Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Eternal Kingdom, F. W. Mattox

The Eternal Kingdom, F. W. Mattox

F. W. Mattox was the founder and first president of Lubbock Christian University. He received his B.A. degree from Central State Teacher's College in Edmund, OK in 1934; his M.A. degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1940; and his Ph.D. degree from George Peabody College in Nashville, TN in 1947. Brother Mattox made several valuable contributions to Christian Education, especially a very beneficial book on church history. That book was The Eternal Kingdom which was used as a textbook for church history at Harding. The book began as a mimeographed manuscript that became so popular that the demand for the material made the publishing of the book a given.

Church history is a fascinating subject to study. It is a very large field that provides many hours of profitable research for those who seek to understand where we have come from and how we got here. The Eternal Kingdom provides a very useful layout of church history that can be expanded with further research. This is a great work from the perspective of one who understands the aim of churches of Christ—to practice undenominational Christianity of the New Testament.

The layout of the book is in blocks of centuries so the chronology is kept in focus beginning with the church in prophecy and fulfillment. It discusses the progression and digression in the early centuries following the first century. The writer discusses uninspired works from those shortly after the close of the first century such as the Epistle of Barnabas. It also discusses the controversy and departures from New Testament Christianity, which eventually climaxed in the rise of the Roman Catholic Church. The book provides an overview of the various councils and false doctrines that arose as the apostles had foretold by the power of the Holy Spirit; e.g., 1 Timothy 4:1-4.

The work then deals with those who began to see the Roman Catholic Church as a great evil and sought to reform the organization during the Protestant Reformation. Men like John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, Hurldreich Zwingli, and John Calvin are discussed. The book deals with the Protestant Reformation in Germany, Switzerland, England, and the reaction of the Roman Catholic Church toward these efforts to reform the Catholic Church. It is very shocking to see the methods with which religious matters were resolved during this time. Men from this time were put to death solely for wanting to put the Scriptures in the language that people could read. During this day the Bible was kept in Latin, but this was no longer the language of the common people so they had to rely on what the Catholic clergy told them what the Bible said and meant. Men like Wycliffe, Tyndale, and Luther believed the power of the word of God was all that was needed to show the falsehoods of Catholicism. A study of this period is very beneficial in understanding attitudes that are still very prevalent today.

The history then turns to the United States and the various religious bodies that left Europe for the New World. One of the reasons these religious groups left was to escape religious persecution; e.g., the Puritans. In America, freedom of religion was protected by the Bill of Rights in the U. S. Constitution. This provided an opportunity for free religious thought to flourish. Men arose and spoke out about the errors of not only the Roman Catholic Church but also the multiplicity of denominations and parties. Men would arise and call people back to the Bible and would make great sacrifices for the plea to restore worship to the pattern of the New Testament. Men like James O’Kelley, Barton W. Stone, Thomas Campbell, Alexander Campbell, and Walter Scott were a part of this movement. The book chronicles some of their significant contributions to the movement. It also deals with the unification of these movements based solely on the Scriptures. Indeed this is the surest ground that can unify us. Anything more or less than the word of God is a foundation of sand.

Indeed, the past mistakes of history can be repeated unless we learn from the past. Also, the great accomplishments of history can likewise be repeated if we follow the pattern of the first century and those who would seek to walk in the same paths. This book will provide a student a good reference to put the events of church history in perspective and provide a framework for future study. It will renew a person’s love for the freedoms of this country, freedoms that are being challenged every moment. F. W. Mattox passed away this year on March 16, 2002.

Originally printed West Virginia Christian, Vol. 10, No. 3, March 2003, p. 8. Reprinted by permission.

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