In a cultural and political spoof, William Lind imagined a Retroculture Movement arising in the 1990s that revitalize and revolutionize American culture by 2050. The idea was to return to old values, especially those of the Victorian era, to restore family life, return schools to their true function, and reclaim churches from their agnostic clergy.
Whether Retroculture will take hold or remain a fantasy, only God knows. Paul Weyrich says Americans recognize that, in terms of values and morals, their recent past was better than the present and sees signs of a “restoration movement” afoot in several areas that could serve “to recover our old ways of thinking and living” to win the culture war./1
I take the above views as a good illustration of what must also happen in spiritual and religious terms. Though the term “Retroculture” may be open to misunderstanding if applied to Christianity, the idea of restoring the faith and practice of the Christian faith certainly finds expression in the Bible.
People have questioned at different times whether the concept of “restoring the church” or the “restoration of the ancient order” of Christianity actually is a valid or biblical concept. After all, the actual word hardly occurs in the New Testament and not with the sense it is used today. So can we really speak with biblical approval of the restoration of doctrine, church, or faith? It is precisely at this point that some theologians and change agents challenge all that faithful Christians stand for.
The Old Testament cites examples, like Hezekiah and Josiah, that have been well applied in principle to the restoration needed within Christianity. Less attention has been given to New Testament evidence, for whatever reason.
Perhaps that is because there is no limited set of words that may be researched to turn up the principle. To find the word “restore” or “restoration” in the New Testament merely produces frustration for those looking for the principle. Also, one might not expect the principle to be evident in New Testament times, since the early church continued under the direction of the apostles’ teachings.
But the principle may already be seen in evidence at points, even before the church is established in Acts 2, just as it is evident in the narratives of Hezekiah and Josiah, as well as the basic appeal of the prophets, in returning to the written law of Moses as the basis for pleasing God (e.g., Jeremiah 6:16)./2
Where do we find the restoration principle at work in the New Testament? In places like these:
- Jesus returning to the beginning to teach on marriage (Matthew 19:1-12).
- Paul throwing the Corinthians back to the establishment of the Lord’s Supper to correct its abuses (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
- Paul’s forbidding women to lead pray or teach publicly because of the Creation and the Fall (1 Timothy 2:11-15).
In each case, the restoration, whether having to do with family or church, looked back to the beginning to establish an authoritative practice. This is the divine version of Lind’s Retroculture, finding our way back to what was good and wholesome in the past.
In coming weeks, Lord permitting, we’ll look at these three applications of the restoration principle, where the original event establishes the divine intent.
2/ J.A. Thompson, Book of Jeremiah, NIC-OT (Eerdmans 1980), pp. 260-61.