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WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT CHURCH UNITY?

"Renewal and division are ultimately antithetical because...renewal is bound up with Christian unity. To divide the church in the cause of renewing it is no more feasible than cutting off the parts of a body so as to improve health." (1)(Michael Cassidy)

Thus a leading evangelical explains why he can openly cooperate with the proponents of an ecumenical theology (2) which rejects a divisive Reformation-based Gospel. These men proclaim a humanist vision for the future of the "church" and the world, a vision in which all humanity will be united by erasing all its divisions in a socialist New World Order (3). Tutu wrote in his 1986 Christmas message: “If we recognize our common humanity, that we do belong together, that our destinies are bound up with one another's, that we can be free only together, that we can be human only together, then a glorious South Africa will come into being where all of us live in harmony together as members of one family, the human family, God's family — brothers and sisters under God."(4)

All Divisions and Separations are not Evil
Contrary to the above, some divisions and separations are good! The ancient heresy of Platonism (today called "Holism") teaches that all divisions are evil (5). Christianity, however, teaches that some divisions are healing just as an amputation often is (Mt. 18:9; 1 Jn. 2:18f; Rom. 16:17). There would be no Protestant Churches if this were false. Christ did not come to create a Church unity that brings "equality" and "togetherness" to a mass of individuals upon the sole basis that all share a "common humanity"(6). All are not "brothers" because all don't have the same Father! Truth divides! Jesus, the Truth, brought "division upon the earth" on the basis of what men, families, and peoples do with Himself (Lk. 12:50, Mt. 10:34f). Thus, there is an eternal division between "wheat" and "tares" (Mt. 13:24f) and permanent warfare between the sons of lawlessness and the invisible, united Church. There can be no "unequal yoke," no compromise, and no appeasing dialogue with Satan's sons. Instead, the Church is destined for victory over them (Rev. 18-19).

"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers, for what harmony is there between Christ [righteousness, light, a believer] and Belial [wickedness, darkness, unbeliever]? (2 Cor. 6:14-16)

Christ Did Not Pray for World-Church Unity, Destroying Real Diversity
"I pray also for those who will believe in Me...that they may be one as We are one"
(Jn. 17:20-22). In this prayer, Jesus is not calling for a united-world "family of God." The proponents of "world-church unity" are not Christians but humanists serving the idol ‘humanity’. Secular and Revolutionary Humanists (Social Gospel and Liberation Theology) are working not for spiritual unity in the resurrected Christ, but for structural union in a centralised, united world-church. Their goal is to use the church as a power block to help build a unitary world-state. The beginnings of this are the present attempt to create structural unity within and between various denominations as well as embryonic attempts to bring various religions together in "ecumenical organizations" sharing in the "liberation struggle."

Now, when Christ prayed for the Church to be "one" as the Triune God is "one," He did not teach an absolute church unity that denies any real diversity. If so, He would have denied that He and His "Father are one" yet still distinct, self-conscious, self-determining, and, yes, interdependent Personalities (Jn. 17:22, 5). God eternally exists as "True Diversity in Real Unity." Because God is eternally Triune, neither the principle of unity nor diversity is prior to the other. Applied to the doctrine of God, a denial of real diversity leads to the heresy of Modalism (God is one person, merely appearing as three). On the other hand, the denial of real unity would lead to Tri-theism (there are three gods). The Bible, however, teaches a Trinity (one God, eternally existing in three Persons). Similarly, the Church is not uniform sameness, nor absolute diversity but real self-determining-diversity-in-true-spiritual-unity. Christ's prayer for Church unity will not result in a breakdown of real self-determining, self-conscious group diversity under Christ.

Church Unity in the Teaching of the Sects...and the WCC-SACC
Some teach that the visible church must not be rooted in and identified with any group because that would deny her essential unity and universality. They cite: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; ...all are one..." for "Christ is all and in all" (Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11)

Dawid Bosch, a Dutch Reformed theologian, adopts this holistic interpretation: "Evangelism as such itself involves a call to be incorporated into a new community, an alternative community. As Padilla [says]..., 'It may be true that "men like to become Christians without crossing [ethnic and social] barriers"..., but that is irrelevant. Membership in the body of Christ is not a question of likes or dislikes, but a question of incorporation into a new humanity under the lordship of Christ. Whether one likes it or not, the same act that reconciles one to God simultaneously introduces the person into a community where people find their identity in Jesus Christ rather than in their race, culture, social class, or sex...'."(9)

In other words, a unitary-church unity is prior to any diversity. Logically, if this quote is true, no Christian can identify with either gender group, nor can he be patriotic to any nation, nor need he respect and honour his parents' language, traditions, and culture. Holists ([neo]-Platonists) claim that all of these cause divisions in the unity of humanity. "Group" is polluted with the evil of separation, distinction and non-wholeness. This is not Biblical Christianity! Holistic Christians wish to strip every believer of any divisive identity so that he/she [it?] can become part of a non-divided "New Humanity." Until recently, throughout all Church history, only sects such as the Quakers and Anabaptists have read Holism into these church unity Scripture passages. Their purpose was to prove the heretical concept of the absolute unity and equality of every "person" (i.e. individualism). Now, if holists are consistent with their interpretation of the church unity passages, they must also break down all distinction between Christ and His people. The passages say "all are one in Christ" and "Christ is all in all!" Indeed some have taught exactly this! For many proponents of holistic, ecumenical theology, church unity is a world-union in "god" of identity-less individuals. Each must lose his identity in the wholeness which is God. Holism is a heresy. It is nothing less than a Western form of Eastern religion (e.g. pantheistic Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism).

Church Unity does not destroy the concept of an indigenous "Volkskerk"
However, when all the similar church unity Scripture passages are examined, Paul denies neither unity nor the identity of group diversity. For example: "For as the body is one and yet has many members...so also is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptised [resulting] in one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free. We were all made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:12-13)

Paul here teaches that each group is placed into One Body not merely as individuals. All maintain their group identity. Paul taught an essential spiritual unity of believers who maintain their ethnic (Jew, Greek, Barbarian, Scythian), social class (slave, free), and gender (male, female) identity. Paul was not a Holist! Acts demonstrates how the Spirit incorporates into Christ's Body Judeans, Samaritans and Romans, and then the heathen peoples in "the uttermost parts." When the Jews tried to force the Gentile converts to become ethnic Jews practising Jewish customs, Paul fought for their group freedom. The Apostles agreed, allowing a de facto division in the Church universal (Acts 15). This division in the Church was not evil because all were still in communion (fellowship) with each other, all maintained the Biblical ground of church unity (one confession of Christ as Lord, one apostolic teaching, one table and one baptism, and a common discipline)(10). A God-created ethno-linguistic group may exercise self-determination within the unity of the whole church provided that the Biblical grounds of unity are met.

Paul brought freedom to the Gentile peoples while teaching that all are not "without the Law of God but under the Law of Christ." In evangelism, he became a "Jew to the Jews," and "a Gentile to the Gentiles" (1 Cor. 9:19f). Paul, an ethnic Jew, identified himself openly with his people (Rom. 9:1f, 11:1f). He did not claim that believers become "nons" —members of a Third Human Race ("not Jew nor Greek") —stripped of all group identity. To the contrary, he even singled out the Church of Crete as a distinct ethnic group in the unity of the whole and gave them a "sharp rebuke.... Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." (Tit. 1:12)!

Paul taught that the Kingdom of God, of which the visible church is one aspect, is no longer tied to nor sheltered by the Israelite people-nation. It is tied to every believing people who can now enter into a similar covenant relationship with God as Israel had. The prophets looked forward to the day when all peoples will be covenant peoples. One day "all ethnic Israel" and all the heathen peoples will be "grafted into a...cultivated olive tree" (i.e. the promise God gave to Abraham that all the families of the peoples should be blessed in his seed —Christ (Rom. 11:22f) (11).

"Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The LORD...will bless them..., 'Blessed Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.'... All the nations You have made will come and worship before You...Lord; they will...glorify Your Name" (12)

Paul looked forward to the Great Commission being fulfilled when all peoples would be discipled and baptised as a whole. Then the Church visible would be rooted in the language-culture of "all the families of the peoples" (Ps. 22:27-28; 96). Jesus said "disciple the peoples" [as a whole], not "extract some from every people" to make a New [groupless] Humanity. In Ephesians 2, Paul taught that the "dividing wall of separation was removed." This was the ceremonial law (2:14-15) which did not allow the heathen ethnic groups to become full fellow-citizens in the Covenant (the Kingdom of God) without having to give up their own distinct culture. The Gentiles (lit. "heathen ethnic groups")(13) as peoples - not just as individuals - were once "far off." Now, however, they can enter into a covenant unity with God in Christ "through the Spirit" just as Israel was. All peoples can now become part of the "Household of God" and "the Temple of God," not just ethnic Israel (2:19 - 22). The heresy of "individualism" must not be read into these passages. The Church invisible, the "Heavenly Zion" (Ps. 87; Gal. 4:26, Heb. 12:22) is not non-ethnic and individualistic but multi-ethnic and multi-group.

The Unity of the Church is Covenant Submission, Not Holistic Union
What then does "all are one in Christ for He is all and in all" mean? This phrase speaks about covenant subjection to God-in-Christ, not a holistic union of individuals. 1 Cor. 15 uses a similar phrase. The context is the present Kingdom reign of Christ. He has been given "all authority in Heaven and earth" (15:25-27; cf. Mt. 28:18) and is reigning until He puts all hostile "powers and authorities" as well as all His other enemies into practical subjection to Himself and His people (cf. Dan. 7:14f). Then He will Himself "be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God [the Father] may be all in all" (15:28) (14). Ephesians 1 also uses the same phrase in a context of covenant submission to the Headship/Lordship of Christ. There the Church [universal and invisible] ("the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (1:22-23)) equals all individuals and groups who have bowed the knee in subjection to Him (she is "His fullness"). Christ's Church does not break down family, ethnic, or gender distinctions but is predestined to grow until every such group is in covenant submission to King Jesus in the New Jerusalem above (cf. Mt. 13:31-33). All "kings" (civil government), "all families of every people" will live there in harmony, yet maintain their identity into eternity. The Revelation of John states this unequivocally. Those who deny this must first assume Holism (i.e. that all divisive ethnic and gender identity is evil and therefore not eternal).

“I saw...the New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven.... They will be His people [unity].... The nations [diversity: ‘ta ethne’ in Greek], and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. The angel showed me the...tree of life [whose] ...leaves are for the healing of the nations...."(15)

Conclusions
1) Those saying, "the invisible Church [the Heavenly Jerusalem] must become visible," must then logically use the visible institutional church to control every-thing. This would repeat the Pope's Medieval attempt to be absolute Lord. Biblically, the visible church is only one expression of the New Jerusalem above. Christ reigns there as Lord of Church, state, and family. 2) Scripture says that no confessing believer can be excluded from the Lord's Table or from the Meeting (Jms. 2; 1 Cor. 11:17f). However, if a local church and grouping of churches are truly rooted and grounded in language/culture, then people from other groups will not feel culturally at home there no matter how much genuine love is demonstrated. 3) Forced exclusion/separation is as evil as coerced "unity." Our Lord brought freedom!

(1). Renewal. 10/87, p 12.
(2). cf. the National Initiative for Reconciliation and the Mamelodi Encounter in which Dr D Tutu, Mr. F Chickane. and Dr. A. Nolan, took part as "brothers in Christ."
(3). J. G. Allan. “Say 'NO!’ In the New World Order”.
(4). Readers Digest, 12/86
(5). Rushdoony, The One and the Many
(6). See paper number 1 “Reconciliation”
(7). Cf The Humanist Manifesto 1 (1933) and 2 (1973).
(8). GDL Newsletter, 11.88.
(9). D. Bosch, citing [Anabaptist] theologian Rene' Padilla [Serfontein, Apartheid, Change and the NGK. p. 258]
(10) Communion not uniformity, Rushdoony. This Independent Republic, p. 84f. Eph. 4:1-4; 1 Cor 10:17f; 11:17f.
(11). Rom. 15:7-12, 4:9f; Gal. 3:8-16; 26- 29; Abrahamic covenant: Gen. 12:3, 17:5, 18:18, 22:18, 26:4, 28:14, 15, 49:10, 13; conversion of the peoples: cf. Rom. 11, 15 J. Murray, Romans, I Murray The Puritan Hope.
(12). Is. 19:23-25; Ps. 86:9.
(13). Greek "la ethne" = more than just "non-Jews." 40% of the time used of a people in ethno-linguistic solidarity especially quotes from the LXX translating "goyim".
(14). Ps. 47:7-8, 22:27-28, 94:10.
(15). Rev. 21- 22

Mark Kreitzer, December 1988.

Gospel Defence League
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