The Restoration Principle

11 — The ‘Gravitational Pull’ of Apostate Christianity

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers” (2 Timothy 4:3).

IT IS HARD FOR A SATELLITE TO STAY IN ORBIT AROUND THE EARTH. The tremendous force of a launch vehicle gets it into space, but once in orbit, it immediately starts losing velocity. If it doesn’t have some sort of booster rocket that can periodically add back the velocity it has lost, it’s only a matter of time until it crashes back to earth.

Similarly, separatist movements have a hard time staying separate. Eventually, a strong desire arises in some people to return to the “establishment.” They no longer accept the reasons for which their ancestors separated from the establishment in the first place.

In regard to the gospel of Christ, many of us have maintained a separation from mainstream “Christianity,” believing that the mainstream represents not true Christianity but an apostate form of it (2 Timothy 4:3; Jude 3; etc.). We have pursued restoration of the apostolic norms of the first century — a pursuit that has put us at odds with the mainstream in fundamental ways, resulting in a variance far deeper than disagreement over a few specific practices.

Since the start of the Restoration Movement in America, there have been large segments that chose to circle back and rejoin the apostasy which their forebears came out of — and the same process continues today. Even among the non-institutional churches of Christ (which are some of the last remaining congregations in the Stone-Campbell movement to strongly advocate restoration), the process of “circling back” is underway. A growing number are willing to say they do not view the bulk of Christendom as apostate, and that a person can serve Christ as devoutly in the denominational world as he could in a congregation separate from that world.

Apostasy cannot be dealt with by simply doing nothing. Like the satellite that has to have its velocity boosted or it will fall back to earth, we have to work at being restorationists. This shouldn’t be the only thing we preach about, obviously, but if we neglect it, we invite disaster. As the apostles knew long ago, we must have a conscious awareness of apostasy’s danger. Apostasy is going to take place — but we must spare no effort to hinder its progress if we can.

“The Christian life is never automatic” (Erwin W. Lutzer).

Gary Henry — +

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