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Getting along in the Church and being truly Catholic, with a p.s. on Oliver Cromwell and John Calvin

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Getting along: of all places in the world where this should happen, it should be in the church, should it not? But what do we see: the lovely garment of the church rent in pieces. And why? The sinful pride of men; their willingness to indulge in bitter attacks on brothers who differ with them, tho’ not in primary issues; their being more conformed to the world than to the mind of Christ. And the Reformed in all of their manifestations, be they baptist or paedobaptist, do not have a great track record. Let’s face it: the divisions between Reformed brothers and sisters is scandalous. Why will no one call it what it is? What we hear is “standing for the gospel”—but the reality often ain’t so: it is all too frequently just plain old sin or simple cantakerousness! “We alone are the truly reformed.” Give me a break, how often have I heard that line! Of course, I believe in standing for truth in primary and secondary issues, but so frequently our divisions involve tertiary matters.

One of the most beautiful words in the Greek Christian vocabulary is katholikos. The Fathers, blessed be God for the witness of those men, were right when they said that the true church is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” No, this is not the Roman Catholic Church—I was enrolled in that body when I was an infant, and I have no desire to belong to that communion again. But that group is hardly the true Catholic Church. No sir, the Church I love is that Body, fair as the moon and as brilliant as pure glass reflecting the rays of the sun, an awesome army to behold in all of her glory: rank upon serried rank of saints. That is the people among whom I wish to spend my days and spend eternity. And if I am going to live there with such saints, should I not begin here in this world preparing for eternity, and living in peace with my brethren? I do not expect to see eye to eye here with all of my brothers and sisters—that is for another Day—but surely, I can demonstrate the love that marks the truly born-again, the love of the saints.

A p.s.: Let me tell you something amazing: two Christian saints who demonstrated such love were the remarkable Oliver Cromwell and his theological mentor John Calvin. Do not scoff; read their letters and in Oliver’s case, also his speeches to Parliament and see true Christianity in action.

Originally posted at: Historia ecclesiastica

Michael A. G. Haykin is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and blogs at Historia ecclesiastica. Haykin is married to Alison and they have two children, Victoria and Nigel.

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