Theology and the Demise of the Restoration Movement

Theology BalanceIn my last two posts (found here and here), I dealt with my thought journey concerning the Restoration Movement (RM). On the one hand, I noted that unorthodox theology had been a part of the RM from the beginning, particularly with Barton Stone’s theology concerning his denial of the deity of Christ and substitutionary atonement in addition to his acceptance of “religious exercises” (e.g., barking, cooing, etc.). On the other hand, the RM has had issues all along from the other end of the spectrum: a hyper-conservatism that has alienated Christians from other denominations through its insistence by some (beginning with John Thomas in the 19th century) that baptism must be understood to be for salvation if it is to be considered a true baptism. My thesis from these observations has been this: the lack of a theological framework has made the RM a movement with no definitive belief, thereby allowing the acceptance of heterodoxy and fundamentalism (legalism).

Before going too much further, it should be noted what I mean by “theological framework.” In essence, it is–at the very least–an agreement of fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith, such as God as creator, the Trinity, the nature and work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, salvation, and the like. These would be beliefs that Christians from all different backgrounds and denominations have always believed (more on this in my next post). It would also be an agreement of certain beliefs that may be unique to the RM, such as its view of church government, the Lord’s Supper, and baptism (more on this later in my next post as well).

Of course, one immediate reaction by some (many?) would be, “This is a creed!” and we all know that many from the RM can have no creed. It is against their dictum “No creed but Christ!” This, however, is exactly my point: the lack of an official “creed” has led to constant strife in the RM. I am uncertain as to why there is such fear of some kind of doctrinal statement that delineates exactly what one believes. Yes, I am aware of the history of such fears. I just find them to be unwarranted.

Both liberals and conservatives are against any kind of creed (something they ironically agree upon!). It is easy to see why if we take a moment to think about it: liberals do not like creeds because of what is contained in them and others (namely, the more conservative) because they may become more authoritative than Scripture. Alexander Campbell even noted this. The former reason is why there is a need for a creed (to avoid bad theology) and the latter reason is unfounded. A creed (or statement of faith, if you wish) simply states what one believes the Scripture teaches. It is not any more authoritative than Scripture. The denominations who have creeds even recognize this (see Philip Schaff’s The Creeds of Christendom, vol. 1, p.7-9 for a good discussion on this). That’s what the term “creed” means: it comes from the Latin term “creedo,” meaning “I believe.” I have always found it interesting how the more conservative are against creeds, but as soon as a liberal espouses bad theology (especially a false view of baptism), they come out of the wood work calling for tar and feathers (metaphorically speaking, of course). Obviously, they are working from some kind of creed, even if it is left unspoken. Why not just write it down so everyone will know what the specific transgression is?

The RM, however, has been content over its 200 year history to have no creed or statement of faith, and this has led to the acceptance of the entire theological spectrum, which in turn has led to all sorts of divisions–some good and some bad. In the good cases, it was typically between theological liberalism and theological conservatism (I am particularly thinking here about the split between the Independents and the Disciples during the mid-twentieth century). There comes a time when theological liberalism can no longer be tolerated–for the sake of the church and for the sake of the Gospel. As J. Gresham Machen once intimated, liberalism is an entirely different religion.

There have also been times when splits were bad in the RM. I am reminded of the split between those who wished not to use instruments in worship and those who did, which resulted in the Independent Christian Churches and the Churches of Christ. In fact, there are numerous bad divisions among the RM, too many to count here. One has to wonder: with so many splits, how is there any resemblance of a cohesive movement? (This is not to even mention that, most likely, the majority of members of a RM church have never heard of the RM. Who talks about it at the local church level anymore?)

Divisions are an intrinsic characteristic of the RM, and they are not just something of the past. They persist today–at least practically speaking. These are all due, once again, to having no theological framework. I have written about some of these aberrant and legalistic theologies that are wreaking havoc in the RM in my blog over the last several years.  (Even Bob Russell has now publicly stated that he has concerns about the liberal theology in the RM today. See his comments at the end of Terry Sweany’s blog here.) The spectrum is so wide that it is quite a breath taking view: some in the RM accept feminism and others do not (see my extensive discussion on this herehere, here, and here); some accept that there is objective truth and others do not; some believe that baptism is a part of salvation and some do not; some believe in the Trinity and others do not; some believe the Bible contains no errors and some do. These matters do not even begin to touch upon the various philosophies of ministry that range from pragmatism to stunted traditionalism. If you can name it, you can find it in the RM. Plenty of specific examples could be given, but I do not find it necessary to list individuals, churches, and faculty who hold all these views. The point is that when there is no theology by which all are working from, there will be no unity. In fact, there will be a demise.

Play DoughWhat is mind boggling is that all these different beliefs and practices are supposed to be under the same umbrella known as the RM. But how does acceptance of every theological doctrine and practice amount to any kind of Christian identity (not to mention unity)? If a person denies that Christ rose bodily from the dead, then surely this is a rejection of what it even means to be a Christian! Shouldn’t there be some kind of core doctrine that must be agreed upon by all of what it means to be “Christian?” The Apostle Paul seemed to think so (see 1 Corithians 15). Unfortunately, the RM does not have this–there is not even one kind of document or statement describing the RM as “Christian” and what exactly that means. It has absolutely no official identity. Does the RM even really exist? It seems to be like a pile of play dough that still needs to be shaped into something. Sure it has its conferences, schools, and local churches, but so do millions of other organizations around the world. But they are at least one up on the RM–they have a mission statement and objectives.

The RM’s personality disorder will persist and its battle with bad theology (from both ends of the spectrum) will continue as long as it jettisons a theological framework. It seems to me that there must be some kind of theological core that characterizes the RM and even some theological distinctives–that which makes the RM different from other denominations and Christian traditions.  If the RM is going to recognize its distinctives and work from a theological foundation, it will need to move on from its superficial dictums, such as “we are not the only Christians; we are Christians only,” “no creed but Christ,” and “where the Bible is silent, we are silent” (among others). The world has moved on since the days these ideas were developed (what do these aphorisms mean anyway?). Perhaps they worked well in the context of the early nineteenth century and made sense to an audience in which polemics was the main concern. Today, however, Christianity faces postmodernism, scientific naturalism, and a host of other views that do not share much in common with the Christian worldview. If a theological frame work is not in place, then this will be (or is it already a reality?) the RM’s demise, for it will be accepting not just bad theology but anti-theology–teachings that run directly contrary to the fundamental teachings of Christianity and destroy any resemblance of Christianity that it might have today. At best the RM will just blend in with other denominations and sort of fade away. (Perhaps this would not be so bad?) In fact, it seems that some RM churches have already done this–they have become just another non-denominational church among evangelicals (and I’m not too certain that this is such a horrible deal).

In short, it is required and it is long overdue for the RM to have a theological foundation by which to work from if it desires to exist in any formal way rather than a hodgepodge of churches scattered throughout America, having some resemblance of Christianity but no definitive Christian identity. A question that comes to mind is, is the RM worth salvaging at this point? Is it even possible? I have no answer to these questions presently and it may just be up to others to proffer a conclusion on the matter.

Whatever the answers are to the foregoing questions, the observation that a theological framework is needed is still a viable and very important discussion to have. It inevitably raises the question: what kind of frame work? Where do we begin? I think the best place to start is from a discussion (although worn out in some sense) about “essentials.” This has always been a quagmire for the RM. It has long held the cliche “in essentials, unity; in non-essentials libtery; in all things love.” The problem with this has been that no one has taken the time to parse what essentials and non-essentials are. I will attempt to do this in my next blog. Who knows? Maybe this pile of play dough will finally take shape, or maybe it is too dried up and needs to be thrown out so that something new can arise, something more theologically robust as well as culturally engaging.

Grace and Peace,

Peter Rasor

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18 Responses to Theology and the Demise of the Restoration Movement

  1. Allow me to offer a somewhat divergent analysis. I concur with your points about the lack of an identity for the RM due to an ever-increasing avoidance of theological agreement, at least on some points.

    I think the problem in the past was that the RM most definitely DID have a creed of sorts. But it was an unwritten though generally understood one. Campbell could and did point out things he thought were theological problems, and he did so from some particular understanding of various theological points. The things to be “restored” had to come from things believed.

    It seems to me that, in the time of Campbell, the creeds encountered and opposed in that setting were creeds that mandated things in addition to scripture. But in spite of the brilliance of many of those involved in the early days of the movement, there was an unwillingness to acknowledge the situation as it really was. You can’t not “have a creed” unless you truly do not believe anything. And it is probably logically impossible not to believe anything. The claim to believe nothing is itself a kind of belief in this context.

    So I contend that there was always a “creed” in the RM, and it wasn’t just “the Bible.” It was always some understanding of the Bible. It cannot be otherwise. But because it was never officially recorded anywhere, the pretense of “no creed” could continue.
    A creed does not have to be written, though that probably allows for a lot more wiggle room than with a written one. But a creed should be acknowledged, at least a creed in this sense.

    What has happened in the late twentieth century and later is that the unwritten, unacknowledged creed situation has come back to bite us in the you-know-where. I don’t have a grand solution for this problem, but a solution would begin, as you suggest, with acknowledging the problem!

    I’m not sure this is even possible in our culture. Most Christians do not even attempt to resist our culture much, and our culture tells us that beliefs are very personal, infinitely variable, and really not something to be considered by using reason. Perhaps writing down what we believe would help, but I’m not so sure. In our culture written statements are simply things to be interpreted from our personal framework, so there are as many “valid” interpretations as there are interpreters.

    I eagerly await your next installment. This topic has interested me for some time.

    • prasor says:

      Thanks, Harold, for your comments. I, too, share the concern over “reader response” hermeneutics and believe it is a challenge, including the idea of having a statement of faith as such. I also wonder if this is as much a new problem as an old one?

  2. ed says:

    exactly right.
    make a list of 1. non negotiable salvation issues.
    2. non negotiable doctrinal issues.
    and have the intestinal fortitude to draw the line in the sand…and not listen to the false teachers who state that drawing a line is ‘legalism’. Phooey.
    the majority of so called Christian churches are retitled community Baptist churches with heretical theology….and others are strict toe the line churches with a 50 or less membership base….but if you water down theology to maintain your financial social club status, Jesus doesn’t know you… PS I bet 90% of graduates at so called RM colleges and universities have no clue about doctrinal issues surrounding the RM.

  3. Mark says:

    Dr. Raser,

    Thank you for your thought-provoking essay surveying the current and future trajectory of RM churches, to which one I now belong (Christian Church now, but formally associated with CofC). I thought about several things upon reading your essay. I will quickly jot down a few here, which will by no means be exhaustive….

    Is this “lack of identity” (or formal creed) really unique to the RM Churches? I think you do a good job of analyzing what is currently happening in the RM churches, i.e. a splintering of Groups, diversification of Christian message, etc). However, does having a ‘creed’ really matter anymore? Do people ‘unite’ behind formal creeds? Is not what is happening in RM churches (splintering) also pretty characteristic of most ‘denominations’ today, aside from Catholicism perhaps? In my analysis, the splintering in the RM is a natural inheritance of the Reformation Project (order to chaos…) and indicative of what is happening in “mainstream” Christianity also. We we have Baptist theology, Reformed theology churches, Presbyterians (reformed and not), Episcopalian, etc. All with very wide range of beliefs within these movements. Creed or no creed has no impact upon this. The Episcopalian fight/split over ‘gay marriage’ really seems to highlight that point, but there are others which could be pointed out. Will having a creed really stop the post modernity forces at work in western culture/church? Do the RM churches really need to have any formal written creed by which to work from in order to exist and prosper? I think all mainstream churches are facing the same questions–regardless of the formality of creed. Based on my limited reading of late, are not folks leaving the formal Christian church in pretty great numbers?

    I think a strong argument could be made that a lack of creed or ‘independent’ nature of RM churches is actually well positioned in today’s postmodernism culture. I think more than anything we are seeing a ‘pruning of God’s branches” of late and big issues like ‘gay marriage’ ultimately highlight or will shed light on who truly wants to follow Christ. People often start asking—ok, do I really want to follow him and what does it mean and how do I best discern this call (counting the cost…). I think these questions have been at the heart of the RM churches since conception. I think people are really looking for a ‘simple Christianity,’ one that is back to basics biblically and outward focused (i.e. helping others materially, spiritually, evangelizing. etc). They are not looking for great hierarchal structures of the past—–hmm need I say that my generation (i’m 35) are quite suspicious of formal creedal religion. I find it encouraging that many of the most visible evangelical preachers and ministers are commonly steeping their teaching and theology in “restoration movement language” which has been used very commonly for decades now amongst RM churches (Claiborne, Pratt, Francis Chan, etc). However, I am afraid that they may be unaware as to what extent that are—especially since the RM churches, specifically the CofC branch, has all be tried to avoid dialogue with these groups until recently.

    I’m afraid I don’t have too many answers either, but I do think RM churches indeed have a theological foundation they are working from. After spending most of my time within RM churches background I can see that mainly the common theological framework has been around the following:

    • Baptism (most believe baptism is essential to salvation in some way and speak of it as this)
    • Lord’s Supper (every week)
    • The Trinity (I know very few folks who deny this within the CofC and Christian Churches. I would argue that most indeed would call you a hertic if you didn’t believe in it, as with all members in churches you find varying beliefs on the matter..)
    • Unity on the belief that Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead bodily! I Cor 15.
    • Church governance

    That’s pretty common to all RM, creed or no creed. I agree that the time for ‘catchy phrases (bible things with bible names, etc) has passed. The focus I hope starts shifting to developing true disciples of Christ.

    Thanks again for you message I look forward to the next part!

    • prasor says:

      Thanks, Mark, for your constructive and thoughtful comments. I think you hit upon some good ideas, which I am inclined to agree with–at least in general. I want to keep this short, so this is my main point as I think about your comments: I think that churches–no matter the denomination or heritage–need to state formally what they believe and why. And if the RM is going to exist as some kind of “movement,” then it needs to spell out what they believe. One main reason (and there are other reasons) is because some of us who at once attended RM conventions have now been disenfranchised because those who lead the conventions do not believe similarly any more. It is the same with most of the colleges and universities. Many of the faculty no longer believe in some of the foundational teachings of Christianity. I think having some kind of statement of faith would at least help the problem some.

  4. Don Miller says:

    Thanks Dr. Razor for your insight.

  5. Kenneth Zugg says:

    Peter,
    I mostly agree with what you say. There appears to be no standard of what it means to be part of the restoration movement. We have those in the RM that do not believe in 6 days of creation, world wide flood, inerrancy of scripture, etc. I’m most concerned that many do not hold to the sanctity of baptism and the Lords Supper. We are so diverse already that we will not be able to agree on a statement of belief because we are already don’t agree. Most who I associate with don’t agree with what our own colleges teach.
    The restoration movement is in dangerous peril.

  6. Justin Gentry says:

    QUESTION: shouldn’t the content of songs/hymns sung heartily as a congregation each Lord’s Day function as informal creeds in that they reflect and clearly proclaim what the singers understand Scripture to teach? Perhaps the case should be that a member needs to look no further than a few lyrics to get an idea of what the church believes about salvation, grace, sin, atonement, Jesus, etc. Perhaps the need for a written creed receited apart from a church’s worship is an indication of a warped, unfocused or unhealthy understanding of worship. Just a thought, especially since most songs seem to focus on how the writer thinks I feel on a given morning.

    Also, most churches already have some form of a statement of faith to some extent but from what I have seen this far it cannot keep leaders and members from choosing to follow what they want to believe. If a movement wide creed is adopted, who would interpret it? That is, what individual or counsel would determine if another body holds to its essence versus adopting it ‘in name only’ for appearances’ sake? Herein lies the scaffolding of Proto-Catholic hierarchy.
    Every church says they “believe the Bible” and “love Jesus.” As a CCU seminary alum I understand the concept of increased expectations of orthodoxy and orthopraxy as a person becomes more commuted and involved in a local congragation, but what I do not understand is blind acceptance of apathy. Ie, a first time visitor cannot be expected to have beliefs, convictions and lifestyle choices as clearly sanctified as, say, an elder or teacher. The problem is when those that do not care what they believe or have undefined convictions crowd out those that desire to do things right. There lies the problem. The result of this is a church or school being subconsciously hijacked by apathy in the name of niceness.

    • prasor says:

      Thanks, Justin, for your comments. I have just a few thoughts. First, a Statement of Faith for the RM would do at least three things: (1) Identify what we believe the Bible to be teaching. This is very important in light of liberal and postmodern (which really aren’t that different) interpretations of Scripture. (2) Provide a theological structure that will help (but not necessarily avoid entirely as history as shown us) safeguard schools and churches from heterodoxy. (3) Help Christians, by going through the process, discern between first order, second order, and third order doctrines, and thus hopefully help unnecessary divisions (this is very important, considering that the RM is one of the most divided Christian traditions around). As a side note, it is quite interesting that many of the practical objections to Statements of Faith have shown to be unfounded. If one thinks about it, there is only one major objection to a Statement of Faith: a persons does not like what is in it and thus does not follow it. This would be true for the liberal/postmodern who just reinterprets it or the conservative who just does not like the idea of a Statement of Faith. Those who like what the Statement says will have no problem with it. The conservatives who just don’t like it will not become a part of it–they will just go their merry way. Liberals/postmoderns can be sniffed out easily enough it seems to me. The point will eventually come down to this: if a Statement is written, will it be enforced? Now, THAT is the question, and this responsibility is everyone’s.

  7. Chad Laughrey says:

    Dr. Rasor,

    I always appreciate your thoughts and insights. However, I must respectfully disagree with your perspective on this issue. I understand your concern about legalism and liberalism causing turmoil in the RM and the lack of any concrete creedal statements to grant us a sense of stability in the midst of all the various theological trends and pressures. I feel those pressures and agree that they are a real danger to this movement and what it has stood for throughout these many years. However, I think the development of an official “creed” would have the following implications:

    1. Such a development would immediately alienate those who are actually quite loyal to the RM as they feel this is a core aspect of our movement. Establishing a “creed” would likely eliminate most of what many people feel is unique about our movement (for right or wrong).

    2. Those who would develop such a creed would essentially set themselves us as the ruling elite of our movement which would also undermine our plea for local autonomy. The things that frustrate you so much about liberal theological agendas being forced upon our movement through mega churches dominating our national conventions is what you would be setting up in reverse. Essentially you would be fighting fire with fire. Maybe it would prevent these errant theological agendas from sweeping through our movement so quickly, or maybe those who construct these “creeds” would end up being those mega church pastors that have caused such consternation in our national conventions.

    3. I personally really appreciate the principles of this movement, flawed as though they may be. I agree that its difficult to argue “essentials” when we do not have a creed, as such, to designate what those essentials are. However, I do find that this is part of what makes our movement special as well. For instance, are we all really ready to refuse to allow people to take communion who do not accept the doctrine of the Trinity? Though I certainly accept the doctrine of the Trinity, I do not know that I would consider a Sabellian who holds to the divinity of Christ as condemned and alienated from the body of Christ. Of course, thousands of other such examples could be made and we would end up with a 1,000 page handbook trying to dilleniate such issues which leads to all sorts of other problems. We would end up with the same problems as other denominations where the Golden Rule becomes, “He who writes the handbook, makes the rules.” This is precisely what Thomas and Alexander felt caused an unnecessary rending of the body of Christ.

    Personally, I think the only “standard” we should have as a movement is the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. I think this was understood by Campbell and others and should be a basic “creed,” if you like, for who we are. In my opinion, you cannot have unity based on biblical authority when the Bible is stripped of its authority for creating that unity. I think that is why liberal theological agendas are becoming so prevalent. Many have ceased to accept the Bible as entirely true and therefore arguments of interpolation and other such ideas to create “wiggle room” for people to dismiss Scriptures they do not like.
    In sum, I still agree with and appreciate the original plea of Campbell and the RM founders to do away with human creeds that seek to draw lines of division that are not expressly stated in the Bible. Their concept, as you know, was that the Bible was inspired in such a way that its teaching and precedents could be readily understood. If people allow it to be the sole authority then it would unite many Christians and allow for unity in areas of disagreement where Scripture does not specifically address an issue. However, it must start with reasserting the foundational belief that the Bible is trustworthy and authoritative. I still believe the Bible is sufficient without us creating our own hedges and creeds to decide who is in and who is out. But I do think we should firmly establish the fact that those who do not accept it as entirely accurate and inspired have already left the common ground by which we base our understanding of the Bible’s sufficiency to speak for itself in an authoritative manner. If we can assert this as a basic understanding of our movement, it will likely protect us from some, but certainly not all, of the good and appropriate concerns you have about our future direction.

    • prasor says:

      Thanks, Chad, for your very thoughtful and thorough response. I have thought about much of what you have written here for some time. In regard to (1), I think you are correct. Perhaps that is a price to pay. In regard to (2), I am not sure that such an action would have to lead to a “ruling elite” as you say. There have been many Statements of Faith written over the course of history, and many times this has been avoided. For example, The Baptist Faith and Message was devised by several theologians/pastors and was adopted by their convention by a majority without any “ruling elites” being established. I think the concerns you bring up in (3) can also be avoided, precisely if we can be mature enough to distinguish between what is essential to Christianity v. what we believe as a “movement.” My next blog will deal with this. As a heads up, I think we need to think in multiple concentric circles or ven diagram. Will this take thought and hard work? You bet. It seems to me that it would be worth it, too.

  8. Lena Wood says:

    Great article and great comments! I’ve observed lately that the division of belief seems to have less to do with what church one belongs to and more about how solidly one holds to those fundamentals of the faith. There are Baptists, Methodists, C of C-ers, etc, who do believe in the Word of God. And people in those same churches who go for the latest culture trend coming down the pike. I was shocked to realize that a minister’s wife, a teacher, and a deacon in a previous church were staunchly pro-homosexuality. These beliefs came to light during the “gay” marriage ruling. Two other deacons denied the historicity of the flood and the reality of Satan. But others in that same church are as solid as a rock. How could folks in the same denomination or even the same church be hearing the same messages and coming away with two entirely different beliefs?

    I had an email conversation with a Methodist church that was having demon-invoking ceremonies (tibetan sand mandala rituals) in their sanctuary, but who shrugged it off as just a culture-sharing event. Yet another Methodist minister immediately dis-invited a speaker when he realized she was a New Age occultist presenting herself as Jesus-friendly. It was awkward, but he stood his ground.

    I’d imagine it comes down to how much a person is willing to become bedfellows with the world system.

  9. Well said.

    I’ve thought for a number of years that Thomas Reid’s Common Sense philosophy is a poor foundation, and it is showing its weakness.

    I see a number of themes and sub-movements arising within the RM, and think that the most prevalent is a pragmatism that uncritically collects models of “doing church,” church planting, and leadership, while avoiding theology and exegesis. Thus much preaching sounds like good advice rather than the Gospel.

    Themes of “social justice” (Liberation theology), feminism, identity politics, etc., are not uncommon either.

    • prasor says:

      Scott, thanks for reading and joining the conversation. I am unsure exactly how Thomas Reid’s common sense philosophy plays into this (I think Scottish Common Sense epistemology is actually the tranquilizer for skepticism), but I certainly agree with the remainder of your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

  10. Frankly, I think reports of the demise of the Restoration Movement come much too soon. While dysfunction exists to be sure, the movement and its principles are not yet inert. Me-thinks you sound too much like Elijah! Elijah whined from his cave after his contest with the prophets of Baal. God had to remind him there were still 7,000 who had not bowed before the false god.

    No one ever intended the Restoration Movement to be a monolithic structure of hundreds of congregations composed of thousand of individuals who all believed the same thing. Alexander Campbell insisted “the profession of one essential fact and obedience to one essential act” made one a Christian. The professed fact is, of course, the belief Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. The essential act is, of course, immersion into Christ for the remission of sins.

    Believe it or not, although Barton W. Stone was weak on his understanding of the Godhead, he did confess his belief Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of God. Barton W. Stone was immersed into Christ and, although he did not understand baptism’s purpose early in his ministry, he came to understand its importance. (By the way, the Campbells didn’t understand the place of baptism early in their ministry either.)

    We are all brothers in error! Is it possible for a dispensational premillennial, an amillnnial, or a postmillennial to be in relationship to Jesus? In questions about the role of women, can an egalitarian and a complementarian both be Christians? I could multiply the questions, but you get the drift. Does your understanding of a specific issue trump my understanding or must I agree with you to be considered a Christian? Does every congregation have to understand every jot and tittle of doctrine to be considered faithful?

    Christians come together to form congregations because they profess Jesus as the Son of the Living God and are immersed into him. If there is any requirement beyond that it rests with the agreement of those individuals to take the Bible as their common authority for faith and practice. In other words, there is an agreement to continue to search the Scriptures and apply its teaching to individual (and congregational) life. To do so, there must be relationship, instruction, and accountability to one another.

    By the way, before I quit, I have to say that nearly every congregation posts their “creed” or “basic theological framework” for the world to see. Check out church web sites, nearly all of them post a “Statement of Faith.”

    There is much more I could say, but this is sufficient for now.

  11. Matt Summers says:

    Thanks Peter,

    I enjoy reading your blog posts, and don’t always agree with you. But you are a clear thinker and good writer. I appreciate your concerns and share some of them. We have, in fact, adopted a “creed” at the church we planted much if not all of which I imagine you might appreciate; and our church would be considered a large or emerging mega-church.

    Personally, I love the Restoration Movement and do not believe it is dead or irrelevant. I think our Restoration Churches are uniquely positioned to reach thousands upon thousands for Christ and think you might be surprised by the solid theology of many of Christian leaders even in the large and mega churches (though not all certainly).

    I find myself often surprised an delighted by their good theology, but just as often disappointed by some of their bad theology.

    I do not, however, want someone outside my church telling me what I have to believe to be part of the movement, such as your above reader who wants a young earth included in our dogma, to which I imagine both you, me, and our favorite Theologian would all be considered liberal (at least on that point) for not wanting it to be included in such a creed. Therein lies the problem for me. I just don’t know how to work through or around or past such issues, but I still want to be identified with such believers in small, large and mega churches alike.

    I look forward to reading some of your future blog posts on these issues, as well as the comments that will certainly follow.

    Love you Bro,
    Matt Summers

    • prasor says:

      Thanks, Matt. I will be looking at some of these issues in my next post. And, yes, you bring up some very valid concerns.

  12. Jason Murray says:

    This makes good sense. As I said on FB, I have had to make the assessment that it is in our DNA to be doctrinally reactionary. Our initial twin impulses (patternism; unity) were both framed as reactions against literally all other streams of Christianity. In practice, this has meant the primary role of doctrine has been to explain and defend what we are NOT. Not Maryolaters. Not Calvinists. Not pedobaptists. Etc. Etc. We do evangelism well, and we teach doctrinally in a sort of devotional sense, but almost any mainstream Christian doctrinal emphasis (the Reformation, for example) would violate our pledge not to be “wrong” in a hundred ways.