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October 15, 2015

Warning: This article employs sports metaphors. If you don’t understand them, I recommend you spend more time watching TV.

I enjoy football. Many Americans share that same delight with me. However, the football I enjoy is not like the football most Americans enjoy. I enjoy a good game of what the rest of the world calls football but which has little in common with the American football that captivates hearts throughout the nation every fall and winter. In America the football I enjoy is called soccer. Soccer and football share a common history and as a result share some similarities. They are played on fields of approximately the same size. Each sport has the same number of players on the field at a time. Both teams have designated offensive and defensive players. Punts, kicks, passes, fouls, referees and controversies abound in both sports. Despite these similarities, no one would be silly enough to declare that the two sports are really the same. Peyton Manning and Ronaldo Messi have little in common aside from being great athletes. The strategy necessary to move the ball forward in soccer would fail miserably if applied to American football. The kind of training employed by football linebackers would leave soccer midfielders hopelessly unable to compete. Just because the two sports share some words and even some history in common they are not the same.

Just because two religions share some history, names and titles in common does not mean they are the same. Modern ecumenicism imagines that because we all worship a great being called God, we love a central figure named Jesus and we all speak highly of the Bible then the differences between denominations is of no great importance.

The things shared between many professed Christian churches are mere superficialities and the differences that exist between them are substantial. Consider the following examples. The Catholic doctrine of justification has as much in common with the Biblical doctrine of justification as the center of an offensive line has with a center midfielder. The Jehovah’s Witness doctrine of Jesus has as much in common with Biblical doctrine as a red flag does with a red card. The liberal theologian’s view of the Bible has as much in common with the Biblical doctrines as a corner kick does with a corner route. The prosperity preacher’s doctrine of salvation has as much in common with the Bible as a striker’s writhing on the ground in pain does with reality. Superficial similarity does not mean we have all things in common and can ignore the differences in the name of unity. To act otherwise is ridiculous. Sharing some names and terms in common does not mean the definitions and expressions of those ideas are the same. Genuine Christian unity is found only in genuine agreement around core, Biblically defined doctrines.


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