Validity of the Restoration Plea?  

Posted by Phil in ,

If you've run in Restoration circles (whether being born into it, or catching up on the conservative side through online lectureships, like me), you've probably heard about the Restoration plea on which a lot of the fundamental aspects of our movement have been founded. The basic idea is that if the 1st Century church can somehow be restored in form, then the results of the early church will be replicated.

I can't speak for everyone who reads this blog, but I would bet that most of us see the logical fallacy behind that, i.e. results don't always follow a replicated form, especially if that form is replicated 1800 years later, since the world manages to change some in that time.

So is the Restoration plea sill valid today? If not, are there aspects of it that are?

So if the Restoration plea is not a valid one for the 21st Century, what are we trying to do? Do we start with a blank slate and create organic communities out of a desire to worship the Risen and Saving Christ, and seeking to emulate him in word and deed?

Or do we become "like the other nations," adopting their methods and manners in congregational structure and hope that people like our children's ministry enough to stick around until their kids graduate?

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at Wednesday, March 11, 2009 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


I'm very interested to learn more about the restoration movement (especially in its postmodern form). I need clarification on one item in your post. What are the "results" of the early church that you'd like to be replicated now, and what is the "basic idea" that you think produced those results?

March 11, 2009 at 8:45 AM

The "conservative" lecture circuit tends toward a very narrow (anemic) articulation of the "Restoration Plea". The return to Biblical forms and the "no creed but the Bible" stance was actually an attempt to find a means for unity in reaction to the rampant sectarianism that characterized the churches of their day. It was flawed due to the inherently modern assumption that people could be objective and thus come to the came conclusions. Even so, it is an idea that has traction... particularly in the world we find ourselves in. As sectarianism runs rampant again based on everything from calvinism to political ideology, perhaps a postmodern restoration plea (true to its original intent, but freed from post-enlightenment/modern assumptions) could be the breath of fresh air we so desperately need.

March 11, 2009 at 5:05 PM

I agree with Adam that there is no need to let one articulation of restoration obscure the its potential. The response to the question, "Is the Restoration Plea valid?" must be, I think, "Which version?"

On the most basic level, to subscribe to an ecclesiology that is totally devoted to looking at the church's origins for guidance before anything else is something I remain excited about. Add to that the kind of organic worshipfulness you mention (which isn't mutually exclusive with a church tradition) along with a missional disposition that seeks to contextualize whatever we might glean from the first churches and, well, I'm in.

On the other side, the problem with attempting to start with a blank slate is the very problem that undermines certain versions of the restoration plea: it's practically impossible and to assume we can only makes us blind to our prejudices. I think the historians and historical theologians that have exposed the early Restorationists' implicit worldviews have pointed us in the right direction. Self-awareness allows us to deal with the good and the bad of the community's tradition and grow from where it actually is.

March 14, 2009 at 10:01 PM

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