Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 12, 1951

If Alexander Campbell Founded A Church ---

Fred B. Walker Arlington, Virginia

1. Where is the creed for it? Every church founded by man has a creed that is distinctive for that particular faith. It is endorsed for those who believe that way and is made a test of fellowship for members of that denomination. If Campbell ever wrote a creed or if any of his followers wrote one which is used authoritatively in the church of Christ or in any other church which someone thinks was founded by him, then why cannot it be produced?

2. Where is the name for it? The name "Campbellite" would not answer for it because no group of people call themselves by that name so far as this writer knows. If there are those who are so misinformed who would adopt a name their enemies try to fasten on them, even Campbell would disavow them, since one of the distinctive features of his preaching was the urging of professed followers of Christ to cast aside human names and resume the divinely given name: Christian. The name "Campbellite" was originated by those who felt the force of the argument against themselves for wearing such unscriptural designations as Presbyterian, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, etc., but who would not give them up and take the name "Christian" alone. Being unwilling to give up their party names and being unable to find scriptural authorization for them, the adversaries of the restoration of New Testament Christian in America simply sought to fasten on those intrepid Christians a human name to make their own 'appear less nefarious.

3. What are its distinctive doctrines? Every denomination in America founded by men or women has either .a doctrinal point or a combination of them featured, and usually originated, by its founder which makes that group different from others and different from the New Testament church also. For example, some peculiar features of the Mormon Church, founded by Joseph Smith, were the practices of polygamy and baptizing for the dead. A peculiar doctrine of the church founded by Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy was the unreality of sin and of death. Distinctive features of the church founded by Mrs. Ellen G. White were the observances of the Jewish Sabbath and the prohibiting of the eating of pork. Martin Luther emphasized the doctrine of Justification by Faith Only, and those who subscribed to that and other things he taught, peculiar to himself, are correctly called Lutherans. Now if it could be shown that there is any church today teaching doctrines which Alexander Campbell taught or featured different from the New Testament church, then it might be appropriate to call such a group "Campbellites." Such a group does not exist that I know of. It is certain that the religious body known throughout the world as "Church of Christ" teaches nothing which was peculiar to Campbell. We invite investigation to make sure that what is taught as doctrine originated with Christ and his apostles and not with uninspired men and women since the first century A. D. Until it can be shown that even one item of doctrine taught in churches of Christ originated with Campbell, it is a misnomer to apply the sobriquet, "Campbellite."

4. Where is the pulpit from which Campbell is preached or even set on a pedestal higher than other uninspired men? The writer has heard outsiders sometime say, "It ought to be called the 'Church of Paul' since so many of your preachers use his name so much." But I have never heard anyone say; "you ought to call it the "Church of Campbell" because he had heard the name Campbell preached from the pulpit as an oracle to whom we look. There are thousands of faithful Christians today in the Church of Christ who have never heard of Alexander Campbell. Isn't this strange, if he founded it? Even among those who know of him it is merely in an incidental way in connection with the Restoration Movement in America along with Barton W. Stone, James O'Kelly, and others. Each of these preachers tried to get the people of their day all the way back to the New Testament church in name, creed, doctrine, organization, and practice. Surely if Campbell or Stone founded a new church, its members should be honest enough to give him credit for it. The Church of Christ is not that church, but regards these men simply as able religious reformers, but uninspired men, nonetheless. If Campbell founded a church surely his name would still be mentioned with reverential respect due him by his followers. This type of devotion is not found in the Church of Christ; therefore it is a mistaken idea to think that he occupies any position of authority in it today or that he founded it.

Campbell was just like other great gospel preachers today: calling upon people to forsake human doctrine and get back to the apostles' teaching. The criterion in the Church of Christ today as to whether its members should be called "Christians" or "Campbellites" is to determine whose authority is being respected. If they are humbly preaching the word of God as taught for nearly eighteen centuries before Campbell saw the light of day, then it is ridiculous to call them by his name. If by taking the New Testament, precept by precept, line by line, it can be shown that the church of Christ today is identical with the church in the days of Paul in name, doctrine, worship and organization, then it is a church of Christ in fact and no name other than the name Christian is applicable to its members.

If a quail were to pick up an acorn from a forest of oak trees and fly a hundred miles distant to a grove having every other kind of tree except the oak and were to drop that seed in fertile soil, what would it produce? One thing is certain: it would not produce baby quails! It would not be influenced by the surrounding trees; it would produce "after its kind" if it produced anything at all—oak trees. So it is with the word of God, the seed of the kingdom. (Luke 8:11) It makes no difference how far removed in time or distance that seed may be from a church of the New Testament, nor who does the planting. If it is unadulterated by human teaching and is sown in honest hearts, the word of God will not produce Campbellites, Catholics, or Christadelphians any more than an acorn sown by a quail would produce baby quails. It will produce Christians and Christians only. Paul said he "planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase." They were Christians in those days as the result of having received "the implanted word," regardless of who did the preaching. So today if we sow the good seed into honest hearts, it produces Christians and nothing else. Such coming together constitutes a simple church of Christ just as they did in the days of the apostles and they neither desire nor deserve to be called by a human designation.