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Are We Due for a Split in Christianity?

Ian David Philpot

Ian David Philpot, ccPublishing's Web Editor, has been reading about a possible division in the Christian faith and shares his thoughts. Jimmy Spencer, a friend of mine and of Relief, wrote a note on Facebook recently that got picked up on a blog. It was titled The Coming Evangelical Split? Feel free to click on the title to read it, but for those of you who prefer a summation, here you go: Jimmy believes that Rob Bell's new book, Love Wins, is either starting or bringing to light a split between hardcore conservative evangelicals and progressive evangelicals. Jimmy doesn't know if it's good or bad, but he know's it's coming, and it is, in large, thanks to the Rob Bell controversy.

When I read that, I didn't want to believe it at first. Religion feels so global to me. And do people in other countries really care about what some guy in Grand Rapids, MI, is saying about whether Ghandi is in heaven or hell? Would that really cause all of us to pick a side and split?

But Jimmy's a smart guy. If he's sure it's coming, then why I am trying to think he's not right.

Later, I saw Evangelicalism Won't Split, It's Erroding--a response to Jimmy. (I'd sum up, but you can get the basics from the title.) Then I read about a pastor in North Carolina who lost his job after writing something on Facebook in support of Love Wins. No joke.

Historically, the Christian church goes through something big about every 500 years. In Phyllis Tickle's The Great Emergence, she points out events of the past that show a pattern. Going back from present day, there's the Protestant Reformation in 1517 (thanks to Martin Luther, some paper, and a nail), the Great Schism in 1054 (when the Greek Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church excommunicated each other), the fall of the Roman Empire in the late sixth century which greatly affected the Roman Catholic Church (aka (basically) the only church back then), and the apostles work in the first century. So there's a decent pattern there. And Tickle believes that we're on the edge of the Great Emergence--a change in the church that will link religion and culture in a way that changes Christianity. (I don't know if I believe it, but she does.)

So, my guess is that Jimmy is predicting that we are nearing, what I will call, the Great Contest--where either love wins or conservative evangelicalism wins, depending on which side you're on.

I, personally, think Jimmy's right. I think we're close to something. I just don't know if it'll be something we notice, or if it will be something that takes a decade to settle before we realize that we're not as close in doctrine with as many denominations as we thought.

Do you think we're nearing a split in Christianity and/or Evangelicalism? Can Christianity stand to take another split or is it too close to obliteration (or marginalization) as it is?


Jimmy Spencer started Love Without Agenda, a nonprofit organization with a simple yet compelling message: to encourage people to change the world--and themselves--one act of love at a time. Check out lovewithoutagenda.com where you can download a free copy of Jimmy's new book, Love Without Agenda: My Journey Out of Consumer Christianity.