I try to stay well read on conservative Church of Christ thought. It’s always critical to read both sides of any disagreement, and it’s important to look for trends in conservative Church of Christ thought.
Therefore, I recently bought the Gospel Advocate Bible Study Library, Deluxe Addition, on CD, now on sale for half price ($74.99). The package includes the entire Gospel Advocate commentary series (which is why I bought it) as well as several other commentaries from within and without the Churches of Christ.
Every once in a while, I’ll be writing on a given verse and wonder how the conservative Churches have interpreted that verse. But I don’t own the Gospel Advocate Commentaries (they cost $200 in hardback), and it’s never quite worth driving to the church to pull a copy from the library. Now I can compare my understanding to the traditional understanding with no problem.
I’ve not decided whether to buy the recently published transcripts of the 2012 Freed-Hardeman Lectures. A free sample is available on Amazon. It would only be $4.99 to buy the Logos version and $7.99 for a Kindle version. Evidently you can buy lectures going back to 1953 on CD for only $25.00. As an amateur Church historian, I just might not be able to pass that one up. (It’s an interesting marketing decision to sell the lectures before they are delivered on campus.)
I have to commend Freed-Hardeman for making these materials available. I wish more such historical information was as easily available. I would love to have access to electronic versions of past issues of the Gospel Advocate and Firm Foundation.
I’ve been pondering whether the other lectureships should follow the same pattern, but I don’t know that it would make any sense. I’ve been to the lectureships at Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Pepperdine, and they are largely classes and key note sermons. However, the lectures delivered at FHU read like articles in the Spiritual Sword or Gospel Advocate. In fact, the stylistic similarities are uncanny, whereas the lectureships I’ve been to tend to be very informal, much more like Sunday school classes.
But then the conservative Churches tend to be defined by their print publications, whereas the progressive Churches have no print publications. Our thought leaders communicate through books (but not nearly as much as was once true), sermons, blogs, Internet forums, and Bible classes.
And that leads to me to think that the differing styles result from differing visions for what a lectureship is to do. The FHU lectures weigh heavily on the defensive side, asking such questions as “Spiritual Songs with No Worship Intent?”; “Do We Need to Revision Baptism?”; “Does Truth Fit in Postmodern Times?”; and “Does Ignorance Excuse or Condemn?” Then there are “A Defense of Inductive Preaching” and “A Defense of Deductive Preaching.” I was unaware that either needs defending. Is someone attacking induction and deduction?
The overall agenda seems to be to set forth and defend a doctrinal core. It’s about preservation of a system of belief.
However, the lectures at, say, Pepperdine are more about training: ” What’s New and What’s Needed in 21st Century Missions (Responding to Globalization and Total Information Access)”; “Neither Jew Nor Greek” (Multilingual, Multicultural Churches Held Together as One Body by Love)”; “The Future of Your Church May Be at Risk (Rethinking the Purpose and Mission of the Church)”; ”Thy Kingdom Come (How Kingdom Thinking Changes Everything).”
Take the last lecture on kingdom thinking, for example. That’s clearly an effort to move church thought in a different direction — not a radical shift but an enriching, deepening approach that will make our thinking and doctrine better. And there’s nothing like that on the FHU agenda.
And so I think I’ll order the CD with the old FHU lectures. It’ll be an interesting study of the Church’s self-perception over the years. You see, one day of describing the current conservative/progressive trends is a division along lines of self-perception. Do we perceive ourselves as under attack and needing to defend the age-old truths? Or do we perceive ourselves as on the attack and needing to find new methods and to improve and refine our understandings to be more effective in our mission with God?