I’ve written this week about the importance and role of ecumenism in the modern church. I am persuaded that there are two great needs in the church today.
First, we need to recover the centrality of the triune God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ. We have a weak or nonexistent understanding of the Trinity and almost as weak an understanding of Jesus. We have so many religious parties and sects that it amazes me we cannot agree that the only solution is to recover the person of Jesus as central to faith and from Jesus see that he revealed the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The early church developed a doctrine of Trinity precisely because there was no other adequate way to respond to the person of Jesus. He had an intimate relationship with the Father and spoke of being one with the Father. He spoke as well of the Father sending the Spirit when he departed and that he, that is Jesus, would still be with his disciples. This is the Trinity. One God, revealed in three persons: Father, Son and Spirit. No truth is more basic to Christian confession and life than this one.
Many evangelicals have stressed their view of the Bible and of grace and faith almost to the exclusion of teaching this doctrine to their people. Rarely have I heard good teaching on the Trinity in evangelical churches and even more rarely have I heard good prayer that is deeply Trinitarian. And modern music reflects this tragic absence even more. We may confess belief in the Trinity in some statement of faith but practically it means almost nothing to ordinary Christians and churches.
Second, we need to restore the biblical emphasis on ecumenism in the Trinity. Those who know and love Jesus, know the Father and the Spirit. And those who know and love Jesus are one with each other. This mystery is plainly revealed in John 13-17.
Both of these truths, the Trinity and the unity of the one church, frame my mission. Because I operate on these two clear biblical truths I work continually to build bridges, overcome prejudices and create and nurture relationships. (That sentence says as well as any I could write what I do with most of my time.)
A biblical ecumenism will seek to create open space where a broad range of churches and organizations/missions can confess and live the truth of Jesus Christ and the triune God.
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John, I could not agree more. Evangelicalism in particular needs a resurgence of theological thinking. Not simply a doctrinaire adherence to a theological system or to particular doctrines that become our hobby horses, but to the “faith once delivered” and encapsulated in the ecumenical creeds. The profundity and practical import of these fundamental teachings cannot be overstated. They produce depth in one’s life and breadth in one’s outlook toward others.
John, this post is terriffic and truly gets to the heart of the issue here. I am reading a book that a friend loaned to me called “Contemplating The Trinity: The path to the Abundant Christian Life” by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM CAP. You are probably familiar with it. Fr. Cantalamessa leads the reader to enter into the mystery of the Holy Trinity, which inevitably leads toward a deeper union with God, and with one another in the Body of Christ. I’m convinced that seeking to rightly understand and RELATE to the Blessed Trinity in a deeper way is the key to “relational ecumenism”.