A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Church Unity: It Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means

Excellent words from David F. Watson:
In the New Testament, love among believers is not simply a feeling of affection. It means that the community of faith becomes like a family, and can even supplant the natural family in importance. The loyalty and honor of believers is first and foremost within the family of faith, where believers are brothers and sisters, and God is their Father. Just as in the natural family, there are expectations, norms of behavior, and proper ways of honoring one another. That is in part why it is so serious when there are members of the community who flout the agreed-upon norms of the community. Take the example of the man who is living with his father’s wife in 1 Corinthians 5. Paul’s desire to maintain unity within the church in Corinth leads him to identify practices and impose consequences when the communal norms are unrepentantly broken.

Do I want unity in The United Methodist Church? Yes, I do, very much. But I want unity that goes beyond a loose system of government, a pension fund, and a logo. Unity cannot simply be institutional. For Christians, unity as the body of Christ rooted in the Holy Trinity should be more important than anything else. We are bound together in love by the One whose faith we are called to proclaim. Unity involves a certain set of theological claims and the praxis that flows forth from them.

There are many within the UMC and beyond who simply thumb their noses at the faith of the Church, berating "orthodoxy" as if it were to theology what leeches are to medicine. We need to move beyond this antiquated way of thinking, they say. Quit harping on about the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Resurrection. The primitive minds who dreamt up orthodox claims about God and Christian salvation are exceeded in their fatuity only by the fools today who happen to believe they were right.

I have to confess, I'm one of those fools, and there have been many others, much more devout and committed than I, who have dared to hold to the foolishness of Christian proclamation. Many have given their lives for this foolishness, including the first followers of Jesus, including the Christians of the Middle East who are being martyred today. Why would they do this? They know that "God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength" (1 Cor 1:25).

As we think about the people and practices that are causing disunity in our denomination, it would be well for us to identify what unity actually is, how it is being threatened, and what we are going to do about it. Simply saying we want to "avoid schism" isn't enough. The only real Christian unity is unity in the Holy Trinity, which means mutual love, mutual accountability, and the proclamation of the faith once delivered to the saints. Institutional commitments themselves cannot serve Christian unity unless they are visible expressions of our unity in God.
The entire post can be read here.


David F. Watson said...

Thanks, Allan!

Allan R. Bevere said...

You are welcome, David. Your writing is always thought-provoking.