The Social Ethics Of Alexander Campbell -- By: Terry L. Miethe

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 31:3 (Sep 1988)
Article: The Social Ethics Of Alexander Campbell
Author: Terry L. Miethe


The Social Ethics Of Alexander Campbell

Terry L. Miethe*

Alexander Campbell (born September 12, 1788) was recognized during his lifetime as one of the most eminent men in our young nation. He earned his way to the forefront by his prodigious study and untiring effort. He was one of the founders of the Christian Church (this group now exists in three main parts: Church of Christ, Non-instrumental; Christian Church/Church of Christ, Independent; and Christian Church, Disciples of Christ—the name Campbell preferred) along with his father Thomas and others. The foundation for the Campbell movement was Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address:

In fact, in writing the Declaration and Address, which really started our movement, Thomas Campbell was writing America’s religious declaration of independence, a new charter of unity and liberty for the church. And quite consciously doing so.

For just as Thomas Jefferson, a few years before, had challenged the people of the new republic to a new adventure in self-government, so Thomas Campbell was challenging them to a life adventure in Christian thinking.

This group is also known as the Restoration movement because of their plea to restore “simple evangelical Christianity.”1

Alexander was a scholar, teacher, author, editor, college president, debater, reformer, statesman, preacher, farmer and postmaster.2 As he practiced these occupations he was a professional who engaged in each in the true spirit of that word with time-consuming effort. As with any man of his magnitude many stories and legends have grown up about him.3 But very soon after his death a shroud of silence closed about him and his thought that exists in the scholarly world yet today.4

*Terry Miethe is dean of the Oxford Study Centre in Oxford, England.

Every aspect of Campbell’s life was interesting. He fathered fourteen children. He was a great orator who never spoke less than two hours, and very often for a much longer time. Yet stories abound about how his audiences never tired of his eloquence.5 Alexander the college president and teacher said to his students:

You must take some side in the great controversies of the age. Survey the battleground before you. On the one side are ranged antiquated error, superstition, despotism and misanthropy; on the other, truth, intelligence, liberty, religion and humanity, i...

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