Category Archives: news items


Here’s an update:

First, Birmingham and John T. Lewis. I’ve been hard at work as time allows over the past few months reconstructing the early history of the Birmingham churches, prior to the arrival of John T. Lewis in the fall of 1907. Recent excursions in the journals (Gospel Advocate and Firm Foundation) have brought me much closer to the origins of the Fox Hall church and the (still mysterious) North Birmingham church. I have also uncovered considerably more context for the Pratt City meeting that Lewis and J. M. Barnes held late in the summer of 1907, all of which has pointed to a stronger conservative presence in Birmingham than previously thought. I’ve also had some good conversations recently that have turned up more information about JTL’s work in Canada while he was a student at the Nashville Bible School. Slowly but surely, things are coming together. It is my hope to be able to publish a narrative of these years (1885–1907) by the end of the year.

Second, an announcement. As we’ve done for the past two years, I will again be joining John Mark Hicks, Mac Ice, and Jeremy Sweets for a series of talks about the history of the Nashville churches at this year’s Summer Celebration on the campus of Lipscomb University, July 1–3. I will be discussing the division that took place in the Woodland Street Christian Church, located in East Nashville, in the fall of 1890, resulting in the establishment of the Tenth Street Church of Christ. Woodland Street, some of you will recall, became embroiled in the larger dispute over the missionary society in the 1880s and the division occurred over that issue. I’ll be back here with more specific information about the date and time of those talks.

[UPDATE: For those of you who are in town for Summer Celebration, our sessions will be held on Thursday and Friday, July 2 and 3, at 3 p.m. Both sessions will again be held at the Avalon house on the Lipscomb campus. Hope to see you there.]


A momentary break from historical posts for a bit of news.

1. In July, at the annual Lipscomb lectures, I will join John Mark Hicks, Jeremy Sweets, and Mac Ice for a second round of presentations and discussion about the history of the churches of Christ in Nashville. Last year’s presentations were well received (you can find mine here) and we look forward to a good session again this time around. I’ll be discussing the local and theological contexts of the 1938 Hardeman Tabernacle Meeting. Hope to see you there if you’re in town.

2. None of this means, of course, that I have abandoned John T. Lewis and Birmingham. Work continues there on several fronts. I’m currently digging more deeply into the origins of both First Christian Church and the Fox Hall congregation. Additionally, a big thanks is in order to Phillip Owens, of the Shannon church in Birmingham, for the opportunity to work with a large quantity of JTL’s personal papers and photographs in his possession.

3. Lastly, I want to mention what a privilege it has been over the past few weeks to help in the effort to preserve the congregational records of the Riverside Drive Church of Christ. As some of you know, Riverside Drive closed its doors at the end of March after 77 years of ministry in East Nashville. The congregation’s records are extensive: there is a lot of detailed information going back to the very beginning (February 1937), and a full run of bulletins starting in the early ’50s. I hope to share some of this material with you in the coming weeks as there is lots of interesting material vis-a-vis the larger history of the Nashville churches. UPDATE: I’ve posted some photos of the interior of the building over on my Tumblr.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.

On respectability and accomodation

Douglas Wilson has a very fine piece on the death of Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) in Christianity Today. Smack in the middle comes this gem, as Wilson  speaks of the relationship he developed with Hitchens during a debate tour (which turned into a book):

“So we got on well with each other, because each of us knew where the other one stood. Eugene Genovese, before he became a believer, once commented on the tendency that some have to try to garner respect by giving away portions, big or small, of what they profess to believe. ‘If other religions offer equally valid ways to salvation and if Christianity itself may be understood solely as a code of morals and ethics, then we may as well all become Buddhists or, better, atheists. I intend no offense, but it takes one to know one. And when I read much Protestant theology and religious history today, I have the warm feeling that I am in the company of fellow unbelievers‘ (The Southern Front, pp. 9–10). Ironically, the branch of the faith most interested in getting the ‘cultured despisers’ to pay us some respect is really not that effective, and this is a strategy that can frequently be found on the pointed end of its own petard. Respectability depends on not caring too much about respectability. Unbelievers can smell accommodation, and when someone like Christopher meets someone who actually believes all the articles in the Creed, including that part about Jesus coming back from the dead, it delights him. Here is someone actually willing to defend what is being attacked. Militant atheists are often exasperated with opponents whose strategy appears to be ‘surrender slowly.'”

Not much to add to this, I suppose, other than to say that these are wise words for a communion that has become chronically allergic to debate of any sort.

checking in

I am finishing my exams at the moment.  Expect new posts — the third and final part of my Christmas discussion, as well as a post on elders — later in the week.

In the meantime, here are a few things I’ve enjoyed over the past couple of weeks:

From The Onion: New Device Desirable, Old Device Undesirable (WARNING: Satire)

From “Clergy’s Ethical Ratings Drop to 32-Year Low” and “Different Books, Common Word.” As to the second entry, I’m speechless.  Any thoughts?

update, of sorts

I’ve not posted here much lately.  Classes started this week so I’m not sure just how much time I’ll have.

Aside from that, here’s an update:

My wife and I celebrated our eighth anniversary earlier this week.  I am fortunate to be married to such a woman.  On the subject of marriage, go read this.  Fr. Tobias is at his best — I think — on this very topic.

Classes began this week, as mentioned above.  I’m signed up for Old Testament Theology and the cryptically titled “Personhood, Ministry and Discipleship.”  We’ll see.

I am reading David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions.  It’s a fantastic book, really.  Hart and Terry Eagleton have done some of the best work in taking on the militant ‘New Atheists.’

I’ve found a Greek reading partner.  After three years in Nashville, I’ve got someone who is willing to sit down weekly and read Greek with me — bringing back the super dorky days of grad school!  We began last week with Luke’s birth narrative (chaps. 1-3) and are making good progress so far.

Follow my book page — which I do keep updated — for an idea of what I’m up to during my long blogging silences.

See you soon.

the perspective of an atheist

Do you ever wonder what an outsiders’ impression of your congregation is?  Here’s a not too pretty description of an atheist’s visit to an Australian mega-church, complete with “awesome” music and effects.  I wonder if they led worship barefoot?

(HT: Internet Monk)

a short history of america

For today:

Jim Kunstler links to R. Crumb’s “A Short History of America.” Here’s more on Crumb, including a few hypothetical additional panels to bring the story down to 2009.

The Wall Street Journal on Roman ruins in Lebanon.

A friend of mine blogging on the problem of authority in Stone-Campbell/Restorationist thought.  The comment thread is huge.

Hope everyone is well.  I’m beginning a study of Daniel soon in preparation for a Sunday morning class on the same.  You’ll hear more about it soon.