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Toreador - Shelly Debate on Unity

religion, articles, christianity

(Shelly's portion of the debate is taken from a speech he made at a "spiritual renewal conference" at Florence, Alabama, April 19, 1996. Toreador's stuff is recent. The reason we must debate with a transcript is that Shelly does not now believe in open dialogue. He prefers monologue, even to the' point of putting words in an imaginary opponent's mouth. In his first affirmative, Shelly made some disturbing comments about the essential evil of ever, under any circumstances, saying that anything is wrong - Firm Foundation, Sept. 1997.)

Second Affirmative by Rubel Shelly,
a Doctor of Philosophy

Several years ago - it, in fact, was probably 10 or 11 years ago - I was in Kenya with a group of missionaries. Missionaries there from different groups, and after a day of Bible study and prayer together, we were outside in the Elgong hills with a roaring fire that had been built that we were around, and just enjoying conversation at that point. And someone in the group said, "You know, if we were back in the United States, I couldn't be doing this with you, because over here we really don't know our denominational distinctions - except perhaps by the return address of the envelope that brings our working fund and monthly salaries - because here in a context of unbelief and animism you value the presence of every Christian brother and sister. You value fellow believers and you work together to try to work against the darkness."

And then first one and then another, and I had to admit the same thing, that the kind of sharing that we had been doing together that day, if done back at home around some of the people that I knew best, would not only be looked upon as perhaps compromising. It might in fact be opposed and angrily rejected and turned away.

A lot has happened in 10 years. A lot has happened in my life personally in 10 years. A lot has happened in my church in 10 years. A lot has happened in your churches in the last 10 years. We not only are not going after each other's jugulars any more - just the benign neglect we realize has been wrong - and we are stepping across and we are chipping away and trying to make penetrations of light­type openings in walls.

Because we're realizing that increasingly we're surrounded, and our circle is shrinking and the things that our culture is beginning to affirm and value and the things on which it takes its stand are things that are antithetical to what we are about - what God has called us to, and that we need every one of us on the same team (Amen).

Our typically entrepreneurial approach to religion has not valued that kind of solidarity. We are after all Americans. We glory in our individualism. In the United States there are forty times more church buildings than there are MacDonalds. U.S. News

World Report, said a while back that there are now 22,000 different denominations-not just church buildings-in a given region, but 22,000 different denominations with 5 new ones forming every week. Maybe we are coming into one of those good times that will allow believers to belie the sort of black­eye headlines that Christians have customarily made. We more often make headlines, or get news coverage in papers, when we have church fights or when a church splits or when there is the angry firing of a pastor or whatever it may be.

Second Response by L. Toreador,
a Bull fighter

There has never been a time when those insisting upon faithful adherence to the Bible could not enjoy a cordial visit with denominational people. It is true that the conversation might turn to points of difference over doctrine, but the discussion would be amiable. If Shelly thinks faithful brothers disallowed such exchanges 10 or 11 years ago, he labors under a mighty delusion.

On the other hand, if Shelly compromised truth to get along with false teachers, that would be a horse of a different color. Did his environment cause Shelly to be ashamed of the gospel and apologize for its strict teaching on oneness?

Think about the ethics of missionaries participating in something they knew the people who paid them would not approve, and keeping it a secret. Remember that Doctor Shelly holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and taught medical ethics at Vanderbilt. Pshaw!

Unity at the expense of truth is too great a price to pay. It is truth that makes us free from the bondage of sin (John 8:32). It is by the one-way-of-truth that we can come to the Father through the Son (John 14:6). When we walk in the light of sacred revelation, we have fellowship one with another (1 John 1:7).

Rubel, please give the documentation for the 22,000 different denominations. Frankly, I think you misread the article, or got carried away and exaggerated.

Unity is important and those who promote it are right. Those who cause division are wrong. Division is not wrong, but causing it is sinful (Matt. 10:32-41). Unity must be based on loyal acceptance and obedience to truth. When teachers reject truth and promote error, they cause division and are wrong. We will all be on the same team when we all go by the same rules.

It matters little if the media is helpful or hurtful. The media, like the kingdoms of men, will wax and wane. It matters a great deal if we are truly following the teaching of Jesus, or if we ignore and depart from it. Our purpose must not be public relations, but personal devotion. When it is our aim to make newspaper reporters happy, we shall not be servants of Jesus (Gal. 1:10).

It is important for us to be united in word and doctrine. "Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Cor 1:10).

Wrestling error in support of truth is noble and necessary. "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ: that, whether I come and see you or be absent, I may hear of your state, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the gospel" (Phil 1:27).

If you are not striving, you are not right.

The bull is slain by the sword of the Spirit.

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Published October 1997