This is my first contribution to this site, and I am very grateful to Chad Graham (the administrator) for the opportunity to be a part of something I think is so necessary. One of the first things you’ll notice on the site is its general purpose: “A blog exploring theology and ecumenism.” I’d like to address the latter.
This last semester I found myself particularly tuned into the work of Peter Kreeft, a philosophy professor at Boston College and King’s College. I was first drawn to his knowledge of C.S. Lewis and use of his apologetic work, a fondness I share wholeheartedly. After perusing his site I came across an audio file entitled “Ecumenism without Compromise – Denominationalism is not just a Christian scandal but absolutely intolerable.”
My first reaction to the subtitle was shrouded by skepticism. “The scandal of Denominationalism?” I was a little hesitant to listen because I thought Kreeft was going to go off the deep-end, and I had become so fond of his work up to this point.
To my surprise, Kreeft posited a position intrinsically Biblical. The premise of his argument is found in the latter part of Jesus’ prayer in John 17.
“ I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,  that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.  Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.  O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.  I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (ESV).
One of Jesus’ main concerns for future believers was unity. This unity is to be understood in the unity shared between the Father and the Son: “That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you” (v. 21). This spiritual unity Jesus was praying for was a unity expressed by love. This is a strong emphasis found throughout the letters of the New Testament.
In 1 Cor. 12:13, Paul is conveying to the church at Corinth that all believers belong to the one body of Christ. The context of chapter 12 and 13 is Paul addressing the church’s use of spiritual gifts. Ultimately, Paul expresses the purpose of these gifts:
“[24b] But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,  that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Cor. 12:24b-26, ESV).”
The transition from a thorough understanding of how these gifts operate concludes with “a more excellent way;” the way of love.
In 1 Cor. 1:12, Paul addresses divisions in the church. Apparently there were quarrels created by those who were saying they were following Paul, Cephas, or Apollos, as if they were in opposition to the other. Paul challenges them with a question: “Is Christ divided?” He appeals to the headship of Christ: it is through Christ that we have come into the body, through His life, death, and resurrection.
Christ expresses his purpose in praying for this unity among believers in two ways. First, that the world may believe the truth of Christ’s claim in being sent from the Father (v. 21). And second, that the world may see Christ’s reconciliation and love when they see his body, the church (v. 22-23).
The healing and restoration posited by Kreeft is indeed a daunting task. I am not naïve to believe that any amount of wishful thinking can bridge the gap of definite differences over important aspects of the faith.
Further, I am not proposing an institutional approach to produce “one” body of Christ that all believers must adhere to. Let me also be clear that what I am referring to as the unified body of Christ is comprised of the historically Orthodox Christian faith. It is the “Mere Christianity” Lewis refers to in speaking of the things that Christianity has always agreed to be true since it’s beginning.
However, I do believe that serious evaluation of what it means to be the body of Christ and how that affects our purpose of reconciling the world to him must be brought to the forefront of our discussions.
Kreeft, a Roman Catholic apologist, challenges his congregation on bridging this gap. He pinpoints where they have shifted focus on those things that are secondary, and where they must focus – on Christ, and becoming more like him.
As an Evangelical Protestant, I would like to do the same. In writing on the New Testament teaching of the unity of the church, Grudem states, “in addition to working for the purity of the visible church, we are also to work for the unity of the visible church.”
Towards the end of is lecture, Kreeft makes a powerful statement that resonated with me: when Christ returns, He will not be a polygamist. There will be one bride.
Let us therefore work for cooperation and affiliation among ourselves, taking every opportunity to make much of Christ in our commonalities, rather than highlight our areas of disagreement.
That is what I am looking forward to in One Theology. I hope that by evaluating our commonalities and differences, the Spirit may unify us in seeing more of Him; in our unity, may the world see the power of Christ to unite them to Him.