I noticed one of those “pure-Christianity” watchdog websites starting a series on unity beginning with defining true doctrine, and I just shook my head. Immediately, I thought this would be a fool’s errand — if the church has demonstrated anything at all, it’s that agreement on what is “true” doctrine is not possible, has never been possible, and never will be possible. Apparently we only see dimly and only know in part… and the thing we seem to know the least is how little we know. What we can agree on, I think, is purpose. Even this isn’t universally agreed, but it’s the one piece of ground where the most commonality exists.
The New Testament speaks of those who despite their motives and doctrine being askew, yet fulfil the purpose, and should therefore be left alone. This is not saying the ends justify the means, but it is saying what’s important.
What do you think? Is unity or unanimity on doctrinal issues important, or possible? If so, which issues… all, or just some? If we can agree on purpose, is that enough?
I think whether we agree or like it or not, we HAVE to settle to agree on purpose if we hope to live the mission and further the Kingdom. Otherwise we will continued to be mired in the muck of distinctives and biases
I think there ARE a few core things that define us as Christians but I mean it when I say A FEW
I like the way Thomas aKempis said it:
â€œIn things essential, unity; in doubtful, liberty; in all things, charity.”
If it were up to me (and it rarely is), I’d say the “essential things” were laid out for us by the council of Nicea or a few years later in the Apostles Creed. Those are two simple creeds which state the things that are the core of our faith … in my mind just about everything else can be argued or “things doubtful” which means we ought to grant each other liberty and charity.
I prefer the simplicity of the creed formed during the First Council of Nicea. I think the Apostle’s Creed adds unnecessary things. (He descended into hell; the communion of saints; other details like the Holy Spirit vs. the Father, which impregnated Mary?) The original Nicene Creed is so simple:
We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance [ek tes ousias] of the Father, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of the same substance with the Father [homoousion to patri], through whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth; who for us men and our salvation descended, was incarnate, and was made man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven and cometh to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost. Those who say: There was a time when He was not, and He was not before He was begotten; and that He was made our of nothing (ex ouk onton); or who maintain that He is of another hypostasis or another substance [than the Father], or that the Son of God is created, or mutable, or subject to change, [them] the Catholic Church anathematizes.
Of course, I don’t anathematize anyone, but in this instance, I tend to agree with the Catholic Church.
Sadly, when confronted with the history of human failure to created unity out of doctrinal uniformity, the response has not been to redefine unity or to be more generous in our embrace, but rather to redefine “Christian”- narrow who is in and who is not based on our beliefs. Thus, you achieve “Christian doctrinal unity”, as those who disagree don’t really count.
We need to find ways to pursue greater understanding and intimacy with God and each other with grace and humility. Given the clearly forgiving and gracious nature of God throughout the Scriptural narrative, I wonder how we can possibly end up being strict than Him. It reveals that our understanding of what is important off.
Great thoughts, bro!
Good thoughts Bro M. I’m writing a preface for the upcoming Wikiklesia book. One of my themes is AI and theology. Sometime in the next few decades, we’ll see the emergence of Turing-qualified cyber-theologians – bots who can argue any doctrinal position as good as the best apologists. Where does that leave the heresy hunters?
Intelligence Technology can’t duplicate the infinite depths of the soul – the human heart, created in God’s image. When heresy hunters are replaced by cybots, the church will realize on a fundamental level that “getting it right” isn’t nearly as important as “being like Jesus.”
There’s a reason Jesus derided the religious experts. They did â€œeverything right,â€? and missed the organic truth of the Christ.
What I find funny is that the “pure Christianity” types actually have a lot in common with some charismatic types — hugely ironic when the “true Christianity” crowd typically considers all charismatics as part of the great end-times apostasy.
What I’m referring to is the extreme fringe of the spiritual mapping crew, who insist that “God DEMANDS” total church unity before He will bring revival to any given city. That statement always makes me cringe; since total unity is impossible, the mapping gurus always have a convenient excuse for the lack of results accompanying their teaching — it’s never their fault, it’s our because we lack unity. Handy.
Stick with the creeds — situational, perhaps, but most of the heresies that they were combatting echo present day questions about the Incarnation of Jesus, so they still fit just fine.
“Sniff! Well, fine then, if we can’t be part of your pure Christianity, we’ll go and have our own pure Christianity then. And we’ll be even more pure than you are, so there!”
There really aren’t any new heresies under the sun, eh?
Nuances, perhaps. New marketing, possibly. But I think if you peel the layers back, there really IS nothing new under the sun!