10. We (true Christians) only disagree on unessentials. This response doesn’t really solve the problem. First of all, who has the authority to decide exactly what the “essential” doctrines are? Is “eternal security” an essential doctrine, because if so, the vast majority of Protestant Bible-only Christians do not believe it.
You see, the list of unessential doctrines must itself be an essential doctrine that every true Christian agrees on, or else the whole house of cards collapses.
Further, when we are dealing with Truth, and Jesus is the Truth, how can anyone say that some Truth is unessential or unimportant?
Further still, where does the Bible say that some division over doctrinal or moral issues is perfectly acceptable? Surely, there are places in Scripture that recommend Christian's being sensitive to one another in non-essential areas, but no where does the Bible say that a moral question can be answered positively by some and negatively by others. Rather, St. Paul commands that we be like-minded and in perfect unity in the one faith. To suggest that some category of “unessential” doctrines on which we have divine revelation exists in which it is okay for Christians to disagree about seems contrary to the minds of Paul and Jesus. As I pointed out in our conversation, Jesus prayed in John 17 for our oneness to model that of the Holy Trinity, and there are no minor doctrinal differences between the Father and Son!
Closer examination shows that these “minor doctrinal differences” are the very things that are ripping the entire Body of Christ to shreds, causing scandal to the world. Remember: Jesus prayed that our oneness would “show the world that I was sent by the Father.” If we are visibly disunified, then we as Christians have failed to follow Jesus’s plan for evangelization…the very plan that he offered his passion to achieve! I can’t think of a single doctrine that at least some Christian organization believes the opposite about…all based on the Bible alone. The fact is, the “minor differences” are not actually minor. They involve major issues such as the nature of baptism, the recipients of baptism, the nature of sin, the doctrine of justification, the question of eternal security, and much more. None of these are minor; they cut right to the core of Christian theology, as you well know.
And finally, we must remember that doctrines are not like bullet points on a list. Rather, they are like musical lines in a great symphony of truth. Change one line, and the entire relationship of all the musical voices shifts. Change one line, and the entire tapestry of truth is fundamentally altered. Change one truth, and you have a different symphony.
On what basis, then, did Jesus ever think, praying His high priestly prayer in the upper room, that Christians would ever be able to fulfill His prayer for unity?
The answer: He founded a Church to teach authoritatively in His name (Matt. 16:16-19, 18:17-18). That Church, almost from the very beginning, has called herself by the name, “The Catholic Church.”
At various times throughout history, some people have broken away from the church to teach doctrines contrary to her. Praise be to God that a tidal wave of Christians (Anglicans, Baptist, Lutherans, etc….even an entire Protestant congregation in Detroit not too long ago) are returning so that the Body of Christ can be perfectly unified once again.