"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.VI No.III Pg.3-6
October 1943

The Lipscomb Theory Of Civil Government

We have received the following material from Brother O. C. Lambert, who is widely known among us as an able preacher and Bible scholar. Brother Lambert has made an exhaustive study of the errors of various modern cults, including Russellism and Rutherfordism, and is as well prepared to expose their seditions as any man among us.

Like many others, as a young man Brother Lambert "sat at the feet" of David Lipscomb, and he accepted the Lipscomb theory of Civil Government. Brother R. L. Whiteside, who is not a whit behind David Lipscomb himself as a thinker and scholar, recently related a similar experience in an article which appeared in the Bible Banner under the caption "Concerning War." Brother Whiteside also "sat at the feet" of Brother Lipscomb and like many others accepted Lipscomb's views on Civil Government. But later, upon investigation, Brother Whiteside changed his mind on the matters involved and listed the arguments that convinced him in the article that the Gospel Advocate did not publish.

In relating his experience with these matters, Brother Lambert reveals in the following summary of "Civil Government" by Lipscomb that his theory differs little, and in some phases not at all, from the teachings of Russell and Rutherford--and is just as bad.

Much has been said pro and con of the Lipscomb theory of Civil Government, and his book bearing that title has been brought again into the spotlight, but not many readers to day know enough about its contents to understand what the reference to it means. In my opinion brethren all over this country will evince surprise to learn that any leader in the churches of Christ ever taught what that particular book contains, and I am passing Brother Lambert's outline of the Lipscomb book on to the readers of the Bible Banner, the number of which runs high into the thousands, for their personal information.

I think I know that the churches of Christ have never accepted the subversive doctrine, nor have any great number of the members accepted such a theory. When it becomes known what "the David Lipscomb theory of Civil Government" really is, my conviction is that the members of the churches of Christ generally, including most of the preachers, both east and west of the Mississippi river, and north and south of the Mason-Dixon line, will repudiate it. We submit herewith Brother Lambert's report.

* * * *

The Lipscomb Book

Dear Brother Wallace:

When I was a boy, even before I began to preach, I read Brother Lipscomb's book CIVIL GOVERNMENT. Being a boy and having such regard for Brother Lipscomb as a Bible student, I made the common blunder of accepting ideas predigested. For years I never voted, believing that it would be wrong. It was probably fifteen years ago that I began to think on that subject for myself and was compelled to modify my ideas. Since this question has come to the fore in recent months and having a hazy remembrance of the contents of Brother Lipscomb's book, I decided to read it again. I was amazed. It is the same thing as Charles T. Russell and "Judge" Rutherford taught. I am really glad that the government does not know of the book and how many of our preachers feel that way toward the government. For my part, rather than give the book to the Russellites and therefore encourage them, I suggest that we call all of them in and burn them.

I am enclosing a proposition based on statements in Brother Lipscomb's book, which ought to clarify, somewhat, the question of propositions. I just wonder if Brother Boles will accept them. They, at least, ought to come out and say they agree with Brother Lipscomb, or that they disagree with him. If they disagree, they ought to say just what they cannot subscribe to.

I am enclosing the quotations which I have made from the book so you may see, without taking the trouble to examine the book, that every word of the proposition is taken from the book.



"All civil governments are alike (76) (85) (12) (14) (18) (25) (90) (92) (78) (137) (41) (73) in that they are all of the devil (54) (73) (86) entirely (79). They are the enemies of God (79) (102) (137) (144), and a Christian must oppose them, fight against them (79), resist them (82), because the devil is the head of them (Com. on Romans, p. 229), until the Lord exterminates them all, (25) (28). This is why Christ came to the earth (46), and that is the special (Com.) mission of the church (28) (12). A Christian, therefore, cannot support (28) or sustain (85) them with his means (8384) or otherwise, affiliate with them (18), claim the protection of (114), appeal to, (41), or seek the help of (22). They are the beast of Rev. 17 (103), and they occupy the same relation to hell that the church does to heaven (73), and any friendship or affiliation with them is treason against God (89). "Be subject to" and "submit to" means to "be antagonistic to " (76), and there can be no hope for the conversion of the world until these two kingdoms be recognized in their true, antagonistic spirit, mission and destiny (92)."

"God never ordained one of his true, obedient and spiritual children as an avenger to execute wrath (30) (70) (78) (137). Bloody work demands bloody and cruel characters to perform it. All executions by government authority is murder. Christ cannot execute vengeance (74)." "Christians will always be miraculously kept from harm if they do nothing to help themselves. Any effort to help themselves is to distrust God (36) (137) (146) (41), and reject the Divine."

"Christians can build houses or teach school for the government (141) (142) but cannot be a postmaster (141142)."

A Summary Of The Contents

All Alike:

"The human governments of the New Testament dispensation were but a continuation of those of the Old Testament, and of precisely the same nature." --p. 76.

"If a man identifies himself with an earthly kingdom,, sustains and upholds it, he must share its destiny." --p. 85

"The mission of the church is to rescue and redeem the earth from the rule and dominion of the human kingdom."--p. 12.

Exterminate Them:

"The mission imposed upon the Jews after the deliverance of them was perpetual enmity, the work to which they were called was a work of extermination against all people maintaining a human government." Since governments are same as ever, Christians should exterminate.--p. 14.

"The subjects of God's government were forbidden all affiliation or alliance with the human governments." -p. 18.

"The lesson taught is that the human governments must, one and all, be destroyed." -p. 25.

"None can doubt that the final end will be the destruction of all earthly kingdoms, that they may give place to the reign of the divine kingdom." -p. 90.

"There can be no hope for the conversion of the world, until these two kingdoms are recognized in their true, antagonistic spirit, mission and destiny." -p. 92. Non-participation:

"When Babylon was overthrown by the Medo-Persian, he (Daniel) submitted to Darius, and served him with equal fidelity. This submission to the human was always modified and limited by the highest obligation to obey God, hence Daniel, trustworthy as a slave in all things that did not conflict with duty to God, went into the lion's den rather than disobey him. So with Christ, so with Peter, James and John, and all true Christians. But they are to submit to--not participate in the governments under which they live." -p. 78.


"Then again Christian men, as has been heretofore presented, cannot be governed by Christian principles in civil government. Civil government rests on force as its foundation. The weapons of a Christian are not carnal, but spiritual. A ruler or an officer in civil government cannot carry into execution of these laws, the principles of the` religion of Christ." -p. 137.

Rebellion against God:

"Man in the spirit of rebellion against God and with the view of living free from the control of God, and independent of his authority, instituted governments of his own, and these governments in their changing forms have existed from the days of Nimrod to the present time.

"God, from its beginning, recognized this human government as rebellion against him, and as organized effort to throw off his authority to conduct the affairs of the earth free from God's rule and dominion. -p. 41.

Cannot Give to or Receive Aid From:

"Regarding them thus, God always forbade that his subjects should join affinity or affiliate with the subjects of the human government, or that they should make any alliance with, enter into, support, maintain and defend, or appeal to, or depend' upon these human governments for aid or help.

"That alliance with these human governments or their supporters arose from distrust of, and were sins against God, and without exceptions were punished." -p. 41.

All Of The Devil:

"The other human governments, the embodied effort of man to rule the world without God, ruled over by the prince of the world.', the devil." -p. 73.

"The result of this treason and transfer was, God ceased to be the ruler and the devil became the God of this world." -p. 54.

"Christ recognized the kingdoms of the earth as the kingdoms of the devil, and that they should all be rooted up, that all the institutions of earth, save the kingdom of heaven, should be prevailed against by the gates of hell." -p. 86.

"Here the human governments are placed among the powers of the wicked one, and their entire work was against the church, and the Christian must needs clothe himself with the whole armor of God, that he might withstand them and fight against them as enemies of God." -p. 79.

Enemy of God:

"The remainder of the book of Revelation (from 17th chapter) is taken up with final triumph of the church or government of God after the destruction of the government of man that has been the enemy of God and his government from the beginning." -p. 102.

"This proclaims everything that exercises rule, authority or power in the world, save as it is exercised in the kingdom of God, under his rule, or for his glory and honor, as an enemy or God, and that Jesus Christ must reign in and through his own divine kingdom until all these things shall be destroyed." -p. 137.

Moral Laws of the Devil?

"It is strongly denied in such cases (horse racing law) (prohibition etc.) that the government that restricts and prohibits sin can be of the devil, and hence it is claimed that a Christian should vote on all questions of morality." -p. 144.

Must Resist:

"Deliverance can come to the world only as man chooses to resist the devil and obey God." (Lipscomb says resist; withstand and fight; make war upon; destroy. God says submit; exterminate.) -p. 82.

Devil the Head:

"God ordains for the people just such institutions as they deserve. If they refuse to obey God's government, he ordains that they shall be governed by the oppressive rule of man's own government, of which the devil is the great head." (Com. on Romans, Lipscomb and Shepherd, p. 229).

Christ Came To Destroy:

"The mission of the kingdom of God is to break into pieces and consume all these kingdoms, take their place, fill the whole earth, and stand forever. How could the individual citizen of the kingdom of God found, enter into, and become a part and parcel of--up build, support, and defend, that which God's kingdom was especially commissioned to destroy." -p. 28.

"Christ thus was recognized from before his birth as coming as the enemy of, and to make war upon the human government, and the rulers sought from his birth to kill him." -p.46.

Church Must Destroy:

"The mission of the church is to rescue and redeem the earth from the rule and dominion of the human kingdoms." -p. 12.

"If a man identifies himself with an earthly kingdom, sustains and upholds it he must share its destiny." -p. 85.

"How can the Christian enter into and serve the human, how can he divide his fealty, his love, his means and his time, his talent between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the evil one?" -p. 83-84.

Paul Inconsistent:

"He (Paul) did not claim the protection of the government, (Acts. 23:23; Act. 16:) but when the Roman authorities were used to persecute him, he used the rights and immunities guaranteed to him as a Roman citizen by that law to protect himself against oppression through the law." -p. 114.

"As God was a jealous God, and would not permit his children to seek other help than his own, and in and through his own government." -p. 22.

Government the Beast:

"The term beast' is used in the Bible frequently and always refers to human government." p. 103.

Of Hell:

"Human government bears the same relation to hell that the church bears to heaven." -p. 73.

"Satan rules in hell."

"God could not choose Christ to minister wrath in hell." -p.74.

Treason Against God:

"Every act of affiliation, partnership, friendship or treaty with them was regarded and punished as treason (54) against God." -p. 89.

Same As Pagan Governments:

"The human governments of the New Testament dispensations were but a continuation of those of the Old Testament, and of precisely the same nature." -p. 76. Administered by Vile Sinners:

"Because the institutions that were especially ordained for punishing the rebellious are the institutions his subjects were forbidden to use, rely upon or make alliance with, or participate in Used the vilest sinners of the earth as his servants." -p. 30.

"Then a Christian cannot be an officer or an executor of this higher power." -p. 70.

No Exceptions:

"That alliance with these human governments of their supporters arose from distrust of, and were sins against God, and without exceptions were punished." -p. 41. Cannot Be Postmaster:

"Some anxious for office say, a postmaster is not a political office. Hence he may hold it, that clerkship in the executive offices are not political--but they are part of the essential elements of the civil administration, and make the holder a supporter of the government.

"Yet there are employments sometimes given in carrying on government operations that a Christian it seems to me might perform. The government builds a house. House building is no part of the administration of government ... Teaching school is no part of the administration of government." -p. 141, 142.

* * * *

Proposition Suggested

"The devil is the head of all civil governments and their entire work is against the church. Human governments occupy the same relation to hell that the church does to heaven. They are in rebellion against God and should be considered as enemies by Christians. The church must not affiliate with these governments or those who support them. They should not support them with their means or otherwise. To appeal to them or to depend upon them for help is treason against God. The church has been divinely commissioned to destroy, break in pieces, withstand, fight against and exterminate them and thus rescue and redeem the earth."

* * * *

I feel as Brother Lambert has expressed himself, not only "amazed" but ashamed that any recognized leader in churches of Christ, past or present, should espouse and promote such a doctrine as set forth above. I publish it with apologies to the government and to the public - and to the members of the churches -- and my sole reason for publishing it is to let them see what some of us are having to fight against on the so--called "war question." It was pointed out from the beginning of this controversy that the issue is not one of war merely, but concerns the functions of government and its very right to exist. It is evident that some of the brethren connected with the Gospel Advocate, and others not connected with it, have attempted to identify the churches of Christ before our government as one of a number of religious groups in this country holding such views. The classification ought to be rejected and repudiated. It is, in fact, a "stigma" to have such a doctrine pinned on the churches in the records of our government and in the eyes of the world. That is "a real stigma" that needs to be removed.

The many bold statements in the Lipscomb book are virtually offered by its author as oracles, and have been received as such by his devotees. For them he presents no proof - his book consists of a mass of raw assertions, bald as a billiard ball, and as destitute of proof as the claims of "Judge Rutherford" or any other of that sort and strata. But we are asked to accept the theory because "Uncle David Lipscomb" said so! Regardless of how great Brother Lipscomb was in other respects, his book on Civil Government is about as rank with false doctrine as one book of its size could be.

Among the many "amazing" assertions in the book one of the most inconsistent and contradictory of them all is the one that refers to Paul's appeals to the government for armed protection. Ponder this assertion: "He (Paul) did not claim the protection of the government, but when the Roman authorities were used to persecute him, he used

the rights and immunities guaranteed to him as a Roman citizen by that law to protect himself against oppression through the law."

The weakness of such a statement is apparent.

First: How could Paul "use" the "rights" of "protection" without "claiming" that protection?

Second: It was the Jews in Acts 23:12-35 who were "persecuting" Paul--not the government.

Paul requested the "protection" of the government, which looks like he "claimed" it. He was assigned two hundred soldiers, two hundred spearmen, and seventy, horsemen--470 armed men-to give him "the rights and immunities guaranteed to him as a Roman Citizen." Paul "used" them. He requested it; he accepted it. This "army" is said to have resorted to "great violence" when they "took him away" from the Jews. (Acts 24:7) By his appeal to the government for protection in this case, as in others on record, Paul certainly did invoke all the powers of the government both civil and military. The necessary conclusion is that if a Christian preacher, like Paul, could claim such protection, a Christian soldier could belong to the army that gave to him that protection. Anyone who can believe that it is right for a Christian to receive such "immunities," but wrong for a Christian to give them, ought to take a correspondence course in consistency. They are verily not eligible for a degree in logic.

Another "Oracle" in the Lipscomb book is that a Christian cannot hold an office or maintain any official connection with the government. It is "assumed" that the Eunuch of Acts 8, resigned his cabinet position, and that Cornelius, the soldier of Acts 10, deserted the army, when they became Christians. But I haven't heard any of them "assume" that the Phillipian Jailor of Acts 16, quit his job as a Jailor, or threw away his sword. It is expressly stated

in Verse 25 that he was the Jailor, before his conversion, and had a sword. It is expressly stated in Verse 36 that he was still the Jailor in full performance of his official duties the day after his baptism.

When John, the baptist, preached "the baptism of repentance" to various classes, he told them how to apply it. He did not tell the soldier to desert or resign, he told the soldiers to be content with their wages and not to use their office to use personal, or unlawful violence to civilians. Surely no one thinks that John would instruct the soldiers to accept wages for duties they had no intention to perform! The New Testament does not teach such hypocrisy and Christianity is not a system of sabotage.

It is remarkable that in all the cases of the conversion of government officials, including cabinet officers, army officials, soldiers and jailors, not once were they told to re sign their position and in no instance is it even hinted that they deserted their posts. To assume that they did does not meet the demands of the case. The Methodists can do that well trying to find infant sprinkling in household baptisms. It is proof, not assumption, that is needed to sustain the anti-government argument. The book called "Civil Government" abounds in the latter but is destitute of the former.

Source Of Millennialism

In looking back over the years in which this book and others like it were circulated among the brethren, it is not hard to see how the theories of Premillennialism found soil in which to grow among churches of Christ. It is not charged that David Lipscomb was a premillennialist but his book certainly does, beyond the possibility of a reasonable denial, contain the seeds of that system. It is beginning to dawn on our minds now why the premillennialists among us have themselves so persistently claimed him for their side. Personally, I would hate to try to prove that he was not a premillennialist if I had no other evidence than his book on Civil Government. Whether he was one or not one, he has evidently helped some others to be premillennialists--for that is the logical end of his theory on government. For instance, he says, that the mission of the church is the destruction and extermination of civil government, and that all human government must be destroyed to "give place to the reign of the divine kingdom." That is premillennialism--whether he was one or not. Brother Armstrong has repeatedly stated his position that all human government must be destroyed, after which Jesus Christ will have his government, and his only, on this earth--and furthermore, that Christ will be on earth with it--after his second coming--but whether for one thousand years or two thousand years, he says he doesn't know! But that is premillennialism. It may be that Brother Armstrong got it from Brother Lipscomb along with Brother Harding!

Some of us are about to see that the source of premillennialism in some quarters is from such books as "Civil Government"--in that many who accepted the utterances of David Lipscomb as oracles went farther than he perhaps intended that they should and accepted the consequences of his theory along with the theory itself.

But the brethren as a whole, even in Tennessee, have neither believed nor practiced the Lipscomb theory. He taught that it is wrong to vote--but the vote of the brethren in Tennessee is strong enough to decide an election, even in Nashville. He taught that a member of the church cannot be a postmaster, or a clerk in the post office, but they are such all over the state, and in Nashville itself! He taught that Christians cannot appeal to the government for aid, nor receive help from it -- but the college that bears his name appealed to the local government for assistance, and the papers carried the pictures of E. H. Ijams and S. H. Hall receiving a check from the governor of the state for the benefit of the school! That's a fine way to "destroy" and "exterminate" human governments!

And we are told in the Lipscomb book that the mission of the church is to do that very thing--destroy and exterminate human governments--which, if true, would make it the positive duty of every preacher of the gospel to include such in his preaching and all the churches should include such in their teaching, and the Gospel Advocate should put that doctrine in the literature series that they publish "for use in churches of Christ"!

Brother Lambert has appropriately requested the brethren of the Gospel Advocate to plainly state whether they agree or disagree with the Lipscomb book. We have done so--we disagree with it, wholly, in its premises and its conclusions. Brother Lambert requests Brother Boles and the Advocate staff to tell us what part they subscribe to and what part they do not subscribe to--if they do not accept it all.

The editor of the Advocate has boasted that a proposition for a debate written by Brother Boles for others to sign was declined. Well, Brother Lambert has suggested one for Brother Boles to consider. Brother Lambert has as much right to write a proposition for Brother Boles to sign as Brother Boles has to write one for somebody else to sign. Everybody will be waiting to see if Brother Boles decides to submit this proposition to Brother Whiteside or Brother Nichol. He should at least answer Nichol's letters.

"After The War"

But after the war - we are told by certain ones - after the war, we will have plenty to say! Why "after the war"? Why not now? O, we are told, the government would not let us say it now! But why not "obey God rather than men"? That is what they tell the young men to do on the war question - that is, don't obey the government's call to arms - "obey God rather than men." Very well- why does that not apply to what a preacher should say? If there is something that they ought to say that is in disobedience to the government - why not follow the advice given to the young men - just "obey God rather than men" and say it? Are they waiting until after the war to say some things that they are afraid to say now? Yet they talk about cowardice in others! Anything they reserve until after the war to say will not deserve a hearing when the war is over-and likely will not get a hearing.

As for the Lipscomb book on "Civil Government" it is fortunate for the church that with the exception of those who "sat at the feet of David Lipscomb," very few of the brethren believe the theory, and even among those who "sat at his feet," the ones who think for themselves have cast his theory away.

We want to thank Brother Lambert for furnishing the public with the above summary and we hope that it will cause the brethren to do some sober thinking on the matters that have been presented through the Bible Banner the past few months - and we believe they are doing so. Truly, "let us think on these things."