Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Peace and Argumentation

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3)

This is a very misused verse these days. I do not think that the real meaning is mysterious. In fact, I think Paul spells out the bond of peace in the following verses where he speaks about having one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one body, one Spirit, one hope and one God and Father. I do think Paul is urging brothers and sisters in Christ to bear with one another in love and patience. This is true and not really debatable.

Where I think this verse is misused is that it has become a rallying cry to end conversation, to stop talking and let ‘peace’ reign. The problem is that Paul is saying that peace reigns where the oneness of Christianity reigns. However, if we cannot agree on the ‘one faith’ or the ‘one hope’ or even the ‘one Lord’ then there is no peace. None. The history of the church is littered with times that people used the cry of peace to stop discussion and before you know it, unbelief wins the day. Because peace cannot exist outside of those bonds Paul describes. In the 1920’s the Presbyterian church tried to have peace and the next thing you know the church is kicking people out that think Christians need to believe in the Bible or that Mary was a virgin and many other things. The ‘one faith’ is now optional and those who did not think so were removed. That same Presbyterian Church (USA) is going through similar things now. An accord had been struck between the pro-homosexual minister group and the anti-homosexual minister group. A peace if you will. Then what happens? The pro-homosexual group makes a big power play and there is little left for the conservative branch of the church left to do but leave. The fight is over and won because they tried to pretend bonds of peace existed where the ‘one faith’ did not. Just to show that I am not picking on any one church, I think my denomination, the RCUS, did the same thing in the late 19th century.

I point this out because of a discussion that happened recently on Reformed Catholicism. It began with a quote from A.B. Bruce about how “very humiliating” it is that “the symbol of union has been turned into a chief cause of division” of course referencing debates about the Lord’s Supper. Yet, there are denominations or religions out there that teach a version of the Supper that denies our ‘one faith’, and our ‘one hope’. The Supper is not our symbol of union with those who deny the complete efficacy of Christ’s death on the cross. Why should we try to have peace with those who deny the bonds of peace? Peace is not something we create. Peace is not the absence of talking or discussion or some visible unity of being in the same church building or eating the same meal. Peace is found in the things listed by Paul. Without those there is no peace no matter how much we may avoid discussing the hard things.

It is hard to imagine the trouble the church has caused by silencing itself in hopes of a peace that does not exist. If you want to make a Christian mad today and have him stomp off, try discussing your ‘one hope’ or the doctrine of our ‘one baptism’. Doctrine divides they scream as they shut their ears. We have mistaken peace for the absence of argumentation and discussion. A serious error.