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Church Unity

Chapter 13 of RINE is entitled “Church Unity.” This chapter is talking about the church as one body of Christ. Let’s start with the positive aspects of this chapter. I really like what he says about baptism in this chapter. I agree that Mormon “baptisms” are not baptisms at all, but that Roman Catholic baptisms are to be received as genuine baptisms “in order to be nursed back to health” (p. 121), which, to my mind, is a brilliantly helpful way of putting things. It gets at the problem of corrupt churches (such as Rome) while still acknowledging the baptism to be genuine. Implied, but not stated explicitly, is the idea that the form of the words (the Trinitarian formula) is determinative for the genuineness of the baptism (see p. 120). I might choose to disagree with his assessment of the Roman Catholic Church (I would argue that any church that has justification by faith distorted is an apostate church, not just a corrupt church; plus, I’m not entirely sure about the distinction between apostate and corrupt: where does he get that biblically?), but we would both accept the RCC baptism as valid.

The only other point that needs to be brought up here is the unspoken assumption on Wilson’s part that church unity is a fundamentally organizational goal. One can see this with the pejorative statements “ungodly denominational system,”(p. 117) and “denominations are a necessary evil” (p. 118). Why is the unity of the body of Christ organizational? If there are believers in just about every Christian denomination, then there is Christian unity. Period. Christian unity is a (S)spiritual unity (see Ephesians 4:1-6, where nowhere is it implied that it has to be an organizational unity). Paul does not say that there should be Christian unity. He says there is unity. If that passage applies at all today, then the unity is in no way, shape, or form organizational. I am by no means saying that the cottage industry of denomination fragmentation is a good thing. Many denominations are formed for wrong reasons. But if denominations are inherently evil, then the Reformation was wrong to start new denominations (of course, they argued that the Roman Catholics were the schismatics, since they were the ones abandoning truth). If we want to avoid conflict with our Baptist brothers, because they will not baptize infants, and we will, then we had better worship apart for the sake of unity. In fact, we have greater unity with the Baptists by worshipping apart than we would if we were constantly fighting over the proper subjects of baptism. Should we strive for eliminating unnecessary denominations? Absolutely. There is no particular reason why the PCA and the OPC should be two separate denominations. Not really. Of course it would require a lot of work. But I think we are duty bound to seek such unification. However, because the principle of denominations is abused does not mean that the principle itself is evil. People are different, and there are different worship styles, as well as different theological beliefs. So true Christian unity is trans-denominational.