Unity and restoration were both key goals of the American Restoration Movement, and of many of the more serious Christian thinkers and practicers throughout history. These goals are often found in opposition to one another. In other words, if one is asserted, the other suffers.
For example, James O’Kelly led a division among American Methodists in 1793, apparently largely in opposition to the religious tyranny of the circuit-riding “bishop” Francis J. Asbury.
Inasmuch as O’Kelly was presumably restoring, disunity resulted. If he had opted to accede, to resign himself to something not purely biblical, restoratory goals would have suffered.
A slogan of old was “Let Christian unity be our polar star.” Such a galactic berth for unity may be a mite too high, in the grand scheme, but certainly the Lord’s Prayer (John 17) calls for unity with passion and conviction, and we should, too.
As I bring this series to a close, I would like to reiterate what Paul said to the Christians in Corinth (a loose paraphrase of some of 1 Cor. 1:11-17):
- separate, named groupings within a Christian body are divisive
- even Jesus’ name may be used to divide, and divisions among Christians are not good
By extension, the denominational situation in the world today is decidedly not a good thing. Sectarianism and denominationalism are not to be accepted without question as the approved, natural outgrowth of the spread of the gospel and of human nature; rather, these denominations are to be worked in and worked through, to the end that all sectarian names, ideologies, and creeds should be abolished, giving way to the pure messages of the scriptures, and unity based on those messages. I wish the words of the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery were soulfully, intentionally applied to every denomination:
We will, that this body die, be dissolved,
and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large;
for there is but one body, and one Spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling.
May restoration continue to occur, and may unity grow alongside it. May unity be found in scriptural truth and in the truth of Jesus the Living Word.