Sunday, December 21, 2014

Another Congregation Lost to the Movement

Barry Thorton posted a link on Facebook to a video explaining why Community Christian Church in Apache Junction, AZ is becoming Reformation Bible Church in January 2015. The church posted the text of the video on the church's website.

In the letter the church's elders acknowledge Community Christian Church's relationship to the American Restoration Movement of the 19th century. It lists three reasons for the change:

  1. A biblical reason which is linked to the church's accusation the Restoration Movement is a "works righteousness" movement because of its emphasis on baptism. The letter accuses the Restoration Movement of teaching baptismal regeneration.
  2. A historical reason tied to the church's decision to link to the historic Reformation of the 16th century. In essence they would rather be tied to Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli than Jesus and the apostles. 
  3. A pragmatic reason due to the fact that the change in name reflects the church's change in theology and approach to ministry.
In response to Community Christian Church's decisions, I simply want to make the following observations.
  1. As a locally autonomous and self-governing congregation the elders and the church have the right to make these decisions. The independence of each congregation to follow their understanding of the Bible and its teaching is, at the same time, the Restoration Movement's greatest blessing and its greatest curse.
  2. The changes leading to the abandonment of the Restoration Plea is an indictment on the ministry of Jack Martin who preceded Joel Ellis, the current minister. It is the responsibility of the teaching minister and the eldership to assure a church's adherence to sound doctrine. The fact Community Christian Church is choosing to leave the Restoration Movement during the ministry of the individual following Jack Martin reveals the church's lack of biblical grounding.
  3. The decision of the church's leadership demonstrate what can happen when a church calls its ministry from denominational sources. Ellis is a graduate of Liberty University and the minister of Discipleship is a graduate of schools with no relationship with the Restoration Movement. 
  4. Warnings regarding the encroachment of Reformation and Evangelical theology have been issued now for well over a decade. Few seem to listen! The thinking expressed in the letter from the elders of Community Christian Church reflects Zwinglian thinking. Ulrich Zwingli's theology constitutes a major shift in the understanding of apostolic Christianity. It was Zwingli who denied the place of baptism in salvation issues. Believe me when I say Community Christian Church is certainly not the first, nor will it be the last, to adopt such teaching.
  5. There seems to be a studied effort on the part of those educated in Evangelical colleges and seminaries to "invade" Restoration Movement congregations with the intention of subversion. Although the example of which I'm aware are few, there are undoubtedly many others within all streams of the Restoration Movement.
  6. One major problem contributing to the ease with which subversion takes place is the way many preachers and teachers within the movement teach baptism for the remission of sins. It is all too easy for those educated in Evangelical or Reformation schools to interpret Restoration teaching on baptism as "baptismal regeneration." It is high time to begin preaching and teaching that a person is saved by faith. Alexander Campbell taught salvation by grace through faith. The Bible teaches salvation by faith in baptism. When a person believes and places their trust in Christ they are saved but salvation is formally conferred in baptism. The Bible still says, "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved..." (Mark 16:15, 16).
I predict, and I am no prophet, many more congregations will follow Community Christian Church into Evangelical false teaching. All too many Restoration Movement congregations have an aversion to teaching "sound doctrine." When was the last time you heard a message from the pulpit on an issue of doctrine? 

I've done quite a bit of diagnosis here. Let me offer a prescription or two.
  1. Restore the place of expository preaching and teaching to the pulpit. Leave behind the topical and textual messages and preach the Bible--the whole Bible. After all, the Bible only makes Christians only. Do not be afraid to preach doctrine as it is revealed in the biblical text.
  2. Restore the Bible school as a place where content can be taught. Small groups are fine but the average small group, unless strictly guided, become a pooling of ignorance. Small groups are horrible for teaching content. They are great for building relationships and accountability but are simply ineffective in teaching content.
  3. Hold our colleges and universities accountable to the standard of the Word of God and the position and plea of the Restoration Movement.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Books I've Written

I'm now a published author! Hey, no big deal; I published them myself with the help of's Create Space. However, I'm too cheap (and too poor) to pay for an extensive marketing campaign. So here is some information about my books.

This book is my "magnum opus" as it presents my version of Restoration History. I spent most of my academic life teaching this subject. I wrote the first draft while on staff at Canton's First Christian Church in Ohio. It was a book of just over 100 pages then. This completed book is over 400 pages and brings the history of the movement, particularly the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, to 2014. It is available from right now for $14.28. It usually sells for $16.95 or more. I never expected to retire on my royalties...and I'm not! The neat thing about this book is that I plan to periodically update it (correct typos and other editing corrections and update material) on a regular basis. Those who buy the book and email me at can receive free updates when they come out. The updates will come in PDF format you can read on your computer or transfer to a Kindle.

My ex-daughter-in-law thought it would be a good idea to write my life story for my grandchildren. This was before she and my son divorced but I thought it was a good idea. I started it several times then finally after retiring I finished it. It takes the reader on a journey with me through all the places I lived as I grew up in Iowa and the places where Delores and I served in ministry. It's got the good, the bad, and the ugly. Amazon is selling it for $15.86. It contains oh, so many memories. As I wrote the book my memories just tumbled out. The chapters are chronological but I can't guarantee that my recollections are. 

This is a rewrite of a concise early church history I wrote for Moriah School of Ministry in Australia. It encompasses the first 16 centuries of church history in 108 pages. The book is indexed--all my histories are indexed--and available on for $9.95. By the way, I took the cover photo in the ruins of Laodicea when Delores and I visited Turkey in 2010. There are other illustrations throughout the book.

In addition to these, Delores and her sister, Janice, edited nearly 100 of their mother's "down home" poetry.

Lot's of little insights into what it was like in Northeast Nebraska prior to 1970. The ladies are selling this book for $8.50. Vera's style is pretty homespun but her poetry marks special occasions, comments on church life, and reveals what it was like in the days the Olson sisters were growing up.

I also have a book of questions and answers. Surfers to the Canton church's website asked questions through the website. I responded. This little book is a selection of those questions. It too is available through

I'm also working on Later Church History which will bring my history of the church to the present. I tried to keep it concise but it's been so much fun writing it I'm afraid it is getting a little long.

Don't know if any of you who read my blog are interested in these works, but they are "out there" and hoping to be used.

If I don't tell you again before the end of 2014 please have a Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

What About Ferguson?

Good friends asked me about my take on Ferguson, Missouri, while eating Sunday lunch at Fuddrucker's last Sunday. I intended to write something about it last week but just didn't.

It is always a tragedy when a family loses a child. Loss of a child means more than losing a child in some violent fashion. It is sad when a family loses a child because of disease or accident, too. It is just as tragic when a child is lost due to their rejection of the family and its values. The Prodigal's father understood loss even though his son was not physically dead. For that reason I feel badly for the Brown family in the loss of their son Michael in the tragic shooting last summer.

Having said that, I cannot feel much sympathy for the young man. He is certainly not a victim. He is instead a victimizer. As much as his death hurts his family it did not have to happen. My read on the events and the subsequent Grand Jury refusal to indict Darren Wilson is simple. Michael Brown was an arrest waiting to happen--an arrest he apparently resisted through a physical attack on the officer. Like so many who violently resist arrest he paid the price for it.

To those who say Darren Wilson's actions were excessive because Michael Brown was unarmed, I want to make something abundantly clear. Michael Brown was not "unarmed." True, he did not have a firearm or, to my knowledge, a knife or club but he was armed and fully able to do bodily harm or kill the officer. Michael Brown was a young strong man fully capable of killing without any weapon external to himself. The man was over 6' tall and weighed at least 290 pounds. In addition he was stoned on marijuana, a fact that undoubtedly accounted for his irrational attack on the policeman. If you don't think a 6', 290 pound man can do bodily harm--even kill--another human being all you need to do is remember he was as big and as strong as an NFL lineman.

Huge people intimidate and threaten others. For many years I was 6' 2" tall and weighed in excess of 300 pounds. While my weight was spread over my body it wasn't muscle. In spite of that fact, I could intimidate smaller men. There were several times I got in the face of abusers and threatened bodily harm if they beat their wives again. Those guys took me seriously! My friend Mike Smith is 6'6" (or more) and weighs 300 pounds. Although Mike is a gentle giant he has the ability to intimidate by his very presence. Sheer size is intimidating and if the large person is aggressive or violent and out of control because of drugs there is good reason to fear one's life.

What really galls me, though, is the way the whole incident was handled and reported. In our nation there is always a presumption of innocence. That presumption exists even when there is the appearance of guilt. That goes both ways, too! The fact is, however, the police have a right to stop a possible offender and arrest them if necessary. Guilt on innocence is brought out later in a trial and a trial almost always occurs unless there is evidence to suggest an indictment is not needed.

We all know there are occasions when we think our Justice System gets it wrong! I'm thinking of the O.J. Simpson trial. Simpson was indicted, stood trial, and was declared innocent. At this point it does not matter whether or not he killed Nicole Brown Simpson. The court said he was innocent. It no longer matters whether or not Michael Brown was unnecessarily killed. The Grand Jury said there was insufficient evidence to bring an indictment. That's the way it is!

Before you go, consider these facts in the case:

  1. Michael Brown is seen on a security tape stealing from a convenience store.
  2. Michael Brown is seen bullying the convenience store owner--we are unsure what Brown said to the owner in the process of the theft including threats.
  3. Michael Brown was high (stoned) on marijuana.
  4. Police Officer Darren Wilson was made aware of the convenience store robbery.
  5. Michael Brown and his compatriot were impeding traffic when Wilson told them to get out of the street. Further, Wilson knew Brown was the probable convenience store thief.
  6. There was some sort of scuffle in which Brown resisted arrest and may have tried to take the officer's firearm.
  7. According to testimony, Brown was shot and started to leave the scene when ordered to stop.
  8. According to testimony, Brown acted aggressively and rushed the policeman with head down (an indication of attack mode).
  9. According to testimony, Officer Wilson feared for his life and fired on Brown killing him.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

On Playing Football and Injuries

I saw it online this morning: a former high school quarterback from Illinois is suing the Illinois High School Athletic Association because of concussions he sustained 15 years ago. This action takes such lawsuits to a new "low" adding to suits against the National Football League and college sports.

Football is a rough and violent sport. I played four years in high school and two years in junior college. (I would have played more except I went to junior high where there were no programs.) I've seen players get injured during games. In fact, my football career ended when I sustained a shoulder injury and the doctors suggested I quit. There were no sports medicine doctors in Norfolk, Nebraska so I never knew if my injury could be fixed. It still aches on occasion but I still regret not taking the scholarship at Northwestern College of Iowa.

But here's my point! Those who choose to play the game know it is a violent game! They know in advance they could get injured. That's just part of the game! Most players don't have serious injuries but there are lots of bruises, cuts, and sprains that go with the game. We lost two tackles to ACL injuries my senior year in high school. One JC player had a concussion on the kickoff of the first game of my first year in JC. If you know the game is violent and you are unwilling to take the risks associated with the game don't play! Don't blame everyone else for your own decisions.

Now, having said that let me add that it is proper for equipment manufacturers to provide the best and safest equipment possible. It is right for leagues and organizations to adapt rules to enhance player safety. Research is ongoing and football has come a long way from the leather helmets of yesteryear to the highly technically developed helmets of today. My freshman year in high school was the first year bars and facemasks were required on helmets--that was 1957. My freshman year in junior college was the first year for mouth guards and the JC players painted latex rubber on dental impressions to make our own. When I coached junior league ball in Grand Junction we made certain the league purchased the safest helmets available for our fifth and sixth grade players.

It is horrible when a player sustains an injury that leaves him paralyzed or crippled. That's for certain. But he chose to play the game! No one forced him. And once a player reaches the NFL--and few do--they are making so much money it is insane.

In our litigious society we hold organizations and individuals responsible for things no one knew was harmful. Why did this former high school quarterback wait 15 years to file suit? No one knew how serious concussions were in 1990. It has only been the last 10 years or so that such injuries have received much attention. There are always lawyers who will "chase ambulances" or look for opportunities to sue. All that does is remove the consequences of individual choices and make the rest of society pay the price.

I know this is simplistic, but when and where does individual responsibility enter the picture?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


I am getting really sick of people telling me (or anyone else) what I can or cannot say! I believe in the freedom of speech even when I disagree or it is offensive. The only one hurt by a stupid or offensive remark is the one who makes the remark. Whatever happened to, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me"?

This past weekend Curt Warner, formerly an NFL quarterback and now TV commentator, made a remark concerning his disbelief in macro evolution. He went on to say he did believe in micro evolution and then transitioned to an evaluation of the "evolution" of Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisburger. From what I saw on Fox News "Five" yesterday, there are evidently fans who are squealing like "stuck pigs" at the remark.

Why? Because Curt Warner is a Christian!

Underlying all the crap is the secular conviction that science is always right and everything else is wrong! Science is supposed to have the answer to everything and be able to explain everything. So if you question Climate Change (ala Global Warming) you are stupid, a denier, and ______________ (you fill in the blank). Global warming is just one category. 

Why is it so hard for people to realize that scientific data is open to interpretation? Quite often the interpretation of data and the conclusions reached change. The change occurs for one or more of at least two reasons: (1) Interpretation of the data is prejudiced and/or wrong. (2) Additional data refutes previous conclusions. 

I will grant that Christians interpret scientific data regarding the origins of the universe differently than secularists. Why is it interpreting from Christian presuppositions is wrong when interpreting the same data from a non-Christian or secular position is okay? Creationism and belief in a steady-state universe requires faith on both sides of the question. 

But...there is something greater to all this! It is the right to say what one thinks or to present a personal conviction openly and without fear. I grew up believing I could say whatever I wanted to say as long as I was responsible. I knew I shouldn't yell "FIRE" in a crowded building. I also knew using language to bully or deride another was improper...not to say unChristian! I learned I should not say anything about someone if I couldn't say something positive. But I also grew up thinking that I could express my beliefs, my position, my view, my perspective, my convictions without fear even if they were contradictory or offensive to someone else. 

Today atheists, secular-progressives, and unbelievers have the right to say anything about my beliefs, my convictions, and I am not supposed to respond. Right now Christians are facing a not-so-quiet persecution that isn't going to go away anytime soon. Want to know what it will look like? Look at the ancient Roman Empire...

Frankly, it is our fault Christians! Through our inaction we have failed to evangelize sufficiently to maintain a Christian majority. We have this "myth" of a Christian nation pounded into our heads so much we have forgotten that America was once a nation of Christians--at least a nation of sufficient Christians who live by Christian principles. Sadly, we're not even that! A few years ago George Barna said that only 5% of the 80% who claimed to be Evangelical Christians actually lived their faith! That's not going to be a lot of "salt" or "light" in a dark world!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Is It Denominational?

A growing number of Christian Church mega churches sponsor multiple campuses. Here in Phoenix Central Christian Church in Mesa and Christ's Church of the Valley in Peoria boast multiple sites. I can't begin to list all of the others around the country doing so. As I've thought about this trend, it strikes me that in each case a series of new denominations are formed by such actions.

Let's think about it. What are the marks of a denomination? There are several the Restoration Movement has used for generations:
  1. A fellowship of churches using a common name to identify and identify them.
  2. A common Statement of Faith (Creed) to which all agree.
  3. A central organization to which all churches look to for advice, direction, identification, and oversight.
    1. The central organization receives all the offerings and dispenses all the funds.
    2. The central organization owns all the property.
    3. The central organization governs all the activities and selects all the staff.
  4.  A person who serves as the visible leader.
In the case of the Presbyterian Church, USA those marks would work out as follows:
  1. The common name: Presbyterian Church
  2. The common Creed: The Presbyterian Church, USA recognizes the historic creeds but its basic statement is the Westminster Confession of Faith
  3. The central organization: Headquartered in Louisville, KY
  4. The staffing: Ministers of associated congregations are licensed and approved by the denomination.
  5. The visible leader: Heath Rada, Moderator
Transpose this to one of the Christian Churches with multi-site campuses:
  1. The common name: Christ's Church of the Valley 
  2. The common creed: A Statement of faith published on the CCV website.
  3. The central organization: The Elders and Leadership Team at CCV, Peoria Campus, Phoenix
    1. CCV receives all the moneys given to the church.
    2. CCV owns all the property.
    3. CCV hires/firest all the staffs associated with the various campuses.
  4. The visible leader: Dr. Don Wilson
Congregations meeting in Surprise, Peoria, Scottsdale, and Athem currently comprise the CCV denomination. With the exception of size and extent there is no discernable difference between the United Presbyterian Church denomination, the United Methodist Church denomination, or any of the other standard denominations currently existing.

If a Presbyterian Church associated with the Presbyterian Church, USA finds itself in disagreement with the denomination it may withdraw but may lose property and identification in the process. A congregation associated with CCV may withdraw and no one knows what will happen. The whole process goes far beyond the classic Restoration Movement principles surrounding the concept of locally autonomous congregation. It is doubtful that a congregation with facilities built with funds paid from the entire CCV membership would simply be turned over to rising leaders within the various campuses identifying with CCV.

I've only used Christ's Church of the Valley as an example. Exactly how the leadership there would react to these situations is unknown simply because it has not happened. In part that's the question. I have no doubt the leadership within the variety of multi-site mega churches have done so with good intentions. Their concern is outreach, growth, and convenience for attenders. However, what will happen should the Lord tarry and problems arise in 50, 100, 200 years.

In all of this history repeats itself. The early church followed  a similar path establishing satellite congregations. The "bishop" of the first church sent presbyters (elders) to the satellites with the elements of the Lord's Supper since the theology of that day said "no bishop, no baptism; no bishop, no Lord's Supper). In time the satellites grew and the presbyters became identified with a specific assembly but the "first church" maintained its oversight and control. 

In time five major churches arose with similar circumstances -- Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Carthage, and Rome. Other congregations looked to these five major churches for advice but retained their identity and autonomy. Leaders in each congregation saw themselves as equals but the more successful churches and their leadership were "more equal" than the others. In due season Constantinople replaced Carthage. For a variety of reasons Rome and Constantinople vied for recognition as having the greatest influence. Finally the two churches split and congregations identified with either Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy.

It seems far fetched now, but it is not at all impossible for numerous multi-site mega churches to grow in influence. In fact, it is already happening as evidenced by the selection of speakers and the recognition of leaders occurring at the North American Christian Convention. The only redeeming factor is the reality seen in numerous congregations of various sizes who view the "brotherhood's" mega churches as anomaly and are not caught up in the emphasis on size. 

What do we do about the current situation? Nothing! There's really nothing to do. Congregations can, because of the nature of the Restoration Movement, do whatever they think best. I simply write to express a warning, " Vigilance is the price of freedom." In my view, the action takes place in the local church and it is only when biblically qualified leadership determined to remain faithful to New Testament teaching can the nature and purpose of the church be preserved.

It's Happening Just As I Predicted

Events unfolding in Houston and Idaho fulfill a prediction I made to a Sunday school class over a month ago. I predicted the day would come when any hesitation to marry, accept into membership, or employ those openly gay would come under scrutiny and legal process.

In Houston the City Council passed a non-discrimination ordinance at the behest of a newly elected openly gay mayor. Seeking to cut down on criticism or opposition the ordinance led to charges Houston biblically-oriented ministered violated the ordinance. Subsequently the Council ordered pastors to surrender sermons opposing the lesbian mayor and preaching the biblical truth about homosexuality.The action captured the attention of Fox News reporter Todd Starnes who regularly deals with faith issues. Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz recently spoke out on the Houston City Council's actions calling it a violation of First Amendment Rights.

Today (10/20/14) Fox News reported Donald and Evelyn Knapp are facing fines or jail time for refusing to marry same sex coupes. The Couer d'Alene couple operate a "for profit" wedding chapel but the Knapps are ordained ministers. Their refusal to marry a same sex couple brought them into conflict with recent Idaho statutes permitting gay marriage. The rationale for the lawsuit filed in Federal Court alleges the Knapps must provide marriage services to gay precisely because their chapel is incorporated as a "for profit" entity.

A couple operating a bakery in Colorado were recently sued because they refused on religious grounds to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. Again the suit stipulates that since the couple operate a "for profit" business they must make their services available to all comers regardless of personal conviction. Other similar suits have been filed around the country creating a crisis in conscience for a variety of businesses.

The United States is merely following in Canada's footsteps. Canadian law prohibits "gay bashing" or speaking openly about the sin of homosexual behavior. I guess it is still okay to preach so as to oppose adultery or heterosexual misbehavior but not against gay behavior.

The potential here in the United States will undoubtedly follow the Politically Correct attitudes of Canada. American preachers will be permitted to speak in opposition of sexual sin--even homosexual sin-- but to do so may result in the message being labelled "hate speech." A church speaking out in such a matter may be labeled as a "hate organization" and openly condemned.

In my opinion the government has gone out of its way to openly abridge the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. That's been true long before the homosexual agenda reared its head. At one time restaurants and other businesses could display a sign which said, "We have the right to refuse service to anyone." That is obviously no longer true! Granted, most of us would agree it is wrong to refuse service to someone because of their race, color, religious persuasion, or whatever. Nonetheless, the only ones truly hurt from such prejudice is the business owner. I still see signs saying, "No shirt, No shoes, No service!" If someone does not have the right to refuse service to someone--regardless of who they are or what their color or sexual preference is--how can they refuse service to someone who elects not to wear shoes?

The church is facing trying times. Heresy from within and without, the rise of false religion, and the whole Politically Correct agenda is creating an atmosphere much like that in the early Roman Empire. Everything in Rome was hunky-dory as long as you were tolerant and accepted anything and everything as okay. Christians stood in the face of such goofy-ness saying, "Jesus is the only way!" Their willingness to die for their faith and their refusal to deny the Lordship of Christ eventually overcame the world. Whether it happens again depends on the willingness of Christians to stand for something!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Strange Feeling

It has been more than a year now since I retired from the preaching ministry. With few exceptions I served local congregations from 1962 to 2013. I was the Senior Minister or had major responsibilities in the churches I served.

There were exceptions. I went full time with Intermountain Bible College in 1977 but Northeast Christian Church was home after spending four years with Orchard Mesa Christian Church. Even though I was never and elder or deacon at Northeast I was part of the church's inner circle. Leland Griffin and I were good friends and I had input through him and Frank Goodman. I taught a Sunday school class and Delores and I led the Junior High Youth Group. I served Northeast twice as Interim Minister spending nearly six months in the pulpit during those ministries.

After Intermountain Bible College closed I was Minister of Adult Education and Administration at Westwood-Cheviot Church of Christ in Cincinnati. Westwood was a historic church and the ministry carried with it quite a bit of prestige. During my three years there the leadership exhibited a great deal of confidence in my work and included me in the eldership (as they did the other two ministers).

In Boise I taught at Boise Bible College and ministered with First Church of Christ. The church grew and the leadership respected me. The only reason I left was personal depression created partially by Dave Girvin's death. Dave was my associate and my best friend and losing him hurt me and the church.

In Canton I was Minister of Adult Education and led in restoring the church's historic Bible school to prominence. Attendances in Bible school were consistently in the 900s and we broke 1000 on several occasions. I was an integral part of the leadership team and the elders and deacons respected my leadership. I worked closely with 28 adult Bible classes reorganizing, closing, merging, and launching new classes over 8 years.

I left Canton for Phoenix and began several frustrating years back in the Intermountain West. Still, I had input and exercised leadership.

Over the 50 years of ministry I served churches of 40 or on the staff of mega churches. My graduate studies and experience gave me tremendous opportunities to learn a lot about what makes churches tick and grow. I learned there were numerous practical changes churches needed to institute in order to communicate with the current culture. I knew what needed to be done but couldn't always get it done because of the old "we've never done it that way before" syndrome.

Now after a year in retirement I'm feeling like I'm no longer a part of things. Delores and I became part of Paseo Verde Christian Church in Peoria, AZ. Right now it is a declining church. I can see numerous reasons for the decline and leadership is "running scared." The church hired a new minister from the East Coast and his lack of experience and approach just isn't doing anything for me. The people are great and they are doctrinally sound but the church is clinically depressed right now. Communication is poor and leadership is cutting programs and personnel to save money.

As a result I feel like a preacher without a pulpit. I really understand how difficult it is for preachers who retire and are in positions without opportunities to lead.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Freedoms Lost--First Amendment Under Attack

Sleepy disengaged Americans are watching the erosion of their freedoms without knowing it.

Witness: Business owners no longer have the freedom to operate their business as they choose. Take the couple in Colorado who refused to sell their products to whomever they choose. Religious convictions aside, it seems to me owners should be able to operate their businesses as they choose. Were there not other bakeries willing to serve homosexuals? It seems to me the only people hurt by a refusal to serve a particular person or group is the business owner.

No one likes prejudice or those who are terribly biased but shouldn't people have the freedom to believe what they like. There's a world of difference between refusing to bake cakes for a homosexual wedding and beating a gay man or woman. I'm not advocating violence or the propriety of a prejudiced person to attack and do  violence to someone for whom they hold a prejudice. After all, everyone is prejudiced in one way or another.

Witness the current IRS attack against the church. Biblical teaching on marriage, they say, is equivalent to electioneering. Teaching biblical truth about marriage, sexual morality, destruction of the unborn and so on is tantamount to opposing the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision. Who says so? Liberals, Social Progressives, and atheist groups...that's who.

Witness current restrictions in Canada prohibiting preaching biblical truth about homosexuality. Preachers explaining Romans 1 can be charged with "hate speech" in Canada. Churches refusing to limit their speech could lose their tax exempt status, ministers charged with slander and the church labelled a hate organization.

Granted there are ministers challenging the IRS and the Federal Government for its evasion of the First Amendments. As long as we continue electing government leaders who reflect Secular Progressive ideas will continue to erode our freedoms in the name of Political Correctness. Once labels get attached they are more easily attakk

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A New Cold War?

I don't like to get into politics in this blog. I have from time to time but I've tried to keep my observations on political issues to a minimum.

Today, though, the news reports are rampant with reports of new sanctions on Russia. Vladimir Putin continues to exercise dangerous activities in the Ukraine. Russia took the Crimea and is trying to take eastern Ukraine. Putin may want to restore the old borders of the Soviet empire but more likely he's pushing to control as much of the old empire as he's allowed. Time will tell of course!

What strikes me is how all these pressures--the Ukraine, Israel, and our own Southern borders--are cropping up now. I want to point out one simple fact. While the Bushes led the country in two offensive wars in the Middle East every other conflict since the Civil War occurred during the presidency of Democrats.

A look at military history leads you to one conclusion--wars occur during Democrat presidencies because Democrats generally gut the military and focus on social issues at home. For the most part Democrat foreign policy is unable to recognize the reality of the enemies aligned against us. They prefer to wage war with words rather than acts. I could provide lots of examples to prove my point but I'll just leave it here for the time being.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Books Recently Published

Since retiring I've been spending a lot of time at the computer. But then, when did I not spend time at a computer? The answer has to be: prior to 1985. Even then I was learning Wordstar on Intermountain Bible College's Altos computer. Now I'm spending as much as eight hours a day at the computer.

I've always wanted to write. For several years this blog provided a public outlet allowing me to express myself. Then Lee Mason asked me to write a column for the Restoration Herald. It's always been an ego boost to see my writing in print in a magazine. From the few scattered articles in Lookout and Christian Standard to the Restoration Herald it has always increased my self-image. Since I retired in July 2013 I've directed my writing to the production of books. As of today I have two available books and two more in the "pipeline." 

I chose to release my books through Create Space. Create Space is an company specializing in publishing independent authors. I looked at several but chose Create Space because of their cost, assistance, and professionalism. I know marketing my books is more difficult through Create Space but I never expected to be a "best selling" author anyway. As I is I'm surprised a bit at what's happening. It is slow but the growth and interest is coming along. I wanted to  control the content of my books. I didn't want the editor from one of the Restoration Movement (or other) publishing firms to tell me what to say, how many chapters to include, or where I could market them. Create Space is "user friendly" and books become immediately available on

So what are the books in print and those I'm working on?

  1. On the Move: The Story of an Iowa Boy. This book tells the story of my life. It is my recollections of where I've been and what I've done. It tells of relationships, dashed hopes, personal experiences and so on. The chapters are in chronological order starting when I was about 4 and taking the reader on a journey through time to last year's meeting with three brothers and sisters I did not know I had. The recollections in each chapter are not exactly in chronological order. They are largely vignettes I wrote as I remembered them.
  2. History of the American Restoration Movement. I always wanted to formalize my classroom material in book form. I just never had the discipline to do it. I wrote a beginning effort while serving First Christian Church in Canton but it was brief and incomplete. Lee Mason gave me permission to serialize it in The Restoration Herald. I figured that would give me the push to discipline myself and write it. So it is done and on the market. It is somewhat different than most of the movement histories because I try to place the movement into its social and historical context and I spend quite a bit of time writing about what was going on in the general American culture noting the impact it had on the developing Restoration Movement.
  3. Questions People Asked. This one is now in the proofing stage and will be released after making corrections. I based this book on questions submitted through the First Christian Church website in Canton. A few of those questions were no longer available because FCC had a brief controversy over baptism and the elders asked me to remove a few of the answers which I reluctantly did. The questions cover a wide range of topics from biblical questions to social and political matters.
  4. Early Church History: From Pentecost to the Reformation. This book originated from a request of the leadership at the Moriah School of Ministry in Australia. I intended to write a companion briefly surveying Christian history from the Reformation to the present. I still intend to do that if the Lord permits me to live long enough. The book is a concise survey (less than 125 pages) of early church history. It too is in the proofing stage and I hope I can make it available in a few weeks.
Charles Krauthamer's recent book Things that Matter spurred me to go back through all my Disicpler blog entries and essays to consider a book entitled Christian Things that Matter. I'm just starting to work on that. There are several other ideas rattling around in my head including some ethical studies, theological material, and church leadership. I'm hoping my friend Bob Kuest will work with me on the last topic. He's the expert in church leadership!!

I hope to have all the titles in eBook form within the year. That takes some coding expertise I have to learn. So I'll see if you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Friday, June 27, 2014

"Come Outer" Movement

Denominational leaders sometimes label the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ a "come-outer movement." It's not just denominational leaders, though, the accusation comes from within the Restoration Movement, too. The designation "come-outer" means those so labeled focus on calling denominational Christians to "come out" and "join" the Restoration Movement.

There's some truth to that! I don't like to say that but I feel I must. There are ultra-conservatives in the Restoration Movement who believe "we are not the only Christians but we are the only Christians." No, I said exactly what I meant. All too many in "our churches" refuse to acknowledge as Christians anyone in denominational churches. The attitude expressed is, "If they were really Christians they would abandon the denominations they belong to and join us--we are the true church. Do these Christians really believe you can't be saved unless you are part of one of our churches?

In my opinion a legalistic attitude such as that is just as narrow and legalistic as someone who says I have to take a particular end time view to be considered Christian. For generations our movement held out the belief "we were not the only Christians but we are Christians only." We must come to grips with the reality where we acknowledge as a brother or sister anyone who believes without reservation Jesus is the Christ and who submits to baptism for the remission of sin. Jesus said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved." To we believe that or not?

There is a legitimate call to brothers and sisters spread among the denominations to unity. Jesus prayed for his followers to be united (John 17). We can be united with individual Christians wherever they are merely by recognizing them as believers, accepting them, calling them to display a commitment to Scripture, and work with them whenever and wherever we can. Coming out of denominations and coming together to make the Gospel more effective--"so that the world may be one"--is legitimate. But let's admit it, that sort of work can be accomplished in many different ways.

There is another sort of "come-outer movement" seen in contemporary mega churches. It is the attitude that "we have it all together" and "we know how to get the job done" so you need to leave your church and join us. It is the attitude that says, "You need to close down the church where you worship and join us." I've heard that over and over again!

Mega churches are quite effective at getting people to "come out" of their smaller churches and join them--the "true church" because they know how to get the job done.

I suspect mega churches, in spite of their numerous immersions, really do very little 'true evangelism." Instead they "move believers (note my terminology) around from church to church largely because they offer a more exciting or attractive programs and do outstanding branding and marketing. I grant the sprinkled Methodists, Lutherans, and Anglicans who move into their churches need immersion. These believers are a different category from atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and on and on I could go. It would be an interesting research project to find out how many of the hundreds of additions to mega churches represent pure evangelism and how many are denominational believers moving from place to place.

I'm painting with a broad brush here. I know that! The emphasis today is not on evangelism; it is on church growth. Church growth does not equal evangelism.

I love small churches, medium size churches, large churches, and mega churches. I don't care how big they are, what worship style they employ, and the programs they develop as long as they are biblical and teach sound doctrine. I know the hearts of many mega church leaders. They do care about winning the lost. That concern, however, often gets swallowed up in doing what ever it takes to increase the body count. I also know meta church leaders who are engaged in competition with larger churches and that seems to me to be a strange motivation for growing a church.

Well, I've been thinking about this stuff.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

On Prejudice

The government and popular culture seems to think any expression of disagreement or dislike is prejudice. It all depends on skin color though. If I disagree with one of my Caucasian neighbors no one cares. If I disagree with a Black neighbor I am a racist or prejudiced. What strikes me is that when my Black neighbor disagrees with me the nature of the disagreement isn't important--I'm labeled a racist! If I disagree with the president's policies it isn't because I'm a Republican it's because I'm a racist. If I disagree with Bill O'Reilley no one cares! As it used to be said on TV, "Know what I mean, Vern?"

Christians and Caucasians are the only people of prejudice in the United States these days. I'm beginning to think George H.W. Bush's dislike for broccoli demonstrated his prejudice against broccoli. One of my friends teaching at a Christian university once asked his class if Black people were prejudiced toward Whites. He got a negative answer. African-Americans can call Caucasians "whitey" or "crackers" or any other term they wish and that's not prejudice. If you're white and say the wrong word you'll be drummed out of your TV show, or forced to sell your NBA team, or be labeled a racist by even pseudo-conservatives who ought to know better.

Everyone is prejudiced in one way or another. My prejudice shows up when a person with tattoos from head to foot shows up. I'm not talking about one tattoo; I'm talking about someone with tattoos everywhere. I once met a New Zealander in Myanmar who had tattoos everywhere even on his face and neck. I bristled and my thoughts were negative. When I got to know the guy my bias evaporated. Tattoos are part of the Maori culture in New Zealand but I had to get around that in order to have a relationship. You can't kid a kidder! Every person has prejudices, biases, dislikes and those things crop up because of first impressions (and sometimes second impressions). Face it, you and I might be like two pieces of different grades of sandpaper rubbing together.

Just because I tolerate someone or something does not mean I agree with it or like it or the person who advocates it. I've learned over my many years to tolerate people but not principles or ideas. I'm prejudiced against  the principles espoused by Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses and I won't tolerate their false doctrine and the way they twist Scripture. I've known some really nice people trapped in those cults and I tolerate them. I'm prejudiced against homosexuality. Homosexual behavior is a sin (no greater sin than heterosexual adultery) yet I had some terrific homosexual friends in Palm Springs Sunup Rotary. I more than tolerated them--I liked them and appreciated them. I disagreed with their lifestyle and I refused to tolerate their unreasonable belief system.

Let me go one step farther. Why is the government, or anyone else for that matter, telling me I can't have prejudices or attitudes of racism when they do? I'm not advocating genocide because I don't want to sell my cakes to homosexuals or take photographs of a homosexual wedding. Who can tell me whom to like or dislike? How dare someone force me to avoid some people or activities or to participate or accept some  people or activities? After all, if I don't want to sell my cake for a homosexual wedding I'm the one getting hurt! I lose a sale. The "happy" couple can always find another bakery. If someone doesn't like my attitudes aren't they prejudiced toward me?

The United States of America is closer to George Orwell's vision of 1984 than ever before. I can't choose to do business with whomever I choose. I can't express my political or religious opinions for fear I'll offend someone who has prejudices about Christianity or what-have-you. It is a strange world when only one side of anything is prejudiced!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The End

No, not the blog!

I got word regarding my summer school courses with the Consortium for Christian Online Education today. One prospective student enrolled in Church History. None enrolled in Restoration History.

Frankly, I'm not at all surprised. I already knew my relationship with CCOE would end after summer school. The CCOE board reached that decision two years ago. Enrollments in my courses declined steadily over the last few years. The decline can be traced to several factors: (1) The announced ending of CCOE courses this summer. (2) A declining commitment of our colleges to "Restoration" principles and the movement's history. (3) Several schools began their own online programs. (4) I suspect there was resistance to my conservative interpretation of the movement.

All the CCOE courses are moving to Hope International University. HIU plans to integrate some of the courses into their extensive online program. It is possible a few of the CCOE could find a home with their course at HIU. My friend Dr. Bob Kuest recommended me to HIU as an online instructor and I've sent my vitae to them. Dr. Tamsen Murray, my Academic Dean at Intermountain Bible College, serves on the HIU staff and I've asked her to consider recommending me as well. At the same time, I am uncertain if HIU will want to offer Restoration History. I've talked with them about a similar course History of American Christianity, a course I built for Dallas Christian College and Manhattan Christian College. I'd really enjoy teaching such a course so I'm praying it will work out.

I taught longer for the Consortium than any other school. I began teaching at Intermountain Bible College in 1974 and remained in Grand Junction until the school closed in 1985. I taught at Boise Bible College almost eight years and a few courses at Cincinnati Christian University. During the almost 14 years with the Consortium I taught more students than those in face-to-face classrooms. It has been a privilege.

Manhattan Christian College continues to use me as an adjunct instructor for Church History and American Christian History courses. I'll continue with them as long as they'll have me...or until I no longer feel comfortable. I hope my MCC friends will have the courage and discretion to let me know when I am no longer effective. I also hope they will let me know how I can develop my courses to better serve them and their students.

For the past year I have redirected my energies to writing and enjoying retirement. The greatest task of the latter is avoiding boredom. I'm teaching a Sunday school class at Paseo Verde Christian Church here in Phoenix. I'm available for occasional fill-in preaching although opportunities for that in Arizona are limited. I would also consider limited interim ministries. Delores and I would love to travel but our retirement income won't permit much of it.

I have published On the Move: Recollections of an Iowa Boy through Create Space. I loved writing it. I have a second book, A History of the American Restoration Movement, almost ready. I'll receive a proof copy next week and I have two excellent academics reading it and will provide me with insight and corrections. At this point I've got two more books in my head and more. I'm under no illusion I'll ever make the Times Best Sellers list but it is fun and constructive to do it. It keeps me functioning.

Response to Comments

Once in a blue moon I look at readers' comments. Thanks to those who write positive responses. Okay! Thanks to some of the negative comments too. The negatives worth reading make me think. Those that aren't worth reading don't deserve a response. Nonetheless I do think I need to respond in general to these comments.

First, there were an series of anonymous comments reacting to my blog entry about baptism. I don't know who anonymous is so I was tempted to say nothing. Someone who wants to challenge my thoughts without the courage to identify themselves is simply a coward who lacks the courage of their convictions. Besides that these comments repeat the same old Zwinglian arguments that really don't hold water when investigated closely. Even honest Baptist scholars recognize that fact! This brief response is all an anonymous respondent deserves.

Second, the material sent out to the churches on the issue of liberal teaching in one of "our" seminaries is called "The Beck Correspondence." That correspondence occurred over a two year period between Dr. M.N. Beck and a professor and administrator at Emmanuel Christian Seminary. Dr. Beck's son Callum was refused a degree at ECS because, according to his superintending professor, he did not demonstrate adequate scholarship. The correspondence resulted in controversy over biblical inerrancy and acceptance of liberal scholarship. ECS trustees "investigated" the charges but responded that the school and its professors represented "Restoration Movement" positions. The whole issue withered away without much further discussion.

It is said that history repeats itself. George Santayana said those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it. In the late 1800s Ben Bettenfield charged professors at the College of the Bible (now Lexington Theological Seminary) taught Classical Liberalism. Hall Calhoun, COB Academic Dean, supported Battenfield's charges. Battenfield took his case to the churches and the seminary's trustees. The trustees "investigated" and supported the seminary's leadership. The churches slipped into the background and the controversy soon disappeared. The College of the Bible was lost to liberalism and theological liberalism contributed to the eventual Disciples split.

Third, I still write this blog but I do so less often. I contribute less to the blog because I write a monthly column for The Restoration Herald. I am also writing books. My personal recollections, On the Move: the Recollections of an Iowa Boy, is now available from Amazon. I should be getting the first proof of A History of the American Restoration Movement this next week. I am assembling a book based on the questions I was asked online while ministering with First Christian Church, Canton, OH. I also have a book entitled History of Christianity: From Pentecost to the Reformation awaiting a cover and reformatting to a 6 x 9 format. I've also given some thought to taking selections from this blog and putting them together into a book. I may contribute to the blog more often now that I've "retired."

Friday, May 16, 2014

I'm Really Tired

It is becoming a bit tiring! Everybody wants to tell me what to do. Frankly, I'm weary of it. I don't want to tell people what to do but there are times I'd like to tell them where to go!

Let me give you some samples.

It doesn't make any difference where you are or who you're with, you can't say what's on your mind. If you do you are a bigot, a legalist, a racist, or ____________ (you fill in the blank).

It seems like someone wants to tell me what I can eat or drink. If New York's mayor has his way I couldn't buy an extra large Big Gulp at 7-11. If the Connecticut governor doesn't veto it, my grandkids won't be able to get chocolate milk with their nutritionally balanced (read starchy) lunches. No, I don't have any grandkids living in Connecticut. A few years ago I was told I shouldn't drink coffee; now I'm told it is okay. I was told popcorn would clog my arteries, no one hears about that any more. I remember when I was warned that eggs would cause heart problems; now its okay to eat hen-fruit. Where will it end?

The epitome of stupidity is the idea that athletic teams have to change their names so some ethnic group isn't offended. The most recent, of course, is the war waged against the Redskins. I maintain if the Redskins have to change their name then the Cowboys do too. I'm still not sure what or whom the name Bugeaters offends but I'm certainly glad that team was renamed the Cornhuskers...although husking corn doesn't seem all that tough a job. Tiring and boring, maybe. I suppose the Broncos will need to change their name because Broncos are too wild. Maybe they could become the Shetland Ponies or something equally obtuse like the Denver Lambs. By the way, why isn't someone losing sleep over the Cleveland Indians, or the Cincinnati Reds (are they really communists?)...

Would anyone have been as upset if the owner of the Clippers had told his mistress not to bring Caucasian friends to Clippers' games? Isn't it strange that no one was concerned about Sterling's mistress. He's a married man for crying out loud. Its okay to have a mistress but not to tell her who NOT to bring to games.

I oppose racism...but not everything said about someone of a different color is racist. No one cares about who calls me a honkey or whitey or whatever.... If I disagree with Obama, I'm a racist. If I agree with Clarence Thomas I'm a bigot. You can't win the war of labels. There are white guys, and Asians, and Native-Americans I wouldn't vote for either. What does that make me? Stupid...well read on.

And what really ticks me off are those who think I'm stupid or ignorant because I disagree with their interpretation of the facts. Just last week I reacted to someone who believes in global warming. I believe in global warming--it is cyclical phenomenon that happens once in a while. I oppose the concept that human beings are the cause of global warming. Even if it is caused by greenhouse gases one small volcanic eruption spews more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than all the humans on earth. And...bovine (cows) flatulence contributes more greenhouse gas than cars. Then I'm told that the USA is in the top 3 contributors of greenhouse gas and that means we have to eliminate coal, automobile exhaust, and return to stoneage simplicity. Oops, stoneage simplicity without cooking fires...too much smoke and carbon dioxide. Have you ever been to Bangkok? What about China? Scientists are divided on the global warming thing. I suppose that everyone who disagrees with them...or with that genius Al stupid...and possibly a racist.