Muscle & Shovel”: Chapter 30, Part 2 (the Real Restoration Movement)

muscleshovelWe are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel.

Thomas Campbell, Alexander’s father, in his “Declaration and Address,” stated the aims of the Restoration Movement. It’s generally considered the founding document of the Campbell wing of the Restoration Movement. And it says nothing of baptism.

6. 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 and veracity 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.

8. That as it is not necessary that persons should have a particular knowledge or distinct apprehension of all divinely revealed truths in order to entitle them to a place in the church; neither should they, for this purpose, be required to make a profession more extensive than their knowledge: but that, on the contrary, their having a due measure of scriptural self-knowledge respecting their lost and perishing condition by nature and practice; and of the way of salvation thro’ Jesus Christ, accompanied with a profession of their faith in, and obedience to him, in all things according to his word, is all that is absolutely necessary to qualify them for admission into his church.

In fact, Campbell sought to find unity by eliminating human inferences as tests of fellowship, leaving us with only faith in Jesus and repentance.

Barton W. Stone’s wing of the Movement is actually quite a bit older than the Campbells’. And until he came under the influence of Campbell’s teachings, he did not normally baptize his converts by immersion. And I find no evidence that he went back and re-baptized his converts later.

Stone considered penitent believers in Jesus saved, regardless of baptism or adherence to “the ancient order” (the Five Acts of Worship, primarily). In his autobiography, written late in his life, in speaking of those converted in the Cane Ridge Revival, he declares those converted there, without immersion for the remission of sins, saved. John Mark Hicks summarizes Stone’s teaching

Unity, according to Barton W. Stone, is not located in creeds (head), book (Bible), or water (baptism), but in fire (Holy Spirit). This is a transformative experience of the Holy Spirit who leads us “to love God and his children—to love and pray for all mankind.” He writes: “How vain are all human attempts to unite a bundle of things together, so as to make them grow together, and bear fruit! They must first be united with the living stock, and receive its sap, and spirit, before they can ever be united with each other. So must we be first united with Christ, receive his spirit, before we can ever be in spirit united with one another.”

Stone’s language recognizes that there is someone more fundamental than creed, Bible or water. There is a spiritual dynamic, a spiritual unity, which gives rise to more visible forms of unity. The Holy Spirit is the root dynamic. And the first expression of this unity is a transforming faith through which all believers might find themselves already united.

In The Christian System, Alexander Campbell made it clear that faith in Jesus and submission to baptism are enough to give anyone a place in the church — regardless of their views on Calvinism, consubstantiation, etc.

But the grandeur, sublimity, and beauty of the foundation of hope, and of ecclesiastical or social union, established by the author and founder of Christianity consisted in this, – that THE BELIEF OF ONE FACT, and that upon the best evidence in the world, is all that is requisite, as far as faith goes, to salvation. The belief of this ONE FACT, and submission to ONE INSTITUTION expressive of it, is all that is required of Heaven to admission into the church. A Christian, as defined, not by Dr. Johnson, nor any creed-maker, but by one taught from Heaven, is one that believes this one fact, and has submitted to one institution, and whose deportment accords with the morality and virtue of the great Prophet. The one fact is expressed in a single proposition – that Jesus the Nazarene is the Messiah.

In the Richmond letter correspondence, Alexander Campbell declared Baptist baptism not only sufficient, but decried re-baptism of Baptists.

If every one that does not clearly understand the meaning of baptism at the time of his immersion, or afterwards, is, on that account, an alien and “in his sins;” then were the Apostles very remiss in not preaching re-immersion to the church of God in Rome: for Paul had to explain to them the meaning of baptism, chapter vi.–then was Paul very negligent in not constraining “the carnal” Corinthians, the ignorant and superstitious Corinthians, whose consciences were not healed from all the imbecilities of idolatry, to be re-immersed. And ought he not to have re-immersed the Galatians, of whom he “stood in doubt,” and for whom “he travailed again in birth till Christ should be formed in them,” and to whom he expounded the meaning of baptism? (ch. iii. 27.) On this point much could, and, perhaps, much ought to be said; but we will not enter with spirit into it, believing it to be unnecessary. Suffice it here to say, that the notion of re-baptism is wholly out of the Record, and is only an inference drawn from our own conclusions on the present state of christianity, and the inadequate conception of many professors on the import of the Christian Institution. …

Instead of this, much better they had gone and brought forth fruits worthy of reformation–confessed their errors, and asked forgiveness through that Mediator whom they had publicly acknowledged, and who has never made the clearness of any person’s conceptions the condition of the benefits of his death, resurrection, and high priesthood in heaven. Then, indeed, they would have had better and more valid proofs of genuine discipleship than in having been twice immersed.

Thomas and Alexander Campbell were baptized in obedience to God’s command and didn’t conclude that baptism was for remission of sins until years after they were baptized. They were never rebaptized. The same is true of David Lipscomb.

Campbell repeatedly spoke of those outside the Restoration Movement as “Christians.” Yes, he wanted to end denominationalism. But that was not in order to save the lost. It was to bring about the unity for which Jesus prayed.

In his teachings on the Ancient Order of Things — dealing with church organization and acts of worship — he specifically said these acts of worship are not salvation issues or tests of fellowship, as noted by John Mark Hicks.

The interesting question, however, is whether [Campbell] thought the “order” he discerned within the New Testament was a test of fellowship among believers. Did he believe that conformity to this order was necessary to salvation? Was it his intent to identify the marks of the church that defined the true church so that every other body of believers who did not conform to those marks was apostate and thus outside the fellowship of God?

This was implicitly raised in the Christian Baptist by one of Campbell’s critics. Spencer Clack, the editor of the Baptist Recorder, wondered whether Campbell’s “ancient order” functioned similarly to the written creeds to which Campbell mightily objected (CB 5 [6 August 1827] 359-360). Campbell’s response is illuminating. He maintained that his “ancient order” was no creed precisely because he had “never made them, hinted that they should be, or used them as a test of christian character or terms of christian communion” (CB 5 [3 September 1827] 369-370,

(emphasis Hicks).

You have to realize that the Restoration Movement had been ongoing for years before Campbell taught on worship and organization, and those doctrines did not become tests of fellowship until much later — contrary to his teachings — after his death.

But, yes, it’s true, that many of Campbell’s disciples took his teachings on baptism, worship, and organization and turned them into salvation issues. But many did not.

Robert Richardson was an associate editor of Campbell’s Millennial Harbinger for 30 years, author of an extensive biography on Campbell, and Campbell’s family physician. He opposed exactly that trend, insisting that the Restoration Movement was being hijacked. He writes,

Every one will agree, that the true basis of Christian union is the Christian faith. All the parties assert this, but, unfortunately, each one adds to that faith, or, rather, substitutes for it, human opinions, and matters of doctrinal knowledge not immediately connected with salvation; and they refuse to receive each other, because they do not happen to agree in these opinions and doctrines, while, at the same time, they may hold in common what really constitutes the Christian faith. This Christian faith, as we have seen, is simply belief in Christ, as he is presented in the gospel, and it’s concisely engrossed in the great proposition, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

(1852)

Isaac Errett, Campbell’s son-in-law who succeeded him as editor of the Millennial Harbinger, also represents the original Restoration thought. In “Our Position,” he writes,

That all who put their trust in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and for His sake left their sins and renounced all other lordships, were at once accepted as worthy to enter this fellowship. FAITH IN THE DIVINE LORD AND SAVIOR WAS THE ONE ESSENTIAL CONDITION OF ENTRANCE. None could enter without faith–infant membership was therefore impossible. None who had faith could be refused admission–no other test was allowed but that of faith in and submission to Jesus, the Christ. We therefore proclaim, in opposition to all big and little creeds of Christendom, THAT THE ORIGINAL CREED HAS BUT ONE ARTICLE OF FAITH IN IT, NAMELY: That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. All doctrinal tests but this must be abandoned.

There was, of course, another strain of thought — found in such men as Benjamin Franklin and Moses Lard — affecting a minority of the churches in the Movement but leading to the division that their teachings made inevitable. They taught that God’s positive commands had to be exactly obeyed as a condition of salvation. And those who followed them divided over and over — exactly contrary to the original purposes of the Movement.

I proudly consider myself a part of the Restoration Movement and honor Stone, the Campbells, and other pioneers who figured out how to produce unity in the church. I’m embarrassed by those men who followed them and who’ve made their speculations about instrumental music and a hundred other issues just as important as faith in Jesus.

They should be repudiated and we should return to faith in Jesus and stop damning over who is called “reverend” or “pastor.” When we can’t distinguish the ignorant from the wise, the silly from the sacred, we really need to take some steps backward, restudy our Bibles, and be open to some new ideas that are actually very old ideas.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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6 Responses to Muscle & Shovel”: Chapter 30, Part 2 (the Real Restoration Movement)

  1. Price says:

    Test of Fellowship… sounds like a good Wineskins project !! My guess is that most in the CoC wouldn’t recognize the writings of the early development of the CoC… Would be interesting to share more of them…

  2. Comparing and contrasting Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address published in 1809 with Daniel Sommer’s Address and Declaration published in 1889 is instructive. Both of these are available on the internet. It was the attitudes in the latter, whether one agreed with all of the particular positions Sommer espoused or not, that led to the formal split over the instrument less that 20 years after Sommer’s publication – and to the further splintering of those who accept his basic proposition that fellowship with those who disagree in almost any particular is impossible.

    Until those attitudes are dropped, I see little hope for the unity for which Jesus prayed, which Stone and the Campbells envisioned, and for which Jay is pleading on this blog.

    The key to the unity of the spirit that Paul urges us to maintain (Ephesians 4:3) depends on the spirit of unity he describes (Ephesians 4:1-2). Too many times we tend to jump over these verses to get to the “ones” in Ephesians 4:4-6.

    In doing so, we end up running past Jerusalem and Pentecost to get to Rome and the creedal systems that gave us the pope. The chief difference is that we have replaced the Roman bishops with editors and “big names” in the brotherhood to whom many tend to listen more closely than we listen to the actual words of the Scriptures.

  3. I fear that we see in the CoC today the very thing Jesus spoke of when he rebuked the Pharisees: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”

    Daniel Sommer is the real father of the conservative wing of the CoC. His Sand Creek Address in 1899 is seen as the catalyst of the division between the Christian Church and the CoC. And although Sommer changed his views some thirty years later, the division he so effectively demanded and cultivated, the exclusive and insular mindset he espoused continue to this day. Sommer’s own family members split with him when he started seeking unity instead of division. His own son disfellowshipped Sommer, in just the same way Sommer had done to others years before.

    My concern in this book is not with Michael Shank. Sommer eventually repented of his sectarianism, and if he could, anyone can. But I am grateful that Jay is taking on the rather odious task of discrediting the false teaching found in “Muscle”. For it is the dissemination of this thing among the less mature which is its real danger.

  4. Ray Downen says:

    Unity “in Christ” is only possible when parties are actually “in Christ.” Unity outside of Jesus is surely possible with the only measure being faith in Jesus as Lord. But Galatians 3:26,27 points out clearly that only those are IN Christ who have been baptized as He commanded is to be done for every new believer. Unity is greatly to be desired. All who ARE “in Christ” surely need to work together for Him. Those who are outside need to obey the gospel before they seek unity with those who are actually in Christ.

  5. And unity of any sort is impossible as long as fallible men continue to insist that they are competent to decide just who is in Christ and who is not. Pride comes before destruction, and unfortunately that destruction creates a lot of collateral damage.

  6. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Jerry,

    Thanks for the reference to Sommer’s Address and Declaration. Just like H. Leo Boles’ speech The Way of Unity between the “Christian Church” and the Churches of Christ, both divisive documents grossly abused the teachings of Thomas Campbell in his Declaration and Address, taking him out of context or misinterpreting him, as though Campbell agreed with the divisiveness of the two men — which he did not. Evidently they felt the need to appear to be consistent with the original Restoration Plea even though heading in the opposite direction.

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