For reasons that are kind of hard to explain, I think it’s important that I return to the book Muscle and a Shovel by Michael Shank and take up the arguments made there in some detail.
I realize that many longtime readers are looking to get away from the old Church of Christ disputes and to instead dig into what comes next, that is, to find a better theology and better hermeneutic.
And we’ve done plenty of that because, frankly, I’m there, too. I mean, I’ve covered some (not all) of this ground so many times that I really don’t want to go there again. I’d rather learn and discuss good theology than why bad theology is bad.
On the other hand, not all my readers are longtime readers. Readership is up 50% since my near-death trip to the hospital back in January, in substantial part, I think, because of the Muscle and a Shovel controversy. And the readers who’ve come here to learn why I so vehemently disagree with Shank’s teaching deserve a more extensive answer.
I’ve not said much about it here, but several days ago the Christian Chronicle ran a review of Muscle & Shovel, and they quoted me as describing the author’s theology as a “false gospel.” Which is what I think — although Edward Fudge actually said it and I just agreed — but agree I did.
As you can imagine, many commented at the Christian Chronicle‘s website against my views, some quite harshly — and some saying some entirely untrue things about me. I was not surprised, of course, because I know that there’s an element in the Churches of Christ who believe its okay to spread falsehoods for the sake of the gospel. (I guess the ban on bearing false witness was nailed to the cross, or some such thing.) Such a strange religion …
(Many thanks to those readers who posted comments in my defense.)
(And why did they use such an old picture of me? I think it’s from Facebook. I never could figure how to update that photo when I updated the photo here and for my Gravatar — but Facebook displays it so small its out-of-datedness didn’t much matter. Nice to have my hair back, though, even it’s only at the Chronicle.)
Here are the previous posts that got me into so much trouble.
And I’m not going to stop posting on other topics including, at times, better theology. As always, I’ll not post on Muscle and a Shovel everyday, to give the blog some variety.
Oh, and one last point: I’m going to start the series with a rerun of a post that was actually the last post of an extended series on Dave Miller’s Richland Hills & Instrumental Music – A Plea to Reconsider, in which he essentially damns those who attend Richland Hills for having an instrumental service. Tragically, Miller has since been damned by others for supporting elder re-affirmation, thus becoming an illustration of Paul’s prophecy —
(Gal 5:15 ESV) 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
And this is exactly the behavior that so concerns me about the more conservative Churches of Christ. The test for what doctrines damn and the right positions one must take are so very subjective, so uncertain, and change so often that you really can’t go long at all without being damned by someone.
PS — I’ve emailed Shank to advise him that I’m beginning this series and invited him to comment or even post in reply to me.