Unity of the Spirit - - Unity in DiversityAre They Identical in Content and Practice? • Psalms 133:1“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” • John 17:20-21Jesus’ prayer • Paul’s instruction 1 Cor. 1:10 • Eph 4:1-6 Unity of the Spirit Paul’s plea • Created by the Spirit John 16:13 • Takes characteristics from Godhead • Maintained by brethren “in bond of peace”
Are They Identical in Content and Practice? • Unity Concept is clear; practice is difficult • Is doctrinal unity possible? Is it “of spirit”? • Jude 3; 2 Tim 1:13; 2 Tim 4:1-5; 2 Jn 9f • Acts 2:42; 4:32; 1 Cor 4:17 • Is fellowship in “Man, not plan?” • Gospel vs doctrine actively taught • Unity based on re-defined terms • Unity in Diversity Taught as alternative
Is Doctrinal Unity Possible? “If unity is a matter of seeing the Bible eye to eye, then believers will never be united, for they never have and never will see the Bible alike. And if believers ever have been united, such as in the early centuries (and other times as well) when they died together for their faith, it was not because of doctrinal agreement upon the Bible but because of their common devotion to Jesus Christ” (Leroy Garrett, Restoration Review, Dec., 1987).
Only Unity is Unity in Diversity “Some of those who mistake conformity for unity appear to be startled when they first learn that we suggest there may be unity in diversity. Actually we go much further than that. We assert that if there is any unity at all it must be unity in diversity ” (Carl Ketcherside, The Twisted Scriptures, p. 71-72). • This is historic unity in diversity • It is tolerant of error and offensive to truth
No Doubt About Unity In Diversity “The implications of all this to unity and fellowship are weighty. It means that the gospel itself, not our doctrinal interpretations, is the basis of our being one in Christ and in fellowship with each other. That is, when one believes in Jesus and obeys him in baptism, he is our brother and in the fellowship…This is oneness and this is unity...
Cont’d... “…That fellowship is strengthened and made joyful by doctrine, but it is the gospel and not doctrine that determines fellowship… In doctrinal matters there can be and will be diversity of opinion and interpretation. It was so with the apostles themselves. But this is good, for we stretch each other’s minds and help each other to grow in knowledge in our mutual search for truth…” (Leroy Garrett, Restoration Review, Ch. 17, pp. 42-46).
Grace Covers Sins “The present frontier is the frontier of a grace-based fellowship with all our brothers and sisters in Christ. A truth began to dawn on us in the 1960’s and 70’s and increasingly through the 1980’s. That truth is that God’s grace extends not only to our moral imperfections but also to our doctrinal short-comings” (Gary Pearson, Image Magazine, Sept/Oct, 1993, p. 32).
What does Unity in Diversity Include? “There should be room in the Christian fellowship for those who believe that Christ is the son of God, but who differ on eschatological theories such as premillennialism, ecclesiological matters such as congregational organization, on soteriological matters such as whether baptism is ‘for’ or ‘because’ of remission of sins” (Carrol Osburn, The Peaceable Kingdom, 1993, pp 90-91).
Right About Christ - Wrong About Doctrine “What is the basis of one’s hope before God? Is it not that we sustain a right relationship with God through Christ?…In other words - if one is right about Christ, then that one can be wrong about some doctrinal instruction without being lost, can he not?” (Arnold Harden, “The Persuader”)
Historical Meaning of“Unity in Diversity” • Formed basis of new unity movement • Tolerant of doctrinal differences • Broadened fellowship to include sectarians • Eventually excluded baptism as essential to salvation • Havoc created by Ketcherside, Fudge, Hardin, et al in march to denominationalism • Impossible to ignore definition & history • Yet it is taking on new life among brethren
“Bounds of Christian Unity” “On what basis do we establish the bounds of Christian unity? That is the crucial question that lies before us. Are individual fellowship and congregational unity based on total agreement? Historical reality denies that unanimity existed in New Testament congregations or that it exists today….”
Cont’d “... Is there, then, a scriptural basis for maintaining unity when brethren disagree? If so, what are the limits of the concept of unity in diversity?” (Ed Harrell, The Bounds of Christian Unity, Christianity Magazine, March 1989, p. 6) • Doctrinal unity did not exist in NT Times • Doctrinal unity does not exist today • Therefore we must utilize unity in diversity • But where are the “limits” to be found?
Romans 14 and Unity in Diversity “Within certain limits, God grants to Christians the right to a private conscience in matters of ‘faith.’ I believe that right is discussed in Romans 14. However, whether or not one accepts my exegesis of that passage, honest minds must acknowledge the reality of a past and present Christian world that tolerates contradictory teachings and practices on important moral and doctrinal questions” (Ed Harrell, “The Bounds of Christian Unity , May, 1990, p. 134).
Again... “It would be less than honest to argue that scriptural local churches always exist without imperfections and, indeed, without some diversity of belief. At least two chapters written by the apostle Paul, Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 10 speak in detail of the proper approach to disagreement” (Ed Harrell, “The Parameters of Fellowship,” CM , March/April, 1997, p. 20).
Unity of the Spirit - - Unity in DiversityTwo Mindsets • Obviously, these are contradictory ideas • Unity of Spirit attempts unity based on “thus saith the Lord” (doctrinal unity) • Unity in Diversity tolerates important moral and doctrinal differences, sinful practices • Debate began on divorce issues • Have now broadened to other issues and will continue to broaden 2 Tim 3:13
How Will These Mindsets Be Resolved? • Open discussion, brotherly debate, public and private study of God’s word, or... • Closed journals, cancelled meetings, suspicions of one another, character assassinations and widening division • Unity in Diversity now defended as correct approach to moral and doctrinal differences. • Unity in Diversity is a new Hermeneutic!
Areas of Defense for Unity in Diversity - “Tradition” • “We have practiced unity in diversity in the past and should continue to do so.” • Appeals made to notable brethren of past who were willing to maintain fellowship on divorce disagreements, even premillennialism, etc. • Earl Kimbrough uses this “historical” approach to encourage brethren to fellowship each other in doctrinal disagreements in his booklet:“How Shall We Treat Brethren With Whom We Disagree?” • Cf. Matthew 15:2-9
Areas of Defense for Unity in Diversity - “Inconsistency” • “Brethren Halbrook & Willis are inconsistent since they disagree about mdr.” • Widespread falsehood based on prejudice. • They do not disagree on the revealed faith: one man, one woman, for life, with one exception. (Each able to speak for himself) • They agree that the “cause” must be adultery. • There are areas of judgment not revealed: must “adultery” be in decree?; who files first at the court house?; when does actual divorce occur?
Areas of Defense for Unity in Diversity - “You Practice What we Practice” • No, we practice “unity of the Spirit;” others practice “unity in diversity” • Fellowship in differences of authorized libertyRom 14 (things “clean,” “good,” “pure” ) • Unity in matters of “the faith” Jude 3; 1 Cor 1:10; 2 Tim 1:13; 1 Pt 4:11; 2 Tim. 4:1-5; 1 Cor 4:17 “everywhere in every church” • Discipline (patience) toward error Eph 4:11-16 • Unity in diversity is open-ended and on-going fellowship with error. This is different!
Areas of Defense for Unity in Diversity - “Accentuate the Positive - Eliminate the Negative” • A stated thematic of Christianity Magazine; defended, practiced, and never retracted • Does not allow “whole counsel” Acts 20:27 • Restricts examination of public error: 2 Tim 4:2 “reprove, rebuke, exhort” • Labels sound preaching as offensive Jn 6:59ff • Continued use of writers who publicly defended error: “accentuate the positive” • Refuse examination of error: “eliminate the negative”
Areas of Defense for Unity in Diversity - Rom 14 • “RESOLVED: The scriptures (including Romans 14) teach that ongoing fellowship may exist between Christians who believe each other are practicing moral and doctrinal error (for example, different practices and teaching regarding divorce and remarriage). (Internet message to Jeff Smith, Sept. 1999, from Jack Holt, Richardson, TX).
Areas of Defense Rom 14 - Cont’d • “Now the fellow who thought it could be a sin to eat those meats had to look at the other fellow and think he was sinning. Had to. In Rome, the fellow who thought it was a sin to eat any kind of meat would have thought you sinned if you ate a piece of meat. And yet Paul taught them that they should accept one another.” (Bob Owen, “We Differ, Can We Fellowship?” Concord, NC., Feb. 19, 1995). • Basis for “fellowship with sinful practice”
Text and Context of Romans 14 • Text: “Clean, good, pure, ” vv. 14, 16, 20 • Context: • Rom 13:11-14 no fellowship with moral sins • Rom 16:17-17 no fellowship with doctrinal sins • But unity in diversity demands fellowship with “contradictory teachings and practices on important moral and doctrinal questions” • UID demands an on-going and never-ending fellowship with sinful practices. Are you ready for that? It is an open door for Satan!
If All “Watchdogs” Died Today -Unity in Diversity Remains Active • If we are “doing it wrong,” who else is going to step up and battle this error? • The divorce issue (and others) and fellowship with those who promote it is alive and well • Looking beyond character assassination and personal attacks, there is a battle to be fought • The “sword of the Spirit” Eph 6:17 is unsheathed and must be used 2 Tim 2:3 • It is our time “under the sun” and we must not shirk our responsibility