Following are 30 questions that relate to Christian Unity that I would like you to reflect upon for your edification. In fact,, these questions could be used in your Bible class as you discuss Christian Unity, which is so much needed today.
QUESTIONNAIRE ON "HOW TO DEAL WITH CHRISTIAN UNITY"
A) AMONG CHURCHES THAT MOST PEOPLE CONSIDER CHRISTIAN
1- What do you think causes Christian Divisions? A) Is denominationalism (Christians dividing)
2- What is Christian Ecumenism and how do you feel about it?
A) Do you believe for Christians to have complete spiritual unity, you need some sort of Church Organizational Unity?
3- How do you think we should proceed in our controversies over the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion?
A) How would you interpret the Lord's Supper?
B) Do you believe that in interpreting the Lord's Supper, we're really using different words to express the same thing, which, to a certain extent, will always remain an earthly mystery?
C) Who do you believe should take Holy Communion? How often? And how important is the use of both elements (bread and wine) in Holy Communion?
D) How essential is the Lord's Supper, Holy Communion or the Mass to Salvation?
4- How do you think we should proceed in controversies over Baptism?
A) How would you interpret Baptism?
B) Should Baptism be only for those who are capable of belief, for believers and infants of same, or not necessarily be an outward ceremonial act?
C) How many Baptisms can you have, and is "Baptism of the Holy Spirit", where speaking in tongues is an essential manifestation, just another Baptism?
5- What is a sacrament, and how many activities do you recognize as such? Is this issue an important component in any ecumenical dialogue?
6- How does Free Will and Predestination fit into your over-all belief system?
7- What does it mean to be in the ordained ministry?
A) Who do you believe can perform Priestly functions (Baptism, Holy Communion, etc.)?
B) Do you feel that the ordination of Christians could eventually disappear because it divides Christians into two distinct classes?
8- How do you feel we should proceed in our controversies over the organizational structure of the various churches, if we're looking for organizational unity?
A) Could you eventually accept the Pope as the head of the entire Christian Church?
B) Do you believe that a United Organizational Church should be strongly controlled with limited diversity or loosely controlled with a wide variety of diversity?
9- Do you feel that the theory of Evolution can to some degree be compatible with God's Doctrine of Creation? To what extent? Why or why not?
A) Is creation still taking place?
10- Do you believe that the Bible literally describes the end of time? Give some examples. What might be some other interpretations of these examples?
11- Is the debate among Christians over the beginnings and the future of life really that important; and should not our concentration be more on the present and how we can serve God now?
12- Do you believe that the Bible is the Word of God or contains the Word of God? Martin Luther once compared the Bible to a baby carriage with the baby inside. There can be errors in the carriage, but not with the baby. Does the Word of God go beyond what's included in the Bible?
A) What is your interpretative approach to Scripture? Do you believe the Bible is infallible according to each word that's written, or the message it contains?
B) What part does tradition play in your interpretation of Scripture?
C) What part does experience play in your interpretation of Scripture?
13- Do the Christian conservatives (literalists) and Christian liberals (contextualists) need each other for the church to flourish? (see below)
1) Scripture is authoritative
2) Creeds and Confessions are valuable and Vibrant Expressions of Faith
3)The Gospel changes lives
4)Personal Piety is a response to God's Grace without being legalistic
5)Stewardship is a Joyous Responsibility
1)The Gospel must engage contemporary culture.
2)Christians must invite change in the non-essentials.
3)The Gosspel is a force for social change.
4)The Gifts of all Christians must be claimed by the Church.
5)Christians must be Ecumenical in Dialogue
14- What part does traditions play in your Belief System?
15- Do you think Priests should have the right to marry?
16- Could you accept a Pastor who is divorced and remarried? If so, under what circumstances? Due to the trend in increased divorces within society, do you feel an answer might be long-term comprehensive pre-marital counselling sessions?. If not, how do you feel we should deal with so many divorces?
17- How do you think we should proceed to dialogue with a Church that emphasizes Mariology and the Saints?
A)What is a Saint according to the Bible?
18- How does Sanctification (making someone Holy or Good) and Justification by Faith rank in order of priority in your belief system?
19- Do you think organizational unity should be a major goal in order to achieve Spiritual unity within the Christian Church? What are the advantages or disadvantages of Christian organizational divisions?
20- What role do you feel women should have in a church organizational structure?
I strongly feel that the future trend in churches will be churches that are Christian non denominational. What do you think?
B) AMONG CHURCHES THAT MOST CHRISTIANS CONSIDER AS SECTS
1. How do you think we should proceed with those Christian Sects (Christians Scientists, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, etc.) that deny the Trinity (one in three persons and three in one person) as we understand it? Do you believe in the trinity?
A) Are there any other factors that determine whether a Christian Church is really a Christian Sect?
2. How do you feel we should proceed with an ecumenical dialogue with the Christian Scientists?
3. How do you feel we should proceed with a more active dialogue with the Jehovah Witnesses, especially when their belief dictates that Jesus, The Word, and God are completely separate beings, but in the Jehovah Witness's own Scripture it states in John 1:1a "In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God". As I understand it from my interpretation of their Scripture it seems to indicate that Jesus and God are one, but at the same time two separate beings as well, which contradicts the basic Jehovah Witness' doctrine. What do you think about this and other Jehovah Witness' doctrine?.
4. How do you feel we should proceed with a more active dialogue with the Mormons, especially when you realize that in the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, one of the three books along with the Bible that has equal authoritative status, you find that God told Abraham to lie, which suggests that, if this were true and even though God could do anything He wants, He would be going against His very own nature? In the Bible, it only states that Abraham lied without God being involved at all (Gen 12:12-13). How do you deal with this latter concern and other Mormon doctrines.
5. Which Christian Sect would be most difficult to deal with?
6. What can we learn from the Christian Sects? What do you think they can learn from us?
7. Would a more effective way to create a more active dialogue with the Sects be to invite members of the Sects to a Christian discussion group, or a Bible study group?
8. Can you disagree with someone and still respect his or her opinion considering the fact that you probably are speaking from two different backgrounds?
9. What would your reaction be if someone said to you "Are you born again?"?
A) How do you look upon Salvation?
10.How else might you enhance Christian Unity among the Christian Churches?
1st Internet Question: IS ORGANIZATIONAL CHRISTIAN UNITY REALLY NEEDED TO HAVE MORE EFFECTIVE SPITITUAL UNITY?
THE RESPONSES COME FROM 3 CHRISTIAN WEBSITES
1) Stephen says: Organizational unity is for me an absolute no, no,. Spiritual unity is an absolute necessity.
2) Corbin says: I feel it's important to have organizational Christian unity, but only if it leads to true Spiritual unity.
3) Tom says: Humans are social, yet we frequently fear organization. Why is this so? We fear that which we need. Spiritual unity can only be accomplished if there is an organization that allows us to come together and seek it. My understanding of organization is simply a defined space where everyone understands and follows the same rules while in that space. Without this common ground how do we create sacred space to share that which will bring about unity. Do we fear organization because it calls us to follow rules? Without rules spirituality is impossible.
4) Anne says: I tend to be somewhat an anarchist and rebellious at heart and belonging to a church is really difficult for me. I belong to one now and what brought me back was having small children. I had the desire to bring them up in the traditions and teachings of the church, feeling that I wanted community support along with what I taught them. I guess I have been very fortunate in that I haven't been through any terrible horror stories as far as churches are concerned, but I am aware of suffering caused by some churches with church people going awry
5) Shirly says: Today we Jehovah's Witnesses are organized to carry out Jesus' command to preach the good news of the kingdom worldwide. We are united spiritually in a way that no other group claiming to be Christian can compare. Regardless where you may go in the world, Jehovah's Witnesses believe the same thing doctrinally. We remain individuals with many differences as to culture. likes, dislikes, etc. Yet we are a true brotherhood. We do not mix with the politics of the world and do not take up arms against our brothers of any nation.
6) Jimmy says: I agree with Shirly about her organization, but I strongly disagree with her about her doctrine.
7) Barbara says: This is not a"one size fits all" issue. The answer to your question lies in the level of faith of the Christian. We are all at different levels-the purpose of a Church organization is to give teaching, support, strength, and above all, fellowship by example, to those weak in their faith. Those of us who have a strong faith and have found the Truth have a stewardship toward those who struggle still to obtain the "mustard seed". We must answer the call of our Lord and go where He directs us, to administer to His Sheep, our brothers and sisters in Christ. This may, or may not be, in a Church organization. Actually we must all acheive Spiritual unity before organizational unity can be acheived.
8) Johnny says: This seems to be a movement towards a shallow unity at the expense of truth, which may be based largely in part on the protest movements of the 60s and 70s. True unity must involve both an inner change of heart and life with doctrinal and practical uniformity.
2nd Internet Question: WHAT WOULD BE THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IN ORGANIZED CHRISTIAN UNITY - THE LORD'S SUPPER, BAPTISM, CHURCH
GOVERNMENT STRUCTURE, WOMEN ISSUES, BIBLICAL INTERPRETATIONS, THE PAPACY, ETC.?
1) Corbin says: I believe it would be the Papacy because how do you deal with the infallibility of the Pope on moral issues.
2) Johnny says: That's really an interesting question, You've definitely picked a big stumbling block for Protestants, Corbin, with papal infallibility. Especially since the Catholic Church condemned much of the Reformational ideas and reformists. Then there is the Evangelical's emphasis on being "born again" and all they mean theologically with that. On the one hand, it is encouraging that the Episcopaleans and Lutherans worked out a way to accept each other in unity, able to supp together and administer all rites together. On the other hand, 20+ years of dialogue seems terribly long to resolve together two denominations that most of the world can't even tell apart. Personally, I think they all need to recognize that there are a lot more grey areas of doctrinal interpretation than they realize. Thank you for the question that deals with a matter that is close to my heart - the need for much more Unity of the Spirit amongst the brethern.
3) Melvin says: The pope has only been infallible since the 1800s and that was because the pope said that he was infallible, which means nothing if he is fallible. Besides, nobody knows what that means. I think that sharing communion is about the best that we can hope for.
4) Johnny says: Although it has never been stated until the 1800s, I believe the infallibility of the Pope was implicitly understood since the beginning of the Papacy.
5) Bernard says: The biggest problem for me is that organizational unity can never be real in heart, it must
by its nature be coercive.
6) Mary Anne says: I agree Berny. Organizations are by nature, static and ultimately death-dealing to the life of the Spirit. Spirit moves. It is fluid, dynamic, and changeful. Box it up in a pile of laws and statutes and codes and contracts and pretty soon it's dead as a doornail. Unity I do not support. Love and wonder and appreciation in diversity I do. Love your individualism. I hope it's contagious.
7) Morgan says: I recall an old saying which went "in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; in all
things, charity". I think there's a lot to be said for that. I work ecumenically, and I find that valuable and worthwhile. But ecumenism, and for that matter, multi-faith understanding, has never been about seeing what is the lowest common denominator on which to base a spurious unity, but an appreciation of the diversity of faith and the celebration of that diversity, alongside a recognition of where we can connect with one
another whilst retaining our differences.
8) Jane says: For me, the biggest obstacle to any kind of human unity is the humans themselves. I don't have to look further than my own front door to see that. As far as Christian unity goes, it seems that the second biggest obstacle to unity is the definition of what it means to be Christian. I have seen so many definitions of this and it can be quite confusing.
9) Debbie says: The primary problem with Christian unity is that of differing traditions/doctrines/and/ beliefs. They all cannot be correct; however, they all can be wrong, but it's impossible for all to be right concerning the nature of God and Salvation.
10) Mary Jane says: I have to agree with those who say that disunity in the understanding of Scripture is probably the biggest problem in the way of unity. Listening to all the chatter about what this verse means and what that verse means makes one think that 99% of folks have bitten the apple if you know what I mean. That is, suffered the effect of a kind of self pride that enticed us to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and now we all seem to think we are gods and we can decide what is right and wrong and what makes one a Christian and what can't possibly make one a Christian, and what is or isn't necessary to believe. Another term to describe this is original sin.
11) Herbert says: Jane, your feet are not only wet, you're really swimming now.
12) Samuel says: The only Christian unity that will come will be at the end of time.
13) Clifford says: I think the biggest problem would be trying to get everyone to agree on what is the correct thing to believe. There are so many different types of churches today because whoever started them had a slightly different idea about how something should be interpreted, and when someone else agreed with him, it started a new church, So how do you get them all to believe the same thing?
14) Celeste says: I agree with Cliff. I think this is impossible, so I think we should try to build our unity on
love and respect despite the differences, and that is something I believe could work, because we all want to love God and God tell us to love one another.
15) Corbin says: Another problem could be the meaning of Apostolic Succession. The Roman Catholics believe that Apostolic Succesion just came from Peter, but I believe Apostolic Succession actually came from all the Apostles so that every Christian is representing Christ here on earth with the Bible as our guidebook.
3rd Internet Question: ONE ANSWER TO CHRISTIAN UNITY MIGHT BE FOR CHRISTIANS TO ORGANIZE AN ECUMENICAL CHRISTIAN CHURCH WHERE THE CHURCH WOULD RECRUIT ALL CHRISTIANS, INCLUDING ROMAN CATHOLICS, TO BE MINISTERS TO WHOMEVER NEEDED HELP. WHAT DO YOU THINK?
1) Jim says: This is a nice idea. Unity is certainly what the world needs today. And the branches of Christianity started out with this idea in mind, the problem being that with each new one, even with the unification of Christianity in mind, it is just adding itself to the list of branches of Christianity. The World Christian Encyclopedia estimates that in 1900 there were 2000 sects of Christianity whereas in 1990 there were 21,000. Almost 5 new ones every year.
2) Stephen says: My experience of ecumenical endeavors is that the mainstream churches generally work well together whilst recognizing that our various traditions do create differences, but these can be a source of positive diversity and richness.
3) Corbin says: I'm a member of this type of church down here in Argentina, and we're really one big happy family as far as Christian unity is concerned. Of course we have our family squabbles like all families do, but this is strictly in-house
4) Melvin says: Corbin, I think this kind of church sounds like a dream. I've heard of other churches like it and I think that if we can get it to work in more places, it will definitely be a big step in the right direction for the whole of Christianity.
5) Miichael says: I think that would be a great idea. We Christians then could work much more efficiently in solving Global Issues.
The names of the commentarians have been changed to protect the privacy of the Internet contributers, but their comments are accurate.
AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
I was born in New York City in 1931, grew up on Long Island, graduated from Roanoke College in Virginia with a BA in Political Science, and from New York Theological Seminary with a Masters in Religious Education. I became a committed Christian in 1958, and after a number of years became a committed Ecumenical Christian. I worked as an accountant in various companies for about 25 years in New York City, then moved down to Argentina and worked for about 21 years as a Business English
conversationalist teacher with some of the top managers. I also became a Stephens Minister (trained counselor) while down here. I was married twice (the last to an Argentine), widowed once, no children, and one cat. If you would like to contact me, you can write to me via (email@example.com).