Texts

1.  A Friendly Letter on Benevolenceby Irven Lee (1958).  This letter, written by

Athens Bible School faculty, 1943 (Lee — front row, right)

Lee to a personal friend (who remains anonymous in the text) has circulated in tract form for a number of years.  Lee (1914-1991), after stints on the David Lipscomb High School faculty and as president of Dasher Bible School in Georgia in the 1930s, preached in North Alabama for a number of years (in Jasper, Hartselle, Athens, Arab, and Toney) and helped to found both the Athens Bible School (where he served as president from 1942-1947) and Mars Hill Bible School.  He was the author of three books: Preaching in a Changing World (an autobiography), Good Homes in a Wicked World, and God Hath Spoken, as well as numerous tracts and pamphlets, including Things That Make For Peace (~1987).  All of these are good examples of the kind of cultural separatism/apocalyptic worldview (take your pick of terminology) in evidence in some circles among NI churches.

2. “The Lord’s Supper” and “The Lord’s Day” by John T. Lewis (1952). For some analysis of this pamphlet, see here and here. In sum, this is Lewis’ argument against the “second serving” of the Lord’s Supper on Sunday evening. He argues that this practice (which was new in his day) severs the theological connection between the Lord’s Day assembly and the Lord’s Supper.

3. Childhaven by John T. Lewis (1951). “Institutionalism,” Lewis writes, “is the bane of the church today and has always been.” Written in response to the efforts of church leaders in Alabama to obtain funding for the establishment of the Childhaven orphanage in the town of Cullman, the pamphlet articulates (in a way that is very similar to Irven Lee’s “Friendly Letter”) the importance of individual Christian involvement in the care of orphans and needy children. Lewis acknowledges that the motives of those who seek to help by way of such an institution are undoubtedly good. But the Christian’s obligation to needy children is not something, he asserts, that can be fobbed off (read: outsourced) into the hands of others.

4. The Church of Christ in Birmingham, Alabama Versus Cecil Abercrombie’s “Jerusalem Patterned” (?) Church of Christ by John T. Lewis (1943). The immediate context of this — probably Lewis’s most openly polemical tract — is the arrival in Birmingham of Cecil Abercrombie, a one-cup minister and debater. Abercrombie had established a congregation in a vacant storefront about three blocks away from the West End church, which he referred to as the only “loyal” church in the city. Naturally, JTL takes umbrage at these claims. Excerpt:

“This is a wanton affrontedness, a brazen, inexcusable, and uncalled for insult to every gospel preacher, and to every faithful member of the Church that has lived, labored, and worshiped in Birmingham for the last thirty-five years or more. He is blaspheming the name and memory of those faithful ones who sacrificed so much for the cause of Christ, in the beginning of the work in this city, whose bodies now sleep amid the dust of the dead, and it would not be necessary for Cecil Abercrombie to raise his belly from the dust of the earth to make such nefarious charges, or misrepresentations.”

Lewis’ strategy in this pamphlet is interesting. He doesn’t attack Abercrombie at the point of Scriptural interpretation (e.g. on the issue of multiple cups). Rather, he puts forth a narrative defense, somewhat in the manner of the Apostle Paul, of his (at that point) 35-year ministry in Birmingham. He appeals, in other words, to history.  More of that later, though.

5. The Posture in Prayer and Covered and Uncovered Heads in Worship by John T. Lewis (1947). Lewis lays out his characteristic positions on prayer posture and the head covering most fully in this pamphlet. His stances on these issues are defended using a mix of Scriptural interpretation and appeals to historical practice in the Stone-Campbell Movement.

6. Posture In Prayer by John T. Lewis (1950). This is a follow-up to the previous tract, written in response to Dallas minister Troy M. Cummings, who had himself published a response to JTL’s first pamphlet.

7. A Review of God’s Woman by John T. Lewis (1942). As the title suggests, this pamphlet is a review of C.R. Nichol’s God’s Woman (1938). (For an attempt to place Nichol in the theological context of early 20th-century Churches of Christ, see John Mark Hicks’ “Privilege or Silence: Women in Churches of Christ (1897-1907): V.”) God’s Woman is a wide-ranging book that attempts to address most of the common questions about women’s roles in the Church. Lewis’ response primarily addresses Nichol’s assertions about the female head covering (see 1 Cor 11.2-16). Specifically, Nichol seems to be the first in Churches of Christ to advance the argument that the practice of covering the head is specific to the first century and, therefore, not necessary in the twentieth. Lewis counters by pointing to evidence in the text that the command is not culture-bound and, furthermore, that the move to abandon the head covering is a concession to the fashions of the day.

8. The Truth about the Modern Pastor System by John T. Lewis (1946). This pamphlet came out of a series of articles that Lewis wrote for the Steel City Star, a weekly newspaper published in Birmingham. Responses are also available: first, from an uncharacteristically polemical Carl Ketcherside in 1957; second, from an article by Pryde Hinton in a 1966 issue of the Gospel Guardian.

9. The Lord’s Day and the Lord’s Supper: A Reconstruction of Dr. Phillips’ “Dismantled Superstructure” by John T. Lewis (1955?). After the publication of Lewis’ previous pamphlet on this subject (see above) in 1952, Dr. W. A. Phillips, an elder in the Bessemer church, published a reply to Lewis’ teaching on the “second serving” of the Lord’s Supper. This pamphlet is Lewis’ reply to Phillips, probably published in 1955 or ’56.

5 responses to “Texts

  1. It has been a while since I’ve read the letter but I believe your best bet would be to contact the person who runs http://www.goodfight.com, whose name escapes me for the moment. This letter is saved on-line there. I believe that the site owner is the son-in-law of Irven Lee.

  2. Thanks for the tip. Looks like it’s Bob Waldron who runs the site. Do you happen to know if this is the same Bob Waldron that publishes all of those Bible class books?

    At any rate, it looks like it has been a long while since the site was updated, but I’ll try to send an email anyway.

  3. Bob Waldron. That was the name. I don’t know if he is the same person that publishes the books. He does keep the directory up to date. I emailed him a couple of years ago and he responded quickly.

  4. Pingback: Irven Lee (1914-1991), Part I: Biography | Anastasis

  5. Pingback: John T. Lewis — Web Resources | Anastasis

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