David Lipscomb

David Lipscomb, a famous and influential second generation Stone-Campbell Movement leader, was born in Franklin County. Educated at Franklin College in Nashville, he matriculated between 1846 and 1849. Tolbert Fanning baptized Lipscomb while he was a student at the college, and he spent the remainder of his life within the Disciples of Christ and a seceding fellowship, the Churches of Christ. He married Margaret Zellner of Maury County in 1862. They had one son, Zellner, who died at age nine months.

Lipscomb's early training did not suggest that he would spend his life preaching and editing a religious magazine. The disruption of the Nashville Christian Church by Jesse Ferguson, who advocated a form of universalism, during Lipscomb's student years at Franklin College convinced him to do what he could to advance the Christian religion. The Civil War also had an impact on his life. When the conflict divided families and churches, Lipscomb embraced a pacifist view on war and a separatist position toward Christian participation in government. After the war he edited the Gospel Advocate, a journal that became the leading voice of southern Disciples of Christ (after 1906, Churches of Christ). He remained in the position for forty-seven years. Because of his opposition to missionary societies, the use of instrumental music in worship, and higher criticism, Lipscomb reluctantly led the Churches of Christ out of the larger Disciples of Christ. The religious census of 1906 recognized Churches of Christ as a separate religious fellowship.

Prior to the Civil War, Lipscomb had become interested in education. He encouraged education through the pages of the Gospel Advocate and helped establish the Fanning Orphan School in 1884. His most important educational endeavor, however, was the 1891 establishment with James A. Harding of the Nashville Bible School, later David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). Lipscomb never became president of either school but served as chairman of the board of trustees of both institutions.

Besides editing the Gospel Advocate, Lipscomb wrote Civil Government, Biography and Sermons of Jesse Sewell, and several commentaries on New Testament books. Articles, along with questions and answers, have been compiled into other volumes.

During the national bicentennial of 1976, the Nashville Banner polled members of the Tennessee Historical Society to ascertain the ten most outstanding Tennesseans in American history. David Lipscomb finished in fourteenth position, higher than any other religious and educational leader in Tennessee's history.

Suggested Reading

Robert E. Hooper, Crying in the Wilderness: A Biography of David Lipscomb (1979)

Citation Information

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  • Article Title David Lipscomb
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  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
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  • Access Date July 24, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018