In this, the 10th post of my work through Francis Schaeffer’s book, The Mark of the Christian, Schaeffer takes a great deal of effort to explain some notions of what he calls “false unity.” In this section, Schaeffer makes it plain that even though there are unseen theological realities of unity, those realities are not what Jesus has in mind in John 13 and 17. While all are very true, these realities can provide poor covers for the genuine expression of what Jesus is calling us to. What are those covers of manifested unity?
FALSE NOTIONS OF UNITY
According to Schaeffer, to fully understand true unity, we should “start by eliminating some false notions” (p. 18). He identifies four false notions of unity. The first is “Organizational” unity: although this is possible, it normally exhibits no unity at all to the world (p. 18). Even organizational unit based on common doctrine too often fails to display the kind of oneness and unity Jesus is calling the church to. Moreover, even if it could, it is not physically possible to extend such unity around the world.
The second false notion of unity is that of the “Mystical” unity of the invisible church. Schaeffer explains that this perspective reduces “Christ’s words to a meaningless phrase” (p. 20).
The third false notion is “Positional” and the fourth is “Legal” unity. Although both of these are wonderful theological truths that have their place, that place in not in this discussion. To place them here, according to Schaeffer, is to “make a mockery of what Jesus is saying unless we understand that he is talking about something visible” (p. 20).
And this is his whole point: The world must see our love, our unity, our oneness, in order to judge the authenticity of our message (p. 21).
Key statements from this section (pp. 18-21):
Thus, to relate Christ's words (in John 13 and John 17) to the mystical unity of the invisible Church is to reduce Christ's words to a meaningless phrase.
To relate these verses in John 13 and 17 merely to the existence of the invisible Church makes Jesus' statement a nonsense statement. We make a mockery of what Jesus is saying unless we understand that he is talking about something visible.
This is the whole point: The world is going to judge whether Jesus has been sent by the Father.
You can read the online edition of the entire book here >>
3 John 8