Carnal Warfare: A voice from the summer of 1942

This from the August 1942 issue of Apostolic Times, a monthly published in Nashville by James A. Allen.  In 1941 Allen is in his late fifties.  He has been editor of Apostolic Times, a paper he originated and printed himself, for a decade.  He preceded Foy E. Wallace, Jr. as editor of the Gospel Advocate, serving in that capacity for most of the 1920’s until 1930.  Though not a student of either David Lipscomb or James A. Harding at Nashville Bible School, Allen claims both as his teachers and mentors.  Allen’s family worshiped at South College Street Christian Church in South Nashville where Lipscomb was an elder and Harding often preached.  His father, J. G. Allen, was an elder with Harding at Green Street Church of Christ, a congregation planted by South College Street.  Late in life he worshiped at Duke Street Church of Christ in northeast Nashville.  Allen spent all of his life, that I can find, preaching and teaching for these three congregations (South College in 1920 moved a block east and took the name Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ).  He, of course, preached often elsewhere in meetings.

Allen’s paper opposes all shades of secularism, denominationalism, premillennialism, worldliness and modernism in Churches of Christ.  Allen hesitates little, it seems, to call names.  He praises his friends as strongly as he censures his opponents.  He envisions a simple and primitive Christianity and urges his readers in every issue of the paper to stay with the Bible and with the historic Restoration Plea.  He frequently contributes articles to the Times (as he did in the pages of Advocate) fleshing out his understanding of both of these…the Bible and the Restoration.

This item appears on page 152, as the editorial of the August issue:

—–

CARNAL WARFARE

Dear Bro. Allen:

I read the Apostolic Times every month, and I think it is a very splendid paper.

There is a question I would like for you to answer for me: Can a man who is a Christian participate in carnal warfare and still remain a Christian?  I know that it is wrong to kill, but if he is commanded by civil authorities to do something else, what must he do?

*  *  *  *

No, a Christian cannot engage in carnal warfare.  “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds.”  (1 Cor. 10;3, 4.)  “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-ruler of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.’ (Eph. 6:12)

The position occupied by the churches of Christ has been known and accepted by the Federal Government for many years, and it is nothing less than a tragedy that a few have recently endeavored to compromise it.  They argue that a man is in one sphere as a Christian and that the same man can act in a totally different sphere as a citizen.

But to assume that any one can live one sort of life as a Christian, in one sphere, and that he can step out of that sphere into another, and in the other do things that all recognize he cannot do as a Christian, is to assume that a Christian can live a sort of Dr. Jeckel [sic] and Mr. Hyde kind of life that utterly incompatible with the teaching of Christ.  The genius who thought up this absurdity ought to be real ashamed of his brain-child.  The Christian life embraces every thought and action.  When a man steps outside of it into another sphere he ceases to be a Christian.

God is the Ruler and Governor of the universe.  He is over-ruling all.  He is using every man for the work that that man has fitted himself to do.  He does not use Christians for work they cannot do as Christians.

It is not a question of love for or loyalty to this great country.  We are living under the greatest and best form of government in the world.  We would gladly give our lives for this glorious land of freedom and liberty if we could do it without violating the law of God as given in the New Testament.  The influence of the gospel is what has made the United States great and the greatest service a Christian can render his country is not to engage in carnal war but to labor for the spread of the gospel.

Some ask, Suppose a ruffian should attack your wife or daughter, would you kill him?  such a question is like asking what would become of the man who was killed on his way to be baptized.  Questions of this kind involve consequences and consequences are in the hands of God.  It is our part to obey God.  What happens when we obey Him is in His hands.

–J.A.A.

—–

Allen does not print the querist’s name.  We are left to wonder whether it is a potential infantryman or one’s wife, mother or child.  We do not know if the author is a preacher.  We do not know if he or she is young or old.  In the end it matters little for us because there is no way we can know; it seems to have mattered none for J.A.A. and he very likely knew.  What I think is certain is that our anonymous writer is very concerned about the war and very concerned about how to live out in its midst a faithful Christian commitment.  This is Allen’s concern as well.

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16 thoughts on “Carnal Warfare: A voice from the summer of 1942

  1. Hey Mac,

    Thanks for this post. JAA handles the question simply but forcefully; I like it.

    One minor quibble. You said:

    “Allen spent all of his life, that I can find, preaching and teaching for these two congregations (South College in 1920 moved a block east and took the name Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ).”

    According to my grandfather, Allen was at Duke Street when they were members there (ca. 1951-late 60s). I’d have to check but I think he may have been an elder. At any rate, I can’t see him lasting long at Lindsley Avenue during the Ira North era. Just a hunch.

    C.

    • You are right. I forgot that your grandparents worshiped with him at Duke Street. This is what happens when I blog away from my files. I have edited the post.

    • Craig Watts has put together a bibliography, but it is not limited to SC movement. I’ll have to dig around and see what I can find. Looks like a future post is now in the works…

  2. Mac, good post. Thanks for the link from facebook or I wouldn’t have seen it.

    You or Chris know what came of Duke Street church. I never heard of it until now. Also, is Green Street church still alive?

    Benjamin, I’m not aware of a book. Hopefully you’ve seen the array of journal articles on the topic.

    LK

    • The Duke Street Church of Christ was founded in 1905 (originally called Dickerson Pike CofC — seems to have been located on the Pike at one point). Duke Street is off of Dickerson about a block north of Trinity Lane. The congregation went NI in the disputes of the 1950s (as did Allen himself, it would seem).

      My grandparents were members there in the 50s and 60s and they remember Allen being there. The congregation disbanded sometime in the 1990s. I do know that there are a few former Duke Street members now at Broadmoor.

      I’m pretty sure Green Street is still around, although Mac would probably know more. (Mac: Didn’t they go instrumental or am I making that up?)

      • Thanks for the info about Duke St. Perhaps as you have time you can post to your blog a photo of the Duke St. building and add what you know of the church. Green Street is still up and running as far as I know, though the website they had up at one time is now gone. They had some history on the site and an old picture or two. I don’t know about the instrumentality.

  3. You rightly affirm that “Allen’s paper opposes all shades of secularism, denominationalism, premillennialism, worldliness and modernism in Churches of Christ.” Allen would oppose “fundamentalism” as well, and he would never describe himself as a “pacifist.” Allen would, i think, say that he is “Christian,” a disciple of Jesus, and not an “-ist” or an adherent of any “-ism.” Jesus, he would point out, instructs his disciples that “peacemakers” are “blessed” because “they shall be called sons of God.” Jesus does not have to tell us whose sons the warmakers are; i think we already know.

    “Pacifists” believe that the human political order and human governments can be persuaded to make peace, even when it is against their self-interest to do so. Allen, a consistent disciple of David Lipscomb, and Don Carlos Janes, a consistent disciple of James Alexander Harding, have no such illusions about the human order and its possibilities. Their counsel, at the beginning of World War 2, is to call members of the Churches of Christ to obey God rather than the human order and refuse to shed blood. At the same time Robertson Lafayette Whiteside, a student of both Lipscomb and Harding who never accepted their teaching on human government, is counseling his disciples, the Wallaces, to “compromise” with the human order and fully support the war that the United States has declared. In 1933 William Robinson, who then led a peace movement among British Churches of Christ, wrote a book affirming that “Christianity Is Pacifism.” About 1940, at the same time that Allen and Janes were issuing their statements, Alfred Thomas DeGroot borrowed Robinson’s title for a pamphlet, hoping that Disciples would help to keep the United States out of the European war. Allen and Janes would not agree that “Christianity is Pacifism,” but they would call Christians to be peacemakers, nothing more and nothing less.

    Craig Watts has written a book about AC as a “Disciple of Peace.” Two years ago the late Michael Casey proposed to write “a short book . . . on our pacifism.” i thought then and think now that we need at least three and possibly four books to ground discussions of war and peace among twenty-first century Stoned Camels.

    First, we need a historical reader that would bring together the primary sources for the various ways that AC, BWS, and their heirs in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have approached warmaking and peacemaking. Assembling this anthology, with critical annotation and introduction for each entry, would be a first step toward, and indispensable companion to a comprehensive historical analysis of attitudes toward war and peace among the nineteenth-century Disciples and their heirs in the twentieth century. Alongside that history, we need a systematic, critical, and exegetical treatment of the New Testament texts concerned with or relevant to a discussion of war and peace; call it War and Peace in the New Testament.

    On the foundation of these “scholarly” studies, we could then think about a book or series of books that would be useful in church classes and small groups: no more than 160 pages, thirteen chapters, with questions that could jumpstart a discussion at the end of each chapter. This last may be the sort of book Mike had in mind–but such a book will be better and do better if the first three books precede it, so that they are available for reference and “further reading.”

    God’s Peace to you.

    d

  4. Pingback: a brief interlude « Anastasis

  5. James A. Allen is an important figure in our history. A few years ago I spoke with his daughter (his only child) and asked if she had any copies of her father’s paper, The Apostolic Times. She replied that she had a “complete bound set” of the paper and was wondering what to do with them. I convinced her to mail them to me. I turned them over to Don Haymes of CTS who had them microflimed. Allen’s daughter then asked that they be given to Lipscomb University since her father was a Nashville figure and she had attended David Lipscomb College. The originals are at Lipscomb today and thanks to CTS and Don Haymes the film is available to anyone with the money. The Apostolic Times began in 1931 and ended in 1954 when Allen’s eyesight became to poor to set the type and print the paper. He wrote a number of articles in the Gospel Guardian in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

    In the Dec. 7, 1939 Gospel Advocate Allen writes a brief history of the Lindsley Avenue Church (at pg. 1148). Allen began to preach when encouraged to do so by his father, J. G. Allen (an elder at Green Street). Allen’s mother was Susie Hailey and he had two sisters. He spent some time as a commercial printer.

  6. Thanks for the good piece from a lesser known, but obviously good man. I think he hits several nails squarely on the head.

    However, when he says, “The position occupied by the churches of Christ has been known and accepted by the Federal Government for many years” he reveals a denominational concept that seems to have been quite prevalent in his times — that “churches of Christ” had some kind of official position on the issue.

    • Thank you, Gardner. I see your point. But I think he is arguing from history rather than attempting to speak on behalf of Churches of Christ as a denomination. I think he has in mind that on this question there was back in 1917 sufficient uniformity among Churches of Christ to warrant a descriptive statement to the Government (such as what JW Shepherd and JS Ward provided in 1917). I don’t think they thought of themselves as representatives of a denomintation speaking for a denomination or making pronouncements to a denomination. It may well be fine line between being descriptive and being denominational…I don’t think Allen, Shepherd, Ward, et al thought in denominational terms. Or maybe they did and I’m misreading, or maybe Allen slips up here. It appears to me that Allen thinks this position still prevails in 1942…but not with the universality it once enjoyed. From what I’ve read of Allen (and I’ll be quick to add that I haven’t yet read all he published even in the Times, much less the Gospel Advocate or elsewhere) he would not propose to speak on behalf of Churches of Christ as if they are a denomination or as if he were their representative. Again, I’m open to correction. It seems to me that he sees a departure from what he understands to be the historically majority view. For Allen, to accept Christian participation in carnal warfare is an innovation. It is inconsistent with what we have said for years.

      Anyone else want to jump in on this one?

  7. I’m sure you’re right about Allen’s motives and I sympathize with them. It’s sad when there are clear signs that disciples we know are becoming increasingly “this worldly” and entangled in politics and concern about this world’s carnal wars. If that was true in the 1940’s, how much more today!

    However, in spite of good motives, to speak of “the position occupied by churches of Christ” is at best an unfortunate way to make his point. I’ve probably talked that way in the past myself, so I don’t want to be overly critical. Just wanted to point it out.

    Thanks again,

  8. Suppose that someone — as they frequently did — had posed a question as to the design, purpose, and mode of baptism, and whether such baptism was “necessary to salvation.” Suppose that JAA had answered that question from Scripture, and then identified that answer as “the position occupied by Churches of Christ.” Suppose, further, that his answer from Scripture differed in some degree, as well it might, from the answer that might be given by, say, Austin McGary or Robertson Lafayette Whiteside. Could he then be seen to be claiming an “official position” on baptism for “churches of Christ” as a “denominational concept”? Or would his answer be “the plain truth of Scripture” as clearly enunciated by a “Gospel preacher”?

    God’s Peace to you.

    d

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