Where do our rights, like the freedom of conscience, come from? The Bill of Rights? Government? Church leaders? The Bible? God?
The real question is do they come from God or from man? If from man, they can be taken away, because what man has a right to give, he has a right to take away. If our rights, on the other hand, come from God, mere mortals cannot take them away. Politicians, kings, and despots may come and go, and may very well infringe on those rights. But they lord illegitimate authority, not God-given authority. The rights that unprincipled men usurp, in a proper worldview, can still be returned to their rightful owners by rejecting the usurpers. This is the concept of “natural rights.”
This idea is essential to American liberty, but should not be confused as a “political” idea. The concept is critical to all of humanity, greatly affecting our liberty from those in every generation who would attempt to rule over us, not just in the political realm, but in the spiritual as well. As humans, we must know from whom our rights originate. If we don’t, we’ll be easily enslaved, as the whole of human history shows.
Like the people who followed the Pharisees, the people following Stanton’s teachers have given their freedom of conscience over to them—not unlike Esau selling his birthright—and thus put themselves in bondage to them. And yes, “teachers” at Stanton are an exact replica of the “rabbis” of Jesus’s day in a very real sense, since “rabbi” just means “teacher,” and their sole purpose is to interpret the will of God
This bondage to the opinions of fallible humans is expressed by “seeking counsel” from the religious authorities–the teachers–not just in major decisions, like who you can date or marry, or where you can move, but also in everyday decisions, like what activities are acceptable for parents to let their kids take part in, whether you can have a glass of wine at a restaurant with your wife, or what clothing you can wear (without getting rebuked or looked down upon, at least).
In short, every decision in life must be run through the “counsel” of these self-appointed “rabbis.” In the first century, this was expressed by asking the rabbis if they should tithe their spice rack, or how long was a sabbath day’s journey, and if it’s “work” to help your ox out of a ditch. Now, it’s expressed by asking the rabbis if a family vacation is OK, or if one can go into another church’s meeting place for a wedding, or whether women can wear ankle bracelets. And the list goes on. And don’t think you can speak out against this rabbi class without repercussions. Remember, your right to hold your own conscience sacrosanct—to stand or fall before God alone—has been handed to the rabbis. You’ve sold that birthright for a bowl of soup, or some pretended unity.
Without true freedom of conscience, leaders cannot lead, they can only enforce. They become tyrants lording their own consciences over their subjects, whether intentionally or not; whether maliciously or not. This is indisputable when church members have no freedom of conscience of their own to form their own opinions. They must submit to the opinions of their superiors.
And this is the crux of the bondage Stanton members are in. They willfully hand their consciences over to their teachers/preachers/rabbis/pastors/overlords (a rose by any other name…), in the same way a Catholic might subject his conscience to that of his priest or pope. Opinions are handed down from above, and the people must accept them or have their consciences pressured, usually by social repercussions, into submission. But as my parents used to tell me as a teen, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” He just can’t tell anyone without fear of reprisal.
The irony is that Alexander Campbell led the charge in freeing men’s consciences from the shackles of other religious leaders of his day. He argued strenuously for the elimination of manmade creeds, equating them to instruments of torture for the consciences of free people in his essay The Parable of the Iron Bedstead. But the heirs of his movement in the Stanton sect have designed stronger and more cunning shackles than their forebears, all but stripping any freedom of conscience from their subjects.
Stanton teachers may not have written creeds, but they sure do have plenty of unwritten ones. And one dare not cross them, under penalty of “withdrawal” for “murmuring.” As the saying goes, if you want to know who your masters are, find out who you’re not allowed to criticize.
How do we know that God meant for his people to be free to follow their own consciences? Simple. Every sermon in the New Covenant scriptures and every letter written to the first century churches appealed first to the reason of the hearers and readers, not the authority of the speakers and writers. When Peter preached his first sermon on the Day of Pentecost, his words were intended to convince the audience, not coerce them. “Come let us reason together,” Isaiah wrote. Remember that?
If Peter, or Jesus, Paul, or any other New Testament writer had appealed to their religious authority instead of simple persuasion, we would be having a different discussion. They didn’t. They presented evidence and arguments with the intention of educating consciences and persuading them, not bringing them around by compulsion.
We have only to recognize Luke’s praise of the Bereans as “more noble than those in Thessalonica” to see this principle in action. Why were they “more noble,” we should ask? Because they searched the scriptures for themselves. It was not because they got the right answer from the most highly esteemed rabbi. Or the most highly esteemed evangelist or teacher, for that matter.
Well said, Kevin!! The teachers/leaders/Rabbis use what I call double speak-they will tell you that you can make your own decision. They will even tell you that they are NOT telling you what to do. But if you make the "wrong" decision and go against their "counsel", you will find out that you really didn't have a choice. You will suffer for making the "wrong" choice.Take a look at what Gary said during his talk on Labor Day 2013. He says to "go ahead and look at it". Really? I dare those of you who are reading this blog to… Read more »
Well stated Debby. I have always found it ridiculous that members are not able to openly disagree with a teacher by word or action but when the teacher is finally ousted for oppression the congregation is at fault for allowing themselves to be oppressed. This has happened recently in Phoenix. I also agree that teachers, especially the ones who were quickly appointed to be 'the teacher' when the previous teacher fell, are teaching things they are being required to teach and not necessarily agree with. Everyone knows what happens to teachers who say "I can't teach that", just ask Tracy… Read more »
I have something on my heart and it's been there for awhile, and I'd like to share it if ones will bear with me! It wasn't just one thing that opened my eyes that I needed to leave the Stanton group. It was a lot of little things. Early on in my Christianity I had taken a scripture completely to heart and followed it "In all thy getting, get understanding". So I prayed and strove to understand scripture, my heart and God and Jesus. This led me to ask a lot of questions.It was in that pursuit that I came… Read more »
I'm speaking to those who are still in the group, and are living in fear everyday. You are actually a sheep in wolves' clothing. Outwardly you try to appear as if you are believing the same as the are, but inwardly you know you are not. And you are walking and living among them knowing that if they find you out, they will attack and devour you. You have seen what they do to those who dared to oppose them, even if done privately.My heart and prayers go out to and for you. Because I understand the conflict you feel,… Read more »
If you leave the group, it doesn't mean you have left God. Actually, you may be leaving so that you can continue to follow Him, and Christ. If you remain with the group, you cant really and truly follow Christ without getting into trouble with the group. You might even be withdrawn from. This conflict over the group vs Christ will not go away by staying in the group. Instead, it will eat at you and will wear you down. It will begin to dull your conscience.It takes great courage to walk away. Especially when you have given so much… Read more »
I agree, Debby. I prayed and contemplated it and prayed about it for a long time before I left. I thought it was only me that thought this way, but withing me I knew I couldn't live the way the scriptures dictated and what was being required of the congregation by the leaders as they were not the same. Through much prayer I found this blog and do see that I wasn't the only one and thank God that I found you all. I have learned so much on here. I read more than post. I have, also, gotten a… Read more »
Kevin, you are so correct. This is why individual study is so crucial. In the nonmember classes is was said that people need to know their bibles because the preachers won't be there with them on judgement day. Well, the same goes for us. I will be held accountable for what I don't know and the sin that is in my life regardless of what the church leaders tell and/or teach us. Our leaders are not omnipotent nor infallible and my Christianity is up to me. I have to know the difference between right or wrong. Our leaders can help… Read more »
This needed to be said Kevin, thank you. I believe you are getting to heart of the problem in the church. Instead of a Christian being allowed to exercise their own conscience, the conscience of a few people living in South Carolina and California is forced upon the entire brotherhood. Babes are lead to believe that their teacher has some sort of special spiritual wisdom to run the lives of everyone in the their congregation and a few people living in South Carolina and San Diego have the special spiritual wisdom to run the entire brotherhood. Babes are encouraged from… Read more »
Yes, freedom of conscience is a huge issue. I can tell that my mom and others in the sect have agreed with me on some of the points I've made over the years, but have been unwilling to say it for fear of reprisal.
TO "Grow in understanding" as per Merie's church means to allow your conscience to be taken over by your teacher's conscience. That phrase has been used so much to make you think that you're just not there yet and should comply until it is.
This is very true. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that they actually believe it, but it ends up being a tool to keep people enslaved to false ideas.
If you can't question an idea for yourself (because that would be murmuring), and you have to blindly accept incorrect teaching from the teacher/preacher/evangelist until you "grow in understanding" because of a false idea of "unity," it becomes nearly impossible to purge erroneous ideas from the church.
Good point Seeking. If a member disagrees with something taught by the church they are told to 'put it on the back burner '.
I call it "to GROW IN COMMON SENSE"!
You would think that a cult that controls and incriminates its members would be easy to bring down by using the Bible. But as Kevin pointed out don't try to use the Bible against them unless you know it. Most cults and false religions are bible illiterate but these guys you don't want to debate. They will nail you to the wall. Interesting fact.
Clarification: They will throw a bunch of out of context verses at you to make you FEEL nailed to the wall…unless you know your Bible yourself to know the difference.
Just a few scriptures and one or two questions is good enough. John 13:35 says that by love all men will know you are my disciples, brotherly love is an identifying mark of Christians and then ask if child abuse is love and if not then why is it so common among their members? Ask if adultery is love and if they say no, then ask why teaching preachers, like the man from Albuquerque, condones it. Ask if extortion, the threat of having to go through some unpleasant experience for not complying is love, and if no then ask why… Read more »
If only we could know the one that knows the difference in this world. So many opinions, so many doctrines, so many bible scholars. If I remember correctly the cult you speak of is taught to keep the scriptures in context from the time they are very young in the church. And they are taught to double check their teachers on everything. Can you refer us to someone we can trust?
@Anon 7:07…that's the point. You don't trust a fallible human being. You don't trust my word for it. You don't trust their word for it. You dig in, like the Bereans, to find out "whether these things are so."
As for them being taught from the beginning to keep the scriptures in context, I think their outlandish exegesis on numerous scriptures betrays their complete failure in that regard.
@Anon again, it sounds to me like you are speaking rather disingenuously, defending "the cult" by suggesting Biblical context is so confusing, we just have to trust "the cult." "They are taught to double check their teachers on everything." Really? Does that mean double check in order to "prove" to themselves that their teachers are right, or to genuinely question their teachers' doctrines? Because if you're theory is that the teachings of the church can be questioned by any member, 50 years of actual history, with a trail of withdrawn from folks who merely questioned teachings of the church, contradicts… Read more »
Just to clarify-I was in the group for a very long time and we were NEVER taught to check the context, let alone double check the teachers. Of course, I did those things and was promptly and continuously rebuked for it.
If they really taught to do those things, then there would be healthy discussions, and it would be ok to disagree with someone's exegesis. But it's just not so in the group. You have to believe their interpretations, or stay silent, or be withdrawn from. Period. No ifs, ands or buts.
Thank you, Debbie. I think they start believing their own propaganda after awhile.
Great article!! Especially love the Voltaire quote, as you are absolutely not allowed to criticize the leaders or their ideas at all. There are discrete ways to disagree with them, but I haven't seen anyone disagree privately or publicly with a teacher and live to talk about it. It's pathetic the Founders of America fought and bled for the right to free speech, yet Stanton, who refuses to fight at all, wants to suppress it and crush dissenters. We have plenty of evidence that shows when churches suppress dissent, it never ends up well. Catholics, the Salem Witch Trials, the… Read more »
Interesting comments, MC. I do agree with some of what you said but want to address your statement that "Stanton has done so much good." I think many cults or movements do good, but it is their longest lasting effects on us that should be judged. Sure in the short term there are good things. But in watching even the Scientology documentaries I found that was the same thing people said-that they got a lot of good from it.I grew up in an evangelical church and I learned a lot of good things there too. But it wasn't for me.… Read more »