F. Gospel foundation only:
Our quest for unity must not be based on catechisms, but on the gospel of Christ. If we call for a restoration of a correct catechism, then we often bind on ourselves the task of choosing a supposedly correct catechism upon which we must all agree, which catechsim will supposedly bring us all together in unity. And in order to establish the correct catechism, we must bind on ourselves a hermeneutic by which we will all understand the Bible alike, and subsequently, come to some common conclusions. These are legal restorations that usually produce division because they are not based primarily on the gospel.
Inevitably, our hermeneutic of legal restoration of necessity involves deductive conclusions, and inherent in deductive conclusions is division. Deductive conclusions are subject to the minds of men, and thus, we are often left to the mercy of those among us whom we consider to be our scholars to make the correct deductions. We subsequently submit ourselves to a hierarchy of authorities who only have the right to hand down interpretative dictates to the laity.
God did not clone our minds to come to the same conclusions through a deductive system of reasoning. Our hermeneutic of “deductivism,” therefore, is inherently flawed with human reasoning. And since we are independent in our thinking, our deductive process of reasoning often leads us to different conclusions. We subsequently become different sects if we seek to bind our conclusions on one another as the catechism of “our church.”
However, there is hope in all sectarianism. There is hope if we once again refocus on the gospel as the foundation for unity. There are no deductive conclusions to be made about the gospel. What is revealed as gospel in the New Testament is stated in clear statements and historical events. No interpretation is needed. If we all refocus on the foundation of the gospel, then we may not at the beginning originate from the same sect. Nevertheless, if we persistently focus on the gospel of Jesus, we will eventually end up together on the same path.
The path of almost everyone originates out of some past religious heritage. But if we continue to focus on the gospel, our paths will inevitably converge, regardless of our religious origins. It is simply the beauty of the gospel to produce that which we all crave, that is, brotherhood in Christ.
We must be warned, however, that as restoration movements age, they inherently become the heritage of the people. And when the deductive conclusions of the movement become a part of the heritage, then they become the authority of the heritage. We have thus doomed ourselves to eventually decline in numbers as new generations arise who are not attached to the heritage of the fathers. As such is now happening in the American religious scene, unfortunately those who are trapped within what are now heritage movements have a difficult time understanding the reason for their decline. Their catechism of doctrine seems to be failing, and because the heritage is identified by a legal catechism, to some it is quite disconcerting to witness the decline of their religious heritage. They simply do not understand. But as Paul wrote to the Corinthians—we use his statement somewhat out of context—we would say, “And yet I show to you a more excellent way” (1 Co 14:31).
[Next in series: January 23]