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.’”

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.

J. M. Barnes on singing and unity

J. M. Barnes on singing and unity

Anastasis

Justus McDuffie Barnes (1836–1913) Justus McDuffie Barnes (1836–1913)

In July 1896, J. M. Barnes embarked on a month-long preaching tour through the State of Texas, documenting his travels in a series of articles in the Firm Foundation. Barnes was, without question, the leading conservative in Alabama during the years between the close of the Civil War and his own death in the spring of 1913. But he also travelled extensively, and was a regular writer for, among others, the Gospel Advocate and Benjamin Franklin’s American Christian Review.

This is an illuminating series for, among other things, its insights into congregational life in the 1890s. Beginning on the first Sunday in August, Barnes recounts that he preached a ten-days’ meeting at the Pearl and Bryan Streets church in Dallas, “in some respects the most remarkable body in my whole knowledge.”

Barnes is blunt over the course of several articles as he describes the state…

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Footnote 33 – Robert H. Gundry, Jesus The Word According to John the Sectarian: A Paleofundamentalist Manifesto (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp. 73–74.

“[T]he sense of embattlement with the world is rapidly evaporating among many evangelicals, especially evangelical elites, among them those who belong to the “knowledge industry.” In the last half century they have enjoyed increasing success in the world of biblical and theological scholarship. They reacted against the separatism of the fundamentalist forebears, who precisely in their separation from the world knew they had a sure word from God for the world.… with the consequent whetting of our appetite for academic, political, and broadly cultural power and influence are coming the dangers of accommodation, of dulling the sharp edges of the gospel, of blurring the distinction between believers and the world, of softening—or not issuing at all—the warning that God’s wrath abides on unbelievers (John 3:36), in short, of only whispering the word instead of shouting him, speaking him boldly, as the Word himself did.”

Robert H. Gundry, Jesus The Word According to John the Sectarian: A Paleofundamentalist Manifesto for Contemporary Evangelicalism, Especially its Elites, in North America (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp. 73–74; cited in Steve Wolfgang, “Good News of Victory,” in The Gospel in the Old Testament, Ed. Daniel W. Petty (Temple Terrace, FL: Florida College Press, 2003), p.202, LOGOS edition.

Pentecost in Jerusalem

Pentecost

Ferrell's Travel Blog

Last evening at sundown the Jews began to celebrate their modern interpretation of  Pentecost (Shavu’ot). Christians know this from the Old Testament scriptures as the feast of weeks (Leviticus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:9). Last evening we saw many Jews heading for the Western Wall through the Damascus Gate when we were there. The Orthodox Jews were the easiest to detect because of their distinctive dress.

Pentecost comes 50 days after Passover. It follows a sabbath and amounts to a two-day holiday here in Jerusalem. Those who are not religious may be seen at recreational places enjoying the time off as many persons in America do on any holiday. Some of the religious take the family to a hotel and allow non-Jews to serve them the food they wish. The hotel has a Shabbat elevator. You only make the mistake of getting on it once. It requires no work (= pushing the…

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Up To Bethany

Whew!! Today is a “decompression day” after a truly “WOW!!” week with 50+ “Restoration History” or “Stone-Campbell” (choose your own terminology) enthusiasts packed onto a bus with “all the comforts” (WiFi, on-board restroom, wireless PA, video screen and great driver!) on a trip from Nashville, “up to Bethany” and back. Some of the sites packed into 6 days: Lipscomb sites in Nashville; Mt. Olivet Cemetery (gravesites and discussion of DL, Tolbert Fanning, Sewell family, etc.); Bowen-Campbell House at Mansker’s Station (BW Stone’s home after marrying Celia Bowen following Eliza Stone’s death); James A. Harding gravesite at Bowling Green (and continuing discussions); speaking in the Midway church on the site where one of the first musical instruments was introduced — the melodeon now at Midway College (formerly Dr. L.L. Pinkerton’s Kentucky Female Orphan School); BW Stone and Bacon College sites in Georgetown); speaking in the Old Morrison Hall chapel using JW McGarvey’s Chapel Talks, delivered in that very hall by JWM himself, and singing some of the hymns JWM discusses in some of those lectures); hiking through Lexington Cemetery (one of the nation’s most beautiful) to see gravesites and discuss the lives of Henry Clay, McGarvey, John Rogers, Robert Graham [1st president of what’s now the University of Arkansas, 2nd President of Kentucky University], “Raccoon” John Smith, John T. Johnson, L.L. Pinkerton, Robert J. Breckinridge, Robert Milligan, Isaiah Boone Grubbs, Robert B. Crawley, Henry Hampton Halley [of Halley’s Bible Handbook], and Charles C. Moore {BW Stone’s grandson who became, and was jailed for his writings as, a “freethinker” {atheist}, among others; Cane Ridge and museum, May’s Lick (home and grave of Walter Scott and church where he preached); and then “up to Bethany” to the Campbell home and Cemetery and Old Main at Bethany College; through the country roads of West Virginia to Washington, PA, and the site of the printing of Thomas Campbell’s “Declaration and Address” in 1809; and then back to KY to Winchester for JW and JA Harding sites and the location of the Neal-Wallace debate on premillennialism) finally to the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill near Danville, whence two of the signers of the famous “Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery” defected, leaving BW Stone and David Purviance alone of the signers; and many other sites, lectures, and conversations too numerous to mention! What a trip – exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time!

Solomon’s Quarries discovered by American Medical Doctor J. T. Barclay

Ferrell's Travel Blog

Dr. James Turner Barclay was sent to Jerusalem by the American Christian Missionary Society in 1851 as a medical and evangelistic missionary. During his first trip he stayed until 1854 and  returned for a second stint from 1858 to 1861. Barclay was active in medical work, treating more than 2,000 cases of malaria during his first year in the city.

Grave stone of James T. Barclay, and his wife Julia, in the Campbell Cemetery at Bethany, WVA. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins. Grave stone of Dr. James T. Barclay, and his wife Julia, in the Campbell Cemetery at Bethany, West Virginia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Barclay wrote a book in 1858 about the city of Jerusalem under the title The City of the Great King; or, Jerusalem As It Was, As It Is, and As It Is To Be. In it he tells about some of his explorations in and around the Old City. In a section dealing with nether Jerusalem he discusses the discovery of what is commonly called Solomon’s Quarry…

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Issue of Christian History Magazine on Stone-Campbell Movement forthcoming

Christian History Magazine

eScriptorium

Christian History Magazine will release in September an issue devoted to the Stone-Campbell Movement.  Doug Foster and Richard Hughes collaborated as guest editors to assemble the first issue of CHM dedicated to the Restoration Movement.  About 20 years ago Barton Stone and Cane Ridge made an appearance in issue 45 on Camp Meetings & Circuit Riders…which you can download for free as a PDF here.  Judging from past issues, this installment will be a richly illustrated and accessible overview for the average reader who has some knowledge of and a keen interest in Christian history.  If you plan to teach Restoration history, consider ordering a bundle for distribution to your class; see CHM_BulkPricing for details.  An image from this blog and a small contribution from me even made their way into the issue!

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