Since publishing my review of Michael Shank’s book “Muscle and a Shovel”, I have received several emails and reviews from people who disagree with my recommendation. I would thus like to briefly present some of the objections I consider legitimate questions, and attempt to answer them for the benefit of all.
In answering this objection allow me to first point out that Randall’s statement in the book was a general statement; it is not claimed that every Baptist church claims to be founded by John the Baptists but rather that such is generally this is the case. Second, the story being recalled takes place in the mid 1980’s and it is possible that Baptist doctrine has generally changed since then. However, it remains a fact that through time Baptists have indeed claimed John the Baptists as the builder and founder of their Church. In order to prove this one need only read the Porter-Bogard debate in which Mr. Ben Bogard (one of the most famous and outspoken Baptists preachers of his day) advocates freely that John the Baptist did indeed start the Baptist church. Beyond this one debate there are numerous other debates and works that could be cited to establish this fact, but this one shall do for now. Complaints from critics, no matter how passionately made, are the cries of either ignorant or misinformed constituents.
The second attack on the book is based on the concept that if a single error can be found in it, then the whole book must be disregarded as a result. The problem with this reasoning is that the book is not claiming to be the inspired, inerrant word of God. Rather, it claims to be an account of a man’s conversion and the arguments that caused him to rethink his salvation.
One of the errors people point to in the book is Randall’s interpretation of the word “works” in Ephesians 2:8-9. Randall takes the position that there are two types of works: works of the Old Law and works of faith. While it is true that there are two types of works the “works” being spoken of in Ephesians 2:8-9 are not a contrast between works of the Old Law and works of faith; Ephesians 2:8-9 is contrasting works of merit and works of faithful obedience. Though Randall is a little off on this point, his mistake does not discredit the entirety of his teaching.
The same type of critique arises later in the book when Randal discusses the “gift of the Holy Spirit” and takes the position that the gift referred to in Acts 2:38 is salvation. Among churches of Christ there are three basic positions in regard to the gift of Acts 2:38: the gift either refers to the Spirit himself, the gift of salvation, or the gift of miraculous abilities to the early church. Though I disagree with Randall’s position of “the gift” referring to salvation(I believe it refers to miraculous abilities – for an article explaining the three positions click here), I do not feel his entire teaching should be rejected on this ground. Though many disagree with my position on the Holy Spirit I pray that people will not discredit everything I teach because of their opposing position on this one topic.
Lastly, there are some who are concerned about Michael Shank’s occasional use of a curse word in recounting some of the actual conversations and events of his conversion. Were I the author I would now have included such words (Mr. Shank does black out the majority of the word though the reader is able to understand what was said), but since I am not the author I suppose that decision is not up to me. Mr. Shank in no way attempts to justify such language but rather presents it as part of his factual account of the conversations and events that took place. In one since I can appreciate Shank’s raw, honest approach in disclosing the type of person he used to be and attempting to recount the events just as they were, while at the same time, were I in his position, I might not have been quite so forthright.
All in all, I stand by my initial review of the book and still highly recommend it to others.
In closing, I would like to share a personal success story that came about in part as a result of this book. For the past three years Brother Joe Norton and I have studied on and off with a young man from a Baptist background. About a month ago I gave of copy of Muscle and a Shovel to him and asked him to read it while I was out of the country. The young man wrote me a few days later telling me he had finished the book and was trying to get some of his family members to read it as well. When I returned home we spoke on the phone for an hour and a half and he decided he needed to be baptized. After we baptized him the next day he admitted to me that Muscle and a Shovel had kind of pushed him over the edge in the right direction. I say all of that to say this: Muscle and a Shovel cannot replace the Word of God or having Bible studies with people, but I believe it can be used as a great tool in sharing the gospel, starting conversations, or giving people the push they need to do the right thing.