The Future of the Progressive Churches of Christ: Nominations

cooperation.jpgI would like to open the floor for nominations.

Let’s suppose that one of our universities or periodicals were to decide to host a panel discussion by three progressive representatives and three conservative representatives on the indwelling of the Spirit and on the scope of grace. They want people who will represent their side as well as possible, while being fairminded and willing to participate in genuine dialog.

Whom do you nominate for each side? Who is the very best the conservative side of the Churches of Christ has to offer — not necessarily the most published or most famous, but the best spokesmen they could offer to argue their case and respond to the progressive arguments?

And who would be the best spokesmen for the progressives?

PS — As WordPress finally allows sticky posts (posts that stay at the top even if not the newest post), I’ll leave this at the top of the page for a few days.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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33 Responses to The Future of the Progressive Churches of Christ: Nominations

  1. Terry says:

    Stafford North of Oklahoma Christian University would be a good conservative choice.

    Rubel Shelly would be a good progressive choice.

    Both are respectable and reasonable men.

  2. Terry says:

    On further thought, I am not sure of Dr. North's positions on the Holy Spirit and the scope of grace. He may or may not represent the conservative position. However, he has always been an honorable man. So if he happens to be conservative, he would represent that side well.

  3. Kent says:

    Don't know about the "conservatives".

    For the "progressives" I would choose Randy Harris, Rubel Shelley, and maybe Leroy Garrett. The third one is harder. Garrett would be great. Jim McGuiggan would be great also as would Mike Cope.

  4. Joe Baggett says:

    Dr. North was one of the main proponents of the “Time to speak” petition published in the chronicle lat year, which was very destructive. It is hard for me to see anyone who was behind that petition as fair or honorable. Ministers were fired for not signing it. I would wonder why we want to do this Jay? My fear is that it will only strain relations. The closest thing to this that has occurred would be the Tulsa workshop where several people such as SBI Sunset School of preaching decided not to come for fear of loosing financial support or being castigated in a brotherhood publication for attending. I would also see it as giving a loaded gun to someone one who shouldn't have it. For the majority on the traditional side it would be a debate where they would try to correct or “mark” the false teachers. For the progressive side it would be a dialogue where we openly have a dialogue about our thoughts. I fear the progressive side would walk away severely wounded.

  5. Anthony says:

    I agree with Dr North and would add Dr Lynn McMillon and Dr Howard Norton for the "conservatives". However I was also going to suggest Randy Harris so either there is a problem with the labels or my understanding of them.

  6. Jay Guin says:

    Anthony,

    Randy Harris is certainly a "progressive" in my vocabulary. Dr. North is surely a conservative if he was part of the "time to speak" petition.

    The line can't be precisely drawn, but the test for our present purposes would be: does this person consider the instrument a salvation issue? If yes, he's conservative. If no, he's progressive.

    I'm open to alternative terms — but won't use terms that either side would consider offensive — which narrows the list quite a lot.

  7. Jay Guin says:

    Joe asked —

    I would wonder why we want to do this Jay? My fear is that it will only strain relations.

    Relations are strained to the point that there are no relations to strain. There really isn't much to lose.

    The closest thing to this that has occurred would be the Tulsa workshop where several people such as SBI Sunset School of preaching decided not to come for fear of loosing financial support or being castigated in a brotherhood publication for attending.

    Actually, the closest analogy that I'm aware of would be the two FHU "discussions" (their term for what I'd call polite debates) over the instrumental music question. As FHU did it twice, once with an elder from a progressive church (Woodmont Hills) and once with a preacher from an independent Christian Church, I'm sure they weren't hurt by establishing the dialog.

    I would also see it as giving a loaded gun to someone one who shouldn’t have it. For the majority on the traditional side it would be a debate where they would try to correct or “mark” the false teachers.

    Well, most progressives have been repeatedly marked. I mean, it's well understood that the conservative position is that the instrument is a salvation issue and so they consider the progressives damned.

    But in the FHU debates, the two sides actually talked about the issues — even though the conservative side began by announcing that it sees the instrument as a salvation issue — implicitly (not directly) declaring the other side damned.

    And so it can be done. It's all about dealing with representatives of the conservative viewpoint who can defend their views without personal invective, and there are those who can.

    For the progressive side it would be a dialogue where we openly have a dialogue about our thoughts. I fear the progressive side would walk away severely wounded.

    Well, we progressives are already marked, damned, and disfellowshipped. And they talk bad about us, too.

    We only get hurt in such a conversation if we act in an un-Christian way or fail to be persuasive. I see little risk of either. I mean, I'm just not afraid of having my views tested by the best of those who disagree. And if they really believe as they do (and they do), they should have no such fears either.

    The goal isn't to persuade the debaters. It rarely happens in any spiritual debate that either side is willing to concede. Rather, the goal is to expose as much of the Churches of Christ as possible to both sides of the issue.

  8. Alan says:

    See what happens when I miss a few days reading your blog. All of a sudden you're laying plans to solve one of the biggest problems in the modern Restoration churches! Way to go, Jay!

  9. weswoodell says:

    Hmmm – sounds interesting.

    Good COULD come from something like this, but so could bad.

    Either way if it happens I'd want to watch.

    :p

  10. I wondered what had happened to Alan!

  11. Oops. Hit the "Submit Comment" button too soon.

    Jay, would this take the form of a debate? What would the topic be? Would it have to be two separate discussions to fully cover the subjects of grace and the Spirit within?

    Because "Resolved: that the Holy Spirit of God today works only through His Word and His grace is limited by our strict obedience to it" is a little wordy.

  12. Anthony says:

    Hmmmm…

    Guess I have to "switch sides" as I do not consider instruments a salvation issue (not even close) but rather preference (but my preference is strong).

    Clearly there is a fairly wide range of beliefs within each group which complicates matters. For example, a lot of conservatives believe in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and definitely would not affirm the above proposed resolve (myself included). I think the difference between the groups regarding grace is much smaller and the gap is closing.

  13. Jay Guin says:

    Keith,

    I'm not sure. It could be online. It could be in an auditorium. It could be in a periodical or a book.

    I'm considering an internet setting, as it may create the largest audience and allow the sides to exchange and critique one another at a more thoughtful pace — and would create a more-or-less permanent record for reading.

    I would think at least two separate debates. Maybe more. I'd prefer the Holy Spirit first, as I find it hard to explain grace to those who deny any active indwelling.

  14. Jay Guin says:

    Anthony,

    You are quite right that the lines are a bit smudged. I think the second resolved might be something like:

    Resolved that the use of instrumental music in worship is a salvation issue.

    OR

    Resolved that the use of instrumental music in worship does not damn those who are otherwise saved, even if instrumental music is in fact contrary to God's will.

    The issue is, of course, vastly larger than instrumental music, but something like this would help focus the debate on the real question: what disobedience damns?

  15. Kent Benfer says:

    Jay-

    I think here in the commentary we have gotten to something important. What are we really divided over anyway? It's not just instrumental music. Very few churches actually practice it while there are many who would call themselves "conservatives" who believe that it is a matter of preference.

    For my money the debate should center around our approach to scripture, i.e. hermeneutics. Essentially what you have is two sides coming at these issues in different ways. It's no wonder they disagree. I know "conservatives" who believe in the indwelling of the Spirit and who believe in grace but they still uphold the principles of pattern theology. I would say that many conservatives are also biblicists. When you have that, it's no wonder that we have such vast differences.

  16. Terry says:

    It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who doesn't know where he belongs in the theological spectrum of Churches of Christ. We seem to have a hard time categorizing each other.

  17. Jay Guin says:

    Kent,

    I entirely agree that the problem stems from differing hermeneutics. The trouble is, I’ve not ever been able to persuade anyone to change hermeneutics until I”ve gotten them pretty far down the road toward grace.

    In fact, my experience is that people tend to cling to whatever hermeneutic gets them the answer they want. Hence, I’ve seen people reject a proposed hermeneutic solely because it didn’t require a cappella singing!

    This is obviously quite backwards, but it’s what I see. In my experience, it’s easier to start with grace and work from there.

    In fact, in my own spiritual growth, I learned the Spirit first, grace second, and hermeneutics much later.

  18. Joe Baggett says:

    Right on Jay!

    It wasn't until I was totally broken that I was willing to re-think the way I looked at the Bible.

  19. Anthony says:

    Interesting discussion.

    "people tend to cling to whatever hermeneutic gets them the answer they want"
    True for both conservatives and progressives but one tends to believe it applies more to other group who can't see things "correctly"

    "many conservatives are also biblicists"
    Progessives are _______? Confessionalists ? I think I am missing the point of this statement.

    "but they still uphold the principles of pattern theology"
    What theology is proposed that is superior to the pattern of Christ?

    Jay, I agree that understanding grace helps me to see others as Jesus sees us. All children of God – all full of sin – but some covered with blood. Then I am compelled to follow His PATTERN and treat them either as a fellow brother/sister in Christ (regardless of whether they sing with instruments, etc.) or someone who is in dire need of a savior because they do not know Him.

  20. Joe Baggett says:

    Most conservatives are not true Biblicist. They pick and choose what parts of the Bible they want to follow to enth degree. No women speaking in the assembly but we do have to follow the head covering rules stated right before it. No instrumental music but we can have a large expensive building. Inconsistency is perhaps one of the tell tale signs of poor hermeneutic.

  21. Kent Benfer says:

    Agreed Joe.

    And, Anthony, I agree with you that we need to follow the pattern of Jesus. If we followed the pattern of Jesus closer we probably wouldn't be talking about some of these other things. When I mention pattern theology I am referring to the belief that there is one pattern to be decoded from scripture that shows us the exact pattern for how to do church. This thinking does not take into account the fact that we live in a different time, different culture, as well as other things.

  22. Kent Benfer says:

    Joe, I guess what I mean when I say "Biblicist" is it seems to me that there are some "conservatives" who worship the Bible more than they worship God.

  23. Nick Gill says:

    I know there are many who preach the Bible more than they preach Jesus to the lost.

  24. Jay Guin says:

    Guys,

    This has been an illuminating discussion — but I don't have many actual nominations? Any suggestions?

  25. Joe Baggett says:

    How extreme? I would say that if we want to go to the extremes. The conservative side would probably be Alan Highers he is the epitome of traditionalism, the other extreme would be Max Lucado, though he is not extreme in my book.

  26. summer says:

    For the progressives I would say you (Jay), Rubel Shelley, Randy Harris, F. LaGard Smith, and Al Maxey…
    Conservatives are tougher…maybe Dave Miller, Garland Robinson…can't think of any others off the top of my head.

  27. I'm not sure F. LaGard Smith would consider himself progressive. I could be wrong.

  28. Katie Gibbins says:

    Oh yes, it would be Alan Highers, probably the most competent debater around.

  29. Jon Shelton says:

    If you are going to go with conservatives, I think that some of the older instructors here at Sunset International Bible Institute would be right there on the list:
    Ed Wharton and Gerald Paden would be two that would fith the conservative bill pretty well.

  30. Jon Shelton says:

    Also, I think that a great 'forum' for discussion is what I've seen in a few books – I have the one dealing with Divorce and Baptism but there are others also. They have the 3 or 4 sides to the issue write their argument and then each responds, so they get to argue against each side of the argument in thought out writing.

  31. Something like what you describe, Jon, took place in New Wineskins between Rubel Shelly and Lee Camp on the subject of the Christian views on Just War and Pacifism, too.

  32. Robert Smith says:

    For the progressives, My vote is for Al Maxey

  33. preacherman says:

    I hate labels.
    I would like to see us unified if possible.
    Would not like to see debates on non-essentials in the future. I think Paul tells Timothy to stay away from Arguements, godless myths.
    What good comes out of debates? Arguements? What good comes from calling someone a "progressive" or "concervative"? I believe we see the nothing but division.
    I think if the church of Christ is going to survive in 21st century we must be Biblical. we must be believers, we must stand up for morality, we must meet the needs of non-beleivers both physically and spiritually. Doing ministry the way Jesus and his disciples did ministry. We must strive to stand up on social issues such as human rights. We must strive to make a difference in the way we live, talk, act. We must be UNITED. NOT DIVIDED. So lets get rid of the labels. Lets get rid of the name calling. Lets get rid of the debating. LETS GET FOCUSED ON THE GOAL. LETS GET UNTIED. LETS ANSWER THE PRAYER OF JESUS IN JOHN 17. We must remember it is God's Church. Those who cause division and strife for God's Church will one day be held accountable. Remember that. Lets not forget that Christ payed the hightest price for His church. It is my prayer that we will answer the call and do the will of God. I pray His church will get rid of the holier than thou attitudes and live humble lives.

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