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My Study With Armando

Neal Pollard

This morning, I had the opportunity to have an impromptu Bible study with a man who introduced himself as Pastor Dr. Armando.  He wanted to find a congregation who would allow his ministry and followers a place to work and worship.  Prayerfully, I listened to him and looked for my opportunity to turn the conversation from his program to the Bible.  After hearing him out, he asked if we would be interested.  I told him that he saw some great needs and had some intriguing methods of providing benevolence to our community, but the problem would come regarding what they taught and how they worshipped.  As gently as I could, I tried to show him what Scripture said about both–since both were matters he brought up in our discussion.  Judging from his facial expressions, he had never heard of a preacher or church approaching the plan of salvation or how to worship or anything else using nothing but the Bible. I told him we had no creed, council, synod, or earthly head who governed or gave us religious traditions to follow.  While he seemed very interested in the concept, his “pragmatic” side did not allow him to see how that would work with the group with which he already worked.  There were nearly 100 people, black, Hispanic, and white, who he said worshipped with him.  They believed how or when one is baptized was not important, and they were very drawn to their drums, guitars, and other instruments in worship.  Yet, as strident as he was about their beliefs, this idea of non-denominational, simple New Testament Christianity intrigued him.  We ended our hour-long discussion by agreeing to meet to talk further about these things in a more systematic way.  I’m optimistic and hopeful!

Perhaps we have bought into the idea that the “restoration plea” has been tried and has failed to find a following.  If Dr. Rangel is in any way representative of the religious world, and I have reason to believe he is, there are a great many who are totally unaware of that plea.  Could there be a whole world of religious people out there, disenchanted with mainline evangelical denominationalism, who would be open to New Testament Christianity?  Let’s pray for opportunities to share it and see what happens!

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Was It “A Sobering Judgment On Human Endeavors”?

Neal Pollard

I am currently enjoying the book, “What Hath God Wrought?”–a book that covers a period in America commonly called “manifest destiny” or Jacksonian America, when America’s borders, resources, and prominence expanded in unprecedented fashion.  Pulitzer Prize winner Daniel Walker Howe does an excellent job covering every facet of life in the United States from 1815-1848.  One facet to which he devotes a surprising amount of time is the first and second religious “awakening” movements on the frontier.  I was very surprised that he devoted nearly an entire page to the Restoration Movement led by men he notes such as Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell.  He accurately writes, “These leaders reached the conclusion that all theological and creedal formulations must be wrong.  Christians should confine themselves to the language of the New Testament and affirm or deny no religious doctrines beyond that” (181-182).   As Howe astutely observes, this movement was about the “rebirth of the primitive church” with ‘no creed but the Bible’ (182).  However, Howe found the restoration process itself flawed, writing, “The eventual outcome of the movement, however, renders a sobering judgment on human endeavors. The scriptures require interpretation, and restricting religious assertions to those of scripture proved no solution to the scandal of disagreement and division.  In the end, the antidenominational Christian movement added to the number of denominations” (ibid.).

What Howe sees is the ultimate division, but his purpose is not to look more deeply into the “why.”  Consider the premise of the movement, which he rightly portrays as rejecting creeds and following only what is found in Scripture.  While humans choose to engage in that endeavor, it is an endeavor to honor and follow what God desires and commands.  On what grounds would a professed believer in God and the Bible have for choosing something more, less, or different than the Word of God?

 Where did this movement encounter difficulties?  Howe would not reject the imperative of interpretation.  Interpretation is necessary in any field of human existence. Was it restricting religious assertions to those of scripture that was the problem and flaw? Or was it the imposition of man’s will and desires as on a par with and, more accurately, set above Scripture?  

Was it attempting to restrict religious assertions to those of scripture that led Addison Clark to say to the organist, Mrs. Mason, “Play on, Miss Bertha,” or was it not rather a compromise made to clamoring students at Add-Ran college (cf. Roy Deaver, Firm Foundation, 10/9/73)?  Was it a desire to follow scripture that led L.L. Pinkerton to add the melodeon to the worship of the church in Midway, Kentucky, or not instead his estimation that the singing there was so bad that it would “scare even the rats from worship?” (Earl West, Search For The Ancient Order, I, 311).

Because the church will ever be filled with human beings, it will ever be subject to the carnal practice of division (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10-13).  That in no way undermines the rightness of our desire to follow only scripture, adding or subtracting nothing.  It further proves how valiantly we must subject our will to His will, and focus solely on what pleases Him!