Vol.V No.IV Pg.6
June 1968

The Risk Of Bible Study

Robert F. Turner

Proponents of "official" church doctrines (creeds) and "authority of the church" to determine doctrines, have long contended that in the absence of such, churches will be fractured into numerous ineffective cells. This is not an observation to be ignored; for history has repeatedly demonstrated this possibility.

Note the following from A. W. Fortune's history of The Disciples in Kentucky, pp. 53.

"Their search for new truth and the fact that they had no creed to guide them made the Christians an easy prey to strange doctrines. Three Shaker missionaries from New York wrought havoc in their ranks. Three of the preachers who were associated with Mr. Stone -- Matthew Houston, Richard McNemar, and John Dunlavy -- put away their wives, acknowledged marriage as a sin, and joined the Shakers. This caused much confusion in the ranks of Stone's followers, and many went to the other communions.

Because of the havoc wrought by the Shakers, and because of the controversy over baptism, Robert Marshall and John Thompson were convinced that the "Bible was too latitudinarian" ("tolerant of variations" or admitting of various interpretations.rt) and urged the formulation of a simple, doctrinal statement of a few fundamental truths. A meeting was called at Mount Tabor, near Lexington, to consider their proposition. It was decided to abide by the principle that the Bible should be their guide in religion and trust in God for the consequences."

Today, as then, there are those who havemore faith in man than in God. They seem to think men can improve upon God's effort to set forth clearly a rule of faith and practice; that men may devise a charter for unity where God has failed. This writer has no such delusion.

Neither a newly formulated "creed" nor the "status quo" long-standing faith and practice of an "established party" can take the place of "the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you." We are unwilling to trust either those men who met in Arlington (and I was one of them) or those who ignorantly surmise, assume, and suppose concerning that meeting. Our faith remains in Jesus Christ and His word.

Fear of confrontation, with open Bible -- if such fear exists -- smacks of unwillingness to measure ourselves by God's Rule (2 Cor.10: 12-f) or a very sectarian conception of "church." How could anyone "represent" or "misrepresent" or "compromise" a party that does not exist?? Answer that!!

"When the Christians refused to adopt a simple doctrinal statement to hold them together and keep them steady" (ibid.,pp.54) Marshall and Thompson retired to the shelter of the Presbyterian confession of Faith. Here councils and synods could decide what they were to believe, and they were protected from the strange doctrines that prey upon those who study and think for themselves.

God's blessings await those who "trust in God for the consequence."