by John W. Eubanks III
"If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand." (Mark 3:25, NIV).
After reading "REVEAL: Stories from the ICC," I was moved to send in my own story. My story chronicles my encounter with the ICC, how it changed my wife and me, and destroyed a sixteen-year marriage. It is not possible for me to write this in an unbiased context, but I have done my best to stay true to what I was going through by providing some snips of E-mail that I wrote at the time. It is my hope that others can learn from my encounter with members of the ICC.
At age 52, I have been married since 1981, but soon that will be ending. My work schedule had me in Alaska for nine weeks and home in Orlando for four weeks per quarter, for most of the last fifteen years. When [Mrs. E.] joined a new church in Orlando about seven years ago, I took no notice. I had been full of zeal for the Lord, years before knowing [Mrs. E.], and had a good foundational understanding of Scripture. But, I had fallen away from my earlier Christian beliefs, and even doubted at times that God existed. The best that I could say for myself is that I held to my Christian based ethics, and believed that everyone should make a personal choice.
Back around late 1994, [Mrs. E.] and I left our sons with her parents, and took a week long vacation in Minnesota. We were looking for a scenic area to live, good schools and a nice home. [Mrs. E.] had asked me not to tell any of her friends about the trip or why we had taken it. When I asked why, she said it was because they would shun her if they found out. I started asking questions. She did not paint a negative picture, just one of utmost dedication to the Lord and church. I think I failed her by not digging deeper into what was going on then.
In July of 1995, I was caught completely by surprise when served with divorce papers. I was devastated and had no idea as to why. I questioned [Mrs. E.], but nothing she said seemed to warrant a need for divorce. We were still sleeping in the same bed, there was no infidelity, no abuse, no real bickering or anything. [Mrs. E.] wanted things -- things like a bigger home with a swimming pool. She wanted me to do more of the house keeping, to spend more time with our sons, to cut back on TV watching, and to attend her church.
The one area that did strike me as odd at the time was that she felt I was a threat to the future salvation of our two sons! [Mrs. E.] felt that [older son] (then age 8) and [younger son] (age 5) would be better off, if they spent their time with male members of her church. Thus, she perceived me as a non-Christian husband and father, and this seemed to be her real reason for filing.
As it happened, I had other reasons for wanting to come back to the Lord, and so I agreed to attend [Mrs. E.]'s church. At this, [Mrs. E.] put the divorce on hold for six months, to see if I could change. I also went to Christian marriage counseling, but [Mrs. E.] refused to go, and so I stopped. In her mind, I was the problem. I would have to meet her new standards, or as I now know, I would have to become a member of the ICC.
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In that I had a strong Fundamentalist background in my early Christian beliefs, I knew that it would be difficult for me to accept changes. I would need to work with someone who was both knowledgeable and mature. [Mrs. E.] put me in touch with Ron, a Sector Leader who had been her Bible Talk Leader. The initial two encounters are described in my "Open letter to the Orlando Church." I later learned from [Mrs. E.] that, because I had questioned Ron's teachings, I had been labeled as "too proud to accept God's word," and of "not being of the right heart." These labels were just the first of many to follow. It is clear evidence that to belong, you must be willing to accept what you are told without question.
However, I continued to try and find someone within the Orlando Church who had enough theological knowledge to explain the ICC teachings with enough depth for me to find reason to change my beliefs. This eventually led to Jeff Chacon who is the Lead Evangelist for the Orlando Church. We had only met long enough to shake hands, but we set an appointment at his home for my being discipled. When the time came, he was sick, but we talked for about two hours on the phone. My impression was that, at last I had found someone who had enough understanding that I could reason with him. Clearly, if I became persistent on arguing any one point, then he would end the conversation. I could show concern or express my belief, but I could not debate or show an arbitrary unwillingness to change.
Jeff pointed me to several passages that seem to favor ICC teachings. We agreed that he would continue to work with me by way of E-mail because I had to return to Alaska. At this time, I would have welcomed a change in my beliefs that favored the ICC, but this did not happen. I have omitted the detailed commentary summations and context reflections for each passage, which Jeff had asked me to study. The following, however, express some of my concerns about ICC methodology.
I still do not see a strong case for having eternal life (salvation) at one point in a person's life and later losing salvation. . . Think of the control that Disciples could have on their charges if they could tell them, when they were in line, that they had eternal life or, when they were out of line, that they did not have eternal life. Jesus set us free from sin so that we could not be controlled by false teachers.
I see this as my present life crisis, where I am being pressed to change from a Christ centered love to church group centered obedience. I say this because my beliefs and those of the Discipling Movement differ only where one can make the distinction. I see where [Mrs. E.] must perform like a puppet or be harshly judged by her fellow Disciples. I could never do to others what I see done to my wife. Who decided what God's will is for anyone? I want to bring others to the Lord, but not with strings. I want [Mrs. E.] and [me] to be members of the same church, but not at the cost of my faith.
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If I had the right personality, there would be no question that it would be a great church. There is no question that the Disciple Movement is aptly suited to a large segment of the population. What I have trouble with is the notion that if a person's personality is not in line with the church's ideal, as viewed by group or elders, then the individual is the problem. This myopic view of Christian diversity will probably prevent me from being welcomed as a member of your church.
Since [Mrs. E.] believes that your church is the only true church and that only true Disciples can be saved, she can not believe that I also am part of Christ's church or that I am saved. This I know to be false because I am saved and I am a member of Christ's catholic [universal] church. The problem is one of "how can John be saved if he does not act like others in the [ICC] church?"
I believe strongly in Christian fellowship and Christian tolerance. The Christians that make up the Orlando Church of Christ have much going for them and I enjoy their fellowship. That fellowship, however, should not intrude into the privacy of our home and family. [Mrs. E.] and I are of one flesh; I know when she feels guilty, unworthy, frustrated, confused and used by the church; I know when she feels good, is led by the Spirit, confident, proud and productive. You know these things of your own mate. [Mrs. E.] also knows me and would know if I were insincere.
By knowing [Mrs. E.], I have a window into the effects that the church has on Christians and it is not all good. Many of the negatives are attributable to those things that skew your church in a cult direction. They are disturbing to me and I must admit, even striking fear. Not for myself, but of the destructive potential it could have on my family. To this, my advice to [Mrs. E.] is "learn to say no" because not every thing that comes from a Disciple or church group is inspired by God. Each person is responsible for carrying his or her own burdens. The goal of the Christian life is dependency on God. Any dependency short of that makes [Mrs. E.] open to deception and manipulation (Gal 6:2-6).
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I read this to mean that if I sin against my Christian brother, I should confess my sin to that brother. This does not mean that I should confess any personal matter that is not relevant to the person hearing the confession. . . When dealing with well-meaning Christians who think they must change you, it is not wise to provide the leverage they need. Mind control in any form is not healthy. . .
[Note: Do confess all sins to God in private communion, but when you can be overheard, use discretion in confessions and prayer.]
Note that James does not say that Christians should expect, extract or demand confessions from other Christians. The concept of confessing all things to your "Disciple" is a man made law that smacks of controlling church members. Based on the number of phone calls that my wife receive after missing one gathering, it is clear to me that your church is out of control with confession and corrective peer pressure.
I do believe that all of us are true Christian believers. I do not believe that the Disciple Movement is outside the scope of Christ's church. Disciples are my brothers and I see nothing wrong with sharing fellowship with any Disciple of the Orlando Church of Christ. I am completely tolerant of variations in each persons beliefs. Where I draw the line is when I see negative effects on members of my family. I will not, in that case, hesitate in letting that individual know he or she has crossed the line! I would think that you would do no less for your own family.
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The amount of pressure that my wife was having to endure continued to mount. By September of 1995 she was complaining "I don't know what they want from me." The reason had to do with the church coming before everything else. I could see that [Mrs. E.] was starting to suffer from sleep deprivation, stress and guilt, so I wrote an open letter to her church. [Mrs. E.] read the letter a month before I sent it. She could have asked that I not send it. Instead, she chose not to take a stand of her own, and to see what became of my sending the letter. She needed help, and she needed me to intercede for her, but she did not want to be held accountable.
I was attempting to work with Jeff at the time. I requested delivery receipts on my E-mail, so I knew he was receiving them. I delayed a month in sending the open letter, to give Jeff an opportunity to act on my interaction with him. However, Jeff did not respond, and this eventually made me angry, so I sent the Open Letter.
To the Orlando Church of Christ, Disciples and Christian Fellows
From John Eubanks, Head of the Eubanks family
Recently, [Mrs. E.] filed for a divorce, my apathy had culminated in the ultimate family crises. This action forced me to take stock of myself and my actions over the past several years. Finding many faults in my own actions, I resolved to repent and set things right. This included writing down, in signed contract form, all the things I would do to restore our marriage. It was at this time that I returned to reading the Bible in preparation to join the Orlando Church of Christ. Since July 1, 1995, I have been diligently reading, praying and researching the scriptures while learning all that I could about your church.
I am not a new believer. In my early years, I had a zealous devotion to God's service. Raised as a Presbyterian, I was active in the church for years before graduating High School. I spent Sundays in church, volunteering to clean the church between services. An Assembly of God in Mississippi led me to salvation in the summer of 1965. After much study and devotion, I was Baptized on the 25th day of September 1966 at Brooklyn Gospel Chapel, Baltimore, Maryland. As my job required me to transfer frequently, I joined several fundamentalist churches and was very active in each. That is until I joined a Baptist church that considered science the work of the devil. That became very frustrating for me and when transferred to L.A., I did not seek out a new church. On June 3, 1977, I went to [Alaska]. There I attended a base chapel on occasions, but I never found the services to my liking. I fell away, becoming an inactive Christian till now.
Interested in joining the Orlando Church of Christ, I made a request to learn church doctrines from an elder or knowledgeable member. I have beliefs that have not changed in the last thirty to forty years and I knew that they differed from those of a Discipling church. In my first session, I explained my background, motives and gave the Disciple an idea of what I believed. In preparation for these meetings, I did reread most of the N.T. books that the Disciple requested.
The second session pertained to my belief in "once saved, always saved" and went as follows: The Disciple points me to one or more verses, I read the verses and they agreed with what I already believed. He tells me the verses meant something else. I would read the Bible study notes below the scripture and that also agrees with my understanding. The Disciple says "that was only the author's opinion." I countered that many scholars must have agreed and that "I agreed with that opinion." The Disciple would say that I was "looking at too much detail" and that I should "look for the broader meaning." I suggested checking the context leading up to these verses. He explains that this "would take too long, we could not get through the material" and that I should "study in detail later." Our session seemed to cycle through parts of this scenario for each new passage.
Finally, it seemed the crux of our differences were due to the Disciple having a smaller view of Jesus' ability to pay the price for our sins. At this, the Disciple lost his temper and told me he had lived a life that was more worthy than my own! Therefore, he was better able to interpret the scriptures!
The International Church of Christ does not publish its doctrines. When asked, members respond with "the Bible is the church's doctrine." I have trouble with this because the ICC teaches very distinctive scriptural interpretations that set it apart from mainstream Christian churches. For doctrines, I have had to glean information from several sources. These sources include my wife, my wife's Disciple training course, "The Mission" edited by Randy and Kay McKean and by asking church members. Additionally, I have read some disturbing literature from outside sources. These include Journals written by the Christian Research Institute International, "By Hook or Crook" and "A Concise Dictionary of Cults &;Religions" by William Watson. I am also attempting to obtain a copy of The Discipling Dilemma by Yeakley.
Most of the negatives deal with elitism, authority, obedience, mind control and changes in personality traits. On these issues, the jury is still out. I am scrutinizing both the Discipling Movement's doctrines and seeking firsthand knowledge of the interactions of Disciple members.
By now, it is probably clear to the reader that I have mixed feelings about the Orlando Church of Christ. On one hand, my wife and I really love the Christian fellowship and the members of this church. Disciples are a warm and caring group. It is reminiscent of the fellowship that I enjoyed at Brooklyn Gospel Chapel. On the other hand, members are expected to conform to a group defined Christ like image; otherwise peer pressure is used to encourage this outward conduct. Similarly, at Brooklyn Gospel, we used peer pressure on those within our group [a small clique of young adults, ages 19 to 22] that were not setting good Christian examples. The point is that I outgrew that sort of judgmental immaturity years ago. The question now is what are my spiritual responsibilities as head of the Eubanks household. Paul is clear on this question in Eph 5:3 through 6:4.
There is a wealth of spiritual guidance in the above passages. However, germane to this letter, Paul makes it clear that the relationship between husband and wife mirrors that of Christ and the church. This oneness of flesh is undeniably set above the hierarchy of church fellowship. My authority as head of our household comes directly from Christ: "Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." (1 Cor. 11:3 ). The church does not come between Christ and me, nor does it come between my wife and myself. From the above scriptures, know that I am responsible for maintaining the health, well-being and protection of my family. This protection includes the mental health of every member of my family.
The Discipling Movement appears to encourage peer pressure to alter the conduct of its members. Based on my own experience and biblical understanding, this activity is wrong. I am therefore defining limits about how far any Disciple can go in interacting with the Eubanks family. It is not my intention to cut [Mrs. E.] off from her church. It is my intention to protect her from being manipulated. I expect members to show the same polite respect for my family as would be typified by mainstream Christian fellowship. The following are my house rules:
The above listed limits deal with respect and intrusion with regard to the Eubanks family. I make no requirements to change any church activities outside the interactions with my family. I still intend to move forward in becoming a member of the Orlando Church of Christ. I shall continue to study scripture, pray and participate in church activities. [Mrs. E.] is free to continue as a member of the ICC for as long as she lives. Your cooperation will be greatly appreciated.
Sincerely, John Eubanks
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My open letter to the Orlando Church did have an impact that was favorable to my wife. She was contacted by Jeff, allowed to select the sector area church, and her Discipler of choice. She is compatible with the Disciple that she selected, and more of her long time friends were in the sector church she selected. I felt she would be less frustrated and guilt driven in the future. [Mrs. E.] does love God, as do all of those that I know in her church. It is not the people, but the system and the potential for manipulative abuse that I feared. [Mrs. E.] knew her Discipler well, and it appeared that she would have a healthier relationship than she had a few days before. Could [Mrs. E.] have brought this about on her own? In reflection, I doubt it would have been possible from what I know of her church, and in knowing [Mrs. E.]. In any mainstream church, any Christian, any time, can decide whom they wish to fellowship with and learn from. This is not so with the ICC.
I attempted contact with one other Disciple by E-mail. He responded, but only once. My wife told me that Jeff had told him not to respond. I would never be accepted as a member while Jeff had a say in the matter. I knew that being shunned would cause my family problems.
I wish to thank you for granting [Mrs. E.] her choice of sector church and Disciple. From talking to her, I know that this has gone a long way toward relieving frustrations and guilt. She will be less hindered by structural things and more free to express her love to God. My concerns for her well being are considerably lessened.
As for me, I understand that I will never be a member of your church. . . Originally, I simply had a desire to join your church because I liked the people. Admittedly, I agreed to go to church with [Mrs. E.]. It was a repentance to avoid a divorce, but nothing in the agreement stated that I would or should join your church. . . I plan to [continue attending] church [with my] family. It is important that we participate in our expression of love for Jesus as a family. I have no intentions of causing any problems or of publicly letting anyone know what my personal beliefs are about. If I seek new souls for Christ, I will select them from outside your church. With your blessing, I would like to call a truce. I would like to continue to be a guest of your church.
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I continued to attend the Sunday meeting with my family, but I was having real problems with the ICC teachings. I brought several of these teachings to [Mrs. E.]'s attention. The ICC was twisting scriptural interpretations to fit their teachings, and they were ignoring the clear conflicts this created with other scriptures. [Mrs. E.] dismissed my criticisms as having no validity, because they were just the opinions of one who was not of the right heart. She did not want to hear anything negative about her church.
It was becoming clearer that the Orlando Church was [Mrs. E.]'s whole world. With few exceptions, I think she truly believed that there was no salvation outside her church, and that I also was not saved. It was becoming more clear that I was to be head of my family only in secular matters. My attempt to intercede for [Mrs. E.] had been effectively undermined.
While all this was going on, I was also writing E-mail to Rev. [pastor friend], whose last name I will omit. We had met in passing at an airport and exchanged E-mail addresses. Over the next year, [pastor friend] helped me cope with much of my frustration, and he became my sounding-board for my biblical studies. My objective was not only to learn all that I could about Christianity, but also to make everything fit together in harmony. With my family at stake, I could not afford to have conflicts in by beliefs or gaps in my knowledge. Everything I believed had to have strong Scriptural support with context that backed up the prooftext.
Jeff has agreed to the truce by e-mail. . . This will give me time to establish a relationship with [Mrs. E.] that is based [on] mutual love of Christ and each other, I hope. I will continue to study scripture and how they are being skewed by the International Church of Christ.
I also told [Mrs. E.] that she is free to use her own judgement in confessing those things that she needs to confess. My intent was never to restrict [Mrs. E.], but rather to point her to God in place of her Disciple. I DID want to place restrictions on Disciples.
I am flooded with feelings. Gone is the order in my live! Did the dam burst when I was served the divorce papers? That was back in June, I should be over it by now. Possible the OCC clash or maybe the scripture I have been reading. My Bible is slowly turning yellow with DRY PENCIL Bible Highlighter as almost everything speaks to me personally.
I had tried to reason with [Mrs. E.] on some of the skewed things that the OCC teaches. [Mrs. E.] made it clear that she did not want to hear anything I had to say on the subject of religion. She also found other things for me to do whenever I started to study [my Bible and Evangelical theology books]. After a while, I sort of gave up. I am still being treated as if I were a non-believer, possibly an agent of Satan.
I did spend some time with [former ICC friend] [a long time friend and neighbor]. [former ICC friend] is an engineer and writes. . . software. He is [thinking] about to enter the full time ministry for the Disciple Movement. We talked for many hours, but it boiled down to the following. His understanding of my misguided view of religion is that I have intellect, but lack heart. My point was that I was saved back in 1965 and that God did not lie to me then.
I am to the point where I am finding many things wrong with the Sunday sermons, some that even invoke anger. In one sermon, Jeff presented the "American Dream" as being based on greed and selfishness. It was part of the pitch leading up to the annual pledge. They whip the church into a frenzy of thousands of "Amens" and pass out the pledge cards.
The more I see, the more cynical I get. I wonder if the only way out is to take a new job and try to relocate my family. The problem with that is that I could end up loosing my family anyway. [Mrs. E.] could simply activate the divorce at any time. It is like having a gun held to my head. Each action I take may cause the trigger to be pulled.
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I am coming up on [a] critical point in my marriage. As per agreement, my probation period will be up at the start of my next vacation. I am worried because things did not go as I had hoped on my last trip home. [Mrs. E.] said things that may have been in preparation for reinstating the divorce.
When I was home, I met one of [Mrs. E.]'s divorced friends. [Mrs. E.] had discipled her before the divorce and had recommended the divorce if her husband did not change. I ask if her husband had cheated on her or beat [abused] her? He had not, but he was spending too much time with his friends and not enough with his children. Also, he was not a member of her church. I did not press for more details, but I really doubt that there was adequate justification for a divorce. I would have advised positive feedback, incentives, touching often, pleasant talking and other more subtle means than confrontation. This approach will not have instant results, but in time we all adjust and mature. Putting myself in his place, I know that [Mrs. E.] could do much to help me change. Instead, it is up to me to completely change while she waits for me to fail.
I talked with [Mrs. E.] Sunday after sending a long FAX letter (partly based on your book). I was right to think that she was attempting to prepare me for the reinstatement of divorce proceedings. This brought up the question, "What must I do to keep our marriage going?" Since I have made changes in all other areas, my beliefs are now the major problem. She knows that I have strong beliefs in Christ, my own salvation and that I have scriptural foundation for each of my beliefs. Eventually I asked, "What beliefs must I change?" She did not think that I could change. I said I could if it were scripturally correct, and that included the total surrender to Christ and total commitment to his word. [Mrs. E.] needed more time to think about this.
It now comes down to a choice between my current beliefs and "unity" with the beliefs of the International Church of Christ. "Unity of belief" was bandied about quite a bit on my last trip home. It was a Sunday sermon topic and came up in my talk with both [former ICC friend] and [Mrs. E.]. Clearly, there is to be zero tolerance for my personal interpretation of scripture when it does not agree with their interpretation. For the sake of keeping my family together, I have decided to espouse their beliefs. Expecting no reward from hypocrisy, I will seek common ground through faith in Jesus.
My hope is that I can focus on Christ and come to terms with issues where my personal beliefs conflict. Possibly avoiding doctrines as I avoid talking about evolution to Creationist believers. After all, they do it to me when I ask them what they believe. They believe in one doctrine, The Bible, so let that be my only doctrine also. Most members of this church are more into the activities than the theology anyway.
Ouch! There's fire in your retort! I shutter to read your response to "Total surrender to Christ and OCC." . . . As you probably surmised, I made the decision to espouse International Church of Christ beliefs while on the phone with [Mrs. E.]. I surrender to save my family. The E-mail I sent you was my attempt to justify that decision. I have also tried to justify it in prayers, but I cannot. Stammering at best, I find it is impossible to justify 'living a lie' to God. The only caveat was that I could change my beliefs to match theirs if theirs were scripturally correct. I see nothing wrong in committing totally to God anyway. . . Now if I just stand in this corner until all this paint dries, maybe I can save my marriage.
My latest talks with [Mrs. E.] have been very encouraging. Her whole demeanor has changed toward me. My loving and caring wife, which I knew from the first fourteen years of our marriage, is back. She is pleased and is sending stuff for me to study. . . If I am asking for her guidance in resolving ICC teaching with other scripture, she may begin to see flaws in their dogma. There is a chance for her, if she sees that the pattern of scriptural skew is toward obedience to Disciples.
Of late, I have been drowning in self pity. Thanks for reminding me that [Mrs. E.] also has a side. I sometimes forget this when I am really down and frustrated. In such cases, I probably do not give [Mrs. E.] a fair shake. Your anger should have been directed at me. I have anger, but I also know [Mrs. E.]. . . She is a good woman from a good mother trying to raise two boys almost on her own. . . She also felt guilt about . . . After a divorce, I would not be responsible for her. . . That thought terrifies me because I love her and the boys very much. . . The Orlando Church of Christ has touched her deeply. It is the only church that she has ever attended that makes a continuous effort to keep her on track and focused on God. She does not care about the correctness of doctrines. She simply trusts and believes their teachings because they appear totally committed to God and his word. . . [Mrs. E.] did what she felt was right, after talking to her Disciple and praying about it. In her mind she is doing the right thing. That it was truly God's will and for the sake of the boys. I was the bad roll model, as in "Daddy doesn't go to church, why do I have too?"
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I wish to study Christian Theology as a means of self improvement. If it is feasible to obtain the Theological Studies Certificate, that would be preferable. . .
In my joy and enthusiasm, I told [Mrs. E.] about this wonderful opportunity that I had been led to by the Lord, through my friendship with you. My thinking was that I wanted her to support me in this new area of formal theological study. I ran the risk that she would reject the idea and the worst came true. She wanted to know my motives. Was it intended to separate her from her church? Why did I want to study things that her church does not believe? I already have too many books on religion. It is money that could be better used by her church; I am being selfish; my heart is not where it should be. . . After two phone calls and two more long FAX letters to her, I have not made any headway. She is currently withholding love and it is very painful. Her position is an angry (not with my blessing) "DO WHAT YOU WANT!" She does not even want me to attend her church anymore! I have decided to delay starting until I can obtain a more favorable response from her. I will keep at her until she is more willing to support my decision to study theology.
I receive the IMET application last night. [Mrs. E.] is being more reasonable about my taking the theological studies, however, she would like to make it conditional. That is I am to stop trying to change her thinking on her church and she wants me to go find my own church. This in my thinking is not acceptable. I will not allow the family to be split between churches. . . The trouble is, [Mrs. E.] controls the status of the divorce and can reactivated it at will. This is like living life under a poised guillotine blade. I am not sure of what [Mrs. E.] will do if I really pressed her and I fear what advice her church will give her. My return to the Lord certainly has its challenges.
Dear [former ICC friend],
When we last talked, some time ago, we got off track because of my frustration. I also noted that you misunderstood my belief in predestination. God does not control my will, make choices for me or alter beliefs. It is my love and gratitude, through His gift of faith, that allows the Holy Spirit to guide me. Maybe it would be more understandable if I painted a more complete picture. This is a thumbnail sketch of what I believe.
I believe in everything that is covered by the Apostles' Creed. I also believe God created man in His own image; with soul, spirit and purpose. Man heard Satan's lies and chose to know good and evil. Evil is repugnant to God and our sins separate us from Him. Man's sins must be atoned for through blood sacrifice.
God sacrificed Himself in the personage of Jesus Christ to provide that atonement for all sins except the apostasy of an evil (demonic influenced) spirit. Because God atoned, once was sufficient for all sins (present, past and future), but effectual only for the elect. But, as is His right, God will have mercy on those men of his choosing. For God knew our hearts before we existed and chose to save those who believe in Christ. Therefore we are saved by the grace of God through the gift of faith.
God predestined the chosen to be like Christ and to share in Christ's righteousness, the worthiness to stand before God through eternity. Christ's heavenly righteousness does not prevent the flesh from floundering nor does Christ's atonement for sin give us license to sin. So it is only by dying to self and living to please our heavenly Father, as His loving obedient children, can we avoid sin.
The Holy Spirit guides us by the Scripture when we choose to follow God's Word. Sincerity of obedience and continued commitment to God determines the quality and amount of heavenly riches that each of the saved will receive. To God's chosen, some will be given more, others less, still others will have their's taken away, but to all His chosen is given eternal life and righteousness.
I located a few supporting scriptural references for each statement:
God created man in His own image; (Ge 1:26-27, 2:7, 5:1-2, 9:6; De 4:32; 1Co 11:7, 15:48-49; Isa 42:5, 45:12; Jer 27:5) with soul, spirit (Ec 3:21, 12:7; Da 12:2-3; Mt 10:28, 16:26 25:46; Mr 8:37) and purpose (Ps 8:6-8; Pr 16:4; Isa 43:6-7). Man heard Satan's lies and chose to know good and evil (Ge 3:5, 22; Ec 7:29; Jas 3:9). Evil is repugnant to God (Ge 6:5-6; Isa 64:6; Job 9:20; Ps 5:4-6, 11:5, 49:7-8, 78:59, 130:3; Pr 6:16-19, 11:20, 15:9, 15:26, 21:27; De 25:16; Ro 3:10-23, 5:12-21, 8:7 9:31-32; Lu 16:15) and our sins separate us from Him (De 31:17-18; 2Ch 24:20; Isa 59:2, 64:7; Mic 3:4; Mt 7:23 25:41; Lu 13:27; Ro 8:7; Heb 12:14). Man's sins must be atoned for (Le 1:4 5:7-10, 6:9, 13, 23:26-37; Nu 28:30; Ex 29:15-17; Heb 8:7-13, 9:19-22).
God sacrificed Himself in the personage of Jesus Christ to provide that atonement (Joh 1:14; Isa 53:11-12; Lu 2:30-32; Ga 3:13, 4:4,5; Ro 3:25, 5:6 11, 6:23; Eph 3:10-12; 1Ti 2:6; Heb 9:1-15) for all sins except the apostasy of an evil (demonic influenced) spirit (Mt 12:31-32; Mr 3:29-30; Lu 12:10; 1Jo 5:16,17; 1Co 1:18; Ac 13:41; 2Co 4:3). Because God atoned, once was sufficient for all sins (present, past and future), but effectual only for the elect (Col 1:19, 20; Heb 7:27, 9:23-28, 10:1-14, 18-20; 1Pe 3:18; Re 5:9; Ac 4:12; 1Jo 4:9-10; Lu 19:10) But, as is His right, God will have mercy on those men of his choosing (John 7:17; Ro 9:15-18; Lu 1:78-79). For God knew our hearts before we existed (1Pe 1:10-11; Pr 16:4; 1Pe 1:2, 20; Re 13:8; Ro 10:10) and chose to save those who believe in Christ (Joh 1:12 3:14-16, 36; 5:24 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; 12:44-46; 20:31; Isa 45:22; Mr 16:16; Ac 13:41; 16:31; Ro 5:1-2; 10:9-14; 1Co 8:3; 1Ti 1:5; 2Ti 1:13; Ga 2:16; Heb 7:25; 10:39; 1Jo 5:1, 12-13, 20). Therefore we are saved by the grace of God through the gift of faith (Eze 36:26-27; Lu 2:14; Joh 6:44-45; Eph 2:4 10; Ro 5:8; 11:6; Tit 3:4-7).
God predestined the chosen to be like Christ (Eph 1:3-12; Ro 8:29; Joh 10:28-30; 17:2-3) and share in Christ's righteousness, the worthiness to stand before God through eternity (2Co 5:19-21; 1Pe 2:24; Ro 1:17 5:17, 21 8:10; 1Jo 2:25). Christ's heavenly righteousness does not prevent the flesh from floundering nor does Christ's atonement for sin give license to sin (Ro 3:25 28; Ga 2:17-21; Ro 6:15-16, 22-23). Only by dying to self and living to please our heavenly Father, as His loving obedient children, can we avoid sin (Mt 5:16 22:37-40; Ro 8:38-39; 2Ti 1:7-8; Jas 1:12; Php 3:8; 1Jo 3:24; 4:19; 2Jo 1:6; Eph 6:24; 2Co 9:13; Phm 1:21; 1Pe 2:12; 1Co 13:1).
The Holy Spirit guides us by the Scripture when we choose to follow God's Word (Joh 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-15; 1Th 1:6-7; Lu 2:26; 12:11-12; 1Co 2:9 12; Eph 3:4-5). Sincerity of obedience and continued commitment to God determines the quality and amount of heavenly riches that each of the saved will receive (Heb 11:6; Mt 6:19-20; 10:42; 25:34-40; Heb 6:9-10; 1Ti 6:19; 1Co 3:11-15; Re 3:18). To God's chosen, some will be given more, others less, still others will have their's taken away, but to all His chosen is given eternal life and righteousness (Mt 13:12; Lu 19:11-27).
To best explain my understanding of the relationship between Jesus and myself, I would liken it to what I know from my own life. I can do this because in spirit God made man in His own image. God intends for parents to model His character to their children. The parity between God and myself can be seen in my relationship to my sons. I did not have the ability to see into the future as God does, but I foreknew that if I loved my boys, they would love me in return. They were not mine till I purchased them at a price (adoption). I loved each from the day I first held them. I ask for their obedience, but they are of their own mind. Yet, having paid the price for them, I love them and will not give them up for their disobedience. I will always love and do as I can to care for them. How much more does God love us? You gave life to your daughters, what sin or act of disobedience could possibly cause you to take away that life? Does God love us less than we love our children? In the same way that your daughters are once yours and always yours, so it is that we are God's children and once His we will always be His.
The biggest problem I have with your church is still the issue of my own salvation. My impression of the International Church of Christ is that they want to be the means of my salvation! This is a catch 22 of the ICC's own making. How can the ICC 'save' the saved? By telling me I was never saved because I did not satisfy all the requirements for a salvation at Baptism?
One Disciple told me that if a man was saved and later broke a commandment, such as committing murder, then his salvation would be lost. How small and limited this man's concept of God must be! That he could conceive of God as able to atone for a sin after it has been committed, but not before it is committed. Did not Christ die for my sins almost 2000 years ago? Did not Christ also die for my children, children's children and their children also? Again, what is the point of the "lost salvation" doctrine if it is not for control of ICC members? Perhaps you could enlighten me as to the scriptural foundation for this doctrine and how it is viewed by the Discipling members.
With all that I owe to [God by way of] your church, I am still troubled by the things they teach. With all the love and warmth I see, there is still guilt and peer pressure to conform to group defined commitments. I base this on knowing [Mrs. E.], the things I have heard from other Disciples and on the Discipling books that I have read. I see that when [Mrs. E.] lets it be known that she will miss a church function that she is flooded with calls. I also know that members of your church are being told what they should do on personal matters. Is this the scriptural truth that will set us free? Can you honestly tell me this is obedience to Christ and not bondage to group will?
This brings us to "Spiritual Parenting," the subject of Jeff Chacon's message on March 10, 1996. When I heard Jeff's message, it was hard to miss the content despite the 'awesome' charismatic zeal of delivery. In his message Jeff states, "Because, just as we need physical parents, the Bible says we also need spiritual parents as well." If this is true, then the proof text should be prevalent throughout scripture. . . He [Paul] does not delve into anyone's private family life or require anyone to confess their private sins to him. Timothy had an adoptive son relationship with Paul, but is this God's plan for the organization of Christ's church? If it is then why did Christ omit this revelation from his teaching? Also, spiritual parenting appears to take the place of the Holy Spirit's guidance and opens us to pleasing men rather than pleasing God.
Does the risk that we would end up attempting to please men actually exist? Well, virtually all of us fear rejection. Rejection is a type of communication. It conveys a message that someone else is unsatisfactory to us; that he or she doesn't measure up to a standard we've created or adopted. Without raising a finger, we can send the message that our targeted individual does not meet our standards. Fear of rejection is a survival instinct and seeking approval is a coping mechanism that we learn as children. Knowing that rejection and disapproval bring pain, we will continue our attempts to win the esteem of others whenever possible. There is always a natural tendency toward basing our self-worth on our performance and the opinions of others. If we do this, then we are believing Satan's lies.
Our fear of rejection will control us to the degree by which we base our self-worth on the opinions of others rather than on our relationship with God. Our dependence on others for self value brings bondage. Paul talks of this in Gal 1:10 "For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond servient of Christ."
It is through free will that I choose to follow Christ's teachings based on the whole counsel of scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. My fellowship is available to all Christians, which includes the Disciples of your church. It pains me that we are so far apart in our understanding of God's word. I have laid bear those things that trouble me the most about the ICC. I would like to make amends and close that gap between our beliefs, but not at the expense of espousing faults doctrines or denying my salvation. I seek your perspective and the Lord's guidance in resolving our differences. I seek to build on those beliefs which we have in common.
It was with that fellowship between believers in mind that I went to Ron with an apologetic request to be allowed to partake in all the church activities as a member [in fellowship] under the condition that I would not seek to convert anyone to my own understanding of scripture. Ron cut me off, rejecting my request for fellowship through those beliefs that we do have in common and without the least bit of consideration for my attempt to restore my family. He further stated that having me in the church would water it down and that I should find another church. He said this with a tone that implied I was not worthy of fellowship in Christ's church and that I was being excommunicated. At that moment, I saw the face of Satan who thought nothing of Christian fellowship or of the destruction of a Christian family and I lost it. Every ounce and fiber of my body was transformed into anger at Ron's arrogance! I told him that skewing scripture and changing the meaning of God's word was lying and that he knew he was teaching lies. I also told him that he was making it impossible to restore my family within his church and forcing me to commit myself to extracting [Mrs. E.] from her church.
I make no apology for venting my anger against such evil, but I did talk to God and decided it was best that I change churches, at least until things settle down. God has rewarded me with the fellowship of Christians that are very knowledgeable in God's word, even to the ability to read some Hebrew and Greek. What I believe is in agreement with what they believe, with the exception of how God created. My view accepts scientific evidence and God's creation in a way that does not conflict. With respect to your church, it is still my intent that things go the way of fellowship rather than discord. I readily accept the salvation of all the members of your church and would embrace all as brothers when they allow it. It is that [I] would rather be "Discipled" by Christ, Paul, Luke, John. . . and the Holy Spirit through God's word than by "Spiritual Parents."
Do you begin to understand my motives? If not, I will make them plain. I have no intention of doing harm to your church, but I have every intention of restoring my family. If I am accepted by your church, as I believe in God, and can obtain harmony in my marriage as in one flesh with my wife, then that is all that I ask. But, if your church cannot abide by the will of God (Ge 3:16; 1Co 11:3; Eph 5:22-24; Col 3:18; 1Ti 2:11, 12; 1Pe 3:1; 1Pe 3:5,6) in this matter then it is on your heads that I oppose you until my wife is restored to me. . . Otherwise, if things remain as they are, it may not be possible for me to repair the damage that your church has done to my family. Granted, I was part of the problem, but I am with God and it is time that I take my place as the spiritual head of my wife. And it is time that [Mrs. E.] supports me in this effort. There simply is no scriptural foundation for having a female "disciple" take my place and to usurp my authority.
Your brother through Christ's church - John
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My [confrontation with Ron] had repercussions in that I was asked to find my own church because they want no part of what I have to say. I initially rejected the idea, but the consensus of everyone, including [Mrs. E.] and her mother agreed that it would be best for my family. [Mrs. E.] also agreed that she would not use it as justification to reactivate her divorce filing.
I do not know if I mentioned it, but some time ago, [Mrs. E.] found some church programs in my old KJV Bible that were from about 1970, when I came to Orlando for National Cash Register training. My church in Baltimore had given me the addresses and names of elders of the Hiawassa Bible Chapel and I attended that church while in training. [Mrs. E.] had to point the church out to me, but as it turns out, it is just a few blocks from our home and only two blocks from her parents.
When I attended. . ., an elder recalled me and I could recall the family that I spent time with from their photos in the foyer. Their services had that quality of right feel, their message was familiar and agreed with my beliefs on all, but a few peripheral topics (of no consequence to salvation). I was accepted as I am, and allowed to talk through any of my beliefs. I was astonished at the contrast in intellect, their understanding of scripture and that [some] could read Greek and Hebrew text. It is a mature church that shares the participation of worship (as opposed to having a single minister) and quietly tends to the Lord's work.
Again, when I look back on the trail of odd connections that led to my return, there is no doubt in my mind that God had a hand in this miracle. I am home.
I am aware of "Tough Love," but I fear it would only give her ammo to use against me. You see, when I talk to her about steps that we must take to correct our problems, the feedback that I get is such that I know that she is getting specific advice from ether her lawyer (unlikely due to expense) or from members of her church (highly suspected). . .
Sorry to use you as a vent for my frustrations, it is just that when I return home I stand on the outside. Her circle of friends all belong to her church and they see her as the victim because I am not a member. Any steps that I take to get [Mrs. E.] back are steps against the church and possibly the will of God from their perspective. I would give up except that I love [Mrs. E.] more than any other person that I have ever known. Also, I love my boys and want to keep us all a family at least until they are ready to leave home.
Well, to bring you up to date. I was doing OK on the Biblical Theology course for a while. I got a 14.75 out of 15 on the first paper, but I was stopped cold on the second paper. An anti Dispensational paper amounts to a conflict of interest and I know of no way to straddle the fence. . .
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During this time, I began to analyze the "First Principles" training-course. I obtained the 40 page workbook, edited by Kip McKean (DPI, 1993), and the corresponding set of 12 lecture tapes by Kip. My approach was to create a sorted database of every verse used in the "First Principles" training. Several types of information can be learned from this data. What concepts are being emphasized, which scriptural interpretations are being twisted, the possible motives for twisting, and which Christian concepts are being suppressed. Much work has already been done with respect to emphases, twisting and motives so I concentrated on what was being suppressed. I did this by cross matching the database against topical lists of scripture.
I found that the ICC is weak on, or suppresses, God's sovereignty of election to salvation; God's grace (unmerited divine assistance); God's mercy (divine blessing to the unworthy); our justification through Christ's sacrifice; and that Christ imputes His righteousness to us. There were matches between some verses use by the ICC, and verses that express these basic Christian concepts (marked *), however, the ICC emphases for those verses always ignored the topic of interest.
I found that the ICC has omitted the concept of election to salvation, which is dealt with comprehensively in Ephesians 1:3-11 and Romans 8:28-11:36 (Ro 10:9*, 13*, 17*). There are no references to election (see also: Ex 33:19; Mt 18:14; 22:14; 24:24, 31; Mr 13:20, 22, 27; Lu 12:32; 18:7; Joh 6:25-59; 10:14-30, 28; 11:24-25; 13:18; 15:16, 19; Ac 22:14; Ro 8:28-11:36; 9:15-24; 10:14-16; 11:5, 7; 16:13; 1Co 1:2, 9, 26-28; 7:20-24; 8:3; Eph 1:3-11; 4:1; 1Th 1:4; 2:12; 4:7; 5:24; 2Th 2:13; 2Ti 1:9; 2:10, 19; Tit 1:1; Heb 5:4; 6:18-19; 9:15; 11:8; Jas 2:5; 1Pe 1:1-2, 5, 15; 2:9, 21; 3:9; 5:10; 2Pe 1:3; 1Jo 2:19; 3:1; Re 17:14) in the Disciple training. The complete omission of the concept of election may indicate a purposeful suppression of Biblical truth.
The same is true for grace and mercy: where common grace is universal (Heb 1:2-3; Joh 1:1-4); and Special Grace, which redeems, sanctifies and glorifies God's people, is bestowed only on His elect, who have eternal life through faith in His Son (2Co 5:18-21). See if you can find grace and mercy passages (Joh 1:11-18; Ac 15:11; Ro 3:22-24*, 4:16; 5:2, 15, 17, 20-21; 6:14 18; 9:15-18; 11:5-6, 25-32; Ga 2:21; Eph 1:5-9, 2:4-10; 4:7; 1Ti 1:14, 16; 2Ti 1:6-10; Tit 2:11; 1Pe 1:2-5; 2:10; 3:7; 5:10) in Disciple training. This seems to be contrary to the ICC concept of worthiness through total commitment, because it is not grace if the recipient is worthy, and it is not mercy if the blessing of salvation is deserved.
A third omission deals with justification and righteousness. In Ro 1:18-5:21, Paul gives a very comprehensive explanation of justification (to pronounce, accept and treat as just) of sinners by grace through faith (conviction of belief) in Jesus Christ, apart from all works, and despite all demerit. That Christ's righteousness is imputed to us because our's are, but rags before the Lord. The supporting passages (Lu 7:50; Joh 3:15-16; 5:24; 6:35, 40, 47; 11:25; Ac 13:39; 15:1-25; Ro 1:16-5:21; 9:30; 10:4-11; Ga 2:15-21; 3:11, 24; Eph 2:8-9; Php 3:9; 1Ti 6:12; 2Ti 3:15; Tit 1:1-2; Heb 10:38-39; 11:1-40; Jas 2:5; 1Pe 1:5, 9) are again not found in the Disciple training.
Even more glaring is the ICC use of the Old Testament in Disciple training. The foundation for Christianity is the relationship between mankind and God, which begins at the moment of creation because mankind is an integral part of God's plan and purpose. Thus the Old Testament, which makes up two thirds of the Bible, plays a major roll in our understanding of this relationship, yet there are only nine Old Testament passages referenced in the "First Principles" training book, and none of these references has much of anything to do with the message of the Old Testament. It is simply being used to push brotherhood within Discipleship (Ps 133:1); what seems right may be wrong (Pr 16:25); having prospective new Disciples make lists of sins, and the consequences of those sins (Isa 53:4-6; 59:1-2); righteousness is earned, but they omit that is under the covenant Law given to Moses (Eze 1820); prophesy of the coming kingdom of God that will last forever (Isa 2:4; Da 2:44; 7:18); and the requirement for 10% tithes, also under the covenant Law given to Moses (Mal 3:6-12), but which was criticized by Jesus because it had been abused (Mt 23:23; Lu 11:42). None of this reveals even a clue as to the depth and breath of the Old Testament. They are isolated prooftext used only in support of one-on-one Discipling dogma.
My efforts to make [Mrs. E.] aware of how the ICC was ignoring fundamental Bible teachings were also unsuccessful. She did give me Jeff Chacon's "Defending the Faith" study guide as proof that I was wrong. I found "Defending the Faith" so filled with misinterpretation of Scripture, and distorted presentations of what other churches believe, that I turned my attentions to responding to what Jeff had wrote. I suggested to Jeff, in an eighty-page rewrite, that he include the real beliefs of non-ICC churches, which I had provided. There was no response from Jeff, and none of the ICC members, to whom I gave rewrite copies, even read them. My wife did glance through her copy, but she has no interest in reading an opposing view.
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In July of 1996, a friend contacted me to let me know there were openings at Kwajalein. Kwajalein is a tropical island about half way between Australia and Hawaii. The beaches are nicer than those in Hawaii; there are hundreds of recreational activities for the employees; there is near zero crime; there are teachers for every 10 to 15 students; the lagoon is the largest in the world; the scuba gear and tank refills are provides for pennies a day; there are no US Income taxes; housing and utilities are free, except the phone bill . . . I felt at the time that this opportunity was God sent. I spent the next few months attempting to obtain a position on the island. During this time, [Mrs. E.] seemed to waver back and forth on the idea of going.
Dearest [Mrs. E.],
My beloved [Mrs. E.], whom I cherish as my wife more than I could cherish any other person on Earth, I dearly miss having you near me and crave to hold you in my arms once again. Despite all that has come between us, I still love you with all my heart and I know I always will. I know that you are having problems with your love for me and I feel for you. It hurts me deeply that you would even think of leaving me. I am greatly troubled by this, but I still hope to restore our union to what God has intended. We are mature adults even if we are not intimate lovers. With God's help, we can work through our problems without destroying our family and lives. Through prayer and our belief in God's truth, I beg you to have faith that He can heal our marriage.
I also beg that you reconsider the demands you are making in your Kwajalein agreement. I could never agree to any conditions that would facilitate the destruction of our marriage. You would be asking me to make it an easy task for you to leave me, at any time you had a whim to do so. Further, it requires me to assist you in the breaking up. There was not a hint of a goal towards any reconciliation in your suggested agreement. You completely missed the point of why we should go to Kwajalein. To me, Kwajalein offers us hope for a chance to have a new beginning.
You told me that you would go to Kwajalein only because you felt you owed it to me and as a punishment for what you had done. I know that you feel guilt, but I am not trying to punish you in any way. I have forgiven you for all the things that I think you have done to me and for the things I think you did behind my back. I would hope you could do the same for me.
I am very aware of what is really going on because I see it every day at work. When we are apart, each of us is faced with the daily decisions, activities, chores and the whole gamut of interruptions. When our actions are viewed by our counterpart, there is a natural tendency to evaluate and ascribe motives to the other person's actions and accomplishments. Because each person has a different perspective, there are the inevitable disagreements as to how things should have been done. Frequently this leads to misunderstandings, mistrust and occasionally to animosity between the two persons. The situations become even more acute when a third party becomes involved, if sides are taken and counterproductive advice is given. In most cases, such problems are easily resolved when each person has a true understanding of the other person's reasons for the actions that were taken. This is why counseling can be very effective.
I have responsibilities to God, to you, to [older son] and [younger son], to the church and to the community. I cannot put aside those responsibilities. I am both obligated and dedicated to making things better for the future of our family. I am a provider, but I have limits. Do not use and discard me when my limits are reached or because my beliefs differ from what you want me to believe. There are no perfect marriages and never will be. Marriage is about compromise, not control, not capitulation and not perfection. I see what is going on in our current setting. I see the things that need to be changed and I know that I could do to change our lives for the better in a different setting. But, I also know that we must both pull in the same direction in order to turn our lives around. We must make amends to each other and find a common path that will realistically improve our viability as a cohesive family. We must learn to trust and to love each other. We must do this because God has placed us in this setting to test us for good purpose.
With All My Love, until death we should part, John
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[Mrs. E.] is now attempting to talk me into a separation and my two sons are becoming little monsters with incredible attitudes when they cannot get their way. There is much evidence of deterioration since my mid summer leave. [Mrs. E.] herself is demoralized. . . I did the best I could to get the boys back on track by making almost everything they like to do into a privilege that can be earned only by good behavior. Hopefully, [Mrs. E.] will follow through, rather than let them revert.
After several talks, I finally got through to her, based on the cost of college [for our sons]. [Mrs. E.] finally agreed to delay one more year and to allow me to relocate the family to Kwajalein. It is a conditional agreement. I must agree to several stipulations in writing. Namely that she is allowed to maintain contact with her Disciple by phone (unlimited), that I will pay for vacation trips back to Orlando for Christmas, possibly another and that if she still wants out of the marriage at the end of one year at Kwajalein then I will pay for the divorce and provide a place for her and the boys to live in Orlando.
I have agree to this because I love [Mrs. E.] and my sons and it seems to be the only game left in town. I am counting on dwindling contact with her church and I plan to do everything I can to help [Mrs. E.] in making friends at Kwajalein. I intend to focus on getting both of us very active in the church and in every possible recreation we can do as a family.
It was a very trying time, a real test of my love for her and a real test of my Christian ethics, but I do not think I lost my temper or raise my voice and I did not respond in kind for things done to me. I did arrange for the Income Tax return to be deposited in my new bank account, but I left her four checks for the full amount that were made out to our creditors. That was about as sneaky as I got and only to make sure that the bills would be paid.
I would still prefer to stay married. . . In any case, I cannot win unless [Mrs. E.] wakes up and realizes what she is doing to herself, to the boys and to me. . . I know this because when I showed her scripture that conflicted with what she was teaching the boys, she responded with "It is not about Scripture, it is about heart!" In other words, that Scripture which supports the teachings of her church are from God and that which does not, can be ignored because it is not of the right heart. Amazingly, the Scripture was from John 6, things that Jesus said.
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My attempts to obtain a position at Kwajalein failed. Eventually my marriage deteriorated to the point where [Mrs. E.] would no longer sleep in the same bed with me, so I moved into [younger son]'s room. We began to consider buying a home with a guest house, an attached apartment, and even a duplex was considered. The idea was that I would have daily access to my sons, but no say in [Mrs. E.]'s life. The problems were that [Mrs. E.] would own the property, and she was not willing to provide legal assurance that I could remain until the boys grew up.
The custody of our sons became the issue when the guest house idea was dropped. If I could not obtain adequate shared custody then I would be cut off from having any real influence on our sons. I ask for more than I knew I could obtain so that I had room to negotiate. I asked for six weeks of custody per quarter, which also would have reduced my child support payments.
At times, [Mrs. E.] became extremely upset, and once in anger she blurted out, "Jeff was right, you are Satan!" There is no doubt in my mind that he did say this to my wife. I hope that [Mrs. E.] does not really believe that I am Satan. I am not a perfect Christian, but my intentions were always based on my concerns for my family, and my belief in God. When I "saw the face of Satan" in my encounter with Ron, it was not the well-meaning person I saw, but the unchristian condemnation that was abiding in him. Ron is no more Satan than I. However, when a revered evangelist tells my wife that I am Satan, it must impact her perception of me and of reality.
[Mrs. E.]'s divorce may go before a judge on my next trip home. Needless to say, I have an uphill battle awaiting me on my return. I am asking that my two sons live with me during the six weeks per quarter that I am home on leave. If I cannot get custody then I stand to have little or no real chance of having a fatherly influence, and of building the father-son life long bonds. I would be at [Mrs. E.]'s mercy with respect to spending any time with [older son] and [younger son]. . . If [Mrs. E.] has her way, [older son] and [younger son] will have no contact with a more traditional church setting. She feels it would be wrong for me to take them away from the friends in "their church." I want to build real father son relationships, and healthy beliefs in God. I want my sons to grow up to be men of faith, wisdom, and good character.
[Mrs. E.] and I went through arbitration last Monday (7/7/97). I am still fighting the divorce, but it will be decreed by a judge in any case. Florida is a no fault divorce state, so [Mrs. E.] does not need a reason or justification to obtain the divorce. On the other hand, I feel bound to continue in my obligations as a husband and father until death because that is how I read the Lord's instructions. That is, I must continue to see to [Mrs. E.]'s well being and maintain my willingness to reconcile her, should she ever wish to return to me. I would only be free to take up a second relationship if [Mrs. E.] sleeps with another man first.
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There is no doubt in my mind that the common ICC members are well meaning, amiable Christians who are attempting to live in the Lord's service. The issue is not commitment to love for the Lord, but the manipulation of our minds, and the damage that is being done. In my case, the frustration has been horrendous, even small things like getting a good night's sleep are rare for me now. Yet, I do not blame [Mrs. E.] for closing her mind to me. She distrusts me because of her church, these things did not originate from within her, they have been pressed onto her. She blames me rather than her church because she accepts the church as her world, and she would be lost without its fellowship to sustain her.
[Mrs. E.]'s mind has become so twisted that she can justify the breaking of the commands of our Lord when it is in the interests of the ICC. "To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband." (1 Co 7:10, NIV, because the covenant bond of marriage is sanctified by God, Mt 19:3-9; Pr 2:17; Mal 2:14; Mr 10:9; Ro 7:2; 1Co 7:11-14 ). Her justification is that her church does not recognize our marriage! We were not true Christians when we were married in that other church, therefore, the marriage had no validity, it does not count! Such twisted destructive thinking does not to my knowledge come from the Holy Spirit.
The evidence has always been clear. [Mrs. E.] became reconciliatory toward me only when I was attempting to be assimilated by the ICC. Thus, the ICC is at the root of our marriage problems. She had to be separated from the cancerous husband, because I was a threat to her continuance in the ICC. Had [Mrs. E.] joined a mainstream church, I feel it is unlikely that we would be going through a divorce. I will not deny that there are other problems in our marriage, but even collectively, our problems would not necessitate a divorce. There are no perfect marriages to my knowledge. A change in [Mrs. E.]'s attitude toward me would restore our marriage, but her beliefs in the ICC teachings will not allow it.
As for [Mrs. E.], should she decide to leave her church, I will be there for her. It is reasonable to assume that some day she will burn out in her attempt to be totally committed. Once the divorce is final, she will be without defense. I cannot intercede for her or be held accountable for her failures. She may find a niche where she can survive. She may even find happiness, but I suspect it will be a roller-coaster ride between good times, and guilt, depression and frustration. The Lord will test her as I have been tested. I will wait.
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Manipulative churches often start because of a charismatic founder with the mistaken belief that he has some new revelation. Normally this is due to the over emphasis of a small subset of Scriptural passages coupled with the founder's charismatic flare for excessive zeal.
Typically the first signpost is readily identifiable as a doctrinaire narrow-mindedness that quickly judges, and condemn those who disagree. The founder's personal gloss on Bible text is accepted as the true Word of God. Newcomers typically must go through training to implant those variant interpretations. Such churches often use the Bible as a prooftext quarry, drawing indiscriminately to establish the validity of their teachings and system of administration. They demand a high degree of participation, and a suitable display of individual loyalty and spiritual commitment. Harmful practices, such as shepherding that insist on obedience, can lead to instances of abuse. Through insistence on confessions, members may be held accountable for any and every sin, even made up sins, and they can be controlled through their resulting guilt and fears. There will be a tendency to isolate members from any outside spiritual influences, and this can even extend to family relationships. Church doctrines, teachings and administrative policies are commonly tailored to make church members completely dependent on the church for their continued salvation. The manipulative churches reject any accommodation or compromises to harmonize with outside churches. The leadership tends to be drawn from the more zealous members, training them within the local churches, and frequently they are less experienced and nonprofessional.
Specifically, the International Church of Christ is a classic example of a manipulative church that should be avoided. Disciplers are not trained professional counselors, and they are not knowledgeable theologians, yet that is their function. Their misdirected zeal for the Lord may result in immature guidance, and impossible goals being set for the Christians in their care. In ignorance, differences in personality are seen as failures, and this becomes reason to inflict guilt on the Christian. There are sin labels for all thoughts and actions that are not in line with ICC policy. No matter how right and palatable it may appear, it still comes down to manipulation.
Christians are systematically robbed of their ability to rationally read and interpret Scripture. They cut themselves off from even considering inputs from outside the membership. I know because I have tried to reason with my wife, [former ICC friend], Jeff and others on both social and theological grounds. All who have been members for some time seem to be virtually closed minded, as if I were talking to walls. Of those I have talked with, all seem shallow, not of mind, but of scriptural depth of broad Biblical understanding. They have learned only that which seemingly supports the ICC agenda.
The counter claim is that members of the ICC are not required to act on the advice of their Discipler. If there are problems, the Christian can take it up a level or two for resolution. Though I was never a member, I did attempt this, even to making appeals to a Lead Evangelist. It was futile with respect to saving our marriage. It came down to a choice of joining the ICC or loosing my family. I tried to become a Disciple, but it was impossible for me to conform. Ironically, I was unacceptable to the ICC, because I had faith--faith that Christ had already saved me! For my faith in God, the ICC is punishing my whole family, by destroying the marriage! Anyone, who cannot see that the ICC is a counterfeit church is blind.
My advice is to avoid any church that is generally accepted as manipulative of its members. Do your homework when selecting your church. If you have been an ICC member then look beyond the Sunday fellowship service before you consider any mainstream church to be spiritually dead. Look instead for fellowships that do not attempt to exert control over the lives of Christians. Such churches recognize Christian diversity and perceive members of other churches as also being Christian. A good church attempts to use prooftext only in context with the whole counsel of scripture. There should always be an atmosphere of complete openness in discussions of Scriptural meaning. The church should be without fellowship restrictions of the type that places one person over another. The right church should have an essential character of right-feel to the Christian fellowship.
Your Christian brother, John W. Eubanks III <102337.333@CompuServe.COM>
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©1997 by John Eubanks <102337.333@CompuServe.COM>. All rights reserved.
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