Hugh Fulford: Neutralizing the Restoration Plea

Note: Hugh’s evaluation of what is happening among us is spot on. Christians who want to be faithful should reject such teachings and not give space to those who teach these things.

Over the course of nearly sixty years I have read many books, articles, lectures, and sermons concerning the restoration principle, the restoration plea, and the restoration movement. I also have heard many lectures and sermons regarding these matters. I have endeavored to make my own contributions both in preaching and in writing to the noble effort to restore the simplicity of original New Testament Christianity, free of the apostasies and corruptions that have been introduced into Christianity down through the centuries.

It now comes as somewhat of a surprise to discover that a revisionist attempt is underway (and has been for some time) to undermine and reduce the impact of the restoration plea and the restoration movement by asserting that the restorers were actually only a later generation of reformers and that what we know as the Restoration Movement was really just a later version of the Protestant Reformation Movement of the sixteenth century.

Several years ago I read what purported to be a history of The Stone-Campbell Movement. It was quite obvious from the beginning that the author was seeking to revise the concept of restoration and to cast it as just further reformation. In the Introduction to the work (page vii) it was asserted by one of the endorsers of the work that “Some needed corrections of common misunderstandings are included in this text. The earliest leaders referred to themselves as ‘reformers,’ not ‘restorers.’ Their work was a continuation of the sixteenth century reformation, not a restoration of the first century church.” In the “News and Notes” section of one his recent essays (June 23, 2012), the author of the above book stated, “The distinction I draw between restoration and reformation, and that our heritage is reformation and not restoration, is one of its (The Stone-Campbell Movement) challenging thesis” (sic).

It is certainly true that Alexander Campbell and other leaders of the Restoration Movement sometimes referred to themselves as reformers and to the effort they were about as “the current reformation.”Obviously, when restoration takes place change/reformation also occurs. So, there is a degree of overlap between the two concepts. But make no mistake about it the early restorers were concerned with “a restoration of the ancient order of things” a complete return toapostolic Christianity as set forth on the pages of the New Testament!The early leaders of this effort used “Reformers” and “Restorers” interchangeably, but never in their mind did the former exclude the latter.

Beginning on February 7, 1825 (The Christian Baptist, Vol. II, No. 7) and ending on May 5, 1829 (The Christian Baptist, Vol. VI, No. 10), Alexander Campbell wrote a series of thirty-one essays titled “A Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things.” Campbell believed there was something missing from the “Christianity” of his day that was badly in need of being restored!

In 1836, Walter Scott, one of the great heralds of the restoration plea, published a book titled The Gospel Restored.Moses E. Lard, one of the outstanding scholars and leading lights of the Restoration Movement, credited Scott’s book with first teaching him the ancient gospel, the gospel as originally set forth in the New Testament. Therefore, to assert that these men were only reformers and not restorers is without historical warrant.

Through the years, the effort to go back and be what the first-century followers of Christ were Christians only, without denominational affiliation has been rightfully referred to as the Restoration Movement. Revisionist efforts to make it simply an extension of the Protestant Reformation Movement, and to cast the autonomous churches of Christ as “another denomination among denominations” is designed to neutralize the force and impact of the restoration plea.But such a revisionist approach is a patently false characterization of what the plea and movement was and is all about.

Hugh Fulford

July 10, 2012

hugh’s news & Views