By: Gary L. Hutchens
Surely, none of us would believe that God is pleased when He observes the widespread division that is prevalent among those who call themselves Christians today. Perhaps the most quickly observed indicator of the division is the different names on the fronts of church buildings. It’s not a matter of subtle differences in description, but a wide variation of names that point to all kinds of characteristics of the different religious groups. It’s interesting, and perhaps telling, as to how many of those names make absolutely no reference to either God or Christ.
The different names only begin to tell the real tale of the division that exists. When the doctrines taught by the different churches are examined, it is obvious they are not even close to being united. The differences range from what some might consider small matters of personal judgment to basic fundamentals of Christianity, such as whether the Bible is truly God’s word, or whether Christ really is God the Son, or whether Heaven and Hell are real, or even whether God is real. This situation is aptly described by the word denominationalism, a term which means “division.”
Our Lord, on the night of His betrayal, prayed for unity among His followers. He prayed that they would be as united as are He and the Heavenly Father (Jn. 17:20-21). He stated that such complete unity would be a powerful message to the non-Christian world that He really is our Savior and Lord, the Son of God sent by God the Father. The world still needs this message desperately. The disunity among those calling themselves Christians greatly weakens the message.
A loose kind of unity has been promoted between some denominations. They state that all denominations can agree on belief in God and Christ while holding different personal church doctrines. The technical term describing this loose unity movement is ecumenism. While it may sound good on the surface, the concept breaks down when it is realized that nothing has really changed or been settled. Basically, everybody still believes whatever they want to believe. They just call themselves united.
There are some within the Lord’s church who seem to promote a similar kind of unity. They keep talking about establishing a dialog whereby we can better communicate with others who teach differently from what we teach. But true Christian unity must be that for which Christ prayed, as noted above. Ultimately, a determination has to be made as to what the Bible really teaches and what our positions ought to be thereon.
Since the scriptures repeatedly emphasize the principle of “sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 4:3; Tit. 1:9; 2:1), there must exist, by implication, the possibility that some doctrine might not be “sound.” Sound doctrine must be clarified, and unsound doctrine must be recognized, admitted, refuted and cast aside. All the dialog in the world will accomplish nothing ultimately productive unless it gets down to these basic matters. Believing, teaching and living by the truth of God’s word is the only basis for true Christian unity. Personal feelings, pride and ambition must be put aside, and we must simply accept God’s will communicated through His word…
Gary L. Hutchens