A gracEmail subscriber notes the divisions among Churches of Christ, a contemporary wing of the back-to-the-Bible movement led by 19th-century reformers Thomas and Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone. This subscriber asks whether the vision of this particular Restoration Movement is even viable, or if it is inherently self-destructive and doomed to failure.
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Modern descendants of the Stone-Campbell movement differ in defining its fundamental vision and they naturally differ also in answering this question. If one concedes that the Restoration Movement vision includes its founders’ original passion for Christian unity and also their plea to restore “the ancient order,” I do not see how one can avoid concluding that the vision contains inherent contradictions — at least to the point of requiring an ultimate choice between these two original goals.
For example, the Churches of Christ and the Independent Christian Churches have generally chosen restoration over unity, whereas the Disciples of Christ (and some within the other two groups), have generally chosen Christian unity at the expense of restoration. Neither of the three groups generally believes, as the Campbells did, that Christians in all denominations will ever formally unite based on the recovery of some clear and universally-acknowledged vision of first-century ecclesiastical details involving worship, organization and rites.
We need to learn that the ultimate restoration is God’s agenda, not ours, that it is cosmic in scope and that he will certainly bring it about. We need to recover the original Christian vision which focuses on Jesus Christ rather than either unity of Christians or restoration of first-century church forms as a primary goal. By faith-union with Christ, we are already fully “restored” to God and we also are “united” with all others who belong to him. We need only to receive the restoration and the unity that God has given us in his Son. In redemption as in creation, God looks upon his work and declares it very good.