Reader-Requested Review: “Muscle and a Shovel”

muscleshovelI may never do this again, understand? But I’ve read a couple of books at the request of readers who wanted my thoughts.

Both books are self-published from within the Churches of Christ. Today, we consider the first —

Muscle and a Shovel

This one is from within the “mainstream” or institutional/conservative Churches of Christ.

In fact, a number of readers have asked me to post something on Muscle and a Shovel by Michael Shank. Frankly, I’d not heard of it until I began receiving reader emails about it in the last few weeks.

It’s the author’s story of being converted from being a Southern Baptist to a Church of Christ member. The chapters are built on doctrinal discussions between various persons, taking the reader through the litany of Church of Christ arguments and answers.

It’s a best seller, as Church of Christ literature goes — selling remarkably well for a self-published title.

The doctrinal discussions are all based on the King James Version, and the discussions follow along the lines of very familiar 20th Century Church of Christ rhetoric.

Consider this excerpt posted at Shank’s official website

______________________________________________

“Randall, just give me a straight answer. Am I going to Heaven or Hell?” Randall was in a metaphorical corner and he knew that I wasn’t letting him out without an answer.

He conceded, “Friend, it’s not what I think that’s important.  It’s what the Bible says that’s important. The bible clearly teaches that everyone who’s not a part of the church that Jesus purchased with His blood, Acts 20:28, will not be saved.”

“Ah Randall!” I raised my voice and felt as though the top of my head was going to blow off! “Look, if I’m a Baptist is it Heaven or Hell? Answer me straight!”

“Mr. Mike,” he said meekly, “from my understanding of God’s Word, if you’re a member of a denomination, whether it be Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Mormon, any church that Jesus Christ did not establish and buy with His blood, there’s no question that you’re headed toward eternal destruction.”

______________________________________________

(The capitalization and punctuation errors are from the original. The editor in me struggles not to make corrections as I read.)

The logical flaws should be plain to the readers. For example, who says that the “church” is defined by denominational boundaries? Why do we assume that the Baptist Church and the Churches of Christ are two different “churches” as that term is used in the New Testament? Just where in the Bible does membership in a denomination (or a denomination claiming not to be a denomination) define who is and isn’t saved?

If the test is “hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized,” then why aren’t the members of other immersionist denominations saved? Why just the Churches of Christ? Why do our baptisms for the remission of sins take, while the baptisms of other denominations that immerse for remission of sins not take? (And there are indeed several denominations that baptize (or sometimes baptize) for remission of sins by immersion. We are not as unique as we like to pretend.)

What is it about being in a “denomination” that the New Testament damns? I’m struggling to find that passage.

Why on earth does the author speak in 20th Century categories (membership in “denominations”; multiple churches) rather than First Century categories (“faith in Jesus”; there is but one church)?

In short, my take on the book is that it’s a nicely written, poorly edited novelization of a conservative Church of Christ tract rack.

It’s tempting to write a series that refutes the many arguments contained in the book, but I’ve already done this in The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace. This book was published nearly 20 years ago, and with the publisher’s permission, HSRG is posted as a free download. And it anticipates and answers most of the arguments in Muscle and a Shovel.

NOTE TO READERS: I’ve since posted two replies to defenders of the book, including the author, as well as a series reviewing the teachings of the book chapter by chapter. The link will take you a table of contents for the series, in reverse chronological order.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

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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124 Responses to Reader-Requested Review: “Muscle and a Shovel”

  1. John says:

    The conversion from out of something into something else is, in itself, no proof of the sham of one or the legitimacy of the other. Turn on the TV every Sunday and you can hear a preacher proclaim his or her success in converting an atheist or a liberal. EWTN, the Catholic station, has a program called THE WAY HOME, in which people from other denominations speak of their conversion to the Catholic Church. You have atheists becoming believers, believers becoming atheists; conservatives becoming liberals, liberals becoming conservatives; and of course, people of one evangelical church becoming a member of another.

    But, what is also true is, what I call, the “conversion reversal”. It is not unusual at all for an individual who has changed churches as an adult to, later on in life, go back into the church in which he or she grew up. This happens across all denominational lines. However, the reason is often not so much a change of mind in doctrine as it is a need to get back to one’s childhood. When old friends and family have passed on, when schools are torn down and home towns have changed, many wish to get back to a more innocent time and the only thing left is the church of one’s youth.

    A number of years ago I was acquainted with a Unitarian minister and his wife who had met each other in college after they had become Unitarians. She had been raised Catholic. Once, when her husband was serving a Unitarian congregation, she attended the funeral of a friend who happened to be Catholic. She was so moved by the experience, she went back into the Catholic church. But here is the interesting part. She told a few close friends that she still did not accept teachings such as the virgin birth or the resurrection as literal; that these doctrines were of a spiritual nature for her. She said that her return to the Catholic church was a return to the peace of her childhood.

    As mentioned above, this happens often across all denominational lines; and when it happens the person returning knows all the right things to say, while being at peace with God and with self over the real reasons. Yet, many groups sound the trumpet when someone converts to their number or when someone returns. Granted, we all have our story to tell. And that is exactly my point. Many of us have gone through changes, and the changes that we have experienced are helpful to others who are going through the same thing. But we should always keep in mind that peoples lives are a journey, and most of the twists and turns of those journeys find their motivation in the deep recesses and needs of the soul, and we can learn much by observing where they are at the moment.

  2. Johnny says:

    When I came to the CoC from a Baptist church I was asked two questions, ” what do you believe about Jesus” and ” have you been baptized”. In other words I was asked for a profession of faith and confirmation of baptism. That qualifies me as a member of The Church, and any congregation who denies it has a problem with my Lord not with me.

  3. edwardfudge says:

    Thanks, Jay, for not beating around the bush on this horrendous false gospel. If all CoC preachers, elders, and teachers over the past 100 years had resisted and exposed this sectarianism every time it appeared, replacing it with the sweet gospel of the Savior who took our place in his living and in his dying, how much better off everyone concerned would have been.

    CoC people themselves could have lived and faced death with assurance of salvation. Families and churches that were split over CoC claims based on sectarian overreaching and on misuse of Scripture could have worshipped and served God together in peace. The Christian church (in the Bible sense) could have avoided a century of strife and foolish brawling. And many who were turned away from Christ by the ignorant babble of a few who claimed an exclusive right to wear his name could instead have enjoyed serving the Father together, receiving one another just as Christ had accepted them all.

    You do not need my approval or applause. That is not the point of this email. I write it for the sake of any who might benefit from this added encouragement to listen to what you had to say. And I write it for my own sake, so that on the Day of Judgment, God will be able to see that when the crunch came, I was not silent but voted for the side of his Son and grace and the real church for which Jesus died — all those everywhere, under whatever signboard and church name they have found, who stand in grace through faith and who rejoice in hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ.

  4. Chris says:

    Sad that in the year 2013, such attitudes exists. Personally, I grew tired of having to explain to others how the COC I attended was different. I just want to focus on Jesus without having to provide an exegesis on the COC.

  5. laymond says:

    Edward Fudge said, CoC people themselves could have lived and faced death with assurance of salvation.
    Question, Mr. Fudge at what point in your journey were you absolutely sure you were saved, never to be in danger of backsliding, or falling away, however you want to see it.
    I don’t see Paul as confident as you are, I just wondered how you arrived to such a confident position.

    Rom 8:24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
    Rom 8:25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

    ἐλπίς / elpis / hope 1.joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation.

    We expect to be saved, but only God knows for sure.

  6. laymond says:

    I agree with Mr. Fudge’s statement, as it was made, yes if people were taught this in church they could be made to believe it, and be assured of their destination. But was it true teachings or false assurance.
    There are many Christians who are assured that if Obamacare/ACA is implemented it will kill old people and babies. But they believe this with absolutely zero proof they are falsely assured.

  7. tim miller says:

    “the you may EXPECT that you have eternal life”..I john 5:13 I think I quoted it right.

  8. tim miller says:

    my concordance has “oida
    ” to know….

  9. Doug says:

    I don’t know about Mr. Fudge but for me it was when I realized that I could trust in Jesus for my salvation and not myself. Jesus is doing the saving…not us.

  10. Laymond’s skepticism about our assurance is not contagious.

  11. Did anyone but me hear the title and know pretty much what this was going to be?

    Jay’s reluctant review of “Muscle and a Shovel” reminds me of when my toddler handed me the mudpie and insisted that I taste her creation. I suspected what it would taste like… and I was quite correct. But I loved her and was willing to taste one bite.

    But not two bites. And I did spit.

  12. I am Michael Shank, the author of the book. First let me express my sincere apologies to Jay for the poor editing and proofing. I promise that this response won’t find improved editing, grammar or capitalization.

    I also would like to tell you how much I appreciate the time you’ve taken to read the book. Friend, we’ve heard of over 3000 baptisms in this past 6 months, along with an untold number of restorations. Is this not incredible new that we, as Christians, should be rejoicing about? Does God not receive all of the honor, credit, and glory?

    There’s no doubt in my mind that when the church’s zeal and enthusiasm is restored and the gospel is being spread in a manner not seen in decades, the Adversary will certainly attempt to discredit, impede, and/or destroy that which is responsible.

    Friend, this honest story is simply my account of searching for Truth, and a true, first-century Christian leading me to the Truth in the most kind, loving, and meek way.

    Critical reviews rarely bother me, due to the fact that the vast majority who assail disparaging remarks about the story haven’t actually read it. However, Mr. Fudge’s comments have hurt my soul and spirit – IF his comment was directed at my work. He wrote, “Thanks, Jay, for not beating around the bush on this horrendous false gospel.” False gospel? Is he speaking of my book? Has he read the book?

    If the answer is no (he hasn’t read it), then how and why would Mr. Fudge make such incendiary remarks? If the answer is yes (he has read it), Mr. Fudge would have seen the over 1000 scriptural references within the story that are planted directly within context, with no private interpretation.

    Randall simply pointed me back to the Bible. Therefore, how could this be a “horrendous false gospel?” Wow, I’ve been a fan of yours for years, and am truly taken back by your remarks. I’m also very disturbed over the lack of genuine Christian love. I assume that all who have commented consider themselves “Christians,” yet, Christians with this type of attitude, tone, and lack of love?

    By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35).

    Mr. Guin, if this was an effort to criticize a work that is doing so much good for the kingdom toward conversions and restorations to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, I must say that you have succeeded. If those who’ve commented sought to hurt a brother, they’ve been successful, as well.

    And the irony? I’ve never been hurt by the world like I am hurt by my own “brothers” in Christ. Yes, Satan is surely winning in this regard.

    Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift (Matthew 5:23-24).”

  13. laymond says:

    Michael said “If those who’ve commented sought to hurt a brother, they’ve been successful, as well.”
    Mike I did not intend any condemnation of either you or your work, but if you saw my comment as doing so, I do apologize to you and your family. When you hurt someone in the public domain, I also believe an apology is in order in that same domain.

  14. laymond says:

    Doug, if you are going that far, why not go all the way and credit God, I believe Jesus said give all the glory to God. God gave salvation through Jesus.
    Jhn 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

  15. Michael, while I am sure you put a great deal of effort into your book, the part Jay quoted is old hat. I have read these sentiments in countless tracts, often in very similar words. Let me confess that Jay’s review is all of your work that I have read. But just that small portion misrepresents the gospel; it pends your salvation upon which clan of believers you meet with on Sunday morning. This is not only untrue, but it is simply a reprise of the same old “we are the only ones going to heaven” doctrine that so many CoC folks have long ago disavowed. We are saved by faith in Jesus, not by identifying ourselves with the appropriate subdivision of the universal body of Christ. Both Ed and Jay are mature and respected members of your own denomination, and are not given to thoughtless outbursts. What they have said was direct and unvarnished, but please note that their criticisms were directed at the content of your book… not at you. While I regret that you were offended, that is really beside the point which was being made.

    Oh, and when you say “we have had 3000 baptisms” and “Does God not receive all of the honor, credit, and glory?” in the same paragraph, it appears to me that this statement must be either ironic or myopic. The fact that you directly connect this result with your own literary efforts appears to seek at least a goodly share of that credit.

    This note: if the passage of your book which Jay quoted is somehow not representative of the soteriology you are setting forth, please let me know and I will read the entire book before offering any further opinion. Otherwise, well, I don’t need more than one bite of a watermelon to know what the whole thing is.

  16. And Michael, complaining that you have been hurt by your brothers in Christ, while calling their spiritual identity into question by placing quotes around “brothers”, demonstrates an astonishing blindness. Sorry, but I can’t generate much sympathy for your injured feelings while you are counter-punching with the deadliest of insinuations.

  17. Doug says:

    Laymond,

    I honestly don’t understand your constant attempt to divide the Father and the Son as to who is worthy of credit and praise. They obviously both are worthy. But, the New Covenant is written in the blood of Jesus and it is Jesus who will judge me so I place my trust in him. Since the father and the Son are one in all things, I guess that also means I place my trust in God. Attempts to divide the two seem futile to me. You can try to divide them if you wish, I won’t!

    Mr. Shank, I have not read your book. Based upon what Jay wrote in his short assessment of your book, I think the point many of us have trouble with is the idea that the “Church of Christ” equals “The Church of Christ”. I have spent more time as a member of the Independent Christian Church and the Episcopal Church than as a member of the “Church of Christ”. But, my beliefs were unchanged regardless of which of these Churches my membership was placed. I had repented, confessed Jesus as the Son of God, was baptized by immersion, and was leading the best Christian Life that I was capable of leading. There was no change that occurred when I placed my membership at the “Church of Christ”. I was in Christ’s Church regardless of which denomination I attended. You and those like you seem to believe that having no ecclesiastical connection between congregations makes some sort of mystical difference that makes the “Church of Christ” special, it does not. Honestly, I cringe when I hear someone in the “Church of Christ” say “the brotherhood” because I know that they are using the term to exclude people from brotherhood.

  18. laymond says:

    Doug, Am I the one who is dividing God from his son and servant Jesus.?
    Here is what Paul said.
    1Cr 15:27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under [him, it is] manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
    1Cr 15:28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
    Eph 4:6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
    1Ti 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

    John said.
    1Cr 15:27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under [him, it is] manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
    1Cr 15:28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
    Eph 4:6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
    1Ti 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

    Matthew said.
    Mat 24:36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
    This is only a small sampling of who has the authority. either all this is untrue, or there is no equal authority.

    As for who will do the judging.
    Jhn 12:47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
    Jhn 12:48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
    Jhn 17:8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

  19. laymond says:

    John didn’t repeat what Paul said, I don’t know how that happened and I don’t know how to edit, comments anymore on this thread.

  20. Pingback: “Muscle and a Shovel”: In Reply to the Author, Michael Shank | One In Jesus

  21. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dear Michael,

    My reply to your comment proved too long for the comments section, and so I’ve posted a reply. http://oneinjesus.info/2013/10/27/muscle-and-a-shovel-in-reply-to-the-author-michael-shank/

    Jay

  22. Robert Harry says:

    The Church of Christ in itself is not denominational but is badly divide into many different groups. Which group is correct? all use the same bible. Some denounce the others to Hell for their practice or fellowship..

    Bob Harry

  23. mark says:

    Robert Harry,
    When certain cofC people and/or congregations run ads in the newspapers against other cofC congregations for moderating and modernizing, even though the cofC believed in and respected congregational autonomy, then they have ceased being non-denominational.

    It is not only that the groups condemn others to hell (generally everyone to the left on the cofC political spectrum is going to hell) but I have had the misfortune is sitting in a congregation when 2/3 of the people there were condemned to hell.

  24. Max Ray says:

    Michael,

    I have read part of your book and beg to differ with you about there being ” no private interpretation” in it. For instance, consider the following quote:

    “Paul was correcting the new Christians at Ephesus, telling them here in Ephesians 2:10-22 that Christians were no longer under the former works of Moses … the works Paul speaks of here … is (sic) clearly the works of he law of Moses. Paul was correcting their erroneous thinking, lest any Jewish-Christian should boast. Do you see that?” Kindle location 977 – 987

    This is a flat out misrepresentation of what Paul is saying in Ephesians 2. It may have been an unintentional misrepresentation, but it is a misrepresentation nevertheless. The subject of the law of Moses had not been brought up previously in the text. The apostle had been talking about how all believers had been raised up by the power of God from their former state of spiritual death in a manner similar to Jesus’ resurrection, had been saved and had all been made to sit together with Christ “in the heavenly places.” The apostle was actually considering both Jewish and Gentile Christians together.

    The law of Moses does not come under consideration until verses 14 and 15 where the apostle is assuring the Gentile Christians of their place among the people of God because the “law of commandments expressed in ordinances,” which had been a wall separating them from the Jews, had been abolished, effectively bringing together both divisions of humanity into one body. There is not one word in the entire chapter of the works in verse 9 being works of the law. What is generally left out of the discussion is that the Gentiles had a works-based religion (as most false religions do) in which they supposed they received favor from their gods by the perfect performance of rites and rituals. So the apostle’s reference to works could have applied to either Jews or Gentiles – or to both. To explain away the force of verses 8-9 by saying that the passage is a refutation of a Jewish attempt at salvation by works of the law is simply a gross misrepresentation of the passage. It is a denial of what is said – that we are saved by grace through faith. This is denied in order to maintain the standard Church of Christ doctrine that salvation requires that man must do certain works, (e.g., baptism) – and do them perfectly – in order to be saved.

  25. Dear Max,

    I truly agree with your statements in paragraph, sentences 3-5. Absolutely, you’re correct! However, you stated that, “The law of Moses does not come under consideration until verses 14 and 15 where the apostle is assuring the Gentile Christians of their place among the people of God because the “law of commandments expressed in ordinances,” which had been a wall separating them from the Jews, had been abolished, effectively bringing together both divisions of humanity into one body.” I’m sorry, but your statement that the law didn’t come under consideration until v.14-15 is incorrect.

    “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:11-13).”

    Here in verse 11, as we can both see, Paul reminds the Gentiles without the circumcision. Friend, he brought this up in direct reference to the Law of Moses, due to the fact that circumcision was the identifier of being within the covenant and a child of God. He remind the Gentiles in v.12 that they were strangers to the commonwealth of Israel, another way to reference the Law. In 13 he encourages them that they’ve been brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ.

    We should also consider the remote texts, such as Galatians, to see what Paul was trying to correct within many of the new congregations in that region – the problem of the Jews trying to tell the Gentiles that they too had to be circumscribed to be saved. Paul, from vv.11-13 addresses the Jew’s incorrect thinking and reminds them that they are all brought together under the blood of Christ (v.13-18). You can also find this in Col. 2 and Galatians. It was a common problem among Jewish Christians.

    This is not a gross misinterpretation of the passage(s) at all; as a matter of fact, check the historical data along with man commentaries available. You’ll find Randall’s explanation to be completely in line with the remote text of the Word, the historical data, and well-known commentaries.

    Max, I don’t know of any doctrine within the church of the Lord Jesus Christ that says you must do works to be saved, and perfectly in order.

    However, in regards to Ephesians, consider these:

    “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3).”

    “31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Eph. 4:31-32).”

    If we wear the name Christian, are we not to be lowly, gentle, patient, bearing one another in love and trying to unify together in a bond of peace? Are we not to get rid of bitterness and anger, and be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving to each other?

  26. mark says:

    “Max, I don’t know of any doctrine within the church of the Lord Jesus Christ that says you must do works to be saved, and perfectly in order.”

    It is conservative cofC doctrine. Preached from pulpits for decades and used to condemn the denominations to hell, even those that use immersion for baptism and are a Capella. I recently read about a church who said even the a Capella crowd who don’t believe the issue is a salvation issue are going to hell. Now this is crazy. This is radical legalism. No wonders the young don’t want to go to these churches. I would not want to either.

    As for your last paragraph, mr. shank, do you believe that? Would you go to bat to get rid of the anger and bitterness that people hold, especially conservative cofC? Would you call down a minister who condemned people to hell because he was angry and/or bitter?

    I have been condemned to hell so many times and I have never seen anyone tell a minister he got carried away. Most of those ministers got a hug from the eldership and a pat on the back.

  27. mark says:

    Those are great Dennis.

  28. Dear Mark, please forgive me for calling you Max. I really appreciate your response. Friend, I agree again. Radical legalism, as well as any extreme position, does great harm. Friend, I would certainly got to bat to get rid of the anger and bitterness that people hold – ESPECIALLY in our conservative congregations. I can tell you that I have called down three ministers in the past for their attitude, their condemnation, their hateful speech, their lack of love, their arrogance, and for their general hostility.

    Mark, I am honestly and sincerely sorry that our “brethren” have condemned you to Hell – this is a horrible thing. It shouldn’t be this way, as we both know and agree. I can also tell you that I receive hundreds of hateful, hurtful, nasty, unjustified messages from brethren about my book. I continue to be amazed over the actions and attitudes of those who wear the name of Christ.

  29. mark says:

    You did not call me Max.

  30. Michael, I am truly sorry that you are being attacked. I hope you do not see this exchange that way.

    I have read your book.

    I am one of those who asked Jay for his opinion of your book.

    I agree with a lot of what you say, however, there are many things you say that would seem to continue the strife and division that has washed over the COC over the years.

    You say:

    Real unity is a group of people who believe, think and practice the same things under the banner of Christ using the Bible as their only guide.

    Shank, Michael (2012-06-01). Muscle and a Shovel Edition (Kindle Locations 4433-4435). Michael Shank. Kindle Edition.

    In your book, you do not seem to leave any room for differences of opinion about anything. Am I reading this wrong?

    This and other statements you make seem to be contrary to the principles of the restorationists as set out below.

    Much of the teachings of these men (Campbell and Stone) is summarized in the following sayings:

    We speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent.
    We refer to Bible things by Bible names.
    We are Christians only but not the only Christians.
    We have no creed but Christ.
    In faith unity, in opinions liberty, and in all things charity.

    From preface of Do We Teach Another Gospel? By Jay Guin.

    I have seen indications that your book might be a tool used by some of the ultra conservatives to continue the strife. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYflJaw1jY0 if you do not know what I am talking about.

    Campbell indicated that there were Christians in all the denominations and invited them to unite together. You seem to directly call this false in your book? Do you believe that a person who has been properly baptized, in attendance at a denominational church is not a christian?

    Tell us how you see your book being used to unify Christians and bring us closer together.

    Do you think that your book reflects reflects the restoration principles cited in the above quote from Jay’s book?

    How do you suggest we reacquire a focus on Jesus.

    You have an audience, talk to us. What is your vision?

  31. It is ridiculous to quote the scriptures to justify factionalism when they were given to forbid it. No honest opinion, no sincerely held doctrinal view, can ever be made the ground for rejection of one of God’s children. It would be absurd for God to warn that the party spirit would debar from inheritance of the kingdom, and then make provision for the party spirit and enjoin it upon us. Strife and division are the characteristics of those who are carnal and immature (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).

    Unity in Christ is not conformity but community. We are one because we share a common faith, and not because we hold the same opinions. The only passage which declares there is one faith informs us that in our calling we must live “with patience, forbearing one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). Patience and forbearance are not qualities of robots, but of thinking men and women. God made us to differ mentally as we differ physically. We can no more all think alike than we can all look alike.

    We are not in the fellowship because we see everything alike, or because we like everything we see. We are together because God has called us all, and received us all when we responded to his call. God did not call angels, but men! We are human before we are called and we are human after we are called. We are not changed into the perfect image at once, but “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

    Being human, there is only one type of unity possible for us, and that is unity in diversity. If we do not accept this form of unity there is no other for us. Fellowship results from a mutual sonship; brotherhood from a common Fatherhood. We are not one because we have all attained to the same degree of spiritual growth, but because we are all in the same family. We are not one in opinion, but one in Christ Jesus. To interpret the word of God to fragment those who are in the Son of God, and thus to justify their carnality and immaturity, is to do despite to the Spirit of grace.

    The living Word was made flesh to bring us together in the Lord. His was the task of reconciliation and recovery. The written word is the account of how He accomplished this magnificent and divine purpose, and is provided so that we may know how to enter into it and become a part of it. It is cruel to turn the sword of the Spirit against those who have been born of the Spirit. It is insane to take the weapon given us to battle the forces of darkness and use it to spill the blood of the soldiers of light.

    From Chapter 1, THE TWISTED SCRIPTURES, by W. Carl Ketcherside
    http://www.freedomsring.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=52&Itemid=18

    Michael, The conversation here is about the book, not you as a person. My question to Jay and to you, is , am I missing something here?

    I think this is what I am missing from your book. Did I overlook it?

    Dennis

  32. Oh, by the way…

    OUR HERITAGE OF UNITY AND FELLOWSHIP

    Writings of Leroy Garrett and W. Carl Ketcherside
    Edited and Published by
    Cecil Hook

    Chapter 40
    “OUR BROTHERS IN THE DENOMINATIONS”

    by Leroy Garrett

    “Brethren in all denominations.” All these years most of us in the Churches of Christ Christian Churches have not allowed ourselves to talk like that. Even if we might think it, and most of us probably do, we do not say it. It is our unwritten creed that our sisters and brothers are all in what we call the Church of Christ. While we often refer to “the denominations,” in contrast to “the Lord’s church” (meaning us!), we do not refer to our brethren in the denominations. In this short piece I want to show that this sectarian mentality is of recent date, for our founding fathers did not have this narrow view of brotherhood.

    The phrase is in quotation marks because it is taken from Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address, which dates back to 1809 and is one of our founding documents. The Address is in fact written “To all that love our Lord Jesus Christ, throughout all the Churches.” It is clear that he considers those in all the churches who love the Lord Jesus Christ as his brothers and sisters. Time and again in the document he refers to “our brethren” and “our brethren in all the denominations,” and at least once he refers to them as “Our dear brethren in all the denominations.” While he recognizes that they are divided into parties, he still refers to them as “our Christian brethren, however unhappily distinguished by party names.”

    He refers to these brethren in the denominations as both the Christian Church and Church of Christ, such as “so that we might return to the original constitutional unity of the Christian Church,” and “all the churches of Christ which mutually acknowledge each other as such.” He is not calling any one denomination or even all of them together the Church of Christ, but rather the Christians in all the denominations. What he sees as the Church of Christ transcends any sect or denomination.
    That is the basis upon which he set forth in the same document his first great proposition on unity, often quoted by our people through the years: “The Church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one.”

    Thomas Campbell did not suppose he had to refer to “the Church of Christ” with a lower case c, as our folk are wont to do, supposing that by using “the church of Christ” they are affirming nondenominational status. In all such references as those above Campbell consistently uses the capital C for church, whether Church of Christ or Christian Church, as I notice most scholars do when they refer to the church universal. It says something about where we’ve been (or not been) when we fastidiously use “the church of Christ” and refer to less than all Christians, while others use “the Church of Christ” when referring to the universal church made up of all believers.
    Campbell also says in the Declaration and Address, “This, we are persuaded, is the uniform sentiment of the real Christians of every denomination,” referring to his plea for unity among all believers. This explains why the Stone Campbell movement was an effort to “unite the Christians in all the sects.” They were not trying to unite or amalgamate the denominations, but to unite “the real Christians” in the denominations.

    It is impressive that Campbell did all this writing about “the Church of Christ” while he yet did not have a single congregation that would eventually wear this name. This means he saw the true church as made up of all his dear brethren wherever they were and whatever party name they might be wearing, and this church has always existed, ever since the Holy Spirit breathed it into existence.

    It not only existed, but it was by its very nature one, even if scattered among the sects. Christ’s body cannot be divided! And so he wrote in that document, “The Church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one.”

    It would be wonderfully liberating if we could all, like Thomas Campbell, refer to “our dear brothers and sisters in the denominations,” and realize that we are all together the true Church of Christ upon earth.

    (Restoration Review: Vol. 32, No. 3; March 1990)

  33. laymond says:

    Max Ray said, “To explain away the force of verses 8-9 by saying that the passage is a refutation of a Jewish attempt at salvation by works of the law is simply a gross misrepresentation of the passage. It is a denial of what is said – that we are saved by grace through faith. This is denied in order to maintain the standard Church of Christ doctrine that salvation requires that man must do certain works, (e.g., baptism) – and do them perfectly – in order to be saved.”

    Jam 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
    Jam 2:15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
    Jam 2:16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
    Jam 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
    Jam 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
    Jam 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (faith)
    Jam 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
    Jam 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
    Jam 2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
    Jam 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
    Jam 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

    Anyone who reads this then says what Max Ray said does not believe in the bible plain and simple .

  34. alreadybeen2 says:

    I choose not to be hard on Michael because men of God such as Carl Ketcherside and
    Cecil Hook matured with age and became true ambassadors of Christ. The dividers are
    sincere in most cases but short on wisdom.

    I encourage Michael to read Cecil Hooks Essays. They will help him on his spiritual
    journey. Although both Carl and Cecil are in the heavenly courts as we speak their
    literary works are alive and working on the hearts of believers.

    Sometimes we hear what we want to hear. We can be better than we were yesterday.
    Quoting Patrick Mead “Lord, help me be a little better today. Help me be a little less
    like me and a little bit more like you.”

  35. laymond says:

    alreadybeen2 said; Quoting Patrick Mead “Lord, help me be a little better today. Help me be a little less like me and a little bit more like you.”

    ? alreadybeen2 , please explain what it means to you to be more like Jesus. ? What did Jesus do
    to empress upon you that you wanted, no needed to be more like him.

    I leave that question hanging out there for anyone who wishes to answer it. what is it you can do to become more like Jesus.?

  36. Monty says:

    ‘All these years most of us in the Churches of Christ, Christian Churches have not allowed ourselves to talk like that. Even if we might think it, and most of us probably do, we do not say it. It is our unwritten creed that our sisters and brothers are all in what we call the Church of Christ.’

    I find this statement to hit the nail on the head. We refer to “us’ ( CofC) and “them”(denominations=lost-apostate) until we say things like” America is a Christian nation” or “used to be a Christian nation”. Really? in what sense? In a CofC sense? I don’t think so, if only our little flock are the “true” Christians. We use the word Christian, as referring to other groups, when it helps serve a point we’re making.

    We read or hear about Christians(of the generic sort) in parts of the world who are being persecuted and they aren’t from our “stock” and we don’t know what to do or say about them. I mean, do we pray for those erring brothers? Oh, that’s right, technically they aren’t even our brothers until they get baptized in the church of Christ. Are they our enemies since they are spreading false doctrine(according to many). If they are, we are not supposed to bid them Godspeed. What to do, what to do?

    But Jesus did say “pray for your enemies”, so in that sense we can fulfill our Christian duty, I suppose. But there is something wrong with ideology that knows that people who love Jesus and worship Jesus are being in some cases put to death and we feel no real sense of anguish because they aren’t Church of Christ. I think somewhere deep inside most of us know this is wrong. “When one member suffers, the whole body suffers.” “Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak and I am not weak? who is offended and I burn not ? Like Paul, my heart aches for those who may not believe everything like I do, but they are trusting in Jesus and being faithful in what they believe, “even unto death.”

    Our neat little “us and them” worldview only holds up in isolationist communities where perpetual inbreeding of such ideology occurs. It can’t stand the test of questions such as: would it be a good thing or a bad thing if there were no other churches in your community other than your particular group of Christians? That your 40, or your 100, or even your 1,000, were the only ones left in the city where you live and the rest of the other churches’ member were suddenly nonbelievers? Would that be a good thing or a bad thing? Be careful how you answer.

  37. mark says:

    Even though there are various forms of Judaism ranging from mystic to Hasidic, they all remember the victims of the holocaust as Jews, not as reform Jews or conservative Jews, but as Jews. The ancient martyrs are also remembered as just Jews. Christianity is merely an off shoot of Judaism, and perhaps, we need to go back and learn from the mother faith, the acceptance of all under the umbrella, regardless of whether or not we completely agree with them.

  38. qinhan says:

    I’m commenting only to say this: I hate it when people address me as “Friend.” Hate it, hate it, hate it. It never comes off as anything other than insincere, phony and condescending. And it makes me not want to read anything else that follows it.

  39. Doug says:

    qinhan,

    I have to add an “Amen” to your “Friend” comment. Mr. Shanks probably didn’t mean it to be condescending but I’ve heard it used on CofC TV shows so often and used in such condescending ways that I automatically attach that meaning to it. It’s shorthand for “let me explain this to you because you obviously don’t have the intelligence to understand it yourself”. Next to “the Brotherhood”, it’s one of my most disliked CofC terms.

  40. Doug says:

    Laymond,

    Regarding your question: “? alreadybeen2 , please explain what it means to you to be more like Jesus. ? What did Jesus do to empress upon you that you wanted, no needed to be more like him.”.

    Try Mathew 25:31-46, Surely if we clothe people without clothes, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and visit the jail inmates,… and if it’s the same as doing it for Jesus Himself, then we are doing what He would do. Aren’t we like him when we do these kindnesses if they are done out of love for the beneficiaries?

  41. Nicholas Hruschak says:

    It does not say anywhere in Muscle and a Shovel nor the Bible that if you are not a member of the Church of Christ or any denomination that you do not have salvation, nor is it or should it be the belief of the Church of Christ. This is because it is not any person’s job to sentence a judgement, only God can do that. Any New Testament Christian knows this, and if a “Christian” feels they can they are indeed not a Christian despite denomination or title. Anyone who follows the gospel achieves salvation; no one church or any denomination is saved just because of their title.

    Shank addresses the beliefs that denominations hold, such as the Sinner’s prayer or praying to Mother Mary or other idols. These go against the teachings in the Gospel and the rest of the New Testament. (See 1 Cor 10:14 on Idolatry and 1 Tim 1:3-4 on false doctrine.) A “Church of Christ” is any church that is established under Jesus Christ and follows His doctrine, not just a church labeled “Church of Christ.”

    The teaching of Jesus Christ is that you follow His word and what He has set forth in the New Testament. Most denominational teachings have added in beliefs of their own to fit how they wish to worship and live, not how Jesus Christ has taught us how to worship and live. That is the meaning behind your quoted reading in the bible. There are more than just the Church of Christ that are non-denominational.(Calvary Church, New Vision, Jesus is Lord Church, and so on.) These non-denominational churches are not guaranteed salvation. If they (denominational or non-denominational) don’t follow the Gospel and the teachings in the New Testament, they’re salvation is in jeopardy. That is the message behind the book.The excerpt from the book has been blown out of proportion to make an argument.

    You have a good section to get people thinking, but bashing a church is not the way to make a strong argument. The belief of any Christian regardless of their name on their building or the title they accept should be the Word of God and it’s teachings. If they do that, they have everlasting salvation.

    I appreciate the time you may have taken to read this and look forward to a reply,

    Nicholas H.

  42. Steve Erwin says:

    Nicholas H. could not have said it better.
    As a member of the church of Christ, I try to answer questions posted on public forums concerning biblical things with biblical scriptures as proof. Too many times the answers received are the “I believe” type of answers and those beliefs have absolutely no scriptural proof. It is all “feelings”, which Michael also points out as one of the main problems in many churches.
    I myself get tired of the word “denominational” used toward a certain teaching. Most of the times this teaching is a teaching approved by a “panel/board of directors/convention” and as such, to me at least, it becomes an organization. When false doctrine is pointed out and they realize what church I go to, it always ends up with attacks on the coC based on ignorance.
    The bible is clear as to why each church is to be autonomous. The first century church was already having problems with false doctrine being brought in, especially in the times the apostles were still establishing churches. John, in his epistles, addressed this directly. Paul constantly had to correct. We have the same problems today as the first century church had then, the urge for man to demand respect and honor above Truth. That respect and honor is usually based on money nowadays.
    I like to point out a scripture that has just as much meaning today as it did back then when it comes to ignoring truth. John 12:42-43:
    42. Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue;
    43. for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

  43. Do you think this is accurate?

    Jay’s position assumes that people in various denominations are both
    1. seeking God’s will and
    2. being faithful to their understanding of God’s will.

  44. Orion says:

    Justin,
    If it is true about you that you are 1). seeking God’s will and 2). being faithful to your understanding of God’s will, why would you assume it is not true about someone else. Is it because they may come to a different conclusion than you do?…based on their seeking God’s will and being faithful to THEIR understanding of God’s will.

  45. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Justin,

    That’s pretty close to true. I don’t assume that each and every member of X denomination is seeking God’s will, but in general, it’s true.

    You don’t state your own views, but there a strand of conservative Church of Christ thinking that assumes that “the denominations” intentionally violate God’s known will — which is not true but sure makes it easy to damn those in other denominations.

    I used to have low view of the spirituality of Christians outside the Churches of Christ, based on the preaching I grew up with. Once I left college, I met many of these “denominational” people and found many to be very devoted followers of Jesus, often at great personal sacrifice. It took a while for me to accept the new reality I was experiencing, but there came a point that there was just no denying that you don’t have to be in the Church of Christ to deeply love Jesus and try to obey his will.

  46. Jay – My views are very simple. Let me get as close to what Jesus wants me from me. Let me teach and influence others to do what I believe Jesus would have them to do. If they say they are seeking his Will, who am I to judge them?
    Now, the question is – are they my brothers and sisters in Christ? Well – if they’ve been born again / baptized into Christ, absolutely they are. I will, however, influence them and converse with them about things I think are important, things about which we disagree. As far as it comes to things I believe are wrong, I cannot fellowship with them on those things. I can, however, join with them in the things in I believe to be right.

    Now, to kind of the logic puzzle of it all:
    Ok, let’s do the assuming we talked about (those in various groups are seeking God’s will and trying to be faithful to their understanding of his Will).
    Yet, the inherent nature of the various groups means that we disagree on some things (and some rather big ones). So, is the will of God unknowable on these matters?

  47. Orion – I think that’s a good question. I think the answer relates to the question of whether God’s will is knowable on the particular issue. If it is reasonably knowable, then what are the implications for our disagreements and various groups? If it is not reasonably knowable, then what are the implications?

  48. Orion says:

    Justin,
    As a life long coc’er, when I look at the changes that God through his spirit has accomplished in my life and walk with Christ from the beginning until now, I feel like I am in no postion to determine if something is knowable. Things of which I was once certain have become less clear and some things I have even changed my view 180 degrees.
    If through study I have changed so much, how can I be certain that things I hold as knowable now won’t change as God makes things more clear.

    I believe that regardless of the knowability of an issue, my implications are to love and bear with my brothers. Jesus last plea to his disciples before going to the cross is that they be one. (John 17)

    In the case of rebellion (intentionally sinning), love may take a rebuke, but it is still love for a brother. And not every disagreement with a brother involves rebellion but may be an honest disagreement.

    It seem the more I am involved with ministering to those described in Matthew 25:31-36 and James 1:27, the less interested I am in the issues involving forms of corporate worship and looking down on those of different religious groups.

    As Ephesians 2:10 states, “We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God created in advance for us to do.” I believe that if we were all busy with these good works we would not have the time nor inclination to argue over forms in our corporate gatherings, but would instead be encouraging each other to continue being the church.

    God’s blessings as we struggle through this together.

  49. Monty says:

    Jay said,

    “but there a strand of conservative Church of Christ thinking that assumes that “the denominations” intentionally violate God’s known will — which is not true but sure makes it easy to damn those in other denominations. ”

    The old CofC verse for that is that “we are like the Bereans” !! Those other guys, not so much. That’s how I was brainwashed, too. Have you ever noticed how we’re always the good guys? We wear the white hats and the denominations wear black ones?

  50. Alabama John says:

    When a split occurs, the ones staying often heard saying “They went out, or have gone out, from among us”. Meaning of course they are lost.

    The good thing is all this arguing and codemning one another openly has become so goofy it has caused us to stop and see our errors.

    Many more each day are looking inward and reassessing their positions and finding fault with themselves so that draws them closer and creates more forgiveness of others formerly totally condemned.

    This is moving forward to a better place.

  51. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Justin,

    First, an “amen” for Orion’s comment to you.

    Second, the obvious problem, as noted by Orion, is that it’s an entirely subjective question. What you consider knowable I may consider unknowable, and who breaks the tie? Do we set up a council of wise men to make this decision?

    I’ve often thought that many of our preachers and thought leaders used exactly this system, without so saying. If the answer seemed obvious and indisputable to them, then it’s a salvation issue. If the answer is unclear to them, then it’s think and let think.

    I know an ACU student who entered ACU (many, many years ago) persuaded that instrumental music is a think and let think issue. He wasn’t sure of the answer.

    When he graduated, he’d come to a “certain” conclusion that IM is sinful, and so he declared those who disagreed with him damned. Literally millions of believers shifted from saved to damned in four school years because this young man became convinced on just one issue! It’s as though God’s salvation hinges entirely on how well a single college does his studies! And yet this is an unspoken and very real attitude among us — we subjectively save and damn depending on our level of certitude.

    Third, dividing doctrines between the knowable and unknowable is an epistemological exercise tracing back to the Greeks. But it’s not a Jewish or biblical approach to the problem. We should rather find the answer, not in how certain we are — that is, within ourselves, but in the scriptures.

    (Rom 14:1-6 ESV) As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

  52. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Justin,

    PS — I hate epistemology. What is “knowable” is unanswerable because often we learn things that at one time we thought we’d never know.

    I do not agree with those who make a big deal out of the fact that we are never certain of anything. It’s just not a useful way to approach real life problems. Rather, we can claim certainty but with humility, that is, we have to always be willing to hear other views and consider them. The key is not uncertainty — which leads to inaction — but humility — which leads to always learning.

    Hence, even though I may feel entirely certain that IM is okay, humility tells me that others may disagree and not be bad people and not disagree for illicit reasons. Therefore, as a church leader, cognizant of Romans 14, I shouldn’t force people to worship contrary to the consciences, no matter how certain on the issue I may feel. The point of humility is not to doubt yourself but not to value one’s own opinions to the exclusion of others, because the opinions of others is a part of who they are, and they are not worth less than me.

    Nonetheless, I believe what I believe, and that’s what I teach. And the teaching experience is give and take — questions and answers — so that even though I have a view I’m certain of, it’s compared to other views. But that doesn’t mean I don’t try to be persuasive. I do. I just don’t foreclose the other side.

    Just as here in the blog, I argue vigorously for what I think it true, but other viewpoints are freely expressed in the comments, and the readers get to compare and decide.

    So I would not try to think in terms of knowability but the kind of acceptance Paul taught in Romans 14. (And, yes, there are limits. Teachings that damn cannot be allowed. Those who would divide cannot be allowed. Disagreement is not division unless you make it so, of course.)

    (Rom 15:5-7 ESV) 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

    Just remember, in v. 7, that we were “welcomed” by Christ at our baptism, and most of us barely knew enough to say the Good Confession and receive immersion. I’m sure we had all sorts of wrong “positions” on “knowable” issues. And that is the standard by which Paul says we are to welcome others. It’s not a high standard of theological expertise.

  53. A couple of verses we seem to forget:

    2 TIM 2 [23] But reject foolish and ignorant controversies, because you know they breed infighting. [24] And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient, [25] correcting opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth [26] and they will come to their senses and escape the devil’s trap where they are held captive to do his will.

    MATT 7 [1] “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. [2] For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive. [3] Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? [4] Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? [5] You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

    … and why, while we are on this earth, do we understand that if we have a dispute with a physical brother or sister, we cannot remove them from being children of their father, while in “church” it seems so easy?

  54. Jay and Orion – I hear where you’re coming from. I feel this way with heart, but can’t make it fit into my logical understanding of the issue (not that I have thorough logical understanding of the issue – and what I mean by that is fellowship and our whole discussion). In any case – like Orion said – I will try to focus on doing good works, follow God to my best understanding, love my brothers, and try to approach the issue with humility. I may not have all of this figured out, but I think those are key lessons for me to take from this.

  55. Maxwell Morgan says:

    Could everyone agree with. 1. God’s word says it. 2. I believe it. 3. That settles it? If we can’t be certain of anything, why did Jesus say, “you shall KNOW the truth and the truth will make you free?” And why did Paul plead or command “No divisions among you and that all “Christians” speak the same thing….is that impossible, it would seem so by the many comments made here.

  56. R.J. says:

    Paul wanted the Corinthians to compose their differences, not to conform to a uniformity that eschews unity in diversity. Max, in order to affirm 2 and 3 we must first evaluate authorial intent before we establish #1. Too often we take scripture out of context and use them as proof-texts against our brothers and sisters. Objective hermeneutics goes a long way.

  57. Maxwell Morgan says:

    Unity in diversity, does that imply that Jesus’ plea for all his followers to be one, but actually be divided or diversified in teachings or doctrine? I understand that no scripture is of private interpretation and that many do use scripture out of context to try and prove a point. Is objective hermeneutics not 1.Command 2. Approved Example and 3. Necessary Inference? Is there a different avenue in scripture that God grants permission, teaches us what is right and lawful than through these three avenues. Jesus used all three in teaching and EXPLAINING THE SCRIPTURES. Command (Mark 16:16); Approved Example (Matthew 12:5); Necessary Inference (Matthew 22:32-33). How can we fail to handle aright or rightly divide the word of truth by using this hermeneutic? II Tim: 2:15

  58. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Maxwell,

    If history teaches us anything, it teaches that the command, example, necessary inference (CENI) hermeneutic does not lead to agreement! If it did, the Churches of Christ would be united, and they are not. During the 20th Century, most of their divisions were over how to apply CENI. And I’ve seen a lot of division close up and personal.

    Unity is a gift from God. It works like this: you become a Christian, he adds you to the one church that there is, and you are united by God Almighty with all other Christians.

    The problem isn’t achieving unity — it’s been achieved — but recognizing the unity that God has given us.

    When we deny the salvation of someone over an inference based on a silence, using an inferred rule, and then infer that because we disagree the other person must be damned, we are very, very far from what the text actually says.

    Thus, the solution to a lack of unity is not adherence to a failed hermeneutic but a return to a diligent study of the scriptures themselves, because the scriptures show the path to unity. I strongly recommend that you read my book http://oneinjesus.info/books-by-jay-guin/the-holy-spirit-and-revolutionary-grace/, which was published 20 years ago and is now posted at that link as a free download, thanks to the generosity of my publisher. It addresses unity directly from the Bible.

  59. Ravost says:

    Study to show yourself approved of God. If God said to do it, do it. Obey what He has said in His Word. He said believe and be baptized and you will be saved. One church that Jesus Christ died for. Not everyone is going to heaven. Narrow is the Way. God said it. Follow the recipe. You can do it.
    I read Muscle and a Shovel. It was very appropriate. What are you afraid of? If you are afraid of being wrong, then you must make sure you are right–your eternity depends on it. You say we shouldn’t judge. God said that we can judge based on if one is following the pattern He gave to us.
    Acapella means ‘of the church’. The first century church sang psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. They made music with the voice.
    I’m out :*)

  60. Ravost says:

    Jay, it is my assumption that you are among the ranks of the ‘new’ hermeneutics genre. Emerging, are you?

  61. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Ravost,

    First, let me thank you for coming here to comment and ask your questions. I appreciate the opportunity to answer.

    “New hermeneutics” is a badly misused term. It refers to a a theory of reading put forward by some Post-modern philosophers, and it’s not caught on in many places — and it simply has zero influence within the Churches of Christ or even Protestant American Christianity.

    Here’s an article giving a definition: http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/4042/what-is-the-new-hermeneutic. And I do not follow the “new hermeneutic,” and I know no one who does.

    If you get on Google, you’ll find dozens of articles by conservative Church of Christ preachers condemning the supposed teachers of the new hermeneutic, but you’ll find little if any citations or references to books or articles by people who’ve actually taught the NH.

    On the other hand, I reject some (not all) of the hermeneutics taught by some (not all) in the Churches of Christ. I teach that the Bible is true, inspired, reliable and authoritative. And I try to determine what the text means in light of literary and historical context.

    I’ve written several posts on hermeneutics, but in brief, what I try to do is emulate the way Jesus and Paul (and others) read and interpret the scriptures. I study how they take an Old Testament text and interpret and apply it or apply doctrines such as the gospel to the issues they contend with. In other words, I seek to apply a very, very old hermeneutic deeply rooted in scripture, indeed, in Jesus and the apostles. And I reject the Regulative Principle (silence is a prohibition) because it was invented by John Calvin in the 16th Century — which is far too “new” for me.

    The “Emerging” movement died two or three years ago. No one talks about being or not being emerging any more. Some of their goals were good; some not so good. The movement died in part because the members couldn’t agree on what they should stand for. So it’s rather like asking my position on the Whig party. The movement is gone and was never very well defined.

    For what it’s worth, I’m a third-generation Church of Christ elder. I grew up in North Alabama. I graduated from Lipscomb. And I’m a big fan of Barton W. Stone and Thomas and Alexander Campbell. Most of what I teach (not all, but a whole lot) agrees with one or even all three of the founders of the Restoration Movement. I just think we went wrong when we started declaring as damned anyone who disagreed with us about how to worship God, which is the exact opposite of what Stone and the Campbells taught. I would like us to get back to our founding principles, because they are biblical, scriptural principles.

    If you are interested in understanding more about Stone and the Campbells, as well as my views on grace, fellowship, and how Christians fall from grace, please read my published book, which is now available as a free download, The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace http://oneinjesus.info/books-by-jay-guin/the-holy-spirit-and-revolutionary-grace/ and another book I make available for free download here, Do We Teach Another Gospel? http://oneinjesus.info/books-by-jay-guin/do-we-teach-another-gospel/.

    It works best, I think, if you read HSRG first. It’s an easy read and, although written about 20 years ago, it speaks directly to many of the teachings found in Muscle & Shovel.

  62. Maxwell Morgan says:

    I don’t judge nor condemn anyone to an eternity of hell, God will. I will quote God’s word to anyone and let them make the decision on whether to believe or obey it, ie. God’s word says there are several practices that will keep one from entering the kingdom of heaven….man tells us this is just not true because God is a loving God who will not condemn anyone. God is a just God, he cannot lie. If a scripture tells me to do something or obey something, I will do my level best to do it…all the while thanking God for his grace and asking him to save me. I do not trust thousands of churches who speak differing doctrines and plans of salvation, I trust God’s word. Who are the few who will be saved in comparison to the many who will be lost? When does one become a Christian…man gives differing answers, why not just leave that answer to God’s word? I’ve never heard anyone say having the “church of Christ” on a building was the answer to unity, nor have I said being a member of a church of Christ saves you.

  63. Monty says:

    Maxwell,

    Which one of the 27 different divisions of the CofC are you in? Let me guess, the one that “God’s word says it, and you just believe it and it’s settled.” Am I right? The problem is the other 26 divisions say the same thing. and to top it off, they are divided on mainly the silences of scripture. How many cups(the one cup brethren would argue that Jesus wasn’t silent)? Sunday School or not? Can the church support orphans home out of the treasury? Can we eat in the building? And so much more we divide over. In your opinion, what seems to be the problem? Not with other groups of believers, but with OUR group? How do you fix it?

  64. Maxwell, if we are to live on the basis of “God says it”, then please share with us your practice regarding drinking red wine for digestive ailments, desiring to prophesy, having all things common, selling your possessions before you follow Jesus, paying taxes you don’t owe, turning the other cheek, letting someone steal from you and giving them a bonus as well, not forbidding others to speak in tongues, meeting daily, laying hands on the sick and seeing them recover… oh, I guess that’s a good enough list to start with. Please describe to us how you believe and practice these words of God in your own life and in the church, so that we might have a better understanding of what you mean by “God’s word says it; I believe it; that settles it.” A man’s life is a better lesson than his lectures. Looking forward to your personal testimony in this regard.

  65. Jay proposed, “Thus, the solution to a lack of unity is not adherence to a failed hermeneutic but a return to a diligent study of the scriptures themselves, because the scriptures show the path to unity.” I can’t agree here, because this is the exact same plan which has been carried out by the people who have led us into all this division. Every one of them agrees that the path of unity is found in the scriptures, and they all agree on the path: “Do what we say the Bible says, and we will all be in one accord.” (Okay, we leave out the words “we say” but watch us a little and we will insert it de facto by our practice.)

    This is a simple approach, and so far, has been entirely ineffective in leading us to unity. We have picked up our bibles, and diligently studied them and followed them in all directions. Campbell believed that if everyone would diligently study the scriptures, that diligence and sincerity in this effort would in and of itself eventually bring us unity. There is no evidence that this has ever produced more than localized consensus. What it has mainly produced is the popularization of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy, where I claim that if you don’t agree with what I have concluded from honest and sincere study, then you must of necessity be either dishonest or insincere or both. That sort of thinking will split the blanket into many shreds. And has.

    The “no kitchen” folks reject a non-literal, culture sensitive hermeneutic in favor of a literal interpretation with direct inferences from literal readings. The progressives reject a literalist CENI approach and are open to the implications of history and culture. I hate to sound like a heretic, but as long as our interpretations are a part of our reading of scripture, we will not find unity therein. I am not at all certain that this is the purpose of the scripture, anyway. We seek the unity of the Spirit, because that is all the unity there really is. We can, by good study, find certain levels of consensus on certain aspects of certain portions of scripture– and that’s a good thing– but this is not the same thing as the unity of the Spirit.

  66. Ravost says:

    My old preacher used to say, “if we don’t stand for something (God’s Word), we’ll fall for anything”. The Holy Spirit guides us unto all truth. Predicated on hearing, believing, repenting, being baptized, studying God’s Word and sharing/living it. Not so difficult to understand.

    The changes have been subtle, as the evil one is. Being progressive to the exclusion of/manipulation of the Holy Scriptures is wrong and it’s leading many to have a false view of what the Lord will accept.

    Naaman would not have been cured of leprosy had he not listened to Elisha/God–wash 7 times in the Jordan (not Abanah nor Pharpar Rivers). God is a great deal more specific than these bloggers would have us think.
    It is not in man to guide his own steps. Let’s look at what God said, not what men tell us. We will be judged by God’s Word not man’s loose explanation of it–God said we can know for ourselves.

  67. Not so hard to understand, perhaps, but entirely incorrect in this case. This happens sometimes when we offer Grandpa’s epigrams as revealed truth. Jesus did not predicate his promise of the guidance of the Holy Spirit upon baptism. Or upon repentance. Or upon anything else but his own faithfulness. The problem lies not in the specifics. No one argues the need for faith or baptism or repentance or reading the Bible or obeying God. The problem lies in the extrapolations we make from our selective concatenations of these specifics. We string together a series of disparate passages, take that string and insist that this string of “five acts” is what constitutes a “worship service”, and use another disconnected passage to suggest what day said “worship service” should occur and from this create a command to come to church every Sunday.

    To my brothers who have adopted this track, a note: Like you, we all like jalapenos and candy canes and salami and mustard and Hershey bars and cream gravy…. but we just can’t stomach the souffle you have made them all into. When we decline to eat it, please don’t go around telling people we are “anti-salami” and “refuse sound gravy” or have rejected that form of chocolate which was once for all delivered to us from God himself. It’s just not true.

    The flaw also lies in our reasoning– or lack thereof. Our friend Ravost illustrates my point when he encourages us to “look at what God said, not what men tell us” while telling us himself what we should believe about what God has said. This oxymoron is not unlike one saying, “Don’t believe anyone who tries to tell you what to believe!” Sadly, the irony of Ravost’s admonition is lost on more folks than just Ravost.

  68. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Ravost wrote,

    “Being progressive to the exclusion of/manipulation of the Holy Scriptures is wrong and it’s leading many to have a false view of what the Lord will accept.”

    What is point of launching unsupported charges? How does that help us understand each other? If you think I’ve excluded or manipulated the Holy Scriptures, tell me just exactly when I did that. Give the date or Internet address of the page. I mean, if you want to make the accusations, please be prepared to back your words with facts.

    If I’ve been wrong, I need to be corrected — and can hardly improve what I do based on such generalities. And if I’m not wrong, well, then we need to set the record straight.

  69. Ravost says:

    Ambiguity is your forte. The bible is simple. Resisting you and you shall flee. By the way, I am a Christian woman and have been in Christ since October 19, 1967. I do pray for my enemies and that apparently includes you, Charles Mclean. God really doesn’t care if we ‘like’ what we must do to be acceptable to Him and on judgement day you and many, many, many others will face this fact. May The Lord show you what He wants you to know.

  70. Ravost, please forgive my getting your gender incorrect. I am not entirely sure whether it is Jay or I who is the devil you are resisting, but personally, I’ve been called worse. [deleted per site policy against ad hominem statements] Thanks, anyway.

  71. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Charles wrote,

    Jay proposed, “Thus, the solution to a lack of unity is not adherence to a failed hermeneutic but a return to a diligent study of the scriptures themselves, because the scriptures show the path to unity.” I can’t agree here, because this is the exact same plan which has been carried out by the people who have led us into all this division.

    1. Actually, the scriptures do show us how to be united.
    2. But I would normally start with the unity given by the Spirit. (I know this from the scriptures, but the scriptures without the Spirit don’t quite do the trick.)
    3. But you have to speak in terms your audience will appreciate. Why write about the Spirit to an audience that likely denies the efficacious personal indwelling?

  72. Ravost says:

    There is still hope for you. The Lord mediates, not I. Thought you would know that. [deleted per site policy against ad hominem statements]
    It’s a command that I pray for you. Can’t hurt. Might help;*)

  73. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Maxwell wrote,

    man tells us this is just not true because God is a loving God who will not condemn anyone

    Who are you accusing of teaching this? I have never taught this and have in fact taught to the contrary. So why the accusation?

    I’ve never heard anyone say having the “church of Christ” on a building was the answer to unity, nor have I said being a member of a church of Christ saves you.

    Shanks in Muscle & Shovel says,

    “Mr. Mike,” he said meekly, “from my understanding of God’s Word, if you’re a member of a denomination, whether it be Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Mormon, any church that Jesus Christ did not establish and buy with His blood, there’s no question that you’re headed toward eternal destruction.”

    Notice the use of “denomination” in the first line. What does that mean if not any aggregate of Christian congregations that’s not a Church of Christ. Indeed, the story soon leads to the author leaving the Baptist Church and being re-baptized to become a member of the Churches of Christ. This is obviously what he considers the solution to how to become saved.

    We can get cute and pretend that any church that acts and teaches just like a Church of Christ but isn’t a Church of Christ will also be saved — provided it uses a “scriptural name.” I’m not sure any such churches exist, and I’ve yet to see a conservative Church of Christ treat anyone with a different name as a sister congregation.

    So if I don’t have to be a member of the Churches of Christ to be saved, what other church (real, actual, on-the-internet church) might I be a member of?

  74. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    REMINDER TO ALL: SITE POLICIES PROHIBIT AD HOMINEM STATEMENTS. DISAGREE VIGOROUSLY BUT NO PERSONAL INSULTS.

    (2Ti 2:24-26 NIV) 24 And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

  75. Ravost says:

    [deleted per site policy]

  76. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Ravost,

    PLEASE talk about the scriptures and the posts and not the other commenters. Please adhere to the the requirements of 2 Tim 2:24-26. No ad hominem statements. If you do not voluntarily comply, I will moderate your comments — which will be a major pain in the neck for both of us.

  77. Ravost says:

    Agree or be gone? Jay, others have stated their thoughts or opinions without rebuke. I see you allow their comments without scriptural quotes. I remove myself from your blog and hope you find the righteous way.

  78. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Ravost,

    I’ve not said that you must agree with me. I said you must comply with the commands found in 2 Tim 2:24-26 and the other site policies. If you are unwilling to obey that passage, and if you are unwilling to refrain from ad hominem invective, then you will not be allowed to post here. It is my preference that you comply with the policies, stay, and comment.

    As you can plainly see, there are many, many comments here that disagree with me. In fact, RJ’s comment just made at another post disagreed with something I wrote in a post from long ago, and I told him I agree with his correction and thanked him for it. I appreciate the conversation and sometimes being taught something I didn’t know that makes me rethink an issue. But I am going to insist on Paul’s instructions being followed.

  79. Larry Cheek says:

    It’s really sad, but the training of many in the Church of Christ promoted the same actions that we see playing out, demanding such strict observance to preconceived concepts that the mind cannot even continue to communicate when challenged with a testing of those concepts. Turn our back, jump as far as possible away from a serious study. I know because I’ve been there.

  80. Tim says:

    Every now and again – because of very good memories – I drop back in to the Church of Christ to see if anything has changed. I live in hope that maybe the same types of arguments will fade to black, having exhausted their narrative energy.

    Has anything changed?

    Still the continuum between a ‘progressive’ wing and a ‘conservative’ wing? Still haggling about pedigree: “I stand with Jesus,” or “I stand with the Bible?” Still living out the cyclical dysfunction of a “Restoration” movement?

    I read all of the above. Nope. Nothing’s changed.

  81. Jay, I appreciate the limitation you express in talking about the path to unity, and it was not my intention to set aside the scripture as part of that. But I think you have expressed the Catch-22 which we have long faced. How will we find unity when one of our conclusions from the scriptures denies the only path to such unity?

    It’s a bit like trying to encourage a gardening friend to water his withered plants when he does not believe water does much of anything for them. Fertilizer is good, weeding is good, picking off the insects is good, but none of these will make up for a lack of water. Come the hot summertime, he will have the best-fed, most weed-free, most insect-free dead garden in the neighborhood.

    It is always possible that our gardening friend will be convinced, or convince himself, that water is essential for the life of his tomato plants. But until then, there is little point in discussing the finer points of pruning. No water, no tomatoes. No matter how badly we want to help our friend in his garden, there are needful essentials that exist independent of our good will.

  82. Because, JESUS is the TRUTH, JESUS is the LIGHT, JESUS IS THE WORD and our unity is IN JESUS, not in agreeing with what you, or they, read into the bible or the doctrines you, or they create to support your ideas…

  83. Jay – it’s interesting that you make the comment that you hate epistemology. To me, this whole discussion is really rooted in what you can and cannot know as it relates to God’s will, following it, and being unified.

    The conservative route is that we can all understand the Bible alike and thus be unified. The idea is that this is the work of the Spirit, because the Spirit inspired the Bible. If you reject the truth, and unity, then you are unfaithful and to be condemned. This not only includes Nicene Creed type items, but also things like instrumental music, role of women, and church organization.

    The more liberal idea is that we cannot understand the Bible alike, thus we cannot know anything about what God wants from us. This leads to absurdity.

    What I think you’re saying is that you take a different route than either of these, which is that there are some fundamental truths in the Bible that are matters of faith. The Bible is clear on these (they are knowable), and we must agree on them (Nicene Creed type things). However, there are other matters that are grey areas that are not so easily knowable upon which we may have opinions (instrumental music, women’s roles, church organization), but the grace of God will cover us if we disagree. God has revealed an optimal path in these areas (theoretically knowable), but we can’t condemn others or disavow fellowship just because we sincerely disagree on these. The the main thing is that we seek him and live in the Spirit and seek to follow the Spirit’s leading (through Scripture and the indwelling). If we do so, grace will cover us, even if we get some things wrong.

    Is this correct? I’m trying to frame these viewpoints in my way of thinking.

  84. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    JustinBrasfield,

    I think you summarize the conservative view correctly. The “liberal idea” is not held by any theologian I’m aware of, although I’m sure there are people of that persuasion. Rather, in theological circles, “liberal” typically refers to Rudolf Bultmann and his followers (and similar thinkers). Bultmann denied the “unscientific” elements of the Bible — the resurrection, miracles, and such. Many followers adopted an existential perspective. More recently, there are elements of Post-modernism come close to what you describe, such as arguing that the interpretation of a writing comes solely from the text and the reader, with the writer’s intent being irrelevant because it’s unascertainable. But you won’t find Bultmann, existentialism, or this kind of Post-modernism here or in the Churches of Christ. There are those who take delight in making that claim, but they are mistaken. For that matter, if you read any of the evangelical commentaries or systematic theologies, you won’t find true liberalism.

    Many in the Churches of Christ call people like me “liberal,” meaning “you approve some things I don’t approve.” And that’s a terrible misuse of the word. It actually reveals a certain ignorance of the world outside the Churches of Christ — as does accusing people like me of the “new hermeneutics” — a product of Post-modern thought that denies that the author’s original intent can be found in a writing. (And, yes, it leads to absurdity.)

    On the other hand, as should be obvious, not all writings are easily interpreted (1 Cor 11 and head coverings come to mind), and we may not perfectly understand a writing from 2,000 years ago. Lack of perfection hardly implies no understanding at all. In fact, as you note, we can understand the core doctrines plenty easily enough.

    But I continue to object to drawing the line at knowability. Here are some reasons —

    * The Bible never draws the line at knowability. Rather, the scriptures draw the line of salvation at such things as faith in Jesus, repentance, trust in God, denying the sufficiency of faith in Jesus, loss of faith, and rebellion (all being either a positive or negative side of pistis).

    * We cannot agree on what is knowable. Obviously, God won’t require us to satisfy standards that aren’t knowable, but neither will God impose on us the obligation to satisfy everything thing that is knowable. To say otherwise would be to deny grace. Grace isn’t just for failing to meet unknowable standards. David was forgiven for adultery and murder — and he certainly knew those things to be wrong.

    * Consider instrumental music. I’ve studied the issue in great depth. I’ve read countless books arguing against it. I’ve read the ECFs. I’ve debated the topic here plenty of times. I’m entirely confident that it’s knowable that instrumental music in the worship of God is no sin. However, there are bright, honest students of the Bible who believe that instrumental music in the worship of God is a sin. Both sides believe the answer is knowable — and yet they disagree. Some would suggest that the very fact of the disagreement means that the answer is uncertain and so covered by grace.

    * And yet there are issues not covered by grace where bright, honest people disagree. I believe Jesus was resurrected by God. I know extremely intelligent, honest people who disagree. I think the question is knowable, and so do they. But grace will not cover that error.

    You wrote,

    What I think you’re saying is that you take a different route than either of these, which is that there are some fundamental truths in the Bible that are matters of faith. The Bible is clear on these (they are knowable), and we must agree on them (Nicene Creed type things).

    True. Faith in Jesus raises all sorts of interesting issues, but we accept (and should accept) the confession of a 12-year old as sufficient to allow the child to be baptized. The Churches of Christ correctly do not require a convert to announce a position on instrumental music or how many children an elder must have because these things have nothing to do with becoming saved.

    However, there are other matters that are grey areas that are not so easily knowable upon which we may have opinions (instrumental music, women’s roles, church organization), but the grace of God will cover us if we disagree.

    You mention issues that are difficult and so arguably not knowable, but you and I know plenty of Church member who would insist that these are knowable (on both sides!). Consider “kitchens in the building.” There are areas where this is a fellowship issue, and yet the early church met in houses — which had kitchens! It’s always struck me as a particularly knowable issue — since the Bible repeatedly refers to churches meeting in houses. And yet there are those who think it’s knowable that kitchens damn. Really.

    The line between the first items (“matters of faith”) and the rest is not knowability but whether it’s actually a matter of faith. In the NT, “faith” means faith in Jesus. But CoC arguments often treat as “faith” anything knowably taught in the Bible. Hence, the use of instrumental music is deemed a question of “faith” because the Bible addresses the question (through silence). And this is a horrible misuse of the word. I mean, do we believe in Jesus or do we believe in the words in our congregation’s tract rack? When we make every biblical proposition we feel strongly about “faith,” we quite literally become idolaters, because we are only to have faith in the Holy Trinity. We place our trust in God the Father/Son/Spirit and we commit to be faithful to them. We honor the Lord as Lord. We trust God. And yes God speaks to us through the scriptures, and faithfulness requires us to read, interpret, and obey them as well as we can manage, but we are not saved by the Bible and we are not baptized into the Bible and we don’t worship the Bible. Our faith is in Jesus — a divine person, whom we love — not the doctrine of how to worship.

    Hence, it is wrong — well nigh idolatrous — to refer to a cappella music as a “matter of faith.” It has NOTHING to do with faith in Jesus. It requires, rather, faith in a scheme of hermeneutics and in our own ability to interpret. You see, you can only have pistis in a person.

    I’ve read Alexander Campbell very closely. He uses “faith” only in the NT sense: faith in Jesus. He uses “opinion” of everything else. Read the Christian System (free on the internet). In particular, he teaches that he does not care about someone’s views on the findings of the Synod of Dort — the council that came up with the five points of Calvinism (TULIP)! In short, he specifically considers predestination and perseverance and unconditional election as matters of “opinion.”

    In pre Civil War Restoration Movement writing, “opinion” does not mean “not knowable,” but “not faith.” Thus, the saying,

    In matters of faith, unity;
    In matters of opinion, liberty;
    In all things, charity.

    Campbell is essentially urging great humility.

    See http://dsntl8idqsx2o.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2007/01/faith-and-opinion.pdf which give evidence for what I just said.

    God has revealed an optimal path in these areas (theoretically knowable), but we can’t condemn others or disavow fellowship just because we sincerely disagree on these. The the main thing is that we seek him and live in the Spirit and seek to follow the Spirit’s leading (through Scripture and the indwelling). If we do so, grace will cover us, even if we get some things wrong.

    That’s pretty much right, but you have to understand it relationaly, not legally or philosophically. Here’s a parable.

    When you lived at home with your parents as a child, you were subject to various commands, such as the command to do your chores. If you did your chores, your father was pleased and delighted in your obedience. If you disobeyed, you’d be disciplined. Sometimes, he understood that you forgot for good reasons (maybe you were sick). Other times, he understood that you were actually experimenting with teenage rebellion. Then the discipline was much tougher.

    But even if you perfectly understood his entirely knowable commands, when you violated those commands, you were still his son. He didn’t disown you. You continued to have your inheritance. He didn’t cut you out of his will. And you still loved each other — even when you were so furious with him you ran away and hid from him for a while.

    In fact, if I were to ask your dad, he’d tell me that it would be too painful to disown you — it would be unthinkable, unimaginable — because he knows your heart, and knows you’re a good, obedient kid — even when you rebelled a bit or got furious with him. And the prospect of disowning you as his son never came up.

    Now, if he issued a command that is in fact the subject of serious dispute as to its meaning, he would be that much less willing to disown you or even punish you. He’s no idiot. If he sees that you’ve honestly misunderstood, he may be disappointed in your foolishness or may entirely understand, but he won’t disown for an honest misunderstanding.

    However, it’s possible to be disowned. I know parents who’ve disowned a child — and they all feel a deep and lasting pain from it. And it only happens when the child rebels, brings shame to the family, and ultimately refuses to return after repeated efforts to beg the child to repent and become faithful to his parents. It happens, but not quickly or easily, because love creates a bond that’s not easily broken.

    Why, then, do we imagine that God would damn us for an honest mistake? Why do we imagine that God — the same God described in the Parable of the Prodigal Son — would disown a child, depriving him of his place in the family and his inheritance — just because he misunderstood an implication from his silence??

    If God were a parent who acted as the conservative Churches paint God, he’d be jailed for child abuse! I mean, a good child, desiring to obey with all his heart, misunderstands an instruction in all good faith, and so he’s disowned and cast out of his father’s house. It’s inhuman to imagine, and God is far more righteous and gracious to his children than we are.

    I’m confident that your dad has never threatened to disown you, except perhaps in jest. You’ve never been so rebellious that he would even consider removing you from the family, and yet I’m certain you’ve at times disobeyed — despite being an obedient child. (Not a contradiction at all, if you think about it.)

  85. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Charles,

    The reason my Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace begins with a series of lessons on the Spirit is, as you say, the impossibility of truly grasping grace without understanding something of the Spirit. But I’ve found that, properly instructed, countless people in the conservative Churches are thrilled to learn about the Spirit.

    I may have to do a series.

  86. alreadybeen2 says:

    I know that some will reject this out of hand but a few days ago I was thinking of
    ways our church could expand and suddenly it came to me. Why try to expand
    our dwindling congregation but rather offer baptism to any and all without an
    expectation of gaining new members? Our newspaper offers publication of
    articles from local churches which we have recently taken advantage of. I have
    not approached the elders on this matter.

    I don’t know if this has been tried before and wish to hear others reaction.

  87. Jay – thanks for the reply. I think framing the whole discussion in a relational context is interesting and something that I often don’t do. I’ll be thinking about that. Thanks.

  88. Pingback: “Muscle and a Shovel”: An Introduction and a Rerun | One In Jesus

  89. Joseph Pauley says:

    I think some folks should really reconsider being a part of the CofC denomination or any other denomination. The people who despise and deride the CofC denomination have become rather cozy with denominational Christianity, which is why I don’t understand why they just can’t tolerate the CofC denomination like they do the others. You loving, intolerant people who do exactly what you accuse the Conservative CofC of doing or claim to be victims of what they’ve done are vengeful and childish. Blind guides often can’t see in themselves what they see so clearly in others. Some of you should really consider trying to take the plank out of your eyes.

  90. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Joseph,

    Blog policy is that commenters follow this command from God —

    (2Ti 2:24-26 ESV) 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

    If you wish to engage in the discussion here, please tell us what you believe and why.

    You refer to the Churches of Christ as a denomination and then reject “denominational Christianity” — which seems a bit inconsistent. And I assure you that I detest denominationalism — that is, the tendency of Christians to separate from each other into clubs over doctrinal differences that don’t affect salvation. But I love my brothers and sisters who are in denominations (the Churches of Christ included) and respect much of their work. Like most Church of Christ teachers, I have commentaries and other resources written by those outside the Churches of Christ.

    If that make me “cozy” with the denominations, then fine. Many are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Why would I not be cozy with them?

  91. Joe Woolbert says:

    In preface, I was a Christian for 32 years and then went through an 8 year period of backsliding when I allowed Satan to divert my attention from Christ to the aggravations inflicted by the members of His church. Repenting and returning to the Lord’s service, I have a renewed focus and attention on strictly listening to and serving Him with His endowments to me. While I love those He loves dearly, I seek to make no judgments on their status, to apply no expectations to their behavior, to hold none of their synthetic theological theories, and to avoid arguing with the unpersuadable. On the contrary, I stay busy enough with the service my King expects of me: learning the scriptures that make one wise to salvation, conforming to being a living sacrifice, preaching the Word to the lost, doing good to all men especially those of the household of faith, and encouraging all that I meet to know, faithfully love, and anticipate the return of the Christ.

    To Michael: I read your book in two days. It was well written and exciting to read. I found it a temendously useful resource to share with those lost that cannot afford the time for a sit-down Bible study. The book’s contrast of Christianity with denominational Christianity is helpful for the God-seeker in my opinion. Thank you for writing and publishing your experience. May the lost of our nation and world be blessed by your book’s sharing of the gospel of Christ.

  92. JustaChristian says:

    I read the book over a period of about a month. This gave me plenty of time to think over its content. I am a member of the church of the Bible and this book helped me to be able to better explain to friends the difference between “going to church” and being “a member of the body” as well as “feeling saved” v. “being saved” and many other false teachings. I wish to state that I did not note that the author anywhere said that only those who specifically attend a congregation named “church of Christ” will be saved nor did he state that anyone not doing so would be condemned. He did say that those he found among community churches and “denominations” did not follow simple Bible teachings and only Bible teachings and thus that many who believed themselves to be saved were likely still in a “lost” state. He did specify that the church he became a part of was a “church of Christ” in name and was teaching and practicing from the Bible only. Such is not the case with all “churches of Christ.” The author does state once that “the church of Christ is the church of the Bible.” That is true! The Way, the Bride of Christ, the church of God in Christ and church of Christ are among the many names of the one true church. Where people get confused is in thinking that because people attend the church of Christ (in name) they are saved or because they don’t they are lost. Please do not generalize all members of “the church of Christ” as believing we are the only Christians. But please do realize that if you are a Christian (an obedient, faithful follower of Christ), you are a part of the Biblical church of Christ. People often get confused because of titles. It is Biblically accurate to say that only the church of Christ of the Bible is going to Heaven. That is the blood-bought church. This is not a reference to a denomination, but to those added to the church by God after baptism. By no means is this book an authority itself on salvation (the ONLY authority on that topic is God’s word); however, I did find the quoted Scriptures and context, to the best of my knowledge through Bible study, to be sound. The author does teach against denominationalism. The issue with “denominations” is primarily that most tend to teach doctrines of men alongside the Bible and sometimes rather than God’s word, adding to the word that which it does not say. That being said, I believe a Christian is one who has believed in and has confessed Christ, has repented of his/her sins, been baptized for the remission of sins and is striving to live faithfully. Our God is a God who takes obedience seriously. It is our responsibility to call out false teaching and promote serious Bible study (1 Timothy 1:3-7). I encourage anyone who has not read this book to read it cover to cover before commenting and to take it in the spirit it was intended, not as a condemning, self-righteous work of a narrow-minded person, but a book of encouragement to spur pure Bible study and obedience.

  93. Caleb says:

    Um did you even read the book?! He clearly acknowledges your argument in it. Better than that God acknowledges it in His Book. Maybe youve heard of it. Its called the Bible. If you are not doing the right things to be saved, yeah, youre going to hell. However do you have to be a member of the church of Christ to do so? Nope. Its not the name of the church that matters. Its what you are practicing. Whether its scriptural and authorized by God, or whether it is in vain, and authorized and created by man. Also you cant take just part of this book that supports or supplies your argument! Just like you cant only take some of the Bible. You have to take it all.

  94. What are the works that God requires? To believe on the one He has sent.

  95. Dwight says:

    If you call yourself by a name you are a denomination, because you have a name, which is not in itself sinful. Christians, go by Christian, a name based on Christ. Christians were called thus, but God, Jesus and none of the apostles ever said, “call yourself Christian” as opposed to saint, child of God, brother. Only when we make the term Christian an exclusive differentiator over other descriptions do we become secterian. Same goes for the assembly or groups. I Cor. condemns those people who grouped together under a name, dividing along those names and contending against one another. This is sectarianism. “Church” is a bad term, really, in that we use it to define many things at different times, but the word ekklesia, which means congregation has one meaning. We are all members of the congregation at the point of salvation and this is how we should think of ourselves afterwards, but we often don’t, because we are told not to. You must become a member of my church and not thier church, when in reality it is God’s congregation.

  96. Adriana W. says:

    2 Timothy 4:3-5 The apostle Paul tells Timothy, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate teachers for themselves to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” Salvation is only found in one name, Jesus Christ, Acts 4:12. How sad the pure gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is not enough for some people! Do we not understand that if we truly love Christ, we must obey his commandments? (John 14:15) I pray that every honest person who reads Michael Shank’s, Muscle and a Shovel, will follow up with their own Bible and be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 …”examining the scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so”. Even though this book is a narrative of his coming to know and understand the Gospel of our Lord, the undeniable truths, through a plethora of quoted scriptures of God’s plan of salvation, are undeniable. As Paul wrote in Romans 1:16 and 17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of Bod is revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, ‘”BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”‘ Let us not be ashamed of sharing the Gospel, even when its truth is not popular or accepted! There are too many souls in danger of being lost for ever!

  97. Adriana, did you read the many discussions that took place here on Shank’s book? There was a great deal of “following up with their own bible” that took place here, thoughtfully, and by mature and articulate believers. Shank’s alternative gospel of being saved by getting into the only right denomination was repeatedly compared to what scripture says, and most often the comparison was unfavorable in the extreme. You are correct, we should not be ashamed of sharing the Gospel. Shank’s message, with only perfunctory mention of Jesus and an emphasis instead on “intellect and effort” is anything but Jesus’ gospel.

  98. Alabama John says:

    In many places here in the USA there are folks meeting to worship with no mention of any sect or denomination. Sharing beliefs and prayers with and for each other and its interesting how similar they all seem to be in what is right and what is wrong.
    Once a member of the group asked for a show of hands of who was baptist, Methodist, and other main denominations and after that the discussions became more strained and positions taken. Some even left.
    Had to start over with that knowledge distinguished.

  99. Lee says:

    Hey… I love all you guys! I’m a preacher in a Christian Church — formerly in non-instrumental churches. Personally, I didn’t really care for the book as a work of literature. Mainly because the hermeneutic on which it is based is contrived and potentially divisive (depending on the spirit with which it is executed). But I appreciate the author’s willingness and yes, eagerness to share his story and how he came to deeper faith in Jesus Christ with or without a “personal relationship” with the Savior. (wink wink). Anyway, may God’s kingdom prevail and may we find the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace! And all of you who have been baptized in Christ are clothed in him! Amen!

    Michael thanks for telling your story! And if it brings people closer to Jesus…. then glory to God in the highest! And… peace on earth. Good will to all men! And please don’t take it personal that I didn’t really care for the book. It’s not personal since I don’t know you. But the book was recommended to me by several people and I finally took a look!

    Wishing you the best!

    Peace!

    lee keele
    startlifeover.org

  100. Gerald Beckham says:

    To Michael Shank,

    I do not know your Baptist Pastor but, I apologize for his lack of instruction and to you for your lack of study. I am a Christian pastor in the Baptist denomination. The congregation I oversee for my Lord understand being Baptist is second to being Christian. Unfortunately by any understanding from your book it leads to nothing more than condemnation of all but the Church of Christ. I believe that if you do a SERIOUS STUDY of the Mormon faith they have declared through their founder that any belief other than theirs has the same punishment in store. It saddens my heart that a Christian would waste so much time bashing other Christians. Your lack of understanding in the Baptist church was due to laziness on both you and your Pastor not just the Pastor. Your book caused my youngest brother to ask in essence why I waste my time if I’m just going to go to hell anyway.

  101. Dwight says:

    I think much of the bashing is an attempt to identify as the one true church, but there are many flavors of those who consider themselves the one true church, even among the coC the conservatives who think they are the pinnacle of Christianitiy are deemed not worthy by those even more conservative than they. Unfortunately to many in the conservative coC the Bible is about sin and salvation, while to many others the Bible is about reaching Christ through salvation and avoiding sin in the process.
    The Mormons have attempted to graft themselves into the mainstream Christianity by adopting the Bible, which Joseph Smith thought to be second rate to his gospel. They have fooled many people and yet here we are fighting among ourselves when this hangs over others and sucks them in. We are often our own worst enemy.

  102. Todd says:

    Is Jesus coming back for his brides or his bride ? He says hes coming back for his one bride , correct ?

  103. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Todd,

    There is but one church. It consists of all who’ve been saved and who not fallen away.

    If a Baptist has true faith in Jesus and has been truly baptized, then is he not part of the one church?

    Or are you saying that faith and baptism are of no avail unless one has joined the Churches of Christ branch of the Restoration Movement?

  104. Dwight says:

    We have to get this in our heads…the church is the people. The word church replaces the word ekklesia or called out or as it was understood the congregation. The congregation is of the saved and not groups of the saved. When we are baptized we are baptized not into the local church but into Christ who is the head of the believers. The concept of congregation is always plural meaning that it consist of many people who make it up and this congregation subsist of the saved, which are those saved no matter who they are and where they are and when they are. One assembly group or group system doesn’t have the corner market on who is in the church as only Jesus adds to it and keeps the roll call. A percieved wrong name on the building doesn’t indicate that only the lost are within as a percieved right name on the building doesn’t indicate that only the saved are within.

  105. Dear brother Jay,

    I pray this finds you well and propering as your souls prospers! Brother, we have now heard of over 27,000 baptisms due to the humble work called Muscle and a Shovel. Of course, I, as a flawed and sinful man, cannot take any credit for this.

    Additionally, the sequel to Muscle and a Shovel was released last month and we have already heard of over 100 restorations due to the story.

    Dear brother, I love you and want only the best for you. We are known by our love, and my love for you is true and sincere. I pray that we can unify under that most powerful banner of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and let us not judge one another for those things that do not relate to salvation.

    May our Lord bless you richly with all blessings in Christ, with health, with protection over your family, and may He bless you with the wonderful future He has prepared for you in Christ.

    Your humble brother and true friend,

    Michael Shank

  106. George Guild says:

    Pride is just oozing out of that “humble” statement.

  107. George Guild says:

    I am sure Joseph Smith can take credit for “millions” being baptized for the dead. Through his book of Mormon.

  108. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Michael,

    I’ve added your sequel to my Amazon Wish List. I have several books ahead of it. My health has limited my reading time. Very frustrating. But I’ll try to get to it in due course.

  109. Dwight says:

    It appears that there is a “muscle and shove movement” afoot if there is truly “27,000 baptisms due to the humble work called Muscle and a Shovel” and/or 100 restorations based on the second book. While I am sure that the book Muscle and Shove is inspirational, it is not the reason for or should not be the reason for baptisms. One is baptized into Christ, because of what Jesus is and what He has done for us. If people are being moved by a book about anothers journey, it almost smacks of a mass hysteria where one baptism by one person walking up the aisle inspires others to do the same, even though they may not have gotten there on there own momentum or faith. It is not enough to hear the word and then move, but we must be moved by another who hears the word and responds. This is worrysome and should be among the conservative groups as one of the things often preached on is being led one way or another by external sources and not the scriptures itself. It is hard to distance yourself from your writings if that writing was meant to show others how to get to a certain goal, when the scriptures were meant to do this.

  110. Alabama John says:

    In the old days, they used to have to have guards to keep people from rushing forward to get their heads cut off when criminals were getting theirs cut off. Heaven is a place many want to go to NOW!

  111. C. Miller says:

    I am a Christian and a member of The Church of Christ. I suggest that the naysayers amongst you should write a book to bring more souls to Jesus. I am definitely not one to criticize anyone regarding their beliefs or religion. This said we should have patience and understanding for one another. If Mr. Shanks book brings people to Christ we should be joyful ! Please note that GOD IS NOT DEAD! HE CAN HEAR YOU!!!

  112. Larry Cheek says:

    C Miller,
    As you seem to be very supportive of the actions which have been accounted to the book. Could you give us some clue as to the number of individuals who were brought to baptism (or a belief in Christ) who had never accepted Christ previously? As I read the book the message was totally directed to individuals who were already believers in Christ. who were deceived into joining organizations that are supposedly not part of Christ’s Church. You know, they were supposedly taught to believe in the organization rather than believing in Christ. As if it is the right church that saves, not Christ. The conclusion is, he that is not with us (identified with the church that we are, are doomed to Hell). In the scriptures the Church was never given that power. In fact the Church is within an individual and only God added to the Church. There is not a statement in scripture which allows an individual to join or to be added to the Church, The Body of Christ. So give us some clues is this book evangelistic toward the lost or is it just a (convert to our understanding of what we believe that Church is)? What is the source of the generated numbers?

  113. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    C. Miller,

    If Mr. Shanks book brings people to Christ we should be joyful !

    I couldn’t agree more. But baptism is not Christ. Christ is a title worn by a person: Jesus of Nazareth. You bring people to Christ by talking about Jesus. Muscle & a Shovel is far more interested in bringing readers to baptism. And as important as baptism is in the Scriptures, baptism is not Jesus of Nazareth.

    Indeed, this book actually denies the possibility of a personal relationship with Jesus and urges faith in the Bible, whereas the Bible urges faith in Jesus.

    So you’re exactly right. A book that brings people to Christ would be a true cause for joy. But this is not that book.

  114. Derrick Simple says:

    Thanks Mr Shanks for the book, thanks all you people for your critiques and points of views, it’s all challenged me to dig harder myself and try to attain a more mature understanding of God word. I want to change everyday to become more of what my Maker wants me to be.
    Some days Gods word is child’s play, meaning it is so simple and clear, that even a child can do it, and other days Gods word is so deep and grey and foggy that even the greatest minds struggle to understand and interpret. What an ingenious Word, how great is this God that we have? I’m comforted to know that He is so much larger and greater than we and we can trust in Him 100% without doubt.
    Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul, any love your neighbor as yourself, the 2 greatest commands. Let’s all try and achieve these first before we start splitting hairs on other issues that tend to bring tension to God’s church, especially in the public forum where the non believer will be discouraged from even attempting to inquire about the truth.
    From what I understand, God knows that, because we can only see in part, that we will have differences, and therefore He instructs concepts like tolerance and living at peace, and if one brother believes this is good for him, then that’s fine for him etc, so we need to always bear this in mind, these are all instructions given in this infallible Word of God. One day we will know in full, and won’t that be an eye opener. I’m assuming that every single one of us will be able to say, “wasn’t I daft in my understanding of this or of that”, hence the added instructions of humility to all of the church, coupled with the greatest human example of this, by His only Son.
    I hope you all have kingdom success in the future and will meet you one day in the perfect world.
    Love

  115. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Great comments, Derrick.

  116. Gayla says:

    I didn’t read all of these comments but the ones I did read made me sad. You have no clue and that’s sad. Read the bible, pray for God to show you the truth and it will be revealed to you. When you believe in Jesus’s plan of salvation and do what he says then you’ll get it, you will have a lightbulb mement. I loved the book and it explained everything I already knew that I couldn’t explain. This book helped me. I’m angry and disappointed at some of you but Jesus said this would happen. If you really want the truth you read this along with the bible and study hard and God will show you the way to him. I think some of you are jealous and that’s not a Christian characteristic. I bought this book and I plan on buying more and giving it to my children to read. Being baptised for the forgiveness of your sins is important. Acts 2:38. How can you not see it?

  117. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Gayla,
    Welcome. Frankly, I haven’t read all 118 responses to this post either, but I have read several. Can you tell us why you are sad? It seems as if you are sad because some of the readers have a different perception of the book than you do…?

    I know that many of the readers here have “read the bible and prayed for God to show them the truth” as you suggest.

    You wrote:
    I’m angry and disappointed at some of you but Jesus said this would happen. If you really want the truth you read this along with the bible and study hard and God will show you the way to him.
    You are angry and disappointed that some here prayed for the truth, read the book along with the Bible, and disagreed with the author on some of the particulars? That doesn’t exemplify a Christian characteristic either. Does it?

    Being baptised for the forgiveness of your sins is important. Acts 2:38. How can you not see it?
    Agreed, and many (most?) of the people here wouldn’t disagree that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins.

  118. Larry Cheek says:

    Gayla,
    Did you understand like we did as you read the book, that there are no other preachers teaching that baptism is essential except The Church of Christ? If you were baptized into Christ at a gathering of people calling themselves a non-denominational church, would you not be saved by Christ? One of the great mis-conceptions I saw taught in the book is that salvation is only in The Church of Christ. Salvation is between the individual who is committing themselves to Christ. No body of believers regardless of the name they go by is capable to save anyone.

  119. Dear brethren and friends, Muscle and a Shovel has produced, as we’ve just learned, over 51,000 baptisms into Christ! Isn’t this wonderful news! God receives ALL of the glory!

  120. Monty says:

    Michael,

    It seems your book is having it’s desired affect. I’m not sure exactly what that is as I haven’t read your book and have only read Jay’s review of it. I’m all for believers in Jesus being baptized upon their faith in him. I assume you are too. Where I think we’ll differ is making a baptismal formula out of the phrase Peter used ” for the remission of sins”, and that those who don’t use the same lingo are forever doomed, even though they’ve trusted in Jesus and are baptized for obedience to Jesus’ command. If your book inspires believers to greater faith that’s awesome. If it makes them bound to legalism, then you and I know that’s not good.

  121. Dwight says:

    Even if I wrote a very profound book I would or could hardly say that my book had led people to Christ, but then again that isn’t what He is suggesting, as he says, “has produced…over 51,000 baptisms into Christ”. This might be rebaptism and it might not be new converts, but since it was written to people in the church, it probably speaks to re-baptisms and thus a newer call to Christ.

    Now if new converts than that isn’t a bad thing and yet I still find it hard to imagine that a book not written by God, but a man, in conjunction with the Bible could carry that much weight.
    Is the Bible not enough?
    We often argue that the scriptures are complete and all we need…sola scriptura.
    And yet we need another book to complete and bring people to Christ?
    Now, in this I am half-joking, but not.
    If baptism isn’t real enough and good enough as told by the Bible, then those without this book may be lost. It isn’t enough to believe and be baptized, but we must believe and be baptized in relation to this man-made book in order to understand why we need to be baptized.

    And Gayla, most if not all of those that have problems with the book, believe that one must be baptized into Christ as the savior. This isn’t the point of the thread. Taking an exception to a book as written by a man, doesn’t mean we take exception to the words of God. If I wrote a book, I would expect it to be critiqued as if not from God, as it isn’t. It might have words of truth, but it isn’t truth. Only the word of God is truth.

  122. Larry Cheek says:

    Michael,
    That is really great! I am really interested to know do you just visit the blog to report or have you been reading somewhat regularly? I am also interested surely those who have recorded the numbers would have also identified as each individual was from another church organization or no church affiliation. Has the book reached the lost outside of Christianity? Is your audience targeted?

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