D. Inherent sectarian restorations:
When we call for a restoration we must be careful in establishing the foundation upon which we base our call. If we are not cautious, then we may end up with some unfortunate conclusions that inherently cause us to divide from one another.
In our picking and choosing what we consider to be the “New Testament church,” we saddle ourselves with an inevitable sectarian conclusion. We will often go to battle with ourselves over determining which behavioral examples of “the New Testament church” should be binding, and thus, be restored. We leave ourselves with the daunting challenge of sifting through a catalog of examples of the early disciples we read about in the New Testament. We diligently sift in order to determine what we should restore in reference to the early disciples’ response to the gospel.
Our hermeneutic for determining that which should be restored is often inherently sectarian. We find ourselves fighting legal battles over the example responses of those, who in their obedience to the gospel, escaped the bondage of legal religion. In our misguided call for a legal restoration, we subsequently legalize the examples of the early Christians’ deliverance from the bondage of legal justification. We often develop a systematic theology of law from the examples of those who through faith in the grace of God were set free from the bondage of systematic theology.
Any systematic theology is inherently sectarian. Here are some examples of deductive applications of examples that have become a part of someone’s theology that has led to sectarianism within their restoration movements: Some have concluded that there should be only one cup used during the Lord’s Supper (Prooftext: Mt 26:27). Some have concluded that contributions could be made only on the first day of the week (Prooftext: 1 Co 16:1,2). Some have concluded that individuals must be baptized the same hour of the night (Proof text: At 16:33). Some have concluded that assemblies of the church must be autonomous from one another (Prooftext: ?). Some have concluded that members must place their membership with a particular autonomous group (Prooftext: ?). Some have concluded that all singing must be congregation (Ep 5:19). Some have concluded that their group must have a specific name in order to label their uniqueness, and thus separate themselves from all others who do not conform to the dictates of their accepted church law.
This list of differences goes on, depending on where one is and with what group he or she is associated in fellowship. The call to restore the “New Testament church” forces on us a hermeneutic of understanding and application of the New Testament in a way that inherently divides us from one another. It is inherently divisive because it is a call for the restoration of the wrong subject.
[Next in series: January 19]