As a result of reading and study for a dissertation I am writing to complete an MA, I have been looking at the history of the restoration movement in the UK (more on this to follow over the next few posts where I will explain for those not sure what I mean by this; and perhaps explain the subject of my dissertation). Although there is much that is a blessing from this retrospective reading and I consider the message central to this movement to have been genuinely from God, I have to confess that part of it has made for depressing reading.
Many mistakes were made; and although this does not take away from the fact that great things were also achieved and we are all grateful to the grace of God that he uses flawed people otherwise we'd all be counted out, this must not be an excuse for failing to reflect on and learn from those mistakes, even when it is difficult to face them.
It all connected with what I have been thinking recently: most of the mistakes relate to two things. Firstly, the tendency to be too prescriptive and to mis-read the NT in a flat and fundamentalist way so that flexible patterns became rigid prescriptions, and our way of doing things becomes the only way of doing things (couple this with an unwillingness at times to learn from others and it becomes a big problem). Secondly, although I think that the issue of spiritual authority was an important aspect of the message and recovery of truth, there was not sufficient recognition of the counter-cultural, 'different kingdom' dimension to this authority, so that it often degenerated into a hierarchical this-worldly understanding and exercise of authority.
That said, while I am working on the dissertation over the next few weeks, I will post (probably not as often as usual) some reflections on my experiences as part of this movement, celebrating the great things as well as being open to learn what I think were mistakes (and I will remain open to be challenged and corrected in my perspectives by readers).