Reformers, Restorers, or Renewers?

IMG_0570There is a question that sometimes may jolt you from your senses, urging you to investigate and satisfy your need to give a better “answer to the one who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.”   Questions that demand you be consistent with what you stand for. Questions like, What are we? Restorers, reformers, or renewers? (This last word I have to invent; it’s not in the dictionary).

The churches of Christ are not the only religious group who claims to be the restored church; the Mormons and the INC-1914 do too.

Alexander Campbell, as far as my studies are concerned, called himself and his fellow disciples “reformers,” not restorers. Their movement began at the close of the 17th century. In fact, brother Bill Humble goes on record as saying that the “Restoration Movement began in America in 1800” (The Story of the Restoration, p. 1). It was a “Restoration Movement” fathered by one who never called himself a “restorer.”

Greville Ewing, the Haldane brothers, Robert Sandeman and his father in law John Glass never thought of themselves as “restorers,” but “reformers,” like Campbell. Their “Reformation movement” had antedated the “Restoration Movement” in America by some 200 years. So a “Reformation Movement” in the British soil had fathered a “Reformation movement” in America that later called itself “Restoration Movement.”

But the Anabaptist Movement in Europe had preceded the British movement by another 200 years also. They never called themselves “restorers” but reformers.

As far as I know, it was J. W. Shepherd who made the distinction between “restoration” and “reformation.” Why this distinction? We owe it to the progress of our cause, which called for the crystallization of the things we taught. We owe it to our leaders who decided we should also make a name.

If one looks for the pattern of things, then, you have the Anabaptists, the British, then the Americans. We Filipinos are just the daughters of the movement sired by the Campbells, Barton W. Stone, Elias Smith, and Abner Jones in the soil of America.

If we call ourselves “restorers,” what are we restoring? You cannot call yourself by something that you are not. Are we restoring the church?

Come closer and lend me your ears, please. If we claim to be “restorers” then we are admitting to the world that the INC had been right all along– the church of Christ had been lost, and from the time of its departure, there had been no saved people until Felix Manalo came on the scene! Are you ready to believe that?

That is your first predicament–to be identified with the group that calls itself too as the “restored church,” which actually was a church that started from us (Gentlemen, hear ye, hear ye, Felix Manalo, the founder of the INC-1914 actually came from our Movement. He was introduced to the church of Christ by an American named Frederick Kershner, a missionary of the instrumental wing of the Church of Christ).

Your other predicament is that you have to skew these passages in Matthew 16:18, Daniel 2:44 and Hebrews 12:28 that speak about the eternal nature of the church in order to fit your doctrine– “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it”; “in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed”; “therefore we receiving a kingdom that cannot be moved.”

I may be a son of the restorationists who came to these islands of 7,100 after Spain had ravaged it for 500 years and sold me into Magellan’s religion. And it’s one of those many events that God in His wondrous mercy had allowed to happen. I am thankful for Admiral George Dewey who came to my shores with his fleet of warships in preparation for a showdown with the Castillians and pointed his big guns toward Intramuros, giving his gunner this signal: “Be ready to fire when I tell you, Ridley.” He ended Spain’s rule over my islands. Then we welcomed the Thomasites, then the Protestants, then the “restorers” from America. The rest is history.

If you call me a “restorationist,” I have a problem wearing that scapular for the rest of my life. I am always thankful to my American mentors (Kenneth J. Wilkey, Bob Buchanan, Douglas LeCroy, Dale Chilton, and Douglas Gunselman) for teaching me Bible, and to Jeff Shelton for making me learn Greek. I have had Filipino teachers too–Brothers Seb Tanicala, Adrian Limbawan (deceased), Teofilo Alcayde, Felix Bravo, Cesar Lobino (deceased), Daniel Oliva, Roman Cariaga, Felipe Cariaga, Conrado Mapalo, Cesar Tajores, and the late Flor Tanicala. Thankful too for the late Eduardo Montoyo Sr. and for his son Eduardo Jr for guiding me into the right group, and for Charlie Garner for preaching that message one night in Baliwasan church hall, the message whose thunders echoed in my ears and made me tremble at the thought of not finding myself with the redeemed someday. God bless them.  Perhaps I differ from some of my teachers on the idea of the “restoration.” I am not a restorer of a church, because I wouldn’t be true to the purpose, intent and nature of that blessed institution for which my Lord died. I cannot restore a church that never vanished from the face of the earth in the first place! There was no general departure of the church and I trust the Holy Spirit who said to Paul that only “some shall depart from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1).

I too have a problem calling myself a “reformer.” What do I reform? the doctrines of the church? The church itself? The true teachings of the Bible do not need any reforming at all. I am in the Lord’s church. In a sense I can be a reformer in the Lord’s church. But those other churches which are not Christ’s do not need any reforming; they need to be taught about the basics of truth.

So what am I? I am just a Christian preacher, calling the people who have departed from God to go back to Him again. I am calling for a renewal of relationships.

These thoughts are just for you to consider. This is not to fault anyone of you for teaching something different from mine. Tell you what, I have arrived at these thoughts after many prayerful studies of the Word, and after many debates with the sects. You may say that my ideas have undergone some kind of crystallization also. Consider it. It is not a dogma of a pope. It is not the kind of teaching that demands I split the church because some of you guys don’t agree with me. I am not going to die for that opinion, never.

What then are you saying, brother Ed? you may ask. Tell you what: One of those things that I like about the Campbells and other “restorers” is their motto that became the “restoration” movement’s guiding light: “In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; in all things, charity.” Difference of opinion is what it is. I don’t chop other people for teaching that they cannot address the Father as Lord in their prayers because they believe that Jesus is the only Lord. I still love my brothers even though some of them may be up in arms because I disagree with them on the matter of the Spirit’s indwelling. I just love to learn, and I also love knowing they learn their own truths some other way. Differences such as ours is not a heaven-or-hell issue. I believe that we can still go to heaven even if we differ in our opinions– opinions that are not intended to fractionalize the body, but to become the springboard for discussions in order to for us to come up with a message that is consistent with the Word.

If this is the attitude we have, then we should not have divided over the issues of orphan homes, Bible schools, plural cups, located preacher, benevolence for the non-Christians. If Daniel Sommer and Roy Cogdill had not been too pushy of their principles, then the movement that my beloved American brothers had brought to many shores would not have been too fractious. As it is I am a loss to explain why we plead for unity of all believers and then divide the churches over minor issues. God help these fractious men! is all I can say in moments of frustrations.

Gentlemen, I love this church. There is nothing like it in the whole world, in spite of what our detractors say. Whether we agree or disagree on minor points, let us rather push for the evangelization of the whole world. That is the most important. If a brother lacks the sense that others have, the church, consisting of different talents and mental resources could amply supply that lack. But the church must also be tolerant over small matters. I am of the opinion that no one goes to hell just because he believes that when the Lord comes again, he shall restore the kingdom to Israel (cf. Acts 1:6). If even Christ had been tolerant of this small fault in the apostolic band, why couldn’t us? Why couldn’t you?

Oh, you can keep calling yourselves “restorers,” or “reformers,” and I don’t really mind. Some messages sometimes don’t sink that deep; sometimes they bounce back.

Now, it’s your turn to bounce to me your opinions. I will listen.

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One Response

  1. There are many quotes in the “church fathers” about the need for the church to be apostolic meaning that it must Biblical.

    John Calvin often wrote of Restoring the Church of Christ. While he came up short, his proposal was to remove all of those practices which had been added without Biblical authority. He, along with most historic scholars defended at least the CE part of the CENI.

    I have posted his proposal here:

    http://www.piney.com/Calvin-Reform-1.html

    The four books on the history of the Church in England I am presently working on show that there was always a struggle going on between the High Church and the Bible. While most books do a poor job of indexing the “music” issue, the move from using the Biblical text for “singing” to the victory of sentimental hymns is informative.

    I believe that the Campbells were more influenced by Calvin.

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