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Do We Have to Agree About Everything to Have Unity? — 39 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this!

    From what I have observed, it seems to me that one of the biggest causes of disunity in the church is the belief that we all need to understand things the same way. This causes distrust of those who see things a little differently, and it also gives rise to the idea that we *must* persuade others to believe a we do - for their salvation, of course.

    This belief becomes especially toxic when leaders believe this and use their power of position in an attempt to impose their belief on those whom they are supposed to lead. Of course, this also reveals a basic misunderstanding of the nature of the Kingdom of Christ and the Kingdoms of this world. In the Kingdom of Christ, there is no forced compliance. The persuasive power of self-renouncing love is the only force God uses to bring us into compliance with His will.

    By contrast, the Kingdoms of this world, including false religions, have no qualms regarding the use of power to force compliance. The sad history of religious and ethnic persecution bear witness to this reality.

    • You are so right. When I became an Adventist I saw 2 Churches breaking up about small things. Music and food. I'm still an Adventist by God's grace.

    • These words that William quoted from would seem to be a succinct summary of how unity and diversity within the body of Christ can be experienced. Note how Ellen White appeals to standing on the PRINCIPLES of the 10 commandments. That is a much deeper and broader foundation to stand on.

      “Those who love and serve God should be allowed to follow their own convictions. We may not feel justified in doing as they do, but we should not allow differences of opinion to create disunion. May the Lord help us to be as firm as a rock to the principles of the law spoken from Sinai, and may He help us not to allow differences of opinion to be a barrier between us and our brethren.” Ellen White, Counsels on Diets and Foods, Page 269

  2. I agree we don't have to agree about everything.
    Sometimes our differences are just a matter of degree, like in the quote from EGW - she says "I don't see the need for butter when there is sterilized cream"
    What is the difference between butter and sterilized cream??

    I agree we should consider the Principle not the particular.

      • Unfortunately oxidation and free radicals are the outcome of all dairy products: both butter and cream. Something I wish I had known years ago!

    • Sterilized cream was boiled (pasteurized), so that the bacteria and pus (leukocytes) that normally occur in milk would be killed.

      Butter is a water-in-oil emulsion resulting from an inversion of the cream, where the milk proteins are the emulsifiers. When milk is boiled to sterilize it, the milk proteins are denatured (unless it is very carefully sterilized) and can no longer act as emulsifiers. Without emulsification, churning boiled cream would result in separated butter fat, curds (coagulated milk proteins), and whey, instead of something one could spread on bread.

      Hope this helps.

  3. So, what is the answer to Mr. Earnhardt's final question, "How do we decide which doctrines are worth splitting the church over, and which ones we should just show tolerance?"?

    • The Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 did precisely this. What were the ‘ingredients’ that enabled them to do it successfully?

  4. It is true that we do not all see things the same way nor will we agree all the time. However, I believe there should be a spiritual unity that supersedes our differences. Our main focus should be to glorify God and seek His will over our own. This calls for a humble, contrite attitude and a willingness to be led by the Holy Spirit. At present, I do not see this kind of spiritual unity in our church but it is my hope and prayer it will change!

  5. The things that divide us as a church are the same things that divide the world. The love of power and position, the love of money and the pride in self. I would call this the trinity of disunity. we need to pray today as Jesus prayed then, "Father keep your children from the evils of the world"

  6. That is very well stated. I just hope the GC is reading and listening. They seem to be determined to have all us us fall in line in "unity" with them.

  7. This has nothing to do with the GC. This has to do with people taking their focus off of Christ. We are to practice self denial and be humble. So many of us want recognition for whatever that we have forgotten what really matters, living a humble,practical, simple, serving, orderly life. God is not a God of noise or confusion. He is one of order as it shows in the old testament with the children of Israel.

    • Well said. When we are quick to start pointing fingers at others instead of looking at our own short comings are we not in essence asking them to fall in line with our way of thinking and doing?
      Let us lift up our leaders in prayers knowing that they are mere mortals like us and subjected to the same weaknesses and temptations as we are.

  8. Thank you for this question and profound responses have read.Inge Anderson has said it all.

    Just this evening one of friends(university student) I stay with had similar question in line to what you just explained.
    His been gathering with us at our church since we stay together ,so he had experiences were members of the church seem to disagree on certain issues/doctrine during discussions.

    And to him it comes out as a sign of disunity , or divided people rather to say. Because he feels everyone should agree on same thing why and not having different views.

    My answer to him was the same as you wrote.

    I added saying that" Truth is independent of opinion , however the individual holds the key to accept or reject it". And that never base your faith on others opinion , rather let it be on the Truth which the word of God. It does matter how you go about finding it as long your heart is earnestly in search ,but when you do find it , all the answers you will get.

  9. The only time real unity is experienced is in a time of crisis, such as terrible disasters or choosing to worship on a day not authorized by human legislation.

    • I have struggled with this very point. The sooner we realize that everybody does not see things exactly as we do, the better the church will advance. Our focus should be on Christ then we become blind to other's petty differences.

  10. There are some good examples of disunity in many of the comments on this list. Opinions are frequent and dissimilar due to absolutes. When churches become completely divided and unyielding, there are very few if any "winners". Is there an answer? One that is not what some hoped. "I will forgive, but I will not forget".

  11. Do We Have to Agree About Everything to Have Unity?

    At least true believers will agree and have perfect unity in that 'Christian unity finds its source in the truth as it is found in Jesus Christ and Him...' not only '...crucified', but crucified, buried AND RAISED from the dead ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES'. biblestudents at imaginet.co.za

  12. I believe unity is founded upon the truth. While it appears that agreement is the key to unity, by its self agreement is a function of rebellion. Amos 3;3 can two walk together except they agree? However, the agreement must be on truth! Ellen White made a comment about unity, to the effect that truth would not be sacrificed for unity. In this day and age, unity has become compromise.

  13. Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. I am glad the Sabbath School Net is a safe place to share our ideas. Many come here because they have been unnecessarily hurt in their own church.

  14. I have enjoyed reading these responses. Mainly to do with relationships/unity within the SDA church. One aspect that I believe is becoming even more relevant to the whole concept of unity in diversity - applies to those of us who work/study in a secular environment. My work environment is mostly agnostic/atheist - yet I have found a common bond connecting with sincere Christians of other faiths in this environment - together we promote the gospel, pray together and look for ways to show Gods love to those who do not know Him - yet we have diverse beliefs on some doctrinal issues. Our focus is on what unites us so as to be a light in the darkness.

    • Thanks much for sharing, Trevor.

      I believe that key to your being "united" with other Christians is your common focus on representing Christ to believers around you.

      Is it possible that a similar focus is also one secret of unity within the Seventh-day Adventist Church?

      Or do we all need to be in total agreement on specific statements that we deem to be "truth." (I see difficulty in the latter since even agreement on what is "truth" seems hard to come by.) If we are to be a light to the world, perhaps our focus should be on Christ's teaching, "Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another." John 13:35 And even in our own church, that is more likely to happen if we focus on what we believe in common, rather than on differences. Since our understanding of truth is progressive, it seems likely that we will have differences in understanding till Jesus comes. After all, we will learn more and more of Truth throughout eternity.

    • Your concept is a perceptive one Trevor. I am finding more and more that I can interact with atheists and agnostics too. Many of them have damaged perceptions of Christianity from personal bad experiences. Although many of them are unwilling to accept the notion of a personal God, they relate to something outside of themselves that drives a sense of ethics and morality. Many remain true to these principles without the selfish motivation of eternal life. Interacting with these folks is in a different framework than with Christians, but I find it both rewarding and challenging. It has taught me not to be arrogantly Christian. Besides, some of them are excellent bird Photographers and are great sharers of information!

  15. "But speaking the truth in love,may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ." (Ephesians 2:15)

    Unity is not static, but dynamic. It is a growing entity. This requires patience on all sides. Core points of christian, biblical belief should be clear on the other hand, inasmuch as the context reveals that unity in the basics of faith saves us from being carried about with every wind of doctrine" blowing right into our face. (Ephesians 4:14) One body,one spirit, one hope of calling, one Lord and Savior, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. (Ephesians 4:4-6) United testimony will be convincing, while contradicory testimony will contradict both: message and mission.

    Winfried Stolpmann

    • Thank you for reminding us that unity is dynamic, just as understanding of truth and "The Truth" is a growing process.

      Focusing on "core points of Christian belief," rather than on other differences, would go a long ways towards producing unity. It's hard to love others when we focus on our differences, and it is the unity of love that Christ wants to see in us. 1 John 3:11, 1 John 4:7,11

  16. This idea of unity despite differences in doctrines as stated "that two people can be led by the same Holy Spirit without totally agreeing on every point of doctrine" sounds very like the ecumenical movement. I'm glad Adventists are now grasping the very foundation of church unity. Together we Christians are one as Christ is one with the Holy Father.

        • Yes it is Robert. My statement is that we can worship with other people and pray with those who disagree with us without us sacrificing our beliefs in order to worship and pray with them. Are you implying that the verses you provided suggest that someone cannot visit my church unless they already agree with everything I believe? Or that I cannot go watch my neighbor sing in the Methodist choir because I do not believe like Methodists? Are you saying I cannot pray with a coworker because we are not of the same church denomination? I did not say we can all be SDA no matter what we believe. All I said was we can worship and pray together while still holding to our standards and beliefs.

          • First, doesn't it depend on the reason you fellowship with those who oppose our peculiar beliefs which are based on scripture? Is it to win their confidence and disarm prejudice, or some other reason? God commanded Israel to remain separated from the false beliefs and practices of the nations around them, while living to draw them to the world's Redeemer and the Law of Jehovah. Our mingling must with with a distinct difference(2 Cor 6:14-17). If joining with them in their amusements, will we not also be of the world?

            People visiting us is a different thing, with our services under our control and leading. I have studied with those of different beliefs many times, but always in my home. Yes, we studied and prayed together until they realized I required scripture support before I would accept their teachings.

            As I originally took your comment, I applied it to a former congregation I was a member of where we were urged to show support and acceptance of those who brought opposing doctrine into our fellowship, subverting not a few of the members who now follow this errant belief, being told we must agree to disagree, with a unity based on "love", not doctrine. The world church has addressed and settled this issue, yet it continues to be brought to our people within our congregations to the dismay of our leading people. The passages I shared are there to accept or disregard as you wish. God's word will be our standard to meet in judgment. If too free in our social mingling with those who's standard is lower than what scripture holds forth for the servants of God, the association may prove to cause some to lower their standard as well.

            What you suggest needs very careful thought and prayer. Our motive must be correct or some will be misled as many have been already. God put a hedge around His people for a good reason. Just study the history of Israel. Many have been misled when being told to "agree to disagree". Remember, the angel in the midst of heaven cries with a loud voice. If associating too closely with those who reject our peculiar beliefs, that voice can easily lose it's loud character and distinctness. Have we seen this happen anywhere, or is that voice still loud, clear, and keeping it's distinct character?

          • Robert the other nations you refer to were not worshiping God. Other denominations and people within our church with different views are still worshiping God.

          • William, many, if not most Christians don't know what/who they worship, and are only following other men. This is why the last message to all is "Fear God...give glory to Him...and Worship Him...". (Study Sardis in Revelation 3, compare to Isa 3:1-4:1) This is not about judging others, but it's about the Word of God and it's clear warnings.

            Yes, some in the apostate churches are God's people, and they will be called out by the end-time message, but most love the world and will one day be led to persecute the true worshipers of God. It will be "christians" who will cry for the death of God's saints.

            If we learn from the early church's experience, they grew and their message had power because they were united in their truth and it transformed their lives. Look what happened with those who desired to fake their worship through deceit. This is a very solemn lesson isn't it? We are admonished to be vigilant concerning our associations because Satan will use every influence to overthrow the faith of God's people.. Look at what happened to Israel with one Achan in the camp. The mixed multitude were also instrumental in leading the majority to complain and rebel.

          • This is true Robert. Which leads me to my original question. What exact beliefs are worth splitting hairs over and which are not? Remember in Romans 14 Paul said some people eat certain things and some don't. Some keep the festival Sabbaths and some don't. Still he said to accept one another. So what beliefs do we make a big deal over?

        • When I read the verses you provided in isolation, I could draw a conclusion in a certain direction. However, when I look at each of the verses in context, I get a completely different perspective about specific circumstances in which unity is not possible.

          • In the verses I listed above, whether considered with the entire chapter/epistle, or the admonition as contained in the immediate verses, the message is the same, and the admonition clear. No close association with unbelievers, and no tolerance of those who openly oppose the Truth from within our fellowship. What is that saying about "one bad apple..."?

            Do we see why Jesus focused mostly on "let no man deceive you" and "watch and pray!" more than the events to come in Matt 24?(look also at the focus of the 3 parables that follow in Matt 25, on how to "watch") The church is to guard it's members from subverting influences and will be held accountable for any lack of diligence on this matter. This is why we have Acts 15, and the many entreaties of the apostles for rejecting heresy and the personal need for being both sanctified and vigilant.

            Even a minimal time spent listening to those other voices that are openly opposing truth will reveal the need for prayerful watchfulness on our part, and avoiding all close associations that would bring a wrong influence into our fellowship. I'm not advocating isolation from the world, but careful about what we agree with in any close association with unbelievers. This can also happen within, and more often it does. No one falls away from truth in a moment, and the seeds of their unbelief were being sown often years before the public notice of their turning away. Every individual must be a vigilant Berean. We've been adequately warned haven't we?

    • Believers are called to use discernment (eg 2 Tim 2:15; 1 Thess 5:21). The necessity for use of discernment is because Satan mixes lies in with truth.

      I have reviewed the 1994 document "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium". The biblical basis outlined in this document for the desire to reduce a focus on conflict between Evangelicals and Catholics in order to instead re-focus on carrying out the Great Commission is sound. Because the ecumenical movement uses this biblical basis, that biblical basis will "sound(s) very like the ecumenical movement".

      Satan's track record illustrates the range of strategies he draws upon to advance his purposes. He mixes a bit of error with truth - not just doctrinally, but also experientially. An example of 'experiential' is advancing truth by use of coercive means.

      According to Ellen White in Great Controversy chapter 35, the ecumenical movement is being used by the Catholic INSTITUTION to bring about a reunification within Christendom, but instead of being a unification under Christ as the Head, it will be under Catholicism. And it will use coercive measures to do so, thus revealing the true nature of the power behind it.

      What does all this mean? Just because something "sounds very like the ecumenical movement" doesn't mean that something is wrong. What is needed is the application of discernment to discern between what is truth and what is not. Failure to use discernment risks 'throwing the baby out with the bathwater'.

      Don't misunderstand me, the bathwater definitely needs to be dealt with. Just, don't throw the baby out in the process. Be discerning between which is which.

      • I believe what's important & not bendable are the 10 Commandments. They cover everything - the love to one another & to God.


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