By Dennis Lynd
Ecumenicity is the current theme of many religious groups in the world. “Unity with diversity” is the resounding cry, which will be an ensign under whom all religious bodies will gather in sacred harmony. Love will be a cure-all. Factions, heresies and party spirits will no longer divide the religious world. Unity is something that our Savior prayed for (John 17) and that every Christian is to strive for (Eph. 4:1-3). However, before we launch into this effort, perhaps there are a few things we should consider about this plea for “unity with diversity.”
Denominational View: “Diversity in unity and unity in diversity is the law of God in history as well as in nature.” Behind this concept, Philip Schaff in his History of the Christian Church suggests that “Every Protestant denomination has its own field of usefulness, and the cause of Christianity itself would be seriously weakened and contracted by the extinction of any one of them.” He maintains that “The spirit of narrowness, bigotry and exclusiveness must give way at last to a spirit of evangelical catholicity, which leaves each denomination free to work out its own mission according to its special charisma, and equally free to co-operate in a noble rivalry with all other denominations for the glory of the common Master . . . .” “Every denomination and sect has to furnish some stones for the building of the temple of God.” “And out of the greatest human discord God will bring the richest concord.” This presents the spirit of denominationalism at its taproot.
View in Mission Messenger: Several religious groups in the United States share a common heritage in the restoration movement of the last century. Spearheading the drive for ecumenicity among these peoples is the Mission Messenger, edited by Carl Ketcherside. In an article entitled “Unity With Diversity,” Patrick Phillips sets forth 76 points of controversy over which fellowship is not usually severed. Then he presents 30 issues over which fellowship usually is cut off. Among these he mentions premillennialism, speaking in tongues, institutionalism, and polygamy. Phillips blames these divisions on “lack of love,” “party spirit,” “refusing to accept Scriptural teaching on
Christian liberty and tolerance,” and “failing to limit disfellowshipping to Scriptural grounds.” The writer suggested that we should re-examine each of the 30 differences and “re-determine whether or not a break in fellowship was Scriptural.” The author continues, “I venture to suggest that if we did this we might have unity among believers over night.” “May God help us to realize that there is such a thing as unity in diversity. “
Scriptural View: “But now are they many members, yet but one body.” The Bible teaches that the individual members (people) contribute to the good of the unit, or one body (i.e. church Cf. 1 Cor. 12). This is “unity with diversity.” A Christian cannot unite with any doctrine that would bring in divers bodies, Spirits, faiths, etc. (Eph. 4). There has been a body of doctrine given that we must contend for earnestly (Jude 3). Our love for God and His Truth must have precedence over out love for man and unity (Matt. 22:36ff).
How many times must the ranks of Christs legions be decimated before old errors such as denominationalism are recognized for what they are? The doctrines of Ketcherside are the marijuana to the heroin of denominationalism. One might at first be taken by the hallucinations of “love” and “spirituality” but in the end he finds his mind fogged, convictions lost and his spiritual health in shambles.
1. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 7 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), pp. 49-50.
2. Patrick Phillips, “Unity With Diversity” found in Carl Ketcherside, One Great Chapter (Saint Louis, Mo.: Mission Messenger, 1971), pp. 75ff.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 14, p. 13
February 8, 1973