Reasons to Believe

The Problem of Christian Disunity Part 1

I once heard a skeptic ask the following provocative question:

“Why should I seriously consider Christian truth-claims when Christendom is so deeply divided?”

I smarted when I heard this question because there is some painful truth in the skeptic’s point. Disunity amongst believers does at times hurt the Christian church’s witness to an unbelieving world (John 13:34-35). However, I also think that people who raise this criticism often fail to appreciate certain critical points about historic Christianity and its central truth-claims. In this series I will offer five points in response to this important challenge.

Historic Christianity Possesses Strong Unity in Essential Beliefs, Values, and Worldview Orientation

The Christian faith encapsulates a set of beliefs, a collection of values, and encompasses a broad world-and-life view. In these three critical areas that define the nature of historic Christianity, the faith holds a robust unity.

Essential Beliefs

The essential doctrinal beliefs of historic Christianity are summarized in the ecumenical creeds of Christendom. These creeds, formulated at various points in church history, include the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the Creed of Chalcedon.

As statements of faith, they broadly represent the basic teachings of Scripture on such critical topics as God, creation, the church, humankind, the future, and—most importantly—the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The person, nature, and work of Jesus Christ stands at the very heart of the Christian theological system.

Though the three major branches of Christendom (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant) still reflect some sharp and critical doctrinal disagreements, the theological precision and historical continuity reflected in the creeds on the basic level of doctrinal unity is impressive. Critics of historic Christianity sometimes fail to appreciate this profound level of essential theological accord.

Essential Values

While Christians certainly don’t see eye-to-eye on every major ethical consideration, nevertheless, they show a strong level of agreement when approaching the subject of ethics. Historic Christian theology grounds ethics in God’s perfect moral nature and views God’s ethical will as being reflected in His revealed commands (Imago Dei, Ten Commandments, Golden Rule. The command to love God and one’s fellow neighbor is a basic moral truth that binds Christian believers throughout the world and the centuries together. The belief that human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and thus possess inherent dignity and moral worth is foundational to all Christian ethical considerations.

Essential Worldview

A person’s worldview represents their big-picture view of reality. It refers to a cluster of beliefs a person holds about the most significant issues of life (such as God, the cosmos, knowledge, values, humanity, and history). The major branches of Christendom all share a basic and robust worldview orientation. Therefore, historic Christians of all stripes view the world and life through the same basic lenses. This fundamental worldview orientation means that Christians look at such things as truth and reality in the same way–a guarantee that Christians share a common perspective on all things.

While disunity among Christians is a problem that hurts the overall Christian witness, many people fail to appreciate the tremendous unity that historic Christians share. Next week we’ll explore the challenge of denominationalism.

For more on the essential beliefs, values, worldview orientation of historic Christianity, see my two books Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions and A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Subjects: General Apologetics

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that “all truth is God’s truth.” As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity’s truth-claims. Read more about Kenneth Samples.