By Donnie V. Rader
As a lack of respect for Bible Authority increases among brethren, we are being challenged by the plea for a “new hermeneutics” and a call for change within the church. We are being told that the church much change or else it will die and our children and grandchildren will leave it. The church, we are informed, must get modern to meet the needs of man in this generation. Evidence abounds that some churches are heeding the call for change. We hear of changes in its nature, structure and purpose. Indeed the “winds of change are blowing.” Other articles in this special issue define and examine the new hermeneutics. My assignment is to show the avenues through which the “doctrine of change” is being sounded.
The Nashville Jubilee
1. What is the Nashville Jubilee? It is a gathering of thousands (9,500 the first year) of members of the church for “Vacation Inspiration Celebration” (Nashville Jubilee advertisement, 1989). Their advertisement says they have exhibits, classes, lectures, family fun and activities, famous-name gospel groups and singing “with thousands.” The first year this three day jubilee “offered 35 workshops or study groups on diverse subjects, including evangelism, AIDS, Latin America, marriage and family, deaf ministry and prison ministry” (The Nashville Banner, July 26, 1989). The next year The Tennessean (June 23, 1990) carried an article that called the Jubilee a “national fair” for Christians “offering preaching, fellowship, singing, programs for young people and more than 200 booths for the display and sale of books, audio tapes and video tapes.”
2. Its beginning: The first Jubilee took place July 6-8, 1989 at the Nashville Convention Center. The Madison and Woodman Hills churches were the sponsors the first year. The Antioch church sponsored it the following year.
3. Featured speakers: Some of the names that have been connected with the Jubilee are Rubel Shelly, Landon Saunders, Marvin Phillips, Max Lucado, Mike Cope, Randy Mayeux, Steve Flatt, Lynn Anderson, and Prentice Meador. Those familiar with these names know the kind of liberal thought that would be presented by them.
4. The call being made at the Jubilee: The call for change in the church is being sounded by some of the participants at the Jubilee. Some examples: (a) Randy Mayeux made such statements as “The day is over when you will expect to stay church of Christ all your life. . . Does it really make a difference if a person is a millennial or premillennial?. . . Women need to be represented in leadership…I think we are losing them because our music is not today’s music…” (July 4, 1991). (b) Keynote speaker Mike Cope was reported as saying, that doctrinal differences should be put aside and we should behave like “porcupines in November.” He said that we “Sometimes don’t see eye to eye. We just have to accept each other. No matter what” (Los Angeles Times, July 15, 1989, as quoted in Contending For The Faith, August 1989, p. 1). (c) Marvin Phillips urged solo singing and special choruses in congregational services (Ibid., p. 3). (d) Roy McConnell (an elder of the Robertson County church) wrote a letter to the editor saying, “The Jubilee violated the role of women, 1 Timothy 2:1-12, by allowing men in classes taught by women and allowing a woman to, in effect, lead the assembly in song” (The Tennessean, July 23, 1990). (e) McConnell also reported Marvin Phillips as saying that it was scriptural to jump up, shout and clap in worship. He also stated that Landon Saunders said that environmental organizations were as necessary as the church (Contending for the Faith, August 1990).
1. Image. This bi-monthly magazine began June 1985 under the editorship of Reuel Lemmons. Denny Boulting house is the present editor. The list of staff writers includes such names as Randy Mayeux, Jim McGuiggan, Landon Saunders, Rubel Shelly, Marvin Phillips, and Rick Atchley among others.
The purpose of Image magazine is well stated by staff writer Randy Mayeux. “This is an era of great change in Churches of Christ. With a solid, biblical heritage, it is now beginning a new chapter. Its history will be set and evaluated by the ideas shaping us as a movement. If you love his movement, you will seek to discern the ideas giving us rebirth. Read and listen, or you will be left behind. IMAGE is a key source of these ideas. I commend IMAGE to you as a loving chronicle of our heritage, a mirror of our present questioning and accomplishments, and a courageous shaper of our history” (Image, Vol. 5, No. 9, p. 30).
In this magazine readers are given ideas of a new hermeneutics (Denny Boultinghouse, Image, Vol. 6, No. 2; Bill Swetmon, Image, Vol. 6, No. 4), unity in diversity (Randy Mayeux, Image, Vol. 2, No. 7) and change (Vol. 6, No. 4).
2. Wineskins. This is a monthly magazines that began in May 1992 with a two year commitment. The magazine would continue beyond May 1994 only if interest and support war-rant it. They confirmed by phone (May 11, 1994) that they plan to continue publication. They now have about 10,000 subscriptions.
The co-editors are Mike Cope and Rubel Shelly. Phillip Morrison serves as managing editor.
All three editors wrote “A Purpose Statement” that appeared in the first issue. They said, “WINESKINS is committed to the stimulation of bold but responsible change in the church of God. The very title is taken from Jesus’ parable about the ever-fresh gospel and its always-frail containers. He warned against putting `new wine in old skins’ lest the skins burst and waste the contents. In his metaphor, the skins are the culturally-conditioned and time-bounded experiences of the people who form the covenant community of God. When those receptacle-carriers of the heavenly message become fixed and inflexible, they no longer serve God’s purpose effectively. . . The church is a `communication vehicle’ for the gospel, as much as television, printing press, or one-on-one evangelism methods. . . It achieves its end by reading and responding to its environment just as any living organism does.. . The body of Christ must be an elastic wineskin for the gospel wine rather than a brittle liability to it” (Wineskins, Vol. 1, No. 1, May 1992). Simply put: Wineskins is about changing the church.
In this magazine readers will find articles that (1) question the virginity of Mary and the inspiration of the New Testament (Nov.1992, as quoted in Spiritual Sword, Oct. 1993),(2) teach grace covering doctrinal imperfection (Aug. 1992, as quoted in The Preceptor, July 1993), (3) plea for change (October 1993), and (4) endorsement of material that advocates women taking on leadership roles including preaching (Sept./ Oct. 1993, p. 18).
Books Which Advocate
The New Hermeneutics
And Promote Change
1. The Second Incarnation A Theology for the 21st Century Church by Rubel Shelly and Randall J. Harris (1992). The book is given its title because the church should take what Jesus was in his incarnation and put it into a second incarnation.
The message of the book is “change” (pp. X, XII, 19, 35, etc.). They speak of our “flawed” at-tempts to understand the scriptures and suggest that there is no infallible method of interpretation (pp. XV, 18, 19). The book rejects the idea of “pattern theology” saying that there is no absolute blueprint for building the church (pp. 31, 36,65).
2. The Cruciform Church by C. Leonard Allen (2nd Edition, 1990). Allen calls for “careful alterations” in the church. He says that the church with these changes (like an altered garment) “can yet serve me well” (p. 10). The book suggests that our methods of interpretation are flawed (v. 25). Law and keeping the law are ridiculed (pp. 63, 71). Again the message is a new approach to the Bible and thus a change in the church.
3. The Church In Transition by Jim Woodroof. Like the other books discussed in this article, this one pleas for unity in diversity (pp. 16, 17, 20, 117, 128). Woodroof makes a separation in the gospels and Acts and the letters (p. 34). Likewise he separates adherence to Jesus from adherence to his word (p. 35). This book calls for the same changes that the other materials do.
4. The Core Gospel: On Restoring the Crux of the Matter by Bill Love (1991). F. Furman Kearley, editor of the Gospel Advocate, reviewed the book saying, “… the thesis of the author is basiclly threefold: First, the core of the Gospel is to preach about the Cross or the suffering, death and atonement made by Christ. Second, that earlier preachers in the Restoration Movement did not understand the core Gospel nor preach the Cross nearly as much as they should. Third, that preachers today should preach more about the cross and less about Christian doctrine, the church, its worship, organization and daily Christian living” (Gospel Advocate, March 1993, p. 36-ff).
Yes, the call is being heard. Loud and clear! The call is an effort to do away with Bible authority and do what we want in religion.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 20, p. 14-15
October 20, 1994