Baptists and Disciples: David Lipscomb Appeals for Unity in 1866

May 10, 2012

In 1866 Lipscomb called for a representative meeting of Baptists and Disciples–whom he characterized as “brethren”–to seek a way to foster unity between the two groups. He identified their common theology (including a common baptism), but also stressed their common heritage which, he claimed, stretched back through “eighteen centuries of persecution and martyrdom.”

For Lipscomb, Baptists and Disciples have:

  • common baptism
  • common rule of faith
  • common discipline
  • common Lord
  • common Heaven
  • common ancestry
Read his plea for churches to meet together with prayer and fasting so as to unite as one people.

David Lipscomb, “To Baptists and Disciples in Tennessee,” Gospel Advocate 8 (10 April 1866), 236-37.

Brethern:–The Savior of the world prayed that his people and his followers might be one–that the world might believe that the Father had sent him. The oneness of the people of God, the unity of the followers of the Lord in one body, is made a condition of the world’s believing in the Son of God, that that world might be saved from the woe of hell. Division and strife to-day separate the professed followers of the Savior, and the world in infidelity and sin is going down to the dark abodes of eternal death. In the face of this lawful consequence of division among the people of God, what are doing to bring about union and peace? Are we making the efforts and the sacrifices to avoid division and bring about union that the importance of the subject demands? We divide and separate, and in careless indifference perpetuate that division in despite of the prayer of Jesus, and as a consequence our fellowmen, our neighbors, friends, brethren, husbands, wives and children go down to death, how can we be held guiltless in the sight of God? The union of Christians in one body, in one faith, in one walk, directed by the same rule, is the demand of God and the crying want of the world. Shall Christians make no effort to comply with the demand of God, and supply this want of the world? We appeal to Baptist and Disciples as having many points of agreement to make a move in this direction. They teach a common rule of admission into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, to-wit: A penitent believer’s burial in Baptism, in order to a resurrection to a new and holy walk with God, they have a common rule of faith and practice for individual Christians, and book of discipline for the Church of God, the simple, pure, unadulterated word of God. They have one common Lord and Master, one common Heaven of rest and happiness after life’s trials and sorrows are over. They have, too, one common ancestry, one common history for eighteen centuries of persecution and martyrdom. Can they not live and labor together in love and harmony as children of a common Father? Our brethren, too, in Virginia, have set us the example of trying to effect a union. Shall we not follow their good example? Shall we not have a meeting either of men chosen from our respective bodies at large, or commend to the churches to meet together, with fasting and prayer to God, and seek to unite as one people. How greatly would our capacity for good be increased? What joy to the good of earth and the angels of Heaven, would such an effort cause?

Will our brethren, Baptists and Disciples, at once speak out and say whether we shall make the effort, and if so, how, and how soon.

Lipscomb on the Mennonites

December 30, 2011

In 1909 David Lipscomb received a note from Nankin, Ohio, describing how Allen county voted “wet” by 36 votes when 800 “dry” Mennonites refused to vote. The angry author laid the “responsibility of the result” at the feet of the Mennonites. The writer noted that since the “supreme power in our government is lodged with the people,” everyone must participate or else responsibility for negative results lies with them (the non-voters).

Lipscomb responded in a classic article entitled “Mennonites” (Gospel Advocate. February 18, 1909, pp. 204-205).  He defends Mennonite practice and says the idea of non-participation “did not originate with” Menno Simons.  When “Jesus refused [Satan’s]  offer” of the kingdoms of his world, he set an example for his disciples.

Others followed that example. Lipscomb cites Justin Martyr, Tertullian and Origen. He depends on Edward Gibbon, Johan Lorenz Mosheim and George Herbert Orchard for his history.  “Nothing in history is surer,” he writes, “than that the churches for the first three centuries held firmly to the doctrine that Christians should not take part in civil institutions. After the conversion of Constantine they were encouraged to engage in political affairs, and many fell from their steadfastness in the faith.” But not all, including the “Waldenses, the Wickliffites, and the Husstites” (quoting Mosheim).  And the Mennonites.

Lipscomb then offers his own theological comment on the practice of the Mennonites. He concludes his brief article with the following three paragraphs. They are a succinct statement of his convictions.

     These are only a few extracts showing the ancient and divine origin of the doctrine held on tis subject by the Mennonites. I believe this the teaching of the Bible, and the true end of the reign of God on earth will never be realized until the children of God work in God’s church. The kingdoms of this world are nowhere recognized as the kingdoms of God, but as the kingdoms of the evil one. They are to be borne and treated with as necessitated by the sinfulness of man, to be overruled by God for the punishment of evil doers, and essential to the well-being and government of the world until the rule of Christ is established. We are to pay our taxes and submit in all things that do not lead away from God into fellowship with these. We should always gratefully accept all favors and laws promoting morality and virtue. But we cannot take part in the human governments.

     I think no greater evil can befall the churches of Jesus Christ than for them to enter the field of politics, drink into the spirit of the civil powers, and look to them for help in enforcing morality and in carrying out the law and the righteousness of the Bible. The more widely the church and the State can be kept apart in their operations, the better for both. The reason of this is, they are diverse in  nature and character, and must be run on different and antagonistic principles. For a man, as a Christian, to enforce a principle of morality or righteousness on his fellow-man by civil law is persecution. The church of God is the embodiment of spiritual influences that conquer through love and self-sacrifice; the civil government is the embodiment of material influence and forces that conquer by physical power. The two cannot be moved by the same spirit or work harmoniously in the same hands. The civil ruler that would be moved by the spirit of Christ, that would die to save a victim from death, would not be a successful civil ruler. While the church and the civil government cannot work harmoniously in the same hands and in the same channel, and while some men are wicked and corrupt and all are weak and short-sighted, under the laws of God they may both be in the world, and yet his people be not of the world, and they may be helpful to each other. The church doing its duty must keep a moral sentiment alive that will help the world and afford a standard of right on which the civil government will rest, and the government can afford protection and help to the Christian. For this latter protection the Christian should pay his taxes and submit to all laws of the government not conflicting with the laws of God.

     I am always sorry to see Christians engage in politics.I am sorry to see them become interested in working to put others in office. I ams sorry to see them seek office; sorry to see them given office, for it demoralizes them and leads others wrong. I am glad to see Christians stand for God and his truth even when the opposite course seems to bring good. Much good of an earthly character, moral and temporal, is offered to lead away from God. Men must learn to stand like these Mennonites for the truth against temporal good.

“Thus, endeth the lesson. “

Who is My Enemy? New Book from Lee C. Camp

November 11, 2011

My dear friend, as well as colleague, Lee C. Camp has recently released a new book entitled:  Who Is My Enemy? Questions American Christians Must Face About Islam–and Themselves. Lee is Professor of Theology and Ethics at Lipscomb University in Nashville (TN) where I also teach.  

Lee uses a line from a prayer of St. Francis of Assisi as a hermeneutical principle:  “Grant that we may not so much seek…to be understood as to understand.” He focuses this principle in the light of Mirosalv Volf’s call for “double vision” in his book Exclusion and Embrace, that is, to look at any question from the other’s point of view, especially our enemies. To love our neighbors is to understand their point of view even if we might not agree with it.

Consequently, Lee attempts to understand Islam’s presumed orientation to war-making, and at the same time compare it with the Just War tradition in the history of Christianity. The results are stimulating and disconcerting.

The Jesus story, Lee claims, is nonviolent, and the leading theologians of the early church until the fourth century were also nonviolent. They opposed violence and war-making. Following his teacher and mentor John Howard Yoder, Lee suggests that a Jesus politic generates “a distinctive community that has its own particular, if sometimes peculiar, ways of life together” (p. 32). This community loves its enemies, seeks peace, rejects violence, and pursues justice. The Christian politic is a “politics of suffering, nonretaliatory love” (p. 37).

Interestingly, Lee suggests that Muhammad initially employed a similar hermeneutic. He “counseled nonretaliation” in his early years, but this changed due to excessive persecution in Mecca against his followers and the rise of his power in Medina. Muhammad now permitted his followers to defend themselves and even aggressively attack representatives of the persecuting power. Muhammad, at this time, was an advocate of self-defense.

This is the difference between the Jesus and Muhammad stories. Jesus rejected the use of violence but Muhammad employed violence and “war-making in his administration of justice” (p. 45). Muhammad sought a just society and used force to secure it. Jesus sought a just society and used suffering love to secure it.

Lee suggests that what developed in Islam after Muhammad was a classical tradition of war-making that is similar if not morally equivalent to the Just War tradition within historic Christendom.  The “criteria and limits upon war…paralleled in many ways the Christian Just War tradition” (p. 59). Islam, like Christianity (using Greco-Roman resources), developed the need for a just cause, declared intent, a legitimate authority, and limits for how to conduct war. The formal logic, Camp contends, of historic (e.g., Constantinian and Augustinian) Christian and Islamic war-making criteria is essentially the same.

But war is not always conducted on the basis of what are regarded as “just criteria.” Indeed, war-making in the European Christian tradition seems to arrogate to itself the right to transcend those criteria as needed. Whether it is the Crusades, or Puritan assaults on Native Americans in “New England,” or Sherman’s march to the sea, the Just War tradition failed to hinder unjust war-making. Lee recounts some of these stories; they are horrific. These ventures have at least one thing in common–violence against non-combatants or the redefinition of combatants so that it includes everyone living in the city (Jerusalem), village (Pequot), state (Georgia), or nation (Germany and Japan). As Lee states, the West likes the Just War tradition’s “formal logic–that war can be justified–but [it] does not like its constraints” (p. 95). These stories should be told in the West so that our national narratives might hear and take account of Western abuses of the Just War tradition.

The logic that extends transcends the constraints of just war-making in some situations in the West is the same logic that is utilized by Muslim terrorists. “Total war” in Western practice (whether “Christian” or the Enlightenment politics of liberal Western democracies) is similar to a terrorist “holy war”–they both violate “just war” criteria, particularly the death of non-combatants (including women and children). “Moral equivalency” is the contention and is thus the justification articulated by terrorists (whether some Muslims or some right-wing American militia). The logic that burned crops in Georgia in order to make the South “beg for mercy,” that firebombed German and Japanese cities in order to subvert civilian morale, and that nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki to force surrender is formally the same logic as Muslim or American (e.g., the Oklahoma City bombing) terrorism (p. 101). That is a chilling conclusion but one that Lee argues convincingly.

At this point in the book, Lee “takes stock” (chapter 14) and it is important to hear him carefully. First, “the founding narratives of Christianity and Islam are different.”  While Muhammad used the sword to end the conflicts on the Arabian peninsula, Jesus “employed the way of the cross to deal with” conflict (p. 105).

Second, “the mainstream of Christian tradition looks more like the Muhammad story than the Jesus story” as it has rejected the basic narrative of peace-making in the Jesus narrative.  He states this clearly: “I simply mean that the formal shape, the basic logic, of the church’s understanding of the employment of force on behalf of justice was more like the subsequent teaching of Muhammad than the teaching of Jesus” (p. 106).

Do we believe the peace-making ethic of Jesus is realistic? Jesus lived it; he is our model. He is a peacemaker, and they killed him. That is realistic. When we advocate peace-making, it will upset some…especially when we advocate it on Veterans Day. But it is, as Lee argues and I believe, the ethic of the Sermon on the Mount, the ethic of Jesus.

The Canons of Laodicea (364-365)

March 25, 2010

Canons of Laodicea…probably not the most interesting of topics except for a few (very few) but which I read through for a particular thing I am doing at the moment.  But, ah, such interesting particulars lie in the pontification of these clergy.  Listen to a few….with some, admittedly, irreverent (at times) comments attached.

Canon 15: No others shall sing in the Church, save only the canonical singers, who go up into the ambo and sing from a book.

No congregational singing.  And no singing except from a book (we want to make sure we sing the right stuff with sanctioned theology, I suppose). An “ambo” is an elevated desk, pulpit or area from which one reads/sings, in case you were wondering.

Canon 17: The Psalms are not to be joined together in the congregations, but a lesson shall intervene after every psalm.

I do like the fact that every Psalm should be explained rather than run together.

Canon 19: After the sermons of the Bishops, the prayer for the catechumens is to be made first by itself; and after the catechumens have gone out, the prayer for those who are under penance; and, after these have passed under the hand [of the Bishop] and departed, there should then be offered the three prayers of the faithful, the first to be said entirely in silence, the second and third aloud, and then the [kiss of] peace is to be given. And, after the presbyters have given the [kiss of] peace to the Bishop, then the laity are to give it [to one another], and so the Holy Oblation is to be completed. And it is lawful to the priesthood alone to go to the Altar and [there] communicate.

I’m glad I got that straight now.  The pecking order is real clear to me.  “Communicate” is to communion (the Eucharist).

Canon 25: A subdeacon must not give the Bread, nor bless the Cup.

A subdeacon may carry the wine to the altar, prepare the necessities for the Eucharist and read from the Epistles…but he cannot share the bread of God with the people of God, nor pray over the cup.  By the way, subdeacons serve under deacons.  Since there can only be a limited number of deacons, anyone else who wants to come close is a “subdeacon.”

Canon 28: It is not permitted to hold love feasts, as they are called, in the Lord’s Houses, or Churches, nor to eat and to spread couches in the house of God.

If you have read this blog much, you know how this really bothers me.  No more tables (e.g., spreading couches for festive reclining at tables) in the church.  But then again we have tables we don’t sit at or even stand around.

Canon 29: Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.

Sunday means rest, Sabbath means work.  And if you rest on Saturday, if you are a judaizer, well, you are going to hell.

Canon 44: Women may not go to the altar.

Well, of course. Since there are no tables either, then it seems they can’t go anywhere but stand in the audience.

Canon 52: Marriages and birthday feasts are not to be celebrated in Lent.

There are lots of rule for Lent; this is only one.  Too bad if you were born in March…no birthday parties for you….ever.

Canon 55: Neither members of the priesthood nor of the clergy, nor yet laymen, may club together for drinking entertainments.

This is my favorite, however.  No clubbing allowed!  I think we need a “Lipscomb University” canon–“neither members of the administration nor of the faculty nor yet students may club together for drinking entertainments.”  🙂   Actually, “club” here means to share the expenses.

Do you think these clergy had some control issues? Well, enough said.  Just doing a little “tongue-in-cheek” history but one with some pretty serious theolgoical issues lying underneath.

17th Century Dutch Arminianism: Dissertation Posted

March 18, 2010

Twenty-five years ago this month I defended my dissertation at Westminster Theological Seminary. I remember that I was confident but somewhat intimidated at the same time. It was a weird feeling. One goal of a dissertation is to know more than your Professors on the topic. 🙂 At the same time, they know some things you don’t and you don’t know which things they are.  🙂 Thus, confident but intimated.

The title of my dissertation–this will thrill only a few, very few–is: The Theology of Grace in the Thought of Jacobus Arminius and Philip van Limborch: A Study in the Development of Seventeenth Century Dutch Arminianism. My point was that classic (or Reformed or “high”) Arminianism is something very different from late (or “low”) “Arminianism.” In fact, I don’t think we should use the same terms for both. I suggest that “Arminianism” is a title that should describe an evangelical, conservative theology such as that of Arminius himself (and Wesley to some degree) while “Remonstrant” describes the broader, more Enlightenment-shaped theology of later (much watered-down, fairly Pelagianized) “Arminianism”.

So, Arminianism is one thing and Remonstrantism is another. The latter developed from the former but was influenced by modernity (Enlightenment rationalism) which reshaped it. Arminianism has much more in common with Reformed theology than it does Remonstrantism. I would suggest Arminianism belongs to the Reformation era while Remonstrantism belongs to the Enlightenment era.

The original contribution of my study is the exposition of Philip van Limborch (1633-1712) who was the leading theological professor of the Remonstrant Seminary in the mid-to-late seventeenth century in Amsterdam.

Limborch is of some significance for students of Stone-Campbell history. He was John Locke’s favorite theologian and Limborch fully embraced Locke’s empircism. They were best friends from the time they met at an autopsy in Amsterdam. Further, Limborch’s theology reflects many of the themes of Stone-Campbell theology, including a kind of “word-only” theory, conversion as intellectual assent, similar understandings of covenant, etc. It is not surprising to me that Limborch and Alexander Campbell would have much in common given their modernity, traditional theological training, and acquaintance of Lockean empiricism.

For whatever it is worth–25 years later–I offer my dissertation to the virtual community.  I wish I could rewrite it.  I would prefer more inclusive gender language–I use “man” throughout rather than “humanity,” for example. It is wordy at places and imprecise.  There is much to improve, but it is what it is.  🙂  It passed, which was the most important thing at the time.  🙂

Abstract of Dissertation

The dissertation addresses the problem of the theological relationship between the theology of Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) and the theology of Philip van Limborch (1633-1712). Arminius is taken as a representative of original Arminianism and Limborch is viewed as a representative of developed Remonstrantism. The problem of the dissertation is the nature of the relationship between Arminianism and Remonstrantism. Some argue that the two systems are the fundamentally the same, others argue that Arminianism logically entails Remonstrantism and others argue that they ought to be radically distinguished. The thesis of the dissertation is that the presuppositions of Arminianism and Remonstrantism are radically different.

The thesis is limited to the doctrine of grace. There is no discussion of predestination. Rather, the thesis is based upon four categories of grace: (1) its need; (2) its nature; (3) its ground; and (4) its appropriation.

The method of the dissertation is a careful, separate analysis of the two theologians. Chapters two and three set forth Arminius’ understanding of grace. There is considerable interaction with secondary literature in an attempt to come to an informed understanding of Arminius’ theology of grace. Chapters four, fie and six attempt to understand Limborch’s theology of grace. Since secondary literature on Limborch is scarce, this is the most original work of the dissertation where the original Latin sources are brought to bear on the thesis of the dissertation.

After careful analysis of the respective theologians in the previous chapters, chapter seven compares the two according to their differences and similarities. They differ on the original state of man, the nature of the fall’s effects, the natural ability of fallen man, the nature of the Spirit’s work, the meaning of the death of Christ, the nature of saving righteousness, and the condition of applied righteousness.  Arminius stands  with the theology of the Reformation while Limborch’s theology shows the influence of the Enlightenment. While they have some similarities, including conditionality, synergism, and universalism, these similarities are governed by radically different presuppositions as the differences demonstrate.  Consequently, it is not the case that Arminianism logically entails Remonstrantism.

The dissertation advocates a recognition of the fundamental distinction between Arminianism and Remonstrantism. It argues that the categories of historical theology ought to recognize this distinction. As a result, Arminius ought to be regarded as a theologian of the Reformation, but Limborch, and his Remonstrant brethren, ought to be seen as the advocates of a theology which undermines the distinctives of the Reformation.

Alexander Campbell’s Demonology Lecture in Nashville (1841)

October 27, 2009

Returning to some of my historical interests (which is probably not shared by many :-)), I have always been fascinated with Alexander Campbell’s take on the “spiritual system” as he called it, particularly demonology.

Campbell presented a major addresson the topic of demonology to the Popular Lecture Club in Nashville, Tennessee on March 10, 1841 (published in the Millennial Harbinger [October 1841] 457-480). He also conducted an extensive correspondance with M. Winans on the topic in 1841-1842 as Winans responded to the lecture. The lecture and subsequent correspondance are available online.

The address was printed in book form as An Address on Demonology: Delivered Before the Popular Lecture Club, Nashville, Tenn in Bloomington, Indiana, by C. G. Berry in 1851 (32 pages). The essay later appeared in Popular Lectures and Addresses by Alexander Campbell published by the Christian Publishing Company in St. Louis (1861). The essays were republished by Standard Publishing in Cincinnati (1863) and by James Challen of Philadelphia, PA (1863, 1864, 1866).

Campbell visited Nashville six times, as far as I can discover. His first visit was in Feb-March 1827, his second in December 1830, and the third in March 1835. In March 1841 he was engaged in his fourth visit to Nashville when he gave his address on Demonology, and would later return again in November 1854 for his fifth visit, and then in April 1858 for his final visit to Nashville.

Campbell highly praised the church in Nashville. Under the leadership of P.S. Fall, the First Baptist Church had removed themselves from the Concord Association in 1825 but renewed that relationship in 1827 on the condition that they could pursue a reformation on the grounds of the New Testament alone (see their letter to the Association published in Christian Baptist). This letter to the Association was sent after Campbell’s first visit in 1827. The church had recently begun to meet weekly to break bread.

During Campbell’s second visit he engaged the Presbyterian pastor Obadiah Jennings in an oral discussion. He reports that the church, still led by P. S. Fall, numbered 250 at the time. “This christian congregation,” he writes, “is so far advanced in the reformation as to meet every Lord’s day, to remember the Lord’s death and resurrection, to continue in the Apostles’ doctrine, in the fellowship, breaking of bread, and in prayers and praises.”

During his third visit to Nashville, he stayed for three weeks with the Nashville church which numbered “about six hundred members” (which probably includes the county and/or region itself or perhaps a mistaken estimation; however, Eastin Morris’ Tennessee Gazetter 1834 reports that the church had “456” members “of which 280 were colored”). Tolbert Fanning was its evangelist (see MH, June 1835). He stayed with Henry Ewing who was a frequent contributor to MH.

When he visited Nashville again in early 1841 Campbell was in the process of publishing two series of essays—a polemical discussion with Barton W. Stone on the atonement and another series on the “Coming of the Lord.” In addition, he was preparing for the beginning of Bethany College in the Fall. Apparently, this was a significant reason for his tour through Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville and then through central Kentucky (including Hopkinsville, Bowling Green, and Lexington). The Nashville Whig (March 8, 1841, p. 2) reports that Campbell mould make “an appeal to-night on behalf of the cause of Education and the claims of his new College at Bethany, Va., in the Reformed Baptist Church.”

Of course, Campbell also took the occasion to teach on the Christian system while in Nashville as reported by C. C. Norvell in the Nashville Whig (March 1, 1841), p. 2: “This gentleman, discoursed on the principles of Christianity, in the Reformed Baptist Church, in the forenoon of yesterday, and again at night. His sermons attract large crowds, and we may add, without pretending to pass upon the merits of his theory, that his compliment is not undeserved. We have rarely listened to a more finished or impressive argument, from the pulpit, than the discourse of last night. The distinct enunciation and Scottish accent of Mr. C. renders his delivery eminently pleasing.”

His trip through Nashville in 1841, however, receives no notice in Richardson’s memoirs. And though Campbell reflects on the general state of the churches in Louisville, Nashville and Cincinnati in his “Excursions—No. I” and “Excursions—No. II” (MH, May & June, 1841), he offers few details about his time in Nashville.

It was during this 1841 visit that he gave his public address on demonology on March 10 before the “Literary Club” at the Masonic Hall in Nashville. The speech was announced in the Nashville Whig on Friday, March 5. On the day of the scheduled address the following announcement appeared (Nashville Whig, March 10, 1841, p. 2): “Mr. Alexander Campbell, lectures tonight, by invitation of the Literary Club: his subject—Demonology and Witchcraft. The Club, we understand, have provided extra seats for the audience, so that the entire Hall, including the rostrum, can be occupied.” Apparently, they were expecting a large crowd.

Given that he only had a few days to prepare this lecture, the topic he chose is a curious one. The reason for his choice is evident from his applications in the essay itself. He understands the position that demons are the spirits of dead humans as subversive of any materialistic notions, that is, it is a response to infidelity. It is, Campbell writes, “proof of a spiritual system” and “a full refutation of that phantasm called Materialism.”

Here is the report of the speech that appeared in the Nashville Whig, March 12, 1841, p. 2:

“The somewhat novel subject of Demonology was discussed on Wednesday night, with much good taste and profound learning by Mr. Alexander Campbell, of Virginia. His argument was chiefly directed to the original and true office of the term Demon, as recognized in the Divine Scriptures, in contradistinction to its use by the early Greek poets, and its meaning as employed in modern times. The whole subject was treated as a theory of spirits, the learned lecturer entertaining the doctrine, as we understood him, that the disembodied spirits of the just, as well as the damned, exercise a decided though mysterious influence over the actions and destinies of the living. All are demons, in the original sense of the term, there being demons of good as well as demons of evil—the latter the subjects and especial instruments of the Prince of Darkness, Baelzeebub. The supersititons of ghosts, hobgoblins and appirations, were duly divested of their corporeal and incorporeal horrors, “raw herd, bloody bones” and all, and the doctrine of witchcraft treated as an idle fancy of the brain. The victims of these follies, in all ages, were referred to in a happy vein of sarcasm, and their manifold mental sufferings depicted with a fancy that proved that the distinguished lecturer has humor for the ridiculous as well as taste for the sublime.

To say that the lecture, as a whole, was highly creditable to the scholarship of Mr. Campbell, would be doing but half way justice to a very eloquent and finished production. As a “stranger in a strange land,” he merits the unqualified eulogy due to one whose acknowledged skill as a public debater and profound acumen as a critic, are not les distinguished in a literary, than in a theological point of view.”

The problem of materialism is lingering in Campbell’s mind. Since his last trip to Nashville, John Thomas emerged as a schismatic leader who affirmed a form of materialism regarding the state of the dead. As Thomas’ materialism became clear, Campbell was pressured by those inside (e.g., Winans) and outside the Stone-Campbell Movement (e.g., the Virginia Baptist Andrew Broaddus) to disavow his views. The proof of a “spiritual system” and of the conscious spirits of dead persons is partly a response to Thomas and insulates the movement from Thomas’ defection. Thomas was ultimately the founder of the Christadelphians. Campbell wrote a series of articles entitled “Materialism” in the September-December issues of the 1836 MH.

Campbell’s argument for a spiritual system would later be replaced, in Nashville, by a universalistic spiritualism in the person of Jesse B. Ferguson who came to Nashville in 1846 as the minister of the 350 member Spring Street church. It grew to 550, moved into a new building and then the church collapsed—both spiritually, numerically and physically. The numbers dwindled from 1855-1857, the new building burned in 1857, and ultimately Ferguson became persona non grata, dying in isolation from the church and city in 1870 (only three carriages followed his coffin to Mt. Olivet cemetery). It was in the context of the Ferguson affair that Campbell made his fifth visit to Nashville in 1854. He was not permitted to speak in Ferguson’s building. (His last visit to Nashville was in April 1858, according to Norton, Tennessee Christians, p. 80.)

In 1857 the reconstituted Spring Street church began anew in the old Spring Street building with 15 members (calling back P.S. Fall who had left the city for KY in 1831 when the membership was 250 members). Also the South College Street church began in 1857 with 3 in attendance as David Lipscomb preached the first sermon for the new community. By the end of the Civil War these two congregations represented 500 members (Hooper, Crying in the Wilderness, 203).

Campbell’s demonology essay, then, represents a middle ground between two historic controversies within the early Stone-Campbell Movement. Campbell battled the materialism of John Thomas on one end and battled the spiritualism of Jesse Ferguson on the other. In both cases the beginnings of the controversies were cloaked in titanic egos and ended with disastrous results. Nevertheless, the sage of Bethany won the day and his perspective prevailed within the movement.

This topic was apparently of great interest for Campbell. While the demonology essay evidences his interest in it as a response to infidelity, he also was interested in the topic from the standpoint of divine providence. This is not as evident in his Demonology essay as it is other writings, such as:

• “The Spiritual Universe–No. I.” MH, Fourth Series, 1 (February 1851): 64-66.
• “The Spiritual Universe–No. II. Angels and Demons–No. I.” MH, Fourth Series, 1 (February 1851): 66-70.
• “The Spiritual Universe–No. III. Angels and Demons–No. II.” MH, Fourth Series, 1 (March 1851): 121-126.
• “The Spiritual Universe–No. IV. Angels and Demons–No. III.” MH, Fourth Series, 1 (April 1851): 181-187.
• “The Spiritual Universe–No. V. Angels and Demons–No. IV.” MH, Fourth Series, 1 (May 1851): 241-244.

In particular, he is quite willing to speculate that God takes the lives of young ministers because he needs them to fulfill some role as good angels (“Mysteries of Providence,” MH [1847], 707).

Another interesting dimension of the essay is Campbell’s openness to the intersection of the spiritual world and this one. It is the power of the gospel that dissipates demon possession, but where the gospel has not yet gone demons still have that power. This has tremendous implications for missions and for what are called in the contemporary context “power encounters.”

More significantly, Campbell refuses to permit the Enlightenment (infidelity in his language) to dismiss the influence that the spiritual world has on the actions and lives of people. “That we are susceptible of impressions and suggestions from invisible agents sometimes affecting our passions and actions,” he writes, “it were foolish and infidel to deny.” The spiritual world is not boxed off from the material world. Rather, God uses both good and evil spirits to influence and act within the material world. The essay is part of Campbell’s rejection of Deism and the affirmation of God’s ever present action in the world through the spiritual system.

The “spiritual system” or “universe” is an essential affirmation of the Christian system for Campbell. It opposes Deism and infidelity. But it is not a spiritualism that denies the efficacy and sufficiency of the gospel itself. The facts of the gospel dissipate the ignorance of a world caught up in spiritualism (e.g., divination through demons) and they liberate us from the tyranny of the evil powers in the universe. Science did not accomplish this, though it aided our knowledge of God’s other book—the book of nature. Only the gospel can liberate us from that ignorance and tyranny so that we might live in the freedom of the Holy Guest (Spirit) who indwells us.

In this context, Campbell’s essay on Demonology is a kind of “back door” statement of the gospel against Enlightenment skepticism and Deism (infidelity). The essay, then, forms part of his case for the “Evidences of Christianity” (a series he began in the 1835 and a course he just began teaching at Bethany College).

Baptismal Rapprochement Between Southern Baptists and Churches of Christ?

June 26, 2009

Just as Zurich (“Zwinglianism”) and Geneva (“Calvinianism”) found sacramental common ground in the Consensus Tigurinus, my paper at the 2009 Christian Scholar’s Conference explored whether such a rapprochement is possible between Southern Baptists and Churches of Christ who, in many ways, are the credobaptistic heirs of Zurich and Geneva. Since there is presently a renewed discussion among Southern Baptists and British Baptists concerning baptismal “sacramentalism” and there is also a new openness among Churches of Christ toward a more historic Calvinian understanding of baptism as a means of grace, there is hope for some kind of “rapprochement” between Southern Baptists and Churches of Christ in the United States. With historical perspective and theological reflection Churches of Christ and Southern Baptists are potentially on the verge of a Consensus Americanus.

Generally, the Consensus united the Protestant Swiss Cantons in their sacramental theology and offered a mediating position between Zwingli and Luther which was ultimately Calvin’s own position. In particular, the sacraments, according to the Consensus, offer (praestat) what the signs symbolize (Article VIII), the reality is not separated from the sign (Article IX), and the signs are themselves instruments of divine grace (Article XIII). The Consensus bridged a gap between Zwingli and Luther by stressing the instrumentality of the signs by the power of the Spirit. The signs effect nothing by themselves (Article XII) but “they are indeed instruments by which God acts efficaciously when he pleases” while at the same time “salvation” is “ascribed” to God “alone” (Article XIII) because “it is God who alone acts by his Spirit” (Article XII).

1812 was a significant year for both Churches of Christ and American Baptists. In that same year Alexander Campbell, Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice were immersed upon their profession of faith in Jesus and embraced credobaptism as biblical theology. Their heirs, however, engaged in hostile and sometimes bitter disputes over the design of baptism. Generally speaking, conservative Stone-Campbell adherents—particularly among 20th century Churches of Christ—moved away from Campbell’s own Calvinian understanding of baptism as a “means of grace” to a positivistic watershed line between heaven and hell and conservative Baptists—particularly Southern Baptists—embraced a Zwinglian understanding of sacramental theology. However, there are signs that there are converging interests and theology among leaders within Churches of Christ and Southern Baptists.

Since 1999 a large number of monographs and journal articles have appeared in British publications that have argued for baptismal sacramentalism, that is, baptism as the “evangelical sacrament” that is a normative part of the conversion narrative and a means of grace (cf. Anthony R. Cross, “The Evangelical Sacrament: Baptisma Semper Reformandum,” Evangelical Quarterly 80.3 [2008] 195-217 which is available at Jay Guin’s website–see also his posts on Baptist Sacramentalism and the work of Stan Fowler). This movement has embraced a Calvinian sacramental theology. Indeed, the Baptist World Alliance has come to some agreement with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches on the meaning of baptism.

There are a growing number of Southern Baptists who are moving in this direction as well though they are reticent about sacramental language. Their linguistic hesitation is rooted in some of the same qualms and perceived baggage that is also current among historic and contemporary Churches of Christ. Nevertheless, there is a recognition that Southern Baptist practice has de-emphasized baptism. The most significant evidence of this shift is Broadman & Holman’s 2006 Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, edited by Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright.

Churches of Christ are more open in recent years to moving back to Alexander Campbell’s own original Calvinian understanding of the instrumentality of baptism as a means of grace. Campbell’s baptismal theology articulated an instrumental understanding of baptismal grace but at the same time valued character more than ritual and mercy more than sacrifice. A living faith that exhibited a transformed character was more important than the full enjoyment of assurance in baptism. However, few in mid-twentieth century Churches of Christ believed that faith without baptism was transformative. Baptism was regarded more like a line in the sand or, to mix the metaphor, a watershed moment.

“Convergence” (Stan Fowler’s word) or “rapprochement” (Caneday’s word in Believer’s Baptism, p. 304) is possible within the paradigm shift currently evidenced among some leaders of Churches of Christ and some Southern Baptists. In a paper entitled Consensus Tigurinus and a Baptismal Rapprochement Between Southern Baptists and Churches of Christ for the 2009 Christian Scholar’s Conference (which I have uploaded to my Academic page), I identified four points that are significant for this converging baptismal theology. I explored these in more detail in an earlier essay but in this new essay place them in the more specific context of discussion within the last decade. These four points are:

  1. Baptism is a normative part of the New Testament conversion narrative.
  2. Calvinian baptismal theology correctly identifies the soteriological significance of baptism as a means of grace.
  3. Baptism serves faith and is subordinate to faith’s soteriological function as baptism participates in the instrumentality of faith.
  4. Salvation, as a process of transformation into the image of Christ, gives baptism its theological importance and limits its soteriological significance.

As Southern Baptists move to recognize (1) & (2) and Churches of Christ are increasingly recognizing (3) & (4), convergence upon a biblical theology of baptismal grace is possible.  While significant differences still remain (especially as Reformed notions of regeneration and election lie in the background of some of this theological shift among Southern Baptists), I am convinced a new consensus is possible with the self-conscious adoption of something akin to a credobaptist Calvinian baptismal theology—which, in my estimation, is a biblical theology. Southern Baptists and Churches of Christ have an opportunity to live in harmony, practice a shared biblical theology of baptism and together promote the kingdom of God for the sake of the world.

St. Petersburg Courses

April 1, 2009

In December 2006 and again in December 2007 I taught at the Institute for Theology and Christian Ministry in St. Petersburg, Russia.  (Yes, it was cold…and dark except for only six or so hours a day.)

In 2006 I taught “Medieval and Reformation Church History” and in 2007 I taught “Systematic Theology.” The “Systematic Theology” course is my response to a list of 38 questions developed by the administration, staff, students and myself. So, it is not very systematic, but it covers the ground most important to Russian believers.

Both of these courses are available on DVD or MP3 for $25 each and both courses contain 40 hours of lectures. Other courses from such luminaries as John Willis, Tom Olbricht, Paul Watson, Richard Oster and James Thompson among many others are also available. One could actually get the knowledge base for an M.Div. by listening to these CDs. [Update: Unfortunately, it appears that the English materials are no longer available on the website as of 05/21/2009.]

The Institute is doing a wonderful work of training leaders for Russia and other former soviet states. It would be a wonderful place for someone to study theology, learn the Russian language and also obtain a cooperative M.A. from the University of St. Petersburg. Any potential missional disciples interested in Russia?

Medieval and Reformation Church History Course

I have uploaded the powerpoints for the “Medieval and Reformation Church History” course below. Warning: thye are large files.  These will help you follow the lectures if you listen to the audio but they make sense, for the most part, without the audio.

Medieval Catholicism and Orthodoxy (498 total slides)

1. Foundations of Medieval Christianity
2. Early Medieval Period
3. Missions, Theology and Liturgy
4. The Great Schism, 800-1204
5. The Collapse of Christian Europe

Reformation (361 total slides)

1. Late Medieval Context and Lutheran Reformation
2. Swiss Reformation and Unity Efforts: Zwingli, Bucer and Early Calvin
3. The Radical Reformation
4. The French and English Reformations
5. Catholic Counter-Reformation and Religious Wars

Systematic Theology Course

Below are the questions that I covered in the “Systematic Theology” (more like an Advanced Catechism) course in St. Petersburg. I have uploaded my all-too-brief summary answers to the questions for those interested (36 single-spaced pages). The summaries were guides for the Russian translators as they read the Russian exam papers. These answers briefly summarize what I said in class on each question. The audios, of course, are much more expansive than what is contained in these short summaries.

Creation and Fall

1. Why Did God Create?
2. What is the Importance of Creation and Humanity’s Role in It?
3. What is the Origin of Evil?
4. Why does God Permit Suffering?

Story and Redemption

5. What is the Role of Lament among Believers?
6. What is the Relationship between Scripture and Tradition?
7. What is the Kingdom of God?
8. What is the Meaning of the Lord’s Prayer?


9. What is the Economic Trinity?
10. Is Jesus God?
11. What is the Relationship of the Human and Divine Natures in Jesus?
12. What is the Meaning of Atonement?


13. What is Baptism in the Spirit?
14. What are the Gifts of the Spirit?
15. How Important is Trinitarianism for Christian Unity?
16. What is the Nature of Salvation?

Faith, Baptism and Discipleship

17. Why is Baptism by Immersion Important?
18. What is the Relationship of Faith and Baptism?
19. What is the Relationship between Faith, Works and Assurance?
20. What is Discipleship?

Christian Worship

21. What is the Nature of Christian Assembly?
22. What is the Significance of the Lord’s Day?
23. What is the Meaning of the Lord’s Supper?
24. How is Christ Present in the Supper?


25. Is it Necessary to Tithe?
26. What is the Role of Fasting and Confession in the Christian Community?
27. What is Church?
28. Upon what Must the Church Unite?

Ecumenical Questions

29. How Do We Relate to Those Outside the Unity of the Faith?
30. How Do We Relate to Other Religions?
31. What are the Strong Points of Orthodox Theology?
32. What are the Weak Points of Orthodox Theology?

Piety and the Saints

33. Are Icons Idolatrous?
34. Where are the Dead?
35. What Should We Teach about Mary and the Saints?


36. How Do I Interpret Revelation?
37. What is Hell?
38. What is the New Heaven and the New Earth?

Old JMH Articles: 1980s

March 5, 2009

Some are worthwhile, some are not; or, at least, some are more worthwhile than others.  🙂  You will have to be the judge.

Ministerial Education,” Magnolia Messenger 11.6 (June 1989), 11, 14.

Building on J. W. McGarvey’s article on ministerial education (Lard’s Quarterly, 1865, 239-250), the piece argues for a liberal arts education plus additional theological education for ministers. It is tailored toward the institution at which I taught at the time and is thus contextualized in significant ways.  The article cites Lard’s Quarterly as volume 3 but it is volume 2.

Tertullian, Gospel Advocate 130.10 (October 1, 1988), 51.

Tertullian is the fountainhead of Western theology and vocabulary.  This is a very general assessment of his importance at the request of the editor at the time.  Why did he ask for Tertullian?  I’m not quite sure. 🙂

“Are We Saved by Imputed Righteousness? (1) & (2),” Image 2.10 (May 15, 1986), 10, 17 and Image 2.11 (June 1, 1986) 16, 20.

We are justifed by the gracious gift of Christ’s righteousness. We are not saved by our own inherent righteousness, our own “doing” of the law. This piece does not take count of the “New Perspective” on Paul but nevertheless still stresses an important truth.

The Heritage of Alabama’s Restorer: J. M. Barnes Gospel Advocate 128.9 (May, 1, 1986), 276-7.

Justice McDuffee Barnes was a representative of the Tennessee Tradition. Educated under Alexander Campbell at Bethany, he was a pioneer evangelist and educator in south Alabama. He was a frequent contributor to the Gospel Advocate in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Peter’s Hypocrisy and Ours, Gospel Advocate 128.8 (April, 17, 1986), 244-5.

When the people of God erect barriers to fellowship that are not soteriologically grounded, they follow Peter into his hypocrisy.  This principle still holds true, I think.

No Private Interpretation,” Sound Doctrine 10.2 (April-December, 1985), 30.

2 Peter 1:20-21 stresses that the prophets of Scripture did not originat their own messages with their own imagination but were sustained by the Spirit.

Compassion: The Basis of a Wholistic Ministry,” Image 1.9 (October 1, 1985), 18-19.

Matthew roots the ministry of Jesus in his compassion.

New Items Posted: Baptism, Job, 2 Timothy

February 19, 2009

Continuing my quest to post previously published or presented materials, I have uploaded some new items–well, some old items (1990s) that are now newly offered on this website.  🙂

Baptism and Alexander Campbell. The 1990 book Baptism and the Remission of Sins (College Press), edited by David Fletcher, contained three articles I authored. They are posted on my Academic page.

Introduction (co-authored with David Fletcher) which situates the baptismal theology of Churches of Christ on the historic landscape of Christian theology and summarizes the chapters in the book.

Alexander Campbell on Christians Among the Sects. This article discusses the  rebaptism controversy, the Lunenberg letter, and Campbell’s attitude toward Christians among the “sects” (e.g., Baptists, Presbyterians, etc.).

The Recovery of the Ancient Gospel: Alexander Campbell and the Design of Baptism.  This article tracks the development of Campbell’s baptismal theology.  I suggest he went through several stages: (1) Presbyterian until 1812 (advocate of infant baptism), (2) Baptist in 1812-1823 (baptism has no relationship to salvation other than a sign), (3) Modified Baptist from1823-1827 (baptism is no longer a duty but is directly related to assurance and a formal reception of the remission of sins), and (4) mature understanding from 1827 forward (articulated in his “Ancient Gospel” series).

On my General page, I have posted two previously published articles.

Job.   “Job’s ‘Sanctuary Experirence ‘and Mine” is an article that appeared in Leaven (2000). It suggests that the movement from “hearing” about God to “seeing” God in Job 42 is a “sanctuary experience” that comforts believers in their tragedies, and comforted me in my own tragic circumstances. Job’s experience was not sui generis; it is the comfort in which God invites all believers and comes to them through faith.

2 Timothy“A Personal Word to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:9-22)” appeared in the 1986 East Tennessee School of Preaching and Missions lectureship book.  Paul’s last words to Timothy use the language of Psalm 22 which is a mixture of abandonment and hope.

Book Reviews.

The Disputations of Baden, 1526 and Bern, 1528: Neutralizing the Early Church by Irena Backus.  These “debates” between Zwinglian and Catholic representatives were critical in the resultant division of Switzerland into five Catholic cantons and five Reformed cantons (which is still true today).  Theologically, the focus of the discussion was the principle of sola scriptura.

Prophecy and Reason: The Dutch Collegiants in the Early Enlightenment by Andrew C. Fix.  Dutch Collegiants (small groups gathered for study and discussion) were the center of enlightenment thought in seventeenth century Holland.  John Locke, during his exile from England, participated as well as leading Remonstrant theologians such as Philip van Limborch.

Exile and Kingdom: History and Apocalypse in the Puritan Migration to America by Avihu Zakai. Puritans, though exiled from Europe, sought to establish the kingdom of God in America. Apocalyptic postmillennialism dominanted their self-understanding.