Thrust Statement: Paul teaches toleration for imperfection in knowledge.

Scripture Reading: Romans 16:17

The exegete who is doing his or her work properly is forever asking the question: But what is the point? What is the author driving at? That is, one is always raising the question of the author’s intent. . . . Further, one is also wary of over-exegeting—for example, finding something that would stagger the author were he informed someone had found it in his writing, or building a theology upon the use of . . . discovering meaning in what was not said.[1]

            One of Paul’s statements toward the close of his epistle is one of the most abused Scriptures within Christendom by many sincere Christians. This statement is: “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them” (Romans 16:17).[2] This Scripture is cited in order to justify separation from other believers who do not fall in-line with the so-called faithful brothers. Within the Churches of Christ there are approximately twenty-five or more divisions, each claiming this verse as its own unique property. Each faction clobbers the other group in order to demonstrate to the church and to the world that they will not tolerate dissent from the status quo.

            Christians today are battling one hundred and fifty years of tradition. Many Christians are so indoctrinated with a particular party that they can no longer distinguish between custom and the word of God. Jesus, when He came on the scene, also confronted at least one hundred and fifty years of beliefs as advanced by the religious leaders. They, too, could no longer differentiate between their practice and the word of God. There are many traditions that exist within Christendom. But this essay is concerned with one particular denomination—the Churches of Christ.  Many Churches of Christ wrench this Scripture out of context to support their castigation of other saints.

Just how should one interpret Romans 16:17?  How should one explain this passage? What does the words “watch out for” (skopei'n, skopein) convey in this context? The KJV translates the Greek word skopein as mark, and this rendition is relied upon for the various clandestine operations in which Christians are thrown out of the synagogues. Still, there are many questions that need to be answered in order to arrive at a correct interpretation of Paul’s admonition. This Scripture is normally employed by religious journals within the Churches of Christ to rationalize their actions of condemnation. Various Churches of Christ cite this verse against those who participate in Sunday school, individual communion cups, Bible colleges, bread-breaking, bread-pinching, wine, grape juice, acapella music, instrumental music, and so on. In the observance of the Lord’s Supper, if one breaks the bread rather than pinches the bread, then both groups will cite Romans 16:17 to lambaste the other with the epithet: Division Makers. This legitimate statement of Paul is utilized to force subjection to a meticulous brand of orthodoxy. And those that do not conform to the traditional views advanced by a hard-to-please interpretative community are disenfranchised from their fellowship. 

TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION OF
ROMANS 16:17

This essay is an analysis of the traditional understanding of Romans 16:17 as well as an exegesis of the real intent of the statement by Paul. Unless one remembers that godly teachers have simply passed much of their theology on to them, then it is much more difficult to see the text as a window through which one can peer into the historical period. The inherited commentary on Romans 16:17 is employed by many Christians to explain away their behavior of alienation from other believers. The traditional position, so it appears, is based on a series of unverifiable arguments, which in turn function as assumptions, to the effect that the reading of the text is upon the basis of one’s own theological urgencies, not upon Paul’s intended meaning. This “handed down” view is associated with Dub McClish in The Eighth Annual Spiritual Sword Lectureship. McClish asserts:

This passage emphasizes the dependence of true unity upon doctrine. The concept of the possibility of scriptural unity on any basis that ignores or forfeits doctrinal truth must be rejected. There can be no heaven-oriented unity in the climate of doctrinal diversity. Scriptural unity surely involves mutual love between the parties concerned, but it requires far more than mere love. This passage states it plainly: where doctrines that differ from and are contrary to THE DOCTRINE are taught and received, the result is not unity, but “divisions and occasions of stumbling.” Such statements as “It is not doctrine that unites us, it is love,” are not only unscriptural, they are totally anti-scriptural. The content of Romans 16:17 alone is sufficient to successfully challenge the insidious Ketcherside-Garrett doctrine of “unity in diversity.[3]

            The phrase—“doctrine”—as employed by McClish is in essence whatever he believes about certain Church of Christ dogma. Each fellowship—approximately twenty-five in number—interprets “doctrine” or “teaching” differently. The various orthodox bodies can never agree on what the “teaching” is that Paul addresses in this epistle to Rome. In this same vein of reasoning, Homer L. King (1892-1983), former editor of Old Paths Advocate, wrote an article in 1936 to condemn men like McClish for not abiding in “the teaching you have learned” (Romans 16:17).[4] King wrote an article to justify his separation from Christians who use individual communion cups in the communion and participate in Sunday school.

            King entitled his article, “Avoid Them.” This heading is taken from the concluding remarks of Paul in this passage: “Keep away from them.”   With his mental concept of what it was all about, he had no choice other than to promote rejection of other believers who refused to conform to his beliefs associated with the one-cup and non-Sunday school persuasion. What had King learned from his misguided teachers? He learned that one should not use individual cups nor participate in Bible study classes for various ages.

This essay by King had such an impact upon this movement that the current editor, his son, republished this article forty-six years later (February 1982) and again in January 1992. The Old Paths Advocate (OPA) still uses the logic of King in their interpretation of Romans 16:17. This Scripture is called forth to condemn men like McClish, but, on the other hand, McClish employs this Scripture to clobber men like Carl Ketcherside and Leroy Garrett, as cited above by McClish—“Romans 16:17 alone is sufficient to successfully challenge the insidious Ketcherside-Garrett doctrine of “unity in diversity.

McClish and King—even though in different religious parties or interpretative communities—employ the same Scripture with the same devastating result against those who would dare to differ with their interpretative community. King’s sectarian spirit also comes through loud and clear as he “hauls over the coals” those with whom he disagrees:

“What shall I do,” some one inquires, “when we have a preacher or teacher present, who is not quite sound?” Let him be a good listener, until, if ever, he declares his loyalty. The same is true of those, whom you do not know. “They will not say anything about our differences in their teaching,” says one. How do you know? If not publicly, they will privately, and beside you are not obeying the command given by Paul, viz, “‘mark them’ . . . and ‘avoid them’” (Rom. 16:17. Homer L. King, OPA, Sept. 1, 1936.[5]

            The above two citations—McClish and King—illustrate the dilemma Christians find themselves involved in whey they disagree with other believers over doctrinal issues. As one peruses the various religious journals, one quickly discovers “editor bishops” and “powerful preachers” lashing out at one another. McClish, for example, denounces what he calls “the insidious Ketcherside-Garrett doctrine of  unity in diversity.’” But what is there about this unity in diversity practice that is so abhorrent to him and to many other religious teachers?  This practice of accepting others with various viewpoints, according to McClish and King, is tantamount to denying that the Bible is the standard of authority. And, as a result of this perception of unity, the wrath of many godly men falls upon the necks of the dissidents—equally godly in their walk with the Lord.

            Again, what is this “insidious doctrine” advanced by the late Carl Ketcherside and the contemporary Leroy Garrett? Their concept of unity demands, according to McClish, that Romans 16:17 be called to the front in order to give so-called biblical validity to his right to “avoid” them. Upon closer examination of the context of Romans 16:17, one soon discovers that the arguments advanced by McClish and King do not hold up under closer scrutiny. Christians seldom ask, what does the text mean? For one to assign a meaning to the text that was not in the original meaning is to abuse the text. Both men have distorted the text from its intended meaning, but this falsification does not appear to be deliberate on the part of either person. Every Christian is confronted daily with his theological heritage, his ecclesiastical traditions, his cultural norms, and his existential concerns. Since Ketcherside and Garrett both sensed this aspect of human nature, they both published books under the following titles: The Twisted Scriptures[6] and The Word Abused.[7]

CARL KETCHERSIDE’S VIEW ON UNITY

            Just what did Ketcherside teach about how one maintains a relationship with God? What did he teach concerning unity in diversity, which everyone practices—whether conscious or unconscious of such behavior? To be fair to Ketcherside, it seems only appropriate to let him express his own thoughts through his writings. Then, after a perusal of his thoughts, one can more fully grasp either the correctness or incorrectness of McClish’s allegations about the so-called “insidious doctrine.” Ketcherside understood that a mistake of the mind was not necessarily as a result of a dishonest heart. One can be honestly mistaken, but still be loved by God at the same time (see also 1 Corinthians 8 for a biblical example of how one can be mistaken and still be loved by God).

Ketcherside goes right to the heart of the matter when he expresses his views about misunderstanding of the text: “Men can be mistaken without being malicious. They can fail to understand without falling away from Jesus.”[8] Again, Ketcherside correctly points out: “One who loves the Lord Jesus Christ is not an apostate simply because he cannot conscientiously concur with the orthodox position of a party.”[9] Once more he uses the following pregnant words to express the futility of advocating unity based upon conformity: “Any attempt to secure unity upon the basis of uniformity of knowledge or conformity in deductive or inferential processes (i.e., doctrinal interpretation) is doomed before it begins.”[10]

This odd interpretation of Romans 16:17 is not just unique to McClish and King; this text is cited by many well-meaning Christians to castigate those who advance the belief of  unity in diversity and, also, to turn down fellowship with individuals who advocate that freedom from error is not a condition of salvation. Ketcherside sought to lay bare the text itself from traditions and sets forth his reason for espousing unity in diversity as the only reasonable position that anyone can champion without going contrary to the word of God and common sense. Note for instance his following explanation for his belief in unity in diversity:

Freedom from error is not a condition of salvation else all men would be damned. We are not saved by attainment to a certain degree of knowledge but by faith in Christ Jesus. It is by belief of facts related to him, and not by grasp of abstract truth, that we are justified before God. Certainly it is not by performance of meritorious deeds nor by legalistic conformity. When we postulate a program of justification by knowledge we hang ourselves on the gallows we have constructed to rid ourselves of others, unless we are prepared to make ourselves even more ridiculous by affirming that we know as much as God.[11]

            Has God made salvation contingent upon absolute perfection in knowledge? An answer to this question is an unqualified “no”! Eternal life is not conditioned upon an all-out mastery of the word of God. Does Christian unity call for unqualified perfection in knowledge of the Holy Scriptures? Again, the answer to this question must be “no.” The only kind of unity that individuals can share is unity in diversity. If pure understanding is essential to eternal life, no one could be saved. It is obvious to the thinking mind that within the Christian community there are babes, children, young men, and fathers in Christ Jesus our Lord.

            Not only did Ketcherside see the foolishness of trying to make unity conditioned upon an out-and-out conformity, but Alexander Campbell also dealt with the absurdity of thinking that unity could be based on anything other than faith in Jesus. Campbell strips away all the extraneous matter and goes right to the heart of the problem of disunity among God’s people. Consider the following penetrating analysis:

Let every sect give up its opinions as a bond of union, and what will remain in common? The gospel facts alone. . . . Men have foolishly attempted to make the deductions of some great minds the common measure of all Christians. . . . It is cruel to excommunicate a man because of the imbecility of his intellect. I have been censured long and often for laying too much stress upon the assent of the understanding; but those who have most acrimoniously censured me, have laid much more stress upon the assent of the mind than I have ever done. I never did, at any time, exclude a man from the kingdom of God for a mere imbecility of intellect; or, in other words, because he could not assent to my opinions. . . . I will now show how they cannot make a sect of us. We will acknowledge all as Christians who acknowledge the gospel facts, and obey Jesus Christ.[12]

Campbell knew that it is redemption through Christ that makes us one, not correct understanding. He refused to eliminate a man from the kingdom of God for a condition of mental deficiency or feeble-mindedness. He accepted all as Christians who acknowledged the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and submitted their lives to Him in conformity to His ethical standards as set forth in the Sermon on the Mount. 

LEROY GARRETT POSTULATES UNITY IN DIVERSITY

            Leroy Garrett expresses well the basic problem interpreters encounter by not applying Romans 16:17 to unity in diversity, which is exactly what Paul is teaching. The “teaching” in this passage deals with the spirit of toleration for differences within the Christian community, not doctrinal conformity before unity. Garrett, too, captures the essence of Paul’s admonition to the Romans, when he writes: “The phrase ‘contrary to the teachings you received’ almost certainly refers to the teaching on unity in spite of differences which he had just laid before them in the letter, especially Ro. 14.”[13]

            Again, Leroy seems to be right in thinking that “It is clear enough that he is dealing with a behavioral problem more than a doctrinal one.”[14] Paul is not saying, “It is my way or no way.” The traditional Church of Christ interpretation is the spirit of “no toleration” for differences. This behavior is totally at odds with the context. McClish and King, as mentioned above, deny that Paul is teaching unity in diversity. What McClish calls “insidious Ketcherside-Garrett doctrine of ‘unity in diversity’” is the same teaching expounded by Paul in his first letter to Corinth (1 Corinthians 8) and to Rome (Romans 14—16). If Paul were here today, he would be rejected on the philosophy of McClish and King.

            The practice of excommunicating individuals that dissent from one’s assumptions is not new to the Christian world of McClish or the late King. For example, in the fourteen century, John Wycliffe (1330-84) suffered abuse from the church for disagreeing with certain religious practices and beliefs. In the sixteen century, John Knox (1514-72), spent nineteen months as a galley slave for his faith. Then in the seventeen century, John Bunyan (1628-88) spent twelve years in prison (1660-72) for refusing to apply for a license to preach. And, but not least, in the sixteenth century, William Tyndale (1494-1536) was burnt for so-called heresy. What was his heresy? He translated the Bible from Greek into English.[15] 

ALEXANDER CAMPBELL PUTS FORWARD
UNITY IN DIVERSITY IN HIS PLEA
FOR THE SPIRIT’S UNITY

One hundred and sixty-eight years ago (1832), Campbell confronted a religious movement that was split into many warring factions. None could agree on what was essential and what was non-essential for Christian unity among the various denominations. Christians, in his day, as well as our day, sought to make fellowship conditional upon unanimity of agreement upon doctrinal matters. As a result of this kind of mental gymnastics, he observed division on every street corner. He saw Christians throwing one another out of the synagogue because of differences over how to interpret a passage of Scripture.

Romans 16:17 was tossed about in his day as it is presently hurled about in our day. Thus, Campbell, too, dealt with the misapplication of this passage that was utilized to justify separation from other equally God-fearing and sincere followers of Jesus. The amount of space and time taken here to review this particular controversy—unity in diversity—although considerable, is easily justified. The following quote from Campbell is a lengthy passage, but it has to be cited in full to appreciate his mature insight—an insight that many today do not possess. Campbell’s words are pertinent and relevant for the Christian community that has turned into a war zone.

The Pope and his angels preached from this text half a century, while Luther, Zwingle, Melanchthon, &c. were exposing the filthiness of the Mother of Harlots. As Luther gave the Pope no quarters, he wreaked his vengeance on the Reformers, denouncing them as heretics, schismatics, sowers of discord among brethren, haughty, self-willed, and contumacious dignitaries.

He learned that lesson from his predecessors, who denounced the Messiah and his Apostles by similar arguments. Jesus was not a good man, for he made division among the people; and the Apostles were heresiarchs, for they turned the world upside down.

Elijah, too, was a disturber of the peace of Israel; and Daniel greatly marred the harmony of the devout fraternity who paid court to Nebuchadnezzar. In short, from the time that Moses caused divisions in the kingdom of Pharaoh, down to the last Dover Association, this text, “Mark and avoid them that cause divisions,” has never been unseasonable amongst the opponents of reform and of change; for as there can be no reformation without change—and as all who preach reformation preach a change, the consequence must be, that those who will not change, must, to justify themselves, denounce the reformers; and no text does this better than this—“Mark them which cause divisions, and avoid them.”[16]

            Christians still herald this text against anyone who seeks to call attention to a reevaluation of one hundred and fifty years of tradition. Just a perusal of the Church of Christ journals reveals the popularity of this text (Romans 16:17). If anyone questions the hand-me-down traditions from the forefathers, one hears the epithet—Division Maker. Campbell correctly called attention to an illegal use of this citation to condemn the reformers who sought to bring about change. The religious leaders in Jesus’ day could also have quoted this Scripture against Jesus and His apostles—for Jesus and the apostles challenged the traditions of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.

TOLERATION AND FORBEARANCE ARE ESSENTIAL FOR
CHRISTIAN UNITY

            Two reformers—Ketcherside and Garrett—questioned the traditions of the Churches of Christ and their proof-texting of Scripture to substantiate their divisive spirit. One such Scripture they sought to put back into context dealt was Romans 16:17. This passage was used and is still used to hack to death anyone who dared/dares to question the strange and weird interpretation of a distinctive interpretative community. They knew that the odd interpretation attached to Romans 16:17 violated the general teachings of the New Testament (Ephesians 4:1-6) and the unity for which Jesus prayed in His priestly prayer (John 17).

            Both Garrett and Ketcherside called for forbearance. This is the crux of the so-called “insidious Ketcherside-Garrett doctrine of unity in diversity. McClish’s cruel statement against these two men is based upon a faulty interpretation of Romans 16:17. Unity in diversity demands toleration toward other believers—even with mistaken views. For one to understand more fully the mind-set of Garrett, a citation from him should allow one to enter into his concern over the fracturing of Christ’s body, which is sinful. Garrett says,

It is noteworthy that the apostle would turn to character traits (virtues) in his great appeal for unity in Eph. 4. He first “begs” the believers to lead a life worthy of their calling, which has more to do with their fruit than with their doctrine. . . . Partyism cannot forbear anyone whose teaching or behavior threatens it’s very existence. . . . One thing is sure, in cultivating the grace of loving forbearance we are acknowledging that unity is something more than conformity or uniformity. Unity by its very nature is diverse, and in Christ we have the cohesive of love that binds everything together in perfect harmony. It is coercion that makes for conformity, but it is forbearance that makes for harmony.[17]

Garrett correctly points out that forbearance fosters harmony, but coercion demands conformity. The party spirit stresses submission. On the other hand, unity in diversity allows for leniency and mercy. Again, the words of Garrett are quite revealing as he seeks to explain his understanding of unity in diversity in his numerous essays dealing with various aspects of unity among God’s people. One wonders if there is any other kind of unity other than unity in diversity. It is a truism that individuals can no more think alike on every subject than they can all look alike. Garrett offers the following succinct observation: “It is silly to suggest that with all our diversity in degree of maturity, intellect, emotions, and circumstances of life, we can agree on everything or interpret the scriptures in precisely the same way.”[18] Garrett continues his astute observation of his teaching on unity in diversity:

All this bugaboo about how wrong the “unity in diversity” concept is only reveals how men can be blinded by Partyism. In the first place, any sane man who merely stops to think knows that there can be no unity except in diversity, for that is what unity means, whether in a family, a country or nature—it is a harmony of diverse parts. . . . But it is imperative that we realize that we are all in Jesus together in spite of these differences; and because we are in Jesus together we are sons of God together and brothers. Thank God, we are brother! We must accept each other as such even if we do meet separately.[19]

            Garrett advances the belief that Christians are to receive one another in the same way that Jesus receives them to the glory of God—warts and all. His belief system is patterned after Paul’s teaching concerning unity in diversity. For example, Paul zeros in on this unity in diversity concept in his letter to the Romans:

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus,  so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God (Romans 15:5-7).

Again, what is the context of Romans 16:17? This text is the culmination of what Paul stated in Romans 14 and 15. Listen to just a few of his remarks from Romans 14 about his insistence on unity in diversity:

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.   Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand (Romans 14:1-4).

Once more, the writings of Paul to the Corinthians also reveal his insistence on the belief of unity in diversity, despite the opposite views of McClish and King. The Corinthians did not have it all together as far as Paul was concerned. Some believers wanted to coerce other believers into conformity.  But, Paul sought to nip-in-the-bud the conformity mentality:

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.  So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols?  So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ (1 Corinthians 8:1-12).

            Within every Christian community, there are differences. Paul asserts human weakness when he writes in his summary of what he had just previously discussed in chapters 8—12—“For we know in part and we prophesy in part” (13:9). As stated above, no two people can anymore thank alike than they can all look alike. For individuals to always see eye-to-eye on every subject or biblical text is not humanly possible. The Christian writer John R. W. Stott has penned some compelling words that need to be heard by every child of God. He captures the very heart of unity in diversity when he writes: “Equally devout, equally humble, equally Bible-believing and Bible studying Christians or churches reach different conclusions must be considered secondary not primary, peripheral, not central.”[20]

Jack Lewis, a scholar respected within and outside the Churches of Christ, expresses the basic problem over the traditional interpretation of Romans 16:17 espoused by many within the Churches of Christ: “The obligation, almost universally felt among our preaching brothers, to label other preaching brothers who hold positions thought to be erroneous, rest upon a misunderstanding of Romans 16:17.”[21]  When believers apply this text to other saints who do not concur with their comprehension,  one cannot help but wonder if they have not allowed their deep-seated prejudice to shape their verdict before the evidence is even considered. In other words, their narrow-mindedness negates the possibility of grasping the intent of the text correctly.

Once more, Campbell is called upon since he recognized so well the impossibility of achieving unity based upon opinion. He laid bare the naked truth that salvation is based upon acceptance of Jesus, not correct judgment. The following quote is rather lengthy, but, in spite of its length, it is still worth reflecting upon for its profound truths:

The Apostle says, “There is one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one immersion, one God and Father of all.” But no where is it said in the sacred book, There is one opinion. If however, unity of opinion were desirable, to attain it, we must give the greatest liberty of opinion; for though once theory with us, it is now matter of experience, that the more stress is laid upon unity of opinion, the less of it, and the more division; and the less regard paid to it, the less emphasis laid upon it, the more we will have of it. This is founded in a law of the human mind, on which it is unseasonable and unnecessary to expatiate. . . .

Amongst Christians there is now, as there was at the beginning, a very great diversity in the knowledge of the Christian institution. There are babes, children, young men, and fathers in Christ now, as well as in the days of the Apostle John. This from the natural gifts of God, from the diversities of age, education, and circumstances is, unavoidable. And would it not be just as rational and as scriptural to excommunicate one another, because our knowledge is less or greater than any fixed measure, as for differences of opinion on matters of speculation? . . . In most instances the greatest error of which a brother can be guilty, is to study his Bible more than his companions—or, at least, to surpass them in his knowledge of the mystery of Christ.[22]

CONSEQUENCES OF UNITY IN DIVERSITY

            One cannot help but wonder what the real controversy is over concerning the acceptance of unity in diversity as a biblical principle. The fear is that this idea of unity opens the door to a wider fellowship than is generally allowed within most Churches of Christ. The nightmare is that this perception of diversity will unlock the door to believers that are not members of the denominational Church of Christ. Today, many religious leaders within the Churches of Christ advance the notion that only those that meet behind the label Church of Christ belong to the Lord’s community.

In the nineteenth-century, men such as Barton Stone and the Campbells did not hold such narrow-minded views about the Christian ekklesia (commonly translated church). Also, in the twentieth century, men such as Carl Ketcherside and Leroy Garrett also caught a glimpse of what the word ekklesia connotes in the New Testament writings. The results of this newfound truth opened the floodgates to the acceptance of other believers—even those not associated with the Church of Christ denomination. One’s attitude or understanding of the English word church contributes either unity or disunity toward one’s perception of unity in diversity.

Garrett’s consciousness of the meaning of the Greek word ejkklhsiva (ekklhsia, assembly, church) caused him to see a wider meaning than just the ecclesiastical overtones normally associated with the English word church.  This perception caused him to seek unity among all God’s people. Through his writings, Garrett aspires to reestablish a true sensitivity to a more correct definition of the word church in light of Scripture. His comments in this area are concise and revealing.

We use “church” because it is so commonly employed, and it is likely to remain with us. What is important is that we give the term no institutional meaning. The church of the New covenant scriptures is nothing more than the body of Christ, consisting of all those who are “in Christ,” irrespective of the claims of sects and denominations. . . . It is noteworthy that every reformation effort has sought to restore the integrity of the nature of the church. Luther challenged the hierarchy’s claim to be the authoritative church, insisting that the church is the people of God and not simply the clergy. Thus restoring the concept of the priesthood of all believers. Thus emerged “the reformed tradition” which has seen the church as the fellowship of all believers.[23]

            Both Garrett and Ketcherside postulated that the people of God are larger than the denominational Church of Christ. Many years before these men came to a proper awareness of the true nature of the ekklesia, there were others who had already addressed the correct makeup of the church. For example, Barton Stone wrote: “We will, that this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large, for there is one Body, and one Spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling.”[24] Stone considered the various denominations of his day as a part of the “Body of Christ at large.” Campbell, too, attempted to restore the biblical concept of the church. He wrote:

But we have yet a broader, a stronger, and, perhaps, a still more striking and convincing view of the duty of all the individual churches in a province, a state, or a kingdom, to co-operate as one church, in all matters of public interest and property to the whole Kingdom of Jesus Christ in a nation, in an empire, or in the world. This is clearly ascertained from one most palpable and most interesting fact. This fact is, that the word church, in the singular number, is, by sacred and apostolic usage, often made to represent all the churches in a nation, an empire, or in the world. It is a term used as a commensurate with the whole body of Christ, or the entire community of all the faithful on earth. Hence, there is but one kingdom of Christ, one body of Christ, or one church of Christ on earth. The word church, by reference to its occurrences in the New Testament, indicates the whole Christian community on earth.[25]

            Again, Garrett, too, points out with justice: “It is a family that we must come to see the church. It is not an institution or organization, but a family community of brothers and sisters.”[26] When one possesses a more accurate understanding of the word church, then this awareness will promote the spirit of unity since the body of Christ is one. Within the body of Christ, there will always be variation of opinions concerning doctrinal matters. This is, no doubt, one reason that Paul forces home this point about the Spirit’s unity in the epistle to the Ephesians. Paul carefully enumerates reasons for maintaining the unity created by the Holy Spirit:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.   Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:1-6).

Paul’s words, “bearing with one another in love” and “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit” indicate that diversity existed within that body of believers. As stated earlier, Paul also calls attention to this mixture of beliefs within the congregation at Rome. Since there is only one body, it is imperative that Christians seek to support unity in spite of differences. Diversity allows for defective understanding. For one to be in fellowship with another Christian, this consciousness and practice of fellowship does not indicate total endorsement of the other person’s belief system. Christians are one because they have the same Father, not because they have comprehended every Scripture unerringly. 

FELLOWSHIP AND PERFECT AGREEMENT

            For some, so it appears, before fellowship commences, one’s insight of God’s revelation must be perfect, at least in what many consider to be essentials. But what are the essentials? The fundamentals vary; the nuts and bolts depend on which party you are aligned with. Without an understanding of unity in diversity, one cannot fully grasp the full significance of Romans 16:17. Before one embarks upon the context of Romans 16:17, it is necessary to reflect upon the distinction between Revelation and interpretation.

Many cannot distinguish between interpretation and revelation itself. The religious leaders in Jesus’ day also failed to discern the difference between God’s word and tradition. Interpretation is what individuals think God meant by what He said. On the other hand, revelation is what God says. The two are not synonymous. One should never equate interpretation of revelation as the word of God. Is one’s connection with God dependent upon complete exactness in knowledge? Or is one’s bond with God conditional upon one’s acceptance of Jesus as Lord in one’s life?

Is justification by faith, or is justification through flawless discernment of God’s revelation? Should one make a test of fellowship out of spiritual discernment? Is there a difference between gospel and doctrine, and between faith and knowledge? Is it the gospel that brings one into being? Or is rebirth a result of complete comprehension of doctrine? Is not doctrine for growth and well-being? Can Christians think alike on every subject? Can any two individuals upon earth attain to an identical degree of knowledge about everything at the same point in time? Answers to these questions should assist one in arriving at a better grasp of Romans 16:17 without being so dogmatic and factious.

One should always read with discrimination in order to pick out the most theologically sound thinkers if one wishes to emulate them in their quest for Christian unity for which Jesus prayed. Just a perusal of the writings of Ketcherside and Garrett makes one conscious that these two men fall into this category of sound thinkers.  Both men constantly, in their writings, call attention to context, context, context, and context. It is always context that determines the meaning. Ketcherside has penned one of the most thought provoking articles that cuts through the maze of illogical thinking in order to grasp the very heart of what fellowship is all about. He is perfectly right when he insists that

Those who were in Christ in the days of the apostles were in error on many points. They were mistaken about a lot of things but they were not charged with “preaching another gospel.” Freedom from error is not a condition of salvation else all men would be damned. We are not saved by attainment to a certain degree of knowledge but by faith in Christ Jesus. It is by belief of facts related to him, and not by grasp of abstract truth, that we are justified before God. Certainly it is not by performance of meritorious deeds nor by legalistic conformity. When we postulate a program of justification by knowledge we hang ourselves on the gallows we have constructed to rid ourselves of others, unless we are prepared to make ourselves even more ridiculous by affirming that we know as much as God.[27] 

Ketcherside captures the very essence of the life-force of the Roman letter. Romans 16:17 is the culmination of the previous fifteen chapters. One must not interpret this text in isolation. The above citations from Ketcherside and Garrett are in harmony with the teachings of Romans. One can only conclude from reading the book of Romans that one’s level of knowledge is not the determining factor in one’s fellowship with God, but rather it is justification by faith. Salvation is a gift. And, since it is a gift, then Christians are to put forth every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

ANALYSIS AND APPLICATION OF ROMANS 16:17
IN CONTEXT

Like any growth, development may be healthy or it may be malignant; discerning the difference between these two kinds of growth requires constant research into the pathology of traditions. But it is healthy development that keeps a tradition both out of the cancer ward and out of the fossil museum.[28]

            What is the context of Romans 16:17? Some of the Romans were basing fellowship upon a correct interpretation of all doctrinal issues—unity in conformity. But Paul refutes this position of absolute perfection in knowledge as a condition of fellowship. In chapters 14 and 15, he deals with imperfection in knowledge within the Christian community. How should one react to the immature in the faith? How should one react toward those whose belief system was not correct in every detail? In these two chapters, Paul discusses how Christians are to respond to differences within the church at Rome.

            Paul goes right to the very core of disagreements and how to deal with the individual whose knowledge is inadequate. This writer (Dallas Burdette) urges each person to stand upon the threshold of the Romans as you read the words of Paul: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7); in other words, God accepted them with “warts and all.” Thus, Paul is saying that you are to imitate God in your relationship with one another.  But, prior to this statement, he encourages them to “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters”  (14:1).

Now, what happens if an individual refuses to accept the above admonitions and seeks to force his belief on others to the point of division? Paul then summarizes his reaction to the factious person: “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them” (16:17). This statement by Paul does not condemn men like Ketcherside and Garrett, but rather, this verse is a rebuke to all Christians who refuse to acknowledge the teachings of Paul in Romans 14 and 15. What had they learned? They had learned unity in diversity.

This emphasis upon unity in diversity is also the subject of the Ephesian letter: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). This is the same kind of instructions that Paul charges the Christians at Rome to practice: “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus,  so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6).  

Disputable Matters in the Roman Church

            Without consulting the context of Romans 16:17, one can postulate bizarre interpretations. Prior to Paul’s appeal “to watch out for those who cause divisions” (16:17), he instructs the saints to “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters” (14:1). The context tends to indicate that some believers wanted to force their so-called correct interpretation (some were right and some were wrong in their understanding) on other Christians. Some, in the congregation at Rome, insisted upon everyone submitting to their views. But Paul says, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (14:5). There is a vast difference between “my mind” and “own mind.” In other words, one’s conviction must be based upon his own conclusions, not someone else’s beliefs:

So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin (14:22-23).

                        There was a dispute over the eating of meats and vegetables: “One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables” (14:2). Paul is declaring that no one should create division over his/her personal understanding of meats or vegetables or days. It is in this same vein that Paul writes, “He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God” (14:6). Paul sets forth the words of the Holy Spirit to refute the practice of enforcing conformity: “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (14:4). Again, Paul widens this position by reminding them: “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (14:5).             If believers were not willing to abide by this spirit of toleration, then Paul utters,

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people (16:17-18).

            Paul’s admonition is: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves” (15:1). Those who cite Romans 16:17 to justify their separation from other believers are the very ones that Paul is warning the believers to keep an eye on. It is also in this same vein that Paul advises Titus: “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.   You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11). It is very difficult for Christians to apply the Scriptures correctly when it comes to their “pet theories” concerning communion cups, Sunday school, drink element in the Lord’s Supper, acappella singing, instrumental music, Sunday collection, and so on. Making allowances for the beliefs of others is a part of the “ teaching you have learned” (Romans 16:17). 

Disputable Matters in the Corinthian Church

            The church in Corinth experienced the same difficulties that the church did in Rome. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he addresses the differences within the body of Christ. The problem he faces is the concern of perfection in one’s knowledge. This epistle concedes that knowledge of absolute truth is relative. He is not saying that truth is relative, but rather, that one’s brainpower of total truth is relative. In other words, no one understands perfectly. Paul tackles the question of flawless knowledge head-on: “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:2).

            As one reflects upon this statement of Paul, anyone in his/her right mind will concede that this imperfection is knowledge is still with humanity. How many Christians know every thing, as they “ought to know.” Why do individuals purchase books to study? Why do Churches of Christ establish educational institutions to train preachers? Is it not because people do not know everything, as they “ought to know.” Yet, in spite of this testimonial, Paul admits that knowledge is not totally absent from the minds of men and women: “We know that we all possess knowledge” (8:1).

In fact, Paul has to deal with brethren who think that they know it all. Christians sometimes feel that because of their superior knowledge that they are just a “notch above” the others. He calls attention to the dangers that lurk behind the attitude of “I know.” Listen to Paul as he cautions the Christians about knowledge: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (8:1). Yes, Paul is saying, it is true that we all have knowledge, but knowledge can puff one up. The question that confronts everyone is: Does God know the individual whose knowledge is defective? Is God concerned about the hearts of men and women? Or, is God just concerned about one being able to cross every “t” and to dot every “i”?

Again, Paul, through the Holy Spirit, reveals the mind of God: “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God” (8:2-3). Paul is saying that God loves the person whose knowledge is incomplete if he/she loves God. One may not be accurate in his/her thinking on every point, but love is the determinative factor in God’s acceptance of that individual: “the man who loves God is known by God” (8:3). What Paul is saying to the Corinthians is the same as “the insidious Ketcherside-Garrett doctrine of ‘unity in diversity.’” 

Before concluding this analysis of Paul’s thinking in his letter to Corinth, it would be helpful to pursue his line of reasoning for his beginning statements about knowledge being relative. Paul fully grasps the dilemma of perfect knowledge versus one’s relationship with God.  In this eighth chapter of First Corinthians, he reveals what some of the issues were over:

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”),  yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. But not everyone knows this (8:4-7). 

            This eighth chapter of First Corinthians is unity in diversity. There are very few Churches of Christ that would welcome Paul in their congregations. In fact, there would be very few Church of Christ universities that would allow Paul to teach in their midst. He would be accused of liberalism and digression. Why? He believed in unity in diversity. Are the individuals whose knowledge was deficient about God still brothers in Christ? Should they be thrown out of the synagogue? Are they liberals and digressive? Is God concerned about these persons that still love him, in spite of undersupplied information? What does Paul say about this condition? Listen as he reveals the mind of God:

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall (8:9-13).

            Christians who are not willing to make allowances for imperfection in knowledge for the “weak brother” are the ones to whom Paul speaks in Romans 16:17: “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.”   Again, unity in diversity is the thrust of Paul’s discussion of differences in the church at Rome and Corinth and Ephesus. It is appropriate once more to turn to the principles advanced in the writings of Garrett and Campbell.

GARRETT AND CAMPBELL ON UNITY IN DIVERSITY

            These two men—Garrett and Campbell—addressed this principle of unity in diversity throughout their writings. The principles they advanced—Garrett still advances—was and is based upon the writings of Paul. Hopefully, this repetition may be pardoned here since the mind of man is leavened by the traditions of the church, which prevails in Christendom, by Christians who undermine the teachings of God in this area in order to maintain doctrinal purity of approximately 150 years of ritual. It is fitting to call Garrett to the scene once more to hear his explanation of Romans 16:17 in context, which analysis has brought the wrath of the established church against him with all the hatred one can muster.

The phrase “contrary to the teachings you received” almost certainly refers to the teaching on unity in spite of differences which he had just laid before them in the letter, especially Ro. 14. . . . The truth is that we can hold such differences and still be one. This is because we are in the fellowship with Jesus together. It is not doctrines that make us one. . . . Those who insist that we line up on their opinions, or else suffer their wrath and oppression, are really the ones to mark and avoid, in view of the real meaning of Ro. 16:17.[29]

            When Christians seek to regulate unity upon unconditional unanimity of agreement, then no unity can exist within the body of Christ. As one peruses the religious journals within the Churches of Christ, one soon discovers that no two people are in total agreement on every doctrinal belief.  Campbell, in his consciousness of differences in mental acumen, put it succinctly for all believers:

Amongst Christians there is now, as there was at the beginning, a very great diversity in the knowledge of the Christian institution. There are babes, children, young men, and fathers in Christ now, as well as in the days of the Apostle John. This, from the natural gifts of God, from the diversities of age, education, and circumstances, is unavoidable. And would it not be just as rational and as scriptural to excommunicate one another, because our knowledge is less or greater than any fixed measure, as for differences of opinion on matters of speculation? . . . In most instances the greatest error of which a brother can be guilty, is to study his Bible more than his companions—at least, to surpass them in his knowledge of the mystery of Christ.[30]

Campbell calls attention to something that is already well known. It goes almost without saying that in the body of Christ, there will always be infants, children, young men, and fathers. Every child of God is at a different level of knowledge. The saints are to grow in knowledge and in favor with God. There will never be “one opinion,” however much desired. This plea for unity is the crux of the so-called “insidious Ketcherside-Garrett doctrine of ‘unity in diversity.’”  Campbell, Ketcherside, and Garrett sought to correct the misapplication of Romans 16:17, which fostered/fosters division within the camp of God.

CONCLUSION

            One of the major objectives of this essay is to assist believers in dropping their sectarian spirit and learning to accept those for whom Christ died and whom He accepted. The question that confronts everyone is: Does anyone have 20/20 vision? When one reads Romans 16:27 without spectacles, one quickly becomes conscious that the demand for complete agreement in all doctrinal matters is not under consideration, but rather the making of allowances for the weak. Believers are one in Jesus—not because they see every Scripture exactly alike—because they are reconciled to God through the atonement of Jesus. God’s children can no more see alike on every subject than they can all look alike.

 Paul’s letters reveal that salvation is not contingent upon absolute perfection in knowledge, but rather upon trust in Jesus as Lord.  He stresses two essential truths throughout the book of Romans: (1) salvation by faith, not by works, and (2) allowances for imperfection in knowledge over issues that do not affect one’s salvation. If one does not go along with imperfection in knowledge, then, that person is not adhering to “the teaching you have learned.” Absolute freedom from error is not a condition of salvation—else all men/women would be damned. All error is error but not all error will condemn one’s soul—else no one could be saved. All truth is true but not all truth is essential to deliverance from damnation—else all would be lost.

A careful reading of the context of Romans 16:17 does not violate these basic statements. In this verse, Paul is seeking to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace by tolerating the weak.  This Scripture is one of the most abused Scriptures within the Churches of Christ. This essay sets forth an interpretation that is based upon the context, not one’s presuppositions. In making this judgment, one must not conclude that Christians who misappropriate this text in order to justify their separation from other believers are not Christians. But their sincerity does not make them right.

Ketcherside and Garrett sought to prevent individuals from creating division within the body of Christ by laying bare the naked truth of God’s word from the traditions of men. These two men called for men and women to learn how to reevaluate and reinterpret what has been handed down through the centuries. In other words, they wanted God’s people not to confuse a habit of interpretation with the text itself. Many family members are so used to reading the Bible as they have been taught by generations of godly interpreters that any questioning of the traditional interpretation appears to be a questioning of Scripture itself. The hand-me-down practices in the church have made it difficult, if not impossible, to read the Bible correctly.[31]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Campbell, Alexander. “Millennium. No. II.” Millennial Harbinger 1 (April 5, 1830): 13-14.

________“Mark Them Who Cause Division.” Millennial harbinger 3 (November 5, 1832): 604.

________“To Mr. William Jones, of London. Letter IV.” Millennial Harbinger 6 (March 1835): 111-112.

________“Church Organization—No. IV.” Millennial Harbinger (June 1853): 303.

Campbell, Thomas and Barton W. Stone. Declaration and Address [1809] and the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery [1804]. St. Louis: Mission Messenger, 1975.

Fee, Gordon D. Gospel and Spirit: Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics. Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1991.

Garrett, Leroy. The Word Abused. Texas: Leroy Garrett, 1975.

________“Mark Them Which Cause Division.” Restoration Review 17 (February 1975): 25.

________“Forbearance and Unity.” Restoration Review 15 (January 1973): 13-14.

________“Can Two Walk Together.” Restoration Review 17 (September 1975): 124.

________“Introduction.” Restoration Review 15 (January 1973): 2-3.

________“The Catholicity of the Church.” Restoration Review 15 (March 1973): 45.

Gonzalez, Justo and Catherine G. Gonzalez. Liberation Preaching: The Pulpit and the Oppressed. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990.

Ketcherside, Carl. The Twisted Scriptures. St. Louis: Mission Messenger, 1965.

________“Analysis of Apostasy.” Mission Messenger 27 (April 1965): 51.

________“Gospel and Doctrine.” Mission Messenger 27 (February 1965): 18.

________“Another Gospel.” Mission Messenger 27 (January 1965): 6-7.

King, Homer A. “Avoid Them.” Old Paths Advocate 54 (February 1982): 5.

Lewis, Jack P. Exegesis of Difficult Passages. Arkansas: Resource Publications, 1970.

Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Vindication of Tradition. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984.

 

McClish, Dub. “Greetings—Along With A Warning—To Those In Rome (Rom. 16:1-20).” The Book of Romans: The Eighth Annual Spiritual Lectureship. Arkansas: National Christian Press, 1983.

Stott, John R. Christ the Controversialist. Illinois: InterVarsity, 1970.

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Gordon D. Fee, Gospel and Spirit: Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics (Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1991), 17.

[2] All Scripture citations are from The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984, unless stated otherwise.

 

[3] Dub McClish, “Greetings—Along With A Warning—To Those In Rome (Rom. 16:1-20)” in The Book of Romans: The Eighth Annual Spiritual Lectureship (Ark: National Christian Press, 1983), 244.

[4] Homer L. King, “AVOID THEM,”  Old Paths Advocate 54, no. 2, reprint (February 1, 1982), 5.

 

[5] See Homer L. King, “AVOID THEM,” Old Paths Advocate 54, no. 2, reprint (February 1, 1982), 5.

[6] Carl Ketcherside, The Twisted Scriptures (St. Louis: Mission Messenger, 1965; reprint, DeFuniak Springs, FL: Diversity Press, 1992).

[7] Leroy Garrett, The Word Abused (Texas: Leroy Garrett, 1975).

[8] Carl Ketcherside, “Analysis of Apostasy,” Mission Messenger 27, no. 4 (April 1965): 51.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Carl Ketcherside, “Gospel and Doctrine,” Mission Messenger 27, no. 2 (February 1965): 18.

[11] Ibid., 7.

[12] Alexander Campbell, “Millennium. No. II,” The Millennial Harbinger 1, no. 4 (April 5, 1830): 13, 14.

[13] Leroy Garrett, “Mark Them Which Cause Divisions,” Restoration Review 17, no. 1 (February 1975): 25.

[14] Ibid., 24.

[15] For earlier views and reactions toward the dissent, see John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, reprint, 1980). Formerly this book was entitled The Acts and Monuments, first published on March 20, 1563. In his day executions occurred on a regular basis for holding different opinions from the established church. In the “Biographical Sketch,” one senses the concern of Foxe for the intolerable condition in his day, page xii:

In 1575 Foxe energetically sought to obtain the remission of the capital sentence in the case of two Dutch Anabaptists condemned to the stake for their opinions. He wrote to the Queen, Lord Burghley, and Lord Chief Justice Manson, pointing out the disproportion between the offence and the punishment, and deprecating the penalty of death in cases of heresy. A respite of a month was allowed, but both the Anabaptists perished.

See also Jock Purvis, Fair Sunshine: Character Studies of the Scottish Covenanters (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982). This book is an outline on Scottish Covenant History in the 17th century. The atrocities committed against believers because they refused to conform to the established church are appalling. One  citation  from this book is sufficient to set the tone for the horrors perpetrated against other believers is mind-boggling,  where it is written, page 69:

The year 1685 was a terrible year in a terrible era. The Killing Time reeked reddest then, The author of Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe, one of the most painstaking and sympathetic writers on the Covenanter, ‘fixes on the barbarities of this year to support his opinion that the Scottish persecution was worse than that of the Roman Emperors and Popish Inquisitors.’

[16] Alexander Campbell, “Mark Them Who Cause Division,” Millennial Harbinger 3 (5 November 1832”): 604.

[17] Leroy Garrett, “Forbearance and Unity,” Restoration Review 15, no. 1 (January 1973): 13, 14.

[18] Leroy Garrett, “Can Two Walk Together,” Restoration Review 17, no. 7 (September 1975): 124.

[19] Ibid., 124, 125.

[20] John R. W. Stott, Christ the Controversialist (Illinois: InterVarsity, 1970), 44.

[21] Jack P. Lewis, Exegesis of Difficult Passages (Arkansas: Resource Publications, 1988), 112.

[22] Alexander Campbell, “To Mr. William Jones, of London. Letter IV,” Millennial Harbinger 6, no. 3 (March 1835): 111, 112.

[23] Leroy Garrett, “Introduction,” Restoration Review 15, no. 1 (January 1973): 2, 3.

[24] See Thomas Campbell and Barton W. Stone, Declaration and Address [1809] and the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery [1804] (St. Louis: Mission Messenger, 1955, reprint), 17.

[25] Alexander Campbell, “Church Organization—No. IV” Millennial Harbinger, fourth series, 3, no. 6 (June 1853): 303.

[26] Leroy Garrett, “The Catholicity of the Church,” Restoration Review 15, no. 3 (March 1973): 45.

[27] Carl Ketcherside, “Another Gospel,” Mission Messenger 27, no. 1 (January 1965): 6-7.

[28] Jaroslav Pelikan, The Vindication of Tradition  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984). 60.

[29] Leroy Garrett, “Mark Them Which Cause Divisions,” Restoration Review 17, no. 2 (February 1975): 25.

[30] Alexander Campbell, “To Mr. William Jones, of London, Letter IV,” Millennial Harbinger 7, no. 3 (March 1835): 112.

[31] I am deeply indebted to Justo and Catherine Gonzalez for much insight concerning the effect of tradition upon one’s handling of Holy Scripture. See Justo L. Gonzalez and Catherine G. Gonzalez, Liberation Preaching: The Pulpit and the Oppressed (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990).