PAPER NO. 47
THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH
That they may be one that the world may believe
- The Church is God’s ordained institution for redemption. Redemption assumes the order of creation and man’s fall away into sin and death. Sin assumes the objective clarity of general revelation, affirmed in all sources of revelation (Romans 1:20). Clarity increases subjectively with integrity. The Church consists of those called out by God from their fallen condition of sin and death.
- The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth: it is the body of Christ, who is the Word of God, the Logos incarnate, who makes the truth of God fully known (1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Corinthians 12:27; John 1:14). The Church is the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14). If the Church fails, the world fails.
- There is division in the Church due to its manifold apostasy, resulting in decay and collapse in the culture. The Church once was the head of the culture; now it is the tail, in captivity to the world. In this spiritual war, between belief and unbelief, unbelief once again has the upper hand, worldwide.
- The Church is to preserve the unity of the Spirit; attain to the unity of the faith; and operate in the functional unity of the body of Christ as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:3, 13, 16).
The good/the goal, is the source of unity, in all and for all:
- from general revelation: the good for a being is according to the nature of that being; the good for man as a rational being is the use of reason to the fullest; reason is used to grasp the nature of things; the nature of things created reveal the nature of God; therefore, the good for man is the knowledge of God.
- from special revelation: man is made in the image of God, to know God, through the work of dominion; eternal life is knowing God (Genesis 1:26; John 17:3)
- from Historic Christianity: man’s chief end is to glorify God, in all that by which he makes himself known, in all his works of creation and providence (SCQ 1, 101; WCF 4:1, 5:1).
- The moral law, summed up in The Ten Commandments, is the means to the good. It is objectively clear to all, being written on the hearts of all men (Romans 2:14-15; Deuteronomy 30:11-14). This moral law is both central and basic.
- Common ground is the most basic source of unity as the prerequisite for all thought and discourse. If we can agree on the more basic we will agree on the less basic. Common ground consists of reason as the laws of thought in all; integrity as a concern for consistency (logical and existential); rational presuppositionalism as the most consistent application of critical thinking, and consequently, the Principle of Clarity: the basic things about God and man and good and evil are clear to reason.
- Scripture is clear in affirming the biblical worldview in the narrative of creation–fall–redemption in Genesis 1–3 as foundational to all of Scripture. This foundation is also affirmed theologically in Scripture, summed up in the seven pillars of the faith (Romans 1:20; Hebrews 6:1-2).
- The Holy Spirit leads the Church into all truth for the unity of the faith (John 16:13; Acts 15; Ephesians 4:11-13). The Historic Christian Faith is progressively summed up in the Church’s Creeds from its Councils. To depart from Historic Christianity is to depart from the holy catholic and apostolic faith, and is to divide the body of Christ. There are seven major, cumulative Councils and Creeds from Jerusalem (51 AD) to Westminster (1648).
- Church discipline is necessary for discipleship by which we come to understand and to obey the Truth. The Word of God/the Logos is Truth in its fullness (John 8:31-32; 17:17). The Logos is the eternal word of God who makes God known. The Logos is in all men as the light of reason; is in the creation as general revelation; is in redemptive history as Scripture; is incarnate in Jesus Christ; is in Church history as The Historic Christian Faith summed up in its Creeds. It gives life to each believer by regeneration; and this life grows in each believer by sanctification through deepening understanding of the truth (John 1:1, 4, 10, 11, 14, 16:13, 3:3, 17:17).
- The fear of the Lord (which is to see the connection between root sin and spiritual death, and between the curse—consummated in physical death—and the promise) is the beginning of wisdom. The completion of wisdom is through the love of God (which is to seek the good—the knowledge of God through the work of dominion, in order to fill the earth with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea—Isaiah 11:9).
- The unity of the Church is necessary to disciple all nations, to complete the work of dominion, to subdue all things to Christ, to take all thoughts captive to Christ, for Christ to return, for us to inherit the kingdom of God, and to enjoy the fullness of God.
Recovery begins with preaching the gospel in its fullness: repent; the kingdom of heaven is at hand.