Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)
Initially, my pilgrimage of faith may be described as “Gullible’s Travels,” not Gulliver’s Travels. I accepted what I was taught without question. I memorized verses from the Bible by the hundreds. In the early stages of my ministry, I did not understand that one might cite Scripture and, at the same time, fail to apply the text correctly in light of its historical background. In the beginning of my spiritual leadership, as preacher and teacher, my instructor taught me to commit to memory Holy writ, not to analyze its context. My first sermon, “What Shall I Preach?,” was the dawning of my dogmatic, partisan, factional, biased, and sectarian views concerning other believers. Even though I quoted the Word of God verbatim; nevertheless, my application of the Word was not in harmony with the context. If anyone disagreed with my exposition of the Old and New Testament writings, he or she was anathema. In other words, for one to depart from my so-called mental sharpness meant that one did not have a clear insight into the truths of God, so I thought. I labored under the impression that I knew all the answers about the supposed prescribed five acts of a ritual worship service; I also labored under the impression that fellowship could not be extended to those outside our four walls. As a result of this mindset, I identified my particular odd fellowship with the “true” church of Jesus Christ; thereby, I excluded all other believers from belonging to Jesus.
In order to describe My Pilgrimage of Faith, it is necessary to discuss the inner workings of my mind as I endeavored to walk in the ways of God. To do this, I will probe certain areas to give emphasis to my reasoning that led me out of my sectarian spirit. In my earlier ministry, I went to the Scriptures to prove what I already believed, but eventually, as a result of further studies, I went to the Word to see what it taught. This intense study is what got me into trouble with the one-cup and non-Sunday school fellowship that I associated with in the early stages of my ministry (1951-1972). My downfall in this movement resulted from my acceptance of M. S. Whitehead—a believer in individual cups and Sunday school. He did not make a so-called confession of error; therefore, he was still a child of hell. Even though I continued to use one cup and rejected Sunday school, I was told that that was not sufficient. I had to know that one would go to hell if one worshiped any other way than the way we practiced.
As a young boy, I listened to the Lone-Ranger and Tonto with excitement. Tonto, whose name means “dimwit,” seldom spoke, except for his meaningless phrase “kemo sabe.” He was seen as a projection of his white leader, and the Lone-Ranger never seemed to take the time to listen to him. Today, there is still a type of the Lone-Ranger mentality with the teacher and his student. The teacher never takes time to listen to his “Tonto.” Tonto only projects his Bible teacher. Bible study is often done by the Lone-Ranger, even in private, in the same sort of meaningless company with Tonto. Tonto (student) looks to the Lone-Ranger (teacher), his hero of the faith, for the correct interpretation of the Scripture without questioning. To question is abomination. When I interrogated the status quo, the wrath of the one-cup and non-Sunday school fellowship dealt me a heavy blow; I was thrown out of the synagogue as an apostate.
I was so accustomed to reading the Bible as I had been taught by generations of interpreters that for me to question the traditional interpretations was tantamount to questioning the Word of God itself. The tendency, on my part, was to identify what Scripture said with what I had been taught. This identification was one of the main obstacles that I encountered in trying to liberate the Bible from its traditions. In my early ministry, I confused a tradition of explanation with the text itself. I had to learn to reevaluate and reinterpret what had been handed down to me. When I was about sixteen years old, the “faith of the fathers” became the watchword of orthodoxy for me. Their interpretation became normative and was passed on as authoritative. For me, the Christian Scriptures had been turned into another law, a law that was more stringent and more damning than even the first Law set forth by Moses.
One of the most difficult obstacles in my pilgrimage of faith was to approach the text without my strong personal biases. I studied the Bible with “colored glasses,” which led to distortion. I tended to give preconceived beliefs the same authority that I gave to the Bible. In other words, my preconceived authority was equal to that of the Scriptures. My own personal journey of faith, with the ghosts of the past, made it very difficult for me to view the Scriptures without prejudice. My understanding and interpretation made it difficult to sift out the truths of God in dealing with the text. I allowed the context of my culture to control the text of the Bible. It became necessary for me to exercise a self-critical stance toward the tendency to impose my own agenda upon the interpretation of Scripture. I am still conscious of how difficult it is to bracket out a person’s cultural heritage in interpreting the ancient text.
Hopefully, this record of my own personal journey, with its struggles and heartaches, will give others encouragement to reexamine their own traditions in the light of the context of Scripture. One should never forget that one’s own journey occurs within a vast architecture of preunderstanding—no thinking takes place in a vacuum. I was so used to reading the Scriptures as I had been taught by my uncle that any questioning of his interpretation amounted to questioning the Scriptures. The hand-me-down interpretations made it almost impossible to read the Bible accurately. I had to learn to reassess and reinterpret what my uncle and others passed on to me.
WE SPEAK WHERE THE BIBLE SPEAKS
As a part of my former training, I was taught “to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.” This slogan is still cited by many well-meaning Christians to justify their separation from other believers. On the surface, this cliché appears to express that which every Christian strives toward. The “catch phrase” sounded excellent and still has a nice ring of truth. But, there is a problem in quoting this group of words—no one adheres perfectly to this catchy construction. First of all, there is a difference between speaking as the Bible speaks and speaking where the Bible speaks.
One may cite Scripture as Satan did in his encounter with Jesus, but just as Satan did not give the intent of the Scripture cited, so today, many Christians refer to certain “pet” Scriptures, and, at the same time, do not speak as the Bible speaks. Even though Satan quoted Scripture, he did not interpret Scripture in light of its context. It took me a long time to learn this basic rule. To interpret any text faithfully, the interpreter must endeavor to transfer himself from the present era to the historical situation of the author, look through his eyes, observe his surroundings, feel with his heart, and catch his emotions if he or she wishes to accurately apply the Word of God to the twentieth-century church. This means that the interpreter must guard himself or herself carefully against transferring the authors of the first-century to the twenty-first and, then, interpreting their words in the light of his or her own twentieth-century understanding.
The first step in explaining Scripture is to read the text. To fathom a passage involves the immediate context, the remote context, and the larger context. The immediate context includes verses preceding and following the reference that one is studying. On the other hand, the remote context may take in the entire book in which the text is found. Also, the larger context may embrace the whole of God’s written Revelation. This understanding of contexts helps to determine the meaning or meanings that one attaches to any distinct phrase. Otherwise, the interpreter may impose conjectured convictions on a text without due reflection upon what the author says. Without a conception of a context, a person’s particular context tends to shape his or her understanding and interpretation of the message.
Merely reciting Scriptures that draw attention to certain party dogmas is not sufficient to determine the meaning of the text. No one denies the truth of passages often enumerated to maintain the status quo, but one may deny the conclusions often reached by certain individuals. Every Scripture citation is the Word of God, but one must not equate one’s interpretation with the Word itself. Remember that the context is the determining factor in trying to arrive at a correct insight. One must not employ Holy Scriptures in a way the Holy Spirit did not employ them. Leroy Garrett points out, with justification, that
People tire of our equating our understanding of the word of God with the word of God itself. This is to say that we must distinguish between revelation and interpretation. Revelation is what God has given us in scripture. Interpretation is what we conclude the scriptures to mean. One is divine, the other human.
“Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent” became the battle cry for the birth of the Reformation movement initiated by Thomas (1763-1854) and Alexander Campbell (1788-1866). This slogan became the impetus for a movement that resulted in three distinctive bodies: (1) Churches of Christ, (2) Christian Churches, and (3) Disciples of Christ. All three bodies subpoena this cliché to call attention to their reliance upon the Bible and the Bible alone for their faith and practice. Even though all three movements rely upon the same motto, none can agree upon the exact blueprint, or exact pattern, for a so-called worship service supposedly set forth in the New Testament. These ecclesiastical organizations cannot agree over the scripturalness of missionary societies, Bible colleges, located preachers, orphan homes, kitchens in the purported church buildings, and so on. These groups, as a whole, cannot agree upon a corporate worship pattern to be observed in the self-styled worship service; For example, they cannot agree on whether to have or not have Sunday school, individual cups or one common cup, instrumental music or vocal singing only, wine only or grape juice only, to break the bread or pinch the bread in the Lord’s Supper, and so on.
RE-EVALUATION OF MY STUDIES
What caused me to re-evaluate my understanding of the Scriptures? Approximately forty years ago, Ervin Waters suggested that I read a book on biblical hermeneutics by Dungan, which I did. Later, I read another monumental study in this same field by Milton S. Terry (1840-1914). Both of these writers had a profound influence on the re-evaluation of my cherished beliefs. Waters also introduced me to Christianity Restored by Alexander Campbell and to Robert Milligan’s book on the Scheme of Redemption. In addition to these works, he sent me five books by the famous Greek scholar from Moody Institute, Kenneth Wuest, to assist in my spiritual growth. Prior to this time, I don’t ever remember reading any book or books except debate books and sermon outlines. The writings of these authors contributed to leading me out of my sectarian spirit.
Soon after this exposure to the science of interpretation (in the early sixties and early seventies), I started reading the writings of Thomas and Alexander Campbell, M. S. Whitehead, Carl Ketcherside, Leroy Garrett, and F. L. Lemley. These men sought to recapture the original intent of the Word of God. They called upon Christians to reexamine their long-cherished traditions. They addressed the subject of fellowship with its ramifications upon Christian unity; they also tried to bring back the original meaning of the word ekklesia and its implications toward a broader fellowship of believers; they questioned the practice of rebaptism and its devastating effect upon the Christian community for unity; they investigated the distinction between gospel and doctrine and its implications upon one’s understanding of fellowship. What they wrote shocked me to the point that initially I thought they were all a little nuts.
But as I read more and more of their writings, I began to reinvestigate my earlier teachings. As a result of their writings, I had to re-evaluate many of my former convictions. For example, I had to reflect upon the original meaning of the word “church” (ekklesia), the concept of limited knowledge about God’s Word as the norm within the church, the meaning of the word “Gospel” as being “Good News,” the correct use of the word “doctrine” as employed in the New Testament, rethink the roots or causes of divisions within the body of Christ, and to confront squarely the question of so-called “brothers and sisters in error.”
As a result of my in-depth studies, I had to alter, or rethink, my position of many doctrinal conclusions. For the first time in my life I went to the Bible to see what it taught rather than to prove what I already believed. I learned that one must transfer himself mentally into the minds of the first-century authors and stand upon their threshold and look through their eyes and see things as they saw them, rather than transfer the writers of the first century to the twentieth century and, then, interpret their words in the light of my present day understanding.
ASSEMBLIES OF THE ANOINTED ONE
One of the most difficult questions that confronted me in my early years of ministry had to do with the so-called name of the church. My spiritual teacher taught me that one could read about the churches of Christ in Romans 16:16—and you could in the King James Version and many other translations. I could quote Romans 16:16 by memory. From this kind of literal citation of Scripture, without regards to the context, I developed my theology about the name of the church, which just happened to be the “Church of Christ” that came out of the Stone/Campbell movement. We reasoned like this: Where in the Bible do you read of a Baptist Church or a Methodist Church or a Presbyterian Church? One can read about the Church of Christ Church in Romans 16:16, but one cannot read about the others. On the surface, the argument appeared to have some validity, but the dilemma in this kind of dialectic was/is that Christ was not our Lord’s name, but rather, his official appellation (title). Matthew (1:21) tells us that his name was Jesus. For some reason, we never cited Romans 16:4 that speaks of “the churches of the Gentiles.” Is “churches of the Gentiles” also the name of the church? Also, we never called attention to Galatians 1:22: “I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.” Is the “churches of Judea” the name of the church also? To advance the notion that Romans 16:16 is the name of the church is to outrun the evidence in the text.
After spending considerable hours in the science of biblical interpretation, I resolved to go to the Book of Romans to see what it said, rather than to prove what I already believed. After studying Romans 16:16, I discovered that the name Christ is simply the transliteration of the Greek word Christos, which is equivalent to the Hebrew word Messiah. Christ was a designation that God gave to prophets, priests and kings. Prophets were “christ,” priests were “christ,” and kings were “christ,” but Jesus was not just one christ among many christs; He was “the Christ,” that is, the Anointed One of God. According to the Greek text, what did Paul write in Romans 16:16? Since the word christ means “anointed,” and since the word church means “assembly,” then, the correct translation is: the assemblies of the Anointed One salutes you.” This verse is simply referring to the various assemblies as belonging to the Anointed One of God, not simply the Churches of Christ as a distinctive denomination.
The question that confronts every Christian, as it did me, is: does Paul designate the denominational Churches of Christ in Romans 16:16 as the Churches of Christ today? In the beginning of my ministry, I was taught that the Churches of Christ that Paul addressed in Romans 16:16 were the one-cup and non-Sunday churches that I was associated with. The true Church of Christ had to do with my particular fellowship, no one else, all others were digressive. In fact, we taught that everyone who disagreed with our brand of orthodoxy was on the way to “hell.” This philosophy is still advanced by many within the one-cup and non-Sunday school movement. Today, many within the Churches of Christ (not just one-cup and non-Sunday school churches) do not recognize any other fellowship of believers as members of the Lord’s church. On the other hand, the one-cup and nonSunday school Churches of Christ do not even recognize those within the Churches of Christ as Christians that use multiple cups in the distribution of the fruit of the vine and utilize Sunday school in their curriculum for teaching both children and adults.
Almost without exception, the Churches of Christ do not accept Baptists as Christians. Don King, son of the late Homer L. King (1892-1983) and editor of the Old Paths Advocate, published recently (February 2006) an essay written in 1969 in the Old Paths Advocate by J. Wayne McKamie concerning “The Baptist Church.” Many within the one-cup and nonSunday school movement do not recognize anyone as Christians that do not subscribe to the narrow views of their distinctive fellowship. For example, as a result of this same mind-set, King’s son, Don King, now editor of the OPA, writes: “Listen, brethren: we believe it is wrong to use more than one cup. We believe people are going to be lost for using more than one cup.” (Emphasis mine—DB)
I never questioned the truthfulness of this line of reasoning. However, years later, I did speculate about where the Church of Christ was when Luther (1483-1546) nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the castle in Wittenberg in 1517. Also, I wondered where the Church of Christ was when Pope Urban II (1049-1099) launched the first Christian crusade in 1095 AD. The truth of the matter is, there was no such ecclesiastical organization known as the Church of Christ as a distinct denominational body. Now, it is true that Christ’s church was in existence, but not the denominational Church of Christ; it did not exist. This particular group did not come along until the time of Alexander Campbell in the 1800s. In the early part of my ministry, I rejected the concept that the Church of Christ is a denomination, but this was not the case with its founder, Alexander Campbell. As early as 1840, Campbell wrote a letter to a Baptist scholar, Andrew Broaddus, whom he called brother, about his concern over the written history of the Reformation Movement:
Whenever the history of this effort at reformation shall have been faithfully written, it will appear, we think, bright as the sun, that our career has been marked with a spirit of forbearance, moderation, and love of union with an unequivocal desire for preserving the integrity, harmony, and co-operation of all who teach one faith, one Lord, and one immersion. In confirmation of this fact I am happy to add that no Baptist of good character for piety and morality, has ever been, because of a diverse theory or opinion, excluded from our communion or communities. . . . We, as a denomination, are as desirous as ever to unite and co-operate with all Christians on the broad and vital principles of the New and everlasting Covenant (emphasis mine).
We, in the Stone/Campbell movement, have made the mistake of identifying the “church” with the Church of Christ that came out of the nineteenth-century Reformation Movement initiated by the Campbells and Stone, thereby excluding all others from belonging to Jesus. The truth of the matter is, there is only one church. There is no such thing as a Baptist Church, a Methodist Church, a Presbyterian Church, or a Church of Christ Church; there is only one church, and that one church consists of all those who have put their faith in Jesus as the redeemer. Carl Ketcherside (1908-1989) uses the following pregnant words to describe the current dilemma of the Churches of Christ today.
I do not believe there is any such thing as either “The Christian Church” or “The church of Christ.” There are religious parties designated by these titles, but there is only one church. There never was but one. There will never be another. “The Christian Church” does not have all of the Christians in it, and “The Church of Christ” is not the church of Christ. Both of these parties which have been allowed to grow out of an American restoration movement launched by some Presbyterian ministers in the early part of the nineteenth century.
This article by Ketcherside was the beginning of my re-evaluation of the nature of God’s church. Thus far, I have continuously employed the term church to describe the people of God. As stated above, I had a rude awakening when I discovered that our English word church was not an accurate translation of the Greek Word “ekklesia” and that the word that Paul uses in Romans 16:16 merely meant an “assembly.” In other words, God’s assembly consists of those who put their faith in Jesus as God’s Anointed One. As stated above, there is no such thing as a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, or a Church of Christ church; there is only one “ekklesia” and that body includes all believers. It is significant that the word ekklesia appears eighty-one times in the Greek Old Testament (LXX), but it is never translated “church” in our English translations. Garrett says it best: “It is as a family that we must come to see the church. It is not an institution or organization, but a family community of brother and sisters.” Thomas Campbell, in 1809, penned the following words in his Declaration and Address:
Prop. I. That the church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one; consisting of all those in every place that profess their faith in Christ and obedience to him in all things according to the Scriptures, and that manifest the same by their tempers and conduct, and of none else; as none else can be truly and properly called Christians.
At the time Thomas Campbell wrote these words, there was no such thing as the Church of Christ Church. In fact, Campbell was Presbyterian at the time. For him the church of Christ consisted of all who put their faith in Jesus as Lord. His objective in writing this Declaration and Address was to set forth biblical principles upon which fellowship is founded, not the traditions of men. He admitted that the church of Christ in his day comprised people from all denominations. He wrote in his second proposition the following succinct statement about the divisions existing in his day:
2. That although the Church of Christ upon earth must necessarily exist in particular and distinct societies locally separate one from another, yet there ought to be no schisms, no uncharitable divisions among them. They ought to receive each other as Christ Jesus hath also received them, to the glory of God. And for this purpose they ought all to walk by the same rule, to mind and speak the same thing; and to be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment.
Proposition Two set the stage for his comments on “inferences and deductions” from Scripture. Even today, it is not uncommon for Christians to try to force agreement based upon their inferences and deductions from the Word of God. This practice of forcing conformity as a condition of fellowship was also prevalent in my early ministry—some preachers carried debate propositions with them in their coat pockets, ready to debate at the drop of a hat—differences existed on every street corner. Thomas Campbell captured my attention when he forcefully dealt with the enforcement, on the part of some, of “inferences and deductions” as essential to Christian fellowship. Thus, I had to deal with his comments in light of Scripture. Proposition Six reads:
6. That although inferences and deductions from Scripture premises, when fairly inferred, may be truly called the doctrine of God’s holy word, yet are they not formally binding upon the consciences of Christians farther than they perceive the connection, and evidently see that they are so; for their faith must not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power and veracity of God. Therefore, no such deductions can be made terms of communion, but do properly belong to the after and progressive edification of the Church. Hence, it is evident that no such deductions or inferential truths ought to have any place in the Church’s confession.
FELLOWSHIP AND AGREEMENT
Jesus died for persons and not for their opinions or ideas, right or wrong, and those for whom he died must be more important to us than anything for which he did not die. As God accepted us in our weakness, with mistaken ideas, warped views and unhealthful attitudes, so we must accept each other in the same state or condition. We must not make the kingdom of heaven to consist of our convictions, attitudes or opinions, but of citizens who must be tolerant of each other in such matters, else there can be no kingdom of heaven at all.
GOSPEL AND DOCTRINE
FELLOWSHIP AND ENDORSEMENT
People tire of our equating our understanding of the word of God with the word of God itself. This is to say that we must distinguish between revelation and interpretation. Revelation is what God has given us in scripture. Interpretation is what we conclude the scriptures to mean. One is divine, the other human.
UNITY IN DIVERSITY
In the beginning of my spiritual journey, I denied unity-in-diversity. Unity-in–conformity was the battle cry. If one did not conform to the traditions of the church, he or she faced expulsion, which is what ultimately happened to me. It never once occurred to me that Christians can no more all think alike than they can all look alike. This is just plain common-sense interpretation. A more excellent way of expressing the truthfulness of this philosophy is Ketcherside’s comments about observation:
But we learn from observation, experience and the sacred scriptures, that we do not all have the same degree of knowledge. God has made us all to differ in the intellectual realm as we do in the physical. We can no more all think alike than we can all look alike. No two of us upon earth attain to the same identical degree of knowledge about everything at the same moment. . . . Any attempt to secure unity upon basis of uniformity of knowledge or conformity in deductive or inferential process (e.g., doctrinal interpretation) is doomed before it begins.
This article, by Ketcherside, helped me to crystallize my thinking in this area of “uniformity of knowledge.” I saw division on every street corner. We were divided into approximately twenty-five warring factions. Each was claiming to be the “true” Church of Christ. In fact, the congregation that I helped to establish in Montgomery, Alabama had a sign that read, “The loyal Church meets here.” We had set up a system by which fellowship is conditioned upon equality of knowledge, and, as a result, we created a state in which strife, division, and confusion prevailed. This fellowship of believers created an atmosphere in which no one dared to express an original thought. If one dared to think, one would be sent to the chopping block—agree with the status quo or face excommunication. This belief cut us off from every Christian who did not conform to our way of thinking. We were not in fellowship, so we thought, with “wine only” brethren, with “bread breaking” brethren, with “individual cups” brethren, with “Sunday school” brethren, with “instrumental music” brethren, and so on.
For some reason, it never occurred to us that in the primitive community there was diversity of gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-6), diversity of functions (Romans 12:4-5), diversity in knowledge (1 Corinthians 3:1; 8:1-13; Romans 14:1—15:1-7), a diversity in knowledge (1 Corinthians 8:2), and in customs (1 Corinthians 9:19-23; 10:31-33), and diversity in opinions (Romans 14). The writings of Thomas and Alexander Campbell helped to call attention to diversity in the Christian community. I cite Alexander Campbell once more because of his unique insight into the human predicament. Since our minds are leavened by the traditions of the church that prevail in Christendom, by which vital truths of Christianity are secretly undermined or openly denied, we need to reflect upon the growth in the spiritual life of every believer. Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) drew attention to the fact that
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?
Indeed, in most cases where proscription and exclusions now occur in this country, the excluded are the most intelligent members of the society; and although no community will accuse a man because he knows more of his Bible than his brethren, and on this account exclude him from their communion; yet this, it is manifest, rather than heresy, (of which, however, for consistency's sake, he must be accused,) is, in truth, the real cause of separation.
If God has bestowed better gifts or better opportunities on one man than another, by which he has attained more knowledge, instead of thanking God for his kindness to the community, they beg God to take him away; and if he will not be so unkind, they will at length put him from among them under the charge of heresy. 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.
BELIEVERS IN ERROR
In my pilgrimage of faith, I became aware that in Christ Jesus all believers are in error on many doctrinal points. Through common-sense interpretation, I came to the realization that absolute freedom from error in all doctrinal problems is not a condition of salvation, else all men would be damned. We are not saved by attainment to an unmistakable degree of knowledge but by faith in Christ Jesus. I came to realize that the only brethren we have are brethren in error. In my earlier phases of changing, Christians often asked me if I were in fellowship with error. To this inquiry, I answered no! I am in fellowship with people, not error. Ketcherside expressed the basic problem well in his discussion of “Another Gospel.”
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 neither 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.
Through my studies, I came to the realization that one must make a separation between “one faith” and “one opinion.” It is not “What do you believe?”—the eager and sole inquiry of modern religious parties—but rather, “In whom do you believe?” This was the question addressed by Christ to one who sought to know the truth: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35). Campbell captures this truth when he writes:
But the grandeur, sublimity, and beauty of the foundation of hope, and of ecclesiastical or social union, established by the author and founder of Christianity, consisted in this, that THE BELIEF OF ONE FACT, and that upon the best evidence in the world, is all that is requisite, as far as faith goes, to salvation. The belief of ONE FACT, and submission to ONE INSTITUTION expressive of it, is all that is required of Heaven to admission into the church.
It was and is my firm conviction that most of the ardent laborers in every faction are striving to build up a narrow, bigoted, exclusive party of conformity, and the brethren have brainwashed themselves into thinking that the party of their allegiance is the kingdom of God, or “true” church, over which our Lord reigns in an exclusive sense. How many times have we heard the phrase, “We are the loyal church”? Each of these loyal churches has its own unwritten creed, its own clerical domination, its own coercion, and its own compulsion of membership by threat and mental force. The Churches of Christ, in its twenty-five or more divisions, have entangled and enslaved the souls of men and women.
In concluding my remarks about my growth and travel in “Dallas Burdette: My Pilgrimage of Faith,” I remind each reader that whenever individuals demand a program of justification by knowledge, then, they hang themselves on the gallows they have constructed to rid themselves of others, unless they are prepared to make themselves even more foolish by affirming that they know as much as God. My prayer is that you, the reader, will weigh carefully the concepts presented in this article so that you will not make the same pit falls that I made in the earlier part of my spiritual voyage.
 All Scripture citations are from the NIV, unless stated otherwise.
 I started my public ministry on January 21, 1951 in LaGrange, Georgia under the leadership of E.H. Miller (1909-1989), my uncle.
 This was not intentional on the part of the one who taught me. This godly man devoted his whole life to God with immense zeal. I still thank God for his instilling into me a belief in the trustworthiness of the Scriptures as the inspired Word of God. He was a child of his culture, as we all are. He taught me as he himself had been taught. Because of different circumstances in life, I was exposed to other writers who helped me to develop principles of interpretation that he had not been exposed to.
 My first sermon was delivered at the chapel service of Montgomery Bible College, now Faulkner University, Montgomery, Alabama in 1950 (I do not remember the exact date), but, on January 21, 1951, I delivered this same sermon at the Murphy Ave. Church of Christ in LaGrange, Georgia.
 When one exercises this prerogative of discernment, one must be prepared for the wrath of the ecclesiastical party and its preachers to wreak havoc on your body and mind. In my own personal journey of faith, I was thrown out of the Synagogue overnight. It was as if I no longer existed. Letters were sent out to alert brethren that I was no longer “sound” in the faith, even though I was still a part of the one-cup and non-Sunday school faction. Relatives and friends no longer considered me faithful since I could not support the sectarian attitude manifested by the one-cup and non-Sunday school philosophy. Not one of the so-called faithful preachers contacted me to see why I changed my views on fellowship. When I applied Romans 14 and 15, along with 1 Corinthians 8, I was castigated, or hauled over the coals. I remember sharing 1 Corinthians 8 with one of my first cousins. He responded by denying that was even in the Bible, even though he had read that Scripture hundreds of times. He had eyes to see, but he could not see; he had ears to hear, but he could not hear. Why? His traditions did not allow him free access to the Word of God. His preconceived ideas did not allow him to approach the Bible without his spectacles.
 Because of my earlier training, I found it difficult to deal with a number of Scriptures in context. I struggled to find answers in harmony with the whole of God’s Word. Since this article is about my pilgrimage of faith, it is necessary that I quote from those who helped me the most in my study of the Scriptures. I am thankful to M. S. Whitehead for the many papers that he mailed me concerning many of the issues that I struggled with for such a long, long time. I am also grateful to Whitehead for introducing me to the writings of Carl Ketcherside (1908-1989) and Leroy Garrett. But even prior to the introduction to these various authors, I was very fortunate to have had some guidance from Ervin Waters in the field of hermeneutics (science of interpretation). As a result of his assistance, I became aware of many problems in my handling of the Scriptures. The books recommended by Waters prepared me to digest the writing of M. S. Whitehead, Carl Ketcherside, Leroy Garrett, F.L. Lemley, and Alexander Campbell (1788-1866). I met Whitehead for the first time in the late fifties at the Lowery Church of Christ (one-cup and non-Sunday school), where I preached on a regular basis (at least once a month), while he was attending a Gospel meeting conducted by J. D. Philips (1904-?).
 For a thorough investigation of this phrase as to its original meaning and its history, See Dallas Burdette, “We Speak Where the Bible Speaks” [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net (accessed 23 June 2007) located under caption SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then under the subheading RESTORATION MOVEMENT.
 For a detailed study on the fallacy of citing Scripture verbatim to uphold certain traditions without consulting context, see Dallas Burdette, “First Timothy 2:9-15: Literalism and Isolationism of Scripture [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net (accessed 23 June 2007) located under caption SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then under the subheading WOMEN: THEIR ROLE IN SCRIPTURE.
 See Dallas Burdette (eighteen studies on individuals Scriptures misapplied by many within the Churches of Christ) for a detailed study of context dealing with many misapplied Scriptures [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net (accessed 23 June 2007) located under caption MISAPPLIED/TWISTED SCRIPTURES.
 Leroy Garrett, “It Means What It Says,” in Restoration Review 17, no. 4 (April 1975): 69.
 As stated above, for a detailed explanation of this Subject, see “We Speak Where the Bible Speaks” [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrit.net [accessed 23 June 2007], located under the caption SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then under the subheadings, HERMENEUTICS or RESTORATION MOVEMENT.
 D. R. Dungan, Hermeneutics (Delight, Arkansas: Gospel Light Publishing Co, n.d.).
 Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics: A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, reprint, nd (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988).
 M. S. Whitehead, a few years after our meeting in Lowery, placed membership with the Vonora Ave. Church of Christ in Montgomery, AL. Vonora Ave is still a one-cup and non Sunday school church. Even though he met with the one-cup group, he did not believe that the use of individual cups was sinful.
 I quote extensively from the writings of Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Carl Ketcherside, and Leroy Garrett in My Pilgrimage of Faith. Why? It is simply that these men are the writers whom I started reading after my initial studies in the field of hermeneutics. Immediately, after reading their books, I recognized the same principles in their literature that I had read from Dungan, Terry and Berkhof’s works on Hermeneutics.
 For a detailed study of this subject (rebaptism), see Dallas Burdette, “Rebaptism in the Stone/Campbell Movement” [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrit.net [accessed 23 June 2007], located under the caption SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then under the subheading BAPTISM.
 L. Berkhof, Principles of Biblical Interpretation: Sacred Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1962), 115.
 Many within this movement are rethinking their traditions. Last year (2006), I conducted two seminars on how to read the Word of God more accurately. I had several preachers from the one-cup and non-Sunday school fellowship to attend. These preachers came under the cover of darkness, so to speak. I am still in contact with these preachers; they also still read my writings. Many believers within this group are just now learning about God’s grace. One of my second cousins was accused of being a false teacher for preaching on grace. He is still a part of the one-cup and non-Sunday school movement. This congregation has been disfellowshiped by many within this same movement.
 J. Wayne McKamie, “The Baptist Church,” in Old Paths Advocate, Vol. LXXX, No. 2 (February, 2006): 8, 9.
 Don L. King, “Editorial: Proper Perspective,” Old Paths Advocate, Vol. LXVII, No. 9 (September, 1995): 2.
 I am indebted to Leroy Garrett for calling attention to the origin of the Church of Christ Church with his article, “Is August 17, 1889 the Birthday of the Church of Christ? in Restoration Review 17, no. 1 (January 1975): 6-9.
 Many Christians object to the word denomination as applicable to the Church of Christ, for many within the Churches of Christ it is called the Lord’s church to distinguish it from other denominations. For an excellent analysis of the meaning of the word “denomination,” see Carl Ketcherside, “The Name Pattern,” Mission Messenger 32, no. 3 (August 1970): 113 where he says,
The very word denominate, from the Latin de and nominare, to call by a name, means, “to give a name to; designate by a name or title; to call by a distinctive name or designation.” Any group which selects and appropriates to itself a specific name, title or brand, is a denomination, whether the title it selects is from words found in the bible, or composed of words not even mentioned in the sacred volume. . . . The ekklesia of God had no specific name in its inception. The saints were corporately designated only by simple nouns. All of these describe a relationship. Not a one was used as an exclusive title.
 Alexander Campbell, “The Editor’s Response to Mr. Broaddus,” Millennial Harbinger, New Series, 4, no. XII (December 1840): 556.
The title “Church of Christ” as used by a large segment of believers today is employed in a denominational sense, just as the terms Baptist Church, Methodist Church, Christian Church, etc. This is very difficult for many to see, for they have been taught that their salvation depends upon the name “The Church of Christ” although that expression is not once found in the sacred scripture. . . . The idea that a wife should wear her husband’s name as he means it, is not a scriptural one. No married woman in Bible times was ever called by her husband’s name. That practice is a fairly modern one and by no means universal even now. . . . The word “church” is not a name at all. It is a common noun like “house” or “wife.” . . . His name was Jesus, and that is what he was called at birth, but “God hath made that same Jesus . . . both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Christ is no more his name than is the word “Lord.” The word “Christ” is merely the Greek form of the Hebrew “Messiah.” It isn’t a name at all: it is an office which God made him to occupy.
I read this article in July 1964. This essay caused me to rethink my position on the name of the church. At this time I was still associated with the one-cup and non-Sunday school movement. In fact, I did not leave that movement until the early seventies. Even though all my so-called Gospel meetings and preaching engagements were cancelled, I continued in the movement until about 1972 or early 1973.
 Leroy Garrett, “The Catholicity of the Church,” Restoration Review 15, no. 3 (March 1973): 45. The writings of Garrett are also available on the Internet. His website is: http://www.leroygarrett.org/
 Thomas Campbell, Declaration and Address (St. Louis, Missouri: Mission Messenger, 1975, reprint), 44 [page numbers are from the reprint edition].
 Ibid., 44-45.
 Ibid., 46.
 This statement does not deny that God’s Word is absolute, but rather, that our knowledge of God’s Word is relative. This relativity of knowledge is one of the reasons that Paul rebuked the Corinthians and the Romans for not making allowances for differences. In the dawning of my ministry, I violated the principles laid down by Paul. I did not make a distinction between my interpretation of God’s Word and the Word itself. In other words, I equated my interpretation with God’s revelation. I do not know why this never occurred to me in my earlier ministry. In this perception, for lack of a better term, I was brain-dead. For a detailed study of the subject of absolute knowledge, please see, Dallas Burdette, “Knowledge Puffs Up (8:1) [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 28 June 2007], located under the caption BIBLICAL STUDIES and then under NEW TESTAMENT and then under the subheading FIRST CORINTHIANS.
 See Carl Ketcherside, “Thoughts on Fellowship,” Mission Messenger 20, no. 2 (July 1958): 2. The writings of Ketcherside are available through the Internet. His website is: http://www.unity-in-diversity.org/?7&9&2007&16218. There are also audio files available on this website.
 For a more detailed study on “fellowship and agreement,” see Dallas Burdette, False Prophets in the Gospel of Matthew, Who Are They?” (D.Min. dissertation, Erskine Theological Seminary, 1999), pages 1-21. See also Dallas Burdette, False Prophets in the Gospel of Matthew, Who Are They?”” [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 23 June 2007], located under the caption DISSERTATION and then under the subheading INTRODUCTION.
 For a more detailed study of 1 Corinthians 8:1-3, see Dallas Burdette, “Knowledge Puffs Up” [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 23 June 2007], located under the caption BIBLICAL STUDIES and then under the subheading NEW TESTAMENT and then under FIRST CORINTHIANS. In 1972, I remember very vividly my sharing the eighth chapter of 1 Corinthians with a relative of mine (he also was/is a preacher). There was utter rejection of what was stated. In fact, he even denied that that particular teaching was in the Bible. The amazing thing is that he had read that Scripture dozens of time, but, for some reason, it never registered with him as to what Paul was saying. The reason, perhaps, is that that specific Scripture did not coincide with his theology. It seems to me that the words of Jesus are very appropriate here: “He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15).
 Alexander Campbell, “To Mr. William Jones, of London, Letter IV,” Millennial Harbinger 6, no. 3 (March 1835): 111-112.
 For an examination of the meaning of the word gospel, see Dallas Burdette, “The Heart of the Gospel” [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 23 June 2007], located under the caption BIBLICAL STUDIES and then under the subheading NEW TESTAMENT and then under GALATIANS.
 For an analysis of preaching in the early church, see Dallas Burdette, “Preaching in the Early Church” [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 23 June 2007] under the caption SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then under PREACHING AND TEACHING.
 For a more detailed study of the peculiarities of the one-cup and non-Sunday school movement, see “A Brief History of the One Cup and non-Sunday School Movement” [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 23 June 2007] under the caption SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then under LORD’S SUPPER. For additional oddities on this Movement, see my article “Oddities in Pattern Theology” [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrit.net [accessed 23 June 2007]. Located under the caption SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then under the subheading WORSHIP.
 I am indebted to Carl Ketcherside for this perceptive insight.
 For an in-depth study of the Gospel, see Dallas Burdette, “Overview of Romans” and “Overview of Galatians” [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrit.net [accessed 28 June 2007]. Located under the caption BIBLICAL STUDIES and then under the subheading NEW TESTAMENT and then under subheading OVERVIEWS OF NEW TESTAMENT BOOKS.
 Carl Ketcherside wrote one of the most informative articles that I have read about fellowship and endorsement. In his article, “Reply to Brother Thomas,” in Mission Messenger 25, no. 4 (April 1963): 51-59. I call attention to this perceptive essay on fellowship, because this response to Brother Thomas helped me to rethink the subject of biblical fellowship that is in keeping with the tenor of the Scriptures. This article is what I called common-sense interpretation.
 Alexander Campbell, “Millennium. – II,” in The Millennial Harbinger 1 (5 April 1830): 122-123.
 Leroy Garrett, “What kind of a Book is the Bible? . . . ‘It Means What It Says,’” Restoration Review 17, no. 4 (April 1975): 69.
 This congregation was started in my mother’s (1913-2000) and step-father’s (1904-1978) (Thelma and Teddy Haygood) home on Madison Avenue (1952). This church still exists and is known as the Vonora Avenue Church of Christ. The congregation continues to advocate the use of the common cup and no Sunday school. Raymond Miller, son of the late E. H. Miller, still preaches for this local fellowship in Montgomery, AL.
 Some Christians in the one-cup and non-Sunday school advocated the use of wine in the Lord’s Supper, not grape juice. As a result of this belief, the wine only would not fellowship the grape juice only and the grape juice only group would not fellowship the wine only group.
 For a fuller detail of this movement, see my article on “A Brief History of the One-Cup and Non-Sunday School Movement,” Ibid. See Dallas Burdette, go to www.freedominchrist.net and then click on SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then click on the LORD’S SUPPER.
 Alexander Campbell, “Christian Union,” in Christianity Restored (Rosemead, California: Old Paths Book Club, 1959) , 127. I read this book in May, 1964.
 For a detailed study of “one faith” in Ephesians 4:5, see Dallas Burdette, “The One Faith” [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrit.net [accessed 23 June 2007]. Located under the caption MISAPPLIED/TWISTED SCRIPTURES.
 Alexander Campbell, “The Foundation of Hope and of Christian Union,” The Christian Baptist 1, no. 9 (April 1824): 177.