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Volume 21 Issue 1

Can biblical doctrine change? Most hold that Bible doctrine is a bedrock of principles in the Bible held and taught by the church based on solid and widely agreed upon interpretation. Thus, like many SCJ readers I took Basic Bible Doctrine class as a freshman (at Lincoln Christian College) where we had a pretty thick notebook from Professor John Webb that outlined a solid core of doctrines taught as basic to Christian belief. These were substantiated by multiple biblical texts. We learned what the Bible taught about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, salvation, the church, and last things. Later in my studies, I learned that various denominations had their own peculiar doctrines about certain specifics, but the basic bedrock of Bible doctrine has held secure.

Much later I also learned that Stone-Campbell heritage viewed "theology" with a certain skepticism that was potentially dangerous but did not view "doctrine" this way. Thus, Stone-Campbell heritage colleges offered Bible "Doctrine" class taught by professors with Bible degrees but did not teach "theology" classes or necessarily even have a professor with a theology degree among its faculty. Theology is where people got too far away from the bedrock of the Bible and its doctrine, where people overthought biblical principles that could lead to heresy, where outside cultural ideas comingled in ways that led to syncretistic distortion of the Bible. Thus, theology was unsafe while Bible doctrine was safe.

However, a couple of authors provide suggestions for rethinking this, and this does fall into some agreement with SCJ heritage as articulated by Alexander Campbell. David Neff writes in a March 2013 Christianity Today article that because doctrine employs a certain language in a certain time and place that this may necessarily change, saying: "Truth is eternal but the language of truth—precisely what believers believe, how they summarize it, and what dimensions they emphasize—changes. He goes on: "Doctrine is conditioned by events and movements." Then Alistair McGrath writes in Understanding Doctrine (Zondervan, 1990): "Doctrine is not— and never was—a substitute for Scripture. Rather, it is a learning aid for reading Scripture, a learning aid, it may be added, that can be corrected in light of Scripture" (30-31). And finally, Miroslov Wolf writes in Captive to the Word of God (Eerdmans, 2010): "As the life of the hearer/reader changes, the meaning of the text changes. Its well is inexhaustible and the ever-fresh water of God is flowing from its people whose lives are defined by constant change" (26). I take Wolf's comments to pertain not just to individuals but to communities—especially in times of radical change. And Thomas and Alexander Campbell defended the value of someone like Aylette Raines from being excommunicated for holding to univeralism, saying "he should not be rejected for an opinion per se" (Leroy Garrett, Restoration Review, January 1987, 8) In this, they uphold the value of discourse among believers that may challenge consensus doctrine.

So, in the 1970s when society all around was changing due to the Vietnam war, the protests, free love, and more, those of us of a Bible or Christian college felt the need for change in the church, which was pinned to the radicalizing of one particular doctrine, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Here was a biblical doctrine that had laid pretty dormant (except, perhaps for the rise of the Pentecostal movement earlier in the century) to both mainstream and evangelical churches. But now there was this need to experience belief not just to submit passively to a list of doctrine, however basic and true. What was rediscovered in multiple biblical texts was that being filled with the Holy Spirit upon entering into Christianity was normally actualized in a radically changed lifestyle, maybe in spiritual gifts—that need not be tongues speaking). So, now the doctrine of the Spirit—ignored as unimportant for centuries—became filled with important, new meaning in peoples' lives and remains so still.

We can go on to talk about other doctrine that has changed. Certainly, in the 1990s till now issues surrounding women in leadership of the church—as teachers, ministers, elders, deacons—is changing radically for many at the same time that women continue to gain ground in culture and society. As key biblical passages are reexamined, new evidence and hermeneutics rise, passages that seemed in the majority to promote male dominance in the church as an unchangeable doctrine now seem to have tilted to the majority to promote the rise of qualified women to key church leadership posts.

In the 2000s as the culture embraced that norm of people having "personal relationship," there was also a rise in wondering about God. Can we have a personal relationship with him? For that to happen we needed to see God as more personal, more like us and not austere, distant, formal, and to be feared. Thus, does God suffer? Does he change his mind? Bible doctrine had said "no!" he did neither of these. But as biblical passages were reexamined with fresh, contemporary eyes the answer seemed more to be "yes." First, the very project of God for Christ to come, experience, feel, everything we experience, including pain and suffering, and changing his mind was seen as transferring to God too. And then the open theism scholars said, what about all those passages, especially in the OT, which say God changed his mind—and surely when we pray and ask things of God, we assume our prayers can affect, even alter God's will for our lives and the lives of those we hold dear. So, the longtime doctrine of the humanity of Christ has ultimately softened the doctrine of God from views even set in some long-standing creeds.

So, how does this happen? How is doctrine changed? I think it begins with cultural change that creates new needs in people. As noted above, the need to experience God, the need to have a personal relationship with God, the need for women to feel equally valued by God, equally allowed to pursue the gifts and calling women have—these have caused major rethinking of certain doctrines. Yet, it is not just SCJ 21 (Spring, 2018): 1–3 2 societal change. Bible-believing people don't want to think or do anything that biblical teaching does not allow. So it requires qualified folks like readers and contributors to SCJ to do the heavy lifting for the church. We take on the challenge to reexamine the key biblical texts with fresh eyes and valid hermeneutics. We dig deep and do the research. We publish in places like SCJ. At some point the consensus begins to swing away from the former way of understanding and stating a doctrine to a fresher way to view and say things.

As a movement within the church, we as biblical and theological scholars in the Stone-Campbell Movement stand on a heritage that encourages us to keep theology and doctrine both fresh to understand and true to the Bible.

This issue of SCJ features three articles that encourage fresh thinking into important doctrinal-theological matters. Michael Williams surveys the results of clinical trials that have tried to prove the efficacy of healing prayer and encourages readers not to bind prayer's effectiveness to the rules of scientific study. Chris Heard, in a reprise of one of his plenary presentations at the 2017 SCJ Conference, questions whether learning biblical truth can be captured on a board game without major theological compromise. Kate Blakely finds favorable comparisons between the greatest theologian of recent history, Karl Barth, and the great, founding theologian of Stone-Campbell heritage, Alexander Campbell. Ben Snyder convinces that the decision to transliterate rather than translate a "technical" word like baptism leaves its meaning vulnerable to theological ideas not intended by the word. Steven Hunter's article on John Mulkey, a second installment from an article published in SCJ 18.2 (Fall, 2015), wants readers to understand Mulkey in historical perspective. However, it too is really about affecting theology because the real issue for Mulkey (as it was with Raines), whose perspective is on the edge (and leads to excommunication by the Baptists), is having the religious liberty to hold an unorthodox, but not heretical within the Stone-Campbell heritage, position. This is upheld in this case by Barton W. Stone.

Finally, James Gorman's article sheds new light on the earliest origin of the basic ideas of the Campbell Movement as being heavily influenced by the stated ideals of cooperation for the sake of evangelism from the London Missionary Society in the late 17th century.

I trust you will enjoy the challenge and contribution of these articles to your historical and theological perspective.

William R. Baker, Editor

Johnson University


This article offers a historiography of the origins of the Campbell Movement in the U.S. and proposes a revision. Analyzing accounts of denominational and American religious historians, this historiography explains how historians omitted the influence of transatlantic evangelical missions culture in favor of origins that seemed more useful or obvious based on later historical developments, personal agendas, and frameworks for historical interpretation. Alexander Campbell’s teleological construction of origins skewed subsequent historiography. Although one early denominational historian noted the influence of evangelical missions, denominational historians ignored his suggestion; they focused instead on Lockean origins of unity or Scottish origins of restorationism. W. E. Garrison utilized Turner’s thesis to suggest the frontier created the Campbells, whereas Nathan Hatch’s focus on democratization led him to see the Movement as “that most American of denominations.” Richard Hughes and Leonard Allen argued for Protestant Reformation, Christian Humanist, and Puritan origins. Utilizing newly discovered documents and a transatlantic scope of inquiry, the author recently argued that transatlantic evangelical missions culture of the 1790s provides the most comprehensive context for Campbell Movement origins. That is, the Campbell Movement’s earliest organization and documents emanated directly from the transatlantic evangelical missions culture and not from anything uniquely American.

Glendale Road Church of Christ


John Mulkey joined Barton Stone’s reform after leaving the Baptists. He began preaching Stone’s restoration gospel; however, eleven years after leaving the Baptists, Baptist records state that he had been excommunicated because of his newfound teachings. Mulkey had kept silent about the details of his departure until his character was impugned in their records. His reply was to write a circular describing his reason for leaving the Baptist church—which was the belief that his religious liberty had been violated.

Great Lakes Christian College


In contrast to alleged indebtedness to Baconian and Scottish Common Sense philosophy, Alexander Campbell’s basic hermeneutic calls for humility as the central feature necessary for theological interpretation. This “humbler herme - neutic,” a submission imperative, can also be found in Karl Barth’s dialectical approach to theology. This essay specifically examines portions of Barth’s CD II/1 in order to bring into focus his hermeneutic. Exploring both hermeneutics in terms of humility uncovers rich resonances between them and helps decipher the abiding significance of both, perhaps especially for Campbell.

Lipscomb University


In recent decades researchers have investigated the effectiveness of prayer by designing clinical trials using distant intercessory prayer as a treatment method for a variety of health conditions. Some studies claim to demonstrate a statistically significant result while others show no effect. This article surveys the most significant of these studies to determine if they demonstrate what their authors claim. The paper argues that clinical trials using prayer as a treatment option are not an appropriate subject for scientific investigation. In addition, it raises several theological objections to the assumptions underlying these studies.

Pepperdine University


Designers of Bible-themed games face the challenge of adapting biblical stories into a game format without sacrificing coherence with the source material. An analysis of three popular board games demonstrates each exhibits exegetical and theological inconsistencies that, despite the good intentions of their designers, risks alienating players, whose interest in gameplay is generally religiously motivated.

Asbury Theological Seminary


This essay explores the problems inherent in the practice of transliteration as translation. Using (baptizó) as an exemplar, it demonstrates that rather than reflecting the original meaning with anglicized versions of the original language, transliteration actually decontextualizes terms, imbuing them with meaning from the interpreter’s context or preformed assumptions. This practice also leads scholars to inappropriately treat transliterated words as technical terms when they were not used this way by the original audience.

Download book reviews for this issue.

List of Books Reviewed in this Issue

Chris R. Armstrong, Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians: Finding Authentic Faith in a Forgotten Age with C. S. Lewis
( (Robert H. Ritchie, Johnson University Florida)

Bryan Wolfmueller, Has American Christianity Failed?
( (Robin W. Underhill, University of Delaware – Georgetown)

Paul R. Hinlicky, Beloved Community: Critical Dogmatics after Christendom
( (Shaun C. Brown, University of Toronto)

David Zac Niringiye, The Church: God’s Pilgrim People
( (Shaun C. Brown, University of Toronto)

Brian Han Gregg, What Does the Bible Say about Suffering?
( (Matthew Sokoloski, Faulkner University)

Neil Ormerod, A Public God: Natural Theology Reconsidered
( (Joel Stephen Williams, Amridge University)

Paul Wallace, Stars beneath Us: Finding God in the Evolving Cosmos
( (Katy E. Valentine, Chico, California)

Matthew Levering, Engaging the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit: Love and Gift in the Trinity and the Church
( (John R. Kern, Boston College)

Clifford B. Anderson and Bruce L. McCormack, eds., Karl Barth and the Making of Evangelical Theology: A Fifty-Year Perspective
( (Kelly R. Bailey, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)

Philip Turner, Christian Ethics and the Church: Ecclesial Foundations for Moral Thought and Practice
( (Joel Stephen Williams, Amridge University)

William A. Dyrness and Oscar Garcia-Johnson, Theology without Borders: An Introduction to Global Conversations
( (Brian D. Smith, Dallas Christian College)

Evelyne A Reisacher, Joyful Witness in the Muslim World: Sharing the Gospel in Everyday Encounters
( (Andrew Wood, Nebraska Christian College)

Wm. Curtis Holtzen and Matthew Nelson Hill, ed., In Spirit and in Truth: Philosophical Reflections on Liturgy and Worship
( (Daniel Karistai, Hope International University)

Marion Ann Taylor and Christina de Groot, eds., Women of War, Women of Woe: Joshua and Judges through the Eyes of Nineteenth-Century Female Biblical Interpreters
( (Amy Smith Carman, Brite Divinity School)

J. Gordon McConville, Being Human in God’s World: An Old Testament Theology of Humanity
( (Glenn Pemberton, Abilene Christian University)

Richard S. Hess, The Old Testament: A Historical, Theological, and Critical Introduction
( (Daryl Docterman, Cincinnati Christian University)

John Pilch, The Cultural Life Setting of the Proverbs
( (Gary Hall, Lincoln Christian Seminary)

John Barton, ed., The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Companion
( (J. Blair Wilgus, Hope International University)

Iain Provan, Discovering Genesis: Content, Interpretation, Reception
( (Phillip G. Camp, Lipscomb University)

R. Mark Shipp, ed., Timeless: Ancient Psalms for the Church Today Volume Two: God Enthroned Forever. Psalms 42–89
( (Ken E. Read, Cincinnati Christian University)

Gary S. Selby, Not with Wisdom of Words: Nonrational Persuasion in the New Testament
( (Rollin A. Ramsaran, Emmanuel Christian Seminary at Milligan)

Stanley E. Porter and Bryan R. Dyer, eds., The Synoptic Problem: Four Views
( (Joseph Grana, Hope International University)

Jeffrey A. D. Weima. Paul the Ancient Letter Writer: An Introduction to Epistolary Analysis
( (Milligan College)

Mark D. Nanos and Magnus Zetterholm, eds. Paul within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle
( (J. David Stark, Faulkner University)

Paul Mark Robertson. Paul’s Letters and Greco-Roman Literature: Theorizing a New Taxonomy
( (James E. Sedlacek, University of Manchester)

Scot MCKendrick, David Parker, Amy Myshrall, and Cillian O’Hogan, eds., Codex Sinaiticus: New Perspectives on the Ancient Biblical Manuscript
( (Danny Yencich, Iliff School of Theology Murray J. Harris. John
( (C. Michael Moss, Ohio Valley University)

C. Marvin Pate, The Writings of John: A Survey of the Gospel, Epistles, and Apocalypse
( (C. Michael Moss, Ohio Valley University)

Joseph H. Hellerman, Philippians
( (Fred Hansen, TCMI Institute)

21.1 Quotables

Chosen by Ethan Laster
Abilene Christian University
SCJ 21.1 Quotables

Featured Quote:

Prayer is not primarily an attempt to conform God's will to human desires but to allow the Christian's own will to be reshaped by the Divine."

C. Michael Williams, "Clinical Trials on the Efficacy of Prayer: A Scientific and Theological Critique" (SCJ 21.1.73)

"The transatlantic evangelical missions culture provides historians a comprehensive and transnational context for understanding the origins of Thomas Campbell's Declaration and Address and the CAW."

James L. Gorman, "The Omission of Missions: Transatlantic Evangelical Missions Culture and the Historiography of the Campbell Movement's Origins" (SCJ 21.1.26)

"Viewing Campbell origins in the transatlantic evangelical missions culture offers a more globally aware and holistic reading of the early documents, which roots the Campbells in a vibrant missionary movement that captured the imaginations of evangelicals all over the transatlantic in the 1790s and early 1800s."

James L. Gorman, "The Omission of Missions: Transatlantic Evangelical Missions Culture and the Historiography of the Campbell Movement's Origins" (SCJ 21.1.26)

"In particular, the humbler hermeneutic orients the theologian towards God and God's action in a relationship of receptivity and obedience."

Kate A.K. Blakely, "Toward a Humbler Hermeneutic: What Karl Barth and Alexander Campbell Have in Common" (SCJ 21.1.42)

"Rather than enabling so-called 'objective' distance from God's person, theology conducted with a humbler hermeneutic cultivates the proper spirit in which Christians may interact with God's revelation, to come humbly to within an ‘understanding distance' of God, and to properly identify God's work in Christ and humbly and truthfully confess Christ's Lordship over all that exists."

Kate A.K. Blakely, "Toward a Humbler Hermeneutic: What Karl Barth and Alexander Campbell Have in Common" (SCJ 21.1.57)

"Transliteration as translation is the perfect Trojan horse because it espouses to reflect original meaning by using an anglicized version of the original language, which is little different from using the original Greek term. Paradoxically, however, transliteration decontextualizes terms, thereby inviting the interpreter to imbue them with meaning from the interpreter's context or preformed assumptions."

Benjamin J. Snyder, "Technical Term or Technical Foul? Βαπτίζω (Baptizo) and the Problem of Transliteration as Translation" (SCJ 21.1.92)

"…transliteration is poor linguistic practice. In the case of βαπτίζω, it reifies the term as a thing, rather than treating it as a verbal action. This incorrectly isolates it as uniquely ‘Christian.'"

Benjamin J. Snyder, "Technical Term or Technical Foul? Βαπτίζω (Baptizo) and the Problem of Transliteration as Translation" (SCJ 21.1.110)

"The belief that prayer is a worthwhile endeavor is not derived from nor based upon the results of any scientific study vindicating the power of prayer. To speak to the Divine and bring petitions before him is a matter of faith— a faith not in the power of prayer but in the one who hears these prayers."

C. Michael Williams, "Clinical Trials on the Efficacy of Prayer: A Scientific and Theological Critique" (SCJ 21.1.74)

"If a Bible-themed game's narrative stands in substantial tension with the text's theology, its designer risks cognitive dissonance at a minimum and potentially alien- ating an audience particularly familiar with the material."

Christopher Heard, "The Lord Determines How the Dice Fall: Exegesis and Theology in Three Recent Board Games" (SCJ 21.1.88)

"Yet randomization risks equating divine freedom with divine caprice, and a deity whose actions are wholly unpredictable would be as theologically problematic as one whose actions are wholly predictable; perhaps more so."

Christopher Heard, "The Lord Determines How the Dice Fall: Exegesis and Theology in Three Recent Board Games" (SCJ 21.1.89)

"Despite having doctrinal differences with the Baptists, Mulkey was content to remain in fellowship with them as long as he was permitted to believe and preach as he was so convicted."

Steven C. Hunter, "A Plea for Religious Liberty: Eleven Years after the Split at Old Mulkey" (SCJ 21.1.31)

"Mulkey departed from the Baptists, not because of a difference of doctrine, but because the Association persisted in refusing his rights of conscience."

Steven C. Hunter, "A Plea for Religious Liberty: Eleven Years after the Split at Old Mulkey" (SCJ 21.1.40)

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Volume 21 Issue 1

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VOLUME 21, No. 1
Spring 2018

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