19 Sep 2023

Five “Unknowns” of the Stone-Campbell Movement

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Alexander Campbell, Church History, King James Version, Restoration History, Women

First. Some of our “apostates” have had significant impact in other religious movements. A sizable portion of the Stone Movement became part of the Shakers. And Sydney Rigdon, a preacher in the Campbell Movement became incredibly influential in what is now known as the Mormon Church. Rigdon’s “defection” took a number of well known preachers with him and a contingent of believers as well. In the 1830s the Mormons referred to themselves as the Church of Christ because of Rigdon. Now they are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Alexander Campbell was among the first to give a detailed examination of the Book of Mormon (which remains valuable to trace “changes” made in that book). John Thomas, the inventor of the “Rebaptism” false doctrine in the Restoration Movement left with his legalism to found the Christadelphians. David Lipscomb would later quip that John Thomas had been “baptized” over twenty times!

Second. The Stone-Campbell Movement was, as a whole, a vicious critic of the 1611 King James Version. That is, it was argued vigorously that:

a) the KJV was inaccurate frequently because of the theological bias of the translators;
b) that the KJV was inaccurate because it was based on a faulty Greek text;
c) that the KJV was inaccurate often simply because the translators were limited by the extent of knowledge of their day.

So in a bold move the Stone-Campbell Movement led the way in producing an English translation based on the latest Greek text in contemporary speech. This is a rich legacy we have but some preachers of less stature than their 19th century mothers and fathers have traded that legacy in for a bowl of bad soup.

Third. The Stone Campbell Movement was never isolationist. The leading publications of Barton Stone, Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott not only frequently corresponded with journals and leaders of Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian and other fellowships but would reprint whole articles from such sources. The great missionary activity of Adoniram Judson, William Carey, and others was followed and even celebrated in our writings. Even in debates over such things as baptism – especially with Baptists – the debate was over the proper understanding of the sacrament not whether or not the “others” were actually Christians. There is a gigantic difference in perspective here.

Fourth. Like all Christian fellowships of the day, the Stone-Campbell Movement was deeply divided on the matter of slavery. Alexander Campbell was anti-slavery but not an abolitionist. His views are complex but he was more concerned about unity (as he understood it) than justice to put it simply. Like many “law & order” people today, he counseled obedience to the Fugitive Slave Law.

However, Campbell’s sister was a true “uppity woman” however. Jane Campbell McKeever was not only a vocal abolitionist but she, and husband Matthew, were conductors on the Underground Railroad. A bounty was placed on Matthew’s head by southern slavers. Wouldn’t it be most interesting to be a fly on the wall at dinner time. In 1854, Jane wrote in Ovid Butler’s abolitionist Gospel paper:

Surely the broken-hearted, blind, and bruised slaves, are among those whom our glorious Redeemer came to deliver; and shall we, who profess to be the disciples of the Lord Jesus, assist in depriving them of the blessings of that salvation, by denying them the unspeakable privilege of being permitted to learn to read the word of God—tell it not among the scoffers of our holy religion, lest they rejoice—publish it not amongst the infidels, lest they triumph to hear that those who profess to take the Bible alone for their rule of faith and practice, and knowing that the Saviour has commanded them “to do to others as they would have others to do to them,” should be riveting the fetters of ignorance, oppression, and degradation upon those for whom Christ died. But language fails me in expressing my opposition to, and utter abhorrence of, the syetem [sic] of slavery” (NWCM 1 [1854], 153).

Gotta love those uppity women of the Stone-Campbell Movement.

Fifth. Alexander Campbell was a proud naturalized citizen of the United States. One does not have to go far in his speeches or writings to see the sense of gratitude and even awe he held the USA. But Campbell could also be quite objective about the flaws in his adopted land that he felt one who pledged allegiance to the Lamb should have. When Andrew Jackson ordered the removal of the “Five Civilized Tribes” from their property in the South, Campbell protested vocally and called it what it was. Sin, Greed, and injustice. When the United States invaded Mexico, Campbell delivered his famous “Address on War.” Something that most certainly did not win brownie points with many war hawks. In fact he was labeled unpatriotic! Campbell called it a blatant act of naked and premeditated aggression. It was a thinly veiled land grab to in the interests of slavery. It was in fact sin. Campbell’s speech was sent to Congress and he printed as well. Campbell notes that patriotism is not necessarily a Christian value at all. It is not a fruit of the Spirit. Rather those who pledge their lives to the Lamb hardly can countenance such national sin.

Just five forgotten things of our Stone-Campbell Heritage.

2 Responses to “Five “Unknowns” of the Stone-Campbell Movement”

  1. JT Says:

    This short little “history lesson” is great. Thanks Bobby.

  2. Debbie Says:

    I appreciate you posting this. I wish that I had studyed it a lot more than I have.

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