While in a conversation with a brother in Christ the subject of pioneer gospel preachers was discussed. This brother was hyper-critical of a detailed study of the lives of such men as Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, John Smith and others. This brother exclaimed, “I couldn’t care less what Raccoon John Smith did.” To that I replied, “You probably don’t care for the history of the Restoration Movement.” He agreed with my assertion.
Since the time of our discussion, I have pondered over the statement, “I couldn’t care less” with reference to our rich heritage, religiously speaking. In making such a statement, this brother exemplified an attitude that is so prevalent among many members of the church today.
First of all, there is a lack of gratitude for those who have gone before us. Even in secular history, we have learned to appreciate such men as George Washington, Patrick Henry, Abraham Lincoln and scores of others who were instrumental in the forming of our nation. Should we think less of our fore-fathers who sacrificed for the cause of Christ? Certainly we should be thankful for our laws that provide for us liberties and freedoms in our great country. More than these, we should be eager to learn of those men and women who gave of themselves in order that we might learn of the freedom that is in Christ Jesus. Such awareness of the pioneer preachers can motivate us to be more faithful to our Lord.
Second, such a negative attitude as “I could care less” implies a willingness to remain ignorant of the search for the ancient order of New Testament Christianity of generations past. We need so much to possess an attitude of love for the truth and honesty of heart that permeated those disciples of the nineteenth century. It should thrill our very souls to read of men and women who willingly cast away doctrinal errors upon learning additional truths. We can learn so much from their efforts in diligently seeking the gospel of Christ, free from the teachings of men.
Third, the attitude manifested by the statement, “I could care less” implies indifference as to where we have come from with all of our successes and failures. History has a way of repeating itself. Those brethren who are grounded in knowledge of the Restoration Movement are most apt not to make the same mistakes as did our fore-fathers. Such lessons as what constitutes authority in religious matters, the nature of the church, the need to worship God acceptably, etc. are needed in the body of Christ today. The early disciples of Christ in this country had to study their way out of denominational dogmas in order to learn the truth with reference to these and other subjects. We can profit from their sincere efforts. Also, we can learn of the many groups which have turned aside from the main body of believers into ‘splinter’ groups such as is found in those brethren who bind laws where God has not bound. We can learn of the early efforts to practice ‘open membership’ and the creeping in of modernism and liberalism within our ranks. There is an effort to re-write and re-interpret the history of this momentous movement among diligent seekers of the truth. There is also a concerted effort by many leaders in the church to discredit the argument we use against innovations by respecting the silence of the scriptures. One influential brother wrote relative to the difference between the church of Christ and the Christian Church: “What I think we’re going to find is that there are some big differences between the two groups—but not the ones we imagined. In other words, I don’t think instrumental music will prove to be a major issue in the discussions. Fewer and fewer members of the Churches of Christ buy into the hermeneutics of the 1950 (that argument from silence). Many of us are thankful for the blessing and strengths of acappella music, BUT NOT OPPOSED TO INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC.” (Emphasis mine, RE, Mike Cope’s blog, Friday, February 10, 2006). Knowledgeable brethren concerning these and other matters will not be easily moved by the digressive elements among us but will hold fast to sound doctrine.
Brethren, we are warming by fires that we have not built. A host of Christians today are ready always to receive but are unwilling to give in return. Each generation needs to study minutely our rich history of efforts to restore New Testament Christianity. It is a sad day in the Lord’s church when the attitude of “I could care” about the Restoration Movement fills the minds of many of our brethren.