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Saturday, February 23, 2013

The American Restoration Movement

There is something so beautiful and so right in Restoration.  There is something so ugly and so wrong in a divided Christianity.  I was raised Catholic.  Eventually, I was engaged by the church of Christ and was challenged by the ideal of unity with all other Christians.  And, I was challenged to consider the inner mechanisms that were dividing Christians and preventing them from achieving unity in Christ.

There were so many belief systems.  And each attracted around itself adherents who recognized each other as brothers and sisters, and who recognized all others as outsiders.  Against the grain of this division and divisiveness, the churches of Christ were presented to me as those who had turned away from it all.  They had unsprung the very mechanisms of division.  Abandoning their peculiar beliefs, practices, and traditions, they agreed to come together in unity holding only to the Bible. 

This noble path is not an easy one to walk, as our history plainly declares.  Anti-divisiveness, in the height of irony, can become its own divisiveness.  The same pride that attached to the myriad of denominational allegiances can make its home with Restorationists.  Arrogance and snobbery, and unrivaled sectarianism, have rooted in our souls as strongly and as deeply as in the denominations that we have come to despise.

For so long, I have focused not on Restorationism, but on its truest objects:  truth, Divine revelation, and God.  I am reminded of “conversations” with my wife, in the early history of our long and beautiful marriage, that degenerated from the driving issues to “communication about communication.”  The real issue was set aside, while we now bickered over how our very conversation was problematic.  The resulting “communication” did not seem at all helpful, if resolving the initial conflict was the objective.  In like manner, I have not devoted much energy to the cause of Restoration, to our conflicts.  It is woven into my deepest orientations.  Instead, I have focused especially on the Scriptures, the Cross, and the things that make for unity in Christ Jesus. 

More than a few years have gone by since I was baptized into Christ, since I abandoned all other allegiances for the one to Jesus and His people.  I was aware of the arguments over the direction of our movement.  But I largely ignored the squabbling.  Now, quite a few years later, I am facing the awareness that the very cause of Restoration has been largely abandoned within churches of Christ.

It’s a good thing my convictions are so carefully formed and well-founded.  I have a profound sense of abandonment and isolation.  I can review history and note all of the failures in the pursuit of unity.  While many apparently conclude this review by declaring Restoration to have been a failed project, I see the past failures as lessons to be learned, none of which is strong enough to devalue the cause of unity in Christ.  Perhaps I am the last remaining Restorationist.

I have much more to write on this.  This blog will now become a true blog (rather than a depository for some of my work).  I encourage dialog.  Perhaps the fire will re-ignite.