if it were written today

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Luther“; another, “I follow Calvin“; another, “I follow the Pope“; still another, “I follow Christ.”

Is Christ divided? Was Luther crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Luther?

( original text )

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17 Comments.

  1. This should be interesting.

  2. Dave~

    Here here.

  3. Good one, Dave. Needed to be said!

  4. Unfortunately, the Church is already divided. Dropping names won’t solve the problem, iether. I think such a statement (comical though it is) ignores the reality of the situation. We are all of Christ, Scripture teaches so, but alas we are not all of one Church. There is no way out, currently. That’s what the ecumenical movement is trying to figure out.

    That also means, that in merely finding a Church today you have to commit yourself to one of these divisions. There is no other options. Not going to Church and trying to claim to be a Christian is, well, unchristian. So find a Church and find one that is the best expression of a Biblical and historic faith. I mean, if Paul had to address this in the early days of the Church, is it still shocking that we have to deal with it today.

  5. by posting this, I was more lamenting the situation than saying I knew some magical solution. The truth is, I *don’t* know the solution. I just dislike the way things are. It’s despicable really, that we spend half our energy with petty infighting among different interpretations.

  6. But that begs the whole question, Dave. The question is whether or not the fighting is petty. I don’t see you up and joining a Roman Catholic church over the “petty” issue of how salvation is applied to us… afterall, they just have a different interpretation of how we are saved. No big deal, right?

  7. Lament doesn’t require innocence, does it? I’m every bit as guilty of this as anyone else. I mean, right now I’m discussing salvation with Ryan in another comment thread. The two of us certainly don’t agree.

    In fact, it would be bad for everyone to agree, with things as they are. We’d quickly become a lowest-common-denominator church that wasn’t a church at all.

    Petty was a poor word choice, perhaps. I’m sure not all intrachurch disagreements are petty. I really *do* lament the situation though.

  8. a. Jon is right, most divisions are not petty. Whether or not children should be baptized, whether or not Christ died for all, and whether or not one obtains grace by good works are three of the most important issues in theology and the three three most denoms have drawn battle lines on.

    b. Paul was writing against a party spirit, i.e. following Paul qua Paul over and against Apollos, etc, analogous to being a disciple of the various philosphers, e.g. “I am a Platonist” or “I am an Aristotelean.” By contrast, being a Lutheran doesn’t mean I consider Luther’s teachings to be authoritative. I neither know nor care what Luther said on a whole host of theological issues, nor do I agree with everything Luther said about everything. I believe that at the core, what he taught is the same as what Christ handed down through the apostles, and that the church that bears his name is faithful to the Gospel over and against contrary teachings.

    The same actually holds for the Apostle. Paul’s teachings are not authoritative simply because they are Paul’s, and, as Paulenes, we follow and promote everything he said. Paul repeated again and again that everything he taught was from Christ.

    Granted, there are many who treat certain men as authoritative, such as those in my own denomination who regard Luther’s word on an issue to be the authoritative statement. Or Calvinists who speak of “recovering Calvin’s doctrine of the Supper,” as though what Calvin said is definitively true.

    Despite these of counterexamples, there is a difference between dividing simply because of party spirit, which Paul addresses, whereas St John is quite happy to be separated from the gnostics in the First Epistle. The latter is justified; the former is not. The real question is which division are of which kind and when.

  9. That might be the most thoughtful (and least divisive) thing I’ve ever seen Josh post. Bravo!

  10. I’m gonna have to agree with Jacob on this (and Josh as well). Josh’s post really brought light to the issue for me. While I’d like to say I was thinking what Josh said all along, it’s just not the case.

    Thank-you for a well thought and well put comment Josh. (:

  11. now that the pot has settled, let me stir it some more.

    given that i mostly agree with Josh on this subject, what does the Church do about such a circumstance? We are splintered for sure. We can hardly agree on anything past the very very very basics. So do we keep arguing until we are all brought back into some great covenantal understanding? Do we just accept things as is until Christ’s return?

    I don’t mean to be a thorn, but i still don’t think that being happy with division is the right way to go.

    I would argue that our lack of unity is at least partly a result of our lack of Humility, Meekness and most of all Mourning. When we see our Calvinist friends straying from good Law/Gospel teaching what should our response be? Do we proclaim, “Stupid Calvinists, they’ll never get it right?” When the spurn our gentle attempts at correcting them, should we just give up? Argue harder? Hit them with an AL bat?

    I am convinced that what our Church is lacking is a genuine concern for those in error and a concern for God’s name being disgraced by division. We should mourn over their errors, and by mourn i don’t mean “God forgive them for their stupidity.” I mean “OH GOD, HOW IT MUST PAIN YOU TO SEE YOUR CHURCH IN SUCH DIVISION. PLEASE CORRECT US AND GRANT US UNITY FOR THY NAME SAKE!!!” (caps denote praying really really hard, and more than just once)

    Our forefathers, from Moses to Daniel to Jeremiah truly lamented over the sins and divisions in Israel. The Church is far more preoccupied with pointing out the logical fallacies in each others arguments or smoothing over important differences than anything else. Al we know is that it’s good to be a Baptist, or a Calvinist, or a Lutheran or a Methodist blah blah blah. So in this I agree with Dave, We should be VERY disturbed at the divisions, not because doctrine doesn’t matter but because it does. Further more; the divisions in the Church do not please God. How can the Church look like a fitting bride for Christ if we can’t even agree of basic doctrine? Christ’s prayers before his crucifixion included a plea with God to make us one as He and the Father are one. Though some of us are more right in our doctrine than others, if we do not long for the unity that Christ longed for us to have we are but banging drums.

    I have not seen any denomination address division from a mourning standpoint. I don’t care how good their doctrine is, nothing will really change until we change our very attitude towards division.

    just my humble thoughts on the subject…

  12. Actually, a number of the collects prayed on Sunday morning in my church reflect those kind of thoughts. How well these thoughts reflect what people think might be another issue.

    Actually addressing division means, well, addressing division. Schisms happen the most frequently when they cost the least. Currently, the cost is next to nothing. Denominational splits don’t mean breaks in eucharistic fellowship, not recognizing each other’s ordinations, or virtually any serious consequence you might imagine. Hence when the question “Is it worth splitting the church?” is asked, the answer is always “yes” because there are no consequences.

    You can refuse to recognize another denom’s baptism, call them perverters of the Gospel, heretics, etc, and it means absolutely nothing in practical consequences. You don’t get barred from anything except voters’ meetings. The sort of words denoms throw at each other today were serious fighting words in the early church. The consequences were serious, so the words were not used lightly, meaning the divisions were limited and most of the splinter groups died out within a hundred years or so. I mean, who remembers the Paulicans or the Sabellians? When you say “who were the pre-Reformation Christians” no one answers “Oh yeah, the Montanists, the Arians, the Nestorians, the Novatians, etc.” There’s only one, maybe two (certainly after 1054) groups you can list.

    Compare that with, say, Lutherans in America. We practice pretty strict church discipline when it comes to schism, and as a result, when someone asks “who are the Lutherans?” you get 2, maybe 3 answers: WELS, LCMS, and maybe the ELCA. Sure, there are several tiny splinter factions, but because of the fact that breaking from whichever body the broke from in the first place meant breaking fellowship, nobody remembers or cares who they are. And as a result, there are only 2 divisions within world Lutheranism that have made any significant waves: the acceptance of liberalism, and whether or not one should actively or passively seek to reconcile differences with other denominations.

    Similarly, there are not 20 groups jockeying for the name “Catholic” or “Orthodox.”

    I believe that if the consequences of division were more serious in Protestantism, the minor divisions would pretty much go away, and you’d have only about 4 or 5 significant non-liberal Protestant denominations in America (Lutheran, Arminian, Baptist, Reformed, and perhaps The Former Non-Denominational Churches) with maybe the same number of smaller-yet-not-ignorable ones (each corresponding to a larger denom). And all the little ones would then be ignored as irrelevant schismatics.

  13. This is a useless comment.

  14. a) why aren’t there more serious consequences to splintering in America?

    b) am i completely off base to relate the division of Christ’s Church to the Isrealites time of idol worship and wonton sin? if we can draw that parallel, then either God’s judgment is coming/all ready hear or we as The Church should do something about it. So far just cutting people out of fellowship has not done the trick. While it might be right to do so, cutting fellowship can’t be the last step.

    It’s going to take more than just some exploritory committy for the unifiacation of the the Church. First, the Church needs to be convicted that this is a sin, a problem and needs to be reconciled– all sides. Once convicted of this sin, as with the Isrealites in Ezra, we must cry out to our Priest, Christ, for what to do next. Those who can not see this as a real problem should be the first to be cut off. ….

    whatever… i give

  15. Actually, cutting people out of fellowship did the trick for fifteen centuries. Only 2 notable divisions managed to survive that long: Catholic/Orthodox and Orthodox/Monophysite (which has been reconciled in the last ten years).

    There are currently only 3 notable fellowships in Lutheranism.

    The only significant division I can think of in Calvinism while they still practiced closed fellowship was the Dortian/Remonstrant division.

    Then the 18th C hit, the Enlightenment made unionism in vogue, and it was all over.

  16. Ok, I guess you’d better cut me off now then.

  17. Um, you’re already not in fellowship with my church. There’s not much more we can do except give the ushers cattle prods.

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