A Way Out Of Church Disunion -- By: Samuel Zane Batten

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 055:220 (Oct 1898)
Article: A Way Out Of Church Disunion
Author: Samuel Zane Batten

A Way Out Of Church Disunion

Rev. Samuel Zane Batten

The question of church unity is of quite perennial interest. It is a question very dear to the heart of Christendom. The church, we are told on apostolic authority, is the body of Christ, the place where his honor dwells, the pillar and ground of the truth. But, to the casual observer, that body seems to be severed into countless fragments, with very little regard for one another, with little concern for the unity of the body, and with each fragment claiming to be the whole body. Both within and without the church there are many mournful reflections on the present state of things. There can be no question but that the present denominational differences are confusing to the moral sense of the world, that they are embarrassing to many inquiring souls, and that they are wasteful in the extreme. We are all more or less familiar with the various overtures, compromises, and schemes of federation that have been proposed and promulgated. But, with it all, the Master’s high-priestly prayer for the unity of his followers seems very far from realization. Thus far, division seems to be the actual fact, and unity to be the empty dream.

In what follows there is no attempt to construct one more plan of federation, or scheme of unity. My aim is to indicate some of the causes which have resulted in disunion, and to state some of the conditions implied in all real unity.

Two great causes have cooperated to bring about disunion: (1) A narrow conception of the church; and (2) a wrongful abandonment of primary Christian truth.

For a moment let us turn our eyes away from the present, and fix them upon the church of the first century. Every student of the New Testament has been impressed with one fact: Jesus Christ wrote nothing. Other teachers have carefully written out their thoughts; they have rewritten and revised, and have done all in their power to be correctly represented to posterity. Here is one who speaks to all peoples and for all times; he assumes as a matter of course that his words shall be known throughout the world to the end of the ages. Yet never a word does he commit to writing. Those words which he calls the words of life are committed to the frail and fading memories of untrained men. Neither did he give any developed teaching to his followers. In his lifetime he framed no system of ethics or theology; he formulated no confession of faith; he outlined no synthetic philosophy for the guidance of his disciples. He drops a few great seminal truths which he allows the disciples to unfold under the Spirit’s tuition. The Master assumes that great changes are before men; that the truth he casts into the ground shall grow and spread until it ha...

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