Sometimes I think those of us who say we want to restore the “ancient order” of the New Testament church don’t really want to bring the church back to its most primitive state. It is much more comfortable for us to bring the church back to the almost-ancient order of things–perhaps the end of the 1st century–rather than the day of Pentecost.
Yes, we give lip service to wanting to rewind the clock on church history a bit. Hence the catch-phrase “Restoration Movement” (although I prefer the name Stone-Campbell Movement, for reasons I’ll write about later). But few would be comfortable going all the way back to the beginning.
What do I mean by that? Well, consider that by the end of the first century, some pretty horrible practices had already been slipped into the church. To rewind history back to about 96 A.D. still gets us back to a point where the churches of Asia, described by Jesus in his Revelation to the apostle John, taught deviant doctrines and had outright anti-Christian practices taking place within their congregations. I don’t think that’s the “pristine state” we want to restore the church to.
If we rewind history back to 55 A.D., we still end up with a divided church. The apostle Paul had to write to the Corinthian church about that time to discourage them from getting drunk at the Lord’s supper (so much for the idea that Christians can’t drink wine), and forming factions around Paul, Apollos, and other popular preachers. In an odd sort of way, those looking for a “pattern” for the sectarian church we find today can find it in Paul’s first letter to this congregation. I guess it should make us feel slightly better to know that they had a problem with unity and sectarianism, too.
But what would happen if all Christendom rewound the clock back to that pristine day of Pentecost, when the first gospel sermon was preached, making converts to The Way? These people realized they had just crucified the very person who had come to free them. That’s what made their change of heart so powerful and world-changing.
You see, social movements start in their ideal state and decline through subsequent generations of leaders. Martin Luther’s reformation fits this model. So does Alexander Campbell’s; and Christianity itself no different. The subject matter chosen for the inspired epistles, written for the purpose of correcting already-errant practices in the ekklesia of that era, emphasizes this point.
Truth Bomb: The pattern for our ideal church is found somewhere in the days immediately following Peter’s first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost, and NOT later in the first century after the epistles were written. Believers in that primitive state were undivided by opinions, brought together in koinonia solely for the love of their redeemer, each other, and their newfound Way of Life.
Of course, God used the apostles to reveal divine solutions to the problems those early Christians encountered, but it was all with the goal of restoring that primitive state of harmony in the church exhibited during those first days, months, and years.
Not one fact was added to the saving gospel of Jesus Christ after its first presentation by Peter. Did you know that Christians were saved and thrived as a community for about two decades before the first epistle was penned? Stanton doesn’t tell you that, do they?
This means that everything revealed in the apostolic letters, while God-breathed and important, should be seen as attempts to elucidate principles and eradicate human error, rather than attempts to create an appendix to the gospel or a new codebook of legislation. Jesus didn’t nail one codebook to the cross, just to institute another one.
I would say the epistles are not so much “additive,” but “restorative.” Leave it to fallible men to take uniting, uplifting doctrines and turn them into tools of division and factionalism. Men are really good at dividing, but not so good at uniting.
The factious spirit is the ultimate “innovation” in the church that we must purge out. We are called to to return, not to the almost-ancient order of things, but to the truly ancient, primitive order of the church. This is what Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone, and so many others reformers in the 19th century were trying to articulate. This “ancient order” is the state where Christians knew each other as brothers, not as hyphenated Christians or half-brothers alienated from each other to forever work apart in the great cause of Christ.
We do not have to agree with our brother on a list of creedal matters in order to work with him side by side. If he is our brother, he is worthy of our mutual love and edification. The correctness of our opinions does not justify forcing them them upon lesser (or greater) intellects. This was, at one time, the powerful restoration plea of the early 19th century. As Alexander Campbell once said, “It is cruel to excommunicate a man because of the imbecility of his intellect.”
Those of us who are the heirs of that legacy here in the 21st century might find that level of tolerance a bit startling due to the current factional climate, particularly if you’re fresh out of the Stanton sect or some other militant faction. It might be a little like hearing “cowbells in church” as Alexander Campbell might say.
But I thank God that the pendulum is swinging away from the divisive zeitgeist that infected the 20th century Restoration Movement. I sincerely hope that a new restoration movement–returning, not almost, but fully to the primitive concept of the brotherhood of all believers preached on Pentecost–will take hold in my generation.
We need to truly understand, with no caveats, that the Lord himself adds to His church–not to a particular sect–those who would be saved. He alone strips the sectarianism and self-seeking from the hearts of people with diverse backgrounds and intellects, and allows them work together as one. What God has made clean, let no man call common, unclean, or unworthy of our fellowship. If God has called him, who am I to reject him? That is the truly “ancient order” of things. That is first century unity.
I agree at not having small differences divide, Kevin, however, on the issue of alcohol, the other aspect, that is rarely discussed, is that if something is a stumblingblock for another, it is best to avoid it. For those who abstain from alcohol, no man will become an alcoholic because of them. But, if someone reads your post, buys a wine bottle, gets tipsy, and then becomes a drunk, would you not also share some culpability? I cannot see how you wouldn't. Not everyone can have self control in that area, and we are paying a fearful price for it.… Read more »
I don't want to go round and round on wine again. You've accepted the premise that we must adamantly teach and enforce the "best" choices that we ourselves *think* people ought to live by. I view that as tyranny, and antithetical to scriptural unity. We keep doing what we're doing, we'll keep getting what we're getting. Telling people how they should behave in matters that are clearly conscience is no different than Stanton. Sure, you might pick different things now than you would have a year or two ago to enforce. But that's all. It's the same sin of oppression… Read more »
Yes, but your approach is sophism. The idea that there is no absolute truth, and feelings are equal to objective facts. Man was not designed to lead with feelings. https://larouchepub.com/other/2003/sci-techs/3035sophism.html This was an issue that predates Stanton, and even Christ. It's why we have the First Amendment, because those who rely on feelings are constantly trying to silence those who use objective truth as a reference. We've seen that often on here, and it has never been discouraged by you. Romans 6 says either we are a slave of sin, or of God. You seem to think that is some… Read more »
I agree with you Kevin 100%.Telling people how they should behave in matters that are clearly conscience is no different than Stanton. You will forever go in circles in this topic with some & we will probably keep hearing about the "straw man logical fallacy" BS as well until one can actually step away from Stanton. Thank God we are all individuals who can make our own decisions in life in this great land of the free. Monte you would probably fit right over in the Middle East. They would probably call you a king seeing how your mind is… Read more »
Not sure why you don't think I believe in objective truth. It's objectively true, for instance, that the Bible shows many examples of acceptable drinking of alcohol. It is also objectively true that the Bible teaches not to over-indulge in it. It is an opinion to say that because it represents a potential danger, that we must teach the hardline stance to stay away from it at all costs. I prefer to teach what is objectively true, meaning to speak where the Bible actually speaks, and be actually silent where it's silent. And I'm using this subject, not to hash… Read more »
Monte, you said that "Ketcherside was dealing with minute matters, not large moral issues that history has long ago decided." I disagree. Jesus prayed for the unity of all believers, and Ketcherside's message is that the reason we've never realized that unity is we've been too busy to agree on *what* to believe, rather than in *whom* we believe. Ketcherside's argument is a meta-argument. He steps higher to look at the big picture, rather than trying to iron out all of the "little" differences that divide Christians so often. I have a book laying around somewhere entitled "Where The Saints… Read more »
You can download a copy of the book here –
Spot on, Kevin! You hit on the very thing that disturbs me most about Merie's group-the rules they institute to "err on the safe side", and to "avoid the slippery slope". They institute these rules, and then can't understand why members don't seem to have any judgment or common sense in their lives.When we take away the freedoms that God has given us, namely the right to work out our own salvation, then how are we to learn judgment? If I merely have to memorize rules, then where is the learning? Where is the applying God's word to my own… Read more »
Lynn, I checked out the copy of Where the Saints Meet you linked to, and this illustrates my point precisely. That copy was published in 1957 and did not have the sectarian classifications that later editions came to use. ME = Mutual Edification (no paid preacher)NC = No ClassesOC = One CupEtc. The copy I saw as a young man was published probably sometime in the 80's. You could look up every sectarian classification of COCs in existence, defying the very principles of the unity movement from which we came. This shows the downward spiral our "unity movement" entered into… Read more »
M- what constitutes the moral law? Please give me a couple of examples.
AnonymousApril 5, 2019 at 10:15 AM It's written on our conscience. Romans 2: 14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) Reason and logic lead to it. Most of the moral law is common sense. Those who object to it the most, are often those who love their own vices… Read more »
BTW, for those interested, General Omar Bradley of World War 2 fame, and Ronald Reagan were both raised church of Christ.
I could be wrong, but I thought Reagan was raised in his mom's Disciples of Christ church. The Disciples were the group started by Alexander Campbell. They have unfortunately become very progressive in modern times. I think as an adult, Reagan usually identified himself as Presbyterian.
One thing that sort of stuck out to me after so many years was the story of one sister in Merie's church who told me the scripture where there were factions (I am of Apollos, etc.) in which Paul chastised them all for being divided is the scripture that convinced her Merie's church was THE ONE. I never understood why that scripture was that impactful to her in that way. Not even when I was in. And now, I realize that despite their differences Paul was asking them to be united in that they still had the same gospel and… Read more »
Yes, their twisting of that chapter on unity to say the opposite of what Paul meant is a very distinctive doctrine of the SCOC. It took me a lot of years to realize it, because if you pluck a verse out of its context without understanding the point, it sounds convincing.
Unanimity ≠ unity
Unanimity = tyranny
It is impossible for two people with independent consciences, intellects, and maturities, to come to exactly the same conclusions without coercion.
"A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still."
"When two people think exactly alike — one of them isn't thinking."
Great quote Anon April 9, 3:51!!
Anon 3:51 & AFC – Exactly!
M Long, great points. Yes these versus used in nonmember classes 1 Corinthians 1:10-13. Paul letting the Corinthians know as you said do not be divided in Christ’s teachings and the testimony of Christ that was confirmed in them. Simply follow Jesus and not these others who may of baptized them. MM dunked me and got me wet ughhh. I never thought anything of it other than when asked I know who dunked me. I’m not seeing at all how Merie could’ve thought what she thought. Of course Christ isn’t divided. They say the religious world is divided and we… Read more »
I see there's a PP on Facebook again.. No picture, with 11 friends and some friends from El Cajon and San Diego.. I know darn well she would never go without being on Facebook so she can snoop.. she deactivated or deleted her last one when we all talked about her being on Facebook and being active
How does one honor their father and mother when they disagreed with Stanton, and Stanton cut off all ties between them and their parents? I said, 'Sin when repented of, can be rapidly and completely healed by God'. Stanton withdrew from me over this. In my Bible, God's ability to heal is limited only by the individuals ability to believe it possible, as Jesus demonstrated many times by healing the spiritually and physically sick. But, Stanton had other ideas. It's been difficult for me. I still deeply love my parents, and appreciate all they did for me, but not being… Read more »
Very sad! As you grow older as I have you realize family is everything. Sometimes they do some very hurtful things to one another. Your story so sad! Prayers for you. Prayers for healing before they die and that God will reveal the truth to them.
Montesquieu, Convincing your family members who still are in the SCOC to go along with their directive of not having any kind of contact with you is the only weapon they have, but it is a considerable one. Not to besmirch your family, but those willing to obey any such orders should be utterly ashamed of themselves, not just for allowing themselves to be mind-controlled through cult-like methods, but also before God, who in no way approves of, endorses, or authorizes the spiritually pathological behavior of this sect, and of course, their Ruling Triumvirate of KS, GP, and TC. The… Read more »
Montesquieu, I feel for you my friend. Stay strong! Anon 3:01 You are right on the mark!
Monte: You're an inconvenience to the lot of them. Has anyone else noticed that those who are an inconvenience, whether not able to do works, question too much, refuse to go along with certain things, are easily withdrawn from? Merie, for all her talk of being a Christian, started a very DEMANDING cult. There is no real room for the variety of people that Jesus himself spoke about as needing him. They are too weak. They are burdensome. Monte, there have been times when some want you off this blog. I have been on occasion on this list, frustrated by… Read more »