“¶ “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.”
(John 17:20–23 ESV)
The most divisive doctrine in the church today is not Calvinism or hyper-Pentecostalism or the mode of baptism or church government.
While Jesus prayed for unity in John 17, the dispensationalist warns against it as it will inevitably lead to the “one world religion under the leadership of the false prophet”.
Someone should have warned Jesus…
When I think about the kind of unity that J.I. Packer and John Armstrong are promoting I rejoice until I think about the assault that will soon be launched against them in the name of “Bible believing prophecy”.
Packer’s vision of unity is this...”It is the one that views the visible church as a single worldwide, Spirit-sustained community within which ongoing doctrinal and denominational divisions, though important, are secondary rather than primary”.
“Embracing this vision will mean that our ongoing inter- and intra-church debates will look, and feel, less like trench warfare, in which both sides are firmly dug in to defend the territory that each sees as its heritage, and more like emigrants’ discussions on shipboard that are colored by the awareness that soon they will be confronted by new tasks in an environment not identical with what they knew before. There they will all need to pull together in every way they can. The church in every generation voyages through historical developments and cultural changes, against the background of which new angles emerge on old debates and truths may need to be reformulated in order to remain truly the same as they were. Not to recognize this is a defect of vision on our part.”
The question before the house today…can we embrace the pursuit of unity in the church as Jesus prayed for while still looking for the signs of the times?
More importantly…are we enjoying the pride we feel in our divisions more than we want John 17 to manifest?
When I brought this up last week, Armstrong left this comment;
“You have captured the essence of the argument by responding to my friend Jim Packer’s argument in the foreword. Sadly, many on the right will reject it because of Packer alone. That tragic fact should cause some to say, “What goes on here?” The book will help them see why people react to Packer and what prompts what sometimes becomes anger and misleading comment. I always say, “Read the book and really respond to what is actually said and if you disagree then tell why in a fair and simple way.”
My prayer is to stir a great movement for “relational unity in mission” not create a one-world church, which is as unlikely as ever regardless of what some have told us for 100 years about prophecy. While we are told there is a one-world church coming we keep creating new churches (denominations) every year! Something about this picture ought to make us think but then thinking is not highly valued in some Christian circles these days. We much prefer conspiracy theories to real critical thought.”
I long to see this happen, to see this culture become the norm in the church…and I’m a dispensationalist.
So are most of you.
Can a dispensational eschatology co-exist with a pursuit of unity?
In other stuff…
Ingrid Schlueter actually wrote a really good article...I commend it to your reading.