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Teaching Evolutionary Science in a Christian College Context

Three professors from Christian colleges (including Jim Nichols of church-of-Christ-affiliated Abilene Christian)  discuss teaching evolutionary science to Christian undergraduates in a video at The BioLogos Forum (link):

Richland Hills and Instrumental Music

It was reported recently that the nation's largest church of Christ (Richland Hills in TX, 6400 members) has decided to add an instrumental service with communion on Saturday nights. By definition, churches of Christ don't use musical instruments in worship, right? I first heard about Richland Hill's decision via Mike Cope's blog where he re-posted an essay by Leroy Garrett. It has since been covered in The Christian Chronicle. Rick Atchley was quoted in the Chronicle saying he "...told the congregation the decision should help ease crowding at Richland Hills' two Sunday morning services. Moreover, he said, it will allow the congregation to "reach more people who need Christ." Frankly, the use instrumental music isn't fundamentally a big issue to me. We don't find a detailed game plan for worship in the NT like we do in the OT for a reason, I think, and arguments of exclusion don't seem adequate to me given the whole of scripture. On the other hand, about a decade or so ago, when we lived in Knoxville, a friend of ours had the habit of attending the Evangelical Free service on Sunday afternoon after attending the c of C assembly Sunday morning. We went with him once, and my observation was that I was distracted/bothered by my dislike for the style of music that accompanied the singing. Of course, acapella singing is also not a style of music for which I have an affinity, but regardless I've become accustomed to it via three and half decades of experience. So, as a matter of taste but not faith, I suspect I'd have a struggle (initially at least) with instrumental worship. And that's not to say that I have no appreciation for acapella music and the value of that tradition. In fact, I do wonder a little about the rational of adding instruments as a means to reach more people, as a missional tactic. There is probably some validity to that, but on the surface it seems like a close call as to whether becoming more like most of all the other Christian groups would lead to a wider or narrower catch in the end.

Lee Camp Controversy

Via Phil Wilson, our alma mater (Lipcomb University) and one of its professors (Lee Camp...our first couple years at Lipscomb we made Antioch church of Christ our church home and Lee was their campus minister or some such at the time) are embroiled in a controversy over reporting in The Tennessean regarding Camp's statements at the "Invitation to Dialogue: Conversations on Religious Conflict" at Lipscomb's Institute for Conflict Management. Apparently The Tennessean really botched its summary of Camps comments and the online discussion board/blog free-for-all/chaos ensued. Camp and Lipscomb issued a statement clarifying what Lee actually said. This is the best and worst of the net. It's cool that so many people so quickly and easily learn about what's going on and engage in a discussion. On the other hand, its pretty sad how ugly the tone of much of the "discussion" is (read the all the comments folks left for The Tennessean article).

The Analytical Student

Every once in a while (maybe once or twice a year), when I'm sitting in front of the computer and need to kill some time for some reason, I poke around on to see if I can find something interesting to read. The mission of that site is described as this:

There are thousands of Churches undergoing hostile takeovers and being changed into a venue of "Holy Entertainment" by the "community church" movement. "No one here will admonish anyone for worshipping God in what ever manner they believe to be correct. However, when someone subverts an existing Church by secrecy and deceit against the principles of it's founders and members... ...WE HAVE A PROBLEM!" The below listings are links to various church member sites where the members discuss what's happening at their church, and learn about the problems causing division and take-overs.

This past weekend, during such a moment of random browsing, I came across this post by a Rochester College student. Rochester College is located in the Detroit-suburb of Rochester and is affiliated with the churches of Christ. The student documents his/her concerns about Rochester College, focusing on the lightning rod himself Rubel Shelly and also the controversy surrounding a Black History Month (BHM) guest chapel speaker that plagiarized from an internet chain email of dubious veracity known as "Life Without Black People." In reference to the BHM speech controversy, the poster at concerned members links to a blog titled The Analytical Student that (link):

...aims to foster an intellectual environment in which analytical students are free to question the teaching and philosophies taught by Rochester College, both in its activities and assemblies.

The blog is interesting and represents a pretty good discussion of the issues related to the controversial chapel speech without much gratuitous bickering. Much of it is anonymous, but there are also comments from folks like Candace Cain, RC's dean of students, and Calvin Moore, president of RC's Student Action Diversity Committee (SADC). There was also apparently the formation of a Caucasian Support Group on facebook, in analogy to the already-existing African-American Support Group, thrown in for good measure. The poster (Tacitus) at concerned members summarizes his/her motivation in a postscript:

Note: My main intention in writing this (as well as the intentions of other Rochester student writers will be joining in this endeavor as well) to simply "let the truth be known" about what's going on at Rochester College. Rochester College portrays itself as a Bible-believing, conservative Christian institution, but it has shown itself to be anything but that. I hope that you will pass this information on to your friends and church members - it's time donors and visitors see past the facade Rochester College is putting on to attract and maintain students and funds. Final Note: This is only the beginning of the accounts of troubling incidents at Rochester College. I and other students will write more as time permits.

Also, the House of God Sessions, organized by Calvin Moore and RC's SADC, looks like it could be very interesting.

Unity discussion takes center stage at Freed-Hardeman

In an article of the same title, Bobby Ross Jr. in The Christian Chronicle reports on speakers from a cappella and instrumental churches discuss "What Will It Take to Be Together Again?":

In a year of high-profile events advocating closer ties between a cappella Churches of Christ and instrumental Christian Churches, speakers from both fellowships again shared the stage Oct. 14. But the purpose this time was not to tout the common beliefs and heritage of two groups that split 100 years ago. Instead, organizers of a "Contemporary Discussion" on unity at Freed-Hardeman University made it clear their focus would be on what still divides the Restoration Movement churches... Part debate, part Bible study, the discussion featured Ralph Gilmore, a Bible professor at Freed-Hardeman, and David Faust, president of Cincinnati Christian University, which is associated with independent Christian Churches... Gilmore begged Faust to "lay aside the instrument" for the sake of unity. But Faust said that would require Christian Church members to give up convictions and freedom in Christ. He likened the request to asking a cappella churches to give up multiple communion cups or Sunday school classes because some congregations object to them. Faust highlighted similarities between the two groups that a 1906 federal census first reported as separate bodies. Both groups - with a combined 2.5 million baptized members in the U.S. - believe that Jesus is Lord, baptize for remission of sins and offer the Lord's Supper each Sunday. "Instrumental music is not the focus of my faith," Faust said. "Christ is." Appealing for unity and a deeper love for lost people, he said, "Often, we are like two lifeguards who get in a fistfight on the beach while a swimmer is drowning." Gilmore agreed that the Bible requires Christian unity. But he said, "There can be no genuine unity without truth." The issue boils down to how one understands God when he's silent about something, Gilmore said. Ephesians 5:19 calls for "singing and making melody in one's heart to the Lord." That verse "tells you where you're supposed to pluck the string - in your heart," Gilmore said. "It's a purely vocal reference." The same logic that allows a piano in worship could lead to doughnuts and coffee in the Lord's Supper, he said. Gilmore said the Bible does allow "expedients," such as songbooks, to help carry out specified actions, so long as the tool does not change the action or "involve swapping something in the category specified with something else."


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