Grace Fractures

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There is but one God yet there are many manifestations of Him. Let us say there is one light but there are many manifestations of that light: sun light, day light, dawn, sunset, shadow light, dim light, soft light, and so on. Grace is best but not perfectly understood as an imperfect parallel of sunlight. There is Grace and there are many shapes, methods, and manifestations of grace.

Some theologians tell me they want only one church, one denomination, one organization. And they are working for it. Why? Is grace a monopoly? Grace is too big and too subtle to be a monopoly. Grace is everywhere, not in the same amount, perhaps, but grace, like the sun, falls everywhere, and grace can be seen emanating from many strange places. Does grace have to be understood only one way? That is not wisdom and truth in my view.

Let us look at light falling on a prism. Let us say grace is the light and the world, seen and unseen and functions as a prism to reflect it.          A prism reflects light in many different colors. It is like a rainbow. So grace forms many different views and these views often form organizations to further them.

I suggest grace, like light, fractures. And in fracturing grace forms different types of views and organizations to evangelize expressly for the different views. Now does the fracturing of grace mean that all grace is equal. No, equality is not a concept that can be used to parse grace. Some situations may have more grace than others, just as there can be different shades, colors and degrees of brightness in light, but light is light and the forms of light and grace may well be different, but we should also face the fact light can emanate from strange circumstances.

Therefore we have the light of God's grace fracturing to create a rainbow of denominations. The way grace has fractured means denominations are not necessarily the same. They are distinguishable as being different. But they are facets of grace.

One of the main problems of Christianity is the idea that grace should not fracture. I don't see why. Grace is too big, too varied and infinite.  No person or group is going to be able to hold the entire mind of God. People are not whole but partial and finite and therefore must be true to that finite part of fractured light they have seen.

Next there is the equally strange idea that all organizations should be in one big organization. Why? All this does is create a very limited organization that will end as claiming to be a monopoly. (Actually people and churches can often get along better spiritually if they are not locked in together in one organization where they can come to loathe each other.)

It is true that we may have far too many Christian denominations in the world today, but to reduce the number for economy and efficiency in spreading the Gospel (a good cause), does not mean one organization is the way to go.

Actually any organization rules itself, and when an organization becomes too big, bitter factionalism is too often the result. It is often better to create organizations, like nations, where autonomy can be guaranteed. Forcing everyone into one arena can mean the fights will be long and embittered.

Now because denominations may not be one organizationally, does not mean therefore they cannot get along spiritually. I suggest common shared spirituality and respect may go far better as different organizations voluntarily work together than when organizations of different views are forced together.

We should remember that the present ability of mankind to transcend religious differences is very limited. Mores' the pity. Transcendence is a zig-zag thing historically and it is my suggestion that one organization and all forced into it soon becomes a concentration camp.

Particularly is this the case in religion. Unfortunately religious wars can be terrible. The trouble as I see it, is people find it easier to fight about creed, which is secondary, than to apply spirituality whose use is primary and necessary. Spirituality among all religions can help peace and happiness. Creedal fighting is religion at its worst. And very often solely creedal religions untouched by the spirituality the creeds are supposed point to, are most unfortunate.

So let us recall when pressed by differences that grace fractures. FRACTURING GRACE, AMAZING GRACE. Unless we learn to appreciate the fracturing of the light of grace into rainbows of differences, we are going to have a world more troubled than it need be.

When grace fractures as it will, do not be alarmed. Grace may fracture slowly as from the medieval Popes to Martin Luther to John Wesley.   To fracture does not necessarily mean that things before fracturing were not genuine. But things are adapting, meeting new needs, and moving on.

Sometimes the fracturing is done more quickly as when a Baptist congregation splits and part of it forms another congregation. A new need is being addressed. Grace, like light striking a prism, forms another light. Grace in a way is evolving.

Which grace then are you to be true to? You must be true to that grace to which you are called, the special light with which you have been given grace to see, the awareness that makes for your spiritual growth. A point of the Christian life is to serve others and to grow spiritually in the process. Wherein then is your call to work and worship by the grace of God? In this it is left to you through grace to "Work out your own salvation:" (Philippians 2.12) Herein is the freedom of the Christian man and woman. To find yourself in Christ and where you belong. Amen!

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Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.