Knofel Staton The Paraphrase of Thomas Campbell's Declaration and Address (1976)

The Paraphrase of

Steel Engraving of Thomas Campbell

By Knofel Staton      

      Probably no religious group produced as much literature as the early leaders of the restoration movement. That may be one reason it was the fastest growing religious group in America in the latter 19th century. It is not really possible to understand nor to appreciate the unique contribution of the restoration movement of which the Christian Church/Church of Christ is a part without reading the formative literature.

      But the literature is written in ancient form and wording that discourages many readers. Knofel Staton has suggested that the literature needs paraphrasing for our day.

      Because we believe that this literature is imperative reading at a time when fewer and fewer seem committed to the ideals of the restoration movement, we have decided to begin a project of paraphrasing some of Thomas and Alexander Campbell's works. We will first paraphrase the Declaration and Address and then The Christian System.

      In each issue of the Compass a portion of paraphrase will appear. It will take many years of the Compass to complete this. We encourage you to keep these issues.

      It would be a contribution to the whole brotherhood if individuals who see the worth of this would contribute to a more rapid distribution of this paraphrase project by financing the production of books of paraphrase. Scores of books from the restoration leaders deserve paraphrasing to encourage wider readers. We hope our efforts will be another service from us to you.

      A copy of the Declaration and Address in the words of Thomas Campbell can be ordered from the bookstore here or from Bethany Press, St. Louis, Missouri. Many of the works of restoration leaders can be obtained from College Press under its Restoration Reprints series. College Press will be happy to send you a catalog of the Restoration Reprints. These are classic works in the words of their authors. The Christian System is a must reading for every Christian. This book can also be ordered from our bookstore or The Gospel Advocate Co., Nashville, Tennessee.

      College Press has just completed the reprinting of all 41 volumes of the Millennial Harbinger by Alexander Campbell. This, the largest literary work in the Restoration Movement, is available at College Press, Box 1132, Joplin, Missouri 64801.

Knofel Staton
Mr. Staton teaches at Ozark Bible College, Joplin, Missouri. [2]

Paraphrasing the

-- by Knofel Staton --

Our Standard

      During the past several years, both here and abroad, many issues have arisen within Christianity. These issues call for study from all of us. But what is the standard for deciding these issues? It is the Word of God alone and not any one's particular interpretation of that Word.

      God's Word equally applies to everyone, and it is that Word only which shall judge our conclusions. Therefore, we have no right to force our opinions onto the decisions of others and they have no right to force theirs upon us. There are two truths that follow: (1) No brother can decide for another about these issues. (2) No brother has a right to judge another's position by his own interpretation. The only time we have a right to judge a brother is whenever he has clearly violated what the Bible actually says--not what we think it says.

Our Purpose

      Religious controversy among Christians seems to persist in a devilish kind of way. We would like to retreat from all of the jarrings and jangling of sectarian attitudes and activities. Therefore, we are recommending some measures that can restore unity, peace, and purity to the total family of God.

      However, we do this realizing that all quarrelings will not stop. As long as we continue fighting over denominational and individual pet peeves there will be factions and fusses. We cannot find the peace we desire anywhere except in Christ and His simple Word which does not change.

      Therefore, it is our hope that none of us will allow human opinions to become binding as tests of fellowship. Let's not argue about our ideas. But rather let us stick to the original standard--the divine Word alone as our rule, the Holy Spirit as our teacher and guide, and Christ alone for our salvation. If we do that, we can be at peace with ourselves, manifest peace with others, and live in holiness. For without demonstrating peace and holiness, we shall not see the Lord.

      Because we believe that the above is true, we set forth the following resolutions:

      1. That we form a religious association free from all opinions to be called "The Christian Association of Washington".

      2. That each member designate whatever sum of money he can for (1) supporting a preaching ministry that will put into practice whatever the Bible says about doctrine, worship, discipline, and government (2) giving Bibles to the poor.

      3. That we do not consider ourselves a church, but merely as an association concerned with church reformation.

      4. That we exist for just one purpose--to promote simple evangelical Christianity. Let us support those ministers who will preach and practice pure New Testament Christianity without imposing anything for which there is not a clear "Thus saith the Lord."

      5. That we select a committee of 21 members to manage the business.

      6. That we meet at least twice a year.

      7. That each meeting be public and opened with a sermon, the reading of our constitution and address, and an offering.

      8. That we rely upon Jesus as the Church's head and depend upon Christian friends to donate monies to support preachers who will preach the eternal Gospel and administer the ordinances in exact conformity with the Bible. [3]

Unity--God's Wish

      I submit this address to all Christians everywhere.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

      Certainly all of us would agree that God designed Christianity for the purpose of bringing harmony and openness between men and God and between men and their fellowmen. It is in that kind of unity that man himself is most benefited and God is most honored.

      This purpose of God was announced at the birth of Jesus when the angels sang, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men of good will". The entire Bible gives witness to this grand purpose for unity. Only when we enjoy a unity with God and fellowman and share with each other a oneness of faith and love will God be honored the way He deserves and man be happy the way God intends.

Division--the Opposite of Unity

      Because we believe this, we are hurt when we see the sad divisions that exist among us. These divisions stand opposed to the purpose God had in mind for His family. The divisions draw people apart from one another and encourage each to speak against the other. We cannot stand on the sidelines and ignore the situation. So we have decided to use our abilities to heal and thus to remove the divisions which have produced hatreds, backbitings, grudges, underminings, angers, arguments, enemies, and all sorts of misunderstandings and mistreatments.

      These hateful activities will be a part of Christianity as long as we continue to have schisms within the family of God. James made that clear when he said, "where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work" (James 3:16).

      Party splits and fusses within Christianity have taken their toll too much already in this country as well as in the entire world. Here are ten of those negative results: (1) Christians have become confused about what to believe. (2) Christians have changed their priorities. (3) Biblical ordinances have been often neglected. (4) More energy is often spent in arguments than in evangelism.

      (5) Divisions have been one major reason why our own country remains unevangelized. Many people of this blessed country are entirely deprived of the Gospel just because of divisions within Christianity. How does this happen? (a) Many churches are so weakened by divisions they cannot send ministers to those places where the Gospel is not preached. (b) People are so divided in some places they will not live with a minister when he does come. (c) People living at the back door of Bible preaching congregations will not go to hear the preached Word because of the many divisions among us. Those who stay away because of divisions are little better off than if they lived in heathen territories. They seldom enjoy that great ordinance of unity and love--the Lord's Supper.

      (6) The association of Christians with one another is absolutely essential for proper edification and encouragement as we live in the midst of an evil environment. But divisions hinder this association, for they reduce the number of Christians with whom we will assemble and share. We are then denied what others can contribute to our lives. We need each other. But we usually congregate with only those who hold our same opinions.

      (7) Divisions also relax Church discipline. For who will dare discipline fellow Christians when they know they can go somewhere else? And going somewhere else is easy. Divisions have produced so many brands of Christianity that no matter how evil a person becomes, he can find some party who will fellowship with him without any change needed. That dilutes much of the effectiveness of the life of the Church in our world.

      (8) Divisions are accompanied by yet another terrible result--the judgment of God. God is not a part of our divisions. Where divisions exist God [4] is not present in the ordinances. He will bring judgment to those who lead in keeping divisions alive. When Christians bite and devour one another, they will be consumed by one another (Galatians 5:15). This is one of the judgments of God.

      (9) While all the above are going on, the sincere believers are grieved; the weak stumble; the kind Christians slowly become bitter; and the gospel of Jesus Christ is reduced to contempt.

      (10) At the same time, those outside of Christianity are being so isolated from the positive effects of Christianity that they are left as easy prey to whatever deceivers and seducers are around.

Our Task--Promote Unity

      These ten results of divisions within Christianity are smouldering at the very core of what otherwise looks like a happy country.

      Isn't it then your duty as a Christian to work toward healing these divisions? Ministers, doesn't this task fall specifically upon your shoulders as leaders? Much depends upon your activities. What are you doing to help Christians recognize and associate with their brothers and sisters?

      In these United States of America, we have a unique opportunity to lead the way toward healing the divisions within Christianity, for this country has no state religion or atheistic government as some other countries do. So we have the freedom to move among God's people to bring about the fulfillment of God's Word, without which reformation is impossible.

      Since the French revolution, many churches, both here and abroad, have shown a serious concern for the removal of contentions, the healing of divisions, the restoration of a Christian and brotherly association with one another, and for the promotion of each other's spiritual good.

      Shouldn't we also be excited about this concern and help its forward progress with all of our might? Sure, much is left undone by the efforts in the past, but that can be changed. And, yes, some of the well-meant endeavors to heal divisions have not been satisfactory to all involved, but that shouldn't discourage us. If Christians before us abandoned true causes and righteous projects just because they faced some opposition or because the success seemed to be scanty, God's cause of truth and righteousness would have been deserted long ago. Early Christians faced fearful situations. But is there anything more fearful in giving ourselves to heal the schisms? Has our Lord sounded the retreat and told us not to tackle the problem of divisions? Then why are we sitting on the sidelines?

      We are in an ideal position to get involved, for we can learn from the mistakes of others before us who have also been concerned for Christian unity. So let us put on the whole armor of God, have our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace, and get involved in this concern.

      Don't be discouraged nor offended because many influential people will not recommend involvement. In fact, many will oppose any effort toward healing divisions. But this work cannot be tabled until that time when certain influential people support it.

      As this work does not have to be sanctioned by certain people, neither does it have certain ones to act as our authorities in it. Nor is it a work for just certain people. There is some pride that can accompany seeking for unity. It can easily become an activity for just an exclusive few. But this is a work for all people who belong to God's family.

      Competency in this work comes from God, for this is His work. He is on the side of this work. The prayers of Jesus are on the side of this work. "Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee."

      With all of that on the side of this work, what shall detour or discourage us from attempting to accomplish an entire unity of all the Christians in faith and practice according to the Word of God?

      Although we do not judge ourselves to be competent to do it, we do think it is our duty to attempt it. And we attempt it with the faith that our [5] endeavors shall not be in vain in the Lord.

We Must Agree on the Goal

      As the task of removing factions and fusses does not belong to just one person, it also does not belong to just one party. It is the common cause of Christ and our brothers of all denominations. Therefore, in tackling this work, we are simply entering into a responsibility that all Christians equally share.

      But unless we all agree that this goal is a desirable one, we will never see the day come that divisions among us are erased and that we have restored to the Church its primitive unity, purity, and prosperity.

      Surely, fellow Christians, we do not think that it is ridiculous or outdated for the Church to practice the kind of unity, peace, and purity that was a part of its initial make-up? Is there anything more important than for Christians to copy the model and to accept and apply the practice of the Church clearly seen in the New Testament?

      Yes, that will call for some changes. But those changes will be for our good, unless we think that our ways are more inspired and more perfect than the New Testament ways.

      It is time for us to evaluate and to conform our church make-up and management by and to the apostolic church, and to make whatever changes are necessary. Then the Church will be what Christ intended it. Shouldn't that satisfy us?

      It is wonderful to note that the Churches of Christ agree with each other about the significant doctrines and ordinances. Our differences lie in those matters of opinions that are not essential to the Kingdom of God. What a pity that we are terribly divided over such trivial things.

      Who will become the first among us to quit imposing his personal specialties (either his special practices or interpretations) upon others? Only then can divisions be healed. We are fooling no one. Our Christian brothers of all denominations can easily see that we are full of individual hobby horses, and that we are determined to ride them regardless of the consequences to unity.

      But let us declare that we will enthusiastically give up our personal interests, teachings, interpretations, and practices which cannot be squared with what is clearly taught in the Word of God. Only then can we return to the unity of the Christian Church. Only then will we enjoy fellowship without animosity with all our brothers.

      That calls for the tall order of stepping down from our hobby horses. But we owe this "stepping down" to God, to our fellow Christians, and to the non-Christians who are perishing.

      So we call all denominations to give up those cherished traditions that feed disunity. We are asking all Christians to join in this, because we love all Christians. And we desire to unite with you all--with Christ as the head, His Word as the rule, and conformity to that Word as the terms of Christian unity. As you cannot ask more than this of us, we cannot ask less than this of you. Surely you would not want us to ask less. For what lasting good would either adding to or subtracting from the terms do? Let us do neither.

      Now, it is easy to argue about what is essential and what is non-essential. But why get caught up in that discussion? After all the considerations are in, we are left with the clear obligation to both believe and to practice whatever is revealed whenever we know it. That is what is essential for us.

      Since it is essential to practice and believe what we know to be revealed, it might be tempting not to learn (and thus know) what God has revealed. But God does not give us the privilege of remaining ignorant. We have the duty to know as well as to do.

      We admit that this movement for unity is a small one. But it doesn't have to remain small. Any worthy endeavor begins small. But it can grow with God's hand in it. And it will. It is our duty to be active in this movement. But [6] the movement is God's.

      We hope that you do not think that this cause we are advocating is either unreasonable or unseasonable. This cause is neither behind the times (old fashioned), nor ahead of the times (creative, modern, liberal). Any time is the time when Christianity is divided the way it is.

      Some want us to wait for more favorable conditions among Christian groups and between individual Christians. But we must begin now or the distance among Christian groups will widen, and the intolerance between individuals will increase.

      Since our love and concern include all Christians, not just those within one segment, we feel that our endeavor will help lessen the intolerance and close the distances among groups. Aren't all of us interested in the universally acknowledged and clear truths of God's Word? Shouldn't that interest which we all share draw from us a mutual love and zeal from the truth?

      Unity comes by all of us turning our eyes upon that truth--then obeying it. Truth is central, not traditions. If truth cannot be known, we must abandon any idea of unity, unless it is based only upon voluntary compromise and good natured alterations.

We Must Work Toward Unity

      Jesus' prayer for unity (John 17) is not the impossible dream unless we admit that we do not have the character to live out His prayer and His command that there be "no divisions among them; but that they all walk by the same rule, speak the same thing, and be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment" (I Corinthians 1:10).

      We believe that both Jesus' prayer for unity (John 17) and command for it (I Corinthians 1) are both practical and possible. So let us attempt it. "Up and be doing, and the Lord will be with us."

      Surely we are all praying (as Jesus did) for that time when there shall be just one fold as there is just one Shepherd.

      But shouldn't our entreaties be accompanied by our endeavors? Isn't that what God was saying to Moses when He said, "Why are you crying to me? Tell the children of Israel to get going and you lift up your rod and stretch out your hand."?

      Preachers, take note! You yourselves get involved and encourage your people to do something about bringing divided Christians together.

      Those who say that this cannot be done should listen to God when He said, "Prepare the way and take the stumbling block out of the way of my people." How is the stumbling block removed? That task falls particularly upon the shoulders of preachers. And it begins by their having the courage to stop emphasizing any personal specialties and hobby horses which cannot square with what is clearly taught in the Word of God.

      Now that is tough to do, especially when you have become well known for your positions. But try to forget about yourself and remember that Jesus' dying commands and His last prayers had to do with the visible unity of His people.

      As you remember Jesus' concern, surely you cannot remain silent about this issue that was so important to Him. You cannot claim to be a minister of Jesus and at the same time not be interested in unity. That is not being consistent.

      Don't keep silent. Let people know that disunity is anti-Christian. We are depending upon your efforts to help heal the divisions among God's people so that God's children can live in unity and love (See Mal. 2:1-10).

Unity Depends on Association

      Ministers and members alike, listen! There are no divisions either in the grave or in that world just beyond the grave. There our divisions will come to an end. There Christians will unite! So I pray to God that we can find it in our [7] hearts to put an end to our short-lived divisions here. And if we do, we will leave a tremendous blessing behind us. Wouldn't you like to leave a united Church when you die? What a joy that would be!

      If our divisions should stay with us until the day of judgment (and they will if we keep acting the way we have been), what good would that do? Do you think the continuation of divisions will convert one sinner or save one soul from Hell? Do divisions lesson or multiply sin? They multiply sin both among Christians and non-Christians.

      Please consider all of this in deciding to agree in engaging in this work. What is the work of all must be done by all.

      As the work of the tabernacle in the wilderness was a work of all, so is the restoration of the Church. But you cannot do this work by chasing every person to his own meeting place where he considers only the interests of his own party. Until you associate, confer, and counsel together, and explore the subject in a friendly and Christian manner nothing can be done.

      So we want you to consider the important duty of association. Join us in this cause. For it is the cause of Christ and also of Christians throughout all the Churches. This cause will finally prosper in spite of all opposition. So let us unite to promote it. United we can prevail.

      We dare not say that we have plenty of time to do it on this side of Christ's return. He could return at any time.

      Do not believe those who say that this is not a good time. This is the time. We cannot just sit still in our divisions and corruptions when our Lord is calling us to repentance and reformation.

      He calls us to return to the freedom that Christ gave us. No human should be a master over another in matters of faith. So we encourage all Churches to allow their members the freedom God has given them to decide about His Word.

Our Proposals

      As a kind of first step in promoting that freedom, we set forth the following proposals. We invite your insight to these proposals. We believe that any proposal is better if collectively considered. So we want your suggestions about any needed changes to these.

      These proposals are not intended to become a new creed. They are merely our suggestions for removing the many cobwebs that have formed since the first century which keep us from reaching the same ground the Church stood upon at the beginning.

      If we can cut away these cobwebs, we can get back to the situation as the apostles left it.

      With that in mind, we submit the following proposals:

      Here are thirteen propositions that we think can help us stand on the same ground as the church in the New Testament.

      1. The Church of Christ on earth is indispensably, intentionally, and structurally one. It includes everyone in any place who professes trust and obedience to Christ in all matters according to the Scriptures; and who demonstrates such in character and conduct. No one else can be called a Christian.

      2. Although the Church of Christ on earth exists in different locations, there should be no divisions among congregations. Each congregation should receive the other as Christ Jesus has. That would manifest God's character before all. To facilitate this, all congregations should observe the same practices and speak the same principles.

      3. In order to carry this out, nothing should be forced upon Christians except what is clearly taught in the Word of God. Nothing should be treated in the constitution and by-laws as divine authority unless it is clearly taught in the Word of God. Thus human traditions, regardless of "how long we've done it that way," cannot be our authority. [8]

      4. Although God's revealed will is expressed in both the Old and New Testament books, the New Testament books contain the immediate constitution for the worship, discipline, and government of the corporate Church and for the duties of the individual members.

      5. Nothing ought to be received into the beliefs and worship of the Church nor made the test for fellowship which is not as old as the New Testament books.

      No one should dictate binding directives outlining exactly how procedures have to be carried out if the New Testament is silent about such procedures.

      It is enough if we fulfill the intent of those practices where procedures are not clearly spelled out.

      6. The "conclusions" we arrive at from systematic Scriptural study, as doctrinally valid and valuable as they may be, should not be used as tests of fellowship. "Conclusions" result from our reasoning endeavors. But a man's faith must stand upon the power and truth of God, not in the wisdom of men.

      Our "conclusions" should be used for building up those who are already Christians, not for admittance exams to those who are not.

      7. Our "conclusions" will certainly vary as we systematically study the many various topics within Christianity. The more comprehensibly we study and communicate a topic, the better.

      However, let us realize that the Church is made up of all levels of spiritual maturity--and understanding--spiritual babes, spiritual adolescents, spiritual young adults, spiritual adults (figuratively speaking). That means we will always have differences in our understandings and thus in our conclusions. But these differences should not be used as tests of fellowship.

      8. It is not necessary that people see all God's truth exactly alike before they are added to His Church. What is necessary is that they recognize two things: (1) their lost condition and (2) Jesus' way of salvation. And then declare their faith in Him and their willingness to obey Him in all things.

      9. Anyone who has made such a declaration should consider anyone else who has made such an acknowledgement as saints of God and should love such as brothers. For such people are children of the same family, temples of the same Spirit, members of the same body, subjects of the same grace, objects of the same Divine love, bought with the same price, and joint-heirs of the same inheritance. And whom God hath joined together no man should dare to put aside.

      10. Division among Christians is a repulsive evil filled with many tragedies. Here are three of those tragedies:

      (1) It is antichristian, because it destroys the visible unity of the body of Christ. Division suggests that Christ is divided against Himself by excluding and excommunicating a part of Himself. (2) It is antiscriptural, because it is strictly forbidden by God. (3) It is antinatural, because it motivates Christians to hate and oppose one another who are commanded by God to love one another as brothers.

      In summary, divisions are a product of and produce confusion and every evil work.

      11. All the past and present corruptions and divisions in the Church have resulted from two causes: (1) The partial neglect of the clearly expressed will of God; (2) The insistence that human opinions and hobby horses be accepted in the belief, life, and worship of the Church.

      12. There are four practices necessary if the Church is to manifest the maturity and manners God wants: (1) That no one be admitted who does not acknowledge faith in Christ and obedience to Him. (2) That no one be kept who doesn't back up that acknowledgement with character and conduct. (3) That properly qualified preachers teach nothing other than what is clearly expressed in the Word of God. (4) That those preachers observe all the [9] Divine ordinances which the Church in the New Testament books observed--in the way that the Church observed them.

      13. When the observances of the ordinances are altered due to circumstances and the alteration is essential or the observance would not have been possible (due to the circumstances) then that alteration must be seen as an human expedient only. No higher sanction can be given to it.

How To Make Them Work

      The above propositions are shared as a way to promote and to prepare the way for a permanent Scriptural functioning unity among Christians. I hope that they call our attention to some fundamental truths and principles that aim directly toward the target of unity.

      Now you, the readers, must evaluate whether or not they do that. If they do not, then let's change them so they will be adequate and unanimously accepted as a tool toward unity.

      In the meantime, let's study them carefully. They did not come from a majority (such as from a special council or committee). And they do not need a majority vote to adopt them. Truth is what counts, not a majority vote.

      "Union in Truth" is our motto. And the Divine Word is our standard. And we intend to continue to be His standard-bearer, to fight under His banner with His weapons "which are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds"--even all these strongholds of divisions, those walls of separation which have been built to divide God's flock.

      An enemy has been building these walls. But that enemy shall not win. For God has promised victory to His people. But this cannot be in our present broken and divided state, "for a kingdom or a house divided against itself cannot stand."

      Now this has been the case with the Church for a long time. However, "the Lord will not cast off His people, neither will He forsake His heritage; but judgment shall return unto righteousness and all the upright in heart shall follow it.

      It is in these people that we hope. So come you blessed of the Lord. We have your prayers. Let us also have your actual assistance.

      What? Shall we pray for a thing and not strive to obtain it?

I. Association With One Another

      And now we want to suggest a practical way we can begin to work together to attain Christian unity. Simply stated, it is this--associate with one another. At least once a month meet with other Christians of other groups who live in your area.

      You may find few who will do this. But do not let the lack of many people discourage you. Remember that Jesus promised that where two or three are gathered together in His name He would be in the midst of them. That promise should discourage our discouragement.

      Let as not keep silent nor effortless as long as God's righteousness and salvation are blurred by our divisions. Surely you can find a way to associate with other Christians in your area.

      Why should we fellowship with Christians in other groups? For the following four reasons: (1) For the purpose of asking the Lord for at least three things: (a) Restoration: that His Church might resume her original structural unity and purity. (b) Realization: That the Church might realize her promised prosperity. (c) Evangelism: That the Jews might be speedily converted and the fullness of the Gentiles might be brought in. (2) For the purpose of examining the evil causes of our sad divisions. (3) For the purpose of considering the destructive results of our divisions. (4) For the purpose of mourning over these results. Someone needs to mourn over those results while remembering the Lord who said, "I will go and return to my place till they acknowledge their offense and seek my face."

      But why go to the trouble of associating with other Christians? Well, [10] what prospect do we really have of being delivered from the sad calamities of the divisions if we keep alive and justify the party spirit?

      How do we keep party spirit alive? By failing to associate with those with whom we do not agree in matters of private opinions (individual or group hobby horses which are not clearly commanded in the Word of God).

      If some in a geographical area would dare to associate in small groups with others--as friends of peace and advocates of Christian unity--they should next become acquainted with others doing the same thing in another area. These various areas could meet together semi-annually at a convenient central location. This larger circle could be the opportunity for the sharing of the combined efforts toward promoting the unity of God's people.

      We hope that many of the Lord's ministers 'in all places win participate in this.

II. Study of the Word

      We believe that you agree with us in the following: (1) You also love the truth as it is in Jesus. (2) You also desire union in Christ with all them that love Him. (3) You also mourn over our sad divisions. (4) You also reject the doctrines and commandments of men in order to keep the law of Christ. (5) You also believe that no man has a right to judge nor reject his professing Christian brother except when that brother stands condemned by the clearly stated Word. (6) You also believe that unity and love ought not to be violated by exalting human opinions and traditions to an equal place of authority with God's Word. This is done when our opinions and/or traditions are used as tests of fellowship.

      If you do agree with the above, then join us in working toward unity.

      If some do not share in the above six concerns, we pray that they will be open to the shedding of light about these matters. We hope they will study seriously and prayerfully what we are presenting in these pages. May their study humbly rely upon God's Spirit and not upon the spirit of their own self-sufficiency and party loyalty. We think that such a study can result in happiness for the individual and in peace for the Church.

      We do not say this because we think we are intellectually superior to others. We are resting our case upon the Word of God, not upon ourselves. We bring this to your attention because some of the clear concerns in the Bible are easily overlooked through inattention and/or prejudice.

      Therefore, we have tried to give some attention to the Biblical concern for unity. We believe that Christian unity is a happy, glorious, and desired event. Surely there is no dispute over that. However, there may be different ideas about how to go about promoting it. The above practical suggestion of meeting together is just one of these ideas. You may have ideas.

      But here is one idea that we are not ready to compromise--holding fast the profession and practice of whatever is clearly expressed in the Word of God is the only way to unity.

      We cannot advocate the cause of unity while advancing the interests of a party. That approach has been around too long already. It doesn't unite. It divides further.

III. Union With Christ

      We must return to the first and second foundational truths of Christianity. What are those two foundational truths? (1) Union with Christ (2) Union with each other in Him--"that we receive each other, as Christ has also received us, to the glory of God." "For this is His commandment: that we believe in His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as He gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him: and hereby we know that he dwelleth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us," even the Spirit of faith, and of love, and of a sound mind.

      But how do we love and receive our brother if we refuse to fellowship with him? If failure to fellowship is the way Christ has received us, then are [11] we to be most pitied.

      Let this be clear. We are not talking about receiving an unrepentant brother who has overthrown the intention of God's Word by deed or doctrine and who is not interested in the Word being his teacher. Receiving that kind of brother would not enhance Christian unity.

      But it is a sad truth that some have done just that in the name of unity. So when an unrepentant brother isn't received by one group, he simply goes to another group which doesn't care about what the Word teaches. That kind of action doesn't foster unity, but rather creates more groups which set up their own standards. What a sorry substitute for Christian unity and love.

      May God soon open the eyes of His people to see things in their true light and excite them to come up out of their wilderness condition. Let us leave this Babel of confusion. Let us lean upon Christ, embrace each other in Him while holding fast the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

      Our unity with one another is the best observable evidence of our union with Christ, for He said, "This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you; by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another," and again, "Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom you have given me, that they may be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me. And the glory which you gave me, I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in, one; and that the world may know that you sent me, and have loved them as you have loved me."

      May the Lord hasten it in His time.


      Peace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.

Thomas Campbell
Thomas Acheson

(Note: After writing the above Declaration and Address, Thomas Campbell penned a lengthy appendix which we will next begin to paraphrase.)


      In order to avoid misunderstanding about how we intend to put into practice our proposals for unity, we submit the following explanations:

Definition of a Minister of Christ

      First, we want you to know that we will not interfere in any way in the life of a congregation, even though we may supply a minister; furthermore, we will not split congregations over our proposals. We do not want people to follow us, but rather to follow the Word. We have nothing new to say which is not in the Bible.

      We will not, on the one hand, acknowledge persons to be ministers of Christ and then, on the other hand, forbid or discourage people from going to hear them merely because they may hold some things which are disagreeable to us. And neither will we encourage their people to leave them on that account.

      Whom do we then consider to be ministers of Christ? Anyone who preaches a free, unconditional salvation through the blood of Jesus, and who with that preaching lives a life of holiness and diligence in performing a ministry of care for people. This kind of preacher has nothing to fear from us. May God prosper all such preachers regardless of the name by which they are called. And may God hasten the day when we can see things alike and be called by the same [12] name.

      However, those who do not preach salvation in Jesus and who care more for people's possessions than for people are not considered by us to be ministers of Christ. But rather we consider them to be hirelings. And we would be happy to see God's people separate from them.

      We will give assistance in supplying preachers only to those places where there is a need--and there are many such places.

Unity Amid Differences

      Some think that we are opposed to all creeds. That is not true. We oppose only those that hinder the unity of the Church. Which ones do that?

      (1) Those that contain stuff that is not clearly taught in the Bible.

      (2) Those that are used as vehicles of faith, that is, you have to go through them that believe properly.

      (3) Those that oppress the immature Christians.

We do not object to those creeds which do not fall into any of the above three categories. You see, it is the abuse and not the use of creeds that we oppose.

      We want the reformation of the Churches of Christ. We do not want their regression. We reject any charge that our proposal is divisive or is intended to begin a new party. Any such charge comes out of either a lack of properly studying the proposals or a lack of understanding them. In fact, we stand opposed to a party spirit. We are promoting Christian unity by calling for all to follow the Bible and it alone.

      But after saying that we are to follow the Bible alone, we recognize that, as humans, we will use our minds in coming to understandings and in making opinions and conclusions about what the Bible means. Those rational activities will not be eliminated. We will have them. We do not deny that. But in recognition of that, we ask that each of us continues to acknowledge the difference between what the Bible actually says and our conclusions about it. Let us be able to know and admit where one ends and the other begins. And let's not allow our conclusions to be more important than the Bible commands. It is possible to unite around what the Bible says, but not around what people say it says. So let's not throw away Christian unity by demanding that others agree with all our understandings, opinions, conclusions, and hobby horses.

      What are we suggesting then? We are saying that we should consider anyone as a brother who holds to what is a clearly stated, "thus saith the Lord" in the Bible. And we should not reject him just because he doesn't see eye-to-eye with our opinions. Remember, he doesn't have our eyes. Of course we will use our minds. But while we think we are right, he may think we are wrong. While we think we are using our reasoning ability in forming our opinions and conclusions, he may evaluate our conclusions and think we are abusing that reasoning ability. What are we to do then? We should never allow the conclusions of any fallible (ours or others--we are all fallible) person to be used as tests of fellowship. "Through your knowledge shall the weak brother perish? Then how are you walking in love?"

      Let us receive each other as Christ has received us. Therefore, we dare not patronize the rejection of God's dear children because they may not be able to see alike in matters of human mental conclusions.

      If our proposals are offensive or cause disturbance among some, it is not because we have been overbearing with them. We have communicated these ideas, but we have and will not coerce their adoption by others. However, we are putting them into practice ourselves. Practicing these proposals will certainly cause some changes to take place. But changes are needed if unity will result.

      We would like not only to put these principles into practice ourselves, but also to be instrumental in beginning as many Churches as possible which would manifest this universal perspective. Churches which would live with [13] this unifying attitude would be instrumental in bringing us all closer to the goal of Christian unity. And these Churches would surely receive the blessings of the first Christians. In fact, we want to model our deeds after those first Christians.

      The first Christians lived in unity amid many differences in opinions. If we follow their example, two evils can be stopped: (1) judging and rejecting each other in matters in which our Lord has not judged; (2) being offended at our brother for his private opinions, if he considers them as just that--opinions (or offending him with ours). If he should not consider them as mere opinions, but as "law" that we have to believe, then we should still not judge him for his opinions, but for his misuse of them. Remember, "there is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy; who are you that you judge another?

The Bible Only

      We have said that no one has a right to judge his brother except when his brother has violated the express letter of the law. But what do we mean by "express letter of the law"? We mean all the prohibitions and all the requirements. But we must understand them as they relate to each other and not in isolation from the others.

      There is no divine obligation without a "thus saith the Lord" which was either spoken or modeled. Where we do not have such a "thus saith the Lord", we have no right to interfere with the private opinions of Christians. In these matters there will be variety of opinions and practices. That was even so in the apostolic Church. But it didn't destroy unity. There was freedom without destruction.

      That is the reason we are willing not to impose any opinions or practices, upon others for which we do not have a clear statement in the Word of God. If others would adopt this attitude, we could return together to the original constitutional unity of the Christian Church and live together in peace and unity.

      The apostle Paul gave us this example by relinquishing his rights in order not to cause a brother to stumble. Don't get me wrong. We may keep our opinions and practices as long as they do not violate clear Biblical statements, but we must not force others to keep them.

      That was a mark of New Testament Christianity. Some Jewish Christians abstained from certain meals, observed certain days, kept the passover, circumcised their children, etc., while none of the Gentile Christians observed those things. However, there was no breach of unity. Each group accepted the other in love.

      The Gentile Christians could have forbidden the Jewish Christians from observing some of these practices. Or the Jewish Christians could have insisted that the Gentile Christians observe them. But neither group could have used Scripture to back its position.

      The Jewish Christians didn't sin by observing the practices, and the Gentile Christians didn't sin by abstaining from them. For where there is no Biblical prohibition or requirement about a particular matter, there is no transgression in that matter.

      God accepts our differences, but not our arrogances about those differences. As God bears with us, we ought to bear with each other "to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; forbearing one with another in love."

      We can suspend any specific idea or practice when the Word is silent about it, especially if the refusal to suspend it would hinder unity. The Word is not silent about that. Paul put it this way, "all things are lawful for me; but all things are not expedient. All things are lawful for me; but all things edify not."

      When there was no clear prohibition or requirement to govern Paul's actions, he was governed by the desire to edify his brothers. That's a divine [14] example. Too much has been arrogantly demanded for which the Bible is silent. We lose more than we gain in doing that. Who is not willing to give up a cent to gain a kingdom?

      It would be ideal if all minor differences were abolished. If many of the opinions which are now dividing the Church had been let alone, they would have died and vanished long ago. But the constant insisting upon them as articles of faith and terms of salvation have been so beaten into the minds of men that some would rather deny the Bible than give up one of those opinions.

      So many evils have resulted from that kind of attitude that sometimes it looks as if our Lord has given us up to our foolishness. He did that once with Israel, "My people would not hearken to my voice. So I gave them up to their hearts' lust, and they walked in their own counsels." Let's put an end to our shameful schisms.

      Some might object by suggesting that the common compliance with what is clearly stated in the Bible would not result in unity, because differences will always be around. But that is a weak objection. For the unity we are speaking about is not really the conformity of private opinions and practices of each individual. We are speaking about the unity of bodies of Christians who will walk by the same rule and profess and practice the same things which are clearly prohibited or required in the Bible. We are speaking about the Scriptural unity of the Church's public profession and practice and the love of her members toward one another.

      The foundation for unity lies in the agreement upon the clearly stated revealed will of God. Let's pray for that kind of unity. And let's exercise peaceable and prudent energy in using all the Scriptural means to accomplish it.

      If the way to accomplish it which we suggest is wrong, the love of our fellow Christians will correct us. If the way is right, their fidelity to Christ and His cause will excite them to come forth speedily in order to assist us in this blessed work.

The Bible Limits and Frees

      I suppose some might charge us with being too broad-minded. But that charge will not discourage us as long as our latitude in judging the teaching and practice of people squares with what the Bible allows.

      It would be good if all of us became as broad-minded as the Bible permits. We ourselves intend to go just as far as the Bible allows, but not one millionth of an inch farther. That's what we profess. And we invite you to evaluate our practice by that profession. Are our practice and profession consistent with each other?

      Being broad-minded is bad only when a person takes a greater latitude than the Bible allows. Therefore, the first thing all of us need is to know the Bible. Then by looking through the lens of the Bible, we can decide who is and who is not our Christian brother.

      If a person doesn't know the Bible, he will not be able to decide for himself. He will be left to follow his leaders' decisions. Too many leaders are not looking through the biblical lens. If a person replaces the glasses the Bible provides with his own or his party's glasses, he becomes biblically blind. It is a tragedy that the conclusions of biblically blinded leaders have more influence than the Bible.

      We are calling for all Christians to form their own judgments by the Bible alone--not even by a human interpretation of it. Be as broad as the Bible, but no broader.

      You see, being called broad-minded can be either a good charge or a bad one. It is a bad charge if it refers to people going beyond the limits of the Bible. This is done by either setting aside biblical declarations or by placing our own opinions, inferences, and conclusions alongside the biblical declarations as authoritarian. [15]

      However, being broad-minded is a good charge if it refers to people who are willing to fellowship with their acknowledged Christian brothers who are not opposing nor contradicting anything clearly stated in the Bible. We are to draw our circle of fellowship as big as the Bible has drawn it.

      Which kind of broad-minded person will you be? The kind who judges and condemns where there is no biblical ground for it, or the kind who absolutely refuses to do so? The first kind of person is broad-minded, because he goes beyond what the Bible says and actually narrows down God's family. The second kind of person is broad-minded, because his acceptance of others as brothers and sisters is as broad as God's acceptance of them as sons and daughters.

      It is the first kind of broad-mindedness which we are against. We will no longer speak beyond where the Bible speaks. There cannot be unity, purity, peace, and prosperity in the Church unless we agree to be as broad-minded and as limited as the Bible allows.

Results of Disregarding the Bible

      There are at least three evils associated with not being both as broad-minded and as narrow-minded as the Bible permits. Here they are:

      (1) The first evil is that of reaching final decisions about things God has not clearly revealed. Deuteronomy 18:20 speaks about this, "The prophet that shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, even that prophet shall die." Being aware of this, Paul clearly distinguishes between his own judgment and the express word of the Lord (See I Cor. 7:25 and 40). Even though Paul could say, "I think that I have the Spirit of God," he would not bind the Church with his conclusions. In fact, he confessed that he spoke by permission not by commandment. I doubt that the best of our modern decision-makers could be able to say more than, "I think I have the Holy Spirit." Therefore, they have no right to bind people to their conclusions.

      (2) The second evil is to judge our brother to be absolutely wrong or as a transgressor of the law just because he differs from our opinions. We then censure him and hold him up to contempt. If we don't go that far, we will at least prefer ourselves before him with the attitude, "Stand back, I'm holier than you."

      (3) The third and worst evil is really a natural consequence of the second. It is to think that the brother who differs from us is really not a member of God's Church here on earth. And, of course, if he isn't here on earth, he isn't in heaven. So we treat him as someone cut off from the kingdom of heaven and salvation. We treat him that way by refusing to fellowship with him as a Christian in the Church. Whenever we do that, we are declaring him to be a heathen and damned. And we are saying that we think God considers him that way.

      You may object by saying, "Refusing to fellowship with another is not to say we think he is a pagan. We just don't want him to be a part of our group." Oh? Can you really say that and be a Church of Christ? For a Church of Christ is to reject on earth what she considers is rejected in heaven.

      We have no right to reject anyone on earth that we think is not rejected in heaven. In fact the Bible speaks about this in the case of Diotrephes. John said that Diotrephes liked to be the big shot in the congregation. He wouldn't receive the other Christians, wouldn't let others in the Church receive them, and would even kick people out of the Church who didn't follow his example (See 3 John). As sons of God, let's not treat our Father's other sons like some of Jacob's sons treated another one of his sons, Joseph.

      You may reply, "But just because we want nothing to do with a person doesn't mean he can't be a part of God's Church. He can always go to another congregation." But that doesn't get your attitude off the hook. In fact, you will probably end up looking down on that congregation that does treat him like a Christian. [16]

      If one congregation receives a person which another congregation will not, what would that do to the unity of those congregations? Wouldn't it either produce a schism between the two congregations or widen a schism which already exists? We just can't get around the truth that whomever we recognize as a child of God, we must associate with as a brother in Christ.

      But this works two ways. We have been talking about a Church's attitude toward an individual who doesn't conform to all the opinions of that Church. Now let's turn the picture around. An individual should not break fellowship with a congregation just because it doesn't make room in its program, practices, or teachings for that individual's private opinions or self-invented practices. If an individual Christian breaks off with a church for that reason, he is saying that that congregation is unworthy of the fellowship of Christians. He excommunicates the Church.

      It is a dreadful thing when a congregation fails to recognize a Christian brother or a Christian brother fails to recognize a Christian congregation. But that's what happens when we turn our private opinions into articles for the belief or commandments for the behavior of others. We then expect them to get into line. We then evaluate them by whether or not they do. When that happens, those opinions eventually become a part of the congregation's practice and teaching. And when that happens they are treated as if they were biblical and are used to decide who the congregation can accept and reject. What a pity that non-biblical traditions are used this way!

Let the Church Conform to the Scriptures

      The only way is to return to the original standard of Christianity. What is that standard? It is the teaching and practice of the Church in the New Testament Scriptures. If we call for conformity, let's ask for conformity to the New Testament as our perfect model. The New Testament is a sufficient formula for the worship, discipline, and government of the Christian Church. So let's do as we are told they did and say as they said. In other words, let's teach and practice what they modeled. If we do that, we shall experience the unity and uniformity they possessed.

      If anyone can point out a better way to regain and to preserve the Christian unity and love to which God calls the Church, please let us know. We will be thankful for the discovery and will carefully embrace it.

      We are convinced that differences in religious attitudes, beliefs, and behavior come from people departing from what is clearly stated in the Scriptures. Since the Scriptures do not communicate different beliefs and practices, we cannot claim that our conformity to Scripture has caused our differences. Although people with different beliefs claim they are sticking to the Scriptures, that cannot be the case. To speak where the Bible speaks and to live as the Bible declares would unite the world-wide Christian Church, not divide Her.

      By "world-wide Christian Church" we mean all those people we have earlier described in propositions 1 and 8. To only those do we call for Christian unity. Had all of us recognized such people as Christians all along, we probably wouldn't have all the manufactured criteria today for recognizing who our brother really is.

Failure of Ecclesiasticism

      The original criterion for acknowledging another as a fellow Christian was the other's union with our Lord Jesus Christ in faith, holiness, and love. That created our unity with each other. But since then we have demanded that a person adopt a certain name and creed before we acknowledge him as belonging to us. And we haven't even been very concerned about his personal morality. In that kind of action, we have neglected our essential unity in Christ and have promoted an ecclesiastical unity in our various parties.

      The ecclesiastical basis for unity is a weak foundation. For take away the organization, the conventions, and the dictates of the hierarchy and what is [17] left to hold the membership together? Members in that kind of system look more to the words from the ecclesiastical office for what to believe and practice than to the Bible.

      The result is that they know little about the Bible. In fact, they know so little about it that if left to the Bible alone they wouldn't be able to distinguish a papist from a protestant. By using the Bible alone, they wouldn't be able for just one week to maintain the Church. A person could come in and preach whatever he wanted to, because the members would not be able to distinguish truth from error.

      What poor people! No wonder they are so fond of their denominational headquarters. They actually believe that they are benefited when their "reverend" authors tell them what they have to believe and how they have to behave. They place more confidence in their denominational leaders than upon the apostles and prophets who spoke only what God inspired them. Those apostles were simply called Paul, John, Thomas, etc., not Rabbi or Reverend. They were just servants and lived as servants. They didn't demand the privileged status that many leaders today do.

      The Church needs to be purged of people who are interested in the status of honorary titles and offices. The Church needs humble servants. Real leadership comes in the package of servanthood.

      The ecclesiastical chain-of-command has polluted the Church and caused people to misunderstand God's intention. The pompous authoritarian political position of ecclesiastical leaders has given a bad reputation to the Church. If some claim that their pompous authoritarian positions toward the top of the chain-of-command is from the Bible, we challenge them to show us--line for line and expression for expression that that is so. If they can do that, we will blame the present situation upon the Bible.

Freedom of Opinion

      Some may observe that our call for people to depend upon the Bible will not bring us who answer that call to exactly the same view on all issues. To a certain point we would agree with that observation, for an exact unity of opinion may not be reached in our present imperfect state. However, in our imperfect state we can have that degree of unity in which there is no schism in the body. We can be united to the degree that we do not reject our brother even though exact views may be lacking.

      In fact, we do not think everyone has to have the same identical views of all divinely revealed truths. To put it in another way--we do not believe that we have to reach the place where there are no differences of opinion. In fact we think it would be impossible for everyone to have the same views. We aren't even sure that kind of unity would serve any purpose except to render useless such gracious teachings as the need for us to demonstrate mutual sympathy and forbearance toward each other.

      We are imperfect in our present state. And that imperfection will mean that we will not all see everything in exactly the same way. That should humble our pride. That should cause us to quit judging each other about various matters. That should cause us to be careful not to be a stumbling block in a brother's way. That should cause us to quit exalting our own opinion and interpretation to the place where we make them equal to what is clearly expressed in the Bible. That should cause us to quit condemning and rejecting our brother for differing with such opinions and interpretations.

      Although our call for people to depend upon the Bible may not result in all of us who answer that call having exactly the same opinion, we do think that is the most effective way to progress toward uniformity in all things. No other approach has prevented divisions, healed breaks, or produced and maintained uniformity of opinions. Instead, other approaches have produced divisions.

      Other ways for uniting God's people may have accomplished some good, but that good would have also been accomplished by calling for [18] conformity to Scripture and without the destructive consequences we have reaped from the other ways. Surely no Christian would say that sticking to the Scriptures would hinder unity, faith, holiness, and worship as God intended them. And if conformity to Scriptures is sufficient for these, why experiment with other means? Experience has already demonstrated that other means hinder what God intended.

      When we said that we will not all reach exactly the same opinions in this life, we did not intend to question God's intention for us or His power with us. Nor did we intend to say that a lesser degree of unity than complete uniformity is all we want. All we intended to say is that on this earth we will not reach the kind of perfection we will have in heaven that will keep us from weaknesses, mistakes, and mismanagements. However, the results of those weaknesses and errors are not to be accepted with the excuse, "after all, we are just imperfect."

      It is true that many of the mistakes we have made were honest attempts to secure unity. However, some of the effects have been bad, even though the motives were good. Divisions have resulted. Since divisions exist, we cannot mend them using the same methods that were mistakenly used before.

      So what are we to do? Certainly, we should not continue in the ways that produced divisions, for the divisions would be perpetuated forever. Enemies of Christianity would love for the divisions to continue. But may every Christian say, "Forbid it, Lord. May you subdue the corruptions and heal the divisions of your people."

No Creed Needed

      After having said all this, some will still insist that we ought to outline some definite creed to prevent liberalism from creeping in. But we reply that to insist upon what the Bible says is enough to prevent liberalism. But some will still object and say, "Both liberals and various sects claim to believe the Bible and practice it. According to your plan, you would receive them. You need to spell out what the Bible says in a creed." But we answer in this way--The Bible does not teach different things. If people are following it, they will believe and practice the same things. But if they are following their own interpretations and opinions, they stand rejected. For they claim to believe the Bible and yet practice their own opinions. There are too many people in this category.

      What about those people who publicly say they believe the Bible, but privately hang on to their opinions which differ from the Bible? Don't we need a creed to flush them out? No! Those kinds of people will be hurting only themselves. We must accept what a person publicly declares he believes and publicly practices. No one has a right to judge another except in what he openly confesses and practices. Even a creed couldn't get inside a person's private world.

      In fact, the only thing a creed does is to get a person to declare publicly what he believes. A creed is really a weak tool for doing that, for people are expected to agree to a certain creed without any guarantee that they have even read or understood it. That is not a good way to recognize a brother. He may agree with a creed without ever once turning a single page of the Bible. Our Lord Jesus knew of no other way for knowing Him except by searching the Scriptures with reliance on the Holy Spirit. And we cannot by-pass that method by flashing some creedal formula in front of someone. That would be taking latitude that the Bible does not permit. That would be setting up a human standard for determining the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the Church. The Scriptures do not support the use of such a human standard for preserving the unity and purity of the Church. [19]

No Substitute for Scriptures

      Now hear us correctly. We are not saying that all who use creeds use them as substitutes. We aren't even saying that the legitimate use of creeds produces bad results. The Church does need to teach her members truth and to preserve unity and purity. We do not oppose the use of creeds, but only the abuse of them.

      Nor do we oppose Christians using other helps in coming to a better understanding of the Scriptures or knowing the truth within them. For instance, the Westminster Confession and Catechism prove useful, but those helps should not become biblical substitutes. Our faith and obedience should come from an acquaintance with the Bible itself. We should know how to study Scriptures. We should know how one part of Scripture relates to another part and how one topic relates to another topic.

      We should know how to study such subjects as salvation and the Christian life. After all, no one can know God, or the truth of these subjects apart from hearing what God has declared in the Scripture.

      This does not forbid anyone from using helps, but it should keep him from resting his case upon those helps. That would be like taking up with the dictionary instead of the object to which it directs. Other books may direct us to the Bible, but the Bible never directs us to other books. We are to be committed to just one book so that our faith and duty can come out of a clear "thus saith the Lord" and not from precepts taught by men.

      The criterion for church membership should not rest upon "what does any human system say?" but upon "what does the Bible say?" Christians would be better acquainted with the Bible had that criterion been the basis. Our education of youth would be different if that criterion were used. This criterion requires that all candidates for admission into the Church be acquainted with the Holy Scriptures. As it now is, thousands know little about them, and won't need to, ever.

      Some would object to our call for adhering to Scriptures as the basis for the restoration and maintenance of Christian unity from yet another angle. Not only would adherence to the Bible interfere with anyone believing whatever he wants to, but it would also interfere with anyone publicly preaching whatever he wants to. Some would say this limits a person's freedom. But the use of creeds also limits preaching. Whenever a human standard is accepted as the standard for a church, then the preaching must square with that standard. That is real slavery! In fact, using a creed as the boundary for what can and cannot be preached eliminates the necessity for studying and explaining the Bible. For the human standard has already decided both the conclusions about the subject and the terms in which the conclusions can be communicated to others. When that happens, God's Bible has been replaced by man's Bible. Any book adopted by any party as its standard for all matters of doctrine, worship, discipline, and government must be considered the Bible of that party.

      Such a book cannot be any more nor better than the judgments or opinions of the party who composed or adopted it. But can the opinions of any party, regardless of how good the opinions are, be equated with Divine authority? If not, any human standard is deficient and cannot be the Church's rule for doctrine, worship, discipline, and government.

      I doubt that anyone would disagree with the above analysis of human standards. Why, then, do party people demand that others adhere to their human standards? The bare truth is that many who demand that others adhere to their human standards do not themselves live by them. And to top it all off, after they demand that others adhere to their standards, they expound the Scriptures. If the Scriptures are going to be expounded, why have the human standards, formulae, or creeds? [20]

      To say that we have to have them in order to understand the Bible is to say that the creeds had to exist before a church was or could be formed and that they are essential to Christianity.. It is also to say that the Bible is of no use without a creed, except to provide us with material to put into a creed. But history doesn't support the essentiality of creeds. Many churches existed long before any human creed or standard appeared. In fact, the church at Ephesus "tried them which say they are apostles and are not, and hast found them liars." Although that kind of action was essential to the Church, having a human creed was not essential.

      We are not calling for some vague and indefinite acceptance of Scripture to replace creeds, confessions, and testimonies. That would open wide the door for the reception of all sorts of characters and opinions into the Church. Although some will charge us with opening wide such a door, please re-read the address that appeared before this appendix. We are calling for union in truth. That's all. We are not calling for the door to become wider than the truth allows.

      Truth is something certain and definite. If it isn't, who can define and determine it? We declare that God has already done that in His Holy Word. Therefore, men ought to receive His Word and make proper use of it for walking together in truth and peace. Surely that is the desire of all of us. But some have not done a good job in living out that desire. Let us not follow their example or adopt their efforts.

      However, just because failure has gone before us doesn't mean Christians may not or cannot take proper steps to attain the unity which God's Word requires. On the contrary, we have proposed a way to reach that unity.

      We are not introducing a new standard or creed for determining the life of the Church, but we confess that any insight that we have about the Church's doctrine, worship, discipline, and government was long ago clearly defined and determined in the Bible. So this is not our own personal idea. And we are not setting up ourselves over you in sharing this with you.

      There exists no middle man between the Christian and the Bible. Although we do not deny any lawful effort to promote and maintain Christian unity, we do refuse to recognize any unwarranted and unauthorized power over the Christian. Some have assumed such power.

      In this appendix we are answering objections and charges some have made to us. The primary thing we want to get across is that we are not trying to replace creeds, confessions, and testimonies with a vague indefinite acceptance of the Scriptures as a means to restore the Church to her original unity and purity. We aren't wanting people to agree on something vague, but something plain. The creeds, confessions, and testimonies are themselves often too vague. Nineteen out of twenty of the Lord's people cannot thoroughly understand them. Vagueness cannot enhance unity.

      We are calling for the adoption of the most obvious principles of Divine revelation and common sense. We are calling for Christians to exercise their common sense upon the plainest and most obvious truths and facts recorded in the Bible for their instruction.

      We are calling for Christian character to consist in an intelligent confession of our faith in Christ and obedience to Him in all things according to the Scriptures.

      The reality of our confession is demonstrated by whether or not our tempers and conduct are consistent with the examples set forth in Scripture. That means that humility, faith, piety, temperance, justice, love, etc., are demonstrated in our lives. Only those people who demonstrate such characteristics are worthy of the name "Christian." [21] Some have destroyed such characteristics by having a zealous desire to be in places of authority over other Christians.

      How do people acquire Christian characters? Isn't Scripture sufficient to produce the Christian characteristics in individuals? We believe the truth of the Bible is calculated to produce the Christian character in people who will believe and apply the truths to themselves. For instance, when a person believes and applies to himself what the Bible says about human depravity and wickedness on the one hand; and then on the other hand will apply the holiness of God to himself, humility will result in the character of that believer. On the one hand, when a person believes what the Bible says about the lordship, love, mercy, and condescension of God toward the guilty person; and then on the other hand believes in the invitations and promises made to the guilty through Jesus Christ, trust, confidence, gratitude, and love will result in the character of that believer. When a person really believes what the Bible says about the Redeemer and submits his life to that Redeemer, reverence will result in the life of that believer.

Christian Characters Produce Unity

      If belief in and application of biblical truths do not produce the Christian character, we are in need of a new revelation, because the Bible would not be sufficient to produce the impressions in the mind of an individual necessary to create the Christian character in that person's life. If the Bible isn't sufficient to produce Christian character, it cannot define Christian character. That would mean we need a new revelation even to know what Christian character is. But the Bible does define and produce Christian character.

      How does Christian characteristics in the lives of people apply to unity? Is the person with Christian character to be identified as an Armenian or as a Calvinist or both? We reply, "Neither! And, of course, not both!" We are simply brothers. And that is what we ought to call one another.

      Our abstract labels, theological speculations, and argumentative theories should have no part in our profession or practice. There should be no ugly divisions among those who possess the Christian character.

      They ought to mutually receive and acknowledge each other as brothers. They also ought to walk by the same rule, to mind and speak the same things. What should be the rule? The Divine standard. More specifically, the New Testament is the proper and immediate rule, directory, and formula for the New Testament Church (as the Old Testament was for the Old Testament Church). However, this does not exclude the Old Testament as fundamentally connected to and illustrative of the New Testament. The Old Testament is explained and perfected by the New; and the New is illustrated and enforced by the Old.

      The Church should practice what is clearly taught in the New Testament. If something is not clear, it should be studied in connection with what else has been written in the New Testament on that topic. However, while studying, let us agree upon our obligation to agree upon the one rule that should instruct us. And let us also agree upon the necessity to maintain our unity by agreeing that there should be no schisms in the body, but that all members should have the same care for each other.

      In many instances there will be unplanned differences among us because of involuntary mistakes and mismanagements. It is our desire to detect and to eliminate everything that causes differences. Schisms can be eliminated by those who are persuaded that truth is one and not divisible. Those who are thus persuaded will fall in together, be on one side, be united in one profession, acknowledge each other as brothers, and love each other as children of the same family. [22]

Summary of Our Plea

      So we propose that we unite on the Bible and not on human inventions. Let us adopt scriptural uniformity, or we will be bewildered in schism and overwhelmed with the cursed evils connected with divisions.

      It is now left to our brothers to adopt or reject such a proposal. But in the meantime, do not charge us with the kind of broadmindedness that substitutes some vague indefinite acceptance of Scripture for the creeds which are being used. Nothing is farther from our intentions.

      We are surprised at such a charge. We thought people would charge us with being too strict.

      In calling for unity on the basis of Scripture, it would be strange indeed if we should overlook those fruits of righteousness that demonstrate humility, piety, temperance, justice, and love. For without these, faith itself is dead. Wouldn't it be strange to claim to know the truth while not manifesting Christ's character with others? We trust that we have not so learned Christ.

      We, therefore, conclude that to advocate unity alone, however, desirable that is, without at the same time purging the Church of apparently unsanctified persons would be a poor superficial skin-deep reformation. In fact, people with unChrist-like characters will no doubt give us the toughest opposition. And there are many of them. Some of them have significant influence. But this doesn't discourage us when we consider the revealed will of God as seen in such places as Ezekiel 24:6, 9; Matthew 13:15, 7; and I Corinthians 5:6, 13.

      These are our thoughts about Church reformation. Call it broadmindedness, puritanism, or whatever you please. This is our plea. We have tried to point out the evils and to prevent the mistakes we desire to see eliminated for the peace, welfare, and prosperity of the Church of God. Our dear brothers, recognizing our sincere and well-meant intention, will surely and lovingly excuse the imperfections of our humble performance and by the aid of their better judgment correct our mistakes and fill in whatever deficiencies appear in our first attempt to communicate this.


All Things in Love

      We are sorry to have felt a necessity to answer objections which we foresaw, because answering them may cause some controversy. However, controversy is not a part of our reason for answering objections. We have already received some of the objections, and so we wrote these answers to help prevent others from getting into any verbal disputes. If you have any other objections, please put them into writing. But let's avoid verbal controversy. This is not to discourage you from inquiring about the truth.

      However, there is a difference between speaking the truth in love for the edification of our brothers and attacking each other with a spirit of hostility for the purpose of proving each other wrong. That is why we ask you to avoid verbal controversy. We believe that it is rare to find one instance of verbal arguing that does not end in bitterness. Let us avoid it.

      Our Lord agreed with the attempt to avoid arguing. He said, in Matthew 18:7: "Woe unto the world because of offences." Scott in his Family Bible says this about that passage:

Our Lord is here speaking about all the evils within the Church which prejudice men's minds against His religion or any doctrines of it. The offences and causes of stumbling to unbelievers are the scandalous lives, cruelties, and evils of men who call themselves Christians. Many people have become prejudiced against Christianity because of the controversies among Christians who agree in the major doctrines of the Gospel, but who hold contempt for each other, who are competitive against each other, and fight among each other. In these and in many other ways, it may be said, "Woe [23] unto the world because of offences." Indeed the devil who sows discord, makes, much use of our controversies in prejudicing the nations of the earth against Christianity; thus the devil succeeds in using our fights to murder the souls of men. Let us not be a part of this way of destroying souls. Our Lord pronounces an awful woe upon any Christian whose fussing and fighting with other Christians cause men to stumble and set them against the only method of salvation--Christianity.

      We conclude with an abstract from the Boston Anthology which gives us a classic example of the negative results that can come out of our divisions. This example also illustrates how the world watches us.

      In 1805, a missionary from Massachusetts named Mr. Cram wanted to evangelize the Seneca Indians. He sent them his proposal for their approval. Here is what he said:

I am come brethren to enlighten your minds and to instruct you how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to his will, and to preach to you the Gospel of his son Jesus Christ. There is one way to serve God, and if you do not embrace the right way, you cannot be happy hereafter.

      The principal chiefs and warriors of the six nations met in council at Buffalo Creek in New York State to consider this proposal. Here is their reply to Missionary Cram:

Brother, we understand that your religion is written in a book. You say that there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there be but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agree as you can all read the book? Brother, we do not understand these things. We are told your religion was given to your forefathers; we, also have a religion which was given to our forefathers; it teaches us to be thankful for all the favors we receive; to love one another, and to be united. We never quarrel about religion. We are told you have been preaching to the white people in this place. Those people are our neighbors, we are acquainted with them. We will wait a little to see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them honest and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again what you have said.

      Do you not see how our divisions and corruptions stand in the way of others? What a pity that people find that we are not upon the original ground that the apostles left for the primitive churches! Had we made it a practice to exhibit apostolic unity, love, humility, honesty, and affectionate disposition toward each other and toward all men, people would not have evil things to say in opposition to our religion.

      Indeed the conversion of many people awaits reformation. That is a return to primitive unity and love. To this may the God of mercy speedily restore us, both for our sakes and for the sakes of all. Through this restoration may God's way and healing be known upon all the nations. Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. Amen and Amen. [24]


      The Paraphrase of Thomas's Campbell's Declaration and Address (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1976) is used by permission from the author, Dr. Knofel Staton. The author grants permission to reproduce this paraphrase in any quantity for the advancement of Christian unity. Dr. Staton may be contacted at Hope International University, 2500 E. Nutwood Ave., Fullerton, CA 92831.

      Pagination has been represented by placing the page number in brackets following the last complete word on the printed page. Corrections have been offered for typographical errors as follows:

            Printed Text [ Electronic Text
 p. 8:      lesson or multiply [ lessen or multiply
 p. 19:     Those kind of [ Those kinds of
 p. 22:     necesary to create [ necessary to create
            Armenian [ Arminian
            both.!" [ both!"

      Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.

Ernie Stefanik
Derry, PA

Created 21 November 1997.
Updated 8 July 2003.

Knofel Staton The Paraphrase of Thomas Campbell's Declaration and Address (1976)

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