We should pity the poor atheist, liberal clergy, and other critics of Christianity. They are split into factions and they lack true unity. Ironically, these same men and women assert that our historic Christian faith is fragmented with discord and division. They are wrong.
They are wrong because they themselves are not in Christ and therefore cannot comprehend our Christian unity.
Those who are not ‘in Christ’ do have a couple of things in common: they are all together dead in their sins and they are children of the devil [i]. Without Christ, they will stay that way – forever.
But all of Christendom is remarkably fused through Jesus Christ our Lord despite that there are nearly forty thousand denominations across the world. Christians are in reality one in Christ Jesus [ii]. Those who are not ‘in Christ,’ are simply not part of the family of God. The unbelievers are separated from God forever and remain by their very nature children of the wrath that is to come [iii] .
That there are many branches in Christendom today nobody would deny, but the break does not run between Catholic and Protestant or between Presbyterian and Baptist. The main line of cleavage through Christendom does not follow denominational lines. The break runs as it did seventeen centuries ago, between Arius and Athanasius – that is to say, between those who believe salvation is of God and those who believe salvation is of man. It follows the line between those who are Christians and those who merely call themselves “christian.”
J. Gresham Machen said, “[On one hand] the gulf is profound which separates Protestants from Roman Catholics. [Yet, on the other hand] how great is the common heritage which unites the Protestants with the Roman Catholic Church, with its maintenance of the authority of the Holy Scriptures and with its acceptance of the great early creeds. [The gulf] seems almost trifling compared to the abyss which stands between us and many of the [liberal] ministers of our own Church [iv].”
There exist among us many who uphold “Christian principles,” but assert at the same time that Christ is not God or that Christ did not rise from the dead. They are asserting (however much they deny it) that in the last resort their faith and ethics rely only on human sanction. The indiscriminate use of the word “christian,” is responsible more than anything else for the popular impression that there is no agreement among the Churches.
Since many clever Arians now occupy our pulpits it is not easy to force the issue into plain view. Vague talk about “divine inspiration,” “religious genius,” “unique like-mindedness with God” only bridges the gulf with a frail crust of words that will not stand up to the slightest scrutiny. The true quarrel between the churches is between biblical Christianity and Humanism.
If any churchman thinks that Christian doctrine is cold and irrelevant, he is greatly mistaken. Theology is of immense importance.
There is no fundamental disagreement among the world’s Christians. Meanwhile, the unbelievers are splintered into innumerous fragmented and angry groups.
[i] Ephesians 2: 1-3
[ii] John 17: 1-26
[iii] Ephesians 2:3; Romans 1:18-23
[iv] CHRISTIANITY AND LIBERALISM, p. 52 by J. Gresham Machen