Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 13, 1956

Charter Of The Nashville Bible School (III.)

James A. Allen, Nashville, Tennessee

The Annual Lectures at the Bible colleges each year follow about the same general pattern. Some years their clerical characteristics are more pronounced than usual. I assembled data on the lectures in 1953, with notes and comments as follows:

A Nashville daily paper, during the recent D.L.C. Lectures, carried headlines as follows, "Lipscomb College To Be Host Today Honoring 30 Church of Christ Ministers." It said: "Ministers from 21 states, District of Columbia, Canada and Germany are attending the lectures."

I am not opposed to schools and colleges. All of them know that they cannot make a hobbyist or a crank out of me. Nor can they say that I am a Sommerite. The only thing I am opposing is a Theological Seminary, not a college. They themselves recognize that a Theological Seminary is untenable and wholly incompatible with the religious position occupied by the churches of Christ. All who stand upon "The Bible and the Bible alone," and endeavor to adhere to the apostolic order of things, agree that a Theological Seminary is unscriptural, sinful and wicked. This is not hobbyism, crankism or Sommerism. Any member of the church of Christ who does not agree that a Theological Seminary is unscriptural and sinful. and that it is a curse to the church, has not been properly taught and is not rooted and grounded in the faith.

The point I make is, that simple, secular, literary institutions do not serve as hosts to "approximately 1450 ministers, their wives, elders and their wives." The college thus invited and sponsored a larger gathering of "Church of Christ ministers" than the number of Bishops that attended either of the first seven General Councils that did so much to formulate the dogmas of Catholicism. An institution that conducts "special courses for Church of Christ ministers" and that arranges such a gathering of preachers from "21 states, District of Columbia, Canada and Germany," is not just a literary institution, but exerts an ecclesiastical power and influence that the apostles did not authorize any man or men to exert. Such power and influence over the churches, exerted by self-perpetuating human institutions, can bode no good to the ancient gospel, as it was preached by inspired men, but is a deadly menace to the apostolic order of things.

We endeavor to be at great pains to clearly and plainly point out that this is the thing we warn against and that we are not opposed to colleges. We also endeavor to show that before they can stigmatize us as cranks, trouble-makers, hobbyists, or Sommerites, they must first apply the same epithets to J. A. Harding and David Lipscomb. Of course Harding and Lipscomb are not divine authority, but colleges that bear their names cannot repudiate their teaching. This is why we quote Harding and Lipscomb to "the Christian colleges," to show that "the Christian colleges" have so far apostatized from what their founders intended as to make it a mockery of honesty to associate their names with them. They talk of the "dream of Lipscomb" for begging purposes, but if what Lipscomb actually said and did can be taken at face value, he would have considered the present development a night-mare instead of a dream.

We repeat we do not oppose colleges or schools that teach any legitimate subjects. We need literary institutions to teach our children letters, to give them a literary education and to teach them the arts and sciences, just as we need grocery stores to feed them, or dry goods stores to clothe them. We do not need theological seminaries to create a clergy, to give "special courses for Church of Christ ministers," that are not intended for all Christians, and thus creating a preacher class and drawing a distinction between "the clergy" and "the laity."

Tolbert Fanning, in Gospel Advocate, Vol. 2, 1856, Page 299 says:

"The church of God is the only authoritative theological school on earth; and it is the only one which Christians can consistently encourage .... We maintain the important learning is obtained in the Church, and if we are correct, each Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a seminary for instructing the members in the various departments of labor they are to perform." (Gospel Advocate, Vol. 2, p. 299.)

All we plead for, the sum total of all for which we contend, is the apostolic order of things. Christ established his church to teach his Word and to teach and train those who become Christians in living the Christian life. Every member of the church is completely and thoroughly furnished by the Word of God for the accomplishment of every good work. Only faithful members of the church, laboring under their elders or overseers, are fitted and prepared to teach the Word of God and to give a Christian education. Professors of Bible in millionaire theological seminaries, conducting "special courses for Church of Christ ministers," should keep their hands off of it on the ground that they are not sound in the faith. As Fanning says, "The church of God is the only authoritative theological school on earth; and it is the only one which Christians can consistently encourage." Do the presidents of "our" millionaire colleges, the faculties and the board members, believe that? Certainly not; and if they had the power they would squelch any one that would dare to say it.

David Lipscomb, in the Gospel Advocate, Vol. 17, 1875, Pages 345, 346 said:

"We think the most fatal mistake of Alexander Campbell's life. and one that has done much and we fear will do much more to undo his life's work, was the establishment of a school to train and educate young preachers.

"We believe the whole principle of taking young men with undeveloped characters and unfixed habits and educating them for preachers, or for any other specific work in the church, is hurtful in the extreme. It has a tendency to make merely professionals of them. They are educated for preachers. They often lose their first ardor and then think they are entitled to a living out of their profession and look to it more as a means of making a livelihood than of doing good." (David Lipscomb, Gospel Advocate, Vol. 17, pp. 345446.)

Brother Lipscomb thought "the establishment of a school to train and educate young preachers" was "the most fatal mistake of Alexander Campbell's life, and one that has done much and we fear will do much more to undo his life's work." When he and Brother Harding started the Nashville Bible School, one of the farthest things from their thought was to start a school to make preachers. Dr. T. W. Brents requested Brother Lipscomb to let him have a class of young men to teach them how to preach, but "was very positively forbidden to do so." Both Brother Lipscomb and Brother Harding agreed that it would be unscriptural and sinful to conduct a preacher school. They opposed preachers becoming a distinct class, or a clergy, as distinguished from the laity, and held that all Christians are preachers and that a man "enters the ministry" when he becomes a Christian and not when he graduates from a theological school.

Brother Harding said:

"The fact that we received girls from the beginning, and taught and trained them in the same classes and in the same way that we do young men, is proof that it was not intended to make public preachers; for none are more opposed to women speaking in public to mixed audiences than are David Lipscomb, W. H. Timmons and myself, the founders of the school." (J. A. Harding, in The Way, 1901, pages 89, 90.)

In the same issue of his paper, The Way, Brother Harding said, "Our object was to educate whomsoever might come to us; and we determined to teach the Bible to every student of the school no matter what his age, sex, religion, advancement or purpose of life might be." In refusing Dr. Brent's request for a preacher's class, Brother Lipscomb "insisted that every student, both men and women, have the same Bible teaching."

But time has made it very obvious that the great mistake of Lipscomb and Harding was in thinking that they could establish such a school without it becoming a theological seminary. Both of them were most positive and emphatic in teaching that a theological seminary is unscriptural, wicked and sinful. Such an idea as the present-day "special courses for Church of Christ ministers" was abhorrent to them. In D.L.C. today students are classified on official cards of the school as "ministerial," just as others are classified as "pre-medical" or "business administration." These "pre-pastor" students are taught how to qualify for and hold the best positions as "the minister for the largest and richest churches. They are taught, as one "doctor" on the faculty put it, "You can write your own paycheck. You can be a $200 a month preacher, a $300 a month preacher, or a $500 a month preacher. It is up to you."

To intimate that Harding and Lipscomb intended a thing of this kind is not only pointedly dishonest, but is also extremely absurd. To talk of the "dream of Lipscomb," and apply it to the present D.L.C. for begging purposes is to misrepresent Lipscomb and is to stultify his purpose in having any thing to do with starting a school where poor boys and girls could get an education.

Ordinarily we would have little or nothing, one way or another, to say on the subject of colleges. Not that we approve of the stock-piling of millions of dollars in self-perpetuating institutions, in which a terrible influence and power is concentrated in the hands of a few men, but because we are aware that they can have no connection whatsoever with the church and that the church stands wholly and entirely aloof from them. Only because these "Christian Colleges" like the angels that sinned, refuse to stay in their place, but reach out and lay their heavy hands on the church, do we feel compelled to speak out. Because of the sinful influence they are exerting over the churches, and because of their domination of the churches, through the promotion of "the ministerial system," and the commercialization of "the ministry," no faithful

Christian Can Keep Silence, Even In The Face Of Injury And Ostracism.

From a financial standpoint, those who are worldly and who set the material things of life uppermost, and especially those who have no conception whatever of the apostolic order of things, would see nothing amiss in those gospel preachers who turn their backs on doing the work of an evangelist to be presidents, vice-presidents, deans or faculty members of "our Christian colleges," or to become "the minister" of large, overgrown and wealthy churches. From every standpoint of "all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of life," it is more gratifying to enjoy the honors and emoluments of such lucrative positions than it is to "endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." Seldom, if ever, does it happen that a man who has been the president of a "Christian college," at $15,000 or $20,000 a year, and all the worldly things that go with it, can ever again condescend to be just a common, ordinary, plain gospel preacher. Just as the fleshly temptation to be "the minister," at $500 a month, with an ample residence furnished free, and with the privilege of holding several few-day meetings with old and wealthy churches, for lucrative remuneration, beside incidental rewards and emoluments, exerts such a hindering and withering influence on any desire such a man may have of giving his time to being just an every day, humble gospel preacher.

The annual lectures speak for themselves and speak a language all their own. Intrinsically, no one objects to lectures, any where or any time. The annual lectures, while in some ways they may be very fine, carry with them a commitment that certifies their sponsors to be theological seminaries and not just simple, secular, literary institutions.

Certainly we are not opposed to preachers. They are doing the greatest and grandest work in which God permits human beings to participate. And certainly we are not opposed to sustaining them financially, and sustaining them liberally and well. We are opposed to the clergy system, to the commercialization of the gospel, to the sinful and deadly influence of theological seminaries over the churches. They cannot say I am a crank, trouble-maker, hobbyist or Sommerite. I stand exactly, plainly where the apostles and New Testament Christians stood, without turning to the right hand or to the left. I stand on the same ground Lipscomb and Harding stood on. They do not stand on this ground. They are apostatized, and are carrying the churches farther and farther away from the ground on which the apostles and first Christians stood. What shall we do? Bury our head in the sand, like an ostrich, and go along with the popular crowd? Such a course is sinful, shameful and wicked. A better day is even now dawning and great and mighty is the truth and will prevail. The day is fast approaching when the whole world is going to acknowledge in reverential awe the ancient, original position upon which the apostles and first Christians stood. All must come to it. "The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea," when the original gospel, as it was preached by the apostles in the beginning of Christianity, is preached in every nation, and when all the churches return to the apostolic order of things in their work and worship, as the Holy Spirit guided the apostles in appointing it "once for all" in New Testament times.