Vol.XIII No.III Pg.2
May 1976

Some Thoughts On Papers

Robert F. Turner

In 1823 Alexander Campbell began publication of the Christian Baptist. He did more than disseminate information — he enlarged his influence, and built a rally point that became, to some, the official organ for the restoration movement. But in 1826 B.W. Stone began Christian Messenger, evidencing a different spirit though having the same basic attitude toward the Scriptures. Soon many regional papers served to spread journalistic influence — each representing the distinctive characteristics and understanding of the editors, and grouping readers accordingly.

In 1856 Ben Franklin began the American Christian Review, saying, There is not the least danger of our circulating too many publications, any more than of our sending out too many preachers... if they are the right kind. Perhaps he was hinting that some thought journalistic influence should be limited to one or a few centers among brethren. Papers do have this effect. The Gospel Advocate (1855) soon represented a strong anti-organization, anti- instrumental music sentiment in the deep south; while the Christian Standard (1866) promoted the organization and organ in the north. The Firm Foundation (1884) developed its own sphere of influence in Texas. There was a time when I could visit with a congregation for a few hours and tell if it was an Advocate, Foundation, or Review group. The Gospel Guardian effectively represented conservative thought during the institutional arguments of this century. We can not reject papers because they wield influence. On this basis we would reject churches, preachers — even the light of a Christian (Matt. 5:13-16).

But sectarian and selfish interest in the promotion of influence is deplorable — from Campbell to the present time. It likely stems from three sources: 1) a pride-fed sectarian spirit, 2) genuine desire to promote truth which seeks to excuse carnal methods, and/or 3) the need for more and more money. These motives, and combinations of them, have marred many a journalistic effort and caused some to overlook the sacrificing efforts of hard-working publishers and writers who have faithfully promoted the cause of Christ on the printed page. There are good, and bad, writers, publishers, preachers, people.

We like the non-commercial, free-to-the-reader, publication of scriptural material by various congregations — a part of their teaching program to the public. We believe such papers have done much to put the brakes on official organ concepts.