Wineskins Archive

January 21, 2014

Study On, Brothers and Sisters (May 1993)

Filed under: — @ 4:22 pm and

by Mike Cope
May, 1993

What a great day it was! The place was Elkins Auditorium on the Pepperdine campus. The time was the 50th annual Pepperdine Bible Lectures.

Two men of faith, Carroll Osburn and Howard Norton, spoke on the role of women, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Both men love God deeply; both consider the voice of Scripture authoritative; both are committed to God’s work in Churches of Christ.

Yet these two brothers in Christ came to quite different conclusions about what Scripture permits women to do in the context of Christian assemblies.

For some, this is a sign of apostasy, of disregard for Scripture, of a sell-out to compromise.

But for others, it’s a sign that the ruddy health of the Restoration Movement may still be intact. Our plea is to return to Scripture again and again. Such a plea is dangerous: it means that no bishop, no Bible faculty, or no magazine is going to pronounce the final word. Scripture is going to be the magnetic north that constantly recalibrates our compasses.

Three possible responses to these lectures could promote the dream of radical restorationism. They are:

    • “I think that’s what Scripture says. Let’s keep studying.”
    • “I think you’re off base. Let’s keep studying.”
    • “I’m just not sure. Let’s keep studying.”

One response that denies the restoration dream is the visceral response that wants to mark and condemn someone for coming to a different (unauthorized) conclusion. Then the mud-slinging begins. We accuse someone of selling out to culture, of falling before the god of Political Correctness. We announce that this person doesn’t care about the authority of Scripture.

Perhaps the greatest hope from that day in Malibu was that people who disagreed could still be brothers and sisters. We learned again that unity doesn’t depend on coming to the same conclusions about the role of women in the church – fortunately, since there’s already quite a variety of teaching and practice in Churches of Christ.

Scripture is authoritative. But people of equal love for Christ and with equal ability in and commitment to Bible study can come to different conclusions.

Perhaps this “issue” can serve as a litmus test to see if the dream of radical restoration is still alive. Will we really permit people to return to Scripture – even if they form some opinions we don’t

like? Will elders be bold enough to allow their members (including their ministers) to keep searching? Will boards of trustees allow their faculty members

to hold convictions that result from honest Bible study?

Study on, Brothers and Sisters in Christ. And as you study, put your hope in the

One who saved you, not in your ability to come to all the proper conclusions.Wineskins Magazine

Mike CopeMike is the preaching minister for the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas. He and his wife Diane have two sons, Matt and Chris; their

daughter Megan perished at age nine. Chris survived an automobile accident, with serious injuries, in 2004. Mike has written a number of books, teaches Bible

at Abilene Christian University. and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer. [Mike Cope’s Blog]

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