Thursday, June 07, 2007

We're One, But We're Not the Same

Ecumenical calls for visible, institutional unity among believers have led to everything from the establishment of the World Council of Churches to the more modest appeals for Reformation churches to stop sniping at one another over the alleged "logical consequences" of their respective theologies.

Is it disingenuous for Reformed churches to simultaneously speak of unity while holding to confessions whose doctrinal lines serve as high, barbed-wired walls that keep out those whose soteriology cannot pass muster?

I don't think so....

As one commenter on the previous thread has pointed out, it is, ironically, the confessionalist who does a better job of maintaining at least a grassroots—though not institutional—unity among those in other traditions. It makes sense if you think about it: The pietists' emphasis upon the invisible aspect of God's church necessarily results in a very ambiguous test to determine who is "really saved" and who is just going through the motions (i.e., Presbyterian). If God has touched your heart, if you've been baptized with the Spirit, or if you're abiding in Christ through personal morning quiet times, you're probably in. If not, it may be time to rededicate.

By stressing the visible rather than the hidden and invisible aspect of the church, the Reformed confessionalist can foster a kind of unity with people from other communions (be they Lutheran, Anglican, or even Roman Catholic) which does not hinge upon burnings in the bosom, but upon something we can actually observe, i.e., the credible profession of one's faith in Jesus.

Sure, it's grassroots rather than institutional unity, but could it be that this is what the New Testament is calling us to in the first place?