N. T. Wright’s “The Case for the Psalms” Chapters 1 & 2, Part B

caseforthepsalmsWe are considering and expanding a tad on N. T. Wright’s The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential.

I think it’d be helpful to also reflect back on an earlier book by Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense – one of several contributions by Wright that will forever change how we read the scriptures.

This is also a very readable book, excellent for small group studies. And this is where Wright first develops the idea of reading scriptures through the lens of the merger of heaven and earth. Continue reading

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N. T. Wright’s “The Case for the Psalms” Chapters 1 & 2, Part A

caseforthepsalmsAt about the same time Wright released his massive Paul and the Faithfulness of God, he released a much smaller, much more accessible book, The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential.

The Churches of Christ, priding themselves on being a “New Testament church,” as though there might be some other kind, have not developed a theology of the Psalms. They aren’t discussed much in our lectureships and we don’t write books about them, other than the occasional devotional piece.

We are not alone among Protestants, and Wright argues for a fresh study of the Psalms as essential. After all, the Psalms were the hymnal of Jesus and his apostles. Just as we have unconsciously memorized the hymns of our childhood, First Century Jews surely did the same regarding the Psalms. Continue reading

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Muscle & Shovel”: An Open Letter

muscleshovel[Because this is an unusually long post, I'm skipping tomorrow to allow more time for discussion.]

We are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel. (And I guess I did change my mind. What can I say? But this really, really is the end.)

Dear Michael:

I think you are a well-intended, good hearted, intelligent man with a gift for narrative writing. You do an amazing job of story telling. You might not agree me, but I’m confident that your writing skills are a gift from God.

I don’t know much about your background. I know you grew up Baptist, evidently in a church with roots in the Landmark Baptist tradition, and that you were converted to an extremely conservative version of the Church of Christ. Continue reading

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Muscle & Shovel Page

muscleshovelI’ve created a Page that provides a table of contents for all the Muscle & Shovel posts, to make it convenient to read, or refer friends to, this material.

A link to the Page will remain available at top of every post among the links in the area with the black background.

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Cageless Birds: “Mount Zion”

We have come to Mount Zion
City of the Living God
Heavenly Jerusalem
By His blood we have come
Thousands of angels dance around the throne
as thousands more sing out new songs
the elders throw their crowns down
as all of Heaven sings out
Worthy is the One Lamb who has overcome
Resurrection love has raised us up again
Worthy is the One Lamb who has overcome
He has conquered death
I will follow Him!

This one has been flying across Facebook.

To my untrained ears, this one sounds suitable for congregational singing a cappella or instrumental.

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Muscle & Shovel”: In Conclusion

muscleshovelWe are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel. And we are at the end (unless I change my mind).

What’s Missing?

Shank’s theology has several flaws.

1. It greatly de-emphasizes Jesus in order to emphasize baptism. You can’t make both most important.

In fact, there are far, far more lessons here on baptism than on Jesus. He even denies as heretical the possibility of having a personal relationship with Jesus. And he concludes that the Plan of Salvation requires us to believe the Bible, rather than believe in Jesus.

And he declares that the Plan of Salvation — including baptism — is “faith” as “faith” is used in the New Testament.

He says we should believe in Jesus elsewhere, and Shank confessed Jesus in order to be baptized, but faith in Jesus is peripheral to his theology. It’s a step toward obtaining a proper baptism. Continue reading

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Muscle & Shovel”: Chapters 39 – 40 (Faith in the Plan and the Bible; Wrap Up)

muscleshovelWe are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel.

Faith = the Plan of Salvation?

Back in chapter 35, Shank writes,

The Bible definition of faith is belief, repentance, public confession of belief that Christ is God’s Son and baptism for remission of sins into Christ Jesus. This plan is Bible faith.

(Kindle Locations 7171-7173).

The Plan of Salvation = faith? And so faith is believing in the Plan of Salvation? Our faith is in a Plan — not a man? Not Jesus? It’s in the product of our exegesis? It’s in a teaching method? We’re saved by believing that believing saves?

This is nonsense. It’s a logical absurdity and dramatically moves Jesus out of the center of our Christianity and replaces him with a Plan.[1] Continue reading

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Muscle & Shovel”: Chapter 38, Part 2 (No Creed But Christ)

muscleshovelWe are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel. In this post, we consider the history of the Churches of Christ some more.

In the 19th Century, the founders of the Restoration Movement, rejected creedalism, that is, the idea that penitent believers in Jesus must divide and damn if we infer differing truths from the Bible.

The one fact is, that Jesus the Nazarene is the Messiah. The evidence upon which it is to be believed is the testimony of twelve men, confirmed by prophecy, miracles, and spiritual gifts. The one institution is baptism into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Every such person is a christian [sic] in the fullest sense of the word, the moment he has believed this one fact, upon the above evidence, and has submitted to the above mentioned institution; and whether he believes the five points condemned or the five points approved by the synod of Dort, is not so much as to be asked of him; whether he holds any of the views of the Calvinists or Arminians, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, or Quakers, is never once to be asked of such a person, in order to admission into the christian community, called the church.

Alexander Campbell, “The Foundation of Hope and of Christian Union,” Christian Baptist(April 5, 1824). Notice that the “synod of Dort” was the meeting of church leaders that adopted the five points of Calvinism popularly known as TULIP. Continue reading

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Muscle & Shovel”: Chapters 36 – 38 (Shank is baptized; No creed but the Bible)

muscleshovelWe are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel.

Shank describes waking his wife up at 11:30 PM to discuss the conversion of Paul and his baptism.

“Jonetta, I was baptized for the wrong reason and if that’s the case my baptism is no good. I’m still in my sins at this moment. I’m not a true Christian.” …

His wife later said,

“I’ve been studying those tracts that you brought home. I’ve been reading through them for the last couple of months now. I wondered how long it was going to take you to see it for yourself.” Continue reading

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Muscle & Shovel”: Chapters 31 – 35 (the Spirit)

muscleshovelWe are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel.

Chapter 31

Shank is close to being re-baptized. Shank and his wife drink some beers, and he gets sick on too much alcohol.

Chapter 32

Shank realizes that he smokes a little, drinks to excess on occasion, and is something of a materialist. This baptism thing starts to worry him. Shank then summarizes what he’d learned from Randall.

Continue reading

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