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In Christianity restorationism or Christian primitivism, is the belief that a purer form of Christianity should be restored using the early church as a model.:635:217 It is sometimes used more specifically as a synonym for the American Restoration Movement.:225-226 The term restoration is also employed by the Latter Day Saint movement.
The term is also used by more recent groups, describing their goal to re-establish Christianity in its original form, such as some anti-denominational Charismatic Restorationists, which arose in the 1970s in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. In comparable terms, earlier primitivist movements including the Hussites,:13 Anabaptists,:125-135 Landmarkists:69-71 and the Puritans:50-55 have been described as examples of restorationism.
Efforts to restore an earlier, purer form of Christianity are often a response to denominationalism. As Rubel Shelly put it, "[t]he motive behind all restoration movements is to tear down the walls of separation by a return to the practice of the original, essential and universal features of the Christian religion.":29
The terms restorationism, restorationist and restoration are used in several senses within Christianity.
"Restorationism" in the sense of "Christian primitivism" refers to the attempt to correct the shortcomings of the current church by using the primitive church as a model,:635 and has also been described as "practicing church the way it is perceived to have been done in the New Testament.":217 This theme arises early in church history, first appearing in the works of Iranaeus,:635 and appeared in some movements during the Middle Ages. It was expressed to varying degrees in the theology of the Protestant Reformation,:217 and Protestantism has been described as "a form of Christian restorationism, though some of its forms - for example the Churches of Christ or the Baptists - are more restorationist than others.":81-82 A number of historical movements within Christianity may be described as "restoration movements," including the Glasites in Scotland and England, the independent church led by James Haldane and Robert Haldane in Scotland, the American Restoration Movement, the Landmark Baptists and the Mormons.:659pf A variety of more contemporary movements have also been described as "restorationist". Restorationism has been described as a basic component of some Pentecostal movements such as the Assemblies of God.:4-5 The terms "Restorationism movement" and "Restorationist movement" have also been applied to the British New Church Movement.:82-83
Other uses of the term "restorationism" outside the scope of this article include the belief that the Jewish people must be restored to the promised land in fulfillment of biblical prophecy before the Second Coming of Christ.:3 Christian restorationism is generally used to describe the 19th century movement based on this belief, though the term Christian Zionism is more commonly used to describe later forms. It is also used to describe a form of postmillennialism developed during the later half of the 20th century, which was influential among a number of charismatic groups and the British new church movement.:57-58
The restoration ideal has been interpreted and applied in a variety of ways.:635 Four general historical models can be identified based on the aspect of early Christianity that the individuals and groups involved were attempting to restore.:635 These are:
Ecclesiastical primitivism focuses on restoring the ecclesiastical practices of the early church.:635 Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin and the Puritans all advocated ecclesiastical primitivism.:635, 636 The strongest advocate of ecclesiastical primitivism in the US was Alexander Campbell.:636
Ethical primitivism focuses on restoring the ethical norms and commitment to discipleship of the early church.:636 The Anabaptists, Barton W. Stone and the Holiness Movement are examples of this form of restorationism.:636, 637
Experiential primitivism focuses on restoring the direct communication with God and the experience of the Holy Spirit seen in the early church.:637 Examples include the Latter Day Saint movement of Joseph Smith, Jr. and Pentecostalism.:637, 638
Gospel primitivism may be best seen in the theology of Martin Luther.:638 Luther was not, in the strictest sense, a restorationist because he saw human effort to restore the church as works righteousness and was sharply critical of other Reformation leaders who were attempting to do so.:638 On the other hand, he was convinced that the gospel message had been obscured by the Roman Catholic Church of the time.:638 He also rejected church traditions and insisted on scripture as the sole authority for the church.:23
These models are not mutual exclusive, but overlap; for example, the Pentecostal movement sees a clear link between ethical primitivism and experiential primitivism.:635, 637
According to Barbara Tuchman, beginning in about 1470 a succession of Popes focused on the acquisition of money, their role in Italian politics as rulers of the papal states and power politics within the college of cardinals. The restorationist movement  at the time was centered on movements that wanted to renew the church, such as the Lollards, Hussites, and Brethren of the Common Life.
While these pre-reformation movements did presage and sometimes discussed a break with Rome and papal authority, they also provoked restorationist movements within the church, such as the councils of Constance  and Basle , which were held in the first half of the 15th century.
Preachers at the time regularly harangued delegates to these conferences regarding simony, venality, lack of chastity and celebacy, and the holding of multiple benefices. The lack of success of the restorationist movements after this time led inexorably to the reformation.
The Protestant Reformation came about through an impulse to repair the Church and return it to its original biblical structure, belief, and practice, and was motivated by a sense that "the medieval church had allowed its traditions to clutter the way to God with fees and human regulations and thus to subvert the gospel of Christ.":21 At the heart of the Reformation was an emphasis on the principle of "scripture alone" (sola scriptura).:22-23 As a result the authority of church tradition, which had taken practical precedence over scripture, was rejected.:22
The Reformation was not a monolithic movement, but consisted of at least three identifiable sub-currents.:21 One was centered in Germany, one was centered in Switzerland, and the third was centered in England.:21 While these movements shared come common concerns, each had its own particular emphasis.:21 The Lutheran approach can be described as one of "reformation," seeking "to reform and purify the historic, institutional church while at the same time preserving as much of the tradition as possible.":21 In contrast, the Reformed approach can be described as one of "restoration," seeking "to restore the essence and form of the primitive church based on biblical precedent and example; tradition received scant respect.":21 While Luther focused on the question "How can we find forgiveness of sins?", the early Reformed theologians turned to the Bible for patterns that could be used to replace traditional forms and practices.:24 Heinrich Bullinger and Martin Bucer in particular emphasized the restoration of Biblical patterns.:29-31 John Calvin reflected an intermediate position between that of Luther and Reformed theologians such as Zwingli, stressing Biblical precedents for church governance, but as a tool to more effectively proclaim the gospel rather than as ends in themselves.:291,22
Luther opposed efforts to restore "biblical forms and structures,":112 because he saw human efforts to restore the church as works righteousness.:638 He did seek the "marks of the true church," but was concerned that by focusing on forms and patterns could lead to the belief that by "restoring outward forms alone one has restored the essence.":117 Thus, Luther believed that restoring the gospel was the first step in renewing the church, rather than restoring biblical forms and patterns.:118 In this sense, Luther can be described as a gospel restorationist, even though his approach was very different from that of other restorationists.:638:121
Protestant groups have generally accepted history as having some "jurisdiction" in Christian faith and life; the question has been the extent of that jurisdiction.:5 A commitment to history and primitivism are not mutually exclusive; while some groups attempt to give full jurisdiction to the primitive church, for others the apostolic "first times" are given only partial jurisdiction.:5,6
During the First Great Awakening, a movement developed among the Baptists known as Separate Baptists. Two themes of this movement were the rejection of creeds and "freedom in the Spirit.":65 The Separate Baptists saw scripture as the "perfect rule" for the church.:66 However, while they turned to the Bible for a structural pattern for the church, they did not insist on complete agreement on the details of that pattern.:67 This group originated in New England, but was especially strong in the South where the emphasis on a biblical pattern for the church grew stronger.:67 In the last half of the 18th century it spread to the western frontier of Kentucky and Tennessee, where the Stone and Campbell movements would later take root.:68 The development of the Separate Baptists in the southern frontier helped prepare the ground for the Restoration Movement, as the membership of both the Stone and Campbell groups drew heavily from among the ranks of the Separate Baptists.:67 Separate Baptist restorationism also contributed to the development of the Landmark Baptists in the same area at about the same time as the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement. Under the leadership of James Robinson Graves, this group looked for a precise blueprint for the primitive church, believing that any deviation from that blueprint would keep one from being part of the true church.:68
The ideal of restoring a "primitive" form of Christianity grew in popularity in the U.S. after the American Revolution.:89-94 This desire to restore a purer form of Christianity played a role in the development of many groups during this period, known as the Second Great Awakening, including the Mormons, Baptists and Shakers.:89 Several factors made the restoration sentiment particularly appealing during this time period.:90-94
Camp meetings fueled the Second Great Awakening, which served as an "organizing process" that created "a religious and educational infrastructure" across the trans-Appalachian frontier that encompassed social networks, a religious journalism that provided mass communication, and church related colleges.:368
The American Restoration Movement aimed to restore the church and sought "the unification of all Christians in a single body patterned after the church of the New Testament.":54 While the Restoration Movement developed from several independent efforts to go back to apostolic Christianity, but two groups that independently developed similar approaches to the Christian faith were particularly important to its development.:27-32 The first, led by Barton W. Stone began at Cane Ridge, Bourbon County, Kentucky and called themselves simply Christians. The second began in western Pennsylvania and Virginia (now West Virginia) and was led by Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander Campbell; they used the name Disciples of Christ.
The Campbell movement was characterized by a "systematic and rational reconstruction" of the early church, in contrast to the Stone movement which was characterized by radical freedom and lack of dogma.:106-108 Despite their differences, the two movements agreed on several critical issues.:108 Both saw restoring apostolic Christianity as a means of hastening the millennium.:108 Both also saw restoring the early church as a route to Christian freedom.:108 And, both believed that unity among Christians could be achieved by using apostolic Christianity as a model.:108 They were united, among other things, in the belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; that Christians should celebrate the Lord's Supper on the first day of each week; and that baptism of adult believers by immersion in water is a necessary condition for salvation. Because the founders wanted to abandon all denominational labels, they used the biblical names for the followers of Jesus that they found in the Bible.:27 The commitment of both movements to restoring the early church and to uniting Christians was enough to motivate a union between many in the two movements.:8,9
With the merger, there was the challenge of what to call the new movement. Clearly, finding a Biblical, non-sectarian name was important. Stone wanted to continue to use the name "Christians." Alexander Campbell insisted upon "Disciples of Christ". As a result, both names were used.:27-28:125
The Restoration Movement began during, and was greatly influenced by, the Second Great Awakening.:368 While the Campbells resisted what they saw as the spiritual manipulation of the camp meetings, the Southern phase of the Awakening "was an important matrix of Barton Stone's reform movement" and shaped the evangelistic techniques used by both Stone and the Campbells.:368
The Restoration Movement has seen several divisions, resulting in multiple separate groups. Three modern groups originating in the U.S. claim the Stone-Campbell movement as their roots: Churches of Christ, Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Some see divisions in the movement as the result of the tension between the goals of restoration and ecumenism, with the Churches of Christ and Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ resolving the tension by stressing restoration while the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) resolved the tension by stressing ecumenism.:383 Non-U.S. churches associated with this movement include the Churches of Christ in Australia and the Evangelical Christian Church in Canada.
Dr. John Thomas (April 12, 1805 - March 5, 1871), was a devout convert to the Restoration movement after a shipwreck at sea on his emigration to America brought to focus his inadequate understanding of the Bible, and what would happen to him at death. This awareness caused him to devote his life to the study of the Bible, which in turn brought him into contact with the teachings of Alexander Campbell. However, Dr. Thomas could not reconcile his views on baptism and resurrection with Campbell's. Once the split with Campbell was inevitable, Dr. Thomas appealed to the Churches of Christ in America and in England and a growing movement emerged. A distinctive body of believers developed whose doctrine incorporated Adventism, anti-trinitarianism, the belief that God is a "substantial and corporeal" being, objection to military service, a lay-membership with full participation by all members, and other doctrines consistent with the spirit of the Restorationist movement.
One consequence of objection to military service was the adoption of the name Christadelphians to distinguish this small community of believers and to be granted exemption from military service in the American Civil War.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) or "Mormons" believe that Joseph Smith, Jr. was chosen to restore the original organization founded by Jesus "in its fullness", rather than to reform the church. This belief is no longer shared by the second largest branch of the Latter Day Saint Movement, the Community of Christ (formerly The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints).
As one history put it, "[n]o group used the language of 'restoration' more consistently and more effectively than did the [Latter Day Saints] ... early Mormons seemed obsessed with restoring the ancient church of God.":94 According to Smith, God the Father and Jesus appeared to him and instructed him that the creeds of the churches of the day "were an abomination in his sight" and that through him, God would restore (or re-establish) the true church. Smith taught that the Great Apostasy was complete and required a full restoration of the original church. This included the Aaronic priesthood, the Melchizedek priesthood, and the full church structure consisting of prophets, apostles, evangelists and teachers. Joseph Smith founded the Church of Christ in 1830, serving as the first prophet believed to be appointed by Jesus in the "latter days".
Smith published the Book of Mormon, which LDS members believe was translated from Golden Plates as directed by the angel Moroni. Members of the Latter Day Saint movement believe that the Book of Mormon contains a record of the original church of Jesus in the Americas between about 600 BC and AD 421. In addition, Smith claimed that he received the true authority or priesthood directly from those who held it anciently, namely John the Baptist, who returned as an angel and gave him and Oliver Cowdery the authority to baptize. Saint Peter, Saint James and Saint John, the Apostles, returned as angels and gave Smith and Cowdery the authority to lead the church just as they had done anciently.
The church was organized on April 6, 1830 in New York State. Originally the church was unofficially called the "Church of Christ". Four years later, in April 1834 it was also referred to as the "Church of Latter Day Saints" to differentiate the church of this era from that of the New Testament. Then, in April 1838, the full name was stated as the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints".
Some among the Churches of Christ have attributed the restorationist character of the Latter Day Saints movement to the influence of a preacher, Sidney Rigdon, who was associated with the Campbell movement in Ohio but left it and became a close friend of Joseph Smith.:95:544,545 Neither the Mormons nor the early Restoration Movement leaders invented the idea of "restoration"; it was a popular theme of the time that had developed independently of both, and Mormonism and the Restoration Movement represent different expressions of that common theme.:95:544,545 The two groups had very different approaches to the restoration ideal.:545 The Campbell movement combined it with Enlightenment rationalism, "precluding emotionalism, spiritualism, or any other phenomena that couldnot be sustained by rational appeals to the biblical text.":545 The Latter Day Saints combined it with "the spirit of nineteenth-century Romanticism" and, as a result, "never sought to recover the forms and structures of the ancient church as ends in themselves" but "sought to restore the golden age, recorded in both Old Testament and New Testament, when God broke into human history and communed directly with humankind.":545
Adventism is a Christian eschatological belief that looks for the imminent Second Coming of Jesus to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. This view involves the belief that Jesus will return to receive those who have died in Christ and those who are awaiting his return, and that they must be ready when he returns. Adventists are considered to be both restorationists and conservative Protestants.
The Millerites were the most well-known family of the Adventist movements. They emphasized apocalyptic teachings anticipating the end of the world, and did not look for the unity of Christendom but busied themselves in preparation for Christ's return. Millerites sought to restore a prophetic immediacy and uncompromising biblicism that they believed had once existed but had long been rejected by mainstream Protestant and Catholic churches. From the Millerites descended the Seventh-day Adventists and the Advent Christian Church.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church grew out of the Adventist movement, in particular the Millerites. Important to the Seventh-day Adventist movement is a belief in progressive revelation, teaching that the Christian life and testimony is intended to be typified by the Spirit of Prophecy, as explained in the writings of Ellen G. White.
The Worldwide Church of God arose from the Seventh Day churches. The personal ministry of Herbert W. Armstrong became the Radio Church of God, which became the Worldwide Church of God. It later splintered into many other churches and groups when the Worldwide Church of God disassociated itself with the Restoration movements and made major attempts to join the Protestant branch of Christianity.
The Advent Christian Church is unaffiliated with Seventh-day Adventism, but considers itself the second "of six Christian denominations that grew out of the ministry of William Miller". As a "first-day" body of Adventist Christians established by The Advent Christian General Conference in 1860, the church's beliefs include "conditional immortality" and a form of "soul sleep".
In the 1870s, a Bible study group led by Charles Taze Russell formed into what was eventually called the Bible Student movement. Pastor Russell's congregations did not consider him to be the founder of a new religion, but that he helped in restoring true Christianity from the apostasy that Jesus and the Apostle Paul foretold. They believed that other Churches departed in a Great Apostasy from the original faith on major points, and that the original faith could be restored through a generally literal interpretation of the Bible and a sincere commitment to follow its teachings. They focused on several key doctrinal points that they considered a return to "primitive Christianity", derived from their interpretation of the Bible, including a rejection of trinitarianism; the rejection of the definition of hell as a place of eternal torment; active proselytization; strict neutrality in political affairs; abstinence from warfare; and a belief in the imminent manifestation of the Kingdom of God on Earth.
Jehovah's Witnesses emerged as a distinct religious organization, maintaining control of Russell's Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and other corporations. They continued to develop doctrines that they considered to be an improved restoration of first century Christianity, including increased emphasis on the use of Jehovah as God's personal name.
The Plymouth Brethren is a conservative, Evangelical, restorationist movement whose history can be traced to Dublin, Ireland, in the late 1820s. The title, "The Brethren", is one that many of their number are comfortable with, in that the Bible designates all believers as "brethren". Christians meeting in "Brethren assemblies" are commonly perceived as being divided into at least two branches, the "Open Brethren" and the "Exclusive Brethren".
The Plymouth Brethren movement began in Dublin in around 1827 and soon spread from Ireland to Britain. The first English assembly was in Plymouth where the movement became well known. Brethren assemblies diffused throughout Europe and beyond. Leonard Strong led the formation about 1836 of assemblies in British Guiana among the slaves. In Dublin, more than one group of believers met separately around 1827, and for some time were unknown to each other. These believers included John Nelson Darby and Anthony Norris Groves. They were dubbed "brethren" because of their practice of calling each other "brother" instead of the titles favored by mainstream denominations.
The first meeting in England was held in December 1831 in Plymouth. It was organised primarily by George Wigram, Benjamin Wills Newton and John Nelson Darby. The movement soon spread throughout the UK. By 1845, the assembly in Plymouth had over 1,000 souls in fellowship. They became known as "the brethren from Plymouth", and were soon simply called "Plymouth Brethren." The term "Darbyites" was also used, although it was uncommon and referred mainly to the "Exclusive" branch. Many within the movement refuse to accept any name other than "Christian."
By 1848, divergence of practice and belief led to the development of two separate branches. The rift was caused primarily by a difference of opinions between John Nelson Darby and Benjamin Wills Newton in regards to eschatology. Despite more divisions, assemblies are still often generalized into two main categories: "Open Brethren" and "Exclusive Brethren".
During the Charismatic Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, which focused on the transformation of the individual, some leaders formed what has become known as the Charismatic Restorationist Movement. These leaders, of whom Arthur Wallis, David Lillie and Cecil Cousen were at the forefront, focused on the nature of the church and shared a distinctive view that authentic church order was being restored to the whole church. This authentic church order centred on what is referred to as the "fivefold ministries", as listed in Ephesians 4:11: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Teachers and Pastors. Although the Charismatic Movement brought the Pentecostal gifts to the denominational churches, these restorationists considered denominationalism unbiblical, and shared a conviction that God would cause the church to be directly organized and empowered by the holy spirit.
The movement has thousands of adherents worldwide, and notable church networks include Newfrontiers led by Terry Virgo, Salt and Light Ministries International led by Barney Coombs and (arguably) Ichthus Christian Fellowship led by Faith and Roger Forster.
The British leaders of charismatic restorationism mutually recognised a parallel movement in the United States, centered on the Fort Lauderdale Five; Derek Prince, Don Basham, Bob Mumford, Charles Simpson and Ern Baxter. This movement became known as the Shepherding Movement and was the subject of significant controversy in the mid-1970s. The movement left a significant legacy through its influence on contemporary ministries International Churches of Christ, Maranatha Campus Ministries and Great Commission International.
More recently another form of charismatic restorationism with a similar recognition of the apostolic office has emerged in the form of the Apostolic-Prophetic Movement, centered on the Kansas City Prophets. Leading proponents of the movement include C. Peter Wagner, Rick Joyner, Mike Bickle and Lou Engle.
The Church of God (Restoration) is a Christian denomination that was founded in the 1980s by Daniel (Danny) Layne. In a booklet written by Mr. Layne in the early 1980s, he claimed to be an ex-heroin addict who spent years dealing drugs and living a life of crime and sin on the streets of San Francisco. Layne was originally raised in the Church of God (Anderson), where his father was a minister. Layne began preaching in the Church of God (Guthrie, OK) after his conversion.
One tenet of this group is that they are ordained by both prophecy and divine command to restore the church of God as it was in the Book of Acts. Most of Daniel Layne's beliefs concerning the book of Revelation originated from some ministers who had left the Church of God (Anderson) reformation movement thirty or so years earlier. This teaching is upheld by the official eschatology, which is a form of church historicism. This Church of God (Restoration) teaches that the 7th Trumpet in the book of the Revelation began to sound around the year 1980 when Daniel Layne was saved, alleging that there was a general discontent among many of its current adherents that were in various Churches of God at that time. A variation of this "7th Seal message" had been taught in other Churches of God for approximately 50 years prior to this point.
Iglesia ni Cristo began in the Philippines and was incorporated by Felix Y. Manalo on July 27, 1914. The church professes to be the reestablishment of the original church founded by Jesus Christ and teaches that the original church was apostatized. It does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity or the divinity of Jesus. Iglesia ni Cristo does not subscribe to the term Restoration or claim to be a part of the Restoration Movement.
The Members Church of God International began in the Philippines and was incorporated by Bro. Eli Soriano on March 30, 1977. The church professes to be the reestablishment of the original church founded by Jesus Christ and teaches that the original church was apostatized. They reject the doctrine of the Trinity and various "added" doctrines taught by mainstream Christian Organizations. They do not subscribe to the term "Restoration or claim" to be a part of the Restoration Movement.
The local churches are a Christian movement influenced by the teachings of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee and associated with the Living Stream Ministry publishing house. Its members see themselves as separate from other Christian groups, denominations, and movements, part of what they sometimes call "the Lord's recovery". One of the defining features of the local churches is their adherence to the principle that all Christians in a city or locality are automatically members of the one church in that locality. Another defining feature is the lack of an official organization or official name for the movement. The local churches believe that to take a name would be disrespectful and insulting to the name of Jesus. To distinguish themselves, each local church refers to itself only as "the church in [locality]".
in English-speaking countries
17th century Christian denominations in Britain with some similar views: