The author presents this book in a spirit of fearfulness. The possible criticism of brothers who defend differing perspectives is not the reason for that fearfulness. The reason for the fearfulness is this: some who read the material will neither recognize nor understand the reality of the problem of modern Pharisaism. It is the fear that those Christians will react to the presentation of the problem instead of prayerfully studying a threatening reality. It is the fear that some will misunderstand because they will examine sections in search of flaws rather than reading the whole to understand the problem.
Two kinds of Christians serve as the focus for these fears. The first are those who unthinkingly have turned Christian existence into ritualistic legalism, but who do not realize what they have done. It will be easy for these Christians to seek to justify themselves instead of examining the inadequacies of this approach to Biblical spirituality. The second are the discouraged, disheartened brethren who see the effects of Scriptureless legalism which some have sought to bind on the church. It will be easy for them in impatience to censure their brethren rather than to seek to build constructive understandings.
The problem this book deals with is not new. It is as old as the restoration movement, as old as the New testament church. It will exist in every generation of Christians. No single author or select group of brethren within the kingdom will resolve the problem even for his generation. New Testament Christians will struggle with the proper interpretation of Scripture and with the identification of the true spirit of Christ as long as this earth continues.
This book is not the product of a "sudden inspiration." The concern was born years ago when the author began to study New Testament backgrounds. The concern was focused by those studies and by four years of mission work in West Africa. The realities of cross-culture evangelism revealed how much of the American culture has been infused into American concepts of New Testament Christianity. The thesis of the book was formulated over five years prior to the completion of the manuscript. The available time of three years was used to research and to produce the manuscript. Parts of the first manuscript were rewritten five times. When the first completed manuscript was submitted for publication consideration, some scholarly friends made some critical, constructive suggestions. That resulted in additional research and a complete revision of over one-half of the manuscript.
The author pretends to be neither a scholar nor an expert. He is a student with an unending dedication to learning. He acknowledges that just critical evaluations can be made of the material. He is hopeful that the question raised in the book is dealt with from a Biblical perspective which is in complete keeping with the genuine spirit of Christ. He is not pretentious in believing that this material is the solution to a complex problem. He is prayerful that the material makes a positive contribution toward understanding a problem which seems destined once again to becoming a serious brotherhood crisis.
This material is presented in a spirit of concern of the church, in a spirit of love for the brotherhood, and in full faith in the restoration approach to the establishment of first-century Christianity. It is not presented in a spirit of combativeness or hostility. The question is not, "Who loves the truth?" It is not, "Is Scripture the revealed truth of God?" The questions are, "(a) How do we determine the proper meaning of revealed truth? (b) how do we appropriate that meaning in the full spirit of Christ? and (c) how do we use that meaning to produce minds, hearts, and lives of Christ-defined spirituality?"
If in any way this material does not reflect an honest spirit of brotherly love and of respectful concern, the author asks the readers' forgiveness in those matters.
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