For quite some time I've been concerned about the role that denominationalism plays in furthering or hindering the Kingdom of God. There is only one Torah, one set of wisdom writings, one account of the Prophets and what they had to say. There is only one Gospel, one set of epistles, and One Account of the Revelation that the Apostle John received on the Island of Patmos. How then do we get so many different interpretations of what God meant when this several men and women, guided by the Holy Spirit, penned the 66 books that make up what we call the Bible?
Because I have struggled with this question for several years, I was excited to be able to read an exciting book by Peter J. Leithart, The End of Protestantism: Pursuing Unity in a Fragmented Church (Brazos Press, 2016).
Leithart's book is all about unity. Although Jesus may have said that brother would be against brother, that was before the establishment of His church. The 'church' that collection of human beings that claim to follow Jesus, should be pursuing unity above all else. As Leithart writes "'One God=one humanity' is axiomatic for Paul. The reunion of humanity in Christ is the gospel, the revelation of the one God against his many rivals. The unity of the church is an 'evangelical unity', a unity proclaimed in the good news of Jesus, a unity that must be realized among those who believe ".
The premise of this book seems to be simply stated in the following way: the status quo constrains us. The church, through its history, includes division. This is a division that needs to be walked through. Leithart suggests that we need a 'death to our present divisions so that we may rise reconciled'.
Obviously denominations are not all bad, and there are many similarities that exist within the composite, but when divisiveness, arguments, and mudslinging occur, there is definitely a call to reconciliation.
Leithart's call for reconciliation, for unity and unification is a call to being biblical rather than traditional.
My sense is that there are many pre-believers who are afraid to commit, because they're afraid that they might be picking the wrong church. After all if the "CHURCH" can't agree on things like baptism, communion, church discipline, 'once saved always saved' and a host of other issues how can an outsider know what to believe.
Granted many of those issues are personal choices and interpretations of scripture that have been adopted by the various denominations and are not essential to one's salvation, but wouldn't it be nice if at some time the differences would disappear. After all in an eschatological sense, there will not be any denominations in heaven. There won't be separate mansions for Baptists, for Lutherans, for Methodists or Pentecostals. Christ's church will finally be perfect, and their won't be any arguing with Him about whether communion can be offered more than on just the first Sunday of the month.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for posting a review.