Granville and his older brother William Lipscomb were active in the Bean's Creek Baptist Church, where they were listed as the church clerks for 1828-1831 (Granville Lipscomb) and 1844-1876 (William C. Lipscomb). Attempts to convert the Bean's Creek church to Restoration Movement theology was poorly received and Granville Lipscomb's family was expelled in 1831. .
The Lipscomb family, originally Baptist, were said to have converted to Restoration Movement Christianity in the mid 1820s while reading Alexander Campbell's periodical Christian Baptist, copies of which had been sent to the Lipscomb's family by Ann's sister Elizabeth (born ca. 1797) and brother-in-law, physician Lunsford Lindsay (born ca. 1793) of Todd County, Kentucky who would later participate in the formation of the Cadiz Christian Church in 1837.
They were said to be charter members of the Old Salem church, according to Dr. Earl Irvin West's Lipscomb biography, The Life and Times of David Lipscomb.
When Lipscomb was three years old (some sources say four), in 1834 or 1835, his father moved the family temporarily to Sangamon County, Illinois, (whose county seat, Springfield, would become the state capital in 1837) for the express purpose of freeing Granville Lipscomb's four slaves. Lipscomb's mother died in Illinois on January 29, 1835 ; she and some of David's siblings died of malaria while the family lived in Illinois.
Lipscomb's father moved the rest of the family back to Tennessee in 1835 or 1836 and he married his third wife, Jane L. Breedan, (died September 8, 1885), on April 11 or August 11, 1837. A half-brother of David's, also named Granville, was born to Jane Breedan Lipscomb. William Lipscomb would help to found Neely's Bend Church of Christ in April 1872 . Granville Lipscomb, Jr. would become a leader in the Lebanon Church of Christ founded in 1879 in Weakley County, Tennessee.
Fanning was an enforcer of strict orthodoxy with regard to Restoration doctrines, seeing anything not specifically authorized by the New Testament as an unnecessary and hence sinful addition to the "primitive" Christianity of the 1st century, which the movement was by definition dedicated to restoring.
In this spirit, in 1855, Fanning and William Lipscomb began publishing a magazine aimed at dissemination of this view throughout the Restoration Movement, the Gospel Advocate. Following the resumption of mail service which had been interrupted by the American Civil War, David Lipscomb revived the Gospel Advocate in July 1866, with himself and Fanning as editors: Fanning withdrew making Lipscomb the sole editor until he was joined by P. S. Fall, John T. Walsh, Jacob Creath, Jr., T. W. Brents and Carroll Kendrick in 1867.
The Advocate seemed almost invariably to take the conservative side of every issue facing the Restorationists – its stance was opposed to the use of musical instruments of any type in worship; in its early years, it was likewise totally opposed to Sunday school. (This latter position was later totally reversed to the extent that the Gospel Advocate is today one of the largest single publishers of Sunday School materials used in the Churches of Christ.)
In this book, Lipscomb (a lifelong educator) makes an important distinction: "Teaching school is no part of the administration of the government. It seems to me a Christian might teach a government school as an employee without compromising his position" (143).
Like many of the Anabaptists, Lipscomb also believed that most involvement by a Christian with government beyond the paying of taxes was wrong; as far as he was concerned, faithful Christians had absolutely no business voting in elections or serving on juries. He was likewise opposed to membership by Christians in secret societies such as Freemasonry and similar fraternal organizations, stating that a Christian's true responsibilities were to God, church, and family, not members in a lodge. This almost total eschewing of government can be construed as a Christian form of anarchy, a term that Lipscomb never used to describe himself. Most of Lipscomb's present day followers now favor either Minarchism or a more libertarian version of advocacy for limited government.
Lipscomb's beliefs on government can be classified as a radical theory of religious freedom, classical liberalism, even potentially consistent with fundamental positions of Anarcho-primitivism. Lipscomb believed in creating a peaceful, cooperative, decentralized communion in which freedom, worship, and family could thrive. Therefore, he was a pacifist, unlike many anarchists (particularly those of the early 20th Century) who sometimes advocated violence as a legitimate means to freedom. For Lipscomb, violence and warfare were incompatible with Christianity, and, perhaps because of his experiences during the American Civil War, he noted that civil governments tended to increase violence and warfare. In this context, Lipscomb appears to be a meliorist.
Unlike the Christian anarchism of Leo Tolstoy, Lipscomb's theories developed without any influence or knowledge of the early anarchists like Pierre Proudhon and Josiah Warren, who developed their beliefs without reliance on religion. Anarchism after Lipscomb remained unaware of Lipscomb's contributions.
When Lipscomb was discovered by radical libertarian scholars, some such as Prof. Edward Stringham noted that Lipscomb had independently questioned common assumptions that
Further, Lipscomb argued that
While all of these arguments are common today in anarchist thought, Lipscomb may have been the first to bring them all together, at least in America and likely preceded only by William Godwin in England and Proudhon in France. The radical libertarians in America from Lysander Spooner to Murray Rothbard and beyond developed and popularized these arguments after Lipscomb did, but with no knowledge of Lipscomb. Lipscomb's theory of freedom must be understood as a radical statement positing the almost absolute separation of church and state as the only true guarantor of the freedom of religion.
In 1891, Lipscomb and James A. Harding founded the Nashville Bible School, the precursor to the current Lipscomb University, which was not named for him until after his death. As Lipscomb was a product of the predominant Southern culture of the time, this institution was segregated and was for many years solely for white students, necessitating a separate sister institution in North Nashville for blacks which was not totally dismantled and largely merged with the larger white school until the 1960s.
A trace of Lipscomb's pacifism survives in Churches of Christ today; the group contained few conscientious objectors even in World War I, while 199 served in Civilian Public Service camps during World War II, though it is not recognized as an historical peace church, which it would have been had Lipscomb's views in this area predominated. Lipscomb's views on voting and jury service are likewise nearly extinct within the group, held generally only by a few of the oldest members in rural areas, though there are current members of the faculties of both Harding University and Lipscomb University who do not vote, following Lipscomb's views on the matter. When Lipscomb University recently began the Center for International Peace and Justice, some of the faculty associated with the program saw it as a way of manifesting David Lipscomb's continuing legacy of pacifism in a Church of Christ-supported University setting, though it must be noted that some of the faculty associated with the Center for International Peace and Justice do not share David Lipscomb's pacifist views.
His views on fraternal organizations were once quite controversial; this issue arises in Churches of Christ only periodically and generally locally, and is somewhat in eclipse due to the lessening of the size and influence of such groups generally, at least in the Upper South and Texas where the Church of Christ is generally centered.
It has been noted citation needed that Lipscomb's influence over the Churches of Christ was greatest in about a 150- to 300-mile radius of his base in Nashville; while he influenced the group considerably in Texas and elsewhere as well, his influence there was apparently never truly comparable to that which he exercised in the Nashville area.
Lipscomb's Gospel Advocate developed significant though unofficial status within the Churches of Christ, more so than any of many other similar publications. The Churches of Christ had (and have) no recognized leadership hierarchy above the congregational level, yet debates of the day which concerned many congregations were framed within the pages of such periodicals. Churches of Christ still cling to the congregational model, with almost no inter-congregational political structures. Lipscomb's tenure at the Gospel Advocate was bishop-like, in that his influence reached beyond his local congregation.
Lipscomb already had become so influential as a young man that he engaged in a running correspondence with Alexander Campbell, one of the early Restorationists who was very influential but quite elderly by the time of Lipscomb's ascendancy. Lipscomb disagreed with Campbell most vehemently on the topic of the American Christian Missionary Society, a cooperative effort to fund and coordinate foreign missions among various congregations which Campbell accepted and encouraged but Lipscomb totally rejected as a sinful, unscriptural innovation.
Lipscomb noted that most of the congregations which supported the Missionary Society were likewise those which were not opposed to the use of instrumental music. He began to attack both of these practices, and felt that those ministers who were not publicly opposed to these activities should not be allowed to address "sound" congregations (those that followed what he saw to be Bible truth). Notably, however, Lipscomb often spoke in non Church of Christ congregations that had instrumental music without ever alluding to his opinion on the matter, which is not directly addressed in the New Testament. He believed in the early (unofficial) Church of Christ creed that Christians should have liberty in matters of opinion.
Lipscomb's legacy is still felt within the Church of Christ today, perhaps primarily through the Gospel Advocate, which is still published and still tends to define mainstream orthodoxy within the body, although to a lesser extent than previously, and through its other publishing operations, notably in regard to Sunday School literature as noted previously.
His namesake institution in recent years has been accused of selling out to "liberalism" by many of the more conservative voices in the church. The term "liberalism" in the context of the Churches of Christ is frequently linked to a form of doctrine founded upon a direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the heart of the sinner and saint as well as cooperation with denominational groups which differ in theology, doctrine and concept of truth. The term "liberalism" must be taken in a relative sense for both sides in this debate because to much of the religious world outside the Churches of Christ, the term "liberal" tends to denote teaching against plenary verbal inspiration while both sides tend still to be accepting the position of the plenary verbal inspiration of the Bible, a theologically very conservative position, while disagreeing about its mode and medium.
A more superficial distinction between liberal and conservative Churches of Christ has less to do with doctrine and more to do with style of worship: A "liberal" Church of Christ employs worship styles that are not congruent with those found in traditional Churches of Christ (e.g. singing with "Praise Teams," eschewing hymnals, raising hands, embracing drama and art, using multimedia displays, celebrating traditional religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter AS religious holidays), while both liberal and conservative Churches of Christ tend to have similar beliefs about the divinity of Christ; the meaning of his death, burial, and resurrection; the necessity of baptism; the literal truth of the New Testament scriptures; the omnipotence of God, etc. Some in both groups claim fidelity to David Lipscomb's spirit and teachings.
(The writings in On Civil Government were originally published in the Gospel Advocate in 1866-1867, then in the Christian Quarterly, and finally Lipscomb collected them in book form.) ISBN: 0-9744796-1-6
'FREEDOM FROM SLAVERY'; Churches Celebrate 140 Years of African Americans Freedom; Confederate States of America Dissolved in 1865.
Jan 05, 2006; A massive "Freedom Worship" was held at the historic First Baptist Church in Baltimore, Md. On Dec. 31. Religious, political,...