Monday, April 23, 2007

Unity and Truth in John 17

The Source of Our Unity

In John 17, Jesus’ great “high priestly prayer,” Jesus prays three times that His disciples and those who believe in Him through their word would “be one.” The model for that unity is not a scrupulous keeping of law or even point-by-point doctrinal agreement, but the unity which Jesus and His Father share. “I in them and you in me, that they may be completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” To argue, as some do, that we cannot have unity in our Synod until we reach precise doctrinal agreement on all matters of faith and life not only exceeds confessional boundaries, but makes a mockery of Jesus’ prayer. It is God who gives unity to the church! It is the church’s task to celebrate and maintain that unity. Why? Not because, (in the immortal words of Major Frank Burns on M*A*S*H) “It’s nice to be nice to the nice.” Not so that we can all get along, and nobody has their feelings hurt, but according to our High Priest, “so that the world may know we are one...so that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them...” (John 17:22,23).


So writes Rev. Donald F. Hinchey
in the latest edition of the Jesus First newsletter
.

What I find interesting is that Rev. Hinchey passes over verse 17, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." Before Jesus prays for their unity, he prays that they would be sanctified by the truth of God's word. That's doctrine.

It seems Rev. Hinchey is suggesting we can be united (just like Jesus and the Father are), but NOT be united also in the truth. That's odd.

I would think that Jesus and the Father would agree on the truth. I would think that
Jesus and the Father would want Christians also to agree on the truth, and be united in it.

We in the LCMS certainly have our disagreements. But we also have quite a bit of doctrinal agreement. Conflicted as we are, if it were not for the doctrinal agreement we DO have, many would have walked a long time ago.

Doctrine is what unites us. Not the Concordia Health Plan. Not the burgundy cross logo. Not even a love for "missions".

But there is room for improvement. And the way to improve is not simply to "be nice and have a beer together". We should strive for unity in the truth.

To me, the whole thrust of Hinchey's argument is a wrong-headed diminuation of the importance of doctrine as the basis of unity. All this, it seems, is intended to once again subjugate doctrine to "mission", a regular refrain from some in our synod.


7 comments:

Lynn of St. John's said...

Who is our Lord including in The High Priestly Prayer? Is He praying for His sheep ?
Yesterday our Pastor read Ezekiel 34:11-16

Lynn of St. John's said...

Yesterday was Misericordias Domini ,there's alot of truth found in Psalm 88.

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Pr. Chryst,

I am confused as to the distinction that you make in this post. I have read your points over and over again and I cannot find the distinction between what you say and what Pr. Hinchey says.

You quote him as saying:

To argue, as some do, that we cannot have unity in our Synod until we reach precise doctrinal agreement on all matters of faith and life not only exceeds confessional boundaries, but makes a mockery of Jesus’ prayer.

Then you say:

We in the LCMS certainly have our disagreements. But we also have quite a bit of doctrinal agreement. Conflicted as we are, if it were not for the doctrinal agreement we DO have, many would have walked a long time ago.

What is the point of distinction? What is different about what he says and what you say?

He says that it is OK to have disagreements and still to claim to be one and you say that it is enough to have quite a bit of doctrinal agreement.

What is the point of distinction that you are making?

Preachrboy said...

NA,

I think it's *largely* question of emphasis. The JF crowd seems to de-emphasize the importance of doctrine. "Settling" for a lowest common denominator (wherever that may be).

Others of us see doctrinal agreement as always needing care and improvement.

I say, perfect unity in the truth, though never possible, should
constantly be our goal. They seem to say, that since it's not possible, it's just not worth pursuing. Besides, "Missions, missions, missions!".

To me, it's like saying we can never be free from sinning, so should we therefore sin all the more? Or shall we strive to follow the law anyway?

Anti-nomianism seems like a kissing cousin of anti-doctrinism.

Scott said...

Rev. Chryst,

Nice to have a chance to glance through your site again - been buried under term paper deadlines, community commitments and kids, kids, kids! - all good 'problems!'

I learned a new word - antinomianism - and while 'googling' it for definition and concept - found this site:

http://www.lawfulpath.com/ref/antinomianism.shtml

Now - I certainly have a better understanding of the word, and the distinction between the operation of grace and the operation of the law - but I'm not so certain about the content of the referenced post. He seems to want to criticise democracy and the vote as corruptive - self-worship - and then wants to harken back to the (innocence??) of the 1950's as representative of a freedom lost???

Perhaps you could peruse the reference if you get a chance and offer some comments. Are we a lawless society cut adrift from God's will (tempting to think so - but 400 years ago we burned and/or drowned witches) - overreaction?

I did appreciate your comments regarding doctrine and truth - like I said, a new word, a new concept, a new way of looking at things.

Respectfully,

Scott

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Scott,

I visited the lawfulpath web site and scanned over it for an overview of the content. That site does not give a good understanding of anything. Please do yourself a favor and do not base your understanding on what is posted there.

I originally wrote a longer response, which I can share later if you like. But for now, I think it is better to refer you to the explanation in the Smalcald Articles, Art. II (pg. 302 ff Tappert BoC), and then also the Formula of Concord Epitome VI (pg. 479 ff Tappert BoC).

If you don't have the Book of Concord, The Triglotta is available for download at the LC-MS web site or if you prefer, at BrideofChristELC.com.

Scott said...

Dear 'not alone,'

I appreciate the references, thank you. In re-reading my original post, I see now that it appears I relied solely on that particular site for definition and substance -which was not the case - in fact I went back to Luther's "The Bondage of the Will" dialogue with Erasmus to gain a fuller understanding of the concepts involved. Thank you, again.

Scott