Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 17, 1963
NUMBER 24, PAGE 4,11b

Union Or Unity


Roy E. Cogdill

"In unity there is strength." This is just as true in the church as in the nation. A strong church must he a united church. We more often apply unity to the church universally; but the most common and fundamental application of the obligation to be united, as the Scriptures present the matter, is to the congregation. Churches of Christ will be united for there is but one divine pattern for them all; and when congregations conform to that divine pattern sufficiently to enjoy identity as such, they will have a common faith, a common salvation, and a common hope.

The real problem of unity is not in the singularity of the church as contrasted with denominationalism or many churches. Here the problem is conversion to the Lord. Any attempt to effect unity among the human organizations men have built in their efforts to "establish a righteousness of their own" must necessarily be on the basis of compromise. Here the smaller and weaker will be swallowed up by the larger and more powerful religious bodies. They produce union without unity. This is what the "Ecumenical Movement" amounts to — and all it amounts to.

Every union meeting held, such as the Billy Graham campaigns, is a demonstration of union without unity. People who wear different religious names, hold to different religious government and organizations can "go together" into a union — drop their sectarian names, creeds, and organizations either temporarily or permanently — but they do not have unity. They have union. They do this, they say, in order to reach more people and save more souls.

This sort of federation or union is what the "Federal Council of the Churches of Christ" has tried to accomplish. They may have a federation; but they very evidently do not know what unity is in the sight of God. Nor can they effect it upon such a basis. We learned as children in school that fractions cannot be added until a common denominator is found. Even so there can be no unity among people of different religious bodies until they are all converted to Christ and come into the body of Christ.

The Catholic recognizes the voice of the church as supreme; then comes the voice of tradition; and least and last of all the Word of God. The Mormon recognizes the Book of Mormon as more perfect and supreme to the Scriptures. This is the only basis upon which he can be a Mormon. But a Christian can recognize only the authority of Christ in the Scriptures. Until, therefore, he can convert the Catholic and the Mormon, the Baptist and the Methodist, and all other sectarians to the Bible as the only rule of faith and practice and the sole standard of authority in religion, there can be no unity. Of course, each might make certain concessions and compromises until they could effect union, but it could never be the "unity of the Spirit," no matter how much peace might exist.

There are no compromises that truth can make, for the only variation or substitution for truth is error. When convictions in truth are sold out for the sake of peace, then peace with men is purchased at the expense of peace with God. This is too great a price. Peace "at any price" is not worth having. You can unite with the Devil on his terms.

When convictions concerning truth are sold out, then one has only policy without principle to guide him. Not long ago brethren over the nation saw in their daily papers pictures of Cleon Lyles, a professed gospel preacher, encouraging the "Ecumenical Movement" on the same platform with a Catholic priest and a Christian Church preacher. He would only have had to point out that they both would have to give up their humanly authorized practices and come back to the Bible as the only standard in religion in order to have unity and they would not have been "chummy" enough to have their pictures made with him. Neither of them will accept the Bible only as a standard. So the only way Lyles can "move toward unity" or even discuss with them in such a fraternal setting is to compromise and turn his back on truth. The next step will be to turn his collar around and join them.

When you cannot convert them, this is the only course open; and eventually all the palaver about the "Ecumenical Movements reduces itself to just that. When a gospel preacher surrenders his convictions to the point that he can "come down on the plains of Ono and even discuss "Ecumenical Movements under such circumstances he will either repent and return to his first love or eventually go all the way. There is no conviction or recognition of principles to restrain him.

In California in the previous decade there was witnessed a "movement" among us, headed by Earnest Beam, to persuade the rest of us to "fellowship" everybody and everything in peace. This was his conception of unity, and his contention was that the basis and means to achieve unity was to love everyone enough to fellowship them and draw no lines against error. I heard him contend many years ago in Abilene that "Love will accomplish unity."

Today we are having some more of the same. Carl Ketcherside and Leroy Garrett, along with Chris Lyles (Cleon's brother in the flesh), recently held a "forum" or conference on "Fellowship." Ketcherside and Garrett have swung from the brand of "Jericho extremism which formerly characterized them to the Roman brand of compromise, and are promoting the "Anythingarian" type of fellowship — where anything goes. Chris Lyles formerly stood for the truth, but has recently gone into the liberal camp, after 'example of his brother, and is now looking around for a "pass" into the plains beyond — where flow the rewards (milk and honey) of popularity and prominence. He will find what he seeks.

There is no ground for unity among unbelievers, and the only ground for unity among believers is the Word of God. It must conform to the divine pattern (Eph. 4:1-6) — the "unity of the Spirit." Nothing else pleases God or respects God's Truth. Nothing short of it is in harmony with the prayer of Christ (Jno. 17) or Heaven's will as the Spirit reveals it. Every other course is walking after the flesh (Gal. 5), and will bring spiritual death.