Sunday, December 13, 2009


Restoration movement: Restore what?

So, I'm reading a history of the Restoration movement.

I understand the rebellion against church heirarchies, bishoprics, presbyteries, and so on. But then I grew up in one congregational tradition (Southern Baptist) and sojourn now within another congregational tradition (United Church of Christ.)

I understand the desire to "restore" Christianity to its "New Testament" -- that is, first-century -- habits and ways of thinking.

I understand the need to look to the New Testament scriptures, as received, for clues as to how to do that. I did that very thing in one of the seminary classes I just finished.

What I don't get is this: If the aim is to rely on the New Testament scriptures for hints and clues, that's one thing. But since the first New Testament Christians, that is, first-century Christians, didn't have the New Testament scriptures, how and why and where was the justification for the Restoration leaders -- whether Campbell or Stone of Raccoon John -- to insist that the New Testtment as a whole be relied on in determining what the customs, patterns and habits of the earliest church should be??

Because the whole shootin' match had changed and was splitting in a bunch of different directions before the Five Gospels, and the others, were even written.

Makes me nuts, this veneration of the Bible that gets tangled up in the idea of the Word of God and almost always devolves into Bible worship.

If the only God you know is the God you've read about, then all you've done is read about God.

If the only Jesus you know is the Jesus you've read about, then all you've done is read about Jesus.

If the only Holy Spirit you know is the Holy Spirit you've read about, then all you've done is read about the Holy Spirit.


Restore what?

To Restore on Earth the Freedom of the Kingdom of Heaven.

To Restore the Freedom to know God directly without creed or priest telling you what that meeans.

To Restore the individual's Freedom from any Imperial Hierarchy and thus Restore the Priesthood Of The Believer.

To Restore the individual Soul's Freedom to read in the Bible what that soul needed to receive and not to be told what to receive from it.

To Restore the Freedom to embrace all other Christians as their equal and they as your equal.

These were people from the frontier.
They were independent, strong willed, and self reliant, and that's the way they wanted to face God.
I get that. I think I'm seeing it with a little presentitis.
But ya know, they did spend a lot of time holding meetings of churches to talk about how they weren't, you know, working with other churches.
And, I guess, having just come out of a semester-long concentrated study of the earliest-earliest house churches ... the Restoration peeps had a lot farther to go to get back to the ancient ways than they thought they did. I'd say only made it back about as far as the 400s CE.
I think I'm being generous. They only restored the congregational Protestant churches, circa, 1500s-1600s, and sola scriptura. Which ain't bad. But that ain't the "New Testament" church, as depicted in the New Testament, because the church in the New Testament era, not having the New Testament scriptures, weren't beholden to the New Testament scriptures, like the Restoration leaders were -- leaders, because there were spinoffs out into the hermeunetic (sp? I HAVE to learn to spell that) wilds.
When you abandon all creeds and catechisms and all authority except one's self and the local "elders", you have stepped a lot further back than the 1500's.

And there were "Testaments" (oral and written) very early in the Christian movement. The American "Restoration" movement of the early 1800's drew on what they had.
As they grew expanded, split, and evolved they have embraced more source and understandings.
" talk about how they weren't, you know, working with other churches."

Yep, it is hard to give up that elect/elite/chosen status and admit that "we's all God's children" equal and common.

My own adopted branch of the restorers is the ecumenical branch.
There's a W I D E variation of theology, belief, and knowledge in almost every individual congregation of the DOC.

I have often joked it is sort of like the "Democratic Party" of "denominations" in that there is no real platform and no organization in the "religious" sense.
Yep. I love me some DOCs.

I'm also tickled that a small part of what became the UCC coame from that time, as well. Very cool.
DOC respresent! Gotta love that sibling denom, they run in similar avenues as the UCC.

i like what you said ER about how easy the bible becomes the idol. the truth of the scriptures lies within their ability to speak to current experience and circumstance. for me, it starts with experience.

i also have a problem with "restoration movement" because it should actually be "restration movementS" and there were never one single, uniform and monolythic Christian church. if there were 12 disciples, then there were 12 ways of viewing Jesus, each with their own understanding. we see a little of this rub through the gospel, we definately see it in the Synoptic Problem.

where i stand, even though many may label me a 'restorationist', is more of a Neo-Generous Orthodoxy. each denomination is more of a focus than an objective take on what it means to be Christian. we see this within our own congregation, the variety of beliefs and spiritual gifts present within each individual. it's the corporate movement that's important.

great post, lots to chew on. and I LOVE church history!
Nice post...couldn't agree more having grown up in the coC (non-instrumental) - a couple of thoughts - How would we know who Christ, HS and Father were unless it weren't for the Holy Writ? (you already know that though) Movement(s) started out honorably but forgot the word must be approached with Humility and grace AND extend the same grace to those who earnestly seek Him even though they come to different conclusions or perspectives...I had more in common with my Baptist brethren than I really knew...I was too busy fightin' over the non-essentials...Keep on postin'!

Thanks BlueSky. Keep comin' back. :-)
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