Tuesday, October 20, 2009

one faith in Jesus

I am troubled by a Christianity which makes much of differences Christians have. My friend Allan Bevere shares here an extreme example of this.

There is no doubt that we Christians don't agree on everything. And we sadly don't always agree entirely on what is all important, because some of us insist that a good Christian must agree with us on this or that or else they can't work with us or really be one with us in the work of the Lord.

I'm glad to be a part of a denomination in which I can be a Christian pacifist, and believe whatever about Arminianism/Calvinism, or about the tribulation and Jesus' coming, and teach and be one in the work of the local church we're a part of.

I know that within evangelical Christianity there is a shaking going on. There are those who insist on a Calvinism which they see as front and center in their view and proclamation of the faith. There are others who believe that they need to save evangelicalism to what they believe it is about: an inerrant Bible which thus has to be interpreted literally (even when it may not be meant to be taken literally everywhere: an easy example: Jesus is not a gate, but metaphorically he is, for the sheep who metaphorically represent people) meaning we have to resort to a certain view of origins discounting science, etc. And there are others who believe we need to be open to what we can learn from other traditions of Christianity, as well as in science, etc., always reading Scripture at the same time as our basis for faith and practice while not discounting the rule of faith which has come through the church through the centuries. I'm sure I'm framing this too simplistically, and I don't mean to discount and write off those who I don't see eye to eye with.

But I share this to make a point. We have one faith in Jesus. God moves according to that, not according to our own understanding of theology. This is why we should not be confounded to see God's grace at work in the most unlikely places, which for many Christians would mean a different tradition, or even denomination, or sometimes even church within the same denomination (and sometimes even in churches and denominations which before have either denied or underminded the faith). God doesn't seem to value the same things we do. Yet at the same time God wants us to learn to see what is all important in our faith and practice, which of course must be joined together.

Okay. We aren't going to agree on everything such as mode of baptism, whether infants or only believers should be baptized, etc., etc. But we do need to demonstrate clearly to the world that we are one in Jesus, that there is one faith, one Lord, and that all who are true followers of Jesus are one with us in him.

Jesus considered the unity of all who believe in him as part of what is all important. And with other essentials such as Jesus alone as our Savior and Lord, the unity we have in Jesus and living out that unity must likewise become front and center in our lives and witness to the world. Not always easy. And others might not join in. But we need to insist on it, as we learn to pray and work together for others in the way of Jesus.

What might you like to add here, or any thoughts?


The Wingnut said...

I would only add a big, fat, jesus-lovin' AMEN!

Part of what pushed me out of the denominationalism of my youth is how serious everyone took the various alphabet soup denominations in my town. Really?? Are these differences really that big of a deal? Do you really need to split and form another congregation over this? Do you really need to switch churches over this?

We speak highly of the Unity found in Christ, but when it comes to actually practicing it, we're not so good...


preacherman said...

Wonderful post Ted.
I agree.
We are different.
God made us different.
We should be one in faith and understand our differences are okay. I think many believers focus on technicalities of what disqualifies other believers as Christians and that is wrong. We should celebrate our differences. We should strive for unity. We should embrace and practice the essential doctrine of love. Wasn't that what Jesus prayer in John 17 is all about? One in faith. Unity. It is my prayer that we all will be one in Christ Jesus no matter what denomination we attend.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks, the Wingnut.

I agree. I really don't like churches and denominations which emphasize their differences. But if they must (and perhaps this at times is unavoidable in some ways), they need to also emphasize their unity with ALL of God's people in Jesus.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Good points. My Christian pacifist position has a point of truth that all Christians can benefit from, even if it is not altogether right (though I think in essence it is). So we need to look for the truths in our doctrinal distinctions which may be a help to others, even if they never embrace that distinctive we hold to, I think.


Dave J. said...

While I too appreciate a church that celebrates our common faith, not our earthly beliefs, I'm frustrated by a church community that pretends there are no differences. And then I can't be myself. It's been much more pleasurable the last few months at RCC being able to share with you and a few others honestly about my beliefs, and how they connect with my faith. Not that my views are dangerous or something I'd like to push on others, but that I'd be judged because of them. Yes, I've got a liberal bent, but its because I love people and see the best in them (generally). Others see that as being too flexible with the rules the Bible lay out.

I wrote a very strongly worded essay on my personal blog yesterday against strong-armed creationists. I feel much better for having written it, but why should I be condemning my brothers in Christ? My sense of right and wrong, whether it is the same as God's, still desires to get out.

Anonymous said...

it is true, no one agrees on everything. we do not have to agree to Love.

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Dave J.,
Thanks. I think it's important that we allow for diversity and that we find our unity in what is all important. This means I can say I find good in Sicko and the latest film in the theaters by Michael Moore and yet find the unity we have as brothers and sisters in Jesus in our Lord by the Spirit. I disagree 180 degrees with a lady at our church but we find our mutual love for each other in Jesus. I do have to be careful how I hold to the differences I have. Our unity is found in Jesus, as Wingnut said, and then we work from there.

And surely diversity is good as it is expressive of different viewpoints and perspectives, all of which surely have some truth in them. So we need to try to learn from those we do disagree with.

Of course I know you already know all of this, but wanted to get it out on the table.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, love is the key. Our love for God and for each other in Jesus. Thanks for that good reminder!