“Muscle and a Shovel”: An Introduction and a Rerun

muscleshovelFor 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.

Reader-Requested Review: “Muscle and a Shovel”

“Muscle and a Shovel”: In Reply to the Author, Michael Shank

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.

Avatar of Jay Guin

About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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6 Responses to “Muscle and a Shovel”: An Introduction and a Rerun

  1. Jeff says:

    I can’t find the original thread/comment for some reason, but It seems I remember Brother Shank expressing great admiration for Edward Fudge. Brother Fudge is usually dismissed by the conservative camp for his advancement of Conditional Immortality. I hope Brother Shank is willing to elaborate upon his fondness for Mr. Fudge. Such esteem would be very unusual. I am curious, and very interested.

  2. rich constant says:

    The job of the apologist is to defend the faith regardless. They know what their conclusion is going to be BEFORE they examine the evidence. Then they have the gall to warn members that critics (even those who examine evidence, then draw conclusions) are less reliable than them. They fail to differentiate between “anti-conservitive lies” and legitimate criticism (there is no such thing to them).

    One of the most harmful things that apologists do is to posit ad hoc answers. Ad hoc answers only explain that a belief “might be true IF…”, but do not offer any positive evidence. However, apologists do not explain that they are making ad hoc assumptions, and leave the impression that they have given a satisfactory answer.

    An ad hoc assumption or ad hoc hypothesis is a way of explaining away your wrongness. It allows you to “save your hypothesis in the face of contradictory evidence. After you discover that you are mistaken, you make an assumption that, if true, allows you to conclude that you were not really mistaken. For example, if I conduct an experiment in which I predict some psychic phenomena, but the results contradict my hypothesis, I can argue that my psychic phenomena still exists, but the problem is that there were skeptics who were observing the experiment, and they sent off bad psi vibes (or some such thing).

    and we all know them and speak to these issues of “true teaching”
    baptism
    instrumental music
    lords supper
    necessity of Sunday worship
    and on and on

  3. When we adopt a soteriology of salvation by “being right about the scriptures”, then someone has to be wrong. Necessary contrast, you see. As Shank is fond of pointing out, we can’t all be right. So, we have to prove that the ones who are wrong are the other guys. It is their error which justifies us.

    If we think for a moment that Shank et al do not hold to this form of salvation, we should read the reverse, when Shank describes why the other denominations are lost. They are lost because they are wrong about the scriptures. Goats are wrong, sheep are right and we be the sheep, because we are right.

    Sounds so far from the gospel of Christ.

  4. Several years ago, I wrote a series of six article on “The Traits of the New Testament” built around 1 Cor 13:13. In it, I contrast the joy and devotion of the early church. You can read the first of these at http://committedtotruth.wordpress.com/2009/07/16/traits-of-the-new-testament-church-introduction-part-1/. At the end of each post is a link to the next.

  5. Steve a says:

    “A better theology”? The law (rules, doctrine, theology) kills but the spirit gives life.

    Walk in the Spirit and let Him guide you not a theology.

  6. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Steve a wrote,

    Walk in the Spirit and let Him guide you not a theology

    Maybe my theology was found from and by the Spirit’s guidance? They are not incompatible necessarily. And a theology may or may not result in “rules.” Or different kinds of rules.

    (1Co 2:12-16 ESV) 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

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