Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

KAIROS FOCUS BRIEFING NOTES:
http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/ICOC_response.htm

NOTES ON THE ICOC/BOSTON/CROSSROADS MOVEMENT:
ABUSIVE DISCIPLESHIP & BIBLE STUDY PRACTICES, & BAPTISMAL REGENERATIONIST PROOF TEXTS

GEM 1986/7 - 94:11:01 & 1990; interim updates 03:06:06 & 18 - 19c, rationalised 04:05:08 - 29c
(cf. NOTICES below, and Contents)


Kairos Focus | Straight Thinking 101 PPS | Discussion Forum page | Links and References page


 

OVERVIEW

The International Churches of Christ, over the past 25 years, have become a controversial discipleship-oriented movement; one that bases its exclusivist understanding of salvation on the Campbell-led American Restorationist Movement's five-step, baptismal regeneration-based theology of salvation. (Thus, the ICOC falls within the Non-Instrumentalist sub-movement of what is commonly called the Churches of Christ, or even "Campbellite", tradition.)

Unfortunately, this legalistic sectarian, elitist exclusivism -- the ICOC's leaders and many members view themselves as essentially constituting "the one true church" in the world, heroically carrying forward its global mission as God's remnant people in the earth -- leads to abusive discipleship practices. It also alienates those who feel trapped by such abuses from seeking help where it would otherwise be readily available.

The following notes therefore provide an analysis of: (a) how this arose, (b) how to respond to it personally, (c) how to avoid entrapment, and (d) the underlying Bible Study errors and logical fallacies that set the basis for the abuse and legalistic sectarianism. These goals are achieved through focussing on the lynchpin sectarian theological claim: the Kip McKean teaching regarding baptismal regeneration, in the further context of discipleship as he has understood and applied the concept -- some would say "misunderstood" and "abusively misapplied" (and, sadly, with good reason).

In studying the below, we urge that you first review the Rationale, take a look at the notes on proof texts and abuses, and that before tackling individual proof-texts such as Acts 2:38 etc., you examine the issue of justification and the associated critical case study: the conversion of Cornelius, his family and friends. For, this account that forms the substance of Acts 10, is discussed by the college of Apostles in Ac 11, and is the basis of the Jerusalem Council's approval of the key NT Pauline theology of justification -- which is expounded in his Epistles, especially Romans and Galatians.

That authentic, biblical, apostolic, message: the Faith, once for all delivered to the saints [Jude v. 3, cf. 1 Cor 15:1 - 11], classically, may be summed up in the words of Eph 2:8 - 10: salvation is by God's grace through faith (which itself is a gift from God, NB definition: Rom 4:4 - 5), NOT by works -- the things we can or should do -- but also it issues in good works (thus, a life of discipleship) that God has laid out in advance for us to do. And, through such works, we can see overflowing from the transforming power of the Spirit within, streams of living water suffused with the glory of God shining through our shamefully cracked pots. [Cf, Jn 7:37 - 39, 2 Cor 4:1 - 7, Rom. 8:9 - 17, Eph. 1:11 - 14, Gal. 3:1 - 14, Acts 1:4 - 8, 2:1 - 21 & 39, etc.]


CONTENTS OF THE NOTES:

RATIONALE:


KEY ARTICLE
Notes on the ICOC's Abusive Discipleship System

INTRODUCTION:

A) WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?

B) WHAT ARE THE KEY ISSUES?

2) BAPTISMAL REGENERATION

3) MANIPULATION

C) WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

REFERENCES AND RESOURCES


APPENDIX A:
Notes on (1) ICOC Proof-Texts and
(2) Questionable Discipleship Practices:

1.     Texts on Justification

1.1           The Case of Cornelius

1.2          Acts 2:38 and Affirming the Consequent

1.3          Acts 22:16 -- The Importance of Respecting Context and Language Forms

1.4          ROM 6:3 - 4 (and Col 2:11 - 12) and Reading Carefully

1.5          ROM 10: 9 - 13 and "Calling on the Name of The Lord"

1.6          1 Peter 3:21 and "Baptism Saves"

1.7          Titus 3:5, John 3:5 and the Washing of Rebirth

1.8          Gal. 3:27 and Clothing Oneself with Christ

2.            Discipleship vs. Abuse


CONCLUSIONS


APPENDIX B:

TECHNICAL ATTACHMENT: On the Logic of Acts 2:38 (& Mark 16:16)

 

INTRODUCTION

I) Deriving the Logic of Acts 2:38

II. What Does Acts 2:38 actually Imply?

III. What about Mk 16:16?

TECHNICAL CONCLUSIONS

 


RATIONALE:

INTRODUCTION: Since 1979, under the leadership of Kip McKean and associates, the Church of Christ-derived movement that has become the International Churches of Christ [ICOC] undertook a global proselytising campaign that has become a focus for controversy and strong criticism -- amounting to a virtual firestorm over the past few years.

For -- sadly -- many all-too-well-founded charges have been publicly raised and corroborated regarding manipulative recruitment tactics, a distorted "We are the One True Church, and have cornered the market on salvation" theology that focuses on baptismal regenerationism, unsound Bible Study Techniques, abusive discipleship practices that seem to reflect notorious multi-level marketing schemes, and a high incidence of abuse-prone, spiritually bankrupt and domineering leadership. {Cf. the Henry Kriete letter (e.g. via the Reveal.org web site), and many other sources.} Therefore, we need to make a sober assessment of the situation, not to attack, to demean or to gloat; but instead, in the spirit of 2 Tim 3:13 - 17 and Eph 4;11 - 16, to correct error and rescue those who need help, by pointing out how abuse arises and how it can be averted -- and, thus also help potential victims avoid unnecessary painful and damaging experiences.

Moreover, this situation should serve as a cautionary tale: an exemplar of how a Bible Study-based, discipleship vision-oriented movement can go bad. That is, the below is a hard-won lesson in the importance of integrity, humility, objectivity, self-criticism, the need to listen to concerned and corrective voices outside of the in-group, and the subtle dangers of arrogance and ambition --in short, regrettably, a case study of how not to renew and reform the church. For, commendable as the intent to restore the pristine NT vision for the church is -- and that is the underlying ethos of the Protestant Reformation over the past 500+ years since Wycliffe and Huss (the morning stars of what would blossom under Luther, Melancthon, Calvin, Knox, Zwingli and so many others) -- given the grave sins of the church across its history, we must also reckon with the dark side of that restorationist thesis:

THESIS: Even at our best, we shine forth with God's glory through our shamefully cracked pots [2 Cor 4:1 - 7]. But equally -- often in the name of true discipleship and/or the restoration or preservation of the pristine NT faith -- we easily fall into the ignorant wrenching of Scriptures [2 Peter 3:15 ff] and/or can all too easily become arrogant, refusing to listen to wise counsel and not submitting to the corrective voice of God as he speaks to us through other members of the body of Christ. [1 Cor 10:16 - 17, 12:1 - 14:5, esp. 12:12 - 26.] This danger is especially relevant when the concerned or corrective voices come from those who are marginal to, or outsiders to the movement, group or tradition in question [ Eph 5:21, Gal. 6:1 - 5 (NB. the case in 2:11 - 14!), 1 Thess. 5:12 - 24, Jn 17:20 - 23]. Movements that yield to such temptations; sadly, their name is Legion -- far from fulfilling their rhetoric of being God's specially chosen and choice servants -- as a rule become ingrown, unaccountable, abusive, contemptuous of outsiders, ending up as corrupt and hypocritical shells of what they once aspired to be: as with the Pharisees of Jesus' day. In turn, this typically leads to a scandal-driven loss of credibility and impact, and triggers yet newer reformation movements. Thus, we can see one root of the many horrible schisms that have rent the body of Christ in defiance of Jesus' prayer that we be one, an unanswerable demonstration of the love flowing over from the Spirit within that is the proof that God loved the world and sent His Son to save it. [Jn 17:20 - 23, 7:37 - 39; cf.1 Jn 1:5 - 7, 2:9 - 11, & 19; also see 2 Jn 4 - 11 & 3 Jn 9 - 12.]

We therefore solemnly ask that the following materials be used in the spirit of 2 Tim. 2:24 - 26, in light of the responsibilities in Acts 2:20 - 35. [NB: Readers are also pointed to more balanced suggested alternatives for evangelism, follow-up with new converts, Bible Study, discipleship, leadership and service, community reformation/transformation, godly national development and liberation issues (with a Caribbean emphasis), and the overall mission of the church. Links to a collection of further resources may be followed up here. For dialogue, contact us, or try Reveal and/or Rightcyberup and/or the Delphi ICOC Forum.]

A] The Key Issue:

First of all, at the core of the evident, unfortunate distortions of the Christian Faith in the ICOC lie the biblically unsound and manipulative Bible Studies called the Acts/First Principles Bible Study series. These studies ignore sound principles of Bible Study, and, starting with baptismal regenerationism, stress a sectarian, flawed, legalistic concept of all out commitment to "discipleship" that "goes by the Word of God only," thus setting up the demand for unquestioning, closed-minded commitment to the movement's theological claims and blind obedience to its leaders and traditions.

The underlying Bible study approaches adopted by the ICOC, as Paden documents, are rooted in the American Restorationist tradition; starting from the influence of leaders dating back to Thomas and Alexander Campbell. The history show how the Non-Instrumentalist Churches of Christ stream of the tradition -- from which the ICOC has come -- have gradually evolved an approach to the Bible that tends to atomistically focuses on texts in isolation from their context, through a narrow focus on New Testament [as opposed to Old Testament] commands, examples and "necessary inferences."

Further -- far from what one would expect from the oft repeated classical COC motto: "We speak where the Bible speaks; we are silent where the Bible is silent" -- silence in the inspired text is instead sometimes fallaciously interpreted as prohibition. For instance, this happened with the COC's earlier internal debate over instumental music in worship.

On this point, despite the explicit OT celebration of such instrumental music in worship in the Law [e.g. Num 10:1 - 10, 29:1 - 6], in the Temple liturgy [e.g. the four thousand instruments David had made for the Temple as mentioned in 1 Chron. 23:5], and in the Psalms [e.g. Psalm 150] -- indeed, from Rev 8:1 - 5 ff, trumpets are even used in heaven by Angels "stand[ing] before God"! -- since the eight NT verses that mention music in worship happen not to mention an instrument, such "mechanical music" is viewed by many in the COC as a deadly sin:

"Any man who believes that he can find literal truth in the Scriptures must also believe that those who do not find the same truth are wrong. What follows is that such people are sinful. The next logical conclusion is that they will go to hell. . . . It is frequently assumed that they believe that all who do not accept the truths which they find in the Bible will be lost. All members of the Churches of Christ do not have such an attitude, but I do. . . . But I do recognize that the logical consequence of a legalistic concept of truth--the kind of mind which would cause one to quibble about instrumental music--is the condemnation of those who refuse to accept the revelation." [Speaker: David Edwin Harrell, Jr., a COC representative in the 1966 Disciples of Christ Historcal Society Reed Lectures. Cited by Paden, in his ref. 108: Robert O. Fife, David Edwin Harrell, Jr., and Ronald E. Osborn, Disciples and the Church Universal, The Reed Lectures for 1966 (Nashville: Disciples of Christ Historical Society, 1967), 35.]

Unfortunately, the natural result of such a plainly unsound approach to the Scriptures is a simplistic, legalistic, casuistic stringing together of masses of proof texts taken out of context. In the case in view, this is compounded by ignoring the authority of the OT; which Paul commended to Timothy (who had from infancy absorbed the Jewish Scriptures at his mother's knee) as being "able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." [2 Tim 3:10 - 17.] Clearly, such a proof-texting, legalistic approach too often fails to reckon with setting, intent, original language and context, so it naturally leads to rigid, manipulative, authoritarian doctrinal or creedal schemes that read into the text's silences, examples and precepts what is simply not there, not even implicitly. In one ever so sad word: EISEGESIS, not: EXEGESIS.

Then -- as we just saw -- in the name of obeying the revelation of God, advocates of the resulting sub-biblical, authoritarian tradition tend to demand an unworkable, pharisaical obedience at every point of fine detail, on pain of hellfire. [Now, of course, a note is in order on this: we are highlighting one specific case, but this general picture is unfortunately all too common in various Bible- oriented movements, sects, traditions and denominations that over the past five centuries, have sought to carry out the classic Reformation agenda to go back to the original sources and fix the problems that arose across centuries of decline and ignorance of the Word of God. (NB: Throwing over the traces of the scriptures or mocking their authenticity in the style of a Bishop Spong or the so-called Jesus Seminar and many other modernist theologians [cf. here!] are not good answers, either. Instead, let us return to sound Bible study principles, being confident of the authenticity of the Bible, in the spirit of Eph. 4:15: truthing it in love.)]

But, further , as Jesus and the Apostles long ago pointed out, legalistic obedience (i.e. faultless conformity to a multitude of rules) is simply beyond human capacity. [Cf. Matt. 23:1 - 39, Rom 7:7 - 8:17 & Gal 3:1 - 14, etc.] Instead of promoting godliness and holiness, such an approach actually ends up in a curious blend of desperate guilt and blind, hypocritical self-righteousness. This is the same predicament that, for twenty centuries now, has made the hitherto respectable term "Pharisee" -- roughly, "holiness" -- into a synonym for "hypocrite." Peter's remarks in Ac 15:10 - 11 are therefore all too appropriate: "10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the [Gentile] disciples a [legalistic] yoke that neither we [Jewish disciples] nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

So, in a sense, it is unsurprising, though sad, to see that the ICOC's First Principles studies end up manipulatively and legalistically focusing on a form of Baptismal Regenerationism traceable to the Campbell-led restorationist movement of the C19 USA -- a movement that is often called the "Campbellites" (or, rarely, even the "Campbellite Baptists") in the literature. For, legalistic, proof-texting approaches to the Scriptures are the bane of reformation-minded church movements.

[NB: Many in this tradition will protest that the use of such terms is an "insult," but, so far, on being challenged to provide another historically accurate, precise term; they have not proposed any alternative other than an unfortunate flood of ad hominems and/or the sadly question-begging claim that the ICOC-COC, Campbell-derived tradition traces directly to the NT scriptures (when how - not whether -- the text is being read is a central issue); and the early Church Fathers taught baptismal regeneration. No response was made to the observation that these Early Catholic Fathers, on this point, were in contradiction to the explicit teaching of the NT (i.e. one may challenge their specific opinions: i.e. theologies/ interpretation of the NT on a given point, without implying that they were generally inaccurate and unreliable as observers and reporters of current or historical trends and events) and that they in fact were part of an evolving theological and ritual tradition leading up to what is now the Roman Magisterium, complete with infant baptism. Until such time as an accurate and generally recognisable term is provided, we will therefore have to use terminology that the literature often reflects. (NB: Restorationism, which Paden selects as his term of choice, strictly speaking is too broad, as is noted here and as is subtly implied (but not adequately and frankly addressed) here; for, indeed -- as was discussed above -- the whole 500+ y.o. Reformation ethos reflects the underlying restorationist theme: go back to the pristine sources, and fix what went wrong!) Therefore, please accept apologies in advance for any offense caused by the use of the term that seems to fit the bill thus far: Campbellite. If you have a viable alternative, please contact us.]

Thus, we have now identified critical themes and dynamics in the thought-world in which the ICOC arose as a movement of further reformation, how it has unfortunately failed to live up to its hopes, and why it has gone ever so sadly wrong. Now, we need to flesh out the explanatory model. We will therefore seek to show how flawed, legalistic, proof-texting sub-biblical attempts to reform the church led to manipulative, blindly pharisaical self-righteousness and frustration, in the context of the lynchpin teaching in the ICOC system: baptismal regeneration as the gateway to fully committed discipleship.

B] The Result: Baptismal Regenerationism, Abusive Sectarian "Discipleship" & Manipulative Proselytising:

Sadly, through the flawed First Principles studies, naive, hurting, lonely or seeking people (or even Christians who are ill-informed on the basis for the doctrine of Justification by Faith, and who lack skill in sound principles and praxis for Bible Study), are often led to believe that unless one is baptised to thereby become forgiven (and that in a context that demands all-out commitment to a legalistic, manipulative form of "discipleship"), one is not yet saved. This concept is then used to influence those who adhere to the system to further believe that the ICOC in effect constitutes the one true church in the world, apart from a few vague possible exceptions (probably, mostly in the wider Churches of Christ tradition), and that to walk away from the ICOC is therefore tantamount to apostasy from Christ.

So extreme is this cluster of ICOC teachings that Kip McKean has publicly challenged the salvation of Alexander Campbell, the founder of the modern Campbellite movement:

“Alexander himself was never baptized again for the purpose of the remission of sins. He felt it was okay if you retroactively understood it. I’m not going to say where Alexander Campbell stands before God – God will judge, amen? But let me tell you something, when I read my Bible, you must be baptized for the remission of sins, understanding that. It is the truth of God, it doesn’t make any difference how many, or how few believe it.” [Kip McKean, Why Do You Resist the Spirit?, DPI Archive Cassette Series, Tape # 4207, August 28, 1987. URL: http://rightcyberup.org/baptism.html#still.]

Moreover, in support of this sectarian agenda, other Christian groups are typically characterised as illegitimate "denominations" -- a term of rebuke and even contempt in the ICOC system -- for such groups are viewed as having been founded by men who put forward their own religious ideas in given post-NT historical eras, taking man-made names for themselves; and they currently walk in their founders' merely human traditions and so follow current misleaders along paths to ruin; paths that run counter to the "plain" and "simple" Word of God. [NB: The obvious, regrettable divisions and polarisations in the church as a whole are indeed in large part due to our sinful sectarian divisiveness: Jn 20:20 - 23, 3 Jn 9 - 12. But unfortunately, the ICOC is clearly not immune to the same dynamics of envy and selfish ambition tied to stubborn refusal to be corrected concerning doctrinal and lifestyle errors rooted in inadequate Bible Study approaches, and in failure to follow sound principles of spiritual nurture (Ac. 15:10 - 11, Titus 1:5 - 3:11, 2 Peter 2:1 - 22) and promotion of leaders (1 Tim 3:1 - 4:16).]

Thus, through this polarisation, members of the movement are alienated from some of those who would be best positioned to help them, and should they feel a need to escape from the ever-mounting legalistic demands of the ICOC's style of discipleship, they are inappropriately programmed -- i.e. indoctrinated -- to be prejudiced against reasonable alternatives for a church home and pastoral leadership, especially those outside the pale of the tradition that teaches what could be termed, for want of a better term: "five-step baptismal regenerationism traceable to the Campbell-led restorationist movement of the 1810's- 20's on."

For instance, the introduction to the Acts Study series, an older, once secret form of the First Principles (at least in the Caribbean), sets out to give guidelines for "studying with non-Christians" [p.2]; but then, shortly thereafter, it indicates that the ICOC member should ask such non-Christians: "1) When did they [sic] become a Christian?  2)  How were they [sic] saved?"  [p. 5] This obviously deceptive approach exploits a difference between the usual understanding of the term "Christian" and the ICOC's sectarian use of the term.  Orwellian double-talk, in short.  Clearly, such hidden agenda, sheep-stealing sectarian tactics do not speak well of the ICOC, and lead to a systemic pattern of deception and manipulation of the unwary -- exactly the pattern that, long observed and warned against by despised and often derided critics of the movement, has now become a matter of unimpeachable, extensive public record thanks to whistleblowers from within. [Cf. the Reveal.org and Rightcyberup sites for details.]

So, in effect, the ICOC movement rejects without serious consideration the combined testimony of many millions of believers in Christ over the past 20 centuries -- a testimony that cuts across the various baptismal teachings and practices in our varied traditions that have emerged across time. Namely, the record is: that those of us who repentantly trust Christ have within them the inner witness of the Spirit -- through God's grace and his gift of faith, which empowers us to so respond in repentance, surrender and trust to the crucified and risen Christ -- that we are children of God, liberated from the power of sin and further empowered to walk in those good works that God has laid out in advance for us to do as he works to fill all things with Christ and thus bring all things back from the chaotic consequences of sinful rebellion to godly, harmonious order under the headship of Christ. [Ac. 10:43, Rom 4:4 - 5, 8:15, Eph 1:11 - 15, 2:8 - 10, & Jn 7:37 - 39; in light of Ac 10:43 - 47, 11:14 - 18, 15:7 - 11 & Eph 1:9 - 11, 17 - 23, 4:9 - 24. NB from Matt 3:15, we can see that baptism in water -- the New Covenant's public act of confession of faith in the crucified, risen Christ, and of covenant with this same Christ and his church under his global mission -- is one of these "good works." In light of the Cornelius case of Ac 10, 11, 15, we can further see that there is significant merit in and a sound biblical basis for the classical summary that baptism is "an outward and visible sign of an inner and spiritual grace."]

Nor, are many of the leaders, members and even ex-members of the movement impressed by the manifestly evident, easily observable, heavily documented and morally certain fact that many of these millions have in fact lived transformed lives as disciples of Jesus that plainly show the glory of God shining through our all-too-cracked pots of clay, overflowing in living streams of love, truth, purity and power -- gloriously shining from the Spirit within. [2 Cor 4:1 - 7, Jn 7:37 - 39. NB: This exclusivist sectarianism alone is more than sufficient to show that something is very seriously wrong with the ICOC, for if one cannot discern and accept the Spirit's evident work in the lives and service of millions across 20 centuries, including several leading or prominent figures in world history and on the contemporary scene, one is in grave spiritual danger: Mt. 12:22 - 36, esp. 30 - 32; Lk. 11:14 - 36, esp. 33 - 36; Jn 3:1 - 8; 1 Thess. 5:19 - 22.]

Such a systematic lack of discernment and aversion to manifest truth is troubling indeed, given the Apostle John's remarks in 1 Jn 1:5 - 7 and his report of Jesus' words in Jn 3:14 - 21:

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth [cf. 2 Cor 4:1 - 2, 10:4 - 5] comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

C] The ICOC's root "Discipling Dilemma":

Through the legalistic, "faith plus works" sectarian spiritual gateway opened by the First Principles Studies and associated Bible Talks, public outreach events and one-on-one intensive study sessions, new recruits in the ICOC are soon enmeshed in an abusive, high-demand "24/7" religious sub-culture; which typically causes them to burn out within several years. This is unsurprising, in light of Peter's remarks in Ac 15:10 - 11, which are well worth repeating here: "10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the [Gentile] disciples a [legalistic] yoke that neither we [Jewish disciples] nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

Paul amplifies these remarks, showing the impotence of legalistic attempts to be righteous, and contrasting the overflowing power of the Spirit who dwells within one who has trusted Christ [cf. Jn 7:37 - 39]:

RO 7:21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. RO 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. [NB: Cf. 13:8 - 10 for how love overflowing from the Spirit within [5:1 - 8, cf. Jn 7:37 - 39] fulfills whatever moral duties the law may require in those who, being justified by faith, have found peace with God.]

It is, thus, no surprise to see that observation and sad experience in the Caribbean since the mid-1980's, especially on the campuses of the UWI, has shown that as a rule new members of the system typically reach a pitch of frustration that triggers burnout within several years. But, if people drop out of the ICOC because of such burnout; while still being in thralldom to the doctrinal system, they feel that they are abandoning Christ -- for they have been taught that to leave the ICOC system, the "one True Church," is in effect to apostasise from Christ and abandon the path of discipleship:

'. . . And then they [people who leave the church] go, and they say, "I'm just leaving the International Church of Christ. I'm not leaving God." Let me tell you something: when you leave God's church you leave God.' [Kip McKean, "The Kingdom of God," Jubilee 2000: Even Greater Things, Kingdom News Network (KNN), January 2001, Vol. 2, Los Angeles, (videotaped November 11, 2000). URL: http://rightcyberup.org/exclusivity.html#leaving]

Unsurprisingly, the lives of such despairing former members often then fall apart: morally, sexually, studies, career, relationships with families and others, and more. This is,quite often, then held up before remaining "disciples," as a further proof of the correctness of the One True Church mentality. [In fact, it only reflects the learned helplessness that has programmed the victims of the ICOC control system to depend on the hierarchy rather than build their own personal relationship with God as mature disciples who are able to accurately study and live by the Word of God, thus stand up, decide and act for themselves in the face of the pressures of a sin-blighted world that we are to be in, but not of [Jn 17:9 - 19], and where we serve Christ as members of his body, the spiritual organism [1 Cor 12: - 31 & Eph 4:9 - 24] that works through the overflowing power of the Spirit to help fill the world with God's grace and glory.]

D] A Better Alternative:

However, there is hope. For, those who are able to spot the key Bible study fallacies, doctrinal errors and manipulative devices in the ICOC teachings they have been indoctrinated with -- especially baptismal regenerationism and the "we are the One True Church" legalistic, abusive discipleship mentality -- are quite often able to find help from mature Christians who are not bound up in these sectarian teachings,thence they find a solid church home in a more balanced environment, and so they thrive.

In one case, for instance, a former victim of the ICOC system, whom I counselled in the late 1980s, recently graduated as Valedictorian at JTS-CGST, the leading Evangelical Seminary in the Caribbean. In another case, a student who went back home to her pastor in rural Jamaica in 1986/7 was able to break out of the system and has managed to build a sound, solid life as a Christian; I acknowledge a debt of gratitude to this student and her pastor, who provided respectively the key documentation of the Acts/First Principles Studies and the key case in the Acts for breaking the doctrinal bondage. There are many other examples in point.

These considerations mean that baptismal regenerationism, a main focus for this set of notes, is -- as Rightcyberup argues -- central to our concerns regarding the ICOC's abusive discipleship system, and so it becomes a must-tackle:

. . . why should we tackle this contentious issue -- an issue over which which Christians have disagreed for centuries? We can’t ignore the issue of baptism when discussing the ICC for at least a few reasons:

1. Baptism doctrine is central to ICC exclusivity claims. Since much of the organization’s claim to being "special" rests on its interpretation of baptism, we must look at this central doctrine. If the ICC’s baptism doctrine seems less sound on closer inspection, then the ICC’s claim to being the “one true church” is also unsound.

2. Baptism doctrine drastically affects the worldview of current ICC members. Many members become frustrated by the ICC's dynamics, but then say, "where else can I go?" Some dissatisfied members may remain in the ICC just because they don’t feel there are any other groups that share their “biblical” view of baptism. By considering less restrictive (but theologically valid) doctrines, these people can for the first time find the psychological freedom to consider leaving the ICC.

3. Baptism can become not only a theological issue, but a recovery issue for former ICC members. Former members who have rejected other ICC doctrines or practices may still feel "stuck" regarding the ICC’s baptism teachings. They may continue to doubt the salvation of anyone outside the ICC and to mistrust Christian fellowship offered by non-ICC members -- largely over the issue of baptism. They may have difficulty reconciling their family’s religious beliefs with their own. Former members may bounce around, never finding a church they are happy with, in part because they can't find one that shares the ICC's view of baptism. (Or perhaps they discover that mainline Churches of Christ have similar baptism teachings, but prefer not to worship there for one reason or another). These situations can actually deprive individuals of the "freedom of choice" to choose Christianity after leaving the movement, or feed nagging doubts that maybe the ICC was right, after all.

[URL: http://rightcyberup.org/baptism.html.]

A WAY FORWARD: In light of the above concerns and reasons, the materials below are therefore first of all offered with the prayer that they will help you, the reader, to form a more balanced view of the teachings and tactics you may have become exposed to, in the hope that through God's grace, you will be able to find a way to a more healthy form of Christian faith and discipleship under the Mission of the church. Beyond that, the below is also a call to the leaders and members of the ICOC to take this time of crisis -- triggered through the courageous public exposure of long-standing and systemic abuse by Henry Kriete and others (Thank you, Gentlemen, for thus confirming what many have tried to warn of over the past ~ 20+ years!) -- as an opportunity for profound repentance, personal and institutional renewal and reformation towards a sounder theology and praxis, by turning from sectarian divisiveness [cf. Jn 17:20 - 23], Scripture twisting [Cf. 2 Tim 2:15, 2 Peter 3:15 - 18] and arrogance [Cf. 3 Jn 9 - 12], and then turning to a truer praxis of the Christian life and witness; through the truth in love, purity and the power of God's Spirit [cf. Col. 3:1 - 17]. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.


PS: What follows is, necessarily, in parts somewhat involved. Two brief notes are in order, given certain rhetorical tactics unfortunately all too commonly used by ICOC advocates:

1] If it's not 'simple,' it's not of God: Those tempted to assert that since the below is not at all points on a very simple level (but compare here and here, also here), it cannot be of God should pause and see where such thinking leads, if applied to the very Apostles themselves, given the warning in 2 Peter 3:15 - 18:

15 Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

2] See, it's all lies put out by those who don't know what they are talking about: Given that minor errors are probably inevitable in any work of this nature -- NB: warranted corrections welcomed -- please beware of the ICOC's standard tendency to take minor defects in a materially sound critique, then use them to deride and dismiss the whole as a tissue of fabrications, and to mischaracterise those who raise such questions as demonically motivated, often hypocritical, persecutors of God's One True Church. [NOTE: You may also find the slide show on straight thinking and the grading sheet for "straight or spin" news, views and expositions in the media and other contexts helpful.] The fallacious distraction from material issues/concerns, question-begging and tendency to ad hominem accusation rather than dialogue [cf. 2 Tim. 2:24 - 26] involved in such tactics should be manifest to all:

The ICC way of dealing with criticism is to find anything whatsoever that can be construed as untrue. It helps if there is any slight error - maybe a minor doctrine got phrased a little wrong or the wrong leader's name was mentioned. Whatever it is, the key is to find anything presumably wrong and then to dismiss the whole argument as slander and lies. The main issues are not typically taken into consideration. The ICC instills this mindset to avoid such criticisms. [Stumpk, URL: http://www.reveal.org/library/psych/stumpk.html#poisoning.]

May you all find grace through Christ to serve God in this world, and beyond. --Gordon.



NOTES ON THE ICOC/BOSTON/CROSSROADS MOVEMENT:
ABUSIVE DISCIPLESHIP & BIBLE STUDY PRACTICES, & BAPTISMAL REGENERATIONIST PROOF TEXTS


Notes on the ICOC's Abusive, Sectarian Discipleship System

 

INTRODUCTION: While it is technically not a cult, the International-/ Kingston-/ Bridgetown-/ BOSTON Churches of Christ (ICOC) movement is typical of a number of sects that have sprung up in North America and that pose a serious challenge to Christians in the Caribbean region. As such we think Christians in the Caribbean should know about this group.

A) WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?

In the 1970's - 1980's there was a split in the Non-Instrumentalist Churches of Christ in the USA, focused on issues related to "discipleship," as practised in what was termed the Crossroads Movement. The Kingston and Bridgetown COCs are daughter churches of the Boston Church, which during the 1980's became a/the leading church in this breakaway COC movement. In turn, the various Churches of Christ derive from a movement led by Alexander Campbell in the 1810's - 20's on, which sought to restore authentic new Testament Christianity, escaping from the man-made traditions that have so wrenched and polarised the church across the ages. [NB: In the literature, the movement is often called the Campbellite Movement or even Campbellite Baptists. Some find the term offensive, but so far I have yet to be informed by such of a better, historically accurate term -- and Restorationism (as discussed above) is too broad. Apologies for offense, and you are invited to provide a reasonable alternative.]

Across time, especially among Non-Instrumentalists in the Southern United States, a focus developed on baptism as the gateway to forgiveness for one who hears the gospel, believes it, repents, confesses Christ as Lord and is baptised; with some arguing that only if one is baptised to thereby become forgiven will one in fact be saved. (This is quite problematic in light of the case of Cornelius in Ac 10, 11, 15, and direct teachings such as ROM 1:16 - 5:2, Jn 3:14 - 18, 5:24, 17:3, etc. More details below.)

The movement -- as the above suggests -- eventually became a cluster of related groups: the Disciples of Christ (in Jamaica, now part of the United Church of Jamaica and Grand Cayman), the Instrumentalist COC's, the Non-Instrumentalist COC's, and the International COC's. This last is the focus of our concerns in these notes.

B) WHAT ARE THE KEY ISSUES/CONCERNS?

1) EXCLUSIVISM:

The ICOC movement's leaders and members often see it as effectively tantamount to being the One True Church. For example after touring Barbados, the KCOC's leaders viewed their then prospective Barbadian daughter church as: "the bridge by which the gospel . . . will reach Barbados". [KCOC Bulletin, March 6, 1988.] ( There have been churches in Barbados since 1627, including other Churches of Christ. One of these is by the roadside on the way from Bridgetown to Cave Hill, where the local university Campus is, i.e. a likely major focus for ICOC evangelistic efforts.)

Other Christians "lack commitment", and are "following traditions of men rather than the word of God," especially as regards how one becomes saved -- the classic Sinner's Prayer is derided and dismissed (even though such a prayer often explicitly focuses on four of the five points of the ICOC scheme of conversion: hearing the gospel and, through being convicted by the Spirit, repentantly trusting the risen Christ as Lord and Saviour, cf. 1 Jn 5:9 - 15; and even though in the vast majority of Bible-believing churches, would be followed by new converts' classes, baptism and church membership). This is because it is taught in the ICOC that one must be baptised to thereby become forgiven by Christ, or one is not yet saved -- unfortunately, ignoring explicit NT teachings such as Jn 3:14 - 18, 5:24, 17:3; Ac 10:43 - 47, 11:14 - 18, 15:7 - 11, 16;30 - 31; ROM 1:16 - 5:2; Eph 1:11 - 14, 2;8 - 10, etc.

So, one often sees materially misleading accusations that other churches and/or Christian leaders substitute the sinner's prayer for (and thus fail to teach) "baptism" -- i.e. they are viewed as robbing others of the opportunity for salvation because they (for good reason!) reject the specifically Campbellite doctrine of five-step baptismal regenerationism.

Similarly, "discipleship," has too often been morphed from a transformed, renewed, Spirit-filled lifestyle of love, truth, purity and service under the teachings of Christ, as we live in but not of the world; into a legalistic, high-pressure demand to be engaged in ICOC proselytising, meetings and related activities on a near- 24/7 basis, or else one's commitment and salvation are open to challenge.

The net result is that within several years, the typical new member burns out, and often finds him- or her- self alienated from family, friends, and other Christians outside the ICOC's sectarian system who might be able to help, and is reduced to desperation under the teaching that to leave the ICOC system is to apostasise from Christ.

Those who leave because of such burnout often do not do well at all, their lives falling apart. But those who realise that they have been enmeshed in an abusive, legalistic, high-demand religious sect, and see through the salvation-by-faith-plus-works scheme of legalistic bondage are often able to find release through re-learning to trust Christ for forgiveness and to walk in the renewing power of his Spirit -- these often thrive, especially if they find solid fellowship in a mature, Bible-believing congregation led by a pastor who understands the special needs of former members of such sects. (Unfortunately, such pastoral leadership is rarer in the Caribbean than we would desire. So, one purpose of these notes is to provide briefing materials that can help pastors and other church and youth fellowship leaders who are called on to minister to people being targetted for recruitment into the ICOC, or those in recovery.)

But of course, we are getting ahead of ourselves: at the beginning, all of this is hidden from new prospects, who are surrounded by a sea of the smiling faces of new friends who exert every effort to be nice (they have done courses in this!) and who extol the lifestyle of "discipleship" and the wonderful fellowship provided through their ICOC congregation; one that -- unlike tradition-bound religious denominations -- goes by the Word of God only.

Accordingly, and echoing the words of the Acts Study Series [an early form of the First Principles] they challenge such prospective recruits to "go by the Word of God only, not by traditions, feelings, the words of religious leaders, etc." However, this is due to a simplistic shunting aside the subtle points that:

1. Few people know enough of the Bible to recognise a slanted selection of verses. [The ICOC does, in fact, use such a selection to teach their doctrines, especially the now notorious First Principles studies. Cf Anderson's critique.]

2. The ICOC falls within the Crossroads tradition, which derives from the Non-instrumentalist Churches of Christ, thence the Campbellite Movement dating to the 1810's - 20's in the United States of America. In the proper sense of the term, it is a denomination -- or even a sectarian splinter-group (given its tendency to view itself as in effect the One True Church and to dismiss even other Churches of Christ).

3. Specifically, it follows the teaching of leaders ranging from Thomas and Alexander Campbell (The Campbellite Restorationist movement, 1810's- 20's on) through John McGarvey (who wrote an 1863 Commentary on Acts --cf. below -- that is still held in high regard by many in the COC tradition) to Chuck Lucas of the Gainesville, FL, Crossroads church; to Kip McKean who was one of Lucas' protégés. In particular, we can see throughout the global ICOC system, the control exerted by McKean's discipleship strategies, teachings and hierarchical, command and control-oriented leadership structures, so that the ICOC constitutes an identifiable Denomination/splinter-group with an identifiable principal founder who stands in the broader Campbellite movement- inspired doctrinal tradition -- regardless of the often quite angry insistence that such a term is inapplicable to the "one true church" which seeks only to be identified with the name of Christ and simply studies the Bible as a basis for faith and praxis.

4. The underlying theme is: "We speak where the Bible speaks; and are silent where the Bible is silent" -- a well-known COC distinctive claim. However, the phrase quietly glides over the frequently observed de-emphasis on the authority of the OT. [To illustrate: why the Non-Instrument stress in many COC's, including the ICOC for many years, for instance? ANS: So-called "mechanical music" in worship is highlighted in say Psalm 150, but because the eight NT texts that do mention music in worship do not happen to mention the use of instruments, many in the Campbellite movement have inferred that to use such instruments in worship is a sin! The fallacy: legalistically arguing from silence in the face of a wider context that shows that God approves of such instruments in worship, stands starkly exposed. The contrast to say 2 Tim 3:13 - 17, in which Paul exhorts Timothy to remain true to the Scriptures he learned from his Jewish mother and grandmother -- i.e. the Old Testament -- is all too highly telling.]

5. So, since we can identify traces of a specific doctrinal and ecclesiological evolution deriving from specific leaders and their particular readings of biblical texts, thus associated, often idiosyncratic sectarian teachings and practices -- i.e. traditions -- it is fair and appropriate comment to point out that, despite emphatic claims to the contrary, the ICOC's leaders and members do not "go by the Word of God only." In fact, they are following a specific, unfortunately legalistic and abusive, tradition of Bible interpretation and praxis. Sadly, in the case of the ICOC it is notoriously one that has done much harm to many naive and idealistic seekers and ill-informed Christians over the years since the late 1970's, recruits who fell victim to loaded selections of Bible verses and out of context arguments from those verses. (NB: By sharp contrast, we highlight one within the broad Church of Christ Tradition who is highly regarded in evangelical circles and a widely read Christian Author, Max Lucado of Oak Hills COC. He and his congregation are a shining exemplar within the Campbellite heritage, of the opposite of the sectarian spirit we have just addressed.)

6. As will be discussed below, this failure to properly follow the Word of God through sound Bible study includes the baptismal regeneration teachings highlighted in the First Principles studies. These unsound studies are the gateway into the sectarian system, and serve in particular to polarise members of the ICOC against outsiders to the system -- making them all the more vulnerable to manipulation and abuse. (NB: Back in the 80's the existence of these structured studies was a secret -- the deceitful pretense was that people were simply reading the Bible and seeing in it teachings that were so obvious that even "a nine year old boy"/third grader could see them for himself! On this last manipulative point, we should contrast the remarks of Peter, in 2 Peter 3:15 ff, regarding the teachings of the Apostle Paul!)

2) BAPTISMAL REGENERATION

The ICOC's understanding of how one becomes forgiven is often sub-biblical. In a "typical" view, unless one is baptised in order to thereby become forgiven, he has not been properly baptised, and is thus still in his sins. This dismisses the experience and claims of most other Christians, whose witness is that "whoever believes in [Jesus] should not perish but have eternal life." [Jn. 3: 16.]

It also ignores the natural sense of major passages such as Acts 10:38 - 48, 11:1 - 18, 15:6 - 11, ROM 1:16 - 5:2, Eph 1:11 - 14 & 2:1 - 10, etc.

This topic, however, is highly involved, and so will be explored in more detail, in the Appendix just below. Also, Rightcyberup has a discussion that many will find helpful.

3) MANIPULATION

As mentioned above, the ICOC is widely viewed, based on a considerable body of evidence -- and now public confessions by leaders such as Henry Kriete -- as being extremely manipulative, a group that often uses loaded selections of Bible verses and powerful psycho-social forces similar to those used in so-called "multilevel" marketing schemes to control prospects and members. For instance, prospects are often drawn in by attractive "young" people, and are invited to do one-to-one Bible studies. In these studies, loaded selections of verses are used to persuade them that they are not yet saved, and must be baptised for the "right" reason.

New members are then assigned Disciple-/Prayer- Partners (DP's) who exert control over nearly all aspects of their lives, ranging from study habits to "the duration of kisses on a date." [Carlene Hill, Christianity Today, Feb. 19, 1988.] If the new member conforms unquestioningly, all is well. If not, subtle then blatant pressures - "shunning" - are brought to bear.

This stress on conformity is so pronounced that Dr. Flavil Yeakley, a Church of Christ researcher, as a result of tests done on Boston Church members in 1985, warned of "an alarming movement among [new] members toward a similar personality type," indicating "a dangerous emphasis on conformity which could potentially lead to severe psychological damage." [Daniel Terris, Boston Globe Magazine, June 8, 1986.] Later, in The Discipling Dilemma, he summed up concerns and made proposals within the general ambit of COC theology.

Behind the pattern of conformity and pressure is the threat that to leave the ICOC is to leave God. Those who do leave often become bitter towards Christianity in general. Other details could be added, but space does not permit. [Check the SCFSU for comprehensive documentation; cf. below.]


C) WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

1. Before you accept invitations to meetings or Bible Studies, insist that those who invite you identify their affiliations and beliefs.

2. Do not change significant commitments, beliefs or practices without first hearing out both sides of the case. If you are not well-grounded in the Bible, consult professional advisors.

3. Be alert to the all-too-real possibilities for twisting Bible verses, emotional manipulation, and using money to buy your friendship.

4. Guard those who look to you for spiritual leadership. [Acts 20: 26 - 35.]

5. Pray for those caught up in error, and seek to help them.

6. Finally, many of us, out of fear, laziness and rebellion, have failed to "Go and make disciples . . . baptising . . . and teaching them to obey [Jesus]." [Matt. 28:18 - 20.] Let us repent and let us go out and obey our mandate.

REFERENCES

The following may be obtained from the SCFSU, 1 Gordon Town Road, Kingston 6, Jamaica. Also consult (a) Dealing with Destructive Cults, McManus and Cooper, Zondervan; (b) Scripture Twisting, James Sire, IVP, (c) the Reveal.org and Rightcyberup.org web sites, and (d) the other URLs mentioned below.

1. The Study of The Book of Acts, Boston Church of Christ. [Doctrine.] Once secret in Jamaica, this is now essentially what is the First Principles and is available online in that form. (Or, perhaps, the Jimmy Rodgers-led BCOC team in Jamaica in 1986 - 88/9 re-labelled the studies for use in the Caribbean?) Anderson has presented a critique of the manipulation involved. Rightcyberup has developed a powerful rebuttal to the baptismal regeneration teaching: URL: http://rightcyberup.org/baptism.html.

2. Bible Talk Information, KCOC. [Recruitment tactics.]

3. BCOC Bulletin, Jan. 4, 1987. [Outlines world plan, based on a hierarchical, hub-and spoke architecture for a global network of churches centring on Boston. The KCOC was envisioned as the sub-hub congregation for the Caribbean's subnetwork.]

4. "Come All Ye Faithful," Daniel Terris. Boston Globe Magazine. June 8, 1986. [Investigative report published in the city where McKean's system had its first great success. Also mentions findings from the initial Yeakley 1985 study.] Since then, on May 17, 2003, the same newspaper published a page A1 article: "A Christian Community Falters," available at: http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/137/metro/A_Christian_community_falters+.shtml. (NB: In our post-modern times, given the tendency to distort or suppress material truth in the cause of advancing sometimes questionable agendas, we should carefully assess all such news reports; a suggested framework is here.)

5. KCOC Bulletin, March 6, 1988. [Movement statistics, report on preliminary trip to Barbados in which the claim is made that the Bridgetown COC would be "the bridge" by which the gospel would reach Barbados, notwithstanding churches having been there since 1627, including other Churches of Christ.]

6. "Boston Church of Christ Grows Amid Controversy," Carlene Hill, Christianity Today, Feb. 19, 1988.

7. Basic Information on the Boston/Kingston Church of Christ System, Gordon Mullings [unpublished, compiled from information gathered in 1985 - 88; deposited with JTS-CGST, UTCWI Libraries and SCFSU].

8. The Reveal.org web site is maintained by ex-ICOC members and I have found it to be quite accurate and balanced, as well as comprehensive. URL http://www.reveal.org. Similarly, Rightcyberup.org hosts some excellent resources. URL: http://rightcyberup.org/.

9. There is an online forum on the ICOC hosted through the Delphi Forums, with many hundreds or even thousands of discussion threads; this may be found at URL: http://forums.delphiforums.com/ICCdiscussion/. I have particularly participated in the Interminable Baptism Threads, from June 2003 on.

10. At Reveal.org, Chris Lee has posted a presentation on justification that complements the notes below quite admirably. So does the Rightcyberup analysis of the ICOC teaching on water baptism.

11. The control mechanisms and scripture abuse issues are well addressed by, respectively, (a) Stumpk: http://www.reveal.org/library/psych/stumpk.html, (b) Anderson: http://www.reveal.org/library/theology/dandersn.html. Flavil Yeakley, a Church of Christ Researcher who was initially sympathetic to the BCOC undertook psychological and theological studies starting in the 1980's, and has published The Discipling Dilemma: http://churches-of-christ.org/archive/The_Discipling_Dilemma/.

12. The One True Church concept is addressed in http://rightcyberup.org/exclusivity.html.

13. The Henry Kriete letter is of enormous significance: http://www.reveal.org/library/stories/people/hkriete.htm.

14. The Historical roots of the ICOC are addressed in an online version of a Thesis, by Paden: http://www.reveal.org/library/history/paden.html.

15. More General Resources: The Bible Study on Justification in this site and the primer on Bible Study are also useful, as is the discussion on straight thinking (slide show) and that on sectarianism. The assessment grid for straight or spin in media and other presentations will also be helpful. Since one alternative often chosen by those who leave the ICOC is theological liberalism, it would be good to look at the Modernism/Fundamentalism debate and the evolution of theology since the C18. So would a discussion on the existence of God and the problem of evil as a key cluster of philosophical issues.

16. A more balanced discipleship alternative: You may wish to look at the materials in the Personal Evangelism course, the ABCD follow-up primer, the short course on evangelistic meetings and the draft book on reformation, Why Not Now?



APPENDIX A:

Notes on Proof-Texts and questionable Discipleship Practices

INTRODUCTION: The International/Boston/Crossroads breakaway Non-Instrumentalist Church of Christ Movement grows out of what is commonly termed the Campbellite Restorationist movement, in the form of the Non-Instrumentalist Churches of Christ tradition and therefore stresses immersion as a necessary "fifth step"  to become forgiven (after: hearing the gospel, believing it, repenting and confessing Jesus as Lord, in that order).  So strong is this emphasis on water baptism to thereby become forgiven, that the ICOC sharply attacks the classic Sinner's Prayer, because it is based on justification by faith, even though four of the five steps highlighted by the ICOC are expressed in typical forms of the prayer; for instance we may briefly look at the biblical context for the Rightcyberup discussion of the form popularised by Bill Bright's Campus Crusade:

A SINNER'S PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins [believe in the crucified and risen Christ, having heard the gospel, ROM 10:17 & 1 Cor 15:1 - 11, cf. Ac 10:39 - 43]. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord [confess and call on the name of Jesus as risen, alive, reigning Lord and Saviour, cf. ROM 10:8 - 13 & Acts 4:9 - 12, 9:1 - 9]. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be [repent, cf. Acts 10:43 - 47 & 11:14 - 18, esp. 10:43 & 11:18; also, invite the indwelling, transforming presence of the Spirit that leads to a life of sanctified discipleship: Jn 7:37 - 39 & Eph.1 :11 - 14, Col. 3:1 - 17, Titus 2:11 - 14, etc.; note 1 Jn 5:9 - 15 for confidence that biblically justified prayers are answered]. [Adapted, Rightcyberup web page on baptism's discussion of the ICOC objection to the Sinner's Prayer.]

Under the leadership of Kip McKean, and given the Restorationist stress on replicating what they perceive to be vital NT church structures and teachings today (as is seen in the "Non-Instrument" stress), and evidently through what has to be termed a misreading and mis-application of Evangelical Theologian Robert Coleman's Master Plan of Evangelism, mingled with pyramid scheme-like multilevel marketing techniques, it has unfortunately also come to insist on an extreme and abusively manipulative, legalistic, works-oriented form of "Discipleship" as part of the practical requirements to gain (and, maintain!) one's status of salvation.

In this light, even though a degree of disapproval is inevitable, and will come out even from simply listing demonstrated facts, it is appropriate for us to seek to follow Paul's instruction:

the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. [2 Tim 2: 24 - 26.]

Let us proceed in this spirit, and with this hope and prayer.

In so doing, we will focus on the doctrine of justification as it is taught in the ICOC, i.e. Campbellite five-step baptismal regenerationism: one must hear the NT message [as taught in the ICOC], believe it, repent, confess Jesus as Lord, and be baptised to thereby access forgiveness, to thereby provisionally/probationarily enter salvation. (There is a highly legalistic form of Arminianism, manifested in the repeated baptism of members who fall into sin, apparently it may not have "taken" the first time around. One recalls even seeing in KCOC bulletins, the names of known, prominent, long-standing members, who are listed in one and the same weekly bulletin as being baptised that week and also leading Bible Talk/study groups to be held that week!)

Then, too, since most of the rest of the Christian world does not hew to these teachings, the ICOC party-line is that they are not really saved and the various churches are illegitimate "Denominations" rather than true movements of God; naming themselves after their founders, and following traditions of these men and the later religious leaders so established, or else people are merely following their personal religious feelings, rather than the Word of God only.

Consequently, those who find themselves enmeshed in abusive high-demand, legalistic distortions of discipleship through the ICOC movement, are alienated from many possible places of refuge and suspicious of people who could help them. Further to this, they are taught that to leave the ICOC system is to leave the One True church thus to apostasise from Christ. The resulting plight and desperation can easily be imagined -- or simply read for oneself in the Delphi Forum or other places where online discussions on the ICOC are hosted. The Reveal.org site is especially helpful.

Further to this, if we are to break the stranglehold of this distorted teaching, we need to first set justification straight, so that people may gain confidence to go get the help they need. With that noted, let us now proceed, starting with the NT teaching on justification.


1.             Texts on Justification

"Justification" translates Heb. and Gk. forensic terms meaning: a Judge's action to acquit or pronounce righteous, the opposite of his action to convict and condemn.  [Cf. Dt. 25:1, Pr. 17:15, ROM 8:33.] 

As the New Bible Dictionary goes on to say of Paul: "His synonyms for 'justify' are 'reckon righteousness','remit sins', 'not reckon sin' (see ROM 4:5-8, RV) -- phrases expressing the idea, not of inner transformation, but of conferring a legal status and cancelling a legal liability.  Justification, to Paul, is a judgement passed on man, not a work wrought within man.  The two things go together, no doubt, but they are distinct." 

As we consider texts and arguments on "how to be saved", then, our focus is not on the further aspects of salvation, such as sanctification and glorification, but rather on God's first step of pronouncing righteous "those who have faith in Jesus," and thus forgiving guilty sinners and sending His Spirit to dwell within and begin the process of transformation that leads to a life that flows over in ever-growing streams of love, truth, purity and power. [ROM 3:26, cf. 4:4 - 8, 4:18 - 5:2. Also, Jn 7:37 - 39; Acts 10:43 - 48, 11:14 - 18, 15:7 - 11; Eph. 1:11 - 14, 2:8 - 10, 4:9 - 24; ROM 8:9 - 17; Gal 3:1 - 5; Titus 2:11 - 14; 1 Jn 1:5 - 2:6, 3:1 - 3, 5:1 - 21.]

1.1           The Case of Cornelius

This case actually settles the issue of justification: it is by grace alone through faith alone that then overflows in good works [Eph 2:8 - 10, ROM 4:4 - 5, Jn 3;14 - 18, 5:24, 17:3, cf. Ac 10:43 - 47, 11:14 - 18, 15:7 - 11]; but we will also need to point out just how Acts 2:38, 22:16; ROM 6:3 - 4, 10:9 - 13; Gal 3:27; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21 and John 3:5 are unfortunately misread by many in the ICOC tradition. But, to do so, we must first positively establish the case that justification/forgiveness is by God's grace through repentant faith. This is what the case of Cornelius does, through a concrete example backed up by direct statements of the C1 Apostles in Council.

It is worth beginning with a citation of the relevant texts:

Ac 10:43 [Peter, in Ceasarea, to Cornelius et al:] " . . . All the prophets testify about him [Jesus the crucified and risen, v. 39 - 41] that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers . . . were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles . . . 47 [Peter:]"Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They [Gentiles] have received the Holy Spirit [CF Eph 1:11 - 14, ROM 8:9 - 17, Jn 7:37 - 39] just as we [Jewish believers] have."

Ac 11: 15 - 18: [Peter, back in Jerusalem, to the Apostles and other Jewish believers [cf. vv. 1 - 3]:] "15 As I began to speak [to Cornelius and co.], the Holy Spirit came on them as he had on us. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said, 'John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.' 17 So if God gave them [Gentiles] the same gift [of the Holy Spirit, cf. 10:43 - 47] as he gave us [Jews], who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?" 18 When they [the Apostles and other Jewish believers, cf. vv 1 - 3] heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto [=EIS, as with the "for" in Ac 2:38] [eternal, cf. Jn 3;14 - 18, 36, 5:24, 17:3] life."

Ac 15: 7 [In Council in Jerusalem, on the legitimacy of Paul's teaching, ~ AD 49:] After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.8 God, who knows the heart [1 Sam. 16:7], showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us [Jews] and them [Gentiles], for he purified their hearts by faith.10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved [cf. Eph. 2:8 - 10], just as they are."

Observations and remarks follow:

1.  Given Ac 11:19 - 21 & 8:4 - 17, 26 - 40, on a preliminary point: while Cornelius' case forced the general Church leadership to accept that "God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life." [Ac 11:18], one cannot prove that Cornelius was the first Gentile saved.  There is thus no basis for the "first, and thus exceptional" argument that is presented by some ICOC leaders.  [Why isn't the first TYPICAL?  Indeed, given Ac 15:7 - 9, Cornelius' case is clearly not exceptional -- but rather typical or even representative -- in regards to God's plan, given: "He made no distinction . . ."]

2.   Ac 10:34 - 48.  From 43, Peter preaches: "everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."  Just then, the Spirit is poured out on the listeners, who have heard and believed (cf. ROM 10:17, Eph 1:11 - 14).  This outpouring forces the Jewish believers to recognise that they received the Spirit just as Jewish believers had -- never mind that they had neither been circumcised nor as yet baptised. On the strength of this receiving of the seal of God that guarantees inheritance of the kingdom as a co-heir with Christ [Eph. 1:13 - 14], they proceeded to baptise these Gentiles (47, 48), accepting that God has given them "repentance unto [eternal] life." (11:15 - 18) In Spirit-led Council (15:28), Peter's decisive input was: "God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.  God, who knows the heart, SHOWED THAT HE ACCEPTED them BY giving the Holy Spirit to them, JUST AS he did to us.  HE MADE NO DISTINCTION   BETWEEN US AND THEM, FOR HE PURIFIED THEIR HEARTS [i.e. from sin] BY FAITH.  [15:7 - 9, NB 10 - 11; emphasised. Cf. the close parallels with Eph 1:11 - 14 & 2:8 - 10; i.e. over a decade later, Paul was citing Peter's Spirit-inspired statement in the Council.]

3.  Thus, the universal basis for forgiveness/justification and the receiving of eternal life is repentant faith that trusts God who justifies the wicked [cf. ROM 4:4 - 5 & # 4 just below!], and the Cornelius case forced the early church to accept this.  In fact, the observable outpouring and overflow from within of the Spirit was God's outward & visible sign and proof of an inner & spiritual grace: the giving/receiving of repentant faith, issuing in forgiveness/justification and eternal life. So undeniable was the impact that it forced the clearly reluctant church's hand. [Cf. ROM 8:9 - 16, Eph 1:11 - 14, Jn 7:37 - 39.]   If, then, the ICOC system cannot pass the Cornelius Test, it is unfortunately gross heresy . . . rejecting those God has shown that he accepts by having given the Spirit to them so that they overflow from within in streams of living water: love, truth, purity and power. [Cf. Jn 7:37 - 39 & 17:3, 20 - 23, Ac 10:43 - 48, 11:17 - 18, 15:7 - 9, ROM 8:9 - 17, Eph 1:11 - 14.]

4. But, ICOC champions will as a rule try to rebut: "first, and so exceptional," or else they use a version of the J W Mc Garvey argument that God poured out his Spirit on these believers in Jesus without having yet forgiven them [cf. Jn 7:37 - 39, ROM 8:9 - 17 & Eph 1:11 - 14!], then they rush on to a favourite proof text.  Even so, the biblical position is clear: it is faith which releases justification, not immersion in water. Sometimes, the mere citing of these texts is not enough, as it is argued (directly or indirectly following J W McGarvey's 1863 commentary) that the pouring out of the Spirit/receiving of the Spirit by Cornelius and the others was not a sign of their having been forgiven/accepted/justified by God. Such debaters -- and Jefferson once all too aptly defined debate as the wicked art that makes the worse appear the better case -- should consider the following passages carefully:

(a) In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. AND YOU ALSO WERE INCLUDED IN CHRIST WHEN YOU HEARD THE WORD OF TRUTH, THE GOSPEL OF YOUR SALVATION. HAVING BELIEVED, YOU WERE MARKED IN HIM WITH A SEAL, THE PROMISED HOLY SPIRIT, WHO IS A DEPOSIT GUARANTEEING OUR INHERITANCE UNTIL THE REDEMPTION OF THOSE WHO ARE GOD'S POSSESSION -- TO THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORY. [Eph 1:11 - 14, cf. Num. 11:24 - 29, Joel 2:28 - 32, Acts 1:4 - 8, 2:1 - 4, 13 - 21, 31 - 39.]

(b) ' Jesus stood [in the Temple at the Feast of Tabernacles] and said in a loud voice, "[Phase Ia:] If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and DRINK. [Phase Ib:] WHOEVER BELIEVES IN ME, as the Scripture has said, [Phase III:] streams of living water will FLOW FROM [Phase II:] WITHIN HIM." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him WERE LATER TO RECEIVE. Up to that time the Spirit had not yet been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." [Jn 7:37 - 39, cf. Ac 2:1 - 4, 17 - 21, 29 - 39.] '

NB: This text outlines the basic biblical theology of receiving and manifesting the Spirit in the New Covenant, post-passion era:

Phase I: (a) thirsting and (b) drinking/believing -->

Phase II: The Spirit is now within [cf. Eph 1:11 - 14, ROM 8:9 - 17] -->

Phase III: The Spirit overflows from within, in streams of living water: love [ROM 5:1 - 8, 1 Cor 12;31 - 13:7], truth [Jn 16:13 - 15, Eph. 4:11 - 16, 1 Jn 1:5 -7 [cf. Jn 3:19 - 21!], 2:18 - 27], purity [Gal. 5:13 - 26, cf. Col. 3:1 - 17 & Titus 2:11 - 14, with 2 Peter 2:1 - 22], power [Acts 1:4 - 8, 1 Cor 12:7 - 11, NB 13:8 - 14:5]

(c) [Peter, at Pentecost:] "God has raised this Jesus , and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear [cf. vv. 1 - 4]. . . . let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ . . . . The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off -- for all whom the Lord our God will call." [Ac 2:31 - 39.]

5. In these we may see several key points:

  • Explicitly, (a) it is having BELIEVED that the disciples were sealed with the Spirit. [Cf. Ac 10:43 - 44, 11:18, 15:7 - 9 as discussed above.] And, that, in the context of Jesus' proclamation (b) that those who believed in him were to have streams of living water flowing from within, due to the Spirit that they were to receive after his glorification. As Peter proclaimed at Pentecost, (c) the promise was then operative: "In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people . . . and EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord [cf. ROM 10:8 - 13, & note below] will be saved." [Ac 2:17 - 21, cf. Joel 2:28 - 32.]

  • Thus, the focus of the gospel, as Romans 4:5 so eloquently argues, is faith: "trusting God who justifies the wicked" -- not to be confused with simply believing that there is one God, or even that he has sent and raised up Jesus as Saviour and Lord [Jas. 2:18 - 19 & Eph. 2:8 - 10]. Note the explicit statement concerning one who so trusts God that immediately follows: "his faith is credited as righteousness."

  • This is why Paul was so controversial: he argued that no-one could keep the righteous requirements of the law of God, so God accepts trust in him as if it were the missing righteousness [Jesus having paid the penalty!], then pours out the Spirit who dwells within and overflows as he works to transform us across time through growth in righteousness.

  • The seal of such faith and deposit guaranteeing inheritance is: (a, b & c) "the promised Holy Spirit." ROM 8:9 - 17, excerpted, adds: ". . . if anyone does not (b) have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ . . . . you (b) received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs -- heirs of God and (a) co-heirs with Christ . . ." (NB: In case someone needs it, the first clause cited can be reversed using the logic of implication: NOT-A => NOT-B is equivalent to: B => A; Paul uses this in 1 Cor 15:12 - 24. So we may freely infer: "If one belongs to Christ, then (b) he has the Spirit of Christ." And of course, this is the same as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God.)

  • Indeed, in Acts 2:17 ff, Peter points out the defining characteristic of the age of the gospel -- "in the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh." Then, in v. 21 he concludes: "And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

  • So also, we now see again why there was such a strong response to the pouring out of the Spirit in Acts 10:45 - 48, 11:15 - 18, and 15:7 - 9: the gentiles, by receiving the Spirit even without being circumcised [or baptised] were living proof that "it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. " [Eph 2:8 - 10. Especially note how works -- things we do -- are doubly distinguished from faith: faith originates in God as a grace gift that we can only decide to accept [or, reject], and are NOT to be identified with works. But, good works flow out of us through the indwelling Spirit, as a result of salvation. Baptism of course, from Matt 3:15, is such a good work.]

  • Further, these interventions by the Spirit can be amplified: the Spirit convicts of sin and leads us to Christ [Jn 16:8 - 11]; He guides us into all truth, revealing the things of God [vv 12 - 15]; it is the Spirit who empowers us to love: 'God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us" [ROM 5:5] ; it is by walking in the Spirit that we will not fulfill the lusts of the sarx [sinful flesh] and will instead receive power to carry out the righteousness that the law aims at but we are otherwise powerless to perform: purity; it is the Spirit who anoints us, giving us power in witness and service.

  • [Here I must also note that in 1 Cor 1:17, Paul is so bold as to observe, without qualification: "Christ did not send me to baptise but to preach the gospel" -- a stunning contrast, if baptism is as integral to justification, as the Campbellite 5-step teaching on accessing forgiveness implies. While I have seen ICOC advocates try to brush this Apostolic denial of their teaching aside, they have never in my experience provided a satisfactory answer. Just explain: could you see say Mr. Kip McKean declaring the above without further elaborate explanation and qualification? Read the context: Paul did just that!]

6. Further to these points, Acts 15:7 - 11 also shows how legalistic doctrinal error tends to promote abusive discipleship practices and hypocritical leadership, through creating a heavy yoke of "necessary obligations" that no-one can in fact carry:

[Peter:] "God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear . . . the gospel and BELIEVE. God, who knows the heart [cf. 1 Sam 16:7], showED that he acceptED them BY giving the Spirit to them [Gentiles], just as he did to us [Jews]. He MADE NO DISTINCTION between us and them, FOR HE PURIFIED THEIR HEARTS BY FAITH. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor they have been able to bear? No! We believe it is by the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

1.2          Acts 2:38 and Affirming the Consequent

This is the key ICOC proof text:  "What should we do?"  Peter replies: "Repent and be baptised . . . EIS forgiveness . . . " [the '78 NIV translates "so that your sins may be forgiven", but the '84 reads "for the forgiveness of your sins," reflecting the more generic, context-sensitive nature of this Greek preposition as compared with English ones -- itself a warning flag about freighting EIS here with the weight the ICOC puts on it!]. 

By a rule of "simplicity" -- "a nine year old boy could understand . . ." -- ICOC leaders often understand this as follows:

(a) If one repents and is baptised, then his sins are forgiven [True, as these would be SUFFICIENT for one to be forgiven, but cf. Ac 10:17 - 18 to see that repentance is EIS eternal life!];

(b) Therefore, if your sins are forgiven, then you must have both repented and been baptised [This is based on Affirming the Consequent, a basic logical fallacy, as will be discussed in comment # 2 below.];

(c) The specific purpose of baptism, then, as the "fifth step" of response to the gospel is to release forgiveness [Cf. Rightcyberup's telling discussion of the translation/interpretation of EIS; we will not elaborate below as this is not directly relevant for the inductive study and logical aspects of the case; besides, those in the ICOC system so suspect outsiders that they will have difficulty accepting that the proposed translations are legitimate, regardless of the qualifications of the translators. instead in the below, we will reckon from the sufficiency of obeying the Apostle's instructions to enjoy the fruits of the promise: forgiveness and receiving the Spirit];

(d) If, therefore, one has not been immersed to thereby become forgiven, he is not "Scripturally Baptised," and is not yet forgiven.  [But also, cf. 1 Cor 1:17 for Paul's "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel" -- words that would be strange indeed if baptism was in fact such the fifth, culminating step of response to the gospel, the one that specifically triggers forgiveness and the new birth! (Could you see say Mr McKean saying that without a cluster of qualifications? And yet, that is just what paul did in the cited text -- see for yourself.)]

(e) This further implies that, with but few exceptions, the ICOC movement thinks it comprises the One True Church.  Of course, the Boston Movement goes on to insist that one must be involved under their system of "discipling," and leaders of the movement have declared that leaving the system is tantamount to leaving God. [This claim to have cornered the market on legitimacy as Christians, and on salvation, is one of the surest warning-flags that the movement in question is on the wrong track. just ask any expert on cults and otherdestrucrtive religious groups.]

COMMENTS:

1.    Implication vs. Equivalence.  An implication argument argues: IF A, THEN B, or, A => B; which means "A being true is sufficient for B to also be true," or equivalently, "for A to be true, it is necessary for B to be true." (NB: We pronounce A => B: "A implies B." For a related theological application of the logic of implication, see here.) : 

      • The equivalence argument, A <=> B, by contrast -- and as its symbol suggests -- claims a double implication: A => B AND B => A; that is, A being true is "a necessary and sufficient condition" for B to be true.

      • In 1 Cor 15:13 - 19, Paul uses implication to correctly argue  A => B => C => D etc.; but in fact, NOT-B, so NOT-A (cf. v 13), and also there is thus no basis for concluding C, D etc.  Implication logic, an aspect of how language/meaning works, is therefore clearly used by God as he communicates with us: especially, to express the so-called conditional promises of God. [Perhaps, too, it is wise to note here Peter's remarks, in 2 Pet. 3:15 ff, on certain wise and inspired [cf. 2 Tim 3:13 - 17] teachings of Paul that are hard to understand. For, he warns that the unstable and unlearned are prone to twist these less obvious points, to their spiritual peril. Cf. Solomon's very similar remarks in Prov. 1: 1 - 7, 20 - 33. In short, not everything in the scriptures is obvious, being written at a third grade level, as ICOC advocates are wont to claim.]

      • For if we meet certain conditions God promises to bless us in specific ways. [Cf. 2 Pet. 1:2 - 4; Jn 3:14 - 17, 5:24, 7:37 - 39, 17:3; ROM 4:5, 8:9 - 17; Eph 1:11 - 14, 2:8 - 10 etc.] 

      • Logic is thus not mere empty "worldly wisdom"-- which ICOC leaders are wont to say when pressed [cf. Col 2:3, 1 Cor 2:6 - 16, James 3:13 - 4:2] -- it must therefore be carefully taken into account as we seek to correctly handle the Word of Truth [2 Tim 2:15, 3:14 - 17].

2.   Unfortunately, the ICOC use of Ac 2:38 mistakes implication for equivalence.  Where P = "You have repented and been baptised" and F = "you are forgiven," it argues: P => F; F is so; therefore P (i.e. it argues that P => F entails F => P). To see that in general P => F does NOT entail F => P, try P = "I am a pig" and F= "I am an animal."  [The specific fallacy is Affirming the Consequent, and can be checked in any standard work on Logic, e.g. Copi's deservedly famous Logic (Prentice-Hall).]

3.   Further, Ac 2:38 actually is a command: Repent and be baptised. On the assumption that a Spirit-led Apostle is telling the truth, we may infer P as a compound proposition: P = "you have repented" (R) AND "You have been baptised" (B).  (Notice, I am NOT arguing based on the disputed interpretation of EIS, but from the general principle that those who obey God's spokesmen receive God's promised blessings.) Thus, the argument in fuller form reads:

(R AND B) => F.  (That is, one who repents and is baptised will be forgiven.)

Using formal logic (Truth Tables, or Boolean Algebra), it can be shown that this proposition is equivalent to {(R=> F) OR (B => F)}, where OR is the" Inclusive Or" (Latin: VEL = and/or; not AUT [ which latter is "either/or, but not both"]). 

In simpler terms, Ac 2:38 is true if "repentance implies forgiveness" or "baptism (in submission to Christ) implies forgiveness" or both:

LHS: "(R AND B) => F" is EQUIVALENT TO "(R => F) AND/OR (B => F)": RHS

[NB: See Technical Appendix below for details. But, it can be seen intuitively, by noticing that the claimed implications on both LH and RH sides of the equivalence would be overthrown by the same event: if someone were to repent and be baptised but found him-/her-self unforgiven, then the implications on the left and right of the equivalence would both fail. This can be checked with a Truth Table, which mechanically inserts cases into the relationship then uses the properties of implication to assign T/F i.e. 1/0 values to the expressions. Thank God, such a purely mechanical conditon will never be met in reality, for he is so faithful to his promises that no-one who comes to him in repentant faith will be cast out!]

4.   In Ac 3:19 Peter, in his next recorded sermon, affirms that the former implication (R => F) is true [cf. 11:18, where repentance is EIS (= unto) forgiveness of sins, directly parallel to 2:38], and given that one who submits to the risen Christ's Lordship and obeys him in water baptism thereby expresses his repentance and faith, the latter implication (B => F) is also true.  It is repentance which gives meaning to baptism, in short.  Otherwise:

one dry sinner + immersion = one wet sinner 

5.   Further, since repentance (metanoia) denotes a change of attitude to one which trusts and surrenders to God, who justifies the wicked [ROM 4: 4 - 8, Acts 20:21, Heb 6:1, 2], repentance implies faith (which requires hearing and receiving God's word; ROM 10:17) and faith (trusting God) implies repentance, that is, logically REPENTANCE <=> FAITH. We may expand this by speaking of "repentant faith" as contrasted with the "dead faith" of James 2:17; summing up via Eph 2:8 - 10, we are saved by grace through faith, leading to good works laid out in advance for us to do.  Thus, when we see that "everyone who believes in [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name" [Ac 10:43; cf. 11:18 and 15:9], this is simply consistent.

 In sum, Acts 2:38 fits into the general NT teaching: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should [from "shall," i.e. far stronger than "will"!] not perish but have [present and continuous state of possession!] eternal life."  [Jn 3:16; cf. 17:3, which explains: "this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."  That is, eternal life denotes "a right -- and intimate -- relationship with the Father through the Son."] 

Acts 2:38, once the Affirming of the Consequent is ruled out as a fallacy -- and even ignoring the pertinent question of what EIS means in that context -- therefore gives no grounds for Baptismal Regenerationism.

1.3          Acts 22:16 -- The Importance of Respecting Context and Language Forms

The ICOC argues that the metaphor "wash your sins away" refers to forgiveness occurring during immersion.  However, a metaphor must be understood in the light of its context and the common-sense, basic rule of biblical Interpretation that: Scripture Clarifies Scripture, so one understands the less clear or figurative by the more explicit or declarative.

1.  In the immediate context, vv 6 - 10, Paul encounters the risen Christ: "Why are you persecuting me?"  "Who are you, Lord?"  "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting."  "What shall I do, Lord?"  "Get up . . . you will be told all you have been assigned to do."

2.   Thus, on the road to Damascus, Paul is confronted by the risen Christ, repents of his persecutions, confesses the risen Jesus of Nazareth as his Lord, and is accepted and commissioned as a servant of Christ, which clearly implies forgiveness.  Comparing ROM 10:8 - 13, the condition for salvation is: "if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."  Paul, as recorded in a letter from his own pen long before his speech in Ac 22, met the conditions for justification, and was forgiven three days [9:9] before his baptism in Damascus. (NB: compare Rightcyberup's discussion, which argues that "wash" is coordinated with "calling" on Christ in the Greek text. That is, the Greek arguably supports a parallel with ROM 10, and it is at best questionable to freight the text as the ICOC does. But, considering the audience and its suspicions of anyone outside the system, it is best to leave the translation issue to those who can profitably discuss such technicalities, and focus on inductive Bible study approaches.)

3.   Therefore, we observe that "washing" in 22:16, even ignoring the technical claims regarding translation, should not properly be read as a reference to the point of justification.  Rather, it more naturally and contextually speaks of how Paul would bury and leave behind his old "Egyptian" life in the (public) waters of baptism, as he underwent an act of: (i) identification with Christ's burial and resurrection, (ii) separation from the "Egypt" of the world, and (iii) sanctification and consecration to Christ and his service, as Paul points out in ROM 6:1 - 5 and 1 Cor 10: 1 - 3.  Indeed, so sharp was this shift that the Paul of only a few days before would have immediately arrested such a Christian as he had now become.  For, on the Road to Damascus, he had met the risen Christ, turned from persecuting him, surrendered in repentance and trust, and was now setting out on a life that would serve him as Apostle to the nations. Thus, the natural, contextually justified reading of Acts 22 is that Paul was forgiven/justified on the Road to Damascus, three days before his baptism, which marked a public confession of his new faith.

4.  The ICOC error here, sadly but understandably, is to read into a metaphor what their indoctrination makes them expect to see, rather than carefully reading it in its proper context, against the backdrop of its specific textual and general cultural setting, respecting the way in which it uses language (esp. imagery).

1.4          ROM 6:3 - 4 (and Col 2:11 - 12) and Reading Carefully

ICOC views water baptism as a dying, being buried and rising, and sharply rejects the view that the burial and resurrection in this text are a symbolic/dramatised confession of faith.

1.  ROM 6:3 - 4 actually reads: "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into (EIS) his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."  (Col. 2:11 - 12 also describes baptism as a burial, and so fits in here. NB how in ROM 4:1 - 5:2, esp 4:9 - 17, Paul carefully separates the times of faith/justification for Abraham as a paradigm example for justification, and that of the covenant ritual that marks formal entry into the community of covenant and faith. Also cf. Rightcyberup comment.)

2.  This passage clearly links baptism with death as a symbolic   burial and resurrection: baptism is clearly stated to be a burial (not a crucifixion!); we are not physically dead when immersed, nor are we under water for three days before rising out of it. And, as Rightcyberup cites Beisner: "will those who believe it is an actual participation also believe that verse 6 speaks of an actual crucifixion with Christ, instead of a symbolic one?" (Rightcyberup also aptly observes that the baptism EIS Moses in 1 Cor 10:1 - 3, is plainly symbolic: those who were immersed in that sea, drowned!)

3.  Moreover, there is a major context problem: ROM 1 - 5 is the main passage in the Bible teaching justification by faith!  It culminates in 5:1 - 2, which reads: "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith [cf. 4:4 - 8, 3:21 - 26], we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. . ." 

So, excerpting ROM 1:16 - 5:2, our theology for justification must first of all accord with the following explicit, direct statements of the principle of justification by faith:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes . . . in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." [1:16 - 17] . . . . a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known . . . This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe [3:21 - 22] . . . God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood . . .So as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus [3:25 - 26] . . . we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law . . . there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith [3;28 - 30] . . . . If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about -- but not before God. What does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.' [cf. Gen 15:6] Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.[Cf. 6:23!] However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness [4:2 - 5] . . . . Abraham's faith was credited as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after but before! And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. [Cf. Col 2:11 - 12] So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. [4:11 - 12] . . . . The words 'it was credited to him' were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness -- for us who believe him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. [Cf. ROM 10:8 - 13.] He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." [4:22 - 5:2.] "

It is fair comment to observe that the above summarises a strong Scriptural testimony/promise, consistent with Ac 10, 11, 15, that: trusting God who justifies the wicked -- us! -- in Christ Jesus is a sufficient condition for us to enjoy justification, thus peace with God and hope of glorification in Christ.

To this, we add the observation that Acts 10:43 - 48, 11:14 - 18 and 15:7 - 11, with Jn 7:37 - 39 and Eph 1:4 - 2:10 esp. 1:11 - 14 and 2:8 - 10 strongly indicate the timing of such justification: we are forgiven when we trust Christ. For, with no distinction between Jews and Gentiles, God purifies hearts by faith, and in the case of Cornelius and co he demonstrated this visibly by pouring out the Spirit in power so that these men began to praise God ands speak in tongues, even while they had simply been listening to Peter as he preached that "everyone who believes in [Christ the crucified and risen] receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

4.  So, having settled justification by 1:16 - 5:2 (a long sustained argument in which baptism and its cognates do not appear once [cf. 1 Cor 1:17]) Paul then turns to sanctification; as he stood accused of promoting impure lifestyles. So, ROM 6:3 - 4 answers to vv 1 & 2: "Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase?  By no means, we died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?"  Clearly, the question at stake is sanctification -- consecration to God, separation from worldliness, growth in purity -- and Chs 7 & 8 carry the theme on, through struggles with the enslaving power of sin to the liberating power of the Holy Spirit, culminating with glorification in 8:29.  Thus, to read justification into 6:3 - 4 is to misread the stated question at issue in the text.

1.5          ROM 10: 9 - 13 and "Calling on the Name of The Lord"

ICOC insists that, historically, one "calls on the name of the Lord" (13) when one is baptised.

1.   The text reads: "the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved' [citing Joel 2:32, CF Ac 2:17 - 21]."  To "call on (the name of) the Lord" [NB how Paul views the two phrasings as synonymous!], simply put, is to  pray earnestly!

2. It should also be noted that baptism is not in view in the text: as v 8 points out, "the word of faith" in the heart and mouth is.  While we do confess Christ and faith in him at baptism, this is not the first moment our hearts and mouths possess and profess this faith!  [See the discussion of Acts 22:16 for Paul's own example.]

3.   The text's emphasis on calling on God, i.e. PRAYER, also challenges the ICOC's tendency to deride and dismiss the Sinner's Prayer of contrition, repentance and faith.  While it is plainly true that Rev 3:20 is sometimes taken out of context in this situation (it refers to Jesus being "locked out of" a local church), passages such as ROM 10:8 - 13, Heb 11:6 and 1 John 5:9 - 15 give abundant justification for sinners to turn to Christ by (initially -- and naturally!) expressing their repentance, faith and consecration in prayer. The last is particularly instructive:

1JN 5:13 I [John] write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. [Cf. Jn 3:16, 5:24, 17:3, Acts 10:43 - 47 & 11:17 - 18]14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of him.  

4. Of course, given Mt 28:18 - 20, 1;15, and ROM 6:3 - 4, with Eph 2:8 - 10, it is a mark of obedient discipleship to go on to publicly confess one's faith in Jesus as Lord and risen Saviour -- and commitment to God and his people -- in the waters of baptism.

1.6          1 Peter 3:21 and "Baptism Saves"

This text, as is cited by the BCOC's Acts Study [p. 8], "says that baptism DOES save you through the resurrection of Christ." [This is an earlier form of what is now the First Principles studies.]

 1.  The context discusses how "God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the Ark was being built.  In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved THROUGH water, and this water SYMBOLISES baptism that now saves you also -- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.     It saves you by the resurrection of Christ."  [1 Pet. 3:20, 21, emphases added.]  Thus, the context is explicitly symbolic [NIV]/figurative [KJV], and it explicitly describes baptism as a PLEDGE.  We shall clarify the basis for that pledge, and develop the symbol. 

1a. NB: Arising from an online discussion in the Delphi Forums, on June 18, 2003 I was informed [by Mr. Casey Perkins] that the NASB renders: "Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." [Cf. http://bible.crosswalk.com/Lexicons/Greek/grk.cgi?number=1906&version=nas for the NAS rendering, from which NASB derives.] Thus, it is reasonably established that a small minority of respected versions renders the Greek in a fashion that those of the ICOC tradition would regard as sympathetic to their views. However, since the key term, EPEROTEMA, is a hapax legomena which may mean: promise, answer or request [UBS Dictionary, Appendix to the Nestle Aland Gk NT]; it is evident that context controls interpretation and translation. NO KEY DOCTRINE MAY SOUNDLY BE BASED ON THE TRANSLATION OF AN AMBIGUOUS TERM, especially where there are relevant contextual factors such as are raised in the points below. 

2.    The first issue is how one's conscience is so cleansed that one can, in baptism, make "the pledge of a good conscience toward God." [NIV, reflecting the majority of English renderings.]  And Peter himself supplies the answer in Acts 10:43 and 15:9 -- "the prophets testify about [Jesus] that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name"; "he made no distinction between us [Jews] and them [Gentiles], for he purified their hearts by faith."  As we saw above, God poured out his Spirit as a mark of this state of forgiveness, and Cornelius and those with him were baptised in response to this mark of God's forgiveness.  [It must be repeated that these two texts are explicitly universal: "everyone", and "he made no distinction" allow no other fair interpretation.]

2a. If one instead selects the minority rendering, it is still compatible with justification being by faith. How so? Not only because of the great weight of NT teachings as cited above, but also because baptism is a public test of one's commitment of faith: one's willingness to obey Jesus by being baptised -- sometimes, in the face of persecution -- manifests the sincerity of one's faith; thus, it can be viewed as an appeal to God for a good conscience, in light of having submitted to this good work that God requires. As ROM 4:5 states: "to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." Thus, by taking God at his word and bearing in mind the test case of Cornelius, we see that it is at the point of trusting God that we are forgiven; but such faith naturally and conscientiously seeks to "fulfill all righteousness" [Matt. 3:16], and therefore expresses itself in baptism.

3.   The case of Noah [cited by Peter in1 Peter 3:18 - 20, i.e. the immediate context] is also enlightening.  For, in Gen. 6:9, Noah is introduced 120 years before the flood: "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God."  In 7:1, as God instructs Noah to enter the Ark, he says to him: "Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation."  Heb. 11:7 sums up: "By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.  By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith." 

4.   Thus, in light of these cited texts, the flood waters cannot properly be held up as a symbol of justification; rather, Noah, being right with God by faith, obeyed God and so was saved through the waters of judgement in the Ark, a 450 foot, 120 year long expression of his faith, built before the flood.  Indeed, as Rev. Clinton Chisholm points out, "those who were immersed, drowned" [the same fate which met Pharaoh's army in the Red Sea, cf. 1 Cor 10:1 - 3].  Instead, being buoyed up by faith, Noah was set apart from the disobedient, faithless people of his day and was delivered from destruction.  Thus, given this context, baptism is to be linked with standing up with and for God in obedient faith, being set apart -- i.e. sanctified --   for his purposes.

5.  In the text, Peter links baptism with Christ's resurrection.  This reflects the emphasis of ROM 6:4, "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead . . . we too may live a new life."  ROM 4:23 - 5:2 adds " '[Faith] was credited to [Abraham] as righteousness.'  The words 'it was credited to him' were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness -- for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.  He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand."  Thus, baptism is a dramatised confession of faith, an identification with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection, and a commitment to a new way of life (that is, an act of sanctification). 

6. Rightcyberup's remarks on the proper translation are worth a look, though experience shows that such a linguistic-contextual discussion is hardly likely to be decisive, except for one technically competent in Greek.

In sum, we see that it is the faith that trusts God who justifies the wicked which releases God's forgiveness, not the water. Rather, water baptism is an act that expresses this faith, dramatically states one's separation from the ways of the world unto the Way of God, and declares commitment to walk in a new way of life in the power of the risen Christ [Cf. Eph 1:17 - 23]. That is, it is and act of sanctification (Phase II salvation in the triad: justification --> sanctification --> glorification) -- i.e. of separation from the world and dedication to God and his purposes.

1.7          Titus 3:5, John 3:5 and the Washing of Rebirth

In these texts, the Bible uses water imagery: "He saved us through the washing of rebirth and [KAI -- "and" or "even"] renewal by the Holy Spirit"; "no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and [KAI] the Spirit."  The inevitable ICOC claim is that water imagery refers to baptism.

1.  In Titus 3:5, the text describes the regenerating work of the Spirit as a "washing of rebirth and renewal."  Thus, "washing" refers to the Spirit's work of rebirth and renewal, not to any specific mechanism for that rebirth.  As we have seen from the critical case of Cornelius, "God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.  He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith." [Acts 15:8, 9.]  The mechanism of rebirth, in short, is that God, who knows the heart [cf. 1 Sam 16:7!], forgives and gives his Spirit to those who put their trust in Christ;  it is the faith which releases forgiveness, not the water. Cf. Eph. 1;11 - 14 on what the significance of giving the Spirit is.

2.   Again, John 3:5 is metaphorical.  Jesus first says " no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" [v. 3]; in v. 4, Nicodemus objects that a grown man clearly "cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born."  In vv. 5 - 8, Jesus declares:

(i) "no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit";

(ii) "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit";

(iii) "The wind blows where it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

3.  Mystified, Nicodemus replies: "How can this be?"  The answer takes up vv. 10 - 21, first marvelling at the lack of insight, then explaining: "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert [cf. Num. 21:4 - 9], so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life [cf. Jn. 17:3].  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."   Again, it is faith which releases forgiveness, not water. 

4.  The celebrated case of the thief on the cross and others such as the woman caught in the act of adultery, simply reinforce this point.  Moreover, the ICOC cannot consistently both use Jn 3:5 to argue baptismal regeneration and then turn around to protest that such cases were "before the declaration of Acts 2:38."  The tense used by Jesus above is PRESENT, so if rebirth requires immersion in water, then Jesus contradicted himself in such cases.  Of course, obviously, the true answer is that it is faith which releases forgiveness and renewal of heart, not water.

1.8          Gal. 3:27 and Clothing Oneself with Christ

This verse states: "for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ."  The ICOC argument, is as one would expect.  However, the actual text of vv. 26 and 27 paints a very different picture: "You are all Sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ." By omitting the immediately preceding verse, a false impression has been created. (Similarly, when we look at Gal 3:1 - 3, we see that one receives the Spirit by the hearing of faith, a telling text when read in parallel with Eph. 1:11 - 14, which highlights the significance of having the Spirit: He is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance of the Kingdom as CO-heirs with Christ.)

Ignoring, for the sake of argument, the point that "baptised," a Greek word spelled with English letters, may well be better rendered "placed" here, as many Scholars argue, the text is in a context that specifically declares that it is faith, not water which is the critical issue.  As the case of Cornelius and company, and many explicit biblical statements such as Gal 3:26 plainly state, it is faith which releases adoption as sons of God; not contact with water.

SUMMING UP: We can now sum up the case.  Classically, salvation is summarised in three main aspects -- better, phases: justification (salvation from the penalty of sin), sanctification (salvation from sin's enslaving power and habits), glorification (final salvation from the presence of sin).  [These phases can be seen most explicitly in Romans:  (i) ROM 3:19 - 5:2 -- Justification; (ii) ROM 6:1 - 8:17 -- Sanctification; (iii) ROM 8:18 - 39 -- Glorification [cf. 1 Jn 2:28 - 3:3; Rev. 21: 1 - 8]. 

As we have seen repeatedly above, the true NT teaching is that justification is by God's grace through faith "unto [NOT by!] good works" [Eph 2:8 - 10]; baptism's place is that it is an act of faith, a dramatised confession of that faith and a public mark of commitment and consecration to God, his purposes and his people, the church. 

It is the faith which releases God's forgiveness, not the water, as the case of Cornelius so clearly proves; it has thus been no surprise to see that attempts to teach otherwise invariably are tainted by basic mistakes in interpretation, such as we have seen.


2.            Discipleship vs. Abuse

Our Lord's Great Commission reads: "All authority . . . has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising . . . and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  [Matt. 28: 18 - 20.]

Thus, we are mandated to call people from all nations to submit to the Lordship of Christ, filling all of life with his fulness [Eph 1:17 - 23, 4:9 - 16.]  Each person is to surrender to Christ, identify with him and his church in the waters of baptism, and to grow in obedience to him as he/she is trained as a disciple of Christ.

Unfortunately, in the modern church, this mandate has often been neglected so that many who profess Christ have hardly been transformed from within by his Spirit and are instead squeezed into a worldly mould.  It is hardly surprising, then, to note the stinging relevance of Paul's rebuke: "You are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly?  Are you not acting like mere men?"  [1 Cor 3: 3 and ROM 12:2.]

Sadly, extremes provoke extreme reactions, so it is no surprise to note that many unbalanced, abusive forms of "discipleship" have popped up in recent times.  Within the Charismatic Movement, for instance, the Shepherding and Maranatha sub-movements at one time were notorious for abuse.  Fortunately, in both cases, the major leaders have acknowledged and turned from their errors and excesses, for quite some years now.  (Sometimes, the Cult-Watch literature has not kept up to date with such developments, a tardiness that is to be regretted and should be corrected.)

Regrettably, the ICOC movement has built up a track record of abuse and unwillingness to acknowledge and turn from excesses, at least since the early 1980's.  Specifically (but with no attempt to fully document -- see various other sources for such details, e.g. http://www.reveal.org ):

1.  Recruitment targets members of other churches.  For instance, in the Acts Study, p. 2 begins with the heading "Studying with non-Christians" and yet on p. 5, one is instructed: "Need to know the person's background. Ask two questions. 1) When did they [sic] become a Christian?  2)  How were they [sic] saved?"  This exploits a difference between the usual understanding of the term "Christian" and the ICOC's sectarian use of the term.  Double-talk, in short.  Clearly, such hidden agenda tactics lead to a pattern of deception and manipulation of the unwary.

2. The befriending, Bible Talks and One-on-One studies exploit the naïveté, social needs and ignorance of prospects.  That is, the "friendliness" is designed to pull in the lonely or disoriented and isolate them from their family, and from other friends and religious leaders; it is switched off as soon as one asks too many questions or is resistant in any way.   The Bible Studies -- as many others will confirm -- are both misleading and designed to indoctrinate the unwary.

3.  The ICOC's teachings are only given out, layer by layer like an onion, to those who are willing to accept them without question.  Public Bible Talks deal with innocuous topics, and members are warned: "Do not get into baptism discussions," which are reserved for the one-on-one sessions.  In these sessions, if one shows independence, one is soon cut off.  Indeed, it took from 1985 to 1987 in Jamaica to obtain documentation of the teachings, due both to concealment and to direct refusal by top leaders of direct requests for such materials for evaluation.  (The documentation originally came mainly from ex-members; we have been told that it is only possible to properly understand them under the guidance of an ICOC leader, sharply contrasting with 1 Jn 2:18 - 27. But now, the First Principles can be accessed online, as can Anderson's telling critical assessment.)

 4.  One's life and thought are controlled by leaders.  A Christian must be an obedient disciple, and one's ICOC-derived leaders hold that this requires detailed confession of sins to the leaders (without their respecting confidentiality), consultation with them about all significant decisions, and unquestioning loyalty and obedience to the church's hierarchy, starting with the assigned Discipleship Partner. [Apparently, this is based on their reading of Heb 13:17: since disciples should obey Biblical requirements (as the leaders view them!) without question, the ICOC originally baldly taught that this text "must" relate to leaders' discretionary authority to make rules covering things the Bible does not speak to. Now, this has been made more subtle, but to much the same effect: http://www.reveal.org/library/psych/stumpk.html#authority.]  Any independence of thought, action or relationship with God is crushed.  Such dependency sets the context for high-pressure, high-demand abusive discipleship; in a context where it is evident that members are also taught (explicitly or by implication) that to leave the ICOC is to apostasise from Christ, and that to read critical materials is to indulge in spiritual pornography.

5.   Psycho-social intimidation is also extensively used as a control lever.  For instance, those who begin to question teachings or practices soon find themselves "shunned," members are encouraged to report on one another to the leaders, and some have been forced to confess their sins before the congregation in lurid, step by step detail.  Finally, since to leave the ICOC movement is viewed as apostasy from Christ, those who do leave are often burned out and alienated from Christ.  Thus, one has little or no refuge within the system from the high-pressure tactics of the leaders.

6.   Eventually, after a few years, most members can no longer endure the pressure, burn out and leave.  At this stage, exit counselling and restoration are difficult and there is often a high failure rate.  Usually, the best that can be done is to offer unconditional love and prayer in a supportive Church environment.  In such a context, the imbalances, errors and exploitation can be exposed and corrected, and emotional healing can begin.

All of this could easily turn us against even the word "Discipleship."  This must not be: while extremes do provoke extremes, the point of balance is the true opposite to all extremes. For, discipleship needs neither be neglected nor abusive.  Love, humility, leadership by example, careful use of the Scriptures, integrity and a stress on helping each disciple follow and grow under the leadership, example and Lordship of Christ are effective correctives.

An extension of Jesus' warning about wolves in sheep's clothing [Matt. 7:15 - 23; cf. Jn. 10:1 - 15 and Ezekiel 34] will serve well to keep us out of abusive situations.  Sometimes, wolves wear sheep's clothing, but they may also hide in shepherd's clothing; inside, however, they are always the same: "ferocious wolves."  Thus, be on your guard against spiritual [mis-]leaders whose ways ["fruit"] are wolfish: self-centred, crafty, money-grubbing, lustful, deceptive, power-hungry, abusive and exploiting -- the wolf cares for his own appetites, not for the sheep.

 In particular, beware of those who subtly try to isolate you from your family, good (morally upright and uplifting) friends and spiritual leaders you have learned to respect: 

NEVER MAKE CONTROVERSIAL DISCIPLESHIP COMMITMENTS WITHOUT CAREFULLY HEARING OUT AND THINKING THROUGH BOTH SIDES OF THE STORY.  

CONCLUSIONS: Let us therefore learn from the mistakes of others and go on to work under our Lord's mandate to disciple the nations.  As we do so, the world, and its individual families and communities will more and more be filled with the fulness of Christ.  And that is the purpose of the church.


APPENDIX B:

TECHNICAL ATTACHMENT:

On the Logic of Acts 2:38 (& Mark 16:16)

INTRODUCTION: Baptismal regenerationists, such as those of the ICOC, often argue that Acts 2:38 means that unless one repents and is baptised, then one cannot be forgiven of one's sins. In this note I have argued that this is based on a misreading of the logic of implication, and that the case of Cornelius provides further empirical demonstration of that error, as it is a case -- accepted by the church as typical of how hearts are purified from sin by faith, ever since the Spirit-led Jerusalem Council of AD 48 - 49.

Why do I think so?

First, because I believe that since many biblical promises are of the form IF P, then Q, the logic of implication is directly relevant to understanding and applying the promises of God in our lives.

Further, since the Spirit of Christ who spoke through Peter is the Spirit of him "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" [Col 2:3], and since it is the same Spirit who inspired Paul to very powerfully use the logic of implication in 1 Cor 15:12 - 24; then I take it that some of those treasures include the logic of implication.

Once this is accepted, then the results shown below follow. (I have used symbols to work it out, but in principle it can be done "in plain language" though not as clearly and directly. For, that is the nature of symbolic reasoning. Please note: the symbolic logic used below is the basis for the modern computer technology you are using to view this web page -- I take this as strong evidence that in practice you consider the mathematics to be sound.)

Let us now turn to the actual logic:

I) Deriving the Logic of Acts 2:38

First, the context is:

[Peter]: "let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter . . . "Brothers, what shall we do?"

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for [EIS] the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-- even as many as the Lord our God will call." [Ac 2:36 - 39.]

We may infer a propositional, symbolic form of the statement; based on modern mathematical logic and the theory of proof, thusly:

1) Peter, a Spirit-inspired Apostle, instructs that those who respond to the gospel should (R) repent and (B) be baptised. If they do so, they will (F) be forgiven.

2) An obedient person will enjoy the fruit of his/her obedience, so we may infer that repentance and faith are SUFFICIENT for forgiveness:

"IF a person repents and is baptised, THEN he/she will be forgiven."

3) That is, once one hears and heeds Peter's words, s/he would repentantly trust Jesus as Lord and Saviour, and would seal that commitment in the waters of baptism. Such a person would be saved. (Note: here, we are NOT depending on the precise meaning of EIS in this context, but on the general basis for blessings under God: hearing and heeding his Word through faith: cf. Heb 11:1 - 6, 1 Jn 5:13 - 15, etc..)

4) Thus, we may immediately and properly infer an implication [i.e. IF . . . THEN . . .] statement from Peter's command, on the concept that obedience leads to blessing. In short, we can recognise IF we repent and are baptised in water, THEN we would be forgiven -- i.e. a statement of a sufficient condition -- as a verbal form of an equivalent symbolic proposition. (Notice, this is inferred from the circumstances of the command given, not the fine points of the translation of the statement. That is, the IF-THEN is a proposition, not a translation. The proposition is entailed by the Apostle's response to those who asked him what they were to do as people guilty of contributing to the murder of the long-awaited Messiah. [NB: It is helpful to contrast these circumstances to those in Ac 16:29 - 33, where the Philippian Gaoler asked "What must I do to be saved?"])

5) Symbolically, the proposition may be represented as:

(R AND B) => F.

(NB: This symbolic form is identical in meaning to the preceding verbal form [from which it was derived], but allows an easy manipulation using principles of Mathematical logic. The required mathematics is accessible to anyone who has done A Level Mathematics or the equivalent. This UK-derived course would be generally comparable to the level of serious first year courses in Math in a 4-year North American style degree programme. You may make reference to Copi's Logic, or even Bostock & Chandler's A Level Mathematics text for the Core A Level course and/or their Further Pure Maths text, which gives a rather nice discussion. If you have done a first course in Digital Electronics or in the Logic of Computing, the maths should be quite familiar, especially De Morgan's Theorem; which we used to use in the bad old days of TTL ICs to reduce AND-OR-NOT gate logic circuits to NAND chips -- which were cheaper and faster due to the electronics involved. If you use a computer, a Calculator, a digital cell phone, an ATM machine, an MP3 Player, or a PDA etc, you are relying on the soundness of the Maths used below.

(Also: (a) Paul uses the logic of implication explicitly, with a so-called Modus Tollens argument, in 1 Cor 15:12 - 24 (of course without modern symbols); and (b) Jesus himself uses the Modus Ponens in Matt 22:41 - 46 -- so this is not just "worldly wisdom." But rather, logic is deeply embedded in how language caries meaning by making distinctions between ideas -- indeed, the root word for "Logic" in Greek is the word for "word," LOGOS, and it is further rooted in LEG, which speaks of making a choice or distinction: cf. Paul's discussion in 1 Cor 14:7 - 12 on the centrality of having a distinct intelligible meaning as a basis for communicating and mutual edification. Logic and the often derided law of non-Contradiction, are at the heart of coherently and safely understanding and living in the real world -- e.g. "That onrushing car is both there and not there, since the law of Contradiction is just Aristotelian linear, black and white thinking, so I can ignore that blaring horn." Then: CRUNCH!

(Thus, those who for theological reasons wish to deny the applicability of formal logical reasoning to biblical questions but are willing to use PCs, Cell phones and other digital equipmentin their daily life and work, should therefore take second thoughts on how their lives belie their words: 1 Jn 1:5 - 7. As a starter for those thoughts, consider the implications of the biblical teachings that: (1) Jesus embraces "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" and that (2) by His Spirit, who "searches all things, even the deep things of God . . . that we may understand what God has freely given us"; we thus (3) have access to "the mind of Christ." [See Col 2:3, 1 Cor 2:10, 12, & 16.])

6) But does this also immediately entail that repentance and baptism are necessary conditions for forgiveness? No, on two grounds. First, in logic -- a key aspect of how language works -- it can be shown that a statement of form (R AND B) => F is NOT equivalent to one of form F => (R AND B).

7) For, to make this error of reversing an implication is to commit the FALLACY called Affirming the Consequent. This is best seen by e.g.: "If Tom is a cat, then Tom is an animal" is obvious, but does not at all lead us to: "Tom is an animal, so Tom must be a cat." But, to think that P => Q is the same as Q => P is quite common, as we often confuse implication with equivalence. In the example cited, Tom could be one of the iguana lizards or agoutis that live in or around my neighbourhood! {A general definition and discussion of "fallacies" as counterfeit arguments that often persuade but fail to give us good grounds for trusting them is here.}

8) That is, in short, it would NOT be proper to think that the logic of (R AND B) => F is equivalent to that of F => (R AND B), which would have to be separately shown: that is, baptismal regenerationists have to show on separate grounds that UNLESS one repents and is baptised (R AND B), then s/he cannot be forgiven (F). Assumptions and assertions are not enough.

9) But, already, as we have seen above, such an attempt runs head on into the case of Cornelius and co., which is an empirical refutation of this proposed reversal of the implication (R AND B) => F. For, Cornelius et al received the Spirit before they were baptised, with all the implications highlighted in Eph.1:11 - 14, ROM 8:9 - 17, and Jn 7:37 - 39. From the key passages in Acts and the Epistles and Gospels, we can see that:

(a) anyone may receive the Spirit and be forgiven of sins by repentantly believing in Jesus the Crucified and risen one [Ac 10:43 - 47 & 15:7 - 9, ROM 10:8 - 13; cf. ROM 4:5 for the definition of such faith; & James 2:17 - 19 for the kind of empty "belief that" which is NOT meant here. But also note that from Eph 2:8 - 10, such faith is a grace-gift from God and leads to a life of good works. Such activities express faith but are not to be equated with the inner attitude that repentantly "trusts God who justifies the wicked" -- i.e. us. One of those good works, of course, is to follow our Lord in fulfilling all righteousness [Matt. 3:15] through the waters of baptism. ]

(b) repentance is EIS [eternal] life [Ac 11:18; cf. 2:38 for a parallel EIS so if repentance and baptism are sufficient for forgiveness, then repentance is sufficient for eternal life. Of course, repentance is METANOIA: the mind-change required if we are to "trust God who justifies the wicked." Repentance and faith come together as two sides of the same coin.]

(c) God, who knows the heart (and needs no external sign, cf. 1 Sam 16:7 & Mk 2:8) showed that he accepted these believers by giving the Spirit to them "just as" he had done with Jewish believers; as soon as they simply heard about and believed in Jesus the crucified and risen Saviour. [Ac 15:7 - 8, cf. 10:34 - 47.]

(d) God thus purified the hearts of Cornelius and co "by faith" and saved them by grace. [Ac 15:9 - 11, cf. Eph 1:11 - 14 & 2:8 - 10 for Paul's direct parallel.] )

10) So, it would not be correct to infer from Acts 2:38 that IF a person is forgiven THEN s/he must have both repented and been baptised. On the contrary, the case of Cornelius and co, and the testimony of many millions since over the past 20 centuries who overflow from within in living streams of love, truth, purity and power [cf. Jn 7:37 - 39], gives us every reason to be confident that Baptismal Regeneration is a doctrinal error.

II. What Does Acts 2:38 actually Imply?

I will now first show mathematically that the proper logical equivalency is:

{[R AND B] => F} <=> {(R => F) AND/OR (B => F)} . . . . Eqn 1

(Where: R = "one has repented", B = "one has been baptised", F = "one has been forgiven" and the logical symbols bear their usual meanings. This equivalence can be seen intuitively, by noticing that the claimed implications on both sides of the equivalence sign would be overthrown by the same event: if someone were to repent and be baptised but found him-/herself unforgiven -- something that will not happen in the real world, because God is faithful to his promises. This equivalency in logic can be checked with a Truth Table, which mechanically inserts cases into the relationship then uses the properties of implication to assign T/F values to the expressions. It will show that the LHS and RHS are true/false under the same mechanically inserted conditions, i.e. they are equivalent. Of course, the biblical model of how we are saved will forbid certain of the mechanically imposed states in the resulting logical truth table, e.g. that where R = 0, B = 0, but F = 1, or that where R = 1, B = 1, but F = 0; where 1 and 0 have the usual meanings, True and False.)

To do the derivation, for convenience, I will now use the equal sign [=] for equivalence [<=>], the asterisk (*) for AND, the plus sign (+) for AND/OR, and ~P to mean NOT-P.

1) To begin, let us clarify what P => Q asserts:

First, P => Q asserts ~[P *~Q], that is "You cannot have P true and Q false."

[In the case of Ac 2:38, "You cannot have repented and been baptised AND still be unforgiven." This is why repentance and baptism are logically SUFFICIENT for forgiveness. P => Q means "P is sufficient for Q" and "Q is necessary for P." To reverse these, as we have discussed above, is to commit a basic fallacy, Affirming the Consequent. For instance, "IF Tom is a cat, then Tom is an animal," does not at all lead us to "Tom is an animal, so Tom must be a Cat."]

2) But, in logic, there is an important theorem, by De Morgan, on how the negation distributes a conjunction:

~ (P * Q) = ~P + ~Q

[You can verify it with a Truth Table. It allows us to mechanically manipulate intuitively obvious logical statements into forms that we may not "see" as easily, but which are logically equivalent. Therein lies the power of effective symbols: they "chunk" information and allow us to manipulate it in ways that we would not otherwise see if we had to keep in mind a flood of words. For instance, every complex mathematical derivation CAN be read in plain English, but that would be more likely to confuse than to clarify what is going on!]

3) So, by De Morgan, P => Q = ~[P * ~Q] = ~P + ~ (~ Q) = ~P + Q, as ~ (~ Q) = Q

Or, summarising: P => Q = [~P + Q] . . . Eqn 0 (as it is logically prior to Eqn. 1)

4) Applying "Eqn 0" to the sufficiency condition deduced from Ac 2:38:

(R * B) => F = ~[ (R * B)* ~F]

5) De Morgan: ~[ (R * B)* ~F] = ~ (R * B) + F and ~ (R * B) + F = (~R + ~B) + F

6) But also, F + F = F ; i.e. "I am forgiven AND/OR I am forgiven" is the same as "I am forgiven."

So: ~[ (R * B)* ~F] = (~R + ~B) + F + F = ~R + ~B + F + F

7) Rearranging:

(R * B) => F = ~[ (R * B)* ~F] = (~R + F) + (~B + F) = (R => F) + (B => F)

8) Cleaning up:

{(R * B) => F} = {(R => F) + (B => F)} . . . Eqn 2

That is, once we use Eqn 0, we see Eqn 2 is the same as Eqn 1, except for slightly different symbols.

9) This means (as can be checked with a simple truth table: the LHS and RHS of Eqn 2 will fail under the same mechanically imposed condition, where R = 1, B = 1, but F = 0. We have confidence that in reality such will not happen as God keeps his promises!):

SO, WE SEE A DEMONSTRATED CONCLUSION:

"IF a person repents and is baptised, THEN s/he will be forgiven"

IS LOGICALLY EQUIVALENT TO:

"IF a person repents, THEN s/he will be forgiven" AND/OR "IF a person is baptised, THEN s/he will be forgiven."

Actually, both are quite true:

1) In light of ROM 4:4 - 8 etc, metanoia is logically equivalent to pistis: that is, one changes his attitudes/repents in order to have faith, the attitude that trusts God who justifies the wicked; and, if one now trusts God who justifies the wicked, then that is because s/he has repented. According to ROM 4:5: "to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." That is, IF one repents/trusts God who justifies the wicked, THEN his faith is credited as righteousness. In short, s/he will be forgiven. [Cf. Acts 15:76 - 9.]

2) In Ac 3:19, and 11:18, we read: ""Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out . . ." and "So, then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto [EIS] life. (This last is the same construction as in Acts 2:38: EIS forgiveness, EIS [eternal -- cf. Jn 3:14 - 17, 5:24, 17:3] life.) That is, R => F is true; and of course there are a great many texts and passages on being justified by faith. ROM 1 - 8 is the most important, especially the section 3:19 - 5:2. ROM 9:30 - 10:17 is not far behind.

3) Since we are dealing with the case of a repentant believer in Jesus being baptised, B => F is ALSO true, as baptism is an expression of that believer's repentance and faith.

This then accounts for both the case of Ac 2 and that of Ac 10, or for that matter, that of Paul himself in Ac 9, 22 and 25-26. It also accounts for the cases of Acts 8 and 19, the other major cases in the NT where we are given detailed accounts of how people were converted to Christ. The key to this is Jn 7:37 - 39, as discussed above, which outlines a three-phase model for the theology of receiving the Spirit:

        P I: thirsting & drinking/believing --> P II: indwelling --> P III: overflowing

        (the NT shows that the overflow is in streams of love, truth, purity and power)

        JN 7:37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and [PHASE I:] drink. [Thus, PHASE II: The Spirit dwells within, cf. Eph 1:11 - 14, ROM 8:9 - 17] 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, [PHASE III:] streams of living water will flow from within [i.e. PHASE II] him." 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified [cf. Ac 2:30 - 39 for the glorification and its consequences in light of Joel 2:28 - 32 and Moses' prayer in Numbers 11:24 - 29].

Applying the model:

      • In Ac 2:1 - 4, the company of gathered believers [PI] (who had either been baptised under John or Jesus in his pre-crucifixion ministry), had the [P II - III] Spirit fall on them in power. Later, Peter tells those who respond to his sermon that those who repent [P I] and are baptised will be forgiven and will receive the promised Spirit [P II - III], in a context where the sign of this reception as highlighted in a quote from Joel 2:28 - 32, is prophetic utterance. As we saw above, such believers have repentantly trusted Christ, and are saved.

      • In Ac 8, the Samaritan believers came to trust -- i.e. believe in -- Christ [P I]. On the strength of Jn 7:37 - 39, they had thirsted and drunken of the Spirit through faith in Christ (with the notable exception of the insincere magician, Simon Magus), but to the surprise of Philip, something was missing. Based on the expectations created by Ac 2, we can see from "the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them" in v. 16 that it is likely that even though already baptised in water, the new believers did not at once overflow in streams of power as had happened in Ac 2 -- BTW a situation that is quite common today. The Apostles were called in, and the third phase of receiving of the Spirit as highlighted in Jn 7:37 - 39 was completed, as the new believers received the Spirit in power. So obvious was the manifestation of power, that Simon Magus inadvertently revealed his as yet impenitent heart: he offered money to the Apostles, for the power to impart the Spirit.

      • In Ac 9, Paul meets the risen glorified Christ on the Road to Damascus, and surrenders to him [P I, which entails P II], being accepted and commissioned as a servant; thus, on the strength of ROM 10:8 - 13, he was forgiven/justified at this point. Then, in Ac 9:17, Ananias laid hands on him, that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Spirit [P III, demonstrating P II].

      • In Ac 10, while Peter was still preaching, and saying that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins, the Spirit fell on Cornelius and co, showing to the astonished Jewish believers that God had forgiven them [PI, entailing P II], given them eternal life ,and that they had received the Spirit [PIII, implying P I and PII], who as Eph 1:13 puts it is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance of the Kingdom as CO-heirs with Christ. This of course happened before they were baptised.

      • In Ac 19, Paul met a circle of disciples NB how Luke DOES NOT identify them as Disciples of John, i.e. using the term mathetes without modification to indicate these were not disciples of Jesus -- who seemed to be in the condition of Appollos in Ac 18:24 -25: knowing and teaching accurately about Jesus, but only knowing the baptism of John. Paul, recognising that something was wrong, asked if they had received the Spirit [P II & III] when they believed [PI], hearing in reply a statement that is best understood (given the role of the Spirit in the teaching of John and Jesus and the apparently idiomatic expression used) as saying that they did not know that the Spirit had yet been given [Cf. Jn 7:39!]. From this, Paul asks concerning their baptism, and learns they knew only John's baptism. On preaching Jesus [P I], baptising them in his name and placing his hands on them, "the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied." [P III, implying P II] Again, the three-phase model fits the case very well.

III. What about Mk 16:16?

This text is quite problematic on textual critical grounds; where most competent scholarship views Mk 16:9 ff as being a later insert, not composed by the author of the rest of Mark as we have it. Those who insist on using it as a major plank in their doctrinal system, therefore, are skating on very thin textual ice. But, for the sake of argument we may accept it as a relatively early tradition generally consistent with the rest of the NT.

10) In this case, we actually have a declarative statement that can readily be rendered as a proposition without inference from a command:

"Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."

11) This is a compound statement, that can be rendered:

IF a person believes (T) and is baptised (B), THEN s/he will be saved (S); AND also IF a person does not believe, THEN s/he will be condemned.

12) Symbolically:

{(T AND B) => S} AND {NOT-T => C} . . . Eqn 3

13) Why do I claim that the left part of (3) is essentially the same as (1)?

Because: (a) repentance and belief/faith in the sense of trusting God who justifies the wicked are logically equivalent, (b) If one is saved, then as a sinner s/he will be forgiven, (c) If one is unfortunately condemned, then clearly one is not forgiven of his/her sins.

14) Thus, we may see that Mark 16:16 entails the claim:

IF a person repents (R) and is baptised (B), THEN s/he will be forgiven (F); AND also IF a person does not believe, THEN s/he will not be forgiven.

15) Symbolically:

{(R AND B) => F} AND {NOT-R => NOT-F} . . . Eqn 4

It should be clear that the left part of 4 is the same as 1 above.

Further, the same concern that we not confuse implication with equivalence and reverse the implication also is relevant.

In conclusion, I have already shown above many times, cf. ROM 4;4 - 8, Acts 3:19, 11;14 - 18, 15:7 - 11 etc that Faith/Repentance is also a sufficient condition for justification, the correlate of forgiveness.

(NB: In light of Mark 16:16 and the statement of say Ac 10:43 etc that affirm that faith is sufficient for forgiveness/justification, the right part of Eqn 4 would justify the further claim that repentance/faith is NECESSARY AND SUFFICIENT for salvation; but I here concede the textual problem and will not base such a claim on that text. But if one would wish to use this verse in the argument, s/he will have to reckon with the fact that taking the left and right halves of 4 in light of the above equivalence of repentance and faith, leads to the chain:

~T => ~S, so S => T; converting the right part of Eqn. 4 as Paul did in 1 Cor 15:20.

Where, T => S; from the "left part" of Eqn 4 and many other NT texts.

That is, T => S AND S =>T.

So, T <=>S . . . Eqn 5.

That is as strong a statement of justification by faith as one can have; "trust in Jesus the Saviour of the wicked --i.e. 'believing in Jesus' -- is NECESSARY AND SUFFICIENT for salvation.")

TECHNICAL CONCLUSIONS: I therefore conclude, based on the logic of implication, that the concept that one is justified by faith accounts for both the cases of Acts 2 and Acts 10.

Consequently, it is perfectly logically consistent for Peter to preach that:

(a) if one repents and is baptised one will be saved,

AND:

(b) that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through/in his name!

Thus, the problem is with us, not with Peter.

That is a basis for my call for reformation in and far beyond the ICOC and other Christian traditions.

Of course, some will object that the above is technical. It is. It uses the same basic implication logic Paul does in 1 Cor 15:12 - 24; no surprise as the apostle came from Tarsus a famous University Town, and used quite effective reasoning and rhetorical strategies in his ministry. In Matt. 22:41 - 45, also, Jesus himself uses the same basic IF . . . THEN . . . argument pattern, putting his critics to silence -- and to plotting.

Thus, we can see that the use of such logical arguments fits in under Col 2:2b - 3, where we may read: "Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." That is, the Logos of Jn 1:1 - 3 is Omniscient and therefore fully aware of the implications of the things he inspired holy men to speak and write by his Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. [Cf. Jn 14;15 - 17, 16:12 - 15.]

But, more importantly, the above argument in essence formalises the reasoning process that we always have to use in carefully and properly interpreting the Scriptures. I believe that I have good reason to conclude that, by the grace of God, I have objectively established the case.

(For that matter, the underlying logic and Boolean Algebra are the basis for the computer technologies used to access this web page. Thus, one's use of such technologies is an implicit acceptance of the trustworthiness of the Mathematics and logic involved.)

If anyone objects, then, let him/her produce good reasons why. I may be contacted here.

-END-


NOTICES: This set of notes [at http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/ICOC_response.htm in the Kairos Focus reference site] was created by Gordon Mullings, M.Sc Physics, MBA, from 1986/7 on as noted above, for use as part of a reference resource for preparing God's people in the Caribbean to respond in a balanced, informed way to the claims, agendas and tactics of the International Churches of Christ [ICOC] recruitment efforts in the Caribbean. Through online dialogue from 2003 on, in the Delphi Forums, especially the interminable baptism discussion threads, they have been subsequently revised and developed, to date. (DISCLAIMER: While reasonable attempts have been made to provide accurate, fair and informative materials for use in training and dialogue, no claim is made for absolute truth, and corrections based on factual errors and/or gaps or inconsistencies in reasoning are welcome.) FAIR USE: The contents of this web page and its linked pages are intended for use as a support for learning about responding to the typical kind of sectarian challenges to the Christian Faith and gospel that are commonly encountered in the Caribbean, as exemplified by the ICOC movement. Permission is therefore granted to link to this page for fair use under intellectual property law, and for reasonable citation of the linked content on this site for church- or parachurch- group related training and/or for personal or academic use; this specifically excludes reproduction, linking or citation for commercial, controversial or media purposes without the Author's written permission -- especially where matters relating to the validity and value of the teaching of Justification by Faith, or Faith/Religious/Deistic/Atheological Worldview Commitments and key Christian Truth-Claims such as the resurrection of Jesus are being debated or disputed . COPYRIGHT:GEM 1987 - 2004. All rights are reserved.