A Failed Attempt at Unity - The Restoration Movement

I read parts of Christianity Restored by Alexander Campbell earlier this year.

My initial thought in reading the book was that Alexander Campbell threw away all of the established creeds and created a creed that was much more complex in what could be described as a “hermeneutical approach” creed.

Here are two defining quotes:
"Our opposition to creeds arose from a conviction, that whether the opinions in them were true or false, they were hostile to the uniion, peace, harmony, purity, and joy of christians; and adverse to the conversion of the world to Jesus Christ."
"All the differences in religious opinion and sentiment, amongst those who acknowledge the Bible, are occassioned by false principles of interpretation, or by a misapplication of the true principles. There is no law, nor standard--literary, moral, or religious--that can coerce human thought or action, by only promulging and acknowledging it. If a law can effect any thing, our actions must be conformed to it. Were all students of the Bible taught to apply the same rules of interpretation to its pages, there would be a greater uniformity in opinion and sentiment, than ever resulted from the simple adoption of any written creed."
Campbell then goes on to explain his hermeneutical principles for eighty-five pages. Instead of having a ten point creed, he produced an eighty-five page pseudo-creed. It was his firm belief that one must share hermeneutical methods in order to come to the same conclusions. I think he was somewhat correct in his belief that a unity could be achieved if we all shared the same hermeneutical methods; however, that unity would not be a genuine unity. It would be an “intellectual unity” that scholars could share but it would not unite the masses.

Alexander Campbell believed that intellectual unity would bring about a genuine unity; however, history shows that we can be intellectually divided and still have Christian unity or we can have intellectual unity and still be divided. I could beat my head against a wall trying to convince someone to intellectually agree with me. It would be more fruitful to get them to participate with me in action. Unity starts with sharing actions rather than sharing intellectual processes. Shared hermeneutics would result in a shared theology but that does not always translate into a shared spirituality. If we share actions, our differing theology might not matter all that much.

A friend of mine wrote: “Rather than ask how 18-19th century methods of reading ancient texts may guide the church's reading of Scripture, we might ask what contemporary methods are bearing fruit analyzing ancient texts and how such methods may be used to foster a shared hermeneutic for today.” The problem is that modern methods vary as the wind and location of the circumstances the scholar finds himself in. It seems that – at least in secular fields, particularly literature – the original intent of the author is irrelevant next to the interpretation of the reader. People seemed to be enthralled with movies like The Fountain where the writer/director refuses to tell what the point is and proclaims that everyone's interpretation is valid. This modern day approach cannot bring about a shared hermeneutic that would result in an intellectual unity.

Campbell's approach which was not even successful is no longer even practical. Unity will only come through humble communities of believers listening to the will of God.

Original comments below:

 shannoncaroland said...
No creeds but Christ... and this one, but that's it.

True: Writing Creeds has a way of being divisive as it leads hyper-analyzation.

Also True: Refusing to write or accept creeds is even more divisive, because you will be seen as placing yourself above the rest of Christendom.

Also Also True: Creed was a telantless Pearl Jam rip off.
JUNE 25, 2007 12:06 PM

 regan said...
I agree with all of your truths except even mentioning Pearl Jam in the same sentence as Creed is a disservice to the former.

Does your church have a creed?
JUNE 25, 2007 12:25 PM

 Sam said...
My church does not have a creed per se, but rather a "Statement of Faith." You can view it at http://centralholstoncc.org/Page.asp?PID=4

I had no pat in making it and it was around before I came to the church, but nonetheless.
JUNE 25, 2007 3:03 PM