Thursday, February 3

Defense of Divisions Update

Update (Feb 5):
Jeremy Pierce (of Parableman) has another long considered essay (here). As with David Wayne's essay, I'm a little leery of summarizing, so I encourage following the link and reading it. Some of the highlights include:
Even stronger, I would say that we are in fact united.
continuing this thought
It's hard to read Ephesians 4, particularly the beginning of the chapter, without concluding that unity is simply a fact. The body of Christ is united. Why? Because Christ is the head and maintains its unity. Because every single member of the body is in Christ, and in being united with Christ every single member of the body is thus in the one with whom all the others are united. That's the fact of unity. It's simply true.
I think one of Jollyblogger's points is that diversity amidst unity is a good thing. I would go further and say that it's part of God's design. I'm not talking about all the things he's talking about, though. He's talking about differences of opinion and practice. I'm talking about giftedness and variety of service.
So the answer to the question is that we simply can't justify creating divisions over these things, and when they already exist we should seek to overcome them in whatever ways are possible (or at least don't counteract even more important considerations, and there are probably many that are more important, not least the considerations within such passages as Romans 14, some of which count against the most obvious methods of reintegration).
concluding with
We need to figure out how to attain elements of the ideal picture that aren't already realized, and it might be little gains at a time. Those are worth shooting for.

Mark Heath (of Word and Spirit) a fellow New Frontier member like Adrian Warnock has a few thoughts to add (here). He thinks that often the differences between our denominations arose because different groups felt a certain emphasis (be it scripture or worship method) was lacking. Then that difference after separation was emphasised. He echoes Mr Warnocks call to delineate our differences, which may act as a catylist for change individicually and prevent us from caricaturing those others.

Update (Feb 4): David Wayne (aka Jollyblogger) has an extended response (here). His essay is up to his usual high standards which makes it a little intimidating to paraphrase, so go read it. However, I'll provide a few quotes to whet your whistle.
So, we might phrase Mark's question another way and ask "at what point are you willing to tell someone else that their biblical conviction should be abandoned for the sake of unity?"
First of all, the fact that there are divisions does not mean that there is disunity. And while much division is sinful, not all division is sinful.
It is at this point that I challenge our presuppositions. In our day we tend to assume that doctrinal matters are the "lesser things" of the Christian faith, while unity is the greatest thing of the Christian faith.
Yet Paul says in Romans 14 that we are to learn to live with those who differ from us and not judge them. So, I can disagree with my baptist friend about his view of baptism, but I am not judging him in this way. In his question Mark hits the nail on the head when he uses the word "bitterly." The question is not so much about our divisions, it is about how we have divided. The sin is in the bitterness, not in the division itself.

Feb 3
So far there's been a lot of response. I will be collecting responses (and adding) to this blog post as they roll in (sorry about the delay getting started). I'm going to put a link to this post on the sidebar and leave it up while the discussion remains current. I will provide links, summaries, and add some commentary (to clarify the intent of my question).

William Meisheid of Beyond the Rim thought that my question concerned the division between acceptable differences and heresy, which was often how these divisions arose. He thinks that perhaps the division is inevitable:
all that falls upon the rock of Christ is shattered (Luke 20:18 "Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.") So it is possible that this shattering of the Church was inevitable

Kyle of notes that our armed services have different divisions, that the Roman church of the middle ages desire for unity impeded their ability for correction, thus perhaps even if today's divided church is perhaps too divided, this might be a good thing.

Adrian Warnock of Adrian Warnock's UK Evangelical Blog responds (here) a little indirectly. Mr Warnock tells us about the distinguishing features of the "division" in our community to which he adheres. He calls those of other divisions, to state what separates them from the crowd. If more do the same, we can go a long way to finding out what divides us for if we do not know what lies on the other side of the fence (pew?), we remain separated by ignorance more than doctrine.

Mike Russell of Eternal Perspectives writes
The unity of the church is a powerful witness to the reality of Jesus Christ having been sent by the Father. Lack of unity obviously hinders that testimony. It is no surprise, therefore, that divisions would be a supreme tactic of Satan to casts doubt about and aspersions on the Name and Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly, he has been very successful.
So at the outset, it seems Mr Russell does not defend our differences. He does point out that as a "modified-Calvinistic, dispensational, premillennial, pretribulational, non-charismatic" he would have trouble associating with "an Arminian, amillennial, charismatic" (and probably vice versa). He concludes,
In the end, I think, it becomes a matter of either living a comfortable, easier Christian life within our denominational walls or living in a city without walls, one characterized by unity with one another in a manner that glorifies Jesus Christ. Through our unity we would thereby show the world that He most certainly did come from the Father.

Josh Braun of The Thinkery argues with Kyle (above) contending that the Roman church of the Medieval period was diverse and further St. Paul in letters to Corinth and Ephesus argued for a return to orthodoxy and divisions was "rebellion against the King".

Rey at The Bible Archive who writes
I don’'t like the word “denominations” nor do I really like the term “Plymouth-Brethren” for my so-called denomination. According to Scriptures the only thing I see Christians being called is Christians or brethren. When I look out at that vast landscape of Christendom and a person calls themselves a Christian and exhibits the fruit of their profession, I call them brother or sister…so do most of the so-called Plymouth Brethren. A Christian should be able to embrace all believers as being part of the Body of Christ although acknowledging that others may not be convicted of the same things.

Jeremy Pierce (Parableman) and (the) JollyBlogger (David Wayne) kindly have helped spread the word of this (little) question of mine and promise an essay in the future. Thanks to both of you.