What led me to believe the teachings of the churches of Christ were wrong after 12 years of being a preacher?
Well, during gospel meetings the preachers would always say, “If I am wrong on any point, I would be most grateful if you would point it out to me, because yours and my salvation depend on it,” or words to that effect.
One of the first things that didn’t make sense to me was the idea that people would lose their salvation over instrumental music, but not over women’s headcovering. So if someone used a piano in church, they were lost and going to hell, but if they taught error about whether a woman had to wear a headcovering on her head during church (I Cor. 11) they were not lost. It was somehow okay to be in error on one point, but not on another. When I asked what the distinction was I was told, “Two hundred years of restoration history have shown which issues cause division and which issues do not.” Or “The church has agreed not to divide over the headcovering.”
“But what if a person believes error about a piano?”
“They dragged organs and pianos into churches and forced people to worship with the piano playing. They made it a divisive issue.” (in the 1920s)
“So if they did not make it a divisive issue, and just believed error, but didn’t push it, they would be saved?”
“No. Issues that were divisive in the past are matters of fellowship and withdrawal and false teaching now.”
If they had said so in the beginning I would have let go of the whole system a long time ago. It finally comes down to: What my parents believe and what my best friends believe is what I will defend.
That was the first crack in the wall. The next problem was the fact that God really wanted instruments of music in worship in the Old Testament: even a Psalm of David talking about the instruments that were to be used to worship God, was used for a short quote in the New Testament (Psalm 98:3,5; Luke 1:54; Psalm 68:18-25; Eph. 4:8). The writer in the New Testament never said, “I’m quoting from this Psalm, but remember we don’t use instruments of music after the death of Christ; it is different now.” (The doctrine of a sharp divide between before and after the cross is used to defend no instruments of music in worship.) In fact the two passages (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) used by anti-instrumental music teachers do not condemn the use of instrumental music. Certainly no Jewish person in the first century reading the Jewish Paul’s words would ever come to the conclusion that Paul was against using instruments of music in worship to God.
So when I brought up these inconsistencies I was expecting erudite Greek arguments. But the Greek argument I received was: “The Greek Orthodox Church never used instruments of music.” Or “You’re going liberal.” Or “That’s not what I was taught.” Or “Well then, go join the Christian Church.” And the best one, “No sound teacher agrees with you.”
The facade of honest biblical inquiry, and “speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent”, began to crumble. Behind the facade was a parade of brethren that looked suspiciously like the Ku Klux Klan: projecting their fears and sins onto outgroups and patting themselves on their own backs, similar to the Pharisee who went up to the temple to pray: “Thank You, Lord for not making me one of those sinners, swindlers, unjust, adulterers, especially not like that tax-gatherer for the enemy over there. I fast twice a week, I give a tenth of all I earn…” (Luke 18). “I go to church three times a week, and I sift the book of Acts for all of the rules…”
Finally I went to graduate school. I had to write papers that were logical. I could not. I was instructed repeatedly to rewrite my papers and take the logic step by step, citing primary sources at each step. Eventually I could do it, and I received my master’s degree. Then I read an article written by a preacher in the churches of Christ, or I sat and listened to a sermon. Wow! Talk about ignorance, talk about an inability to follow a straight line of logic, and this is what they take pride in: their logic will get them to heaven. (They would take one topic [baptism], and get ultra logical about it. Then they would decide they were ultra logical about all topics, without having to prove it.)
So that was the beginning of the end.