Dave Miller, Director of the Brown Trail School of Preaching, has written what is perhaps the most important brotherhood book since Goebel Music's Behold the Pattern, which remains an outstanding work. Miller's Piloting the Strait (published in July of this year) is both current and worthy of careful study. Subtitled "A Guidebook for Assessing Change in Churches of Christ," it analyzes trends occurring recently both in society and in the church.
Part I, "The Roots of Change," takes a look at cultural, theological, political, and scientific currents of the day. We are influenced greatly by materialism (19), agnosticism (20), the craving for entertainment (21), the loss of an objective standard (27), and evolution (33-44). Miller has pinpointed precisely the thoughts which have shaped this generation.
He shows how these ideas have infiltrated the church in "The Fuel for Change," seven chapters which comprise Part II of the book. Not only are we reaping the fruits of a generation of rebellion, we have witnessed the exaltation of emotion over reason and objectivity. Miller cites "brethren" who have adopted such unproductive and inadequate ideas. After devoting a great deal of attention to these matters on the part of those who are products of the Restoration movement, the author concludes the following.
If one did not know better, one would think that the church of our day is the victim of a conspiracy involving orchestrated efforts to expunge the true church from our midst (85-86).
The purpose of these first two sections of the book is to show that the church has followed the leading of society; in other words, the thinking and direction of the world has set the tone for "thinkers" in the church to follow despite Paul's admonition to avoid being conformed to this world (Rom. 12:1-2).
Part III deals with "The Mechanism for Change: The New Hermeneutic." Chapter twelve, "Aversion to Logic," is certainly the place to begin this discussion. Many have opened their theological windows in hopes that fresh breezes will blow logic away. But brother Miller focuses our attention on the way Jesus used Scriptures as well as the principles He used to interpret and understand what had been written in the Old Testament. In subsequent chapters he then examines popular concepts such as "the core gospel" to show how they depart from the methods Jesus used. Finally he demonstrates proper hermeneutical principles beginning with the one that many would gnash their teeth at: absolute, objective truth exists (171).
Part IV comprises the bulk of the book; "The Specifics of Change" are thoroughly discussed. Chapter titles include "The Assault on Worship," "New Preaching Style," "Church Music," "Lifting Up Hands," "Handclapping," "Drama and Dramatic Reading," "Female Leadership," "Religious Holidays," "Dedicating Babies," "The Lord's Supper," "Variety in Assembly Formats," "Embracing Denominationalism," "The Authority of Elders," "Moral Issues," and "The Holy Spirit."
This comprehensive look at recent innovations in the Lord's church is crucial to our continued faithfulness. Those who are younger may not realize how worship, preaching, and organization have changed in the past few years; they may not realize that these are not only departures from tradition-but from Scripture as well. Others may have questioned some of the alterations under way but accepted them for the time being. The material in this section discusses the changes some have already adopted (and they are completely documented); these alterations are then examined and analyzed in the light of Biblical teaching. This material alone is worth the price of the book; it needs to be distributed to as many congregations as possible.
"The Goal of Change," Part V, suggests motives for those who are at the forefront of the attempt to restructure the church. They are primarily the same as those of false teachers in the first century: some want their own following or-prestige or pride (Acts 20); some are as greedy as Balaam; and others promise "freedom" to those who have just been delivered from the bondage of sin (freedom from restraint).
Part VI is entitled "The Antidote to Change." Brother Miller begins this section with a discussion of "The Plausibility of God and the Bible." Proofs for the existence of God are offered, as are evidences for the inspiration of the Word. In order to come to the correct conclusions set forth in the preceding section there must be a strong and sound foundation upon which to build. The author starts at the beginning, emphasizing Truth and authority.
The Jesus of the Scriptures is presented in contradistinction to the inaccurate makeover given to Him by today's "change" agents. The church, God's plan of salvation, and the doctrine of hell must also be reaffirmed in today's preaching. The author suggests large doses of humility to help remedy our current problems. The epilogue contains suggestions for what faithful brethren can do to help while this excessive "drifting" is occurring. Piloting the Strait contains 528 pages and retails for $19.95. It may be ordered from Valid Publications for $17.00, plus shipping.
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