Sunday, December 13, 2009
Restoration movement: Restore what?
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.
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.
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.
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.
I'm also tickled that a small part of what became the UCC coame from that time, as well. Very cool.
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!