Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Post-Restorationist

My religious tradition (the churches of Christ) is a part of what has historically been known as the American Restoration Movement. It was a movement dedicated to both unity and "the restoration of 1st century Christianity." Interestingly enough, the term "Restoration Movement" was not used by either Campbell or Stone (founders/leaders of the movement) and was applied in retrospect to describe it by others. Campbell prefered to think of it as a new or continuing reformation. Campbell, however was a thoroughly modern fellow, and truly believed that if everyone would simply put aside their preconcieved ideas and approach the Bible objectivly, they would all reach the same conclusions on key issues. There is much that I admire in both Campbell and Stone, but I believe that human beings simply do not have the ability to approch things with complete objectivity, nor were the scriptures written that way.

I recently have been thumbing through a book called "The Post-Evangelical" by Dave Tomlinson. In the introduction, Dallas Willard says "To correctly appreciate this, you have to start with the realization that what Tomlinson calls post-evangelicalism is by no means ex-evangelacalism. There are, of course ex-evangelicals, and even anti-evangelicals, but post-evangelicals are evangelicals, perhaps tenaciously so. However, post-evangelicals have also been driven to the margins by some aspects of evangelical church culture with which they cannot honestly identify."

There has always existed some confusion over whether or not churches of Christ are evangelical or not. The best answer seems to be "sort of." However, this comment resonated with me as I read it. I realized that it kind of sums up my feelings about the restoration movement and restoration thought. It's like I told a friend of mine a while back when he asked me "What are you still doing here (in the churches of Christ)?" I believe in the movement. I believe in the spirit of continuing reformation that Campbell and Stone bought into instead of crystalizing their beliefs (or the agreed upon beliefs of the majority of the churches) at any given point. I disagree with the modern/Enlightenment based assumptions of the "Restoration Movement" such as unity based on total agreement of the meaning of the scriptures in matters of (arbitrarily chosen) core doctrines. I also would say that instead of the forms of the 1st century church, it is their spirit and ability to redeem and subvert the culture they existied in for the kingdom of God that needs restoration. Forms are almost always relative to context. So, here I stand as a Post-Restorationist in an awkward loving relationship with the movement that has nurtured my faith since I was born, desperatly wanting it to live up to its potential, unwilling to settle for the mediocrity, compromise, and lethargy that its founders and indeed Jesus himself would not have settled for, and unwilling to leave it to an anemic and pathetic fate.


Brandon Scott Thomas said...

great thoughts here, Adam. So many of us are chewing on things like this. I pray the God will continue to empower us to think and search and be bold. Thanks for writing. Don't stop. We need to hear from people like you.

Garry Brantley said...

Good thoughts, bro. I struggled through this very concept when I wrote my dissertation. Restoration is a biblical concept, and a theologically vital one. The question is, "What are we to restore?" Rather than overt forms of ecclesiology, I think we must look in a Christological direction. I'm really glad that more and more folk in our tradition are moving in this direction. Thanks for your thoughtful reflections.

Gabe said...

Hi Adam,

I never posted on your blog before, but I come from the same religious heritage. I think you're dead on about the strengths and weaknesses of our heritage. We need to rethink 'restoration' as concept and become more centered in Chirst (as one poster already said) and counter-culutural (as you alluded too) if we want to become and out-reaching/evagelistic fellowship in North America again.


Jason Retherford said...

Great thoughts on the restoration movement. Also some great comments by the others. I am glad that others are thinking about, praying about, and talking about this. If we are continuing in this restoration buisness we need to realize we are not done. What do you think about this? For the last half a century or so we've become more interested in conservation than restoration?!

Adam said...

Thanks for your feedback guys. It is all much appreciated.

I think I read somewhere that the falure of most religious movements lies in the fact that their followers crystalize the beliefs of the leaders/founders rather than embodying their searching and reforming spirit. (or something like that)

Jovan said...

What up Adam (Bobcat) Ellis? I commend you for not abandoning the restoration plea (although you might be like... wellll..). I also believe restoration is a biblical principle. From Josiah, to to Nehemiah (not in chronological order and if it is I just got lucky). Churches today whether they would call it this or not use restoration principles in defending why they meet together on the first day of the week, and why they take the Lord's supper (just an example). "We do it because we find evidence in the scriptures that the early church did it." I once flirted with abondoning it totally, but have come to the realization that it is relevant for today and in fact it is necessary in my personal walk. I am called to imitate (and participate with) Christ. I restore his word in my personal life (as best I can) and in the assemble (same) out of my love for Him and not a movement or my group. Long live Restorationalism.