Looking Back: Propositions or Laws?

May 20, 2009

Thomas Campbell anticipated that the intention of the thirteen propositions might be misconstrued. So in introducing them he wrote:

“Let none imagine that the subjoined propositions are at all intended as an overture towards a new creed, or standard, for the church; or, as in any wise designed to be made a term of communion;–nothing can be farther from our intention.”

This clarification applied to all of the thirteen propositions, but in particular to this portion of proposition 11:

Lastly, that in all their administrations they keep close by the observance of all divine ordinances, after the example of the primitive church, exhibited in the New Testament; without any additions whatsoever of human opinions or inventions of men.

Thomas Campbell did not intend for that principle to become “a new creed, or standard, for the church” nor “a term of communion.” For several decades the Reformation Movement followed Campbell’s intent by not drawing lines of fellowship over these types of disagreements. But sometime around the middle of the 1800’s that changed dramatically. And by 1889, battle lines were drawn, and a new, less noble document was written. In the Sand Creek Address and Declaration, Daniel Sommer wrote:

And now, in closing up this address and declaration, we state that we are impelled from a sense of duty to say, that all such as are guilty of teaching, or allowing and practicing the many innovations to which we have referred, that after being admonished and having had sufficient time for reflection, if they do not turn away from such abominations, that we can not and will not regard them as brethren.

Clearly Sommer’s Sand Creek Address and Declaration was a reversal of Campbell’s Declaration and Address. And the result of that reversal has been more than a century of increasing division in the church.

I think Thomas Campbell had this one right.


  1. All of which brings me back to a question I’ve had for a long time: Is the divisive person the one who crosses the line in the sand … or the one who draws the line where God never drew it before?Thanks for taking us back to the perspective of the early days of Restoration thought … and, sadly, comparing them to more recent days of Re-vivisectioning thought.

  2. Is division among the Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ and Christian Church necessarily a bad thing? The divisions at least give people a way of worshipping that is consistent with their beliefs. The divisions allow some brothers and sisters to grow beyond what others can stand. Both are right, just different. And different could be vital to the spreading of the gospel in al lthe earth. Just a thought.

  3. Dusty, IMO the problem is the disrespect one group pays to the others. Jesus prayed for unity among believers so that the world would believe. I think our divisions are having the opposite effect.

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