We are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel.
The Ethiopian eunuch
We next find Shank studying the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch together. Randall had introduced them to the story, saying it’s important to know that Philip preached Jesus.
“Preached Jesus!” I thought — at last Randall and Shank get to the heart of our salvation and the gospel, he who died for us — but no such luck.
Now, why is it important to point out that Philip preached Jesus to the Eunuch? It’s important because the Eunuch said to Philip in verse 36, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?”
(Kindle Locations 3493-3494). Preaching Jesus is important solely because it’s a launching pad for yet another argument in favor of baptism by immersion. Sigh. I mean, do we worship baptism or Jesus? Are we saved by baptism or Jesus? Do we have faith in baptism or Jesus? How can we have gone now halfway into the book and have yet to have a serious conversation about submission to Jesus — except in the form of baptism?
And yet I agree with Shank and Randall that the eunuch was immersed by Philip. From this observation Shank concludes,
Here’s the hard-core, undeniable, incontrovertible Bible fact that the Baptists, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Pentecostals, the Holiness Movement, the charismatic Church of God, the Community Churches, the “faith only” crowd and the Televangelists either don’t understand or refuse to accept – the doctrine of faith only, the Sinner’s Prayer and asking Jesus into your heart to be saved are utterly and thoroughly false to their very core and these teachings are leading people to eternal destruction en masse!
(Kindle Locations 3582-3591).
Notice that Shank’s logic assumes that any error in baptismal theology damns — which is nothing but an assumption. After all, the Baptists also baptize believers by immersion. They just don’t agree that baptism results in remission of sins, believing that to have already occurred. And so getting the timing of salvation wrong but the ritual right is not good enough — you must have both the right practice and the right understanding of when salvation occurs.
But countless thousands of Church of Christ members went into the baptismal waters confident they would receive no personal indwelling of the Spirit — in error as to an effect of baptism — and we still treat them as saved, even if we are in the personal indwelling camp. I guess it’s more about denomination than logic. Sad.
Shank relies heavily on Mark 16:16, which is in the King James Version but omitted from nearly all later translations. So far he’s not mentioned that the inspiration of this verse is in serious doubt, even by very conservative scholars.
This is from the translation notes for the NET Bible —
The Gospel of Mark ends at this point in some witnesses (א B 304 sys sams armmss Eus Eusmss Hiermss), including two of the most respected MSS (א B). The following shorter ending is found in some MSS: “They reported briefly to those around Peter all that they had been commanded. After these things Jesus himself sent out through them, from the east to the west, the holy and imperishable preaching of eternal salvation. Amen.” This shorter ending is usually included with the longer ending (L Ψ 083 099 0112 579 al); k, however, ends at this point. Most MSS include the longer ending (vv. Mar 16:9-20) immediately after v. Mar 16:8 (A C D W [which has a different shorter ending between vv. Mar 16:14 and Mar 16:15] Θ ƒ13 33 2427 Û lat syc,p,h bo); however, Jerome and Eusebius knew of almost no Greek MSS that had this ending. Several MSS have marginal comments noting that earlier Greek MSS lacked the verses, while others mark the text with asterisks or obeli (symbols that scribes used to indicate that the portion of text being copied was spurious). Internal evidence strongly suggests the secondary nature of both the short and the long endings. Their vocabulary and style are decidedly non-Markan (for further details, see TCGNT 102–6). All of this evidence strongly suggests that as time went on scribes added the longer ending, either for the richness of its material or because of the abruptness of the ending at v. Mar 16:8. (Indeed, the strange variety of dissimilar endings attests to the probability that early copyists had a copy of Mark that ended at v. Mar 16:8, and they filled out the text with what seemed to be an appropriate conclusion. All of the witnesses for alternative endings to vv. Mar 16:9-20 thus indirectly confirm the Gospel as ending at v. Mar 16:8.) Because of such problems regarding the authenticity of these alternative endings, Mar 16:8 is usually regarded as the last verse of the Gospel of Mark. There are three possible explanations for Mark ending at Mar 16:8: (1) The author intentionally ended the Gospel here in an open-ended fashion; (2) the Gospel was never finished; or (3) the last leaf of the ms was lost prior to copying. This first explanation is the most likely due to several factors, including (a) the probability that the Gospel was originally written on a scroll rather than a codex (only on a codex would the last leaf get lost prior to copying); (b) the unlikelihood of the ms not being completed; and (c) the literary power of ending the Gospel so abruptly that the readers are now drawn into the story itself. E. Best aptly states, “It is in keeping with other parts of his Gospel that Mark should not give an explicit account of a conclusion where this is already well known to his readers” (Mark, 73; note also his discussion of the ending of this Gospel on 132 and elsewhere). The readers must now ask themselves, “What will I do with Jesus? If I do not accept him in his suffering, I will not see him in his glory.”
Obviously, there is room to disagree over whether these verses are original, but the weight of conservative Christian scholarship is against them, which is why most translations omit them or bracket them with an explanation.
My complaint with Shank is that he doesn’t even mention this problem, treating as a key proof text a verse that likely isn’t even inspired. He should at least caution the readers regarding the serious doubts about the verse before asking his readers to make life-changing decisions based on it. (And perhaps this is due to relying on the 1611 King James Version rather than one of the many more recent, superior translations. But if he’d read just one commentary or one modern-language translation … Such is the price of tract rack scholarship.)
Shank and his wife wake up on a Sunday morning and realize they need to decide where to go to church. They’d lost interest in their usual Baptist Church — over the John the Baptist claim and the Sinner’s Prayer. Shank then undertakes a discussion of Calvinism, rejecting each point of TULIP.
He next considers the Charismatics. He builds an argument on Mark 16:17-20, again unaware that these verses are likely not inspired.
Shank then argues from 1 Corinthians 13 that the age of miracles has ended.
He then rejects the Church of England because it’s influenced by Catholicism.
And he quickly dismisses the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
He then began to visit the local community churches.
Over those weeks that we visited the community churches, we found that they were essentially religious smorgasbords designed to please everyone and offend no one . They stood for almost nothing. They worked so hard at embracing everyone that they couldn’t stand for the most elementary Bible principles. No brain, no backbone, all fluff.
(Kindle Locations 4091-4095).
Shank goes to Lipscomb University and a professor helps him out with the Greek in Acts 2:38. He winds up defining “for” with the definition I mentioned earlier: “into.” This is, I think, right. And so the Baptist translation of “because of” is indeed wrong. And everyone who is wrong about something is damned — right?
Again, Shank just blithely leaps from “mistaken” to “damned.” In leaving his Baptist denomination, he really doesn’t have to declare them damned for mistranslating the Greek word eis. After all, it’s not as though the Churches of Christ — and Shank himself — are free from error.
(Mat 7:1-2 ESV) “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”
(Rom 2:1 ESV) Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.
If I’m going to be judged by the standards I impose on others, I’m going to preach grace.