Jack Cottrell: In A League of His Own

With the retirement of Professor Jack Cottrell in the Spring of 2016, students will no longer be privileged to sit under one of the best theologians of our time. But Cottrell’s teaching will continue for generations.

CottrellThere are some theologians in life who will make a lasting impression and will influence thousands, if not tens of thousands, and yet may never grace the pages of any history book. They go about their writing tasks and teaching duties, year after year, laboring in hopes to make a difference in the lives of students and disciples they come into contact with. Their work is often done in the solitude of their book-filled office, although the effects of it are often felt rippling through higher institutions of learning and churches. Oftentimes their work arouses one of two reactions: consternation or edification. If it arouses consternation, it is because their work challenges a new innovative theology or cultural standard. If edification, it is because it encourages and strengthens those who ardently desire to grow in their faith and to know God better. These kind of theologians become giants of a sort, carving out their own niches, confident of their own convictions, unswervingly teaching Scripture, always being faithful, and always ready to instruct with gentleness and grace while never withholding the truth. This is no less true of the theologian Jack Cottrell, except I think some good reasons can be given to argue that he is in a league of his own. Continue reading

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Judge Me. It’s O.k. Really.

Judging“Hey, stop judging me! You can’t judge me and my beliefs!” How many times have we heard something like this? The implication of such exclamations are clear: someone’s personal beliefs about religion or morality are off limits—they cannot be discerned to be right or wrong. Beliefs are subjective and thus true for some and not others. Such a sentiment fences off one’s beliefs from being analyzed and weighed for validity. But is it true that we should not judge others? Are religious and moral beliefs really just personal opinions? I suggest that I want people to judge me and my beliefs, and it’s o.k. Really. Here are five reasons why. Continue reading

Posted in Apologetics, Philosophy, Uncategorized, Worldview | 3 Comments

Theology and the Demise of the Restoration Movement

Theology BalanceIn my last two posts (found here and here), I dealt with my thought journey concerning the Restoration Movement (RM). On the one hand, I noted that unorthodox theology had been a part of the RM from the beginning, particularly with Barton Stone’s theology concerning his denial of the deity of Christ and substitutionary atonement in addition to his acceptance of “religious exercises” (e.g., barking, cooing, etc.). On the other hand, the RM has had issues all along from the other end of the spectrum: a hyper-conservatism that has alienated Christians from other denominations through its insistence by some (beginning with John Thomas in the 19th century) that baptism must be understood to be for salvation if it is to be considered a true baptism. My thesis from these observations has been this: the lack of a theological framework has made the RM a movement with no definitive belief, thereby allowing the acceptance of heterodoxy and fundamentalism (legalism). Continue reading

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Reflecting on “Restoration”: The Necessity of Baptism and John Thomas

John Thomas_3In my previous post, I reflected on the Restoration Movement (RM) as it concerned Barton W. Stone. My conclusion was in essence that Stone and his views ought to be shown and acknowledged for what they were: unbiblical. This conclusion was based on the fact that he denied the deity of Christ and the substitutionary atonement. I also based it on the fact that the revival at Cane Ridge included “religious exercises” that do not appear to line up with biblical theology. In this post I would like to reflect on another key player in the history of the RM: John Thomas. I would assume that not many people (including those in the RM) recognize the name John Thomas. However obscure, my introduction to Thomas played an important part in my thought journey concerning the RM. Continue reading

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Reflecting on “Restoration”: Barton W. Stone

restorationI have been a part of the Restoration Movement (RM, hereafter) for most of my life. As far back as I can remember, my family attended a Christian Church or Church of Christ. Although I never attended many (if any) of the RM’s annual conventions (the North American Christian Convention, a.k.a. NACC), I grew up reading the popular weekly publications Christian Standard and the Lookout. I went to some revivals and attended as much church camp every summer as I could. I heard the stories about the glory days of the burgeoning RM that began in the early nineteenth century–about how many came to the same conclusion in early America that the shackles of “denominationalism” needed to be cast aside and how the Cane Ridge Revival set a fire in people’s hearts to pursue “New Testament Christianity.” My youthful mind was enamored with the “plea” (as it came to be known) to restore the church’s faith and practice of the first century as revealed in the New Testament. I was a dyed-in-the wool RM kind of guy. Continue reading

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Why Christians Ought to Embrace “Science” and Give Up “Faith”

Faith and ScienceIt is common to hear that science and faith are opposed to one another: science is about finding “facts” and giving “proof,” while faith is about “believing” without evidence. It is like having a brick wall that separates the two and never the twain shall meet. This sentiment is expressed by the well known atheist Richard Dawkins. He proclaims that the entire idea of God is based upon “private revelation rather than evidence” [1] , and that “faith is an evil precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument.” [2] For Dawkins and other atheists like him, scientific theories are believed because of the overwhelming evidence, and if evidence were found to contradict a particular scienctific theory, such a theory would be abandoned. But not so with faith. [3] Continue reading

Posted in Apologetics, Ministry, Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Science & Faith, Theology, Worldview | 1 Comment

Starving the Sheep: A Book Review of “Franchising McChurch”

McChurchIt was not long after arriving at my new home in Arizona that the church advertisements began flooding our mailbox. One piece, professionally done, had six of their “promises” to their new customers prominently displayed: “Exciting Kids’ Programs,” “Incredible Music,” “Inspirational Teaching,” “One Hour Service,” “Casual Atmosphere,” and “We Won’t Beg for Your Money.” All that a new customer shopping for a new church could ask for, along with an offer of a $10 Starbucks gift card to first time customers!

Is this what the church ought to be doing? Attracting customers by appealing to their every desire like a Wal-Mart, Continue reading

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Is Apologetics Really Needed? Answering Objections to Apologetics

Paul in Athens 4Apologetics, the study and practice of defending the Christian faith, has always been a part of the historical church. In fact, it dates back to the New Testament when the Apostle Paul entered the Greek city of Athens and debated the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (see Acts 17). The Apostle Peter even commanded his readers to always be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15; NASB). Defending the faith continued on after the apostolic era with Christian theologians and philosophers developing arguments for God’s existence, defending miracles, and providing good reasons to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he was raised from the dead. Even today, especially in the last several decades, Apologetics continues to thrive as apologists like William Lane Craig and the popular Lee Strobel develop and write about the arguments and reasons for faith in God and Christ. Continue reading

Posted in Apologetics, Ministry, Philosophy, Theology | 4 Comments

Preachers, Stealing is Still Wrong

Plagiarized SermonsIn his little book Should We Use Someone Else’s Sermon? Preaching in a Cut-and-Paste World, Scott Gibson discusses the out-of-control problem of preachers plagiarizing their sermons.[1] One minister, W. Banwell “Barney” Heyward Jr., lost his job after admitting to plagiarizing sermons from Tim Keller, minister of Redeemer Church in New York City. Another minister, Robert C. Hamm of Keen United Church of Christ, resigned when he was confronted with his plagiarism. In this case, Hamm had copied and pasted entire sermons from the internet and preached them as if they were his own. Example after example, Gibson relays how preachers are copying and pasting sermons, and then preaching them as if they are their own. The problem is clear: more and more preachers are plagiarizing their sermons. Continue reading

Posted in Ethics, Ministry, Theology | 2 Comments

An Open Letter to Mike Baker, Next Year’s NACC President

In my last post (found here), I reflected upon this year’s North American Christian Convention (NACC). In that post I commented upon “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of the convention, and concluded that the NACC was a mixed bag of philosophies, indicating that the NACC (and the Restoration Movement in general) has an identity crisis. Many left comments in response to my blog. One especially significant comment came from next year’s NACC president, Mike Baker. He stated, Continue reading

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