John 17: 21a May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. (HCSB)
A Proposal For Unity Part 3: The Bible
Nothing is required in order to be a Christian that is not explicitly made a condition of salvation in the scriptures.
In Thomas Campbell's third
propositions, he called all believers in Christ to come together on the standard of the New Testament scriptures. According to Campbell, nothing can be required of a Christian that is not "expressly enjoined upon" the New Testament church in the scriptures, "either in express terms, or by approved precedent." The fourth proposition in particular limits the application to the New Testament scriptures only.
Certainly, given the absence of modern day revelations directly from God, we must go back to the inspired writings of the past in order to get divinely authoritative instructions. No human wisdom can replace or add to what God has revealed to man. We must go to the scriptures for answers. When the answer is not provided in scripture, we must find a way to be content with not knowing the answer.
One aspect of the third proposition is troublesome. Nearly two hundred years of painful experience should have taught us to be wary of binding approved precedents. Literally, all an approved precedent tells us is that a certain thing done in the past was approved at the time. It does not tell us whether or not alternative practices might also have been approved in the past, or might be approved in the present. One might decide, as an exercise of human wisdom, to limit one's own practice to those things that are known to have been approved in the first century church. That seems like a safe and conservative approach. But there is no New Testament teaching that requires that approach. We have no clear biblical authority to bind that approach on anyone else.
The New Testament gives many examples of Christians who varied widely in the completeness and accuracy of their understanding. There were Christians who thought Gentiles had to be circumcised to be saved. There were Christians who thought eating meat
was sin. There were others who felt obligated to observe special days
. There were divisions over preachers
. There was competition over spiritual gifts
. Some who ought to have been teachers were not even sound in their understanding of the first principles
. While all of these were given correction and were urged to move on to maturity, they were still regarded as brothers. In like manner, we must accept as brothers all who have been adopted as sons of God, despite their deficient understanding, even if they have been in the Lord long enough that they should know better.
Salvation is conditional. But we are not at liberty to define the conditions. Where God has drawn a clear and specific line, we can and must speak with corresponding confidence and clarity. Where the line in scripture is less clear or less specifically defined, we must be honest enough to admit that degree of uncertainty. It is not our prerogative
to clarify what God has not clearly revealed.
Salvation is one of the most basic principles in the scriptures. God wants everyone to be saved
, and has placed salvation within the grasp of even the most simple-minded person. The conditions of salvation are accessible, simple, and clearly defined in scripture. Everyone who meets those basic conditions is a child of God and a member of the church.
So, the third proposal:
Proposal #3: Nothing is required for membership in the Christian church which is not explicitly made a condition of salvation in the scriptures.
Labels: Proposal for Unity