Coming Together, Coming Apart

Coming Together, Coming Apart

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard

Last Saturday, John Moore and I traveled a couple of hours over to Lexington, Kentucky, to see several places associated with the “Restoration Movement.” This restoration effort, coming at a time of spiritual awakening where people were rethinking their approach to the Bible as well as questioning religious teaching, led to independent movements of people who concluded it was not only possible but necessary to go back to the Bible for everything they taught and believed. Rejecting religious creeds, disciplines, and manuals, they sought to do Bible things in Bible ways, speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where it was silent. While we should not revere or unduly exalt the people who led this effort, neither should we abandon their work. We should imitate their spirit of letting the Bible, not human tradition, be our sole rule and guide.

Two independent movements, most associated with Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell, began to conclude that they were of the same mind and judgment in desiring to get back to simple, New Testament Christianity. They met in 1832 in downtown Lexington on Hill Street. John and I stood at this very spot, now a parking lot for a major bank.

Untold numbers of people from the northern and mid-Atlantic United States to the southern and, at the time, western United States obeyed the simple New Testament message they and others preached. They established colleges, held lengthy evangelistic meetings to preach the gospel, had religious discussions and debates, began journals and periodicals, wrote books, and shared the gospel with their neighbors, family, and friends. More and more were leaving religious division to simply be New Testament Christians. 

John and I went from that place where great hope and renewal occurred just a few minutes north up to a little community called Midway. It is a quaint little town, with antique shops, trains, and a beautiful little college named for the town. We first went to a church building, built on the site of another building where in 1860 the well-meaning group of saints there, to aid what in their view was atrocious singing, accompanied their singing with a piano-like instrument known as a melodeon. The practice of adding mechanical instruments of music would spread to congregations throughout the state and ultimately out to the Lord’s church all over the country. Something lacking the authority and approval of Christ, but meeting with the tastes and preferences of men, was introduced and disrupted the unity and harmony of God’s people. It would take years to form a wedge wide enough to cause systemic division and disunity, but it happened alarmingly fast. 

Throughout history, the precious attribute of unity (Psa. 133:1) has required great effort to achieve and has proven difficult to maintain (1 Kings 12:1ff). However, God commands it (1 Cor. 1:10; Rom. 12:16; Phil. 1:27). He is pleased when we pursue and preserve it, so how does He view when we viciously sever, undermine, and destroy it? History is a great teacher, if we allow it to be. May we have hearts desiring nothing else than God’s Word as the foundation of our teaching and lives, and pursue that with a spirit of harmony and oneness which permeated the church at its very beginning! 

The Bible And The College Cheating Scandal

The Bible And The College Cheating Scandal

Neal Pollard

One of the nation’s biggest news stories last week involved a college admissions scam that included several high-profile people, including at least two Hollywood actresses. A California man, Rick Singer, spearheaded a scheme to bribe coaches and administrators at such colleges as Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, USC, and other prestigious universities. The bribes bought these privileged High School students extra time to take the SAT and ACT, make fake athletic profiles, and substitutes to take their entrance exams for them. This has proven embarrassing for both the colleges and those breaching this most basic of ethical codes (via Foxnews.com, Madeline Farber). 

Someone observed that there is a bit of irony and hypocrisy in all of this. We feel outraged at this glaring lack of honesty and ethics, but students who attend these (and other) universities have been taught for decades that there is no such thing as absolute truth and an objective standard of right and wrong. Are we surprised when people live out the consequences of such world views? Remove a measurable, immutable standard, and anything goes! It disgusts us to see such values in action, but people of influence in our society have been pushing such values for a long time. 

In addition to its answers to all of life’s crucial questions, the Bible lays down an ethical code that is universal and logical. Its rules are blind to nationality, economic status, gender, age, or any other category one falls into he or she might appeal to as an exception. In fact, those who have more have greater expectations made of them (see Luke 12:48).  The Judgment Day will be eminently impartial. No one will manipulate the results. No one can sidestep heaven’s requirements for salvation without an eternal consequence. Just because one is religious leader does not mean that they are above the law of Christ. Again, there are higher standards for those who are in positions of leadership (Jas. 3:1; Heb. 13:17; 1 Tim. 4:16; etc.). 

It’s not at all surprising that a society which rejects God’s guidelines finds itself sinking into a moral and ethical abyss (cf. Prov. 14:34). But, it does go to show that no one wants to reap the harvest from sowing the seeds of sin. However, there is no way to avoid it (Hos. 8:7; Gal. 6:7-8). Our challenge is to live lives of consistency, exemplifying the benefits of respecting and adhering to God’s standards. Jesus calls such modeling “salt” and “light”which highlights God’s existence and relevance in our world (Mat. 5:13-16). 

We cannot keep others from being cheaters and liars, but we can show them a powerful alternative!

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