SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVES


A REVIEW OF CAMPBELLISM EXPOSED (PART 1)

GARY W. SUMMERS

   
Decades ago Ben M. Bogard, L.L.D. (LIAR in LEAGUE with the DEVIL) wrote a tract entitled Campbellism Exposed. He knew when he wrote it that its contents were neither fair nor true. Perhaps he wrote it out of vindictiveness; if it were for some noble reason, he certainly blended in a heaping helping of mean-spiritedness. "So, why bother to resurrect an old tract?" the reader might wonder, to which we reply, "Why indeed?"

We, however, are not the ones who yet publish this diatribe full of invective. In fact, Bogard Press in Texarkana, Texas, appears to be the publisher, and they share the same address with the Baptist Bookstore, who sells it (4605 North State Line). Rather typical of the reluctance to state all the facts of the matter, the purveyors of this body of misinformation have put no date of publication on their product.

Consider the title, for example, Campbellism Exposed; what might the reader expect to find? One would assume that the group under consideration had made secret confessions or stated in exclusive documents that they were loyal to Alexander Campbell and regarded him the true leader of their group even though they just called themselves Christians. But such is not the case. When Bogard does cite a man or a work, he usually fails to identify who that person is or what relationship he has either to Campbell or to the churches of Christ. The first quote cited in point #1 (of the 101 reasons not to be a Campbellite) is from someone called Ziegler, who apparently wrote what may have been a well-known work at one time, titled History of Religious Denominations.

Ziegler states: "The Christian or Campbellite Church was founded by Alexander Campbell, of Virginia, in the year 1827" (8). If the reader of Bogard's tract is an intelligent individual, he or she might ask a few questions: 1) "Who is Ziegler?" 2. "Is he a fellow-Baptist of Bogard's, who cares not what the facts are?" 3. "Where did he get his information?" 4. "Is there a document saying that Campbell began his own church in 1827, or is this something a critic made up?" 5. "Did Campbell file papers for a national charter for a religious denomination bearing his name?" 6. "Is Ziegler writing as a member of that alleged Campbellite Church?"

Bogard attempts to intentionally deceive those reading his tract into thinking that Campbell designed a church, made himself head over it, and that his followers called themselves Campbellites when he knows that the facts of the matter are otherwise. He quotes, for example, from Richardson's Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, the second volume, page 548, which contains a letter from the statesman, Henry Clay, who wrote:

"Dr. Campbell is among the most eminent citizens of the United States, distinguished for his great learning ability, for his successful devotion to the education of youth, for his piety, and as the head and founder of one of the most important and respectable religious communities in the United States" (8-9).

The letter obviously seeks to honor Campbell, but what was the occasion for Clay's writing it and Richardson's inclusion of it in the book? Was Richardson trying to prove Campbell to be head and founder of a sect, citing Clay toward that end?

This quotation only establishes that in the mind of Henry Clay (and others) Campbell was head and founder of a group. But observe the deceit of Bogard. He did not quote the following letter from Campbell that appeared in the same volume he quoted just 107 pages earlier. Richardson included this letter which Campbell had written in the New Orleans Commercial Bulletin, after they had identified him as a founder of a religious group (which is reprinted in The Lord's Church: Past, Present, and Future, edited by B.J. Clarke, p. 597):

Gentlemen, allow me to thank you for the kind and complimentary notice you gave me in your issue of the 13th instillation of my arrival in your city. I also feel very grateful to the minister and members of the Methodist church who tendered me the use of their house of worship for the Lord's day evening. And I regret that it was not in my power to accept it. You have done me, gentlemen, too much honor in saying that I am the founder of a denomination quite respectable in many portions of the west known as Christians. I have always repudiated all human aids and human creeds and shall feel very grateful if you will correct the erroneous impression which your article may have made in thus representing me as the founder of a religious denomination (2:441).

Martin Luther found various corrupt and incorrect practices in the Catholic Church to which he called attention with a view toward reforming those things. He did not intend to start his own church; he told friends and followers to call themselves Christians, not Lutherans. Similarly, Campbell brought to the forefront certain Scriptural ideas in an effort to restore Christianity as it was designed and practiced in the New Testament. There were restorations of the law of Moses during the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah; so the concept is a Biblical one. Campbell called people to this concept and never intended to found a new religious group, as the above quotation certifies.

One of Campbell's suggestions (although he was certainly not alone in making it) was to use Biblical terminology. Did our brethren in the first century call themselves Christians? Then surely such a designation is sufficient for us. This is not a sectarian or cultish idea; it is Scriptural. Men had established various hierarchies to accompany their manmade religions. To please God we should recognize the only church government that he ever authorized: elders (or bishops) and deacons (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-13). These are just two applications of the idea of restoring Christianity as taught and practiced in the New Testament.

But let us pause and ask the publishers of Bogard's tract these questions: "In what New Testament book are Christians called Baptists?" and "Where is the authority for a structure such as the Southern Baptist Convention, which so frequently makes news headlines?" How ironic that those who are trying to be obedient to God in all things (Matt. 7:21) should be attacked for doing right by those practicing error!!

Apparently, Bogard must have felt uncomfortable about being unscriptural himself; so he decided that members of the churches of Christ should be tagged with a label they do not call themselves. In his second point, he says that the "Campbellite Church was founded in 1827, nearly eighteen hundred years too late to be called the true church of Christ." We could not agree more with the basic principle that Bogard states. Any church established so far from the time of the New Testament began too late! However, Bogard claims for Campbell what the man did not claim for himself. This would be somewhat equivalent to calling the renovator of a house its builder. "No," the man protests, "The house was already there. I just removed the rubble and the trash, cleaned it thoroughly, and restored the marvelous workmanship that the original builder put into it." Bogard refuses to hear any explanations and stubbornly insists, "I don't care what you say. You built the house."

But, since we are on the point of origins, when did the Baptist Church begin? The New Testament is silent about the existence of a Baptist Church. Its origin dates from the 16th or 17th century. Do the publishers of Bogard's tract think that 1800 years is too late for a church to begin, but 1500 years too late is all right? At least the New Testament does speak of churches of Christ (Rom. 16:16).

Bogard's third point is similar: "The Campbellite Church began in Virginia instead of Palestine; hence started in the wrong place." Actually, the church of Christ did begin in Jerusalem. There is no Campbellite Church except in Bogard's biased imagination. Uh, where did the Baptist Church begin? Bogard includes another quotation for support which does not establish the point he wishes he could make.

The reader will be much instructed by Bogard's fourth point: "Even the theory of the Campbellite Church concerning the origin of the church is false. They claim the church was set up on the day of Pentecost, which flatly contradicts the Scriptures." Look carefully, reader. Bogard finally got around to evaluating something that we "claim." Up to this point he has claimed for us that Alexander Campbell is our head and that we began in 1827 in Virginia. None of the members of the churches of Christ have ever said so; Campbell himself never so claimed. Bogard has claimed it all for us--so that he could then find fault with it.

Consider the audacity of anyone who would say, in effect: "I'm going to tell you what you believe. It doesn't matter what you say. I'm going to tell everybody when and where you began and who your head is; then I'm going to tell the whole world why you're wrong for believing the things I determined that you believe." The reader might refer to these tactics by a number of adjectives, but honest would not be one of them.

But at last Bogard allows us to speak for ourselves. He finds fault with the teaching, of course, and still calls us by a name we have never used, but at least we see some progress. He even gets the rationale correct. But then he presents 17 reasons for the church's existence before the day of Pentecost. Well, of course, it existed before the day of Pentecost--in the mind of God. It was also preached before its establishment: "...Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time if fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel'" (Mark 1:14-15). No one disagrees that there was preaching and teaching to prepare people for the kingdom; in fact, we affirm that it is the case.

The question is not, "Was the kingdom preached?"; the question is, "When was it established?" If the publishers of Bogard's tract believe that the kingdom was already established before Pentecost, let them tell us when the kingdom began. It was yet future in Matthew 16:18 and Mark 9:1. Exactly when did the kingdom begin--in reality, not simply in prospect--if not on the day of Pentecost? The seventeen points seem impressive until the reader realizes that Bogard has not said one word about the precise time that the kingdom began. Is it possible that such a great event, prophesied by Isaiah and Daniel, would have gone unheralded? It was established on the day of Pentecost.

Bogard's fifth point is a rehashing of number two. His sixth point is that Christians regard the "Declaration and Address," written by Thomas Campbell (the father of Alexander Campbell) in 1809, as our "great charter." Say, are not charters usually written when an organization is formed? How odd, then, that (according to Bogard) we have the great charter for a new religion written 18 years before the religious institution began! He has oft repeated the date 1827 as the time of the beginning of the "Campbellite Church," yet now he says the great charter was written in 1809! Did Thomas Campbell write this great charter in case his son wanted to found a new church (Alexander was only 21 years old at the time)?

To try to establish his sixth point Bogard quotes from a book, The International Centennial Celebration of the Disciples of Christ, which called the "Declaration and Address" a document that "has been fittingly called the Great Charter of our movement" (14). Such a quotation certainly seems to prove Bogard's main contention, until one realizes who said it. The Disciples of Christ were a group of brethren who departed from the faith. They not only were among those who went beyond the authority of the Scriptures by adding instrumental music to worship; they kept right on traveling down the highway of liberalism until they reached universalism. Today many reject the inspiration of the Scriptures, the virgin birth of Christ, etc. There has been no fellowship between us and them for decades.

The title of the book itself should tell the reader that the Disciples of Christ are not the same as the people Bogard continually attacks. Bogard has already admitted that we teach that the church began on Pentecost; so on what basis would we have written a book with "Centennial Celebration" in the title? Apparently, the group calling itself the Disciples of Christ dates itself from either 1809 or 1827; peculiarly, Bogard neglected to say. We, however, date the church from the first century, which is the time it was established. Only a sect quotes a different time of origin. Bogard quotes from a group that is admittedly sectarian and tries to lump us in with them, which would be the equivalent of quoting the writings of Martin Luther as a representative of Catholicism! Here was an obvious lapse of integrity on his part.

Another inaccurate statement of Bogard's is found in his seventeenth point: "The doctrine of baptism in order to obtain the remission of sins is a new doctrine and was first taught by Walter Scott and later adopted by Alexander Campbell" (22). The truth is that baptism for the remission of sins is not a new doctrine; it was taught by the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). Before that point in time, however, it was taught by John: "John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Mark 1:4).

If Walter Scott first taught this doctrine, then why is not he, rather than Campbell, called the founder of this new movement? It really doesn't seem fair that Alexander gets credit for being the head of a new religious movement when his father wrote the Great Charter and Walter Scott manufactured the terms of admission. But, of course, this is all flummery.

Bogard's 19th point reveals his mean-spiritedness and dishonesty: "Campbellites claim to have no creed, which is equivalent to claiming to be fools" (23). He goes on to explain that creed "is from a Latin word that means 'to believe.' A man who believes nothing is a fool." Again, it is hard to be charitable to the man when we know that he knew better than to make such a statement. We have never said that we have no creed whatsoever. We have repeatedly said (at least often enough for Bogard to have heard it): "We have no creed but the Bible." We do indeed have a body of doctrine that we believe: the New Testament.

Most creeds were developed by councils of men to fight what they perceived to be religious error. Sometimes they were right in what they wrote; sometimes they were wrong. Creeds are unnecessary since, if they say more than the Bible, they say too much, and if they say less, they say too little. The New Testament is the only creed believers need. But thanks, Mr. Bogard, for admitting that Baptists have a creed (otherwise, they would be fools). Many modern Baptists refuse to acknowledge what you have implied in your tract.

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "A REVIEW OF CAMPBELLISM EXPOSED (PART 1) (2/6/00)."


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