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Not Every Hill Is Calvary!

By Wayne Newland

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How do we know what God wants?  In the late 1800s, a formula became traditional within part of the Restoration Movement.   It was used to determine what was right and wrong in worship and church organization, and was the essential rationale when Churches of Christ separated over use of musical instruments.   Often known today by the shorthand “CENI,” this hermeneutic (method of interpretation) assumed that a PATTERN was set forth in the New Testament, that all practices must be authorized by COMMANDS, EXAMPLES, or NECESSARY INFERENCES (CENI), and that SILENCE prohibits anything not so authorized.

Until the latter 1900s, this thinking dominated our brotherhood, and still is taught in many congregations.  Some brethren have long used it to support opposition to multiple communion cups, Sunday schools, kitchens, etc.  Newland is not alone in suggesting, from his perspective of eight decades in Churches of Christ, that CENI has been the cause of virtually all our doctrinal divisions.

He further suggests that dependence on strict obedience of all CENI rules for one’s salvation goes beyond the faith that God’s grace requires for salvation, raising “hills” other than the all-sufficient hill of the Cross.  Hence the title, “Not Every Hill Is Calvary!”

Observing that it has been easier to discard the traditional hermeneutic than to articulate something to take its place, Newland attempts a fair analysis of CENI, explores an alternative for knowing what God wants, and addresses such questions as: What are the commands that we are to obey if we love Him?  How many are there?  What is freedom in Christ?  When might we choose to curtail our freedom?  

“Not Every Hill…” can provide a good start for individual or group study of how to interpret Scripture afresh.


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