Wineskins Archive

February 12, 2014

Readers Respond to Articles in New Wineskins (Jan-Feb 2002)

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January 3, 2002

Dear Editor:

I must comment on the review of Tim Woodroof’s book, The Church That Flies, by F. LaGard Smith in your December 2001 issue. Smith does a good job of encapsulating the essence of Woodroof’s book in the first six paragraphs of his article, but then seems to falter when it comes time to evaluate what he has read. I believe the central roadblock to Smith’s understanding of the book comes as he attempts to contain new wine in an old wineskin. Smith wrestles dismissively with the new “function approach” of the book while locked rigidly in our Brotherhood’s “restore the ancient church” mindset. This is evidenced in his use of phrases such as “classic Restoration thought”, “time-honored doctrinal understandings” and “accumulated traditions.” It appears that Smith uses the form focused thinking of the Restoration philosophy to evaluate the function focused philosophy espoused by Woodroof and dismiss it when it does not deliver us to the same destination as the prior thinking.

It is time for a new approach, no; it is past time for a new approach. To focus on Jesus and his purpose statements makes much more sense than does our endless arguments about what form is “authorized.” If we as a movement had begun with Campbell pointing us toward Jesus’ teaching on function and the “weightier matters” and today someone proposed that we should instead focus on imitating the actions and forms of the 1st Century Church we would have never given a moments pause to consider taking such a foolish tangent. In fact, Smith finds himself arguing that we should stay the course and continue with our church-form focus rather than trust believers to individually adopt the character of Jesus as a their guide. Smith laments the lack of “sufficient safeguards” as if the character of Jesus is a poor standard, which after all is the standard Woodroof suggests. I might ask does our Brotherhood have “sufficient safeguards” to prevent division over foolish interpretations on multiple cups, classes, singing during communion, contemporary songs or any number of Biblically irrelevant issues that work our folks into a lather? What silly positions our Restoration mindset leads us to defending.

We are a people who have a history of keeping tabs on one another lest someone slip into error (error such: formerly, eating in the building or presently, having a praise team). Tim’s suggestion to center on the more important issues of function and letting those functions define effective forms is a proposal that will shake our traditional brethren to their core. It certainly parallels Jesus’ verbal shaking of the Pharisees in Matthew 23. I can’t recall a single time that Jesus counseled the Pharisees, “Boys, you’ve got to improve your attention to form! You get those forms right and you are home free!” Rather, time after time, the focus of Jesus words toward the seed-counting sect concerned their missing the heart and soul of their absent relationship with God. In place of their relationship with God, even preventing a relationship with God was their focus on their all-important forms. Strike a little close to home?

Smith makes this statement: “classic Restoration thought asserts that God himself has given us in the pattern of the first century faith and practice the very forms which best will achieve the functions of faith and practice which he has purposed for his people.” Yes this is “classic Restoration thought.” (I will assume when he says, “God himself has given us,” Smith was not referring exclusively to the Church of Christ!) The Church That Flies offers convincing arguments for why this “classic, form-first” thinking upon which we rest the foundation of our Restoration Movement is absolutely the wrong approach to help us become God’s people. God save us from “classic Restoration thought” and one of its main fruits—division. I don’t want to conform to a pattern any longer; I want to be transformed by the Son with the help of His Spirit. Tim, thanks for your encouraging book. I pray that many will read and understand it.

Sherman K. Dye
Vienna, WV

Dear Editors,

I recently read your article in the Sept/Oct issue of Wineskins. The new thought espoused by a number of brethren today disturbs me greatly. This thinking seems to be illustrated in your article “Will The Churches Survive The 21st Century?” I would like to refer to your next to last paragraph in the article. Brother Harris, although people need to have the word of God confirmed in their experiences and help in there relationships, the coming generation does and will understand the love of God in terms of getting it right. (I John 5:3) Individuals are interested in arguments for church government, weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, a cappella music and baptism for the remission of sins. There are about 30 now attending the congregation here who most, if not all, came out of denominationalism and their interest was fed by such arguments. The roots must be there as well as the fruit. I believe each one of them have grown in the Lord and have a deeper love for Christ than those who do not love these truths and basic principles, but claim they do. I know it is easy to criticize and many do so for the wrong reason. This is not my intent and I have no allegiance to any group within the body of Christ. I have been a Christian for 50 years and have been preaching for over 40 years. I am gravely concerned at the direction that many are taking in this regard. I’m saddened the most by men like you who have such capabilities and talents, and could keep us faithful to the old paths and encourage distinctive New Testament Christianity, which I believe the church of Christ has held to as long as I can remember.


Emmett Roberts

To President Bush, the American people, and all civilized people of the world:

This letter is to express from my soul my sadness and abhorrence for the barbaric, inhuman and unforgivable murderous attack on America. The evil disregard for the lives of so many innocent people, men, women, and children. It defies all reason. This is an act of terrorism of the worst kind and must be treated as such. They must have done unto them what they have done unto others.

Do not associate this evil action with Islam or believing Muslims. These demented fanatics uses Islam and Islamic terminology (e.g. Islamic Jihad) to hide their true agenda intending to deceive the nations into believing that the Muslim world and true believers in Islam are in accord with them and condone their evil acts of terrorism and violence.

Terrorism is not compatible with Islam. Actually, do not associate it with anything other than an evil, satanic, sick and corrupt mentality that has no place in the world that we live in. To think, plan, and carry out this evil act of murder, mayhem, and terror has no sanction in Islam. The Holy Qur’an forbids and condemns all acts of terrorism. It strictly forbids the intentional killing of women, children, and the elderly, even in war. Prophet Muhammed instructed his followers not to destroy even the livestock, animals, vegetation of those of whom the Muslims would have to fight on their own land.

This is my America, and I love it with all of its imperfections. But, I along with many other right-minded Americans, are working hard to correct her. I put my life on the line at the age of 17, in 1945 when I volunteered for service in the Navy during World War II. When we African-Americans were in very unfavorable situation in the South. However, I believed, even then, that God was going to help us to bring about a better situation here, for us and for America. And, I have lived to see it. She’s not yet perfect and will never be, but it’s getting better and is still the best country that I know about and want to live in. America is the greatest land on the face of the earth.

I agree with our president to hunt and punish those responsible for this cowardly, uncivilized attack on innocent human beings. And believe me, if my country could use me I’d go over there again and help seek out and punish and everyone guilty of planning, aiding, and harboring these evil criminals. No true believer in Islam can condone this outrageous, uncivilized, evil act.

Allah (God) says in His Qur’an that He is swift in punishment. Well, He can be because He is perfect and knows everything. So I ask our president and America to be not swift in punishment, be precise, and punish.

Ilyas Muhammad, Imam
Muslim American Community Center
PO Box 330175
Nashville TN 37203

After September 11, 2001,
We walk now within
the hungry and aching desire for vengeance,
where we must resist the urge toward hatred
amid the shocked grief of disbelief.
We will remember,
We will press on,
We will triumph.

In this moment,
we seek the shelter of Eternity.

To find hope
and the strength to persevere,
we must look beyond the moment
to the shores of a better place.

We must go on,
for in life we defeat death;

In the promise of the afterlife,
we gain a victory unto immortality:
That which cannot be taken away
by the terror planned and carried out
in the hearts of evil men.

Jeff Stephens

Dear editors,

What a Godsend it was to find our copy of New Wineskins in our mailbox when we came home from a prayer vigil at church last night. After “living” the horrific events of the day while trying long-distance to help the Abilene Reporter-News keep its Web site updated, I found that taking a break from the terror with this issue was an even greater blessing.

In a way, it helped answer questions that I’m sure have troubled so many folks yesterday and many times before – even those of us who thought our faith towered as proudly as the World Trade Centers and sat as firmly square as the Pentagon:

Why does God allow these things to happen? Where is He when they occur?

Mike, your article (and Rubel Shelly’s and Darrell Tippens’ and Larry Crabb’s and Randy Gill’s and James Walters’) made me wonder if part of the reason God lets these things happen is to help us realize how much we need each other. Catastrophes like this bring us together, shear away our veneer of independence and expose the raw stock of need underneath.

And Randy Harris’ article about our fellowship’s survival based on the preconceptions that we can and must always perfectly understand God’s will brought to mind the answering questions Job heard in the whirlwind in response to his innocent “Why?” God let Job draw his own conclusions rather than answer his questions directly. My conclusion is that maybe God lets these things happen because we sometimes need to be reminded in a powerful way

*that sin leads to death.


*how much we need Him.

Friends of ours here in Little Rock who lost a baby hours after his birth asked their minister to communicate to the mourners at the funeral that they didn’t know why God took their child home. But, they also didn’t know why He had blessed them with years of happy marriage, a beautiful older daughter, and family and friends to support and comfort them.

So I also have to wonder why God filled those four hijacked planes with only a fraction of their passenger capacity … why He held those towers up for more than an hour while thousands escaped … why the fourth plane never hit a target at all … and perhaps most importantly, why let His very own Son die on a cross not just for the innocents who perished yesterday, but also for miscreants who unrepentantly murdered them.

While I am certain His justice will be swift and sure for those infidels, I am also certain that His mercy will be just as swift, just as sure for His children.

Finally, Al Haley’s short story brought to mind all of the peculiar and blessed dreams I’ve had about my own dearly-loved and departed dad – and gave me a glimpse at the answer to the question: Where is God when these things happen?

He’s in heaven. Wiping away tears. Just like Revelation 21:4 says.

The issue of New Wineskins also reminds me how much we miss all of you at Highland, and how much we look forward to seeing you again – here or hereafter.

May God continue to bless you,

– Keith BrentonNew Wineskins

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