Churches of Christ versus Evangelicalism: Five Contrasts

In light of my last post--Four Reasons Why I'm Church of Christ--some of you wanted me to clarify the distinctions between the Churches of Christ and evangelicalism.

Let me start with Dana's comment about Scot McKnight's definition of evangelicalism. According to McKnight evangelicalism is defined by four things:

  1. The centrality of the Bible.
  2. The centrality of the atoning death of Christ.
  3. The centrality of the need for personal conversion.
  4. The centrality of an active mission to convert others and to do good works in society.
Dana asked, if this is the list/definition of evangelicalism, would the Church of Christ be considered evangelical. And the answer is yes.

But as I noted in my comments to Dana, Scot's definition of evangelicalism is intentionally trying to create a "big tent." And he's to be commended for that effort.

Still, when a lot of people hear the tag "evangelical" they have a much narrower conception in mind. I like the way qb looked at it, a contrast between "formal evangelicalism" and "popular evangelicalism."

So in this post, while there is no distinction between the Churches of Christ and formal evangelicalism, I'd like to make a few contrasts between the Churches of Christ and popular evangelicalism.

Contrast #1: Evangelicals are more politicized than the Churches of Christ
I mentioned this in my prior post. The Churches of Christ tend to be apolitical. This, to my mind, is one of the biggest contrasts with popular evangelicalism. Let me give a couple of illustrations.

First, as noted in my last post, the Churches of Christ don't have flags in our churches. Nor do we have patriotic displays in our worship services. For example, a couple of years ago there was an outcry on the ACU campus about a patriotic display being used as a part of our start of school opening ceremony which is a chapel service. You'd expect to see this sort of outcry at an Anabaptist school. And that's my point. There's an Anabaptist strain in our movement that pushes back on "God and Country" conflations.

A second illustration: we don't preach about religious values issues. I've been a member of the Churches of Christ my whole life and have attended conservative and liberal churches within our movement and I've never heard, not once, a sermon about abortion or gay marriage.

A third illustration: We don't talk about Presidents or political parties from the pulpit. I've never heard a sitting American President--Republican or Democrat--discussed from a Church of Christ pulpit. I'm sure it happens, but it's not the norm. More, Church of Christ preachers tend to speak to their congregations assuming that both Republicans and Democrats are in the audience. When we criticize one party we tend to criticize the other one in the next breath.

All that said, please note that these historical trends seem to be changing here and there. Some Churches of Christ are becoming more politicized. But this is a recent trend. Historically speaking, the Churches of Christ have been apolitical. And the best of them remain so.

Contrast #2: Churches of Christ have a more sophisticated understanding of Scripture than evangelicals
Perhaps an illustration will best get this across. Every faculty member at Wheaton--widely considered to be a flagship school of American evangelicalism--has to annually sign a statement of faith that confesses the following:
WE BELIEVE that God directly created Adam and Eve, the historical parents of the entire human race...
This isn't just the case at Wheaton. Over the last decade there have been a number of high profile incidents where scholars at evangelical schools have been let go or asked to leave over the issue of evolution.

In contrast, faculty members in the Churches of Christ schools can believe in evolution. In fact, if you polled every faculty member across every Church of Christ university campus I bet the majority would endorse evolution. The point being, the intellectual conversation about the bible on Church of Christ campuses is more sophisticated than on evangelical campuses.

Contrast #3: Churches of Christ have an Arminian, rather than Reformed, soteriology
Not all evangelicals are Reformed, but a lot of them are. Thus, as a point of contrast Churches of Christ don't believe in original sin, predestination or the doctrine of election. More, we have a more optimistic view of humanity, seeing the Imago Dei rather than total depravity.

Contrast #4: Churches of Christ have an amillennialist/preterist eschatology
This might not seem like a big deal, but increasingly it seems to be from what I'm witnessing in evangelical churches and among political candidates courting the evangelical vote.

Churches of Christ don't believe in the end times thinking ascendant in many evangelical churches. We don't believe in the Anti-Christ, rapture, tribulation, thousand year reign, or Battle of Armageddon. Our reading of Daniel, Jesus's eschatological discourses, and Revelation are preterist. That is to say, most of us think everything foretold in the bible has already happened, with most of the prophecies pointing to either the fall of Jerusalem or destruction of Rome. Why do we believe this? Well, we read Revelation 1.1 literally:
Revelation 1.1
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John...
Everything spoken of in Revelation--the Beast, 666, and all that jazz--would "soon take place," presumably within the lifetimes of those to whom the book was addressed to, the seven churches of Asia.

The reason I bring this up is that there seems to be a growing fascination about the "end times" in a lot of evangelical churches. More, these "end times" speculations get wrapped up in geopolitics with the state of Israel playing a key role in bringing about the Second Coming. In short, there is within many sectors of evangelicalism a fusion between end times eschatology and the role of America and Israel in geopolitics. This theology is then used to support or justify various policy decisions in regard to the Middle East. And some of this theology is used to justify war.

I don't here want to comment on the incoherence, immorality and danger of this theology within American evangelicalism. Suffice it to say, there is none of this nonsense in the Churches of Christ.

Contrast #5: The worship of the Church of Christ is less contaminated by entertainment and consumer culture
I might get some pushback about this last, but I thought it worth mentioning. If only to stick up for my tradition.

The Churches of Christ worship in the acapella style. That is, we sing without instrumental accompaniment. No organ, piano, or praise band. Just four part harmony.

This might be the most distinctive aspect of our tradition. Within Christianity only the Eastern Orthodox and the Churches of Christ worship solely acapella. We are a "peculiar people."

Let me be very clear. I have no problem with instrumental music in worship. In fact, I enjoy it a great deal. However, there is a point of contrast here between the acapella tradition of the Churches of Christ and the dominance of praise bands across large sectors of American evangelicalism.

There are good points and bad points about both acapella worship and praise band worship. I don't want to get into all that. I just want to conclude by saying one thing in favor of acapella worship and how it provides an important contrast with a lot of evangelical worship.

In my opinion, here is the single greatest benefit of acapella worship. As churches are increasingly co-opted and tempted by an American culture beholden to entertainment, hipsterism, consumerism, branding, marketing, salesmanship, image, relevance, showmanship, and spectating, the acapella style of worship is a theological breath of fresh air. To be sure, worship ministers around the world are working hard to prevent the worst of these abuses within their churches. But that's my point. Instrumental worship has to swim upstream.

But acapella worship? Acapella worship is so...uncool.

Exactly. That's its genius. That's its prophetic protest and resistance to the cultural forces around us.
To conclude, it will be objected that I've engaged with some of the worst aspects and stereotypes of American evangelicalism. That is true, I've not engaged with the best of the movement. But stereotypes are what are called to mind when people ask if we're "evangelical." Consequently, this post is simply meant to highlight points of contrast between the Churches of Christ and "popular" or "stereotypical" or "media presentations" of evangelicalism. And while these characterizations don't fit all evangelicals, particularly their leading intellectuals, these points of contrast are real, legitimate contrasts between the Churches of Christ and much that is found under the banner of "evangelical."

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86 thoughts on “Churches of Christ versus Evangelicalism: Five Contrasts”

  1. Thanks for this. My "homegroup-that-I-referred-to-as-my-church-even-when-no-one-else-did" recently scattered to the winds (not my choice) and I've been looking for something else. I like what you've said about your church: So tell me, how do I tell if a Church of Christ in my area is of the less-evangelical variety?

  2. Just one point of clarification. I've mentioned the positive aspects of my tradition in the last two posts. I've not mentioned the more negative aspects. The most important one being our view of gender. Most Churches of Christ are not fully (or even partly) egalitarian. And that's a huge problem.

  3. Of these, only #2 and #5 are a complete problem for me with respect to popular evangelicalism. For example, with #1 I like that my church is not political but neither is it apolitical. We are engaged in current events without being co-opted by a party. Likewise, for #3 and #4 I think there are some balancing elements even though I likewise am not a fan of the extremes.

    Thanks for the thoughtful presentation of these issues.

  4. I think my word choices in the post and my in-group bias made this post frame the contrasts as "better than" and "worse than." But really, I just want to make contrasts. And as you note, there are good things and bad things to being on either side of a particular contrast. 

  5. I find it interesting that yesterday's post seemed to very strongly show why you are a part of the (Stone-Campbell) Restoration Movement in general.  I think all three branches, Churches of Christ (acapella), Christian Churches/Churches of Christ (non-acapella), and Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) with an ecumenical mindset would affirm the points you put forth yesterday.

    Today seems to be a bit more Church of Christ acapella flavored.  Other than the focus on acapella worship, is there any particular reason Dr. Beck that you prefer this particular branch of the Restoration Movement?  In some regards, your theology almost seems to align more closely with the Disciples of Christ branch.  Or like Dr. Heard yesterday, is it more sociological/personal history?

  6. I think a lot of it is personal history. But, across both these two posts, there are a lot of reasons why I fit well with the CoC. Still, there are many traditions I'd enjoy very much if I had many lives. I always daydream about what it would be like to be from other tradition or even another religion. The point is, while I like the CoC I'm not 100% content. And as I mentioned to Josh in these comments, I've only highlighted the good parts of the CoC which presents a skewed picture. There are some huge problems as well.

    Regarding acapella. Again, there are good things and bad things about it. I'm not trying to be an apologist for it. I was just pointing out that its uncoolness is interesting, theologically speaking. 

  7. "Churches of Christ have a more sophisticated understanding of Scripture than evangelicals"

    Etymology is interesting. For example, the definition of 'sophisticated' in Webster in 1913 was: To render worthless by admixture; to adulterate; to damage; to pervert; as, to sophisticate wine. Ahhhh, the wine of one's theology.

    Then comes the Revelation 1:1 discussion. Very sophisticated use of a proof text by which to anchor one's theology. Now, could the 'things that are' of verse 1:19 possibly mean 'the church age?' Probably not; for then we would have to include all that 'symbolic' stuff' as actually happening after the church age. No such thing in amillennialism; not like in the dangerous nonsense of thinking Israel has a future role in God's plan. Further, while I have different interpretations than you do; I do not think you are spewing nonsense.

  8. Hi David. Bracketing all our disagreements about soteriology you also believe in ends times stuff involving the state of Israel?

    Why, might I ask, out of legitimate curiosity, do you visit this space? As best I can tell, we're just on complete opposites sides of the theological world. What do you find of value here?

  9. I'm wondering if we're seeing individuals within Churches of Christ approaching several of these topics from a popular-evangelical perspective, whereas the institutions themselves remain more separated. I don't have anything better than anecdotal evidence for this, individual (usually conservative) members of Churches of Christ more and more identifying themselves with a biblicist, Reformed, premillennial point of view and using this to advocate a commingling of church and state in a way that supports a certain political viewpoint, even as the churches and academic institutions attempt to remain apolitical, amillennial and open-minded on matters of science and faith. 

    Or I could be unfairly ascribing to a larger group the isolated actions of a few extreme examples I've seen in my ACU experience.

  10. Richard,
    I have enjoyed these past two posts, as I have no knowledge of, nor any contact, with anyone from your denomination.  My mother was a Wheaton grad, as was the pastor of my youth (1950's - 60's).
    So as an outsider, I have appreciated the warmth and openness of both yourself and your readers.  And I have two observations.  First, there are those within the current universalist movement (e.g., Mike Gantt) who believe that all churches are a form of idolatry (subservience to a human organization), as is a belief in the Trinity.  Psychologically this rings true for me, as humans are ill-equipped to deal with this abstraction, having no corollary in this life.  This brings to mind your disagreement the other day with "David".  You saw "idolatry" in his views on God's Purposes.  My problem has always been the church -- ANY iteration.  If truth is Truth, why the need to meet each week for pats on the back and bolstering?  Why not just have pot-luck suppers, play some cards, and call it a day?  The very fact of "denominations" is empirical proof of the inchoate nature of all organized religion. 
    Secondly -- I have noted in some of your writings the exact same doubt about spiritual issues which I daily face.  To the point that there are times where you even question the very existence of God.  As you are fond of saying, we are "fellow travelers".  I mean no disrespect, but how can you be so certain about a particular formalized denomination within Christendom and yet still retain such intellectual and emotional doubt?  This causes a good amount of cognitive dissonance within me.  I cannot do it, and wonder how you do.

  11. This post could not be more timely for me.  I am a minister at a Church of Christ in Columbus, OH - we'd fit the bill in your language on the "ecumenical" branch.  Additionally, toward some of your comments below, we have broken through the gender barrier in some important areas, recently.  I am a doctoral student at Fuller Seminar which has provided a great perspective for me to consider the relationship my upbringing and training have to evangelicalism.  I read Stanley Grenz's book Renewing the Center recently and found myself connected at points, and vastly disconnected at others.  Currently I am reading Roger Oldson's book Reformed and Always Reforming for a Fuller class where he sets forth the case for post-conservative evangelical theology.  I have to say that I think, at least from my training, I was trained, and largely associate with post-conservative theology (though I have a sympathetic bone for the post-liberals as well).  Both my theology professors Randy Harris - now at your school, and John Mark Hicks used Stanley Grenz's systematic theology.  Grenz, according to Olson, has been one of the leading voices of the post-conservative movement.  Theologically, I think the Churches of Christ have moved/are moving in that direction.  However, sociologically and structurally, I still feel we are pretty far apart.  I like to think about our relationship with evangelicalism as if we can embrace the good about it when it is good, and when it gets ugly (as this summer with the whole ROb Bell thing) we can sit on the sidelines and say - it's not my fight.  From my experiences at Fuller, as a Church of Christ minister, I feel less connected to the other members of my class than others seem to.  There were two of us Church of Christers in a class out there in May, and everyone played 20 Questions with us at lunch because our situations is so different from everyone else's.  I think this is an area that bears further conversation among our folks because I do concur with you that there is a general absolving of many of our folks into evangelicalism at-large with an unfortunate loss of identity and distinctiveness.  And you are spot on - our acappella heritage is "interesting" if anything! 

  12. I agree that there's something special about acappella worship that's impossible to replicate with a praise band (though I like both), and I love the sound of a congregation singing. Yet it feels a bit misleading to cast the C of C's preference for non-instrumental worship as a choice made to stand out from a consumerist, media-saturated culture. The doctrine is that using instruments is spiritually wrong. They're not making an aesthetic choice, but a moral one, when they opt for acappella services. It has nothing to do with wanting to be intentionally uncool to create a certain institutional persona. That's one of the places I differ with the C of C. I like acappella worship because of the way it sounds, not because I think we're commanded to only worship that way.

  13. Hi Daniel,
    Historically you're right. And it's still a moral issue in the sectarian CoC. But in the ecumenical CoC, where some do use instruments, the choice of acapella is now an aesthetic choice. My point is for these churches to be more theological. To not do if for aesthetics but as a form of resistance to the culture.

  14. True. I no longer attend a C of C, but I grew up in a more sectarian tradition and household. One summer as a teenager, a friend and I agreed to lead songs for the kids at VBS. He wanted to use his guitar, but he wasn't allowed to, since we would be using it in the church building. That was frustrating. We just wanted the kids to have fun singing "Arky Arky," but we were scolded as if we'd tried to warp them.

    I like the idea of an ecumenical body using acappella worship as a way to stand apart, culturally. Natural harmonies always feel so organic and real.

  15. Hi Sam,
    A couple of thoughts.

    First, in the last post I talked about how, at the end of the day, an abstract conversation about denominational affiliation is really a non-issue. As I said, it's all local. The point being, I find my time with the Highland Church of Christ to be, for the most part, edifying. That's really all I can say. I go because I find it helpful. And some of the things I find helpful or hospitable to me are some of the things I listed across the past two posts.

    But that said, I think the vast majority of my readers wouldn't like Highland. Or can't find a place they like in the town they are currently living in. And I don't fault them in the least for that. Contemporary Christianity and church culture is a wasteland. So I expect a lot of people will read these posts and say, "Well, I'm happy for Richard, but church isn't for me." I honor that feeling and understand it completely.

    So all I can do is talk about my own journey and about why I go to this particular church. Given that, here's the answer to your question: It's all about the Imitatio Christi for me, the imitation of Christ. Whether God exists or not, I like myself and my life best when I'm following Jesus of Nazareth. Consequently, I like to place myself in communities where Christ-following is encouraged and modeled.

    For example, on Sunday my church is showing "I am Highland" video spots from members and this week two good friends were on the video talking about their decision and journey to adopt two children from the third world ( That is a bit different from pot-lucks and card playing. I found their story re-orienting. And as I long as I keep having these re-orienting experiences I'll keep going back.

  16. I think lots of churches worship this style. I'm mainly talking about a denomination where this is their set denomination-wide practice.

  17. "What do you find of value here?"
    Well . . . , in a word, you.
    My IQ is well above 80 and yet I am fairly confident that it is well below yours. You are extremely gifted in logic and prose (and poetry, for that matter). Further, I consider you a fellow member of the body of Christ. So, I love reading your posts. You also are very deep biblically. With 'biblical' meaning a lot more that just quoting verses.
    I am not looking for those who agree with me; but, rather one who can support their differing views. An not uncommon exchange here where one says 'verse X clearly proves you wrong' and then when offered additional information resorts to personal attack, is a terrible witness for our Lord. Sadly, there does not seem to be as much 'experimental' here as I wish there were. Views are very tightly held and there is almost a comical knee jerk reaction from those who agree with your posts when a differing view is offered for inspection.
    Finally, as I have offered before, a simple email that nobody here would ever have to know about is all that is required to stop my being an irritant to you and your readers.

  18. Well that was definitely the case for the Brethren until relatively recently but admittedly it's less so now.

  19. Thank you very much.

    To be honest, you're right. I don't know how "open-minded" I really am. I'm pretty sure I'm dogmatist. I worry about that, I really do. So I take your observations to heart. And it's one reason I'm not going to send you an email. :-)

  20. It's starting to change in the CoC as well. But I'd say 90%-99% of our congregations worldwide are non-instrumental.

  21. As the founder of the Uni-Chara-Evan-Metho-Anglica-Platypus denomination, I would like to extend the hand of friendship to the Church of Christ.  You guys seem alright! 

  22. While waiting for the boys to get haircuts Monday, the conversation between one of the hairdressers and her older male customer caught my attention. They were discussing how many or (estimated) most of ACU's students attend Beltway on Sundays, with their blow-out-your-eardrums loud praise band, rather than any of the many CoC churches in town. But while the Baptists are luring in the ACU students, it doesn't seem to go the other way. CoC churches don't seem to have a draw for HSU or McMurry students. And a lot of the Methodists I know personally are actually former Baptists. Abilene is a weird place.

  23. Yes, Beltway is the biggest draw for the ACU students, and it has a lot to do with the music. A lot of the CoC students at ACU (who, incidentally, make up a little less than 50% of the student body) come from what I'm calling ecumenical Churches of Christ so they don't have much problem going to different churches. Denominational loyalty isn't a mark of this generation. They likely to identify as "Christ-followers" than "Church of Christ", or anything else for that matter.

    What all this means for the CoC and the acapella tradition is something a lot of people are talking about. I don't think my idea of marketing uncool worship to college students is going to win me any speaking gigs in church growth circles...

  24. Daniel I know you are frustrated but there also may be something in play that you didn't understand.  Some churches (specifically the sectarian CoC) have what is called "the deed and the creed"and they set out to ensure that instruments would never be used in worship.  If someone used instruments then the church deed would go to someone in the town who was practicing worship without instruments (the creed).  That may or may not have been the case with you but I know it was in a lot of CoC church buildings. 

  25. Also Free Church of Scotland: 4 part acapella harmony in English, Psalms only (denomination - wide... starting to change this year... ok small denomination).  Plus haunting unaccompanied Gaelic versions of Psalms with lots of grace notes and unique precenter style.

  26. I grew up hearing about the "deed & creed" stuff... in Dallas there were several CoC congregations in my youth that were rumored to have language in their deeds wherein the ownership of the property would revert to someone else if ever a musical instrument (other than the obviously scriptural exceptions of pitch pipes or tuning forks!) darkened the door of the building.

    As an adult, I attended one of those churches - and was even on staff for a time. The Preston Road Church of Christ in the Park Cities part of Dallas was supposed to have just such language in their deed.

    When our worship minister was planning his own wedding, he found out that it was only a rumor - so we had quite a concert when he got married: 2 pianos, a couple of guitars, a bass - along with a 50+ voice choir...

    I don't have any evidence that the deed threat was a myth at any of the other churches, but I know that it was at least for one of them.

  27. Certainly the music at Beltway is a draw for a good number of our ACU students and I second that the majority of our ACU students are low on denominational loyalty across the board. One my roles at ACU is to partner with local churches/campus ministers- both those that are C/[c]C and those that are not. Church migration by our students is something that gets talked about a couple times a year (both where students land initially when they come to school and then what the current "migration" trends seem to be).  
    In meeting with some of our local c/Church of Christ campus ministers, we've looked at exit surveys and conversations when students change churches during their time in Abilene. [Changes both within c/Churches of Christ, and from a c/Church of Christ to another denomination] In regards to leaving for Beltway, we initially thought worship would be the number one reason, for many they didn't list it at all or it was low on the list (and some said they went to Beltway in spite of instrumental worship).  Of students that left a local C/[c]C and transitioned to Beltway most of them said they left for:1. The preaching of David McQueen (challenging, spoke with conviction and had implications to their daily life)2. The focus and importance given to life (small) groups in word and in action 3. The connection and integration of college students to the large community and body
    Since I have been back in Abilene, I have heard churches talk about instrumental worship as the "magic pill" that will draw students to their church. I cringe when I hear this on many levels. In conversations with students, many of them are "cool worship"-ed out and seek out faith communities by criteria other than worship styles. 

  28. We have a lot of acappella singing in my church, as the organist isn't always with us. It works for us, but you're right, it isn't entertainment. When you talk about political (ie party political) preaching, 'religious values issues' and the geopolitical end times stuff, that sounds like what I call culture-Christianity. It's a mark of a church which has badly lost its way.

  29. Beltway isn't the only gig in town using amped-up decibal levels as their draw. The church we attended for a while did the same, expecting that it would get "keepers," and failed to account that an 85-90 decibal level would really drive people off.

  30. Primative Baptists, I read, do not use instrumental music.  Don't know if there are many of them around.

  31. 1.  CofC preachers did get involved in politics from the pulpit during the Kennedy/Nixon race of 1960.  My tenth birthday was a few days before the election but I do remember sermons where concern was expressed related to the Catholicism of Kennedy.
    2.  I have attended other churches very few times in my life.  I've got no problem with them but have been so involved and loyal to my own group that have not had the time or inclination to.  I received a big surprise when we moved for a year to Virginia and shortly afterward sent our son to a Christian Church Vacation Bible School a few blocks from our house.  They had the American Flag and something called the Christian Flag.  Had never heard of the latter.  They said some kind of a pledge of allegiance to it if I remember correctly.  Was uncomfortable with that.  That was 1989. 
    3.  I think it is Randy Harris there in Abilene U. who has said that we are the only conservative Protestant group that has both a high view of scripture and a high view of reason.   I also know of an ex-CofC'er who says the label "supernatural rationalists" describes the CofC.  For this reason, it is quite easy for young people who attend a CofC school and who end up expressing their love of scripture and Christianity by  pursuing a theological education to eventually downplay the supernatural part and move in the direction of liberalism. 

  32. This assessment is, in my estimation, very accurate. CoCs fall squarely within McKnight's definition, but - as a church "culture" - they are quite distinctive from most evangelicals. This is partly because, historically, they have made a conscious decision to be so.

    This creates exit (and entry) points into/from a lot of different traditions. I know lots of folks who, as the comments have indicated, transition easily into a more Calvinistic/charismatic context. For me, the Armenian strains made the transition into Wesleyanism surprisingly easy.

  33. Patricia, just so I can clarify, I don't think Beltway has "amped-up decibal levels" as a draw. Rather, I think it is consistent with who they are as a congregation, in their heritage and worship. (Disclaimer: I know little of history of Beltway Park other than what I have heard from students, friends and ministers there.) For many of ACU's students (the 50+% from tribes outside Coc/C), Beltway is close to their churches back home. 

    My greatest concern is when churches (in this discussion acapella Churches of Christ) change things like worship style for consumer based reasons or to be the "best show in town".  ("We are loosing or students/children of this congregation to _______church.") . I think it sends a message that is attractional/customer service based. Or as Richard said "cool." The pursuit of cool scares me when it creates/encourages consumers rather than disciples and a community on a journey. The pursuit of cool scares me when it narrows the stream of the community and leaves behind the uncool. 

  34. Thanks for posting this.  I'd call myself a reformed pentecostal evangelical.  I see no reason why an evangelical (re: evangelical not fundamentalist/literal) reading of Genesis is incompatible with evolution.  God makes things that change with time, not static beings, but dynamic.  Because I am reformed, I believe he created them in their entirety (from beginning to end) and since we have no pictures of Adam and Eve, it could be a common ancestor.  In the end I hold that whatever the Bible says in true and whatever science can "prove" is also true because both revelations come from God and cannot disagree.

    A lot of the stigma that comes from being labeled "evangelical" comes from its fundamentalist roots.  When I say evangelical, I mean it as Dr. Harold J. Ockenga, founder of the "New Evangelicals" movement, means it.  It is an attempt to reform the fundamentalist movement from its anti-cultural and anti-intellectual bias.  Especially among younger evangelicals, you don't find such an anti-science bias.

    However, you definitely got us on point five.  It definitely makes me miss my days as a Catholic when the choir and organ were in the back and God was at the front when you worshiped instead of the band being up front and God is up in the air somewhere in many evangelical traditions.

  35. If I had not become such a strong believer in infant baptism and a lover of certain early church creeds, you would almost convince me of joining the Church of Christ. I must say that the CoC of which you speak is not one I experience in my area. I've met only one or two CoC ministers in the last 20 years with an ecumenical heart such as yours and only one who would affirm me as a fellow follower of Christ.

    Thank you for your articles. They are a blessing to me.

  36. 1.  The value placed on "Tradition" is different between the CofC and the Evangelical.  So often tradition is the ace in the hand when engaged in dialogue either politically or religiously.  But it is not that way in the CofC in which I grew up.  That something is traditional is not an argument that it is right, it must be defended with reason.  The classical creedal statements are ignored in part because of this.  

    2.  The role of emotion is different.  We were raised with a more cerebral form of Christianity where the emphasis was on being right, believing and practicing the correct list of rules.  Your tradition and your emotional reasons for believing something could be wrong. 

  37. Hi Jen. Beltway, originally a traditional church plant of another local large church, changed their format some 10-12 (estimate) years ago. We knew those who objected to the changes and were told to get on board or leave. Other churches in town have adopted the same style, hoping for similar behemoth results.

  38. That's a good question. Here's my understanding, but a real theologian might want to wade in if I'm wrong.

    Arminians do believe that "everyone has sinned and fallen sort of the glory of God." So we do believe in, let's call it, "universal sinfulness." But my understanding is that this is a bit different from total depravity.

    It goes to the issue of will. According to Reformed doctrine humans are "totally" depraved, even our wills. Our will is broken, non-functional, and sinful. Thus, even if we were "able" to choose God that choice would be a sin, a form of selfishness, wanting/choosing God for the wrong reasons. Thus the doctrine of election. If we can't choose God then God has to choose us, God's will has to make the choice because we can't do it.

    Arminians see this a bit differently. Arminians believe in free will (in contrast to Luther's "bondage of the will") and, thus, see choice as morally neutral. Humans have the capacity to freely choose God. Thus there is no doctrine of election. The point being that the will isn't "totally depraved" as it is in Reformed thinking.

    The counterargument from the Reformed is that if human choice is allowed then the choice is a "work" and, thus, cause for boasting.

  39. I appreciate this post, but I'm not sure I agree with you about #3.  I have a lot of Calvanist friends in conservative reformed traditions, and they repeatedly (and correctly) point out that your modern popular evangelical movement is comprised largely of arminian rather than reformed soteriology.  I think we're in the same boat with "popular evangelicals" in that regard.

    I am also quite sure I don't agree with you about #2, at least based on your curiously casual-yet-definitive example.  One of our (in my view unfortunate) byproducts of no-creed-but-Christ is that we tend to a very ill-defined and unsupported systematic theology.  Actually I'd say it's not systematic at all.  This means that, while among the bible scholars at ACU or Harding there might be some degree of biblical sophistication, individual churches are not nearly as well informed about scripture and theology as the bible-believing evangelical churches I've been to or seen. 

    This also raises two points:  (1) I think there's a serious and important distinction between bible believing evangelical churches (I'll use McLean Bible Church as an example) and non-bible believing seeker churches; and (2) your definitive example of what constitutes "sophisticated" understanding of scripture is recklessly political, casual, and questionable besides.  There are some biblical scholars who adopt an inerrant and inspired understanding of scripture that can still account for new earth or old earth creationism.  And there are other bible scholars who simply toss out Gensis 1 and 2 because it doesn't fit their secular scientific world view.  That doesn't make the former unsophisticated or the latter sophisticated about scripture.  It means one of them has a different approach to scripture and science.  It's not wise (or sophisticated) to use evolution as a pithy example of what constitutes "sophisticated" biblical scholarship.  This is particularly true because it is such a hot button political and scientific issue.  If you have a better example I'd be interested in it, but believing in new earth creationism does not equal unsophisticated biblical understanding.  I'd say if anything believing in Godless evolution puts one at odds with a biblical foundation of faith.

  40. The problem with speaking about the issues of gay marriage and abortion is that they been hijacked for political purposes.  Are those issues important?  Absolutely.  Should the church have something to say about them? If not, then aren't we saying God has nothing to say about them?  Some issues transcend the political mud they've been dragged through.  For the record, I am a Church of Christ preacher and I have preached on both of these issues.  I will not allow politics to scare me away from doing so.  

    On your part about eschatology, I ask for clarification.  Are you suggesting that folks in Churches of Christ are unconcerned about the return of Christ, the resurrection, and subsequent new heaven and new earth?  I don't think that's what you are suggesting, but when you say that "everything" in the Bible has already been fulfilled, it comes across that way.   

    I certainly agree that we are somewhat immune to the Left Behind nonsense and overtly pro-Israel sentiments of most evangelicals, but the second coming of Christ is the culmination of our Christian hope.

    Thanks again for the thoughts,


  41. Great response Mikey.  I am sure a lot of that was the case.  I have actually seen some deeds but the language only applied to worship, not necessarily bringing instruments in for weddings, etc.  Since CoC is congregational different churches practiced different things.  Great post. 

  42. Hi David,
    Regarding eschatology. Yes, we believe in the Second Coming and the New Heaven and New Earth. My language was sloppy in the post. We believe everything in scripture has been fulfilled except the Second Coming. We just believe the Coming will be "like a thief in the night" with no geopolitical prelude, warning, signs, battle, etc. It can't be tracked, timed or anticipated. More, the Second Coming is the establishment of the New Heaven and New Earth. There is not pre- or post-millennial reign. When Jesus comes back the whole show wraps up pretty much immediately. Twinkling of an eye.

  43. Thanks ... that's stated a little more clearly than I've heard it parsed
    before. (Which had led me to want to mutter, "A difference which makes
    no difference is no difference.") 

  44. I don't care for contemporary worship either. I like liturgical worship (I'm a Lutheran). I'm curious, does  the Church of Christ follow any sort of liturgy, lectionary, or calendar like the Catholics, Lutherans et al do ?

  45. A few point of clarification in regards to your post: For
    one, I just wish that cofC people would educate themselves on Reformed doctrine
    and the Reformed tradition before writing about it. Caricatures and straw men
    abound. It is embarrassing to "our tribe" and really shows us to be
    rather uneducated.

    The line: "original sin, predestination or the doctrine of election"
    leaves plenty wanting. What do you mean by those definitions? Paul definitely
    believes in predestination and election (as just Jesus), for they spoke and
    wrote about them. So what do you mean we "don't believe in" these
    things? Also, the historical church (from early church into second century and on)
    affirmed the point of original sin. Do you know what original sin actually means? Do you know what the Reformed position is on those things beyond caricature - so
    that you may distinguish between what the Reformed view is and what you

    Additionally, your point that "Within Christianity only the Eastern
    Orthodox and the Churches of Christ worship solely acapella" is incorrect.
    Traditional Reformed churches worship acapella. Calvin, for one, supported only
    acapella and was against instruments; and traditional Reformed churches today
    still do the same. They also go a step further and only sing the Psalms; as
    that are the only songs the early church sang.
    I ask honestly, have you even read literature from the Reformation, of which we
    are sons of? (Thomas Campbell, for one, on his death bed, affirmed he was a

    Another point you made about Adam and Eve, creation etc. as historical
    reality: perhaps you speak of ACU and Pepperdine, but your sweeping assertion
    that "if you polled every faculty member across every Church of Christ
    university campus I bet the majority would endorse evolution" is a
    subjective statement. And that the cofC is "more sophisticated"
    because more professors believe in evolution, and that there is not
    "intellectual conversation" on evangelical campuses is yet another caricature.

    You seem to be wrapping Reformed doctrine/tradition into the broad scope of
    evangelicalism and that is true but only to a point. It cannot be used as a
    sweeping evaluation. From my experience with Reformed folk, most of them are
    amillennial and resist the pull of culture into worship. Most of what you are
    comparing against is the old south baptist tradition (end times, entertainment,
    etc.) and some of them are even Arminian or Pelagian (ever heard of the "free-will Baptists"?).

    A couple final points: The cofC are not mostly Arminian. Most of cofC are
    Pelagian or semi-Pelagian; named after the heretic of the 4th/5th century.
    John Mark Hicks is a true historical Arminian, but there are not many of him in our fellowship. We are much more man-centered in doctrine and practice.

    Also, you ignore the Refomed tradition that is in our own tribe's history (R.H.
    Boll, K.C. Moser, R. L. Kilpatrick, R. C. Bell, G.C. Brewer, just to name a few) when speaking about penal substitution, justification by faith alone, original sin, imputed righteousness, etc.

    Grace be with you -

  46. While I appreciate your efforts in starting this discussion, I found myself in almost complete disagreement with each of your points.  I feel that you are being very optimistic about the cofc, and because you referenced ACU, I'm inclined to believe that you aren't being dishonest with yourself, but have genuinely had these excellent experiences.  However, because I know so many others whose experiences are different than yours, I think you may be over-generalizing.   

    For example, as someone who has experienced a much different side of the cofc from FHU and Harding, I laughed out loud at your comment about a sophisticated view of scripture and teachers in cofc universities believing in evolution.  Have you never been to one of the Apologetics Press' Anti-Evolution conferences?  Around here, local cofc's host these nights and also go to the "Creation Museum" on vacation.  In fact, the cofc tradition that I grew up in views ACU and Pepperdine as apostate, heathen, liberals - It wasn't a strange Sunday to hear a lesson about the perils of abortion railed against, and just recently I heard of the preacher at my old congregation preaching against gay marriage.  

    There was also a strong political effort in the mid-90's to create a dry county in our area and elect officials who would support that.  The concept of being a Democrat and a Christian was laughable, and in college many of my democrat friends kept their political views quiet for fear of being lectured on the dangers of being liberal or worse, be shunned or receive a lower grade in class for not fully matching the University's beliefs.  My point in saying all of these things is not to tear you down.  Rather, I'm trying to show you a very different experience from the one you've had, to make the point that while you may be speaking truth about your particular brand of the cofc, your sweeping statements don't necessarily apply to the cofc at large.

  47. I think this is fair. My experience is limited. As is yours. Let's not say that ACU and Harding are the only options. I taught at Lipscomb and found the intellectual climate there very much like what I describe about. Perhaps Harding, under it's current administration, is the historical outlier as the school has tacked rightward. Even so, there are many on that campus fighting the good fight. And their fight is an appeal to our roots. Thus my point.

  48. Might I also add that ACU has probably changed a great deal over the last 15+ years and has broken toward the center.  When I graduated in 1995 with a B.S. degree in biochemistry I had not sat in a single lecture in any chemistry or biology class that explicitly mentioned evolution.  Not one...ever.  I also graduated with a 3.9 GPA, so I know I was in class.  The closest I got was a one-hour Honors Seminar on science and religion taught by a physics professor.  As a biology professor today, I can look at our freshman curriculum at a state university and see how different it was than the one I received.  I still feel amazed that I was able to compensate and make up that difference in graduate school.

    I realize some of the ACU faculty did believe in evolution, as they are still on faculty today.  The degree programs have improved considerably, but this is a recent phenomenon.  In fact, when I was considering ACU as a possible location for employment several years ago, I was told that evolution was taught but "we may not call it evolution."

    As to the other points, I think it depends on how you want to define it.  I partially agree with #1 that CoC may not deal with political candidates per se.  That said, I have also seen abortion, homosexuality, other political topics discussed directly from the pulpit.  It's also true that these issues are extremely important to members of the CoC.  We have members at my local CoC that routinely stand outside the local Planned Parenthood center and put on "silent protests" during working hours.  These topics also come up frequently in Bible classes, small groups, youth group discussions, and just about everywhere BUT the pulpit. I do not think for a minute that these churches genuinely believe Democrats make up more than a small fraction of the total audience these days. 

    Having visited Highland on several occasions and listened to their sermon podcasts for the last 5-6 years, I know the efforts that church has made to stay true to all 5 points you raised.  I long for a day that I could be part of a body like that of Highland.  Unfortunately, Highland is a fairly unique environment and you are blessed to be a part of it.

  49. HI Brian,
    Thanks for this. I do want to stress that I'm not trying to say that the CoC is some sort of beacon of liberal enlightenment. I'm sure some people, particularly those who have fled the CoC because of its backwardness in various areas, are a bit stunned that I'd have anything remotely positive to say about the movement.

    Still, I feel pretty confident with what I've written here. To be sure, particular churches and particular biographies within the CoC will diverge sharply from what I've described above. But I don't think contrary narratives are in any way a rebuttal. When we step back and take in the whole sweep of the movement, particularly from a historical vatangepoint, I think it's pretty clear that the CoC has been apolitical. And while this is changing, because all of America is becoming more politicized, our churches remain less politicized than many other conservative, generally evangelical, Christian communities.

    Regarding your point about science, again, I don't want to suggest that the CoC has unanimously embraced Darwinian evolution. We remain a fundamentalist movement in this regard. But I'd stand by my point that biologists in our schools could endorse evolution and keep their jobs. To be sure, university administrators, aware of our fundamentalist constituency, don't want our teachers to kick up a hornet's nest just for the hell of it, So, yes, we are careful. But I think that care is very different from demanding that all faculty members sign, annually, a statement endorsing a historical Adam and Eve.

  50. "But I'd stand by my point that biologists in our schools could endorse evolution and keep their jobs."

    I'm not sure there would be a job to have if the parents of these university students found out the teachers believed in evolution and could thus be teaching it to their children.  Or, at least, not any of the more conservative Universities.

  51. I have to say, I'm with Becca.  I was raised an Air Force brat and a "cradle" member of the CoC.  We lived in TX, AK, WA, CA, AR, and I've been a member of a church in TN.  I have never attended a CoC that wasn't politically opinionated, very unsophisticated (to borrow from you) in it's view of scripture, and having a view of end times that is much like the "Left Behind" series.  My family are of the Harding stock, as well.  My mom is a professor there, as a matter of fact, and has unfriended my husband on facebook in the past out of concern for her "associations" because he has been critical of Harding, his own alma mater.  I think if we could have found a church that is truly like what you describe we might still be a part of it, maybe... The CoC has been a very lonely place for us.  We have been shunned from more than one due to political views and sophisticated religious philosophy.  We are now, very happily, members of the episcopal church.

  52. All I can say is that I've attended CoCs throughout the Northeast (PA, OH, MA, NJ, NY, CT, ME), Tennessee, North Carolina and Texas and I've never seen, not once, anything you are referring to.

  53. There's a big difference in a faculty member endorsing evolution versus "teaching it to their children." I think you are missing that distinction. I'm not talking about what happens in the classroom. I'm talking about every member of CoC faculty being asked to endorse a historical Adam and Eve. We just don't have that at our schools. But you have them at leading evangelical institutions.

  54. Hi Richard,

    I fully understand what you're saying about the CoC being apolitical
    historically - in this I could agree in broad strokes.  I don't doubt
    for a second why you would have good things to say about the CoC.  No
    religious "group" has a monopoly on perfection and the CoC has
    historically possessed several positive distinctions, which you
    eloquently described. My fear is that these distinctions are eroding.

    Might I suggest one explanation for our slight difference on science? 
    ACU for years DID require that all faculty sign a statement that they
    were active members of the CoC.  Is this still in place?  Implicit in
    that signature was allegiance to a set of unwritten CoC creed/rule. 
    Administrators for the years probably assumed that a statement endorsing
    a historical Adam and Eve wasn't necessary because they weren't
    attempting to hire "secular" scholars from outside the CoC circle.  This
    is entirely speculative, I realize.  Apart from Pepperdine, however, I
    do think all CoC schools still have CoC requirements on who can/cannot
    serve on faculty.

    I'm teaching a Science and Religion course as a freshman seminar at my university and I'm constantly sending the students to your blog for answers to their questions.  Thank you for this blog and your efforts to answer the "big" questions that go far beyond the "flannel-board Christianity."

  55. I have not read all the comments so I hope I'm not repeating things others have already said...

    But in my experience, it is in fact the coC which is much more
    highly politicized—that is, more unreflectively political. Even the “churches
    of Christ” who are explicitly a-political, do so only as an outgrowth of their modern
    understanding of autonomy and a sacred/secular split. It is the evangelicals,
    in my view, who have better maintained an engagement and critique of culture
    and politics (Hauerwas, Wright, Yoder, among many others….) Name one church of
    Christer who has written on the subject of church and state with any real depth?


    Also in contrast to your observation, I have found the coC to
    be not as “sophisticated” when it comes to contemporary debates and
    discussions. Your example of coC school faculty universally believing in evolution
    is strange to me, since many in actual churches of Christ assemblies—not their
    schools—would consider someone apostate for holding such a view. So I’m not
    sure if you are talking about coC schools or churches. It seems that here,
    though, that evangelical churches are much more aligned to their schools than
    the coC.


    Perhaps a good example of being unsophisticated is the
    contrast of Arminian and Reformed, for both groups do believe in original sin
    (depending on one’s take), and the Reformed notion of total depravity was never
    meant to contradict the belief in the Imago Dei. Evangelicals, containing both Arminian and Reformed views, have allowed
    continued dialogue and the honing of beliefs on these matters. By contrast, the
    churches of Christ often come dangerously close to a Pelagian view of humanity,
    if they aren’t already well into those waters, by simply not understanding the debate.


    With regards to both eschatology and worship, I have found the
    coC (by actually taking part in these assemblies) to be behind the times in understanding
    what culture is and how the church should engage and differ from it, and head
    of the curve when it comes to being like our culture (being of the world, but
    not in it). My experience inside of evangelical circles is that they have
    better grasped the eschatological and missional nature of worship within the assembled
    community and in the life of the individual as the ongoing drama of the church
    through history, as read in the NT from Matthew to Revelation. Just the coC has
    its fringe legalists, so too does the evangelicals have their dooms-day
    prophets. But taken fairly, attempting to avoid caricature, I think the
    evangelical conversation about worship and eschatology is more theological
    rich, historically nuanced, and biblically sound. But that’s my view…

  56. ‘Low church’ perhaps means populist (a
    response to the fear of almost all authority and power—(a negative view of humanity)).
    I take ‘non-liturgical’ to mean that the modern man will not notice the liturgy.

  57. I don't believe that this accurately expresses what is typically meant by 'total depravity'.

  58. Not to really argue with Dr. Beck, but the cofC does have a "liturgy", in a matter of speaking. It has always been called the "order of worship", where I grew up. The generally same songs/prayer/communion/offering/sermon/invitation sequence was used at nearly every congregation I have met with. And many times the same song book (someone brought up #728b elsewhere).

    Otherwise, there is not a Book of Common Prayer, or Daily Office, or similar. Semantics, maybe.

  59. In my experience, it is in fact the coC which is much more
    highly politicized—that is, more unreflectively political. Even the “churches
    of Christ” who are explicitly a-political, do so only as an outgrowth of their modern
    understanding of autonomy and a sacred/secular split. It is the evangelicals,
    in my view, who have better maintained an engagement and critique of culture
    and politics (Hauerwas, Wright, among many others….) Name one church of
    Christer who has written on the subject of church and state with any real depth?
    Also in contrast to your observation, I have found the coC to
    be not as “sophisticated” when it comes to contemporary debates and
    discussions. Your example of the majority of coC school faculty believing in evolution
    is strange to me, since many in actual churches of Christ assemblies—not their
    schools—would consider someone apostate for holding such a view. So I’m not
    sure if you are talking about coC schools or churches. It seems, then, that evangelical churches are much more aligned to their schools than
    the coC.
    Perhaps a good example of being unsophisticated is the
    contrast of Arminian and Reformed, for both groups do believe in original sin
    (depending on one’s take), and the Reformed notion of total depravity was never
    meant to contradict the belief in the Imago Dei. Evangelicals, containing both Arminian and Reformed views, have allowed
    continued dialogue and the honing of beliefs on these matters. By contrast, the
    churches of Christ often come dangerously close to a Pelagian view of humanity,
    if they aren’t already well into those waters, by simply not understanding the debate.
    With regards to both eschatology and worship, I
    have found the coC (by actually taking part in these assemblies) to be behind
    the times in understanding what culture is and how the church should engage and
    differ from it, and ahead of the curve when it comes to being like our culture
    (being of the world, but not in it). My experience inside of evangelical circles
    is that they have better grasped the eschatological and missional nature of worship
    within the assembled community and in the life of the individual as the ongoing
    drama of the church through history.
    Just the coC has its fringe legalists, so too does the evangelicals have their
    dooms-day prophets. But taken fairly, attempting to avoid caricature, I think
    the evangelical conversation about worship and eschatology is more theological
    rich, historically nuanced, and biblically sound. But that’s my view…

  60. Consider this:  The Church is a “principality and power”. Why? Precisely because the Bible is so ponderous and dense, so open to individual interpretation, so obscure as to be practically useless. If this were not true, there would not be a different outpost of the church with their own flavor of Christianity on almost every street corner in the Western world. There is precious little consensus within the church on anything beyond the proper use of pot-luck suppers. Blame who you will (Satan, God, or humanity), but the disarray I see is empirical proof of the lack of objective truth within Christianity. The church is unnecessary and sometimes causes life-long harm, and belief in the Trinity is a hindrance (on both practical and psychological principles).  By the same token, having a “relationship” with an invisible man is also psychologically dubious, based on all we learn in this life of Reality.

  61. “But acapella worship? Acapella worship is so...uncool. Exactly. That's its genius. That's its prophetic protest and resistance to the cultural forces around us.”
    While I won’t argue that many in the evangelical world have confused amusement for worship, there is an equal and opposite danger in thinking that just because we hate doing it that God must love it. It sometimes seems as though people think that if it is beautiful or pleasing to us in any way that this necessarily means that it is more about us than about God, that it is therefore selfish will-worship and despicable to God.
    While I’d be the last person to mock acapella music in the church assembly, I have also seen many examples of counter-cultural evangelical worship that does include instruments—worship that was solemn and holy, transformative and passionate—worship that linked our minds and emotion toward our Holy God and his Word.
    But the idea that ‘uncool-ness is next to godliness’ just seems silly—at best, a knee-jerk response to the pomp and fashion of the celebrity evangelical youth sub-culture. It rings as true in my ears as does the argument that the Amish look is a prophetic resistance to contemporary consumer culture in America.  Again, I’m not against the idea, but is this the only faithful response?

  62. Ryan, don't confuse the choir of self-proclaimed sophisticates with corrections. As I commented above with a few examples, the entire post is rife with caricatures and historical inaccuracies.

  63. Regarding the word "choir" let's not throw the commenters here under the bus. I was the one who wrote the post, self-describing as "sophisticated."

    Please direct all ire at me.

  64. Hi Jr,
    A couple of observations.

    On original sin and the early church you say: the "historical church (from early church into second century and on)
    affirmed the point of original sin." I think the Eastern Orthodox would disagree with you on that score.

    You also say this: "Traditional Reformed churches worship acapella." I'm sure this is true, but I'm not sure what denominational group you are talking about. Who are "traditional Reformed churches" who are currently worshiping solely acapella?

    You also say, "You seem to be wrapping Reformed doctrine/tradition into the broad scope of evangelicalism and that is true but only to a point. It cannot be used as a sweeping evaluation." In my post I say "Not all evangelicals are Reformed, but a lot of them are" I hope, in that comment, to not be taken as setting up an equivalency. But I take your assessment--"this is true but only to a point"--to imply that we're close on this score.

    You also say, "The cofC are not mostly Arminian. Most of cofC are Pelagian or semi-Pelagian; named after the heretic of the 4th/5th century." That's an interesting claim. Regardless, you agree with me on this score--the CoC is very much NOT Reformed.

    At the end of the day, Jr, while I can appreciate your frustration with the fact that I personally and the CoC generally think Reformed theology is in error, you seem to pretty much agree with the post.

  65. In thinking back over my comments, I realize now I may have wrongly read the post. I assumed that this post was comparing a view of “popular” evangelicalism with popular coC. Perhaps my view is wrong, but popular churches of Christ is still largely reflected in periodicals like the Gospel Advocate and the Spiritual Sword. As I wade through these publication, the one thing that strikes me as unique about us in the coC is our endemic reactionary stance against other streams of Christianity, particularly reformed and high-church. Psychologically speaking, I’m not sure we could have an identify if we couldn’t construct it from a negative view of our brothers around us…
    Now if this post was meant to compare a view of the coC tribe from ACU (and it’s movement toward, or with, "post-conservative evangelicalism") and compare this with popular evangelicalism (Billy Graham, John MacArthur), then I guess I would agree with your assessment. But I must say, I find it interest how each person defines what is ‘popular’. For instance, in my neck of the woods, Mennonites and other Anabaptists readily consider themselves evangelical; it is not uncommon to hear various evangelical writers and theologians being mentioned approvingly during a sermon—however, center-of-the-road churches of Christ mostly still consider ‘evangelical’ to be a bad thing, rarely citing an evangelical with approval.  

  66. It would benefit you to get out more.  You use your own experiences peppered with a little bit of knowledge to come to conclusions that are way off.  I've been church of Christ, and please note the little "c", because they aren't the only ones going to heaven these days, and that church is such the wide spectrum where some even have musical instruments.  For example, have you ever visited the Northwest church of Christ in Shoreline, WA?  I've been to churches of Christ from east to west and they are as different as the people that worship.  Please make an effort to avoid rash generalizations that simply aren't factual.  By the way, a capella music is popular and therefore your argument that it's culturally not accepted and therefore looked at as "uncool" in today's culture is absolutely false.  I recommend some more experience and definitely more humility.  It is this type of writing and understanding that leads others away from the faith and is counter-productive from the Mission.

  67. First of all, McKnight didn't come up with that definition, David Bebbington did in 1989. 
    Second of all, as one who currently attends Wheaton College, most (if not all) professors in the science departments (biology, chemistry, applied heath science, geology and environmental science) affirm evolution and consider themselves "old earth." I think I understand what you are trying to get at here, but please try and acknowledge the difference between evolution and the historical adam and eve. Because there is a BIG difference. A really big difference. Also, I would pause before deploying language such as "unsophisticated." It seems taunting (which from what I can gather, that is also what you are getting at). Look into why these professors believe what they do. Read Dr. John Walton's: The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. (Dr. Walton is a professor at Wheaton College, teaching in the Bible and Theology Department) But seriously. Read It. You will find that perhaps it is not as unsophisticated as you have originally labeled.  

    lastly, I wanted to say that I too have struggled with evangelicalism. But lets move the conversation forward in an educated, informed and respectful way.

  68. Scot also corrected my mistaken attribution on his blog. Thanks for pointing it out here.

    I agree that my comments about evolution in the post is are the weakest part of my argument above. That said, here's a hypothetical that might get at what I'm after: Could I be a faculty member at Wheaton?

  69. Thank you for the opportunity, Richard. Grace to you.

    the a capella issue: I was working from your original statement in your
    post (Contrast #5) where you wrote that “within Christianity only the
    Eastern Orthodox and the Churches of Christ worship solely acapella.” I
    suppose I should have just asked for a simple correction on your part;
    for we are both well aware of churches of Christ that are not “solely acapella.” My point, therefore, was to point out that there are
    denominations that are like the denomination of the Church of Christ in
    that while some may have instruments, the norm is acapella. The most
    notable is the United Reformed Churches of North America (URCNA), many
    of which worship only acapella. (Well-known professors and authors such
    as Michael Horton, Robert Godfrey, Kim Riddlebarger. and R. Scott Clark
    attend such churches). Other smaller denominations that are acapella
    include the Free Church of Scotland, the Free Presbyterian Church of
    Scotland, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, the
    Presbyterian Reformed Church, the American Presbyterian Church, and the
    Associated Presbyterian Church.

    As for original sin, my
    statement was that the early church affirmed it. I made no mention of
    the Eastern Church disagreeing with it, only that it was affirmed from
    the beginning. My question remains: do you know what the doctrine
    actually states? Respectfully, your response to one of the comments shows that you are
    aware of a caricature of the doctrine and not the doctrine itself.

    affirm with you that we are “close on this score” regarding evangelical
    and Reformed. At times nuance is everything and I just thought the nuance
    was lost on the topics of eschatology and pop culture in worship.

    the CoC is not Reformed today, that does not mean we do not have
    Reformed roots or should not consider those
    in our history who have held to more Reformed views on doctrines such as
    penal substitution, justification by faith alone, original sin, and
    imputed righteousness. Additionally, there is an increasing wave of influence.

    We'll disagree here, but the CoC would do well to flee from the current zeitgeist by rejecting the palatable, man-centered, false theologies and instead adopting Christ's call to be hated for His sake. As Ignatius wrote in his letter to the Romans, "The work is not a matter of persuasive rhetoric; rather, Christianity is greatest when it is hated by the world."

    Grace be with you –

  70. I also notice in a reply to another commenter that you are explicitly comparing university differences and NOT personal differences. A good point, and an interesting way to limit the range of positions or beliefs to a more manageable size.

  71. This was enjoyable!  All I've ever known of the COC was that they didn't like women in ministry, other churches, or instrumental music in worship.  It was so harsh, especially the newspaper articles written by their pastors.  How interesting to learn that the COC is Arminian.  As a Methodist (Wesleyan/Arminian), I do believe in original sin, but our doctrine of prevenient grace allows us to focus on being created in the image of God.  I'm wondering, Dr. Beck, do you post your articles on a facebook account?  I'd love to follow your thoughts... 

  72. I would like to say that you cannot have evolution without something being first created, as to evolve you must have something to evolve from, hence creation.

  73. We won't really know which church got it right until we're dead and then it won't matter because we won't be coming back. Regarding the definition of evangelicalism... "an active mission to convert others" -- not true. We are not in the business of "converting" people -- who came up with that one? Our mission is to present the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ -- that's all... we're not responsible for results. Also, one thing that has always bugged me about the "Church of Christ" -- what about Jesus? What do you have against "Jesus" name? Just wondering. By the way, I feel sorry for you poor people who have to go through the Great Tribulation... or, maybe that doesn't exist. One day we'll know.

  74. So I'm just a smidge late in replying to this.... that's what I get for just discovering you and your work a few months ago.

    I just recently read a post you wrote about Rachel Held Evans and "what she wants." That post (and her work) really resonated with me because I, too, am struggling to find a church home that lands somewhere between evangelical and mainline.

    This post was really helpful and I share your critiques of evangelicalism (the popular kind, at least). I would be curious to know your thoughts on mainline churches, as well. That is, this post helps me understand why you landed in a Church of Christ rather than an evangelical church, but I'm not clear on why, given your progressive inclinations, you didn't land in a mainline church. Is it because of what you've said about the most important factor being one's experience of the local church rather than denomination?

    Thanks, in advance, for your thoughts.

  75. Have you ever read Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic by Currie? It is excellent. My husband preached in the Church of Christ. He has reconciled with the Catholic Church. I have also done so. It is interesting how similar are many of the Church of Christ teachings (and evangelical distinctions) with Catholic tradition. Indeed, it is clear that although protestants have only a portion of understanding of the fullness of Christ's Body, the Church of Christ seems to be seeking the portion that is missing from mainline protestantism and evangelicalism. It is worth a read if you are interested in discovering likenesses. In fact, I think whole groups of C of C members would reconcile with the Catholic Church if not dissuaded by cultural expectations and outward dissent because it recognizes the truth in being the living Christ on earth (works teaching) and the truth in accepting the Church established by Christ (who was the authority on establishment of the Church). Once a member of the Church of Christ opens his mind to the Truth that Jesus established the Church, and the Bible did not establish the Church, one can reconcile with the Church.

  76. YOU WRITE (Contrast #4):

    Revelation 1.1
    The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John...

    If you interpret as such; then, when Jesus said his return would be shortly, when the NT writers speak of his imminent return, you must feel that Jesus has already returned in the first century?

  77. From the following website there are statements re tenants that identify with Mormon--of the 25 basics of belief, at least 12 use in some manner book of Mormon as a validating support. Would appreciate a knowledgeable replay if these are correct and if not, what are the basic tenants of belief as published? Thank you ml

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