Friday, July 18, 2008

Standing For Their Faith: A History of Churches of Christ in Tennessee from 1900 to 1950, William Woodson

Standing For Their Faith: A History of Churches of Christ in Tennessee from 1900 to1950, William Woodson

Someone once told me it was good that Christians had never heard of Alexander Campbell. This person was attempting to demonstrate that people are reaping the fruits of the Restoration pioneers’ work to go get us back to the Bible, and not the pioneers themselves, for our authority in religion. While I understand the person’s point, it is short sighted. It appears we are upon another division. One of the marks of the pending division is the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship--one of the major lines of demarcation in the first division of the 19th century! How has this resurfaced? My response is the lack of emphasizing the history of the Restoration Movement. A generation has a risen similar to the ones in the book of Judges—they were not taught the lessons of the past and are repeating the mistakes of past generations. Some have been taught but have apparently forgotten the issue of the past.

Standing For Their Faith, is a good reference work for the major challenges confronted in the state of Tennessee during the first half of the 20th century. The division between churches of Christ and the Christian Church was recognized in the U. S. Census of 1906. While the lines of division had been settled, the fight for the truth was still raging on. The issues of this period not only include instrumental music but also the Missionary Society and Premillennialism.

In relation to instrumental music, one of the statements quoted in the book is from H. Leo Boles at one of the Unity Meetings between the Christian Church and churches of Christ in Indianapolis of 1938. His speech included the point that the Christian Church had left the NT pattern, not the churches of Christ.

Brethren, this is where the churches of Christ stand today; it is where unity may be found now; it is where you left the New Testament; it is where you left the churches of Christ, and it is where you can find them when you come back. On this ground and teaching, and only on this, can scriptural unity be had now; on these basic principles of the New Testament Christian unity may always be had. [Woodson, p. 83]
This point needs to be brought to the remembrance of some in our brotherhood. Apparently there are a growing number who want to compromise the NT pattern and fellowship religious bodies that use the instrument. In fact, some say the only barrier to fellowship is the belief that Jesus is the Son of God. There are several groups that are clearly not to be fellowshipped that believe Jesus is the Son of God; e.g., the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). Fellowship (or union) on the basis of error then comes at the expense of unity with God’s word that is totally unacceptable. The slippery slope slid down by the digressives of 1906 should be a warning to those who desire to pursue the same course of action.

This book also discusses the Hardeman-Boswell Debate in Nashville, TN. The Christian Church was thirsting for a challenger to debate instrumental music issue across the state. N. B. Hardeman met the challenge of the Christian church and quenched their desire to debate across the state.

William Woodson holds a doctorate in Church History. He has served as Dean of the School of Bible at Freed-Hardeman College (now University). He has also served as Dean of Biblical Studies at David Lipscomb University. This book is thoroughly documented and is an excellent primer on the background of the past events that will equip us to deal with future challenges on the horizon.

Originally printed in West Virginia Christian, Vol. 15, No. 6, June 2008, p. 3. Reprinted by permission.

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