Culture Friday – How do we define unity?


MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday, January 22nd, 2021. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Wednesday in his inaugural address President Joe Biden made not one, but numerous calls for unity.

AUDIO: [UNITY MONTAGE]

BROWN: Joining us to discuss how Christians should view unity in the political context are Darrell Harrison and Virgil Walker. Darrell is the Dean of Social Media at Grace to You ministries. Virgil is Executive Director of Operations for G3 Ministries. And they are both Co-hosts of the Just Thinking Podcast

Good morning, gentlemen.

DARRELL HARRISON, GUEST: Good morning.

VIRGIL WALKER, GUEST: Morning.

BROWN: Just like President Biden, many people are promoting this idea of unity. There have even been some evangelical leaders calling for unity from believers because as citizens it’s what our country needs after a period of such great unrest. Virgil Walker, what’s your response to that?

WALKER: I think for those of us who are believers and who have a biblical worldview, it’s incredibly important to establish what’s meant by unity. The Bible never calls us to unify from a standpoint of conformity. The Bible demands that unity is always established on the basis of truth. And so what we need to unify with and connect ourselves to is a standard of truth and truthfulness that the Bible commands and it’s under that banner that we actually unify.

BROWN: Darrell Harrison, how about you?

HARRISON: I think it’s ironic, Myrna, when you look at what’s happening in America today, whereby after a presidential election, a very contentious, a very adversarial in many ways presidential election, when you look at America being the Republic that it is where we have free elections — You know, you look at politics by definition, politics by definition is a confrontation of ideas, of different ideas, different worldviews. So I think it’s interesting, if not ironic that evangelical leaders would use a political venue, a political medium, like a presidential election to call for unity when by definition politics inherently is a clash of ideas.

And secondarily, I would just add to that the oath of office that the President of the United States takes when he is sworn into office has nothing to do with unity. The president swears an oath of office to enforce the Constitution, to protect the inalienable rights that are enumerated there in the Constitution. There is nothing pastoral, if you will, about the president’s responsibilities in that capacity. So I think it’s misguided to suggest or even think that in a Republic like ours, where you have free thought, you have free elections, to think that the outcome of a political contest is supposed to be an avenue for believers in Christ to come together under the guise of unity with an administration who out of their own mouths and on their own website and other platforms and ways has already declared to the church that what we stand for is totally antithetical to what you stand for. 

So, the idea of unity here is just non-sequitur. It just does not fit to me.

WALKER: I want to quickly add something to what Darrell just stated, which is the level of hypocrisy under which we’re operating when it comes to calls for unity. The same political party that has been everything but unified in their approach to governance, now would like you to unify. And so I think what’s at hand there, what’s at stake there is the idea that the unity is to come on the basis of what they would like for you to do. So what they mean is not unity from a standpoint of where do we identify truth, how can we come together, but unify with where we’re going and with what we’re going to do moving forward.

BASHAM: Now Darrell, you quoted 19th century preacher and evangelist JC Ryle in your recent podcast on the subject of biblical unity. That quote really struck me. He said, “Peace without truth is a false peace. It is the very peace of the devil. Unity without the Gospel is a worthless unity.” 

I think a lot of people have been scared in recent months about the wages of the disunity we’ve been seeing. Cities burned down, the Capitol attacked. Plenty of Christians might say the unity President Biden is calling for–which may even be a false unity—is better than that.

Your thoughts?

HARRISON: You know, Megan, as you pose that question, I’m reminded of something and that is, we need to stop and define terms here first, because here we are using common language, right? Common vernacular: unity divisiveness, coming together, oneness, brotherhood. I’m hearing all these terms being thrown about, but with no definition, with no context.

So the word unity in scripture appears only six times. Three of those times are in the New Testament. And those three appearances of the word unity in the New Testament have three separate definitions. 

I think the one that is the focus of your question is where scripture defines unity in one sense as agreement, a consensus with. Now. So if we, as Christians, are going to abide by that definition of unity, then we have to first ask ourselves, well, what are we uniting with? 

So, that’s what the JC Ryle quote comes in because what JC Ryle is challenging us to do is to stop here for a minute, put the brakes on. 

Are you asking us to unite in the sense of unite with what is truth? Or are you asking us for a unity of convenience, a unity that is essentially just humanism and moralism without any context of objective truth here.

The gospel draws a line. It draws a line in the concrete, not in the sand. So we need to be able to say, well, when someone calls us to unity, we need to ask, well, what kind of unity are you talking about? If it is a unity that aligns with the truth of scripture, then I’m 100% on board with you. But if it is a unity that does not align with scripture, I’m sorry, I can’t have anything to do with that.

BROWN: President Biden is calling for racial justice and racial unity. And yet I’m hearing black leaders throw out terms like black anger and black joy. That seems divisive to me. What are your thoughts on that?

WALKER: I’ll jump in here and say a couple of things. The Bible is absolutely clear on the fact that there is one human race created in the image of God—Genesis 1:26, 27—and that that race of mankind is all sinful and sin-filled, right? Genesis 3, Romans 5. We know that all of us have been systemically impacted by the sinful condition of the human heart. So in that regard, all of us are equal and we equally need a savior. We equally need rescue from the wrath due to us, rightly by God, for our sin against him. So all of us are equal in that regard. 

So the idea that we can have this racial reconciliation or that there’s some idea of black joy or white joy, these are flawed ideas that are being perpetrated on a culture for the purpose of division and to, in an effort to leverage power.

HARRISON: Yeah. And Virgil, if I could just add, man, to something you just brilliantly stated there, you know, when you look, Myrna, at the very term, racial joy, racial reconciliation, racial whatever, the very term itself begs your mind to look at that person not in the context of the Imago Dei, not in the context that they were created in the image of God as a unique individual. The very term racial whatever bids your mind to recognize and identify that person by who they are on the outside. So, that is totally the inverse of how the gospel defines who we are as creatures who are made in the image of God. So, the very terminology itself collectivizes everyone not only by skin color, but it also collectivizes us in the sense that we think the same way we share the same worldview, we do everything monolithically, robotically as if our melanin was dynamic and not static. 

Melanin does not think, it does not feel, it does not love. It does not hate. It does not form intent. It does not create biases. Those things happen in our heart. So for someone to—whether it’s a politician or not—for someone to argue, well, the Biden administration is going to push for racial justice, well, the very term itself is prejudicial.

BASHAM: Darrell you tweeted Wednesday that the evangelical church in America has a lot of work to do, starting with itself. Can you give us some specifics about what that work should be?

HARRISON: Yeah, that tweet, I had something very specific in mind when I sent that tweet out. Where I was going with that is that the work that we have to do in the evangelical church in America, beginning with ourselves is number one, we have to go back to the Gospel 101 because I fear that there are many people out here who profess to be Christians who have no idea what the gospel is. They have no clue what it is. What they think it is is basically behavioral moralism. What they think it is is behavior modification. Humanism. It is being nice, not being angry, treating everyone kind, treating everyone fairly, being loving to everyone. That’s what they think the gospel is. And when you think the gospel is basically moralism, you’re open to any sort of invitation to just unify and just come together around the campfire and sing campfire songs. But that’s not what the gospel calls us to do. The gospel calls Christians to take a stand. 

You have to apply the entire word of God to your entire political worldview, so that it doesn’t come down to Biden versus Trump. It comes down to scripture versus Biden. That’s what it comes down to.

WALKER: I would only add one thing briefly and that is to simply say that pastors have got to become equipped themselves about these issues. 

You’re going to have to understand what is happening in culture. You’re going to have to be able to look at and exposit the text of scripture. And you’re going to have to be able—to the point that Darrell made—you’re going to have to bring the gospel into conflict with the culture. You’re going to have to be able to do that effectively, and properly equip the saints for the work of ministry that the gospel requires.

BROWN: Are we asking the right questions? What do we gain or lose by pursuing harmony with people, leaders, an administration that promotes policies that are incompatible to the church?

HARRISON: Myrna, I don’t think we’re asking any questions. And I think that’s the problem. We’re not asking any questions. What do we gain from uniting with a world that is passing away? What do we gain from that? Whatever we will gain is outside the context of Galatians 2:20, where Paul says, “I count everything as loss for the sake of Christ.” What Christians are supposed to gain, the only gain we’re supposed to aspire to, is to gain Christ, is to gain more of him, not more of a world that is passing away, that is going to be replaced with a brand new earth, according to II Peter 3:13. 

You look at Christ himself. And I’m so glad that it was Jesus who spoke these words and not one of the disciples. It was Jesus himself who said, “I didn’t come to bring peace. I came to bring a sword. I came to divide. I didn’t come to bring together.” And that’s what the gospel does. The gospel inherently is divisive. It is inherently divisive. So, but when you reduce the gospel to sort of a moral construct where we need to have peace, there should be no differences, there should be no distinctions. And consider this also, Myrna, under the guise of unity, you have evangelicals—professing evangelicals, professing believers—who are suggesting that we unify with a world system that represents a world that is passing away.

BASHAM: Darrell is the Dean of Social Media at Grace to You ministries. Virgil is Executive Director of Operations for G3 Ministries. And they are both co-hosts of the Just Thinking Podcast. Thank you both for joining us today.

WALKER: Thanks for having us.

HARRISON: Thanks for having us.

BROWN: Thank you.


(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool) President Joe Biden speaks during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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2 comments on Culture Friday – How do we define unity?

  1. Michelle W McCord says:

    Praise God for the TRUTH these two gentlemen have spoken!

  2. Russell Board says:

    Theological unity is of course a non-starter, but no one believes Biden is calling for that. If he is calling for political unity behind his agenda, well, that isn’t going to happen either. But I wonder: Is it possible for Americans to come together in mutual respect for one another as fellow citizens of the United States, who possess the rights guaranteed in the Constitution? Is it possible for Americans to unify around respect for our government institutions as vehicles for resolving disagreement without resorting to violence? Is this type of limited unity worth pursuing, or should it simply be dismissed as “false unity?”

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