Wednesday, July 28, 2010

More From Alexander Campbell's Lectures

I'm taking my time reading through Familiar Lectures on the Pentateuch. A few highlights from numbers V and VI:

In Lecture V, Alexander Campbell speaks to the men at Bethany College about the superiority of man, and the wonderful wisdom and goodness of the Creator, as manifested in the closing acts of his six days' labor (pp. 89-90).

"Trinity" Used in the Sense of Three-ness

In an earlier post, I mentioned AC's aversion to theorizing and, thus, the unlikeliness of his using the term "Trinity." However, he does speak of God's triune character (90), and he does believe that the plural pronouns of the creation account refer to the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. He even speaks of their plurality (or three-ness) as the trinity (90).

Man's Superiority as a Moral Creature

The superiority of man is strikingly developed by comparison. Wonderful and grand are the qualities that distinguish man from all things else; for there is no creature beside man, on the face of the earth, capable of being inducted into the conception of a moral idea. You may impart different kind of instruction to animals . . . . but you can never communicate to any animal the idea of moral obligation (91). So far, I've come across nothing that even begins to sound like the depravity of man. The anthropology is high. Adam was the universe in miniature. He is not only the pinnacle of Creation, he's way up there.

"Soul" and "Spirit"

It may be enough for us to know, that there is an animalism in the soul of man, but that there is none in his spirit. The spirit of man is the glory of man, and the special emanation from God (92-93).

Necessity of Knowledge

And we claim, that if a man would enjoy himself perfectly, that is, if he would derive all the pleasure possible from the healthy exercise of all his faculties, he must possess a complete knowledge of his mental and physical, moral and spiritual constitution and character, together with his surrounding circumstances. Such knowledge will not only comprehend the whole outward and inward man, but it will radiate, and lead off the inquiring and ever active mind, into all the branches of material and social science (95).

The Week Has No Type in Nature

In Lecture VI, Campbell begins by emphasizing the uniqueness of the week as a measure of time: This ordinance of time, depends entirely upon absolute will for its origin. The cessation of the creative labors of God on the seventh day, gave rise to this division of time; for which there is no type in nature. There is a type, or some symbolic mark, for every cardinal institution of the divine economy, except the week, and that has none. . . . . The week culminated in the seventh day--at the end of creation of the world--and that being a day of rest for man, is commemorative of God's ceasing to create, and the term rest is disposed of, on the ground that it is simply a figurative expression, so far as God is concerned, signifying, merely, that he ceased to act at the end of the week, but by no means indicates that the Almightly stopped to rest--to recover from the exhaustion of labor (96-97).

Uniqueness of the Fourth Commandment/Sabbath Remembrance Forever

Keeping this subject-matter under consideration, we invite attention to another remarkable fact, bearing upon this interesting question. It is this : Every one of the ten commandments begins with the phrase, " Thou shalt" or " shalt not" do this or that, except the fourth, and that begins with, " Remember." This is quite peculiar, and its significance is worthy of notice. Why this variation in the form of expression, as introduced at this particular command ? May we not presume or affirm, that it is because the Author had in his mind the fact that there is one day above all others in importance ? It was of extraordinary regard, because God had ceased to work on that day, and for this reason man is especially commanded to "remember" (always) " the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." On that day of days, God terminated the creation of the heavens and the earth, and retired into the solitude of his own infinity. Out of respect for this great truth, this important event, it was meet that man should cease to work on the same day, for the purpose of commemorating the great termination. (98). So, does Campbell believe that the Sabbath is to be remembered always, or not? Would he make a distinction between remembrance and observance? Interesting. And what a blessing to get to hear him "speaking" in this book.


Carisse said...

He can build a sentence!

eirenetheou said...

Some of AC's sentences seem like "20 years to life," but those "periods" just keep rollin', on and on -- and, unlike many more recent decompositions, they do parse.

AC is, of course, a "creationist" rather than an "evolutionist," but AC has also imbibed that nineteenth-century sense of confidence and optimism about humankind as the moral and intellectual pinnacle of creation -- a faith in human moral "progress" entirely unjustified by evidence -- that will welcome Darwin's theory and baptize it for theology as well as for philosophy.

AC's "plurality" is a long way from the Doctrine of the "Trinity" as propounded in the classical creeds -- as well it should be.

God's Peace to you.


David Ramsey said...

Characteristically, Campbell avoided the word “trinity,” which he could not find in the Bible. “Godhead” was okay (Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20, Colossians 2:9), but not “trinity.”

His dissatisfaction with the term “trinity” if not the trinitarian concept may have contributed to a misapprehension about the movement with which he was associated. Thus John Patrick Diggins—in RONALD REAGAN: FATE, FREEDOM, AND THE MAKING OF HISTORY (New York: Norton, 2007)—writes that Reagan’s mother “taught young Ronald the tenets of the Church of the Disciples, an offshoot of nineteenth-century Unitarianism” (p. 25).

Frank, I appreciate your scholarship, your curiosity to peer into the labyrinths of our religious heritage.

Frank Bellizzi said...

Hi David,

Seems like several years ago there was a lady in the Churches of Christ who started a faith-based weight-loss program that was all the rage for a while. (Is this ringing any bells?). Anyway, also seems like the whole project was criticized by some evangelical who said that the plan's originator was from a group that didn't believe in the Trinity.

I don't believe I dreamed this up.

Tim Archer said...


Weigh Down Diet/Workshop. Gwen Shamblin.

She later founded the Remnant Fellowship Church.

Grace and peace,
Tim Archer

Frank Bellizzi said...

Thanks, Tim.

That's exactly who I was thinking of. Again, it seems like when she gained some attention, there was some question in the larger evangelical community about her orthodoxy. Apparently, she had said something to someone about not speaking of "the Trinity" per se. Again, I believe that's right.

Frank Bellizzi said...

Wade Tannehill said...

I love Genesis. I love Campbell. And I love Bellizzi. They all come together in this wonderful series. Thanks.

Wade Tannehill said...

I followed your link to the apologetics website that criticised Shamblin's view of the Trinity. They were really straining out gnats. They accused her of denying the deity of Christ when she plainly stated that Jesus is "our God." But she did say that he is the Son and not the Father. I don't think that equals a denial of Christ's deity.

I also noticed that she founded her own church (denomination)over a decade ago, expressing dissatisfaction with "mainstream" Christianity's inability to truly deliver people from sin and addiction.

I understand the frustration, but I wonder why it is that anyone in Churches of Christ who becomes famous through a popular ministry always ends up leaving us or changing the sign on their building. Do they find the C of C an embarrasment? Do we not have the glitz or pizzaz to be attractional? (which may actually say something in our favor). OR are we running these people off?

Frank Bellizzi said...

Thanks for the comments/research, Wade. Yeah, you're right about the nit-picking at Shamblin re. "the Trinity."

About your observations and questions on people in the Churches of Christ who become popular: I think it must be that they don't want any of the negatives that are associated with the group. Because of their newfound power, they can do their own thing. They probably get tired of other people from the broad institution trying to make them accountable. A lot of that sort of thing, no doubt, stems from jealousy. To the leavers, it probably feels like a "therapeutic divorce."