John Mark Hicks Reviews When Shovels Break

whenshovelsbreakMichael Shanks has published When Shovels Break, a sequel to his Muscle and a Shovel, another novelized treatment of his theology.

Shanks asked me to read and review his new book, but having spent so much time on Muscle and a Shovel, I decided to decline. I don’t enjoy writing negative reviews, and it was obvious that this book would follow the same doctrinal lines as Muscle and a Shovel.

Nonetheless, I’m pleased that John Mark Hicks has posted a review — because (a) I enjoy all that he writes and (b) it means I won’t feel tempted to do so.

Hicks writes,

Shank’s model is in danger of creating the kind of situation he rightly wants to avoid. He is concerned believers will become disappointed in God and despair over their circumstances, as he did himself. This is a legitimate concern, but the theology that drives Shank’s “plan” is one of self-reliance, that is, we have to work the plan, work it well, and only then will we succeed. That places tremendous pressure on the believer to achieve and perfect their lives rather than depending upon God’s empowering Spirit who works through us and in us as well as depending upon God’s gracious acceptance, even in our struggles. Of course, Shank believes God gives us all we need, but what we need is simply instruction rather than empowerment. In the end, it all depends on us working the plan, and then God’s “awesome grace and love” will be apparent.

Hicks puts his finger on much of what is wrong with 20th Century Church of Christ thinking — it’s American self-reliance wrapped up in religious trappings. It’s a rule book for how to save yourself. Indeed, the Spirit’s work is ignored not only because of the potential for abuse but the lack of any need. If we can do it on our own, what’s the point of the Spirit?

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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35 Responses to John Mark Hicks Reviews When Shovels Break

  1. John says:

    I have not read Shanks’ books, but from John Mark Hicks’ review I believe I see what I have for years believed to be the problem of the CoC and a few other denominations; their God is too small.

    When legalists and fundamentalists despair and become disappointed with God it is because they will not allow themselves to see God as greater than their traditional theology. Most atheists I have known or read are former fundamentalists, and it was actually easier for them to say “There is no God”, than to imagine God to be greater than the church of their youth.

    This is the problem of why the CoC sees itself as a self-reliant religion, with little help from God. Its God is a small God. They actually see the law as greater than God. The term GOD for them is vague and weak without the law, and the law is what makes strong borders, strong fellowships. But there is a problem with all this; the law is powerless in facing each new day. Oh, there are many legalists who will point to themselves and boast, “I have no problem facing life!” But often this is simply a case of temperament. The truth is, most of us, when faced with a day, a week or a year that cut our legs out from under us, took a break from the law to let God to be greater and bolder than we ever imagined God could be. Its just than some of us admitted it, some of us did not. Its not easy to open up to others and admit we see God where we never saw God before.

  2. John says:

    To continue my thought, a good example of those in the CoC who do not admit that they slip out of the law from time to time, are those who sit in a Bible class and claim that God indwells and works through the “written word only”, then pray in times of tragedy for God to work through all means. I do have a respect for those few legalists out there, and there are a few, who hold that God personally dwells within the Christian. At least they do not have to leave their theology in order to pray.

  3. Bob Brandon says:

    I see this even in the (self-perceived) moderately progressive congregation I attend: faithfulness as getting better self-motivational techniques and coaching for renewal. Essentially, it’s the Green Lantern Theory as applied to church growth and development: all it takes it sufficient will-power and resolve, and failure is a criterion for invalidating the concept (see No True Scotsman Fallacy).

    Here’s a link to the Theory as assessed as applied to U.S. politics (but works well in other settings):

  4. Richard constant says:

    we all get hung up in sophistry at one point or another.
    or you could say we’re all hung up IN Sophistry one way or another.
    what’s funny is the only way out is to love each other.
    and if we start moving toward that goal the Spirit will help us.
    you know God isn’t dead he’s still actively engaged with all of us.

  5. Dwight says:

    There are many in the coC that are tied down to a work within the church philopsophy. A lesson that my preacher gave talked about David and how he worshipped God and then tied that to how we should worship in assembly. He couldn’t bring himself to utter the point that David worshipped beyond the Temple and he worshipped God of his own accord. It seems as though we have a competition between working for and worshipping God in the assembly vs doing those same things elsewhere in our lives. If people do these things elsewhere, then there is “no control” system over how they do it. God therefore is limited to the assembly and not to the Christians life. Yes we see our church and can’t see God’s kigdom.
    To Hicks point we are slaves of what we do and how and think this drives the why, but this is backwards and God largely doesn’t give as many rules and instructions as we want to put in place. God wan’ts free will service and worship within the context of His will, not by a step-by-step playbook. Keeping the sheep in the pen makes them resent the pen and then the shepards and then they resent the rigid system and then they resent God, even though God didn’t place the rigid system and the pen in place and the shepards are largley playing by many of thier own rules in thier strictness.

  6. John says:

    Bob, good observation. And forgive me for using this, simply because so many throw them back and forth at one another, but the Nazis embraced “Will to Power”, and if you failed, your will wasn’t strong enough. And that is not to accuse one wing of the CoC. As you noted, there are those who consider themselves progressive who hold to the “will and resolve” theology, especially in regard to morals. It is hard to drop old baggage, even when you think you’ve become enlightened enough to find the better path.

  7. laymond says:

    Shank believes God gives us all we need, but what we need is simply instruction rather than empowerment. In the end, it all depends on us working the plan, and then God’s “awesome grace and love” will be apparent.

    “Hicks puts his finger on much of what is wrong with 20th Century Church of Christ thinking — it’s American self-reliance wrapped up in religious trappings. It’s a rule book for how to save yourself. Indeed, the Spirit’s work is ignored not only because of the potential for abuse but the lack of any need. If we can do it on our own, what’s the point of the Spirit?”

    Jay, if your bible is not a “guide book” therefore a “rule book” then just what is it, A story book ?
    Unless we accept the bible as the written word of God (as man understands it) as brought to us by God’s own messenger, how are we to know the will of the creator ?
    As Jesus said in the following , we have to know the will of the Father and do his will, in order to enter God’s kingdom. I don’t see how this could be stated any more plainly.
    Jay please give your explanation of what Jesus has said here.

    Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

  8. We can’t just brush aside what Jesus said in Matthew 7:21 and in the following passages. According to our Lord, those who do the will of God shall enter in the kingdom of heaven.

    Jesus also said, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” – Matthew 16:27.

    “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” – Revelation 22:12-14.

    The Wise Preacher of Old penned these words in Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.

    Only “those who do His commandments” / “keep His commandments” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, “will be rewarded … according to his works,” “may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.”

    In the light of what our Lord has said / commanded, our views/opinions are irrelevant.

  9. laymond says:

    Jay, let’s go a little farther in Mat. 7 and see just what Jesus said about people doing spiritual things.
    Mat 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

    Jay all these claims would have to be accomplished with help from “the spirit” .
    You said; ” Indeed, the Spirit’s work is ignored not only because of the potential for abuse but the lack of any need.”
    What did Jesus say to those who claimed to work all these “wonderful works”, miracles in his name? He pretty much said they were lying.
    Mat 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
    Mat 7:24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
    Jesus pretty much said do as I tell you, because you can’t do as I do.

  10. Richard constant says:

    might want to read Acts chapter 4 through 6, maybe get an idea of what the work of the church is about.
    I don’t think it’s really about telling other people why they’re wrong, those that believe in a way that we don’t.
    I think it’s really more about how do we attract people why do people want to be around us.
    I really think that we should be really kind of happy and carefree people. people that are unencumbered people that have too many friends family’S should enjoy each other.
    pretty much I think that if we’re not celebrating an awful lot we should be.
    We should look for excuses on why we should Associate with one another on a daily basis. Even in this busy life that we sorta kinda have.
    especially the new people And the young people.
    what I feel is really sad is that our church buildings are on lockdown pretty much except on Sunday.
    again there are so many possibilities that we could incorporate into this loving relationship that would attract people that are afraid of the word religion

  11. I agree with you on that. Loving relationship is what our Lord taught.

  12. Dwight says:

    I dont’ think too many people don’t believe that we shouldn’t do God’s will, but often I hear many people say, “we must worship the right way”, meaning according the way that God lays out and then they don’t lay out a method or plan from the scriptures. Even when they hit the “spirit and truth” they say the truth is God’s word, but then they don’t argue what word says on worship as in a set of rules and they usually go back to “spirit and truth.” We say there are definite lines not to cross, but don’t and can’t define the lines by scripture. It is fear mongering and it is made to limit man by man. God’s will is that we should overall love God and keep His commandments and some of His commandments are to love God and love others and help the orphans and widows and keep one unpsotted from the world (not sin) and give. We are also told to pray and sing and praise to God, but these are communicative devices from us to God or about God and beyondt that we aren’t told where, when, how, what, etc. and it all goes back to in Spirit and in Truth.
    The OT Laws was laid out like a totorial in Deut. and Leviticus, but the NT has nothing like this, because it wasn’t meant to be a list, but an indictment of man’s heart in response to God. Even the Lord’s Supper wasn’t laid out like a list and even then we don’t do it exactly like they did it in the NT. The Lord’s Supper was meant to bring us to remembrance and unity, much like the Passover meal was. We have often shorted the Lord’s Supper in favor of stressing it as a command.

  13. Richard constant says:

    but then it’s a lot easier to stay in our own comfort zones.
    those fallback positions.
    the black and white of it all.
    it’s the salvation of love mercy and patience.
    and a god that was willing to die because he made a promise.
    and to get rid of A law of sin and death.
    and issue a new law built around faithfulness.
    faithfulness to what.
    to God’s love as revealed in the scriptures and that would be Jesus Christ. you know I learned a long time ago in the Church of Christ.
    If I used my Bible right I could prove there’s a mouse on the moon eating green cheese. and as far as I’m concerned somethings just don’t change.
    Everybody wants to go around justifying your position rather than letting Jesus and God be the judge. getting
    on with the work through love.
    when Paul saw the Corinthian church doing the Lord’s Supper.
    What did he tell them did he tell them that you’re doing it all wrong.
    They shouldn’t be feasting and they shouldn’t be having all of this food you shouldn’t be coming together. trash the whole thing he didn’t say that in any way whatsoever.
    What he told them was the function is fine but the form of your function is not right. then he told a much better way to have the function.
    Today I would think that the form and the function are all wrong and you’re all going to hell for it.
    well I kinda Would like to know is why or where did anybody get the idea of that kind of crud of Doing the Lord’s Supper snack.
    of course that would be if I wanted to gripe about something.

  14. Richard constant says:

    Ow en at last comment was bit To me a little tongue in cheek.
    mean I’ve just gotta have a little fun here.
    Even if it is the truth if you go from a legalistic point of view in the New Testament

  15. Richard constant says:

    we should be able to put all of this into perspective our church fellowship and the amount of time that we’re willing to spend having at fellowship.
    Be realistic here we all have football games to watch we all have baseball games to watch we both got kids we all have all these things that make us so busy that we can’t spend time with one another.
    are these excuses and arrangements that we’ve made with one another so that we can do what we want and not be put out too much on Sunday for what we quote unquote consider to be worship.
    what’s interesting is how many scriptures we must Not at when we take a legalistic point of view and how open we are to having other people look at our worship and say I don’t need that it’s nothing more than lip service.
    but then again there’s always the easy way out turn out the lights I don’t want to see.
    might miss that game

  16. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    What’s your point? Are you saying that we are supposed to obey God and Jesus? Well, does anyone here disagree?

    Or are you saying that we can obey sufficiently to merit salvation? Again, I doubt that you mean that.

    Or are you saying that we have no need for the Spirit as demonstrated by the fact that we’re commanded to obey? If so, I really don’t follow your logic. Who wouldn’t want all the help he could get to obey a God that he loves?

    Or are you saying that everyone who claims to have been helped by the Spirit is a fraud based on those verses? Again, that is obviously not true.

    So I’m at a loss to understand your point.

    My point is that the NT insists both on obedience and on God helping us obey through the indwelling of the Spirit. This is a major theme of scripture, from Deu 30:6, Jer 31:31ff, Heb 8, Rom 8, and many more passages.

    Thus, for Shank (or anyone else) to write a book on how to be obedient to God without referencing the Spirit is to miss a major OT and NT theme — even if you don’t believe in a works salvation. But experience shows that those who miss the Spirit tend to insist on a works salvation – at least as to certain works that define their denominational boundaries.

    I’ve seen more than one congregation dramatically changed when it came to accept the effective, personal indwelling of the Spirit — and I have great pity for those who feel compelled to deny the work of the Spirit in today’s church. When the church learns a deeper understanding of grace and the Spirit, they actually become more active and committed — because no longer do they serve out of fear but rather out of joy in the Spirit.

    (Rom 14:17 ESV) For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

  17. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    What am I missing? Are you imagining that someone here is against obeying God? Seriously? No one has remotely argued any such thing.

    The problem isn’t a lack of desire to obey but understanding how it is that God expects us to obey.

    (Jer 31:31–34 ESV) 31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

    This passage is quoted in full in Heb 8. Jesus refers to it as the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Paul references it in Rom 2 — and indirectly in Rom 8.

    The obedience God wants is obedience from the heart, and God himself will change our hearts, through his Spirit, so that this happens. Amazingly enough, God will take on the burden of obedience by changing our hearts so that we become obedient.

    (2 Cor 3:4–6 ESV) 4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

    Now, if we take Paul seriously, then we must believe that “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” What is the problem with “the letter”? Well, he’s referring to God’s laws, and we can’t obey them — not well enough to merit salvation (Rom 7).

    Hence, merely shouting “Obey!” leads to death. We can’t do it. We fail. Not a one of us merits our salvation.

    The solution isn’t just grace. It is grace but also the Spirit. Paul himself contrasts letter to Spirit, not letter to grace or letter to forgiveness. It’s the Spirit that makes the difference.

    One of the key distinctions between the new and old covenants is the Spirit possessed by each Christian that does the work in us promised in Deu 30:6 and Jer 31:31 ff. God himself will change our hearts and bring us into a changed relationship with him.

  18. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    Thanks for the comment and the link. Green Lantern was many years ago for me — and the movie was dreadful. But your point is well taken.

  19. Susan Wilson says:

    Thank you, Jay! Excellent post!

  20. John Randy Royse says:

    I really don’t know anyone who says we shouldn’t obey what God commands us to do. But I will admit, I don’t pray for my enemies or turn my check very often….

    I do know lots and lots and lots of people who are happy to fill in ‘commands’ where God really hasn’t spoken, however. People who make examples binding, instead of just examples…… Who can’t find authority for orphan’s homes in “Love your neighbor”

    The Lord’s Supper / Passover comparison mentioned by Dwight is a good place to start. Exodus 13 has a very detailed list of how to do Passover. The New Testament is very lacking in similar details for our remembrance feast. And I have seen lot’s of folks ready to fill in those details which didn’t seem important enough to be specified when mentioned ……

    Note that Paul said “For whenever….” in I Cor 11:26. He sure missed a great opportunity to tell us when is was acceptable…. Or maybe it just doesn’t matter to God if our heart is right.

  21. Mark says:

    Richard constant wrote “pretty much I think that if we’re not celebrating an awful lot we should be.”

    Growing up cofC, there was no celebrating the birth, resurrection, or teachings of Jesus. Baptisms weren’t really celebrated. The lack of any reason to celebrate was quite sad.

  22. laymond says:

    Jay, maybe I misconstrued what you were saying, I thought you were talking about the indwelled “holy ghost” when you were saying “spirit” . yes I know we all need the help of God, that is the reason he sent Jesus, we were not able to do it on our own.

  23. You say, “One of the key distinctions between the new and old covenants is the Spirit possessed by each Christian that does the work in us promised in Deu 30:6 and Jer 31:31 ff. God himself will change our hearts and bring us into a changed relationship with him.”

    I have struggled with the concept of the Christian possessing the Spirit. Given that Romans 8:9 refers to the Spirit of Christ, Spirit of God, and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, kindly explain to me how this happens? Romans 8:11 speaks of, “if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you.” Wouldn’t that mean God’s Spirit or God dwells in us by His Spirit? Isn’t having the mind of Christ the same as having the Spirit of Christ since that makes us Christ-like?

    I am aware of the long drawn out debate of many years on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and I understand where you are coming from. But, unless someone conclusively explains the mechanism or process of the indwelling, I will continue to accept the explanation Jesus gave in John 14:23, “Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” How do you explain 1 John 2:24b? “If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.” (Of course this talks of us abiding in God so long as we abide by the message of the Bible/NT.)

    By faith I can accept that God is with us but I can’t logically and/or rationally accept the fact that He physically indwell us except through the word which was given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God’s breath (ruach/pneuma=Spirit) is in us and so we are alive and all of humanity.

    Having presented the above, I do not confine the Almighty/Infinite God to the book (Bible)! Far be it from me to do that. The book (Bible) points to Him. I have to seek Him beyond the sacred page (as the song goes). If I am encouraged by a book, I will seek the author. So the Bible encourages me to seek it’s Author who has given us His book so that we may seek HIM and know HIM and the power of His Glorious Being. I always thank HIM for His being because everything flows from His being. If He were not, nothing would be.

    As the Apostle Paul explained, “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’” – Acts 17:26-28. He pervades all His creation and beyond.

  24. John says:


    You wrote of needing to know “… the mechanism or process of the indwelling”. With respect, this is why much of the Church of Christ, especially outside the South, is quickly becoming irrelevant. People who are seeking God are not looking for “mechanisms”; they are hungry, hungry for God, the God who is “… above all, through all, and in all”.

  25. Yes. We seek an intimate relationship with our Maker. The written word makes us conscious of Him. It pains me to associate with saints who greatly limit [in their minds and to their great loss] the Infinite Eternal Spirit [whom we call God]. He is the Fountain of Living Water – Eternal Life. Well, He is in our hearts and on our minds. He Always Is.

  26. laymond says:

    amen Thomas, amen.

  27. Dwight says:

    Randy, Actually if you look at the Passover in Exodus all we are told are three things (Passover lamb without spots, bitter herbs and unleavened bread). As time went on they extended the items in the list to God by adding wine and oil and other things, even placing all those things in order, but this was all done by man. God allowed leeway and latitude in the Passover and yet we don’t in the Lord’s Supper.

    We live in a society where we want everything quanitified and labeled. Well God tells us things and wants us to accept them as he tells us. There is no way to quantify many of the things of God as they are unquantifiable. God is unlimited and outside of our limited realm. If we are told the HS lives in us, and Jesus lives in us and God lives in us, we must not question, but use those things to our advantage. Faith is seeing the unseeable and acting like it there because we are told it is.

  28. laymond says:

    Jay said; “My point is that the NT insists both on obedience and on God helping us obey through the indwelling of the Spirit.”

    This is why I assumed you were bringing back the argument of the “indwelled holy ghost” as Jesus described this “holy ghost” as the spirit of truth, to assure that the apostles remembered the things that they were taught while the teacher was among them. this “spirit of truth” was never described as the savior inside all baptized Christians. or that if you were not indwelled by this “person” you could not obey the rules presented by Jesus. As a matter of fact Jesus described the purpose of this “spirit” was to remind the apostles of what they had already been taught, not to bring new teachings or new knowledge.

    Man, and only man has proceeded to change the purpose of this “spirit” I can only think of one reason for that change, and that is to raise the importance of certain men in the eyes of man. As I have said many times God does not live in a faulty temple, men do, and men can only attain the goal of heaven through God’s Grace, the giving of his son for our salvation. God lives in our mind, not our corruptible flesh and bone body. No one can live such a life that God would accept their body as his dwelling place.

  29. Dwight says:

    Now I kind of have to clarify myself a little. We are called the Temple, because God lives in us. But God didn’t even live in the Temple, but His presence did, in the Ark. Even David admitted that God didn’t live in a house made with hands and this is repeated in the NT. God’s presence or essence is what lived in the Temple and us as well. The Spirit though is another matter. It lives in us and we don’t know on what level. It must act in us, but then again we must allow it to act in us as well. Even those in I Cor.12-14 that were prophesying and speaking in tongues had the option of speaking up or being quite. They could control the spritual gifts to some extent in externalizing them, even though they couldn’t control which gift they got handed.

  30. Monty says:

    NO group of people ever placed as high a priority on learning God’s word, the Tanakh, as the Jews did. Especially later in their history. Did it help them obey God fully? For the most part, no. Not even those who possessed the indwelling Holy Spirit in a special sense before Christ or even after Christ obeyed God always. See King Saul being disobedient soon after he receives the Spirit and prophesied with the prophets, or Moses striking the rock instead of speaking to it, or Miriam speaking against Moses, or David’s sin with Bathsheba. To possess the indwelling Spirit of God didn’t keep Peter from withdrawing from the Gentiles while eating when he saw the Jews coming. To be indwelled by God doesn’t mean we lose our free will. It doesn’t mean we will never do anything but obey completely, but it does mean that I am a child of God, that I am a son, that his Spirit intercedes for my spirit and that HIs Spirit is teaching me through the word how to live as a son and how to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. The indwelling Spirit of God is the engagement ring of promise that we are married to God as we await the bridegroom’s return for us. Exactly how he operates is still mysterious. But some things are better left that way. Paul said, he had died but nevertheless he lived, yet not I, but “Christ liveth in me.” I don’t think he meant the word only. Everyone who believes the good news should be able to say along with Paul, “Christ liveth in me.” It’s scriptural.

  31. Aye. That’s scriptural.

  32. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    I’ve written here many times and very extensively on the Spirit — so much so that I really can’t go into the topic again in detail without testing the patience of many of my longtime readers. Rather than answering your questions in the comments, please let me refer you to chapters 2 and 3 of my book The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace, published in 1995 but now available as a free download here:

    I know that two Church of Christ colleges changed their teaching on the Spirit in response to these two chapters. So even though it’s 20 years old, it covers the ground well enough. I’ve learned much more since I wrote this, but these chapters build a decent foundation for further study.

  33. Joe B says:

    The reasons that “shovels break” to use shanks’ metaphor in the context of the churches of Christ in the United States is pure and simple; legalism! In the comments section of the review that JMH wrote about the book Shank claims that 2100 people had been restored after reading his book “When shovels break”. I would be interested to see how that statistic was measured. Another more interesting statistic would be to see how many people have left because of legalistic literature like his book. I have a high suspicion that the ratio is highly disproportionate to those who have left then those who have been restored. I hope and pray that one day our identity can move past our feeling that our legalistic theology is superior to all other theologies. Shovels break because they are used in the wrong manner!

  34. Dwight says:

    The problem is that 1.) there is a restoration due to the book “when a shovel breaks” and not due to the Bible, as it shows what is being followed and 2.) a restoration to what…more works and legalism? and 3.) a restoration from what?
    I have a grave suspicion, when someone claims a book has led the way as it sounds like the Pharisaical arguments that they knew the way. They should have argued that God was the way.
    We should lead the people to the scriptures and then from the scriptures to God.
    I can lay out a step-by-step plan, but the plan will be hopelessly limited in that God’s plan has grace, mercy and love and these things can’t be quatified by us…only by God. Once we try to quantify what we do and the rightness of it and our correctness, then we have become self-righteous. We will look down on others who have not followed our plan and are not part of our group.

  35. Mark says:

    Too frequently the cofC not only “look[ed] down on others who have not followed our plan and are not part of our group” but looked down on those in the pews who might not have been following the plan exactly or had different opinions that the official one.

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