Q. In your conclusion to Chapter 3, you show just how far the current divided church has really come from the original attempts of uniting Christians into one family. A good example, which you cite, of justifying a form of division comes in the case of messianic Jews, who see themselves as necessarily keeping apart from their Gentile brothers and sisters in worship and observance of the Mosaic law etc. This is one of the things I found most distressing about Mark Kinzer’s recent book trying to show how Luke-Acts advocates such a thing. I think Luke would be surprised to hear it! My question about all this is—- how much to do you think modern denominationalism, which is largely a Protestant thing, has become a sad justification of the de facto situation in which we find ourselves these days, hence no real efforts at unity (and I take most ecumenism as not really an effort to solve our problems of disunity which is such a bad witness to the world)?
A. Totally agree on all fronts. We have drifted such a long way from Paul. The irony is of course that Protestantism has made Paul its patron saint because of a particular reading of his justification teaching – which only really comes in two letters plus Philippians 3 and one or two other odd verses – and have IGNORED his constant plea for unity which comes, in one form or another, in every letter he wrote. No doubt this is partly because Protestants mostly had a bad conscience about splitting from the Roman Catholics (just as SOME Methodists did about splitting from Anglicanism!!). But it disturbs me now when I meet fine young preachers/teachers who are ‘church planters’ (nothing wrong with that) but who see no need, or even no point, in doing anything to link up with other Christians in the area. (Eventually of course some will link up with other ‘non-denominational’ groups… and then we have a new quasi-denomination…) Of course, as an Anglican myself I am horribly aware of the problems with mainstream churches, and particularly of those who use the ‘UNITY’ argument to say, ‘Now that we’ve made this radical revision to our message, we must all unite behind it…’
Thanks for all these, Ben, Huge questions and there’s no time to write the whole other book that would be required to do them justice! Hope you enjoy the second half of the book too!