Posted in Church History, Doctrine

Three New Arguments (on the Instrumental Music Question)

The churches of Christ and the Disciples of Christ have been formally recognized as two groups of people at least since 1906. The division occurred over the formation of the American Christian Missionary Society and the introduction of mechanical instruments of music into public worship. D. S. Burnett played a prominent role in the establishment of the society, and L. L. Pinkerton of Midway, Kentucky was involved in the innovation regarding music. Pinkerton, in a letter to Ben Franklin, said, “So far as known to me, or, I presume to you, I am the only ‘preacher’ in Kentucky of our brotherhood who has publicly advocated the propriety of employing instrumental music in some churches, and that the church of God in Midway is the only church that has yet made a decided effort to introduce it” (Earl West, The Search for the Ancient Order, Vol. I, p. 311).

In passing years as more and more brethren demanded the change in worship, much discussion, disagreement, aggravation, tension, and separation followed. It was a sad time for the church.

Over the years many debates have been held on the music question. One of the greatest debates on the issue of scriptural music in worship was between N. B. Hardeman and Ira M. Boswell held in 1923 in Nashville, Tennessee. Boswell contended that the Greek word, “psallo,” used by Paul in Ephesians 5:19 and translated in our ASV as “making melody,” permitted the use of a mechanical instrument in worship. In his first affirmative speech he declared that he was attempting to prove that “To sing with or without instrumental music is scriptural” (Hardeman-Boswell Debate, p. 29). Neither Boswell nor any other disputant of whom I am aware ever committed himself to the position that the New Testament obligates worshipers to worship with a mechanical instrument of music in the song service.

Hardeman admitted that some instrument inhered in the word “psallo.” He took the tack that “psallo” did demand some kind of instrument. But in the passage, the particular instrument that Paul named is “the heart.” Boswell resorted to much lexical evidence for the Greek word which indicated that some instrument of some kind inhered in the word, but then he would not draw the conclusion that Christians today must use that instrument, whatever it was. In his second speech, Hardeman said, “It seems to me that Brother Boswell is in this kind of a predicament: First, God demands it. The word means it, and you cannot do what ‘psallo’ means without the use of the musical instrument. That is Brother Boswell’s contention, as from the lexicons to which he has referred; and then the next part is, notwithstanding the word means that and notwithstanding that idea inheres in it, yet I can leave it out” (Hardeman-Boswell Debate, p. 56). This was a fantastic moment in the history of the discussion!

In the debate Boswell’s weak position was completely routed, and Hardeman took the correct position on the music issue including proper handling of the word “psallo.” Hardeman’s effort was masterful. And when he took the position that the Greek word, “psallo,” did, in fact, demand an instrument, his approach was a complete surprise to Boswell. Boswell did not expect it!

In Hardeman’s biography we learn that Hardeman viewed his debate with Boswell as his best (James Marvin Powell and Mary Nelle Hardeman Powers, N. B. H., p. 195). We also learn the following:

Some twenty years after the debate, Hardeman met Boswell in Louisville, Kentucky. He told Boswell that he had heard that Dr. Carey Morgan, who at the time of the debate was pastor of Nashville’s Vine Street Christian Church, and J. J. Walker had stayed up nearly all night after the first session of the debate, trying to answer Hardeman’s argument, and revamp their own arguments. Boswell said that was true. Hardeman and Boswell remained friends through the years, though their paths did not often meet. There was mutual respect though their views were poles apart” (N. B. H., pp. 195, 196).

The issue has been debated much, and the history of the debates has revealed that on the polemic platform, mechanical instrumental music in worship has never been proved to be authorized by the New Testament, while singing without the accompaniment of any mechanical instrument of music in worship has been conclusively proved to be authorized.

Our preachers have defended the truth on the issue for years. Sadly, too many brethren now alive have become ignorant of history and are completely out of touch with Bible authority and, therefore, find mechanical instruments in worship harmless, appealing, and acceptable. How tragic!

Finally, let me by way of three new arguments, add to the history of the defense of the truth regarding scriptural music in worship. Consider the following:

First Syllogism:

  1. If the Old Testament authorized both singing and playing, then the Old Testament distinguished singing from playing.
  2. The Old Testament authorized both singing and playing (Psalm 149:1; Psalm 87:7).
  3. Then, the Old Testament distinguished singing from playing.

Second Syllogism:

  1. If the Old Testament distinguished singing from playing, then the authorization to sing by itself did not authorize playing anymore than the authorization to play by itself authorized dancing.
  2. The Old Testament distinguished singing from playing (Psalm 87:7; Psalm 149:1; Psalm 150).
  3. Then, the authorization to sing by itself did not authorize playing anymore than the authorization to play by itself authorized dancing.

Third Syllogism:

  1. If the Old Testament authorization to sing did not by itself authorize playing or dancing, then the New Testament authorization to sing cannot by itself authorize playing or dancing.
  2. The Old Testament authorization to sing did not by itself authorize playing or dancing (Psalm 87:7; Psalm 149:1; Psalm 150; Ezekiel 33:32).
  3. Then, the New Testament authorization to sing cannot by itself authorize playing or dancing.
Posted in By Weylan Deaver, Church History

Ignatius and the Bishop

By Weylan Deaver

Among other books, I’m currently reading The Apostolic Fathers, translated from the Greek by Michael W. Holmes. The so-called “apostolic fathers” are ancient authors who have left us the earliest uninspired Christian writings (from late first to mid-second century). One of them, Ignatius, may have been martyred early in the second century. His letter to the church in Ephesus (as well, his letters to other congregations) is disturbing for its seeming portrayal of congregational structure foreign to the New Testament pattern. For example, Ignatius wants the Ephesians to be “subject to the bishop and the council of presbyters” (To the Ephesians, 2:2). He writes that “it is proper for you to run together in harmony with the mind of the bishop, as you are in fact doing. For your council of presbyters, which is worthy of its name and worthy of God, is attuned to the bishop as strings to a lyre” (ibid., 4:1). Though the gospel knows nothing of a church bishop who is distinct from and superior to a “council of presbyters,” Ignatius goes so far as to say, “For everyone whom the Master of the house sends to manage his own house we must welcome as we would the one who sent him. It is obvious, therefore, that we must regard the bishop as the Lord himself” (ibid., 6:1). That is quite a claim! Ignatius writes, “I dedicate myself to you Ephesians, a church that is famous forever” (ibid., 8:1).

Whether or not “famous forever,” the Ephesian church figures prominently in the New Testament. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to them in the mid first century. Paul also wrote to Timothy, telling him to “remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3, ESV). Evidently, “different doctrine” was a genuine threat to the church at Ephesus. Toward the late first century, Jesus himself sent to the church at Ephesus, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Rev. 2:4-5). Earlier, Paul, in a face to face meeting with the Ephesian church’s elders, told them that “after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).

It is possible that, within a hundred years of the church’s beginning in Jerusalem, there were already departures in the leadership structure God put in place for congregational rule. But an error is not made right just because it is old. And, if “the bishop” in Ephesus is a scary thing to contemplate at such an early time in the church, we can take encouragement from the fact God had—through Paul—already warned the Ephesian elders years earlier that trouble would rise from themselves. Such warning is testimony to God’s omniscience, Paul’s inspiration, and the truth that Christians are never, whether back then or now, to veer from the gospel’s original design.

Posted in By Weylan Deaver, Christianity and Culture, Church History

“Hatred of the Human Race” (A Lesson from Nero Caesar)

By Weylan Deaver

An age that worships sin does not relate well to people who teach moral purity. The gospel of Christ demands godliness, as defined in the pages of his New Testament. The less the gospel is known and respected, the bolder sin becomes. That is how an ethically challenged culture can pit itself against God, who loved enough to send Jesus to die in our place: the supreme expression of divine love for humanity that, somehow, evokes derision, opposition, rejection. It explains how Christians who proclaim heaven’s ultimate message of love can be condemned as unloving, bigoted, intolerant, hateful just because they refuse to endorse homosexuality, Islam, skepticism, evolution, or other things contrary to the gospel. It explains how the Bible, whose principles once wove our national fabric, can now be considered “hate speech.” America is in a moral fog, wandering to the wrong side of reality. When Rome burned in July of the year 64 A.D., emperor Nero looked for someone to blame, pointing an accusing finger at the city’s Christians. In his Annals, Tacitus, the ancient historian, tells what happened. Christians “were arrested; next, on their disclosures, vast numbers were convicted, not so much on the count of arson as for hatred of the human race.” Two millennia ago, a godless culture decided Christians were too “hateful” to put up with. In the interest of power, sometimes a government has to do hard things. So, those “hateful” Christians were slaughtered by the enlightened who, we assume, had only love for the human race. Tacitus notes that “derision accompanied their end: they were covered with wild beasts’ skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and, when daylight failed, were burned as lamps by night.” Many see today’s society as more open-minded than people used to be. Loud are the voices calling us to tolerate diversity of every stripe, assaulting the walls of long held prejudice. But, the gospel is not about diversity, and therein lies the insuperable difficulty, as today’s confused masses seem unable to respond peaceably to the fact. That is why Christians now can be so vilified by the spiritually myopic, not unlike in the days of the progressive minds of ancient Rome. And so, let Nero teach us this: the more things change, the more they really stay the same.

Posted in By Roy C. Deaver, Church History

“Play On, Miss Bertha”

By Roy C. Deaver

[Note: This piece was written by my grandfather, Roy Deaver, many years ago, giving some of the sad history of the school that would in time become Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth–Weylan].

These words are sad words—some of the saddest ever uttered in all Restoration history. The dictionary says that “sad” means “…to be associated with sorrow.” Some words are sad because of their inherent connotations. Some words are sad because of the circumstances out of which they came. Some words are sad because of the consequences which they brought.

On Monday, September 1, 1873, in the pioneer village of Thorp Spring, in Texas, Thorp Spring college came into being. This year—1973—is the centennial year. In celebration, the ex-students of Thorp Spring Christian College held a reunion “on campus” July 21 and 22. At the time, I was in a gospel meeting at nearby Morgan Mill, and was privileged to attend the reunion. Brother Don Morris spoke on Saturday afternoon, and brother Foy E. Wallace, Jr. was the speaker on Saturday night. Because of my own preaching engagement I did not get to hear brother Wallace, but I did get to hear brother Morris. Brother Morris spoke on “Add-Ran and Its Heirs.” His lecture was tremendous. It will become an exceedingly valuable document in Restoration literature.

Brother Morris spoke at length about unscriptural organizations in Texas, and the consequent divisions among brethren. He spoke of the steps which led to the formation of the “Texas Christian Missionary Society” in Austin, Texas, 1886.

Brother Morris then discussed the introduction of mechanical instruments into Christian worship. He mentioned that the instrument was introduced “…first in congregations in Dallas, San Marcos, Waco, and Palestine.” He continued as follows:

“But the place at which the introduction of the organ received most attention was, without doubt, Thorp Spring, in Add-Ran College. The occasion was a gospel meeting in February, 1894. The speaker was B. B. Sanders, and the song director, E. M. Douthitt. These two often worked as a team and were known to use the instrument in worship. Before the meeting began, there was much discussion—on and off the campus of Add-Ran—about whether the organ would be used. As the meeting began, a crisis at Add-Ran was developing. It proved to affect the church throughout the state.

On February 20, 1894, the climax was reached. Before the service began, Joseph Addison Clark—the father and pioneer—and his wife took seats at the front of the auditorium. Their son Addison Clark, the president, arose to begin the service. Joseph Addison Clark arose, walked toward the pulpit, took a paper from his pocket, and presented it to his son. It was a petition. The petition was signed by the elder Clark and more than a hundred others, who asked that the organ not be used, on the ground that it was not authorized in the New Testament. Addison read the petition, conferred briefly with his brother Randolph, and then announced that he had promised the students that the organ could be used in the meeting and that he could not go back on his word. He turned to the organist and said, ‘Play on, Miss Bertha.’”

At this point, brother Don Morris was not able to continue for several moments. He wept audibly, and most of the audience wept with him. Brother Morris continued:

“As the organ and singing started, Joseph Addison arose with his wife and led the opposition out of the auditorium. He was a gray bearded man, seventy-eight years old, with a cane. About 140 people, according to Randolph’s son Joseph Lynn, followed the elderly Clark out of the building. Many in the remaining congregation wept. My father, who was a student that year, was present, and he told me many times about Uncle Joe Clark—how he appealed to the audience not to use the organ and how he led the group out of the auditorium.”

Brother Morris closed his great speech as follows:

“…we of Churches of Christ today are the real heirs of the first years of Add-Ran and of the gospel taught in the first Texas churches. This is true because today we continue in the slogan first used by Texas pioneers and the Campbells before them: ‘We speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent.’ This principle has been followed by the Thorp Spring Church from the beginning in 1873 until now. And we believe that this is the true pattern for church organization, for purity in worship, and for all things religious. To use this pattern is more important than excelling in numbers or affluence. We look to the New Testament as the guide in restoring the Lord’s church, and we pray that He may bless us as we attempt to follow it.”

And RIGHT NOW, more so than ever before in my lifetime—there are IN THE CHURCH those who are saying: “MISS BERTHA, PLAY ON!” May God help us to have the faith, the conviction, the courage of Joseph Addison Clark.

Posted in By Weylan Deaver, Church History

A Study of Crucifixion

By Weylan Deaver

Christians today see the cross as a symbol of salvation by divine grace. So did the earliest Christians two millennia ago. Paul would write, “But far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14). Crucifixion was anything but rare in the ancient world. After defeating Tyre, Alexander the Great crucified 2,000 along the Mediterranean shore. Alexander Jannaeus, king of Judea about 80 years before Jesus was born, is said to have crucified 800 Pharisees who rebelled against him.

Rome perfected crucifixion to a science, if not an art form. In 71 B.C., along the Appian Way, 6,000 followers of Spartacus were crucified in a victory celebration. When the Roman General Titus laid siege to Jerusalem (about 40 years after Jesus’ death), he was crucifying Jews at the staggering rate of 500 or more per day. Jewish historian Josephus writes, incredibly, that the Romans nailed the Jews on crosses in various positions “by way of jest.” It went on to the point they ran out of space for crosses, and ran out of crosses for new victims.

That Jesus should die by crucifixion was not unique, but the early church’s perspective on crucifixion was absolutely unique. It related, of course, not to just any cross, but to one in particular. The idea that anyone could love or glory in a cross would have been anathema prior to the gospel. Then again, the gospel changed a lot of thinking.

Before Christ, crucifixion had a gruesome history associated with nothing pleasant, much less with forgiveness of sins. It was the summa supplicium (Latin for “supreme penalty”), reserved for the worst offenders. A later Roman jurist, Julius Paulus, writing around the beginning of the third century, indicated there were three supreme penalties: beheading, burning, and crucifixion (the latter being the most terrible of all).

Being nailed to a cross and left to hang until death was such a horrific means of execution that, as a general rule, Roman citizens were exempt from facing it. Such a humiliating and agonizing demise was reserved for those guilty of murder, banditry, treason, desertion, sedition, and the like. According to Cicero, the statesman who died about 40 years before Jesus was born, “Far be the very name of a cross, not only from the body, but even from the thought, the eyes, the ears of Roman citizens.” Thus, a Roman cross, now cherished by millions, was, at one time, not a subject fit for polite Roman conversation.

Josephus, witness to many a crucifixion, called it “the most wretched of deaths.” And Seneca, born about the same time as Jesus, offered this insight: “Is anyone found who, after being fastened to that accursed wood, already weakened, already deformed, swelling with ugly weals on shoulders and chest, with many reasons for dying even before getting to the cross, would wish to prolong a life-breath that is about to experience so many torments?” To top it all, the law of God, given through Moses, itself placed a curse on anyone put to death by hanging on a tree (Deut. 21:22-23).

In a world where life could be cheap and death came in many varieties, why was crucifixion so despised? It robbed whatever dignity one had left, forcing the naked victim to endure pulsing pain in a public venue as an object lesson, often with ridicule and verbal abuse thrown in for good measure. By design, it was a lingering death. Some lived on a cross for days, exposed to humiliation, the elements, insects, and birds before finally expiring. After a brutal beating, Jesus lasted several hours on the cross (cf. Mark 15:25, 44; Luke 23:44-46). “Excruciating” is an English word for intense suffering. It comes from the Latin word excruciates, which literally means “out of the cross.” It was not just any death that Jesus endured, and we should be in awe that “being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8).

The concept of crucifixion was so odious to first-century sensibilities that people refused to believe a Savior could have been subjected to it. “The Old Rugged Cross,” so often preached and sung about, was a huge obstacle in the thinking of many. A victim of crucifixion did not fit the mold of the Messiah most Jews were looking for. And Gentiles of the Roman world found it difficult to embrace as a risen Savior someone who had died so despicably.

Opponents of Christianity even pointed to the cross as evidence Jesus was not divine. Minucius Felix, an early Latin writer, accused Christians of worshiping “a criminal and his cross.” No wonder Paul would state that “we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23-24).

Before there could be Christ’s resurrection, there had to be his crucifixion. We can scarcely imagine the initial misery of the act, and the subsequent difficulty of explanation in convincing the masses of what had just happened, in light of an ingrained prejudice against anything associated with a cross. “For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

Paul, who had been “baptized into Christ” (Gal. 3:27), so identified with Jesus that he could say “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). Who but God could turn a hated means of death into a beloved symbol of everlasting life?





Posted in By Weylan Deaver, Church History

“Compelle Intrare”

By Weylan Deaver

In Jesus’ banquet parable (Luke 14:12-24), the master sent his servant to gather up guests for the feast. His instructions were, “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled” (v. 23, ESV).

In Latin, “compel people to come in” is written, “compelle intrare.” From early centuries of church history through medieval times and beyond, the Roman Catholic Church leaned on a grotesquely twisted interpretation of “compelle intrare” in Luke 14:23, concluding that governmental authorities had the right to coerce people into the church. In a perverse marriage, Catholicism and the state were so tied together that the former could dictate the latter use deadly force against the church’s enemies. And, the church’s enemies included whatever men and doctrines were not in lock step with what the Catholic Church taught. Forced conformity to Catholicism was the glue holding society together. Naturally, if people were allowed to study the Bible for themselves, voluntarily practice what they believed from their own study, and freely preach their views, it would be a fundamental threat to the church’s power (and the crumbling of society, as they knew it).

Reformers such as Martin Luther are often hailed for their courage in confronting the status quo in religion (i.e. Catholicism). Yet, what they created in the Reformation was simply another state religion like Catholicism—only with certain different doctrines. In other words, while Luther opposed the Catholic Church, he very much endorsed the idea that the Reformed church could use force against its own enemies.

While the reformers (such as Luther, John Calvin, etc.) were battling Catholicism, there were others insisting that both sides were wrong in their concept of a church which forced itself on everyone in a given locale. The view of these objectors was that the church of Christ consisted of voluntary believers, and that it had no connection to the state; nor was it biblical to use force in spreading the gospel. They studied their Bibles and clung to their convictions. They also found themselves mercilessly persecuted by both the Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformers.

Martin Luther commissioned his friend, Urbanus Rhegius, to fight those who were calling for a church formed only of voluntary believers. Rhegius said:

“The truth leaves you no choice; you must agree that the magistracy has the authority to coerce his subjects to the Gospel. And if you say, ‘Yes, but with admonition and well-chosen words but not by force’ then I answer that to get people to the services with fine words and admonitions is the preacher’s duty, but to keep them there with recourse to force if need be and to frighten them away from error is the proper function of the rulers….What do you suppose ‘Compelle intrare’ means?” (quoted in Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, p. 74).

Those who thought the church and state were separate, that the state should not interfere with the church, and that the church should be organized along New Testament lines, were considered radicals and hated as enemies. One of them was Felix Manz, of Zurich, Switzerland. His goal was “to bring together those who were willing to accept Christ, obey the Word, and follow in His footsteps, to unite with these by baptism, and to leave the rest in their present conviction” (ibid.). In other words, Manz was opposed to coercion and held that the church should consist of true believers—those who wanted to accept and obey the gospel.

For his “heretical” ideas, Felix Manz had his hands tied around his bent knees, with a big stick shoved between his elbows and knees so that he could not move his arms. He was put in a boat and rowed into the Limmat River, where he was thrown into the frigid water to drown. The date was January 5, 1527.

Over the recent centuries, both Catholicism and Protestantism have had to back off of “compelle intrare,” but neither the former nor the denominations that sprang from the latter have gone all the way back to the primitive church’s organization and practice. Therein lies their insuperable problem.

If we, in the church of Christ, had lived back then, we would have been hunted like dogs by both Catholics and the Reformers. We are still at spiritual war with their religious descendants, but, thanks be, at least they cannot come after us today with a death warrant.

Posted in By Weylan Deaver, Church History

Thomas Campbell’s Desk

By Weylan Deaver

Solomon told it right when he said, “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). The number of books extant today would dwarf any library Solomon ever saw or imagined. As a preacher, my religious library has grown with time, including hundreds of volumes of greater and lesser value (though it is still small compared to many). Some I would hate to part with. Others just occupy shelf space. In younger days, I was driven to build up a library, thinking that more books translated into more advantage to a preacher. These days, it is only occasionally that a book is added to the collection and I am more motivated to actually read what is on the shelf, rather than be on the lookout for something new to place on the shelf.

Good books can aid immeasurably in Bible study, depending on the caliber of their content, and assuming they are read with a discerning eye, educated in the Scriptures. Though an advocate of helpful books, I was, nevertheless, struck by an observation that Alexander Campbell made about his father:

“In my boyhood, when entering into his study, in which he had a large and well-assorted library, I was wont to wonder on seeing, with a very few exceptions, only his Bible and Concordance on the table, with a simple outfit of pen, ink, and paper. Whether he had read all these volumes, and cared nothing more for them, or whether he regarded them as wholly useless, I presumed not to inquire, and dared not to decide. But such was the fact” (Memoirs of Elder Thomas Campbell, p. 271).

Isn’t that what it ought to come down to? For all that can be said in favor of things like commentaries (bad examples of which can do much harm), there is nothing to take the place of a man alone with his Bible. It is easy for our perceptions to be colored by something read elsewhere, and we may end up missing what the Bible actually says because we have been helped into a misunderstanding by an unhelpful book (or article, preacher, etc.). Whatever benefit we reap from other sources, we will always need open Bibles, prayerful hearts, and minds keen to learn exactly what God wrote. And, perhaps, the church would be in better shape if, along with having his honesty of heart, more of our preachers had desks like Thomas Campbell’s.


Posted in By Weylan Deaver, Church History

An Incredible Tale of Influence

By Weylan Deaver

One man can have lasting effect on multitudes, even after death. Nicholas Brodie Hardeman was a premier preacher, debater and educator in the first half of the twentieth century. In Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, he preached the gospel to multiplied thousands, the sermons from which can still be read. He debated truth’s cause, to great effect, with prominent digressives and denominational preachers. He trained preachers in a college named for him. My grandfather, Roy C. Deaver, studied at Freed-Hardeman College in the 1940’s and, after graduating, stayed an extra year to study Hardeman. A half-century later, I would graduate from Freed-Hardeman University. What becomes monumental with time can begin with a modest tale of Christian influence, and Earl West relates just such a remarkable story (Search for the Ancient Order, vol. 4, pp. 155-156).

In 1890 an Alabama preacher named J. A. Minton goes to Milledgeville, Tennessee. His preaching career is young at the time (West describes him as “one of those relatively obscure preachers who just floated around burdened with the desire to preach the gospel, save souls, and establish congregations”). Minton begins preaching in an empty store. He meets the town’s wealthy physician, who subscribes to no religion, and is certainly not a Christian. With Minton’s effort, the doctor learns the gospel. Minton baptizes him into Christ, along with several of his family. The doctor’s name is J. B. Hardeman, who has a sixteen-year old son, Nicholas Brodie, who, thanks to Minton’s converting his family, will, himself, obey the gospel that fall when he enrolls at West Tennessee Christian College (being baptized by a professor, R. P. Meeks). N. B. Hardeman grows into a great Bible student, holding rapt attention with a gentleman’s presence, a scholar’s demeanor, and a polished orator’s style in presenting heaven’s simple message that had saved his father, Dr. Hardeman, back in Milledgeville.

But all contact between Hardeman and Minton is lost. Minton, whose work had brought the Hardemans to Christ, moves west, where he acquires land and meets financial success. He buys a hotel in Sayre, Oklahoma, the town where he preaches. Sadly, as division within the Lord’s body wreaks havoc, Minton sides with the Christian Church (which embraced unauthorized practice, such as instrumental music in worship).

In June 1948 Hardeman travels to Sayre to preach a meeting. He stays in the hotel owned by Minton and the two get reacquainted. It has been fifty-eight years since Minton visited a small Tennessee town and taught the gospel to Hardeman’s father. The now-aged preachers reminisce on times long past. In 1890 Hardeman was sixteen and not even a Christian. Minton was already preaching. In 1948 Hardeman is a college president training future preachers, and has a storied career in the kingdom. His influence has eclipsed Minton, who has cast his lot with the digressives Hardeman so strongly opposes. Then again, would any of Hardeman’s success have happened had Minton, as a young roving preacher, not stopped in Milledgeville and begun teaching in an empty store over half a century earlier?

Minton listens to Hardeman’s preaching in Sayre and concludes, “I have heard many of our best preachers from time to time, but I am compelled to say I have never heard a preacher superior in ability to N. B. Hardeman.” After his short stay in Sayre in Minton’s hotel, Hardeman leaves. However, within months he receives a letter from Minton with good news the latter has “left the Christian Church and now belonged to the church of Christ.” J. A. Minton had helped save N. B. Hardeman’s soul. And Hardeman had now returned the favor.

Posted in By Mac Deaver, Church History, Doctrine

Flawed from the Beginning

By Mac Deaver

For years I have been greatly interested in what is called The Restoration Movement of the 1800s. As a young student, I loved to read of the great men who called others back to a more serious consideration of the Scriptures and to see more clearly the then current religious scene that had been created through years and years of Bible neglect. And I still think that current members of the church owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to so many religious pioneers who have gone before and who were willing to break with never proved religious tradition and to break rank with those who proved to be non-Christians after all, but who claimed such status before God and man.

However, as we learn in the study of the period, not all those who came to be endorsers of and even participants in the “movement” understood clearly what a person had to do to become a Christian, and while some learned exactly what was essential , others who were involved did not. In fact, as we shall soon see, in this brief piece, the “movement” was flawed from the beginning. The movement was based on a cracked foundation that could not support the hoped for superstructure. And while it has had lasting effect to our good day in America, there were some concepts from the beginning that characterized some of its most prominent leaders that necessitated its limitation by division within because of its initial failure to divide from many without!

But before I continue, let me stress that the effort to “restore” New Testament Christianity was indeed a movement in the sense that there was an historical effort in time that was socially influential and that attempted to call men back to the Bible. It was an effort to call men back to original ground, at least allegedly so. To restore the “ancient order” of things was the goal because the then current religious division was deemed so intolerable by some, and that division seemed to make any religious progress most difficult if not impossible. And so a harmony or unity of all “Christians” (those who professed faith in Christ and obeyed him in such things as they understood) was sought and advocated upon a basis less divisive and less complex. A committed return to a more simple basis of spiritual fellowship was the desired item in the hearts of those longing for an end to the unending division within the “church” as the church was being viewed.

Now, the idea is only possible (much less essential) if original ground can be located. If the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the obligatory truth regarding (1) how one enters the kingdom and (2) how one remains in the kingdom cannot be located, articulated, practiced, and successfully defended, then such an effort at “restoration” is wholly misguided because it is impossible to restore what cannot be found. But as we shall see, the working assumption that original ground could be located on the one hand (1) included some necessary concepts that on the other hand (2) were expressly excluded from the process of restoration. In fact, from the beginning there was an unrecognized conceptual self-contradiction offered as the right approach to the restoration of that original sacred ground. And so the “movement” was an attempt to restore what it was, in fact, impossible to restore given the way that it was going about the very business of restoration. If original ground were located, it would have to be found by going against some of the very foundational ideas upon which it was being launched.

Of course, it is very easy for me to criticize someone living in the 1800s who was for the first time beginning to see differences between what he found in his New Testament and religious doctrine that he had been brought up to believe in some denomination. And I certainly do not want to appear as an ungrateful recipient of great learning that took place during that time and within that movement.

But, I am more interested in (1) finding and in knowing that I have found what they were trying to restore themselves (the purity of original Christianity) than in (2) merely admiring a certain way of self-imposed looking, the effect of which would have to prevent one’s seeing clearly at all.

Let me begin the task of identifying the cracks in the foundation of the movement by first pointing out a few facts that must be faced by anyone who approaches the Scriptures in the effort to find the truth. Consider the following True-False statements:

T F 1. It is possible for a man to find all the truth necessary to his becoming a Christian and to find all the truth necessary to his remaining a faithful Christian.

T F 2. It is possible for a man to find only some of the truth necessary to his becoming a Christian and to find only some of the truth necessary to his remaining a faithful Christian.

T F 3. It is impossible for a man to find any truth necessary to his becoming a Christian and to find any truth necessary to his remaining a faithful Christian.

T F 4. It is possible for a man to find all the truth necessary to his becoming a Christian but only to find some of the truth necessary to his remaining a faithful Christian.

T F 5. It is possible for a man to find only some truth necessary to his becoming a Christian but to find all the truth necessary to his remaining a faithful Christian.

Now, these statements need a clear and careful answer. In the light of Scripture, #1 is the correct statement. Statements #2 through #5 are false (John 8:31, 32; 1 Tim. 2:4; Heb. 6:1; Eph. 5:3-14). And this truth would, at first, seem to have been grasped by the initial promoters of the restoration idea.

Now, let us consider several more relevant True-False statements that have to do with the very prospect of restoring the ancient order of things.

T F 1. Since Christians are the only components of the church, and since the first True-False statement above is correct, then we know that it is possible to locate in Scripture what is required of men today in order for them to be added to the Lord’s church (Gal. 1:6-10).

T F 2. Since we know that all men today must obey the same gospel in order to be added to the church, then we know that the church is composed only of those who have done the same thing in order to enter (Eph. 4:1-7).

T F 3. Since the church is composed of only those who have done the same thing (obeyed the same gospel) in order to enter, then spiritual fellowship is only rightly extended to those who have obeyed that gospel and thus who have entered (1 John 1:3; 2 Cor. 6:14-18).

T F 4. It is possible for a person to claim to be in God’s favor and a devoted follower of Christ while never having become a Christian at all (Rev. 2:9; Matt. 7:21-23).

T F 5. It is possible for a Christian to cease being a faithful Christian (Gal. 5:4; 1 John 2:19).

Now, while it is true that Christians are under obligation to love all men (Matt. 22:37-40), we have never been under obligation to treat even most men as Christians. For most men simply are not, and most men do not even claim to be. And, even more to the point, most men do not even desire to be. However, while doctrinally, the matter is fixed as to who is and who is not a Christian, a problem arises when –

  1. a non-Christian seeks to extend spiritual fellowship to another non-Christian when both parties claim to be Christians and yet neither one is.
  1. a Christian seeks to extend spiritual fellowship to a non-Christian in spite of the Christian’s knowing that the non-Christian is clearly a non-Christian.
  1. a Christian seeks to extend spiritual fellowship to a non-Christian because even though he knows on the one hand that the non-Christian is not a Christian, he knows that the non-Christian at least claims to be a Christian, and the Christian considers it more loving to endorse the non-Christian in his sin than to deny his claim. After all, the Christian isn’t God!
  1. a Christian seeks to extend spiritual fellowship to a non-Christian because the Christian himself no longer is sure of the essentiality of obedience to the gospel in order for a person to have a rightful claim to Christian status. He has now subscribed to a doctrine of “grace” that by redefinition allows him to fellowship those who make the claim to be Christians on the basis that, after all, who is he to say they are not. Again, truth has now become “unclear” truth when compared to a “clear” claim especially since the truth has no feelings to be hurt by rejection but the personal claimant surely does?

Note: At this point it may not bother him because it never dawns on him that if “grace” is actually extended to one who claims to be a Christian but who has not, in fact, obeyed the gospel, for all he knows then, that same “grace” may be extended to anyone who does not even claim to be a Christian. If a formerly viewed false claim has now become a possibly true claim because of a redefinition of grace, then why is a claim necessary (for the divine extension of grace) for the reception of grace at all? If one does not have to know and obey the truth in order to be saved, then no clear claim about anything is necessary to salvation at all! With his redefinition of “grace,” he is in no position to deny the salvation of all men since he knows that God desires that universal salvation (2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4). Historically, truth has often been sacrificed on the altar of friendship and false claim. But if the non-Christian can’t prove the accuracy of his own claim to be a Christian, and if the Christian does not care about the absence of justification for the non-Christian’s claim to Christian status, then the truth does not matter to either the Christian or the non-Christian! Is such a spiritual fellowship worthy of a search and then support? What is the value of such a fellowship or of a “movement” that might embrace it?

Now, let us proceed by considering some things early on declared by two prominent men in the early days of the American Restoration Movement. And as I consider these quotations, I do so with a view toward establishing the point that there were at least three cracks in the original foundation of restoration effort or three flaws from the beginning. And for the purpose of this article, I mean by “beginning” 1809 when Thomas Campbell wrote the Declaration And Address. And the “cracks” that I will identify are (1) a faulty hermeneutic which was an attempt at the time to get rid of all human opinions as impediments to the rightful extension of spiritual fellowship to all Christians in the denominations, but which hermeneutic unwittingly created (2) a situation in which it was impossible to maintain the correct distinction between faith and opinion, and (3) a willingness to extend spiritual fellowship to people who were not complying with the nature and purpose of baptism as they came to understand it.

In the Declaration And Address, Thomas Campbell stated that he was not trying to create another human creed as a term of communion. What he was proposing was a route to “original ground” so that men in his day could “take up things just as the apostles left them” (Historical Documents Advocating Christian Union, edited by John Allen Hudson, p.107; hereafter this book will be referenced as HD). Thus, his goal in providing the thirteen propositions listed in the Address were based on the view that the apostles had left some things for us that needed to be recovered in thought and practiced in life. And these things needed to be distinguished from other things so that religious reform could indeed take place. All of the various additional doctrinal positions that had been taken over the centuries and which had accumulated as divisive creedal statements that kept equally sincere brethren in segregate communities simply had to be removed from human thinking if the unity required in Scripture was going to be achieved.

But how did Thomas Campbell come to the conclusion that there was an obligatory unity that Christians were obligated to practice? Whence came this understanding? How did he come to the conclusion that there was a kind of unity that Christians were under obligation to practice? How did he know that the obligation to uphold that unity lasted longer than the first century? And why did the Address seem to him to be important as an applied way of getting rid of the accumulated human decrees that stood in the way of the unity of Christ?

The Declaration And Address didn’t just fall from the sky. It was a document that originated in the mind of Thomas Campbell. Well, let us ask ourselves some questions as to the nature of that document as it first existed in thought in his mind. And let us be specific. Let us think about his goal of trying to get back to original ground, sacred ground not spoiled by wrong human thinking.

T F 1. The view that Thomas Campbell and all other men should only do what is authorized by Christ as revealed in the New Testament is itself a mistaken and unintended part of the accumulation of mere human opinions that stand in the way of the unity of Christ.

T F 2. The view that Thomas Campbell and all other men should only do what is authorized by Christ as revealed in the New Testament is a part of “original ground” discoverable by human reason but without the exertion of opinion.

Or let us word the two statements a little differently and make our point more simple:

T F 3. The view that Thomas Campbell and all other men should only do what is authorized by Christ as revealed in the New Testament is itself a mere human opinion.

T F 4. The view that Thomas Campbell and all other men should only do what is authorized by Christ as revealed in the New Testament is itself a matter of biblical faith.

Dear reader, now think about those four True-False statements very carefully. And with regard to the first and third statements, surely Campbell did not mean to be binding another mere human opinion on others in his attempt to get rid of the then current problem of binding human opinion on men as a basis of establishing and maintaining religious fellowship. He would certainly have no right to bind his own personal opinion that “original ground” should be recovered if such were merely an opinion, while at the same time deploring the use of human opinion as the means of establishing spiritual orthodoxy. So, we would take it that statement #1 is false and that statement #3 is false. Thomas Campbell’s view that “original ground” should be desired and that by it alone men could maintain the unity of Christ is a part of “original ground” or to express it another way, it is a part of biblical faith itself and certainly is not a matter of mere human opinion. So, statements #2 and #4 are true.

Paul’s words to the brethren at Colossae establish the correctness of the foregoing conclusion. “And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17). Truly, to do things in the name of Christ is to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:28, 29; cf. 4:12). And this is the very thing that was Campbell’s goal. It was a noble goal, but his process for accomplishing it was flawed. Now, just what do we mean?

Proposition #3 in the Declaration And Address is too restrictive in its statement of what constitutes the pattern of authority whereby Scriptural unity can be obtained and maintained. Campbell in trying to reach a position that would prohibit the constant dividing up into various religious camps said that “nothing ought to be inculcated upon Christians as articles of faith; nor required of them as terms of communion, but what is expressly taught and enjoined upon them in the word of God. Nor ought anything to be admitted, as of Divine obligation, in their Church institution and managements, but what is expressly enjoined by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles upon the New Testament Church; either in express terms or by approved precedent” (HD, 108). His words “expressly enjoined” are what we call “direct statement” and his “approved precedent” are what we call “approved example.” But Campbell left out the third category or way that the Bible authorizes. He left out what in our day came to be called “necessary inference,” but which later was more appropriately identified as “implication.” Campbell intentionally omitted that route to the record.

We can appreciate his reluctance since he was trying to avoid the mental route that had caused him so much pain. He well knew the agony of wrong inference when men drew conclusions not provable by Scripture and bound these conclusions on others. That is what had created the warring denominational camps. But rather than make the distinction between (1) inferring what is actually implied as can be established by logical argument, and (2) inferring what is not implied (thus merely drawing a conclusion not implied by the Bible which conclusion is then a mere human opinion), Campbell simply attempted to leave the whole process of “inference” out of ascertaining the pattern of authority. The pattern would consist of (1) direct statement and (2) approved example only.

In Proposition #5 we have the wonderful statement that “Nothing ought to be received into the faith or worship of the Church, or be made a term of communion among Christians, that is not as old as the New Testament” (HD, 110).

But when we come to Proposition #6, we see Thomas Campbell’s fear of inference as a category or route to Bible authority. Read it carefully in full:

“That although inferences and deductions from Scripture premises, when fairly inferred, may be truly called the doctrine of God’s holy word, yet are they not formally binding upon the consciences of Christians farther than they perceive the connection, and evidently see that they are so; for their faith must not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Therefore, no such deductions can be made terms of communion, but do properly belong to the after and progressive edification of the Church. Hence, it is evident that no such deductions or inferential truths ought to have any place in the Church’s confession” (HD, 110).

Notice, please that while Campbell was honorably trying to prevent the continued application of human authority as binding on men as an appendix to or substitute for divine authority, in the very way that he was attacking “opinion binding,” he went too far by undermining the very procedure that he was, in fact, already employing. In looking at human reason the way that he was and in describing it the way that he did, he was creating unintentionally an impossible and self-contradictory task for himself and others. Consider carefully, please, that on the one hand (1) Campbell allows for the fact that when inferences and deductions are “fairly inferred,” the conclusions reached may be called “the doctrine of God’s holy word,” and yet on the other hand, (2) Campbell says that those conclusions, though a part of God’s holy word, are the product of human wisdom rather than divine power. Do you see a problem just here, dear reader?

If the principle that Campbell is upholding in his proposition #6 is the product of “fair inference” from Scripture premises, then although it may be a part of God’s holy word, it cannot be bound on anyone as divine authority since it is the product of Campbell’s own human reasoning and, therefore, is a part of human wisdom rather than the product of divine power. Therefore, Campbell’s own view which was reached by inferring what the Bible was implying (about substituting human authority for divine authority in his day) was a conclusion that (though correct and a part of God’s holy word) had no “place in the Church’s confession.”

Rather than stress the absolute necessity of correct reasoning (cf. 1 Thess. 5:21: Rom. 12:2), he attacked human reason, in the act of deduction, as leading to “the wisdom of men.” The truth of the matter is that it is only by the correct use of human reason that a person can come to comprehend that he is under the binding authority of the New Testament at all!

So, I ask, how in the world could the appeal in the Declaration And Address (to those viewed by Campbell as Christians) have any rightful place in their thinking? If his conclusion that there should be a rediscovery of “original ground” was rightly inferred from what the Bible implied, then (although correct and a part of God’s holy word according to Campbell himself), it still stood in the “wisdom of men” rather than in the “power and veracity of God.” According to Campbell, if these “Christians” couldn’t see the accuracy of the plea and thus the need of the plea for “restoration,” then the plea could not be “formally binding” on them, because he said that fairly inferred conclusions drawn from Scriptural premises cannot be “formally binding upon the consciences of Christians farther than they perceive the connection, and evidently see that they are so.” Therefore, unless the other “Christians” in the denominations were convinced that Campbell’s call for restoration was good and needful, and if they were convinced of the need to participate, they would be following the “wisdom of men” rather than the “power and veracity of God” in submitting to a principle that Campbell learned by proper deduction from Scripture premises.

Therefore, it is clear that the first “flaw” from the beginning was a hermeneutical (interpretational) flaw that appeared by way of Campbell’s unintentionally attacking “implication” as a way of learning what is binding upon men.

And since that error was advocated in the Address, that meant that there was no clear way for Campbell to make a clear distinction between (1) matters of faith and (2) matters of opinion although he was trying desperately to get rid of the notion of binding mere human opinion on anyone. If conclusions “fairly inferred” were still evaluated as standing in “the wisdom of men” rather than in “the power and veracity of God,” then there could be no precise distinction drawn between “God’s holy word,” learned by “fair inference” and mere human opinion both of which are products of a man’s mind.

In our day, when it comes to the matter of “ascertaining Bible authority” (that is also the name of one of my father’s well-received books), we have said that the Bible authorizes by (1) direct statement, (2) approved example, and by (3) implication. Of course, implication and approved example are both derived from direct statements, but the three categories are correct as identifications of literary function or the ways that we learn what we must do, what we may do, and what we must not do. And by the three routes to authority, we find our obligations, our options, and our prohibitions.

In Campbell’s words “fairly inferred” refer to a conclusion rightly deduced from Bible premises. “Fair inference” would be correct inference from Bible implication. That is, we fairly infer when we correctly infer what the Bible actually implies. These doctrines thus inferred can be, then, stated as conclusions of valid syllogisms. They become a part of a sound argument. And a sound argument is a valid argument with truthful premises. The argument is, therefore, dependable. The conclusion of a sound argument is true. If we infer what the Bible does not really imply at all, we draw a conclusion that is simply an opinion, and there is no sound argument whatever that can be constructed in its defense.

All doctrinal controversy can rationally only be settled by the appeal to a sound argument. And this is an obligation stated in Scripture. This is what the very notion of “proof” entails! According to Ruby’s Logic, An Introduction, the “law of rationality” is the principle that “We ought to justify our conclusions by adequate evidence” (Ruby, 131). Jesus always complied with that law or regulative principle of human reasoning. And Paul made our deference to that law a matter of biblical obligation in at least two passages of Scripture. He told the brethren at Thessalonica to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” (1 Thess. 5:21), and he told the saints in Rome, “And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2).

But as brother Thomas B. Warren taught us long ago, since none of us (and this applies to Thomas Campbell as well as to Thomas Warren and all men living today) can find his own name written in the Bible, he cannot learn that he is even under Bible authority without rightly inferring what the Bible implies! We cannot even recognize our connection to and the necessity of submitting to Bible authority without correctly inferring what the Bible implies! Although the Bible provides our obligations, options, and prohibitions, it reaches us or connects us to those ways of ascertaining Bible authority only or completely by way of implication. That is the one and only route that provides our connection to the binding authority of Holy Writ!

Since the Bible was originally addressed to others (none of us living today were even born when even one book of the Bible was written), we can only come to recognize that we, too, like the original audience are under Bible authority only by or exclusively by inferring what the Bible implies. And if this conclusion “fairly inferred” cannot be bound on anyone because it is simply a part of the wisdom of men rather than the product of the veracity and power of God as described by Thomas Campbell, then no man living today is under Bible obligation to do one single solitary thing! And this would also mean that no one living in Campbell’s day including Campbell himself was under Bible authority at all. That is how crucial the mistake made by Thomas Campbell was. Given the way that he was describing “fair inference” and “deduction,” he could not clearly distinguish between faith and opinion at all when it came to matters of binding obligation.

His idea of getting rid of binding human opinion in the religious arena was indeed correct! But the way he described the process whereby he thought that such could be achieved made it impossible for one to even be under divine authority to do such a thing.

And perhaps, because of the way that he confusedly and unintentionally blurred the distinction between human opinion and biblical faith, that at least partially explains why it is that he and later his son, Alexander, were so very willing to spiritually fellowship denominational people, including preachers, who did not share the “restoration” viewpoint. This is the third “flaw” that I want to mention.

When we read of the way that Thomas and Alexander Campbell related to other religious people in their day, we see that they were willing to spiritually fellowship them even though they were practitioners of denominationalism and not necessarily supporters of the idea of recovering original ground. The Campbells had come out of the Presbyterian church themselves. But their break with that group with all its historical internal division, did not mean that they would, however, refuse to recognize as faithful Christians those from whom they were now somewhat religiously estranged. And as their comprehension of certain Bible truths grew, even though they remained very ecumenical in their regard to the sects, yet their knowledge growth brought them into a closer affiliation with other religious people who had learned the same truth.

For example, following the Campbells’ learning that “baptism” was, in fact, in Scripture “immersion,” the little Brush Run church across the West Virginia line in southwestern Pennsylvania became organizationally connected to the Baptists. After writing out a statement which entailed a rejection of human creeds as a basis of fellowship, and declaring their willingness to become a part of the Redstone Association if they would be allowed to uphold what they were convinced the Bible taught, the Brush Run church then joined that Baptist association in 1813 (West, Search For The Ancient Order, Vol. I, p. 61). Alexander wrote to a relative in 1815,

“For my own part I must say that, after long study and investigation of books, and more especially the Sacred Scriptures, I have through clear convictions of truth and duty, renounced much of the traditions and errors of my early education. I am now an Independent in church government; of that faith and view of the gospel exhibited in John Walker’s Seven Letters to Alexander Knox, and a Baptist so far as regards baptism. What I am in religion I am from examination, reflection, and conviction, not from ‘ipse dixit’ tradition or human authority” (West, pp. 61, 62).

Later, while Alexander Campbell was working with the Wellsburg church, that congregation joined the Mahoning Baptist Association (West, pp. 66-68). So, while the Campbells were advancing in their understanding of Scripture, and while they were making headway in teaching the non-denominational nature of early Christianity and the necessity of unity among Christians, they still recognized Christians among the sectarians groups.

And later, in 1837, Campbell received a letter from a woman in Lunenburg, Virginia, in response to which Campbell again revealed his attitude toward the sects, and which attitude bothered some of his own brethren who thought that Campbell was surrendering ground gained in the reform effort. The woman from Lunenburg had been surprised by the fact that in Campbell’s periodical, Campbell had recognized “the Protestant parties as Christian” (Campbell, Millennial Harbinger, September, 1837, p. 411).

In response, Campbell first proposes the following:

“In reply to this conscientious sister, I observe, that if there be no Christians in the Protestant sects, there are certainly none among the Romanists, none among the Jews, Turks, Pagans; and therefore no Christians in the world except ourselves, or such of us as keep, or strive to keep, all the commandments of Jesus. Therefore, for many centuries there has been no church of Christ, no Christians in the world; and the promises concerning the everlasting kingdom of Messiah have failed, and the gates of hell have prevailed against his church! This cannot be; and therefore there are Christians among the sects” (Campbell, 411).

So, the basis on which Campbell rests his view that there must be Christians in the sects is that unless one is willing to grant that contention, then he must admit that in history the church at some point ceased to exist! But I ask the reader, is that true? Why would that admission necessarily have to follow? Isn’t it possible that Christians could have existed ever since Pentecost in the world without their getting involved with and amalgamated with some denomination. Even if history ignored the existence of non-denominational Christians in its record (given their small numbers), does anyone today have the right to claim that the church simply stopped existing in history unless one admits that it existed in combination with Catholicism and Protestant denominationalism or among Jews, Turks, and Pagans? Such simply does not at all follow. Campbell merely asserted what he could not prove.

It is the case that Christians, following the apostasy predicted by Paul, did not for a long time have the force of a massive societal movement, but their non-mention in the historical record of the continuing apostasy does not prove their non-existence. To be viewed as non-worthy of mention is not the equivalent of proof of their non-existence. Consider that outside the Bible there is very little mention of Jesus during the first few centuries from secular historians following his resurrection. And some today deny that he ever lived, but such is no proof of any currently alleged non-existence. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are historical documents from antiquity. They establish the historicity of Jesus. I used to ask my students the following question: How long must you be dead before your “not having been” here becomes a real possibility? We are not here trying to beg any question. We are simply saying that real historical existence, while it can be denied, can never be disproved. Too, the non-existence of the church in one country would not argue conclusively for the non-existence of the church in every country. The fact that the Bible did not exist in many languages for a long time during the days of the apostasy did not mean that it was not here at all. And simply because the Bible had not existed in an English version before a certain date could not mean that it did not exist in some other language or languages before the first English version appeared. If the Bible presently exists in one language, then it has always existed in some language tracing back to the original.

Then, too, Campbell thinks that if we claim that there are no Christians in the sects, we have also to claim that there are no Christians among the Catholics (Romanists), the Jews, Turks, and Pagans. In other words, if there are no Christians among the sects, there have been no Christians in the world for many years! But it is certainly conceivable that one could argue for the existence of some Christians among the sects while denying that any Catholic or Jew or Turk or Pagan had ever become a Christian. And Campbell says that if we deny that all others have become Christians, that we are claiming, therefore, that there are “no Christians in the world except ourselves, or such of us as keep, or strive to keep, all the commandments of Jesus.” Well, is that a false claim? If “ourselves” refers exclusively to those in America, it would be a false claim. If it refers to those known only to Campbell, it would be a false claim. But if it refers to all those who “keep” (not just strive to keep) the commands of Jesus any and everywhere, the claim is correct. And it is beyond successful contradiction.

On the one hand Campbell (1) strove for recovering original ground, (2) did not intend to start a new religious group or church, (3) attempted to get Christians among the sects to unify on that recovered ground. He plainly stated that he was not striving for the unification of the sectarian groups as such. He was appealing to those among them who were Christians to come out and unify on the restored basis of divine doctrine, but he (4) spiritually fellowshipped the denominationalists who did not agree with him doctrinally. This made the very idea of “restoration” seem suspect. If on the one hand he was distinguishing between “Christians among the sects” (thus calling them out from among those in the sects who were not really Christians) that might have a certain Scriptural appeal to it. It would seem fair to assume the possibility that some people had, in fact, become Christians but who had subsequently joined some denomination. However, since Campbell himself spiritually fellowshipped others who were not willing or who had not as yet “come out” to unify on original ground, that made the Campbells concept of “restoration” suspect and inconsistent.

But then notice what Campbell says in response to the letter from Lunenburg:

“But who is a Christian? I answer, Every one that believes in his heart that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God; repents of his sins, and obeys him in all things according to his measure of knowledge of his will. A perfect man in Christ, or a perfect Christian, is one thing; and ‘a babe in Christ,’ a stripling in the faith, or an imperfect Christian, is another” (Campbell, p. 411).

He goes on to say that both groups are recognized in Scripture and the imperfect Christians are told to be perfect, and he cites 2 Corinthians 3:11. But Campbell’s significant problem is that he is assuming that a person can become a Christian without clearly understanding anything beyond repentance. According to his own words, a Christian is a man who believes that Jesus is the Christ, repents of his sins, and “obeys him in all things according to his measure of knowledge of his will.” So, given the way that Campbell describes who a Christian is, the following individuals would be Christians:

  1. a man who has faith and repents but does not know anything about baptism;
  2. a man who has faith and repents and knows that he should be “baptized” for some unknown (to him) reason;
  3. a man who has faith and repents and who is “ baptized” for some wrong reason;
  4. a man who has faith and repents and who is “baptized” in the wrong way (by sprinkling or pouring but not by immersion) would be a Christian.

In response to the implications of Campbell’s remarks to the woman from Lunenburg, I would say this: “repentance unto life” per Acts 11:18 does not entail any of the four categories just listed! The cases of kingdom entry in the book of Acts do not allow for such variation as Campbell’s view did. Read the following from the “Lunenburg Letter” carefully, and you can see how that other brethren began to see that they were not looking at “restoration” in the same way that Campbell evidently was:

“Should I find a Pedobaptist more intelligent in the Christian Scriptures, more spiritually-minded and more devoted to the Lord than a Baptist, or one immersed on a profession of the ancient faith, I could not hesitate a moment in giving the preference of my heart to him that loveth most. Did I act otherwise, I would be a pure sectarian, a Pharisee among Christians. Still I will be asked, How I know that any one loves my Master but by his obedience to his commandments? I answer, In no other way. But mark, I do not substitute obedience to one commandment, for universal or even for general obedience. And should I see a sectarian Baptist or a Pedobaptist more spiritually minded, more generally conformed to the requisitions of the Messiah, than one who precisely acquiesces with me in the theory or practice of immersion as I teach, doubtless the former rather than the latter, would have my cordial approbation and love as a Christian. So I judge, and so I feel. It is the image of Christ the Christian looks for and loves; and this does not consist in being exact in a few items, but in general devotion to the whole truth as far as known” (Campbell, p. 412).

Dear reader, did you understand what Campbell just affirmed? He said that if they were “more spiritually minded, more generally conformed to the requisitions of the Messiah” both a sectarian Baptist and a Pedobaptist (one who believes in infant baptism) would have his “cordial approbation and love as a Christian” more so than that given to someone less spiritually minded but who “precisely acquiesces with me in the theory or practice of immersion as I teach.” WOW!

In the November issue of the Millennial Harbinger under the heading, “Christians Among The Sects,” Campbell briefly responded to some objections received in the light of his response to that letter from Lunenburg (pp. 506-508). One can easily see how that some concluded that Campbell was surrendering ground for which he and others had fought. Campbell, however, didn’t think he was surrendering anything, and if he wasn’t, we see that many who had been striving for “restoration” for years had failed completely to grasp the weakness in the foundation of Campbell’s thought regarding who was and who was not a Christian. When Campbell’s precise teaching on the nature and purpose of baptism was grasped and practiced by others, they took it as a point that was necessary to be understood in order to become a Christian. Campbell evidently thought that was going too far.

So, we see that early on there were flaws in the thinking of some who were most engaged in the effort at “restoration.” There was a (1) hermeneutical flaw regarding the place of deduction in discerning the pattern of authority, (2) an epistemological flaw, therefore, that did not allow for clear distinction between matters of faith and matters of opinion, and (3) there was the willingness of some involved in the formative period of “restoration” thought to spiritually fellowship other religious people who had never obeyed the gospel, which rendered the whole effort at restoration suspicious. It is a wonder that unity was maintained as long as it was.

Posted in By Roy C. Deaver, Church History

The Point We Seek to Make

By Roy C. Deaver (1922-2007)

It was in 1938, in his gospel meeting with the 2nd and Whaley Street Church in Longview, Texas, that I first became acquainted with the great, respected, much-loved N. B. Hardeman. It was here that he conducted a great gospel meeting, with C. M. Pullias (our local preacher) leading the singing! Yes, the same team that had conducted the great Nashville, Tennessee, Ryman Auditorium meetings! By the time the Longview meeting was over, I had determined in my own mind that someday, somehow, I would become a student in N. B. Hardeman’s classes.

In September of 1940 Wilma Ruth and I made our trip to Henderson, Tennessee. Within a few days I was a student in classes taught by N. B. Hardeman, L. L. Brigance, W. Claude Hall, and Mary Nell Hardeman Powers—the greatest English grammarian I have ever known!

In my first year one of the required courses was the study of the Scheme of Redemption. The text was the monumental book entitled The Scheme of Redemption, written by Dr. Robert Milligan, who at the time of the writing was President of the College of the Bible in Kentucky University — a great scholar in the Restoration Movement. The “Introduction” to the book has the date: May 19, 1868. So, the book has been around for awhile, and it will continue to be around.

It was a study course for which I personally will be eternally grateful. I was and I am and I will ever be truly grateful to have had that privilege of seeing such a majestic unfolding of the glorious “Scheme of Redemption.” Three of the best years of our lives were spent at Freed-Hardeman College, and we are truly grateful.

What’s the point — the present point? The above article is the material contained in pages 276 through 284 in Milligan’s The Scheme of Redemption. The book is hard to come by, and so, I have typed this material that others may read it for themselves. This is the class, and these are the pages which first began to give me — in some measure — an understanding of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It triggered my determination to continue to study the subject. It was here and why and how I began to grasp the concept of an actual, literal, personal, indwelling of the Holy Spirit within the child of God. Who was the teacher? Professor N. B. Hardeman! I am here to tell the reader that in NO WAY did brother Hardeman ever try to “explain away” what Milligan had written. If you want to know what brother Hardeman taught on this subject — HERE IT IS!

And so, it disturbs me no little to hear somebody on the present scene declare that brother Hardeman did not teach an actual indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I encourage the reader to read– and/or to read again and again his monumental sermons on “The Vine and the Branches” and “The Spirit of Christ.”

At that time (when I was a student, 1940-43), FHC was a two-year college. But after two years I was not ready to leave. I wanted at least one more year, and did remain another year. I had three things in mind: (1) I wanted to do additional work in my Greek; (2) I wanted to take advantage of that fabulous library; and (3) I wanted to study N. B. Hardeman. I wanted to see (at least to my own satisfaction) what made N. B. Hardeman so great! So exceptional! In case you are interested in my conclusion, here it is: (1) It was not the fact that he was a handsome man, always dressed well and looked well — his shoes were always shined! (2) It was not just the fact that he was so exceptionally brilliant and knowledgeable in so many different subject areas. (3) It was not simply the fact that he was a man “set in authority.” Rather, my own conclusion was (and still is) his tremendous ability (without seeming to be aware of it) to produce a student!

He did not have to give orders or make threats. He simply possessed an indescribable way of causing a person to want to be a better student! If he happened to mention the annual overflow of the Nile River, being translated that meant: tomorrow you had better know the lakes and rivers that were in any way related to the annual overflow of the Nile. God bless you, N. B. Hardeman!


[Editor’s note: This piece was originally published in the Jan-Mar 2000 issue of Biblical Notes Quarterly, and references another article which is not reproduced here].