A Dialogue - 2
Royce Money, President of Abilene Christian University
H. A. (Buster) Dobbs, Editor of the Firm Foundation
(Brother Money's portion of this dialogue was first printed in a pamphlet he wrote and that was widely distributed at the request of the trustees of Abilene Christian University. His brochure, therefore, represents the official position of the school. For the purpose of this discussion, we are merely reprinting what brother Money and the board have broadcast.)
Money: We must realize that unity does not mean uniformity of belief. It never has; it never will. Unity must be forged from a diversity of belief that is beyond the essential core beliefs of Christianity. Obviously, I believe in the existence of essential beliefs that are taught by the New Testament upon which we all must stand. The most central and obvious is the one Peter confessed in our text Jesus is the Son of God.
Dobbs: "Unity does not mean uniformity of belief. " (?) "Unity must be forged from a diversity of belief " (?) Diversity means "different, dissimilar, varied " Are you telling us, Doctor Money, that unity means different, dissimilar, varied belief? Jesus prayed not only for the apostles, but 'for them also that believe on me through their word" (John 17:20). Belief also comes from the word of Jesus. "So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17). If you had said diversity in opinion and human tradition, that would have been sensible. But you said "diversity in belief " Jesus prayed for those who believed on him because of the word of the apostles "that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send me" (John 17:21). You suggest "central beliefs" and then a "most central belief " Are the central beliefs as important as the most central one?
Money: I believe in the essential nature of believer's baptism to wash away sins and to obtain the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Our worship should consist of a cappella singing, and worship led by Christian men in an orderly way. I spell out these to you because I recently read in a brotherhood publication that the ACU president apparently saw all of these beliefs as optional. I do not.
Dobbs: The word should can be used to express probability and is not as strong as must. Brother Money, is it a sin to use mechanical instruments of music in worship of God? Is it possible for a pious, unimmersed adult to have the promise of salvation? Will the good people of all denominations be saved? Is there one church comprised of all the saved of all the earth?
Money: The seven-fold unity that the Spirit gives, according to Ephesians 4, is non-negotiable. Interestingly, Paul says there that we are to "make every effort" to maintain this unity that the Spirit creates "in the bond of peace."
In reading some of our brotherhood papers, "peace" is not the first word that springs into my mind.
Dobbs: Paul speaks of "one" faith. You speak of "diversity in belief. " Paul speaks of "one" church. You speak of "the central core beliefs of the New Testament. " Is the one church a part of the essential core beliefs of the New Testament? Are you saying that denominationalism is sinful? Brother Money, when I read your savage criticism of brotherhood papers and your militant call for radicals to be marked and avoided, peace is not the first word that springs into my mind. By the way, Doctor Money, what teaching in the New Testament is negotiable?
Money: We must determine the essentials of faith apart from traditions, customs, comfort and personal preference. Here's a lesson of history: the longer we exist as a distinctive Christian movement to restore New Testament Christianity, the more difficult this goal will become.
There is a vast difference between tradition and traditionalism. Traditions are good and necessary. Traditionalism lifts tradition to the level of doctrine and draws lines of fellowship. May the Lord help us to know the difference.
Dobbs: We ought not to exist as a Christian movement to restore New Testament Christianity. We exist as a church - the body of Jesus. Question: Did Paul lift tradition to the level of traditionalism when he wrote, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us " (2 Thess. 3:6). Did the inspired apostle make tradition a line of fellowship? Maybe we ought to have a longer debate on tradition.
(This disputation will continue in the next issue.)