Does Unity Require Unanimity?

 Unity is found in those who believe in the three Foundational Christian Creeds

Steven E. Daskal

March, 2016

It is not uncommon for a Christian seeking to share the Gospel with someone from an unchurched background to be confronted with this sort of response: “If Christianity is right, if it is true, how come there are so many different denominations that all disagree with each other?”

In reality, there are two aspects to this issue. First, some religious groups that claim to be Christian churches or are generally believed to be Christian are not — they “preach another Christ.” The Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) teaches about a Christ who is not wholly God and wholly Man, is not a part of a single triune Godhead, and is not in himself the source of salvation. The Church of Scientology doesn’t preach Christ at all. The Church of Jesus Christ, Scientist (Christian Science) preaches Jesus as a faith healer, not part of the Godhead, not the Savior of Biblical Christianity. True Christianity has to reflect the main teachings and doctrines of the entire Bible, not hang on a handful of verses used to create a man-made religion.

Second, while there is certainly disagreement between denominations, the universal church is in agreement on fundamental truths. It recognizes, as summarized in the Nicene, Athanasian, and Chalcedonian Creeds [see below] and other early church professions of faith:

* the validity, authority, and divinely inspired nature of the Bible;

* one God in Three Persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit);

* man is inherently, by nature, spiritually flawed by sin (glorifying self rather than God), and cannot cleanse or repair himself;

* God alone can redeem mankind, and did so by sending His perfect, sinless Son to die on the Cross, the perfect sacrifice to redeem us from our sins in accordance with the Mosaic Law;

* the Son died on the Cross to redeem us and was resurrected on the third day; and,

* those who place their faith in Christ’s sacrifice alone will be redeemed — works are evidence of salvation, but do not earn salvation.

Let’s look at this expectation in reverse. What in the secular world is so unified as to be unanimous in its beliefs?

Political parties certainly don’t reflect unanimity. There is a considerable range of often strongly opposed views on a host of issues within both major parties. Even within small, ideologically driven parties like the Libertarians there are considerable differences of belief about everything from the origin of individual rights to whether a libertarian society can evolve or must be attained by a “big bang” reformation including a constitutional convention. Even extremely authoritarian parties such as the Communists and National Socialists (NAZIs) periodically split or purge out those who disagree with the dominant platform.

Does the entire scientific community agree on everything? Of course not — they agree upon the validity of the scientific method for discerning truth, they agree upon standards of accreditation, documentation, and peer review, and they agree on some basic terms and proofs. But scientists are frequently embroiled in heated disputes with each other. They argue over “global warming,” and mankind’s role in it. They argue over theories about sub-atomic physics, genetics, the origins of the universe, and a host of other major and minor issues. They even argue over evolution (yes, its true — a significant minority of PhD-degreed active research and/or university scientists reject the validity of evolution).

So, I would suggest that the argument that a church in which there is disagreement cannot be a true church is false. Wherever there are people who have any degree of freedom, there will be disagreements. Perhaps a better test is to judge the extent to which different denominations can cooperate to accomplish critical tasks (evangelism, charitable works, publicly standing against political endorsement of sin, etc.), and to which the various denominations can continue to express brotherly love for each other despite their doctrinal differences or differences in tradition, style, and culture. By this standard, the church has fundamental unity while reflecting the diversity of human culture, geography, and history. Unity is found in these foundational creeds of the Church.

The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

from Center for Reformed Theology & Apologetics [CRTA]

http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=index_docu.html

 

The Athanasian Creed

< http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/athanasian.html >

< http://www.ccel.org/creeds/athanasian.creed.html >

 

  1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;
  2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
  3. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
  4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.
  5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.
  6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.
  7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.
  8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.
  9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
  10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
  11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.
  12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.
  13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.
  14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.
  15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;
  16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
  17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;
  18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.
  19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;
  20. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.
  21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.
  22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.
  23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
  24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
  25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.
  26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.
  27. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
  28. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
  29. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

  1. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.
  2. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world.
  3. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
  4. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.
  5. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.
  6. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.
  7. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.
  8. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;
  9. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;
  10. He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty;
  11. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
  12. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;
  13. and shall give account of their own works.
  14. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
  15. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.

 The Council of Chalcedon’s Definition [of Jesus Christ] [451 AD]

< http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html >

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.

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