19 April, 2024

Why the Restoration Plea Is Still Valid

by | 16 January, 2024 | 2 comments

(The Christian Chronicle, an international newspaper for noninstrumental Churches of Christ, recently shared this editorial at their website. They gave us permission to repost it here.) 

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By Jeremie Beller, Opinions Editor, The Christian Chronicle  

Minister shortages. Closing churches. Struggling theology schools. 

All are happening in Churches of Christ in the U.S., which raises the question: Is the restoration plea still valid? 

As part of the Restoration Movement in America, our fellowship has campaigned for a return to the earliest design and intention of Christianity. At its foundation, the restoration plea is not a collection of doctrinal positions or statements. Rather, it’s an attitude and a goal.  

The call to restoration is a simple plea to commit ourselves to God’s purpose as revealed in Christ and articulated through Scripture. By doing so, our hope has been that the unsightly divisions among people professing to be Christians would be replaced with Christian unity. 

The desire to “restore New Testament Christianity” is built on an assumption that first century Christians sufficiently modeled God’s purest intention to follow Jesus. The call to “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent” assumes that Scripture accurately captures Christ’s design for his church. It assumes that we are capable of faithfully discerning and replicating that design. And the often-quoted rally “In matters of faith unity, in matters of opinion liberty and in all things charity” is a reminder that not every difference should lead to division.  

And yet, division remains.  

The problem is, not everyone accepts these assumptions. The earliest Christians were imperfect in their efforts to follow Jesus, and every congregation had its flaws. To the degree that Scripture describes Christ’s design for his church, our efforts to accurately listen to what Scripture says and discern the implications of Scripture’s silence have led to sincerely held differences. And our track record of distinguishing matters of faith from matters of opinion has often been less than charitable.  

As a result, the Restoration Movement has divided over countless issues through the years.  

Given the disparity between the goal of unity and the current state of disunity, questioning the validity of the restoration plea is understandable.  

Like our earliest brothers and sisters, we have imperfectly followed Jesus. Every congregation has its own imperfections.  

However, admitting this reality simply illustrates that there is an idea to which God calls us. There is an expectation of his church.  

Our challenge, like that of the early church, is to be who God intends us to be. This is the work of realization, not just restoration.  

Jesus is the “image of the invisible God,” the image we were created to reflect. His life was governed by a simple prayer: “Not my will but your will be done.” His church is designed as a community of believers who continue his ministry in the world.  

The New Testament reveals both the successes and failures of the early church as Christians tried following Jesus in their context. At times their efforts warranted correction. At other times, they needed encouragement. Along the way, inspired writers pointed them toward the “eternal purpose” God had in mind.  

Call it a “blueprint,” “pattern” or “regular order,” but the life of the early church practiced a certain rhythm. Members met regularly to remember Jesus in communion and encourage other believers through prayer, singing and listening to Scripture. New believers were immersed with the belief their sins would be forgiven, and they would be filled with God’s Spirit and raised to share in the work of Christ. Against the norms of the time, the church accepted Jews and Gentiles, slave and free, women and men, rich and poor—encouraging them all to model Jesus in their lives. 

Is the restoration plea still valid?  

Absolutely! The need for unity remains.  

God’s vision of his church cannot be ignored. The Restoration Movement aims to restore that intention and work to realize it in our time. The movement is an invitation for believers to work together toward that end.  

May God grant us unity, grace and strength as we try to embody the Gospel in our world today.  

—Jeremie Beller, for The Christian Chronicle Editorial Board 

(Here is a link to The Christian Chronicle‘s original post.)

2 Comments

  1. Loren C Roberts

    Yes Lord may we be your church not man’s church

  2. jim e montgomery

    Three thoughts to consider: 1.) Understanding the 1st century: ‘In the study of the NT background it is crucial to understand the cultural and literary milieu of the events and people of the NT … accomplished by a knowledge of the biblical and cognate languages, mastery of the relevant literature, study of archaeology and basic knowledge of the ancient social world … We are clearly in another cultural world, another time, a different people … the world of the NT is not a world that we can readily or instinctively comprehend … it is a world that, were we to be transported to it, would puzzle us and send us into a profound culture shock.’ – David A. Fiensy; Kentucky Christian College 2.) ‘… identifying your cultural story with human nature … is ethnocentrism. When applied to history, it is called anachronism – imposing the cultural artifacts and behavior of your own period on people of the past. … The only way to avoid … ethnocentric anachronisms, it to understand the culture from which … foreign writings come as well as to understand [your] own cultural story along with realizing that perhaps in most instances the cultural stories are very different.’ – Bruce J. Malina, Creighton University 3.) Taking the Thomas Jefferson approach to the NT text, slicing off text following Acts 2:47 leaves one with Jesus’ promise … the Gift of the Spirit of God embedded in one’s psyhe … only! Not a bad chance to take: living with the Spirit of God driving one’s character; versus, misunderstanding the rest of the NT text. Therefore, misunderstanding, arguing, dividing … and the attendant abundant ‘-ing words’. ‘It’s a free dead cow! – Gary Larson, ‘The Far Side’ Happy Trials

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