Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Intro to my Historical Theology Paper

I promised you some theology. Here's the intro to the paper I'm writing...


I am a child of the American Restoration Movement. In particular, my faith has been nurtured by the stream of thought in this movement known as the Churches of Christ (a cappella). Growing up in this particular community of faith instilled in me a deep respect and reverence for both God and Scripture. I was taught that the Bible should be our “sole authority on matters of faith and practice”. It was impressed upon me that “the traditions of men” carried no weight in these matters and were the cause of much division and error. As the years passed, I came to realize that our actual practice often fell short of our ideals. While we rejected the traditions of “outsiders”, we created our own traditions that at least seemed to hold as much (if not more) sway with us as Scripture. Further, I found that while “the traditions of men” should not be considered normative and certainly not authoritative, many of these traditions could actually be quite helpful in faith and practice. Even so, I have a great appreciation for the high regard for Scripture that I was taught (and continue to teach) in the Churches of Christ. I’m extremely thankful for my heritage which has located the Bible in the position of authority…governing both my faith and my practice.

The curious thing about Churches of Christ is that generally, we are have become fairly anti-historical. Somewhere along the way, we developed the idea that we were the 1st century church. Some of our church buildings are even adorned with plaques declaring that we were “founded in A.D. 33”! I was in my early 20’s before I ever even heard of the American Restoration Movement. As I began to study it’s history, I was amazed at the fascinating, disappointing/inspiring, depressing/hopeful, tragic/comic, beautiful/ugly, repulsive/engaging story I found. I couldn’t fathom why it was “new information” to me. I couldn’t understand why I mostly had to go to sources from the Independent Christian Church and the Disciples of Christ to learn anything of our shared history. As I dug still further, I ran across a book called Discovering Our Roots: The Ancestry of Churches of Christ by C. Leonard Allen[1]. This book was written from the perspective of my particular tradition and traced our history back to influences long before the American Restoration Movement. I found that we owed quite a bit to the Anabaptist tradition. It is precisely that ancestry that I wish to explore here.

[1] This relatively small book was published in 1988 by Abilene Christian University Press and was extremely enlightening for me.


Kenny Payne said...


Good introduction. Well, in the church we have walked right up to Lessing's "Wide Ugly Ditch" of history and fell in! Trying to be a-historical leads to a host of problems in a faith stream that is rooted solidly in history. Better, I think, to just claim that we are part of the polluted stream and work to stop the pollution.


Matt said...

Good thoughts. One thing I love about the CofC is that if you can show it to people from the Bible, they will almost certainly agree. I love what you pointed out, that we have a high view of scripture. Hopefully we don't take that too far at times and miss out on the God behind the scriptures and become too Pharisaical. Good luck with your paper.

Adam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dana said...

ok, so that was me that left that last comment. Now I can't get signed back on under your name to delete. But hey now the whole world has seen you admit that you're a nerd. I love you!!

M. Aaron Smith said...

Will you be publishing the paper online when it's finished? Would love to read the whole thing.

Adam said...

Ask, and it shall be granted. I'll go ahead and post the next part. I meant to do this earlier, but I had to write another paper. Such is life.

G Miller said...


Growing up Church of Christ myself I understand your situation.It dose not serve Christians well to deny historical reality. Remember, throughout history many people found truth in scripture and faith in Christ Jesus. Keep studying and praying and do not let yourself deny the realities of history, science, and reason which God has provided you.

Peace et Bonum