Man was created by God in union with God. Through sin, man fell from this blessed union with God. God became man so that man would be reunited with God, restoring the beauty and love that is found in this unitive and relational grace. The story of salvation is restoration.
We should all be restorationists. We should all be restorationists because we are all seeking salvation, and salvation is about being restored to the blessed union with God that we lost through the sin of Adam and Eve.
When we look through Scripture, the stories we encounter—all part of the larger story of salvation culminating with Christ—are stories of journeying with God, coming nearer to God, and ending with (re)union with God. Christ Himself said, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!”
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The implicit argument against restoration is that there was no fall, no sin, and nothing is wrong with the world or humanity. For if there was no fall, no sin, and no need for salvation, then there is nothing to be restored. Everything is hunky-dory and okay; we can all just go about our lives living the way we want. The Church exists only to affirm this do-it-yourself life of self-determination. The Church is, by this conceptualization, a purely human institution existing for purely human ends.
The counter is true for the need of restoration. Those who accept the reality of restoration affirm that there was a fall, that there is sin, and that humans need restoration in order to live the lives of love and dignity that God originally intended: a love and dignity only possible through union with the Divine. God’s prophets taught this. Christ came to fulfill this. The Church exists as that continuation for restoring souls to God through Christ until the end of time.
Concern over restoration strikes the liberal as anathema because the anti-restoration argument rests on the assumptions of modern liberalism. Liberal theology, if you call it that, is premised on a peace treaty with modern sensibilities.
Humans and the world are fundamentally good and only corrupted by institutions of power. The human will is ultimately all that matters: the will to choose and the will to be whatever one wants is the highest aspiration of the human soul (if we even grant the existence of the soul). Choice is all that matters and affirmation for one’s choices is what institutions should exist for (this is what motivates “pro-choice” Christianity). Theology and the Church, therefore, exist to affirm liberal choices and sensibilities.
This, of course, flies in the face of what the Church knows and teaches. While the Church Fathers taught that there is nothing more natural than grace in human life (since we were originally created in grace before the fall), the fact of the fall has stripped humanity of grace. Thus, the entire sacramental theology of the Church confers restoration—that is what it exists for. Baptism restores the grace lost in original sin. The Sacrament of Reconciliation continuously restores us to the grace we lose in our concupiscence. Restore. Restore. Restore. That is what Catholic theology is all about.
Furthermore, the deep anthropology of Catholicism in recognizing the realities of guilt, lust, and temptation equally imply the need for restoration. To have guilt, to suffer from lust, and to be tempted is to be drawn away from what you should experience: the beatitude of love of God found in grace. To wash away guilt, to cleanse oneself of lust, to have fortitude against temptation is to be restored to the love of God through grace offered to all through the sacraments and to be cleansed of guilt, lust, and temptation.
When Adam sinned, God came to him and offered him the chance to be restored. Adam obstinately refused. He and Eve were subsequently cast out of the Garden of Eden, out of the original union of love and grace they shared with God.
God repeatedly sent His prophets to His people throughout the Old Testament offering them repentance and restoration. The people obstinately refused and suffered just judgment as a result of their sin. God became incarnate through the Son, coming to earth to seek out the lost sheep and restore them to God to bring salvation. This is the mission of the Church.
The commission to baptize is a commission to restore. From the beginning to the end, the story of salvation is the story of restoration. It is the faith that has been revealed to us in Scripture and taught to us by the holy apostles and preserved through the ages.
One shouldn’t be shamed in being labeled a restorationist. God is a restorationist. All of us who are Catholic should be restorationists.
The history of Christianity is informed by this theology of restoration. All Christians knew, until recently, that the story of Christianity, of Christ and His Church, is the story of restoration. It is the calling of humanity to be restored to God as originally intended, in the grace and love that Adam and Eve had when first created but subsequently lost in their sin and passed on to all of us through original sin.
That hasn’t changed even if the rhetoric of certain Church leaders has. Restoration is a beautiful and glorious thing because it is the plan of God. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we experience the beauty and love of God’s grace. That beauty and love of God’s grace, restored to us through Christ and the Church, is what we wish to share with the world.
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