Everyone who’s anyone seems to be pushing for some form of unity,ecumenical collaboration, or inclusion these days. There’s this mentality, even among Christians, that considers any disagreements as the ultimate evil and destroyer of relationships. Well I am here to tell you disagreements happen and divisions of opinion can be good. How do you eat a whole elephant again?
The Apostolic Church was united for quite sometime, until the escalating tension in disagreements between the West/East over certain doctrines and authority reached a threshold in 1054. Rather than throwing it all away, they ‘agreed to disagree’ (double excommunication), and went their separate ways. Each side believing that they were correct in their thinking, and the others had the wrong ideas. Though they’ve never reconciled their differences, it wasn’t the end for the Universal Church.
For several hundred years there remained the two, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church, the division solidified during the crusades. Later through the years there arose disagreements within the RCC itself. But rather than immediate division, any dissent was silenced or ‘handled’. The RCC held tightly the reigns exercising their sacerdotalistic authority over its people. Eventually the dissent grew large enough and, by God’s Providence, a divide was created out the Protestant Reformation and the mother church gave birth to many new churches such as the Lutherans, Reformed, and Anglicans. Yet, this wasn’t the end for the Universal Church.
The division didn’t stop with the Protestant Reformation. As I have discussed in the past, human intellect has plagued man’s ability to remain orthodox to the teachings of the Apostles and the Early Church Fathers. The Enlightment and liberalism began to affect all that had been accomplished in the resurgence of the Reformation. Denominations, like my beloved Presbyterians for example, have divided multiple times over doctrinal issues over the past 275-500ish years (old/new Presby split – 1741). If anyone has seen my church history diagram, they have seen the many divisions illustrated in the Presby Spaghetti Bowl. Even today, with the emerging #woke movement dealing with issues of race, gender, and sexuality, we are divided. The Presbyterian church (or any other church) in dealing with this movement, rather than throwing it all away, may decide to split yet again. This would not be the end for the Universal Church.
Despite what many believe and depending on their eschatology, division in the Universal Church is not without a purpose. These divisions allow, among many reasons known only to God, for members of a local body to be “united in the same mind and the same judgment” as much as the fallen race of men can be [denomination for all you poll trolls]. When you make distinctions about anything, you can have disagreements, and disagreements can lead to divisions. Fear not though brothers and sisters, for those who cause hurtful division will have earned their reward, but the Bride is secure in Christ. Though we may disagree on things like baptism, music, or stained glass windows, we yet remain united in Christ. Division can be good, and God will use it for His purposes.