Berean cogitations

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Unity over doctrine

I've often spoken about how many Christians place unity over Biblical truth. Tonight, I wanted to quote the following comments by John Ankerburg and John Weldon, as stated in their booklet, "The Facts on the Faith Movement." I think their comments sum things up well.

Many Christians believe that the visible unity of the body of Christ before the world is much more important than doctrinal truth. They appeal to Jesus' prayer that Christians "may be one" so that the world will know that the Father has sent Him (John 17:21-23). But can the world see Christian unity apart from true Christianity itself? Isn't Christian unity based upon Christian truth? For example, the world might notice a visible unity among a group of Catholics, Protestants, and Mormons working together to fight abortion—but what will it conclude about the beliefs of Christianity when these religions disagree? In essence, the real nature of their unity is only a social cause, vital as it may be.

In its most important sense, it is basic doctrinal truth which unites God's people. True unity cannot be had with­out it. This is why the Bible commands Christians to stand together in unity against heresy and separate themselves from false teachers on the basis of sound doctrine (2 John 9-11; Romans 6:17, etc.). Christians are to stand "firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel" (Philippians 1:27; cf. Ephesians 4:12-13). Jude 3 tells us we are to "contend earnestly for the faith [body of teachings] which was once for all delivered to the saints."

If biblical doctrine is not the final standard, then where does one draw the line between what is or isn't Christian? In the end, what remains is only a false or shallow compre¬hension of Christianity—and it is this (and wrong theol¬ogy) which promotes! division among Christians.

To the contrary, a deep understanding of doctrine and theology, by their very nature, foster unity among God's people. Further, genuine unity in the body of Christ presup¬poses spiritual maturity. But such maturity can only be had by knowledge of sound doctrine and living in accordance with its precepts (Ephesians 4:3-15; Philippians 2:2).


In fact, those who are committed to maintaining so-called peace and unity in the body of Christ at all costs... are actually the ones being divisive. As John Mac Arthur points out, "In effect, [this attitude] has given charismatic extremists
the freedom to propound fantastic views while imposing a code of silence on those who object. Those who do speak out inevitably are branded divisive, strident or unloving. The legacy of such a position is not unity and peace, but confusion and turmoil. In fact, love apart from truth is nothing more than hypocritical sentimentality. That sentimentality is running rampant in evangelicalism today."