Irven Lee, Part 2: The “Friendly Letter”

This an interesting 2012 blog from Chris Cotten, which bears repeating in a time of renewed discussion among Christians who deplore the antagonism and alienation of the past. A first installment, also re-blogged here, provides some context.

Anastasis

This is the second of two posts dealing with Irven Lee and his “A Friendly Letter on Benevolence” (1958). The first post provided a sketch of Lee’s life; this post will make some observations about the “Friendly Letter.”
Open division was a reality in Churches of Christ across the country in 1958. The controversy over institutions that had erupted in the years during and after WWII mushroomed by the middle of the 1950s into a heated and often very personal dispute. This is not the place for a complete timeline of the controversy, but it might be worth pointing out a few of the things that contributed to the atmosphere in which Lee wrote in 1958.

In December 1954, B. C. Goodpasture published with approval a letter written by an anonymous elder calling for a “quarantine of the ‘antis.'” This opened the door to, and gave sanction to, the kind of…

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Irven Lee (1914-1991), Part I: Biography

This an interesting 2012 blog from Chris Cotten, which bears repeating in a time of renewed discussion among Christians who deplore the antagonism and alienation of the past. A second installment follows.

Anastasis

At the conclusion of this semester’s classes, I’ll be turning my attention more fully to the Lewis research that you’ve been seeing in fragmentary form here. One of the things that fascinates me about Lewis is the degree to which one can understand him as a continuator/tradent of the Lipscomb-Harding theological synthesis among NI churches in the 1950s/60s.

But Lewis was not alone. Several other figures from a younger generation (relative to Lewis), to a greater or lesser degree, also fit this description. Interestingly, several of them can also (like Lewis) be found in North Alabama. Over the next couple of posts, I’ll be looking at one of these figures, Irven Lee (1914-1991). At the request of John Mark Hicks, I’ll offer here a few thoughts, historical and theological, on Lee and his “Friendly Letter on Benevolence” (1958).

I’ll do this in two parts: this post will…

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Footnote 37 – Missionary Work

FOOTNOTE 37 — Charles Randall Paul, Converting the Saints: A Study of Religious Rivalry in America (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2018), p. 168.

Franklin Spencer Spalding, raised in Denver and educated at Princeton University, became an Episcopal “missionary bishop” in Utah, attempting to convert Mormons to the Episcopal version of Christianity from 1905 until his death in 1914.

“A visiting banker from an Eastern city asked the bishop, ‘What difference does it make what the Mormons believe? What harm does it do if they love Joseph Smith and his teaching? What business is it of ours?’ Spalding replied, ‘Well, I must feel about their acceptance and teaching of what is intellectually and morally untrue, just as I suppose you would feel if you knew a group of people were coining and passing counterfeit money.’”

Ring or no ring, Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate

Ferrell's Travel Blog

By this time many people have heard the report on the news or read one of the numerous   articles stating that a ring possibly belonging to Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect or procurator who condemned Jesus to be crucified, has been found.

The scholarly article on which the reports have been based has been published in Israel Exploration Journal 68:2 (2018). The popular article in The Times of Israel (here) includes a black and white photo of the area in the Herodium where the ring was found. I searched my photos and discovered a color picture I made of the same area in 2011. Even then some reconstructive work was underway.

Photo of the Herodium made from the garden where the ring was discovered. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins. Photo of the Herodium made from the garden where the ring was discovered. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in 2011.

Our aerial photo below shows the Herodium in December, 2009. Additional excavations continue to be made on the…

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Trephination was not that uncommon

Ferrell's Travel Blog

Archaeologists working at Tel Megiddo excavated skeletons of two brothers from the Canaanite (Late Bronze) period dating to about 3,500 years ago,  who had a “complex medical procedure” known as trephination (or trephanation). An article in Haaretz includes several nice photos in the Premium Magazine here.

A few years ago Leon Mauldin and I traveled to some of the cities along the Turkish Black Sea Coast that may have been associated with the delivery of Peter’s epistles. See the  index of my articles here. In Samsun we visited the small archaeological museum and noted some skulls from Ikiztepe that had undergone the medical practice of trephination.

Ancient brain surgery that cut a hole in the skull to relieve pressure is referred to as trepination. A few of the skulls found at Ikiztepe are displayed in the museum. They are said to belong to Bronze Age III…

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Footnote 36 – Daniel Sommer Obituary by Frederick D. Kershner

Footnote 36 – Daniel Sommer Obituary by Frederick D. Kershner. Christian-Evangelist, LXXVIII:11 (March 14, 1940), p. 290 (from James Stephen Wolfgang, “A Life of Humble Fear: The Biography of Daniel Sommer” [MA Thesis, Butler University, 1975], pp. 165-167).

Daniel Sommer was the last of the great pioneers of the Restoration Movement. Born in 1850, only twenty years after the dissolution of the Mahoning Association, his life stretched back to the days of the Campbells and spanned almost the entire circle of the growth and development of the movement. As the successor of Benjamin Franklin in the editorship of The American Christian Review, he became a dominant protagonist of the right wing among the Disciples and was usually regarded as the very tip of the wing. Sommer was opposed to all “humanisms,” as he styled them, and believed that the only way to preserve the purity of the church was by forbidding even the slightest compromise with erroneous tendencies. Hence he opposed missionary societies, Sunday schools, Christian Endeavor societies and above all, instrumental music in the worship.
He was roundly denounced by various groups of conservatives who permitted the camel to put his nose under the tent, in one respect or another, but he always held his ground. He was opposed to Bible colleges or special training schools for the ministry because he believed that they undermined the faith of their students and taught them everything except the Bible. In one way or another, he isolated himself from the overwhelming majority of the brotherhood, a fact which caused him much sorrow, but which never shook his own convictions as to the rightness of his course.

Notwithstanding his rather extreme theological views, Daniel Sommer was one of the most tolerant and fair-minded men we have ever known. He had the Christian attitude toward the search for truth and the Christian spirit in his method of dealing with people with whom he disagreed. He had no trace of that ecclesiastical bigotry which refuses to sit on the same platform or speak at the same meeting with another individual suspected of heretical views. Instead of this widely prevalent Pharisaism, the editor of The Apostolic Review would go anywhere he was invited to speak, no matter how much he disagreed with the people who were managing the program or the general point of view prevalent at the meeting. He rightly reasoned that unfavorable circumstances of this kind made it all the more incumbent upon him to deliver his message whenever he had a chance to do it.

Hence he preached the gospel everywhere, to all sorts of people and under the most bizarre and unusual circumstances. Money was no consideration whatever with him and he never received more than a bare living for his untiring labors in behalf of the church. He delighted in real missionary work and only a few days before his death he insisted upon going forth again to take up the task of evangelism. He had a tonic influence upon all who came in contact with him and his obvious sincerity and disinterestedness gave weight to his words far beyond the tricks of the professional orator or elocutionist.

Even in his advanced age, Daniel Sommer was a forceful speaker and his thinking was logical and clear. He was one of the great preachers of the Restoration and his memory will be affectionately cherished by multitudes who possessed only slight personal acquaintance with him. Old as he was when he left this world, his more intimate friends will be conscious of a keen sense of loss in his departure, a feeling which will only partially disappear with the passing of time. He was a great soul, perhaps one should say more correctly, he is a great soul, and many of us feel that we shall not look upon his like again.

— Frederick D. Kershner Christian-Evangelist, LXXVIII:11 (March 14, 1940), p. 290.

“I will make your enemies your footstool”

“A common motif found in Ancient Near East reliefs shows a monarch placing his foot on his enemy. One illustration of this is the large relief showing the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III (reigned 745-727 B.C.) with his foot on the neck of an enemy. Tiglath-Pileser III is known as Pul in the Bible.”

Ferrell's Travel Blog

A common motif found in Ancient Near East reliefs shows a monarch placing his foot on his enemy. One illustration of this is the large relief showing the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III (reigned 745-727 B.C.) with his foot on the neck of an enemy. Tiglath-Pileser III is known as Pul in the Bible.

Pul the king of Assyria came against the land, and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that he might help him to confirm his hold on the royal power. (2 Kings 15:19 ESV)

So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, the spirit of Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and he took them into exile, namely, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan, to this day. (1 Chronicles 5:26 ESV)

The Assyrian relief below is displayed in…

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The Tenth Roman Legion in Jerusalem

Ferrell's Travel Blog

Students of the Bible are aware that the city of Jerusalem, including the Herodian temple, was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. Vespasian commanded the Romans in the north of the country. When he learned of the death of Nero he began his return to Rome and left his son Titus in command of the military forces.

When Titus began to position his forces around the city of Jerusalem, he called the tenth legion from Jericho to come up to the Mount of Olives and take their position there.

and as these were now beginning to build, the tenth legion, who came through Jericho, was already come to the place, where a certain party of armed men had formerly lain, to guard that pass into the city, and had been taken before by Vespasian. These legions had orders to encamp at the distance of three quarters of a mile from…

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My List of 20 Authors and Significant Books – What’s Yours?

SW Lib S-CGiving in to a fad which I strongly resisted for awhile, here’s a list of 20 books which have shaped my personal intellectual development. It was frustrating but enlightening to do the introspection necessary to accumulate and then pare down to 20. All such stand-alone lists are probably sterile, unless (as they were with me) they are integrated into broader reading in conversation with an extensive web of other classical and “Great Books” authors. But these were “first introductions” to a protracted corpus of similar works, or provided multiple significant “aha moments” in their own right. Many of the specific titles are representative of a “train” of comparable works by the same author and/or others who interacted with them in an intellectual engagement. In more or less chronological order as I encountered them, this list omits MUCH (and, yes, it has notes at the end!)

1 – Jack Finegan, Light From the Ancient Past
2 – Earl West, Search for the Ancient Order (multi-volume)
3 – E.L. Jorgenson, Great Songs of the Church
4 – Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
5 – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
6 – The Diary of Anne Frank
7 – William F. Buckley, God and Man at Yale, Blackford Oakes novels
8 – Homer Hailey, The Minor Prophets, John, Isaiah and other commentaries
9 – Ed Harrell, Social History of the Disciples of Christ, 2 volumes
10 – Bernard Ramm, The Pattern of Authority
11 – John RW Stott, Christ the Controversialist
12 – John Warwick Montgomery, Where is History Going? and The Suicide of Christian Theology
13 – Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
14 – G.A. Kerkut, Implications of Evolution
15 – Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II
16 – Kenneth A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament
17 – Bernard Bailyn, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, and Voyagers to the West
18 – C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, and so much more
19 – Gordon Fee & Stuart, How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth
20 – Ronald Numbers, The Creationists

Other “honorable mention” influences would certainly include G.K. Chesterton, Richard Hofstadter, N.B. Hardeman, James McPherson, George Marsden, Everett Ferguson, Stephen Ambrose, D.A. Carson, Mark Noll, George Will, N.T Wright, Fred Craddock, Rick Atkinson, and Fleming Rutledge, among others. This list of 20 could easily become 50 or even 100, especially if older classics were included. Three other works are significant, though in somewhat different ways.

A – The Geneva Bible – I omitted the most continuously-formative work (”the Bible”) but I’ll single out the Geneva, a 1599 copy of which (as well as several more recent replicas) has been in my family for generations. Purchased from a Chicago bookdealer by my great-uncle, who lived here following his discharge from the US Navy in WWI, it then passed to my grandfather, James Otto Wolfgang, and upon his death in 1975 to my father, James Harold Wolfgang, and thence to James Stephen Wolfgang. Not only the text, but the marginal notations, the typography, the woodcut illustrations, and even the paper contain lessons in their own right.

B&C – Two works for which I served as a “knowledge contributor” rather than simply a “knowledge consumer” are the Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Eerdmans, 2004), and the new hymnal Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (Sumphonia Productions, 2012). Working on the “other side of the page” provided new insights, and these works continue to teach me afresh.

NOTES:

1 – A part of my early teenage intellectual awakening, Finegan’s LFAP was on my grandfather’s bookshelves, and I spent many fascinating Sunday afternoons trying to wrap my developing brain around its contents. In this text, and several to follow, Finegan introduced me to the worlds of Biblical archaeology and chronology, and the world of Ancient Near Eastern texts and Biblical manuscripts.

2 – Earl West was a multi-generational family friend (performed my parents’ wedding ceremony), whose multi-volume history of the “Restoration Movement” (also on my grandparents’ and parents’ bookshelves) taught me at an early age the basic plotline and biographical storyline of the movement and its controversies – and ignited a passion to learn more.

3 – Jorgenson was one of several hymnals I sang from as a child, including L.O. Sanderson’s Christian Hymns #2, which often contained simple melodies and harmonies which sounded good when everyone sang their part. But Jorgenson took things to a new level. I was singing from his hymnal during the same time I was playing in high school and regional music groups under a very good conductor (a graduate of the world-class School of Music at Indiana University – as were several of the song leaders at church, who in turn instructed other song leaders, including my father, in the basics of leading a congregation in the worship of God in song, skillfully and with insight). Great Songs helped integrate what I was learning at school in music and English composition, including poetry, with what was happening “in church.”

4 – Began to help me confront the reality of evil, both as an act and as a power – as well as the power of story.

5 – C. S. Lewis’ classic (and others, read later) opened up new and different ways of “explaining” Christianity, as well as modeling excellent writing as the Brits do it.

6 – Ditto # 4 – Began to help me confront the reality of evil, both as an act and as a power – in other contexts outside the USA.

7 – Buckley introduced me to the world of the “public intellectual,” the confusing maze of academic discourse and pretensions, the wonders of arcane vocabulary, the importance of intellectual rigor in political discourse, and the power of fiction to expound truth with an impact sometimes lacking in non-fiction. I have read most of his books.

8 – As with other authors on this list, Homer Hailey’s influence on my life was not limited to his books, or even as a preacher, professor, and counselor, but also as mediated through other influential figures in my intellectual development, including but not limited to Ferrell Jenkins, Melvin Curry, and Phil Roberts. As with Buckley and Harrell and Montgomery below, I have consumed nearly everything he wrote.

9 – Probably the closest thing to a formal “intellectual mentor” in my life (I once called him “the surrogate older brother I never had”), Ed introduced me to the stubborn fact that theological issues are not merely theological. There are “layers of the onion” which must be peeled back to reveal how social forces, including class, race (and gender), and many other factors influence theological ideology and religious behavior, and the necessity to integrate the study of religion into the broader descriptions of political, economic, social, intellectual, military, and other aspects of the human endeavor. Ed once said that I was perhaps the only person who had read everything he’d ever written (adding, “but Steve even reads cereal boxes and the phone directories” – too true!)

10 – Ramm, whose book on authority came to me by way of Harry Pickup, Jr., (another profound influence in my life as a young preacher), was one of the bright stars in the early evangelical constellation; this foundational work led me to a string of others.

11 – John RW Stott, first encountered through his book on Christ as a controversialist, was introduced to me by John Clark, a self-educated intellectual and formative influence on my early spiritual development. In many ways, it replicates themes in Stott’s other works, expounding “Basic Christianity,” the gigantic paradox of the cross of Christ and the scandal of worshiping a crucified man, murdered by state sanction as a common criminal or worse.

12 – Montgomery, like Stott, served as both an introduction and a bridge into the worldview of evangelicalism, at once alike (not least in its rejection of both modernist and post-modernist ideologies) and different from the “restorationism” I have written about myself. As with many other works on this list, what I found most attractive was JWM’s broad, interdisciplinary background in classics, philosophy, library science, Biblical studies, history, and modern theology.

13 – Kuhn is often at the head of “Most Influential Books,” especially of the 20th century – and deservedly so as one of very few works which has had widespread cross-disciplinary impact. Read with fascination as I began a doctoral program in the History of Science at Emory University (along with his Copernican Revolution), Kuhn was, as for many, one of the most formative influences on my thinking, surpassing even many on this list and opening up a long list of related works.

14 – Kerkut’s compact but tightly argued monograph taught me not only important distinctions between “general” and “special” evolution (“macro-“ and “micro-“) but also to challenge prevailing assumptions and “received wisdom” – and that doing so is not always received well by others. To actually meet and interview him (and be “served tea”) in his laboratory at the University of Southampton while I was working on my own dissertation, was a special treat, putting a human face to a respected scientific name.

15 – Braudel demonstrated with staggering breadth how much of the human enterprise can and should fall under the historian’s gaze and pen, describing it in a single (and yes, again, multi-volume) work. Despite its title, this work surveys everything from demography to warfare to numismatics to zoology and nearly everything in between, from the Bronze Age to modernity, as well as confronting concepts of stasis and change over time with which every historian must grapple.

16 – From AO&OT to his “magnum opus” On the Reliability of the Old Testament, the breadth of Kitchen’s output is stunning, ranging from the scholarly translation of ancient texts to academic works on Egyptology and “popular” books on Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical history. I first encountered his work (in the library but not on the reading lists) at the seminary where I earned my MDiv. There, his “conservatism” was ridiculed and snickered at by small-minded faculty and grad students – none of whom could carry water for Kitchen, intellectually. Legends in their own minds, they seemed intent on demonstrating their own snobbish “superiority” – which attracted me to his work, first out of curiosity and then with respect.

17 – Bailyn is one of the the most influential American historians of the 20th century, not only for his own Pulitzer- and other prize-winning works, but also as the advisor of a long train of Harvard PhDs who became influential (on me and many others) in their own right, including other Pulitzer Prize winners like Gordon S. Wood (my favorite and, yeah, the guy Matt Damon cites in Good Will Hunting), Mary Beth Norton, Richard Bushman, Jack N. Rakove, Pauline Maier, Philip Greven, Michael Kammen, and MANY others.

18 – Woodward, the dean of a whole corps of Southern historians, introduced me to the thicket of questions of how race, slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the civil rights movement, and a host of other related issues have played out in American history – at a time when this Midwesterner, recently married to a lovely Southern lass, engaged in graduate studies at Emory University in Atlanta, was preaching for a church in a racially “transitioning” neighborhood in the midst of racial tensions only three years following the King assassination. An intriguing and challenging read, it was not only formative in its own right, but lead down numerous other worthwhile rabbit trails.

19 – It is difficult to single out one book in a whole cluster of important works on crucially important questions of hermeneutics and interpretation of texts, but this one stands out and has become a classic.

20 – A path-breaking, even-handed, award-winning monograph on an important subject previously ignored by historians and other segments of academia (and an area I’ve worked in, and published a bit myself), this is a model of following the evidence where it leads. If there is “a book I wish I’d written,” this might be it.

Where the Romans breached Jerusalem wall

Ferrell's Travel Blog

There is abundant evidence of the presence of the Romans in Jerusalem and the land they would later call Palestine. Now comes specific evidence of the place where Titus’ army breached the Third Wall of the city.

The excavation site in the Russian Compound. One can see the sling stones on the floor, which are tangible evidence of the battle that was waged here 2,000 years ago. Photographic credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The excavation site in the Russian Compound. One can see the wall and sling stones on the floor, which are tangible evidence of the battle that was waged here 2,000 years ago. Photographic credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Israel Antiquities Authority released this information earlier today.

— “ —

Impressive and fascinating evidence of the battlefield and the breaching of the Third Wall that surrounded Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple period was uncovered last winter in the Russian Compound in the city center. The finds were discovered in an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted in the location where the new campus of the…

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