My friend Toby Sumpter has been doing some good work on the issues related to the divisions between Protestants and our separated brothers outside Protestantism, and then another friend Peter Leithart added significantly to the discussion here, here, and here.
I am very comfortable with what they are saying, and would only tweak a few things here and there. But there are a couple things that I would like to say in addition. Since I want to say them, here they are.
Unity is always unity in the truth, and there are two ways to screw this up. One is to ramp up your particular articulation of the truth to such a high pitch that the only ones joining your new denomination are the neighborhood dogs. This is the abuse of using the truth in a such a way as to fight against the foundational purpose of the truth, which is to see us all grown up into the perfect man (Eph. 4:13-15).
The other error regarding truth is to see the folly of this first sectarian error, glibly announce that doctrine divides and that Christ unites. Right. Cool. Christ who?
This is the lowest common denominator approach to truth, one that has been very common in evangelical circles for the last half century, and which certain fuzzy thinkers within the ranks of Protestantism are now suggesting as a way forward in the next wave of ecumenism. Let’s see if we can dilute the soup a little further, shall we? If we do that enough, then we are sure to attract non-believers with the smell of our boiling water.
There is another way. If I believe, as I do, that the Jews are going to be grafted back into the olive tree, I certainly am not going to stumble at the idea of Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants coming back together. It is a glorious hope, one which I look forward to. But this is a hope based on the promises of God, and it therefore involves much more than a group hug approach to doctrinal issues.
In the meantime, we are all still part of the early church, and here I am in the tribe of Benjamim. Some of my fellow Benjamites are my adversaries, some are allies, and some are co-belligernts. Up north, some of the tribe of Ephraim . . . well, some are my adversaries, some are allies, and some are co-belligerents.
I know how to work together with Roman Catholics and with Eastern Orthodox, and I also know how to draw a hard line against various idolatries over there, and against evangelical mush-mongers over here. But how can you do that, someone is going to ask. How can you make distinctions like that? “They are all in the tribe of Ephraim . . . good men? evil men? These nuances are killing me.”
It is pretty simple, really. The only RCs and EOs worth teaming up with in any venture are the ones who don’t mind a Protestant being one.