Breaking Bronze Serpents

In my Bible reading the other day, I encountered 2 Kings 18:4, which reads in part, “. . . and [Hezekiah] broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).”

I find this fascinating.  Of all of the graven images that the Israelites worshiped in the Old Testament, Nehushtan was unique.  Unlike the other idols, it was made at the command of God.  In Numbers 21:18, God literally says, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole.”  It was the divine antidote to the poison of the fiery serpents that had been sent among the people because of their grumbling.  Continue reading

Celebrating the Beyoncé Mass

A couple of weeks back, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco (one of the largest Episcopalian congregations in the country) staged what it described as a “Beyoncé Mass”.  In place of the more orthodox spiritual songs that one might expect in such a setting, the organizers piped in some tracks from the Princess of R&B.  (full disclosure:  I had to Google “Beyoncé nicknames” to pull that phrase because in real life, I know next to nothing about her)

Not surprisingly, various conservative commentators have been pearl-clutching ever since, exclaiming, “This is what we have come to???”  They obviously feel that Beyoncé music is utterly inappropriate for a church service.

I disagree.  I think for most worship services across the country, Beyoncé is utterly appropriate.  Indeed, Grace Cathedral’s decision to celebrate a Beyoncé Mass is a refreshingly frank acknowledgement of what’s going on at all these services. Continue reading

Using a Flawed Standard

One of the great griefs of my adulthood has been my conviction that I’m not as good a carpenter as my father.  Among his many other virtues, he was a man of his hands.  He probably built half the furniture I have in my home, and it’s lovely stuff:  solid wood, every joint dovetailed, and built like a tank.  Of course, every dimension of every piece is just so.  A meticulous man, my father.

However, when I’ve turned my hands to much less demanding work (baseboards, trim work, tile work, and so on), things haven’t gone so well.  No matter how carefully I eyeball and measure, I consistently struggle to cut to within an eighth of an inch.  That’s not good enough for cabinetry, and it’s barely good enough for carpentry.  I have spent many patient hours disguising my incompetence with caulk and paint.  At some point, somebody is going to come along and take up the floors I laid in my house in Joliet, and he is going to laugh his head off at me. Continue reading

Authority, Law, and Love

Much of the discussion over my authority posts of a few weeks back centered on the question, “Do I have to?”  Everybody agrees that the Bible says certain things.  All the disagreement emerged over the extent to which those commandments, examples, etc. are binding on us today.

Perhaps the problem is that we’re asking the wrong question.  “Do I have to?” implies coercion, the enforcement of a law on an unwilling subject, and for disciples of Christ, that’s a shoe that should never fit.  For Christians, the right question ought to be, “Should I want to?”  Continue reading

More Bible or More Virtue?

Last week, I wrote about the problem of the development of authoritative tradition within churches of Christ.  Though I don’t believe that either I or anyone else know the extent of this problem, I think few would dispute its existence.  I suggested that the cure for the disease was, simply, more Bible.  The more we are willing to return to the word and the word only, the more we are willing to follow wherever it leads, the more we will move away from human tradition.

As a rule, simple solutions to complicated problems are either elegant or (more commonly) simplistic.  Not surprisingly, I collected some thoughtful comments that suggested that I had fallen into the latter error.  With the commenters’ permission, I’m going to address two of them in this post.  They are as follows: Continue reading

Replying to “Why I Left the Church of Christ”

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Yesterday, Shawn sent me a YouTube link to a video entitled “Why I Left the Church of Christ”.  I’m not going to link to it here, but if you search YouTube for the title, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it.  He said it raised his blood pressure, and he figured that meant I would probably want to watch it and write about it.

He was right, so I clicked on the link and started watching.  After a few moments, I said to myself, “Hold on a sec!  That’s Amber Head!”  I’ve never met the sister (I don’t think, anyway), but I do know her husband, who has also left the faith.  He’s described his spiritual journey at considerable length online (I’m a fine one to talk, I know), so I suppose it’s not surprising that she would want to do the same. Continue reading

Three Bases of Biblical Unity

The other day, I opined that unity in a local congregation doesn’t require perfect agreement on every doctrinal concept.  This is true even for churches like the churches of Christ, churches with a high view of Scripture that demand Biblical authority for religious practices.  In fact, I suspect that doctrinal disagreement exists in every church of Christ with more than three members.

Unanimity of belief is not the foundation of congregational unity.  Instead, I think these three things are: Continue reading

Bible Authority and Church Unity

A few days ago, in the midst of one of those authority-driven blowups that happen on Facebook every so often, somebody linked to this article. I read it, and my brow furrowed.  I didn’t agree with the conclusion, but even more than that, I had trouble figuring out where the author was coming from.  He insists that unity based on a shared understanding of Bible authority was impossible, but he never specifies whom this understanding could unite.  Is he talking about brotherhood unity?  Congregational unity?  Both?

Rather than engaging in a point-by-point rebuttal, then, I thought it would be worth setting out my own understanding of unity from the beginning. Continue reading

Problems with “Chairs”

Sometime in 2010, Rick Atchley, preacher for what was then the Richland Hills Church of Christ and is now The Hills Church, produced a YouTube video called “Chairs”.   In it, he presents his argument for rejecting the traditional Restoration view of Bible authority.  It generated lots of discussion back in the day, and it continues to pop up on Facebook from time to time.

Recently, I was asked what my perspective on “Chairs” was (honestly, I thought I’d already written about it, but apparently not).  Let’s start with the good.  I give Atchley all the credit in the world for being a smooth, plausible, even funny speaker.  Unfortunately, he uses his considerable skills to promote false doctrine.  He distorts the Biblical truth about authority in a way that will cause souls to be lost, and I think he does so knowingly.  The problems with “Chairs” are legion.  Here are the four I think are most significant. Continue reading