ABOUT THIS WEBSITE


Most of our regular visitors and friends know that this website was begun as collaboration between several of us with certain beliefs and interests in common. One of "the Roberts" (put thusly to distinguish them from the minority) had some previous experience in starting a website on the Internet via Tripod "templates," and so he offered to set this site up for the rest of us to use. He is not our actual "webmaster." Theoretically, Mike is, if anyone is. And technically speaking, the whole "website" idea was Graham's brainchild. Robert sometimes reminds us that in spirit, the site is Graham's. But rather than being a webmaster Robert at the beginning usually just set up html "templates" that, theoretically, would be filled with content by the others. Way back when we all came together in collaboration in this site it was more like a "hobby," a fun way for several friends to do something together, a "common interest" like five buddies going marlin fishing. None of us really knew much at all about what goes into the mechanics and operations of web page design, html, uploading (FTP) to websites, maintenance, updating, et al, and we had the misconception that we could each, right from where each one lives, easily upload contributions, input, to the shared site and so, theoretically, all of us would "participate" equally in its growth and its maintenance.
It soon became evident that that was easier said than done, firstly, because this particular kind of Tripod/Lycos website does not mechanically work like a "community blog." Remember, we were all "newbies" to website building but for Robert's familiarity with older basic "Tripod." He will be the first to admit that this very old (pre-Lycos) version of Tripod is simply not conducive to "group use." So, while we made a good start at the beginning, it soon became apparent that all of us had to lean on Robert for our content to be put into the site, for new pages and sections to be designed and added, and so forth. That was not our original intention. Well Australia is far from where he lives, as you know. Geographically, I am the only one of us who lives close enough to hand-deliver content, say on a flash drive for uploading, or to personally sit at his workstation (as I'm doing now) and have "hands on" actual work with the website. Unfortunately the usual default "method" of "participation" for us all giving "input" became; sending him treatises or essays in emails, and him having to labor over the formatting, "transcribing," re-writing into html, editing, linking or whatnot, assuming the work of a webmaster. As explained, originally we all thought Mike would be the main webmaster, and not Robert. And the "editing" and "word-smithing" of contributed sermons and etc., was supposed to be mostly my task. The original arrangement was more like Robert paid for a "parking space" for our cars, but we were supposed to come in and do our own work. It ended up, everything being sent to Robert and channeled through him for transforming into website content. Basically due to it being an unworkable arrangement, ye olde website project pretty much slowed to a crawl, albeit not totally to a halt. We are presently brainstorming how we might yet accomplish our original idea, but in a better, more efficient way.
The foregoing has to do obviously with logistics, mechanics, and practicality. Another "situation" ought to be addressed if our friends and visitors are to understand what has transpired and is transpiring still: Needless to say, we are all Christians, and Jesus Christ was and is the real "common denominator" that brought us together, and Christ remains our purpose. You will surely understand that if five Christians who each hail from a different "denomination" or a different "church background" all meet and become good friends, they will none the less find some of the "religious beliefs" of their friends "strange" to them, or at least one will say "that's not the way I was taught," on this or that. There are two different kinds of theological "differences" between Christians: One is the simple observation of the fact that how you were taught and how I was taught are "different" the one from the other. In that simple observation of fact there is no mention of one person thinking the other is "wrong" and himself "right." One simply observes the fact that the other party was "raised" or "taught" differently. The second kind of theological "difference" between two Christians is when each of the parties does definitely think himself "right" and the other person "wrong," and feels that ascertaining which view is correct is extremely important.

So it is, naturally, with us who have here collaborated in an endeavor to "meet" in this "point of contact," this website. Each of us does in fact have both of the above kinds of "differences." That is, each of us was "raised" (or has been taught) differently, theologically, than the others. That is simply the fact of our several various theological "upbringings." As to the other "kind" of theological "differences," that sort wherein a man thinks the other party "wrong" and himself "right" and wherein sometimes a person feels he needs to "take a stand," etc., we have been very fortunate. Although indeed we each do most certainly hold doctrine to be important and each holds beliefs he'd certainly "stand for," we've been fortunate in that each man is a believer in what was once termed "The Fundamentals" of the Christian Faith, and even in many "less 'fundamental'" theological views. And even beyond that fact, we have been fortunate in the realm of such opinions as one of us might hold but not the others: such "variety" among us has not, to date, led to any "divisions" between us. We seem to have captured somewhat of that spirit of brotherhood described by Paul, "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him" (Romans 14:1-3). It says that "one believeth" this or that, and another believes otherwise.

David Brown in the JFB Commentary on this verse says insightfully, receive him, "but not to doubtful disputations - rather, perhaps, 'not to the deciding of doubts,' or 'scruples;' that is, not for the purpose of arguing him out of them." Isn't that remarkable? Imagine (!) allowing a brother to have a different opinion than yours! Shocking! Paul even adds, "One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks" (vv 5,6). A certain sort of "fundamentalist" doesn't know what to do with that kind of thinking in Paul. It strikes them as weird. Their "training" tells them that they must "stand for the truth" on even the most trivial of matters, and that so-called "compromise" is an evil. But they dare not call the Apostle Paul a "compromiser" nor allege that he was "loose on doctrine," so, what they do with things like this in the Bible is simply to think it "weird," look the other way, and ignore it, or, think it "non pertinent" to the "more important" matters they themselves are about, and so ignore it as "non relevent." "Nothing to see here, folks, that's not an important verse, move along now and read a different one."

Each of us most assuredly knows that the Word of God calls us to have and to defend and to stand for sound doctrine. "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the Faith" (2 Cor. 13:5). The call to stand for "sound doctrine" is in 1 Tim.1:10, 2 Tim. 4:3, Titus 1:9 and 2:1, and can be shown with a host of other scriptures. A favorite of us Bible thumpers is "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed" (2 Jn. 1:10). Amen! I hope that we here are as "gung ho" for true doctrine as any others out there. But there does happen to be such a thing as a "matter" that is not an "essential" to the Christian Faith. Say you want to build a worship center, and one party wants a steeple put on it, resembling the style of the Congregationalist churches in colonial times, but another party wants a modern dome-shaped building. Do you really want Christian brothers to break fellowship and part ways over domes versus steeples? One party may think it best to "gather" in a hotel "convention room" or even at the beach, and forego building a "church" type building altogether. Or how about opinions that do have to do with "teachings" but not matters on which the Christian Faith rises or falls? For instance, "foot washing." Many "churches" hold "foot washing services" and everyone washes everyone else's feet. Jesus washed his disciples' feet and then said "ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. ... If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (Jn. 13:14-17). Some read in that, clear and plain instructions telling us to literally wash each other's feet, using water basins and towels. One asks, "how about in a river or at the steps into a swimming pool? Wouldn't it be easier?" But a reply is given, "Jesus said to do it the way he did it. He carried a 'basin' like a bowl, and wiped their feet with a towel." But another replies to that, and says, "If you take the 'basin' as the required 'manner' shouldn't you also take literally doing it the way Jesus did it, and, everyone 'lay aside their garments' as Jesus did in verse 4, and then 'gird' themselves as the ancient slaves did? Why copy the 'basin' part, and not the 'laying aside the garments' part?" Then another brother gives his opinion, to wit, that Christ was not commanding us to literally do exactly what he did, not to literally wash feet as slaves anciently did, but was teaching on the "servant model," teaching us to humble ourselves to one another and to be servants to one another, as he also taught elsewhere, i.e. Mt. 20:25, 23:11, Mk. 10:44, Lk. 22:26, and as afterward the apostles also taught: Rom. 12:10, Ga. 5:13, Phil. 2:3, 1 Pet. 5:3, etc. But then he is answered, "If you do not think we literally have to do as he did, and as he actually said, then by what 'rule of interpretation' do we so 'literally' take his instructions as to the Lord's Supper, 'this do in remembrance of me' (Lk. 22:19, 1 Cor. 11:24, 25)? Why do we not merely 'derive the meaning' out of it, and practice that 'meaning' rather than literally repeat his actions, and repeat the 'Supper'?" "Well," you say, "the context, at least in Paul's iteration of it, makes it clear that this 'Supper' is to be literally performed in perpetuity, he saith, 'as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.'" "Amen. Well said" says the other "but my comparison was not to the intent that we might less literally obey in the observing of the 'Supper' but that the same 'rule of interpretation' used there, that is, a plain straightforward reading, be applied when the same Lord washed the feet of the disciples, and said 'do as I have done' and 'wash one another's feet.' In fact it ought to be pointed out that the Lord washed their feet at the same 'event.' as instituting the 'Supper.' After the 'Supper' he washed their feet. Is it not rather remarkable if we divide the 'teachings' given in the same night and on the same occasion, into those we 'interpret literally' and those we merely 'derive a meaning' from? I do not know that I could explain to anyone why hermeneutically we 'shift gears' there."

Another brother laughs at that point, and says, "You couldn't get people to literally 'do as Jesus did' if you tried. That night the feet of the disciples were dirty and dusty and grimy. That's part of what was so 'humble' on the Lord's part; It was slave's work to wash the dirty feet of their superiors. But nowadays, even in the 'foot washing Baptist' churches, when it's announced that 'there's gonna' be a foot washing,' everybody goes out and buys new socks and shoes, they scrub their feet at home, some probably run out and get a professional pedicure, and they show up to the foot washing, their feet smelling like a rose. Nobody shows up straight off the job wearing their work boots from a day of digging ditches. See? And furthermore, Jesus sprang this on them by surprise! They weren't expecting it. You're gonna' have some hurt feelings if you do that to a 'congregation' today; get up and say, 'Okay everybody take off your shoes and socks, it's foot washing time! No, it isn't going to happen. You can't 'duplicate' the foot washing that Jesus did. Not really. Yours will be 'ceremonial.' His was really cleaning literal dust and dirt off, as a slave had to do when his master came home from a long day. You think you can get a 'church' today to really 'do as he did?' Think again. And another thing to consider is, all the attendees at the Lord's Supper were men. Males. The Apostles, minus Judas. Judas left the room just before the 'Last Supper.' I only point out there were only men present because there's no way to know whether Jesus stepped into an adjacent room to 'lay aside his garments,' that is, to strip, and 'gird himself' like a slave. It's possible. There is some scriptural reason to think that modesty, dignity and decorum were observed among Jesus and the Twelve even when no ladies were present: For instance, after the resurrection when Jesus appeared to seven of the disciples while they were fishing, John said to Peter, 'It is the Lord!' Upon hearing that, Peter threw his clothes on, it says, 'for he was naked.' Perhaps in their three years with the Lord they learned that he preferred that people not be unclad around him. First thing upon hearing 'It is the Lord!' Peter instinctively quickly clothed himself. In The Revelation of Jesus Christ, 3:18, though I know its meaning was spiritual, Jesus said, 'I counsel thee to buy of me ... white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear,' and in 16:15 he said 'Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.' The spiritual meaning does not escape us, but it is undeniable that the Lord takes something deemed 'negative' in the natural, to speak of something deemed 'negative' in the spiritual. But whereas men might change their clothes in a gymnasium locker room environment, it is doubtful that Christ would have done so in 'mixed company,' that is, with ladies present. What then would an ultra literalist have us do at our foot washings; undress in mixed company and 'gird' ourselves with towels, to reenact the role of slaves of 2000 years ago? And what 'apparel' did the female slaves wear? The point is, we can hardly do exactly what Jesus did."

Now suppose you and 60 people endeavor to constitute an ekklesia, but 30 of you say Christ's foot washing was not commanded of us to do literally, but that it merely taught servanthood, and 20 of you want the group to be just like the "foot washing Baptists" out there, and 10 of you actually want everyone to "lay aside their garments" and "gird themselves with towels" as slaves anciently did. Say that some think it's supposed to be this way, and some think it's supposed to be the other way. Do you "break fellowship" over the difference of opinion? Do you "part company" and go your separate ways, over "basins and towels?" Should one zealous dogmatist among you stand up and assert that "two cannot walk together except they be agreed" and so call for "splitting up?" I, rather think here is a call for "Romans 14 thinking": Accept one another, receive one another, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him." And "one man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

The world has a trendy saying. "Let's agree to disagree." I think many people misunderstand what that actually says and means, for I have heard people use that expression when what they actually mean is simply "That's your opinion," or "obviously we disagree," as if only stating the obvious, that the two parties differ in their opinions. But that is not at all what the expression says: It is actually a call to agree on something. It starts with, "let us agree." How can people miss that? Rather than continuing to simply "clash" on their differences of opinion, it calls for them to "agree" on "something." The next part must be seen to either make the expression meaningless, or, to have some meaning: "Let's agree to disagree." If it's just casting up a dichotmy with nothing useful in it, then it's meaningless. But I think it is actually calling for an agreement to either "get along" although disagreeing on some matter, or, to agree to continue in a discussion, although having duly noted the difference of opinion on that matter. In other words, perhaps that matter on which we disagree can be resolved at some later date, but let us move forward agreeably with the matter presently in hand. I think this American expression "let's agree to disagree" is a modification of something Josiah Wedgwood said in 1785, which was, "agree to differ." He said, "The principal difficulty is to agree to differ, to agree in impartial investigation and candid argument." That is a far cry from just stating that the two parties disagree on a point. It rather calls for "getting past" the "sticking point" and moving forward in frank and open-minded conversation. The exact wording, "agree to disagree," may actually have come from Christian and Evangelical sources: I have heard that John Wesley quoted it as a maxim of George Whitefield's. Wesley wrote, "If you agree with me, well: if not, we can, as Mr. Whitefield used to say, agree to disagree." In either case the meaning is that our disagreement need not be the "end of the world," but that we can get along. Now a certain sort of sword-swinging dogmatist will hurl the accusation, "You are calling for compromise!" No, this is not "compromise" of anyone's belief on the Word of God. Rather, each may retain his belief as strongly as ever. Each party acknowledges that, about the other. No one is asked to "change" or "modify" or "water down" or to "compromise on" or to "give up" his belief, one tiny bit. But there is deemed to be sufficient on which they agree in the "foundational essentials" of The Christian Faith, that they can "get along" and even progress and serve the Lord together, at least "for the time being."

Now it may rightly be questioned as to just "how long" this "agreement" can hold, or, under what circumstances the arrangement may no longer be feasible: Suppose one party demands that the question be resolved immediately, and the decision be reached as to which view will stand. Or suppose those of the one view insist that they cannot in good conscience continue on in a group that will not do foot-washing the way they think they must? It may be hurting their consciences to not be doing something the way they feel they must, under God. In that case, of course, the Christian must do what he believes God insists he do. The question might be asked, "Do you feel that the need to do this as you believe out-weighs the value in the sight of God of walking in company with these, your brethren?" In other words, rather than just "panicking" because you believe your view on that matter is God's truth, have you actually "weighed" the importance of it against this other "truth of God" of the brethren dwelling together in harmony? I will admit, myself, I can think of a great many "doctrinal truths" on which I'd have to say, indeed, believing and practicing that does outweigh fellowship with those who "don't see it," and I'd be obliged to part ways. But I'm saying that should be "weighed." One should not just "panic" because he has a difference of opinion, and allow that "difference" to "snowball" into separation, without any thoughtful consideration of "everything else" that has brought them together and kept them together, and weighing all of that, and the value of it. One might be throwing away ten diamonds for the sake of one diamond, and it might not be, at all, how God evaluates the situation.

But it does happen. And it is sometimes the leading of the Lord. A person decides he absolutely must have fellowship with those who share this belief of his, and, in the present situation, the brethren he is with, do not. So, matters may "come to a head" as they say. And a person's got to do what he's got to do. In Genesis 13 the stress of Lot's company dwelling together with Abram's company became too taxing. In verse 8 we read, "And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right." You see? Because we be brethren, let there be no strife between us. But they did go separate ways. I believe brethren can part ways amicably, and in a spirit of goodwill.

God be praised that, thus far, those of us who collaborated (or sought to) in this website, have never come to such a fork in the road. There is more that unites us, in the Foundational Essentials of The Christian Faith, than there are "non-essentials" on which we disagree. So we get along quite well. But the "logistics" and practical difficulties in web design and maintenance, upkeep, input, uploading of content, updating, editing, and making each part "work with" or "flow" with the site, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, are more the areas in which we've become a little bogged down. We have indeed questioned how well collaboration in a single website is or isn't working out, although, so far, we're all still more or less "together."

Since, at this stage, there's no one "in" the website who can take the visitor by the hand and guide them through the site in an orderly manner, it pretty much falls to the visitor to "guide" himself and to glean or take what value or usefulness he can from the site. Quite a large amount of "new material" has been prepared that was intended for the site, but, again, due to those pesky "logistics," things have been floating in limbo. It remains to be seen whether our "breakthrough" when it comes, will be in the form of the website itself working more efficiently and orderly, or in the form of the different contributing individuals "publishing" each their own materials in their own venues or via their own channels.

We'll see how it goes.

R3


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