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The Authority Totem by W. Carl Ketcherside

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By Starlight - Posted on 11 February 2010

The Authority Totem by W. Carl Ketcherside

I thought it might be interesting for some to see an article by a long gone church of Christ minister concerning the divisions and problems endemic within the churches of Christ. This is to remind that when I spoke to Sam Frost about splintering in the Reformed camp that I also mentioned the restoration Heritage. It really is of little matter because the Restorationist camp came out of the Reformed as well and all Protestants derive basically from the reformation time. My point being is that all manmade attempts to organize basically become corrupt after a generation if not before as that is the history of man’s attempts to foster separateness within the Body of Christ.

My main issue with Sam is on a desire to continue holding onto attempts at organizations having credibility for continued instruction when the history is tainted and theologically all over the board. The analysis is simple but the solutions are more problematic and each person and group are going to see things differently.

Here is a summary of Ketcherside”s article and the link to the full one which is 40 years old I believe.

We can never offer anything tangible to a world hungry for peace and serenity so long as we think that because men differ with us over music or the millennium, cups or classes, that they are disowned by the Father. Our fathers were wrong when they made the deductions of men on music a test of fellowship. I do not care how honest and earnest they were--they were wrong!

“And I was wrong when I followed their factional spirit and made tests of union and communion out of opinions about music, homes, colleges, and all of the rest of that motley horde of things which we turned into devil's wedges to splinter and divide the royal family into which we were adopted through grace. No man is wrong when he speaks out against that which he cannot condone in the family, but that man sins who destroys the family ties over matters of difference.

I refuse to continue in the wrongs of yesteryear and perpetuate the consummate folly of factionalism. I refuse to project the arrogant and silly position that we have a corner on "respect for the authority of the scriptures." I regard all of "our" editors in California and Florida as my brothers. I love all those who squat on our totem pole, even those who detest one another as brothers in error. But I go farther than that-- much farther. I receive and accept as my brothers and sisters all those upon this whole wide earth whom God regards as his children. It is not their attitude toward a restoration totem pole that makes the difference, but their attitude toward the blessed cross of Calvary. We carved out the totem pole but God drove the cross into the earth. I have brethren on earth who never heard of Alexander Campbell or Barton Warren Stone. So long as they come to Christ they need not come by any group of men. We are saved by the grace of God and not by the favor of the "Church of Christ."

Let us have done with the silly bickering which has negated our influence and made us the laughingstock of serious people in our generation. Let's remove the stigma of schism which manifests itself in six or seven divisions in some cities, with brethren hurling thunderbolts of wrath and indignation at one another over the air waves. Shall we perpetuate our shame and glory in it? I thank God that our younger men and women are seeing a vision that their fathers have not caught. It is with these that the hope of our future lies. They are sick of the rehashing of the outworn arguments and the dishing out of slanted interpretations which are dishonest and irrelevant.

I pray that our brethren will sing out for freedom and speak up for liberty in Christ Jesus. We can no longer be held down and held back by skeletal hands reaching out of partisan sepulchers. Do we esteem the praise of men in our own little segments as of more value than the praise of God? The fact is that the kingdom of heaven is greater than any of our factions or all of them put together. Let us find the way to unity of the Spirit by rising above the smoking ashes of our hopes, slain and burned by our unwritten creeds.

It is time for a new day to dawn. We have led in dividing, now let us lead in uniting. We have walked the dreary path of strife and left it strewn with the bloody corpses of our slain hopes, now let us resurrect the ideals which gave us birth and unfurl the flag of peace as the rallying standard for the Christians in all the sects. Now is the accepted time. Today is the day of our salvation! It is for such a time as this that we have come to the Kingdom. Let us not fail!”

Sam's picture


We all see this and recognize it. This is not my contention, either - what part of "ecumenical" are not understanding?

Let's just throw off all of it, Norm. Let's throw off the Bible. Let's throw off all traditions - Trinity, historical theology, logic, grammatico-historical method, church, elders, preachers.....freewill, determinism....let's throw it all out - it's all corrupt anyway, right? Let's just put aside our differences, let each person say whatever the heck they want to say "in the name of Jesus" and never, ever criticize ever again.....Oh....wait, you said you were going to oppose me at every turn with my views...well, that didn't last long.....

Starlight's picture


Some things need to go and some don't. You and I simply disagree on the implications of the front end of scriptures and just a few other areas. I have a strong passion concerning the front end just like both of us do on the back end. If I'm right then there will be major implications in the long run for believers just as there are implications for those on the escatalogical end. The evidence is strong just as it is on the other end but it requires even more knowledge than simply getting the time statements down right. Not everyone is going to get the times statements nor will everyone get the symbolism of Genesis and many won't care about either end except the Cross.

Mick's picture

By the way, I do not regret my heritage in the Churches of Christ. My wife and I were both converted to Christ in “discipling ministries” back in the early 80’s; her in DeKalb, Illinois, me in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was exposed to covenant eschatology through a Church of Christ preacher. In my heart I would return there if I knew I would be accepted for my eschatology and views on Genesis and supported for my beliefs about home-education (it is amazing how little support exists in the CoC for home-education and how many national leaders have Reformed backgrounds) and placing the responsibility for the spiritual training of children in the hands of parents and not Bible Class teachers and Youth Ministers. Alas, that may be too much to ask here in the Midwest or anywhere for that matter.

Have you read either of the books, “The Cultural Church” or “Radical Restoration” by F. LaGard Smith? I could almost imagine what a congregation of God’s people might look like shepherded by men like you, Don Preston, Jack Scott and Smith.

Have you heard the tapes from the last Preterist Pilgrim weekend? In the question and answer section a great discussion is had about Baptism that would soften the critics of the Restoration Movement’s thoughts about Baptism. I also found F. LaGard Smith’s book, “Who is My Brother?” very insightful as well.

Mickey E. Denen

Starlight's picture


I fully recognize and appreciate my heritage just like you. I haven’t left the churches of Christ because I’m fortunate to attend one that is pretty healthy compared to what I see around me. My cofC roots go back to the Civil War time in Tennessee of at least 5 generations maybe more. IN our congregation we have all variety of home schoolers, Christian and public schoolers all attending together here in our congregation and in fact we have a Christian school meeting in our facilities. Old earthers, Young earthers and Evolutionist all dwelling together so I’m probably living somewhat the exception to what the typical Preterist find themselves in and I’m sure that colors my viewpoint somewhat.

One of the problems in these Preterist forums is that many times the theoretical doesn’t seem to match the reality. IMO as time goes on Preterism will become less contentious in the religious world and will not seem to cause waves as much as it does now. How long is that going to take is anyone’s guess, but probably not in my lifetime. Part of the problem though is that after about 4 years in Pretersim there comes a time that theorizing needs to be set aside and the everyday living of the Gospel needs to takes center stage again. That’s a personal journey though that each one of us have to go through for ourselves but we need to remember that the Perfect is here and all the accompanying signs have been set aside including “knowledge”. So how important is Knowledge in comparison to the Perfect of 1 Cor 13? I am sure that I’ve put too much of a premium on that Knowledge aspect at times and need to balance it out. Which gets me back to your shepherding thoughts in which I’m finding that all my knowledge is of little use when it comes to true shepherding of people. When you’re trying to help the grief stricken, lonely, sick and needy you find they don’t really need your knowledge but they need Christ in you instead?

IMO the Body of Christ is still functioning and it will continue to find its way. As far as Baptism is concerned I find I’m still learning and am definitely not nearly as dogmatic on the subject as I used to be. I’ll have to go back and listen to the Preterist Pilgrim Q & A again and see because I don’t think I listened to all of it.

Mick's picture

Thank you for posting this.

"We have walked the dreary path of strife and left it strewn with the bloody corpses of our slain hopes, now let us resurrect the ideals which gave us birth and unfurl the flag of peace as the rallying standard for the Christians in all the sects. Now is the accepted time."

Mickey E. Denen

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