False Unity in an Overly-Simplistic Jesus?

I've become involved in a discussion on the GLCC Alumni Forum concerning unity and the essentials of Chrsitianity. This is a compilation and revision of my various posts.

In order for us to be unified we need to stop focusing upon intellectual unification but on acts of love that we can participate in together. I seem to always be singing the same song, but that seems to be the song the body of Christ could unify on. I think that is why I sing it.

If we start doing things together, we will eventually be unified. In my experience, nothing joins people together more than working together. If we just talk about unity and allow it to remain an intellectual concept, it will never happen because we disagree on some of the intellectual concepts.

Since the Church of Christ/Christian Churches are such a scattered bunch of congregations, unity can really only exist on a local level. It doesn't matter if the professors of the various Bible colleges of the different brotherhoods are unified. It doesn't matter if a few of the leaders in the different brotherhoods are unified. It will only matter if the churches themselves find common ground and start doing things together. It needs to be a task that we take on locally and not globablly because two of three branches only exist locally.

But we are left with the huge question of what are the essentials that we cannot compromise for the sake of unity. What are the essentials of the faith? I'm betting that even those of us in the same branch of the Restoration Movement wouldn't even agree on those. And those of us reading this blog haven't been able to do it either.

When it becomes an intellectual unity, unity will never happen. For everyone that thinks instruments are a secondary issue, there is someone who thinks it is essential. For those who think that homosexual ministers is a secondary issue, there are some who think it is essential. For those who think that speaking in tongues is a secondary issue, there are some who think it is essential. For those who think that pre-millenialims is a secondary issue, there are some who think it is essential. There are so many subdivisions in the church that think certain minor issues are essential. The problem is where to draw that line between essential and secondary.

And we must remember that it is always easier for the more liberal people to accept unity because they are not the ones who feel they are associating with a pagan.

The general reply to a discussion about the essentials of the faith is "Jesus" is the essential, but I believe it is much more complex than that.

Here is an interesting article on the subject.

Here are some of the highlights.

"Mr. Barna defines "born-again Christians" as those who report having made a personal commitment to Christ and expect to get to heaven because they accepted Jesus."

"More than one in three (35 percent) born-again Christians do not believe that Jesus rose physically from the dead."

"Over half of born-again Christians (52 percent), according to Mr. Barna's data, do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a living entity."

"born-again Christians are more likely than non-Christians to have experienced divorce (27 percent vs. 24 percent). "

"Preachers sometimes exhort people to "invite Jesus into your heart" without proclaiming who Jesus is and what He has done for sinners. This is evangelism that forgets to preach the gospel. The result will be "nonevangelical born-agains.""

Here is another interesting story.

"A recent Gallup Poll shows that 84 percent of this nation firmly believe in Jesus Christ and a separate poll indicates that 94 percent believe in God. "

If you define Christians as people who believe in your view of Jesus, then, of course, all Christians will share your view of Jesus, but if you say believing in Jesus makes you a Christian, then we are about as Christian of a nation as one can be. The question is what do we do with people who claim they are Christian, use the name of Jesus, but don't really mean the Biblical Jesus. Do we seek to have unity with them? Where do we draw the line with people when it comes to having unity? The common belief is at Jesus. I asked at what view of Jesus.

I think we have a bad case when take the "only Jesus" approach because we have not unpacked the word Jesus. We say Jesus with the assumption that the concepts that define who he is are really simplistic when our view of Jesus isn't simplistic. We have a lot of complex ideas that we carry with our concept of Jesus, which I do assume is the right one. Virgin birth. Sinless life. Died on the cross for our sins. Rose from the dead. Those are just the beginning.

Just because an individual has "died to themselves" doesn't mean that the "Jesus" they are living for is the Biblical Jesus. We could be referring the Jehovah Witnesses' Jesus who is the archangel Michael. We could be referring to the Mormon Jesus who was just a man. We could be referring to the modern secular scholarly Jesus who didn't perfom miracles. We could be referring to all sorts of different imaginary Jesuses.

I think that when we say "Jesus" we bring a lot of baggage. We mean that the Bible is accurate and that the presentation of who Jesus was in Scripture is the one we are to follow. So we've already thrown another essential into the mix, the trustworthiness of Scripture.

I've been trying to come up with a list of essentials for years. I remember having conversations about this when I was in college. I still can't do it. I don't know what to narrow the essentials down to. It seems if I make a list I compromise some essentials. The whole Bible is an essential. It gets difficult when I try to minimize it to a slogan or a list.

If people can come up with essentials that are necessary for unity, I would love to hear them. However, I think I would rather error on the side of being unified with the wrong people rather than being exclusive, but that could be wrong.

Watch out for the potholes.