Restoration Thinking #2


It’s interesting how many Christians DON’T think in terms of non-denominational Christianity.  Said another way, it’s amazing how many Christians totally think denominationally.  They are loyal to their heritage.  They wouldn’t dare cross the line of what the status quo might be.  They stick to labels and names with a spirit of ardent patriotism.  They are dogmatic about many of the things which are “inventions” as Thomas Campbell put it in 1809.  For me, it was reading things like Thomas Campbell’s “Declaration and Address” that helped me finally decide that I would do my best to follow the Master, and not our tradition (as authoritative).  PLEASE, don’t misunderstand me… I’m no anti-traditionalist simply because I’m young.  I cherish my heritage, and the rich things I have learned.  I will never forget learning Acts 2 from Cecil Norman in the 4th grade at Gooch Lane Church of Christ, Madison, AL.  Or learning my books of the Bible at home with my parents, or learning how to sing with passion and emotion at Marion Street Church of Christ in Athens, AL.  But the bottom line is, for every disciple to truly grow, he must seriously develop a relationship with the Creator, and the Savior.  He must allow the Spirit of God to have His perfect work in us; to envelop each one of us and empower our daily walk, so that holiness becomes the NORM – not just “not being sinful”, not just good behavior motivated by a fear of hell, or “goodness” based on superficial things, or fear of deviating from the way things have always been done because you’ll be written up by the brotherhood publications.  We have such an amazing ignorance of the way things were done among the 1st c. disciples!  Their spirit, their benevolence, their community, and their love for one another; to the point of selling their things and giving to those who had need.  That is truly sacrificial!

These guys – the Campbells, Thomas (father) and Alexander (son) came from Scotland and were Scottish Presbyterians.  Barton Stone – another leader in the “restoration” movement of the 18th-19th centuries – came from a different background and has become one of my heroes from this effort to go back to basics in Christian theology.  Perhaps one of the most influential 2 documents of the Restoration Movement in America is demonstrated in this portion from Thomas Campbell’s, “Declaration and Address” from 1809.  After reading it, it’s easy to see why these men had the courage to simply think for themselves.  I used to think that was so hard… “how will I find the courage to stand?” I thought.  Through prayer, lots of reading, and study of this type of theology, I realized what I believe these men realized; only CHRIST will judge me in the last day.  Not the editors of the Christian Baptist or the Millennial Harbinger (both published by Alexander Campbell), or the Gospel Advocate or the Watchman Magazine.  I say that not to be intentionally flagrant or inflammatory, but simply as a realization that here’s how I think for myself and stand… on Christ and His word, nothing else.  As Campbell says in this section below, if we stand only on God’s Word and not on our own inventions, we have nothing but boldness to empower our position of independent conviction.  The following portion is from Page 10 of the Declaration and Address, found here:  http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/tcampbell/da/DA-CE.HTM#Page6  It picks up “in the middle” of the address, but this portion is so beautifully and plainly written I felt I’d attach this much of it.  Of course, it’s written in the elegant style of the Enlightenment period scholarship.  (A word of WARNING – Campbell does NOT use “church of Christ” in a denominational sense.  It seems to be ONLY meant in the sense of a generic label for the disciples; such as disciples, Christians, followers of the Lord Jesus, His church, or The Way – as Luke referred to it in the book of Acts.)

…The cause that we advocate is not our own peculiar, nor the cause
5       of any party, considered as such; it is a common cause, the cause
  of Christ and our brethren of all denominations. All that we pre-
  sume, then, is to do, what we humbly conceive to be our duty, in
  connexion with our brethren; to each of whom it equally belongs,
  as to us, to exert themselves for this blessed purpose. And as we
10       have no just reason to doubt the concurrence of our brethren, to
  accomplish an object so desirable in itself, and fraught with such
  happy consequences, so neither can we look forward to that happy
  event, which will forever put an end to our hapless divisions, and
  restore to the church its primitive unity, purity and prosperity; but,
15       in the pleasing prospect of their hearty and dutiful concurrence.
        Dearly beloved brethren, why should we deem it a thing incredi-
  ble that the church of Christ, in this highly favored country,
  should resume that original unity, peace and purity, which belongs
  to its constitution, and constitutes its glory? Or, is there any thing
20       that can be justly deemed necessary for this desirable purpose, but
  to conform to the model, and adopt the practice, of the primitive
  church, expressly exhibited in the New Testament. Whatever
  alterations this might produce in any or all of the churches, should,
  we think, neither be deemed inadmissible nor ineligible. Surely
25       such alteration would be every way for the better, and not for the
  worse; unless we should suppose the divinely inspired rule to be
  faulty, or defective. Were we, then, in our church constitution
  and managements, to exhibit a complete conformity to the Aposto-
  lick church, would we not be in that respect, as perfect as Christ
30       intended we should be? And should not this suffice us?
        It is, to us, a pleasing consideration that all the churches of
  Christ, which mutually acknowledge each other as such, are not
  only agreed in the great doctrines of faith and holiness; but are
  also materially agreed, as to the positive ordinances of Gospel
35       institution; so that our differences, at most, are about the things
  in which the kingdom of God does not consist, that is, about mat-
  ters of private opinion, or human invention. What a pity, that
  the kingdom of God should be divided about such things!! Who
  then, would not be the first amongst us, to give up with human
40       inventions in the worship of God; and to cease from imposing his
  private opinions upon his brethren: that our breaches might thus
  be healed? Who would not willingly conform to the original pattern
  laid down in the New Testament, for this happy purpose?
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