Examining the Doctrine of the Church of Christ Denomination
Most (not all) congregations of the Church of Christ denomination claim that they can trace their roots back to the original New Testament church, almost in the same way that the Catholic Church claims that they can trace the papacy back to the Apostle Peter. Both claims are equally spurious. The difference is that the Church of Christ doesn't claim an actual physical lineage, but claim that they are an exact duplicate of the original church.
The reality is that in 1906 the Church of Christ denomination broke away from the Christian Church which was established in the mid 1800s by Alexander Campbell during the so-called Restoration Movement. (We get numerous e-mails everyday claiming that our historical information about the Church of Christ denomination is inaccurate. We now include the link below from the University of Virginia to document the Church of Christ denomination historical information):
Some in the CHOCD say they have evidence of the Church of Christ BEFORE the 1850's. So they will produce a photogragh of a church or tombstone with the name "Church of Christ" on it as proof. The reality is that there have been many denominations over the years called the "Church of Christ." The Mormon Church, was originally called the "Church of Christ." So just because you can find evidence of a denomination called the "Church of Christ" doesn't mean it's the same as today's CoC denomination. Did they reject musical instruments? No. Did they believe in baptismal regeneration? No. Did they reject the present day ministry of the Holy Spirit? No. Did they claim to be the "One and Only True Church?" No. Then they were not your Church of Christ.
But right off the bat, this is where we get into one of their greatest controversies. They claim that they are not a denomination, but rather they are the TRUE Body of Christ! To justify this outlandish claim, they rest very heavily on the notion that they have the only biblically correct name of any church. They look down on other denominations for naming themselves after a man (Lutherans) or a doctrine (Baptists) or forms of church government (Presbyterian) and claim that the only scriptural name given to the church is the name that they bear. Since the word Christ simply means "messiah", that translates into The Church of the Messiah. But which Messiah? A better name would be The Church of Jesus Christ, which would also be a scriptural name.
As would: "The Church of God" (I Cor. 1:2) "The Church of the Faithful in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 1:1) "The Church of the Saints in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:1) "The Church of the Holy and Faithful Brothers in Christ" (Col. 1:2) "The Church In God Our Father and the Lord Jesus" (II Thess 1:1) "The Church of God's Elect" (I Peter 1:1) "The Children of God" (I John 3:1) Etc...Etc...Etc...
So we see that the Church of Christ denomination does not have a corner on scriptural names for the body of Christ, which brings up our next dilemma, which division of the Church of Christ denomination are we talking about? For there are at least three different branches of the Church of Christ denomination that have the exact same name, but believe different doctrines, and often each considers the other to be virtual heretics. One of the dilemmas in dealing with this topic is that each Church of Christ denomination congregation is autonomous (independent). Even though there does seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel, most Church of Christ denomination still adhere to the same doctrines that they have taught for the last 100 years. One shining exception is Max Lucado. Max is a prolific author and rarely gets into the divisive teaching of the Church of Christ denomination, even though he is a Church of Christ denomination pastor/preacher. With this in mind, let's look at the three predominant Church of Christ denominations.
The first group, most commonly known as the "One Cup Brethren" has no musical instruments in their worship service and one single shared cup for communion. The second group known as the "Cups Brethren" has no musical instruments but has multiple cups for their communion service. Then the third group known as the "Instrumental Brethren" has multiple cups and musical instruments. The "One Cup" branch commonly refers to the "Cups Brethren" as the "Digressive Church of Christ" and calls the "Musical Instrument Brethren" the "Liberal Church of Christ". Then lastly (as if this wasn't confusing enough) we have a branch of the CHOCD that has actually changed it's name to the International Church of Christ. The other three branches have branded this group (sociologically and theologically) to be a full blown cult! But this leads us to our first major point, is the Church of Christ denomination a denomination?