Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Studies Separated at Birth?

Several months ago, the International Christian Churches released a version of the "First Principles" Bible study series as an app that can be used on a smartphone or tablet device. That "app" is basically a web page that can be viewed at This mobile version contains the same studies and corresponding heresies that the previous, paper-only versions have had, going back through the early 1980's, when Kip McKean allegedly wrote them from scratch. The core of the studies, from "The Word of God" through "The Church", has been largely unchanged for over three decades. McKean formally added a "Seeking God" and several post-baptism studies such as "After Baptism, Now What?" and "Persecution" several years ago.

This isn't surprising to observers of "God's (New) Modern-Day Movement". What's shocking to those who understand the core of this false gospel and can refute it is this article on the International Churches of Christ news site HotNews. This article announces the availability of a full-fledged iPhone/iPad app called "First Principles". It was developed by a group called CheapBrain. The project manager of the group, Ed Partch, is located in Denver, Colorado. There is no church loyal to Kip McKean's new movement in Colorado (at the time this article was written), so it's a safe assumption that this group has direct ties to the ICOC.

So how do the mobile "First Principles" apps from the ICOC and ICC compare? Comparing the screenshots on the ICOC app to those on the ICC app and to the paper (or PDF) versions of "First Principles" before Kip's departure from the ICOC in 2002 show no substantive difference whatsoever between either movement's versions (besides the addition of new, non-core studies in the ICC version). Even the same illustrative graphics are used in both "Light and Darkness" studies!

What does this mean? Why would people likely linked with the ICOC publish a "First Principles" app that was an exact clone of the version used by the ICC? Why would one of the ICOC's flagship news sites publish an article noting its release and apparent support by the movement? Is it a coincidence that one of the major players behind the scenes of HotNews is Mike Taliaferro, who is hosting the ICOC World Discipleship Seminar in his hometown of San Antonio in a few months with over 16,000 members registered to attend? How important is it that the San Antonio congregation is part of the ICOC Co-operation Churches and that Taliaferro is a key high-level leader in the post-McKean ICOC?  Note that Denver's Bible Study series, Knowing God, is a thinly-veiled rehash of "First Principles", complete with its heretical false gospel. In addition, many other ICOC congregations use knockoffs of "First Principles", including Cincinnati (I provided an analysis of this supposed "new" study series about a year ago).

Perhaps the most intriguing question is this: what will happen if Kip's group attempts to call out the ICOC for plagiarism? Or vice versa? In either case, both groups undeniably support a false, works-based gospel that calls for its disciples to sell out to total commitment to an idol and system that takes the place of the authentic Jesus Christ of truth and grace.

Update! On Thursday, May 17th, Disciples Today posted an announcement concerning the release of the "First Principles" app by Ed Partch. He adds certain details such as adding study series from the individual ICOC congregations (the larger ones first) and integrating additional features such as tracking the progress of people who are being studied with along with inviting people to "study the Bible" using the address book. Perhaps the most chilling new addition is "a reporting feature to keep others abreast of progress".

The more things change, the more things stay the same.