The Crux of the Matter

October 18, 2005

Today I would like to recommend a great book focusing on current unity issues within the churches of Christ:

The Crux of The Matter: Crisis, Tradition, and the Future of the Churches of Christ
by Jeff W. Childers, Douglas A. Foster, and Jack R. Reese
Abilene Christian University

This is the first book in the “Heart of the Restoration” series by these authors. First the reader is given a fascinating look at the historical roots of the churches of Christ. The authors show that the message of these churches was articulated in the language of its time, the modern era, an age of science and reason. Then the authors address the current crisis in these churches as the world around them transitions to a postmodern mindset, one where the mechanically logical message traditionally associated with these churches has more limited relevance.

As they discuss the crux of the matter, they postulate that there are some issues that are more centrally important than others. Issues closely related to the cross are the core issues. According to the authors, the churches of Christ have a history of dividing over issues that do not really matter. That is, they are not the crux of the matter.

My hope is that we can avoid the mistakes of the past, where everything was made to be a core issue. History shows us that such an approach leads to division and not unity. I believe it can be demonstrated that the apostles did not take that approach. Let’s allow the scriptures to tell us what is crucial.

I believe that anyone attempting to bring about unity must contemplate a pivotal question: What are the crucial issues on which we must agree? This book addresses that question in a fresh, relevant, and urgent way. Clearly some conservatives in the churches of Christ are not comfortable with where this book seems to be leading. But the authors raise a question that we must consider if we are to make progress toward the unity for which Jesus prayed. I believe this book points in a constructive direction.


  1. I just started reading a newer book by Jack Reese, “The Body Broken.” I’ve not gotten through the second chapter (my wife and I are simultaneously doing a “Becoming One” study with several other couples using a book and study guide by that name, so it’s a little slow going) and already came face-to-face with something I’ve never seen a good answer to:What *do* you do when a person is publicly:1 – teaching things that you believe to be not only anti-biblical, but harmful2 – saying things about others that are just not true3 – “fill in the blanks” for publicly divisive behavioryet seems to be unapproachable?(I’m not *just* referring to some guy in the Pacific Northwest, either. No, really!)If you oppose them just as publicly, it caters to division and may even border on the same divisiveness this person is guilty of.If you leave it alone, it seems to cater to their divisiveness.

  2. Hey Mark, I’d be very interested in your comments on “The Body Broken” once you have finished it.I have a few opinions about addressing divisive situations but I’m not sure I have the final answer. I think my main responsibility is the safety / protection of my local congregation. If a publicly divisive person is affecting (or about to affect) my local congregation I need to warn my congregation and/or take other steps to protect them. If the divisive person is inside my congregation I need to follow the instructions in Titus 3:10-11. and Romans 16:17-18. That is likely to work better if the sound doctrine on the matter in question has been well taught to the congregation prior to addressing the divisiveness.I don’t think any of us should take it upon ourselves to be the anti-divisiveness police for the whole world. That only fuels division IMO. God will take care of those things. In the end though I think that we need to expect some “messiness” in the church. We should do our best to clean those things up but working with people tends to be messy in my experience.Thanks for the post,Alan

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