Studying the History of Fallible Religious Leaders

Restoration Movement Leaders

Besides studying the Bible, the topic I enjoy learning about the most is religious history – particularly the history of the Restoration Movement (sometimes called the Stone-Campbell Movement). This was a period in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States in which many were troubled by the divisions they saw in the religious world and endeavored to correct this by striving to simply go back to the Bible and follow it alone as their only rule of faith and practice.

Some of the more influential figures in this movement were Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, and Walter Scott. Usually when people think of this history today, these are the men who come to mind. As we begin to study this history, we learn of others who played a significant role in the direction of this movement – men like Moses Lard, Benjamin Franklin, Daniel Sommer, and David Lipscomb. Going deeper into the study of this history, we can learn about the contributions of others like David Purviance, Pardee Butler, Samuel Robert Cassius, and more – men who may have been largely forgotten, but can provide us with some valuable lessons.*Continue Reading

The Reformation and the Restoration: A Tale of Two Movements

Martin Luther and Alexander Campbell

The New Testament repeatedly warns about drifting; in particular, drifting away from the faith. This can be done either individually or collectively.

  • The Hebrew writer warned the Christians to whom he wrote that they “must pay much closer attention to what [they had] heard, so that [they would] not drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1).
  • The Lord Himself rebuked the church in Ephesus because they had “left [their] first love” (Revelation 2:4).

There is always a danger that any one of us – or any one of our churches – could drift away from the faith. However, Paul also warned about a great apostasy that was coming not long after his lifetime.

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it [the return of Christ, as] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-5).

Paul explained that this “mystery of lawlessness [was] already at work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). As he described this “man of lawlessness,” he was not referring to one person, but an attitude. This apostasy would take place over some period of time. It was a spirit of error, an attitude that led Christians to depart from the pattern revealed in the New Testament. It was “restrained” for a time (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7) by the persecution from the Roman authorities. However, once that opposition was removed, the departures from the faith would increase exponentially.Continue Reading

Thomas Campbell: “Where the Bible Speaks, We Speak; Where the Bible Is Silent, We Are Silent”

Thomas Campbell: "Where the Bible Speaks, We Speak"

Thomas Campbell (1763-1854) was one of the leading figures of the Restoration Movement that began in this country in the 19th century. He, along with men like Alexander Campbell (his son), Barton W. Stone, and Walter Scott, sought to unite believers by abandoning the creeds and denominations of men. In a speech delivered in 1808, Thomas Campbell set forth an idea that became a motto for the movement.
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Audio: Gospel Meeting at the Eastside church of Christ

I had the privilege of speaking in a Gospel Meeting at the Eastside church of Christ in Morgantown, KY this past week – October 17-19, 2013. The three lessons I preached are listed below.
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Book Review: Torn Asunder

Torn Asunder (cover)I recently finished reading Torn Asunder: The Civil War and the 1906 Division of the Disciples by Ben Brewster. The book is about the history of the Restoration Movement leading up to the officially recognized division between the Disciples of Christ and the churches of Christ in 1906. But the author took an interesting approach by looking at how the Civil War impacted this division. An excerpt from the book is below:
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Book Review: Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up

Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up (cover)David W. Bercot’s book, Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up, compares Christianity today (defined by the author as the Evangelical Church) with the early Christians (2nd through 4th centuries). The book is very easy to read, but contains some challenging and thought-provoking material, specifically for Evangelicals. But it is helpful for others as well.

This book shows the sharp contrast between what many denominations today teach and what the early Christians taught. The early Christians believed that salvation by grace was conditioned upon obedience, that baptism was tied to salvation, and that predestination refers to God’s foreknowledge, rather than His selection of certain individuals for salvation. Many denominations teach just the opposite (salvation by grace/faith alone, baptism not essential for salvation, God predestined some individuals for salvation and some for damnation).

This book helps one get an insight into what the early church was like and what they taught. But before I can recommend the book, I need to caution you about a few things:
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The Restoration Plea

Cane Ridge Revival

In the first century, after the Lord’s church was established, there were no denominations like we have today. Of course, there were some who departed from the faith while still holding to a form of religion. A notable example is Diotrophes (3 John 9-11) who took control of a congregation and expelled those who wanted to follow the apostles’ doctrine. But generally, the churches in the first century could be accurately called “churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16) because they submitted to Christ’s authority and not to that of any man.

While the early church generally enjoyed unity by submitting to the authority of Christ alone, Paul warned of a movement that would change all of this. He wrote to the church at Thessalonica about “the apostasy” that was coming. He personified this great apostasy by calling it “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). This “man of lawlessness” was described as one who “opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). This apostasy would be characterized by certain men exalting themselves among God’s people, claiming to speak for God and exercise authority over their brethren. It is called an apostasy because it would begin with some who were faithful Christians, but they would depart from the faith to follow their own doctrines and practices. This is exactly what denominationalism is. Denominationalism, beginning with the Catholic church, is the great apostasy.
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