How differing Christians can work together

standing together

notsogoodphotography, Flickr

The lack of unity among Christians is lamentable. But the divisions are oftentimes real and over genuine differences of interpretation and understanding. These cannot be papered over or wished away. But neither can we simply stay isolated, one from the other.

It seems there are three ways to approach ecumenism: the nice approach, the eschatological approach, and the co-belligerency approach.

1. The nice approach

The first is to look at the differences between ourselves and dismiss them, even the big ones. Don’t believe in the virgin birth or the resurrection? No problem; pull up a chair! I don’t believe this approach honors God or the testimony of our faith, as it essentially says such things are unimportant.

2. The eschatological approach

The second is to stand together now on the assumption that our differences will over time (maybe even centuries or more) grow fewer or less pronounced as we all grow more in the image of Christ. Even if you’re coming from opposite sides of the globe, the closer you get to true North, the closer you get to each other. I think this is appealing in that it assumes the best of our neighbor and that grace will have its effect, while not insisting that we cheapen our testimony by turning blind eyes to serious disagreements in the present.

Call this the eschatological approach, as it will only find its fulfillment in the coming kingdom in which we live now only partially. This obviously works best with those with whom you already share some significant common ground.

3. The co-belligerency approach

The third option is perhaps best called the co-belligerency approach. Baptists and Presbyterians and Catholics and Orthodox and Pentecostals have many areas of disagreement. But they are in large agreement on basic Christian morality and ethics, and also in the Triune God of the Bible and Creeds (at least in their content if not always their confession). Such Christians can stand in solidarity wherever they find such common ground.

From this angle, it’s actually quite similar to the second approach listed above, but it could be expanded beyond that. For the sake of accomplishing certain ends (perhaps, e.g., charitable or political), alignment could be made with Mormons, Muslims, Jews, and others who disagree with Christian doctrine but who find agreement in morals, social norms, etc.

While I think the first option is a dead end, I think there is a lot of value and merit in thinking about approaches two and three.

About Joel J. Miller

I'm the author of Lifted by Angels, a look at angels through the eyes of the early church. Click here for more about me or subscribe to my RSS here.

  • Rebecca

    I think at a personal level, option 2 is a good approach, with option 3 also appropriate at times. At an institutional level, however, all 3 give me pause. We must be very careful with Option 2 to avoid compromising our belief in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church to a vague “invisible” church, and with Option 3 to avoid giving the impression that Social Issues are the only thing that really matters anyway.

    • http://joeljmiller.com Joel J. Miller

      I think that’s a valid concern. Areas where we might see benefit could be in co-operating foodbanks and other charitable work, crisis pregnancy counseling. These and other endeavors might well reward strength in numbers, making nos. 2 and 3 above attractive, but your concerns are valid.

  • Rebecca

    I think at a personal level, option 2 is a good approach, with option 3 also appropriate at times. At an institutional level, however, all 3 give me pause. We must be very careful with Option 2 to avoid compromising our belief in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church to a vague “invisible” church, and with Option 3 to avoid giving the impression that Social Issues are the only thing that really matters anyway.

    • http://joeljmiller.com Joel J. Miller

      I think that’s a valid concern. Areas where we might see benefit could be in co-operating foodbanks and other charitable work, crisis pregnancy counseling. These and other endeavors might well reward strength in numbers, making nos. 2 and 3 above attractive, but your concerns are valid.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X