in the Word of God as our only authority.  Teaching on Biblical Authority will not solve the problems/division among churches of Christ.  That is simplistic and actually insulting.

It implies that those who disagree with me on any given topic are either ignorant or in rebellion to God’s authority–a false dichotomy.  Another option is they reached different conclusions in prayerful study. Yes, there is absolute Truth.  Yes it’s possible that someone is wrong (although it could be that both options are acceptable to God on some issues).

Brother Jennings continues to list numerous (conservative, IMO) church of Christ preachers who agree with him.  That is great when preaching to the choir, but doesn’t help us arrive at Truth.  Appealing to authority is a logical fallacy.  Anyone with any opinion can appeal to a list of respected men to back them up.


Quote #2:  “In a brotherhood besieged in some quarters by those ever anxious to draw tighter lines of fellowship, this lesson is eminently valuable.  Indeed, one is tempted to ask whether some of the radicals of our number, who quote copiously from the pioneers when it suits their fancy, would even associate with these great men where they alive today!” p. 33, Brandon Renfroe

A 7-fold amen for Brother Renfroe’s statement.  It almost sounds as if he has been reading John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine’s great book on Lipscomb and Harding, or even Todd Deaver’s works.  Although, it is highly unlikely any of those brothers would be published in the GA.

The article deals with the fact that McGarvey and Lipscomb  had some different views but were in total agreement on the inspiration and authority of Scripture.  This is still true today of many on different sides of the issues.  Amen.  This article gets the point, although I doubt it will be taken to its logical conclusion.


Quote #3: “Early Reformation leaders such as John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, William Farel and John Knox recognized the non-biblical origin of the various ecclesiastical festive days and observed only Sunday.” p. 38, Barry Baggot

More name dropping in an article against celebrating Christmas and Easter, which I will come back to later.

We all appeal to someone or something.  I just wish that we all (myself included) would appeal to arguments instead of persons.  It doesn’t help.  How many billion Hindus are there?  The Catholic church must be the one true church because they have the most adherents.


I worry that even though this issue is emphasizing a very important topic, but not to the ends which they hope:  to convince brethren of their conclusions on various Biblical topics.  In other words, they are missing the point.

While some of the people who they perceive as wrong/liberal/etc have rejected Biblical authority, many have not.  Many feel just as strongly that the Bible is the sole basis for authority but have a different view of how to read the Bible.  Or even some with the same imperfect hermeneutic have reached different conclusions.


23 thoughts on “Gospel Advocate, November 2009, part 1

  1. Funny that someone from a consevative Church of Christ background would cite Calvin and Zwingli on anything. Zwingli took silence-as-prohibition to its logical end, forbidding singing altogether. One is to make melody “in the heart,” you see.

  2. I haven’t received the GA in a long time. I used to regard it as an interesting publication that contained articles of interest to me. The current editor, in my opinion, has made it more of a dogmatic tool than it used to be. I like your three summations and appreciate you.

  3. Michael Jones

    Thanks for writing this. Name dropping only serves the purpose of feeling comfortable because there are other like minded thinkers out there. This does not prove a point it only shows who agrees with you on it. I believe when we get into the habit of quoting men rather than the Bible we get into a LOT of trouble and begin drawing lines in the sand. These lines only separate us and give us an excuse to not try to work on the issue at hand. Don’t just take my word for it you and Gallagher agree with me too. 🙂

  4. Great post bro! We recieve the GA here in Earth. Some read it and some don’t. I skim through it once in a while. But it does nothing for me much anymore. As John said, I also used to read it, but now its far from being the “Gospel” advocate.
    Thanks Bro!

  5. Nick Gill

    oh this is going to be juicyfun! I can’t wait. And I agree with John; the current editorship has taken GA farther to the “right” than necessary, probably in reaction to the popularity of New Wineskins, et al. So much of what happens in our brotherhood is reactionary instead of proactive.

    GA did such a hatchet job on ’emerging church’ that I stopped reading, and I try to cover it up when it is on the table in the foyer.

  6. Defined my Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the word “advocate” means:
    1 : one that pleads the cause of another; specifically : one that pleads the cause of another before a tribunal or judicial court
    2 : one that defends or maintains a cause or proposal
    3 : one that supports or promotes the interests of another

    While seeing the defintion of the word in its current form, it would cause me to see that proclaiming the Gospel (“good news”) by Advocating (“pleading a case before a group of people by defneding and supporting”) would bring me to a point where there must be some thought and debating to each article. Your insights into the articles provides spiritual food for this discussion, but we must maintain that each man, woamn and child shoudl seek the unity, but unity comes with study of the revealed truth.

    As students, we will all have differences of opinions on the interpretation of said truth and even the application of such. To harness opinions which are unchallenged and unapproachable is to close one’s mind to the thoughts of others.

    For example: I believe a person MUST be baptized, but if all I do is spout off baptism and never see the other side, I lose my influence on others. My care and concern for them will allow me to hold to me beliefs, not comprimising them, but it allows me to develop my knowledge by listening to others. To gain knowledge of other opinions allows me to support or defend my own…not to mention I am able to learn, grow and proclaim because I understand more.

    In regard to brotherhood publications, I enjoy my copy of the Gospel Advocate from February 1908 the best!
    Just my rambling thoughts over coffee!

  7. I must admit I see some of the same in myself. I’m excited when I find that someone from the past shares my views and dismissive when they don’t.

    Per Gallagher’s remark… I’d love to spend time reading some of those old GA’s. I’ll have to make time to do that in the future. (I used to have “personal growth” days when I could go to the ACU library, but I lost that perk)

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  8. I have a soft spot in my heart for those who are well-read, articulate and historically literate. But I’m a bit ornery in the sense that I like to notice and/or discern these traits in others, rather than having them pronounce themselves as such.

    Love this post and its comments. I have a feeling I’ll be digesting it for a good part of the day.

  9. A greater point, in my opinion, is the attitude behind articles in our brotherhood publications. I tire of reading what is always wrong and seek to find what is happening that is upright. Reading too many gripes, harps and quarrels will make a person a very sour soul!

    Our young people, as well as adults, have been bombarded with what we cannot do – “don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t cuss, don’t dance, don’t miss service, don’t read anything but this version, don’t support orphans homes….etc.” Those don’t take away the “cans.”

    “I can save something from being lost.”
    “I can save something from sin.”
    “I can help a widow.”
    “I can help an orphan.”
    “I can help others live better.”

    We need the positive, but in a postive light.

    We need to avoid things like the Gospel Meeting held in a neighboring congregation that said, “Why We Know We Are Right.” Excellent title to produce some excellent Pharisees.

    Ok, I will be quiet now before …well, just before!

  10. Brian

    great thoughts, gallagher.

    tim, at least you do here

    trent, that’s pretty vague, brother, but thanks for coming by 😉

  11. I guess I need to find a copy of GA before I make a full comment. But I will say a couple of things that are pertinent to Biblical Authority and practice.

    Yes, people can arrive at different conclusions about certain issues while still paying allegiance to the authority of the Bible.

    The question will always be, “What does the Authority say?”

    For myself and those that I influence, I will speak what I learn from the Authority of God, praying always that I am being fair with God’s word. I will allow that others may disagree with me while being sincere and honestly trying to please God. I will have open, personal dialogue with them when opportunity arises so that I or they may realize our possible error and change to be pleasing to God.

  12. Ha, sorry-but when I first read Trent’s 1st comment, I read it as “We receive the GA here ON earth” instead of “in” Earth….which is probably due to the fact it is past my bedtime in China…

    but just wanted to stop by and say…good thoughts. I know I have more to say, but need more sleep to be able to gather more thoughts, so for now I will say:

    Blessings on you, brother! 🙂

  13. Brian

    ahah, yeah, I think their circulation is limited to this planet…

    while the piny Dot com guy may not have such limitations

  14. By the way, I should have said that just because I mentioned all those “don’ts” does not mean I believe them all. Those are the ones I always here.

    My undaignosed ADD, AHD, ADHD, OCD and ABCDEFG kicked in while writing and I forgot to add that.

  15. Well, Growing up in a preacher home, being a pk all my life, I have seen a few mindsets and attitudes come and go. Seems my dad has always cautioned me about the various “brotherhood” publications out there and that most were negative and would get me nowhere. Through my life and ministry I have found it to be true in some cases.
    I read through a few things of the GA and spiritual sword genre to be able to at least know what some of my “hardliners” are talking about, but never do I get into it very far.
    There is a point to where love has to prevail from both directions. For we all know that w/out love all is vain.
    Thats the perspective I try to keep in mind as I come across something that is lacking a Christlike attitude, as we often see in such publications as you have brought to our attention. Thanks Brian for challenging us today!

    Trent Tanaro

  16. Can’t wait for more discussion. We still get GA here at the building, but I don’t spend a whole lot of time reading through it.

    There are always going to be things we differ in, when it comes to the bible. But being unified despite our differences has to be part of the plan. We have failed to preach SO many texts where Jesus, Paul and others plead for unity and too many are dividing over things that should never be issues.

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