Sunday, March 16, 2014

Yes, I Am a Bible-Believing Christian.

That's why I don't believe that dividing the church is a good idea. 

Here are some biblical passages that underscore the importance of unity in the church: 

John 17:20-23
‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

1 Cor 1:10
10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 

1 Cor 12:12
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

2 Cor 13:11
Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Ephesians 4:1-6
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:25-32

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

So... you who would divide the church, tell me: if biblical obedience is so important, why have you resolved to be disobedient to these passages of scripture? 

The question we have to answer denominationally is not simply who is being obedient to the Bible and who is not. The Bible is a broad and varied body of work that can support a variety of positions, ideologies, and theologies. The question is this: why do we believe it is important to privilege this particular set of scriptural passages over another? 


11 comments:

  1. The Pope is on the line. He wants to talk to you about this no-schism thing.

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    1. If the pope read my blog, that would really be something.

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  2. John, we are working on getting closer to the RC - see, for instance, the joint declaration on justification to which we signed on a couple of years ago.

    David, thanks for this. We should not have to choose between the unity of the church and biblical obedience - because, as you aptly point out, obedience to the Bible should drive us toward working for unity.

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  3. Don't you agree that a discovery of what unifies us (as you previously questioned) can lead to denominational division? And can the above scriptures be applied properly without an understanding of what unifies us?

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  4. Great point, Meshach. We certainly need to identify a common core around which we are united. I'm just suggesting that, as long as we're so concerned with obedience to the Bible, we should attend to these scriptures before we rush headlong into schism.

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  5. Actually the Roman Catholics have done a very good job of keeping people "under the umbrella" through time, by allowing different religious orders to exist. This is why someone like Pope Francis appears to be so different from all the rest--he is a Jesuit.

    I'm of the opinion that these largely political arguments that are so polarizing have not much to do with God but everything to do with the world. I do agree with your emphasis on unity, which is only possible through the Holy Spirit. We are working toward that in Kansas, in an upcoming revival meeting. I would treasure your prayers regarding the same.

    As a pastor, I am way more concerned with the condition of people's hearts, and their relationships with God and others, than I am their fleshly identities, their opinions, their voting ballots. God will make someone's heart a-right, however he would have that to be. Our job is to give them that cold cup of water called the Good News and share how our lives have been transformed by it. And give them hope that they, too, can be transformed and find that peace that passes all understanding, and so many other things of eternal nature.

    I pray for healing, a clearer understanding of whose we are, in Christ, and not a further tearing asunder.

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    1. Thanks for this response. I really appreciate the points you've articulated here.

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  6. David,
    I too am a Bible-believing Christian :)

    Ephesians 5:6-11 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

    2 Corinthians 6:14-18  Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial?[b] Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God…

    Galatians 16-10  I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

    As someone already pointed out, you know well enough that the UMC actually lacks any unity. How can you speak of Bible-passages on unity when we don’t have unity on those things that matter most? It seems these passages are relevant and perhaps we should be looking at your passages and asking how we, form within or without, explore unity between churches that have unity in The Gospel?

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  7. What if those verses are about the Church of all believers, not denominational religious organizations? And why does the slow decline of the United Methodist Church (and most Christian denominations) have to be a bad thing?

    I've asked this question on several posts and would really like to hear an answer. Like I have said in my earlier comments, I am a Millennial who grew up in the UMC and has been working at a UMC for the past several years; and I find that the older I get, the more fatigued I am by organized religion (and all the battles over homosexuality, Biblical literalism, theological interpretation, etc), and I know I’m not alone. There are several large studies (and many more online stories analyzing those studies) about Millennials leaving the church, etc, so I won’t talk about that here.

    For hundreds of years, people have worshiped and practiced their faith within the safety of a religious organization. It gave them a sense of identity and served as a system of protection from false teaching. It also was a great way to pool resources to help the less fortunate in ways that were beyond mere individuals.

    But why shouldn't Christians move on? What if it’s time for the Church to leave the safety of its institutional cocoon, to spread its wings and fly upwards to the next stage of its life? Why aren’t Christians celebrating and exploring this change, rather than trying to stop it?

    In John 15: 1-2 (MSG), Jesus says:

    “I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more”

    Yes, the institutionalized church produces good fruit. But what if God is pruning us back now, so we will bear even more?

    I for one am very excited about the future of the Church, yet I am frustrated by a seemingly lack of enthusiasm from church leaders who seem to be focusing their energy on trying to get people to come back to the church (sometimes resorting to ends-justify-the-means strategies). I am also tired of asking this question and getting only blank stares from church leaders who are so invested in the trees that they can no longer see the forest.

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  8. For what sort of unity do you believe that Jesus prayed? For 23 years I have served churches where people couldn't agree on the color of the carpet, but they could agree that the poor needed fed. They often could not agree on biblical matters, such as whether Jonah was historical account, or a parable meant to point at the hypocrisy of the Israelites against their neighbors, or both. But they could agree that loving their neighbor was not optional. I'm not sure that the call to unity is also a call to blindly agreeing with the loudest person, because as we all know there are many "faithful" interpretations of scripture. I believe that the call to unity is to come from these many directions and all travel the path towards Christ together.

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