Are Churches of Christ Evangelical?: An Ideological Question (Part 6)

Restoration

What Should “Restoration” Mean?

I address in this post what restoration should mean, rather than what it does mean, because the diversity of its meaning is well established.  Furthermore, I have Churches of Christ in mind when I ask the question, for whom restoration has often meant something that proved unprofitable.  That historical fact does not, in my mind, bring final judgement on the restoration ideal of the early Stone-Campbell Movement, because it was distorted and misrepresented over the course of time.  I would add that it was never a pure ideal somehow formulated outside of imperfect people’s imperfect understanding:

Alexander Campbell affirmed that piety required believers to conform to the measure of knowledge they possessed.  Indeed, whenever discipleship leads to greater understanding on the will of God as set forth in Scripture, piety requires believers to conform to that new knowledge.  Restoration, therefore, could never be a wooden concept or a mechanical process.  It entailed dynamic engagement with, and maturing understanding of, the scriptural Word. (Fife, 638–39)

Yet, while freely admitting its limitations, I am convinced that the restoration ideal continues to be important for the global church.

Many churches outside the Restoration Movement are still considered restorationist in a general sense.  As Richard Hughes says, “The restoration ideal—also known quite often as ‘Christian primitivism’—is an old and venerable theme in the history of Christianity.  At its core, this vision seeks to correct faults or deficiencies by appealing to the primitive church as normative model” (Hughes, EotSCM, 635).  Hughes asserts correctly that “the fundamental question is this: What dimension of the golden age does the restoration hope to find and restore?”  He goes on to delineate four kinds of restorationism: ecclesiastical primitivism, ethical primitivism, experiential primitivism, and gospel primitivism.  Hughes’s particular preference is for ethical primitivism, which he advocates in the form of the “apocalyptic worldview” that I have questioned in this series.

The original impulse of the Restoration Movement, however, was restoration of the early church for purposes far greater than correcting deficiencies.  Robert O. Fife puts is succinctly: “Barton W. Stone, Thomas Campbell, and Alexander Campbell generally viewed restoration as the reformation of the church in terms of its origin, mission, and hope as set forth in the apostolic writings of the New Testament” (Fife, 638).  There is no doubt that Campbell’s “canon-within-the-canon” (Boring, 69–79) limited the influence of the Gospels in the movement, but there is also no doubt that Campbell’s hermeneutical assumptions are a very significant part of what the church was free to grow out of in its quest for restoration.  Thus, I think Fife is right to generalize the founders’ understanding of restoration as he does.

The immediate purpose of restoration was unity.  Restoration was about a search for common ground between the many denominations that were sprouting up across the American frontier.  Yet, the ultimate purpose of restoration—the purpose that unity meant to serve—was the evangelization of the world.  Alexander Campbell put it this way:

It will be confessed, without argument to prove, that the conversion of men, or of the world, and the unity, purity, and happiness of the disciples of the Messiah, were the sublime subjects of his humiliation to death. For this he prayed in language never heard on earth before, in words which not only expressed the ardency of his desires, but at the same time unfolded the plan in which his benevolence and philanthropy were to be triumphant.

The words to which we refer express one petition of that prayer recorded by the apostle John, commonly styled his intercessory prayer. With his eyes raised to heaven, he says;–“Holy Father–now, I do not pray for these only (for the unity and success of the apostles) but for those also who shall believe in me through, or by means of their word–that they all may be one,–that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Who does not see in this petition, that the words or testimony of the apostles, the unity of the disciples, and the conviction of the world are bound together by the wisdom and the love of the Father, by the devotion and philanthropy of the Son. The order of heaven, the plan of the Great King, his throne and government, are here unfolded in full splendor to our view. The words of the apostles are laid as the basis, the unity of the disciples the glorious result, and the only successful means of converting the world to the acknowledgment, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah or the Son of the Blessed, the only Saviour of men. (Campbell, 135.)

This expectation was couched in Campbell’s postmillennialism.  Jess O. Hale, Jr., summarizes: “For Alexander Campbell and others, unity based on the scriptural pattern would lead to the evangelization of the world, and this unity could usher in the millennium” (Hale, 598).  We have already seen how important the disparity of eschatologies in the movement proved to be, and I will spend part of this post finally describing the weakness of the Stoneite “apocalyptic worldview” when it attempts to stand apart from the Campbellite perspective that balances it.  For now, in terms of stating what restoration should be, I restate my belief that in the compromise between postmillennial and premillennial eschatologies we find a more biblical alternative.  Restoration should continue to be keyed to eschatology, but not to either Campbell’s extreme or Stone’s, not to either liberal Protestantism’s optimism or fundamentalist Evangelicalism’s pessimism.

The more general point of this eschatological orientation is that restoration is not rightly defined for Churches of Christ only in terms of the historical means—principally the hermeneutics—that restorationists have employed.  Our historical focus in Churches of Christ on ecclesiological forms amounts to a loss of understanding of restoration.  What began as a construal of how we might build a platform for unity and thus for mission eventually took the place of the mission.  Those (I’ve read or talked with) who argue that restoration is a defunct ideology usually are not referring to the definition I’m working with but rather impute the historical hermeneutics of patternism and legalism to the concept of restoration.  Yet, “restoration is not limited to forms, but to the recapturing of the love, vitality, compassion, and mission of the early church” (Thompson, 37).  “The task of restoration is not the reproduction of the historic practice of the early church but the reapplication of its theology—as discerned through its narratives and letters—in our own context” (Hicks, Melton, and Valentine, 156).

If it seems that these goals would not be foreign to most Christian denominations, I reiterate that most churches from the Reformation on have been restorationist to some extent, with differing modes of operation and priorities.  The difference between them can be found in the degree of commitment to letting the early church be the standard and therefore provoke ecclesiological change.  The means to the Restoration Movement’s ends, therefore, was to find a way to allow Scripture to operate authoritatively such that the early church could be the norm rather than an evolutionary point of departure or an idea to be abstracted and applied with little continuity.  The question of how Scripture’s authority functions is the primary concern of biblical hermeneutics.  This is why the Restoration Movement has been so trenchantly focused on a particular hermeneutics and why its particular hermeneutics has been so easily confused with the real heart of restoration.

So what is the real heart of restoration?  In the Restoration Movement, at least, I believe its three essential dimensions are Scripture, unity, and mission.  First, we have a relentless commitment to keeping Scripture at the center of our ecclesiology.  We have struggled with a stagnant hermeneutics that proved destructive, but at heart—and I deeply respect this intention in all of the Churches of Christ who still cling to the old hermeneutics—the desire is to let Scripture have the final say about our life together.  Restoration should continue to be about the search for and the continual development of a hermeneutics that allows ecclesiology to be always renewed by the church’s submission to God’s Spirit at work through Scripture.  Second, our plea for the renewal of ecclesiologies throughout the global Christian family is made in the service of Christian unity.  Some of us lost sight of this purpose along the way, and some of us embraced it utterly at the expense of Scripture’s role.  There is a middle way that holds the normativeness of the New Testament for ecclesiology in tension with the goal of overcoming division.  But I am clear about this: a hermeneutics that does not serve this end is not restorationist.  Third, the ultimate priority of restoration, for which the church unified by the Spirit exists, is the mission of God.  We have mistaken the restoration of the church for the mission of God, and we must repent.  Our care for ecclesiological renewal and unity must be in the interest of God’s mission, or else it leads to a false ecclesiology and an empty togetherness.  This is what restoration should be: ongoing ecclesiological renewal through submission to the authority of God in Scripture, for the sake of Christian unity in the Spirit of God, in service of the mission of God.

Is Ecclesiology Too Narrow?  What About Ethics?

Ecclesiology would be too narrow a concern if I were saying that restoration takes it as the only important thing.  But of course it does not.  Rather, restoration recognizes ecclesiology as an important theological focus, within a broad commitment to the authority of God in Scripture, because of the historically divisive state of the church and its effect on the church’s participation in God’s mission.  Moreover, ecclesiology is among the broadest theological categories, not to be confused with mere church forms or organizational structures.  It encompasses the purpose and nature of the church, which necessarily implies a great deal about how we live together—our ethics.  Thus, I find Hughes’s emphasis on the importance of ethical primitivism in the form of Stone’s apocalyptic worldview to be a positive re-appropriation but potentially also an overemphasis on a single dimension of ecclesiology. Moreover, to articulate at last the need for a less completely Stoneite eschatology, I think the ethics that needs to be restored to the church is part of an eschatology that is more correctly described as a missional worldview than an apocalyptic one.  That is to say, I don’t think Stone quite represents the early church’s eschatology, which is what restoration is actually interested in.  But there is an interesting opportunity to discern between the extremes of Stone and Campbell, in the midst of their shared passion for the church’s role in the eschatological consummation of the kingdom, the worldview that exists properly in the tension of the already and the not yet.

There are those who would claim precisely that already-not-yet worldview for the Stoneite tradition.  In order to explain why that is not the case—why Stone’s apocalyptic worldview is inadequate by itself—I will engage at length with John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine’s book Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding.  Lipscomb and Harding were the heirs apparent of Stone’s apocalyptic worldview, a category that Hicks and Valentine also take up to describe the outlook of these Restoration Movement leaders.

This book is a great resource.  It uses historical reflection to commend a wonderful spiritual legacy.  I am in favor virtually everything it advocates, and I’m impressed by the engaging way that it does so.  In fact, I should state at the outset that I have long been on the side of the  “Nashville Bible School Tradition” rather than the “Texas Tradition” as they call them, even though I’ve spent most of my formative years in Texas Tradition churches.  For example, I’ve never voted, if not for precisely the same reasons that Lipscomb and Harding were nonparticipants, then for very similar ones.  I hold to a non-violent, peace-making theology and have a “resident aliens” understanding of the church similar to the one described in Kingdom Come.  The list goes on.  I’m even more agreeable as a reader because the authors use a great deal of the language found in the missional church literature that has formed my thinking.  But it is here that the problem arises, because I get the feeling—though I’m truly not the expert that the authors are—that Hicks and Valentine tend to attribute more to Harding and Lipscomb than their theology actually contains.

From the preface on Hicks and Valentine offer Lipscomb and Harding’s “kingdom themes and practices” in order that that the church might “more fully participate in the emerging kingdom of God” (Hicks and Valentine, 10).

“Kingdom Come” refers to the hopeful expectation that the kingdom of God will break into the world, defeat the present darkness, and transform the fallen cosmos into a new heaven and new earth.  We pray “thy kingdom come” as we groan for the redemption of the kingdom of God reloaded.

This was the kingdom vision of David Lipscomb and James A. Harding—and their spiritual legacy, as the title of the book suggests.  Their spiritual vision invites us to participate in the kingdom of God as it breaks into the present darkness.  Lipscomb and Harding lived with a future-orientation—they yearned for the coming of God’s kingdom in its fullness.  They envisioned a kingdom reloaded where God would restore what he originally created by making this world heaven on earth.  But this restoration is a progressive in-breaking.  As disciples progressively follow Jesus and are made like him, the kingdom of God will defeat the powers that enslave and delude humanity.

Consequently, Harding described Christian existence in the fallen world as that of a “foreigner.”  We think he was correct.  But he also knew that God would one day make this world his home and that God created the cosmos as our home.  So, for now, we are “foreigners at home.”  When God reloads his kingdom in its fullness, we will be truly at home in this world and no longer foreigners.

Disciples, therefore, live both in anticipation of the fullness of the kingdom at the second coming of Jesus and in the present power of the Spirit as they participate in the in-breaking of that kingdom. (Hicks and Valentine, 14)

In this introductory explanation are present the major elements of the principal problem that I wish to address.  Lipscomb and Harding’s theology was every bit as kingdom-oriented as the authors assert, but it seems to me far less participatory and far more anticipatory, far less progressive and far more abrupt.  The key to seeing this is the authors’ appropriation of apocalyptic worldview as Hughes formulated it: “Stone understood the ancient Christian faith in light of the kingdom of God that would triumph over all the earth in the final days.  Accordingly, he sought to live his life as if the final rule the kingdom of God were present even in the here and now” (Hughes, EotSCM, 636; emphasis original).  Accordingly, Hicks and Valentine write:

This tradition took seriously the biblical notion that Christians live in the shadow of the second coming—to live their lives as if God’s will was being done on earth as it is in heaven.  It lived in anticipation of the fullness of God’s reign.  The looming shadows of the reign of God fill the NBST with a powerful ethical vision. (Hicks and Valentine, 30; emphasis added)

The life of faith, life in the kingdom, is a life lived in the shadows of the second coming.  To live in the shadows is to live in anticipation of God’s ultimate victory.  It is characterized by supreme hope in the reality of God’s kingdom.  We live our lives in the present age knowing things are not as they should be but with the expectation of what they will be.  Biblical faith is lived as if the “heavenly” city has been planted on earth.  We live as if the future is already present. (Hicks and Valentine, 35; emphasis added)

The “as if” of this formulation is correctly stated: Lipscomb and Harding, like Stone, did not imagine themselves to participate in the kingdom already breaking in but rather only to live as if it had already broken in.  Their view of the kingdom was essentially anticipatory, not participatory—clearly focused on the not yet rather than the already.  This is natural for a premillennialist such as Harding—the entire outlook emerges from a deep pessimism about the present age and the need for and expectation of a radically discontinuous new age, not a progressively inbreaking one.  Progress is too optimistic for a premillennial theology.

Yet, Hicks and Valentine assert that despite Harding’s premillennialism, “premillennialism was not the substance of his kingdom vision.”  Instead, they say, “the kingdom of God, conceived as the progressive reign of God ultimately restoring the cosmos under the full rule of God, is the structural principle of NBST eschatology” (180).  This is the crux.  Less the word “progressive,” they make a good point.  The restoration of the cosmos is the substantive theological contribution.  It is not, however, possible for God’s reign to be progressive in a premillennial scheme.  And, indeed, it was not progressive for Harding.

Hicks and Valentine grant that “Harding’s apocalyptic worldview held a grave sense of failure before God and a relatively pessimistic understanding of human moral ability” (Hicks and Valentine, 63–63), which strikes me as something of an understatement.  Harding’s theology seems as thoroughly eschatological as the authors suggest, but his premillennial eschatology is structured around the tenet that “mankind became servants of Satan, and thus turned over the dominion of the earth to him” (Harding, “Man,” 8).  This establishes the essentially antagonistic character of his kingdom theology and his understanding of mission.  “Christ came into this world to establish a kingdom which is antagonistic to all human authority, to all the governments of the earth. Its mission is to break down and destroy them all” (Harding, “The Kingdom,” 930).  This conflictual framework results in a sectarian withdrawal from society (identical to that which Lipscomb more famously advocates in Civil Government):

Every government on this earth is in the hands of wicked men. The government of Christ is at war with every one of them; but the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, not of the flesh, though they are “mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds.” If every responsible human being were a Christian, and such a Christian as every one of them ought to be, there would be no government in the earth but that of Christ; no law but that of the New Testament; no courts but the churches of God. This is the ideal state toward which every Christian should look, and for which he should work and pray.

Brother Lawrence says: “It should be our ambition to place good men at the head of the nation.” I believe it should be our ambition to so live and teach as induce every one we can to forsake the governments of this world and to devote himself wholly to the kingdom of Christ. We should have nothing to do with appointing or electing officers for the governments of Satan. We ought not to have any kind of partnership with him. (Harding, “The Kingdom,” 931)

“This dualism dominates Harding’s theology and it is the fundamental ground for his sense that the church is a community of resident aliens in the fallen world,” write Hicks and Valentine (181).  Yet, Harding’s sense of heavenly citizenship and participation in the kingdom is future-oriented:

I have seen numbers of Christians who did not seem to realize that they were in training, being prepared for citizenship in the heavenly Jerusalem, and for a rulership how vast, how extensive and important we know not; they seem not to realize at all that every opportunity should be improved, every moment utilized with all diligence in this preparation. (Harding, “For What,” 1042)

Though in his anti-government exposition Harding quotes “our citizenship is in heaven” directly in order to establish his separatist position, here Christians are in training for citizenship rather than currently existing as citizens in resident alien status.  This is a revealing nuance that has everything to do with his premillennial view of the kingdom.

Harding’s principle paradigm for humankind’s relationship to the kingdom—what we might call participation in his theology—is reigning with Christ as co-heirs, which is the result of the redemption of the image of God in humans, who where made to rule before they turned over the kingdom to Satan (Harding, “Man,” 8–9).  This co-regency is not present, however: as the previous quote states, Christians are in preparation for a future rulership.  This is because the kingdom is essentially a future reality for Harding, not a present one.  Certainly the kingdom is “established” already by Christ—the present antagonism of the church is established—but the expectation of difference or transformation in the world is future:

We read that when Christ comes again, at which time all of the righteous dead will be raised (1 Cor. xv. 22, 23; 1 Thess. iv. 13-18), and all the righteous living will be changed, immortalized in a moment of time (1 Cor. xv. 51-54), it is said of all these redeemed ones: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Rev. xx. 6). Then will God’s purpose be fulfilled in regard to man’s reigning over the earth. During the last thousand years of time, Christ and his saints shall reign unimpeded in the earth. Then the meek shall inherit the earth, the knowledge of God shall fill the earth as the waters fill the seas, and the will of God shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Harding, “Man,” 8; emphasis added)

Only with the second coming of Christ will humankind’s participation in the kingdom become a reality.  The substance of the “kingdom come” theology—that the will of God be done on earth as in heaven—is relegated to then for Harding.  There is undoubtedly present devotion to the kingdom in Harding’s mind, but it is as future-oriented and ultimately escapist as we should naturally expect a premillennialist theology to be:

We ought to have no part nor lot with those who lie in the wicked one. Let them run their own governments till Christ shall destroy them all. Let us devote all our energies, powers and possessions to the kingdom of Christ which during that last thousand years will fill the whole earth. Then shall the earth be “full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9); then shall the will of God be done, “as in heaven, so on earth” (Matthew 6:10); “then shall the meek [the gentle] inherit the earth.” (Harding, “The Kingdom,” 931; emphasis added)

This must be the case for Harding, because of his conflictual framework.  The kingdom of God is not about the redemption of the kingdoms of the world but their destruction.  It is geared to the sectarian spirituality: “the collecting of his people out of the kingdoms of the earth” (Harding, “The Kingdom,” 930) rather than incarnation and service among them for their blessing.  Thus, while I am deeply in favor of the “incarnational spirituality” that Hicks and Valentine promote (Hicks and Valentine, 196), I find it very difficult to attribute it to Harding and Lipscomb.  And this is not to deny their profoundly Christlike ethical vision regarding nonviolence, care for the poor, and the rest.  I take no issue with the authors’ portrayal of these virtues.  Rather, I find incarnational, missional theology to be at odds with some of Harding and Lipscomb’s most foundational eschatological assumptions.  Their worldview is too antagonistic, too much in the not yet.  It does not expect progress, renewal, and continuity but interruption, destruction, and discontinuity.

Furthermore, the theological corollary of this eschatology is an anthropology that undermines the church’s missional participation in the kingdom progressively breaking into the world.  In Harding’s thinking, the destruction of the kingdom of Satan (the kingdoms of the world) will return to humankind the possibility of ruling according the image in which we were created.  This refers to what is known as the cultural mandate of Gen 1:26–28.  For Harding, the point of the contraposition of God’s kingdom completely and totally against the kingdoms of the world is that humankind abdicated the image of God absolutely, therefore there is no aspect of the kingdoms of the world that is not of Satan.  This is most evident in the Harding-Lipscomb view of human government, which is a major aspect of the cultural mandate by virtually any current theological accounting.  But it also encompasses the another major aspect of the cultural mandate: economics.

It is as plain as light that we should let no earthly pleasure, no fleshly love, no temporal connection interfere with our race toward the eternal goal. Should a man that is a christian go into a partnership with one who is not? Certainly not: for the sinner is traveling the wrong way, is governed by wrong principles, and he can not but be a hindrance to the Christian, who for a million dollars ought not to encumber and hinder himself in the least in running this race. To take upon himself knowingly any burden that operates against his success is a plain mark of lack of faith, of appreciation of the prize, of worldly-mindedness. (Harding, “For What,” 1042)

Not only do Christians withdraw from politics but also from full participation in the economy, because partnership with “the sinner” inevitably contaminates the Christian and interferes with the “race toward the eternal goal.”  The imagery is of the church running away from the world toward a future disconnected from the worldly preset.  Harding cannot fathom engaging a “sinner” in business for any motive other than economic gain; there is no vision of Christians redemptively engaging the economic systems of their society.  This makes even clearer the extent to which Harding assumes a rejection of human culture, rooted in a doctrine of the absolute loss of the image of God and therefore of the capacity to act creatively and benevolently according the character of the Creator.  Although Hicks and Valentine generously construe Harding and Lipscomb’s extractionist church as a “colonial outpost” of the kingdom that serves as a “witness, in the present, of things to come” (Hicks and Valentine, 70; also 32–34; 113; 139) and Christians as “instruments of the kingdom presence in the world” (Hicks and Valentine, 116; also 190), the church would need to engage the world incarnationally—in the world’s terms and within the world’s systems—in order to serve these functions.  Instead, Harding envisions an abandonment and a waiting for apocalyptic destruction of the very systems that need to be redeemed.  The kingdom does not break in here; the future does not grace the present; the leaven does not work through the dough but stays separate from it.

This is the opposite of missional participation, which seeks to engage culture critically on the assumption that the image of God is not completely lost—that human culture including government and business is in part a godly expression of creativity, righteous rule, and fruitfulness.  The missional church seeks to meet God where he is already at work in cultures, in order to participate in his kingdom’s inbreaking.  This is both eucharistic—giving him thanks for the good that exists before the church by grace—and sacrificial—offering him the transformation of that which must be redeemed by grace.  Although there is the expectation of ultimate purgative judgement, a truly progressive eschatological vision of the kingdom’s inbreaking cannot coexist with Harding’s radical pessimism about the cultures of God’s world.  These cultures’ systems are broken and in need of redemption, not abandonment and destruction.  Christ will not gather the church out of these kingdoms but will meet the church amidst them for the consummation of redemption and renewal.  This is for me the most curious aspect of Harding’s theology: he is able to envision the renewed earth but not the renewal of the cultures of the earth.  The “counter-cultural” (Hicks and Valentine, 18, 20, 32) dimension of Harding and Lipscomb’s theology is overweening and ultimately anti-missional.

With this in mind, it is most evident to me that Hicks and Valentine are giving Harding and Lipscomb too much credit when they write: “Rather than withdrawing from the world, disciples follow the Lamb’s conquering methodology to love and serve the world.  We can do this on many levels.  One level could be working for legislation that cultivates peace” (Hicks and Valentine, 159).  At which point Harding and Lipscomb roll over in their respective graves.  The spiritual heritage of Harding and Lipscomb is deep and rich.  I was personally humbled and inspired by their lives of devotion.  But the fact is, their eschatology cannot uphold the kingdom theology that Hicks and Valentine—and I—want to advocate.  It is a powerful contributor, but by itself it is inadequate.  What we gain in ethics we lose in transformative mission.

Interestingly, it is no mystery where in the Restoration Movement to find the eschatological progressivism that has no home among Harding and Lipscomb’s pessimistic antagonism toward the present age.  Richard Hughes popularized the apocalyptic worldview precisely in contradistinction from the excesses and inconsistencies of Alexander Campbell’s “rational progressive primitivism” (Hughes, Reviving, 29–30).  The answer to the inadequacy of the  apocalyptic worldview, of course, is not to return to the excesses of a Campbellite postmillennialism.  Let us consider those lessons well learned.  But the swing of the pendulum seems all too predictable at this point.  I return to my argument early in this series, that there is not really a Stoneite apocalyptic worldview and a Campbellite rational progressive primitivist worldview.  Understood more broadly, the American Protestant worldview encompasses a good deal of diversity, including theologies and zeitgeists.  And an important—vitally important—aspect of this diversity is the tensive eschatological whole, encompassing the already emphasis of the postmillennialists and the not yet of the premillennialists.  For my part, I’m content that we have in Churches of Christ shed the need to quibble over the millennial details.  But settling into amillennial apathy is a terrible loss when our tradition gifts us the eschatological tension that belonged to the theology of very New Testament church we wish to restore.  Why not receive the radical kingdom orientation of Stone and let the participatory optimism of Campbell keep it from devolving into anti-missional sectarianism.  Why not take the progressive, missional impulse of Campbell and let the deeply grace-dependent spirituality of Harding temper its triumphalistic tendency?

Between them, we find the truly missional common ground of restorationism:

Lipscomb and Harding, along with Alexander Campbell, Tolbert Fanning, and Robert Milligan among others, believed that God would reign with his people on a renewed earth forever.  When Jesus returns “again to earth,” according to Lipscomb, he will accomplish the “restoration of all things to their original relation to God” in a new heaven and new earth. (Hicks and Valentine, 180)

Restoration attuned to the restoration of all things in the kingdom’s consummation is about calling the church to continual renewal and unity in its life between the already and the not yet, participating in the kingdom of God as it breaks into the present and praying together for its advance on earth.

This is who I believe Churches of Christ should be.  It is true to the genius of our restoration heritage while incorporating the lessons of our history.  I’ve obviously already pointed in a missional direction.  In the next post I will consider the missional way forward, which I believe we share with evangelicalism, because the unique emphases of our Restoration Movement identity do not in any way run against our basic cultural, historical, and theological evangelicalism.

Boring, M. Eugene. Disciples and the Bible: A History of Disciples Biblical Interpretation in North America (St. Louis: Chalice, 1997).

Campbell, Alexander. “A Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things No. II,” The Christian Baptist, (March 7, 1825): 135.

Hale, Jess O., Jr. “‘Plea,’ The.” In The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, 598–99.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

Fife, Robert O. “‘Restoration,’ Meanings of Within the Movement.” In The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, 638–42.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

Harding, James A. “For What Are We Here?” The Way 5, no. 33 (December 3, 1903): 1041-43.

________. “The Kingdom of Christ Vs. The Kingdom of Satan.” The Way 5, no. 26 (October 15, 1903): 929-31.

________. “Man Was Created to Reign for Ever and Ever.” The Christian Leader and the Way 19, no. 23 (June 6, 1905): 8-9.

Hicks, John Mark, and Bobby Valentine. Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding (Abilene, TX: Leafwood, 2006).

Hicks, John Mark, Johnny Melton, and Bobby Valentine. A Gathered People: Revisioning the Assembly as Transforming Encounter (Abilene, TX: Leafwood, 2007).

Hughes, Richard T. “Restoration, Historical Models of.” In The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, 635–38.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

________. Reviving the Ancient Faith: The Story of Churches of Christ in America. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996.

Thompson, James. “What is Church of Christ Scholarship?” Restoration Quarterly 49, no. 1 (2007): 33-38.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *