There are may things that we want to believe about Christianity. Whether they are things we have been taught, things we have formulated from experiences, or merely because they just fit with our own point of view. We all want to be affirmed that what we believe is true. But where it gets dicey is when we seek to make everyone else conform to our personal theology as Truth itself.
Denominations were each formed by a particular set of beliefs. We call these Doctrinal Distinctives. These parameters give a standard by which like-minded people gather together in common pursuit of what they believe about God and how to live the Christian faith. And throughout history, there have been many conflicts that have divided true believers based upon things which we should be able to find some sort of common ground.
There is much to be said about the positives and negatives about being part of denominations. However, the purpose here is not to focus on denominations, but to merely raise the concern about how we have allowed our personal beliefs to separate us from joining together with others that are earnestly seeking the Truth and striving to live for the Lord.
When it comes to defining the boundaries of true Biblical Christianity, there must not be any compromise. With so much false teaching, we must be on our guard against everything that seeks to redefine true Biblical Christianity. Believing that Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, rising again on the third Day, being born of the Virgin Mary, and many other things are non-negotiable. But outside of clear “salvation issues”, we should not let minor theological differences divide us.
What has happened is that in people’s pursuit to be “right”, many have alienated and ostracized true believers who are also seeking to believe and live according to what it says in the Bible. Things such as free will, predestination, eternal security, spiritual gifts, timing of Jesus’ return and the tribulation, dispensationalism, and many other areas have become the focus over the Gospel. All suffice it to say, there are well-meaning, Bible believing Christians who believe one way or another, but are often placed at great odds with other believers.
In order to resolve these issues, it requires that we are each seeking Truth above our personal held theology. It means that are willing to accept others having different theological opinions, while also being willing to listen and change our beliefs and practices as we learn from Scripture.
Essentially everyone that professes a faith in Jesus would say that they are seeking the Truth. But when seeking the Truth gets tested is when we are challenged by people with whom we disagree. It is easily seen why Baptists, Charismatics, Methodists, Lutherans, and others often don’t hang around together. What is concerning, though, is not that we look to defend our beliefs according to Scripture, but that we have allowed peripheral things to become the dividing line.
If we are earnestly pursuing the Truth, we should at the very least consider that I may be holding onto beliefs or practices that I may be wrong about. If someone brings something that we may not agree with, but we can see how they get to that conclusion Biblically, can’t we at least show charity to those that may believe differently?? And as long as someone isn’t falling away from the essentials of salvation and twisting faith into something other than through faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone, and Scripture alone, can’t we find ways that we can fellowship together??
To be clear, there need to be doctrinal standards and clear boundaries that constitute Biblical Christianity. We should never embrace false teaching or an ecumenical view that seeks to bridge fellowship with the world. In doing so, we would clearly be going against Scripture. As it says in James 4:4, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” But when it comes to Bible believing Christians that are pursuing the Truth, we must not let minor theological differences continue to divide us.
I know what I am saying is over-simplifying a very complex issue that has been ongoing throughout all of history, but hopefully this can serve as a reminder to each of us to not be digging in our heels over matters that often cause division.
I often times find it incredibly frustrating being around those that pull so hard one way when it comes to their theological perspective. It is the old adage that the Calvinists and Arminians don’t mix. Each of their views on the character of God and how God operates are many times so different that it is difficult to find common ground. And although both sides have a lot of solid Biblical arguments, I often find myself pulling hard the opposite way when I encounter those that stubbornly defend their positions rather than focusing on the real issues of the Gospel.
What is often overlooked are the pitfalls on both extremes. A Calvinist might say that Arminians have a low view of God’s Sovereignty. Arminians might say that Calvinists don’t understand God’s prevenient grace through God giving man free will. But what I find is in these debates, is that it is more of a matter of warning others of making their theological perspectives actual matters of salvation. Both again, may have some very valid arguments, but if not taken carefully, not only divide well-meaning believers, but become the primary focus of some groups.
Many have simply learned to justify themselves by emphasizing select passages, verses, phrases, and words in the Bible that confirm their own beliefs and practices. This is called proof-texting. It is taking a portion of Scripture out of context to give evidence to a particular set of beliefs and practices. When people are confronted by those who try to kindly show the real Biblical context, they are usually quick to get defensive. Instead of carefully examining what is being presented, people tend to lash out against anything they think is a threat to those things they hold so dear. That is why it is critical that we don’t just surround ourselves with those that believe basically the same.
There is so much we can learn from those who are seeking Biblical Truth, but with whom we disagree. It can reveal our blind spots and areas that we need to change according to what we are shown in the Bible. And if nothing else, it helps to sharpen us to be digging deeper in the Word and seeking to find out if what I believe is truly Biblical; especially when others present a very compelling case Biblically. But when we don’t challenge and question each and every thing we believe, hear, and have been taught, we are greatly susceptible to all sorts of false teaching and relying on things that may or may not be true.
We cannot let the things we want to believe about Christianity divide us from other believers that earnestly are seeking the Truth. We may ultimately disagree about certain things in Scripture with other believers, but we must be careful that we don’t allow these things in themselves to become “salvation issues”. What this requires is that we humbly recognize none of us believe exactly like we should and that we need other believers to help us grow in the Truth. We must be willing to give one another the grace to wrestle through very difficult theological issues, even if we end up disagreeing. In doing so, it builds up the Church and allows each of us to learn, grow, and become the followers of Jesus that we all ought to be.