Tuesday, December 24, 2013

An Open Letter to Bill O'Reilley

Dear Bill,

I have thought long and hard about what to say here. I'm not sure I can do justice to my own thoughts. As a result I thought I would write here first then sharpen and reduce by statements to more effectively express my thoughts.

First, I am a consistent viewer of your popular show. For commentary and insight I agree with you in most cases. As a historian -- I teach American Christian history online -- you have an excellent grasp of the founders view and intent. You would fit as a "strict constructionist" in most constitutional matters.

Second, while I am a consistent viewer I quite often turn you off when you approach issues relating to Christianity and the Bible. I do so for several reasons:
  • No matter how much you bloviate, Christianity is not a philosophy. Stoicism, Platonism, Existentialism, and other thought systems are philosophies. They all originated in the minds of men. A philosopher's world-view is centered on human will and understanding. Christianity is centered on a person identified in Scripture as the Son of God. Yes, a disciple of Christ is a new creation who lives by a world-view that centers not on man but on God. Jesus was a man but more than that. You learned in catechism that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. A disciple is one who looks to the life of Christ and seeks to replicate that life in his/her own. 
  • No matter how much you wish to hide it, Christianity is exclusive. It is exclusive because pure Christianity teaches that Christ is the only way to God. That insistence brought persecution and death to early Christians but they stood their ground until ultimately Christ and his message eliminated the power and extent of false religions recognized in the Roman pantheon and beyond. 
  • No matter what you learned from the nuns, the Bible is God's word communicated through chosen human individuals and it is the very oracles of God. Therefore, when it speaks it speaks truth even if at first glance it seems to contradict science. Thus, the Bible is not a record of man's thoughts about God but God's communication to man. Let me add that you seem to take the word of science over the word of God. I have to ask you to consider how often science has changed course and rejected ideas once thought absolute. It sometimes appears that science contradicts the Bible but that is usually because one (scientist) or the other (biblicist) is mistaken in their interpretation. For example, while I believe the earth is much younger than many, but not all, scientists the Bible nowhere states it is only 4,000 years or 10,000 years old. Neither can science prove the planet is 4.5 billion years old. Both are ideas accepted by faith. So when you press me, I'll take the Bible's word over yours or a scientists any day leaving open the possibility of misunderstanding.
  • No matter how you interpret Scripture you all too often exhibit your learning from the catechism or Catholic tradition rather than the Bible itself. In the matter of Phil Robertson you persistently  quoted Luke 6:37. You are quite right in that we are told not to pronounce condemnation on others. But Paul says "the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God" (6:9). He then lists those God considers unrighteous. That list included the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, those who practice homosexuality and other sins. God condemned those things, Phil Robertson didn't! Oh, by the way, Paul's words are as much the words of Christ as Jesus' own words (see John 16:12 and following. God's message was not complete with Jesus but the Holy Spirit led the apostles to a fuller understanding of it. Robertson was asked a question, he answered it. How many adulterers raised a fuss? How many of the sexually immoral raised the roof? I think you get my point. 
Do you realize that those of us you consider fundamentalists have reasons for what we believe? Do you understand that there are genuine scholars who hold views grounded solidly in reason and Scripture yet graduated from Harvard, Princeton, Yale and other fine schools? Yet you tend to class all those who disagree with you as ignoramuses.

I know this is too long to be posted on the air. I didn't write it for that purpose. It probably isn't pithy enough.

Michael Hines
Sun City, Arizona

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Portent of Things to Come?

The mail today brought me an advertising brochure from LifeWay Christian Stores. While that's not altogether unusual the message at the top of the piece reads: Berean Christian Stores is Becoming LifeWay Christian Stores.

The transition from Berean to LifeWay represents another loss to the Restoration Movement. Berean Christian Stores were once a wholly owned subsidiary of Standard Publishing. Standard Publishing and its history can be traced back to Isaac Errett and the Christian Standard

Errett, T.W. Phillips, and James A. Garfield were all involved in the Standard's incorporation and development. The paper moved about for a while but eventually settled in Cincinnati where it remained. When the paper floundered financially Errett refused to let it die and R.W. Carroll took over the publishing duties with Errett as editor. By 1873 it became The Standard Publishing Company and in 1874 Errett bought out Carroll and became the company's sole owner. The company remained in the Errett family until Harry Baird, Russell Errett's son-in-law, sold the company to John Bolton who added it to other companies called Standex, International. According to Henry Webb, Baird "had little interest in the religious aims of the company" and Bolton identified with a denominational church. Were there not an agreement arranged in the sale to guarantee all publication editors were members that came from the Restoration Movement, Standard would have been lost then.

During my lifetime I've watched the editorial direction of the Christian Standard move farther and farther from Restoration principles. Burris Butler and Edwin Hayden were strong proponents of the Restoration Plea having guided the Standard through the wars with the Disciples over Open Membership and growing liberalism. Sam Stone, a good man and one who understood sound doctrine, tried to maintain the Standard's conservative position but seemed to have no solid editorial plan or direction. After serving a stint with the Lookout, Mark Taylor became the editor and under his leadership the Standard steadily declined. He presided over the transition of the paper from one that stood for and protected sound doctrine to a paper that glorified the professional ministry and emphasized pragmatic solutions to leadership issues within the church. Admittedly this was not all Taylor's doing. His editorial policy merely reflected that of the Publishing Committee. Recently the Standard moved from a weekly publication to monthly with increasing emphasis on publishing via the Internet.

A look at the October 2013 issue supports my contention. The major articles have nothing to do with sound doctrine or biblical truth dealing only with "church matters." Consider the titles: "What One Church Can Do," "Don't Ignore the Small Towns," "Who's Called to Be a Planter?," "Finding the Right Planter," "You Are Called to Plant a Church," The Future of Multisites," "The New Church/Megachurch Standoff," and "It's Happenin' in Canada!" Frankly the Christian Standard sounds more like Christianity Today or Leadership Journal than the publication that supported Restoration ideals through the 20th Century.

What does all this have to do with Berean becoming LifeWay? It is this! LifeWay is a Baptist organization. Whether it still is or not I don't know, but LifeWay was long the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Church. It is still headquartered in Louisville the home of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

I suppose it really doesn't matter all that much. Berean has long been concerned more with the bottom line than presenting true to the Bible material. It sells what sells! In that regard I suppose its loss is no big deal. Still, it reflects just one more arm of the Restoration Movement that's being absorbed into Evangelical Christianity. 

As for the Restoration Movement in general, I'm not all that sure many care about sound doctrine or biblical truth any more. The emphasis is on what works; what contributes to the big business of the corporation -- the megachurch. Not many of those articles in the Standard offer much help to the small struggling church or contributes to an understanding of biblical truth. Berean and LifeWay don't either!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sinking Into Union with the Body of Christ at Large

I've been wanting to say something about this for quite a while but just haven't done so. I'm basing what I want to say on observation not concrete facts. Nonetheless, I think this is something worth thinking about.

Remember the story about the frog in the kettle? Put a frog in a pan or kettle of water and increase the heat gradually until he's boiled alive. The point of the story is that small changes rarely get noticed. Ultimately those small changes add up to one humongous shift or change. That is a good picture of what is happening in the movement variously called the Nineteenth Century Reformation, the Restoration Movement, or The Stone-Campbell Movement. (Stone and Campbell would be livid at the latter designation!)

A few years ago one of the colleges supported by those in Christian Churches and Churches of Christ designated themselves a university. Because the school offered businesses courses or counseling courses it identified itself as an institution with several colleges. Thus, they claimed the university designation fit. Then someone said foreign students understood a college to be something other than the usual American concept of a four-year educational institution. Soon Christian Church/Church of Christ supported post-secondary education institutions began identifying themselves as universities: Kentucky Christian University, Lincoln Christian  University, Johnson University, Mid-Atlantic Christian University, Hope International University, and Cincinnati Christian University. With the designation university the Christian Colleges that once existed to train preachers and Christian leaders took a step away from the original purpose. Most of those institutions maintained some identification with the Restoration Movement or Christianity in general but they no longer saw themselves primarily as existing to train ministers and church leaders.

As this change occurred colleges began eliminating the designation Christian from their names: Crosspoint, Johnson University, William Jessup Jr University, Point University, Hope International University and so on. While most of these schools would insist they maintain their Christian heritage they have, for all intents and purposes, severed their identity with the Restoration Movement. In addition in some cases they have chosen to honor men rather than God. I don't think it is too far off when some school will identify itself as Stone-Campbell University.

For most of my life I've taught Restoration History in "our" colleges. I have a degree from Cincinnati Christian Seminary (part of Cincinnati Christian University) in Church History. I taught at Intermountain Bible College, Boise Bible College, at CCU, and online for the soon to end Consortium for Christian Online Education, Dallas Christian College, and Manhattan Christian College. With the exception of Dallas, I taught Restoration History and still do for the Consortium.

I taught World Civilization and Church History for Dallas. Then Dallas asked me to design a course called History of American Christianity. They did not want to offer Restoration History because most of their students were coming from other than Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. Within a year or two, Manhattan asked me to design a similar class for them based on the reasoning that they needed to do so since more than half their students came from non-Restoration backgrounds. More and more colleges are no longer offering History of the Restoration Movement. In doing so they continue to distance themselves from the heritage and beliefs of many supporting churches and individuals.

I don't mind teaching History of American Christianity as long as there is a strong Restoration component. In fact, I think there are some really good reasons to place the movement in its cultural setting so it can be better understood. Most historians writing about Christianity on the American scene virtually ignore the movement's contributions to American Church History. "Our" schools are traveling down the same path.

A student studying in one of the Christian Church/Church of Christ supported colleges or universities would be hard pressed to learn anything about the Restoration Plea or the principles of sound doctrine the movement espouses.

What do they find? In many cases they find an educational institution that pushes the movement's important principles aside in order to appeal to a broader potential audience. Their teaching staff and practices reveal this as well. While visiting Dallas Christian College a year ago, I attended a chapel service where a Presbyterian preacher spoke. Nebraska Christian College hired music staff who had no connection to the Restoration Movement and whose chapel presentation I attended was hardly one that could be identified as sound doctrine. I suspect this is not uncommon.

The colleges that once provided leadership for the Restoration Movement and held firmly to sound biblical doctrine and principles are adopting Evangelical doctrine and approaches. Students graduating from our schools have little understanding of sound doctrine. What they are learning is Evangelical (Zwinglian) doctrine, pragmatic leadership solutions, and a commitment to "what works!"

Years ago the signers of "The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery" stated they disbanded the presbytery so that the churches that comprised it could "sink into union with the body of Christ at large." That's happening today. Christian Churches/Churches of Christ are seen as Evangelical Churches indistinguishable from any other. Attending a service in the typical Christian Church mega church, of which the churches are so proud, is hardly different from that of any other mega church even to the point there is no communion service.

In a few more small steps away from the principles of the Restoration Movement, and there will be no reason to exist as a movement at all.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Remarkable Weekend

I've always been an only child. Born during World War II to an unwed mother I escaped the stigma of illegitimacy with the help of my maternal grandparents. For more than 69 years I never knew I had a family beyond an uncle, my mother, and numerous cousins. While they helped my mother in many ways I received guidance from many others over the years as well.

My mother told me I might have some half-siblings somewhere. I mentally shelved that into the far recesses of my mind and wrote it off. Think of my surprise when I received a message on my cousin Yvonne Kerby's Heritage site from a woman who said she knew my father! Not wanting to "open a can of worms" she suggested I contact her only if I wanted to follow the trail. I did and an adventure began.

The adventure revealed the existence of three brothers and three sisters "out there." Within a brief period contact had been made. I talked with two of the sisters and emailed all of them. My own family thought I needed to meet them so they gave me cash for my birthday, Father's Day, and my wedding anniversary with the stipulation that I meet them.

This past Labor Day Weekend we all gathered at one of my sisters home near Tampa, FL. I got there first and as the others arrived there was an instant connection. We spent the time exploring each others' lives. Our similarities were sometime unnerving; our differences not surprising. Our life experiences contributed heavily to the differences. We are still debating nature vs. nurture! It was indeed an adventure and one I am so thankful I experienced.

The fullness of the events will unfold with the future. In many ways the adventure continues!

Friday, August 09, 2013

False Accusation

When I served as Minister of Adult Education at First Christian Church in Canton, Ohio, I designed the church's first website. Part of that website was an "Ask Mike" opportunity for those who surfed to the site. Here is one of the questions and my response:

Since there are seven baptisms in Scripture, why does the Church of Christ/Christian Church see only water baptism?

There are indeed seven (7) baptisms listed in Scripture. They are:
  • Baptism in the cloud, 1 Cor. 10:1-4
  • Baptism of suffering, Matt. 20:20-33
  • Baptism of John the Baptizer, Matt. 3:1-8
  • Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Matt. 3:11, Acts 2:4, Joel 2:20
  • Baptism by the Holy Spirit into one body, Eph. 4:5, 1 Cor. 12:13
  • Baptism in water, Acts 16:33 and a host of other passages
  • Baptism by or in fire, alluded to in Matt. 3:12, 2 Thess. 1:8

As I answer the question, I will refer to these by number. Baptism 1 is a type or precurser of Christian baptism. Israel were "under the cloud" and "passed through the sea" identifying with Moses. In Christian baptism, the believer identifies with Christ. In Baptism 2, Jesus queries His disciples whether or not they can face the overwhelming (baptism means to dip, plunge, immerse; it can mean to overwhelm or cover) suffering He would face at the cross. In that passage does not refer to an ordinance at all but to something Jesus would face. Baptism 3 is the baptism of John the Baptizer. This was not a baptism for the remission of sins but unto the remission of sins. John's baptism was insufficient as an identification with Christ as seen in Acts 19:1-7. Baptism 7 refers to future judgment, a judgment meted out on God's enemies not His disciples. This leaves Baptisms 4-6 and I will deal with those shortly.

The Church of Christ/Christian Church holds to the necessity of water baptism because this was the undisputed practice of the early church. From the book of Acts, it is apparent that once an individual placed their faith in Christ they neither ate a bite, slept a wink, nor let much time elapse before they were immersed in water (Acts 2:38, 41; 8:36-38; 10:47-48; 16:15, 33; 19:1-7; 22:16). That early Christians were typically immersed (baptized) in water is borne out in a non-scriptural but historical document dating from the first century. The Didache or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles clearly states that a believer is to be immersed in water. This seems to handle Baptism 6 quite well, but what about Baptisms 4-5?

First, I must state that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with miraculous manifestations. Such manifestations have everything to do with confirmation of the message being delivered (see Mark 16:17, Heb. 2:1-4). Outside of the Corinthian correspondence, which was written to an unspiritual and divided congregation, reference to miraculous gifts occurs only four times and these are found in Acts 2, Acts 8, Acts 10-11, and Acts 19. In my judgment, such outbreaks confirmed the message when first preached (Acts 2), when it first went to a racially mixed audience - the Samaritans (Acts 8), when it first went to a Gentile audience (Acts 10-11), and when Paul ministered to Apollos and others who followed John the Baptizer (Acts 19).

What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit then? I argue that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is synonymous with the "gift of the Holy Spirit." It is my understanding that when a person is immersed in water for the remission of sins, they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). The timing is important here. The immersion in water and the reception of the Holy Spirit occur simultaneously and can be seen as one process. While often overlooked by many and explained away by others, John 3:5 bears directly to this process. Jesus told Nicodemus that to see God an individual must be born again. In John 3:5 he says that the process of being born again is a process involving two equal "elements" - water and Spirit. A careful reading of Colossians 2:12-13 supports this contention. The following illustrates my contention:

"When you were dead in your sins...."
"God made you alive with Christ...."
"...having been buried with him in baptism...."
"...raised with him through your faith in the power of God..."

The spiritually dead person is buried in water and through or because of ... faith is raised a living, born again, believer.

Something happens in the act of baptism. We know immersion in water "saves" only because it is the answer of a good conscience (an act of faith) and not the removal of "dirt from the body" (see 1 Pet. 4:20-21). Titus 3:5 outlines the whole process for us. In that verse, Paul writes, "He saved us through the washing of rebirth (water baptism) and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior." My conclusion is this: The believer is immersed in water and the Holy Spirit at the same time - one process, one baptismal act. While the individual portrays outwardly what he believes - Jesus's death, burial, and resurrection on his behalf - the Holy Spirit is effecting a cleansing inwardly. What makes it all work is faith. Nothing happens without faith! Therefore, one can rightly say with Paul, "You are justified by faith and not by works" (Rom. 4, Eph. 2). The baptized believer is justified (declared innocent) and sanctified (set apart) because of their faith.

There are those who erroneously believe the Church of Christ/Christian Church believe in baptismal regeneration. In the sense the accusation is made, that is untrue. In a very real sense, however, it is true that the Holy Spirit regenerates the believer who is baptized into Christ. Baptism is the when not the why this occurs.

This is where I still stand as of today (8/9/13). It is interesting that during my brief stint with Christ's Church of the Valley I was called to task by Peter Strubhar (at the request of Don Wilson, I'm sure) and was accused of teaching baptismal regeneration. I probably did teach that when I first got out of Bible College but I grew past that in a big way. I point this out here because so many of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ are adopting the Zwinglian (Evangelical) view of the purpose of baptism that it is frightening. Strubhar, a Baptist, was ignorant of what I really taught and could only see it through his Evangelical filters. 

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Security and Religious Freedom

Since 9/11/2001 the nation speaks often of a desire for security. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the gunning down of innocent children in New England, movie-goers in Colorado, Gaby Gifford in Arizona, and unarmed soldiers at Fort Hood created lots of fear. With each horror comes cries for additional security and protection.

In efforts to make the nation secure the government has initiated programs that circumvent the guarantees of the Constitution's Fourth Amendment. In addition, there are far more invasions of privacy through bureaucratic regulation. In an effort to tout the success of these programs, the president and others point us to the fact that there has not been a repeat of the terror we felt as the Twin Towers fell taking more than 3,000 lives in the rubble.

What isn't recognized is the fact that every effort to provide security reduces your liberty and takes personal responsibility away from you. During the years I lived in Sun City, Arizona I noted how fear and a desire for security caused them to place bars on their windows, heavy external security doors, and kept the volunteer deputies busy watching their homes 24/7. These fearful people created for themselves a virtual prison. The fact is, for those whom security is essential they should ask to be imprisoned in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison. In our culture that is undoubtedly the most secure place on earth. I refuse to live like that!

Mark my words, the government's efforts to collect data, snoop through your emails, text messages, and listen to your phone calls is more threatening to your personal liberty than you can imagine. Furthermore, it may well have deleterious effects on the freedom of expression and religion.

In a brief interview with Mark Taylor, editor of the Christian Standard.  Eric Metaxas makes that point.

Metaxas pointed out that the effort to force companies Christian owned and operated to provide birth control and medications such as "the morning after pill" violates the religious beliefs of the owners. As an increasing number of states redefine marriage, any refusal to provide marriage services to gays can be the basis for charges of prejudice or hate speech. Couldn't happen, you say. It is already happening in Europe and Canada. Biblically sound ministers in those countries are already subject to such charges. Now realize that the government can "listen in" to every telephone conversation or read every text message or email in which you expresss an opinion about such things and you are potentially liable for legal action against you.

Requiring politically correct speech in spite of one's Christian convictions is a loss of liberty and far more than a violation of one's religious freedom. It is just one more step toward a totalitarian state -- a totalitarian state where secular progressive ideology is king. What ever happened to the old statement, "I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it?"

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

On Responding to Anonymous

Over the past few years "Anonymous" replied to several posts. I will write this once and only once. I do not take seriously nor reply to anonymous responses. Either have the courage of your convictions to say your piece or remain silent. My writing is always identified as mine. By doing so you readers can evaluate and analyze what I write. It is impossible to do with "anonymous." Should you wish to challenge my views or my thinking, that's fine! I don't mind that but I can't and won't respect anyone who is so afraid of being identified with their views. It tells me they have something to hide.

I have the same policy with letters or notes I received as a minister or teacher. All too many times anonymous or the anonymous they are used to pressure. The anonymous hides a weakness of position or argument.

If you wish to reply or challenge my material feel free to do so but include your name and email. If you wish to remain anonymous on any published response say so and I will honor your request. I can choose to publish or not publish responses. So have at it!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Have You Tried to Buy or Refinance Lately?

Unless you are rich or have huge equity in your home it is an exercise in frustration to obtain a mortgage or refinance one these days. TV ads make it all seem so easy. Just apply and you will lower your interest rate without incurring closing costs or other expenses. Well, you won't get nailed for closing costs and so on that you can see. Believe me, banks and other lending institutions all want their pound of flesh and will get it one way or another.

Take my experiences for example. A year ago I tried to refinance my Palm Springs home through a lending agency in Newport Beach, California. They promised an easy process and no closing costs. What I got was an individual who couldn't sort out his navel from a hole in the ground. Of course I didn't make it easy for them but had someone somewhere had some common sense it could have been much simpler. I know it's not all the fault of the lending agencies. Some of it rests with the Federal Government and their paranoia over terrorism since 9/11/01. Part of it has to do with the fact that I was in the employ of a church with additional incomes generated from Social (In)Security and my teaching. But still, did everyone have to be a scarecrow from Oz? Remember him? He was looking for a brain!

No one at that mortgage company could figure out why I got checks twice a month from Camelback Christian Church but couldn't give them a copy of my pay stub. Duh! Camelback used normal checks and their payroll checks had no pay stub since it was done by hand. Then, they couldn't figure out that part of my income was non-taxable because it was housing allowance. One of the most frustrating questions floated around my teaching income. I don't want to give you the exact figures, but let's just say I was paid $7,000 for a semester. Not knowing how we wanted to use the money I deposited in my checking account. Then a day or so later I moved a large portion of that money to savings. The lenders couldn't figure out where the $14,000 came from! No matter how often I explained it or walked them through it they couldn't get it. They also had a problem with why I was depositing $2,400 twice a month but my income showing on my tax forms was $24,000 less than what it looked like I earned. Well, dummy, it was housing allowance just like those in the military receive. For several months we went back and forth until I gave up and went back the bank that held my current mortgage and refinance through them. I paid closing costs but saved gobs of hassle.

Now I've retired and have sold the Palm Springs house and am buying a smaller home back in Sun City, Arizona. I had salary and housing from Camelback through the end of June and a nice gift check from the church to say goodbye. The banker in Arizona said, "No problem!" All my retirement income had not kicked in but still, "No problem!" As usual, I had to supply the bank with two months of my bank statements. Almost immediately the questions came, "Where did all that money you deposited come from in May and June?" "It was my salary and housing allowance," I affirmed. "Prove it!" they said. I'm sitting here asking, "Why? I won't be receiving those checks any more and why should they care?" I don't show any weapons or strange chemical purchases in my spending habits. The amounts were less than $10,000. I've only seen that much money at one time when I sold a house or got money I'd saved for a car. It'll all get worked out but I find it frustrating and those who demand it (the Federal government) somewhat paranoid! It is just stressful for an old guy, a good citizen who has voted in every election since Barry Goldwater ran for president, and who pays his taxes on time every year.

Surely someone somewhere has gone way beyond the Scarecrow of the Wizard of Oz! Surely it should be obvious that with just a little look it would become obvious I'm not loyal to some Imam somewhere and have no intention of blowing anything up. Okay, so I'm conservative and Christian. Is that enough to warrant the pressure? Evidently the IRS thinks so as does someone in the White House. Surely someone somewhere has a little common sense. Nope! No common sense much of anywhere in the good ol' USA anymore. We are all politically correct, timid, and concerned that someone will think badly of us.

The demands of the bankers is due to the paranoia created by the collapse of the housing industry a few years ago. We have Barney Frank and his cohorts who pushed easy money at people who couldn't wisely spend ten cents to thank for that. For all of the paranoia around terrorism we have -- and I really hate to say this -- George Bush the younger to thank for that. Well, maybe not him...but his administration to be sure.

By the way, the safest place on earth is solitary confinement in one of our prisons. If you want absolute safety why not apply for admittance? Oh, and think of it. You'll get cable-TV, 3 squares a day, and maid service.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Call them "passages" or "transitions," it doesn't matter for they are always difficult. We all go through them and we call face them differently. I think everyone deals with the stress of transition and even if  you think you are ready you really aren't.

For the past year Delores and I moved inexorably toward one of life's major transitions. Originally I planned to leave the Camelback ministry at the end of June in 2014. Circumstances at the church including some misplaced accusations led me to move it up a year. For the most part the elders were supportive and fair but the accusations hurt and they left me with a sad feeling. I knew the transition from that ministry to whatever followed would be difficult. Delores and I loved the people at Camelback. Leaving them is difficult.

We thought we had a "safety net" as our son worked with the start-up of an innovative online educational venture. He hoped we could work with him. That net died when serious problems arose between the two principals involved in the project. That falling out led our son to withdraw from the project and that meant we had no possibility of work to supplement our retirement incomes. Those circumstances created potential financial pressures leading Delores and I to believe our retirement income would not permit us to continue living in our home in Palm Springs.

For months I wrestled with a decision to sell our Palm Springs home and downsize into a less expensive home elsewhere. We simply needed more cash to continue living in Palm Springs. Our retirement could be much easier if we improved our cash flow by eliminating a mortgage or obtaining a smaller mortgage. Sun City, AZ seemed like a possible place we could do just that. I did not want to do that! Delores kept pointing me to the objective facts. I love our Palm Springs home, I like my doctor and the medical facilities here, and I hate the thought of leaving friends I've accumulated. But transition never comes easy.

We now have a contract on the Palm Springs house and we have selected a place in Sun City. It was more that difficult to locate a home in Sun City for several reasons. First, while there are quite a number of homes available the number that fit our needs was limited. Second, most of the Sun City homes in our price range are older and have not been updated. Even though there would be opportunities in such homes we did not have the cash reserves necessary to update such properties. Third, those few homes that met our criteria were snapped up sometimes before we could even see them. It has become a "seller's market" in Sun City.

Still we found a reasonably nice duplex home in Sun City. Like any home purchase it has some things we like a lot but some things we wanted aren't there. It is, however, greatly updated and quite nice. There are some residual tobacco smoke odors we need to work on to eliminate. (If any reader has any secrets to do this let me know.) Considering the relocation this transition will be horribly difficult.

All seniors go through these transitions. They have to work out how to deal with finances with greatly reduced income. They have to wrestle with the change in self-image that comes when you cease doing the work that gave you identity for most of your life. They have health issues that frighten and there are concerns about unforeseen health problems waiting just ahead. They must also deal with the reduction of respect and consideration from younger people in our culture.

I always said, "I'm not afraid of change as long as I don't have to do it." Honestly facing all these transitions in my life right now I think it is normal to fear change.

Friday, July 05, 2013


I wrote a blog entry months ago about a new Stadia plant in Gilbert, Arizona. When I asked the preacher to define his position on "baptism for the remission of sins" all I got was a refusal to precisely state the church's position. He preferred to waffle and avoid the question. This response to such questions is used more and more and I can only conclude it is an effort to keep the question hidden in a smoke screen so Evangelicals will not be "offended."

In response to my article I got typical responses. On the one hand I got the typical Evangelical response challenging my view. You know what I mean: "What happens if someone dies before they can be baptized?" "Titus 3:5 is not talking about water baptism?" I could go on and on. Drawing on Zwingli's teaching from the Reformation they prefer his views to those of the Bible. I prefer Jesus straight forward statement found in Mark 16:16, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved...." Before you write, I know that verse is not found in some older manuscripts. It is found in some manuscripts and I have as much right to accept it as Scripture as you do to reject it. Oh, and by the way, Jesus knew that those who did not believe would avoid baptism and be condemned. I also prefer Peter's answer given to those on Pentecost who were told to "repent and be baptized every one of you for (unto) the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Honest evangelicals recognize the impact of that verse. If you don't think so, you should listen to Francis Chan's message from Cornerstone Community Church.

On the other hand I got feedback regarding Stadia, a supposedly Restoration Movement church planting organization with headquarters in California. I hear lots of rumors about Stadia but outside of the church in Gilbert, AZ, I've not seen solid evidence. If anyone has such evidence I'd like to see it.

I do see evidence of many within the Restoration Movement softening their view on the importance of baptism. That's true not only within the Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. It is one of the interesting and puzzling changes occurring within the non-instrumental Churches of Christ. Oak Hills Church (once Oak Hills Church of Christ) in San Antonio has, for example, not only added instruments in some services but now accepts those not baptized  into membership. To be honest, to be selected as a teacher or leader at Oak Hills one must be immersed. I predict that soon you will see the same thing in the Independent churches.

Something must be said here. A  student of the movement is aware that Alexander Campbell had quite a controversy with Dr. John Thomas over baptism. Thomas, an immigrant from England, impressed Campbell at first but he drifted off into a view similar to the Donatist heresy in the early church. Thomas taught that anyone baptized in one of the denominations need to be baptized again when they approached him for membership in one of the churches he influenced. Campbell's debates clearly demonstrate he believed sprinkling and pouring were not baptism at all. Therefore, immersing such individuals was appropriate. Furthermore, Campbell rightly argued there was no biblical warrant for baptizing infants or those unable to make an independent decision about Christ. Campbell's issue with Thomas was the insistence that even those immersed required another immersion. Campbell noted that those in the Restoration Movement never made such a requirement.

The sad thing that is happening today is not that immersion is not practiced. Rather, it is the fact that the biblical and theological truth about baptism is avoided altogether. It is now something one ought to do because "everyone gets baptized" or because "Jesus did it" or "it is a membership rite required to join a church." As one of my former students put it, "We don't argue about baptism because everyone knows you should be baptized." That's fine as far as it goes but it sure leaves much biblical teaching out and the product is a weak Christian. That approach denies two major biblical teachings. Jesus taught us to "teach them to observe all things I've commanded." Paul told Timothy to teach truth to "faithful men who will teach others."

It is time to teach the truth and not waffle.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

July 4, 2013

It has been a lazy hot summer day here in Palm Springs. Delores and I did not attend the huge fellowship meal at development's lodge. It is just too much of a hassle.

We watched the movie "Copperheads" on Direct-TV movies on demand. It isn't a shoot'em up movie. Rather it is a quiet reflective movie about those who opposed the Civil War. Set in 1862 you get acquainted with the emotions, convictions, and sentiments of those living in that culture. Christianity permeated the film but showed how those on both sides of the conflict viewed things. Those who want constant action and lots of explosions and gunfire wouldn't like it, but I found it thought provoking and rather emotional at times.

I worked some on my "Recollections" today. I'm adding photographs to the already 457 pages.

Ron Ross, a Nebraska Christian College, classmate emailed me yesterday to do an interview about my discovery of brothers and sisters unknown to me before recent contact. It gave me an opportunity to tell my recent experiences to a radio audience.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Milestones and Memories

Delores and I reached two milestones recently.

We celebrated 48 years together June 26. It was a relaxing observance as we enjoyed a meal at Red Robin and a day of movies here at home.

Sunday, June 30, I officially left the ministry at Camelback Christian Church in Scottsdale. No more 554 mile round trip weekends. Friend and Board Chairman Bill Moss read the following at the conclusion of Sunday's services:

  • Mapquest reveals the distance between Palm Springs and Scottsdale at 277 miles (one-way). Over the 6 year tenure, that would equal 166,200 miles
    • Figuring an average of 25 mpg that would be 6,648 gallons of gas.
    • On average 55 oil changes or 275 quarts of oil.
    • 3 1/3 sets of tires.
  • Driving an average of 60 mph, you get 9.25 hours per round trip or 462.5 hours per year or 2,775  hours in a car (that is 115 complete 24 hour days in a car).
For putting up with me cooped up in a car for 115 days Delores received a lovely framed certificate marking the accomplishment. The church gave me a framed plaque complete with a chunk of asphalt from the original Route 66 commemorating the road travel.

The congregation also gave us a more than generous love offering. We've always known the level of their generosity exceeded that of many larger congregations. They proved it this time around, too.

Looking back over the six years with Camelback there are many meaningful memories:
  • I remember how foolish I thought they were to call me as their minister when I lived so far away.
  • I remember how fun it was to listen to and attend board meetings. Yes, there was laughter and good will displayed nearly every meeting and it always amazed me how freely they gave to missions and to those in need.
  • I remember how the whole church stood by me when I needed heart valve surgery and was incapacitated for five months. The church supported us with prayers, cards, the salary, and paid a supply preacher during the months I could barely function.
  • I remember how quickly a congregation of less than 80 people raised $55,000 to resurface a parking lot badly in need of repair.
  • I remember with equal amazement how quickly the funds came for remodeling the worship center with updated lighting, new lighter paint, a new sound system, and replacing the chairs. 
  • I remember how faithfully the leaders came together for training, discussion, and setting goals.
  • I remember with joy the marriages and with sorrow the funerals observed during those years.
  • I remember the support given the Christian Restoration Conferences we held and the Family Camps we enjoyed.
  • I remember a few times when Delores and I could spread peanut butter and jelly making sandwiches for the Phoenix Mission.
  • I remember generous families providing financial support for a young woman who needed help.
  • I remember raising funds to send a Cuban refugee back to Cuba so he could spend his last few days with his family before his death.
There are so many more and I know I'll forget some here and there. Oh, there were a few bad times, too. The good memories so outweigh the bad that they are insignificant by comparison. There are too many to list those who provided encouragement and support along the way. 

I do have to mention Dr. Joe Carson Smith, though. Joe and I share a birthday June 2. Many great men were born on that day. Largely unappreciated my many younger leaders, Joe Carson Smith has been a pillar and buttress of the truth (see 1 Timothy 3 in the ESV). His and Barbara's verbal and active support meant so much over the years. Some see Joe as a rigid hard man but I know him as a man with a big heart and a love for the Lord and the Lord's church I wish his critics exhibited. He has done much for me. He has done much for Camelback Christian Church. He has done much for the Kingdom of God.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Church and State in America

Many Christians misunderstand the issues surrounding the Constitution's first amendment. That amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This amendment protects the American citizen's right to the free exercise of religion. It also states that the Federal Government will not establish a religion. Christians commonly believe, and I have taught, that this simply means that the government will not name a particular denomination as a state church. Most Americans in the late 1700s knew that a national religion limited freedom of individual conscience. The European standard was one nation, one sovereign, one religion. Therefore Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed leaders held to that standard in the hope it would avoid dissension, division, and bloodshed. So it had been from the time of Constantine.

What many Christians fail to see is the fact that this amendment, added to the Constitution of 1787 in 1789, was written during a time when an overwhelming majority of the population professed Christianity. Christian values were almost universally accepted even though church membership was abysmally low in 1800. Judaism was a minority faith but it too expressed biblical values. There were those who denied the existence of a Supreme Being but they were few. Admittedly some of the early founding fathers were Deists but there were few consistent Deists and they too recognized and lived by an overwhelmingly Christian value system. I won't say there were no Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists but if they existed at all in the new world their numbers were so few they could not have any influence on American culture. The United States of America was indeed a Christian nation but that was true simply because most of the nation's inhabitants professed Christianity.

An investigation of the body of the U.S. Constitution as passed in 1787 reveals no significant mention of God.The Declaration of Independence does! Jefferson's language in the Declaration reflects his Deism and rejection of miracles in favor of the God, or is it god, of Nature. The Declaration states:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Notice the language. Jefferson uses the terms "Creator" and "Nature's God." Jefferson, as an heir of the Enlightenment, looked upon God as Creator involved in nature. While Jefferson acknowledged Christian values his faith was certainly inconsistent with biblical Christian faith. 

Do not become incensed with the term Deist attributed to those labelled as such. Deists generally believed in the supremacy of human reason, individual conscience, and individual liberty. There was as much variety in Deist thought as there is in the average Christian denomination today. There were no consistent Deists just as there are few consistent Christians. I say this with some assurance since research shows that while some 80 percent of the American population confesses Christianity only about 4 percent actually practice consistent teaching! When Jefferson speaks of "Nature's God" he is speaking of the Creator who put the universe in motion and left it to develop by the mechanistic principles He put in place.

It must also be noted that while Christianity and Christian values prevailed in America the First Amendment, by speaking of religion, left the door open to others whose conscience led them to follow religions that were anything but Christian. Jefferson spoke of the day when the Muslim and the Hindu would feel free to exercise their conscience in this land as freely as those in  the variety of those in the multiple Christian denominations.

America in 1800 was a Christian nation because an overwhelming majority of its citizens professed Christianity and at least recognized the superiority of Christian values.

This is no longer true! From 1800 to the present there has been a persistent erosion of Christianity and Christian values. Many factors conspired together to bring this about. I don't have the time to go into this to any great extent but suffice it to say the following certainly contributed to a lessening of Christian influence:

  • The impact of Enlightenment thinking:
    • Elevation of the individual
    • Elevation of the inductive method - only that which can be tested by the senses is true
    • Elevation of Evolutionary thinking
    • Rejection of the Supernatural
      • Rejection of God's existence by reason as untestable
      • Rejection of the possibility of revelation as a way of knowing
  • Destructive critical analysis of the Bible due to the rejection of the supernatural 
    • Bible is seen not as God's Word but as man's growing understanding of God/religion
  • Impact of immigration
    • Immigration from Asia in the mid-1800s from China - Buddhism
    • Immigration from Asia in the mid-1970s from S.E. Asia - Buddhism
    • Immigration from the Asian sub-continent in the 1960s and 1970s - Hinduism
    • Immigration from the Asian sub-continent and the Near East beginning in the 1970s - Islam
While Christianity remains the predominant religion in the United States those faiths which once had only slight influence are now able to exert sizable influence. In addition, the secular-progressive educational system has produced an increasingly secular society of which a growing number reject the reality of God, the truth of the Bible, and Christian values in general.

We are watching the nation's Christian values erode before our very eyes. The blame however does not rest upon those who teach falsehood for truth. They play their part to be sure. The blame rests on a moribund church more concerned with relevance than revelation, with excitement than evangelism, and with personal success than the savior. Our once Christian nation is eroding because the believer no longer feels the compulsion to persuade others of the truth of God as seen in Jesus Christ.

Garry Wills points out in his book Head and Heart that the First Amendment, while recognizing the right of the individual to let his conscience guide him in his belief system, actually promoted the spread of Christianity making the United States the most Christian nation on earth. Why is that so? Because there were those who took Christ to the people.

If we wish to see Christian values restored in our communities they must first be restored in our churches. If we wish to see Christian values voiced in the public square they must be resoundingly preached in our pulpits. But it isn't values...it is the source of those values that needs the attention. So I leave you with this admonition: Preach Christ!

I'll have more to say on this in subsequent posts.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Voyage of Discovery

The past few weeks have been a voyage of discovery for me. A person totally unknown to me left a message on a relative's "Heritage" site saying, "I knew your father." She indicated she didn't want to create a problem but if wanted to know more I should reply. Thinking it was undoubtedly some sort of con I was nonetheless curious. What a shock to learn that she was a cousin. She proved her relationship forwarding me copies of two handwritten letters from my mother. I recognized my mother's handwriting and the contents gave witness to their validity.

Over the past few weeks I've learned things I did not know and corrected things I thought I knew. For example, while my birth certificate shows my father as Joseph Willard Hines his name was actually Jasper Willard Hines. A southerner -- most like a Virginian or Marylander, not sure about that -- the name was a family moniker passed on. Either my mother, in an attempt to "hide" things or she just didn't like it, changed it. One of the half-brothers is indeed Joseph Willard Hines, but he was born in 1954 when I was 11. My cousin, my father's sister's daughter, is seven years older than I. She's known about me from the "get-go" but waited until all those directly involved were gone.

Now we all know about each other and contacts are being made. For all of us the situation is surreal. My older brothers and sister suspected I existed but to my knowledge had no direct information about me as our cousin did. While it wasn't a total shock to some of us, it has taken some getting used to for all of us.

My mother told me I might have some half-brothers or sisters "out there" but I guess I never gave it much thought. My mother wove a web of fabrications and I never quite knew what to believe. I never gave trying to locate anyone on the "Hines side" much consideration. I had no way to do it anyway and I didn't know where to start. Our cousin, however, knew my name from my mother's letters and eventually searched for it on Google. When I tried it just now my picture popped up on "MyHeritage". That's how my cousin Jane found me. Seeing the picture convinced her I am related.

I told the folks at Camelback Christian Church last Sunday that it was quite a trip to learn you had a family totally unknown to you. I likened it to a Christian walking into the Camelback church to discover a congregation of brothers and sisters you never knew existed. In a church family you can find instantaneous acceptance because you are all adopted into God's family. That's exactly how I've felt with my biological brothers and sisters newly discovered. We share our father's DNA and that makes us family. Getting to know them, finding out how we're alike and how different we are is going to be fun and exciting. I'm on a voyage of discovery and I can't wait!