III. How Americanism Changed our View of God and Man

20130729-235515.jpgChapter 3: The Democratization of Salvation

By Leif L.

Influence of Restorationism on the Second Great Awakening

The Restoration Movement started in the early 19th century and was linked to the Second Great Awakening. James White and other early Seventh-day Adventists were part of the Christian Connection which was directly connected to this movement.

“Restorationists

Strictly speaking, the Restoration Movement is a Christian reform movement that arose in the United States during the Second Great Awakening in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. It rejected the idea of reform of any previous tradition and emphasized the idea of a direct renewal of the Christian church by God. The doctrinal differences among these groups can sometimes be very large; they include, among others, the Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Christadelphians, Latter Day Saints, Seventh Day Adventists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses”. – Article, “Protestantism”, New World Encyclopedia

“It rejected the reform of any previous tradition”. That fairly summarizes the main fault of the movement. Revelations that God had made to and through His people (in the church) were discarded. “Following the Holy Spirit” was understood as a personal revelation, rather than also encompassing a revelation to the people of God.

The desire for reformation within the church and the restoration of biblical and Apostolic Christianity in the church is good. It can only be realized through the leading of the Holy Spirit, and in being faithful to the word. To reject the reforms that the same Spirit has revealed and produced through the centuries reveals that this was an “innovation movement” rather than a “restoration movement”.

The doors were open for anything “new” or novel. Ideas and practices accepted by Christians through the centuries were automatically suspect.

It is not possible for a human, by himself, to be completely objective. And it is incongruent to on the one hand, claim to be led by the Spirit, and on the other to reject how the same Spirit has worked through the church through the ages. It sets one up to create his own beliefs and doctrines, to view the Bible through the lens of his own awareness of culture, philosophy, or personal experience.

One of the platforms of the Restoration Movement was to abolish creeds, “No creed but Christ” was their motto. But true to nature, religion could not exist without one. Adventistm must be one of the most spectacular example of them all; they have no less than 28 points of faith! The typical Baptist church usually has 8-12 points.

This is an evidence of one thing: while setting out to destroy church power that was derived from creeds and human authority structures, they created systems with more rules, doctrines and layers of church government than had been seen to this point, except in the Papacy. In striving to separate from “Babylon”, these systems actually ended up reflecting her image in a spectacular fashion.

The cause is that they went about it in the wrong way: they thought that by scripting “true doctrine” and strictly enforcing it by their own “pure” church structures, they could avoid ever falling back into the “errors” of their predecessors; yet the end of their pursuits actually pushed them (in many ways) into territory completely opposite of their original intention, places never entered by Protestantism at large.

The Restoration Movement Influenced by American Humanism

Though the aim of the Restoration Movement of the early 1800s was to restore primitive Christianity, a return to the Apostolic age could not be accomplished in a vacuum, much less built on humanist ideology.

“Restoration Movement …
“The idea of restoring a “primitive” form of Christianity grew in popularity in the U.S. after the American Revolution. This desire to restore a purer form of Christianity played a role in the development of many groups during the Second Great Awakening, including the Mormons, Baptists and Shakers. Several factors made the restoration sentiment particularly appealing during this time period.

“To immigrants in the early 19th century, the land in America seemed pristine, edenic and undefiled – “the perfect place to recover pure, uncorrupted and original Christianity” – and the tradition-bound European churches seemed out of place in this new setting.

“A primitive faith based on the Bible alone promised a way to sidestep the competing claims of all the many denominations available and find assurance of being right without the security of an established national church.

“The Restoration Movement began during, and was greatly influenced by, the Second Great Awakening. – “Second Great Awakening”, Wikipedia

Since historic Christianity and it’s creeds were considered to be evils that must be purged from the Church, the philosophies of the age inevitably created a new paradigm. This resulted in the abandonment of what had become pillars of Christian understanding since the Protestant Reformation. Old creeds and customs were out, novel ideas and practices were in.

The ideologies of personal liberty and the supreme value of the individual were applied to religion in such a way that radical departure from Protestantism was inevitable, and occasioned the redefinition of the very existence of Protestantism.

The democratic principle has been allowed to bleed over from creature to creator, that we have a right to disagree with God. That though he is sovereign, we have the right to pass judgment on his judgment.

Two of the three Protestant pillars are:

Sola Scriptura (the Bible as final authority in faith and practice)
The Priesthood of All Believers

The idea of personal liberty and autonomy redefined, or replaced, the Protestant principle of the priesthood of all believers, which in turn changed the understanding other great Protestant principle of Sola Scriptura.

In this new religious atmosphere, it was taught that every member of the church was responsible to interpret the Bible by himself, for himself. Many thought that in their approach to the interpretation of Scripture, they did not need to consult books, commentaries, or the counsel of others. All that was necessary was the personal guidance of the Holy Spirit.

God does lead his people by the Holy Spirit. this is a biblical principle which is paramount in the New Covenant. But not every idea that we get is a Spirit filled idea; many of them spring for our own imagination. We are counselled to test everything by the word, and the body of Christ is also a vehicle that is used to teach and correct (as long as it is Spirit led and subject to the word).

As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27:17

The second humanist ideology, the supreme value of the individual above the community and even authority of government, was grafted into Christianity to undermine the Biblical and Protestant teaching of the Sovereignty of God in all things, including salvation.

The combination of these humanist principles, applied to religion, compounded to produce the idea that man was ultimately the author of his own destiny, that his free will was really the great force in the universe, whereby he had the power and authority to bind God himself, that he was autonomous, accountable to nobody, and that he had the right to privately interpret the Scriptures.

All religion now centred around the human. It ceased to be Christocentric or Theocentric, but was now anthropocentric. It was this anthropocentricity that men such as Martin Luther, John Calvin and the other reformers sought to eradicate from the church. These ideas were reflected in their doctrines and creeds.

It was principally the change of these two Protestant principles that undermined the whole balance of the Christian system during the period of the Second Great Awakening.

This twisting of “Sola Scriptura” and the “priesthood of all believers” is contrary to the teaching of the Bible. The Holy Spirit does not work through one individual alone to reform the Church, or to discern or declare doctrine.

Ephesians 4:4-13
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. …
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

Paul teaches that God gives gifts to men in the church, and that these gifts work together in one body (not one individual) according to the Spirit.

The church is not based on the teachings of one person, but God equips many to work together, as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. And these many roles are never found in one person, indeed, the Spirit works to place each gift with different men, as we are members of one body; the hand can not walk, and the foot can not speak; the ear is not for seeing nor the nose for hearing.

This unity of the body, the equipping the saints for the work of ministry within it, and the working together for mutual edification, are basic tests of true Apostolic Christianity.

Another effort in the movement was to restore biblical authority in the church. Yet, this amounted to total failure from a biblical perspective; the manifestation of the changes went contrary to New Testament teaching and practice:

  1. They put a prophet in the place of the word of God, to explain and interpret the Scriptures
  2. They established a hierarchical organization with the purpose of maintaining strict control of members, quelling dissent, and enforcing a strict theological orthodoxy

People were put in the place of God (Ellen White for the Adventists, Joseph Smith for Mormons, Charles Taze Russell for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Herbert W. Armstrong for the Worldwide Church of God, etc.). These were viewed as modern-day prophets and their writings used to establish doctrinal unity in the movement.

Each movement was consistent in their plan to create a hierarchy of leaders to control the direction of the organization. These organizational hierarchies held that they were the “true church” of God, and that all of God’s money should be directed their way, that they had the right to demand that, usually in the form of a tithe. The tithe, however, was commanded by God to be given to the Levites under the Mosaic dispensation, not to the Christian church.

At this point all who read should be able to see that these movements stem from a common root. To the one willing to look into these issues and verify them for himself, it should become apparent that these are not in fact genuine Christian churches, but human deceptions meant for control of their membership. The corruption at the top of all of these movements is documented, and easily available in this electronic age.

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