Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity

College Lectureships


The "college lectureship" has come to play a role of tremendous importance among churches of our day. These lectureships have had a long history among colleges; and were originally intended as a part of the college life for the benefit of the students. Some capable and recognized scholar would be invited to the campus for a week or ten days to give special lectures to the students dealing with the particular field in which he was qualified to speak. Gradually, these occasions took on a wider scope, and several lecturers might be invited to participate in the occasion. Then the public began to be invited to attend, and little by little, the "lectureships" ceased to be a part of college life for student benefit, and began to take on the nature of a public venture for the promotion of the college.

When David Lipscomb was in control of the Nashville Bible School, he made it a practice to bring a number of gospel preachers to the campus who differed in their convictions from that which he taught and believed. Unlike the smaller men who have followed him, he felt no sense of infallibility, and was eager for his students (and the faculty) to listen to sincere Bible students present a different point of view. G. G. Taylor differed sharply from Lipscomb on the civil government question — so Lipscomb arranged for him to spend a week on the campus to present his ideas. J. D. Tant was invited to spend a week on the campus to discuss the "rebaptism" question, since he and Lipscomb were known to hold opposing views on the subject.

Until the last ten or twelve years the "college lectureships" conducted by the various schools operated by the brethren have been occasions for brotherly association, free and open discussions of problems and differences, with fine opportunities for visiting, exchange of ideas and information, and a relaxed and friendly spirit of good will and cordiality. It was always expected that there would be a bit of "fire-works", in which brethren would have some sharp exchanges over their differences (who can ever forget how G. K. Wallace and Gus Nichols used to scrap over the "orphan home" issue at Freed Hardeman?), but it was a friendly and brotherly battle, and everybody enjoyed it. The lectureship served a useful and healthy purpose.

But in late years there has been a terrific change. The college lectureship has become a cut-and-dried propaganda forum for "our institutions", "our colleges," "our national radio program", "our national advertising agency", etc. We have a letter from a brother in Odessa, Texas, about the recent lectureship at Abilene. This man is telling us of the reaction of another brother who attended that affair: "He said there was more ballyhoo for various institutions and promotions than he had ever seen before. Seems like everybody had his own booth and was pushing, promoting, and ballyhooing their pet projects. Some of them had girls plugging their promotions, handing out circulars and pamphlets. He said rather than being what it ought to be it reminded him of a Roman Catholic bingo game.

"I got so sick myself of this very thing in 1955 that I said I would never go again. I well remember, that year, making a tour along with Blackmon, Houchen, Bryan Vinson, and Cogdill, to several of their booths and exhibits. There were large streamers and banners advertising this institution or that, this promotion or that, till one would get sick at his stomach. I didn't see one tenth as much about the church or the gospel as I saw about "our" institutions, camps, recreation centers, etc.

"This brother who went this year said that his feelings about this matter were shared by MANY preachers who attended, and he heard many comments from them about their own disgust at such a revolting thing."

In contrast to that sort of thing (which is general among colleges these days), it was this writer's good pleasure last month to attend the lectures at Florida Christian College in Tampa, Florida. This was a lectureship along the "old-fashioned-style" of yesteryear — a relaxed and happy four days in which there was ample opportunity for visiting, meeting old friends and making news ones, discussing Bible questions, and generally sharing in the warm and companionable atmosphere of kindred spirits in the Lord. We were particularly impressed with the open forum discussions, so ably guided by Franklin T. Puckett, in which brethren actually gave serious and animated discussion to difficult portions of Bible teaching. There was some discussion of present "issues", and it was truly heartening to hear conscientious brethren on both sides of the matter present their arguments, courteously and kindly question one another, give rebuttals and rejoinders, and through it all show a deep, deep concern for what the Bible teaches.

We saw very little of the promotions, three-ringed circus ballyhoo, carnival atmosphere here which has so disgusted many brethren in other lectureships. Nor were these cut-and-dried propaganda sessions to promote "our" institutions and programs and projects. There was no effort to persuade brethren to "come down here and get our ideas, and then go back and put them into the churches" — as is openly acknowledged to be the idea of some lectureships. For that we all ought to be grateful.

The college lectureships have had a tremendous influence on the churches of Christ these last few years — and in our judgment most of it has been the wrong kind of influence. We were heartened to attend these lectures at Tampa, because they seemed to us to be an exception to the general rule.

— F. Y. T.