Our DNA: An Interview With Douglas A. Foster

I grew in Michigan, in a county with roughly 500 lakes. I spent a good portion of my childhood, barefoot with friends, and a fishing pole. More times than I care to remember, my friends and I would need to take the time to painstakingly untangle a ball of fishing line. Sometimes tangled from my own doing and sometimes from another’s line becoming entangled with my own.

Our Christian journey can be similar. The product of my Christian life and experience is intertwined with others – some entanglements I recognize, and some, unfortunately, are more difficult to see. These connections with others can help me grow and experience exciting new heights. They can also lead to a painstaking process of untangling things that hold us back from experiencing the joy and freedom in Christ we desire. Some of these entanglements are of my own doing and some I have inherited.

Likewise, we often experience positive and negative forces at work corporately – we see it in our congregations, our tribes, and the Stone-Campbell heritage as a whole. And therefore, if we desire to set a course for a brighter future we must think critically. We must examine the forces that have shaped us and undo the entanglements that hold us back.

This week Common Ground Unity (CGU) hosted a Zoom interview with Douglas A. Foster who has written a critical biography entitled “A Life of Alexander Campbell.” CGU has posted the interview on the Common Grounds Unity YouTube Channel (see link below). Foster’s book and this interview are incredibly relevant if we want to understand our DNA within the Churches of Christ, Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, and the International Churches of Christ.

Christopher R. Hutson, Professor & Associate Dean at Abilene Christian University, posted the below review of Foster’s book in the CGU Facebook group. I cannot say it better than this:

“All of us in every segment of the Stone-Campbell Movement have been profoundly influenced by Alexander Campbell, whether we know it or not. Campbell was a brilliant, energetic, tireless champion of the cause of restoring primitive Christianity in the service of Christian unity. But he was flawed. When we understand his flaws, we can perhaps see more clearly the source of some of our own flaws as a family of believers. Douglas A. Foster spent ten years sifting through Campbell's writings in order better to understand his thought. This is not just a narrative of a man's life. The book is organized into topical discussions of ideas and themes, around which the narrative is artfully woven. I recommend this biography, which helps us better understand Alexander Campbell the man--warts and all--and ourselves as his heirs. We are all spiritual cousins, and we all bear some family resemblance to one of our common ancestors.”

By John Teal, August 15, 2020

Douglas A. Foster served as professor of church history and director of the Center for Restoration Studies at Abilene Christian University for twenty-seven years and now serves as scholar-in-residence. He co-edited The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement and The Stone-Campbell Movement: A Global History and has published several books and articles on Stone-Campbell history and racism in American Christianity. His latest book is “A Life of Alexander Campbell.”

Click on the Photo to Watch the YouTube Interview with Doug Foster