Chapter 3 of Marshall Leggett’s book Introduction of the Restoration Ideal is a short summary of the life of Barton W. Stone, one of the men credited with founding the Restoration Movement. I am not going spend whole lot of time here. If you are interested in the life of Barton Stone you can read about him here.
One thing that caught my attention in this chapter was the lack of church attendance in the frontier of the United States. Stone spent part of his life as a minister in Kentucky. According to Leggett:
“The census of 1800 showed that less than one out of twenty persons in Kentucky was a member of any church. This produced a spiritual and moral vacuum.” (p. 28)
As the United States grew the Church was not always able to keep up. If the we are going to make an impact for Christ, then we have too make sure to go where the people are.
In summarizing Stone’s beliefs Leggett writes:
“Stone was determined to follow the Bible only as a Christian only. This was the foundation upon which he began to build a theology. He rejected total depravity, the Calvinistic doctrine that portrayed a person as helplessly lost until God chose to act upon him with His irresistible grace. Stone felt the Bible taught that man is neither good nor bad in infancy, but human nature possesses a predisposition to sin. He believed that man can and must act on his own behalf to gain salvation. He must hear the gospel, accept the gospel, and be obedient to the terms of the gospel. Stone concluded that Christian baptism was the immersion of a believer ‘for the remission of sins.’ He, himself, was immersed and preached that immersion was ‘ordained by the King.’” (p. 31)
Now it would be easy to chase the rabbit of total depravity and irresistible grace. I think the point that needs to be understood is that he made a commitment to following the Bible as a Christian. We have to remember that Stone, as well as the three other men who are credited with founding the Restoration Movement, came from a time when Christianity was deeply divided into different denominations by creeds and confessions. These creeds, rather than the Bible, were used as tests of fellowship. Stone wanted the Bible to be foundation of a disciple's faith rather than some man made creed. He also wanted disciples to known first and foremost by the name Christian rather than by a denominational name.
So rather than be sidetracked by Stone’s beliefs I think we need to ponder his commitment to the Bible only as a Christian only. We are not going to interpret the Bible the same, we are going to have disagreements, but if we understand that Bible is our source of truth and that we are all Christians, regardless or our denominational ties, then we are able to be committed to each other even though we might disagree.