If you run around in Christian circles for any period of time you will hear plenty about "Christian unity". Now, don't get me wrong, I am a full proponent for legitimate Christian unity. However, I am sick and tired of Christians copping out of legitimate ecumenical conversation, discussion, and debate in the name of "Christian unity". Let me explain myself a little more.
One of the things I have heard people say over & over again is something along these lines: "Christians shouldn't argue amongst themselves because it looks bad to non-Christians and hurts Christian witness."
Now, to some extent I would agree about this. Paul definitely seems concerned that Christians be able to settle matters amongst themselves and not have to take disagreements to civil authorities in 1 Corinthians 6. Furthermore, Jesus in his "High Priestly Prayer" in John 17 repeatedly asks The Father that He (The Father) would unite His people (The Church) in Him (Jesus). That being said, I think modern Christians are grossly off target when they argue that Christians should not argue amongst themselves over theological issues because it is necessarily off putting to non-believers.
Let me me break it down a little bit for us.
When we talk about "unity" what is it that we are talking about? In order for a people to be unified they must have something that, well, unifies them! When Jesus prays his high priestly prayer in John 17 we should look at the content of what he prays would unify the people of God. Jesus prays that the church would be one in such a way that He and the Father are one. Jesus prays that the church would love each other with the same love that He has for His Father and that the Father has for Him.
These are not simple truths or realities. The truths Jesus is talking about here are truths that penetrate the depths of the Christian faith. These realities should be things that Christians argue over and talk about. Christians should be discussing the eternal relationship of the Trinity because it is in the unity of the Trinity that true Christian unity is developed!
Furthermore, when someone complains about Christians debating amongst themselves, claiming the debate hurts Christian witness, we should remember that they are singling out only one type of non-believer. What I mean by this is that there are many different reasons that people are not Christians. One of those reasons can be that they are put off by the fact that Christians argue amongst themselves. However, there are just as many non-believers who are put off by the flippancy of many modern Christians who refuse to take seriously the doctrines of the Christian faith. Who is to say that one of these unbelievers wouldn't be encouraged to see two or more Christians engaged in a hearted debate over the content of their faith. Perhaps this display of zeal for their belief could serve as a catalyst for that type of unbeliever.
Ultimately, no matter what we do as Christians, we are going to be hated by some type of heathen or another. It is true that we do not want to be unnecessarily off-putting to the unbelievers. That being said, to base our ecumenical engagements solely on the reactions of the unbelieving world is foolishness. Moreover, it represents that we are more concerned with our reputation with man than we are with our reputation with God and the cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 11) who surrounds us as believers.
As Christians we posses the truth of God, something Francis Schaeffer liked to call "true truth"; Christians posses the "true truth". What this means is that we should be a peculiar people who are extremely interested in the truth & furthermore, in getting the truth right; after all, Jesus did say that he is the way the truth and the life. The Bible teaches that non-believers are truth-suppressors (Romans 1:18). We should love our brothers and in so loving we should fight for truth.
So as believers let's take our faith seriously. Let's quit wallowing at the scowls of the unbelieving world. Let's join hands in the bond of fellowship and fight with one another as true brothers do!
Food for thought!
Disclaimer: This is in no way an endorsement of trolling and foolish uninformed pointless debate among Christians.