We know from the bible that God wants a united church. For example, Jesus says in John 17:20-21, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me."
When we search scripture, the only place we are told to divide is over the gospel itself. In Galatians 1:8-9, Paul writes,"But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed."
In light of the above verses, it seems that Christians should not divide over issues that are secondary to the gospel. These might include the authority of scripture, the truth of scripture, baptism, the Lord's Supper, women's role in ministry (especially the pastorate), God's sovereignty vs. man's free will, spiritual gifts (especially speaking in tongues), etc.
However, if we say that the above issues are not worth standing up for, then it also seems that we are, in essence, saying that they really don't matter and that whatever someone believes about these is fine. How do we avoid how relativistic this seems?
So, is it possible to be united as a church without falling into relativism on everything but the gospel itself?
I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I am increasingly disturbed by the ridiculous number of denominations we have in Protestantism. I long for unity within the church. However, I also long for the church to be as biblical as possible in all areas, not just unity.
I'm going to share my thoughts on this in a few days (I doubt that it will be anything earth-shattering), but I would like to get your ideas first. Can the church be united without falling into relativism? If your answer is "yes," please tell how and be specific. If your answer is "no," please tell what hope we have for obeying Christ's commands for his church to be one.