Friday, June 17, 2016

A Church Divided

So, I was reading through Paul's first recorded letter to the Corinthian church (In truth, if I recall correctly, it is the second of four, though we only have records for the two we call 1 and 2 Corinthians) and partway through the first chapter, Paul begins addressing some rivalries and divisions happening within the church.

He rebuked them, calling them to ponder three questions:

  • Is Christ divided?
  • Was it Paul who was crucified for you?
  • Were you baptised in Paul's name?
As I was looking over this passage, what came to mind first were some of the church splits I have seen, with individuals falling out between leaders or over minor details, thinking along the lines of "Did Pastor X die for you?" or "Were you baptised in the name of Deacon Y?"

The more I pondered it, though, the more I realised that the divisions within the church run far deeper than merely within an individual church. Many divisions today run along doctrinal or interpretational lines. Methodists vs Baptists, Orthodox vs Catholics (or Protestants/Anglicans vs Catholics for that matter). The church today is massively divided. Now, yes, there are some divisions along lines of preference. Those preferring a more ordered service may sit comfortably within a Presbyterian church than an Assembly of God. That being said, there are divisions along racial lines, political lines, policy lines. We have divided ourselves over minutiae.

In light of this passage, I am inclined to agree with Erasmus where he butted heads with Luther, wanting to bring about change within the Catholic church instead of fracturing and starting a separate church.

Yes, we are going to have differences of interpretation of scripture. For example, when it comes to the end times, my pastor ascribes more to the dispensational philosophy/theology whereas I fall into a post-tribulational premilennial standpoint. Does that mean I should leave my church? No.

Baptists, did the Anabaptists and early baptists die for your salvation? No.
Methodists, were you baptised in the name of John Wesley? No

Catholics, was Leo IX crucified for your salvation? No
Orthodox churchgoers, were you baptised in the name of Cerularius? No

We all were saved by the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. We were all baptised in the name of Christ.

Let me ask you, is Christ divided?

Then why do we, the church, divide ourselves?

Should we not focus on Christ as the unifying goal? Should not our doctrines be subject to Christ and should we not be able to come together under the banner of a single, catholic (not Catholic; it means "universal") church?

I mean, that was the purpose of creating the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed, to establish what is common doctrine to all Christians, that we may focus on the forest instead of getting lost amongst the trees.

These are my thoughts, though. I am no theologian. I do not know the intricacies of the dividing points in different denominations' doctrines and I do not profess to know. I merely am asking a pertinent question.