Monday, April 10, 2017

Real Unity, Biblical Unity, Which Is Required, Versus Fake Unity, The Overwhelmingly Most Common Today

Scripture is very clear on what unity is, what I'm calling real unity as opposed to the fake.  Fake unity poses as unity, but isn't.  Most often, people who say they want unity, want fake unity, which isn't unity at all.  They would reject unity, while calling for it.  People, who either plot for or settle for fake unity, don't actually want unity.  They want some type of credit for unity without even having it.

Biblical Unity

Biblical unity is oneness, the same type of unity that God the Father has with His Son and the Holy Spirit (John 17:11, 21).  These three are one in nature or essence, but also one in purpose (John 10:30).  The unity God expects or requires is to be found in a church, and the following verses describe it.
Romans 12:6, 15:6, "Be of the same mind one toward another. . . . That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 1:10, "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
Philippians 1:27, 2:2, 3:16, "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. . . . Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. . . . Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing."
This unity is also called no division.
Romans 16:17, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."
1 Corinthians 12:25, "That there should be no schism in the body."
Paul wrote to Timothy that this was "no other doctrine."
1 Timothy 1:3, "As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine."
This is not the unity that churches expect, even though it is the only unity in scripture.  It is what is expected and required of churches, but people look for something else, which is in essence, agreeing to disagree.  The scriptural unity could be called as we term it today, unanimity.  Since there is one doctrine and practice in the Bible and scripture is perspicuous, plain and understandable, then we should expect unity.

The New Testament talks about diversity in the body, but that is diversity of gifts or giftedness. There will be variation in gifts in a church, but not variation in doctrine and practice.  There is one doctrine and one practice, like we read in Ephesians 4:3-6:
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in 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 you all.
A church should expect this as unity.  Variation isn't unity.  It is division.  What sometimes people call unity is actually division, real division and not unity.

Fake unity is overlooking differences in doctrine and practice, which amounts to overlooking false doctrine and sin, in order to get along.  Before I write about how people practice fake unity, because it is most typical unity, I want us to consider why it is that people don't practice actual unity, biblical unity.  Rather than someone saying he doesn't believe and practice biblical unity, he replaces it with fake unity and then says he is practicing unity.  Worse, because of fake unity being considered or called real unity, the ones who believe and practice biblical unity are portrayed as the purveyors of division.

Why No Biblical Unity?

In no particular order, I want us to consider the following reasons or possible reasons why people do not practice biblical unity, despite the description of it and requirement of it in scripture.  I will list all of them first and then talk about them within a series of posts.

  • It requires biblical and doctrinal clarity, which takes preparation, study, and effort, and people aren't sure or they have too many doubts about the Bible.
To have biblical unity, at least two people must believe there is one God, one truth, and that they can know and understand that truth.  This is how the Bible presents God, truth, and knowledge and understanding of truth.  If someone doesn't even believe that is possible, in a typical way because he has never seen it practiced, he might assume, walking by sight and not by faith, that it can't be done, so shouldn't be expected.  He's going to have to believe the Bible on that.

The last of the above three, knowing and understanding the truth, takes preparation, study, and effort. At least one person needs to know what scripture says to believe and practice and then teach that. Many today are not willing to put in that labor.  They settle on not knowing and so accepting division.

Part of that effort is the courage to stand on the truth that one knows, even though it clashes with the world system.  Avoidance of the hatred of the world, as the world expresses that hatred in various fashions, will allow, accommodate, and then promote division where there is none. This dovetails with the last reason why unity doesn't occur.

What I've observed is that churches fall short of the whole counsel and concentrate on their "core beliefs."  They reduce all of the teaching of scripture to a few points that require agreement, giving latitude to much of scripture.  To come to unity on everything, it takes very thorough teaching, taking everyone through everything, which starts with a biblical view of unity, so that a church doesn't settle for something less than what God says.
  • It requires a lot of work and conflict, because you have to deal with people who don't want to unify and will cause division.
  • It requires accepting biblical unity and not a fake kind.
  • It might shrink the size of the assembly or, put another way, restrict numerical growth, which is considered to be a primary indicator of success and other future desired opportunities.
  • It brings attack from those who accept and practice fake unity and treat it like it is biblical, when it is not.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like this comment in your post: "It requires biblical and doctrinal clarity, which takes preparation, study, and effort, and people aren't sure or they have too many doubts about the Bible." In my opinion, there is just a lot of sloppiness and laziness in fundamentalism. I have often heard fundamentalist preachers talk about how "God set eternity in their hearts" when talking about mankind. Huh? Where in the world did this phrase even come from, a plaque down at the gift shop? Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God put the WORLD in man's heart, not "eternity," like so many people like to say. If we are going to separate, or not separate, can we at least study the scripture and know what we are talking about first and be clear in our facts? It's like that old phrase from Isaiah 11:6. I have many lazy preachers say that this verse talks about the lion dwelling with the lamb. Where in the world are these people getting their theology from, the back of a Cracker Jacks box? That verse talks about the wolf dwelling with the lamb, although the young lion is mentioned in the next phrase.

I just implore us all to study more (me included) so we know what we are dividing or not dividing over and don't look foolish by repeating urban myths, such as the "lion" dwelling with the lamb.

Anonymous said...

Some things we can chose to ignore and not divide over. However, we should implore each other to study further and at least get basic facts correct. I've heard so many preachers talk about "the days of 'Sodom' and Gomorrah." It's embarrassing when we as fundamentalists can't even get basic spelling and grammar correct. Most scholars that I have studied think that the correct spelling is "Sodoma," as it is listed in Romans 9:29, not "Sodom." Again, is this worth separating over? Probably not; it's a minor issue. But can we at least do more study and get our facts straight in our writing and preaching to make us look more credible?

Tyler Robbins said...

You achieve unity by agreeing that certain expressions of systematic theology are correct. In other words, you are confessional. You subscribe to a particular creed, confession or statement of faith that you believe accurately represents what Scripture teaches. You then hold to that confession.

Fundamentalism has historically not been confessional. Evangelicalism certainly isn't confessional! That is a problem. However, fundamentalists generally don't like the "idea" of being confessional; perhaps because they fear it'll make them appear Reformed, or perhaps because it requires too much work and effort. That's too bad. It allows laziness and vagueness on theology.

It strikes me, Kent, that you are advocating for unity around a common confession that people actually pay attention to - so people can have REAL unity, not fake unity.

Ken Lengel said...

Tyler,

While I agree with you that achieving unity can be accomplished by agreeing .... isn't the challenge with getting people to agree on more than just a very limited number of certain expressions of systematic theology?

I find that more and more, for example, church doctrinal statements are being whittled away at, for the sake of church growth and embracing a larger community.

Also, I'm not certain I agree with your statement that "Fundamentalism has historically not been confessional." I believe fundamentalism has demonstrated throughout the years to have been "confessional". What makes you draw that conclusion? I am surely curious.

Thanks,
Ken

Kent Brandenburg said...

Tyler,

I get your point, and historically perhaps the right application of these passages on unity have fleshed themselves out as confessional, at least closer to obedient to biblical unity, understanding what God was requiring. However, it is only on a local level, which is the key. There are not the tools in a toolbox to get this anything greater than individual churches. We have this kind of unity in our church, we do, because we can as a church, and then the fellowshiping churches and our church have a lot of unity, very close to this, but not exactly this. I would say, confessional though is a better situation than the alternative possibilities, which one would call what? I don't know.

Tyler Robbins said...

Ken:

When I mean "confessional," I mean in the sense that people (1) agree that a confession of faith has real value, and (2) use that confession in new beginners classes to train new believers, and (3) refer to the confession as a convenient source to begin to answer theological questions.

Most fundamental Baptist churches (in my experience) are not confessional in that sense. Those that are, tend to be more Reformed in their soteriology.

A case in point - when I was ordained, I was asked to write and submit my own doctrinal statement, and I had to defend it under questioning for several hours. It was a helpful exercise, and there is something to be said for that. But, if Baptist fundamentalism had a more "confessional" culture, I doubt I'd be asked to draft my own statement of faith. For example, if somebody asks what I believe now, I point them to the GARBC Articles of Faith, and invite extended discussion from there. I don't need to re-invent the wheel - I agree with the GARBC Articles (derived from the 1833 NHCF), and we can launch off into the weeds from there.

Regarding doctrinal limitations of confessions (e.g. you wrote "a very limited number of expressions"), well . . . if the confession is comprehensive, then you won't have a problem. My church's doctrinal statement is the GARBC Articles of Faith. It's comprehensive. It's good. I like it. If you have a four line "statement of faith," then you WILL have a problem!

The practical value of a confession is that it actually spells things out. You can only be theological Jell-O unless you decide to deliberately ignore it in favor of what Kent calls "fake unity." If you ignore and trample your doctrinal statement (which exists for a reason), then you are saying the areas you're "agreeing to disagree on" aren't important.

Basically, a local church needs to use it's doctrinal statement and/or confession of faith. It's there for a reason. It can work. It can help train people.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I think people who are expecting obedience to the biblical teaching on unity outside of a single church, and the most next in fellowshiping churches, is just totally missing biblical teaching. Instead, they go with fundamentalism, or something worse, to get along. Fundamentalism at least offers some unity on some doctrines, although today, I wouldn't say I even know what it is, because fundamentalism is too afraid to do anything about false gospels, let alone something more than that.

Craig Kuha said...

Hello ,
Most people have practiced the term, agree to disagree. My tanslation of that term in context of the post is that Christians want to be loving as they work out there disagreements.
Most people are already steadfast in there belief system so loving them any extra wont help. I still think being loving is a requirement to unity, but understood.

Ken Lengel said...

Tyler,

I guess my experience has been a bit different. I don't believe I have ever been a part of a Fundamental Baptist Church, that would not meet your classification of "Confessional". (though, I am quite aware that there must be a number of local churches that do not meet all three criteria you mentioned.)

Most churches that I have either been a part of, visited, or I knew of or the pastor, had a doctrinal statement, referred me and my wife to it, and even some have had new member classes to make sure there was an understanding what the local church itself believed and sought by God's grace to adhere to.

Thanks for your clarification.

Always good to chat with you Tyler!

For His Glory!
Ken

Tyler Robbins said...

Ken:

This would be easier to talk about in person! There's a difference between (1) just referencing a statement of faith in membership classes, and (2) actually using it, referring to it, and doing sustained discipleship from it.

Of course, most people probably refer to a doctrinal statement every once and a while, usually when a Pastor changes or during new membership classes. But, when I say "confessional," I mean a whole lot more than that.

For example, during Sunday School this past week, I referred to effectual calling. I read several passages which referred to it, gave an analogy, then read the 1833 NHCF's position on grace in salvation, where it specifically discusses the call of the Spirit. I then told people they should look at and use our church's doctrinal statement as an initial launching point to help them think through important biblical issues.

I wrote a bit more about that here (http://wp.me/p3nPGh-VM). Basically, I'm talking about more than what most fundamentalist Baptist churches do (from my experience). I'm even thinking of developing a catechism from the 1833 NHCF for use in classes about basic Christian doctrine. This is what I mean when I speak of being "confessional."