“Who is Our Authority?”

By Donald P. Ames

Churches of Christ have long disavowed the name “Campbellites” that certain of our denominational friends (?) have sought to tag on to us. Yet, I can not help but feel that if one examined some of our sermons and writings, there is indeed good cause for some of these people to feel (incorrectly, of course) that Campbell is the founder of the Lord’s church. I have just finished reading a very interesting, and good, article by Lindsey Warren in the October, 1976 quarterly issue of The Spiritual Sword (edited by Thomas B. Warren, and dedicated to fighting the extreme liberalism that has become such a problem in the liberal camp today). I enjoyed the courageous and bold approach that it took toward being ready to defend the truth in debate and amidst opposition and, to such, can add a hearty “amen.”

But there is something else about the article I wish to focus attention on for a few minutes. The article was entitled, “The New Testament And Controversy.” I assumed from such a title I would learn a great deal of New Testament teaching on the subject, and also by the fact that the first point mentioned in the “Notes” at the end was: “All conclusions in this article are based on the teachings of the Bible, the sacred revelation of God to man.” But, as I began reading, I was almost forced to ask if the writer had any ideas and convictions of his own at all, and if so, what were they?

The article comprised a total of 16 1 / 2 pages about 3 / 4 the size of one page of Truth Magazine. In that space, the first full page was spent solely in introducing his material, thus leaving us 15 1 / 2 pages for the body. Bit, what was glaringly noticeable was that if Alexander Campbell had not lived, the writer would not have had very much to tell us about what the New Testament had to say about controversy (and this problem is not just limited to our liberal brethren). Alexander Campbell was directly referred to by name a total of 104 times in that article and alluded to (“he said,” etc.) as authority another 86 times! That makes a total of 190 references to Campbell as an authority within one article. Even most of the conclusions reached were not “the N.T. thus affirms. . .”, but rather “Thus he concluded . . . .” I would suggest the writer needed to look at Gal. 1:12.

I am not accusing the writer of not using any scriptures, because he did take a couple pages abandoning Campbell long enough to form some arguments of his own to tell us somewhat of what the New Testament taught-often using clumps of scriptures at the end of a point to support it. Omitting his introduction with a large clump of scriptures on another point entirely, he did refer to 148 scriptures. But since his subject was “The New Testament and Controversy,” and not ‘Alexander Campbell and Controversy,” such overwhelming reliance on Campbell cannot help but make one wonder which was really his authority? It is good to read and learn about great preachers. It is good to respect a man for his grasp of Bible teaching on a subject. But let us beware that we do not become so wedded to the “Restoration Movement” that we begin erecting our own “founder.” Let us do our own thinking, form our own arguments, and reach our own conclusions!

We can profit from their material and be thankful for their studied writings, but when a subject is “The New Testament and ,” let us talk about what the New Testament says on it, not what Campbell, Lipscomb, and others taught. These men also made their mistakes. They are not our authority and we need to recognize them no more than any other preacher living today-except for the work they did during their time.

Such frequent quoting from the writings of early preachers as was done in this article quickly lends support to the idea Campbell must be more than just a good gospel preacher. “He must be some sort of authority.” “They derive their doctrine from him.” Could it be some gospel preachers are creating their own problems?

Truth Magazine XXI: 44, pp. 701-702
November 10, 1977