A tale of two streams

In the American Restoration Movement, it is often summarily thought that there were two basic orientations — streams, if you will — that merged, river-like, in the early 1800s.  These streams have been identified as “enlightenment and apocalyptic,” as “head and heart” (or “left-brain and right-brain”), and, more commonly, as “Campbellite and Stoneite.”

Prior, in the 1700s, the Philadelphian[1] societies, in a similar dichotomy, had experienced a similar confluence, as a result of the meeting of two streams of spiritual experience.

1.  The first owed its origin to the desire of the soul for immediate communion with God, and union with Him. (emph. mine -bc)

2.  The second sprang from a sense of the essential unity of all the children of God (emph. mine), and a desire to express this communion of the true Church.

The Roman Catholic Church early introduced its clergy and sacraments between the soul and the Savior, but while this system kept many at a distance from Him, there were those whose longing for communion with God, as He is revealed in Christ Jesus, and desire for the Heavenly Bridegroom was so strong that they devoted themselves to the attainment of the full knowledge of Him and the experience of union with Him. . . .  E.H. Broadbent, The Pilgrim Church, pp. 278-9

Protestantism “proper” accentuated the divisions among the professing people of God and induced enmity and cantankerousness among the parties.  There were, however, those who lamented this and tried to emphasize the underlying unity in life and love of those who are separated from the world but joined to Christ and His members by faith.

* * *

At different points in my life’s river, I’ve sensed that I was responding to stimuli in alternating, more-or-less Campbellite or Stoneite ways.  Translated, and pared down to its essentials, that means that when things in life strike me, I’m either more of a “thinker” or a “feeler,” and how things play out depends on multiple factors.  If I had been swimming within the Philadelphian Societies’ flow, I think I would have flourished more with the “unity with God” orientation; for me, the second one described above is better viewed as a natural result of the former.  The notion of emphasizing being joined to the Christ while simultaneously emphasizing underlying unity in life and love, can be at once a) paradoxically frustrating and b) compelling.

The best course is probably a balance, but the ability to make such a choice, in the moment, is rare.  Perhaps it’s better simply to go with the flow, and to surround oneself both with fellow swimmers who are competent of brain and trustworthy of heart.


[1] Certain German believers’ societies were so named after the Asian church referred to in Revelation, and after the meaning in the Greek language.  These societies were not geographically located in Pennsylvania.

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