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Christianity

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The Restorationist Movements:
Groups of unrelated denominations

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Restorationism:

The term "Restorationism" or "Restorationist Movement" refers to a group of largely unrelated Christian denominations who share one important belief in common -- that Christianity went terribly astray early in its history. It experienced the Great Apostasy during which Christians abandoned many of the original teachings of Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ), Paul and other apostles.

At least when it was founded, each Restorationist denomination taught that their own faith group had recreated the original form of primitive Christianity (a.k.a. "Christian Primitivism" or "Early Christianity"), just as Yeshua and the others taught.

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"Restorationist" denominations include:

bullet The Christadelphians,
bulletThe Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),
bulletChurches of Christ,
bulletThe Community of Christ,
bulletThe Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS),
bulletIndependent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ,
bulletInternational Churches of Christ,
bulletJehovah's Witnesses,
bulletSeventh-day Adventists,
bulletThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons)
bulletetc.

The Community of Christ has since abandoned the belief in Restorationism. However, it is frequently cited as a Restorationist denomination because it traces its history to The Church of Christ  as originally founded by Joseph Smith in 1830.

Other than the belief in Restorationism, these groups' beliefs and practices are quite diverse.

Unfortunately, there is no consensus on the meaning of the term "Restorationism."

bullet Some restrict its use to about 100 faith groups and  denominations that trace their ancestry back to the original Mormon church established by Joseph Smith in 1830. Today, these include:

bulletThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. Mormons, The Church of Jesus Christ, LDS),
bulletThe Community of Christ, formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
bulletThe Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), and
bulletMany dozens of other faith groups, all small.

These groups believe that:
bulletThe true Christian church died out early in the 2nd Century CE, when religious leaders abandoned many of the original teachings of Jesus Christ, Paul, and the other apostles.
bulletJesus and God, as separate entities, visited Joseph Smith in 1820 and told him to not join any of the existing Christian denominations because they were all in serious error.
bulletTrue Christianity was restored only after Smith founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830 CE.
 

bullet Others use the term "Restorationists" also to refer to a number of denominations, including the Church of Christ, the Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples), and the Disciples of Christ, who trace their history back to the Campbellites or Stone-Campbell churches.
bullet Still others use the term to refer to refer to a larger group of denominations as listed above.

The concept of Restorationism is found in many other Christian faith groups. Past theological disputes often lead to a schism within many denominations. Frequently, both sides believe that they were following the original teachings of the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) and that the other side is engaged in some form of heresy. For example, Protestant denominations trace their history back to the Protestant Reformation. Its founders viewed their their efforts as an attempt to return to the original beliefs and practices of Christianity as taught by Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ), and further developed by Paul and other apostles. They regarded the Roman Catholic Church as being in a state of apostasy.

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When did the "Great Apostasy" begin?

The Restorationist churches differ on the timing of the descent of the Christian church into heresy:

bulletSome feel that the writings of the early Church fathers indicate that they have already deviated from the original teachings of Jesus and his apostles.

bulletOthers feel that the early Church fathers followed the teachings of the original church, but that the writings of the later fathers indicate that they had started to go into apostasy.

bulletThe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teach that the apostasy began shortly after the last apostle died, circa 100 CE.

bulletThe Sabbatarians -- the Restorationist churches who hold services on the Sabbath (Saturday) link the start of the apostasy at about 135 CE. They cite Justin Martyr's writing circa 160 CE which defended Sunday services as evidence of a falling away from the original faith. They look on the apostasy as a continuing process lasting until after the time of Constantine when the Church stopped keeping the Sabbath.

bulletThe Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement

"... also views the Great Apostasy as a gradual process. Ignatius promoted obedience to the Bishop in about 100 AD , which is viewed by some as signaling the introduction of the idea of a professional clergy, who began to elevate themselves over the people, leading by a gradual process of corruption to the prophesied "man of lawlessness." Infant baptism, which restorationists condemned as coercive church membership, is considered a similar step toward apostasy. They believe that only adult baptism was practiced at least to the time of Tertullian, but that infant baptism was introduced locally around the time of Irenaeus. "

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Terminology used on this web site:

We have chosen to use the terms, from the many that are in use:
bulletRestorationism to refer to the denominations as listed above.

bulletLDS Restorationism to refer to the Restorationist denominations that trace their history back to Joseph Smith's founding of the Church of Christ in 1830.

These definitions will probably not satisfy a lot of people. However, any other choice would probably be equally unacceptable.

Schisms after Smith's death resulted in about a hundred LDS Restorationist denominations today. Most regard themselves as being the only true Christian church; they believe that other Restorationist and other Christian denominations are in significant error. By far, the largest is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, centered in Salt Lake City, UT.

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Reference used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Restorationism," Reference.com, at: http://www.reference.com/
  2. "Restorationism," Wikipedia, as on 2011-SEP-11, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

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Home > Christianity > Denominational families > here

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Copyright 1995 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2006-NOV-06
Latest update: 2012-FEB-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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