Saturday, March 31, 2007

United we stand?

Most of the thoughts I've been having very recently have been related to the issue of unity amongst Christians. I find myself frustrated by the approach to the topic that many people adopt. I detect two prevalent attitudes. On the one hand, there are churches and organisations that seem to have little interest in uniting with other Christians – or at least, little interest in displaying unity in any meaningful way. On the other hand, there are numerous initiatives designed to promote unity that seem to display little discernment with regard to whom they will unite with. Anyone who appears to name the name of Christ is welcome, no questions asked. Faced with the rock of isolationism, and the hard place of unprincipled unity, where is the Biblical Christian to turn? Neither is attractive; indeed, both appear to be betrayals of the gospel. Is there a way forward that does not involve either of these fatal compromises?

I'm also pretty convinced that the two attitudes expressed above reinforce one another. Those who have a deep concern for doctrine see the unprincipled unity that is being promoted, and often conclude that if this is what unity looks like, they have no interest in it. Concerned to keep the clarity of the gospel, they see the confusion prevalent in contemporary ecumenism and decide that they must remain apart from it. On the other hand, it is easy for those who are currently promoting the unity agenda to point to those who are not involved as roadblocks to unity. They may even accept that the current ecumenical movement is too broad, but conclude (to coin a phrase of Moody’s) that they prefer the way they are doing it to the way the others aren’t. If unprincipled unity and isolationism are the only alternatives on offer, we are likely to choose between them based on temperament, or our own confessional/denominational background rather than basing our choice on Scripture.

Actually, I think that a Scriptural approach would require us to take a third path - a path I intend to wander down as and when I have time over the next few days...

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