I’m 28 years old.
I am male.
I am Caucasian. I am Australian. I was born in Tasmania but raised in Melbourne.
I am a Christian.
Specifically, I am an evangelical.
More specifically I hold to a reformed theology.
More specifically I am a member of a Baptist church.
More specifically I am;
a charismatic, a Calvinist, a complimentarian, a pre-tribulation, pre-millennialist, and an old earth creationist. I hold to a verbal plenary inspiration of scripture and a position of unlimited atonement and I would consider myself to be part of the relevant reformed stream of the emerging church movement.
I also believe the St Kilda Saint’s to be God’s team in spite of all evidence to the contrary. I’m a non-smoking, occasionally alcohol consuming, occasionally gambling, occasionally Family Guy watching LOTR lover who holds a preference for small government.
Do you have enough information to decide if we are on the same team or not? At which point of the list did you say, ‘nope, that crossed the line’ or ‘can’t agree with you there’ or even ‘well now we can’t be friends’.
I’d be amazed if anyone agreed with me on every one of those points and if you do then we are clearly destined to be best friends or arch nemeses (at least according to every comic book I’ve ever read that is).
The point is, how do we decide what issues to divide over and what issues to agree on or disagree on while still being part of the same team?
I’ve recently made some new friends and had some conversations with old friends that have made me incredibly thankful for those who understand that while we as Christians may not agree on everything what is important is understanding what does unite us.
That of course is Jesus Christ. I recently heard Mark Dever use an analogy of A W Tozer’s that I thought was terrific. When a group of tuning forks are all tuned to the same note they are immediately in tune with each other. I’m no music expert (just ask my wife) but I’m pretty sure that tuning forks come in different shapes, sizes and colours. What is important is that they are all united by a higher standard. For Christians we are united by what Christ did for us on the cross.
As Christians I believe that there are core doctrines that we must all hold onto even if it means dividing organsiationally, issues that we are biblically free to disagree on and methods that we are free to vary in.
The core doctrinal issues that we must hold onto include the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures, God as the creator of the heavens and the earth, the trinity, the 100% divinity and humanity of Christ, his virgin birth, his death on the cross, his physical resurrection from the dead and his ascension into heaven. The depravity of man, the regeneration of believers by the Holy Spirit, and salvation by God’s grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
There are then issues which I believe we are free to biblically disagree on, which I believe do have a correct answer (and for which I would argue strongly) but which don’t affect our salvation and aren’t central to our understanding of Christ. These include God’s means of creation, Calvinism vs Armenianism, the mode and timing of baptism, complimentarianism vs egalitarianism, cessationism, the meaning of ‘praying in tongues’, old earth vs new earth and then a host of practical ethical issues including birth control, drinking, smoking, gambling, language, dress, media habits, economics and government.
Finally we have different methods of ministry which tend to be contextually based such as worship styles, preaching styles, congregation size and so forth.
So are you dividing over an issue that we are free to disagree on? Are you united with those you shouldn’t be yoked with? Are you making a big deal out of a mole hill or not taking a stand when you should be standing tall? Have you thought about how you will biblically tell the difference?
When Christ died for us on the cross he not only reconciled us to Him, He also reconciled Jews and gentiles and made it possible for us all to be reconciled to each other. Let’s remember that next time we’re tempted to divide for the wrong reasons and or when we are tempted to stay united for the wrong reasons.