The Ward - Brooks Debate
Brooks' First Negative
"The Scriptures authorize a given local church to come together to break bread, tarry, and eat together the Lord's Supper in only one assembly on the same first day of the week.."
Brooks' First Negative
My First Rebuttal:
To Mark Ward and the Religious Debates community:
It is my privilege to discuss (debate) the following proposition with Mark, this document containing my first rebuttal:
Proposition: The Scriptures authorize a given local church to come together to break bread, tarry, and eat together the Lord's Supper in only one assembly on the same first day of the week.
Several introductory remarks first:
1. I agree with Mark's sentiments concerning the nature of this debate. Mark is not the issue. I am not the issue. We are not enemies. Satan is our enemy. I am here to engage Mark in an intelligent biblical discussion of the above proposition.
2. Please pay careful attention to the section I have created called "Specific Authority". I need some information from you in your second affirmative that will make my rebuttal more productive.
3. Definitions: I have no problems with Mark's definitions, with the exception of one. Mark, where you say that "scriptures" means "with specific emphasis on the doctrine of Christ", I think the word "exclusive" would be more appropriate than "specific" for your argument. I will explain my thinking in the "Specific Authority" section.
4. Also, a historical comment here, that may affect the debate. I have been involved with or visited many different types of churches, meaning many denominational and non-denominational churches. Practically speaking, the topic at hand would apply to only one of two situations. It would apply to a congregation that has two separate services on Sunday for the SAME GROUP of people, meaning Sunday morning and Sunday evening. If the members attend both services, then taking communion at separate assemblies would only be necessary if there were members attending the evening service that did not attend the morning service. The other situation would be a church (and I know of many churches of various denominations and non-denominational churches where this is the case) that has multiple morning services. In this case, you have different members attending each service. Where this is the case, I wonder what Mark's position would say.
5. Of critical importance in terms of actual church practice, there are few churches other than the Restoration Movement churches that offer weekly communion. This being the case, only Restoration churches would be affected by the implications of this debate. No other group I know of would run into this problem, except for those with multiple services. But Mark's position and first affirmative do not suggest that he had the multiple service churches in mind when he offered to debate. Therefore, I am not pressing the point, only pointing out the nature of church practice today and how they would affect the point in question. The bottom line is that the practical application for Mark's concern is very limited, because it would apply primarily to the Restoration churches that have two Sunday services in which some members do not attend the morning service.
On with the debate topic:
Mark has asked me five questions. I will answer them here. Mark, you use the phrase "specific authority" several times in the debate, but the term is not defined in your definitions. Nevertheless I took a shot at them.
1. Do you believe that the practice of a local church setting one particular assembly on the first day of the week to eat the Lord's Supper is authorized? If not, on what scriptural basis would you oppose such a practice?
2. Do you believe that it is scriptural ~to add to~ the elements of the Lord's Supper found in Scripture (i.e. the unleavened bread and grape juice) ~or substitute for~ those elements in worship to God? If so, on what scriptural basis?
The elements of the Lord Supper are important but are not the subject of this debate. Frequency, or the number of assemblies on the same day, is the subject. Here is my answer, to show a spirit of good will:
This is a compound question. Here are the two questions: Is it scriptural to add to the elements? Is it scriptural to substitute for the elements?
It is not scriptural to add to the elements. It may be scriptural to substitute for the elements. However, I only answer that as a concession of good will, because my opponent asked it. I have no intention of defending that point in this debate. Yes, he asked for a scriptural basis, but the question is off topic, and I will not waste either his or my time giving scripture for this point.
3. Do you believe that the only scriptural frequency of eating the Lord's Supper is ~weekly~ and that such is to occur on the ~first day~ of the week exclusively. If not, why? Passage(s) please.
Another compound question: Is weekly the only scriptural frequency? Is the weekly frequency to be observed on the first day of the week exclusively?
No, weekly is not the only scriptural frequency. ( I Cor 11:25 ) Scripture does not tell us WHEN to take it. We, as Christians, are in relationship by Covenant, not by law. The frequency is up to the individual person or congregation. Example, in my view, is not an authority in scripture that binds us.
No, the first day is not exclusive. ( I Cor 11:26 ) The believers met in homes daily and in the temple courts (Acts 2:46). The freedom to worship daily includes all elements of worship. That is a tautology. No command of any kind is necessary to validate it. We are under the covenant of grace. Frequency is our choice, not God's command. Example does not bind us.
4. Do you agree that specific authority limits, and thus is exclusive? If not, why?
I don't know if specific authority limits because I don't know what specific authority is. My best answer is no, it does not limit, and that's an intuitive guess based on my own convictions. Until I know what specific authority is, I can't tell you why.
5. Do you acknowledge that God's command in I Cor. 11:33, "Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another." applies to us today? If not, why?
Yes, it applies to us today, except that tarrying is not necessary, as all assemblies today begin at a set time, so that there is no need to wait on anyone for the elements to be served. Everyone who is going to come is present at the time communion is taken. Those who don't come to that assembly aren't going to take the communion.
Mark, I am now going to address the main context of your debate, but here I must first address an issue that seems to be a barrier to our discussion. Perhaps after you clarify in your second affirmative, this debate can be more productive.
Specific Authority and Doctrine of Christ
These phrases are used several times, and Mark actually does define them to some extent later in his affirmative after he has used them.
To cite authority other than "the doctrine of Christ" will not suffice in this discussion.
If this is your position, then the "doctrine of Christ" must be defined. It does not appear in your definitions except that you state that the "doctrine of Christ" receives the emphasis for this debate. Since you said here that NO AUTHORITY would suffice in this discussion other than the doctrine of Christ, I suggested earlier that "exclusive" would be a better word for your definition than "specific" when you define scripture.
The point, Mark, is that since you use this phrase at least 6 times in your argument, and in one statement, noted above, you make it an exclusive basis for authority, you need to declare which scriptures you regard as the doctrine of Christ.
I am willingly, perfectly willing, to assume that you mean the 27 books of the New Testament. Nevertheless, I want to give you the benefit of the doubt. Tell me which books of the bible you recognize as having authority in this discussion, and I will be better able to respond to you.
Also, Mark, this poses a serious problem for our discussion, because it challenges the authority of the scriptures for you to limit this discussion to the doctrine of Christ. So, in a spirit of good will I will simply declare my position here:
I am a Christian who recognizes the authority of all 66 books of the protestant canon. Therefore, my request for clarification is to understand what you accept as authority for this debate. I, in no way, intend to limit my own appeal to scriptures to the "doctrine of Christ". I will deliberately and without apology appeal to any portion of the 66 books that I believe supports my position. You are welcome to disagree with my choice on this, and you may feel free to address my arguments as seems best to you. But I will not exclude any portion of the scriptures in any debate on Christianity, and what you choose to recognize as authoritative in my arguments is your decision.
Much of the remainder of your argument depends on the context of "doctrine of Christ", but I have addressed a few points that I felt I could respond to without clarification of this phrase.
Mark/Ray Point: Counterpoint
Also, the first day of the week is authorized...it is specifically mentioned in Acts 20:7 in conjunction with a scriptural observance by a local congregation. To partake on another day in addition to taking on the first day, OR to substitute and partake on another day of the week is trespassing, or acting outside the doctrine of Christ for we can find no authority in God's word for such actions.
This assumes that example is authoritative. It also assumes that example is limiting. Do you have evidence that example is authoritative in the sense of being a REQUIREMENT and in the sense of being EXCLUSIVE?
Wherein God has specified, we simply do NOT have permission to act otherwise!
This appeals to specific authority, which has not been defined or defended at this point. Also, to state that we don't have permission to act otherwise is to beg the question. But then, we need a definition for specific authority, and evidence that it is exclusive before Mark's point can be accepted.
I do not believe that multiple observances (i.e. separate eatings) on the same day in the same local church can be done "by faith";
This is a subjective argument, although in Mark's defense I will admit that much of what is done by faith is entirely subjective (i.e. dependent on the specific issues in the believers life.) But Mark's argument cannot be sustained here. My response is:
I do believe that multiple observances on the same day in the same local church can be done "by faith".
God actually condemned eating separately in the New Testament (I Cor. 11:17-34)!
First, a practical response: the context that Paul is rebuking does not exist today. This rebuke regards two practices the Corinthians were engaging in that we don't and can't perform. The first issue is that a feast was involved. A sip of juice and a piece of cracker, which is the modern method of communion, could not be the occasion of a drunken feast. We, in our cultural context, are not capable of committing the error of which the Corinthians were guilty. It is my view that such a context must be taken into account before judgment is passed on what may be scripturally done. Also, it is very important to note that only one ASSEMBLY took place in this context. The early church is not recorded as having multiple assemblies in the same day. Therefore, Paul tells them to WAIT for each other because no other opportunity will arise the same day. Since that is not the case today, the waiting for others simply has no meaning for us today. Is it still scripture? Yes. Does it still apply? No. Why? Because it is not scripture? No, because the context in our church experience does not exist today. This passage is not addressing people who come at a later assembly. It is addressing a SINGLE assembly in which people were arriving to feast together, and instead of using the time to honor the death of the Lord Jesus, they were getting drunk.
I'm sure Mark is aware of the critical importance of both written context (the totality of the passage being considered), and the historical/cultural context (the nature of the culture and the practical/historical issues which apply to it). It is my view that the topic of this debate does not engage ANY of the issues Paul is addressing in I Cor. 11.
In contemporary services:
1. There is no feast
2. No one could get drunk (not enough juice or wine)
3. The people who are present always take it together.
Mark basically tries to apply I Corinthians 11 to the concept of having a SEPARATE assembly. That is not the context of this passage. If Mark wants to make a case, he will need to do one of three things, in my view.
1. Provide evidence that a separate assembly on the same day is, in and of itself, condemned.
2. Provide evidence that taking communion in more than one assembly is condemned.
4. Provide evidence that I Corinthians 11 applies to having two separate assemblies.
Mark, perhaps it would also help to specify whether you mean the SAME people or DIFFERENT people in the two assemblies. Are you arguing that people who missed the first service should not be served communion in the second service, or that communion is only to be taken once on the first day of the week, or both?
It is also possible that our cultural use of two services on Sunday created this problem. Two services in one day is simply not addressed in scripture. I think this makes it more difficult for Mark to make his case, but we will move on with the rebuttal now.
Comment on your sections titled SCRIPTURAL WORSHIP AND UNSCRIPTURAL WORSHIP:
Your statements that best summarize your points, and my answers:
Mark: Eating together requires the same time and the same place...thus, the same assembly.
Ray: This is the problem of having two assemblies on the same day. Scripture simply does not address two assemblies. Scripture only deals with what is to be done in one assembly. The only problem I would see happening here is if someone was present in the evening service who wasn't present in the morning service. How would serving communion to the people who missed the morning service violate Acts 20:7 and I Corinthians 11:33?
Mark: Any action that is not authorized in the doctrine of Christ is a trespass.
Ray: First I need to know what doctrine of Christ means before I can agree or disagree. Since we only get three shots each at this, I will assume, for time's sake, that you mean the 27 books of the N.T. In that case, it depends on what you mean by authorized. In general, I disagree. Specific authority (based on what I have been able to discern from your comments) is not a principle I agree with as binding or exclusive, especially regarding examples in scripture. But again, that's based on my perception of your meaning of specific authority and doctrine of Christ. If I'm off base in your definitions, don't waste your time making an argument against this, just clarify the meaning so my next rebuttal can be more productive.
A comment on the section titled DISAPPROVED EXAMPLE:
I don't agree that example carries exclusive authority, and I don't believe it is binding. Since you are making an argument dependent on these two concepts, you will need to provide evidence that examples are authoritative.
Summary of Rebuttal:
Mark, it seems that in order to defend your position, you need to provide the following:
1. Definition for specific authority
2. Definition for doctrine of Christ
3. Evidence that examples are binding (authoritative)
4. Evidence that examples, being authoritative, are exclusive
5. Evidence that "waiting for each other" as described in I Corinthians 11 or Acts 20, would be violated by having two separate assemblies on the same day.
6. Evidence that "waiting for each other" as described in I Corinthians 11 or Acts 20, would be violated if people who attended the second service and NOT the first service were to be served communion.
These six things should take care of your position.
I see a practical issue at stake rather than a doctrinal matter. This debate seems to be more about a cultural context problem (that is, our culture having two services on Sunday), and trying to resolve that problem by using a passage from a cultural context that did not have the same issue. Mark seems to regard I Corinthians 11 as evidence that we cannot serve communion to DIFFERENT people in a second service. I believe he will have to be much more specific in trying to connect the scriptures to this cultural context issue. And I see no way that he can be successful.
In a spirit of friendly discussion of the Word of God, I await Mark's second affirmative.
-- Ray Brooks
[-end of first negative by Brooks]
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