The Haters: The Church of Christ

Often when I present to churches or individuals, I am asked, "Do you receive a lot of hate mail?" To that I can thankfully answer "no," as we receive far more expressions of gratitude than complaints. And, many of the complaints are presented respectfully and constructively. The follow-up question is often, "Who do you receive the most hate from?" When I answer that question, people are almost always surprised. My answer: the Church of Christ.

In the 16+ years I have been serving though, Church of Christ advocates have been, by far, the most consistent attackers. More sadly, though, Church of Christ advocates have also been the most rude, condescending, hateful, arrogant, and belligerent attackers. I lost count of how many times I have been proclaimed eternally condemned for one issue or another by self-proclaimed Church of Christ leaders/members. What are the issues they raise?

(1) The Church of Christ is the one true church of God, and anyone who is not a member of the Church of Christ is eternally condemned. I have literally had people tell me that the Church of Christ is the one and only Church of Christ because it has the name, "Church of Christ." Who knew? All you had to do to become the one true church was to have "Church of Christ" in your church's name.

(2) The New Testament does not record followers of Christ using musical instruments, therefore, if a church uses musical instruments, it is in fact worshipping Satan. Now, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. I have literally had Church of Christ advocates say that if I attend a church where musical instruments are used, I am bound for hell. Nevermind the fact that the New Testament nowhere prohibits or even discourages the use of musical instruments.

(3) Baptism is necessary for salvation. If a person is not baptized, he/she is not saved. Some go a step further and require baptism in a Church of Christ church for salvation. Essentially, the Church of Christ believes that in addition to faith, baptism is required for a person to be saved. God does not grant salvation until baptism occurs. Baptism is not a work that earns salvation, but it is something God requires before He grants salvation. Most Church of Christ advocates will say the same thing about repentance and public confession, but baptism is definitely what is emphasized the most.

It is interesting to probe Church of Christ baptism-salvation advocates a little further. If I state that I have received Christ as my Savior, by grace through faith, and have been baptized in obedience to Christ, and then ask if I am saved, the answer is usually, "no, because you do not believe that baptism is necessary for salvation." So, their belief regarding what is required for salvation is actually: faith, repentance, public confession, baptism, and belief that baptism is necessary for salvation. While there are a few Bible verses that seem to indicate baptism is necessary for salvation, there are none that require certain beliefs about baptism for salvation. Church of Christ advocates do not just believe that baptism is necessary for salvation. They believe that their understanding of baptism is required for salvation.

The other day we received a question that asked, "Why did you forget about baptism in your Gospel presentation articles?" After I finished laughing (and crying) at the fact that someone could think we "forgot" a crucial aspect of the Gospel, I responded by "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) and explained the biblical relationship between salvation and baptism: baptism is a step of obedience, after salvation, to declare publicly that we have been saved by the perfect and complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Not all Church of Christ advocates have been hateful towards us. Some have expressed their disagreements with respect. I have no doubt that there are many in the Church of Christ who are truly saved and truly love the Lord Jesus Christ. But, at the same time, others who claim to represent the Church of Christ have been our most vehement and persistent haters.

We just had a Church of Christ advocate send us a large package of materials that argue for baptismal regeneration. Included in the package was a New Testament with the statement, "I am including a New Testament because you obviously don't read it." Sigh.

S. Michael Houdmann

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The Haters: The Church of Christ