I remember in Bible college, seeing or reading about attempts to use the texts of the Old Testament (especially the latter half of Exodus) to reconstruct (on scale) the tabernacle, altars, sacred furniture and vestments of God’s people. Of course, as is inevitable when using texts in ways they were not intended to be used, there were details about the fabrication of these things that the text did not and could not answer, and in which the phrase “artist’s rendering” became pregnant with meaning.
My own Restoration Movement past, as well as other restorationist or primitivist groups, rather regrettably suffered from this mindset when it came to “restoring” the New Testament Church. Of course the question was begged that the New Testament Church needed restoring. A whole host of apologetical frameworks were devised so as to avoid denying Jesus’ promise of the Church’s perseverence: the “trail of blood” history of the Church, redefining restoration as reformation, as well as others–all more or less problematic in that the solution created further problems: those “trail of blood” “marytrs” were all heretics, and how could a Church that is called by St. Paul the “pillar and groundwork of the truth” ever need reforming. But such restoration projects almost always devised a strategy of “just using the New Testament” to figure out what the New Testament Church was all about.
The problem with this is that it is dealing with a dynamic historic entity and not some facts in a book, and thus is limiting the evidence to only one selection of writings and ignoring the plenitude of other historical writings that shed light on the first–which hermeneutic will inevitably skew and distort one’s view of this “New Testament Church.”
But more to the point, the Church is a living organism, not a set of theories, ideals, doctrines or practices. A set of theories, ideals, doctrines and practices is just that: a collection of data. It is not a living being. Humans are not granted the authority nor the ability to create life from nothingness. That is the the sole prerogative of God. We can no more assemble the parts of the Church (even assuming we could discover and/or know what all those parts were and are simply from reading the New Testament) and jolt them with electricity or infuse them with some goo and create a living organism. Dr. Frankenstein’s monster is, thank God, fiction.
So, too, is the notion that the Church can be created or recreated from the spare parts of various interpretive ideologies used in reading the New Testament.
God has created only one living organism called the Church. We do not honor him by attempting to created a hybrid monster. Rather, we honor him by learning who and where that Church is, becoming one with that life he gives it, and loving and serving him in that living gift.