Church of Christ Slogans Part 3 - In Essentials Unity

I am finally going to write on the last Church of Christ slogan.

"Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we're silent" brought some negative feedback.

Talking about "No Creed but Christ" brought up a questions by Ben that leads straight into this slogan.

Ben wrote, "Since there are many different churches that claim to follow Christ, but some obviously do not, how do we relate to those churches who do not seem to have Christ as their core? For that matter, do we associate with them at all? I'm thinking of Universalist, Unitarian, Christian Scientist, etc."

Now, we get to deal with my favorite Church of Christ slogan: "In essentials unity, In opinions liberty, In all things love." For a very thorough essay on the history of this saying, check out this website. This saying goes all the way back to Augustine.

Although the saying is great, we run into a big problem. Who decides the essentials?

Barton Stone, one of the founders of the Restoration Movement, wrote the following concerning this in the mid 1850s.

"Some who are opposed to a large creed-book as a plan of union, yet plead for the necessity of a few ESSENTIAL doctrines to be embodied, as a bond of union. But who shall determine what these essential doctrines are? Suppose it possible that every member of the Church on earth were together, and all agreed upon three or four doctrines as only ESSENTIAL, and that these only shall be tests of Christian union, would they all honestly agree, that should increasing light convince them that the doctrines received were wrong, they would still retain and defend them? Would they, or could they bind their posterity to believe and receive them? But these things are impossible. No formulary of doctrines can unite the Christian world. If it can unite a party, that union is only partial, and of short duration; it is a union of disunion, for unless we give up the right of thinking, and implicitly believe as the Catholics do, such creeds are vain."

What are the essentials?

I put off writing this because I was hoping to have an answer.

One might say Jesus is the essential. Whose view of Jesus? Do we have to believe that Jesus is God? Then we are adding to it another essential. Do we have to believe that Jesus had all the power of God? Then we are adding to it another essential. If we're honest with ourselves, when we say Jesus is the essential, we are actually saying our view of Jesus is the essential. Our view of Jesus comes with a ton of doctrinal baggage, each of which would add another line to our essentials. We would have a whole document of essentials just stating who we think Jesus is.

I would propose that love is essential. We are told to love our neighbors, love our enemies, and to realize that all other aspects of our faith is meaningless without love. How far does that love go? I've been in an intense discussion on the GLCC Alumni Forum about whether Christians are called to love their enemies always, even in times of war or the most extreme circumstances. Some would say we need to. Others would say that there are certain times when the most loving this we can do for someone is to kill the one oppressing them. We can't even agree as brothers and sisters in Christ what it means to be loving.

I would also propose that striving to live a holy life is essential. God tells us to be holy as He is holy. We are to repent from our sins. But even this point has a problem in that we can disagree on what being holy looks like. Some would propose isolation from the world. Others would propose being in the world, but not of the world.

I would propose that a belief that the Bible is our sole authority is essential. However, some will say that the Bible is all sufficient for the modern-day life. Others will say that the Bible leaves us a lot of room for opinons. Still no agreement.

I would propose that being filled with the Holy Spirit is essential. However, we still argue on this one. Some believe that we are inhabited with the Holy Spirit only as a seal of salvation. Others will argue that we need to speak in tongues to show its indwelling. Some on the gifts side won't even recognize those on the seal side as being saved and vice-versa.

So, I have put off writing this hoping that I would somehow arrive upon the answerthat has eluded us for millenia. I haven't unless you all want to agree with me. The essentials are Regan's views of Jesus, Regan's non-violent view of love, Regan's view of being in the world but not of the world, Regan's view of the Bible, and Regan's view of the Holy Spirit. If you have a question on exactly how these are to be lived out, then feel free to shoot me an email. This way we can have a unified body of Christ.

That last paragraph (for the sarcastic impaired) ended sarcastically. But it seems to be the stance that most people have. We can have unity in the essentials, but only if you let me decide what the essentials are. Some people are happy just agreeing with words while the concepts behind those words vary tremendously.

I don't have an answer. If you have any insights or thoughts, feel free to post a comment.

But I still like the saying.

In essentials unity, In opinions liberty, In all things love.

Watch out for the potholes.