Vol.IX No.V Pg.2
July 1972

Becoming A Denomination

Robert F. Turner

Reprint of an article by Rubel Shelly (Learning From The Methodists) has been given me, in which the writer says, The church of Christ is not a denomination, but it will soon become one if our liberal brethren are allowed to continue to extend their influence among faithful congregations. By liberal brethren brother Shelly means those denying the verbal inspiration of Scripture, denying the validity of the restoration plea, denying the absolute essentiality of baptism unto salvation, denying the principle of Biblical authority by extending the right hand of fellowship to those who worship with instrumental music, etc.

We dare say bro. Shelly does not believe the true people of God will become a denomination; and that he refers to a current group wearing that name and claiming that place. If our assumptions are correct, we are in complete agreement with his opening statement, above. But we wonder how many really understand this becoming a denomination, may it be avoided by staying on the right side of bro. Shellys list—and how did validity of the restoration plea get into that list?

Saints may leave their first love, faithful congregations may become unfaithful; but these apostates must remain in a single brotherhood to form a denomination. This binding usually takes place through gradual moves toward collective functions— accepting boards sponsoring churches or other media by which many churches may act as one. Through such centralization distinctive doctrine is propagated, and becomes the creed of the faithful, This process has been repeated so many times, and is such a theme in the history of denominationalism, that it should be well understood by brethren. But I fear it is not understood, nor is its less heeded. We are doomed to repeat it.

False doctrine should be fought and false teachers withstood, but the word of God must determine what is false and what is true—not the majority opinion of that great middle section of the brethren. Free, open Bible studies must be kept alive, and the spirit of investigation encouraged. Quarantine and disfellowship can, with strong party backing, become the means of putting together a party a creed and inter-church co-operation (collective action of many churches) demands the very machinery by which churches become a denomination. As bro. Shelly says, Let us resolve not to adopt the formula of ecumenism unto our destruction, but to stand firm for truth.