Does Unity Require Uniformity?

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The short answer is no and yes. The answer is no if you mean complete agreement in all things. The answer is yes if you mean the core doctrines of the Christian faith. When we say we have to have “unity without uniformity” we are talking about the first. We are saying that the Bible itself never required complete agreement in order to have unity in Christ. However, there are things that we must have uniformity of beliefs on in order to be Christians. In order to tease this apart we have to come to grips with the fact that in the Bible never every matter is of equal importance to God. God gives us leeway to differ on various matters. This is our religious liberty. But we do not have the liberty to differ on things like Jesus being the Christ, his death, burial and resurrection and several other “core doctrines.” Our problem has been that the way we have read, interpreted and applied the Bible we have often found a way to elevate every doctrine to be “core.” That is not, in and of itself, a biblical conclusion.

So yes we should have unity without uniformity and no we shouldn’t. It all depends on which issues you are talking about.

4 Responses

  1. We would think that the lesson in I Cor. on the eating of meats would make people realize that not all things are matter of doctrine, even those things that people believe and the letters to the Corinthians make it clear that it isn’t what you think about certain things, but what you believe about Jesus as the savior and Son of God and how you treat those around you, even those who believe differently about things that aren’t as you say core points of faith.

    Part of the problem, has been our use/abuse of CENI (Commands, Example and Necessary Inference) to make rules of law of God, but of course CENI is itself man-made.
    There are coC congregations that make the members fill out forms and check off what they believe to make sure they are unified on certain points beyond their belief in Jesus.
    It is strange what many will decide are points of unity/disunity.
    Instrumental music is a point of disunity, even though it just a inference and a weak one at that and head coverings are not, despite it being a direct command in the scriptures.

    The point is that we decide what is relevant and what isn’t, even though what was relevant in the scriptures was Christ and unity in Christ.

  2. I think most people would agree that we only need uniformity on essentials but we can never agree on what is essential. To some people a belief in the 5 Acts and the 5 Steps is essential (I have sat through a discussion on the efficacy of taking the LS to shut-ins if they are not also given a helping of prayer, singing, sermon and giving). For some, one loaf or one cup is essential. I know many people who think the belief that we are the one and only true church is essential and that any congregation that would cooperate with a “denomination” in any matter is beyond the pale. In his comment Dwight used a term that divides some of us: are we coC or CoC? How can we ever have unity if we can’t agree on what is essential? I sincerely believe that the CoC is as divided now as we were before the CoC/DoC divide and that we will continue to be more divided as time goes on.

    1. If we are going to be biblical we need to rely on the Bible itself to instruct us as to what is essential. Instead we have created a way of reading/interpreting the Bible that makes everything top level important. That isn’t biblical, if we actually care to be biblical.

  3. What is amazing to me is that Alexander Campbell was trying to move people towards the concept of unification and yet what came out from his movement was a group that tended towards less unification.
    We separate from others because they have the name of a man, which I guess caused God to dislike the Israelites and Judah, etc. Then we separate based on the fact they have no name. Everyone is a denomination except up of course, even though denomination means to take a name, which includes us, but not those who have no name.
    I agree we should be biblical, but we need to concentrate on those things that the Bible itself placed as important…love…unity…kindness…giving, etc.

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