Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Alexander Campbell

Introduction to the Restoration Ideal #14

The third restoration movement founder profile Marshall Leggett shares is the profile on Alexander Campbell. Leggett makes the correct point in writing: “Alexander Campbell would emerge as the leader of the restoration movement” (p. 53). You can read a summary of the life of Alexander Campbell here.

The emphasis that Leggett gives to Alexander Campbell’s life is the call to return to the “ancient order of things.” This was a plea to restore the original practices of the church: weekly observance of communion, simple order of public worship, and independence of local church families under the guidance of a group of elders and deacons (p. 56).

I thought this story from Alexander Campbell’s life was interesting:
“However, his most famous debate came against an atheist, Robert Owen, who had called Christianity ‘an opiate of the masses.’ He had attempted to found utopian, communal societies, the most famous one being at New Harmony, Indiana. Owen sought to show Christianity as a scandal based on ignorance, and he expected Campbell to defend the established churches. However, Campbell rested his case upon the simple revelation of the New Testament. He asked and answered three questions, ‘What is man? Whence came he? Whither does he go?’ Another rout ensued. Owen turned over to Campbell the last part of the time allotted to say what he wished, and Campbell addressed the audience for twelve hours. At the end of it, he asked all those who believed in Christianity to stand. Almost everyone present arose. Then he asked all those who did not believe in the truth of the Christian religion to rise, and only three persons stood. The debate gave Campbell great exposure to and confidence from the religious world.” (p. 58)

He spoke for twelve hours! It is amazing that people stand around for all that. What is even more amazing is that he had in his head twelve hours worth of material. While it is true that people 200-150 years ago were ignorant of many of the things we know today, that by no means they were unintelligent or uneducated. I think you could make the case that in some aspects our ancestors were better educated than we are today. It boggles my mind that he went on to speak for twelve hours. Wow!

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