Preview of another ACU Book
By Earl Trimble
The February 1993 issue of The Christian Chronicle carried a "center-spread" article based on an interview with Dr. Douglas A. Foster, associate professor of church history and associate director of the Center for Restoration Studies at ACU. The interview dealt with several questions answered by brother Foster that were said to represent the "key ideas" presented in his soon-to-be-published book entitled Will the Cycle Be Unbroken? Churches of Christ Face the Twenty-first Century.
Dr. Foster's interview statements reflect his premise that today's fragmented status of our brotherhood compares with the rise and fall of the world's religious movements of the past and present. His referral to churches of Christ as a "movement" points up a misconception he has of the Lord's exclusive and unique church which Christ - not man - established. Foster's comparing the church alongside religious movements founded by men is a giveaway that he views the New Testament church in denominational terms.
What so many brethren who seem to be obsessed with changing the church fail to realize is the fact that the church revealed in Scripture cannot be changed. The Lord's church is not a movement. It is a scripturally established reality. It is going nowhere as to its moving away, or becoming something different, from its scriptural identity. Individuals, or whole congregations, can apostatize and have their candlesticks of biblical influence and identity removed or lost. Whole groups of Christians can leave their Bible moorings and become mere denominations, but they cannot change God's immutable Word, which is the seed of the kingdom that identifies members and congregations of the Lord's church.
Dr. Foster's Christian Chronicle statement presents solutions to divisive problems besetting our brotherhood, as he sees it. However, much of what he says is rather vague and ambiguous and is couched in language that could be taken to mean various things.
For example, in answering the question, "So what is the answer for us as a body of believers?" he replied, a personal "renewal" of individual members and an "awakening" in the entire fellowship of the church. Then in answering the question, "Do you think this is possible?" he said it would only be possible if the members have a "jolting, radical change" brought on by their having an "encounter" with God.
To the closing question of the interview, "Is there any hope for reversal?" he replied, "If you look at all of this from a strictly historical and sociological standpoint, the answer is probably no. But with God all things are possible. That's the message of the book."
Since Dr. Foster engaged in such "loose talk" in his interview, I wrote and asked if he would please explain and clarify four ambiguous expressions he used: renewal, awakening, encounter as with God, and "how does God make all things possible," that is, directly or through means.
I am happy to report that the good professor replied by letter, but he touched on the first two expressions only. He explained:
I realize that the term renewal is used by groups that advocate various teachings and practices connected with the charismatic/signs and wonders movement. ... By renewal I mean simply a renewed realization that we are dependent on God; a renewed submission to his will as expressed in his Word; a rejection of pride and self-satisfaction.
Are there, at present, members of the church of our Lord who do not realize that we are dependent on God? Are there those of us who are refusing to submit to God's will as expressed in his Word? Dr. Foster is indicating there are indeed many who need renewing in this regard. If there are such self-reliant, egotistical, and rebellious brethren in our brotherhood who are rejecting God's Truth today, the professor may know of it and know who they are.
Evidently Dr. Foster sees such a broad-based egotistic rebellion against "God's will, as expressed in his Word," that the demise of "the church-of-Christ religious movement" is inevitable unless God steps in through an "encounter" with us that results in a "jolting, radical change" of the brotherhood. This scenario is to be the thesis of his new book.
In a second letter Dr. Foster summed up the expression, encounter with God, as the "connection" that occurs through circumstantial happenings which causes one to realize God's love and offer of hope that "leads to one's surrender and obedience." In explaining his expression, all things are possible with God, he said:
I mean precisely what the apostle meant when he said 'I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me' (Phil. 4:13). Without the Spirit of Christ in us, all our plans, schemes, preaching, writing, etc., will never solve the ills now besetting us (Rom. 8:9).
In one breath Dr. Foster says he does not believe in "miraculous workings," and in the next breath he speaks of direct workings by "the Spirit of Christ in us" (Rom. 8:9). Too, Professor Foster said, "No one can know God except as revealed in his Word." Then he speaks of a "jolting, radical change" that brings us in harmony with God's will by means of our having an "encounter" or "connection" with God through means of circumstantial occurrence rather than by what is revealed to us in God's Word.
Why will learned brethren who are in such influential positions use such "loose" language that is uncertain and confusing rather than their speaking distinctly and precisely? Why does Dr. Foster use such Pentecostal terminology as personal renewal, brotherhood awakening, and encounter with God, if he does not wish to convey what the Pentecostals convey in using the same terminology? Why does the professor equate Christ's strengthening us (Phil. 4:13) with "the Spirit of Christ in us" (Rom. 8:9) and effecting success in "our plans, schemes, preaching, and writing"? If he does not believe in the direct operation of the Spirit in us, would brother Foster care to explain how God's Spirit accomplishes his strengthening and enabling us to succeed in carrying out God's will in our lives?
From Dr. Foster's statements in the interview, as reported in
The Christian Chronicle, we can anticipate another book
produced by a confused faculty member of ACU containing strange
and uncertain sounds and false implications which will further
divide the brotherhood.