The Subtle Deception and Danger of Unanimity
humans love to know that others are in agreement with us,
and we with them.
Several years ago, along with two friends I attended the
season opener of the Seattle Mariners. The game was
significant to me, because the Mariners were facing the New
York Yankees. I was a huge fan of Reggie Jackson, the Yankee
Left Fielder known as “Mr. October.”
Jackson's crowning achievement had come in game six of the
1977 World Series. In that game, Reggie hit three home runs,
each on the first pitch, off three different Dodger
pitchers. That’s immortalizing stuff, Mr. Ruth, Mr. Clemente
and Mr. DiMaggio notwithstanding.
Jackson didn’t have a stellar performance the day I watched
him in Seattle, but sitting just above the Left Field Fence,
we had a great view of the future Hall-of-Famer in action.
From the first inning, Reggie noticed us and talked with us
during warm-ups between innings. Jackson was the essence of
the term “gentleman” during our conversation.
I was certainly no fan of the Yankees. In fact, because I’ve
been a life-long Dodger fan, the Yankee organization was my
enemy, but Reggie, oh, that’s another story.
It wasn’t until the game was well under way and the Yanks
took a lead over the Mariners that I discovered that one of
the three of us friends had broken out a Yankees hat and was
proudly wearing it.
This led to some good-natured booing by nearby M’s fans and
culminated when one rowdy fan challenged my
Yankee-supporting friend to a fist fight. “We don’t allow
no stupid Yankees fans up here!” the (probably drunken) man
Oh, how we love to be with the “in crowd.” How we love the
feeling of sweet harmony. How we need both the reinforcement
and the security of knowing that “those guys” think like “we
It’s that sense of belonging, of agreeing, of thinking and
believing alike that promotes the variety of denominations
that crowd the landscape of the Christian faith.
Somebody, along time ago noticed: “Birds of a feather flock
together,” and that’s an understated truism of life.
The natural tendency to gather, to relate with those of
“like mind” or of the same opinions, views and beliefs is
common to all cultures, all people everywhere.
So when buzzwords appear among the legion followers of
Christ, believers quickly codify individuals associated with
Consider words like “shepherd” morphed to “shepherding,”
“discipleship” or “renewal,” “revival,” “emergent,”
“emerging” for starters. We could get into the rising “open
theism” or “postmodernism” or a host of potential box labels
used to describe various camps or tribes within (and
potentially without) the Christian faith.
The tendency is to quickly categorize, to box those “Emergents,”
those “Toronto people,” the almost subliminal need is there,
to create neat and tidy labels, categories so that we can
either attach ourselves or steer clear of those “heretics”
(heretic defined as anybody who doesn’t think or believe the
way I do).
“He’s an Emergent” (and is therefore to be avoided). “She’s
a Renewal junkie” (and therefore to be emulated, chastised
or shunned according to our own personal and likely
prejudiced view of the Christian faith and our understanding
(misunderstanding?) of the word of God.
I have friends, lovers of Jesus who have determined that in
order for God to bless them, they must learn to conduct all
the Jewish feasts, sing only Jewish melodies in their
worship, learn to speak Hebrew phrases, wear Hebrew
clothing, and eat Kosher foods.
Oh, the poor multitudes who have yet to don a Yamika or to
wear the “mantle” of the Tallit. If only they knew the true
“way” into the presence of God.
A recent op-ed asked the intriguing question, “Does it
Matter What Glenn Beck Believes?” The writer assures us that
“as a member of the non-Christian Mormon "cult," Beck
"promotes a false gospel.” And that charge may well be true.
I can’t verify the accuracy of the statement however,
because I don’t know Glenn Beck, nor do I know even who made
this assertion, because the writer of the piece neglected to
include his or her name. Knowing neither Beck nor an
anonymous writer, I can’t make an educated decision about
where Beck stands spiritually.
Oh, I’ve seen Beck on television; I’ve read his material and
listened to his radio program. But I don’t know him. I don’t
presume to know what Beck believes about Jesus, salvation,
eternity, the word of God – or Mormonism.
The way it works is this: “Beck is a Mormon, therefore, Beck
believes A, B, C, D tenets of the Mormon faith.” But that’s
categorizing, boxing, labeling with little if any supportive
I’d like to hereby grant you full permission to crucify me
for my next statement, but I have Roman Catholic friends
that I am fully convinced will share God’s heaven with me. I
think that God is big enough to allow even a Mormon into
heaven if that soul is trusting solely in the finished work
of the Cross of Jesus and His resurrection as the basis of
his faith and future life.
The simple truth is that everybody does not need to meet my
personally crafted criteria for obtaining a ticket to heaven
in order to know that they are “saved,” born again,”
“redeemed” or whatever language one might assign to the
product of “knowing God.’
The inclination is not new: Following Paul’s brief
salutation to the Corinthians in a letter that would deal
with such serious issues as fornication between a man and
his step-mother, taking one another to court, unrestrained
sexual practices, eating meat offered to idols, involving
themselves with pagans and with idolatrous feasts and temple
worshippers. These all are serious matters to be sure. But
before Paul can address these grievous situations, he must
first address the problem of division – of categorizing – of
believers moving into isolated camps, “tribes,” factions.
But the answer was and is not for the church of Jesus to
move in lock-step, it is not a matter of producing
carbon-copy disciples who all look alike, act alike, speak
The answer is for every believer to find his or her freedom
in the Lord and not in the dictates of religious councils or
well-meaning “local fellowships.”
In a recognition of the human penchant to agree and align,
Paul pleads for “that you all speak the same thing,” “that
there be no divisions among you.”
Already, the infant church was fracturing and aligning with
this hero or that. Some had become “Paulites” while others
were “Apollosarians” or “Cephasites.” Some had formed yet
another sect, the “Christians.”
Buzzwords. Nametags, Tribal identities that made these early
believers feel comfortable, warm and fuzzy and happy . . .
so long as everybody thought, believed, acted the way they
did. Paul called them “contentions.”
What Paul is pleading for is not unanimity, but unity.
Unanimity assumes full agreement: within the full definition
of the word is the state of being unanimous. What a bland
and colorless world we would know if not for variety of
texture, substance, sound or temperature.
I was recently
contacted by a man I lost contact with about fifteen years
ago. He had perused my website and surmised (wrongly), “So,
you’ve gone Emergent!”
My friend doubtlessly
hadn’t read everything contained on our site. I don’t think
he read my article, “Hijacked by Hi-jinks: The Stealing of
the Emerging Church.”
Please allow me to
quote from that article, written now a number of years ago.
While I’m discussing “Emerging Church” specifically, one
could insert any buzzword to discuss any classification
are buzzwords inclusive to every stratum of society, every
organization, movement and conclave of man. There always
have been. Sadly, buzzwords and catchphrases seldom define
anything with clarity and accuracy.
Perhaps nowhere is there as much potential abuse of “words”
than in the arena of spiritual life, eternity, “the church”
the years I have developed what I call “Austin’s Laws of
Ministry.” These are not exclusive to myself, but they are
the important “laws” I have observed over 40 years of
walking with Jesus and of ministering to people.
only have two laws on my list. When I get smarter, I’ll add
more, but for now, these work for me. Law Number One is
this: “People Aren’t Stupid.” Law Number Two is: “Words Mean
Law Number Two that I want to bring into focus here. When I
was a pointy-headed theology student back in prehistoric
times, my professors were fond of repeating a sort of
“mantra” to we students. Over and over again until it was
drilled into our mushy brains we heard the command: “Define
your terms.” In other words, “words mean things” and we must
be clear about how we use words and what definition or
meaning is assigned to them.
case in point: Talk about “church” to any large group of
people and ask for individual meanings and understandings of
the word. I’ve done this exercise. It’s enlightening to
discover how many disparate and varied meanings a simple,
single-syllable word can have.
when we hear or use the term “Emerging Church”, we might
rightly expect to find a wide variation of meanings and
I want to be clear: When I personally speak of “Emerging
Church” I am not in any way, form, manner or fashion
identifying with any certain, tangible group of people. I am
a follower of Jesus, not of any organization, movement, fad,
group, or classification of people.
don’t care about vogue and popularity. I could care less
about “jumping on the bandwagon” of this movement or that
movement. I refuse to be categorized as “this” or “that”
kind of Christian.
I speak about “Emerging Church” I'm simply referring to the
reality that much of what we've been taught, much of what we
do, much of our church “practice” has been polluted,
tainted, mutated from the original template as revealed by
Jesus Christ and His Apostles, and recorded in the Word of
When I speak
of “Emerging Church” I’m not talking about a departure from
classical, biblical, evangelical thought or doctrine. I’m
talking about a departure from the religious traditions that
man has laid on the skeleton of the church to create (in
some instances) the monster of religion that looms in our
In the conclusion of
that same article, I wrote,
determined not to become a spiritual moth attracted to some
false light, but to be a lover of God and a friend of Jesus
and of Publicans and Sinners alike, and to point as many
souls as possible to the heaven God has prepared for all
those “who love His appearing.”
resolve ought to guide us all, to be aware of the “false
light” of the one who appears as an “angel of light” and to
“be a lover of God and a friend of Jesus and of Publicans
and Sinners alike . . .”
everybody just like us is both the height of arrogance and
the futility of trying to catch the wind.
I sensed the Lord directing me to find and to embrace “those
of like heart.” Significantly, the Father did not say “of
like mind.” We’re famous for that one – looking for somebody
to agree with our theology or theopraxy. “The candles must
color and must be lighted in
But who said there must be candles?
to find a real church,” the unspoken meaning is I want to
find a church where somebody prophesies, somebody has a
vision; a church where everybody falls on the floor.
well-proven “the former generation typically criticizes the
move of the current generation”
Swansea, Wales, I listened to the present pastor of Moriah
Chapel where Evan Roberts was once used of God and a revival
was sparked that swept the world. The pastor explained that
there is no revival in the earth today because every
so-called movement of God was only a fleshly, man-engendered
attempt at revival. Only and exclusively was the Welsh
revival and the events that took place at Moriah Chapel true
revival, he carefully explained. Until the exact and same
events, conditions and preaching takes place once again,
there will be, there can be no revival.
have unanimity if we are to experience any touch from
heaven. We’ve established the form, the place, the
conditions of our desire and now we only wait for God to
serve us, to fulfill our wishes, to respond to our demands.
God of endless variety, the God of unceasing creativity
moves forward, touching here and blessing there, doing what
He has always done, in His way, searching for hearts emptied
of self-desire and self-centeredness; hearts waiting only to
be filled by Yahweh. Hearts only desiring to know what Yahweh
desires and to do what Yahweh wills.