Theological Themes Addressed in the Christian Leader

This page is intended to share the fruit of an investigation into the theological content of the Christian Leader from 1914-1938.  These topics have been viewed as being in tension in the first half of the 20th century within churches of Christ.  The following themes are shared here:  the nature of the kingdom; understanding of grace; purpose of baptism; views of Providence and prayer, Premillennialism, obligations toward the poor, race relations; relation to the civil government; and pacifism.  Addtional studies are also included here for the bearing they have had in the shape and development of the Restoration movement in the Ohio Valley.

 

Why the sharing of this investigation?  These topics, and others, are still "living issues" in churches of Christ.  It is possible to attend open forums or enter internet chatrooms and find lively discussion on most of these topics.  I believe it is good to allow voices from the past to re-enter this discussion.  The men cited were not systematic theologians and they would be shocked to be viewed as belonging to a particular "theological tradition," but their writings are important.

 

First, they keep one historically accurate.  Historiography that paints with a broad paradigmatic brush can become a caricature rather than a portrait of a individual, an era, or a theology.  Typological models that are utilized in recent Restoration studies may be valuable in surfacing broad sociological patterns, but may be less adapted for conveying the details necessary for writing history.

 

Second, they offer a reality check for proposals for what will be utilitzed from the past for building the Church in the future.  Most people acknowledge that churches of Christ have lost some things from their past.  But there is considerable disagreement as to the nature of the things lost and as to what from the past needs to be recovered.  But there are consequences in refusing to listen to the voices of the past.  As Ancient Church historian Robert L. Wilken warns, ". . . not only do we prune the list of things we talk about, we also narrow the circle of people we will talk to or better of those who will talk to us.  and that is a great loss.  A kind of self-imposed deafness.  Where there is no one to answer, we are deprived of a precious intellectual gift - resistance." (Remembering the Christian Past, 13).

 

Third, they can serve as reminders of how to get along with one another even when differing in fundamental viewpoints.  Open discussion by those holding differing views contributes to a healthy faith and fellowship.  Our differences do not have to make us enemies.  We might discover overlap in our views, even if we come from different points of the theological compass.

 

May the writings of these men from the past inform and inspire study into these important Bible subjects.

 

newspaper

 

PHOTOS: Preachers at the Hundred, WV meeting Sept. 19, 1916.

Front page of the Christian Leader May 6, 1946

 
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