Vol.IX No.IV Pg.4
June 1972

Capsule History

Robert F. Turner

New Testament church identity is not determined by organic, historic succession. Two lines of succession may have extended from the division Paul foretold for Ephesus (Acts 20:29-31). One could not say one line was more right than the other on the basis of origin — and the first perverseness would have to be judged by Gods word. We are far afield when we consider a thing right because the great middle section of a movement accepts it. (2 Cor. 10:12-f.)

Our history is important, not as a standard of truth, but to give us an historic awareness of the SEARCH for the Ancient Order. And dates, the despair of history students, may humble us as we see ourselves as just another point of reference in the vast movement of time.

In 1800 Barton W. Stone was awakening to the need for Bible-bound rather than creed—bound religion. He and his followers broke with Presbyterianism, and by 1805 dissolved the Springfield Presbytery to form inde­pendent Christian churches.

Thomas Campbell, in a distinct movement, had formed a cell for independent Bible study and by 1809 had adopted the principle of Speak Where the Bible Speaks, Be Silent Where the Bible is Silent. This forced a rejection of infant sprinkling and led to many other reforms. Churches following these ideas joined the Redstone Baptist Association, but as they drew closer to the N.T. pattern they broke with the Baptist, formed their own Mahoning Association; then in 1830, dissolved this to operate as independent self-governing churches. Campbell and Stone forces united. But some, including A. Campbell, kept alive the desire for an organization of churches, and in 1849 American Christian Missionary Society was formed as a media for collective activities. Pro's and Con's of the matter developed liberal and conservative segmentations, as respect Bible authority; and by 1851 the papers had a brief exchange re: instrumental music in worship. Some churches were using the instruments by 1860, and in 1864 Pendleton presented a reversal of the Silence argument, saying if a thing was not forbidden in scripture, it was acceptable. Arguments were hot and churches began to divide into so called Anti and Pro­gressive groups. About 80% accepted the instrument and societies, and became what we today know as Christian Churches or Disciples; while the Anti groups were generally known as churches of Christ. The U.S. census recognized the division in 1906.

Churches of Christ grew in number, and as they fattened many forgot —- many never knew — the basis for claim to N.T. church identity. By 1946 organizational issues were revived. The new generation SEARCHED anew for the ancient order — and some took a conservative, some a liberal view of divine authority. Inter-church projects used brotherhood elders or executive boards as their media for operation; and objectors were again Anti. By 1965 lines were fairly well drawn.

Is your hope in a date, a segment of a movement, or in the Living Word?