Oct 24

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A man went to the closet to get a pair of shoes and there he found a pair with dust on them. So he took them out, dusted them off, and they looked good; so he put a new shine on them and now they looked like new shoes! But lo, it is known by some that these new looking shoes are “Luther’s Shoes:” “What is not against Scripture is for Scripture, and Scripture for it.” (Newman 1902, 308). Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) of Switzerland, was Luther’s counter-part, his view of practices “not enjoined or taught in the New Testament should be unconditionally rejected!” Thus, the battle then and now! Little changes over the years have been made; the old, worn, and dusty shoes of Luther which were put in the closet, after a number of years are found and once more they look attractive to some. So they are dusted off and a new shine is put on them and put forth as new found truth! Yet, it is nothing more than: “What is not against Scripture is for Scripture, and Scripture for it.”
There are a few jocular sayings on this subject; such as in England, “everything which is not forbidden is allowed”, while, in Germany, the opposite applies, so “everything which is not allowed is forbidden”. This may be extended to France — “everything is allowed even if it is forbidden” — and in Russia where “everything is forbidden, even that which is expressly allowed”. While in North Korea it is said that “everything that is not forbidden is compulsory” Yet, when it comes to truth, to the teaching of Christ, it is no joking matter! Jesus said: “… the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Then John wrote: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9). There is the limitation! In order to have fellowship with God, the Father and the Son, one must “abideth in the doctrine of Christ!” The word “abideth” is in the present tense, meaning, at the present time and continuing into the future! Continuing to be in what? Continuing to be in “the teaching of Christ.” However, there is an ironical allusion to the pretensions of the teacher that is false; he has advanced farther, he has gone beyond the limits. H has done this by his higher degree of knowledge. The problem that John is pointing out, to this high thinker, is that he has thought himself right out of “the teaching of Christ” and fellowship with God, and the Son!
“What is not against Scripture is for Scripture, and Scripture for it.” Just what do these words of Luther mean? Let it be said first, Luther’s words do not answer the problem of authority! This was his intent, but his words fail, as they fall short of his aim. Maybe a question will help, just here; is teaching that we are free to take the Lord’s Super on Friday night “against” the Scripture? To some it is, to others it is not! Thus, it is a question of authority! So, to those who say it is not “against Scripture,” it “is for Scripture;” thus, it is “Scripture for it.” You can see, the question of authority is really not answered! Yet, there is no scripture which says, thou shall not take the Lord’s Super on Friday night. So, Luther would say, it is not against scripture! Nevertheless, let us start at the other end of Luther’s statement. Is there “Scripture for it,” meaning to take the Lord’s Super on Friday night? No, there is no command, and there is no apostolic approved example of the church every taking the Lord’s Super on Friday night! Therefore, if there is no “Scripture for it,” it is “against Scripture” and not “Scripture for it!” With this in mind, let us move to the years of 1850’s through the 1880’s.
Robert Cave (1843-1924) lived during the years the churches of Christ and the Disciples of Christ were dividing. He was a man torn between his eloquence and love of preaching and serving as a preacher on the one hand and his ambition to exercise a wider influence available only through newspapers and institutions on the other. His reputation for eloquence grew and in 1867, he was employed by the journal, Apostolic Times, which was published in Lexington, Kentucky. The Times was dominated by J. W. McGarvey, president of the College of the Bible in Lexington, a world known Bible scholar and ardent opponent of innovations in the churches of Christ; whether in the area of biblical criticism or of instrumental music in worship. Some have said, the Journal never missed an opportunity to identify and condemn error whether of denominations or of their own brethren. In Cave’s job, it was necessary that he read denominational papers and he clipped statements from them. This literature was then quoted and refuted, or used to illustrate the dangers in religious groups that were making their way into the churches of Christ. The sad note and the reason for this story is that many of these denominational views later appeared as Cave’s own views. Yet neither Cave nor his colleagues at the Apostolic Times had any idea of the theological destination to which he was headed in the 1870s. He was changing in what he once believed and taught! He was changing his mind! He had found “Luther’s Shoes,” dusted them off, shined them up and they became his own!
“Luther’s Shoes” have been seen about every other generation of God’s people in America. As one studies the history of the churches of Christ in America one lesson is learned. There are some who will never allow the dust on “Luther’s Shoes” to stay there long! The desire on the part of some, to be like others, to justify others, and to make their words common among God’s people is so strong. Like Cave, their writings are read, their thoughts are discussed, and before we know it, we have put on “Luther’s Shoes!”

— Frank R. Williams

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