The Barnabas Ministry
Book Review

Reviving the Ancient Faith: The History of the Churches of Christ in America
By Richard T. Hughes (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, MI. 1996)

Richard T. Hughes writes a theologically sensitive history of the restoration movement founded by Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone. A member of the Church of Christ and Distinguished Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University, Hughes touches on the worldviews of both Campbell and Stone and how these were expressed in their restoration ideals. These ideas continued to shape the Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ and the International Church of Christ over the following 200 years. Many members of the International Churches of Christ may not know it, but this "restoration movement" founded by Campbell and Stone is the spiritual grandparent of the ICC.

This work tells us simple history, but more importantly it is attentive to the theological issues driving that history. Key people are discussed, as are key issues. Among the topics receiving attention are various millennial perspectives, grace and legalism, freedom and structure, primitivism vs. innovation, the place of the Christian in the American social and political structure, the impact of various cultural factors in the thinking of the church, racial matters, pacifism, increasing prosperity and the threat of communism. He also candidly discusses the rise of church sponsored colleges, preacher schools and publications and their contribution to history. All along the way, Hughes identifies the both the obvious and subtle (though sometimes contradictory) values that guided the movement over the years. To anyone familiar with the Churches of Christ, this material is very interesting indeed.

Hughes writes a useful conclusion with the turn of the last century in view. He identifies three different courses for the future from within the Churches of Christ. First, the mainline Churches of Christ continue to pursue the denominational/sectarian approach. Second, he recognizes the sectarian response of the Crossroads/Boston Movement/ICC. Thirdly, he mentions and seems to recommend an approach where the theological underpinnings of the Stone-Campbell movement are examined anew, where the worldviews are reconsidered, and where two centuries of real life experience are drawn upon to separate the wheat from the chaff. 

History is always important, especially a telling of history that attempts to discuss the "why's" and not just the "what's" of history. Hughes has written a heady, thought provoking work.

Copyright 2003 John Engler. All rights reserved.