An Evaluation of Peacemaker Ministries

Peacemaker Ministries is the “industry standard” model for Christian conciliation among conservative Christian believers.  Any current discussion of the topic of conflict resolution from a Christian perspective rightly need include interaction with this existing paradigm.

What is Peacemaker Ministries (ICC)?

Peacemaker Ministries and its division the Institute for Christian Conciliation (ICC) are the largest and most utilized conciliation training and services provider in the Evangelical community.  From the website of Peacemaker Ministries, the history of the organization is as follows:

Peacemaker Ministries was founded in 1982 under the auspices of the Christian Legal Society, which helped to establish many similar ministries throughout the United States. In 1987, many of these conciliation ministries joined together to form the Association of Christian Conciliation Services, which coordinated national networking, education, and conciliation activities. Peacemaker Ministries served for four years as the national headquarters for the ACCS; in 1993 the ACCS merged into Peacemaker Ministries. The 1990’s was a time of significant growth, due to the publishing of Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker, which was followed by a 2nd edition in 1997. Between 2000 and 2010 the staff doubled and many new resources were developed. Peacemaker Ministries’ outreach continues to extend globally, with Peacemaker resources being taught in over 100 countries.

Peacemaker Ministries is a well-developed parachurch ministry that serves Christians and churches in various ways to help resolve conflicts.  The landmark work that sets out the process taught by Peacemaker Ministries is Ken Sande’s book, The Peacemaker.[1]

The Process of Peacemaking: The Four ‘G’s

Ken Sande and Peacemaker Ministries organizes the process of peacemaking in the following four steps all beginning with the letter “G,” therefore, appropriately labeled the four-G’s:

Glorify God

The First “G” stands for the principle of “glorifying God” in the midst of conflict.  This first area of the process asks the peacemaker to consider God’s glory in their handling of conflict situations, rather than their own natural comfort.  Conflict in this sense provides various opportunities for the believer to trust God, obey God, imitate God, and acknowledge Him.  The proper handling of conflict is also a way to love and serve others.  The key here is to approach the resolution of conflict with “peacemaking” responses as opposed to either “attack” or “escape” responses.  These responses are organized in the Slippery Slope of Conflict.

Escape responses, or peace-faking responses, include: suicide, flight, and denial.  On the other side of the slope, attack responses, or peace-breaking, responses include: murder, litigation, and assault.  The believer is to avoid these two sides of the slippery slope and instead pursue biblical peacemaking within a range of six acceptable responses.  The unassisted peacemaking responses range from overlook at the bottom of the scale, to reconciliation, and lastly to negotiation.  Assisted peacemaking responses move from mediation, to arbitration and, lastly, to accountability (formerly called “church discipline).

By following biblical peacemaking and staying on top of the slippery slope, the believer glorifies God, serve others as stewards of God in reconciling conflicts, and provides an important witness to the watching world of “unity” among believers so that the reputation of the Christian community is not a hindrance to onlookers coming to faith in Christ.  In this way, conflict is seen as a God-given opportunity to do the right thing when the wrong thing is so frequently what is done, even by believers.  The whole process centers on this central goal of staying on top of the slope of conflict.

Get the Log Out of Your Eye

The next “G” is directly derived from Matthew 7:1-5 that warns believers against judging one another.  Jesus cautions His followers to “get the logs out of their own eyes before they seek to remove specks from the eyes of others” (v. 5).  The emphasis in this second “G,” then, is to count the cost and to practice healthy self-examination.  The pertinent question becomes, “what is my contribution to the conflict?”  As I see my own sinfulness, confess it, repent of it and seek the forgiveness of the other party, my side of the conflict is readily resolved.  The hope is that in the presence of healthy honesty and confession on the part of one party, a softening on the part of the other will occur.  If all goes well here and the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of all parties, repentance and forgiveness are effected and reconciliation occurs quite naturally.

Gently Restore

The third “G” is based on Matthew 18:15-20, the most often-referenced passage on church discipline in the Evangelical community.  Wisely, Ken Sande connects the process of Matthew 18 with the wisdom of Galatians 6:1, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.”  The emphasis in The Peacemaker is on the gently that is so frequently missing from the process.  In this third part of the process, the path of the believer in obedience to Christ’s words is outlined.  The circle of loving confrontation is widened over time as the one party seeks to restore the other to “usefulness” in the kingdom.  The process escalates as appropriate in response to the response or non-response of the parties being confronted.  The goal is always true biblical reconciliation with God and others.  The hope in this section is that step five: “treating the other person as a non-believer” is averted.

Go and Be Reconciled

This fourth “G”emphasizes the critical place of forgiveness in the process, the need to look out not only for our own interest but also the interest of others, and lastly the principle of overcoming evil with good.  The goal of the peacemaking process is reconciliation, the resolution of both substantive and relational issues that have broken the relationship.  God calls His people into this ministry of reconciliation, even as He Himself has reconciled us to Himself in Christ.

Areas of Strength

There is much to commend the book The Peacemaker as well as the myriad services and resources of Peacemaker Ministries.  The following are a few of the many strengths clearly evident in the organization and philosophic approach:

Leading the Field

The Peacemaker is perhaps the industry standard text among conservative Evangelicals.  The book and its related ministry have much to commend themselves to the Christian community.  Peacemaker Ministries has led the way in the area of seeking to develop a Christian theology and practice of conflict resolution.  Peacemaker Ministries is a strong parachurch organization that serves the church and believers at many significant levels.

Peacemaker Ministries and its division, the Institute for Christian Conciliation (ICC) has led the way in the development of a systematic approach to conflict resolution that many churches and other organization have integrated directly into their respective polities.  Peacemaker Ministries has trained and equipped hundreds of Christian conciliators in churches throughout the country.  Through national conferences, training events and certification programs Peacemaker Ministries has made a definite impact in the Christian community in the United States and abroad.

Takes the Bible seriously

Ken Sande is a conservative Presbyterian believer, first and foremost.[2]  Though he is an attorney by training and practice, his devotion to the Scripture and its ultimate authority shines through.  The same can be said for the other staff of Peacemaker Ministries.  Any disagreements that this author would have with Peacemaker Ministries are fraternal disagreements.  These are sincere brothers and sisters, people with whom we will enjoy the benefits of the kingdom to come.  Our day, sadly, is a day when we can no longer take for granted that believers, even leaders in the church, will build their lives on the foundation of God’s word.  Ken and the rest of Peacemaker Ministries and ICC are not of this ilk.  The Bible is taken seriously and exegeted carefully as the source of truth.

Takes Sin Seriously

Not only is the Bible taken seriously, its doctrine of sin is also taken seriously and soberly.  The Peacemaker is one of the first books in the Christian community, in recent years, to unpack the paradigm of sin as idolatry from James 4 and other pertinent passages.  So many conflict resolution strategies, in and out of the Christian community, focus more on agreeing to disagree, negotiation, and settlements.  The relational heart of conciliation is evident in this approach.  Sin is the problem, with God and in our relationships.  Confession and repentance are the answers to the problem of sin.  So, Ken and company are serious about the biblical teaching regarding our sinfulness as the heart of the issues that divide us.  We will note below, however, that there may be a possibility that the doctrine of sin can be overemphasized.  For now, we acknowledge this healthy biblical footing.

Emphasizes Forgiveness and Grace

The conciliation advocated in The Peacemaker is full of grace.  The gospel is clearly understood as the center of the process.  Forgiveness with God and one another permeates the paradigm.  Those who have received grace are able to extend grace, “breathe it” on others.

Forgiveness, in full as a completed transaction, granting forgiveness is rightly described as conditioned upon repentance.  Until transactional forgiveness can be realized, believers are encouraged to have an attitude of forgiveness, to be ready to forgive upon the offender’s repentance.  This posture includes prayer for the other person and standing “ready at any moment to pursue complete reconciliation as soon as he or she repents.”[3]  This attitudinal disposition will protect them from bitterness and desires for vengeance.

Practical Advice in Confronting Well

The heart of the process is found in chapters 7 and 8.[4]  These chapters give sound biblical advice to help the process of personal confrontation of sins too serious to overlook.  Careful and prayerful planning are recommended.  Specific skills are also discussed that will be required to confront well.  These include: active listening, the use of “I” statements, and similar biblical and psychologically astute skills that will greatly increase the likelihood of successful outcomes.

Areas of Weakness

While there is much to commend this philosophy and system of peacemaking, there are also some areas of apparent weakness that are potential concerns.  The following represent parts of the system that may benefit from additional adjustment in accordance with the standard of God’s Word:

Definition of “Conflict”

In The Peacemaker, Ken Sande defines conflict as, “a difference in opinion or purpose that frustrates someone’s goals or desires.”  In chapter four, we sought to define conflict in such a way as to differentiate the concepts of “difference” and “conflict.”  We said that we can have differences of opinion or purpose, we can disagree with each other about a given situation or topic, but that those differences fall short of the idea of “conflict.”  Differences are built into the diversity of creation and exist prior to the fall.  God created a world of rich diversity.  The problem, however, came when sinful desires entered the picture.  Then, our disagreements became hotbeds for potential conflicts.  Frustrated goals and desires are parts of life.  No one is able to attain or possess all that they desire.  We will all encounter blockage toward goal fulfillment.  We can, nonetheless, accept these unmet goals and desires with non-sinful responses.  This is the essence of biblical faith, a confidence that trusts God even in the midst of loss and pain.  So, at a definitional level, we can respectfully disagree with Ken Sande’s definition of conflict.

Ken says that “conflict provides opportunities” for glorifying God and for growth.  This is certainly true.  Under the providence of God, just like Joseph, we can see how God can bring good out of evil situations. But, does this then lead us to conclude with Ken that conflict is not “necessarily bad” (p. 30).  Again, here we can note some influence from the secular literature on conflict.  If we have properly connected the concepts of conflict, sin, and foolishness in this volume, it is important to clarify that conflict cannot exist apart from sin.  Therefore, conflict, we can say, always involves sin and is always sinful on the part of the person whose sins underlay the conflict itself.

Slippery Slope: Acceptable Responses to Conflict

As we have reviewed, the Slippery Slope of Conflict has three basic sections (responses to conflict): escape, peacemaking, and attack.  The theory is that the peacemaking responses on top of the slope are the only appropriate responses to conflict.  Thus, the two sides to which we fall on the slope are representative of inappropriate responses to conflict.  The top of the slope seems to be consistent with biblical patterns and principles of conflict resolution.  However, can we say that “escape” or “attack” responses are inherently wrong?  Maybe these should more accurately and precisely be identified as “sinful escape” and “sinful attack” responses.  This model resonates from a human behavioral standpoint.  When faced with conflict, most of us lean toward either fight or flight responses.  We are either conflict-inclined or conflict-avoidant.  If we merely follow our natural inclinations, then, very little would result, in terms of true reconciliation.  Therefore, the Bible calls us into the duty of conflict resolution in a God-glorifying manner.

When we systematize concepts and attempt to simplify processes, there is an inherent risk that important details will be lost in our simplification.[5]  There may be something intrinsically flawed in the Slippery Slope, due to its inability to illustrate the whole of the biblical data on conflict and conflict resolution.  For instance, as we reviewed in chapter thirteen, the Bible is replete with direct instructions and even commands to withdraw from impenitent, obstinate, foolish, divisive people.  If all “escape” responses are wrong, how do we interpret these passages?  We have also seen that God Himself, who is the pattern of our conduct, exercises both attack and escape responses according to their respective definitions in the system advocated in The Peacemaker.

The Slippery Slope is the foundation of the system taught in The Peacemaker.  Any flaws in its logic will inevitably affect the remainder of the structure.  If we’ve wrongly described the basic allowable responses to conflict, we’ve set out to resolve it without some of the available biblical options.  At this point, we can see that we’re on a slippery slope in terms of our overly broad definition of conflict.  To add to that problem, now we’ve limited the range of possible responses available to the faithful believer in the midst of conflict.

Doctrine of Sin

The Peacemaker approaches the question of conflict from a definite perspective.  The Presbyterian and Reformed theology of the Westminster standards and the Three Forms of Unity underlay and undergird the theology of The Peacemaker.[6]  It is written from a conservative Calvinistic perspective.  This is important as we consider a third area of concern.  Calvinism, in its conservative form, has always advocated the doctrine of total depravity.  What many Calvinists fail to understand is that conservative Arminian theology is in total agreement here.[7]  Conservative theologians from both camps agree that our fall in Adam has rendered us incapable of moral reform in our own strength.  Calvin said, “Original sin, therefore, seems to be a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused into all parts of the soul, which first makes us liable to God’s wrath, then also brings forth in us those works which Scripture calls “works of the flesh.”[8]  Wesley said, “Know that you are corrupted in every capacity, in every faculty of your soul.  You are totally depraved throughout your being; all the foundations of your life are misaligned.”[9]         I. Howard Marshall sums up this common theological ground between the two:

Sin thus affects every relationship of man, to God, to his fellows and to himself.  Its influence is seen in every part of his life.  Its badness corrupts all that he thinks, says and does.  This does not mean that he is as bad as he can be, but that no part of him is entirely free from the taint of sin.  This is what theologians call “total depravity.”[10]

This is the longstanding doctrine of original sin and total depravity to which the evangelical Church has held.

The peacemaking process of Ken Sande clearly identifies the need for a robust doctrine of sin and a correspondingly vigorous practice of confession.  Ownership of personal sins, specifically our sinful contribution to the conflict, is the heart of Peacemaker Ministries processes of conflict coaching and mediation.  This is clearly taught in Scripture by no less than Jesus Himself.  Honest ownership of our sin is the beginning of change.  True confession and repentance on our part is prerequisite to attempts at assisting others (Matt. 7).[11]  Can we, however, over own our sin?  Can the wise person, who sees their sin take the lion’s share of responsibility for the conflict while the fool goes free?  If we add to this healthy self-awareness of our own sinfulness, a doctrine of sin on steroids, an over responsibility for our own contributions to the problem, we inadvertently create a system in which honesty and sincerity are transformed from blessings into liabilities.

The wise, by definition, will always tend to be honest and sensitive to ownership of their sins.  They tend to see the logs in their eyes more clearly.  Fools, as we have seen, will resist.  By focusing on ownership of sin and personal responsibility equally with both parties in a conflict, it is likely that the one that will break, first and foremost, is the wiser person, the more honest person, the person who is more sensitive to the Spirit.  The abused spouse, the bullied pastor, the mistreated employee, the target of the initial aggression in the conflict can, through this practice, take unhealthy and inordinate responsibility for their contribution to the conflict.  With little or no distinction between primary and secondary offenses, as we have described the difference, this process loses the ability to properly assign responsibility for offenses and their contribution to the conflict.  As we have shown, sin is not just sin; there are degrees and levels of sinful conduct in the midst of conflict.  An overly robust doctrine of sin has a tendency to eschew the overall process of justly sorting responsibilities.  In a conflict, all parties are “sinners.”  They may not, by that principle, all have “sinned,” and most often have not “sinned equally.”

Doctrine of Grace

Calvinism, as a system of theology, is often referred to as the “doctrines of grace.”  Grace, understood rightly, is a tremendous thing.  To receive God’s favor (charis) freely in our union with Christ is as Newton said “amazing.”  We are saved by grace alone through faith alone, sola gratia, sola fide.  However, as many have clarified, “the grace that saves is never alone.”[12]  True grace results in a life of bearing fruit.  So much so, that we would do well to notice that the final judgment is “according to works.”  Many in the Calvinist tradition have taught a robust view of sanctification as the pursuit of holiness and of perseverance to the end in those good works as requisite for salvation.  Contemporary Calvinism, in some modern contexts, is losing its grip on the necessity of good works and perseverance.

When salvation becomes only a legal and forensic thing, we are in danger of falling into antinomianism.  If my relationship to Jesus is only legal, and as many have claimed, salvation remains only outside of me and is only and all about Jesus, my imputed righteousness, I can wrongly conclude that my actions are automatically and already forgiven.  This system of thought opens the door to the potential for professing believers to disconnect their actual works, including their sinful contributions to conflict, from their righteous position in Christ.  Antinomianism has never been good at holding people accountable.

C. H. Spurgeon is the author of a small book entitled All of Grace.  Who wants to argue with this thesis?  Who wants to suggest that merit has a place at the table of salvation?  No one.  However, this title itself exposes the potential dark underbelly of overly consistent Calvinism.  If it is truly “all of grace,” if all my sins are forgiven (past, present and future) the moment I trust Christ, if I am justified no matter what I do or do not do, how motivated am I to resolve conflicts for which I am largely or solely responsible?  Grace covers it all.  This potential for cheapening grace is costly in the realm of peacemaking.  Peacemaking is inherently tied to concepts such as justice and responsibility as much as grace and forgiveness.  Shalom-making, as we have seen is about the restoration of things to the way they ought to be.  It inherently embodies important concepts of justice, equity and truth.  Grace is a great thing, when understood within the whole of the biblical paradigm.  Cheap grace, sloppy agape[13], kills the potential for a peacemaking process to bring deep and lasting change, by short-circuiting the path of wisdom through repentance.

Unity and Evangelism

One of the reasons to pursue peace among all men is, according to Sande, found in the Lord’s high priestly prayer of John 17.  Jesus there prays, that we “would be made one, just as He and the Father are one so that the world will believe that He was sent by the Father.”[14]  Listen to Ken’s words:

Unity is more than a key to internal peace.  It is also an essential element of your Christian witness.  When peace and unity characterize your relationships with other people, you show that you are God’s child and he is present and working in your life (Matt. 5:9).  The converse is also true: When your life is filled with unresolved conflict and broken relationships, you will have little success in sharing the good news about Jesus’ saving work on the cross.[15]

This passage is taken from a section entitled, “Jesus’ Reputation Depends on Unity.”  Let’s break down the thought further.  If we have unresolved conflicts in our lives, we may conclude, according to Ken, we will not be able credibly to share the gospel with others with any “success.”  So, therefore, unity is the key to Jesus building His kingdom on earth.  If we mar His reputation, by not living in unity with all people, souls will be lost in the process.

This is a very heavy responsibility!  Is this what Jesus meant when He prayed this prayer?[16]  What does the history of the Christian church have to say about this idea?  Jesus, in His public ministry did not experience this kind of unity.  He was opposed by the religious leaders of His day and many others.  Even many among His own family of origin resisted Him for much of His three-year public ministry.  Jesus so offended the crowds at times that not only the crowd but also his own twelve considered abandoning Him (Jn. 6:67).  Jesus was not a unifying figure among all people.

Further, He specifically taught His followers that just as He had caused not unity, but division, so they would experience division in their most intimate family relationships (Matt. 10:34-39).  The apostles, following Christ’s resurrection and ascension, experienced persecution at the hands of their countrymen the Jews and at the hands of Greeks as well.  All but two were martyred for their faith.  Until the time of Constantine, Christianity was a persecuted sect.  In fact, when Christianity was made acceptable, after conflict against Christians subsided, it began to lose much of its original impact!  The Hebrew believers in the first century certainly did not experience unity with their Jewish families.  The opposition they encountered was so strong that it tempted them to return to Judaism and to forsake the sacrifice of Christ.  Yet, we teach that Jesus’ reputation depends on peace among all people, that no one will believe if we, His followers, have unresolved conflicts in our lives.

Contrast that thought with the words of Jesus to his disciples about what they should experience in their relationships with others:

Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved. . . . A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household (Matt. 10:21-22,24-25)?

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.  But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me (Jn. 15:18-21).

Add to this the typical paradigm in the psalms of lament.  It is almost always the case that the psalmists lament over their persecution at the hands of people within the covenant community.  Professing believers in Yahweh are most often the “enemies” of which the writers speak.  This pattern of enemies within the ranks seems to have continued into this New Testament era.  Didn’t Jesus tell us that there would be tares within the wheat field until the harvest?  If we are thinking that we need a weed free field of wheat so that the world will believe in the claim of Christ, we will likely wait and labor in vain.

What happened to the sovereignty of Christ?[17]  Jesus said, “I will build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against Me.”  Sande teaches that, “Jesus can’t build His church unless we are walking in unity with one another.”  Which is true?  Clearly, God’s standard for our conduct includes striving for real Christian unity with one another, just like that in the Trinity.  However, false unity has never helped the cause of Christ and it likely never will.  Peace at all costs is too costly.  If the success of the gospel, and the cause of Christ, and the salvation of lost souls is truly contingent on our success in conflict resolution, we’re in trouble.  We’re not alone, however.  The church throughout the ages has been a church experiencing conflicts within and without.  In times past, often conflict resolution would involve the end of a sword.  Now, most of our conflicts are limited to the damage that is done with the sword of the tongue.

At some point, it’s as if we’re at a bad Christmas pageant all being encouraged to sing the liberal ballad from the sixties:

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Let there be peace on earth, the kind that was meant to be.

With God as our Father, brothers all are we.[18]

Let me walk with my brother, in perfect harmony.

This is just another example of the myth of utopia, of pushing the future idea of realized shalom into the present.  This is humanity attempting to usher in the shalom that can only come in and through Christ.  The least tolerated segment of our society is the remnant of Evangelicals who actually believe that we can’t create peace on earth like the song speaks of.  We are called to be faithful in reaching out to a lost world with the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We preach Christ, not ourselves (2 Cor. 4:5).  Though our lives are not conflict-free, we can rest in the fact that we are in good company.  The prophets, the Lord Jesus, the apostles and many believers throughout church history have also experienced the reality that we are in the “not yet.”  We, like they, are looking for a better place, the New Jerusalem to come.

Summary Evaluation

The peacemaking model of Peacemaker Ministries has several significant shortcomings.  Beginning with its definition of conflict, it may set us on a path away from biblical conceptualizations.  The slippery slope may overly narrow available and obedient responses to offenses committed against us that are too serious to overlook.  Their doctrines of sin and its practical outworking in conflict, as well as the understanding of grace advocated, may both be guilty of going to extremes beyond the teaching of Scripture.  And lastly, the impetus for making peace may have been incorrectly tied to the task of world evangelism.  These stakes may simply be too high.  Though the model has many good aspects to commend it, we may as a whole be better off pursuing an alternate model that may reflect a broader and more pervasive sense of the wisdom of Scripture.

[1] Peacemaker Ministries and ICC are also closely affiliated with the Lutheran organization Ambassadors for Reconciliation, led by Ted Kober.

[2] Ken and Corlette Sande have been active members of Rocky Mountain Community Church (PCA) for many years.  Ken is an ordained elder in the PCA.

[3] Sande, 211.

[4] Sande, 143-184.

[5] Many examples of this exist.  Consider the problem that has arisen due to the Synod of Dort’s reduction of theology to five principles and the counter arguments that have continued for the last five hundred years.

[6] The Westminster Standards include the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.  The Three Forms of Unity include the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, and the Heidelberg Catechism.

[7] Classical Arminian theology has no argument with the first or last of the five points of Calvinism.  It affirms total depravity and perseverance of the saints, without hesitation.  See Roger Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006).

[8] Calvin, 1960, 2.1.8.

[9] Kinghorn, 132.

[10] I. Howard Marshall quoted in Cole, 69.

[11] The Lutheran influence of Ted Kober is evident in this aspect of the process.  Lutheranism has always been strong on the need for confession and assurance of pardon.  This strength of Lutheranism, in general, may become a weakness in its interjection into the process of peacemaking.

[12] This true statement has an ambiguous origin.  It is attributed to Martin Luther, John Wesley and others.

[13] This phrase is borrowed from Pastor David Rosales, Senior Pastor, Calvary Chapel of Chino Valley.

[14] John 17, the high priestly prayer of Jesus, can be somewhat difficult to exegete.  For instance, Jesus statement that is pertinent to this discussion, “make them one, even as we are one . . . so that the world will believe that You sent me (and that You have loved them)” (vs. 21 and 23), is variously interpreted.  The “oneness” of which He speaks can be understood in different ways.  It seems that He is speaking of relational oneness or even oneness of union, “one in Us” (v. 21), something beyond mere commonness of purpose or unity, by referring to its connection to the oneness shared in the Godhead.  Further, we need to understand the nature of the making them one.  Is it “one with God” as the phrase in verse 23, “known as the loved ones” may seem to imply, or is it “one with each other” as Ken Sande suggests?  Our interpretation of this section of the prayer doesn’t answer the other questions that flow from alternate understandings.  How does our being one with God (union) connect to the world’s believing that Jesus was sent by the Father?  Will the world ever believe this?  Or alternatively, how does our being one with each other (unity) connect to the world believing that He was sent by the Father?

[15] Sande, 47.

[16] By the way, this is a conversation, a prayer, between the Son and the Father, recorded for our benefit.  There is no place in Scripture where this idea, that we are responsible for the success of the gospel by living lives devoid of conflict, is taught either didactically or as an imperative.  We are often called to promote unity (c.f. Eph. 4), but no where is this tied to Christ’s ability to successfully build His church, in terms of the evangelistic cause.

[17] Ironically, Calvinistic theology, that is often characterized as deterministic or at least semi-deterministic or compatibilist, is the context of this teaching that God’s sovereign ability to save is hindered by man’s lack of unity.  Can we really have it both ways?

[18] The universal fatherhood of God and the corresponding universal brotherhood of man is an unbiblical, yet sentimental, theme that is constantly put forward by liberal theology.  This same sentiment is being promoted today by formerly biblically conservative theologians.

[19] See Appendix F: An Evaluation of the Judeo-Christian Model.


One comment

  1. Hi Andy,
    This article is timely and extremely useful for me. Thank you for taking the them and energy to write it.
    I recently had a very odd and unhealthy experience with this ministry and the weaknesses you explore drove my experience with the certified conciliator we worked with. Is there any afffective way to approach the ministry ad share my concerns?

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