Unity in action : persons, community and ecumenism in the thought of John Macmurray.
As both a philosopher and a Christian, John Macmurray (1891-1976), spent his life attempting to show that we are truly called to a life of unity with one another. He makes a strong philosophical case that to be properly human is to seek and to intend communion with others, and in his analysis of the nature of the human person he offers uS a way of understanding that the call to Christian unity is not simply a matter of pastoral effectiveness but one that expresses the deepest truth of our human being, that we are most fully ourselves when we are in communion with one another. The call to unity among the Christian Churches is one that has largely shaped pastoral and theological concerns over the last hundred years or more. The efforts of the World Council of Churches and the writings of many eminent theologians have pushed the question of ecumenism to the forefront of Christian consciousness. It is now generally recognised among Christians of all traditions that the failure of the Churches to give practical expression of the unity for which Christ prayed is itself a major obstacle to the proclamation of the Good News, and one that inhibits the message of Jesus from being properly heard and accepted by many who are seeking meaning in their lives. In terms of how best to achieve the unity that so many desire, there has long been a divide between those who argue that unity should come about through doctrinal agreement and those who say that, while doctrine tends to divide Christians, unity can be best achieved through a shared commitment to practical efforts to make the world a more peaceful, just and loving place. Something, however, that has been largely overlooked in the whole ecumenical question is the need to find an appropriate philosophical basis for unity among peoples and among the Churches. Without such a philosophical underpinning, the call to unity can easily be seen as simply a practical pastoral tool for the effective proclamation of the Gospel or as nothing other than emotive rhetoric. In the writings ofJohn Macmurray we· are able to find an approach to the question of ecumenism that provides us with just such a philosophical basis for unity. This dissertation engages in a close reading of both Macmurray's philosophical and religious views, and suggests that, despite some inconsistencies in his own approach, Macmurray offers the whole ecumenical project a significant philosophical basis for the notion that in seeking unity among the Christian Churches we are being faithful to our nature as human beings. While not denying the sincerity of the countless numbers of those who have committed themselves to the call for unity among Christians, the desire for unity needs to be fortified by an appropriate understanding of human nature. It is. argued that the ecumenical movement can be greatly enhanced by the kind of perspective that Macmurray brings to the whole question of unity. His voice still needs to be heard.