Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
NUMBER 28, PAGE 4,14

Unity - How Achieved?


October 31, 1517, marked the real beginning of the Protestant Reformation. October 11, 1962, marked the beginning of Vatican Council II, a titanic effort on the part of the Roman Catholic Church to woo back as many as possible of the dissenters into the Roman fold.

Simple Christians throughout the world will view the Catholic effort with varying degrees of interest. The urge to unity is strong; the tides of history are running high in favor of eventual mending of the break, and a return of at least a goodly portion of "Protestants" to the Roman Church.

But there is another and more relevant matter facing the people of the Lord — and that is the breach which has occurred, and is ever widening, in the body of Christ. That a great division has taken place is, we think, evident to all. Certainly it is evident to brethren of discernment on both sides of the cleavage. Reaction to this division is as varied almost as the number and temperaments of those who view it. A considerable number of brethren seek to ignore it, to pretend that it never happened, to dismiss the whole tragic story with a wave of the hand and the fatuous and stubborn contention that "Nothing has happened at all except that a few noisy, loud-mouthed, 'do-nothing' radicals who hate orphans and oppose preaching the gospel over the radio have left us — and good riddance!" Others, on the other side, over-simplify the whole problem by declaring, "Nothing has happened except that a whole generation of worldly-minded, unconverted, and liberalistic brethren have decided to promote the Church of Christ into a super-duper denomination, and are using all media for mass propaganda — colleges, benevolent societies, and religious journals — to that end."

Two Kinds Of Unity

In all the discussions of these matters it would be well to keep sharply in focus the simple truth that there are two kinds of unity: One, a unity in the Scriptures; the other, a unity in spite of the Scriptures! There are also two kinds of division, or rather, two ways of promoting division: one, a division promoted by standing firmly for the truth; and two, a division promoted by firmly and persistently promoting error.

These truths are so simple and so axiomatic that one would think they would be easily and quickly recognized by every child of God. But sadly, it is not so. Over and over again, we hear brethren castigated and criticized for "dividing the church," with never a hint of why, or how, or under what circumstances the division was wrought! There seems to be some childish notion that it is right to maintain "unity at any price," even at the price of embracing error, promoting falsehood, persecuting faithful Christians, and going with the entire church into irrevocable apostasy.

Unity in the Scriptures should be the desire, the aim, and the subject of fervent prayer on the part of every faithful Christian. This is unity in truth, unity in harmony with the will of God, unity in love and brotherly kindness. Unity in spite of the Scriptures is that unity which is achieved by ignoring the Scriptures, by crushing out and silencing every voice raised in protest to what is being done, by refusing to hear or heed any word that is spoken against what is being promoted. There are a great number of faithful brethren who are seeking the first kind of unity; there are known to us also a great number of congregations which now operate with a united front under the second kind of unity — a unity that is highly effective, and completely out of harmony with the will of Christ.

The Prevalence Of Hatred One thing that has astounded (and sickened) many sincere brethren on both sides of the current controversy has been the virulence and the terrible bitterness of the hatreds brought to light by the conflict. Whatever else may be said or not said, one thing is certain: this tragic split in the body of Christ has revealed how thin the veneer, how shallow the spirit of Christianity that had covered the littleness and spiritual immaturity of so many brethren. We have just finished reading the sordid story of the split that recently occurred in the fine old Taylor Boulevard church in Louisville, Kentucky — a division caused when brother Harold Hazelip, the preacher there, gradually changed his convictions on the "orphan home and Herald of Truth" issues, and over a period of about four years, by almost imperceptible degrees, brought three of the four elders to an acceptance of his new position. It is a revealing and heart-rending thing to read the depositions taken in connection with the case. (Brother Hazelip's followers instituted a lawsuit against the other brethren there, seeking to put them out of the building.) The depositions we read were taken from brother Hazelip's sympathizers in their efforts to gain the exclusive use of the church property.

But the thing that amazed us was the obvious lack of spirituality, love, or even Bible information which these depositions revealed. One brother who said he had been a member of the church of Christ for all his life-time (and he was sixty-eight years old) deposed that anybody who said he had used violence on one of the opposing side was "a lying son of a b-----, I don't care who it is." We are persuaded that this unlovely spirit (perhaps not quite so crudely evident) is far more widespread than most brethren realize.

Is this Christianity? Is this the gentleness, the meekness, the self-control which a half-century of Christian nurture has brought into this brother's heart? Surely, somebody has failed — miserably failed — in helping this man to grow in Christ. Someone has aptly remarked that the true indication of a man's breeding and character is most evident when he is in anger or provocation. If that be so, it is pretty obvious that a great multitude of brethren today are fairly low quality. Christianity has taken only a finger-tip hold on their hearts; it is soon shaken loose.

Let us pray for unity, unity in Christ; unity in the truth. And along with that unity may we all seriously work for a deepening of the hold which Christ has on our hearts; that all bitterness and railing and malice may be forever banished from our lives, and that we prove ourselves worthy followers of him "who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not...."

— F. Y. T.