Universal and Local, posted on April 29, resulted in a conversation with Mark H and Carl that raised some very important points about unity and division. Two of those points are referenced below.


But I find it at least a little interesting that this display of true theology happened while a group of Christians were gathering to declare that they could not resolve their differences with another group of Christians. link to Carl’s comment

I have found it necessary to ask how it is that unity can happen in the midst of division. To that end, I am doing a study of Ephesians 4:1-6 (made very slow by end of term school requirements), in which Paul discusses the doctrinal truths (vv. 4-6) and practical behaviors (vv. 1-3) associated with a worthy walk. Unity is one of these practical behaviors.

My initial thoughts, though, start from the end of the portion: the doctrinal truths. A worthy walk, of which unity is the primary practice, is the outworking of the truth of our (‘us’ being those who trust Christ and follow him) various “onenesses.”
One body
One Spirit
One hope
One Lord
One faith
One baptism
One God and Father (of all, through all, in all)

My initial thoughts have revolved around the notion of the one faith. Faith, to be Christian, requires three ‘components’: appropriate content, appropriate practice, and an appropriate object. If one of these is missing or terminally damaged, then that faith is not Christian. It may still be faith, but it is not Christian faith. Historically, the majority of Christians have held the Bible as the ‘norming norm’ of belief and practice. Thus, the Bible determines the appropriateness of the content and practice of faith. Yes, tradition and culture inform our faith, but the Bible is the determining reference. The appropriate object of faith, though, is most certainly not the Bible. Neither is it tradition or culture. The appropriate object of our faith is the Triune God. If it is anything else—even the Word of God—it is idolatry.

True Christian unity occurs among those whose faith has appropriate content, practice, and object. Therefore, the question to consider is whether unity had already been damaged and by what criteria this should be determined.

In the midst of this division, there is hope, and that hope if found in God’s gracious presence. Mark said it well:

I am, however, encouraged that when people are voting over “irreconcilable” theological differences of opinion, i.e. human thinking, that God is still permitted to come in and show that there remains the only true basis for unity, i.e. His outrageously gracious presence. link to Mark’s comment

As always, continue to pray for this and other similar situations. Division in the church is never a good thing, though sometimes it is a necessary thing. I continue my study of unity in Ephesians 4:1-6, and will post more as time allows.

As always, discussion is the point, so comment away.


On May 11, 2006, the Board of Directors of the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest voted to withdraw from the Covenant of Relationships of the American Baptist Churches USA effective November 1, 2006. The Board’s vote was unanimous. (See the early press release)