Could the Church Be Wrong?
Could "the church" be wrong? Is it possible that a portion—or even all of the members of a congregation (including their elders) could be in error with respect to doctrine and/or practice? Could several congregations be wrong? Could a majority of congregations be wrong?
One of the most basic fallacies of Roman Catholicism is its conception of the "infallible" church. But someone says, "The church of the New Testament could not be wrong!" WHICH ONE will you use as your example? The one at Corinth? Ephesus? Laodicea? But you say "I'm referring to the 'whole' church, the body of Christ." And I remind you that this organism, this relation of individuals to Christ, does not exist as a functional organization. The characteristics of the perfect church must be gleaned piece by piece from the divine records. By command, example, and necessary inference we learn what Christ would have us be and do as a local church. The divine purpose and intent alone is without fault. In all functional churches—and here the N.T. allows us to speak only of individual congregations—the human element is present, and we are forbidden to use such a church as a pattern (2 Cor.10:12).
The New Testament, the covenant or law of Christ, is that which was set up on the first Pentecost after the resurrection (Isa. 2:1-2; Joel 2; Acts 2) and the body of people who accepted this law, and by a practice of its instructions brought into being the Jerusalem congregation, were the product—not the makers of a divine standard. The same principle continues to this good day, and both the First and Twentieth Century churches could and do err. (See Rev. 2-3).
In every century, in every generation, each congregation must prove its right to the name "church of Christ" by showing identity with the divinely approved church characteristics found in the New Testament. We must pay more than lipservice to this principle. When we begin to think a thing is right because a "Church of Christ"—or a majority of the "Churches of Christ"—or ALL of the "Churches of Christ" do or teach it, we have become sectarian in our conception of the church, and need to revise our thinking.
God's word is the pattern by which a true church must be cut. Did you ever cut 2x4s to frame a wall, or pickets for a fence? If you obtained a pattern, cut the first by that pattern, then threw the pattern aside and cut the second by the first—and so on—you learned the fallacy of identity by succession. Any slight difference in the second was passed to the third—and the slight difference of the third was added to the error of the first, and passed on. To cut a true wall, or fence, we must measure each cut by the original pattern. This is no less true with reference to the church.
A crying need of our time is a firm resolve to determine right by an appeal to God's truth, rather than to "a well defined and clear-shown majority of the Churches of Christ in Texas." Cancellations will be received with as much grace as we can muster.