Fraternal twins don't always resemble one another and this is true of Heresy and Schism; it is true of Persuasion and Neutrality, and a long list of other twins as well. At first glance they seem different, but no, they are twins.
*Saint Augustine is quoted as saying, "Heresy and Schism are not the same, but they constitute merely the different manifestations of the same and one disease."
*Author Niven, in his book, Antichrist or the Spirit of Sectarianism, presents this evaluation: "Heresy is theoretic schism; schism is practical heresy."
Oh that this was a problem that the Church had conquered long ago, but no it is alive and active today.
If we wish to be in proper placement before God in our attitudes and activities as Christians, then we need to understand what we are seeing when the Nasty Twins present themselves in the clothing of pure religion.
Heresy is more clearly identified by those who are knowledgeable of the Scriptures. Heresy plainly says that what the Bible says, is not true, and builds its tenets of faith on its own ideas and ideals, although it is customary for Heresy to include enough of Biblical truth to mislead and to deceive. That is always a tactic of Satan. We hope that those persons who practice division or heresy are not deliberately doing this deed; whether yes or no, the result is the same.
The most subtle of the twins is Sectarianism, or Schism. Consider the multitude of denominations we have in the world, and the many off-spins of Christianity; many calling themselves Christian when they don't even believe what Jesus Himself taught.
Then there are those who really believe the Bible, who believe those things reported in the Bible, and that their beliefs are right, and if you do not completely agree with them then you are totally wrong; consequently they won't associate with you, not in worship or in any other civic or political activity.
Paul warns about getting into discussions that produce controversy. We are told to go tell about Jesus and the salvation He provides. We are told to worship the One True God, and to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and to follow the footsteps of Jesus, bringing healing and deliverance to the people and to ourselves.
If we were busy feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the widow and the orphan and those in prison and the sick, if we busy providing shelter for the unsheltered and taking the homeless into our homes, we would not have time to do anything except what God has told us to do, and that is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ by word and deed, and to see increase in the Kingdom of God, bringing many sons to the Cross.
So whether by Heresy or by Schism, "division" is the result of them both and produces the same result. The Enemy of the Kingdom of God is the winner in this act of "division" because UNITY is what God expects of Us. Unity is the necessary requisite for the Presence of the Holy Spirit to come in great power.
"Unified" may be a scary word for many of us because it speaks to possibly joining in with those who are into heresy. We know we are warned to not be in agreement with the heretical.
How may we then be aware of how to judge with whom we may join and with whom we must not be joined in ministry?
As a young Bible student my Pastor told us that we need not be concerned about the exact preferences of other Churches or Denominations regarding Church government and some other of their rules. He told us that as long as a denomination believed in these things listed below, that we could consider them to be real and truly Christ's:
1. They must believe that Jesus is God in flesh;
2. They must believe in the Virgin Birth;
3. They must believe that Jesus was crucified and was buried and that He rose from the dead.
4. They must believe that Jesus is the only way to come to God.
5. They must believe that Jesus is coming again.
6. That Baptism is required by Scripture if that is a possibility, noting that there are differences about the method of delivery of baptism to the new convert, which is nothing to split hairs about.
7. They must believe that the Blood of Jesus is God's requisite for forgiveness of sins.
8. They must base their beliefs in their confidence that the Bible is God's Word.
Although we may entertain some differences in our thoughts on less important points, the major points stated above are the basis of Christian Doctrine. We hold fast to those doctrines espoused, not by any certain Denomination, but rather those Writers who wrote the teachings as they heard Jesus teach to them.
These are basically the statements of the Nicene Creed. If we ourselves are "Christian" we should be able to embrace those declarations.
Was my Pastor presenting to us "Sectarianism?" No, because these are the vital teachings of Jesus as stated in the Scriptures. Our clothing or the length of our hair, what we eat, whether the Minister wears a robe or jeans, and such things as these are non-issues according to the Scriptures.
*C. S. Lewis, when delivering the Graduation Address to a class of Preacher Boys at Oxford, advised them of the necessity to preach and teach the message Jesus taught and preached. His reasoning was that if they wanted to call themselves" Christian" then they must follow the teachings of Jesus: and he said, if they did not like those teachings, then they should start their own religion but should call it by their own name.
Do I speak so as to applaud "Sectarianism" or "Schism?" In no way, for while it is true that we do divide ourselves from unbelievers in practices of Worship, and even those believers, who practice the acts of rebellion to God, better known as sinful behaviors, (because God calls them sinful behaviors), we do not need to be in disunity with those who do engage the basic tenets of the Christian Faith, although perhaps not exactly as we do in all ways. We may call ourselves by differing names, but should we not call ourselves by the Name of Christ first; maybe only?
One of the problems with us as humans is that we have the "all or none" mentality; or the "this or that" mentality, or the "black or white" mentality. It seems the word AND is rarely in our thought process.
How do we overcome the fact of "division" in the Christian Church? This has been a problem from the beginning for the Church, even since the newly established Church in Jerusalem. Pharisees and Sadducees remain in the Church; well, their counterparts remain.
We have those inside the Church's membership who do not believe the validity of the Scriptures and regard them as documents written by men, and that the reports may or may not be accurate. For those persons, they form their own ideas and ideals about what Christianity is and is not. They tend to consider the "Bible Thumpers" to be ignorant and unlearned, while they trust the reports of Professor Intelligent who was not ever near what he or she is speaking about with such magnificent authority.
We have those who refuse to believe that even a typographical error exists within the pages of The Bible. We divide ourselves for these reasons from any other group, and the truth is that we do have a different view, one group from the other. How are we gathered under One Head? Generally, The Bible Thumpers are more open to the teachings of the Scripture's, but in truth they have fences around "what they believe" and tend to divide themselves from those who do not believe exactly like they believe.
What could be an answer to this dilemma?
There will not be unity in the Church until The Holy Spirit rushes upon us and convicts each one of his or her sin allowing us all the ability to repent. There is no schism or heresy in the Holy Spirit. Our problem as the Church of today is that we have constructed our own God according to our own preferences, without regard to what God says about Himself. We are in many ways mechanical in the way we practice our "faith." There must be more passion and enthusiasm about Jesus and the works He has assigned to us, which is much more than only going to Church on Sunday and blessing ourselves.
It would be great if we would realize that all persons are not at the same juncture on this road to Heaven. It would be great if we could discern that the various gifts of The Holy Spirit operate in varying ways in different persons. You and I are not supposed to look exactly alike. God was careful, obviously, to create only one of any of us.
I do think that the most efficient and effective method of applied effort for unifying The Church is for you and me to listen to Jesus and do what He has told us to do. You are The Lord's problem and/or joy; and I also occupy the same position. If we would each go to Him, if we would each one look at Him, we would then become more unified. That seems to be paradoxical, but it is IN Him that we become one with Him and consequently with each other.
I need to hear you out and you need to allow me to speak. We need to communicate and not to shut down when someone voices an opinion different than ours. All of us must, however, be able to back up our beliefs by the Scriptures. The Bible is THE basis upon which we live our lives, else we are not a Christian Believer. How can we be Christian if we don't like what Jesus taught? Therein lies the answer to our "divisions;" we are to love and to practice what Jesus taught.
In our society we have the opinion that we are to respect and permit all the opinions of all people in the world; that is in no way a possibility. For instance the religious practices of Satanism are totally incompatible with Christianity. Actually the offence of Christianity is that Jesus said that there is, "No other way to God except by Me." So we should never expect to blend with other religions. Our point of "Beginning" is not compatible.
However, within the boundaries of Christianity, inside the family of faith, we can come to agreement by basing our agreement on the teachings of the Bible as a whole teaching, with major focus on the teachings of Jesus and actually practicing His commands to us as His Followers.
Opinions are like noses; everybody has one! So if we are to unite on the important points, we must have the same Rule Book, and we must be able to validate our opinions based on those Scriptures, then we must pray for and love, and to leave to Jesus, the act of correction for anyone who is wrong in His eyes.
Thank You, Holy Spirit of God that YOU are our teacher.
*I am unable to find the information for the quotes herein: but I have given credit to the Author by name.
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