The regrouping of Christendom in the twentieth centurn had a sorry as well as splendid aspect. Its positive side is an awareness that the unity of the Church is part of the Gospel the Church proclaims (as the Apostles’ Creed takes note) and that the Church’s unity of heart reflects the unity of the Godhead to the world (John 17:3).
On the negative side stands an increasing tendency to emphasize institutional unity in order to “impress the world.” Churches are told that Christian division (sometimes meaning schism, sometimes denominations, sometimes major branches of the faith) is a scandal which keeps the world from Christ.
But churchmen who locate the scandal in the disunity of the Church are, we think, attempting a pious version of the Twist. For to taper the scandal of the Gospel to the fragmenting of believers simply misidentifies the scandal. The real offense is the Redeemer’s atonement for man’s sins, the divine verdict that man apart from the saving grace of God is a doomed sinner—in a word, the preaching of the Cross. It was so in the apostolic age; it is so today. The world isn’t going to be brought to Christ by shimmying the scandal.
When the Church starts echoing the world’s rationalization of its rejection of Christ, the world will also stop listening to the Church. Evangelists like Billy Graham speak more directly to the world’s existential predicament than ecumenists whose message is merger for the sake of an impression on the world, if not “merger for the sake of merger.” The plea for togetherness to impress the world suggests an actress who has had her day stepping on stage at intermission to plead for a better hearing during the last act. ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more