"Nothing justifies schism." This was the sober, stone-faced, and curiously truncated response by N.T. Wright when asked—at last week's Wheaton College Theology Conference—what might justify such action. The question wasn't theoretical: he currently serves as Bishop of Durham in the Church of England.
I attended the Wheaton Conference one day after attending another conference—Together for the Gospel (T4G)—which took place in Louisville and featured a who's who of "Young, Restless, Reformed" leaders/pastors for whom Martin Luther's ultimate schismatic act stands as one of the greatest, most heroic, God-ordained actions in Christian history.
The juxtaposition of these two sold-out conferences, which represent two of the most important strands of evangelical Christianity today (the neo-Reformed movement and the "N.T. Wright is the new C.S. Lewis" movement), made the question (problem?) of unity within the church impressively pronounced.
The conferences were very different, and I would venture to guess that I was one of only a few—if not the only one—to attend both. Louisville and Wheaton are not that far from each other geographically, but my experiences in both places felt like two different worlds. At the end of it all, after more than 20 lectures by renowned speakers (everyone from Mark Dever and John MacArthur to Jeremy Begbie and R.C. Sproul), I was left wondering whether unity really is evident in the church today, and if so, in what sense.
"Nothing justifies schism." In that powerful statement, Wright, perhaps the world's leading Christian theologian/writer/intellectual, was calling for the church to prioritize unity and emphasize common ground, not at the expense of doctrine and not in a universalist ...1