Perfect Unity

Perfect Unity (Book Review)

Ralph Cunnington takes us on a journey through the central doctrines of the faith, helping us celebrate diversity while maintaining unity.

“Distinct but inseparable.”

In the great debates of the early church concerning the nature of Christ, this phrase became a vital key to understanding how Christ could be one person with two natures. The same is true of God as Trinity. He is one God in three Persons. The three are distinct but inseparable.

Because of this we can affirm that God is love. There exists within God a lover and a beloved. He did not need to create the world in order to have an object to love. The world was created out of the overflow of the beautiful community of love which existed eternally within the Trinity.

This may sound rather academic. But in Perfect Unity, Ralph Cunnington, pastor of City Church Manchester, helps us see that “distinct but inseparable” is also immensely practical and immediately relevant to many of the contentious issues of the day.

Practical and relevant theology

Consider, for example, the subject of identity. As humans we are distinctive in our gender and ethnicity. This is not to be suppressed or apologised for but to be accepted, embraced, and celebrated. Within the church we cannot divide into fragmented subcultures because we belong together - think of the glorious picture of the multi-ethnic church painted in the book of Revelation.

Ralph’s approach also has obvious applications for a complementarian view of gender and wrestles with other thorny issues such as the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

How does this affect the way in which we make decisions or pray or evangelise?

Pastoral experience

The book is clear, concise, and rooted in pastoral experience. It engages helpfully and insightfully with a whole range of Bible passages. What I particularly enjoyed was the way in which the thread of “distinct but inseparable” runs through the whole book and draws together the central doctrines of our faith.

It is accessible to the average reader and would be a good primer for someone wanting to approach systematic theology for the first time. It also provides new insights for those who are well familiar with the subject.

For church leaders, the book is a good example of the way in which the great themes of classical theology can be applied to the pressing issues of fragmentation within the culture and sometimes within the church.

There are discussion questions at the end of each chapter gathered together under the title “Making it Personal’, plus suggestions for further reading. The book could be profitably used in home groups or reading groups.

In particular, I think that it could be valuable for leadership teams wanting to explore the ways in which churches can celebrate diversity while maintaining unity.

In six sections, Ralph deals with the doctrine of God, the gospel, the world, our Christian identity, the means of grace, and the nature of the church. It is an excellent short introduction to the central doctrines of the faith which is both accessible and occasionally profound.

You can order a copy of Perfect Unity from The Good Book Company for £14.02 (RRP £16.50).

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