Unity Part 3 — The Church

In Donal’s One Body post, mdavid and Denise make good points about the schism and disunity in the Church.

Schisms

Specifically, if you’re read up on the reformation there are some big points of disagreement between the Prostestants and the Catholic Church. These are normally described by the five Solas.

  • Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone)
  • Sola Fide (by faith alone)
  • Sola gratia (by grace alone)
  • Solus Christus (Christ alone)
  • Soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone)

I personally have mixed feelings about all of this.

Having been brought up in a Protestant non-denominational church it is quite obvious that it is my inclination to believe in the five Solas. However, the Protestant denominations as a whole do a very poor job passing the eye test (or rather, fruit test):

Matthew 7 (NASB)

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will [k]know them by their fruits. [l]Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will [m]know them by their fruits.

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [n]miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

Frankly speaking, the whole of Protestant Church’s does not have good fruit today. It is espouses views of feminism rather than God. There is much bad fruit from those who claim they are Christians. Divorce, entitlement, factions, strife, and what have you are rampant.

Overall, the Catholic Church has done a much better job of this in that they hold fast to the Scriptures better than the Protestants, especially in terms of the importance of families. However, as some of the Catholics have told me there is the rot of feminism seeping into the Catholic church slowly as well.

Holistically speaking

Instead of delving into denominational differences, I’d like to present an alternative view.

One of the analogies I make for people is that in healthcare there are going to be lots of different people in every profession:

  • There are lots of good doctors and there are lots of bad doctors
  • There are lots of good nurses and there are lots of bad nurses
  • There are lots of good chiropractors and lots of bad chiropractors
  • There are lots of good physical therapists and lots of bad physical therapist
  • There are lots of good athletic trainers and lots of bad athletic trainers
  • There are lots of good personal trainers and lots of bad personal trainers
  • Etc.

At a fundamental level, this is quite an obvious set of statements when you think about it. Most of them are looking to improve overall health, but not all of them do a good job. What separates them from the good and the bad is their interaction with patients or clients and the results that they get from them.

So too I regard the denominational differences in doctrine in the Church. This is one of the reasons why I have ceased to talk about denominations but rather focus on people’s words and actions. As I stated in the One Body post:

It’s my opinion that all of the divisions in the Church in terms of doctrine matter very little though. Those that are Christians follow Jesus’ commands — they love one another as He has loved them (John 13:34-15; John 15:12). As Jesus stated many times throughout the gospels those that are in Him will bear good fruit (Matt 7, Luke 6). Those that bear good fruit (fruit of the Spirit Galatians 5) are Christians regardless of what “denomination” they are.

When I meet someone who claims to be a Christian, I can tell from their interactions with other people whether they actually believe in what they say and carry it out. I don’t need to know what their denomination is. I don’t need to know what they specifically believe whether it’s Sola Scriptura or Prima Scriptura. I know they are following God because they are obeying Jesus’ commands.

The ultimate futility of taking sides

Let me skip to a different example.

It’s clear that both the Churches in China as well as in Islamic countries are being persecuted heavily. People are losing their property, their families, their money, their livelihoods, and even their lives for the sake of Christ.

No one from any denomination would assert that these Christians suffering and being persecuted for believing in Jesus are not Christians.

Yet, these Christians probably know nothing of Sola Scriptura or Prima Scriptura. They know nothing of different denominational differences. They don’t know anything about Protestants, Catholics, or Orthodox. They have no inkling of what it means to have differences from other Christians.

However, these Christians are willing to give their lives for the sake of Jesus. That is a powerful statement and witness which transcends denominations.

Abundance and prosperity

Abundance and prosperity are from God although it is very easy to allow it to affect us in the form of entitlement.

As the Church grew through the middle ages the prosperity was immense. The Church had spread all throughout the known world including all of Europe. However, this growth ultimately resulted in the Reformation as there were “potentially” corrupt practices in the RCC.

From what I’ve read on Martin Luther’s Theses, breach, and excommunication (here’s a summary), it seemed both sides were not interested in unity aside from Karl von Miltitz to his credit. Luther was initially predisposed to reconciliation and concessions, but it devolved from there into an irreparable schism much like the current manosphere incident has now (See Unity and Unity Part 2).

I do not find it a coincidence that as the church has become more prosperous — especially in modern times — that there have been more schisms and splits within it.

Mark 10:23 And Jesus, looking around, *said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus *answered again and *said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were even more astonished and said to Him, “[b]Then who can be saved?” 27 Looking at them, Jesus *said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

People can go make their own church rather than resolving the differences in the body of Christ. People care more about being right than they do about God’s commands. People think they know what is right, but they fail to love.

1 Corinthians 8:Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge [a]makes arrogant, but love edifies. 2 If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; 3 but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.

That God has blessed us has allowed us to do more to love and to serve, but instead many of us use the prosperity and wealth for our own ends rather than for God.

I believe this is why God put such a big emphasis on tithing and offerings. His Scriptures on tithing and offerings are also one of the few Scriptures that have promises associated with them. As we have more we tend to become less generous and more selfish, but that is not how God wants us to think or act.

Conclusions

As much as I think knowing and debating what doctrine and tradition is true is a good thing, it is very easy to lose the proverbial sight of the forest when you’re among the trees.

It’s more important for someone to believe in Jesus and the Scripture and then to walk it out in their daily life rather than having an opinion on whether it is faith alone saves or not. It’s more important for the Church to understand what we can agree on and affirm than to focus on any differences that may be there. After all, Christians aren’t defined by their doctrine or traditions; they’re defined by if they’re living out Jesus’ commands.

How then are we to understand doctrine and tradition in the context of the Christian faith?

Doctrine and tradition, in my mind, are Good. It is like the Law. The meaning behind doctrine and traditions are to affirm our faith. Likewise, we observe the Law because the Law is Good. God gave the Law just as many doctrines and traditions spring forth from Jesus’ instruction.

Jesus came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. Yet, we are not bound by doctrines or traditions just as we are not bound by the Law. We are bound by grace, and this is the freedom afforded to us by Jesus through the establishment of the New Testament by the shedding of His blood.

It is by this measure important to know the meaning behind many traditions and doctrines just as Jesus explained the intent of the Law.

Mark 12:28 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the [q]foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.

Therefore, it is good to debate doctrine and tradition. But just as the Law-breaking requires sacrifice, we should never condemn those that live life in a manner worthy of Christ if they hold different doctrine or traditions:

I desire [e]compassion (or mercy) and not a sacrifice

This is what is meant when Jesus states from Hosea in regard to Jesus dining with the tax collectors and sinners (Matt 9) and breaking the “laws” of the Sabbath (Matt 12) where the Pharisees were condemning the innocent.

God knows the hearts of all, and He is reflected in those that live according to His commands regardless of their tradition or doctrine.

I believe these are the common points that most if not all Christian denominations agree on in regard to Christianity and salvation, and those that believe and follow Him will be saved:

  • Jesus was born of the virgin through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Jesus lived a sinless life.
  • Jesus was crucified and died [for our sins].
  • Jesus was buried for 3 days.
  • Jesus was resurrected on the 3rd day [overcoming sin, death, and which proved He is God].
  • Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to believers.
  • Jesus said all who follow Him should be baptized.
  • Jesus said all who follow Him should take communion / Eucharist in rememberance of Him.
  • Jesus said to make disciples of all nations.
  • Jesus said those who love Him will obey His commands (Logos).
  • Jesus said love one another as He loved us.
  • Jesus said that there would be God’s judgment for that which we have done on earth.
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32 Responses to Unity Part 3 — The Church

  1. Patrick Pedat Ebediyah Golston says:

    You are a very thoughtful and remarkable divider of the Word.

    The comments in Unity Pt 2, were extremely poignant in that they did re-focus the conversation back to matters of the Kingdom, as opposed to parsing of words concerning endeavors where it’s questionable how actionable the mantras were in:

    Ephesians 4: 3…making every effort to keep the UNITY of the SPIRIT through the BOND of PEACE.

    and if the WORKS of the so-called manosphere work with the Gospel truth, the witness of the Disciples, and the creeds of the Apostle and Elders:

    Ephesians 4:13….until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of G-d, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

    14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;…

    So, this is all just a different approach to the same end, yes? MATURITY in Christ.

    However, with that maturity also comes discernment, and we all know something has been off for quite some time…but kept playing along anyhow, yes?

    Even the ones such as DS, DG, Chad, Cane and others…have seem SOMETHING…that the newbies and babes didn’t see…yes?

    Hebrews 5:13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.
    14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

    Dudes who have been around, and have their senses trained, and can tell when things are out of pocket. Who “because of practice”…or “by reason of use”….”whose senses are exercised”…are “spiritually fit”… who have seen that…

    MIXING the word of the Lord with the things or the world is going to cause problems. But the ones who are “exercised’, have those “who are not exercised” in their Blogrolls.

    We need to be careful with whom we associate because of leaven. Too much MIXTURE up in here.

    This whole debacle. Leaven. In fact, THE LEAVEN OF MALICE.

    Which is ironic because Passover and the Feast of Unleavened bread, two very important Festivals of the Messiah..are (were) upon us.

    We need to repent for each mouse-click and keystroke that has contributed to the leaven in our lives that has spilled over into the sphere of relativity for our brothers and sisters.

  2. @ Patrick

    Good points.

    I continue to struggle with seeking what God wants versus what I want everyday. But it’s getting better, and it’s getting easier as I continue to seek Him. It’s a continual process.

    Free will is the ability to step outside your own thought processes and consider things from a different perspective. In our case, a godly perspective.

    Many Christians often fail to exercise their free will and instead just go along with what they desire. This is sin of which we must repent.

  3. Chad says:

    I have two major thoughts with regard to the Catholic and protestant schism.

    1. Even with feminism invading the Catholic Church, no actual teaching has changed to match. Also, the worst rot in the Catholic Church is honestly in the US, where a minority of Catholics live. The church has continued to successfully be a steward of The Word and Teachings, as we’re promised she will be

    2. In relation to the first point, any Christian of any denomination must admit that the world will get worse as time goes on. The fact that the world will end and the anti-Christ reign before being overthrown necessitates that. This is meant as a honest statement of expectations and not a game plan, as we are required to continue fighting as it is part of our own path to salvation. To say that we’re on a cycle is wrong. It might go back and forth, but we can be sure it will trend in one direction before our ultimate victory at God’s hand.

    Now, with those two in mind, how does one approach denominations? From what I can tell, all denominations must admit to the second truth or deny judgment day. If you have a judgment day and a truth that the situation must get worse between now and then, how can you rest assured that any teaching with a schismatic church and salvation can be assured to teach the truth correctly, unless willed by God? If that stewardship of teaching isn’t true, how fo you square that with a God that is all just, yet also all love, saying not a dot or iota of the Mosaic laws will change unto the end of time?

    Now, I’m not putting a limit on God’s mercy. I simply hate to think that one would rely on such mercy over demonstrating obedient love towards God, and saying thay Catholicism has demonstrated by overwhelming majority that the church can be relied upon as a stewardship over time, that is led astray and chastised through times like now and like the every schism she’s faced. But the core of teaching remains true, and the traditional enclaves that adhere to it are immersed in the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit such as I don’t see on a reliable basis anywhere else.

    I do agree with you about not quarreling though, and try to avoid it myself. I feel odd even saying my catholic beliefs above, simply because I am used to living them rather than speaking them. The only people I reliably discuss it with is my brother and mother as they have questions about my Catholicism and I discuss what they believe with their protestant views.

    My belief in regards to quarrels are in line with my recent post at depths to wilderness. I live my life on the rock of God and look over those whom I consider a part of my flock. I am a blunt man who does not apologize about putting fences down where I see the Lord or his Church put fences down. I don’t claim that those one the other side will necessarily not make it, only that I try to follow my Shepherd, and they’re welcome to join me. I do however, believe that they each serve a purpose in helping achieve salvation, and that some are incredibly necessary to preserve a sense of self as a son of God, and a. Part of the church, as much as to preserve doctrines and keep evil out. From what I can see, and supported by teaching concerned on keeping good company and keeping yourself unleavened, those results are not able, nor meant to, be separated.

    I do believe in the sacraments instituted and governed by the Catholic church, whom teaches that technically baptism is the only one necessary for salvation should someone make a true, perfect of contrition. Such things are rare and unreliable in the extreme should one not have proper teaching on what is a sin and what is not.

    As for the persecution of Christians.

    The Catholic church, and I myself as it makes absolute sense, believes that martyrdom not sought deliberately guarantees salvation as it shows perfect faith, hope, charity, and fear of disappointing the lord over man even unto death. A martyr is, quiet literally, taking part in the same sacrifice as Christ did, and washed free of their sins by their own and Christ’s blood being shed together

    Anything less than martyrdom leaves room for further, unrepentant sins to damn your soul and will put your trust in God’s mercy should you not have proper teaching

  4. Elspeth says:

    MIXING the word of the Lord with the things or the world is going to cause problems. But the ones who are “exercised’, have those “who are not exercised” in their Blogrolls.

    We need to be careful with whom we associate because of leaven. Too much MIXTURE up in here.

    I don’t usually comment much here (and am making a concerted effort to be much more silent going forward, but that little snippet cannot go unacknowledged. I am not a crier usually, but my eyes welled up when I read that. It seems so small, so unimportant in the grand scheme, but it is so powerful. I confess my sin in this regard as well. Thank you for saying this.

    Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

    And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

    And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

    Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

    Thanks for your indulgence Deep Strength. Even if I don’t say much, I’m reading and being blessed by your insights.

  5. @ Elspeth

    Thanks for the comment. Praise God for the work He is doing.

  6. Looking Glass says:

    I was talking with someone the other day about this, oddly enough, and I pointed out that the Roman Catholic Church’s main problem is that they’ve always been “too Italian”. It’s been good to see an infusion of non-Italian popes. (If you think this point seems odd, read up a bit on Italian History: great art, nothing but trouble in everything else)

    But all of the Western Churches are in a mess. God had to kick the Church, kicking and screaming, into a more portable form for Missionary Outreach to function with the Age of Exploration started. 1492 was incredibly important for God’s Will, even if we’ve removed that aspect from Western Historical study.

    But the current mess is really only different in degree from times in the past. I’m sure Christians in 300 AD Danube valley would be saying, “so what’s your problem, sunshine?” in whatever language they used. The way “out” is the same as always: Faith, Belief, the Power of God and Wisdom. The last one being so brutally lacking in the modern church, it’s pretty much the reason we’re all here.

    Which, at the end, really only comes down to a few passages that lay out exactly what we are to do. Matthew 6:25-34 (NASB):

    25“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28“And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32“For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

    34“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

    Mark 9:22-24 (NASB)

    22“It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 23And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 24Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

    Or, the version I prefer to pray of Mark 9:24b, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” For all things are possible. Believe & Act, which is Faith. God provides the Answer. It’s so simple, but requires of us Faith, the hardest choice for anyone with Free Will to ever make.

  7. Chad says:

    DS,
    The timing on these things always amazes me. Heres a video that just came out today that I think you’ll enjoy simply because it should get you thinking.

    Very Catholic, but it sums up much of what I’ve said here and other places

    http://www.churchmilitant.tv/daily/?today=2014-04-22

  8. @ Chad,

    Perhaps not ironically the Church is reversed in it’s nature:

    There is division within the church, and the church to the outside is the church of nice where they don’t stand against the world. No unity within the body, but no division between the church and the world.

    Just like in most churchian relationships there is sex before marriage (immoral) and then the sex within marriage (moral) tapers off.

    You can see this in almost every area where the Church is struggling.

  9. Patrick Pedat Ebediyah Golston says:

    Fences, indeed! Amen to that.

  10. adam alan says:

    Sorry but if you’re going to judge by fruits you ought to toss both the protestant and catholic and give strong consideration to Anabaptist traditions. Both of the former are guilty of persecution and martyr of many, unlike the later.

    The Catholic church may change dictorine slower due to it’s ecclesiology, but it does change and has been affected by feminism. Frankly it could fairly be called the most feminist with it’s mariolotry. No where in Protestantism is there theological cover for the worship of woman.

  11. @ adam alan

    Generally, I would agree that the church has done many wrongs. But the past is the past and you can’t change it.

    All you can do is move forward which means those that are Christians now should stand in unity regardless of the denominations.

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  13. Random Angeleno says:

    @adam alan
    You’re holding yourself apart from the rest of us. That’s not the point of this post. DS is saying we are all followers of Jesus. I could easily find faults with Anabaptist theology if I was so inclined, but I won’t go there because you are my brother in Christ and you are in this with me. That’s what this post is about. A point we miss so easily in our own lives.

  14. Patrick Pedat Ebediyah Golston says:

    “All you can do is move forward which means those that are Christians now should stand in unity regardless of the denominations.”

    Word, and Amen!

    Psalm 19:7 The law of YHWH is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of YHWH are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

    I’d simply prefer to be refreshed and walking in wisdom. It’s not wise to walk in the counsel of the divisive, so we keep the straight path and avoid the leaven of drama, even with our own inclination to take sides.

  15. donalgraeme says:

    @ Patrick and Elspeth

    Regarding “mixing”- there is another bit of scripture to keep in mind:

    9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men;[d] 10 not at all meaning the immoral[e] of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But rather I wrote[f] to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality[g] or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”

    (1 Cor 5:9-13)

    The real danger comes not from the secular people around us. It comes from our supposed brothers and sisters in the faith who act like they are secular. We are in the world, and that cannot be changed- not unless we chose to live in a monastery. Not everyone in my blog-roll is a Christian, but that is not a problem. My readers can see and understand that they are secular, and act accordingly. And there is still some knowledge or insight that they can provide.

    Far more of a danger than a secular person in my blogroll is a Churchian- someone who seems Christian but their actions indicate otherwise.

  16. Patrick Pedat Ebediyah Golston says:

    “Far more of a danger than a secular person in my blogroll is a Churchian- someone who seems Christian but their actions indicate otherwise.”

    Very good, very good…point well made, sir.

  17. Elspeth says:

    “Far more of a danger than a secular person in my blogroll is a Churchian- someone who seems Christian but their actions indicate otherwise.”

    I have come concluded that both are equally problematic. Of course secular people can provide insights. i would never claim otherwise. That verse you cited doesn’t fit here, frankly.

    There is a stark difference between acknowledging the insights of unbelievers, of acknowledging that we all have to learn to navigate amongst unbelievers, and actively endorsing views and commentary that are more often than not, explicitly anti-Christian.

    I am not passing judgment on you. No doubt you have seen comments I have left on numerous blogs that fit the bill I have described. It took a whole lot of chaos for me to figure out that sifting through dung for a gem was more trouble than its worth and causes more trouble than it’s worth.

    I’ll be specific: Do we really need scientific formulas, charts, and scales to come to the conclusion that nice, young, pretty, fit women have a wider choice of men than older, bitchy, plain, less fit women? or to know that handsome, confident, rich men have a wider and more quality pool of women to choose from? I think not.

    The truth is that men(kind) love darkness rather than light and to be titillated in the short term rather than doing the work required over the long haul. And frankly, now that there are godly men discussing many of the same issues (Deep Strength, Cane Caldo, Chad, and a few others spring to mind), believers can be all the more vigilant to distance themselves from darkness.

  18. Patrick Pedat Ebediyah Golston says:

    Well it’s more than just SMP and SMV stuff, Elspeth…what’s happening is that men(kind) of our Faith are also losing faith in the women(kind) of our faith who WANT what they are NOT.

    So while we consider the source of those charts, I’ll be dang if those charts don’t provide pretty good visuals of what’s really (TRP) going on out here.

    What this brother (ME) is personally finding is that the closer and more devoted I’ve grown to my Master over the years, the harder it’s been to find a woman who is just as vigilant in those things, and that’s discouraging.

    But I digress, because I maintain that there is too much mixture, amongst a lot of other things amongst the brethren that is frankly somewhat alienating…

  19. Novaseeker says:

    It’s more important for someone to believe in Jesus and the Scripture and then to walk it out in their daily life rather than having an opinion on whether it is faith alone saves or not. It’s more important for the Church to understand what we can agree on and affirm than to focus on any differences that may be there. After all, Christians aren’t defined by their doctrine or traditions; they’re defined by if they’re living out Jesus’ commands.

    These kinds of discussions are, I think, very hard from the perspective of Orthodoxy. (Also for Catholicism, to some degree, but although I was a Catholic for much of my life, I have not been one for the past 14 years, so I think the Catholics in the thread can, and have, addressed that perspective well enough).

    For us, the doctrine matters not as mere ideas about God or traditions or what have you, but rather because it sets the boundaries within which that proper “following of Christ” can actually take place. The great doctrinal controversies of the early church were not, in the view of the Orthodox Church at least, inconsequential to matters of how to follow Christ correctly, but were rather central to such things. Therefore, it’s very hard for us to agree that what really matters is following Christ properly, and not so much doctrinal unity – this is a distinction we do not generally make. I don’t think it’s a distinction that Catholics make, either, at least not in terms of the official magisterium, but as I said, I’ll leave that to Catholics to explain. For us, these two are intertwined and form the basis of what it means to be “Church” to begin with – and make possible the concrete expression of that unity in the Eucharist.

    Fr. Alexander Schmemann, one of the leading Orthodox ecumenists of the 20th Century, and someone who was personally engaged with the “official dialogue” between Orthodoxy and the various protestant churches in the context of the NCC and WCC once described this as “the ecumenical agony”, because he knew that his interlocutors were viewing “unity” and “church” in a fundamentally different way (and in ways very close to what you have articulated here as well, actually) than the Orthodox Church does – something which makes Orthodox participation in Protestant-led-or-dominated discussions of unity among Christians a very painful thing. We often feel as if we are forced either to go along with the Protestant view of what “church” and “unity” really is (typically some kind of “invisible church” idea, or the idea that “denomination” doesn’t matter very much as compared with one’s “Christian walk” and so on), or try to explain our own view of what Church and unity are in as least an offensive way as possible, knowing that it will still come off to many Protestant interlocutors as offensive in some way. It’s a true problem, really.

    Of course none of that means that Orthodox cannot or should not (or do not, for that matter) work together with other Christians on life-minded goals. That kind of cooperation already takes place – a look at the March for Life is one example among many. This kind of ecumenical cooperation is important, and it should and must continue to take place, particularly in our increasingly hostile surroundings.

    But it does mean that we really can’t agree about basing unity simply on one’s behaviors in following Christ, or accepting this as a form of unity among Christians that is ultimately meaningful. For us, unity is the Church (big “C”) itself, and is made real – not just made manifest, but made real, constituted and made effective – in and through Christ Himself in the Eucharist which stands at the center of Church life – the sign and the means of the unity which is itself the Church. That is the unity which is real, and from our perspective, it is such a profound unity that it requires doctrinal agreement (or at least the absence of serious doctrinal disagreement) in order to exist. That’s why there were the ecumenical councils, and the associated anathemas, which Orthodox Christians everywhere reaffirm on the first Sunday of Lent every year. It was to purge from the Church the kinds of errors which prevent the Church from being itself, and to reaffirm the need for this kind of unity of faith in order for the Church to remain itself and continue to constitute itself, in unity, as the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. The dialogue between Orthodoxy and Catholicism proceeds on a similar basis, and I think this has a chance to bear fruit at some stage, although there are many difficulties which remain to be overcome – the point, though, is that there is at least some degree of agreement about that basic issue. It gives at least some foundation on which a common ground for true unity can be reached.

  20. Elspeth says:

    I agree that it goes beyond the SMP/SMP stuff.

    I watched my husband restrain the temptation to lose patience with family members who don’t get why we don’t mix our Resurrection celebration with acknowledgement of a pagan fertility goddess. Along with “depriving” our kids of the opportunity to hunt for eggs.

    I only mentioned the SMP stuff because it’s the topic du jour in these parts.

  21. @ Nova

    I’m not really familiar enough with Orthodoxy to comment on that.

    Do you have any examples of issues in particular where doctrinal matters would be held to a higher standard over unity?

    That would give me a better foundation for which to see the argument from.

  22. Novaseeker says:

    I suppose I’d point to the ecumenical councils of the first millenium church which condemned Arianism, monotheletism, monophysitism, which constituted the wording of the Creed and so on. Many of these issues are fine points of Christological doctrine that may seem quite esoteric to Christians today, but were seen as necessary and more important to clarify than to avoid doing so in order to maintain unity regarding the broader doctrine which *was* shared. These clarifications were made to the point of creating disunity as a result — many of these councils resulted in formal anathemas and, for the unrepentant, schisms of one size or other. This isn’t because the church was trying to sow disunity, or that it didn’t value unity, but rather that it valued truth as the foundation of a unity which is real — in these cases doctrinal truth about various aspects of the the nature of Christ, the Trinity and so on.

  23. @ Nova

    Ahh, I gotcha.

    Yeah, definitely some important defining there.

    I suppose to make a distinction I think what gets me now is that I don’t think there is a distinction between faith and works. One commentor pointed me to the Semitic Totality Concept where if something was true to the Jewish people then it should be lived out without question. This is obviously how “faith and works” are supposed to work in concert.

    Thus, I see something such as sola fide (saved by faith alone) as totally irrelevant because those who are saved are living out Jesus’ commands.

  24. Patrick Pedat Ebediyah Golston says:

    “Thus, I see something such as sola fide (saved by faith alone) as totally irrelevant because those who are saved are living out Jesus’ commands.”

    And thus, you’d be correct.

    Messiah’s charge really really really wasn’t that deep, and Scripture does a pretty find job of explaining itself.

    The living out is the work of the believer (who walks by faith) AFTER whom the SIGNS follow.

    And I know that the Father was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself..and it was all planned out in eternity..the beginning and end, and His Word(s) declare it, and signs of His plan FOLLOW me.

    As for Doctrine…what of it? And of arguments…what of them?

    What we BELIEVE and DO is the Witness of the Divine, as joint-heirs and partakers of Glory.

    If Doctrine is about believing and doing..then cool. If not..bah!

    Which is why the SemeticTotality Concept makes sense to me, though it’s NOT a doctrine..it’s explaining how who we are, what we believe and what we do…gets us where we are predestined to be.

  25. Patrick Pedat Ebediyah Golston says:

    Oh..and so how this ties into UNITY is that we SHOULD be BELIEVING and DOING the same things. But Doctrine tends to throw monkey wrenches in that plan…all the time.

  26. donalgraeme says:

    @ Elspeth

    There is a stark difference between acknowledging the insights of unbelievers, of acknowledging that we all have to learn to navigate amongst unbelievers, and actively endorsing views and commentary that are more often than not, explicitly anti-Christian.

    Agreed. It is something we all need to be careful about engaging in without realizing it.

    I’ll be specific: Do we really need scientific formulas, charts, and scales to come to the conclusion that nice, young, pretty, fit women have a wider choice of men than older, bitchy, plain, less fit women? or to know that handsome, confident, rich men have a wider and more quality pool of women to choose from? I think not.

    With all due respect, is that what you think this part of the web is all about? Just that? If that were so then yes, we wouldn’t need any of our blogs. But surely you realize there is far more to what is going on than that.

    The truth is that men(kind) love darkness rather than light and to be titillated in the short term rather than doing the work required over the long haul. And frankly, now that there are godly men discussing many of the same issues (Deep Strength, Cane Caldo, Chad, and a few others spring to mind), believers can be all the more vigilant to distance themselves from darkness.

    I agree, and I believe that I have argued as much for some time now. Only a couple of links on my blogroll are secular in nature, and only a few of those could fall into that category. Although perhaps I should re-organize to make that more clear….

  27. donalgraeme says:

    To add onto what Novaseeker has explained, the Traditional churches (Catholicism and Orthodoxy) have an understanding of unity that focuses on the concept of communion. There is a deep spiritual component to unity, because it affects how well we fit together as a single “body.” To be set apart from this means that you are not in communion with the full body of the church, which has deep spiritual consequences- essentially, you cannot experience the sacraments properly because they are communal acts. Hence, unity is about more than just believing the same things. It is about being part of something greater.

    Hope that makes sense. Sounded better in my head.

  28. Elspeth says:

    With all due respect, is that what you think this part of the web is all about? Just that? If that were so then yes, we wouldn’t need any of our blogs. But surely you realize there is far more to what is going on than that.

    No, of course not. But the subjects are too often discussed in ways that serve to ignore the holistic way we should live. Frankly (and I say this as an evangelical Protestant), it’s a little disheartening to see Catholics or the Orthodox, who usually have a better grasp of the idea of the integrated life, get so deeply embroiled in some of this.

  29. donalgraeme says:

    A major reason that happens Elspeth is because men are much more inclined to, and better at, focusing on a single subject. We tend to compartmentalize things mentally, a sort of anti-holistic approach. This is one of our biggest strengths, and our biggest weaknesses, depending on the field. I must confess that for a long time I was adept at ignoring the spiritual side of a lot of actions in life because of this tendency. I’m better at that now, but it is something to watch out for.

    You might find an upcoming post of my interesting in that light, as it will be one of those “chart and graph posts”, very “Red Pill”, albeit with a holistic touch to it.

  30. Pingback: Unity Part 4 — the delicate balance of love in marriage | Reflections on Christianity and the manosphere

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