“To be a historian”: Quote without comment

This from Doris Kearns Goodwin via Garrison Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac” (with thanks to Don Haymes for passing it on to me): 

To be a historian is to discover the facts in context, to discover what things mean, to lay before the reader your reconstruction of time, place, mood, to empathize even when you disagree. You read all the relevant material, you synthesize all the books, you speak to all the people you can, and then you write down what you know about the period. You feel you own it.

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The Bible and the Education of Children: Lessons from Alexander Campbell, RQ article by Samjung Kang-Hamilton

…most of the prior literature has ignored his [AC] understanding of the education of children in the Bible.  This essay will begin to close that gap and suggest ways in which an understanding of Campbell would help strengthen children’s ministry in Churches of Christ today.  The following sections will examine Campbell’s views on (1) the Bible and children, (2) childhood, (3) the nature of education, (4) its purposes; (5) and its methods and  contexts.  his work helps us get past the current practice of treating the Bible as a set of morality tales.

So ends her opening section. Kang-Hamilton lays out a thesis that Campbell’s notions on the education of children offers to the contemporary church a resource for (re)thinking children’s ministry and the teaching of the Bible to and for children.  I’m already favorably impressed, as a researcher who sees many such gaps, as a teacher and a ministry leader in a congregational education ministry, and, not least of all, as a parent.  I will over the next few days post short summaries and excerpt’s from each section of her article. Come back to see what she discovers from AC and what she makes of it for our situation.

Samjung Kang-Hamilton, “The Bible and the Education of Children: Lessons from Alexander Campbell” Restoration Quarterly 52:3 third Quarter 2010, 130-143.  For more about RQ, click here.

Dictionaries and Lexicons

DICTIONARIES AND LEXICONS.

None understand the value of dictionaries and lexicons so well as those who use them most. Every individual who reads any should, when reading, always keep by him an English Dictionary, such as Walker’s or Webster’s. An English word, the defination [sic] or meaning of which we are ignorant of, might as well, until understood, be Latin or Greek to those who do not understand these languages.  We sometimes hear people complaining of an author for using “hard words,” when the fault is in themselves, for not seeking the meaning in a Dictionary.  They are so cheap, that any one who can afford to read, can afford to get one.

EDITOR.

–John R. Howard, The Christian Reformer, January 1836, page 32.

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John R. Howard, of Paris, Tennessee, is Editor and publisher of The Christian Reformer; he includes this short note on the last page of the first issue–January 1836–of his paper.  It is the first periodical of the Stone-Campbell reformation published in Tennessee and only lasts a year.

Flaunting your vocabulary is one thing; utilizing language precisely and clearly is another.  One is arrogance, the other is a component of good teaching.  Unfortunately some prize simplistic teaching, writing or preaching when sensitive teaching is the preferable option.  Under no circumstance should a teacher or preacher speak circles around or over an audience.  Such is a manifestation of pride.  However, what self-respecting auditor would prefer to be spoon-fed rather than genuinely and sincerely taught, even challenged?  I suspect one root of the complaint against what Howard calls “hard words” is pride of another sort.  Rather than pride manifesting itself in a haughty display of vocabulary, it is pride in the lack of any vocabulary…anti-intellectual pride.   Howard is unimpressed by it.  I marvel at the depth of learning of his generation; they sought the very best available for themselves, their churches and communities.  I also marvel when those who claim to be truth-seekers, who ought to be mature meat-eaters, so to speak, prefer instead a bland diet of skim milk (I’m thinking of Hebrews 5.12).  When we settle for less in the pulpit, the classroom and the printed page are we truly heirs of these great reformers?

Two Disciples websites, and a reflection on archiving

DisciplesWorld‘s website will change and evolve over the next few months.  Keep up with it all at Verity Jones’ blog here and get connected at the Intersection, a social networking site for Disciples and friends, here.  Change and evolution is the order of the day it seems.

It remains to be seen what an archive will look like and how it will function in a few years as print media continues to disappear.  Certainly the day of printed journals as media of information, opinion and discussion like we have known it for the last two hundred years, is over.  I don’t know what the new day will be like, but I don’t think it will look like yesterday.  Maybe we will see a resurgence of journals?  Maybe the few survivors will emerge stronger?  Maybe not?  Maybe something else will emerge that none of us as yet can image.  Who knows?

One hundred years ago a preacher (like C.E.W. Dorris when he published The Bible Student) would purchase a printing press, a couple trays of type, set about to build a readership and promulgate his views and the teaching of those he respected.  Frequently these small operations were expensive, time-consuming and soon abandoned.  For example, Dorris and his wife often worked twelve or fourteen hour days setting type, printing, labeling and mailing his journal.  Subscriptions barely enabled them to break even (partly because it was a small readership, and partly because he operated it cheaply for a theological reason: to preach to the poor).  So, the Dorrises used the press for job printing to pay the bills.  Eventually he abandoned the paper because he felt it a better use of his time to preach in person rather than teach through a printed page.  We are fortunate, very fortunate, to have a full run of his paper.  We could repeat a similar story several times over.

Now preachers, pastors and especially average pew-ers sign up for wordpress or facebook or blogger or intersection or whatever…for free and build a readership through near-instant networking.  The dynamic has changed altogether.  One aspect of archiving will certainly need to be addressed in this new day: in the past we have collected papers and journals which have almost exclusively been printed and published by preachers or (un)denominational publishing houses.  What little we have in the way of the average person in the pew is in the form of diaries or letters, and they are scarce…scarce.  Not so with wordpress, facebook, blogger… everyone can be ubiquitous in this new day.  So, the archivist’s choice is this: whose voice do we preserve?  We can’t keep everything, and choices must be made…so who gets saved to the server and who gets deleted? And furthermore, not only does everyone have a voice now, most of what they say doesn’t look like it is worth keeping.  Much of what I see on blogs and social networking sites is the minutiae of daily life.  But I also see some wonderful historical, theological and ministerial reflection taking place…stuff that needs to be kept.

So, here I am wishing we had more leather-and-paper diaries from the 19th century and bemoaning the banality of much of what I see in the blogosphere.  What is disturbing is that in 100 years we may wish we had a hard drive or three worth of blogs and facebook accounts…all keyword searchable and ready for PhD (or whatever they’ll call it then) dissertation research.  In short, I don’t have an answer I’m comfortable with…I’m only just now beginning to wrestle with the problem.  What is at once frustrating and (on my good days) exhilarating, is that by the time we think we have the problem somewhat under control, it will change again.

Enough for now, I think I’ll check out who is on intersection…:)

Save the Paper

Regular readers of this blog know that one of my research interests is Nashville’s Stone-Campbell heritage.  Judging from the folks who find my blog by searching for old Nashville churches like Foster Street Christian Church or Vine Street Christian Church or South College Street Church of Christ, I see I am not alone in my interest.  Here’s my appeal:

I am assembling information from, by and about these churches, ministers and related organizations.  Do you have paper (like directories or bulletins), photographs, sermons, postcards, old issues of periodicals like Gospel Advocate or Apostolic Times or ephemera from Nashville events like the Hardeman Tabernacle meetings or the Collins-Craig Auditorium Meeting, or the Nashville Jubilee?  Do you have photographs or postcards of church buildings?  For that matter, do you have an old map of Nashville that shows what the city was like in the 1940’s?  or earlier? Do you have clippings from the newspapers about people or events or congregations in the Nashville or Davidson County area?   Do you have memories of growing up at Vine Street Christian Church when it was still downtown?  Or Reid Avenue Church of Christ, Russell Street Church of Christ or Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ (all three are now closed)?  Would you be willing to talk with me–in person or by email or even by postal mail–to share your memories?  Would you allow me to borrow your old paper, copy it and learn from it?

Old paper is the stuff from which history is written.  And if it isn’t preserved then not only will vital data be lost but a story will be silenced.  I believe the Nashville story is a rich story, and a story worth keeping and worth telling and worth preserving.   With every funeral we lose some memory or story.  The time has come for us to assemble what remains while we can, and ensure that through its preservation the story will not be forgotten.

Check the steamer trunks in your attics, the boxes in your basements and the files in the closets.  Before you throw it away, email me.  Let’s preserve it.

icekm (at) aol (dot) com

Quote Without Comment: The Intellectual or the Devoted?

The Intellectual or the Devoted?

Perhaps the major reason why the intellectual life is viewed with suspicion and distrust is because it is regarded by many as being an alternative to devotion.  The prevalence of this view that devotedness and the intellectual life are mutually exclusive shows that we do not really understand the nature of this life, and that we have certainly not thought the matter through.  is it not more reasonable that the more devoted one is to Christ, and the more one conforms his own life to Him, the more Christ challenges the whole man, his mind included, and demands as well as stimulates growth and development?

It is peculiarly unfortunate that this attitude which regards the devoted life and the intellectual life as alternatives is sometimes expressed in connection with Christian education.  We sometimes hear someone saying that he would rather see our Christian colleges be second-rate, academically, than lose their devotion to the Lord.  Let us be very sure of one thing, that we can never be very devoted to the Lord and His cause if we are satisfied with anything less than the best.  Let us be devoted enough to want to excel.  If we do not want to excel, we place ourselves in the rather odd position that affirms that mediocrity makes us feel safer.  Surely the cause to which we have dedicated our lives deserves better.

Our Christian colleges exist for the purpose of developing young people intellectually, spiritually, and socially to live the Christian life.  Too frequently it seems as though we think our purpose is to protect or guard them from life.  We cannot isolate them forever, and we cannot do justice to them if we do not acquaint them with the challenges of life.  If we do not do justice to those challenges, we are not doing justice to our students.  And if we are mediocre in our treatment of the problems of life, we are deceiving ourselves if we think that we are successful in performing our task.

What I am appealing for is not a sterile, dry, irrelevant, academic braintrust that paralyzes all involved.  What I do appeal for is a devotion to the Lord so deep, and a love for His Word so powerful, and an awareness of man’s need of God so moving that Christian education will become an enterprise so creative, so dynamic and therefore so demanding that it will call for the very best that is within us.  Only when we have reached that level of devotion shall we fulfill our real purpose, and shall we overcome some of the problems we now face.  Only then shall we move from our defensive posture and assume one that will enable us to serve the Lord more successfully.  Only then shall we attract Christian faculty and students of superior ability who do not now think of a Christian college as a live choice.  And only then shall we come to understand ourselves better.

–excerpted from Abraham J. Malherbe, “To Today’s Intellectual Challenges” in Lift Up Your Eyes, Being the Abilene Christian College Annual Bible Lectures 1965. Abilene Christian College Students Exchange: Abilene, 1965, pages 183-184.

Christian Scholars’ Conference 2009

With its organizing theme as The Power of Narrative, this year’s conference drew to Lipscomb University about 400 conferees to hear over 230 presenters in 70 sessions. Topics ranged from studies in specific biblical texts to theology to poetry to literature to history to ethics to science to ministry to teaching (and beyond). Presenters represented something like 100 universities and institutions.

Plenary addresses by Hubert Locke, Barbara Brown Taylor, Billy Collins and Marilynne Robinson were superb.  Tokens old-time radio show was most outstanding.  The luncheon honoring the memory of Mike Casey was touching.  Meeting new folks, renewing acquaintances and seeing old friends was a true joy.  I even met some followers of this blog…all three of them!  (No books this time, we’re on a tight budget at the Ice house.  I’m trying to read the ones I already have…what a novel idea and if faithfully pursued will take care of my reading for the rest of my life without a single future purchase)

I took in these sessions:
The Impact of the Written Word: The Place of Editors in the American Restoration Movement with presentations on Isaac Errett by L. T. Smith, on David Lipscomb by Robert Hooper and Austin McGary by Terry Gardner.

New Explorations in Race, Peace, and Justice: Recent Dissertations in Stone-Campbell History, a session I chaired with papers by Wes Crawford on African American in Churches of Christ and on B. U. Watkins by Ray Patton and responses to the above by Barclay Key and Vic McCracken.

And the Word Became Flesh: Studies in Restoration History in Memory of Michael W. Casey, with papers by Thomas Olbricht on Recovering Covenantal narratival Theology, by Jerry Rushford on the Christians in Klickitat County Washington, and by Carisse Berryhill on the Rhetoric of Alexander Campbell’s Morning Lectures (some of which were published under the title Lectures on the Pentateuch).

Another installment of the Restoration Studies in honor of Mike Casey with papers on R. W. Officer by David Baird, J. W. McGarvey’s “The Authorship of Deuteronomy” by Mark Hamilton and Hoosiers, Volunteers and Longhorns by John Mark Hicks.

and

Reflections on Theological Education: Ministry and Ecclesiology with papers by Tom Olbricht surveying the past 75 years of theological education in Churches of Christ, on their experiences in the academy by Abraham Malherbe and James Thompson.

This was my first time to attend CSC.  I’m already making plans to attend next year.

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With this update of the CSC my blogging hiatus, I think, may be over. The flooding at work the last week of April threw a monkey-wrench into our collective and individual routines. Nothing was lost, and what was damaged has been totally salvaged. This is fantastic news. It turned out to be a real headache, and never were we so thankful to have a headache rather than a disaster. I think I am now back into a routine…just in time for the summer research season (one of my favorite times of year).

The end of the academic year has its own set of rituals, routines and events. The Ices had our fair share.  The long and short of it is that blogging wasn’t even on the list the last six weeks, much less down on the list.

But I intend to to resume.  On deck is the latest installment in my “First Reads” series. This one is a guest post courtesy of my friend, fellow blogger and partner in crime when it comes to Nashville church history, Chris Cotten. Chris kindly agreed to reflect on the literature by, from and about the non-institutional churches of Christ. I have found his list, and his comments about each item on it, very helpful.