My first indication that something was seriously wrong with the various Protestant communions was when I read the Didache (aka The Teaching Of The Lord To The Gentiles By The Twelve Apostles.) This document very likely preserves the order of the church in Jerusalem; scholars now believe to be a first century document, likely before A.D. 70, placing it well within the apostolic era. Here was a different expression of Christianity, one completely foreign to me, yet one the apostles did not seem to have a problem with.
One thing that struck me is that although the Didache contains a great deal of information about how to live and worship as a Christian community, it contains nothing of what I recognized as doctrine. I compared this to the Apostolic Traditions, written by Hippolytus in the third century to preserve the church order and practices in use in Alexandria; once again, it contains nothing of what we today would call doctrine. Finally, I came across the Apostolic Constitutions, a second or third century work containing fourth and fifth century interpolations, a document preserving the church order of Asia Minor. This work is more extensive than the first two, yet only the sixth book against Heresies contains any doctrine—and apart from a creedal portion in Section III entitled An Exposition of the Preaching of the Apostles, most of the work consists of a description of various errors or of the prescriptions of the apostles. What we would term the doctrinal portion of this work is surprisingly brief.
I found a similar concern in the epistles of the apostle Paul. The first two thirds are usually concerned with correcting certain matters of theology, while the latter third is concerned with matters of church order, and with prescriptions for holy living. The epistles to the Corinthian Church are even more explicit, mixing prescriptions for church order and discipline, theology, and exhortations to holy living throughout these letters. How we live as Christians mattered to the apostle. We are to live out our faith; we are to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Other New Testament authors say the same. James tells us to resist the devil (Jas 4:7). In his exhortation to holy living, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews write: “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin” (Heb 12:4).
I now had three different church orders from different regions: one from the apostolic era, one from the era prior to Constantine, one from after Constantine, and all saying basically the same thing. What I had was an expression of Christianity that I could not deny, yet could not explain either. These Christians were concerned with how one lived in community with each other and before the world, and with how they were organized and worshiped as church. These two were not separate areas, but were commingled together in a manner I found confusing. As I was working at Lutheran seminary at the time, I raised these issues with some of the professors. The basic answer I got was that we could not repristinate, a word that means to restore something to its state of original purity. This was an implicit admission that we no longer believed and worshiped in a manner like the early church. Somehow they were alright with that, but I couldn’t make sense of it.
The attempt to “revive the faith of a pristine church” is the functional definition of repristination. In Lutheran history, repristination was an attempt to restore historical Lutheranism over and against the Prussian Union, which attempted to unify the Lutheran and Reformed churches in Germany. Although the founder of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (C.F.W. Walther) is historically identified as part of this movement, today the term is generally used in a perjorative sense, for a romantic attachment to a golden age.
Interestingly, that was the same argument used to explain all the changes in Lutheran practice and worship from the time of Luther. It also became clear that neither Luther, Melanchthon, nor Chemnitz would have been welcome in most Lutheran churches, as they believed, taught, and confessed a different faith than did modern Lutherans. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. Not only did Lutherans not worship the same way as the ancient church, they didn’t even worship the same way as the Lutheran Reformers. That indicated that they had a different doctrinal understanding than did the Reformers, who had a different doctrinal understanding than did the ancient fathers of the church. It became clear that the argument against repristination was a tacit admission that the Lutheran faith had changed.
Fr. Anthony McGuckin, in his book “The Orthodox Church”, brings up the issue of repristination when discussing the mystery of marriage. While the Pharisees had a contractual understanding of marriage, similar to that found in modern civil law. Jesus expressed a different understanding of marriage, one of intense, interpersonal communion. The Pharisees came to Jesus and tested him by asking if it was lawful to divorce one’s wife for any reason. Jesus answered with a reference to the orders of creation, and the covenant God made with humanity when He instituted marriage. “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt 19:5-6). Of this, Fr. McGuckin writes:
Over and against the economies that were necessary for society where hardness of heart was the common order of the day, Christ begins to set a new standard for his church, which itself goes back to the more fundamental creation covenant, which he has come to restore and repristinate in his church. The Mosaic law of contractual divorce is made to give way to a higher ‘law of one flesh’, that is communion. It is God who bonds a man and a woman in a mystical union that grows out of the union of flesh. This psycho-physical bond is a profound sacrament of the love Christ has for his church.” (McGuckin 2011)
We humans seek to justify our departure from the truth by telling ourselves that we cannot repristinate, that we cannot return to the state of original purity, that we cannot return to Eden. And yet this is countered by St. Irenaeus and his discussion of the economy of salvation as one of recapitulation, as the restoration of the natural order of things, as the reopening of the gates of paradise so that whosoever will may come.
The Protestant urge for the restoration of the early church is an admirable thing. And yet that restoration is nothing without repristination, without a return to Eden and the restoration of the state of original righteousness.
McGuckin, John Anthony. The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to its History, Doctrine, and Spiritual Culture. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
 There are differences of opinion about this. Some date the Didache as early as 50 A.D., while others date it as late as the 4th century. The reason for an early date rests on a number of pieces of evidence. First, the Didache uses the ‘Two Ways’ description of Christianity; the Way was an early way of referring to Christianity (Acts 9:2; 19:9; 19:23; 22:4; 24:14; 24:22). Second, the Didache does not reference the different factions surrounding different apostles, suggesting an early date. Third, the Didache does not reference the growth of heresies, also suggesting an early date. Fourth, the Didache refers to itinerant apostles, prophets and teachers, and ways of determining their legitimacy. This was a problem in the earliest church, suggesting an early date. Fifth, it appears that Bishops and Deacons were, at this time, chosen by their congregations rather than the later tradition of election, then ordination by the bishops. Sixth, there is no reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Seventh, after the martyrdom of St. James in 63 A.D., the historian Eusebius writes that the Jerusalem Christians were warned to leave Jerusalem due to its imminent destruction. The Jewish historian Josephus writes that this flight of Christians occurred in 64 A.D. (Jewish War 2, 20, 1) This flight from Jerusalem is not referenced in the Didache.
 Lex Orandi – the law of prayer; Lex Credendi – the law of belief. Loosely translated, this states that the law of prayer is the law of belief. The way you prayer (and worship) is the way you believe. This is transitive, in that the way you believe is reflected in the way you prayer. Thus a change in the way you pray and worship reflects a change in your beliefs, while a change in beliefs is reflected in the way you worship.