Monday, July 28, 2008

Unity not Uniformity

During a college Q & A the famous apologist Ravi Zacharias was asked by a Muslim why Christianity was so splintered and that if he wanted to join a church how would he pick the true one out of all of the thousand denominations. This I thought would be Ravi's time to plug the Christian and Missionary Alliance (his denomination), but rather he said something which I will attempt to quote: "Know this, that unity is not uniformity, and that ultimately Salvation does not depend on which denomination you are affiliated with, but rather with whether or not you know Jesus Christ".

I thought it was certainly a different way of answering the question. Catholicism's 'extra ecclessiam nulla salus' is another standard answer. I thought this was a good quote on Ravi's behalf for a few reasons. It is true to early Christianity, in 1 Corinthians 1 St. Paul talks about denominations already forming. Indeed many of the epistles are to fragmented churches with disagreements and problems, there was the schism in Corinth, the racist jews that our first *Pope sat with in Galatia* (Peter - see Gal 2), and the Roman church of course with all the division we can read about in Romans 14. This yields alot of interest to me. Note this passage:

"Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarrelling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgement on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgement on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand. Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honour of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honour of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honour of the Lord and give thanks to God...Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister?...each of us will be accountable to
God." - Romans 14:1-6, 10 NRSV

What a great way to look at the faith, I guess he is a Saint for a reason. This is God's message, it's the exact opposite from the Catholic or Calvinistic method. St. Paul doesn't say 'for those of you abstaining from meat, ANATHEMA!!! may God's curses torment you, Ye heathen Heretical schismatic who would divide the apostolic unity of the one true church!!!!PHGSODIHSGPISDGJ'.... Thank God for ecumenical Paul. This isn't any of that fundamentalist 'the truth always divides', it's just 'yes, we disagree, but don't judge each other, and worry about yourself and God - that's who you are accountable to.'

I like what Paul also says in Ephesians 2 about how Gentiles and Jews are united in Christ, I think the same is true of the church when he writes "For he [Jesus] is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us...In him the whole structure is joined together" Eph 2: 14, 21 (NRSV). So later when he writes, "there is one body and one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all." Eph 4:4-6 (NRSV) it really shows how Christ is in all and he has broken down the barriers. Even if we have 'broken communion' we are all in communion with Christ. The unity of the church does not depend on man, much like creation, salvation and all the other major points of the bible, but depends on God. It would seem we can't do anything right, and so Christ did it for us, again.

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