This new, yet familiar movement is surprisingly prevasive among evangelicals. What is it, and what are we to make of it?

In the early 1980s, Southern Baptist evangelist James Robison scandalized many of his conservative constituents with a new emphasis on so-called charismatic practices. The ensuing controversy focused on divine healing and deliverance from demons, but few seemed to appreciate the deeper significance of the shift: By 1984, the evangelist whose name had become associated nationwide with the New Right political agenda was embracing wholeheartedly the theme of the “restoration of the body of Christ.” Restoration became his watchword in everything—his syndicated television program, his magazine, his preaching ministry. Robison has lately distanced himself from restoration theology, but restoration themes still figure prominently in his ministry.

The new theme in James Robison’s ministry represented the emergence of a new, yet familiar influence in the evangelical garden—charismatic restorationism. While it takes different forms, the movement argues that the modern church has lost the power, patterns, and spiritual gifts of the New Testament church, all of which can and should be recovered.

The influence of restorationism is growing among evangelicals—perhaps more than they realize. New forms of worship and contemporary styles of praise music are permeated with its themes. Renewal churches seeking “new wineskins” gravitate toward it. Are you hearing of new apostles and prophets? Restorationism promotes them. It has also made connections with the “signs and wonders” movement on the one hand (CT, Aug. 8, 1986, p. 17), and Christian Reconstruction (CT, Feb. 20, 1987, p. 17) on the other, but it remains distinct from ...

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