Starr’s Church of Christ — A Review

By Wayne Jackson

The bizarre conduct between the president of the United States and Monica Lewinsky has brought many people into prominence who otherwise might have remained relatively obscure.

One person who has come to the forefront in this sordid scandal is Kenneth W. Starr, the chief counsel who is investigating the chief executive of our nation. Because Starr grew up associated with the church of Christ (we understand he currently worships with an Evangelical Bible Church), some have used the connection to vent personal, long-smoldering frustrations, firing both verbal and literary missiles at the Lord’s family.

One example is an article titled “Starr’s Church of Christ,” which was published recently in an East Coast newspaper, and subsequently appeared on the internet. This rather unsophisticated diatribe was authored by H. John Rogers, who is identified as a lawyer and an “ordained” Methodist clergyman.

Really, there is not much in the way of a substantial response that needs to be made to this scurrilous piece. It mainly is a conglomerate of misrepresentations, which exhibits a vast void of biblical understanding, and is wholly lacking in personal ethics. Mr. Rogers’s (not the one you’d want “in your neighborhood”) article can be considered from several vantage points.

Hate Slurs

Much of the essay is pure venom, demonstrating more about the bitterness of the gentleman’s own soul than anything else. For example the Lord’s church is described as “a little-known fundamentalist Christian sect . . . primarily based in the rural sections of the South and Appalachia.”

First of all, we are not a sect; but this we do confess: “after the Way which they call a sect,” we honor none but Jesus as our Founder and Master (Acts 24:14). Whether we are well-known is of little consequence; the important thing is that we be known by Christ. “The Lord knows them that are his” (2 Timothy 2:19).

Apparently, though, we are influential enough to warrant the attention of Mr. Rogers. We make no claim of being “fundamentalist,” such an appellation being wholly unnecessary. We are satisfied with being just “Christians,” which seems to gall the partisan mentality of our lawyer critic.

Rogers maliciously says that the average educational level among members of the church is below the twelfth grade, and that an “educated” person among us is “an anomaly.” (Has he researched this matter?) The same sort of slander was made regarding Jesus (John 7:15), and his apostles (Acts 4:13), so we are in good company.

The attorney’s implied boast of his own intellectual acumen is a striking example of why he is so unimpressed with basic gospel teaching (see 1 Corinthians 1:26). Besides that, anyone, regardless of his educational attainments, who understands the simple plan of human redemption, is vastly more “educated” than a lawyer/cleric who has never matriculated beyond the ABCs of biblical truth.

Theological Matters

Rogers ridicules our abstention from the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship, citing David’s use of the lyre. He obviously has no concept of the necessity for New Testament authority in matters of Christian worship (John 4:24). To teach, or to practice, something for which there is no commandment, i.e., it is without authority, is to be involved with that which subverts the soul (Acts 15:24).

Why did the minister not cite David’s animal sacrifices (Psalm 66:13-15) as a precedent for modern worship? He is rather selective in how he appeals for support to Israel’s king.

Rogers charges that “they make being a member of their church co-extensive with being a Christian.” No, that is not correct. We confidently contend that being a member of Christ’s church is essential to being identified as a Christian (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4; 5:26; 1 Peter 4:16-17).

We recognize that in the first century there were no denominations, such as the one with which our critic is identified. All who obeyed the Lord were just “Christians,” without the clutterment of modern sectarianism (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). Why should anyone be faulted for wanting to be nothing more than what the people of God were under the direct guidance of the apostles of Christ? Such criticism is incredible.

Our Methodist friend contends we teach that the “only way to avoid damnation is to repent, be baptized, and join—and be accepted into—[our] denomination.” His slap at repentance and baptism, as conditions in the plan of salvation, will have to be directed at Peter, for it was he who commanded:

Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins (Acts 2:38).

What arrogance, to dispute this issue with an inspired apostle of Jesus Christ (Luke 10:16).

As for the accusation that we insist men must “join [our] denomination,” quite frankly, it is a prevarication. We have no denomination; we support no denomination; we would dissuade folks from aligning with any denomination! We do maintain that the exclusive route to redemption is in obeying Christ (Acts 4:11-12; Hebrews 5:8-9)—a truth which our lawyer/clergy friend apparently finds repulsive.

Ethics

The following statement from Mr. Rogers is shocking indeed:

It is the president’s great misfortune that his inquisitor [Kenneth Starr] is a man who considers a little hanky-panky and its natural by-product (the covering lie), the equivalent of treason and bribery.

It is difficult to fathom the depth of perversity that is characteristic of this alleged “minister,” who views multiple adulteries as merely “a little hanky-panky.”

Further, by what standard does the man rate the relative severity of adultery, perjury, treason, and bribery? He haughtily thrusts himself into the role of moral arbiter. One cannot but wonder whether Rogers’s wife (if he is married) would consider her husband’s adulterous adventures with a church secretary as just “a little hanky-panky”? Perhaps this, more than anything else, is a commentary on the level of the clergyman’s spirituality.

Again, note this: “Like other fundamentalist sects, the Church of Christ’s teaching focuses heavily upon sexual conduct.” That is not a truthful statement. We do not “focus” upon sexual immorality inordinately. We do affirm that adultery is evil.

The apostle Paul spent an entire section of his first letter to the Corinthian church dealing with a man who was involved in “a little hanky-panky” with his stepmother. By the Lord’s authority, God’s apostle forcefully condemned the activity, and commanded the church to withdraw its association from the offender (1 Corinthians 5). A bit later, Paul affirmed that practicing fornicators and adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). In trivializing the President’s adultery, Rogers speaks as a moral reprobate.

The corrupt “morality” of this “ordained Methodist minister” is enough to make John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church, convulse in his grave. However mistaken Wesley was in certain areas of theology, he strongly believed in personal holiness. The Methodist Discipline states:

In 1729 two young men [John and Charles Wesley] in England, reading the Bible, saw that they could not be saved without holiness, followed after it, and incited others so to do (1939, 3).

There is a chasm of light years between this sentiment, and that suggested by H. John Rogers. The abandonment of biblical morality, while attempting to retain a superficial identity with Christianity, as evinced by Mr. Rogers, is abject hypocrisy, and is the very thing that has turned so many confused souls away from a consideration of the true religion of Jesus Christ. It is a heavy burden to bear. The gentleman is a disgrace to his profession.

In conclusion we must make this observation: if the churches of Christ encounter no adversary more formidable than H. John Rogers, we may rest at ease.

Sources/Footnotes
  • The Methodist Discipline. 1939. New York, NY: The Methodist Book Concern.
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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.