Introduction -- By: John H. Armstrong
RAR 13:1 (Winter 2004) p. 7
No one who considers the teaching of Jesus seriously for two minutes will doubt that the Savior’s will is that all his people live together in unity. It is the Savior who prays that those “who will believe in me through their word... may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20b–21).
The unity of the one people of God, especially in their life together in congregations, is also at the heart of Paul’s regular appeals to first-century congregations (1 Corinthians 11:12–14; Ephesians 2:14–18; 4:3, 13; Colossians 3:15, et al). We must confess and work out the reality that God does not have two churches, two bodies, or two (or more) parties within each congregation of Christ. The Bible word is dear here: “one.”
Church history, at least since the fourth century, sadly reveals that we have often missed this reality. The “one” church is not Roman Catholic, or Orthodox, or Protestant. It is Christian! All who are in Jesus Christ, by a vital union created by the Holy Spirit, are in this one body. This is not a Baptist body or a Methodist body. It is not a Lutheran body or an Anglican one. Nor is it Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. It is Christ’s body. The best our labels can do is express some of the particular doctrinal emphases that exist across the
RAR 13:1 (Winter 2004) p. 8
whole Church in human history. But we dare not become complacent with things as they are. Pursuing the unity of the body of Christ is not an option.
Over the past century a major effort was undertaken to bring together various Christian denominations. Much of this effort failed. One of the primary reasons it failed can be traced to an attitude of indifference toward doctrinal orthodoxy. This we cannot do if we are to remain faithful to Christ. But the alternative is not acceptable either, namely an attitude of indifference to Christian unity.
What is called for is found in mystery. What we need is a bold orthodoxy that will restore classical Christianity to its rightful place. This means the ancient creeds of the Church must again have a central place in our life together. We also need a generous ecumenism that will face our differences honestly and find new ways to honor one another in the same Christian family whi...
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