There’s always a tendency in religion to want to get back to the original–to return to the primitive form of religion–to get back to the basics.
While Catholics groups sometimes fall into this trap it is one of the underlying foundations of the Protestant movement to go in for Primitivism and Restorationism. Primitivism is the assumption that the early church was purer and closer to the essential gospel than that which accumulated over the centuries.
Restorationism is the belief that Christians should attempt to restore the church to its original, primitive purity and power.
When faced with the complex and often corrupt church–a church that was certainly in need of reform in many ways–the desire to dash it all and return to a simple, primitive and basic form of Christianity was understandable. The Protestant sects who did effect such reforms accomplished much that is admirable. They sought to bring a simple, heartfelt religion to the ordinary people. They attempted to simplify the complex theological and hierarchical structures of the Catholic Church.
Primitivism and Restorationism are actually noble ideals, and ones which drove all the reforming orders within the Catholic Church. The early monastic movement, the first Benedictines, the Franciscans and Dominicans, then the Jesuits–all of these had an element of the Primitive and Restorationist ideal driving their great endeavors.
Primitivism and Restorationism are therefore not wrong ideals in themselves. The problem (as in all heresy) is when a principle which is right in itself becomes the sole guiding principle, and excludes all others and eventually destroys everything that does not fit with its particular ideology. Heresy is not something that it totally false. It is a something which is partially true.
When Primitivism and Restorationism become the sole guiding forces of a movement, then the movement cannot help but become sectarian and exclusive. Those who feel drawn to the Primitivist/Restorationist position need to stop and ask themselves some very probing questions: Continue Reading