Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Reviving the Ancient Faith: The Story of Churches of Christ in America

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Reviving the Ancient Faith: The Story of Churches of Christ in America

Article excerpt

Reviving the Ancient Faith: The Story of Churches of Christ in America. By Richard T. Hughes. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1996. Pp. xiii, 448. $30.00 paperback.)

Richard Hughes, Distinguished Professor of Religion in Pepperdine University, spent fourteen years laboring on this book; he has spent even more time living with its subject matter. All of which gives the reader high expectations, and those expectations are not disappointed. With the sympathy and sensitivity of the insider, coupled with the perspective and objectivity of the historian, Hughes sets out to "explain the character of Churches of Christ" (p. ix). And explanation, not mere narration, is the signal contribution of this important work.

To those who may think of Churches of Christ as somewhat at the edge of America's religious history, Hughes's language may surprise when he notes that he will deal principally with the "mainstream tradition of the movement" (p. 1). Some may have questioned whether the heritage of Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone, and Walter Scott had a "mainstream" within the legalistic, exclusivist, and often apocalyptic Churches of Christ, but the author carefully follows the center that somehow held.

Professor Hughes is self-consciously revisionist as he helpfully distinguishes between the emphasis of Campbell (rationalist, postmillennialist, and ecumenical) versus that of Stone (pietist, premillennialist, and sectarian).Tensions were built in from the beginning. The 1906 separation of Churches of Christ from Disciples is not a case, Hughes convincingly demonstrates, of a modern splinter group going its own way, but a continuation from the 1840's on of a primitivist sectarian tradition that is closer to Stone than to Campbell. …

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