An Answer to Pietism Regarding Unity

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From an explanation of the Anglican Prayer Book:

What do people often say respecting the importance of unity among Christians?

That outward and organic unity is of little consequence so long as we have unity of spirit. [Note: What happens when word doesn’t become flesh? Self-delusion on a base of Deism.]

What reply do you make to this?

There can be no true unity of spirit where there is outward disunity. If we have unity of spirit, outward unity will follow as naturally as the blossom follows the bud. The one is the natural and necessary consequence of the other.

What else do people often say?

That ‘when we get to heaven it will make no difference what Church we belong to,’ or that ‘if we love the Lord Jesus Christ sincerely, nothing else is required.’ [Note: I get so annoyed by such sentiments, because it belittles both doctrine and unity.]

What reply do you make to this?

We say that love to Christ is undoubtedly the foundation of all true Christian character; but if we love Christ sincerely we shall be very careful to keep His commandments and to live in unity with His Church.

Does not our Lord sanction the division of Christians into separate and independent bodies or congregations, when He says, ‘Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them’?

No; these words emphasize the importance of cooperation and unity among His followers in contrast to individualism and disunity.

What else is often said to show that God approves of divisions among Christian people?

‘See how much good they do, and how they flourish. If it were wrong to separate from the Church, would God bless them as He evidently does?’ [Note: Is it not possible for God to work in spite of your damnèd good intentions? Consider also whether the fruit is actually good, or whether it merely appears so, good for food, and a delight to the eyes, and to be desired to make one wise.]

What do we reply to this?

God blesses everyone who has zeal and piety and devotion, but the fact that God commends and rewards our character and life in general does not release us from the obligation to carry his will in corporate life work.

How do we know that Christian unity will ever come?

Because Christ Himself prayed for it, and Christian people everywhere are beginning to desire it.

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