The Birth of a Movement
James W. Adams
San Agustine, Texas
The history of "Christianity" is inseparably linked with the births and deaths of almost countless, human I movements --all professedly aimed at bringing errant believers back into line with the "eternal purpose of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Each of these movements should be judged objectively by the student on the basis of its own merit. The criteria which should form the basis of such judgment should be: (1) Does it or does it not conform to the principles of Divine truth revealed in the Scriptures? (2) What were the circurmstances, which gave it birth? (3) Is the proposed solution, which it poses, not only consonant with Scripture, but does it in fact offer a practical solution to the problems which obtain? (4) If it is a movement of the past, what were its fruits; what significant contribution has it made to the furthering among men of "the eternal purpose of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" as revealed to us through the inspired apostles and prophets of the New Testament era?
That God in His infinite wisdom had, from eternity, a well-defined purpose (plan or scheme) for man's redemption which, "in the fullness of time," was to be consummated in Jesus Christ is a fact of Scripture too ell known to Bible students to admit of controversy. It is also a fact just as well known t at the details of the Divine purpose were kept secret in the mind of God from the sin of man (Gen. 3) until the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (Acts 2), and were made known to mankind, during that period of time, only in dim outline through shadowy types, generic promises, and prophecies, the interpretations of which were earnestly sought but not definitively determined either by men or angels.
"For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ in behalf of you Gentiles,-2 if so be that Ye have heard (if the dispensation of that grace of God which was given me to you-ward; 3 how that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote before in few words, 4 whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive my undervanding in the mystery of Christ; 5 which n other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to wit, that the Gentiles are fellowheirs, and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, 7 whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of that grace of God which was given to me according to the working of his power. 8 Unto me whom am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things; to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, II according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: . . . " (Eph. 3: 1 -11).
"receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: 11 searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them. 12 To whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto you, did they minister these things, which now have been announced unto you through them that preached the gospel unto you by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven; which things angels desire to look into " (1 Pet. 1:9-12).
". . . when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons " (Gal. 4:4,5).
In a previous article, mention has been made of The Restoration Movement" of the
nineteenth century. It is my settled conviction that this movement, though humanly generated, was a completely valid movement-scripturally, historically, and pragmatically. This is simply to circumstances of historic say that the "Christendom" of that time justified its birth, the movement was launched on principles entirely scriptural, and it resulted in a practical restoration of "the ancient order of things" which was its principal aim. Contrary to popular belief and destructive modern propaganda, unity of believers was a secondary aim and was related to the principal aim as effect is related to cause.
The value of purely personal testimony is at best doubtful, yet even so great a disciple of the Lord as Paul, the Lord's apostle, felt on certain occasions the necessity of indulging in it, and his expressions along this line quite obviously had the approbation of the Holy Spirit. My spiritual roots are anchored deeply in "The Restoration Movement." A great-great grandmother was baptized by Moses E. Lard in the Missouri River in 1847 or 48; a great-grandfather and grandmother were baptized by H. H. Dunn in Franklin Co. Alabama in 1844 and moving to Texas in 1850 were among the early disciples on the frontier west of the Nueces River; a great-great grandmother was a disciple in Lincoln Co. Kentucky in 1836 naming her first child after Alexander Campbell. In a direct and most intimate sense, I consider myself an heir of the faith and the labors of the stalwarts who in great sacrifice and suffering gave birth to and nurtured to maturity "The Restoration Movement. " To this I confess without apology.
A Sense of Personal Obligation
Believing as I do in the validity of "The Restoration Movement," and recognizing as I must the fact that I am a spiritual heir of its scriptural, historic, and practical fruit in the realm of religion, I feel a deep sense of personal obligation to the preservation in my time and for generations yet unborn the Divine, and, therefore eternal and immutable principles upon which it was launched. Since the plea of "The Restoration Movement" was a plea for a return to the belief and practice of the original gospel, I feel justified in regarding myself as a debtor to men of the past, the present, and the future in this regard. Paid felt the same sense of debt. He said, "I am debtor both to Greeks and to Barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1: 14-16).
Our Present Situation Again
Many leading figures of "The Restoration Movement" were individuals who had abandoned Presbyterian and Baptist affiliations with their Calvinistic doctrines and practices to embrace a return to the faith and practice of primitive, New Testament "Christianity." They viewed their position as a "restoration of the ancient order" of things-a return to apostolic doctrine and practice, and it was certainly their sincere purpose to make it so. Hence, they adopted as their watchword the slogan alluded to in our previous article: "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent; we are silent."
Neo-Calvinism: it is paradoxical that modern-day heirs of the accomplishments of these stalwarts of days gone by-members of professed churches of Christ-should now give birth to a modified form of Calvinism under the delusion that they are God-called deliverers of His people from spiritual enslavement to historical "legalism." Upon a neo-Calvinistic view of "salvation by grace" and a Lutheran concept of "salvation by faith only" ("sola fide"), they project a plea for the "unity of immersed believers" which is so permissive and pervasive in that which it allows as to render nonsensical, superficial, and sectarian divisions emanating from any divergence in faith and practice among such persons in matters relating to their worship of God through Christ and their work as members of the body of Christ (assuming they are indeed such) in reference to their personal edification and sanctification and their rescuing from the toils of sin and Satan God's lost and recreant children (Acts 17:29) who have not accepted Jesus as Savior. It is also ironic that this newborn brainchild should come from the far right as well as the far left and from seasoned veterans as well as precocious neophytes. In our next article, attention will be paid to the sources from whence emanates this newborn "movement" within a "movement."
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 20, pp.5-6