Common Ground

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70 Responses

  1. dswoager says:

    Awhile back I was talking to my wife about what the church would look like if, rather than having all the options for denominations that we have in the area, we would just congregate with the fellow believers in our own neighborhood regardless of their traditions. I’m sure it’s naive to think that we could come together and just sharpen each other through our differences, I’m sure there would be power plays and other such things, but it would be interesting to come together under the banner of Christ alone… that’s what it is going to look like in the end anyway.

  2. Michael says:


    I like having different traditions and denominations…I think they all show us something about Christ that is valuable to us.

  3. dswoager says:

    I agree, it’s just a thought experiment really. I think that having something like this, where you have people from different backgrounds interacting on issues, is healthy both in showing where we have common ground, and in sharpening us to take into account other viewpoints. Where I have seen distinctives go astray sometimes is that if there is a particular theological issue that helps define them then they have taken it off the table as something they are willing to discuss. I realize that we all have quite a few things that are at least personally off the table for discussion, we aren’t going to budge on a position, but we probably agree on a lot of those. I like discussion, I like being challenged, I like when the light goes on in someone’s eyes when I present something in a way that they had never seen it before… I like that in myself as well.

  4. Mark says:

    I believe we are united in believing that:
    when we become “justified by faith” we are then indwelt with the Holy Spirit and sealed for etrnity to salvation. The indwelt Holy Spirit will convict us of sin. If we reject the Holy Spirit- then we are not truly saved.

  5. paigemom2013 says:

    Michael, I appreciate the differences when they truly lead to showing us valuable things about the Lord Jesus. However…… It does seem that we focus on differences, argue the differences, pride ourselves on differences while seemingly forgetting the truly important common (creed) beliefs. Those are the beliefs that give us Hope and Peace…..

  6. Michael says:


    We would all agree on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
    Not all would agree on eternal security.

  7. Michael says:


    We forget our foundations and our adoption into the same family far too easily.
    I love good debate on the differences, but only with those who acknowledge the common ground while doing so.

  8. paigemom2013 says:

    When I was a new believer, I could easily fellowship with all others in various churches, who would always comment on the simplicity of my faith…..Now, ignorance is not bliss, and I find myself in a corner of sorts, scratching my head at the things I/we/some cling to…. as IF the Lord Jesus Christ was not so supremely superior to all differences. He is, of course.

  9. I only state my position – others argue with me. 😉

  10. Paige says:

    Arguing…. a sport to some….. a turn off to many….. an offense to even more…. and possibly good reason for unbelievers to dismiss any thought of joining us.

  11. Andrew says:

    In regards to authority in the article, I am interested in the Lutheran understanding of this specifically how it relates to “The Office of the Keys”. At least in Lutheran theology it appears that Christ has given “authority” to the church on earth. I’m thinking of converting to Lutheranism and interested in this aspect of the faith. Maybe other denominations believe similarly so I would be curious to find out.

  12. Actually Andrew’s question shows how this works.
    To agree with Andrew – which I do, by definition means that I disagree with those who think there is no difference between clergy and laity in this area.

  13. Nonnie says:

    Paige, I am tracking with you completely!

  14. Andrew says:

    And MLD if what you are saying is true which I am suspecting it may be, the difference between the clergy and the laity would only be valid in the true church and they can’t all be true. I’m not ready to say yet that the Lutherans are the only true church because I know many wonderful Baptists and Calvinists and Calvary Chapelites, ect that I know are my brothers but not sure I can say they have the keys or even if they believe they have them. I think the dominionists like Peter Wagner and folks may think they have them but I am pretty sure they don’t.

  15. Andrew,
    I wasn’t talking about True churches. When we read the scriptures we need to look to whom Jesus is speaking. Note some of the things he says to the leaders that he does not say to the 5,000.

    John 20:19-22 (the office of the keys) was given in private to the disciples – they were to be the leaders of the Church. If it we open for all, why did he not give it to the 5,000?

  16. Andrew says:

    MLD, true, however, we all now have the ability to read the scriptures and see what what Jesus was saying to the leaders. So it appears that at least as individuals in the masses can at least discern the true church.

  17. To a Lutheran, the true church is where the gospel is properly proclaimed and the sacraments properly administered. So there could be several.

  18. dswoager says:

    MLD, I think that Andrew has a decent point. If the keys to the Kingdom are only given to the apostles it would stand to reason that they would also be the ones to hand them on to the next generation of believers. In order to be sure that you had hold of the keys, you would have to be able to trace a line of succession that would affirm that. You probably end up with something that looks an awful lot like the Catholic Church. Only the “true church” would really have the keys in that scenario.

    To be fair I am just thinking out loud, we had been discussing this in our weekday study a couple weeks ago, and I don’t think I have a firm enough understanding of the concept to really say anything definitive.

  19. Andrew says:

    MLD, I understand there are several Lutheran denominations, but I honestly don’t know of any group that believes in the real presence in the Lord’s supper other than Roman Catholics. Maybe the EO do but I really don’t know of any other, do you?

  20. Stryker says:


    Lutherans base the Office of the Keys on John 20:22-23

    22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

    Different Lutheran groups work this out in different ways, but in most Lutheran churches this is seen in both corporate and private absolution, wherein after the confession, the Pastor says something along the the lines of ‘In the stead, and by the command of Christ, I therefore, forgive you all of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ Individual Christians also can do this.

    I have also seen a few unfortunate instances in which sins were retained publicly for people in willful, persistent sin, that brought public shame on the church. Sit through a couple of those and it will strike the fear of the Lord into you. Here are a couple posts on the old New Ref Press blog that talk about it.

  21. dswoager,
    Apostolic succession has never been a part of Lutheran teaching. We just leave it as part of the ordination process that the pastor has been separated out by God and a congregation, and has certain ‘ordained’ responsibilities.
    Forgiving sin being one of them

  22. Stryker – good post 🙂

  23. dswoager says:

    It kind of seems like it should be though. If, in ordaining someone, you are conveying the authority that is being spoken of here it would seem to be reasonable that you would need a way to verify that those giving the authority have the authority to give it.

  24. Andrew – the Reformed say they do, but they have a totally different meaning that really does not come close.

    The RCC have it right, but handle it wrongly. I would have to check but I think the EO has it right.

  25. dswoager,
    How is it that a pastor has the gift of pastor / teacher? How is that ‘passed down’ or bestowed on someone? in the same way, the office of the keys comes with the pastor through his call.

    I always find it comical to watch evangelical pastors deny that they have any role in the forgiveness of sin .. but to be honest I have never asked a pastor what they thought was happening in the John 20 passage.

  26. Andrew says:

    What about Calvary Chapel? Do they have it right or are they even farther away than the reformed?

  27. Papias says:

    Great post Michael and very timely.

    If persecution was the order of the day, and churches were closed due to them being centers “hate speech” or whatever the outrage d jour is, and we could only meet in small groups in each others homes – we might find out REAL quick that what we have in common is FAR more important than our differences.

    We are fast approaching having to decide if we need to offer this culture’s “pinch of incense to Caesar” in either being silent or agreeing with their views, or be ostracized for disagreeing.

    I don’t want persecution, just stating that if it were to come, we would agree quickly what’s important and what isn’t.

  28. Andrew says:

    I always find it comical to watch evangelical pastors deny that they have any role in the forgiveness of sin .. but to be honest I have never asked a pastor what they thought was happening in the John 20 passage.

    MLD, why would you expect them to have any role when they deny Christ has a real presence in the the Lord’s supper? If you deny the one aren’t you forfeiting the other?

  29. Andrew – this is suppose to be a thread on what we agree on. 🙂

    Did you make it out to St Johns in Springfield or have coffee with the pastor?

  30. Andrew says:

    Not yet. I will though.

  31. Paps,
    Probably in America because we are sissies and will do anything to stay out of trouble. If you read about how the Lutherans who came to America and eventually became the LCMS you find that even under persecution they could not find common ground.

    I don’t know if it was the king of Prussia or what rank he was, but he forced the Lutherans to worship with the Reformed. They couldn’t do it, so they sold all their stuff, hopped on the boat and floated from Germany to New Orleans – took a steamboat up the Mississippi to St. Louis. I think more than half of them died.

    Quite the price not to worship with Calvinists … 😉

  32. mike says:

    The longer I’m a Christian the less dogmatic I become as to who is and who isn’t following Christ correctly in my opinion. That makes me apostate in some eyes and closer to the centrality of Christ in others. I will let jesus be my ultimate judge as I endeavor to grant others that same freedom more and more.
    Thx for the opportunity to express

  33. dswoager says:

    MLD, it’s probably disingenuous for me to be arguing from a position I don’t really hold. I am likely at risk of constructing a straw man. I feel that we as a fellowship of believers, through the Spirit, are both gifted and able to affirm the gifting in others. From where I stand prsently, and as I said I am not planting my feet on the issue, I see the keys as being closer to actually being those who are Spirit filled and carrying the message of the gospel, which in itself is a ministry of forgiveness. He was speaking to the apostles, in my thinking, because they were more than any the people that he had poured his life into, and were those who he was entrusting with the beginings of this ministry.

    I appreciate input though, just working through it.

  34. Dusty says:

    paige, you should speak more often….maybe even write a thread once a week….we need your voice and wisdom

  35. dswoager says:

    I’ll agree with Dusty, I’ve been lurking for a little while, but I appreciate a lot of what you have to say.

  36. Paige says:

    Dusty, not a chance, but thanks for the invitation… 🙂 You do it! 🙂 Or Ps 40. or SisterC…they have a LOT to share!

    Saw this yesterday….. puts much into a dif perspective …. Syrian Christian sister and brother, starved, ate leaves…and trusted in God. Orthodox Christians …

  37. Paige says:

    Mike #32….. I’m in that place too….less dogmatic (or catmatic as the case may be)…. feel like the older I get, the less I ‘know” but have a deeper sense of inner calm about God’s vast power.

  38. Andrew says:


    I am working through these issues too so I do appreciate your honestly. I think being Spirit filled is definitely key to the ministry of reconciliation but I am like you in trying to work out this idea of the “office of the keys”. Perhaps they are not mutually exclusive but rather working hand and hand. It seems to me the church should not only be a living organism but should also have order as in an organization. But I am like you thinking out loud here.

  39. Remember though, there is a 2nd half – the binding of people’s sin, the binding of their unrepentant soul.

    IMHO this is for the office of the ministry and not just any ‘spirit filled’ person.

  40. dswoager says:

    I’ve been working from a “less ordered” framework of late, the idea of gifting more than office, the idea of elder closer to the sense that is used commonly than in some sort of office. I think that the idea or organizational structure is further propped up the current corporate model as well. Perhaps this is too “spiritual” an interpretation, but when I read about loosing on earth my mind goes to spreading the gospel, the testimony of the work of Christ for the world to me seems like the keys that set the captives free. In that case “the office of the keys” Is something that we all share.

  41. Having come from a family that was much harmed by Calvinism, I used to get all worked up about it.. I am more reflective about it now. Other issues are much more important.

    However, I do understand the appeal that this system has for many Protestants, as I try to explain here:

    Jim Vander Spek

  42. dswoager says:

    The dynamic there reminds me of 1 Corinthians 1:18, to paraphrase to those that it has loosed “it is the power of God”, but there are those who find it to be foolishness, they are bound (perishing).

  43. Andrew says:

    I used to believe in invisible pastors. Pastors that are doing the job of a pastor but don’t have the title necessarily. Its easy to think this way in our culture because there are many self appointed profits and pastors claiming they have this calling when they just go out and start a church without anybody sending them. Eventually some get absorbed into other groups and denominations but this doesn’t quite seem right especially when those groups may have also been started by a lone ranger who had a vision and went out on his own to start his own network of churches. This just seems contrary to the faith to have no real continuity to an historic church.

  44. Steve Wright says:

    I’ve got a pretty big one.

    We agree (or we better) that we will go to jail, or (by God’s grace) endure any torture, or even face the martyr’s death before we would deny our Lord Jesus Christ.

    I have had conversations where professing Christians say something like “I think God would understand if we were captured by Islamic militants and agreed to profess Allah and Mohammed, denying Jesus, in order to see our families again.” Nothing in Scripture OR Church History supports such an opinion.

    I believe there is a real need for pastors in American churches, especially dispensational churches like Calvary Chapels, to prepare Christians for the very real possibility of persecution for their faith here in the good ol’ USA….and that the rapture is not promised as their deliverance from man and government’s persecution.

  45. Neo says:

    Ha ha, think about it; two billion people will gather together around the world to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection this weekend. The Kingdom of God is like a seed…

  46. We agree that eternal life is the gift of God to those who are his by the name of Jesus.

  47. sisterchristian says:


    You are either being too kind or ebulliently hailing me as a bavard…
    I’m more inclined to agree with dusty
    … Sure do appreciate your wisdom and comments

  48. You know, right now BD, I thank God for the gift of eternal life and that it has been granted to us.
    I would be truly hopeless without it.

  49. Also, I thank God for common ground. There is a lot that we can agree on

  50. RiBo says:

    I think we agree on the following:

    Love your Neighbor is “good”

    Slaughter women, children, infants who are captured/conquered already is “evil”

    Slavery is “evil”

    Forcing women to have sex as slaves is “evil”

    Beating kids with rods and leaving scours and stripes is “evil”

    Executing women and children with stones is “evil”

    Helping feed the hungry is “good”

    Helping the orphan and widow is “good”

    Love your enemies is a command given by Jesus

    God is love

    God is good

    Torturing an enemy is “evil”

    Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control are “good”

    Any disagreement from the Group?

  51. RiBo says:

    Dread life “eternal” is not what you are stating as this is the universally accepted definition of eternal: “lasting or existing forever; without end or beginning.”

    …or you are asserting that human souls are eternal with no beginning, like God, not created.

    “life eternal” and “fire eternal” are references to things in the next Realm…the Realm of the Eternal God.

  52. RiBo says:

    Do you believe there is anything that is truly “eternal” besides God?

  53. Jeez, RiBo.
    No one was listening to you talk to yourself over on the other thread.
    But now, you have to bring that here?

  54. It is like a little kid constantly yelling “Pay attention to me!”

  55. Question for Michael filtered through your use of the kerygma above.
    What about the Trinity?
    And what do you think of Oneness Pentecostalism?

  56. Michael says:


    The kerygma is my baseline for defining faith, but it really should be combined with the creeds at minimum.
    Oneness Pentecostalism is outside orthodoxy.

  57. I was looking at the kerygma and wondering if Mormons could be included in that.
    Only started researching the first about the virgin birth to remember that they aren’t even orthodox on that.

  58. filbertz says:

    we could probably agree that doubt is common, yet is not sin.
    we could likely agree that none have all the answers and most could hold to secondary or tertiary conclusions more flexibly.
    we could likely agree that grace is widely underexercised and even misunderstood.
    finally, we could likely agree that the American expression of Christianity is riddled with extraneous, even harmful practices.

  59. Derek,
    I am very easy about including people into the Christian family – if a person can confes the Nicene creed, to me they are in. i don’t lower the standard to the Apostle’s creed, because a Mormon, even though they don’t and won’t ascribe to any creed – could with the Apostles’ creed.

    Now, jut because i am an easy mark to get in doesn’t mean that my head doesn’t spin at how wrongly many people apply christian doctrine. 😉

  60. PS – I do understand the issue that the EO have with the filioque, so I will let them in even if they leave that phrase out.

  61. I read this article last year and found it to be pretty good at describing essentials and non-essentials.

  62. Actually, MLD, Mormons can’t really be described as ascribing to the Apostle’s Creed.

    Where the creed says:
    He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.

    They go astray.
    They actually claim it was “Heavenly Father” not the Spirit.
    And that “Heavenly Father” actually physically impregnated Mary.

    I put “Heavenly Father” in quotes to distinguish their belief from God the Father as they are polytheists and don;t believe the Trinity.

  63. Brian says:

    1. The Incarnation of Christ through the virgin birth.

    2. The atoning death of Christ on the cross.

    3. The resurrection of Christ.

    4. The ascension of Christ.

    5. The return of Christ at the end of the age .

    Spent most of the day thinking on this, I think I can honestly affirm each of these.

  64. sisterchristian says:


    The determinate of whether slavery is evil pivots upon which master is being served

  65. Ricky Bobby says:

    The doctrine of the “trinity” is a concept co-opted by the church fathers from Plato and the Neo-platonists…so much so they used the same language to describe it and formulate their concept of the “trinity” which is an extra-biblical term.

    God-head is the biblical term, not that it matters as everyone puts their own spin and reads into the bible whatever they want (largely).

  66. Ricky Bobby says:

    Conscience, reason and consensus informs me that slavery is evil and beating slaves with rods is evil, even though the “god” of the OT commanded it, permitted it etc in levitical law given to the Israelites.

    I don’t think “god” commanded it, not really. I think man gets lots of stuff they think is “god” telling them something, when it’s the pizza or the goat kabob they ate.

    If God exists, God is likely “The Good” that Plato described and the “all in all” and “love” and “good” also described by parts of the bible narrative etc.

  67. Ricky Bobby says:

    ἡ θεία δύναμις

    “the divine force”

    KJV calls it the “Godhead”

    Most other translations: “divine”

    No “trinity” not until some of the church fathers struggled with creating a trinity concept to try and resolve some inconsistencies inherent in the bible narratives….and they co-opted hypostasis of Plato and the Neo-platonists to formulate their “trinity” concept that is not literally in the bible.

  68. sisterchristian says:


    God did make provision for slavery.
    And some chose to stay with their masters., as they were good, benevolent… For some it was a means to pay for a debt they could not repay.., others were under evil taskmasters….

    We are all slaves
    We all serve someone or something

    The fantastic news is that God gives us a means whether to continue to be slaves unto sin or to be freed ( Rm 6. 6 ) to be slaves unto righteousness … Slaves unto God ( Rm 6.8/22)

    So simply stating :conscience, reason and consensus do not support that slavery is evil

  69. sisterchristian says:

    That was Rm 6:18 not 6:8

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