Theology for the Masses

November 15, 2006

On Unity

Filed under: The Kingdom,Unity — Henry Imler @ 11:45 pm

I have been a member of many a local church. I grew up Baptist, attended a Christian church (COC) in my teens, attended a Christian (COC) college and participated in a charismatic campus ministry at another college. I married a pastor’s daughter of a cornerstone church that had roots in the Mennonite church. Since marriage, my wife and I have attended an Evangelical Free church and are currently members of a Presbyterian congregation. In my denominational travels I have not encountered, nor participated in much unity among those that love Christ. There have been pockets of such acceptance and cooperation and if you the reader are members of that line of thought, please skip my ramblings.

This past week, on my way to Kansas City to fly to our greatest symbol of national and political unity, Washington DC, I passed a large Methodist Church. I have passed it by many a time right before entering Lee’s Summit. It is a landmark to those approaching Kansas City on 50 highway from the west.

This time I saw a shocking sight. A Baptist church had sprung up right next door to the Methodist church. As big as the Methodist Church was, it was dwarfed by the newer Baptist building. As I sped by at 75 miles per hour, I could not help but think what a great waste of Christ’s resources it was to have two massive churches right next to each other, competing against one another instead of working together.

When I read about the body of Christ in the New Testament, I cannot envision this back to back stance pleasing the early church fathers, Christ, the Holy Spirit, or the Father. It is easy to imagine the wonderfulness that would be the two churches working together to help the poor, mend the hurting and spreading the Gospel throughout their community. Despite their errors in history, such as their attitude and actions towards the Lord’s chosen people, the unification of the Catholic Church is a virtue.

Unity in Error
Of the many lovers of Christ that I have encountered in my short, 25 year existence, none have had a monopoly on correct doctrine or eschatology. I have often thought that I had such a monopoly on correct thought about God, but have often been forced, in the name of truth, to reevaluate and amend my thoughts on God.

Which is correct, Calvinism or its antithesis, Armenian theology? Logic mandates that two such drastically opposing views could not both be true and therefore at least one must be false. There are many Calvinists and many Armenians. Therefore, a large number of people are wrong about the nature of God and His relationship with humans.

There are also many Christians that believe that a person must be baptized in order to be saved. A subsection of this group thinks that a person must be immersed in order to enter into the Kingdom of God. Others think that sprinkling gets the job done, and others think that whosoever believes in Jesus will not perish, but have eternal life. It is logically impossible for all of these people to be correct and therefore there are a great many of people that have a bad doctrine on the nature of Baptism.

So, just be looking at a few of theological issues, one can summarize that a great many Christians have poor doctrine. I am not arguing for any particular doctrine, I will save that for later writings. What I am arguing for is near universality of error in the body of Christ. There are none, even dating back to the earliest followers of Christ, that had it all figured out or even revealed to them. Peter, the vaulted rock of the Church , was corrected by God himself about the inclusion of the gentiles into the Kingdom of God.

The Love of Christ
All of these people, however, share one defining characteristic, they all share a love of Christ. It is this love of Christ that attaches us to the body of Christ. Each body is not a uniform collection of cells. While sharing the same DNA, each cell in one’s body fulfills different functions and it is the variation that allows the body to adapt to changing environments. Likewise, I would venture to say some of the differences that we see in worship styles, approaches to God and the like are things that appeal to the hearts of different people. I love the depth of hymns and my wife loves the expression of praise songs. Neither is inherently better than the other, just that each type helps different people communicate with God better.

A New Catholic Church
We need a new Catholic Church, one that the catholic church is just a member. We need to unify as Christians and fight for the common good, for the poor and down trodden, for the unchurched, for the unsaved. We need to fulfill the Great Commission. We do not need the splitting of theological hairs to divide us.

What sort of structure would such an arrangement entail? A council of world churches? We have that already. What I am looking for is unification on the local level. I envision there being no more Baptist churches located across the street from Catholic Churches. I see the pooling of resources from Calvinists and Armenians to bring the love of Christ to those that want to know about God. I do not advocate the hierarchy and authoritative structure of the Catholic Church. Instead, a loose confederation of churches, similar to the Non-Denominational Movement. While I like what I have seen in true non-denominational churches, I don’t see the same type of unity that I am talking about here. They often are toned down versions of their parent denominations. What I am looking for is much, much grander in scale, but does follow from that same template.

What I don’t know is how to deal with errors in doctrine and other discipline issues. How does one prevent the tragedies that occurred in the Restoration Movement churches? I don’t know. I know what is needed, but not how to get there nor how to proceed in the fine details once we get there. What Christianity does not need is another failed revolution weakening it in the eyes of the world.

Do you all have any ideas on how to by-pass these problems? I keep seeing in my mind the vision of the 2-Mile rule being used by all Christians without regard to denomination. Catholics, Ana-baptists, all those that love Christ actually being unified in spirit and in action. The body of Christ being healed and functioning optimally. No more hands wrestling with the feet for the minds of new grafts.

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