Restorationism

Restorationism

For other usages, see Restoration (general disambiguation), Apokatastasis (universal restoration), Christian Zionism (restoration of Israel) and Restorationism (middle ages)

Restorationism, sometimes called Christian primitivism, frequently describes religious movements that believe pristine, or original Christianity is restored in themselves to an important degree. These diverse groups teach that a restoration of Christianity has become necessary because Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians introduced grave defects into Christian faith and practice, or have lost a vital element of genuine Christianity. (see Great Apostasy).

As a descriptive label, restorationism often applies particularly to the Restoration Movement, and numerous other unaffiliated movements that originated in the eastern United States and Canada and grew rapidly in the early and mid 19th century in the wake of the Second Great Awakening. Restoration is also a label applied by the Latter Day Saint movement, often called Mormonism, referring to a period which began with Joseph Smith and the publication of the Book of Mormon.

More recent groups also apply the label "restorationist" to themselves, describing their goal to re-establish Christianity in its original form, such as some anti-denominational "Restorationists" which arose in the 1970s in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. In comparable terms, earlier primitivist movements including the Paulicians, Hussites, Anabaptists, radical Baptists, and the Quakers have been described as examples of restorationism.

Background

Leading up to the 19th century, the Calvinist and Wesleyan revival called the Great Awakening had established the Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Baptist and new Methodist churches on competitive footing for social influence in the new America. As that "revival of religion" cooled, there was a retreat from the social gains that had been experienced by Evangelical churches. Furthermore, that revival had strengthened opinion in some quarters that Evangelical religions were weakened and divided, and that loyalty to traditional creeds and doctrines constituted an obstacle to salvation and Christian unity.

The Second Great Awakening made its way across the frontier territories, fed by intense longing for a prominent place for God in the life of the new nation, a new liberal attitude toward fresh interpretations of the Bible and a contagious experience of zeal for authentic spirituality. As these revivals spread, they gathered converts to Protestant sects of the time. The revivals eventually moved freely across denominational lines, with practically identical results, and went farther than ever toward breaking down the allegiances which kept adherents to these denominations loyal to their own. Consequently the revivals were accompanied by a growing dissatisfaction with Evangelical churches and especially with the doctrine of Calvinism, which was nominally accepted in most Evangelical churches at the time.

A Protest against Protestantism

Restorationists were not content with mere cooperation between denominations. The leaders of these movements did not believe that God intended to simply fatten the old institutions and perpetuate the old divisions with the revivals. They perceived the new religious awakening as the dawn, or at least the harbinger, of a new age. Restorationists sought to re-establish or renew the whole Christian church on the pattern they held to be set forth in the New Testament. They had little regard for the creeds developed over time in Catholicism and Protestantism, which they claimed kept Christianity divided. Some even claimed the Bible suffered from ancient corruption, which required correction.

The Protestant Reformation came about through a kind of restorationist impulse to repair the Church and return it to its original biblical structure, belief, and practice. But the Protestant reform movements, including Puritanism, accepted history as having some "jurisdiction" in Christian faith and life, according to historian Richard T. Hughes. Mark Noll similarly says of the Protestant view that "the Bible may be absolute in its wisdom and authority, but we apprehend its treasures as mediated through history. The Protestants believed in an historical continuity of the faith, and criticized Roman Catholic traditions in terms of both history and Scripture. Restorationists denied the "jurisdiction" of past historical development, in order to be free to embrace what they understood to be the heavenly pattern originally revealed to Christ's apostles. While Protestants would reject certain church traditions they viewed as not having biblical warrant, such as purgatory and veneration of the saints, various Restorationists would reject beliefs and practices considered orthodox and biblical by Protestants, such as the Sunday Sabbath and the Trinity.

Restorationist organizations include Christian Conventions, Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Latter Day Saint movement, Seventh-day Adventists, Church of God (Anderson) and others. These groups teach widely divergent theologies, but they all arose from the belief that the true pattern of the Christian religion died out through apostasy many years before and was finally restored by their churches. Some believe that they alone fully embody this restoration exclusively; others understand themselves as conforming to a rediscovered pattern of original Christianity that is now found in many churches, including their own. This is the official stance of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), for example. Some restorationist denominations state that the historical institutions of Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches are not actually Christian. In some cases these groups believe that the Great Apostasy's departure from essential Christianity was so total and disastrous as to render futile any plan to remodel Christianity on existing foundations, necessitating a restoration so radical that the only feature familiar to traditional Christians is the name of Jesus the Christ.

Restoration Movement

Of these movements, the most optimistic about the then-present state of Christianity was the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement. Others sometimes refer to the followers of this movement as Campbellites; but the movement itself never adopted the term, which it considers disparaging. These churches strongly preferred to avoid applying to themselves any of the labels of convenience which divide Christians from one another, calling themselves instead by generic New Testament names, such as the Disciples of Christ, or the Church of Christ. They brought together many from Baptist, Congregationalist, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches, and other Christians across a spectrum of Evangelical and also Unitarian Christianity, at first with astounding success. But as the movement progressed it developed non-negotiable distinctives of its own, sometimes referred to disapprovingly as unwritten creeds, and fractured into three major groups—each of which has become a recognizable group (the term "denomination" still being unacceptable to many of them): the Churches of Christ (or "church of Christ"), the Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ and the Disciples of Christ.

Christadelphians

Dr. John Thomas (April 12, 1805 - March 5, 1871), was a devout convert to the Restoration movement after a shipwreck at sea on his emigration to America brought to focus his inadequate understanding of the Bible, and what would happen to him should he die. This awareness caused him to devote his life to the study of the Bible, which in turn brought him into contact with the teachings of Alexander Campbell. However, Dr. Thomas could not reconcile his views on baptism and resurrection with Campbell's. Once the split with Campbell was inevitable, Dr. Thomas appealed to the Churches of Christ both in America and in England and a growing movement emerged. A distinctive body of believers developed whose doctrine incorporated Adventism, anti-trinitarianism, the belief that God is a "substantial and corporeal" being, objection to military service, a lay-membership with full participation by all members and other doctrines consistent with the spirit of the Restorationist movement.

One consequence of objection to military service was the adoption of the name Christadelphians to distinguish this small community of believers and to be granted exemption from military service in the American Civil War.

Latter Day Saint restorationism

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or "Mormons" believe that Joseph Smith, Jr. was chosen to restore the original organization founded by Jesus "in its fullness", rather than to reform the church. This belief is no longer shared by the second largest branch of the Latter Day Saint Movement, the Community of Christ (formerly The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints).

According to Smith, God the Father and Jesus appeared to him and instructed him that the creeds of the churches of the day "were an abomination in his sight" and that through him, God would restore (or re-establish) the true church. Smith taught that the Great Apostasy was complete and required a full restoration of the original church. This included the Aaronic priesthood and Melchizedek priesthood and the full church structure consisting of prophets, apostles, evangelists and teachers. Joseph Smith founded the Church of Christ in 1830, serving as the first prophet believed to be appointed by Jesus in the "latter days".

Smith published the Book of Mormon, which LDS believe was translated from Golden Plates as directed by an angel Moroni. Members of the Latter Day Saint movement (Mormonism) believe that the Book of Mormon contains a record of the original church of Jesus in the Americas between about 600 BC and 421 AD. In addition, Smith claimed that he received the true authority or Priesthood directly from those who held it anciently, namely John the Baptist, who returned as an angel and gave him and Oliver Cowdery the authority to baptize. Saint Peter, Saint James and Saint John, the Apostles, returned as angels and gave Smith and Cowdery the authority to lead the church just as they had done anciently.

The church was organized on April 6 1830 in New York state. Originally the church was unofficially called the "Church of Christ". Four years later, in April 1834 it was also referred to as the "Church of Latter Day Saints" to differentiate the church of this era from that of the New Testament. Then, in April 1838, the full name was stated as the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints".

Adventism

Adventism is a Christian eschatological belief which looks for the imminent Second Coming of Jesus to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. This view involves the belief that Jesus will return to receive those who have died in Christ and those who are awaiting His return and in anticipation of it have made themselves ready.

Millerites and Sabbatarianism

The Millerites are the most well-known family of the Adventist movements. They emphasized apocalyptic teachings anticipating the end of the world, and did not look for the unity of Christendom but busied themselves in preparation for Christ's return. Millerites sought to restore a prophetic immediacy and uncompromising biblicism that they believed had once existed but had long been rejected by mainstream Protestant and Catholic churches. From the Millerites descended the Seventh-day Adventists. The Worldwide Church of God movement belongs to this category because it sprang from the Seventh Day churches. The personal ministry of Herbert W. Armstrong became the Radio Church of God, which became the Worldwide Church of God. It later splintered into many other churches and groups when the Worldwide Church of God disassociated itself with the Restoration movements and made major attempts to join the Protestant branch of Christianity.

Seventh-day Adventists

The Seventh-day Adventist Church grew out of the Adventist movement, in particular the Millerites. They are widely considered to be a restorationist church, Important to the Seventh-day Adventist movement is a belief in progressive revelation, teaching that the Christian life and testimony is intended to be typified by "the Spirit of Prophecy", as is exemplified in the writings of Ellen G. White.

Jehovah's Witnesses

In the early-mid 1870s a Bible study group led by Charles Taze Russell eventually formed into what was called the Bible Student Movement. Following a widespread schism within the group during the 1920s, and after the death of Russell, the Jehovah's Witnesses emerged as separate religious organization while maintaining control of the legal organs of the Bible Society Russell had incorporated. They believe that Russell was not the founder of a new religion, but that he helped in restoring true Christianity from the apostasy that Jesus and the Apostle Paul foretold. They believe that they are the true Christians and all other Churches departed in a Great Apostasy from the original faith on major points. Like the Millerites, the Witnesses believe that the original faith could be restored through a generally literal interpretation of the Bible and a sincere commitment to follow its teachings. They focused on the restoration of a number of key doctrinal points derived from their interpretation of the Bible, including the use of the common English transliteration of the Tetragrammaton "Jehovah" as God's personal name; a rejection of trinitarianism (they believe that the Father and Son are two separate entities, and the Holy Spirit is an influence from God, without its own personality); the rejection of the definition of hell as a place of eternal torment; active proselytization; strict neutrality in political affairs; total abstinence from military service; and a belief in the imminent manifestation of the Kingdom of God on Earth. The name "Jehovah's Witnesses" was adopted in 1931, under second president Judge Rutherford. The other branch of the Bible Student Movement, known as Bible Students, although sharing some of the same doctrinal views of Jehovah's Witnesses, have no connections with them in fellowship or Bible study, and differ significantly on many other doctrinal points.

Charismatic Restorationism

British New Church Movement

During the charismatic movement of the 1960s and 1970s, which focused on the transformation of the individual, some leaders formed what has become known as the Charismatic Restorationist Movement. These leaders, of whom Arthur Wallis, David Lillie and Cecil Cousen were at the forefront, focused on the nature of the church and shared a distinctive view that authentic church order was being restored to the whole church. This authentic church order centred on what is referred to as the "fivefold ministries", as listed in Ephesians 4:11: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Teachers and Pastors. Although the Charismatic Movement brought the Pentecostal gifts to the denominational churches, these restorationists considered denominationalism unbiblical, and shared a conviction that God would cause the church to be directly organised and empowered by the holy spirit.

The movement has grown to number thousands of adherents worldwide, and notable church networks include Newfrontiers led by Terry Virgo, Salt and Light Ministries International led by Barney Coombs and (arguably) Ichthus Christian Fellowship led by Roger and Faith Forster.

Shepherding Movement

The British leaders of charismatic restorationism mutually recognised a parallel movement in the USA centered on the Fort Lauderdale Five; Derek Prince, Don Basham, Bob Mumford, Charles Simpson and Ern Baxter. This movement became known as the Shepherding Movement and was the subject of significant controversy in the mid-1970s. The movement left a significant legacy through its influence on contemporary ministries International Churches of Christ, Maranatha Campus Ministries and Great Commission International.

Apostolic-Prophetic Movement

More recently another form of charismatic restorationism with a similar recognition of the apostolic office has emerged in the form of the Apostolic-Prophetic Movement, centered on the Kansas City Prophets. Leading proponents of the movement include C. Peter Wagner, Rick Joyner, Mike Bickle and Lou Engle.

Iglesia ni Cristo

Iglesia ni Cristo began in the Philippines and was incorporated by Felix Y. Manalo on July 27 1914. The church professes to be the reestablishment of the original church founded by Jesus and teaches that the original church was apostatized. It does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity or the divinity of Jesus. Iglesia ni Cristo does not subscribe to the term Restoration nor claim to be a part of the Restoration Movement.

Local Churches

The local churches are a Christian movement influenced by the teachings of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee and associated with the Living Stream Ministry publishing house. Its members see themselves as separate from other Christian groups, denominations, and movements, part of what they sometimes call "the Lord's recovery". One of the defining features of the local churches is their adherence to the principle that all Christians in a city or locality are automatically members of the one church in that locality. Another defining feature is the lack of an official organization or official name for the movement. The local churches believe that to take a name would be disrespectful and insulting to the name of Jesus. To distinguish themselves each local church refers to itself only as "the church in -insert-locality-".

Restorationist dates for the Great Apostasy

Restorationism is often criticized for rejecting the traditions followed by the early church, but different restoration groups have treated tradition differently. While some view all the Church Fathers as unreliable witnesses to the original Apostolic Church, others find in the earliest Church Fathers proof that the early church believed and practiced as some restorationists do, and the late Church Fathers differences as evidences of a gradual or sudden falling away. Common to all restorationism is the belief that the Church Fathers or post-apostolic church leadership had no authorization to change the church's beliefs and practices, but did so nevertheless.

The Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the apostasy started after the death of the last apostle, John. They believe that the Holy Spirit held the apostasy back in full force but after John died the spirit let the apostasy grow. They believe that it came in full after the First Council of Nicaea. Still, they believe that throughout all that time there were true Christians alive until the beginning of the restoration.

The Latter-day Saints also assign a very early date for the apostasy, beginning shortly after the deaths of the original Twelve Apostles at approximately 100 AD, and certainly being in a full state of apostasy by the 4th century. With this early date, they claim the least need to reconcile known writings and practices of the early church and Church Fathers. Although their writings are sometimes cited to show reminiscences of earlier true practices, they are also used to demonstrate that doctrine and understanding had been already altered.

The Sabbatarians have generally agreed on the approximate date of 135 AD as the start of the apostasy. Justin Martyr in about 160 AD had specifically defended the first day assembly, and so is considered an apostate to Sabbatarians. Nevertheless, the early church history recorded the continued keeping of the Saturday Sabbath for creation and Sunday Sabbath for the Resurrection in Hippolytus's time. They view the apostasy as not complete until the church stopped keeping the Sabbath sometime after Constantine.

The Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement views the Great Apostasy as a gradual process. Ignatius promoted obedience to the bishop in about 100 AD, which is viewed by some as signaling the introduction of the idea of a professional clergy, who began to elevate themselves over the people, leading by a gradual process of corruption to the prophesied "man of lawlessness". Infant baptism, which restorationists condemned as coercive church membership, is similarly viewed. They believe that only adult baptism was practiced at least to the time of Tertullian, but that infant baptism was introduced locally around the time of Irenaeus. They often reject notions of original sin which entail a corruption of human nature, and admit only a defilement of mankind's habitual environment, traditions or culture. As do other Restorationists, they saw the church-state alliance under Constantine (see also Constantine I and Christianity and Christendom) as a kind of captivity of the church through the centralized power of the bishops. Finally, the development of the idea of the supremacy and universal authority of the Bishop of Rome is considered the completion of the Great Apostasy from which the Protestant Reformation only partially recovered, but most nearly did so among the Anabaptists and the Baptists.

See also

Restoration Movement

Mormonism

Millerites

Other

17th century Christian denominations in Britain with some similar views:

External links

References

Further reading

  • Birdsall Richard D. "The Second Great Awakening and the New England Social Order." Church History 39 (1970): 345-64.
  • Cross, Whitney, R. The Burned-Over District: The Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800–1850.

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