“Muscle & Shovel”: On the Solution to It All

muscleshovelWe are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel. I begin republishing a post from February 2, 2008 —

(1 Pet 5:5b-6) All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

I’m convinced that part of the psychology that drives many of us within the Churches of Christ toward legalism is the pleasure of feeling smarter than the church down the road. I don’t mean to imply any insincerity — far from it. Nor do I think this feeling of superiority is conscious. No, it’s deeply buried in our psyches, and this is one reason it’s so very hard to root out.

Some of the desire to feel superior derives from the inferiority complex that infected much of the South in the 20th Century — feeling looked down on for being rural, poor, racist — for losing The War, etc. (Around here, there was but one war — The War). Leroy Garrett, always the astute observer of the Churches of Christ, once commented much to the same effect.

The complex is still with us Southerners, just not as bad. Here in Alabama, we have this saying: “Thank God for Mississippi!” At least we’re only 49th among the 50 states!

Of course, it’s really part of the human condition generally. We all like to feel superior to somebody. We American’s like to look down on the French, the French sneer at the Germans, the Germans look down on … the French (The German cockroach is called the German cockroach everywhere except in Germany, where it’s called the French cockroach!)

Do we really have an inferiority complex? Well, consider this from Wikipedia


This feeling may be manifested in withdrawal from social contacts or excessive seeking for attention, criticism of others, overly dutiful obedience, and worry.

Does this describe your church?

Or consider this from Dr. Barney Katz, a Christian psychologist —

The adult [with an inferiority complex] seeks attention by explosions of temper, bitterness toward others, and constant irritability. Criticism of others is an effort to project inferior feelings onto others and to minimize personal failures by pointing out the faults of others. Overly dutiful obedience or extreme submission is often used to compensate for known weaknesses. Also, undue worry about many things may be the result of a lack of self-confidence. Indeed, the mistakes of the past and the attainment of success in the future can be constant objects of too much concern.

Now there’s a certain irony, well understood by psychologists, in being driven to feelings of superiority by an inferiority complex. It’s called “compensation.” We deny the obvious reality to accept a fictionalized reality that we prefer.

Hence, we overlook the lack of growth of the Churches of Christ and our increasing inability to keep our own children in the church. We overlook the evangelistic and mission successes of others and our own weaknesses in this area. We sneer at the larger congregations in town and tell ourselves that we are are purer, truer, and better. We say we fail because God doesn’t give the increase. We’ve been faithful. If we don’t grow, if our children leave — well, we did exactly what God asked. We could have done nothing differently. We are the faithful ones.

As the evidence of deep, institutional problems in the Churches of Christ pile up — divisions, splits, rancorous fighting among and within congregations, church bulletins filled with slander and invective, evangelistic failure, plateaued [JFG: now declining] attendance that doesn’t even match our population growth — we deny the reality and insist more and more intensely on our distinctive practices and doctrines.

Rather than honestly recognizing and dealing with today’s reality, we find comfort in a fictionalized past that we remember as glorious, built on the same truths to which we so tenaciously cling. When the historians point out that the Restoration Movement was built on doctrines we now deny, we damn the historians and go on praising our misremembered history. The Gospel Advocate publishes articles praising Alexander Campbell and, in the same issue, damns anyone who agrees with what he actually taught!

Paul understood how a desire to be superior perverts Christianity. This is why he so-often condemned boasting —

(Gal 6:14) May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

It’s one of the hardest lessons there is, because we have to give up so much to obey it. It’s hard to give up feelings of superiority. It’s tough on our self-esteem. We have to entirely rebuild our self-image. We have to admit our failings and no longer live in the imaginary reality we’ve created for ourselves.

Rather than feeling worthy because of our learning or our perfect replication of a pattern, we must rely on God’s tender mercies. Of course, God’s grace is a far, far safer place to be, but it doesn’t feel safe to those who are used to fending for themselves.

(1 John 4:15-18) If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

It’s really quite simple. It’s just hard to accept.

When Rick Atchley preached to the Richland Hills Church of Christ about adding an instrumental service, one of the most common objections was: even though we know instruments aren’t wrong, we’ll lose our identity! You see, we are the people who sing a cappella.

Identity? Why would we want to be known as the people who sing a cappella unless we considered that a compliment? And why a compliment unless that somehow makes us better? And what drives us to want to be better than everyone else? (I don’t mind being different, so long as we don’t delude ourselves into thinking our differences make us better.)

I don’t know the people Rick described — except I do. I know us. And our self-identity, to us, is we are the people who cared enough to get it right. And we’d hate to lose that. You see, being right on how to divine the meanings of the silences has been a source of great pride — that is, of feeling superior.

The solution, as I said, is a hard one. It’s called humility.

(Phil 2:3-8) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!

Humility is not low self-esteem. Jesus had no self-image issues! But he was humble. Humility is giving up what you’re entitled to, what you deserve, for others who are less entitled and less deserving. That’s what Jesus did.

For the Churches of Christ, humility is giving up our identity and giving up separation from our brothers and sisters because we think we are more pleasing to God. Humility is having confidence in God, rather than ourselves. Humility is the solution to it all.

Now, I’m not saying that the use of a cappella music reflects a lack of humility or an inferiority complex. It doesn’t, necessarily. But it does if you think it makes you better than your believing neighbor. It does if you let it define your identity as a Christian. You see, our true identity is the sacrificed Jesus —

(Gal 2:20) I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

(1 John 4:12-15) No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. … 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.

Notice how the Spirit inspired the writers of scripture. As a Christian, I have a new self. This “self” is Jesus or God living in me through the Spirit. It is me reshaped by God into faith and love.

And so, what is our identity supposed to be? Well, we’re the people who love and have faith. And we’re the people who have hope — boasting in what we’ve been given, not what we’ve done better than anyone else.

The true mark of the church — of genuine discipleship — is not the absence of a piano. It’s love.

(John 13:34-35) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

We can claim no other identity.

We have misunderstood very nearly everything.

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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59 Responses to “Muscle & Shovel”: On the Solution to It All

  1. laymond says:

    “The complex is still with us Southerners, just not as bad. Here in Alabama, we have this saying: “Thank God for Mississippi!” At least we’re only 49th among the 50 states!”

    Sounds like the Republican Political Party in the South. I believe you said once that the CoC and the republican party were indistinguishable . I remember one church I attended out of a congregation of over 100 there were 3 democrats other than my family, they were trying to bring Hispanics to the church, until they found out they would “probably” vote democrat. Well couldn’t have any more of those people in this perfect church,

  2. We give lip service to love as the identifying mark of Jesus’ disciples – until we are trying to convert someone down the street, not to Jesus but to our version of Christianity.

  3. Jay –
    I feel that I have gained some really good perspectives from interacting with this blog. No doubt, you are passionate and intelligence. However, I find it interesting that you indict some with the very thing that I’ve wondered about you. By that I mean I wonder if the pyschology that drives this blog is the pleasure of feeling smarter than those legalists in conservative churches of Christ…
    “I’m convinced that part of the psychology that drives many of us within the Churches of Christ toward legalism is the pleasure of feeling smarter than the church down the road.”

    We can wonder as to motives all we want, but the question still remains as to the truth of the beliefs. We can wonder as to motives all we want, but

  4. poor job editing my last comment — you can blame my editor

  5. Alabama John says:

    In my life what drives us is the belief that only a few will make it to heaven. Being one of the few is the real goal and that causes us to want to be one of the eight like Noah and his family more than anything else.

    Anytime a church starts growing its looked on with suspicion but when one has members leave, and “go out from among us” it is a good seperation of the faithful from the bad others and makes those of us that stay even more one of the few.

    Finally seeing the destruction of this thinking and teaching causes us to better understand the COC and helps us understand other denominations wanting to stay in the doctrines and teachings that thay were brought up in whether Christian or not.

    I’m thankful for that understanding rather than thinking others were being different from us out of meanness or spite or simply not wanting to obey God, causing us to look down on them with such distain.

    The truth is, so much of what we in Alabama were taught in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s was a lie. Those COC in California starting to leave the truth were not serving hamburgers and soda drinks for the Lords Supper.

  6. Monty says:

    While, I certainly agree with Jay’s comments. He’s right on target. I see truth in Justin’s statement also. It makes for a very good point of how do you differentiate yourself from someone else, some other group without putting them down, and feeling superior? And we don’t even have to say a word,its just what we feel.

    How does a loving parent get across to their teenage daughter that the guy with the tattoos, piercings, and who dropped out of high school, may not be the right one for her in a manner that doesn’t sound superior? Why is a Baptist a Baptist and not a Lutheran? Why is a Lutheran a Lutheran and not an Episcopalian? Why is a Southern Baptist not a Missionary Baptist? I’m sure there are different answers, but one of them has to do with what they believe and teach, has more truth or substance than another group’s teachings.

    While we can wave and smile and wish the best for our religious neighbors,(or not) we are what we are, and we feel that somehow God appreciates our brand (or leaning) just a little bit more than the other guys. And why? Truth.

    Who wants to believe they’re in error about anything? We are a prideful people. And as soon as we feel like we’ve tamed the pride demon and “we aren’t like those other folks”, we go patting ourselves on the back. Lord help us all.

  7. rich constant says:

    hay now john.
    now your speaking at me…
    IT IS NOT because we weren’t
    “serving hamburgers and soda drinks for the Lords Supper”.
    it is because
    u would be surprised how much truth there is in that little remark….
    rich in ca.

  8. John says:

    As I entered my twenties and started to do a little observing and thinking on my own, it became obvious that the mind of the religious, conservative Southerner, of which I had been since able to accept without question all that was taught me through childhodd, was a two sided coin. I distinctly recall hearing members of the church ridicule Northerners, especially Northeastern liberals for being Biblically illiterate and not as moral as “New Testement Christians”. Their bashing of Southerners who had become liberal followed another direction; they were accused of not really believing what they were teaching, that they were only saying those things to be different.

    Yet, if a liberal, whether Northeastern or Southern traitor, issued any sort of criticism toward legalism or fundamentalism, I immediately heard the cry, “Oh, they think they’re better than us”. And, I began to think it a bit humorous to accuse Southern liberals of simply wanting to be different when every Sunday it was proudly proclaimed in one way or another, “We are a peculiar people!”

    Then there was the claim that the rest of the religious world was afraid of us. I remember the shouts of victory from the debates between CoC champions and those of other churches. However, when members were pulled away by the non-corporation debaters that was not necessarily viewed as a defeat. Then, finally, there is the reality of people not of the South who have never heard of the CoC. Biblical people, spiritual people, morally responsible people, yet at the same time people of peace, people of justice, people who take the Sermon on the Mount with all the seriousnes as the rest of us took Acts 2. When Jesus says, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold” we should have been paying more attention. We would have been a much more loving, healthier people; it is then that others listen.

  9. Dennis says:

    Jay, I would be interested in your reaction to an incident that occured to me this past Sunday. I agree with your positions on “Muscle and a Shovel” I am not a preacher, but a couple of times a year I get “Drafted” to speak. I work for a church sponsored work and it is assumed I should preach when asked.
    This past Sunday I spoke and a women responded to the invitation and wanted to be baptised. She told me she had been baptised at a young age in the Baptist church, and she had been reading “Muscle and a Shovel” and wanted to be baptised.

  10. rich constant says:

    ask your elders or preacher
    if they say no don’t preach again
    it is about love and kindness at that point not teaching

  11. Is every willingness to disagree an attempt to “be smarter than the other fellow”? While that shoe can fit on any foot, I would offer some insight. If you tell me I am wrong, do you hold yourself apart from me until I come to your point of view, or do you acknowledge our relationship while I am wrong? If I come to your point of view on some particular point, is that enough to get you to receive me, or is there a longer list for me to work through? If I reject your view, what do you do then? Do you presume I am not saved? Do you attack me personally in an effort to discredit my position? Does your argument include “guilt by association”?

    These questions can readily diagnose the sort of insecurity which Jay speaks of. Sadly, it is too common. I was a bit flabbergasted at the Mauck article, which notes that Shank considers it high praise to his book that it might “raise your blood pressure”. To take pride in creating anxiety, anger, or fear among someone of another denomination is astonishing, but not unprecedented.

    Various denominations seem to be identifiable by pet scriptures: “For God so loved the world…” or “You shall be endued with power…” or “Upon this rock I will build my church.” The exclusivist, works-dependent sentiment I find in Shanks’ book is the same one I remember from my boyhood in the CoC, and is best epitomized by that famous quote: “I thank you, Lord, that I am not as other men are…”

  12. Grizz says:

    What is it the scriptures have to say about ‘comparing ourselves with ourselves’ (2 Corinthians 10:12)? Are we ignoring this instruction or finding ways around it? How could we apply it, instead of avoiding it? How could we honor it instead of finding ways around it? What would have to change?

    And do we even know how to express it in terms that do not compare our own observances to anyone else’s observance of this teaching?

    Asking … just asking …


  13. I read Dennis’ post and shook my head at this innocent believing girl who, after reading Shanks’ Shovel, felt the need to be baptized– not because she had not been baptized already, but because Shanks convinced her that the Baptists are not really believers, invalidating her baptism. I recall some scripture about a little one and a millstone, which some folks should take another look at. Take a person who believes, and undermine her thinking to the point where she no longer see herself as a child of God, and you have led that little one into the sin of unbelief. This is the central theme of Shanks’ book, taking folks who already believe and talking them into doubt, so he can replace their existing faith with his own religious brand. Shanks then baptizes them and adds them to his boastful tally of re-dunkees. Perhaps the book could be retitled, “Swiping Sheep By Convincing Them That They Are Really Goats”.

  14. Grizz says:

    Like Paul in Acts 19, Charles?


  15. Chris says:

    There is pride in every denomination. Growing up in a Pentecostal church, the pride was over the “have” vs the “have nots” when it came to certain spiritual gifts. Being Spirit filled was not defined by the fruit but by a gift. What I love about Jay’s blog is he is not afraid to ask the tough questions, even if the answers are not what people necessarily want to see. Very few people are willing to do a spiritual self examination, fewer still want to do anything about it. Thank you Jay.

  16. rich constant says:

    i think the word is called discernment.
    and being kind,
    then the issue is will my words help,
    at some point it is about how do i find a way to influence some one in the amount of time i am willing to devote to to him or her,
    that is i feel the lie of objective interaction,
    i don’t have a lot of time with this him or her so i will make as much of a impact on them and fulfill my responsibility (i know there doctrine so i will break out the HAMMER AND CHISEL, BEAT THAT DOCTRINE LIKE A RED HEADED STEPCHILD).
    now then i can walk away objectively run my words over
    .and think of ways to better my “stand on the facts”…
    and of course i have made a lasting relationship with this stranger.
    that is love i told them the truth
    and that’s the lie
    perverted concepts of love!
    anyhow that what i used to do
    god help me
    boy oh boy

  17. Greg Guin says:


    I could not agree more with your opening comment, “I’m convinced that part of the psychology that drives many of us within the Churches of Christ toward legalism is the pleasure of feeling smarter than the church down the road.” Although, as a southern baptist, I would argue that the words “Churches of Christ” be replaced with “Southern Baptist Church” in my effort to make the point that such legalism is not restricted to Churches of Christ, nor is it restricted to any named body of believers congregating together in a common place to worship “OUR” God.

    It is the sinful nature of man to be boastful and pride-filled to the point of believing he is humble when the exact opposite is reflected in his actions. Man humbly gives to the church, yet demands a receipt for tax purposes. Man humbly takes part in the Lord’s Supper, yet debates whether the blood is best represented by Welch’s or Wine. Man humbly praises the baptism of a fellow believer in “his” congregation, yet doubts the sincerity or validity of the baptism of a professed believer down the road.

    My Grandfather Guin attended the Church of Christ. My Grandmother Guin attended the Baptist Church. My father was baptized in the Church of Christ but later attended the Methodist Church where my brothers and I grew up as Methodist. My oldest brother became a Methodist minister and career chaplain in the US Air Force. My wife was raised in the Freewill Baptist Church where her Grandfather was a Freewill Baptist preacher for some sixty years. Later she was baptized in the Southern Baptist Church. I was baptized in the Southern Baptist Church as well.

    Suffice it to say I have not only read about the many differences in the churches that dot the roads of my life, I have lived them for some fifty-one years. I have lived them to a point where I shutter at the thought that so many professed Christians spend such an inordinate amount of time damning those who they think are not going to heaven instead of praising God for those who profess to be going to heaven or even reaching out to those who one fears may have not heard the gospel.

    The common ground is where I prefer to spend my time. To glorify God by sharing the gospel, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To glorify God by celebrating in those Church of Christ, those Baptist, those Methodist, those Free Will Baptist, and others who have professed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

    A friend of mine attended a small conservative Church of Christ in my hometown. His preacher had just got back from a trip to the holy land and following the service the preacher was asked “Preacher Frank, while you were in the holy land, did you see any Churches of Christ?” The preacher replied “no, in fact I didn’t see a one”.

    Maybe the prayer closet is the purest form of humbly worshiping God. Matthew 6:5-6, “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

  18. rich constant says:

    here ya go
    this is exactly what i was taught
    4:9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” And he replied, “I don’t know! Am I my brother’s guardian?” 4:10 But the Lord said, “What have you done?
    and the answer keeps a commin who was the good Samaritan.

  19. Grizz, I would be satisfied if this case were similar to Acts 19, and would apologize for misunderstanding. However, in my experience, the Baptists do not practice John’s baptism, but baptize believers in the name of Jesus. I am trying to find any similarity at all between anything in Acts 19 and baptizing someone because we have convinced her that when she were baptized previously in the name of Jesus, God probably didn’t accept it. But when WE do the dunking, then it counts with God.

  20. Monty says:

    Dennis said,

    “She told me she had been baptised at a young age in the Baptist church, and she had been reading “Muscle and a Shovel” and wanted to be baptised.”

    Charles responded,

    “I read Dennis’ post and shook my head at this innocent believing girl who, after reading Shanks’ Shovel, felt the need to be baptized– not because she had not been baptized already, but because Shanks convinced her that the Baptists are not really believers, invalidating her baptism’

    While you may very well be accurate is your assessment of this young lady, I don’t see where there is enough information to say emphatically what you said. She may very well have been taught her Baptist baptism was not valid, or she being baptized so young (as in many CofC rebaptism cases) felt that she had grown in her understanding of perhaps repentance and baptism (through Muscle and Shovel)and wanted to act on new information and feelings. Should Dennis have told her not to follow her conscience? Should he have gotten her to unbelieve her new feelings? Deprogram her?

    I have studied with many Baptist and others in the past(when it was my goal to get them to see the error of their ways concerning baptism-regrettably) who flat out told me they were baptized for the remission of sins in their Baptist or Pentecostal churches. I assured them in no uncertain terms that they were not, and on one occasion, the lady was so sure, she called her Pastor and said, Pastor Frank, don’t we baptize for the remission of sins in our church? To which his reply was ” No baby! We don’t do that. Who told you that? She was visibly stunned when she heard him say that. This IMO happens due to either one of two things, 1. people read their Bibles on their own as in Acts 2:38 and honestly assume that their church does that, or 2. they are “studied with” and see the words in a new light for the first time and subconsciously are in denial.

    Thankfully through Jay’s blog I have come to see things in a different light. But using that past scenario(some 30 years ago) when someone sees what they feel is a new revelation to God’s truth concerning something they have never been taught before and feel like they will never be taught in that group-ever, what should they do concerning their conscience?

    It is, after all, Biblical, to be baptized for the remission of sins. So, people are in a conundrum. This lady(Dennis talked to) wanted a “Biblical baptism”(if the assumption is accurate). What should she have done, or Dennis done? Maybe she should go talk to the Baptist and let them try to teach her that the CofC view of baptism is all wrong? That baptism with a view towards salvation is a work, like circumcision, (anti-grace)that’s what most of them teach. That’s what they would have told her. Then it becomes, stay with the group that teaches what I have now come to believe is wrong or come into the group and stay where they teach it Biblically?

    I don’t think it’s a “tying a millstone around a neck” to teach people Bible, even if it goes against what they have been previously taught and shakes their faith. Jay does that everyday on here. He’s definitely helped me reshape many of my former beliefs. Not Jesus, mind you, but doctrine. I doubt this lady Dennis refers to has ever questioned her belief in Jesus (assuming that she has always been faithful through the years) just because she wanted to abide by the scriptures and have a scriptural baptism. I think they can be two distinct things. Sometimes our acquiring new revelation drives us to leave one group and fellowship with others of like minds. I think Charles above all others perhaps should best understand that.

  21. Monty, you are correct that I have assumed more than was written. And if this young lady came to me seeking baptism after already being baptized, I would probably wind up doing it for her. But we would most certainly have a conversation about her reasoning. No charge. If it were no more than a vague matter of conscience, sure, one more dunk hurts nothing, and it might be a statement of real faith. But if this is a born-again believer who has been somehow convinced that she is NOT born again, we have a discussion about this before we wade into that pool. We have time. The water isn’t going anywhere. Baptism is a response of faith, not of fear or doubt. Monty, you make a good point when you discriminate between having our doctrines reshaped but not who we are in Jesus. The former should be a life project for us, the latter is where my own alarm bells go off.

    As to understanding how we might feel the need to move from one group to another based on revelation, I can see this, but this oversimplifies it just a bit. There is a difference between changing meeting groups and rejecting our previous brothers. Many of us moved on without somehow dismissing or shunning those brothers in our previous fellowship. Club membership is a personal choice, but it should not be an identity choice. Changing pews is one thing, changing brothers is another. We can be “members one of another” no matter where our Sunday morning rump rests– contrary to what Shank teaches. He teaches rather directly that you can’t be a believer if you are part of THEM. And THEY are not part of US…

  22. Grace says:

    I’m a believer and was baptized with the Great Commission that Jesus gave. Would you say my baptism was not Biblical and that it was a “flawed baptism” as many in the CofC camp try to say about other churches?

  23. Grizz says:


    I get the pain that it seems our tendencies cause. I am just becoming so sensitive to judgmental reviews that it no longer matters to me much whether it comes from a legalist or a grace-ist. I struggle even with those terms, more and more.

    I may have selective memory (may … yeah, right!), but where are we taught to condemn anyone?

    The woman in question was not given a burden she could not or would not bear. Was it right to foist “our” version of things on her? I’ll let you know when I “arrive.” Suffice it to say that I have convictions, but I am still learning not to get too judgmental about them, to the best of my limited ability, of course. As it is, I rejoice when anyone cares enough to keep learning even about the most difficult challenges of things that they may have thought were “settled.”

    I believe baptism is necessary because the Lord sets the standard for what it takes to be given a new life, and because I think Paul wrote Romans 6 and Peter wrote 1 Peter 3 with it in mind to relate what the Lord has to say about that. I also think I have some understanding of what faith takes to be saving faith, and it differs from what some others here believe, and it causes me to pause to consider what is being said more carefully than I used to consider things.

    Today is a grace day for me. Some days I resemble the legalist I do not wish to be, but today has been a more grace-orientated day.

    I am probably still too legalistic with myself, but I do count it a good day when I seem (at least to me) to avoid extremes. I feel your pain over the legalism that is a thin veneer over arrogance and haughtiness. Personally, I am not convinced, much less convicted, that our life in Christ has anything to do with what I consider to be “laws” at all. And despite the warnings of some whom I respect very much, I actually do find that translation issues still make a big difference in how I understand things. That is, I find myself quite often wishing I had studied Greek and Hebrew many years ago. Just seeing the nuances of some of the words for “faith” and “grace” and “love” and judgment v. discernment have changed my convictions in recent years as i have begun to study linguistics and translation. Alas, my misspent youth!

    I love you, Charles, especially for the times you challenge me most and send me straight to my study of the word and my tools for digging deeper. It keeps my older heart flexible and young.


  24. Jay Guin says:


    I hope you read the exchange here among Charles, Monty, and Grizz re re-baptism. Some very good thoughts there and I have little to add.

  25. Jay Guin says:


    I will be laying out my views on Shank’s scriptural arguments in short order, and would certainly expect the truth of what I say to be judged by the scriptures.

  26. rich constant says:

    u r in the same loop of doctrine as us all it is called ontology,
    or on-top-ogy
    we are the product of our traditional theological anthropological interpretation.
    Grace we are all not right, the problem is that we become stagnate in the fight for the Truth, by shorting love and relationship. a godly relationship is in service. although we all have triggers..
    this after noon i talked with the woman i loved for 25 years and she at this time is not the point.
    although i lost my temper .and said this is light weight compared to back when. but i blew it and didn’t menses the words.ya know what she said ?
    now i know how you REALLY ARE.
    I have had all kinds of issues over this divorce, or her adultery in a covenant relationship.
    i am blessed for not dieing in a drunken haze… i shut down with ach. my bad thing
    although i am engaged in her adultery. and telling her to repent. the guy is what i refer to as a covertness idolator
    the long and the short of it is you are here don’t worry about tomorrow study and challenge

  27. rich constant says:

    ya know grace
    i was in an alcohol program when i was 30 .
    the guy started the Bette ford deal in palm springs anyway he was good.
    i was in there (before Bettie ford CENTER STARTED UP,AND so
    His thing was was that 1 a Shit is equal to 10 ataboys
    at the time that was out of the park
    this is the distinct difference between capitalism and love

  28. rich constant says:

    and then
    you guys don’t really realist just how twisted i am…
    cus i will let the lord judge me not men

  29. Larry Cheek says:

    Grace and others,
    I used videos and study material for many years teaching the type of message that is taught in “Muscle and Shovel”. After being ousted from the very organisation that promoted those teachings for teaching what I had learned about other subject matters that we had taught. I had a lot of rethinking to do and it is amazing how differently an individual can see a concept when they are not locked into their traditions. For instance I was probably as strong as anyone has ever been teaching about baptisms that did not measure up or were invalid. Through much activity here on the blog and visiting assemblies whom I once totally condemned, I began to restudy what I believed about baptism and have a conclusion I feel I need to share. In the accounts in scripture the individual who was responsible to lower the convert into the water was never identified as an official or someone with credentials, yes the Apostles baptized but no one will be able to have one of them to baptize anyone today. It is very obvious that the individual performing the action is not a participant in the action that will take place between the individual being baptized and God or Christ. The words that that individual might say are not powerful enough to alter the event taking place. In other words it is not the message that he states which renders the action that causes the action to be valid or invalid. The action is between God and the obedient individual. Keeping that in mind, if the individual who is being baptized does so just because they want to be accepted by the organization, they have the wrong motives and I would consider anyone in that position really needs to be converted to Christ and baptized with the proper prospective. But, if the individuals intention was to be faithful to Christ and Bible teachings, and it was the intention of the organization to validate their membership into the organization, they misunderstood the purpose but their misunderstanding or statements do not invalidate the actions between the individual and God. The person or organization which performs the action does not have to have a perfect understanding, or be sinless. Would the individual being baptized have to have a perfect understanding of what was being accomplished as they were being baptized? Well if that was true then many of those whom Paul wrote the Book of Romans to really should have been baptized again because Paul knew they did not understand completely or he would not have wasted his time explaining it in such great detail.
    Summation, If an individual who wanted to obey their Lord was baptized by people or organizations that did not immerse with the exact procedure we see portrayed in the examples of scripture keep the individual from the new birth process overseen by God?
    Now, when an individual proclaims to me that they were baptized I consider them to be a member of the body of Christ, unless they insist that it was only to become a member of the church they were attending.
    If this is not a proper prospective explain the proper to me.

  30. hist0ryguy says:

    I often get called a legalist because I have my conservative convictions, including AC, though gracious towards others. I don’t like to use the term legalist because it is often undefined. However, I think the psychology that drives many toward legalism is ignorance about a deeper understanding once common in the SCM. Deeper understanding about what you ask?

    The 1st generation of SCM looked for a basis to unify all the Christians “in the sects” (aka the denominations) because the Reformation had caused more division than unity. Next, the early SCM sought to restore the “visible forms” of the church while most granted the invisible church had not been corrupted (Matt. 16:18). In time, the meaning, purpose, and context of which the SCM began was forgotten by a significant number of the subsequent generations, whereas “restoration of the visible forms” was merged with the idea of the NT church and became “restoration of the exclusive NT church” (sectarianism). Finally, the progression toward a legalistic attitude was topped off with an emphasis on salvation to the almost complete neglect of sanctification, whereas adherents lump most everything into two categories (obedience/heaven and disobedience/hell) and no longer think in terms of growing in salvation, growing in holiness, or allowing grace to teach us to say no to sin.

    The problem remains for us to work out. Other posters have mentioned that every group (COC, Baptist, Orthodox) has their favorite Scriptures, theology, and convictions. Just the other evening, while picking up a plate supper from an annual dinner hosted by the local Greek Orthodox Church, the presbyter (who knows me) says, “have you told lately that the Orthodox Church has documentation tracing it back to the city of Antioch recorded in the Book of Acts?” Some less informed COC member would probably have said, “Well I’m a member of the NT church which is traced to Jerusalem, 33AD,” but I simply responded with a smile, “That is what the Orthodox tell me.” We all have convictions (convictions are good) about Scripture, but none of us can ask an apostle to settle the dispute. We press on talking about our differences and growing closer to God while others prefer to shout. Convictions and talk are good and I wish more were willing to talk and listen to one another instead of shout.

  31. hist0ryguy says:

    I notice that many posters still attack certain doctrines because they disagree with the hermeneutic employed. Food for thought: a false hermeneutic does not necessarily equate to a false conclusion.

  32. John says:

    While growing up in the CoC a word I heard often, usually in describing the Progressive Movement and those connected to it, was the word “MESS”. From the fifties into the eighties, from Carl Ketcherside and Leroy Garrett to Bobbie Lee Holley, the phrase I heard over and over again, from the preachers in my family to the visiting meeting preachers sitting at our dinner table, was “All THAT MESS”. Just in case some of you younger ones have never heard of Bobbie Lee Holly, she was one of the stand out feminine voices in the CoC. She was editor of Mission Journal for a period of time.

    My point is that if progressive voices desribed conservatives with such a word they would be called out and reprimanded strongly, even by those who walk a more moderate path; and I would not disagree. However, when conservatives choose to describe progressives in such a way, there seems to be the pass of, “Well, we have to understand where they’re coming from, that they’re not ready for it”. So, my conclusion is this; if the CoC continues to allow itself to be muscled and directed by the emotional insecurity of the “right” it can never become the CITY ON A HILL that draws the seeking ones; it will only be seen as a frightened walled up village protecting its own.

  33. Grace says:

    When I was baptized I was already saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus. We make sure people know that when anyone has faith in Jesus they are saved. That Jesus’ work on the cross is promised to everyone who believes in Him. We serve a Mighty God who forgives anyone who in the depths of their heart and soul cry out to Him to forgive them. Then they are obedient and are baptized. We accept anyone who has faith that Jesus saved them, that He is the Lord our God and is the only One who can save us.

  34. History Guy is correct in distinguishing between a doctrine and the hermeneutic. However, if one is offering to substantiate a doctrine via a methodology which can be readily discredited, then there should be substantiation of that doctrine by another means– even if that “means” is admitted to be simply faith.

    For example, I accept the truth of the scripture by faith, even after I read apologists whose inspiration arguments are full of holes. In this case, faith is all the support I offer for my view. But if we are arguing a particular point as being confirmed by scripture, then any mishandling of the text draws that confirmation into question. This doesn’t necessarily refute the doctrine, it just leaves it currently unsubstantiated. Humility requires us to acknowledge this. How hard is it to say, “Well, I can’t prove it, but I think..” instead of, “Well, even if my reasoning is flawed, that’s still what God meant when he said that.”

  35. Skip says:

    I just attended a Baptist funeral and the preacher told the audience all they had to do to be saved was to accept Jesus on the spot. He did not mention faith, he did not mention repentance, he did not mention following Jesus, he did not mention prayer or anything else. Hey I am very grace oriented towards who is saved but I do draw the line when a preacher basically says, “You don’t have to change anything, just accept Jesus now”.

  36. Grace says:

    Every time I’ve been to a funeral they say more than “accept Jesus on the spot”, and they have never said “You don’t have to change anything, just accept Jesus now”.

    They always offer the gospel of Jesus to be received, and they always offer to speak with anyone after the funeral, and they always offer prayer. I don’t go to funerals to grade the preacher, I go to give my respects to the family, and they’ve always offered the gospel of Jesus.

  37. Grace says:

    Perhaps you could give the phone number of the Baptist church you are speaking about. The Bible does say you are to have two or three witnesses when you are accusing someone else. And I thought Jay’s rules were against people coming on here making accusations and attacks on people.

  38. Glenn Ziegler says:


    This is one of the problems with faith-only or accept-only approaches. When you draw a line, any line, how is that different from any other minimalist, one-step approach? Is it the full preponderance of ALL of the evidence? Or does somebody choose which evidence counts? And if somebody chooses which part(s) of what God says counts, who chooses?

    Either ALL of what God says counts or else
    – we act as if we are God … or …
    – God isn’t really Lord of Lords … or …
    – some of the Scriptures don’t count like other scriptures count … or …
    – some of us are the only select few who can decipher this divine riddle.

    What is the difference between choosing among various one-step approaches based on your favored passages and those based on anyone else’s favored passages?


  39. Grace says:

    And if you would please give the name of the Baptist church with their phone number you are accusing, that would be great. Thanks in advance 🙂

  40. Skip says:

    Grace, How would a phone number help you? You weren’t there. You can’t be a witness to what I saw or heard. I do not go to grade anyone but 2/3 of the service was accepting Jesus with no mention of making him Lord or repentance.

  41. Grace says:

    And the Bible says you are to have two or three witnesses when you are accusing someone else. And Jay says per his rules no one is to come here making accusations attacking someone else, why should you be an exception to his rules? I would like the name of the Baptist church with their phone number to get both sides of the story. Greatly appreciate you giving that info also. Why woudn’t you want both sides heard?

  42. Larry Cheek says:

    It seems that you want to doubt that Skip is intelligent enough to report what he saw and heard. He has reported what he saw and heard without accusing anyone. This action is fully condoned in our court system a witness there does not have to have witnesses to testify the validity of a witnesses testimony. Do you really believe that Skip would just make up a report such as this to discredit an unidentified event?

  43. Grace says:

    Seen it happen many times, and yes they were intelligent people from the CofC denomination who have made false accusations against other people, or we can call it stretching the truth if you prefer. And it’s not what the court says about witnesses, God’s word says to have two or three witnesses when you are accusing someone else. And any wise adult would teach their child they should always hear both sides of the story when they hear someone talking about someone else. And Jay says per his rules no one is to come here making accusations attacking someone else. So why not give the name of the church and their number to get both sides?

  44. Alabama John says:

    WE must be careful in how we understand and disect others motives.

    I’ve seen many sermons preached on the error and wrongness of the man at the football games that held up a sign with John 3:16 printed on it. It didn’t go far enough so it gave the wrong impression of what it takes to be saved was the theme of the sermons.

    Silly thinking I thought as he couldn’t of held up the whole bible or a sign with CENI written in BIG letters as neither would of taught the whole lesson.

    I remember Jesus answering very simply that the main thing was we love God and each other. That would of been a good sign but unacceptable to most in the COC for the same reasoning as the man at the football games.

    When we got the New Testament, there was sure a lot more added to what Jesus said that we argue about today and have through the ages. None argue on what Jesus simply said though. Maybe simplier is better like it is in most things.

  45. Skip says:

    Grace, The church wasn’t named. Your scriptural rule does not apply. Besides, Paul & Jesus challenged groups without giving back up witness names.

  46. Jay Guin says:


    There are many kinds of Baptists. They are hardly uniform in their teachings, and what Skip reports has been observed by many others but does not typify the Southern Baptists. But like the Churches of Christ, the Baptists are autonomous and all sorts of teachings may be found at an individual congregation. I take Skip to be an observant and honest reporter but I know that what he saw is not typical of Southern Baptist teaching.

  47. Skip says:

    Grace, Several of my family members were also at the funeral and heard what I heard. But I am not giving you their phone number.

  48. Skip says:

    Jay, Thanks. It wasn’t my intent to malign all Southern Baptists but only to point out the extreme positions groups take on how to be saved. I line up with your consistent perspective.

  49. Larry Cheek says:

    I did not remember in detail every instance in scripture where there was a mention of two or three witnesses. You used that expression so often I decided to look it up, notice the text does not use the terms two or three witnesses in the same manner as you are applying them.

    (Mat 18:15 NIV) “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’

    (Mat 18:20 NIV) For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

    (2 Cor 13:1 NIV) This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” 2 I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, 3 since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you.

    (1 Tim 5:19 NIV) Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.

    (Heb 10:28 NIV) Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

  50. Jay Guin says:


    Charles is right in his response, which is (1) you’re right but (2) if the hermeneutic fails, another argument needs to be provided. Even CENI can reach a correct conclusion on occasion.

  51. Jay Guin says:

    HG wrote,

    The problem remains for us to work out.

    Indeed. I’ve asked Shank to participate in this discussion, as well as one supporter of his I correspond with. I would prefer that both sides be represented — although, of course, Shank’s book represents his position for those who’ve bought it — and I’ve tried to be fair in my paraphrasing.

    Regarding the Orthodox Presbyter — the church at Antioch probably does have roots back to the apostles. The White House has roots back to George Washington, but that doesn’t make our recent presidents Whigs or even Washingtonians.

  52. Jay Guin says:

    Larry wrote,

    The words that that individual might say are not powerful enough to alter the event taking place. In other words it is not the message that he states which renders the action that causes the action to be valid or invalid. The action is between God and the obedient individual.

    Very interesting …

  53. hist0ryguy says:

    Charles and Jay,
    I agree with your comments about my statement regarding hermeneutics, and primarily had in mind those who make claims, such as “X doctrine cannot be true because Y believes it and uses Z hermeneutic.” You of both echoed my sentiments concerning the need to distinguish between the conclusion and the method.

    Your example reminds me of a good epistemological discussion.

    I agree that a hermeneutic, such as CENI, can lead to the correct and incorrect conclusion, which is why I raised the issue. Almost any hermeneutic can be right on some issues and wrong on others. None are divine, nor should they be a test of fellowship. Nevertheless, they are the best we have so let us distinguish between the conclusion (particular doctrine) and hermeneutic (method), while keeping both in mind.

  54. hist0ryguy says:

    Regarding the Orthodox Presbyter, I agree with you, which is why I just smiled and said “that is what you (Orthodox) tell me.” We all know the Orthodox have experienced (and recorded in their writings) many changes since the 2nd Cent. Though even my friend would grant this, he still smudges it when stating his convictions (in the context of our discussion on convictions). My COC bros/sisters do the same thing when saying “I’m a member of the NT church and you are not because you are in a denomination.” I am looking forward to your interaction with Shank’s work.

  55. Jay Guin says:


    This conversation about the Baptist funeral has gone on long enough. You’ve made your point over and over. It’s time to move on.

  56. Jay Guin says:


    I’m moderating your comments for violations of site policies, largely for ad hominem attacks. The site rules require you to adhere to the following:

    (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.

    I’m not amused by your reposting comments that I’ve already deleted once. I do this for no money and it takes time from my family, my church, and my work to deal with moderation and violations of site policies. I would far rather be commented about the scriptures and writing new posts.

    You have asked why Skip’s comment about the Baptist pastor at a funeral is not ad hominem. Skip said nothing about the pastor personally, just his teaching. That’s the distinction. Why you refer to other posters as childish or not adults, you are not addressing their teaching but them personally — and it violates site policies and those comments will be deleted.

    The two-or-three witnesses verses refer to when a charge is being brought against someone, typically with the possible result of disfellowshipping that person. The rule is taken from the Torah, where it refers to the Jewish court system. Obviously, I may quote someone that I heard without two or three witnesses in other contexts, or else I couldn’t tell my children what my wife said without calling for additional witnesses.

  57. Jay Guin says:


    I have friends who converted to Orthodoxy because, unlike the CoC, they really can trace their roots back to the apostles. This hardly makes them free from error, but it’s an unintended consequence of the CoC claiming to have uninterrupted existence back to Pentecost as a major argument for our being the One True Church. When someone else shows up who can actually make that claim, they appear to be the One True Church.

    As a history guy, I think you’ll enjoy a future post on Baptist and CoC history coming re chapter 8 (scheduled for March 6, although I often re-schedule posts).

  58. Interesting the discussion about the teaching of Orthodoxy and CoC.
    The following link I found very interesting as it discusses salvation, grace, faith, baptism, and works from an Eastern Orthodox perspective. http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/how-are-we-saved

  59. Jay Guin says:


    For a more complete understanding of the Orthodox view of faith and works (which is very close to my own), see http://www.orthodoxconvert.info/Q-A.php?c=Salvation-Faith%20and%20Works%20in%20Orthodoxy

    I’d bet that an Orthodox scholar would pretty much agree with my understanding of “faith” taught in today’s post. The article you cite certainly argues for the need for works, but doesn’t explain how works, grace, and faith fit together. I agree that Christians can’t merely intellectually assent to the nature of Jesus and be saved. “The demons believe and tremble.” Rather, “faith” in the NT senses — esp the Pauline sense — requires a heart that submits to Jesus in obedience, but that does not imply that there are a handful of works that are the sine qua non of Christianity.

    What the Orthodox would worry about is my failure to mention the Spirit and the importance of becoming like Jesus — but we’re getting to those topics.

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