The Heresy of Restorationism by Damon Whitsell

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Restorationism is the claim that the Christian Church fell away from the truths of Jesus and the NT apostles and had to be “RESTORED” to it’s NT state and practice. The whole Christian church had become apostate and non-existent, is their claim. But this allegation is pure folly and uninformed speculation. This is also in total contrast and contradiction to the idea of “REFORM” and the Protestant Reformation.

The main influence and emphasis of the Restoration Movement of the Cambellite’s and their subsequent offsping religions of the “restorationist” that followed and was spawned from them, is seriously flawed and based on the false assumption that the true Christian Church had been wiped clean from the face of the earth (needing to be completely restored) and that Gods promises about his church and word are not true. In the face of much persecution and attempts to abolish God’s church and word from the face of the earth, there has always been at least a large remnant of true believers and members of the incorporeal and invisible church of God. “’Restorationism’ is based on a belief called the Great Apostasy, that traditional Christianity has departed so far from the original Christian principles that it is not redeemable.” (2)

The bible contains these promises about itself and Jesus’s Church.

Mat 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

1Pe 1:25A But the word of the Lord endureth forever.

Isa 40:8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever.

The Restoration Movement (also known historically as the “Stone – Campbell Movement”) was started by Alexander Campbell when he opened this church the “Old Philadelphia congregation of the Church of Christ, this congregation came into existence in 1804. The records are in the possession of the church in Warren County, Tennessee.“ (1) The “Church of Christ” denomination had not existed until this point.

Although we mostly know of Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone and Walter Scott to be the founders of the restoration movement, it’s principles and precepts had already been laid by others.

The key principles of the Restoration Movement and the Restorationist are,

1. Christianity should not be divided, Christ intended the creation of one church.

2. Creeds divide, but Christians should be able to find agreement by standing on the Bible itself (from which they believe all creeds are but human expansions or constrictions) instead of on the opinions of people about the Bible.

3. Ecclesiastical traditions divide, but Christians should be able to find common ground by following the practice (as best as it can be determined) of the early church.

4.Names of human origin divide, but Christians should be able to find common ground by using biblical names for the church (i.e., “Christian Church,” “Church of God” or “Church of Christ” as opposed to “Methodist” or “Lutheran”, etc.). It is in this vein that conservative members of the Churches of Christ object to the phrase “Stone-Campbell Movement.” (1)

The Heretical Restoration Movement is comprised of the Campbellites; Disciples of Christ, Church of Christ., Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.(2) And it is also comprised of members defecting from mainline Christianity. The Religious Affiliation of Alexander Campbell by adhernats.com (3)

The Heretical Churches of Restorationism are, Christadelphians, Latter Day Saint [LDS] movement (The Mormon Church and it’s sub-groups), Adventism, Millerites, Sabbatarianism, Seventh-day Adventists, Charismatic Restorationism, and more. (2)

The false doctrines of restorationism where perpetuated by these silly mottos! Great Slogans of the Restoration Movement by John Wadely.

Each of these false traditions give a different reason for believing the GREAT APOSTACY had taken place and necessitated a total “restoration”.

Restorationist dates for the Great Apostasy (2)

Restorationism is often criticized for rejecting the traditions followed by the early church, but different restoration groups have treated tradition differently. While some view all the Church Fathers as unreliable witnesses to the original Apostolic Church, others find in the earliest Church Fathers proof that the early church believed and practiced as some restorationists do, and the late Church Fathers differences as evidences of a gradual or sudden falling away. Common to all restorationism is the belief that the Church Fathers or post-apostolic church leadership had no authorization to change the church’s beliefs and practices, but did so nevertheless.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the apostasy started after the death of the last apostle, John. They believe that the Holy Spirit held the apostasy back in full force but after John died the spirit let the apostasy grow. They believe that it came in full after the First Council of Nicaea. Still, they believe that throughout all that time there were true Christians alive until the beginning of the restoration.

The Latter-day Saints also assign a very early date for the apostasy, beginning shortly after the deaths of the original Twelve Apostles at approximately 100 AD, and certainly being in a full state of apostasy by the 4th century. With this early date, they claim the least need to reconcile known writings and practices of the early church and Church Fathers. Although their writings are sometimes cited to show reminiscences of earlier true practices, they are also used to demonstrate that doctrine and understanding had been already altered.

The Sabbatarians have generally agreed on the approximate date of 135 AD as the start of the apostasy. Justin Martyr in about 160 AD had specifically defended the first day assembly, and so is considered an apostate to Sabbatarians. Nevertheless, the early church history recorded the continued keeping of the Saturday Sabbath for creation and Sunday Sabbath for the Resurrection in Hippolytus’s time. They view the apostasy as not complete until the church stopped keeping the Sabbath sometime after Constantine.

The Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement views the Great Apostasy as a gradual process. Ignatius promoted obedience to the bishop in about 100 AD,[23] which is viewed by some as signaling the introduction of the idea of a professional clergy, who began to elevate themselves over the people, leading by a gradual process of corruption to the prophesied “man of lawlessness”. Infant baptism, which restorationists condemned as coercive church membership, is similarly viewed. They believe that only adult baptism was practiced at least to the time of Tertullian, but that infant baptism was introduced locally around the time of Irenaeus. They often reject notions of original sin which entail a corruption of human nature, and admit only a defilement of mankind’s habitual environment, traditions or culture. As do other Restorationists, they saw the church-state alliance under Constantine (see also Constantine I and Christianity and Christendom) as a kind of captivity of the church through the centralized power of the bishops. Finally, the development of the idea of the supremacy and universal authority of the Bishop of Rome is considered the completion of the Great Apostasy from which the Protestant Reformation only partially recovered, but most nearly did so among the Anabaptists and the Baptists

If you will investigate for yourself you will see that each of these scenarios is NOT TRUE and purely false. The Restoration movement and all of it’s associated religions or churches are cults based on false doctrine.

In his 1955 book The Rise of the Cults: An Introductory Guide to the Non-Christian Cults, Walter Martin gave the following definition of a cult: “By cultism we mean the adherence to doctrines which are pointedly contradictory to orthodox Christianity and which yet claim the distinction of either tracing their origin to orthodox sources or of being in essential harmony with those sources. Cultism, in short, is any major deviation from orthodox Christianity relative to the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith.”

These “cardinal doctrines” are generally agreed to be,1. the Trinity 2. the full deity and humanity of Christ 3. the spiritual lostness of the human race 4. the substitutionary atonement and bodily resurrection of Christ 5. salvation by faith alone in Christ alone 6. the physical return of Christ 7. the authority and inerrancy of Scripture.

Certainly all the churches, groups or movements listed in this article meet the criteria to be called cults and in NO WAY could be considered Christian. But with the Church of Christ we must recognize that many CoC members are congregations would not fall into the category of cults because they do not believe baptism is essential to be saved, they do  ot believe are the one true church and they adhere to salvation by faith thus making some CoCers our brother and sisters in the historical Christian Faith that was once delivered to us.

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(1) http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Restoration-Movement

(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restorationism

(3) http://www.adherents.com/people/pc/Alexander_Campbell.html

ADDENDUM: This article, and the whole site, is meant to focus on the hardline Church of Christ and it was written long ago. I do not know much about the Disciples of Christ and the Independent Christian Church so I do not know if they should be considered cults or not.

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About Damon Whitsell

In the last 18 years I have spent much of my time studying and doing Christian Cult Apologetics, and I spent 5 years studying, exposing and fighting Islam all @ DamonWhitsell.com. Since the five Dallas Police Officers were assassinated I have been fighting Black Lives Matter and studying it's related issues. It will be my passion and goal for years to come to fight and stop the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Posted on September 17, 2015, in Restoration and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Interesting post. I wrote a lot about this in the Exers. Many of the big American heresies are breakoffs of Campbellism. Alexander Campbell opened a big can of worms.

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  2. I must take exception with you author’s statement, “Certainly all the churches, groups or movements listed in this article meet the criteria to be called cults and in NO WAY could be considered Christian.” As a member and minister with the Independent Christian Church, and having been associated with the Restoration Movement for well over 50 years, I can categorically state that the above statement is FALSE. While there are indeed some of the Restoration Movement churches that show signs of cultic tendencies (this is especially prevalent among the non-instrumental churches of Christ), not all do. To lump ALL of the Restoration churches (i.e., church of Christ, Disciples of Christ and Independent Christian Church) together and call ALL of them CULTS, does a grave disservice to those of us in the Restoration Movement who do not believe everything that the Campbells, Stone, and other early leaders (and even some present day leaders) teach. I do not include the obvious cult groups when I say “Restoration Movement churches” – despite the fact that they claim to be “restoration” churches as well. If you want to know what many (if not most) of us in the Restoration Movement believe and teach, ASK US! Don’t rely solely on what you read! I can speak for myself and for many others within the Restoration Movement.

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    • Hi Michael, this article, and the whole site, is meant to focus on the hardline Church of Christ and it was written long ago. I do not know much about the Disciples of Christ and the Independent Christian Church so therefore I will place an addendum to the article stating that I do not know if they should be considered cults or not. Thanks for you input.

      Since I have you here and you asked,, what do the Independent Christian Churches believe a person must do to be saved. Thanks in advance for your answers.

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  3. Damon – While there are still some Independent Christian Churches who continue to hold to the “Five Finger Exercise” (Hear, Believe, Confess, Repent, Be Baptized) most, I believe, have moved away from that to salvation by grace. It has been my experience in the churches I have either attended or served, that that is the case. We still stress the importance of baptism, but as an act of obedience and identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ rather than as a “must” for salvation.

    As for the Disciples of Christ, they have always been quite liberal, even ordaining women to the ministry and eldership, which I see as unbiblical. I would exercise caution, though, even with this denomination, and look at each congregation individually before labeling all of them as “cults.” This, of course, holds true for all branches of the Restoration Movement (church of Christ, Disciples, and Independent Christian Church).

    Thanks for your fine work on the church of Christ, and your open-mindedness in this matter. It is not often that one finds this in such a discussion! I am sure that what you have done here will be of great value and help when I get the chance to resume my own work on the church of Christ. If I can be of any further help, don’t hesitate to ask!

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  4. I think you do not do a great job of distinguishing restorationism and Restorationism. Restorationism with a small ‘r’ also known as Christian primitivism is such a broad term and can encompass groups with very different views so you need to carefully make the distinction. For example the Protestant Reformation was also a restorationist movement because it believed the Roman Catholic Church should return to primitive Christianity.

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