Periodically people will ask me if there is anything that unites Christians. After all every summer there seems to be fresh coverage of some deep disagreement between Christians within a single church or denomination about some issue or another. Many of us are very aware of the things that divide us. It’s worth considering whether there is any unity to the Christian churches at all.
One of my favorite recent books is Jim Belcher’s Deep Church, the title a nod to C. S. Lewis. In it Belcher outlines a third way between what could be called ‘traditional’ church and the ‘emergent church.’ Belcher writes with clarity and generosity–often characteristics missing from the discussion of emergent/emerging.
In the book, he camps out on the difference between the Great Tradition and the secondary doctrines that are particular to each of the churches. The Great Tradition is that body of Creedal formations and writings held in common by all of the churches that originates in the church prior to the Great Schism of 1054. It reflects what Lewis referred to as Mere Christianity. Deny part of this great tradition and, as far as I am concerned, you cease to be theologically identifiable as an orthodox Christian.
Issues other than those covered in the Ecumenical Creeds are not unimportant. Instead they are, for the most part, important beliefs that divide Christians. That’s the key assertion, the beliefs in question are dividing Christians, not some heterodox quasi-Christian sect.