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Postmodern Restoration 1: Restoring Process (kind of) June 9, 2006

Posted by fajita in Bible/Meditations, Christianity, emerging church/emergent, Philosophy/Religion, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement.

What the American Restoration Movement did well (OK, maybe not well, but certainly prolifically) was to identify conclusions that people in the Bible came to and to make efforts to replicate those conclusions. The idea was that if we copied what Bible people did, then we will be correct in what we do.


There is a certain logic to that thinking that is very appealing. It’s simple, easy for anyone to understand, honest, straightforward, optimistic, and privileges the common person as someone capable of knowing truth. I really like how the American Restoration Movement believed in people’s ability to see things for how they really are.


The problem comes with culture and context.


A conclusion made in one culture or context fits while that very same conclusion made in another culture or context doesn’t. The conclusion for the first century Christians not to use instruments in their worship was a cultural and contextual one, not a theological one. It was also a function or their lack of organization and maybe even the available skills and ability. It certainly didn’t come from their understanding of the Bible (the Old Testament at that time, since the Psalms are loaded up with instruments) Christianity was so new and was changing so fast that a theology of worship including a strict prohibition on worship with instrumental music is dramatically unlikely. But, it is pretty much an established fact that they did not use instruments. Singing acappella for their expressions of musical worship made sense in their culture and context.


In 21st century
America, the church is highly (overly) organized, and highly skilled as well. If in America today we respond culturally and contextually like the first century Christians did, then what we conclude is that all kinds of music is permissible. It’s not that we do what they did, but rather that we respond with the same process that they did.


So, rather than duplicating conclusions, the Postmodern Restoration Movement find ways to learn how they came to those conclusions and duplicate their process.


Oh, but let’s go even further. By what process did they come about their process to arrive at conclusions? Postmoderns might entertain this question. Just as the conclusions of people in the Bible might be relevant for their context and culture (but not ours), their process might also be culturally and contextually bound as well. So, with openness and honesty, the Postmodern Restoration Movement would look for Biblical conclusions and Biblical processes within their given context and allow those to contribute to the process and conclusions being considered in the contemporary. However, the contributions of the past do not dictate, but rather inform.


Postmoderns might still consider this kind of Biblical influence authoritative, but not from a determinative perspective. Authority emerges from the communal interaction between ancient and contemporary wisdom gathered together.



1. Matt - June 10, 2006

Thanks for this post. I’m hoping you write more on this, as I share in your desire to make sense of what – if anything – it means to be a “restorationist” in the new culture.

The God of scripture IS a restoring God. For example, God seeks to restore Israel, all other peoples, peace and unity. Ultimately – scripture can be seen as a story about how God seeks to bring creation back into its “goodness” by overcoming the pride/sin of man that subjected it to death and frustration. If there is one thing God does in scripture, it is to RESTORE things.

But in my view, the church should be viewed as an AGENT in this story of redemption, rather than the ultimate object of God’s restorative purposes. In other words, I suspect that we need to change our mission from trying to be something that is RESTORED to something that is A RESTORER. There is a great deal of difference between a nurse and a patient, and if you confuse those two roles, very little healing is going to take place.

To borrow from your framework, finding the right “processes,” then must ultimately be a function of understanding our PRESENT role in God’s story of redemption, and then entering into it. This is a dramatically different concept from trying to recapture an earlier church’s “conclusions” about their role, and then duplicate it.

2. fajita - June 10, 2006

Matt, your comment is incredible. I am digexting it right now. It will inform my next post. Thanks a ton.

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