3 Oct 2009

K. C. Moser: Student of the Word

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Books, Church, Church History, Discipleship, Exegesis, Grace, Hermeneutics, Holy Spirit, K. C. Moser, Ministry, Preaching, Restoration History
Alister McGrath in his recent outstanding study Christianity’s Dangerous Idea asserts Protestantism gift to Christianity was the belief that all people have the right to read and interpret the Scriptures for themselves. This “democratizing agenda” as McGrath terms it (p. 53) is certainly one that the founders of the Stone-Campbell Movement embraced with enthusiasm. These individual readings, over time, became collective readings that were more often than not shaped by controversies (p. 204). In our own Movement the rhetoric of freedom to study to “show ourselves approved unto God” has remained a constant. Yet many conclusions arrived at through the polemics that lead to the separation of Churches of Christ from the Disciples have led to powerful social impulses to conform to these assured results.

Outline of Moser’s life and Major Publications

Though most frequently seen as the lighting rod of the so-called “Man vs the Plan” controversy, Kenny Carl Moser is a case study in the protestant principle within one individual. Here is an outline of his life …

Born January 23, 1893

1914 Publishes “I’ll Take Jesus,” and “Marching On to Glory-Land” in Hosanna to the King, No.2 edited by Emmett S. Dean (Trio Music Company)

1914 Approved by the Texas Dept of Education to teach

1915 Enters Thorp Springs Christian College (has discussions with father and C. R. Nichol on the indwelling Spirit)

1918 Teaches Music at Thorp Springs Christian College

1919 Preacher in Normangee, TX. Publishes first known article (“Doing the Will of God” in October 23 Firm Foundation)

1920 Preacher in Longview, TX

1921-23 Ministers with the Wewoka church. Co-Editor of The Herald of Truth

1923-26 Minister with 10th & Francis Church in Okla City. Teaches the personal indwelling of the Spirit for the first time here in 1925

1926? Frederick, Okla

1927-30? Back to Wewoka Published Studies in Romans (Outlines and Comments)

1930-? Abilene, TX

1932 The Way of Salvation

1933-34 Associate at Tenth & Austin, Wichita Falls, TX (publishes “Can the Gospel Be Obeyed?)

1935 Ardmore, Okla Publishes “Six Gospel Sermons

1937 Publishes “Are We Preaching the Gospel?”

1937-40 Morton/Lubbock, TX

1939 Appears on the ACC Lectureship

1940-47 Preaches for 12th & Drexel in Okla City

1947-50 Enid, Okla

1948-49 Staff writer for World Vision

1952 Publishes Christ Vs. A Plan

1950-56? Back to 12th & Drexel

1956 Moves to Lubbock

1957 Publishes The Gist of Romans

1960 Publishes A Re-Study of Salvation (a revised version of Christ Vs A Plan)

1964 Accepts teaching position at LCC

1974 Contributes essay, “Our Lack of Understanding of the Person and Mission of Jesus” to J. D. Thomas’ What Lack We Yet?

1976 February 17, enters his rest

1976 Last published article appears in 20th Century Christian six weeks after his death. It is called, appropriately, “Jesus and the Resurrection.”

Text & Context: The Fruit of Study

Moser began his spiritual adventure rooted squarely in the “Texas Tradition [1]” The Firm Foundation was the principle organ of this theological stream within Churches of Christ. The power to conform is testified to by Moser, “I was brought up at the feet of teachers who denied the indwelling of the Spirit and for no better reason I denied it too. After I began to study for myself, I soon discovered that no doctrine is more plainly taught than the doctrine of the indwelling Spirit.” This quote reveals Moser passion for spiritual integrity before God. He inherited a position on the Holy Spirit but embraced a very unpopular position because he began to “study for [himself].” It was, I think I have shown conclusively, that doctrine of the Spirit that was Moser’s initial primary concern that lead him to examine where a denial of the Spirit came from, he believed he found that root in legalistic preaching (See my Christian Scholars essay, “In with Wallace; Out with Brewer: K. C. Moser and the Herald of Truth in the 1920’s)

Moser found himself in deep trouble because he embrace the rhetoric of studying for himself as a birthright. Through his writing career he exhibits a pioneering attitude and vigorous independence in his study of the Word of God. Moser believed there were three critical principles involved in God honoring Bible study.

1) the disciple must have an intelligent method of study

2) the disciple must be honest

3) the disciple must embrace a non-sectarian spirit

By method Moser meant a close contextual reading of any passage of Scripture. As a contributor for both the Gospel Advocate and World Vision, Moser chose the title “Text and Context” for his columns.

By honesty Moser meant “a sincere desire to know the truth.” The disciple seeks “to be taught himself” not to be a teacher of others. The disciple does not approach the text to “prove another wrong.” Rather the goal is to be lead by God’s Spirit to understanding and living the truth that is discovered.

By embracing a non-sectarian spirit Moser meant the disciple has no special loyalty to “our position.” In fact “my, your, or our position might be unadulterated error.” The sectarian spirit is among all the enemies of spiritual Bible study the worst. Sectarianism spills blood! Again testifying to the power to conform Moser states:

“there are too many who are willing to sacrifice the influence and good name of those who differ from themselves; and, too, for the reason, chiefly, that some one is considered out of line with ‘our position.’ To pronounce one a heretic simply because he is out of line with others is … rank sectarianism.” There are plenty who live in fear of their own convictions because they may “be put out of the synagogue.”

Moser’s testimony to the power of coercion was experienced in his own life. He was kicked out of the Texas synagogue and found a welcome with in the Nashville Bible School stream of the Churches of Christ. His courage to actually compare his inherited faith against a careful and dedicated reading of the Scripture is worthy of emulation. G. C. Brewer commented on Moser’s approach as “the most encouraging thing I have seen … among the disciples of Christ” in decades.


It is my prayer that Christianity’s Dangerous Idea will once again take root among “us.” I pray that ministers, elders, deacons, pew packers will follow Moser’s example. Let’s embrace a method that respects the narrative context of the Bible. Let’s seek after the truth and embrace it as God enables us. Let’s embrace a non-sectarian attitude that does not assume that “our” position is the correct one but rather once again returns to the Word seeking enlightenment from above. Lets pray for eyes to see the river of the Spirit and for ears to hear the rhythm of grace.

Bobby Valentine

[1] For more on the difference between the “Texas Tradition” and the “Nashville Bible School Tradition” in Churches of Christ see John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine, Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding; John Mark Hicks “The Struggle for the Soul of the Churches of Christ (1897-1907) and Bobby Valentine “Lipscomb of Texas vs. Lipscomb of Nashville: R. L. Whiteside’s Rejection of David Lipscomb’s Pacifism” both of these are in Thomas Olbricht & David Fleer (eds) And the Word Became Flesh: Studies in History, Communication, and Scripture in Memory of Michael W. Casey.

6 Responses to “K. C. Moser: Student of the Word”

  1. rich Says:

    well bobbie let’s just all hope that the only true church is the one the lord built and the head quarters are located on the throne of god our father and setting next to him.
    not as some of us might beleave in corpus christie tx.
    the great facilitator of the word “THE HOLY SPIRIT” for the use of the church to excersise the the gospel of the father, expressing in word and deed,their shaired love for the creation,and that we the true believers might learn this LOVE of forgivness and facilitate and reciprocate in the weekness of our lord and allow grace to be sufficent.
    blessing’s to you and yours
    rich constant

  2. Tim Archer Says:

    Thanks Bobby. Your posts are always very educational.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  3. Keith Says:

    Very cool stuff.

  4. Royce Ogle Says:

    Thanks for this reminder. Moser was a real “change agent” but thankfully not the last. I am glad to be reminded that at least some men seek truth and embrace it even if they must swim up stream to share it with others.

    Edward Fudge and Leroy Garrett are two pioneers in the vein of Moser who are still with us.

    Jesus promised that when the Holy Spirit came he would “Testify of me” [Jesus]. If a man’s teaching is always centered on lifting up and honoring Jesus he is more likely than not one to be followed. The opposite is also true. Those who major on every subject other than Christ are suspect.

    Thanks for the post.


  5. Wade Tannehill Says:

    Great post! Some interesting facts I didn’t know about Moser. Hope you still plan to publish a book about him.

  6. Steve Singleton Says:

    At LCU (then LCC), my first encounter with “Brother Moser” as we all called him, was a rebuke from him that my debut “preacher boy” lesson was “not the gospel.” He was right, of course. Four years later, I was proud that some called me a “Moserite.” I so appreciate his Christ-centered and cross-centered emphasis that I hope has become my own. Moser, it seems, fell short by missing the emphasis of grace and walking by faith in the Old Covenant and not fully realizing that what he so firmly rejected about seeking to establish righteousness by rule-keeping was a Pharisaic and scribal distortion of God’s will and design for human beings. Nevertheless, He taught hundreds of preachers Who should be the centripetal core of all sermons. For that we can all be grateful.

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