It is a cherished dictum that as Christians, we are a community of faith and therefore our unity is based on doctrine. In fact, this very thing came up in a recent comment thread on another post here. I want to make it clear I’m not taking a shot at any of you who’ve discussed that matter here. I do, however, want to address the way this concept is often applied in the Christian world.
There’s an element of truth in the dictum, of course. But as generally applied, it is absolute bushwa, and if you can’t smell the reek of brimstone about it, then your spiritual sniffer needs a tune-up.
In Ephesians 4:1-3, Paul writes:
Therefore I, the Lord’s prisoner, beg you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to guard the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
We guard the unity, but it is the Spirit who joins us to Christ, who baptizes us into His body, and therefore it is the Spirit who creates the unity we have. We just guard what the Spirit has already created.
Or rather, we don’t.
We pretend that the basis of our unity is propositions on paper, and then divide endlessly over every jot and tittle in the paperwork. And not only do we not regret such divisions, we respect them. We respect them so highly that when people in ministry have a personality conflict, they often find a doctrinal difference, fight about that, and then divide, ostensibly over the doctrine — and this procedure effectively makes the whole sordid affair immune to criticism.
“We had some doctrinal differences,” they say.
We nod sagely. “Well, the basis for our unity is doctrine.” We shrug and pat them on the shoulder. “What else could you do?”
What we’re missing here, of course, is God. Specifically, we have a common family as children of the same Father, we share a common redemption through the same High Priest, His Son, and we are baptized into a common body by the same Holy Spirit.
And we somehow think that with a 20-cent Bic pen and a sheet of notebook paper, someone that we know is a brother can scrawl out a bad proposition and sign his name to it, and that will overrule the sovereign grace of the Triune God.
What could we be thinking? I’ll tell you. God tells us that He has created unity, but in our heart of hearts, we don’t believe Him. We believe in the kind of unity we can document in triplicate.
We walk by sight, and not by faith — isn’t that what that verse said?