13 Mar 2007

Reaction to Kingdom Come: Gardner Hall

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Books, Kingdom Come, Restoration History, Unity

Reaction to Kingdom Come by Gardner Hall.

Last week I became aware of a review of my book, Kingdom Come, by Gardner Hall. I have never met Gardner before. Gardner published his review in a journal called Biblical Insights and has placed it also on his website. I read his reaction and then asked him if I could place it on my own website. I was thrilled by his review because he took the book seriously, he has wrestled with it and gave both positive and negative. I think Gardner is mistaken in some of his interpretations (regardless of my point of view on the role of women that is not a subject in the book itself). We disagree on matters here (I obviously disagree with what he calls problem areas) and there but unlike some critics he also sees some value in the book … to the point of recommending its purchase. Gardner is the grandson of Flavil Hall, I have learned (mentioned in the book too). He is from, I gather, what is commonly called the “non-institutional” wing of the Churches of Christ. Be that as it may he is a brother in the Lord. I appreciate the effort he made to join the dialogue … and the book if nothing else is an effort to get us in Churches of Christ to dialogue about some important theological concepts. One thing that pleased me is the fact that Gardner is the only reviewer known to me that calls attention to the written prayers at the end of each chapter. John Mark and I believed they were among the most important things in the book. With these thoughts in mind I share Gardner’s review unedited.

Kingdom Come,

Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb

and James Harding

by John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine

A new book, Kingdom Come, Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding, will leave careful Christians with a mixture of admiration and apprehension. The admiration will be for Lipscomb and Harding’s emphasis on personal devotion to Christ and holiness, articulately summarized by authors, John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine. The apprehension will come from some of the applications that Hicks and Valentine draw from the writings of the two giants who lived at the turn of the twentieth century.

It is no secret that “mainstream churches of Christ” became increasingly worldly in the last part of the twentieth century, emphasizing parties, recreation, pop “Bible” study (for example, drawing spiritual lessons from the Andy Griffith TV show) and other spiritual fluff. The most eloquent protests against such worldliness have come not from the more conservative elements of “the mainstream” but from progressives such as C. Leonard Allen, John Mark Hicks and Rubel Shelly. In various books and publications, they plead for more personal spirituality, Bible study and prayer even as they press for women in the pulpit, acceptance of instrumental music in worship and other elements of their progressive agenda. The authors of the book, Kingdom Come… are from this progressive group.

The authors take a similar historical approach to the Stone-Campbell restoration movement as that taken by Richard Hughes in his 1996 book Reviving the Ancient Faith. They divide the movement into three spheres of influence: (1) A compromising, materialistic stream represented by liberal Christian churches of today, (2) A dogmatic and somewhat sectarian influence seen in many churches in Texas. Austin McGary and the Firm Foundation magazine represented this approach during the lifetimes of Harding and Lipscomb. It later characterized men such as R.L. Whiteside and Foy E. Wallace. (3) Harding and Lipscomb represented the third stream seen among churches around 1900. The authors call it the “Nashville Bible School Tradition.” Richard Hughes used the term “apocaliptic” to describe this third approach and feels that it originated with Barton W. Stone. Ed Harrell prefers the term “cultural separatism.” It was characterized by an emphasis on separation from the world, pacifism, a belief in the personal indwelling of the Spirit, concern for the poor, God’s providential intervention apart from the Word and in the case of Harding, R.H. Boll and others, premillennialism.

The authors summarize the thrust of their book on page 19.

Though the Nashville Bible School Tradition was prominent in the early years of the twentieth century, ultimately the Texas Tradition practically absorbed it in the south and became the majority perspective in the 1940’s and 1950’s through the influence of such leaders as Whiteside and Wallace. However, we believe the Nashville Bible School Tradition is particularly compelling, more biblically authentic and needed in the contemporary church… This book endeavors to facilitate the appropriation of communal practices, individual habits and kingdom vision that shaped the life and teachings of Harding and Lipscomb.

Restoration History and Denominational Attitudes about God’s Church

Biblically, the church of Christ is all the saved individuals in the world known only to God (Acts 20:28). It is not synonymous with the “Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement.” Churches of Christ are congregations that God stills considers to have a “candlestick” in spite of different levels of growth (Revelation 2,3). They do not belong to a movement that has a Nashville Bible School tradition, Texas tradition, One-Cup tradition, No Bible Class Tradition, or any other tradition. They belong to Christ. Unfortunately, studies in Restoration History often reinforce denominational concepts.

However, just as the Corinthians could not have denied the influence of Paul and Apollos even as they were told to identify spiritually only with Christ, historical reality is that men like Lipscomb, Stone, Campbell, etc have influenced many disciples today. The key to benefiting from a study of “Restoration History” while avoiding denominational concepts is to identify spiritually only with Christ and remind ourselves constantly of the spiritual truths about the makeup of God’s church mentioned above, even as we learn from the successes and avoid the mistakes of those who have sought God before us. That’s where books such as Kingdom Come… can be helpful.

Strengths of the book

Persuasive calls for renewed spirituality, prayer and separation from the world aren’t only needed among mainstream “churches of Christ” but also among more independent groups of disciples that have been also affected by the materialism of twentieth century America. Excellent practical suggestions about making prayer, holiness, study and service more a part of the daily lives of disciples make this book much more valuable than its $14.99 price tag. The written prayers at the end of each chapter are unique and help the reader consider his own pleas to God for more holiness, separation from the world and spiritual fellowship.

More difficult issues

Hicks and Valentine follow their protagonists, Lipscomb and Harding, into the deep waters of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and direct providential intervention. Harding in particular argued energetically that the Holy Spirit dwells in us and intervenes in our lives apart from the influence of the word.

Certainly, it is possible to overstate the case made by Foy Wallace and others of “the Texas tradition” regarding the Spirit’s indwelling and Divine intervention only through the Word. To do so is to overlook the fact that we can never grasp all the ways that God works in our lives and to put Him as it were in a box. While acknowledging that God’s ways are often beyond our understanding, the scriptures do emphasize the fact that the Word is His sufficient means of revelation for us today, and at least His primary tool of intervention in our lives. If those of the “Texas tradition” have helped Christians see that fact, we can thank them for it.

However, just as the “Texas tradition’s” position about the Spirit and divine intervention can be overstated to the point of mechanical dogmatism, so can Harding’s position lead to outright subjectivism. Irrational testimonials about God’s providence and seeking His guidance through subjective feelings or occurrences in our lives ultimately promote pride and confusion. It’s better to trust in the Word as God’s primary tool of intervention, even as we thank Him for His workings that are beyond our comprehension.


The authors eloquently use Harding and Lipscomb’s writings to plead for separation from the world. However, they have allowed the feminist movement of the world to pressure them into a distorted interpretation of texts such as 1 Timothy 2:11,12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 so that they can promote women in the pulpit.

Though arguing persuasively in chapter nine that separation from the world implies aloofness from its carnal wars, at the end of the chapter they advocate political activism to promote legislation and political change. It seems that detachment from one, carnal warfare, would imply detachment from the other, political activism. Such trust in politics would be anathema to Lipscomb and Harding.

An inconsistency of Harding’s that is surprisingly shared by the writers is that Christ will reign again in some way on the earth. On page 186, they quote Romans 8 and Anthony Hokema, to advance the idea that the physical world will not be utterly destroyed, but redeemed. They say, “Our hope then, is to reign with God on the earth… The old heaven the old earth will be purified by fire and renewed for inhabitation by God’s saints.” (page 187) This, of course, in spite of Peter’s declaration that our “one hope” is “reserved in heaven” (1 Peter 1:4) and that the earth and the elements in it will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10). Perhaps I am missing something, but it seems that there is an inherent inconsistency in linking the concept of other-worldliness with the promotion of an earthly heaven.

Hicks and Valentine disassociate themselves from what they called the “ecclesial hermeneutic (‘command, example and inference’)” of Harding and Lipscomb and their participation in the battles with the Disciples of Christ denomination over instrumental music and the missionary societies. They obviously don’t see that such common-sense Biblical interpretation and the battles with those who were losing confidence in restoration, were integral parts of their other-worldliness. Inevitably, there must be separations between those who cling to primitivist principles and those that reject them. Division, though it must be avoided until there is no other recourse, is sometimes necessary (1 Cor. 11:19).

Though correct in promoting personal holiness, an emphasis on grace and other-worldliness, the progressives’ rejection of a careful approach to Bible authority and their push for ecumenism will probably land them into something like the first of the three streams of Restoration Movement they mention, that of the liberal Disciples of Christ denomination. It will not lead them into the third stream they claim to be reviving, that of Harding and Lipscomb.

Lipscomb and Harding are indeed fascinating case studies. Though flawed in a few of their approaches, their overall emphasis on separation from the world and personal holiness is greatly needed today! Hicks and Valentine’s book also has its weaknesses. However, their passionate, heartfelt and well-articulated thoughts can help strong Christians who are mature enough to separate the wheat from the chaff.

( Kingdom Come, Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding by John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine was published in 2006 by Leafwood Publishers in Abilene, Texas and can be ordered from the publisher, www.leafwoodpublishers.com, or from Amazon.com.)

22 Responses to “Reaction to Kingdom Come: Gardner Hall”

  1. Steve Says:

    Reading his review of your book helps me see how I have been formed both by the Nashville and Texas traditions. Just finished “Who’s Afraid of Post Modernism? by J. K. A. Smith today and maybe it’s the voice of Foy Wallace I would sometimes hear in my head giving counter arguments to Smith’s positive view of postmodernism. One just can’t get away from one’s history. You think you have put it away but year’s later it is brought out in ways you never anticipated. Your book is now in my Amazon shopping cart.

  2. Darin Says:

    That was interesting bobby, thanks.

  3. John Roberts Says:

    Interesting review, though he obviously had a difficult time separating his feelings about you and John Mark from the content of the book (feminist movement?). At least he read the book, and as you say, took it seriously. Unfortunately, many who will criticize it (and you) will never bother to do that.
    Your chapter on the Holy Spirit is still my favorite, and I think you nailed it.

  4. Neva Says:

    Great post and a great book. Thank you.


  5. Phil Says:

    Man, I’m going to actually have to read this book someday…


  6. cwinwc Says:

    Phil beat me to it, I have to read your book. It is interesting how is review is affected by his background in the “non-institutional wing” of our movement.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Interesting review. I have not read the book. But enjoyed this man’s review. I too would have concerns or disagreement with women issues and others. (But since I do not even give my name and contribute anything to this blog I will be careful what I say.)

    I must say this, I appreciate some of what he said about the book. There (according to this man)is merit to it and I am sure there is.

    You and others have led many back into denominationalism. You told me awhile back that I can’t get away from the heritage of the stone-campbell movement. Well, I have. There are influences that I have from these men. There are many others that have influenced me. I still go back to Jesus Christ and His building His body/church.

    I am only a disciple of Jesus, the Christ. I am not a member of a denominational church. Please, do not lead people there.

  8. Brian Nash Says:

    Reading this is helping me to come to a greater appreciation of our heritage. My own heritage lies primarily with the Christian Church/Church of Christ. I’m very proud of that heritage and I’m equally pleased to be a member of the congregation that Bobby now serves. It is troubling to read comments that suggest the book could help help pave the way towards denominational tendencies, but at the same time, i understand the thinking of the ones who imply this. We all have our preconceived notions. The real challenge is in setting aside these notions so as to be better able to think outside the box.

    I, for one, am enjoying this opportunity to have my thinking challenged, the sense of passion that both authors are bringing to the table, and I firmly agree with the reviewer that this book is worth having and reflecting on.

  9. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Phil and Cecil I would be honored to have you read the book. I am partial to it myself 🙂 sort of like a child. You see the ‘warts’ he/she has inherited from you but you love’em just the same.

    Brother anonymous,

    I do appreciate you reading and commenting. I can promise you I have never lead anyone into “denominationalism” on purpose. If I have done so inadvertently I repent of it.

    I have tried to remain a restorationist. If you are the same person I dialogued with the other day then you will know that I mean by that one who continues to search, explore and seek the truth and wisdom of God. I am never suspicious about God’s truth but I am always skeptical of my own infallible grasp of that truth.

    Regarding my book, Kingdom Come, you said you have not read it. I have a proposition for you. Email me at Bobby.Valentine@paloverdechurch.org and I will mail you a free copy of the book. Your identity will be safe and remain hidden. I hope others will be honest and not claim to be you. But I would love for you to read the book. You can make up your own mind about its value.

    Let me hear from you.

    Bobby Valentine

  10. Neva Says:

    I did read the book, but I have to confess I read it because I knew who John Mark Hicks was, but I didn’t know you yet.
    Sorry. 🙂 Neither changed my appreciation for the book. I liked the history and applications-

  11. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Neva that is why I bought the book too, 🙂

    Steve I think Smith’s book is the best book on PM that I have read … and it is short to boot.

    John thanks a lot. I really enjoyed how the Holy Spirit chapter came together.

    I recall when I initially started research on Harding in the late 1990s and found his discussion with J.C. Holloway and I was blown away. I had to keep reminding myself that Harding was one of “us.” I had not heard such things before. But he proclaimed them loud and clear.

    Bobby Valentine

  12. laymond Says:

    Bobby; no doubt you know where I stand on the indwelling Holy Spirit since we have discussed the matter before, and I do believe if the church continues down the road it is trying so hard to turn down it will face “denominationalism” in the near future. read my most recent post to see where you are going. “The new Church of Christ”

  13. Candle (C & L) Says:

    Bobby – I have read your book (as you may recall) and I have followed the earlier reviews that you published back in June? or so.

    I don’t recall allthe detail but this review (with a fewexceptions) seems to be one of the most balanced I have read. I’m not a bible scholar nor a Bible scholars son and you may recall that someofmy “complaints” in earlier commentsabout the book was the introductionof “theologian speak” which forced me to keep looking up definitions and referring back to my notes as I read —

    I am (or at least I think I am) pretty middle of the road in the RM movement but had never done any real reading on its’ history

    I certainly had no idea of the diversity of opinions and the “schools of thought” that were present in the movement.

    More than anything it was thathistorical contextthatI liked. I alsoliked the prayers(notsureI evermentionedthem before butI certainly appreciated themand have tried toadopt theminmy teaching –an honest acknowledgmentofour struggle and a prayer for wisdom. I alsoliked the emphasis on the Spirit. I found it strange in my upbringing in the church that we were taught the Spirit works through the written word only whileat the same timepeople routinely talkedabout the spirit indweellingthemandworkingin their livesto-day –about God’s providential influence on events and other things that implied a very active role for the spirit in our lifes –and no one saw those as being in conflict. Kingdom Come at least helped me understand why I was “confused” and to make a more reasonable(to me) judgement of how the Spirit works today.

    As for the “premin” stuff– I’m generally of the view that this world will be destroyed and heaven is elsewhere but what I’ve never figured out in all the debate I’ve read on that topic is” what difference does it make to me here and now as far as having a relationship with God through grace and having a hope for a perfect relationship with him in heaven (whereever and whatever it is– it is a good place–no tears, etc.–and that’s what’s important.

    Bobby- I posted this in my blog to-day (before I knew about this review

    I have read his (Bobby Valentine’s)book ”Kingdom Come” written with John Mark Hicks and found it interesting and helpful –both in terms of understanding some of my “restoration” heritage and in terms of a unique look at God’s kingdom here on earth.

    God Bless

  14. Falantedios Says:


    Congrats on a very interesting review. One of our elders here at Holly Hill in Frankfort is teaching a class on Developing a Closer Relationship with Jesus Christ, and I’ve recommended Kingdom Come as a resource. Hopefully, we’ll be able to teach through it in the relatively near future. Let me know if you (or JMH)have any recommendations in that area.

    in HIS love,

  15. Gardner Says:

    Thanks for putting my review in your blog and hope it stirs more interest in your book because of its overall excellent message, while sounding a word of caution about some of the areas where I think you missed it.

    As I told you in a personal note, I realize that you didn’t touch directly on the issue of women in the pulpit in your book, though I believe I correctly sensed your leanings on that issue (or perhaps more those of John Mark Hicks) and therefore mentioned the matter.

    It is fascinating to me to see how elements of the thinking of Lipscomb, Harding, Stone, etc. are having a revival among “mainstream brethren” even as they are among “noninstitutional” disciples. (Oh, I hate those labels! But using them helps me avoid three paragraphs of explanations.) Our shared appreciation for their approach, which I also believe to generally be Biblical, has me saying “amen, amen” over and over again as I read parts of your book, even as I groan when reading about your disassociation with their common sense approach to Bible authority.

    The bottom line is that “restoration” requires constant study and analysis of God’s word and our response to Him. Your book has helped me do that. I hope my little review has contributed a bit. May God have mercy upon us as we strive to be like Christ. Gardner

  16. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks for the free offer but I am going to buy one and read it to learn and grow. So, don’t take any offers. I am not looking for any kind of a fight, but I will tell Brian Nash that he does not know my mind set. He may think he does but man is he wrong. I am a back woods tater in many things but I am a seeker and searcher. I have faith that serves faithfully. I don’t buy into all winds that blow. I am not a mean conservative, conservative yes, but my mind is wide open and searching. Brain N. does not know my thinking. In fact, that fires me up. Sounds like some brothers that I have to deal with that in their words have a special kind of knowledge. If I don’t buy their brand of charisma I am a loser.

    I look forward (when I can) of reading this book. Again Brian if you are with the Christian church you are a part of demn.That is not said or thought or typed to sound mean or be mean it is just true. Do I condemn you for that? NO! God is judge but I do have to judge how I, I , I will serve my God.

  17. preacherman Says:

    I thought the book was great.
    I think it is sad that splits happen. I think we should strive for unity. Jesus prayed for unity in John 17. It is up to us to make answer that prayer.

    Again, I thought it as a great book.

  18. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Preacherman thanks for the kind words.

    Brother Anonymous,

    Let me know what you think of the book.

    Let me share a word about Brian. I have no intention on letting contention break out here. However I do not think Brian meant to paint you with a brush anymore than you have him. Brian said his background was in the independent Christian Churches but he is a member at Palo Verde where I preach. He has his own mind and is a student of the word.

    Perhaps you and Brian have somethings in common (lots I would imagine!!) Brian and you both seem to have written against the backdrop of some unpleasant experinces: his with what he might call conservatives and you with what you might call liberals. Whose has been worse? Only God knows. Was either good and holy? No.

    I encourage both you and Brian to be explorers of the word. Be courageous in that study. Restorationists have to be prepared for God to ROCK OUR WORLD.

    Bobby Valentine

  19. Brian Nash Says:

    It would seem that, without intending to, that I have offended some of you with a comment that I made in response to the reveiw of “Kingdom Come.” Like all of you I am a seeker. My desire is to know and love God with all of my heart,strength and mind. While it is true that I don’t know your heart, neither do you know mine. I am, however, deeply convinced that our thinking is coloured by both how and what we have been taught. I’m not one who accepts something simply because everyone else does, nor do I advocate that type of thinking. I’m grateful to Bro. Gardner for his thoughtful review. I encourage the bretheran to secure a copy of “Kingdom Come” so that you may come to your own conclusions.
    To paraphrase something from the “Declaration and Address” I am persuaded that no man can be judged for his brother and every man must be allowed to judge for himself and every man must bear his own judgment-or must give account of himself to God. Therefore, no man has a right to judge his brother except in so far as he purposely violates the letter of the law. How ever we choose to judge things we should always give fair testimony of what is said and done by the people involved in those things, and not simply accepting second hand information. If I have done anything to offend, I appologize.

    Your servant, Brian

  20. john dobbs Says:

    Bobby, please e-mail me…I’ve lost your address. Thanks!

  21. Chris Says:

    I’m a little late to the party on this one…

    Thanks for posting this, Bobby, and for taking an NI brother seriously. The NI movement is much more diverse than it is often given credit for, as Bro. Hall’s review suggests.

    Oh, and thanks for not using the phrase “anti.” Just for the record, most mainstreamers do not “commonly call” NIs “non-institutional.” I appreciate the fact that you resisted the temptation.


  22. Matthew Says:

    You to love it when you are reviewed. Thanks for checking out the blog, and the comments and insights into the movement. Also, looking forward to reading your new book. I just finished reading “I Just Want to be A Christian.” I know, I little late, but remember, I am new at this.

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