Muscle & Shovel”: Chapter 38, Part 2 (No Creed But Christ)

muscleshovelWe are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel. In this post, we consider the history of the Churches of Christ some more.

In the 19th Century, the founders of the Restoration Movement, rejected creedalism, that is, the idea that penitent believers in Jesus must divide and damn if we infer differing truths from the Bible.

The one fact is, that Jesus the Nazarene is the Messiah. The evidence upon which it is to be believed is the testimony of twelve men, confirmed by prophecy, miracles, and spiritual gifts. The one institution is baptism into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Every such person is a christian [sic] in the fullest sense of the word, the moment he has believed this one fact, upon the above evidence, and has submitted to the above mentioned institution; and whether he believes the five points condemned or the five points approved by the synod of Dort, is not so much as to be asked of him; whether he holds any of the views of the Calvinists or Arminians, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, or Quakers, is never once to be asked of such a person, in order to admission into the christian community, called the church.

Alexander Campbell, “The Foundation of Hope and of Christian Union,” Christian Baptist(April 5, 1824). Notice that the “synod of Dort” was the meeting of church leaders that adopted the five points of Calvinism popularly known as TULIP. Alexander Campbell expressly declares that Calvinism does not damn, even though Campbell rejected all five points of TULIP. (And Thomas Campbell appears to have been a Calvinist until the day he died — and yet his son, Alexander, not only considered him saved and a spiritual hero, he allowed him to publish articles in his church periodicals.)

The Saviour expressly declared to Peter, that upon this fact that he was the Messiah, the Son of God, he would build his church; and Paul has expressly declared, that “other foundation can no man lay (for ecclesiastical union) than that Jesus is the Christ.” The point is proved that we have assumed, and this proved, every thing is established requisite to the union of all christians upon a proper basis. Every sectarian scheme falls before it, and on this principle alone can the whole church of Christ be built. We are aware of many objections to this grand scheme, revealed by God, to establish righteousness, peace, and harmony among men; but we know of none that weighs a grain of sand against it. We shall meet them all (Deo volente) in due time and place.

Alexander Campbell, “The Foundation of Hope and of Christian Union,” Christian BaptistNo. 5, April, 1824. “Deo volente” means “Lord willing.”

DEAR BROTHER–FOR such I recognize you, notwithstanding the varieties of opinion which you express on some topics, on which we might never agree. But if we should not, as not unity of opinion, but unity of faith, is the only true bond of christian union, I will esteem and love you, as I do every man, of whatever name, who believes sincerely that Jesus is the Messiah, and hopes in his salvation. And as to the evidence of this belief and hope, I know of none more decisive than an unfeigned obedience, and willingness to submit to the authority of the Great King.

Alexander Campbell, “A Reply to the Above.”  This is Campbell’s response to German Baptist Jake Hostetter, whose association of Dunkard churches united with Campbell’s churches in 1828 (Christian Baptist, March 6, 1826.) Hostetter had asked Campbell about foot-washing, the holy kiss and frequency of communion, expressing different views than Campbell. Campbell considered these no barrier to union.

This plan of making our own nest, and fluttering over our own brood; of building our own tent, and of confining all goodness and grace to our noble selves and the “elect few” who are like us, is the quintessence of sublimated pharisaism. … To lock ourselves up in the bandbox of our own little circle; to associate with a few units, tens, or hundreds, as the pure church, as the elect, is real Protestant monkery, it is evangelical nunnery.

Alexander Campbell, “To an independent Baptist,” Christian Baptist (May 1, 1826).

That all men err, and, consequently, you and I, is, as you say, a self-evident position, and it is one reason why I never dare impose my inferences or my reasonings and conclusions upon others as terms of christian communion. Whatever is matter of fact, plain and incontrovertible testimony, is that, and that alone, in which we cannot err–and that only should be made a term of communion. Our safety is in an unerring rule. By that let us walk; and if in any thing we should be otherwise minded, God will teach us, by our own experience, what we fail to learn from precept.

Alexander Campbell, “Reply to Brother Clack,” Millennial Harbinger (April 1, 1830).

II. It consists of two departments;–the things that God has done for us, and the things that we must do for ourselves. The whole proposition of necessity in this case, must come from the offended party. Man could propose nothing, do nothing to propitiate his Creator, after he had rebelled against him. Heaven, therefore, overtures; and man accepts, surrenders, and returns to God. The Messiah is a gift, sacrifice is a gift, justification is a gift, the Holy Spirit is a gift, eternal life is a gift, and even the means of our personal sanctification is a gift from God. Truly, we are saved by grace. Heaven, we say, does certain things for us, and also proposes to us what we should do to inherit eternal life. It is all of God: for he has sent his Son; he has sent his Spirit; and all that they have done, or shall do, is of free favor; and the proposition concerning our justification and sanctification is equally divine and gracious as the mission of his Son. We are only asked to accept a sacrifice which God has provided for our sins, and then the pardon of them, and to open the doors of our hearts, that the Spirit of God may come in, and make its abode in us. God has provided all these blessings for us, and only requires us to accept of them freely, without any price or idea of merit on our part. But he asks us to receive them cordially, and to give up our hearts to him.

Alexander Campbell, The Christian System, 2nd ed. [1839], Chapter IX, “Religion for Man not Man for Religion.”

We do not suppose all unimmersed persons to be absolute aliens from the family of God–nor are they absolutely excluded from any participation with us in prayer or in the Lord’s supper.

Alexander Campbell, “The Christian Magazine,” Millennial Harbinger (March, 1845). To the idea that Campbell repudiated his views in the Lunenburg Letter, this is eight years after he wrote the response to the Lunenburg Letter.

I said at the beginning, I say at the close, of my notice of the Evangelical Alliance, that I thank God and take courage at every effort, however imperfect it may be, to open the eyes of the community to the impotency and wickedness of schism, and to impress upon the conscientious and benevolent portion of the Christian profession the excellency, the beauty and the necessity of co-operation in the cause of Christ as prerequisite to the diffusion of Christianity throughout the nations of the earth.

The Reformation for which we plead grew out of a conviction of the enormous evils of schism and partyism, and the first article ever printed by any of the co-operants in the present effort was upon the subject of the necessity, practicability and excellency of Christian union and communion, in order to the purification and extension of the Christian profession. The abjuration of human creeds as roots of bitterness and apples of discord, as the permanent causes of all sectarianism, was set forth as a preliminary step to the purification of the Church and the conversion of the world. The restoration of a pure speech, or the giving of Bible names to Bible ideas, followed in its train, and from these standing-points we have been led step by step to our present position, each one of the prime movers adding to the common stock something of importance, until matters have issued in one of the most extensive moral and ecclesiastical movements and revolutions of the present age.

Alexander Campbell, from Robert Richardson’s Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Volume II, Chapter XVII.

Quotations compiled by the Magnolia Church of Christ in Florence, Alabama.

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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8 Responses to Muscle & Shovel”: Chapter 38, Part 2 (No Creed But Christ)

  1. Price says:

    Interesting quote….We do not suppose all unimmersed persons to be absolute aliens from the family of God–nor are they absolutely excluded from any participation with us in prayer or in the Lord’s supper.” When did this teaching change?

  2. I had graduated from four Christian schools – high school, jr. College, 4-year college, & school of preaching – without hearing the slogan, “Christians only but not the only Christians.” Certainly we lost the fundamental driving force of the SCM long before the 1950’s!

  3. laymond says:

    In the name of Jesus.

    “The one institution is baptism into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
    Holy Spirit.”

    Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in
    heaven and in earth.
    Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
    Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
    Mat 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and,
    lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

    I have read, that the earliest known manuscripts only have “my name” instead of the
    three, these people are better qualified than I to say that, but to keep in context with what
    Jesus taught “my name” would fit perfectly.

    Jhn 10:25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in
    my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.
    Jhn 12:13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna:
    Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.
    Jhn 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may
    be glorified in the Son.
    Jhn 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may
    be glorified in the Son.
    Jhn 16:23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you,
    Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
    Jhn 16:24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that
    your joy may be full.
    Jhn 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of
    God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

    If baptism is a request that God forgive our sins, would it not be prudent to ask “In Jesus’
    name” only. ? Jesus was a representive of God the Father, therefore Jesus worked in
    God’s name. The Apostles were representives of Jesus, therefore they were to work in
    Jesus’ name.

  4. Royce says:

    If all these quotes are accurate, and I’m sure they are, it seems to me Alexander Campbell was a better Christian than many of his followers.

    Although Jesus is unique and exclusive, none of his followers have a monopoly on truth. On the other hand, Christ followers can be right about Jesus and wrong on a variety of issues and still be in good standing with God and other believers. Campbell was a postmillennialist, a position almost nobody now holds, but he was a great Christian and accomplished much good for the kingdom.

    All of us ought to work for unity but none of us should demand uniformity in every tiny detail.

  5. Ray Downen says:

    Jerry testifies that he was late in hearing one of the slogans of our Movement. I heard it in the Hutsonville, Illinois Christian Church even before I was baptized, and frequently since then in Christian Churches/Churches of Christ congregations and gatherings. Better late than never! I’m glad that Jay Quin is working for unity in Christ, and that he has friends who are sharing in his discoveries! Royce is right that none of us should demand uniformity in every tiny detail. But in essentials (where the Bible speaks) we do seek unity and uniformity. Where the Bible is silent, we do well to think for ourselves and not try to make everyone else agree with us. Jesus was not silent, for example, about the need for new believers to be baptized. Those who disagree with Him are not wise and do not demonstrate respect for Him.

  6. Royce says:

    Ray, Please tell us, who is it that disagrees with “the need for new believers to be baptized”? Is it Jay, Price, Laymond, me, Grace, Skip, Monte…?? Is there such a person or is it an imaginary person
    who disagrees with Jesus? I have yet to read any comment where the one commenting disagrees with Jesus. Didn’t He say “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”? If we go make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have we not kept at least part of that command. I will admit, though I have been faithful to baptize believers I have not done so well “teaching them to observe all” Jesus commanded.
    But I have baptized people in the baptistery, in a hotel swimming pool, in the ocean, in a creek, and many, many were baptized by others that I taught the gospel. Have I not obeyed Jesus as to baptism? Jesus said to baptize them and if we baptize them I believe we have done what he asked about that.

  7. Ray reminds me of the fellow who went out of the pizza business. His innovative Turnip and Turkey Neck Pizza was simply not selling. When asked why he had to close up, the man said, “Because people are just not eating pizza anymore.”

  8. Eric says:

    I’m a little surprised that you didn’t reference this quote from the chapter 38. This quote simply horrified me when I read it. This quote is a great example of what is wrong with Church of Christ tract rack theology. I was both stunned and saddened when I read this quote in the book.

    As Shank is on the steps of the baptistry waiting his turn to be baptized after his wife, his wife tells him to hurry so they can be together again. Then, Shank records this thought.

    “I knew exactly what she was talking about because at that very moment we were unequally yoked together. She was now in Christ and I was not. If Christ returned at that very moment I would have been as those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    Wow. That’s all I can say about that quote from chapter 38. That’s a complete misuse of 2 Cor. 6:14 right next to an outright rejection of God’s justice and mercy.

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