Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Brevard Childs on the Biblical Tabernacle

In his monumental 1974 commentary on the Book of Exodus, Yale professor Brevard Childs provided an overview of the long history in which both Jewish and Christian interpreters have sought to understand the tabernacle.[1] Childs noticed a consistent and common fascination with this unique place of worship. The biblical description of the tabernacle, he wrote, "has been regarded from the beginning with the greatest possible interest by Jewish and Christian scholars alike."[2]. And what has been the reason for this? Childs offered a two-part explanation:

First, the dimension of the tabernacle and all its parts reflect a carefully contrived design and a harmonious whole. The numbers 3, 4, 10 predominate with proportionate cubes and rectangles. The various parts--the separate dwelling place, the tent, and the court--are all in exact numerical relation. The use of metals--gold, silver, and copper-- are carefully graded in terms of their proximity to the Holy of Holies. In the same way, the particular colors appear to bear some inner relation to their function, whether the white, blue, or crimson. There is likewise a gradation in the quality of the cloth used. Finally, much stress is placed on the proper position and orientation, with the easterly direction receiving the place of honor.[3]

In addition, Childs highlighted how in the biblical account it is the Almighty who issues each one of the many directions for the construction of the Tabernacle. "Every detail of the structure reflects the one divine will and nothing rests on the ad hoc decision of human builders."[4] Consequently, both Jewish and Christian scholars assumed that these details are rich in meaning, laden with significance. And this naturally led those interpreters to take a figurative, symbolic approach. In the post-Reformation period, Christian studies of the Tabernacle reveal a distinctive effort "to demonstrate the typology between the kingdom of God in the symbolism of the tabernacle and the church."[5]


[1] Brevard S. Childs, The Book of Exodus: A Critical, Theological Commentary, The Old Testament Library (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1974), 537-50.  I refer to this work as "monumental" because, with only a handful of possible exceptions--most notably Karl Barth's commentary on Paul's Letter to the Romans--very few twentieth-century commentaries on any book of the Bible made a greater impact than did Childs's work on Exodus. Much of its prominence stemmed from the author's construal of the task of commenting on a biblical text. At the outset, Childs revealed his intention to break new ground by reclaiming what was essentially old ground. Compared to "the majority of scholars with the field," he set out to present "a different understanding of the role of biblical interpretation." While the majority apparently considered historical-critical scholarship an end in itself--particularly investigations of the so-called depth dimensions of the text--Childs intended to use higher criticism as a means whose end was nothing short of what he often referred to as "the recovery of theological exegesis" (ix). This explains the subtitle he gave to his commentary.

[2] Ibid., 547.

[3] Ibid., 537-38

[4] Ibid., 540.

[5] Ibid., 548.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Silas Kennedy and the Christian Church at Davis, Oklahoma

In August 1897, Silas Kennedy established a congregation of the Christian Church at a community in the Chickasaw Nation known today as Davis in Murray County, Oklahoma. He served as one of the congregation's first elders and beginning in 1898, led the church to start construction of its first meeting house.[1] Kennedy took an active role in the civic life of early Davis. Beginning in 1900, when the growing town had ten doctors and three dentists, he served on the local Board of Health.[2]

Davis became home to the Kennedy family. Silas died there, at age 69, in the spring of 1918. He was still serving as minister and his funeral was held at the church he had established over twenty years before. His wife, Charlcy Dockary Kennedy survived until 1933. One of their three sons, Luke M. Kennedy, became a dentist and had practices in Davis and, later, Elk City, Oklahoma, where he died in 1943.[3] No fewer than eleven members of the extended family lie buried in a plot at the Greenhill Cemetery in Davis.


[1] Theresa Gabel, ed., Davis, Oklahoma (Davis, OK: Arbuckle Historical Society, 1981), 168. See also D. C. Gideon, Indian Territory (New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1901), 197, which indicates the existence of a Christian Church at Davis around the turn of the century.

[2] Ibid., 192; R. W. Chadwick and Sharon Chadwick, “Davis,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=DA015.

[3] "Gone to His Reward. Rev. S. E. Kennedy," Davis News, April 25, 1918; "Mrs. S. E. Kennedy Buried Here Monday," Davis News, January 26, 1933; "Dr. L. M. Kennedy Buried Here Tuesday," Davis News, January 21, 1943.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

My Dissertation

The following paragraph might show up in my dissertation. It's my partial attempt to define and explain the project:

While it does present a biographical narrative, it is not a biography per se. Rather, it is what might be styled a series of case studies based on one life, but relate to a wide range of topics and sub-fields. These include American religion, especially the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement; Native Americans, narrowed to the Five Tribes of Oklahoma, especially the Choctaws and Chickasaws; biblical studies and Christian theology; the history of Indian Territory, Oklahoma Territory, and the State of Oklahoma, especially Grady County and the towns of Silver City, Minco, and Chickasha; women's and gender history; the history of education and educational theory in the United States; and the histories of eastern North Carolina, where Meta Chestnutt was born and raised, and the city of Nashville, Tennessee, where she attended the Peabody Normal College and the University of Nashville.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

John D. Benedict (1854-1946)

John Downing Benedict was born in Clermont, Indiana, in 1854. His family moved to Vermillion County, Illinois, in 1869, and it was there that he graduated from high school. He went on to complete a degree at the University of Illinois. In 1881, the year he turned twenty-seven, Benedict became superintendent of schools in Vermillion County. During his eight years at that post, he developed a uniform educational program for the state's rural schools. The curriculum was so popular it was later adopted by the State of Kansas and by Oklahoma and Indian Territories as well. Benedict's record of success in the field of education was no doubt what led to his being appointed the first U.S. superintendent of schools in Indian Territory in 1899.[1] 

The new position had a remarkable background. Prior to the passage of the Curtis Act of 1898, the Five Tribes of Oklahoma had complete jurisdiction over their respective school systems. But Section 19 of the Curtis Act stated that

no payment of any moneys on any account whatever shall here after be made by the United States to any of the tribal governments or to any officer thereof for disbursement, but payments of all sums to members of said tribes shall be made under direction of the Secretary of the Interior by an officer appointed by him.[2]

Apparently, the U.S. government intended and took the phrase "under direction of" to mean that the Secretary of the Interior would have to approve of the activities for which the tribes received money. And that meant, among other things, federal oversight of schools in Indian Territory.[3] And so it was that Benedict arrived in Muskogee, Indian Territory, on February 27, 1899, to begin his challenging work.[4]


[1] Carolyn G. Hanneman, “Benedict, John Downing,” Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, accessed March 25, 2021, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=BE016. See also Grant Forman, "John D. Benedict, Pioneer Educator in Oklahoma," Oklahoma Teacher 27 (May 1946), 17-18.

[2] An Act For the protection of the people of Indian Territory, and for other purposes, Chap. 517, 55th Cong, 2d. sess. (June 28, 1898).

[3] This interpretation stems from Benedict's own view. See John D. Benedict, "Excerpt from Manuscript of 'My Educational Experience'," Indian-Pioneer Papers, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma, accessed March 25, 2021, https://digital.libraries.ou.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/indianpp/id/3907/rec/1

[4] Ibid.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

D. T. Broadus on El Meta Christian College in 1895

The college at Minco is moving on. The building is not complete yet. It will require patience and perseverance to complete the building and get the school in good running order. W. J. Erwin, J. H. and R. S. Tuttle are trustees, and will push it to completion as fast as they can. They now have three teachers, including the music teacher. There are now about ninety pupils and others ready to start as soon as they get more of the boarding department ready. Brethren, let us all encourage this much-needed work. Some good brethren who have money can do a grand work by contributing some of it immediately to assist in finishing up the boarding department. Send your money to either of the trustees, or to Miss Meta Chestnutt, who has labored so faithfully for five long years in bringing the school up to what it is now. She began with a small number of children in a little schoolhouse on the wild prairie, but all the time with this work in view. She has, by persevering until now, brought it to where it is. She is a graduate of Peabody Normal, of Nashville, Tenn., and is a practical, energetic teacher. She begins a thing to succeed. She has but little use for the word fail. Other good teachers will be added as fast as they are needed. One other will be added soon.

D. T. Broadus, "Kansas Notes," Gospel Advocate 37 (January 3, 1895), 14.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

The Letter to the Hebrews: Some Basics

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews describes it as a "word of exhortation," a sermon (13:22). The anonymous writer was a thoroughly-Hellenized Jewish Christian steeped in the language of the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. Also trained in rhetoric, he wrote some of the finest Greek to be found anywhere in the New Testament.[1] Hebrews bears a number of marks suggesting it was written to a house church in an urban setting, perhaps Rome. Like the writer, the intended audience had roots in the Hellenistic synagogues of the Jewish Diaspora. The congregation had endured persecution for their Christian faith and, in the eyes of the author, had now become spiritually sluggish. They were in danger of drifting away from their commitment.[2] The community stood in need of pastoral rebuke and encouragement, which is exactly what this sermon in written form was intended to provide.


[1] William L. Lane, Hebrews 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary 47A  (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991), xlvii-li.

[2] Ibid., liii-lx. For this reconstruction of the historical situation, Lane points to passages like Hebrews 2:1, 5:11, and 10:32-35.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

E. G. Sewell on the Tabernacle (3)

In a follow-up article, "The Altar of Incense, the Brazen Laver, Etc.," which appeared in The Gospel Advocate for February 3, 1886, E. G. Sewell continued his Christian, symbolic interpretation of the biblical tabernacle. In his first article, he had written about the table of shewbread and the candlestick.

Altar of Incense

In his second article, he turns to another item in the Holy Place, the altar of incense. Sewell notes that the priests of ancient Israel were to burn incense on this altar "every morning and evening continually." In this way, they constantly sent up to the Lord, as it were, a fragrant scent. And what does this image typify? Sewell answers that "the general understanding is that the offering of incense was a figure of prayer," and he cites a handful of passages from both the Old and New Testaments in which the burning of incense and prayer are related. For example, in the first half of Psalm 141:2 the writer says to God, "Let my prayer be set before thee as incense." In Revelation 5:8 and again in 8:3, the offering of incense is analogous to the prayers of the saints.[1]

Brazen Laver

This item stood "near the door of entrance into the tabernacle of the congregation," but was "on the outside." There the priests washed themselves before entering the tent. And this, wrote Sewell, "is understood to be figurative of baptism. And as the priest upon washing entered . . . into the tabernacle, so now those who obey the gospel, enter Christ by baptism." Conversely, "as the priest was not allowed to enter the tabernacle without washing at the laver, so no one can enter the church now without being baptized into Christ." Sewell highlights an inference that can be drawn from this interpretation: baptism, represented by the laver on the outside of the tent, comes before prayer, represented by the altar of incense which was inside the tent. Any priest who burned incense on the altar had to first cleanse himself at the laver. "So also if any one wishes to attend at the altar of prayer in the church of God, he must be baptized, must have his body washed with pure water at the door of entrance" into the church. Baptism, which brings the penitent believer into the church, comes before the life of faithful prayer.[2]

Moreover, wrote Sewell, this indicts "those people who teach alien sinners to pray to God for pardon, without baptism, without washing first." Such teachers are guilty of "reversing heaven's order." Sewell goes so far as to compare them to Nadab and Abihu of Leviticus 10. They were two of Aaron's four sons and were thus among the first priests in ancient Israel. Nevertheless, when the brothers "offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not," they were destroyed by fire that went out from the Lord (Lev. 10:1-2). Again, wrote Sewell, preachers who promote "a reversal of God's order" can be compared to Uzziah, King of Judah. According to 2 Chronicles 26:16-21, though he was not a priest, Uzziah burned incense upon the altar. Consequently, he was stricken with leprosy, a skin disease he had for the rest of his life. Only when people are "washed" and thus "sanctified, justified" do they remove all doubt about their being prepared to officiate at God's altar in all spiritual things," including prayer to God through Christ.[3]

Here, Sewell clearly reflects significant differences between the doctrine of Christian initiation according to the Stone-Campbell tradition and that of most other conservative Protestants, like Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians. Much earlier in the nineteenth century, Barton Stone, Alexander Campbell, and like-minded leaders concluded that according to the New Testament, people who came to believe in Jesus as the Christ were to turn from their sins in repentance and be immersed into him for the remission of their sins.[4] Their teaching generated a noticeable change in the way that preachers in the Stone-Campbell Movement concluded their evangelistic sermons. Unlike many other Protestant preachers, whose sermons ended with an invitation for individuals to walk to the front of the assembly in order to anxiously pray for salvation at the mourner's bench, preachers among the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ invited those who believed the gospel message to come forward as an indication that they were turning from their sins and turning to the Lord in repentance, and that they desired to be immersed into Christ.[5] When emphasizing the significance of baptism, however, Sewell guarded against the idea of baptismal regeneration: "Not that baptism is the only prerequisite by any means. Faith and repentance must precede baptism, or no one is ready to be baptized. Everything in its proper place."

Altar of Burnt Offering

Nearing the end of his second article, Sewell refers to the Torah instructions regarding the altar of burnt offering: "two lambs should be offered to the Lord every day."[7]  This, writes Sewell, is "another indication of continued sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving and of prayer to the Lord on the part of Christians." The sacrifice of two lambs each day at the tabernacle was the standard under the Old Covenant. If that was so, then should not "we that enjoy the reality, the New Covenant, the fullness of God's love and mercy . . . with a loving, a joyful heart approach God daily with our sacrifices" of thanksgiving and praise?[8]

Apparently, Sewell did not notice or did not care that in making these comparisons he seemed to contradict the principle he had established earlier: it is only after being baptized that the believer, now a member of the priesthood, inside the Holy Place, can fittingly participate in spiritual activities. If confronted with this apparent inconsistency, Sewell would no doubt have clarified that it is altogether fitting for all people, in or out of Christ, to praise and give thanks to God. His earlier concern involved the virtual substitution of prayer for baptism. And it is baptism, according to his view, to which all penitent believers must submit in order to receive the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and entrance into the church that Christ established.


[1] E. G. Sewell, "The Altar of Incense, the Brazen Laver, Etc.," Gospel Advocate 28 (February 3, 1886), 65.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] See, for example, Barton W. Stone, "The Christian Expositor," Christian Messenger 1 (January 25, 1827), 56-63; Alexander Campbell, "Ancient Gospel--No. I. Baptism," Christian Baptist 5, no. 6 (January 7, 1828), 121-24; "Ancient Gospel--No. II. Immersion," Christian Baptist 5, no. 7 (February 4, 1828), 158-63.

[5] Thomas H. Olbricht, "The Invitation: A Historical Survey," Restoration Quarterly 5, no. 1 (First Quarter 1961), 6-16.

[6] Sewell, "The Altar of Incense," 65.

[7] Ibid. The reference is to Exodus 29:38-43 and Numbers 28:3-8, according to which a lamb was to be sacrificed every day, one in the morning and one at twilight.

[8] Sewell, "The Altar of Incense," 66.

Friday, February 26, 2021

E. G. Sewell on the Tabernacle (2)


Next, Sewell interpreted the candlestick which, like the table of shewbread, stood in the Holy Place. The purpose of the literal, Old Testament candlestick was obvious. "The tabernacle was without windows, or any means of admitting light from without, and hence the lamps in the candlestick were the only light." And what does this symbolize? It stands for "the light-bearing attitude" of the church. "The light that shone out from the golden candlestick fitly represents the word of God, as the only light to guide people in the service of God. As the tabernacle had no other light by which to guide its work, so the church has no other light for its work, for its guidance of men to heaven, but God's word." Because this is true, Bible reading, Bible study, and Bible teaching are vital to the life of the church if it is to honor God and bless the lives of people.[1]


[1] E. G. Sewell, "The Tabernacle," Gospel Advocate 28 (January 27, 1886), 49.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

E. G. Sewell on the Tabernacle (1)

In 1886, the same year that Meta Chestnutt came to Nashville to begin her studies at Peabody, E. G. Sewell, coeditor with David Lipscomb of the The Gospel Advocate magazine, based in Nashville, published two front-page articles that gave a symbolic interpretation of the biblical tabernacle.

Sewell began by establishing the tabernacle's New Testament counterpart. Not surprisingly, he identified what Protestants had favored for hundreds of years: "That the Jewish tabernacle, in many of its leading features foreshadowed the church of God, is admitted by all." From there, he submitted that the second room, the Most Holy place, should be understood as "a figure, or type of heaven," with "the divine presence upon the mercy seat to foreshadow the eternal presence of God himself in that blessed abode." The first room, or Holy Place, is "a type of the church of the living God on earth." This stood to reason, because in the same way that one entered the Holy Place before going further into the Most Holy Place, so one enters the church before finally reaching heaven. Consequently "all the articles of furniture" in the Holy Place "and the acts performed here are figurative of the worship of the Lord's house on earth."[1] This orientation--with the Most Holy Place as heaven, the Holy Place as the church on earth, and area outside the tent as preliminary--provided the template for Sewell's biblical exposition.

Table of Shewbread

The remainder of Sewell's first article interprets the symbolic meaning of two items in the Holy Place: the table of shewbread and the candlestick. "The table," he wrote, "foreshadows the Lord's table in the church of God on earth." In the same way that the twelve loaves were replaced every week, so it is that every week, Christians are to partake of the Lord's Supper. And in the same way that the priests removed the loaves each Sabbath day, so there is a "specified time" for Christians to observe the Lord's Supper, "the first day of the week." Sewell emphasized that just as divine directions were not to be neglected by the Old Testament priests, "so the breaking of the loaf must not be neglected by the children of God now in the congregations of the Lord." In fact, fidelity to the will of God should, if anything, be stronger in the Christian age. "While the Jewish priests cold only consider the table and shewbread as a formal ordinance, Christians can now see in the broken loaf of the Lord's table an emblem of the actual, real body of the Son of God that was broken, mangled upon the Roman cross, that poor sinners might live."[2]


[1] E. G. Sewell, "The Tabernacle," Gospel Advocate 28 (January 27, 1886), 49. See also "Temple Building," Gospel Advocate 31 (August 21, 1889), 536, where Sewell writes that the tabernacle "was figurative of the church of God, the spiritual temple on earth now," and "Information Wanted," Gospel Advocate 31 (October 2, 1889), 631. For a brief biography, see David H. Warren, "Sewell, Elisha Granville (1830-1924)," in Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, 680-81.

[2] Sewell, "The Tabernacle," 49.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Meta Chestnutt Sager's Letter to Eva Heiliger, February 11, 1945 (9)

Near the end of her letter, Sager identifies a major part of the background to her correspondence with her great-niece. Eva Heiliger had recently given birth to a daughter. Sometime later, the Heiliger's had had the child sprinkled in a Methodist service. "When I wrote you before I did not know you were a Methodist," said Sager. "I only wanted you to know that you had no Bible for having your baby sprinkled. The hurt may come by her believing she is in the church when she is old enough to really enter into the church of the living God through full obedience to His prescribed way.  . . . She is going to be a leader. Train her well."[1] The disagreement between the two women was no idle debate.

Sager ended her forceful letter on a note of forbearance: "Your faith alone salvation won't keep me from loving you. You are all mighty fine and I love you all."


[1] Meta Chestnutt Sager to Eva Heiliger, February 11, 1945.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Moving Beyond Female Ministers and Missionaries

Much of what has been written about women in American religious history has featured those relatively few who were evangelists, teachers, and missionaries. The reasons for this emphasis are obvious. Most of this historiography came about as a result of various feminist impulses in America. Those who were looking for religious heroines found them in those women who aspired to the pulpit, or to at least to some greater public role in the life of the church.[1] Essentially, historians of women and religion have imitated an older, traditional way, one that emphasized leading men, great events, and turning points.

Meanwhile, religious historians who come from conservative and traditional circles have typically ignored the stories of female preachers from the past. This has left them with not as much to say about women.[2] Consequently, only some writers have told us only some of the stories of those women who represent just a tiny fraction of the devout in American history.

A better understanding of the significance of women in American religious history will require an approach that more closely examines the lives that almost all of them lived, the sorts of contributions they typically made. Along this line, one unexplored avenue is the role women have played in the establishment of new congregations. An overview of Stone-Campbell church planting in Indian Territory from 1888 until Oklahoma statehood in 1907 reveals that several new congregations began with the efforts of women. For example, the church at Ardmore in present-day Carter County was formed in 1888 when "Mrs. Sophia Simpson, the Cook sisters, and Mr. and Mrs. R. W. Campbell" began meeting each Sunday to study the Bible and observe the Lord's Supper.[3] A congregation at Silver City, now a ghost town in present-day Grady County, began in 1889 when Aunie Erwin and new arrival Meta Chestnutt "went to work in earnest, teaching the Bible every Lord's Day." In 1890, "when the Rock Island Railroad came through," the little congregation along with the rest of the town moved about seven miles west to be near the new tracks. This was the beginning of present-day Minco, Oklahoma. There, under the leadership of Chestnutt, who had come to Indian Territory in order to teach school, the church continued to "meet regularly each Lord's Day to study and teach the Word, break bread and contribute of our means to the Lord." By 1895, the church had grown "from two to some fifty or sixty."[4] About eighteen miles to the south of Minco, at Chickasha, a congregation began around 1892 sometime after the arrival of Mrs. Lillian Bohart Welsh, a staunch Disciple who sought out like-minded believers.[5] The Christian Church at McAlester, Oklahoma, was formed in 1893 after "Mrs. W. S. Ambrose and Mrs. Hammond Holler," decided to raise the money they needed in order to bring evangelist J. Harry Barber from Paris, Texas, just south of the Red River, to conduct a revival meeting.[6] A congregation began at Wagoner around 1895, when "Mrs. J. R. Thompson took the first step . . . by organizing a Sunday School in her home." Soon, Mrs. Thompson had twenty students. The Christian Church was organized sometime later when a preacher from Fort Worth, Texas, conducted a series of evangelistic meetings there.[7] A Stone-Campbell congregation began at Poteau in 1900 when a Mrs. McKenna, described as "a loyal Disciple," arranged for a church facility to be built there. The small congregation was not able to pay the mortgage and eventually sold its building to the Episcopal Church. Nevertheless, when evangelist W. S. Deartherage visited Poteau in 1916, he discovered a small group of Disciples. They formed the nucleus of what emerged as a permanent congregation.[8]


[1] In Stone-Campbell historiography, two good examples are C. Leonard Allen, Distant Voices: Discovering a Forgotten Past for a Changing Church (Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 1993), esp. ch. 4, "Your Daughters Shall Prophesy,." See also ch. 17, "The New Woman"; and Bonnie Miller, "Restoration Women Who Responded to the Spirit Before 1900," Leaven 16, no. 1 (2008), accessed February 20, 2021, https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/leaven/vol16/iss1/5.

[2] Again, in Stone-Campbell historiography, a good example is the website titled The Restoration Movement.com. The site is managed by Scott Harp, a conservative preacher among the Churches of Christ. Although it contains a large number of biographical sketches of male leaders, its page titled "Great Women Of The Restoration Movement" includes a total of six links to biographies of female leaders, accessed February 20, 2021, https://www.therestorationmovement.com/women.htm.

[3] Stephen J. England, Oklahoma Christians: A History of Christian Churches and of the start of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oklahoma (St. Louis, MO: Bethany Press, 1975), 55.

[4] Meta Chestnutt, "Minco, Ind. Ter.," The American Home Missionary 1 (April 1895), 62. See also England, Oklahoma Christians, 56-57. For a brief history of Silver City, see John W. Morris, Ghost Towns of Oklahoma (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1978), 173-74.

[5] England, Oklahoma Christians, 58.

[6] Ibid., 59. Apparently, the next year, Barber made a follow up visit to McAlester. "Local Mention," South McAlester Capital July 26, 1894, includes the following note: "Rev. J. Harry Barber closed an interesting meeting here last week. He is an entertaining preacher."

[7] England, Oklahoma Christians, 60.

[8] Ibid., 63-64.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Meta Chestnutt Sager's Letter to Eva Heiliger, February 11, 1945 (8)

In her comments on Christian denominations and church membership, Sager repeated two lines of thought that by her time were commonplace among their heirs of the Stone-Campbell Movement. First, as Sager put it, the various Protestant denominations are "manmade churches" that "all came out of the Catholic Church." Along this line, she offered a brief history lesson on the origins of Heiliger's denomination: "The Methodist Church came out of the Episcopal and that church came from the Catholic church through Henry the VIII." And the Catholic Church did not come into its own until "three hundred years after the Church of Christ was set up on the Day of Pentecost." Therefore, any church established prior to the events recorded in Acts 2 would be too old. Conversely, all churches established since that time are "too young to be the church which Christ told Peter and the other apostles He would build."[1] Second, in keeping with the unity and undenominational character of the church in the New Testament, no one "gets saved" and subsequently joins the church of his choice. Instead, the Lord adds to His church each person who is truly saved, "for it is said in the 2nd of Acts, verse 47, 'And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.'"[2] Church membership is not someone's choice upon becoming a Christian. The Bible speaks of church membership as the result of a divine act; the Lord adds those who are saved to the church that Christ established.


[1] This is a reference to Matthew 16:18.

[2] Meta Chestnutt Sager to Eva Heiliger, February 11, 1945.