Historically, the Restoration Movement has utilized a minimal confession of faith worded like Peter’s confession: “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God.” If a person affirms they accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they are then baptized by immersion and considered a member of the greater body of Christ, the church.
Of prime importance is to remember we are part of a UNITY movement. This is because we see unity as a command of Christ that also has far reaching implications for our witness to the world (see Jhn.17:11,21,23, 1 Cor.1:10, 2 Cor.13:11, Eph.4:3,13, Phil.2:2, 1Pet.3:8). We believe it is imperative that we are tolerant of others who do not see things just as we do. Without this, we can never have unity. Does this mean “anything goes?” Absolutely not!
How we approach Scripture is important in being united in diversity. We have to be humble, lifelong learners that accept we don’t have everything figured out. We must love each other more than we love being right. First, we start by accepting that Scripture is reliable and accurate, at least in the original manuscripts, and that it reflects God’s communication to his people. We must truly recognize Scripture as our ONLY rule of faith and practice, particularly the New Testament which reflects life under the new covenant with God. This means other potential sources of division such as creeds, human authorities, opinions, or traditions, are not our guide. Nor does it matter what a majority of people may believe, as if that determines truth. We should be able to use Scripture language to explain and describe our beliefs without resorting to extra-biblical language which God did not consider necessary to tell us what he wanted known. We also must let Scripture interpret Scripture and clear passages aid us in understanding unclear passages. Maintaining love despite differences of belief is our highest goal and desire.
Keep in mind a paragraph from Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address: “But after saying that we are to follow the Bible alone, we recognize that, as humans, we will use our minds in coming to understandings and in making opinions and conclusions about what the Bible means. Those rational activities will not be eliminated. We will have them. We do not deny that. But in recognition of that, we ask that each of us continues to acknowledge the difference between what the Bible actually says and our conclusions about it. Let us be able to know and admit where one ends and the other begins. And let's not allow our conclusions to be more important than the Bible commands. It is possible to unite around what the Bible says, but not around what people say it says. So let's not throw away Christian unity by demanding that others agree with all our understandings, opinions, conclusions, and hobby horses.“
Another early Restoration leader stated: "I had rather go before God realizing my weakness and liability to sin, trusting him for mercy and pardon, than to go relying upon my good understanding and obedience to the perfect will of God. I hope and trust to be saved, not by the fullness and correctness of my understanding of God’s will, but by his love and mercy to all who want to serve him." (David Lipscomb, Gospel Advocate 54 (30 May 1912), 671.
In general, we try not to expect acceptance of speculative ideas about what Scripture means when that subject is unclear, uncertain, or minimally addressed in Scripture. We try to use the language and limits of the Bible as adequate since it is, after all, inspired by God. Going beyond the clear, strait forward language of Scripture and into speculation and the use of additional terminology not found in Scripture is tantamount to saying the Bible is not adequate in and of itself.
A final quote from a pioneer leader in the Restoration Movement, stated "If our faith be ever so imperfect, and blended with error, yet if it leads us to do the will of God, and bear fruits of the Spirit; if it works by love; if it purifies the heart; if it overcomes the world -- it is the faith of a Christian" (Barton Stone, Christian Messenger 2 [Nov 1827], 5.
It is hopeful that you see from this quote that the true mark of a disciple of Jesus is not mental ascent to a particular set of doctrinal beliefs but rather that the life of the believer reflects love, godliness, righteous living, and the fruit of the spirit.
The following are what we consider the clear, non-speculative beliefs around which we can unify:
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