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kingdom come pt1

To misquote Amos, I am not a Restoration Scholar, nor the son of a Restoration Scholar. My family name has been tied to one branch of the Restoration Movement quite prominently in the 20th century… but that’s neither here nor there, especially since I’m a generation or two removed from the patriarchs who have affected so many people. I have discovered our roots, while pondering the perils of the worldly church and revived the ancient faith in hopes of finding a more cruciform church. But Hughes and Allen have been the extent of my delving into CoC history. For three years now, I’ve been trying to get on ACU’s Restoration listserve, to no avail. (5 or 6 requests to be added to their distribution list, nothing, nada, niente, nicts.) What is more, my wife and I are prodigals; six years ago we took the flying leap into the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church). But, my suspicion is that Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of James A. Harding and David Lipscomb is not only written for those deeply entangled in Church of Christ history (those who can nitpick about the quantity of quotes from either author or the ugly reality of the 1906 split, whether ministers, historians or editors of the various denominational journals of our non-denominational denomination), but also to the lay people whether still members of the Church of Christ or longingly looking at the denomination of their childhood and family and wondering about having cut the anchor of tradition.

I come to this book as one who quite embarrassingly has confused The Christian Baptist for a Lipscomb production; to make matters worse, I come as one who has let the first few years of The Christian Baptist sit on my shelf for over a decade (yes, I know and knew, even when I made the gaffe that TCB is a Campbell journal from the early 19th century rather than a Lipscomb one from the late 19th century). All this to say, I have read neither Lipscomb nor Harding.

In a way, my ignorance of them (and my ignorance of Campbell and Stone, for that matter), though lamentable, is proof that I indeed grew up in the CoC of the second half of the 20th century. After all, the CoC has no history; that is, the human ideas and concerns, the very real debates (often leading to splits) that are the crucible of our identity matter little—all that matters is God’s redemptive action and remaining faithful to the pattern beheld by men we do not know, the pattern, in fact, so patent that even we, ignorant of those who first beheld it, still see it as plainly as the nose on our own faces when looking cross-eyed at it. All that matters is that we got it right and are on God’s side. Even more embarassingly, despite attending a school named for one of the two men studied in this book, all I knew about Harding was that he had an odd eschatology. But these were just the rumors that filtered down to non-Bible majors from geeky conversations among Bible majors, all aghast that such views could be held by one of ours.

Let me say that having read part one, I think that this book is a must read not just for CoCers but for any who find themselves in the many forms of evangelical American Christianity. Granted, this book resonates with me because it is my religious heritage and some of the questions are more specific to controversies and debates in the CoC tradition. But, these two men are markedly American and, at the same time, maintain a critique (which I think healthy) of Christian involvement in politics, which in recent times the CoC, along with everyone else, has forgotten as we have become more respectable and more entangled in earthly power and wealth. Yet as Hicks and Valentine show, this critique is fundamentally tied to their allegiance to God’s kingdom rather than to any sort of political ideology associated with the right, left, or center.

I had hoped to write a critique of the entire book, but school has started, articles need to get written, classes prepared, and the time spent reading non-work related material has been significantly curtailed. (In reality, I shouldn’t read anything that isn’t directly related to the book project… but I get bored with rather quickly.) So, as I read, I will write my thoughts and comments.

Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding is not just history or church history, but sacramental history. By this I do not mean religious history, but history as sacramentalia. It is history produced by the coupling of Reviving the Ancient Faith and Celebration of Discipline. The chapters are divided into three sections: historical exposition/interpretation, biblical exegesis that is both informed and retroactively informs the first part of the chapter, and discussion/devotional apparatus (prayer, discussion questions, challenges, further reading). It is also history as theology: that is, each chapter explores specific concepts (providence, prayer, fellowship, pneumatology) as found in both the writings of the men in question and Scripture.

To be honest, at first, when I was just leafing through the book, the third section of each chapter added for clarity annoyed me. But, I’ve reconciled myself to this section realizing three things: one, this is sacramental history (and billed as such—they want this history to be engaged not just intellectually but also devotionally); two, in an age of increasing illiteracy, this type of apparatus does help lay persons enage the book, the history, and the ideas; three, at least they put these in the first edition and didn’t wait to come out with the study leader guide and so avoided the whole Prayer of Jabez type overcommercialization of their work. (And, to be honest, my original reaction to the third section has to do more with a knee-jerk reaction to this type of overly digested, overly directed, overly commercialized, gimmicky Christianity…. Kingdom Come is anything but gimmicky, over-processed Christianity.)

Thus far, I have found the book very, very stimulating… and I hope to be able to address some questions it has brought to my mind re: our having left the CoC, re: reading Scripture and the meaning of reading, and others, as no doubt they will arise…



The S-C list can be both stimulating and very maddening. I just got off it a few weeks ago because the impending death of my Mac made the high volume of the list (made higher in part because of an extended discussion of this very book) more difficult to sample as I used. But you could always e-mail the list moderator, R.R.—I can send you his e-mail, if you like—who’s very good about responding to requests.

My big ? for BV is how he managed to write and publish this book and not also make it, or a substantial part of it, be his dissertation? Are you a masochist, BV? I mean, sure, a dis isn’t often written in concert, but I’m sure you and J.M.H. could have worked something out, no?

no, not really, not anymore, that is. i just don´t have time to keep up with that volume of posting.

i check out the archives every once in a while.

re: the diss thing.

BV must not be the only masochist around!

Truly, he’s not.

(Which I say with my virtual set eye squarely on you, J.)

well, at long last, i have decided to try and get two of my diss chapters into article form and in the pipeline. i know, it’s rather late… but i just couldn’t bring myself to read it.

not to mention that my approach to literature has changed significantly since the diss, and would’ve during the diss had i a different advisor… but my own inability to choose an era, a language, a genre and stick with it is the cross i must bear for having grown up a gypsy.

On the plus side, though, the fortune telling and the tambourines comes in handy.

i’m sure the pun was quite intended…

More allusion than pun, but yes, very intended. You’re quite sneaky. I’m keeping my eye on you. Don’t go stealing any children!

i was refering to the hand… the hand that is read, the hand that plays the tambourine, the hand that shuffles the cards and slides the shells, the hand that sleights… all the while being handy

Oh. That’s too sophisticated a pun for me. I’m more of the “It’s no pun unless you say it” variety.

Jy FIVE copies for family at Christmas!! Wow. I don’t know if the folks will thank you for that or not but I will bid you godspeed in that endeavor, :-)

I wish I had seen your review (pt 1) before and I would have put it on my blog. But it appears I missed it.

You are correct this book was not aimed specifically at those who are “entangled” in SC history. I do believe there is plenty in it for those folks but our aim is to offer something for the church to further the kingdom (cf. the dedication page).

When you say the “third section” annoyed you, do you mean the application part of each chapter or chapters 9-11?? If you mean the application part of each chapter I believe that is necessary to keep the book from becoming just another exercise in fact finding (which is important too).

However, I like your term “sacramental history.” I am glad we avoided the Prayer of Jabez thing because I really do not like that book.

I look forward to your continued interaction with the book.

Bobby Valentine

I don’t think you missed it, BV. He only published this thing yesterday.

it was the application/discussion section of the chapters… which was nothing but knee-jerk, academic snootiness on my part.

i think that you have handeled the application section well. it can both be used as small group discussion fodder, or private devotional proding. and i think that your reasoning is both sound and right on… it does very much help this book be more than fact finding.

it originally annoyed me because i am incorrigible. in undergrad, while reading through the various massive norton tomes that were the staple diet of english majors, i never read the questions at the end of stories… (i still don’t, even though i should) because i want to get the story or poem on my own.

it has nothing to do with your writing… only personal quirks of my own, about which i should’ve remained silent. :)

greg, is right, i hadn't written it.

Greg I am glad I didn’t “simply miss it.” I drop by several times a week and knew I had not seen it … but you never know.

emy I too have my academic prejudices. And while John Mark and I may do a more indepth theology of the NBS we are deeply concerned about the life of God’s kingdom … more so than making an academic contribution (which I am nearly haughty enough to believe we have done that with our book anyway).

I am not offended by your point of view about that section of each chapter. We wrestled with how to handle it and I am sure it could be improved. I am making many notes from the SC list discussion and from other reviews such as yours.

Bobby Valentine

I thought the S-C discussions (which—to everyone else—have been chapter-by-chapter, searchable here) for the most part really good, although I’ve wondered how you’ve been able to keep up with so many voices chiming in. I would have been tempted to listen more than to join. The book, needless to say, has piqued a lot of interest.