Mar 6, 2006

ceni, silence, and unity

The Restoration Movement from its inception promoted unity among believers; yet today we are divided and splintered as bad, or worse, than any religious group in the world. It's difficult to convey a message promoting unity when our miserable track record evidences complete failure on our part.

The scriptures teach that division is wrong among brethren, and I believe most Christians realize that barricades between God's children are certainly undesirable. So how do we go about achieving unity? One reason it's so difficult to achieve unity is because we seek unity on our own terms, we want others to adopt our belief system (traditions and all,) while foregoing their own beliefs and traditions.

Once our plea was for unity among all believers, now the divisions within our own ranks are so deep we're seeking unity primarily within the Restoration churches; a far cry from the original intent. When we demonstrate the willingness to remove the weighty traditional baggage from our own shoulders, perhaps other people might notice and respond to our noble plea.

Alan Rouse (an elder in the COC in Atlanta Georgia) is asking some tough questions on his blog Christian Unity about CENI, and the Principle of Silence, in an attempt to better understand how these concepts impact the church.

After almost 200 years of fussing and fighting over these principles I can't help but wonder about their negative import. If members within the Restoration Movement can't agree on many of the practices CENI and Silence has produced over the years, how do we expect someone outside our little group to walk some of our narrow unlit paths when we can't even find it within ourselves to walk together!

The concepts of Silence and CENI have merit to a point, but over the years they have been used in ways that have alienated Christian brothers and sisters. Unfortunately both concepts are easily manipulated to suit a persons personal preferences, and often become wedges that divide, rather than unite God's children. These concepts can easily be construed to make my viewpoint and opinions gospel truth, and your viewpoint totally wrong.

We can have unity in Christ without total agreement in every detail. CENI and Silence can work to a point, but when it's used to hammer another Christian into submission who honestly disagrees with the conclusion, I think it kicks dirt on our efforts for unity.

As long as the CENI and Silence concepts are foundational in the COC groups I wonder if there will be any tangible results in our efforts for unity.


LEM'S Politics said...

Brother Larry you ask the following question, "I wonder if there will be any tangible results in our efforts for unity." I suspect you already know the answer is no. When we abandoned the doctrine of faith for that of proof the body became a cripple.

Larry said...

Carl Ketcherside believed in unity-in-diversity; perhaps that is all the unity we will ever achieve.

Churches rooted in the RM have little unity among themselves, so it looks impossible on the surface that all Christians will be united, but God can work miracles.

Alan said...

Hey Larry,

In Jesus' prayer in John 17 he prayed that "they may be perfected in unity" (NASB). He was asking his Father to make them one. So you are right. It will take a miracle, but that's the kind of thing God does all the time. Surely God will answer the prayer of his son!

I think our part is to be humble, to obey the scriptures, to avoid doing things that hinder unity, and to "seek peace and pursue it" (1 Pet 3:11). I think the way we understand and apply scripture is an important part of that.


Larry said...


Appreciate your comments.

I'm all for unity and your efforts to achieve it, and I certainly don't want to do anything to hinder the prayer of Jesus that "they may be perfected in unity."

Perhaps I'm way off base, but I consider myself already united with God's children regardless of what the "church sign" says on the lawn in front of the building.

If they have faith and believe in God they are my brothers and sisters, and I'm united with them. We may differ in our patterns of belief, but I'm just like them; not perfect in all I do and believe.

When I honestly perceive scripture in a way that differs from another Christian I certainly would not give up my viewpoint just for the sake of unity, and I don't expect someone with a different viewpoint to give up their honest reasoning about a particular scripture either.

You write of being obedient to the scriptures, and I fully agree with you, but when two people come to different conclusions using the same scripture, who is to determine the exact truth? Each person may honestly feel they are right, and if right, it would go against their conscience to unite and cave-in just to achieve unity.

Being united surely means more than agreeing on every little verse of scripture, because that will never happen. As I commented before, we can have diversity and still be united.

LEM'S Politics said...

Just thought you might enjoy reading this article

LEM'S Politics said...

I'll try again sorry
Living with Tares
by Edward S. Little II | posted 03/07/2006 09:30 a.m.
Why I stay in a church that has seriously strayed from biblical teaching.

jettybetty said...

Atchley is preaching a series right now on unity--you can download it here (United Kingdom I, II and III are up.)
We think it's really good!

One of the things that has always concerned me is that we fight over things the Bible doesn't speak about--which openly contradicts what Christ prayed for in John 17.

Hoots Musings said...

We had this same conversation within our Life Group Sunday night.
I said that when we look down our noses at our conservative brethren, we are no better than them; self righteous.

We have to get back to loving people outside the walls of our churches, because when Jesus left us with that last and greatest commandment, it was simply, to love one another.

Great post Larry!

Alan said...

Hey Larry,

You and I are very much on the same page.

When two people come to opposite convictions, and become firmly convinced of the matter, each of them must follow their conscience. We may gently instruct but then must wait for God to do the rest (2 Tim 2:24-26) If each is humble, I believe God will work to bring the necessary enlightenment. We certainly shouldn't hammer them until they submit to our view.


Larry said...

Your right, no use wasting all the heavy-duty hammering on the reprobates. :)

From what I have read on your web site, we do seem to be on the same page; perhaps you need to be concerned..... ;D

Larry said...

Our ulta-conservative brothers and sisters in my mind are still God's children, and your right, we should never "look down our noses at them."

I get a little riled when they become so judgmental they condemn everyone outside their little tribe, but as a former Pharisee I understand their thinking, and try hard to keep my mouth shut until I have a little talk with God about the situation.

Larry said...

Thanks for the link. Some really good stuff is offered, and I have book marked the site for future reference.

Discussion is great, fighting bad. When I was younger and had all the answers, :) having a good religious argument was right up my alley, but looking back I realize my mind was already made up prior to the discussion, and I made no real attempt to understand the other persons could I be wrong? I was a member of the only true church, and as such, had the ability to perfectly interpret God's Word.

jettybetty said...

LOL--I used to have all the answers too! The older I've gotten the less I find I know!

Larry said...

I understand to a point why Mr. Little would stay in a church that "has strayed from biblical teaching," but if he knows it is wrong, yet promotes this biblical teaching gone astray, what of his relationship to God if he purposely promotes error?

God is with even two or three who are gathered together in His name. I believe this would include a church tribe of 100 members where only a quorum of two or three offer acceptable worship to the Lord. God knows our hearts!

JP said...

Nice post Larry and I wish for the unity that Christ so desired of his people, but like you said, I feel I do have unity with my brethren regardless of what the sign out front says.

You said "Our ulta-conservative brothers and sisters in my mind are still God's children, and your right, we should never "look down our noses at them"

I wish I felt the same way towards you, but these folks are destroying any chance at unity with their sectarian self-righteous spirit. They are my brothers and sisters but they are doing damage to the church universal. I am glad that the patternists/legalists in our tribe are on the decline.

JP said...

I meant to say "as" instead of towards.....

Larry said...

Unity, if ever achieved, will be through the efforts of churches that have broke away from our tight-knit legalistic brethren.

You are right; a "sectarian self-righteous spirit" will destoy any chance for unity.