Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 6, 1969
NUMBER 39, PAGE 1-2a

Restoration Thought: Introduction

Edward Fudge

One might ask immediately, "Why pay any attention to something written by preachers from the 19th century?" And this is a good question. We have enough to keep us busy without reading useless, not to mention antiquated, material!

But there is a good answer to this question. The average American member of a church of Christ or a Christian church has likely heard the names of Alexander and Thomas Campbell, or Barton W. Stone. Fewer have heard of "The Springfield Presbytery," "The Washington Association," or the Declaration and Address. And only a small group in these churches have ever given much thought to these men, bodies and paper, or to the principles set forth by them all.

As a result, many Christians are historically isolated — completely disoriented as to any connection with their religious past. Many historic heirs of the reformation of the Campbells and others are totally unaware of the heritage that is rightfully theirs.

Someone has observed that unless history is heeded it likely will be repeated. The so-called "Dark Ages" followed a generation that ignored history. The Protestant Revolt came and men began to notice the mistakes and good points of their fathers. But after a period of time, men settled down again, became content with the status quo, and the bitter, factional, sectarian cloud of Denominationalism settled.

About 150 years ago, a group of men who were dissatisfied with the condition of the age, decided that it was time to throw back the covers, splash fresh water on their faces, open the shades, and begin a new day. These men had no desire to start a new religion — they were concerned with reforming what they had by attempting to restore the original. So they went to the Bible. They began to test their practices by it, to re-evaluate their opinions in its light, and to advocate that others do the same things. And for several years those who called themselves "Christians only" did just that — periodically.

But another hundred years have now passed, and, like many of Amos' day, many today are "at ease in Zion." After all, they are in the true church! — and by the time one considers all the atheists, pagans, denominationalists, and, of course, the digressives and "heading-that-way'ers" THAT is saying a lot.

Why this subject then? Not to restore a tradition, a movement, or the orthodoxy of any man or group of men. But the Restoration Spirit is needed in any age. Call it whatever you wish, it makes no difference. The important thing is for men to be willing, as were those we are calling "pioneers," to go to the Book and re-evaluate their practices, doctrines and opinions by its pure light — as best they can honestly understand it.

"Restoration Thought" is an appropriate study for three reasons. (1) The Restoration Spirit needs to be discovered by those who have never yet enjoyed it. (2) Many who claim it are either grossly misinformed as to what it is, or else have been captivated by its arch-enemy, the Sectarian Spirit. (3) Many individuals are interested in the Restoration Spirit and the "movement" to which it led, and this subject will give them pleasure.

To all three groups these articles are dedicated.


As indicated by what has been said, we will notice the thinking of various men who were influential in the early days of the "restoration movement." First will be some historical background for their thinking and lives. Then we will see the conditions which existed in the beginning of the 19th century in what men usually call "Christendom." And we will notice what two men, separated at first by thousands of miles, and thinking independently of one another, decided to do about these conditions.

The bulk of our study will be a consideration of six aspects of restoration thought. These are not the only aspects that could be mentioned in a study of this kind, nor is everything said about them that might be said. The six areas, or subjects, that we will notice are: "Christians, Creeds and Sects," "Restoring the New Testament Church," "That They All May Be One," "Faith or Opinion?" "Controversy and Unity," and "A Practical Question: Is Restoration Over'?"

The subjects are discussed in the order one might follow if he were to be transported through time and space so that he could re-live the experiences of the Pioneers and retrace their thoughts. Each section is a synthesis. Quotations are drawn from various sources in an attempt to reconstruct, piece by piece, an accurate composite of Restoration Thought of the early years.

I have tried to be fair with these men. Though on some points their thinking and mine did not exactly coincide, I have tried to present their thoughts in an objective way. This is a study of their concepts, not a review of them.

The Restoration Spirit is not altogether dead, though at times it has been very, very sick. Sometimes it has been ignored and malnourished. Sometimes it has had a very dangerous virus — passionate sectarian us. On occasion the patient has become so sick that it has mistakenly supposed that the various doctors who tried to help were its enemies. Under such trying circumstances, the good physicians have ever been attacked or run out of the house.

Recent reports have indicated the patient's condition is much-improved, however, and prospects are very good that he might even take the medicine without too much of a fuss. Certainly all who are interested in the welfare of the aged patient hope that he responds as reasonably.

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