the weblog of Alan Knox

Can we begin by assuming unity in Christ?

Posted by on Dec 7, 2011 in blog links, unity | 8 comments

Can we begin by assuming unity in Christ?

Last week, Arthur at “The Voice of One Crying Out in Suburbia” wrote an excellent post called “The Assumption of Disunity.”

He begins his post by giving a quick synopsis of a book called Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism. If you’re interested in the book, you can jump over to Arthur’s blog and read what he says.

The point that I want to bring out comes at the end of the synopsis. Arthur says that the four contributors to that book assume disunity, not only among the church as a whole, but even among the sub-group called “Evangelicals.” Arthur explains, “All of these conversations invariably work within a framework where the church has just decided to shrug our collective shoulders, throw up our collective hands and just accept disunity and assume it is normal and unavoidable.”

How does Arthur respond to this?

I reject this. I don’t reject it because I think it is not the reality on the ground and has been for centuries. I reject assumed disunity because it is something that the Gospel simply demands that we reject and overcome. There is simply no way to read the New Testament and come away with practices that lead to a disunified church made of up thousands of competing local churches. The New Testament spends a ton of time breaking down the walls between believers and we have promptly spent the last two thousand years building them right back up in new, innovative ways.

Think about this for a moment… What would happen if we assumed unity in Christ instead of assuming disunity based on our traditions and backgrounds and interpretations? Is that even possible? I think it is…

In fact, I want to expressly state something that I hope has been apparent through my blog posts: If I disagree with you, or if you disagree with me, I do not automatically assume that we are divided from one another because of that (those) disagreement(s). Instead, my first assumption is that we are united in Christ – brothers and sisters – whose bond is stronger than flesh and blood and able to withstand our disagreement.

Idealistic? Maybe. But, like Arthur, I believe that the gospel demands our unity in Christ, and I will seek to live in it.


8 Comments

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  1. 12-7-2011

    Alan,

    It is interesting that when Christians meet, we immediately start to feel one another out to see where we agree (and disagree). “Where do you go to church?” is the most common ice-breaker question. From that answer alone we can start to distinguish if a person is our kind of Christian or not. For example, if I am a Southern Baptist and a person tells me they go to a United Methodist church, it is obvious they are some sort of lib’ral social justice type who doesn’t take the Bible seriously. One of the most positive things about churches dropping “Baptist” or “Presbyterian” from their church names is that it forces us to find out more about someone before we can reject them and maybe we will find that we have more in common than we might have thought based on our denomination or church tradition.

    I wonder what would happen if upon meeting a new Christian we sought ways to serve others together based on our common salvation rather than finding all of the places we disagree?

  2. 12-7-2011

    facebook is making me lazy, can you install a ‘Like” button? Just consider this a “Like” of this and Arthurs post.

    Thank you.

  3. 12-7-2011

    I think it comes down to some sort of strange christian-based paranoia we’ve all accepted – the idea that, if someone doesn’t agree with a bunch of points we’ve deemed important, than they are going to drag us into an abyss of spiritual danger… if they pray differently than we do, we have to immediately decide if that type of prayer is “right” or “wrong.” If they believe something different about predestination, we have to figure out if its “right” or “wrong.” If they share how they met Jesus, we are trying to decide if their faith experience was “legitimate” or “not quite legitimate.” In total, we’re always walking on thin ice with one another, always ready to “check one another out” and then “size one another up” and we’re driven by a fear that anything that isn’t exactly as we believe God wants it to be is going to be the end of us all if that person is treated like an equal brother or sister among us.

  4. 12-8-2011

    Arthur,

    I know. And, the more I seek unity in Christ with others, the more I realize that my first tendency is to look for a reason to divide.

    Hutch,

    You can consider this a “like” to your comment.

    Heather,

    “Christian-based paranoia…” Yes. Where do you think this comes from?

    -Alan

  5. 12-8-2011

    Alan – good question.
    I was just reading some church history with my fiance last night…how the early church councils were filled with power games and threats of excommunication and execution. Apparently, when state power mixed with christianity, people who believed anything not sanctioned by the church powers were doubly threatened – threatened with earthly and heavenly shame and punishment. So if you believed the wrong thing about the nature of the Trinity, for instance, God was angry at you and the state would burn all your books, excommunicate you, and maybe even kill you. There were various people who believed “the wrong thing” who had written books, and if anyone else was even found having a COPY of their writings they were also to be killed.

    So historically, christians have been taught by tradition and leadership from centuries past that “believing the exact right thing about everything” was essential – anything you believed that wasn’t exactly according to the established version of spiritual truth was liable to get you killed on Earth, and thrown into Hell in the hereafter. With that sort of tradition lacing our extremely high-stakes foray into uncovering spiritual truth, no wonder that it has become part of christian collective consciousness to be scared to death to associate with anyone who might be *gasp* wrong about something.

  6. 12-9-2011

    Heather,

    Yes, history is very revealing. I think it actually started before the church moved the sword arm of the state. When the church was able to kill people, it simply added fuel to the fire.

    -Alan

  7. 12-9-2011

    I’m convinced that the church that Christ is building has never killed anyone and that those who are in Christ do not kill. Religious exclusivism and elitism based on nationality, ethnicity, gender, economic advantage, ideology, moral conformity, etc. is not the basis of the kingdom that Jesus came to expound and expedite. The criteria for participation in the Christian kingdom is reception of the Messiah-King in faith with His subsequent indwelling presence leading and guiding His children into all truth and experiencing the manifestion of His righteousness in ones actions and behavior.

    However there has been a religion called Christianity that has hijacked the name of Christ that you can join, attend its meetings, receive its catechisms, pay your membership dues, participate in its rituals and be considered a member in good standing and yet ignore the commands of Christ especially in relation to loving neighbor, brother/sister and enemy. In fact this counterfeit of faith in Christ has no problem at all with the murdering of others in the name of preserving its so called orthdoxy or in ones participation in state sponsored nationalism under the guise of just war, this has been the case from the very beginning of the innaguration of the new and better covenant in Christ’s blood.

  8. 12-9-2011

    Hutch,

    Haven’t you heard that the church now wields two swords… the two swords that Jesus talked about just before he was arrested? (Well, not now, but back when they could kill people…)

    BTW… I agree with you.

    -Alan