Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Church Unity Part 1: Maybe God's O.K. with Denominations
I can hear boos and hisses from the anti-denominational (and anti-organized church) proponents, and am prepared to admit that there are problems with this thought. The push in the church has been that Christian unity will be found in the dissolution of denominational walls, or the compromise of denominational distinctives. The thing is: I’m not so sure that this will lead to the kind of unity that Jesus asked for on our behalf as He prayed in the garden before His crucifixion.
In Romans 14:22-23, Paul speaks to the Romans about eating food that has been sacrificed to idols, but also addresses a bigger issue... conscience. He writes, "The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God... But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin." Trying to sand off the edges of denominational destinctives might give a superficial appearance of unity, but it leaves no room to believe and worship according to conscience. I’m not saying that everyone is right in their held convictions, because truth is not relative. That being said, it has to be recognized that some churches are walking in a greater degree of truth than others.
So what’s to be done? Each person must search the Scriptures and live according to the conviction given to them by God. To do anything less leads to the kind of personal compromise that Paul referenced in Romans. Our hope and prayer should be for unity, but not forced unity. Jesus prayed for the real deal, not a proposition-less, passionless (but peaceful) compromise from somewhere in the middle. We need to learn how to disagree and still love meaningfully. This, in my opinion, is a step toward a more honest and lasting unity.
In the next couple of posts I’m going to explore this further, in part by including my family’s own quest to identify with the greater, and historic church; while maintaining our own deeply held convictions and beliefs.