I’M ALL FOR UNITY
By Will Graham
I’m all for unity. Of course I am. After all, unity is God’s grand purpose in every sphere of created life. Unity in diversity reflects the triune nature of the Almighty.
When God created man, He didn’t leave him alone. He made him a precious helpmate so that there would be unity in diversity. Adam and Eve together represent the Lord’s grand ideal for humankind. Only with both in existence did Scripture declare that they were in the Lord’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:27). Being two, they were one. Just as the Trinity: being three, they are one.
God’s passion for unity, however, doesn’t just entail the created world but the redeemed realm also. Christ’s prayer for His church was that, “they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:22). The church of Christ was to be a united church transcending all nations, tongues, tribes and people groups. Being many, they were to be one.
But in what sense did Jesus intercede for them to be ‘one’? Did He simply desire unity for the sake of visible unity? Or was His request for oneness a little more specific? If we read a little earlier in John 17 we’ll get the answer.
John 17:8 speaks about the conditions of Christian unity. The unity of the disciples was to major upon the doctrine taught by Jesus. Let me just quote that verse: “For I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have surely known that I came out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send me”.
So before Jesus prays for unity in verse 22, He presupposes in verse 8 that His followers have received His teaching (which came from His Father). This means that the Christian appeal to unity must always be qualified: it is a unity that stems from a common adherence to Jesus’ teaching. Where there is no assent to Jesus’ doctrine, there can be no Gospel unity.
This biblical discovery is of utmost importance for our contemporary church scene where the chant sounding forth from all sectors of ecumenical Christendom (Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and liberal Protestant) is: “Unity, unity! Let’s form a happy community!”
The problem is that the unity longed for in our days is not a qualified unity i.e. unity on Christ’s terms (as John 17:8 makes clear). It is just a generalized, decaffeinated and sugar-free definition of unity that embraces any confession of faith as long as it promises not to offend anyone or anything else. This tepid man-made notion of unity is thoroughly devoid of any Jesus-centred content and hence it can immediately be written off as non-Christian and non-biblical. It is against this type of unity which we must wage warfare today. This is not the precious unity mentioned by the Lord Christ in John 17:8 which makes known the glory of the Father and the Son.
A unity which is not based upon the words of Jesus is a spurious unity. It is not even worthy to be called such. This is why I refuse to follow the paths of such former Protestant folk as Peter Kreeft and Ulf Ekman who ultimately converted to Catholicism or modern-day mega pastors Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen who are openly praising and embracing Pope Francis. Here are eleven brief reasons why I am a staunch unbeliever when it comes to walking in unity with the Vatican.
1.- Mariology. An excessive devotion to the mother of Christ. Catholicism believes that she was born sin free and ascended to heaven as Christ did.
2.- Idolatry/superstition. Rome teaches her followers to reverence images, statutes and representations as well as praying to dead saints. This is idolatry.
3.- Apostolic succession. The idea that modern day bishops, cardinals and the Pope can trace their lineage directly back to the original apostles of Christ and therefore are always correct in their doctrine. The Catholic Church’s authority, therefore, rightly interprets the Bible. Rome is the true teacher; not the illuminating work of the Spirit of God.
4.- Papal infallibility. The belief that the Pope cannot err when he speaks “ex-cathedra”.
5.- Clergy/lay divide. There is no concept of the universal priesthood of all believers. The priests are especially anointed and are considered holier than run of the mill saints.
6.- Transubstantiation. The idea that the bread and wine in the Eucharist literally become the body and blood of Christ once the priest invokes the Lord in prayer.
7.- The Apocrypha. The belief that the Deuterocanonical books (included in Catholic Bibles) have binding authority within the church of Christ.
8.- Purgatory. An imaginary post-mortem place (neither heaven nor hell) where people get purified before going to glory.
9.- Seven sacraments. Rather than believing that only Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are Christ-ordained ordinances, Roman Catholicism teaches that confirmation, penance, anointing for healing, ordination to the holy orders and marriage are also sacraments. Their idea is that the sacraments guarantee the grace of God. The Bible, however, begs to differ. A baptized pig just gets wet; it doesn’t get forgiven.
10.- Mortal and venial sins. A division of sins into different categories of wickedness. Mortal ones are serious; venial sins aren’t all that bad.
11.- Elimination of the Second Commandment. The Catholic Catechism makes no mention of the Second Commandment, opting to divide the Tenth Commandment- “You shall not covet”- into two parts.
Tell me, how in the world can I walk in unity with Roman Catholicism and be faithful to John 17:8? Answer: I can’t.
Once again, I’m all for unity. But unity on Christ’s terms. Unity with those who believe and practice what Jesus taught. As Charles Spurgeon (1834-92) once put it, “Unity in error is unity in ruin”.