God has but one people on the earth. He has given to them but one Book, and therein exhorts and commands them to be one family. A union, such as we plead for ⎯ a union of God’s people on that one Book ⎯ must, then, be practicable.
Every Christian desires to stand complete in the whole will of God. The prayer of the Saviour, and the whole tenor of his teaching, clearly show that it is God’s will that his children should be united. To the Christian, then, such a union must be desirable.
But an amalgamation of sects is not such a union as Christ prayed for, and God enjoins. To agree to be one upon any system of human inventions would be contrary to his will, and could never be a blessing to the Church or the world; therefore the only union practicable or desirable must be based on the Word of God, as the only rule of faith and practice.
Let us, then, my brethren, be no longer Campbellites or Stoneites, New Lights or Old Lights, or any other kind of lights, but let us all come to the Bible, and to the Bible alone, as the only book in the world that can give us all the Light we need.
⎯ “Raccoon” John Smith 1832
The concept of restoration is seen throughout the pages of Scripture. Lamentations 5:21 says, “Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of oldÖ” Josiah fought to restore pure religion by tearing down the altars, idols and images of pagan deities. (2 Chr. 34:1-8). Another familiar text calling for restoration is Jeremiah 6:16:
This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it. And you will find rest for your souls but you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”
Some men and women today continue to say “We will not walk in it” concerning the old paths. The Restoration Movement was driven by the desire to break free of unbiblical conclusions and practices and go back to the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42). The quest of believers to “restore the ancient order of things” succeeded in bringing people to a better understanding of the Bible. But trouble was brewing.
Differences in opinion and departures from Scripture led to a rupture in the movement. Three distinct groups – Churches of Christ, Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) – emerged when the smoke cleared. Two groups continue to affirm the idea of restoration, but the Disciples have taken a very different path. Deciding that critical Bible study is incompatible with restoration, they have abandoned the quest to restore New Testament Christianity. The testimony of the twentieth century is that this decision has opened the door for an incredible number of departures from the biblical pattern (the idea of which, incidentally, they reject entirely). Disciples scholarship is currently unable to tell a person what to do to be saved. In Disciples and the Bible, M. Eugene Boring laments,
Contemporary Disciples have neglected their tradition at this point, making us more tongue-tied when it comes to explaining what it means to become a Christian, and consequently one of the factors in our tendency to avoid evangelism altogether. Without diminishing our emphasis on the primacy of the love and grace of God, we need a practical, sane, biblical way to respond to the question, “What must I do?”
They had a special, sane, biblical response to this question. But they left it. Remember this when you hear the voices of those calling for unbiblical changes in the church. Restoration is God’s plan. May we never say, “We will not walk in it.”