We are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel. And having spent far too much time in chapter 5, dealing with baptism, we finally move on to –
Shank soon found that his studies with Randall resulted in some criticism from fellow workers. In particular, they said that Randall thought his denomination was the only denomination going to heaven.
Shank asked Randall for a direct answer to this question, and Randall seemed reluctant to give one. He pointed out that the Churches of Christ are not a denomination. Finally, he said,
“The bible clearly teaches that everyone who’s not a part of the church that Jesus purchased with His blood, Acts 20: 28, will not be saved.” … Continue reading
We are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel. And we’re continuing a consideration of the Bible’s teaching on baptism and faith, in particular, whether James teaches a works salvation that damns all who fail to be baptized in the exactly correct way.
Some wish to hang their doctrine of salvation on James’ teaching that faith without works is dead. It’s as though we can read these words and magically all of Paul’s theology just evaporates. Suddenly, because we said the magic James-words, Paul no longer teaches salvation by faith, not works.
And yet, even after we say the James-words, the Paul-words are still there. And they aren’t going away. Continue reading
In the comments, Gary asked,
Jay, is not baptism the re-enactment of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection? No one in the Ole Test. could be baptized for that reason. Are you saying we don’t need to be baptized. Maybe I missed the point.
I’ll answer your second question first.
In my opinion, both the Church of Christ side and the Baptist side of the debate are wrong. I fit in neither camp — and so don’t bother asking which camp I’m in. Neither.
I believe the Churches of Christ generally exegete the baptism passages correctly and that salvation and receipt of the Spirit normatively happen at water baptism. I think that’s God’s intent. Continue reading
We are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel. And we’re continuing a consideration of the Bible’s teaching on baptism and faith.
[Two posts today and nothing on Muscle & Shovel tomorrow. I figured the readers needed to read both parts before drawing conclusions.]
Honoring the baptism verses
Baptism is closely tied to salvation in several passages. Doesn’t saving all with faith write those verses out of the Bible? Do they mean anything at all?
Some hold that baptism is merely symbolic of a salvation that occurs when faith is first realized. That’s Zwingli’s position, and he’s been followed by most Calvinists and by denominations with Calvinistic roots, such as Southern Baptists.
I think most of the Church of Christ debating points against that position are right. I think we’ve interpreted Acts 2:38 largely correctly (except for those of us who ignore the gift of the Spirit).
But the Churches of Christ have been debating the Baptists on this point for over 100 years — so long that we assume that the only possible positions are our traditional view and the Zwinglian/Baptist view. We don’t even consider whether there might be a third way. But there is. Continue reading
We are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel.
As promised, here’s how I reconcile the dozens of verses that promise salvation to everyone with faith in Jesus with the many other verses that teach that water baptism is the moment when God saves us.
The Old Testament evidence
It’s a rare study of baptism that considers the Old Testament. Indeed, we often mistakenly consider the Old Testament a dead letter — useful for digging out Messianic prophecies for a sermon on Christian evidences or for teaching middle schoolers moral lessons, but useless for such serious studies as the nature of God’s salvation. Continue reading
We are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel. Up to this point, I’ve tried to keep the arguments free of Greek and such like, trying to learn from Shank’s popular (and effective) style.
But sometimes, you just can’t escape a little Greek. After all, the Spirit inspired the apostles to write in Greek.
In Church of Christ circles, the idea of being saved by “faith only” is usually treated with a sneer, because it’s assumed that “faith only” means “without obedience of any kind or for any reason.”
You see, Church of Christ theology has been heavily shaped by its many debates with Baptists, and Baptists teach “perseverance of the saints.” A few extremists even teach that you could live a sinful, rebellious life and yet be saved because at some point in your life you uttered the Sinner’s Prayer. But this is not standard Baptist teaching. Rather, the Baptists generally teach that a Christian who has committed himself to Jesus through the Sinner’s Prayer will receive the Holy Spirit and, as a result, will not fall away and will, instead, continue to live as faithful Christians to the end. (If he doesn’t, he never really had faith.) Continue reading
We are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel.
You’ll begin to notice several typos here and there in the text quoted from the book. I cut and pasted these electronically. They are all in the original. I’ll not distract you with the occasional “sic” or bracketed correction. It’s a self-published book and so not professionally proofread. And the typos have nothing to do with the merits of the arguments Shank makes.
Chapter 4 begins with Shank’s description of his pre-conversion life as a nominal Christian. He implies that this is typical of everyone he knew in the Baptist Church. In fact, he had concluded that being saved and how he lived were entirely disconnected.
After all, I had been saved and once I was saved I would always be saved, so it didn’t really matter what I did.
(Kindle Locations 764-765). This is, of course, not at all typical Baptist teaching, but many people in many denominations (Churches of Christ included) have come to the same false conclusion. Continue reading
We are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel. As I’ve said before, Shank has an obvious talent for story telling, and it’s a nicely told tale.
The story begins with the author as a nominal Christian. He grew up in a Baptist Church, and although he’d said the “sinner’s prayer,” he’d never truly committed himself to Jesus. Nonetheless, he considered himself saved.
As the story proceeds, he ultimately converts and joins a Church of Christ and finds a new dedication and level of commitment. And each chapter describes his discussions with others about Christianity and the superiority of the (conservative or mainline) Church of Christ point of view over the views of “the denominations.” Continue reading
We 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. Continue reading