When I first met Todd Deaver several years ago, the first thought through my mind was to wonder if he was one of those Deavers. I mean, the Deavers that have retained a place of importance and influence in Churches of Christ over the past decades. The answer was yes. Coming from the same religiously conservative bloodline as Roy Deaver and Mac Deaver, I expected Todd to be of a similar ideology. He was. He was also very kind, quiet, humble and possessed a gentle spirit. When I heard him preach, he was articulate, precise, and left the hearers with no questions about his convictions. Those are all good things.
That may explain why I was so suprised to read of a new book authored by Todd Deaver that was titled Facing Our Failure: The Fellowship Dilemma in Conservative Churches of Christ. In the introduction Deaver writes:
“We don’t tolerate inconsistency among denominationalists or brethren we regard as ‘liberal.’ We highlight it and expose it. We advertise it far and wide as indisputable proof of their error. What then should we do with our own? … a theology that can’t be consistently applied is one that is fundamentally flawed. Some things must change.”
Deaver’s charge is that we often choose which issues affect fellowship, and which do not. The use of instrumental music in worship seems to be the one that all conservative brothers unite against. However, while united in their opposition to the instrument, they accept many diverse convictions on other matters. How does one decide which matters are essential for fellowship, and which can be tolerated? This is the question that haunts Deaver.
In the first chapter, using a series of articles in The Christian Chronicle as a backdrop, Deaver pursues tenaciously the task of demonstrating the ‘fellowship dilemma’ which lures him into writing this book. Heavily footnoted (almost every page), this 135 page book sets about to do one thing: expose the problem. There are no big solutions to the struggles presented within these pages, and this is on purpose. It can be regarded as an expose. It is a bit scandalous, making clear statements that are followed by specific annotations from such recognizable names as Rubel Shelly, Monroe Hawley, Larry James, Alan E. Highers, Gregoray Alan Tidwell, Wendell Winkler, F. Furman Kearley, David Miller, Jimmy Jividen, Wayne Jackson, Cecil May Jr., and many others. I am grateful that it is free from exaggeration, sarcasm, and emotional argumentation. It is not free, however, from provocative statements that fairly demonstrate his claims.
The author admits from the beginning that this book is not for everyone. Most evangelicals would be surprised at the kind of arguments and divisions that exist when one follows the teachings of some on the subject of fellowship. Churches have divided over issues that are not declared as important by the Bible. On page 101 Deaver writes, “If we were truly consistent, every practice over which we disagree – and there are scores of them – would be a salvation / fellowship issue, because in every case those in error would either be ‘liberals’ or ‘antis’ …”
In his conclusion are listed nineteen points at which current fellowship ideals are inconsistent. He says on pages 107-108, “We, who are in fellowship with each other, don’t even agree among ourselves about who should and should not be fellowshipped, even though we claim agreement on this point is essential for our unity.” With that staggering statement, Deaver leaves us to consider our own conclusions about fellowship, unity, and acceptance of those who differ from us in significant ways. In an appendix there is an application of his thoughts on the subject of Diversity and Divorce.
I hope that means that there will be another volume coming. Facing our Failure is important, but so is finding our way to a new paradigm for understanding these important issues. For now, Deaver is content to wipe off the glass of our theology and let us have a good clear look in the mirror. That can be uncomfortable. It should be convicting.
Todd Deaver surprised me. I’m sure he surprised some others. He has documented his points well, stated them clearly, considered potential objections, and has presented his case.
If you grew up among Churches of Christ, I have no doubt that this book would be of interest to you. I encourage you to buy it HERE. Thanks for reading!