VirusDoc asks some good questions in the comments of my previous post. Rather than answering them there, I felt that they were worthy of their own post(s). Because I can’t seem to write short posts, I’ll answer them over the next few postings. I’ll start with #4:
Why do _you_ feel such a deep need for Christian unity?
Because I’ve experienced it, or at least something very much like it. As I explained earlier, my church once took some pretty radical stands on some things over the years. One of those things was unity. Our churches were united and codependent in a powerful way. This sprung out of several things, the prominent position of discipling for one and the belief in ‘one true church’ for another. Both of those ideas took some rather unfortunate turns over the years and as a result the foundations of what we called ‘unity’ were shaken. Discipling turned from love into authority and control and the idea of ‘one true church’ morphed into ‘we’re the one true church.’ But the unity that we had between churches was amazing.
As an example, in 1991 I was a Senior at the University of Cincinnati and about to go to NYC on my last quarter of co-op employment. I was going to need an apartment in Manhattan for 3 months. I simply called the church office for the NYC Church of Christ and told them I was coming and asked if there was anyone I could stay with. They hooked me up with a household where one of the brothers was leaving for the same 3 months to go work on the beginnings of the Big Dig project in Boston. His 4 roommates took me in as if I was someone they’d known for years. Not only that, but because this guy would have had to pay his full share of the 2 bedroom apartment’s rent (his share was $450 if I remember right), he volunteered to let me stay there for the same rent I was paying in Cinci – $150 a month – and he picked up the rest. That was for an Upper East Side apartment (83rd and Lexington).
This is how we operated, period. We were a family and it was expected that you’d act that way. This was not an isolated incident. I experienced this kind of open hospitality regularly from different congregations and people. We’d go to conferences in other cities and the members of those congregations would put us up for the weekend, having never met us before. Not on the hide a bed, no they’d take the hide a bed and we’d get their bed.
Isn’t this the ideal of Christian unity that many today blow off as unobtainable? This reminds me of what I see in the NT (Acts 2:44-45):
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
This is how God’s church looked in the beginning, and I think it’s how it should look today.
4 thoughts on “Questions on Fundamentals I”
Doug, Either I misunderstood your original set of posts on fundamentals, or you misunderstood my question.
I was under the impression that you were most concerned with issues of belief/doctrinal unity, hence the term “fundamentals.” But this post seems to be focused on the issue of community, fellowship, and self-sacrificing love. The two aren’t necessarily linked. You can have a group of believers that has absolute doctrinal unity but fails to express the kind of community you long for and describe.
Alternatively, you can have a group that is quite theologically diverse in their beliefs, but that displays intensely committed community. I experienced such a group within my graduate school christian fellowship, an ecumenical ministry under the Intervarsity umbrella. This was a group of grad students who came from all denominational backgrounds, from Quakers to Lutherans to CoC to Catholics. Theologically, about the only thing they could agree on with unanimity was that Jesus was to be worshipped and followed; the specifics of how to worship and follow him looked different for each student. Yet I have never seen a group that so consistently displayed the Acts 2 model of community for all of its members (and quite frequently non-members as well). I actually think this is a far more powerful model of the redemptive love of God than it is when it occurs within a rigid, “unified” doctrinal structure.
So which are you after: theological unity, or unity of community? Do you think one precedes the other?
Just when I thoguht I had worked some stuff out, here comes Erik to shake things up a bit. 🙂
Your right, I have been persuing more ‘belief’ and ‘doctrine’ stuff in this series and this post is more focused on community. While I think that I agree with you that community doesn’t have to be linked to a common set of beleifs, I’m not sure that without the common belief system that it can be called ‘Christian unity’. After all, in the group that you spoke of that only agreed that Jesus should be worshiped, well, wouldn’t there be a fair number of Jews or Muslims that might agree with that on some level? My point is that there has got to be something that forms the basis of the community and fellowship of Christians and that is where the fundamentals of Christianity lie.
You’ve given me some more food for thought here (again) on where this is taking me. (And I’m not done chewing on the last stuff!) I’m still not sure that I shouldn’t scrap the whole thing and start writing about cars. 🙂
If you do the “cars” thing, then start with Deloreans. Stainless steel is soooo cool…
Deloreans?!? The stainless and the gullwing doors are the only cool things about them. Unreliable, plain and underpowered.