Tag Archives: J. M. McCaleb

McCaleb on Revelation

J. M. McCaleb -- student at CotB

J. M. McCaleb (1862–1953)

By 1895, J. M. McCaleb had been doing independent mission work in Japan for more than a year. During that time he was a regular contributor to the Gospel Advocate, writing columns on a range of subjects from doctrinal issues to moral exhortations to book reviews to reports of the work in Japan. In the January 3, 1895, issue of the Advocate, he contributed a piece titled “Some Good Books” which contains short reviews of J. W. Shepherd’s Handbook on Baptism, J. L. Martin’s The Voice of Seven Thundersand a new pamphlet by David Lipscomb titled “Truth-Seeking.”

I thought McCaleb’s comments on Martin’s book were interesting, and wanted to share them here:

I read this book some twelve or fifteen years ago, when a boy, but read it a second time with more interest and benefit, because better prepared to receive it. It is simply a commentary on Revelation given in the form of lectures. It is a very common idea that if one is not just a little “unbalanced,” he is at least wasting time in studying or preaching from Revelation. Hence this part of the Book is usually neglected. People take it for granted it is something not to be understood, so pass it by. In our Bible course of study at Lexington, I remember there was scarcely a hint at Revelation. Excellent as it is, I believe it could be improved by including this important part of the scriptures, if it was only to give a few leading points as to how it should be studied to be understood. While one may not agree with all the author says, there are certainly many excellent suggestions that stimulate one to study the last words of Jesus to the churches and the world with a new interest. Why call it a revelation if it is a mystery not to be understood?

(Excerpted from “Some Good Books,” Gospel Advocate 37.1 [January 3, 1895]: 6–7)

McCaleb, of course, was an 1891 graduate of the College of the Bible (in the same graduating class with O. P. Spiegel as it happens). This nugget of insight into the curriculum at Lexington helps us understand a bit more fully the disputes that broke out in the churches over premillennialism two decades later.

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On “getting the young people” (UPDATED)

I’ve spent the last few evenings browsing through J. M. McCaleb’s Once Traveled Roads (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Co., 1934).

McCaleb during his student days

McCaleb during his student days

John Moody McCaleb (1862–1953), from Hickman County, Tenn., entered College of the Bible in Lexington, Ky., in 1888. Among tales of how he met his wife and reminiscences of the faculty, which in those days included J. W. McGarvey, I. B. Grubbs, and others, Once Traveled Roads includes the following account of church life during McCaleb’s student days in Lexington:

When I entered school in 1888, there were two large congregations in Lexington—Main Street, and Broadway. They each contained about a thousand members. Robert T. Mathews was preaching for the Main Street church, and John S. Shouse for Broadway. There was no organ in either church. During my stay, however, Brother Mathews installed a small organ at Main Street, putting it near the center of the house, and on a level with the seats. Professor White called for a letter and put in his membership at Broadway. When Main Street built a new house and called it “Central,” they put in a great pipe organ that almost filled the end of the building. Not so long after I had left school in 1891, I heard that Broadway had also introduced the instrument [1902]. Main Street was getting the young people from Broadway. Something must be done. It was left to a vote, and the young people put the organ in. This time, Brother McGarvey and Brother Grubbs called for letters and put in their membership at Chestnut Street, a mission church that we students had established. But it was not many years till Chestnut Street also had the organ. Seeing the trend of things prompted me to write the five articles [in the Gospel Advocate] on “Pride, a Growing Evil.” Its growth was very manifest when I was there and became all the more so as time went on till both the churches and the school went to the world and minded earthly things. And is it not true that all our churches and schools are today in danger of the same fate? Will another generation or two find our schools and churches where Lexington now is? Let us hope not. (pp. 38-39)

I was thinking about that as I did some googling the other day when this turned up:

“I do not want to give the rest of the fellowship the idea that I am trying to promote instrumental praise anywhere else,” Atchley told the Chronicle. “What we are doing is a missional decision for our congregation, and while we are not trying to hide our decision, neither do we wish to flaunt it.”
In the Dec. 3 [2006] Bible study, Atchley told Richland Hills members that “there has never been a moment’s discussion of changing the name of this church or our affiliation with Churches of Christ.”
But he said Richland Hills must put the kingdom of God and Christ’s mission above concerns that the change might hurt the congregation’s standing or influence among Churches of Christ.
At the same time, he suggested to members that Richland Hills’ decision might “inspire many other Churches of Christ to be courageous in their kingdom efforts, and it could help stem the tide of gifted young leaders who are leaving.”

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

ADDENDUM (3/7/2015):

“A cappella is like Latin,” Graves said. “It is beautiful, it speaks to people at a certain level, but the problem is that a lot of people don’t speak Latin.

“What people in the Churches of Christ call instrumental music, other people just call music. It’s English.”

And in Music City, its appeal is undeniable. Graves said there’s no intention of alienating other congregations — only of better connecting to Nashville and Brentwood communities.

Otter Creek, where the congregation’s average age is 27, already has experimented with instrumental music with a Wednesday Vespers service; young adult, children’s ministry, and student ministry gatherings; and special worship for Good Friday, Christmas and other holidays.

On the Limits of Digitization

I’m knee-deep in the 1920 volume of the Gospel Advocate at the moment. This seemed like a good time to pause and talk about a few things I’ve noticed.

I heard recently that the digitization of the entire GA is getting closer. That’s exciting news. It will be a real boon for anyone doing anything with the history of the Churches of Christ. For the first time, the journal will be truly searchable. The Advocate has never had even a truly useful index, so if you want to find something you have to proceed page by page looking for what it is you want to find. Undoubtedly, it will be nice to be able to plug “John T. Lewis” or “Birmingham” into a search engine and watch as the results pop up.

Even so, paging through (so far) several thousand pages of the journal — that’s about 1500 pages per year — has taught me something. You can miss a lot by relying on the results of a search engine. Now, I don’t have any insight into how exactly the people responsible for the digitization will set things up, so what I’m saying here is not meant to be a criticism of them or their work. What I mean, instead, is that one of the greatest benefits of running my finger down every single column of text looking for Lewis’ name or references to Birmingham has been that it has given me a good sense of the atmosphere of the churches in the years I’ve surveyed so far. It’s given me a good handle on a lot of contingent factors I wouldn’t have understood had I been relying solely on the results page of a search engine.

Emma Page Larimore (1855-1943)

I’ve learned what people were arguing about in those years — the most contested doctrinal issues and the conflicts with Baptist and Disciple church leaders (among others). J. M. McCaleb’s “Missionary” column has introduced me to the work of William and Clara Bishop in Japan and John Sheriff in Rhodesia. McCaleb and J. C. McQuiddy have shown me the great extent to which a place like Alabama was seen as a mission field in those years. Emma Page Larimore’s “Children’s Corner” is an unqualified delight (that I’ve had to stop myself from reading on many occasions). Lipscomb and Sewell’s “Queries and Answers” have given me a window onto the kinds of conversations being had in congregations all over the country. Careful reading has also allowed me to note the significance of the changes made to the journal’s format (not all for the better, in my opinion) by A. B. Lipscomb in the 1912-13 volumes.

And there’s more: the outbreak of the premillennial controversy in the Spring of 1915; the lead-up to World War I; the Coca-Cola ads, the patent medicine ads, and much more.

I could go on, but my point is this: I likely wouldn’t have gotten any of this through an electronic search. Being forced to submit to the slow process of research has allowed me to read Lewis’ articles and reports in context rather than in isolation. To be sure, I’m grateful that the Advocate will soon be digitized, but I’ve also come to appreciate being forced to do things the old-fashioned way.