Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 20, 1968

Christian Unity — Second Thoughts

Edward Fudge

No subject has been more discussed and less understood during recent years than the subject Of Christian unity. The fact is, God has set down His plan for unity already, and every true believer is now united through that plan — whether he realizes it or not.

The tragedy is that most professing believers do not understand this Divine oneness. The Roman solution to division is forced unity under the Pope. The Protestant answer seems to be to ignore the real situation, while instead substituting a synthetic, outward union in the place of true unity. Methodist Bishop Gerald Kennedy of Los Angeles recently told an assembly of his denomination's leaders that, while he hoped he was wrong, he doubted that the proposed merger of The Methodist Church with the Evangelical United Brethren Church would "do a single thing for either one of us in spiritual rebirth."

Compromise is not the solution. About 100 years ago, H. W. Everest, a disciple of Christ, commented well that:

The tacit agreement among Protestant denominations to let one another alone is a most unrighteous and cowardly state of things. Storm is better than stagnation; discussion is better than dishonest acquiescence. It is only by letting our light shine that the darkness is dispelled and that we can come to a unity in our knowledge of the Son of God.

Others, claiming to renounce both the traditions of Roman Catholicism and the creeds of Protestantism, too often have merely replaced these with their own unwritten traditions and creeds. One of the ironies of religious history is that what began, with the Campbell's, as an effort to reunite Christians under Christ, and Him alone, has instead merely succeeded in many places in the formation of additional sects. It is right to emphasize the place of the Bible in Christian unity. But we must be careful not to say in effect, "Understand as I understand, and we will then be united."

J. Z. Tyler, a pioneer preacher, once asked:

Is it strictly true that the Bible is the basis upon which we are to unite? Would it not be much nearer the truth, yea, would it not be the exact truth, were we to say that we are to unite around Christ and in him? And does not the New Testament teach that in this union there may still be harmonious variety? As when from the circumference of a circle we advance along its radii toward its center, we must come nearer and nearer together, so must we, as Christians, come nearer each other, as, from our remote positions, we come nearer and nearer to Christ, the center of the spiritual kingdom.

The unity of the Bible cannot be brought about by either dialogue or debate. It cannot be argued into existence or compromised into being. And while it is true that correct understanding of any subject will bring unity of understanding in that matter, this sort of unity is part of the maturation process of Christian development, and belongs to the subject of Christian growth — not to the subject of Christian unity, as such, based on such passages as John 17, I Cor. 1:10ff, II John 9-11, or Eph. 4.

Unity of sentiment, of aim, of spirit, of love — this, too, is all desirable, and is, in fact, urged in Eph. 4 and commanded in I Cor. 1. But this unity of sentiment — as desirable and as urgent as it is for Christian living — is not the unity of John 17, either, True Christian unity is an accomplished fact in Christ. And whether one realizes it or not, if he is a true believer, he is already one in Jesus Christ with every other true believer on earth.

We would all do well to sit down and calmly and prayerfully re-study this entire subject. So far as possible, we need to empty our minds of all preconceived notions, then read the Scriptures, in context, as if for the first time. Such a study must be enlightening — and very likely will produce some amazing fruit in understanding and insight into this Biblical subject.

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