Divided on Unity

Written by Josiah Nichols

January 25, 2022

Church, Building, Mood, Black, Simple


Growing up in the sister movement of the Churches of Christ, Independent Christian Church, and attending a “Restoration” college, I have a general understanding of Churches of Christ history and traditions associated with it. Many of the traditions are shared between the movements, and both share the hatred for “denominational churches.” This article will go into the ideologies of the Restoration Movement and its history. It also will explain why Preacher Norm treated Andrew Rappaport the way he did in Apologetics Live.[1]

Restoration Movement

The Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement started in 1832 with the joining of Barton Warren Stone and Thomas and Alexander Campbell’s movements.[2] Barton Stone’s movement was anti-conviction of sin experience, anti-Trinitarian, and anti-penal substitution.[3] Stone held that Christ was similar to God, but not pre-existent.[4] He also held the atonement was to reconcile men to God, not God to men.[5]

Alexander Campbell held believers should call themselves disciples only; taught salvation by belief, confession, repentance, baptism, and living a holy life; weekly communion; intellectual evangelism; and elder led congregational churches with no outside church government.[6] All of these views are commonplace in Independent Christian Churches and the Churches of Christ with the exception of being called disciples only. Many prefer being called Christians only.

Thomas Campbell’s contribution to the movement was the Declaration and Address written in 1810. It consists of fifty-six pages and is often not known by many in Restoration circles.[7] Its major call is for Christian unity and argues for the invisible church. These eight slogans are also accredited to him:

  • “No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible.”
  • “Do Bible things in Bible ways; call Bible things by Bible names.”
  • “Where the Scripture speak we speak; where the Scripture are silent, we are silent.”
  • “In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion liberty; in all things, love.”
  • “Truth first, union afterward; and union only in truth.”
  • “Be true to the truth, oppose the error, but bear with humanity.”
  • “Back to Jesus, back to the Bible, back to Jerusalem.”
  • “The only way to make progress in religion is by going back to the Bible.”[8]

Church of Christ

The Church of Christ division happened after an argument over the nature of Christians in other denominations between Alexander Campbell and an unnamed lady in Lunenburg, Virginia. Campbell stated that while he held to the notion baptism is what saves people, he understood people are not condemned by being mistaken about baptism.[9] He believed anyone is a Christian who, “believes in his heart that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God; repents of his sins, and obeys him in all things according to his measure of knowledge of his will.”[10]

This statement drove Daniel Sommer in the North and David Lipscomb in the South to separate from the Disciples of Christ Churches.[11] These groups left over paid ministers, instruments in the church, baptism, societies, church fundraisers, and “many other objectionable and unauthorized things.”[12] These sects regarded anyone who disagreed with them after two warnings and considerable time to think as unsaved.[13]

Since then, the Churches of Christ have splintered into hundreds of categories with there being non-instrumental, instrumental, charismatic, premillennial, one communion cup, one communion cup with wine, etc.[14] It is difficult to determine the doctrine of any given Church of Christ because of its emphasis on no creeds and lack of outside church government. Those who hold to the more traditional conservative view are Amillennial, Arminian, cessationist, hold to baptismal regeneration, weekly communion, non-instrumental, exclusivist, and hold to many of Alexander Campbell’s main teachings listed above.

To have more unity., the more traditional churches send their preachers to colleges which reflect their beliefs. A sample of those colleges are:

  • St. Louis Christian College in Florissant, MO
  • Lincoln Christian University in Lincoln IL
  • Johnson University in Tennessee and Florida
  • Austin Graduate School of Theology in Austin, TX
  • Bear Valley Bible Institute Denver, CO
  • International Bible College, Florence, AL

Preacher Norm and Andrew Rappaport

When Andrew called Preacher Norm a pastor, I understood why he cringed a little bit. Ministers in the Restoration Churches often recoil at any kind of religious title because of their stance against “denominational churches.” They believe only Christ should be called a pastor/shepherd because they believe those titles are only mentioned about Christ in the Bible.

Preacher Norm’s stance on salvation is right in line with Alexander Campbell’s definition on salvation, without the grace of Campbell to believers in other denominations/sects; which is typical given they separated from the Disciples of Christ over this issue. His definition of salvation is right in line with Johnson University’s definition,

 THE NEW TESTAMENT EXPRESSES THE CONDITIONS OF RESPONSE TO THE GRACIOUS WORK OF CHRIST AS FAITH, REPENTANCE, CONFESSION OF FAITH IN JESUS AND BAPTISM (IMMERSION), TOGETHER WHICH PROVIDE THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION FOR CONTINUED OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST. Faith (Acts 16:30-31), giving assent to the truth of the gospel and placing trust in it, is the foundational response in receiving Christ’s gift. Repentance (Matthew 4:17; Acts 2:38; 17:30), the turning from rebellion against God to seek God’s mercy, and confession (Romans 10:9-10), giving overt expression to faith, are immediate consequences of faith. Baptism by immersion, in which the passive supplicant calls out to God in Christ for cleansing and new life, expresses and encapsulates all these and is therefore consistently in the New Testament associated with conversion from the old life to the new (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:1-6; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:11-14; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21).[15]

            Preacher Norm should be commended for being honest about his stance that if one dies without being baptized, he or she will go to Hell, even if one is on his or her way to being baptized. Most Independent Christian Churches and Church of Christ pastors I have come in contact with are not. Usually, they will say they do not know because they believe the Bible is silent about this issue.[16]

It will be interesting how Preacher Norm handles himself in the future on Apologetics Live, if he comes back on. It is interesting how he thinks he is letting the Bible say what is says without any ideologies influencing him. As one can see above, he is influenced by his movement/denomination’s history. He does bring ideologies into the text which are not there. While he says he uses a hermeneutical method, which he denotes as common sense, his “common sense” is Church of Christ tradition. It is not the immediate context of the passage. Proper hermeneutics starts with the immediate context.

It is also interesting how he cited great evangelical hermeneutics books like The Hermeneutical Spiral by Grant R. Osborn as something he uses to teach hermeneutics. Why would he use a work written by a guy he and his movement says is not a Christian and influenced by denominational thinking? It doesn’t make any sense. Yet, this is the norm in Church of Christ churches. They don’t live up to what they say.

If you want to dive deeper in your understanding in biblical interpretation, check out the resources section at strivingforeternity.org/store. There are tons of biblical resources to help you grow in your faith. Lord bless you.

[1] Andrew Rappaport, “What is the Church of Christ?”, January 20, 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UvlHIKmdN0&t=4456s, Accessed January 21, 2022.

[2] Henry E. Web, In Search of Christian Unity: A History of the Restoration Movement, Revised Edition, (Abilene, Texas, ACU Press, 2003). 156.

[3] Ibid. 55 – 56.

[4] Ibid. 56.

[5] Ibid. 57.

[6] Ibid 152 – 156.

[7] Ibid. 73

[8] Gene Rupel, “Great Slogans of the Restoration Movement”, October 6, 2019, https://www.churchofchristchino.org/articles/great-slogans-of-the-restoration-movement/ Accessed January 21, 2022

[9] Leroy Garrett, The Stone-Campbell Movement: The Story of the American Restoration Movement, Revised Edition, (Abilene, Texas, College Press Publishing Company, 1994). 385

[10] Alexander Campbell, “Any Christians Among Protestant Parties?” Millennial Harbinger, 1837, pp. 411-414. Leroy Garrett, The Stone-Campbell Movement: The Story of the American Restoration Movement, Revised Edition, (Abilene, Texas, College Press Publishing Company, 1994). 385

[11] Leroy Garrett, The Stone-Campbell Movement, (Abilene, Texas, College Press Publishing Company, 1994). 388 – 402.

[12] Daniel Sommer, “An Address and Declaration”, Version 1, September 5, 1889, https://webfiles.acu.edu/departments/Library/HR/restmov_nov11/www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/dsommer/dec_v1.html, Accessed January 21, 2022.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Leroy Garrett, The Stone-Campbell Movement, (Abilene, Texas, College Press Publishing Company, 1994). 433.

[15] Johnson University Statement of Faith https://johnsonu.edu/about/statement-of-faith/ Accessed January 21, 2022

[16] Please see how I deal with this in my previous article “What Do We Do With Acts 2:38 or Eis Eis Baptism” https://strivingforeternity.org/what-to-do-with-acts-238-or-eis-eis-baptism/

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