KINGDOM COME: What They Are Saying
Welcome to Stoned-Campbell Disciple. This blog will be a little different and longer than typical.
Earlier this year at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures my book with John Mark Hicks, Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding (Leafwood 2006) was released. The book will never sell like The DaVinci Code but it is our prayer it will have a leavening effect in Churches of Christ.
The book was nearly a year and a half in the making with many sleepless nights (literally) going into it. The book was thought through, argued through, read through and yes, even prayed through. It remains our prayer that God can use it to bring glory to his name and help the Churches of Christ recover a vision of kingdom of living in the shadow of the second coming.
A number of folks have shared with the public their responses to the book. I probably do not know all of these but I have brought some together. Some have said good things and others have said some not so good things. What follows will be from those "reviews." There are times it seems that folks are really reading two different books judging from the reactions.
Darin L. Hamm at Grace-Centered Magazine posted on May 30, 2006 (to my knowledge Darin was the first to post anything about the book so I start with him)
Overall I give the book Kingdom Come high marks. It is a well written book. It is also clear that the writers are passionate in their cause. As I thought about the book I decided that it would be a good read for CoC people who are Christ-centered and tired of the endless division and legalism.
The book is strongest when the writers share their convictions. In some sections the quotes flow very well but in others they seem somewhat forced. I could see how it would be an encouragement to know that the attitude they see today wasn’t the understanding of everyone in the CoC. I think it would be an encouragement to understand that the CoC did have teachers who embraced the indwelling Spirit and the power of God over rationalism.
God used the book, along with a Bible class comment, to bring me to a much richer prayer life. A prayer life I am committed to keep. (I must take a break from writing this post in fact for my prayer time. I will be back. It was powerful. God used it to convict me to stay the course.)
The book touches on many hot button issues of today. The book tends to focus on all of the issues that the emergent movement is bringing to the forefront IMO. It gives a good image of Kingdom and what it means to be kingdom people.
I would recommend the book to CoC people who are disenfranchised with the movement. I don’t know if it will make you feel less disenfranchised, it didn’t me, but at least it will make you wonder what could have been and it can give you hope that things can change. If teh CoC went from a movement that embraced the Spirit to one of total rationalism over many years then it would stand to reason that it could go back.I do present my personal opinion on the history of the book.
One section uses Alexander Campbell quotes almost entirely, so I struggle with the idea that the book is truly a history about Lipscomb’s and Harding’s legacy. I have read Hicks book Come to the Table and actually had the privilege of talking with and hearing his presentation a few years ago in Ulysses, Kansas of all places, so the material on the LS wasn't really new or even something I would attribute to Lipscomb or Harding. It reminds me of a book I own entitled Early Christians Speak produced by Everett Ferguson and copyrighted 1971. I read the book and I see how Ferguson used the early church history. I remember going in and reading the source documents he used to defend baptism is by immersion. I remember finding that one of the documents he quoted certainly talked of baptism by immersion, but the entire focus was actually on the fact that baptism by water was not as important as baptism by the Holy Spirit. The entire document was about Spirit baptism and yet was being used by a group that didn't even believe in the indwelling Spirit. If I really let the early Christians speak I would have to change my attitude towards Spirit baptism. I went on to read other source documents and decided that Ferguson, at least at that point in history, had an agenda and he went to the early church writings with that agenda and he found what he needed to bolster his claims.From a purely historic POV I find the book takes issues that are prevalent in today’s church and it seems looks for quotes and statements from SC people in an attempt to say look, our movement had these same ideas. I personally think these two men’s way of thinking would put them in a sectarian light regardless of their positions on the Holy Spirit and premillinialism. This quote from page 180 says it all to me, "Lipscomb himself was agnostic on premillennialism."
John Gaines on GP (Gospel Preachers) Talk.
Reaction to Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding by John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine
I was asked early in the summer to offer to the list my reaction to this book. I am sorry it has taken several weeks for me to accomplish the task. I read the book slowly and carefully. My copy is heavily marked and underlined with a few “X’s”, a few exclamation marks, and quite a lot of question marks, indicating ideas I want to study more but am initially skeptical about.
I’ve tried to read with an open mind and avoid any bias either toward or against the authors of this book. I’ve been acquainted with John Mark Hicks for thirty years or more (we were students together at Freed-Hardeman). He was a brilliant student and his intelligence and scholarship is evident in whatever he writes. I know Bobby Valentine only through mutual participation in e-mail lists and several personal e-mails exchanged back and forth over the last several years. Bobby is a prolific writer and appears to take the time to do his homework so that what he writes is worth considering, even if one ultimately ends up disagreeing with many of his conclusions.
The first chapter is titled ”Introducing a Spiritual Legacy: Foreigners at Home.” This title briefly sets forth Hicks and Valentine’s thesis that David Lipscomb and J. A. Harding were men of tremendous influence who powerfully impacted the church in their day and whose influence has continued down to the present. They use the shorthand NBST (for Nashville Bible School Tradition) and suggest that it counterpoints the “Texas Tradition” (represented by writers and preachers such as Austin McGary, J. D. Tant, R. L. Whiteside, and Foy E. Wallace, Jr.). They state, “David Lipscomb and James A. Harding were the most significant “Editor-Bishops” and educators (“Founder/President-Bishops”) east of the Mississippi in the early twentieth century. Lipscomb is regarded as the “father” of southern Churches of Christ while Harding is the “father” of Bible Schools (colleges) among Churches of Christ.”
That quotation highlights the first of several unfortunate tendencies I see in this book. The authors are given to overstatement. Who regards Lipscomb as the “father” of southern churches? Who says Harding is the “father” of colleges among us? On what basis do they offer such claims? Tolbert Fanning started Franklin College near Nashville in 1845, three years before James A. Harding was born. Lipscomb graduated from Franklin College in 1849. Perhaps the meaning of “father” is open to interpretation but obviously Lipscomb and Harding were not the progenitors of churches of Christ or church-related colleges in Tennessee or the South. No student of Restoration Movement history would deny the influence exerted by Lipscomb and Harding. Their lives are worthy of study, but their reputations are not enhanced by unmerited overstatement.
A second problem comes with Hicks and Valentine’s treatment of Lipscomb and Harding. Kingdom Come is not (and does not claim to be) a biography of Lipscomb and Harding. It gives fairly scant treatment to the details of their lives. The authors’ purpose is to emphasize the legacy springing forth from their lives and teachings and show how that continues, especially, in the more progressive elements of the brotherhood today. The book is filled with a great many brief quotations to provide the gist of Lipscomb and/or Harding’s teachings on various topics including God’s providence, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the “four duties” or “four great means of grace” – Bible reading, ministering to others (especially the poor), participating in the Lord’s Day meeting, and habitual prayer. As I read through the book, I inserted this comment at the end of chapter four, “Readers are obligated to trust that Hicks and Valentine have accurately represented Harding’s views since the preponderance of quotations are mere phrases and snippets.” I believe that John Mark and Bobby are honorable men and do not accuse them of deliberately misrepresenting anything. However, this approach has the appearance of “proof-texting.” That is a dangerous approach in Biblical exposition because it lends itself to a selective presentation of a message suited to the speaker’s purpose but which may not be representative of the Bible teaching in its proper context. The same possibility of manipulation exists when so many brief quotations are used without providing context for the statements.
The chapter dealing with worship provides an example of the authors clearly going beyond what their subjects believed and taught. In a section under the subhead “Sacrificial Living,” they state, “Worship is much more than the corporate assembly. It is the submission and sacrifice of our lives for the purpose of glorifying God in everything we do.” A few paragraphs later, they continue, “Ministry (e.g. benevolence), then, is as much worship as singing praises to God. . . . There is no absolute difference between praising God with our lips and sharing our possessions with others. Both are worship.” Here they offer no quotations or citations from Lipscomb or Harding. Actually, they make no claim that Lipscomb or Harding ever taught or believed such an “all-of-life-is-worship” doctrine.
The bottom line is Kingdom Come is John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine’s vision for what they would like for the church to be. Whenever possible, they tie that vision in with the legacy of Harding and Lipscomb. When necessary, they cast aside the Harding-Lipscomb mantle and argue their own case. This is not necessarily bad because Lipscomb and Harding are not the authorities. They were men and, like all men, were wrong in some of their beliefs and practices. However, it would have been useful if the authors had been more forthcoming in making it clear to the reader when they are reporting on the teaching of Harding or Lipscomb and when they are speaking with their own voices.
In the conclusion to Chapter 10, Hicks and Valentine write, “Freedom to think and speak was an integral part of the NBST. This does not mean its leaders never drew the line in the sand, because that is clearly not the case. Yet the leaders of this rich theological tradition in Churches of Christ were convinced that it was only through the freedom to think and speak that the community as a whole moved to a greater understanding of God’s holy will.” Read Lipscomb’s commentaries, articles, and books and you’ll find areas where you disagree with “Uncle Dave.” If Hicks and Valentine are right (and I think they are on this point), he wouldn’t mind that too much. Lipscomb did publish views contrary to his own frequently in the Gospel Advocate. But he did take strong stands which progressives in the church today are not willing to take. Lipscomb opposed missionary societies and he opposed instrumental music in worship. However, he was not quick to erect barriers to fellowship and was willing to allow those with whom he disagreed time to study, learn, and come to a better understanding of truth.
Kingdom Come has value. There are better biographies of both Lipscomb and Harding, but as was stated earlier, this book is not primarily biographical. My conclusion after reading the book carefully and thinking about what it says is that its message is worth considering in some part because of what it teaches about the legacy of Harding and Lipscomb and in greater part because of what it reveals about where the mindset shared by the authors and numerous other “progressive spirits” in the church today want to take us. When all is said and done, Kingdom Come looks to the future more than it looks to the past. From my perspective, some of this “spiritual legacy” is desirable; some isn’t. Some of it needs more thought and time to digest."
Thomas H. Olbricht retired head of Pepperdine University's Religion Department posted on Stone-Campbell e-mail list.
John Mark Hicks & Bobby Valentine, Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding (Abilene: Leafwood Publishers, 2006), 224 pp.
A phrase from the dedication page sums up the intent in this recent work by Hicks and Valentine, "May the past help guide us securely into the future." The authors have researched in detail the writings of Lipscomb and Harding not simply to better ascertain their thoughts and efforts, but in order to recommend what they said and did to a new generation of adherents in restorationist churches.
"Their kingdom theology and spirituality, we believe, provides the contemporary church with a way forward into the future. If Churches of Christ—and other parts of the Stone-Campbell Movement as well—would re-appropriate their kingdom themes and practices, we believe the church would more fully participate in the emerging kingdom of God which will one day fill the earth with divine righteousness." [p. 10]
In order to achieve these ends Hicks and Valentine first set the various topics for consideration in the context of the world in which Lipscomb and Harding lived, as well as that of other restorationists with whom they associated and sometimes differed. The next section in each chapter, which comprises the burden of the book, sets forth the views and actions of Lipscomb and Harding, one or the other predominating. Harding came in for more attention than did Lipscomb. (Chapters 2-5, 8 and 11 principally developed ideas from Harding; chapters 6, 7 and 9 those of Lipscomb, and 10 the views of J. N. Armstrong and R. H. Boll). The authors argue that in regard to the particular themes under consideration the influence of Harding was the weightier.
Lipscomb, while always respected, did not have the same impact upon his students that Harding did. Harding lived and breathed the themes of this book and nurtured them in his students. The tradition was highly dependent upon Harding. [p. 194].
The history contained in each chapter is excellent. Hicks and Valentine have explored far more of the journal articles of these two men on the topics at hand than likely any previous historian. The result is that new and more definitive insights appear with some frequency. I would have preferred more of this in depth history, but I am willing to honor the goal of the authors who especially seek to adumbrate the manner in which the views of Lipscomb and Harding may contribute to life in our times.
A third section in each chapter contains the reflections of Hicks and Valentine upon the topics under consideration in respect to Biblical materials as well as comments from twentieth century scholars. Each chapter ends with discussion questions, challenges, a prayer and suggested readings. I think the format of the book successfully assists the authors in their challenge to current believers to embrace as worthy exemplars these two spiritual forefathers. Since I am particularly interested in historical perspectives and actions, however, I think another question or two in each case focused upon the lives and outlooks of Harding and Lipscomb would add to the discussions.
In the first chapter the authors set out the thesis that the Nashville Bible School Tradition differed from alternate views that were dominant in Texas centered around the Firm Foundation and in the upper Midwest reflected in the Christian-Evangelist and the Christian Standard. Further they point out that the perspectives of the Firm Foundation came to be the more predominant of views in Churches of Christ by the 1930s. Hicks and Valentine therefore suggest that many persons in Churches of Christ in the twenty-first century will be surprised to learn what Lipscomb and Harding believed. I conclude there is merit in the distinctions set forth by Hicks and Valentine, as long as one does not suppose that the Firm Foundation outlooks are absent in Tennessee or that the Nashville Bible School Traditions have no supporters in Texas.
Hicks and Valentine have divided this book on the spiritual legacy of Lipscomb and Harding into three parts. Part I is titled, "Kingdom Dynamics: Divine Action." The chapters regard (2) the focus of believers on the coming kingdom of God, and not the kingdoms of the world, (3) trusting God’s providential care, and (4) the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit. Part II is "Kingdom Spirituality: Four Means of Grace". The chapters are (5) reading Scripture, (6) fellowship with the needy, (7) the Lord’s Day and the Lord’s table, (8) prayer. The Part III heading reads, "Kingdom Life: Free to Serve" with chapters on (9) pacifism, (10) freedom to think and speak, and (11) end times on earth. The final statement is labeled "Afterword" which is a concluding challenge to the readers to embrace the commendable aspects of the views of Lipscomb and Harding.
A first question we might asked is whether Hicks and Valentine have taken up the necessary the topics to be considered in setting out a spiritual legacy. They have certainly touched upon the majority of such topics. I should think, however, that a chapter on singing as a spiritual discipline would be highly appropriate. Another topic could well be family and personal devotions, though certain aspects are touched upon in the chapter on reading the scriptures. I also think that sharing the biblical message with others personally at home and aboard would have been a worthy topic. These three topics while important and interesting, would however have expanded the book and situated it in a different category in regard to price and use in church class studies.
Another matter has to do with the twentieth century authors to which Hicks and Valentine referred. Most of the reading listed and authors cited are commendable. I likely would have added an entry or two from church historians in various cases [final comments deleted for space but do not alter the substance of the review.]
Jason Retherford posted on his blog, Kingdom Adventure, on August 17, 2006.
A while back I had posted my early reflections on Kingdom Come: The spiritual legacy of Harding and Lipscomb. I just finished reading this book today. This book needs to be required reading of all serious Bible students, church historians and disciples of our Lord. The kingdom thinking and living of Harding and Lipscomb was ahead of their time. It is unfortunate that their robust kingdom theology was replaced by a deistic rationalism that has infected the church universal. The church of Christ in 2006 would do well to get reaquainted with these two giants of faith and the teachings of the Nashville Bible School of Theology.
The kingdom teachings of Lipscomb and Harding are not innovations or additions to Holy Writ. No, their understanding of the kingdom arises out of their time in the Word of God and their understanding of the Sermon on the Mount, as well as their living with the real hope of the 2nd Coming.
Lipscomb and Harding called the church to a kingdom life. For these two men, the only agenda worth living and dying for was a kingdom agenda. A kingdom agenda seeks to right broken relationships, eradicate poverty, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the orphaned and widowed, anc care for the earth. Harding and Lipscomb saw allegiance to the kingdom of God as their first priority. As a matter of fact, Hicks and Valentine share a story of an accusation of treason to the Confederacy at the time of the Civil War. Lipscomb was accused of being disloyal to the cause of the Confederacy, so a Conferderate military man was sent to check him out. What was said about Lipscomb is amazing, “whether or not he is not loyal to the confederate, I do not now, but he is faithful to the kingdom of God.” I want to have others say that about my own allegiance, that it is to the kingdom of God over any earthly kingdom.
The real tragedy in all of this is that since the death of these two men, a once robust kingdom theolgy has been replaced by a rationalistic, complacent, nationalistic view that has crippled the church. We would do well to encounter the kingdom teachings of Lipscomb and Harding. Our postmodern world needs the church to rediscover the kingdom agenda. One that is more than saving souls, for the sake of saving souls, but one that seeks wholeness and the shalom of God.
Whatever is on your reading list, move it down. Read this book first. And once read, let’s start living out the kingdom agenda of God. Our world needs us to let the light of Christ shine."
Clark at ClarkeComments.com published this on August 7, 2006:
I just finished reading Kingdom Come by John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine.
It took me a while because I’ve been really busy with work. The book itself is an easy read and is a fascinating look into the beliefs and eschatology of our forgotten past.
Between the lecture they gave at Pepperdine, the book, and reading some blog posts by Travis and Greg, I’ve been thinking alot about these subjects.
And I’ve changed my mind.
I grew up in a very patriotic family. My grandfather wasn’t just an elder, he was also a soldier. I grew up reading the Constitution, Decleration of Independence and the Monroe Doctrine. I read those documents more than my bible. I persued a career working in government.
But now I’d have to say that I agree more with Lipscomb’s thoughts on government. If I remember correctly from the book, Lipscomb believed that human governments existed because man was unable to govern himself under the law of Christ.
So…on pacifisim. While I’m not sure I would take a completely pacifict position, especially when it comes to protecting my family, I think I can say that Jesus was serious when he taught “turn the other cheek,” and I don’t think he was alluding to just verbal insults.
And as far as religous nationalism…. it is nothing less than idolatry. While we live here in the United States and should be thankful to God that we have it easy, we should not assume that America has a special place in the heart of God. The thought that the United States is the new Israel is wrong. To view the United States as anything other than the Babylon, Assyria, or Rome that it is is to fool oneself and elevate the temporal state to a place that it doesn’t belong.
But, this is a mistake that has been made since Constantine. Its nothing new. But we as Christians must see it for what it is.
Bobby and John Mark’s book helps us do just that. Get a copy, and read it. If you read any book besides the bible this year, this should be the one.
Alan Highers, editor of The Spiritual Sword posted on Stone-Campbell email list June 19, 2006.
I would like to make some general comments and observations about the Hicks-Valentine book on the spiritual legacy of David Lipscomb and James A. Harding. I realize this is somewhat in advance of the scheduled beginning of the chapter-by-chapter review, but I read the book in its entirety this past weekend and I would like to register my impressions while they are fresh.
These comments are not necessarily intended as criticisms. They are more in the nature of general impressions from the reading, although I am focusing on what I consider weaknesses in the presentation.
1. The book is not primarily about David Lipscomb. Although there are generous references to Lipscomb, if I had read the book not knowing the title, I would have surmised this title: The Apocalyptic Vision of James A. Harding and Friends. M. C. Kurfees said: "Among what are called well-balanced men, David Lipscomb is probably without a superior on the church of God" (West 253). Harding himself referred to Lipscomb as "the greatest man on the continent" (West 214).
2. The book is not simply a compendium of the views of Lipscomb and Harding. At some points and in some chapters, the views of the subjects are merely platforms for the authors to explicate their own positions. For example, to suggest that "all of life is worship" (118) is not quoted from either Lipscomb or Harding, and no reference is given to document that either of the subjects so held.
3. Chapter 10 emphasizes "freedom to speak" and makes reference especially to R. H. Boll and J. N. Armstrong. The authors go beyond Lipscomb and Harding to flesh out their own perceptions of this freedom. The reader might perceive that the authors are only enhancing the views of Lipscomb and Harding. But, so far as I can tell, no reference is made to the fact that R. H. Boll's removal as front-page writer for the Gospel Advocate was specifically approved by Lipscomb. The toleration of Lipscomb and Harding for divergent views was not without limit.
4. Although, in 2006, the topic again is one of much discussion, almost nothing is said in the book regarding the positions of Lipscomb and Harding about instrumental music and the 1906 division. Harding said: "God forbid that I should ever turn from following Christ and the apostles to follow the Catholics and thereby to divide the churches of Christ" (Sears 82).
5. The writers point out that nothing was to be made a condition of fellowship unless it was essential to salvation (164). Yet both Lipscomb and Harding considered the use of instrumental music a disruption of fellowship, therefore it follows that they regarded it as a matter of salvation. I think one would not get this impression from reading the book. The effort to protray Lipscomb and Harding as magnanimous (which they were) seems to overshadow real convictions that both held.
6. In the chapter on the work of the Holy Spirit (4), the emphasis again is primarily on Harding, not Lipscomb. The chapter begins with three quotations from Harding, but none from Lipscomb. My impression from quotations in the book is that Harding's view of the Holy Spirit related more to his belief in "special providence" than to the indwelling.
7. At the beginning of their treatise, the authors uphold the vision of Lipscomb and Harding for the church, but they speak condescendingly about those who are shaped by "debates with denominationalists" and "supreme confidence in our church forms" (15-16). No mention is made of the debates of both Lipscomb and Harding with "denominationalists." Harding's debate with Moody (Baptist) in 1889, known as "the Nashville Debate," is regarded as a classic. Harding stated: "A public discussion, in which the truth is properly set forth in a proper spirit, will accomplish more good, I believe, than two or three protracted meetings" (Sears 95). This selective use of facts tends to provide a distorted view of the subjects of the book.
8. There are good things about the book. Both Lipscomb and Harding were spiritual giants. Both made contributions worthy of examination. If this book cultivates an interest in their life and work, it has served a good purpose. But I hope the reader will be aware of the weaknesses of the book as well as its strengths.
If I have misrepresented the book in any way, I hope the authors (both are contributors to this list) will correct me. I have attempted to give my overall impressions, but it is not my wish or intention to misrepresent or misstate in any way whatsoever.
From George Mearns also on Grace-Centered Magazine and Open Bible Study posted on August 24, 2006.
"If you are looking for a very good book to read about how we got to where we are, then this new book by John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine is excellent. Kingdom Come is published by Leafwood. They explore the spiritual aspects of Lipscomb and Harding contrasting it with some of the criticisms they faced and we see today.
The Sermon on the Mount plays a vital roll in the background of Lipscomb and Harding. Divided into three parts, part one introduces us to some of the thinking of these brothers in prayer, providence, the Holy Spirit and civil government. Part two uses Acts 2:42 as its theme and looks at prayer, worship, Bible reading and serving others. Part three explores civil government and war and peace issues, the need for a willingness to listen to others rather than branding this or that, and how we should expect to see the final coming of Jesus and the return to Eden.
I personally think that chapter eleven is the most important. The Gospel Advocate of Lipscomb's day often presented various sides to an issue, with Lipscomb (and Harding in his papers as well) allowing readers to make up their own minds by their own study. We do not see this today in brotherhood publications. One side, and only one side is presented - all others are condemned, and sometimes misrepresented as well. This attitude has effected churches as well, where leaders often do not want other points of view presented. That attitude has shut off discussion and cause people to either sit back or leave, sometimes with the blessings of the elders.
This book is an important book and needs to be read by as many as possible. It might even appear on one of those "most dangerous" lists, that is how important and challenging it is."
There are a number of others that I am aware of out there but do not really review the book. I have included a few reviews that I personally do not agree with for the sake of being open minded and balanced. If you have read the book why not share some of your perspectives on it. My feelings will not be hurt. Kingdom Come is available through Amazon.com.