In the first three installments of this series I have made three basic points in response to this challenging question concerning Christian disunity. While agreeing that disunity does exist and that it to some degree hurts the Christian witness to the world, I have argued: (1) Historic Christianity possesses an abiding unity in essential beliefs, values, and worldview orientation. (2) Having a variety of Christian denominations emits positive features that contribute to the health of the various Christian theological traditions. (3) Disunity in the Christian church is due to the fact that human nature is sinful (itself a biblical truth).
Yet even in appreciating these three important points, there is still much to be gained by Christians working to improve the unity of the church. Therefore, in this article I would like to propose two ways that Protestant evangelical Christians could promote more harmony within their ranks.
Finding Common Ground
Evangelical church bodies that share much theological ground in common should work toward building greater unity with each other. Let me begin with my own theological tradition within evangelicalism.
For example, there are several theologically conservative Reformed and Presbyterian church bodies (Calvinistic in theological orientation) that share a great deal in common in both doctrine and practice. These bodies include the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), and the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA), to name just a few. I am calling Reformed Christians, one of the original theological traditions of the sixteenth century Reformation, to greater ecclesiastical unity. Reformed Christians would garner greater attention and respect if they spoke with one consistent voice.
The same call could be made to all the conservative Lutheran church bodies. How about calling all the evangelical Wesleyans to a similar promotion of unity within Wesleyan ranks? Evangelical Baptists? Evangelical Episcopalians? The list goes on.
Churches that share common beliefs and practices should focus on these similarities and use them to bring about greater accord. This might be a challenging step, but it is nevertheless a significant one.
Working to revive God’s church is a wonderful service to the Lord and to his people. I am suggesting that before Christians add one more denomination or nondenomination to the long list of churches, that they prayerfully consider joining a historic Protestant church. And if it needs reinvigorating, then dedicate yourself to this important task.
Sometimes starting a fresh church is appropriate. But instead of starting brand new churches with little connection to the past, why not return to traditional Protestant denominational (or interdenominational) evangelical churches? Oftentimes a believer can find a historic Protestant church that is solidly evangelical in its theological orientation. There are still many traditional Protestant denominations that are not theologically liberal.
Since other branches of Christendom and nonbelievers often ridicule Protestantism for its constant splintering, it seems appropriate that unification should start with the original Protestant church bodies. This emphasis upon unity could help in promoting a more solidified witness to the unbelieving world.
In part 5, I will offer suggestions for taking action toward unity among God’s people.
For a principled call for reunion among evangelical church bodies, see John M. Frame, Evangelical Reunion: Denominations and the Body of Christ.
For a call to greater unity among conservative Reformed churches, see, Robert Godfrey, president of Westminster Seminary (in California).
For more on the essential beliefs, values, and 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.
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