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.
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?