I love the Restoration Movement. The idea of re-embodying the early church in the present day world appeals to me. I appreciate the idea of reconnecting today with yesterday and putting down roots that go back thousands of years.
Restoration in general is something that has come into its own both culturally and biblically in the last few years. Antique shows and the History Channel have highlighted an entire subculture of digging up the past and restoring it to be used in the present. It is fascinating to watch someone like Rick Dale of American Restoration who is a master craftsman restore things back to their original condition. You literally watch old, dead things come back to life to function as they were originally made to function in a new day.
The same is happening in theological circles, led for the most part by N.T. Wright. Wright has zeroed in on something that many theologians have missed over the years and it is Restoration. His work has given a lot of airtime to the restoration of all things and God’s desire to put things back in the state He created them, the state of being in the right again. This is the restoration of creation to God’s original intent for his creation.
In the Restoration Movement that includes Churches of Christ we were Restoration when Restoration wasn’t cool. We keyed in on this fundamental component of the work of God with just one catch. We focused in on ecclesiology rather than cosmology. In other words, we got focused in on Restoring the church (more specifically the worship of the church and doctrine) rather than the broader restoration that the Bible describes and that God is primarily interested in. In doing so, we got it part of the way right but not all the way.
I am happy to say that more and more I am seeing people embrace a fuller picture of biblical restoration that includes a new emphasis on more than going to heaven when you die but the impact of the Gospel on the here and now as well. It is not one without the other.
God is restoring more than His church. God is restoring the WORLD back to its original intention. If you recall the creation story in Genesis the creation wasn’t a bad thing. It was all “good” and even “very good.” When sin entered the picture, this good creation was marred…broken, disfigured…now corruptible and subject to decay. In short, it needs restored back to an incorruptible existence in God’s good, even very good creation. So we see that in many passages like the new heavens and new earth of Revelation 21. We see it in Romans 8 when the creation itself eagerly awaits what God is going to reveal as the creation groans longing for this renewal. We see it in God’s desire for humanity to become what Paul calls “new creation” so that the old is no more and all things are made new. Restoration is a big deal.
This is not just a New Testament idea but runs back through the Old Testament, not just in Genesis but also in the Psalms and the prophets. In explaining this in Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God, he quotes two of the most obvious passages in Isaiah 11:1-11 and Psalm 98:7-9 followed by a concise summation of his view on cosmic restoration,
A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of YHWH shall rest on him … He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth … The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them … They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of YHWH as the waters cover the sea.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of YHWH, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.
A world set free both from human injustice and from ‘natural’ violence; a world in which oceans and mountains themselves will rejoice at a new fulfilment; a world in which all peoples will celebrate the fact that everything has been set right at last. That is the ancient Israelite vision, variously re-expressed in Jewish texts across the second-Temple period. This is not simply a hope beyond the world. It is a hope for the world. The difference is all-important, and is rooted, as those two extracts and many others indicate, in the ancient Israelite and Jewish belief that the true God, Israel’s God, was the creator of earth as well as heaven. Sooner or later he would put all things right, and there would be – you can feel it in those texts – a cosmic sigh of relief.1
God is in the restoration business. That is the heart and soul of the Gospel. It just so happens to be a bigger picture item than the restoration of New Testament worship and how we “do church.” Let us not be afraid or ashamed to adopt a fuller view of Restoration. That should come naturally to us. It should be in our DNA from the start as Restoration Movement people.
- Wright, N. T. (2013-11-01). Paul and the Faithfulness of God: Two Book Set (Christian Origins and the Question of God 4) (Kindle Locations 29237-29250). Fortress Press.