Seeking Christian Unity

Godtalk: Seeking Christian Unity
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Thank you Phillip. I know what you mean as far as people' willful misunderstanding of Jesus' teachings is concerned, and so I'm not disputing your explanation. But as Aron says, life is full of ambiguity. Even reasonable and faithful Christians would disagree on various passages of Scripture just scan though any one of Aron's Blog post. So when surrounded by such doubts, ambivalence.

Whenever I hear the "unambiguous Gospel" argument I'm reminded of an atheist co-worker during my college years who used to complain non-stop about the Bible. He loved to quote his brother, a lawyer, who said the mark of a well-written document was that it could only be subjected to one interpretation. This would be a valid criticism Well guess what God gave us His Word to reveal Himself to us, call us into relationship with Him, and work out His salvation in our lives and bring us to the fullness of who we were created to be.

Imagine what it would take to create a written work with this objective--one that speaks to each and every one of our unique life stories, our hearts as well as our minds, across countless ever-evolving languages and cultures throughout history My fiance is a contracts manager for a software firm. She'll tell you how difficult it is just to come up with an unambiguous non-disclosure agreement between two companies. Add to that Philip's spot-on observations regarding our capacity for denial and willful misunderstanding, and you could ask your Christianity debunkers what makes them think an "unambiguous" work with the breadth and scope of the Bible is even possible, much less practical.

It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits. Furthermore, critics of the Bible and the Gospel in general almost always preach science as a better and clearer alternative, blissfully unaware that at the edge of human knowledge it is every bit as ambiguous as the Bible, if not more! Case in point, cosmology.

There are almost as many viable models of the origin and evolution of the universe as there are gainfully employed cosmologists. These span numerous underlying frameworks such as M-Theory and Loop Quantum Gravity that are riddled with uncertainties and arbitrariness of their own, and mutually inconsistent with each other. The number of possible false vacua compactification topologies underlying M-Theory alone may be as high at. To get a sense of the sheer magnitude of that number, consider that the number of atoms in the visible universe is thought to be on the order of.

This takes the word ambiguous to its terrifying limits! The Bible's critics habitually hold it to standards they cannot live up to themselves Furthermore, when it gets right down to it the bread and butter core of the Gospel isn't ambiguous. The vast majority of doctrinal and denominational disagreements within the church are over matters that although important to be sure, aren't central to the message of Christ and Him crucified.

Truth be told, it's amazing that the Gospel speaks to the reality of our lives as clearly and consistently as it does! Aron, please feel free to correct it. You need to write e. Aron I would like your opinion regarding church unity as opposed to uniformity. Would it be healthy to preach unity and uniformity or unity in diversity? Thanks for addressing my comment, Aron.

I share that discomfort with there being a intentional "blind spot" about non-Orthodox Christians. It leaves a lot unanswered, such as what you say about intereacting with other Christians outside of the communion. I certainly agree that "If the sign is known to NOT match up with reality which it is supposed to signify, that is a problem," but, we don't say "we know this does not match up" and only go so far as to say "the sign matches reality here" without determining what it means elsewhere.

That's different than saying we know that the sign does not match. It's like the 'suspension of disbelief,' in a way. But, I feel better about maintaining that blind spot than about having to personally decide what is essential belief and what is optional-- partly because I don't see any helpful application of that distinction. I also feel more comfortable with the communion circle drawn around one church only, with each intentionally within that same circle, instead of across various overlapping aspects of a venn.

I remember once being told by a Ba'hai that I was actually a Ba'hai because Christians are within that circle according to Ba'hai; over-inclusivity can be disrespectful too. I don't want to create a hierarchy of truths. Common ground can be found without relegating some truths to 'optional' status I often find inspiration from the deep love and brotherhood between church leaders St. Bartholowmew and St.

I see the commitment to totally separate circles, not just the smaller Venn-overlap, as an essential element of their dialogue and deep love for one another. See 1 Cor This is not to say that it is a good thing when churches fall into error or sin, but the belief that we must all be alike or else one of us is doing Christianity wrong is very pernicious. When it comes to those things where the Bible does not provide clear answers such as e. This is an interesting post as always, Aron. Thank you. However, I think it is quite possible that the Bible does require a high degree of doctrinal unity when working with other Christians.

Just look at 2 John Although the controversy of Christ as coming in the flesh is in view here, it seems this principle can and should be applied more broadly as well. Look at Romans Here, Paul tells us we should keep away from anyone who is set on anything that is "contrary to the teaching you have learned". The teaching in view here doesn't seem to be anything denying Christ's physicality like that in 2 John.

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This book proposes a bridge where all Christians could stand together to present a united front toward the incraeasing forces of oposition. The trend of the world. Disciples of Christ often have quoted the phrase, “In essentials unity, of the Council on Christian Unity seeks to answer the most basic and all-embracing.

The teaching seems to be the whole body of doctrine that had been passed on to the Romans. It seems reasonable to assume that this would include the meanings and correct practices of things such as baptism and the Lord's supper. Furthermore, it seems that just about any false doctrine can pose a real threat to our central doctrine of justification and thus our salvation.

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The present PCA Book of Church Order does not allow for women to be ordained as deacons but does allow for Sessions to appoint godly women to assist the male diaconate in mercy ministry BCO For this reason, Bromiley has concluded, The whole structure of the New Testament church, or churches, shows us that there is a strong and indissoluble sense of unity not only with the local congregation but extending to the church as a whole. The church consists of people from every tribe, nation, and language, but all of them find their fundamental identity in one person—Jesus Christ. Our Church will never forget the Samaritan service which your whole Church unselfishly rendered us. He supports the work of theologians seeking agreement on Christian faith and life. The Catholic Church has always considered it a duty of the highest rank to seek full unity with estranged communions of fellow-Christians and, at the same time, to reject what it sees as a false union that would mean being unfaithful to or glossing over the teaching of sacred scripture and tradition.

I've often heard the analogy of moving forward with false doctrine as being like driving without a windshield; you may be able to go for quite a while without it, but eventually dirt, rocks, and garbage are going to fly in. This isn't to say that every false belief or practice I have is going to immediately lead to a denial of Christ, but it is one step on the way. It also seems that in many cases doctrine can have a direct effect on the spread of the Gospel.

Take pedobaptism as an example. For the sake of argument, assume pedobaptism is correct and that it is a means of grace that provides forgiveness to those who receive it. Furthermore, assume that young children are not under God's grace and thus saved. For someone to withhold baptism from young children because they believe that baptism should only be done to believers is to withhold forgiveness and thus salvation from young children. For the pedobaptist to agree to work with someone who denies pedobaptism seems to be to advance the withholding of salvation from young children.

So, many theological disagreements seem to affect salvation so directly that we should not even give the idea that we approve of them by worshiping, praying, or evangelizing with those who are on the other side of the fence. Because the whole Bible is God's truth, we should not want to affirm the false doctrine of anyone. By worshiping or praying with those who I disagree with on doctrinal points, it seems I affirm what they believe as true. We should always want to work together with other Christians for the truth.

If two Christians have a strong disagreement on doctrine that we are both set on as the truth, from the each others' view, we are no longer working together for truth. By advancing the work of those we disagree with we seem to be advancing falsehoods. This comes through in the great commission as well. Jesus instructs his disciples to teach Christians to "obey everything that I have commanded you". Certainly, we shouldn't want to advance the teaching of anything contrary to the correct theology behind God's Word.

Back to 2 John , verse 11 mentions that we shouldn't even let those with who we disagree into our homes, let alone pray or worship with them. This seems to count strongly against ecumenical efforts that don't involve direct reconciliation of doctrine. Chuckles, Thanks for your comment, but I think you are seriously misinterpreting these Scriptures.

Let's start with Romans If you read through the Book of Romans in context, you'll see that St. Paul has just devoted more than a chapter of his letter to specifically arguing that Christians should accept other Christians who disagree with them about disputable matters. If you read this section, you will see that accepting other Christians who believe differently than you do is a major theme of the letter to the Romans. You should read the whole thing, but here are some of the highlights:.

Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master, he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food So whatever you believe about these matters, keep between yourself and God Thus, when Paul concludes by asking that God would "give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mind you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" , it is clear that he cannot possibly mean by this that Christians need to be in agreement about all doctrines, since he has just spent the last chapter arguing that different doctrines about e.

Indeed, he immediately goes on to say that we should "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God" Thus, in verse , when he warns against those who put "divisions and obstacles in the way of the teaching you have learned", given the content of the preceding two chapters, it seems more likely he has in mind people who try to stir up dissent and schisms regarding disputable matters, than people who promote false teachings about important doctrines. It is of course true that, on core matters of Christian doctrine or practice, the Apostles taught that we should not welcome into fellowship as Christians those who deny them.

But for the most part when it comes to doctrines I am not talking about behaviors such as sexual morality , we only see the Apostles do this with really major theological teachings, such as denying the Incarnation or Resurrection, or reverting back to Jewish ritual as though it could be a source of salvation alongside Christ.

As you yourself point out, the literal meaning of 2 John 7 speaks of denial that Jesus "came in the flesh". So the "teaching of Christ" which he is referring to is the basic doctrine about the nature of Christ, of the "Father and Son". So this verse can only be used to support excommunicating other Christians if they deny that doctrine, or another one which is equally essential. And of course, 3 John 8 is the flip side; it talks about supporting those who do share the truth about Christ, it does not talk about not supporting those who do not.

It is certainly not unambiguously clear from Scripture which is the correct answer. It might well be spiritually helpful to have the right answer, but it does not justify cutting off other Christians from fellowship. Won't doing that have an even bigger "direct effect on the spread of the Gospel"? Suppose I accept for the sake of argument that the wrong approach to baptism might result in a few people being lost who whould have been saved if the group had correct teachings. But won't rejecting your fellow Christians, and failing to give reasonable support to their ministry through prayer and encouragement, lead to many more people being lost?

If most of the people who accept the view you disagree with e. You can't assume that not helping that group to evangelize will result in those people joining your group instead. It might just lead to them not becoming Christians in the first place! For example, because they are in a demographic more easily evangelized by that group, or because they are disillusioned by all the schims in Christianity. Paul warns in Romans that a possible risk of selfish aggrandizement of disputes is to "destroy your brother for whom Christ died" and to "destroy the work of God for the sake of food" and to "cause your brother to fall".

Hatred and schisms lead to spiritual murder! Rejecting another Christian group for baptising people with the wrong timing, is like shooting somebody in the leg because they don't eat a healthy diet. This does not promote healthy living! Or to use your analogy, if somebody is driving without a windshield they can actually go quite a long ways like that; it won't improve the situation if you won't fix their engine or sell them any gas.

Obviously, you are free to donate the majority of your money and time to whichever group you think is doing the most good in the world, which is likely to be the one you agree with most. But that is different from rejecting and undermining the work of all of the other groups, and failing to pray for them. You're supposed to pray even for your enemies, so how can you not pray for those who are sharing the message of Christ in a way you think is partly misguided?

In the case of 2 John , we have a situation where some false teachers are denying the core doctrine of the Christian faith, yet nevertheless they try to be welcomed into the homes of faithful Christians for support. In those days, receiving hospitality of others was a major contributing factor to itinerant preachingwelcoming these teachers was more like becoming a financial donor than like paying a social call is in modern times.

John's point is that they are essentially bankrolling a group hostile to the Gospel. So to replace "who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh" with "those with who we disagree" seems like a MAJOR change in the meaning of this Scripture verse. Should I therefore cut you off from fellowship and disallow you from commenting on my blog, because we disagree about the meaning of this verse? I claim not, instead I should accept you as a follower of Jesus Christ who is trying to do his will.

But nevertheless you should be careful, lest your attitude destroy the work of God for the sake of minor doctrines, which people often cling to out of pride. It is a fallacy to say that by accepting your brother in Christ who believes something false, you therefore yourself are forced to promote said false teaching.

You might as well say, with equal truth, that by rejecting your brother who believes something true about Christ, you are attacking the truth that he believes. I have never met two Christians who agree on every single issue of interpretation in the Bible. So the logical endpoint of what you are saying is that you should end up in a Church all by yourself, with nobody else in it. Then, at the Final Judgement, having rejected all those who belong to Christ, perhaps Christ himself will reject you as well.

After all, probably you also believe at least one wrong thing the odds are good! Even if you are right, condemning your brother based on a minor theological dispute is far more sinful and wrong than not getting the dispute right. I'm sorry if these words seem harsh, but I am quite confident that the good of the Church requires people have an attitude of serving our fellow believers even when we don't entirely agree with them.

As Paul said in another context:. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Php Thanks for the reply, Aron.

To what extant we should join in fellowship with other Christians is something that I've been thinking about a fair amount lately. I appreciate the well thought out response. With regards to passages like 2 John , it seems that St. John really is talking more about these central doctrines. I've thought about this in the context of Titus as well, and it seems to be about people who are actively seeking to divide the church.

If doctrine can be separated into central and peripheral doctrine, I'd concede that those passages only support division in central matters. However, I don't think Romans can be written off so easily. It seems what St. Paul is talking about back in Romans 14 and 15 are topics on which the Apostles' teaching didn't make statements one way or the other.

These seem to be things like the color of the church carpet. He's not talking about doctrines that we might think of as periphery, like baptism. Although some of the topics mentioned by St. Paul in Romans 14 have been considered doctrine by some Christian groups, what should be in the realm of doctrine and what should not seems to, itself, be doctrine. What's more is that the Bible doesn't seem to make distinctions between these core doctrine and doctrine that is peripheral.

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Nowhere does a doctrine seem to be optional to believe. This distinction seems to be artificial. Furthermore, the Apostles do mention separating from others based on what we might consider as "minor" doctrine in 2 Thessalonians I'm not sure how this could really be construed as only separating with other Christians on core doctrinal issues. Paul mentions that whoever doesn't obey the instruction of his whole letter is to not be associated with. Looking back at the rest of the letter, one major point that St.

Paul touches on is the anti-Christ. This is certainly something that seems to normally be considered on the periphery. I would like to mention that when I say "do not associate" with other Christians because of doctrinal matters, this would only go so far as doctrinal matters.

We should be loving and welcoming to other Christians and never regard them as enemies. However, we shouldn't join in with them when it comes to prayer, worship, or anything like mission work. I'm not at all recommending a sort of bad blood between Christian groups. We need to serve as the watchman of those who disagree with us, hoping that they'll come back into the correct doctrine. If we simply brush these disagreements under the rug, and agree to disagree, it seems that we're failing in our duty as the watchman.

This all must be done with love and respect. I'm sorry I didn't make this as clear as I should have in my previous comment. Chuckles, It's important to put the 2 Thess passage in context. Paul is writing because people were sharing false rumors supposedly from the Apostles that the "day of the Lord" i. This caused them to be "idle and disruptive" v.

When Paul says to "special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. It refers specifically to the command given in verses 6 and 12 against being an idle and disruptive person. This is primarily a behavior issue, not a doctrinal issue. If you like, even minor issues count as major when they are so disruptive that it threatens the ability of the community to survive.

But obviously, many differences of opinion are not like that. Paul reminds them of the teaching about the Antichrist, not because that is the test of fellowship per se , but because it disproves the contention of the End Timers that the day had already come since certain other things had to happen first. I sure hope agreement on the Antichrist isn't necessary for Christian fellowship, because the passage is famously obscure! And Ezekiel explicitly refers to warning sinners who do things which deserve death. Is it really plausible that all Christians who misinterpret some significant doctrine in Scripture are under the sentence of spiritual death?

Surely there is such a thing as a reasonable difference of opinion. Just because they seem like minor doctrines in restrospect doesn't mean they weren't considered big issues at the time. Whether or not Christians need to obey one of the Ten Commandments the Sabbath and the Torah hardly seems like a minor detail of church decorating. This was THE major theological controversy of the time among Christians. And Paul actually says explicitly that he agrees with one of the groups of people the group that ate meat and didn't keep kosher but that didn't mean he imposed that position on everyone else.

Notice also the behavior of the Apostles, who had significant disagreements with each other e. Paul vs. James and yet they were part of the same Church fellowship Acts 21, Gal They could have excommunicated each other over their minor differences, but instead they chose to cooperate in prayer and missions out of obedience to Christ's call to unity in the Church John And the following generations rightly recognized both apostles' letters as inspired Scripture, because God was speaking truth through both of them.

Splintering with each other over minor interpretations is obviously not the way to have unity. When he prayed that we would be "one", Christ obviously did not have in mind that holy Christians with various reasonable interpretations of the Scriptures should spinter into hundreds of mutually excommunicated groups. While the Church did excommunicate serious heretics or miscreants, the idea of different opposing "denominations" all simultaneously part of the Church of Christ was completely unthinkable in the context of 1st century Christianity. I should point out that as a practical matter, excommunication works a LOT better on an individual basis than on a group basis.

Excommunicate an individual, and cut off from the approval of the group, he may repent and return. Excommunicate an entire group of sincere Christians, and they'll just support each other and think you are the heretics. Sometimes it must still be done, but only when it does more good than harm. And this obviously must depend on how severe the deviation is!

I understand that you are trying to figure out what is the most loving and biblical way to handle these issues and you aren't motivated by antipathy to those you disagree with. This I wholeheartedly agree with. But I don't see how praying and worshipping with other Christians supports false doctrines unless, in the process of doing so, one is required to say or do something incorrect. Sorry I'm replying to this so late, St. I've been wrestling with this and a number of other doctrines lately.

Thanks for taking the time to reply as well. I can see now that the command to separate 2 Thessalonians is there because there was a behavioral issue that threatened the community, but isn't giving in to a doctrine we believe to be false today just setting someone up for a behavioral issue in the future. Here's an example, if we take a more inclusivist idea of salvation and say that people can be saved without having any conscious knowledge of Christ, this may not do much immediate harm. However, down the road it might serve to undermine the desire for mission work. This one is easy to see, but I may not know how allowing other doctrine I think is incorrect is going to spur bad behavior or threaten the Christian community in the future.

Assuming that those promoting the false belief at the beginning are not willing to back down, it seems better to apply church discipline rather than let this turn into a threatening behavioral practice down the road. Now, many disagreements are not like this, but it isn't always to see which one. I'd concede that Ezekiel is directed at those who introduce an error so fundamental that they controvert the Gospel, something that would really lead to death.

It is interesting in Romans 14 that Paul takes a side on the issue, and then leaves the other alone. The other verses do show a more layered view of doctrine too. The weighty matters of the law really struck me. However, I'm confused by the appeal to Paul and Peter. When Paul writes about his confrontation with Peter in Gal , and then goes on and say that Peter was "not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel" in Gal These seem like very strong words.

He then even goes on to say that "all who rely on observing the law are under a curse" in Gal This all may be well after the events of Acts It seems quite possible that there was a break in fellowship between Peter and James, and Paul.

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Chuckles, Thanks for your comment. I'm glad to hear more about your thought process as you grapple with these issues. I would say that excommunication is like chemotherapy. It always does harm to the patient, but sometimes it does even more harm to the cancer and therefore benefits the patient anyway.

Because it is a severe remedy it should only ever be done carefully, prayerfully, and for serious reasons, with the guidance and support of other Christians in the Holy Spirit Matt An unjustified excommunication itself causes scandal and bad behavior, therefore it should be done only when we are sure, not only of the righteousness of our cause, but also of the necessity of resorting to this remedy.

Paul used some strong words against St. Peter, I don't see anything in the passage which would suggest actual excommunication. Presumably his entreaty was in fact successful, since we know St. Peter went on to embrace Gentile companions and in fact to reference the letters of St. Paul Galatians included in 2 Peter Also it seems unlikely that the book of Acts would omit mention of a longstanding schism between St. Luke's two main heroes. He tells us about the temporary falling out between St. Paul and St. Barnabas over the wisdom of taking St.

Mark, which was not of course a matter of excommunication but rather a breakdown of their working relationship. Paul even have had the authority to excommunicate St. After all, Peter was chosen as an apostle by Jesus himself, who gave him the keys to the kingdom of heaven Matt and a throne in the kingdom Matt , Luke , and also made him one of the foundations of the Church Matt , Eph ; not only that but Jesus prophesied specifically that none of the apostles besides Judas would fall away John and that St.

Peter in particular, despite denying his Master, would be restored to faith and by his ministry strengthen the brethren Luke , John It is true that for St. Paul, the Gospel was so important that even an angel or apostle could be condemned for turning aside from it Gal Nevertheless, it would be contrary to Christ's promises stated above in the Gospels, and which St.

Paul presumably knew about for St. Peter to actually fall under these condemnations and lose his salvation. And even if he had, St. Paul would hardly have been in a position to remove him from office, since like the other apostles St. Peter was appointed by divine, not human, authority. In any case, St. Peter was not actually denying that the Gospel would save Gentiles, he was simply acting in a way which was hypocritical and inconsistent with the truth that had already been revealed to him. Under St. Paul's scathing rebuke, presumably he repented and thus the conflict was resolved.

I guess I should clarify that this wouldn't be an excommunication, but a separation of fellowship. We wouldn't declare the Christian we disagree with an unbeliever, we just wouldn't worship, pray, or join in any sort of mission work with him. I'll agree that this must be applied very carefully and that it should only be done after very careful consideration and prayer. Also, this shouldn't come until after careful instruction and doctrinal correction. Thanks for responding on Peter and Paul. I guess the point is that the nobody broke fellowship with anybody. Peter followed Paul's rebuke and came back to the correct doctrine, namely not excluding gentiles from the community.

There was no need for a break in fellowship because the doctrinal error was corrected. It wouldn't be a excommunication, but a break in fellowship. Paul would still consider Peter a Christian. I'm not so sure that Romans 14 is about doctrinal agreements though. The color of the church carpet probably isn't the best way to phrase things. This example might better serve what I'm trying to say, in the Old Testament there are clear commands not to eat pork.

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The New Testament makes it clear that these ceremonial laws are no longer in effect, but the lifelong Jew might still not want to eat pork. Would it be wrong for him to abstain? Would it be wrong for the gentile convert to eat pork? Both serve God and shouldn't give each other any grief about it. I don't think it is so much that the one who abstains believes that other Christians are doing wrong.

In this case, both Christians believe that they are what both they are doing, and what other Christians are doing is fine. However, this isn't the case with doctrinal disagreements. If I believe that the Bible says we should baptize infants and some fail to do so, they are not obeying God's command or at least what I believe to be God's command. This didn't seem to be the case with the situation in Romans As such, I'm still struggling a bit with Romans The "divisions and obstacles in the way of the teaching you have learned" seems like a very broad statement that refers to all Biblical teaching.

If the issue of the Roman church in Romans 14 is not doctrinal disagreements but different ways in which we can serve God, then it seems we have to take Romans as inclusive of everything the Bible teaches. This puts us squarely in our own denominations as we each believe that we have the pure or at least most pure Biblical teaching. I know this is two posts ago, but you mentioned "Notice also the behavior of the Apostles, who had significant disagreements with each other e.

James ". What theological disagreement did Paul and James have? They both seemed to believe that Christians could either choose to follow the old Jewish customs or choose not to. The problem was when Peter separated from the gentiles because he believed that Christians had to follow the Jewish customs, something that God seemed to have clearly made optional Gal , Gal If they actually taught two different theologies in their writings, doesn't this also prove a problem for inerrancy and inspiration?

I agree that it is very likely that St. Peter responded to St. Paul's rebuke right away. We certainly know he did so eventually. I was referring to the seeming dispute between St. James and St. Paul over faith and works. Also, I don't think that St. James approved of Jews ceasing to obey Torah commandments Gal , Acts 21 , even though he regarded Gentiles as free not to do so.

In other words, I think there were some theological disagreements even among the apostles. You ask: "doesn't this also prove a problem for inerrancy and inspiration? These are statements about the texts which St. James wrote, both of which I believe are true and inspired by the Holy Spirit.

They are not statements about the people who wrote them, who at times sinned, like the rest of us. That is, I believe that both of their writings are inspired, and consist of truths. But this does not necessarily imply that they could have hammered out a "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" that they would both have been willing to sign off on! Yet God was able to use both of them for his glory, even though they did not always see eye to eye.

Also, I prefer the term "inspiration" to "inerrency" when describing the authority of the Scriptures, for reasons I describe here. But if all of our theological deductions have the same authority as the Bible itself, and therefore fall into the category of things we are willing to break fellowship over, pretty soon we will each be in our own denomination that consists only of ourselves. That is what I am trying to avoid here. In the Church, God is able to use sinners, and also people with partially incorrect theology, to accomplish his purposes. That is in fact one of my core principles about Ecclesiology.

Without that, I may as well stay home because there's not much chance that all of my beliefs are perfect. But if God accepts me, I must accept my brother as well. Hence, excommunication must be reserved for extreme circumstances such as someone denying the Resurrection, trying to marry their stepmother, etc.

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This is how I read the New Testament. Your email address will not be published. Your email:. My Own Testimony I suppose I may as well start by discussing my personal history. An Index of Communion As is well known, Jesus prayed for the unity of the Church, on the night of his betrayal: My prayer is not for them alone. John for the unity of our love is one of the signs by which the world can see that our faith is real, thus fulfilling his command to us: A new command I give you: Love one another.

Paul says: But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. About Aron Wall In , I will be studying quantum gravity and black hole thermodynamics as a Lecturer at the University of Cambridge. Before that, I read Great Books at St. John's College Santa Fe , got my physics Ph. The views expressed on this blog are my own, and should not be attributed to any of these fine institutions.

This entry was posted in Politics , Theology. Bookmark the permalink. June 11, at AM. Scott Church says:. June 11, at PM.

Ashley says:. Aron Wall says:. June 12, at AM. June 13, at PM. TY says:. Is this a valid question and how would you answer it? Always value your opinion. June 14, at AM. Philip Wainwright says:. June 14, at PM. Margaret is full of faith and a dedicated follower of Jesus.. June 15, at PM. Ty, Whenever I hear the "unambiguous Gospel" argument I'm reminded of an atheist co-worker during my college years who used to complain non-stop about the Bible.

June 16, at PM. Scott, your last paragraphs says it best: "Furthermore, when it gets right down to it the bread and butter core of the Gospel isn't ambiguous. June 17, at AM. Ashley Zappe says:. June 18, at PM. June 26, at PM. Chuckles says:. You will be assimilated! Or will we all be assimilated?

In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things charity. Norm Geisler. In other words, there are some non-negotiables the trinity, the divinity of Jesus, etc. But most of the fights are over nonessentials age of the earth, method of baptism, eschatology, etc. I do agree that the key is love. That, I believe, is true unity. I totally agree. We can and should be friendly towards everyone, regardless of their belief system. I think somehow our society has lost that ability over the last years, or so it seems. I remember as a child hearing adults have very animated discussions over various points of theology, then sit down and eat together once the argument was over.

It seems increasingly that people want to either avoid certain topics altogether or refuse to fellowship with anyone with whom they disagree. Very sad — and something that needs to have a light shone on it more often. Thanks, Jeremy. Given this, how can you consider method of baptism non-essential but the nature of the Trinity essential? Yeah, we do argue over some crazy stuff in Christianity. Unity can only be achieved by unconditional love. You said would there be debate in heaven, why on earth would you want demonic debate in a Kingdom where there is no need of it.

My friend thinks he will still be doing DIY when he gets to Heaven bit of an assumption there otherwise he would be bored.

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There will be no solicitors, doctors, judges, refuse collection, joiners, plumbers etc. Heaven will be like a luxury liner where God is the liner and the crew. The work ethic on earth is not applicable in heaven, as it was never intended to be on earth. Have a look at Eden. Unity will follow! Give up trying to get it for yourself — and it will be given to you — type thing. Stop striving for it and surrender to Him and then we can receive it! So true. If we focus on trying to have unity, it will be a fake unity and we will be afraid to disagree and will eventually just be people pleasers.

Disagree and not separate. Love is what binds!!!! Love, love, love! It was modeled by Jesus as He became friends with all people, especially the sinners! I think He could have even been friends with the Pharisees if they had also wanted to befriend them. In fact, Nicodemus is a great example…. This is, for those thus inclined, pulpit and living room meat and potatoes, and there could be at least one book or seminar within its wrappings.

The practice of loving our neighbor in its many forms of respect, patience, listening, teaching, etc, shrouded within healthy debate and consensus, has been displaced in the public square by clever innuendo, diatribes and opinions. As a matter of fact, there seems to be a secular ecumenism developing in the public square, but based upon mass capitulation to pagan values. That sounds morbid when I read it back to myself, but its not at all. I think its the narrow gate we must go through if we will enter the kingdom in this life. Anyway, thanks for unlocking this gem.

Blessings Greg. Thanks, Greg! This requires more thought! When one reaches a true state of maturity or unity the word itself is often dropped from ones vocabulary. This is indeed a great post, Jeremy. You sometimes make me think it would be great for you to write fictions on Bible stories like Gene Edwards did, and sometimes puzzle me with the depth of your thoughts. Love, first, and unity must derive from that love.

Ephesians 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Seems like a great scripture on unity. I think the issue here is that in the body of Christ two things are lacking, a humble attitude and a loving heart to serve. Pure foolishness. In addition,many are so busy making a point, for personal glory, they fail to make a difference, which is the sacrifice for the good of the body.

Thank you for these thoughts; they were instrumental in helping me form a sermon this evening — I quoted from you quite a bit, so thought you should know! Thank you for taking the time to opine on this critical issue of Christian Unity. I found your contribution extremely stipulating, and as a result, I would like to write the next blog in that chain, in part, in response to yours.

I would appreciate any guidance you can give concerning obtaining permission to continue this chain on the subject on which you so eminently wrote. Thank you Jeremy for a thoughtful article on Christian Unity. Join Us! The motto I was taught is this: In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things charity. Norm Geisler In other words, there are some non-negotiables the trinity, the divinity of Jesus, etc.

All religions spend their life debating the truth instead of accepting it. Independence is an earthly thing, not Heavenly.

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On earth God lives in us, in heaven we live in God. Right on, Clive! Love is the key to unity, and we grow together as a body, not in independence. Hmm, interesting point. The more people talk about unity, often the less unified they are! A reader from France. Excellent post!