This study examines the eschatological ideas of David Lipscomb and how these relate to the development of his politic of the kingdom of God. Delving into Lipscomb’s writings on key New Testament passages and situating the refinement of his ideas in the historical context of the Civil War, this paper explores how Lipscomb’s identities as a biblical pacifist and a Southern sympathizer led him to articulate an idealized vision of the church’s mission that his postwar resentments allowed him to enact only in part.
David Lipscomb left a tremendous impact on the Stone-Campbell Movement writ large and on Churches of Christ in particular.1 Notable Restoration figures from the previous generation had profoundly influenced his view of Scripture,2 especially Tolbert Fanning whose views were a “provocative mix of Barton W. Stone’s apocalypticism and Alexander Campbell’s primitivism.”3 In this study, we will focus primarily on the common ground that Lipscomb shared with Stone and Fanning, as the three men’s apocalypticism significantly impacted their view of the kingdom of God, eschatology, and politics.4 Lipscomb believed the grand narrative of Scripture was seen in God’s repeated attempts to establish His kingdom on earth. Christians enter this kingdom now but still await the full realization and consummation of God’s kingdom on earth in the future. To clarify Lipscomb’s views, we will examine his comments on several relevant New Testament passages (Eph 1:9–10; Col 1:19–20; Rom 8:19–22) and suggest how they influenced his eschatology. Finally, we will note how Lipscomb’s lived experiences during and after the Civil War deeply impacted his political worldview.5
Lipscomb’s Biblical Eschatology
To understand Lipscomb’s view of the “end times,” it is helpful to grasp his understanding of the grand narrative of the Bible.6 In short, the Bible’s primary purpose and function are to establish God’s rule and reign “on earth as in heaven.” God first established his rule perfectly and entirely on earth in the Garden of Eden. Eden, and all creation, was an extension of heaven. Creation served as the outer courts of God’s temple, and God elevated man to serve and share his rule in creation. Man’s purpose was to serve creation as priests in God’s temple. This purpose was thwarted by sin when man switched his allegiance from God to obey the serpent. At that moment, Satan’s kingdom took hold of this earth, and all kingdoms that subsequently emerged were under the dominion of the wicked one. In support of this view, Lipscomb notes passages like Matt 4:8–9 and Rev 13:2, which picture Satan as owning, ruling, and having authority over the kingdoms of men. God did not plant these other kingdoms, and “every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up” (Matt 15:13).
Following the rejection of God’s kingdom in Eden, God separated himself from this sin-polluted world. He made repeated attempts throughout human history to reestablish His rule. The flood of Noah was God’s judgment on a sinful and wicked creation, but it was also an act of renewal and future hope. God chose Noah’s family to live under His reign and rule, but it did not take long for Noah to follow the path of Adam, bringing sin, rebellion, and the dominion of Satan back into this world. The culmination of human sin resulted in the Tower of Babel, which brought confused, sinful, prideful, and rebellious human governments to the scene. Since Satan reigned in these governments, they each followed the pattern of Babel, and Babylon came to represent all world governments. Under Satan’s rule, governments oppose God and exercise authority by violence, greed, and pride rather than obedience to the will of God.
Abram enters the Genesis story immediately after the events of the Tower of Babel, and his family becomes another divine initiative to reestablish God’s reign. Lipscomb interpreted Scripture’s metanarrative through these attempts to establish God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven. Nevertheless, God’s designs are frustrated by human sinfulness, and Satan’s dominion constantly undermines God’s kingdom through evil and violent world empires. When the children of Israel take the Promised Land in the book of Joshua, they use violence and warfare to rid the land of the Canaanites. Lipscomb did not read these as attacks against sinful individuals who lived in Canaan, however, but as representative of the larger mission of punishing all who submitted to the rule of human/Satanic governments.
Regarding the conquest of Canaan, Lipscomb writes: “God’s special commission to them was to destroy all the nations inhabiting the land, all the nations with which they came in contact. The mission imposed upon them was perpetual enmity, the work to which they were called was a war of extermination against all people maintaining a human government. This war was waged against the people not as individuals or families, but as members and supporters of human governments.”7 In the Biblical narrative, human governments, including Babylon, Egypt, Canaan, Assyria, and Rome, are all incarnations of Satan’s will. All kingdoms of men reject, rebel, and compete against God’s kingdom. Even Israel, the family of Abraham, continually falls into this trap. The only way God could dwell with Israel in this sin-plagued creation was to consecrate and sanctify certain specific areas, like the tabernacle and temple, where he could live.
When Israel asks for a king in 1 Sam 8, God relates to Samuel all the terrible, sinful actions that a human king will inflict upon Israel. Demanding a human king is the ultimate betrayal of the kingdom of God. God says to Samuel, “Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them” (1 Sam 8:7).8 They implicitly demand that God be removed and replaced as their ruler by requesting a human king. This passage was central in Lipscomb’s understanding of the main point of the Bible.
God’s initiative to establish his kingdom on earth found dramatic fulfillment in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Through Christ, God brought salvation, reconciliation, and eternal life to fruition. Through the Holy Spirit, God issued his kingdom laws to guide the church in his divine will for ages to come. The church is the manifestation of God’s kingdom on earth. Unsurprisingly, world governments attack and violently persecute the church. Persecution is one way Satan’s kingdom tries to destroy God’s kingdom. However, the church will overcome, endure, and eventually see the ultimate fulfillment of the kingdom of God.
Thus, while the church is God’s kingdom, it is not God’s fully realized kingdom. There is more yet to come. The will of God is not done in its perfect and most complete sense now. Answering a question about the kingdom of God in the Gospel Advocate in 1903, Lipscomb writes, “The kingdom was established and opened to men on the first Pentecost after the ascension of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit came to earth to give this kingdom laws and to take up his abode in these laws and guide that kingdom in its future growth to its final and perfect development.” The fullness of the kingdom of God in all its glory and perfection will come with the dissolution of all world governments as heaven and earth become one. Earth will literally become heaven when God’s will is perfectly accomplished in His kingdom. Again, Lipscomb writes about a day “when the kingdoms of the earth shall become the kingdom of God and his Christ, when the will of God shall be done on earth as it is in heaven, and when earth itself shall become heaven and God shall dwell with his people and be their God and they shall be his people.”9
That day will come when all kingdoms of the earth are destroyed and God establishes his perfect, fully realized kingdom on earth. Earth will be made one with heaven, Eden will be restored, and God will again dwell on earth with humankind. God is tenaciously loving and patient. Rather than giving up on earth because of sin, he will instead redeem the world and reconcile all creation back to himself.
To sum up his views of this grand narrative and the trajectory of the story of God, Lipscomb writes:
God is holy. As a pure and holy being, he cannot tolerate guilt and sin. The two cannot permanently dwell together in the universe. When sin came into the world, God left this world as a dwelling place. He cannot dwell in a defiled and sin-polluted temple. He has since dwelt on this earth only in sanctified altars and temples separated from the world and consecrated to his service. He will again make this earth his dwelling place, but it will be only when sin has been purged out and it has been consecrated anew as the new heaven and new earth in which dwelleth righteousness.10
In his view, God’s ultimate plan is to dwell among his people in righteousness. Since sin polluted this world, God must remake this world into a “new heaven and new earth” to live with his saints again.
Reading the Bible with this grand narrative in mind, it is easy to see how Lipscomb’s eschatology and politics converge. While parts of his eschatology have been laid out above as the culmination of the Bible’s story, the remainder of this study will focus more extensively on some of his specific eschatological views. While largely consistent with his predecessors Stone and Fanning, his overall view, along with that of contemporary leaders like James A. Harding, has largely fallen out of favor within Churches of Christ and likely constitutes a minority position today. Lipscomb’s view of heaven is distinct from the views of many within Churches of Christ because he believes heaven will ultimately unite with earth, and earth will remain forever. Instead of a celestial, incorporeal, nonmaterial existence in a heavenly realm, eternal life will be a physical, embodied existence on earth. As God will redeem our bodies in the resurrection, he will redeem the heavens and the earth in the same way. Lipscomb’s soteriology was both personal and cosmic. He believed not only in the individual salvation of sinners by the grace of God but also that the death of Jesus reconciled all things back to God, even inanimate matter and all creation.
This eschatological perspective appears numerous times in his commentaries on the epistles of Paul. For example, in Eph 1:9–10, Paul writes about the purpose of God, “which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” In this passage, God’s plan includes uniting all things in heaven and on earth in Christ. The traditional perspective advocated by many is not that earth will be reconciled to God or united in God, but that earth will face destruction as saved humanity enters heaven. In contrast, Lipscomb claims: “All things in heaven as well as in earth are reconciled to him . . . everything in heaven and on earth shall be united under the rule of Christ. The government of Christ on earth is the kingdom or rule of heaven extended to earth. In the beginning, the earth was an outer court of heaven, in which God dwelt, and over which he ruled supreme, but his rule has been subverted and destroyed by the rebellion of man.”11 Lipscomb’s explanation of Eph 1:10 reaches back to his understanding of the grand narrative of the Bible: that God created the earth as a temple, or “the outer court of heaven” and that sin has subverted the rule of God. God’s ultimate plan is to win creation back to His purposes and rule a reconciled, united heaven and earth.
Lipscomb’s commentary on Col 1:19–20 provides another glimpse into his all-encompassing view of salvation and eschatology. Paul writes, “For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross.” Ephesians 1:10 speaks of uniting all things in heaven and earth, and Col 1:20 speaks of reconciling them back to God. Regarding this passage, Lipscomb writes, “It is not God who needs to be reconciled, but the universe that is alienated from God. . . . Here Paul glories in the grand scope of Christ’s work of reconciliation of a universe out of harmony with God (2 Cor 5:18, 19) that is carried out by the Son (Eph 2:16). . . . There they meet and are reconciled in Christ. He said this was done by Christ, even of things on earth and in the heavens.”12
The power of sin reaches beyond human guilt and distorts all heaven and earth; the entire cosmos, universe, and every created thing are damaged and distanced from God. The power of Christ’s salvific death on the cross reaches out to human sinfulness and then reaches beyond to the entire cosmic order to set all things right. There is no damage to God’s world perpetuated by sin that will not be redeemed, reconciled, and made right in Jesus.
Lipscomb writes in great detail on this subject when he comments on Rom 8:19–22. His commentary on this pericope again depends on his understanding of the Bible’s overall story. Paul writes, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now…” In this passage, Paul zooms out beyond human suffering to the agony that encompasses all creation. Paul provides hope for both people and creation, that God has not abandoned his original intentions or the redemption that lies ahead. In this passage, Lipscomb defines “creation” as “the world, embracing all animated nature below man.”13
In his reading, this world was subjected by God to futility because “He who first placed the creation under man’s dominion also subjected it to the effects of man’s sin . . . and will make it a partaker of the blessing of his restoration.”14 Throughout the Bible, the land suffers because of man’s sins. For example, God did not curse Adam because of his sin in Eden, but God said, “Cursed is the ground because of you” (Gen 3:17). Creation suffered the effects of man’s lawlessness. Thorns and thistles and drought and flood are all examples of the suffering of God’s creation that is out of kilter with his will (Deut 28:18; Hos 4:6–9; Hag 1:10–11). The law of Moses warns, “But you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances . . . lest the land vomit you out, when you defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you” (Lev 18:26–28). Lipscomb’s interpretation of Rom 8 relies on this biblical theme. He views a coming eschatological day that will reverse this curse and restore all creation. When humankind is delivered from the effects and consequences of sin, Lipscomb writes, “then the whole creation will share this deliverance and be freed from the corruption and mortality to which it has been subjected by the sin of man. It shared the corruption and mortality of man’s sin, and will share his deliverance from it.”15
Creation is regularly personified in the Bible as experiencing human emotions. Creation praises God for his goodness and responds to human affairs. For example, sometimes the earth rejoices and “the floods clap their hands” and “the hills sing for joy together” (Ps 98:8). Sometimes, “the earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers” (Isa 24:4–6). Romans 8:19 and 22 say creation “waits with eager longing” and “has been groaning in travail together until now.” God created the earth for something glorious, but now it is suffering and longing for a better day.
The evidence of this suffering is everywhere. Lipscomb writes, “Animated nature suffers, vegetable nature struggles against, but succumbs to, death and decay, and the laws of all nature are disturbed and in commotion on account of man’s sin. . . . These pangs . . . point to a coming time of delivery, when ‘according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness’ (2 Pet 3:13).”16 The childbirth, referred to by Paul, is when this creation births new creation, and new heavens and new earth emerge for the glorious eternal reign of God. Isaiah 65:17 promises this future. Though sin has devastated God’s good world, great things are in the future for man and all creation. Lipscomb continues, “Paul has in these verses presented to us the far-reaching and appalling results of sin, and has given to us a picture of the future glorious state that shall come to man and earth when the deliverance from sin is completed. The earth will rejoice and be glad as well as man.”17
Lipscomb’s Eschatological Politics
From these expositional notes on a few New Testament passages, it is evident that Lipscomb’s eschatology flows naturally from his view of the narrative of Scripture. Salvation is coming for heaven and earth and all humankind through the reconciliation of Jesus on the cross. God is not abandoning or destroying his creation forever but is working to redeem it and dwell in it. God will restore Eden, and his intentions will come to fruition. When decay and death are defeated, he will completely and forever establish his eternal kingdom on earth as in heaven. The final destruction of the kingdoms of this world is a central element of this eschatological hope and ultimate salvation. They will wreak havoc on God’s creation no more.
In his book On Civil Government, Lipscomb writes about the destiny of human governments. These governments, which Satan rules, must be destroyed for God’s will to succeed. Lipscomb describes this day when he writes,
Christ had come specifically to rescue the world from the rule of the evil one, and to destroy all institutions that had grown up under his care, and to bring the world back to the dominion of God the Father, and to restore it to harmonious relations with the entire universe ruled over by God. . . . God will overrule the kingdoms and governments of the world to the destruction of each other that they may give way for his government. . . . God overrules these to the destruction of those institutions and punishment of the people that are not pleasing to him. But these human governments shall be “moved” and “burned up,” while his kingdom “can not be moved,” but with “a new heavens and a new earth,” shall be the dwelling place of the righteous forever.18
In the above paragraph, the convergence of Lipscomb’s eschatology and politics becomes apparent. Human governments, which stand in the way of God’s eschatological goals, must come to an end for the gift of God’s perpetual presence to finally be realized. Only then will heaven and earth be forever unified. This convergence of Lipscomb’s eschatology and politics provides the theological framework for his argument that Christians should have no part in politics, government, or warfare. He argued that Christians should not hold government positions, exercise the right to vote, or enlist in the military. Christians should certainly never kill or harm others in obedience to the government. If all human institutions and governments are ultimately the product of Satan, then to give allegiance to a nation, political party, or military is to give allegiance to Satan. Christians should give sole allegiance to the kingdom of God and trust in the Lord to accomplish his will on earth. Christians should not rely on governments of men to do the work of the kingdom of God. In Lipscomb’s view, this is the way of Jesus: “The life of Christ was a continual conflict with the rulers of the world. The civil power sought his life at his birth, desolated the homes of Bethlehem by the slaughter of ‘every male child two year old and under,’ dogged his pathway through life, arrested him, nailed him to the cross, murdered him, sealed his tomb, and set a watch to prevent his rising.”19 Lipscomb’s view can be summarized as follows: “Man’s duty is to learn the will of God, and to trustingly do that will, leaving results and events with God. . . . Man must in faith do what God has ordained he should do, what he has declared would be well-pleasing to him; and then leave all in the hands of him who overrules the universe.”20 In essence, this means that Christians should commit themselves to the teachings of Jesus and the Bible and make no exceptions when entering the realm of politics. If God commanded Christians to “love your neighbor as yourself” and even “love your enemies,” then Christians should do exactly that with no exceptions. Christians should not seek to harm or kill their enemies, even if governments order it. In his view, Satan ordering a Christian to kill should not convince a Christian to kill. Christian law comes from God. Even if governments arise that harm, destroy, rape, pillage, plunder, and engage in heinous evil, the Christian is not freed from the obligation to obey God. He cannot use violence to stop that worldly evil. Instead, he ought to entrust himself to God and rely on God to solve that worldly evil.
Lipscomb’s political views were formed and shaped by Fanning, his approach to the grand narrative of Scripture, and the time in which he lived. The Civil War played a significant, multifaceted role in shaping Lipscomb’s politics. Every interpreter of the Bible approaches the text from a perspective, and the tragedies witnessed by Lipscomb no doubt shaped his reading. As Lipscomb lays out his views of world governments and his rationale for a politic of the kingdom, he cannot but reflect on the tragedy of the Civil War. The war showed him the terrible consequences of removing religion and, specifically, the teachings of the kingdom from politics. He saw that his brothers embraced religion in every area of life except the political arena. They proved that they would set aside the peace of Christ to kill one another if their politics called for it. Regarding the terrible conflict taking over the country during his life, Lipscomb records:
Finally the years of sectional strife, war, bloodshed, destruction and desolation swept over our land, and the spectacle was presented, of disciples of the Prince of Peace, with murderous weapons seeking the lives of their fellowmen. Brethren for whom Christ died, children of him who came to heal the broken-hearted, to be a father to the fatherless and a husband to the widow, were found imbruing their hands in the blood of their own brethren in Christ, making their sisters widows and their sisters’ children orphans. It took but little thought to see that this course is abhorrent to the principles of the religion of the Savior, who died that even his enemies might live.21
Before the war, Lipscomb viewed human governments with skepticism, but it seems to have been the Civil War that fully cemented his kingdom-of-God-shaped politics. Lipscomb’s mentor, Tolbert Fanning, ceased voting in the 1840s. Lipscomb, however, voted even up until 1860.22 The war changed a great deal for Lipscomb.23 He lost several cousins, students, and teachers. The war also made it evident to Lipscomb that if a man was willing to kill his brother, and the brother of Christ, for his country, then that man’s allegiance was to his politics more than to God’s kingdom. If Christians ought not to fight and kill for God’s kingdom, indeed, they should not fight and kill for the kingdoms of men and the dominion of Satan. “The immediate outcome of his changed emphasis,” one prominent Lipscomb biographer observed, “was the acceptance of a Mennonite-like position toward the Christian and government.”24
After the war, many questions loomed concerning forgiveness and the hatred that still separated this country. This hatred still separated brothers and sisters in Christ, including, to some extent, Lipscomb himself. On September 11, 1866, Lipscomb responded at significant length to a question about whether Christians need to forgive unrepentant sinners who caused injury and harm. Should Christians on one side of the battle lines forgive those on the other? Lipscomb’s answer is revealing. He boils down all the sins of the war—all the violence, plunder, and murder—to the natural results of one primary sin: “yielding themselves instruments of an unrighteous power.”25 That sin was committed by Christians on both sides. They gave their allegiance to the government, and death was the natural result. Any person who supports, encourages, votes for, or engages in war is guilty of this same sin. Since both sides committed the same sins, they are in need of the same forgiveness. Peace should be the mission now. Lipscomb writes:
Forbearance, Christian forbearance, is what is needed now to allay the passions, heal the divisions and strifes, and put us in a condition that we may all be brought to see our wrongs, and that we may be prepared to avoid those difficulties in the future by keeping ourselves free from entangling alliances with the world-powers. Every one should strive to see how much of wrong he had done and make amends for it, and to see how much he can overlook and forgive in his brother. Thus peace and harmony will be restored to our divided and sundered brotherhood, and as one people in the Lord we may labor and toil and rejoice in the Lord.26
Lipscomb blamed great evils, violence, and most of the world’s hatred on the existence of governments. If there were no governments, then “citizens” from one nation would know little about people in other parts of the world. They would have no foreign enemies if governments did not make enemies and call for their citizens to hate and fight against those enemies. Enemies would only be personal, and violence would be on a small scale, except that governments mass-produce warfare and hatred. He tried to live without any political enemies. Regarding the Civil War, Lipscomb recalls,
In the beginning of the late strife that so fearfully desolated our country, much was said about ‘our enemies.’ I protested constantly that I had not a single enemy, and was not an enemy to a single man North of the Ohio river. I had never been brought into collision with one—but very few knew such a person as myself existed. In all of these hosts not one was my enemy; of these I was the enemy of none. . . . Yet, these thousands and hundreds of thousands who knew not each other . . . were made enemies to each other and thrown into fierce and bloody strife, were imbued with the spirit of destruction one toward the other, through the instrumentality of human governments.”27
Yet despite his intense study of the Bible and lofty vision of Christians devoting themselves fully to God’s kingdom, Lipscomb remained a man of his time and place. That time and place—the postwar South—did not lend itself too easily to letting bygones be bygones. As one prominent movement historian noted, “The Civil War dealt a stunning blow to the organized peace movement in the United States,” including within most Stone-Campbell churches.28 Even though pacifism survived, if only barely, among doctrinally conservative Southerners like Lipscomb, those pacifists were not immune to anger and resentment towards their Northern counterparts. Lipscomb biographer Robert E. Hooper writes that “although Tolbert Fanning was a pacifist, he maintained strong southern loyalties throughout the conflict. The same was true of David Lipscomb, Fanning’s student at Franklin College.”29 Similarly, Harrell observes that in March 1866, not long after the paper’s rebirth in January, Lipscomb and Fanning “denounced the course of the church in the North during the war” and thereby demonstrated that “the Gospel Advocate was going to fill the place among Southern sympathizers that the Christian Standard was designed to fill among the staunchly loyalist elements in the church.”30
Over the next few years, Lipscomb continued to criticize those within the movement, especially in the North, who had supported the war effort but now sought peace and reconciliation. While part of Lipscomb’s skepticism toward the organized peace movement was rooted in his broader opposition to extra-congregational societies, “The canny Lipscomb used every opportunity to remind northern church leaders of their warlike past.”31 His seeming resentment, which worked at cross-purposes with his desire for peace, did not go unnoticed in his day or in the writings of later scholars.32 It should be noted that Lipscomb was far from the only committed pacifist to be pulled in a different direction by sectionalism during and after the war. Eminent Civil War historian George C. Rable writes, for instance, that “Quakers had little sympathy with a slaveholders’ rebellion, regularly proclaimed their patriotism, and despite their pacifist principles were hardly neutral in the conflict. Yet, like many conservatives, Quakers claimed to shun the partisan strife and political hatred that had led to war.”33 The Southern pacifists of the Stone-Campbell heritage, Lipscomb included, might have found some interesting common ground with these Quakers, if not for their conflicting sectional tendencies.
Piecing it all together, David Lipscomb’s political views were shaped by the influence of Tolbert Fanning, his eschatology, and his experiences with the Civil War. His eschatology relates directly to his politics because his eschatology is about the ultimate realization of the kingdom of God, which hopes for a return to Eden and God’s complete rule and reign on earth. When God reigns on earth, there is no need for human governments in competition with him for human allegiance. To ask for a different king is to reject God as king. In Lipscomb’s view, Christians must live now as citizens of God’s kingdom while we await the ultimate coming of his reign on earth. In Eden, there was no warfare or human government, and in the new heavens and new earth, all world governments will suffer destruction, and God will reign supreme. Therefore, if Christians claim allegiance to God’s kingdom now, they should live within the laws of that kingdom. They should reject world governments and obey only God as king. Although Lipscomb himself was not always able to fully set aside his own sectional allegiances and resentments in practice, his vision of the reconciliation of heaven and earth nevertheless challenges us as we work to bridge divisions between people and to mitigate and transform the damage done by human systems today.
Travis Bookout is the preaching minister for the Maryville Church of Christ in Maryville, TN. He holds a Master of Divinity from Amridge University and is the author of King of Glory: 52 Reflections on the Gospel of John (Cypress Publications, 2021) and Cruciform Christ: 52 Reflections on the Gospel of Mark (Cypress Publications, 2022).
John Young is Associate Professor in the Turner School of Theology at Amridge University. He is the author of Visions of Restoration: The History of Churches of Christ (Cypress Publications, 2019) and Redrawing the Blueprints for the Early Church: Historical Ecclesiology in and around the Stone-Campbell Movement (Heritage Christian University Press, 2021).
1 For an excellent overview of Lipscomb’s life and work, see Robert E. Hooper, “Lipscomb, David (1831–1917),” in The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, ed. Douglas A. Foster, Douglas A. Foster, and Paul M. Blowers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 480–82. Two lengthier standalone biographies give considerably more detail. The first, Earl Irvin West’s The Life and Times of David Lipscomb (Henderson, TN: Religious Book Service, 1954), sought to reintroduce Lipscomb as a major figure in Restoration Movement history at a time when living memory of the editor was fading: “The few elderly people today who remember Lipscomb pass on stories of his life. Sometimes the memory of these people is inaccurate. How far one is justified in recording these reminiscences as authentic history is not an easy matter to decide” (2). The second, Robert E. Hooper’s Crying in the Wilderness: A Biography of David Lipscomb (Nashville: David Lipscomb College, 1979), acknowledges West’s key role in keeping Lipscomb’s memory alive but also seeks to offer a more balanced and complete view by “placing Lipscomb within the total framework of the Restoration Movement and seeing him as a preacher, editor, and educator whose contributions have lived long after his death in 1917” (3).
2 David Edwin Harrell Jr., in A Social History of the Disciples of Christ, vol. 1, Quest for a Christian America, 1800–1865, 2003 ed. (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2003), 55, notes that “Tolbert Fanning was the early leader of Tennessee radicalism, which in the years after the war was dominated by David Lipscomb.”
3 John Mark Hicks, “David Lipscomb’s Political Theology: Submit but Don’t Support” in Resisting Babel: Allegiance to God and the Problem of Government, ed. John Mark Hicks (Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 2020), 25. For more in this journal on how Lipscomb’s understanding of Scripture shaped his social and political views, see John Mark Hicks, “David Lipscomb on the Urban Poor,” Missio Dei: A Journal of Missional Theology and Praxis 3, no. 2 (August 2012), https://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-3-2/authors/md-3-2-hicks. It should be noted that “students from Franklin College, Fanning’s school in Nashville, often accepted officer commissions in the Confederate army,” indicating that his views did not necessarily influence all of his students. See Robert E. Hooper, A Distinct People: A History of the Churches of Christ in the 20th Century (West Monroe, LA: Howard Publishing Co., 1993), 15.
4 Admittedly, as David Edwin Harrell Jr. noted in Quest for Christian America, 44n68, “although the social ideas of second-generation leaders were not so different from those of the first, the millennial rationale is much less significant in their thought.” Yet there was clearly cross-generational carryover, as noted in Williams, Foster, and Blowers, The Stone-Campbell Movement, 381, which affirms that “Barton Stone, Alexander Campbell, and David Lipscomb ultimately advocated pacifism as the most effective means of achieving peace and justice.”
5 The impact of the Civil War on the Churches of Christ has long been a topic of conversation in scholarly circles. For instance, Harrell, Quest for a Christian America, 172n105, critiques fellow church historian Earl Irvin West (among others) for overlooking the impact of sectional tensions on the Restoration Movement but also gives credit to West when he “comes closer than any other Disciples historian to recognizing the important impact of sectional bitterness on the ultimate division of the movement.”
6 For more, see Earl Irvin West, The Search for the Ancient Order, vol. 2, 1866–1906 (Indianapolis: Religious Book Service, 1950), 211–14, which gives a thorough “analysis of this theory [to] prepare the mind of the reader to understand how the impact of Garfield’s election was received in the South” (211).
7 Lipscomb, On Civil Government, 17.
8 Unless noted otherwise, Scripture quotations are from the RSV.
9 David Lipscomb, “Kingdom of God,” 328.
10 David Lipscomb, Salvation from Sin, ed. J. W. Shepherd (Nashville: McQuiddy Printing Company, 1913), 35–36.
11 David Lipscomb, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, vol. 4, ed. J. W. Shepherd (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1963), 25.
12 Lipscomb, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, 263.
13 David Lipscomb, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles: Romans, vol. 1, ed. J. W. Shepherd (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1953), 152.
14 Lipscomb, Romans, 152.
15 Ibid., 152–53.
16 Ibid., 154.
18 Lipscomb, On Civil Government, 94–95.
19 David Lipscomb, “The Christian’s Relation to Civil Government—Continued (Read at Huntsville, MO, July 16th),” Gospel Advocate, October 7, 1891, 628.
20 Lipscomb, On Civil Government, 7.
21 Ibid., 7–8.
22 Hicks, “Lipscomb’s Political Theology,” 25.
23 John Mark Hicks, “Lipscomb, the War, and the Kingdom Vision,” in Resisting Babel, 9, writes that “In hindsight, Lipscomb saw the Civil War as God’s chastening scourge that was necessary for the liberation of African slaves from their southern masters. This, too, shaped Lipscomb’s political theology.”
24 Hooper, “Lipscomb, David (1831–1917),” 480.
25 David Lipscomb, “Repentance–Forgiveness,” Gospel Advocate, September 11, 1866, 582.
26 Lipscomb, “Repentance–Forgiveness,” 582–83.
27 David Lipscomb, “Babylon,” Gospel Advocate, June 2, 1881, 340.
28 David Edwin Harrell Jr., A Social History of the Disciples of Christ, vol. 2, Sources of Division in the Disciples of Christ, 1865–1900 (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2003), 243. A more recent work, Jack R. Reese, At the Blue Hole: Elegy for a Church on the Edge (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2021), 159, adds that “Churches of Christ in the South never got over their resentment. Fellow Christians had called them traitors. In 1866, the normally peace-minded David Lipscomb, serving as the editor of the Gospel Advocate, wrote about the 1863 resolution, ‘The society committed a great wrong against the church and the cause of God.’ ”
29 Hooper, A Distinct People, 15. A recent article by Wes Crawford, “Churches of Christ and Lost Cause Religion: One Southern Denomination’s Attempt to Find Identity in Post-Civil War America,” Restoration Quarterly 64, no. 1 (2022), highlights the widespread presence of the “Southern religion of the Lost Cause” within the Churches of Christ in the postwar years, noting that “though Lipscomb and his fellow leaders within Churches of Christ discouraged fighting in the war, they, nevertheless, seem to have fully embraced their identity as members of the Confederacy” (7). At the same time, we should also remember that Lipscomb could occasionally break free of these cultural trappings, such as when he “opposed the creation of racially segregated churches, even as his advice went largely unheeded” (Barclay Key, Race & Restoration: Churches of Christ and the Black Freedom Struggle [Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2020], 10).
30 Harrell, Quest for a Christian America, 168.
31 Idem, Sources of Division in the Disciples of Christ, 245.
32 Wes Crawford, in Shattering the Illusion: How African American Churches of Christ Moved from Segregation to Independence (Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 2013), 38–39, finds that Richard Hughes’s earlier work, in its laudable goal of spotlighting Lipscomb’s eschatological views, nevertheless “downplays the strong pro-southern and equally strong anti-northern language of Lipscomb during this period. . . . The animosity present in Lipscomb’s tone suggests a strong sectional division between the editors of the Gospel Advocate and the editors of the Christian Standard.”
33 George C. Rable, God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 228.