The Jesus Proposal by Rubel Shelley and John O. York

A Review by Raymond Elliott

            This is a new book, having been published in the spring of 2003, by Leafwood Publishers in Siloam Springs, AR. Most brethren know that Rubel Shelley is a preacher for the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville. John O. York is "Associate Professor of Preaching and New Testament at Lipscomb University" in Nashville, Tennessee. He also shares the pulpit responsibilities with Rubel at the Woodmont Hill congregation.

            The material in this book has been adapted from sermons these brethren delivered at the Woodmont Hills Church. (p. 21) Though I do not commend this book, I do, on the other hand, recommend that every faithful elder, deacon, preacher, teacher and all Christians read this book very carefully. It is my humble opinion that the contents of this book is the most definitive treatise written during my forty-eight years of preaching that declares just how far these brethren have digressed from the simplicity of New Testament Christianity. The errors taught by these brethren are too numerous to list in this short review. You will have to take the time to read this volume for yourself to completely understand my statement.

            Basically, what is taught in this book is the old error of "Unity in Diversity of Doctrines" clothed in 'new wineskins'. I will endeavor to list some of the teachings found in this volume.

1. That religious divisions caused during the past 200 years were due to culture rather than theological reasons. (Preface)

2. That "Jesus Christ should mean more than denomination or theological tradition or method of interpreting the Bible." (Preface)

3. The authors are calling for unity among believers based solely upon an "orthodox confession of Jesus Christ as the Son of God." (P.20)

4. The Bible should not be interpreted by an individual but rather in a group setting. Believing that one could understand objective truths has been a major reason for the divisions that exist in the church. (p.29)

5. The church has been wrong in requiring that others have the same understanding regarding instrumental music and baptism in order to be acceptable to God. (p. 43)

6. Please observe this statement by the authors: "The local church for which the two of us preach is consciously trying to continue to sink into union with the body of Christ at large. (p.47). The authors include the religious world in general when referring in this statement to "the body of Christ at large." Sounds familiar? Isn't this the sentiment expressed by the Disciples of Christ?

7. Conversion is a process in which baptism is only a part. It is meant by this that there is no one 'event' at which time a person can know that his past sins have been forgiven. (P.48).

8. "Denominations are not sinful per se. More than that, they are surely inevitable and potentially valuable." (p. 63).

9. Diversity of doctrine is not a hindrance to unity. "But there is nothing inherently sinful about varieties of understanding, taste, and practice that create denominations." (P.64).

10. There was not a uniformity of organization in the early church. Nor the teachings on subject like spiritual gifts, understanding of Christ's return or baptismal doctrines. (p. 74).

11. That the Holy Spirit can work in various denominations as He did in the various congregations in the first century. (p. 77).

12. A relational with Christ should cause us to overlook errors taught by different denominations. (p. 83).

13. Shelly states "So long as repentance and faith (notice his order) in Christ as Savior is proclaimed as gospel, can we not grant that intelligent people of goodwill may come to contrary conclusions about nuances of baptismal theology?" (p. 87).

14. Shelly also affirms that there was no uniformity of conversions in the book of acts and that we have tried to force others to accept a biblical pattern of conversion that is not found in the Bible. He states: "I don't know what to make of the lack of strict uniformity in these conversions events in the New Testament-except that God is not bound to a pattern that has him doing things with uniformity, that God is more concerned with relationship than with regularity." (Pp. 88, 89).

15. York writes that we should "lay aside individual interpretations and should "listen to the voices of scholarship." (P.115).

16. Shelly declares that he knows good people who are more righteous than him even though they did not have a scriptural understanding on the teaching of scriptural baptism. Therefore, God's grace should cover them (p. 126).

17. Shelly looks with horror at his understanding of baptism when he was immersed as a young lad. That salvation was "God's part" and baptism was "man's part". He refers to such as "baptismal regeneration" and states, "How much more confused and wrong-headed could a baptismal theology be?" (P.130).

18. He thinks that when he gets to heaven, he might ask God when he was saved. This is because he believes that no one event occurred in his process of salvation wherein he could know that his past sins had been forgiven. (P.130).

19. There is no command given that would restrict observing the Lord's Supper only on the first day of the week. (P.186).