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Evangelicalism & the Stone-Campbell Movement

by William R. Baker

Buy the book: William R. Baker. Evangelicalism & the Stone-Campbell Movement

Release Date: July, 2002

Edition: Paperback


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Buy the book: William R. Baker. Evangelicalism & the Stone-Campbell Movement

Evangelicalism's "wing man"

Editor William Baker has collated an anthology of papers presented during proceedings of the Evangelical Theological Society by members of two of three "wings" of the Stone-Campbell or Restoration Movement (RM), a capella Churches of Christ and Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. The third, the Disciples of Christ, is not represented.

The RM and the evangelical movement (EM) have much in common. As organized, identifiable movements (oxymoron?) in North America, they follow roughly parallel chronologies, springing as they did from the Second Awakening of ca. 1800. The "Stone" in "Stone-Campbell," Barton W. Stone, was one of the organizers of a Presbyterian camp meeting that is known to historiographers as the Cane Ridge Revival. One of the Campbells in "Stone-Campbell," Alexander Campbell, editorially followed the organization of the American evangelical movement early in the 19th century favourably noting points of intersection between it and the RM.

In the 20th century, like so many American Protestant bodies, the RM was split by the modernist-fundamentalist controversy into opposing camps -- one becoming the Disciples of Christ and the other the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. The editorial flagship of the modernist side, "The Christian Century," was of RM construction, and the first managing editor of "Christianity Today," launched by Billy Graham to lead the other side of the debate, was RM-adherent James DeForest Murch.

Over the past thirty years, many a capella Church of Christ exegetes have joined the Evangelical Theological Society, latterly joined by Independents. Independent leaders have been given prominence in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Although association between the RM and EM, and Baker's editorial introduction suggest a sort of "harmonic convergence" between the RM and evangelical movement (EM), the papers as published suggest otherwise. Theologically, the papers make clear significant points of divergence between the Princeton Theology-influenced Calvinism of much of North American evangelicalism and the RM on their understandings of conversion, faith, and baptism. Despite Baker's introduction, if one did not know anything of the significant interaction and sharing of resources among the RM and the EM, one might be surprised to learn of it.

A further point of divergence not highlighted is the prominence given to celebration of the Lord's Supper or Eucharist in the RM versus the EM. For the EM, faith and the book are the sole centre of attention and focus. While RM adherents claim the nickname "people of the book," the Lord's Supper is, still, given prominence and celebrated weekly (albeit, sometimes "weakly"). The absence of a paper dealing with differing views of the Lord's Supper is a weakness of the anthology.

That said, Baker does us a service by provoking discussion between two groups with parallel commitments to the book who interact at so many levels. One minor criticism: in his preface, Wheaton College historiographer Mark Noll insists on describing the RM as the "Restorationist Movement" instead of its long-standing appellation, "Restoration Movement." Is this stubbornness or merely an oversight on Dr. Noll's part?

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Good for Theology Students of the Restoration Movement

Having graduated from a private university affiliated with the a cappella Church of Christ, ordained by the elders of an independent Christian Church, and now working in a cooperative mission project, I took pleasure in knowing that a book like this one had been published.

The contributors are known to me either personally or by reputation, a couple having been among my professors. Particularly pleasing were the contributions by these gentlemen, showing great respect for the Word of God and not compromising on the truths this movement has advocated for years. About half of the contributions from the independent Christian theologians were what I would consider edifying. The others show the marks of a general shift away from solid Biblical standards and towards evangelical generalism.

Frankly, the responses provided by the evangelical theologians were sadly predictable.

All in all, this is a good book to purchase if you are a theology student looking to gain insight into current discussions and thought within the movement that some call "Stone-Campbell," but which others of us prefer to refer to as the "Restoration Movement" or "this present Reformation."

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