I’ve held off on writing this for awhile, partly cause it’s way over my head in a lot of ways and partly for fear of other people’s opinion. The latter is a common struggle, you probably already know that about me.
I want to tread lightly here because people have strong feelings regarding Theology, Doctrine, etc. when it comes to the Christian Church. I want to be clear though, I am only speaking about the Christian Church. Some may differ on opinions about who is or isn’t true believers. But that’s a rabbit trail I don’t want to go down right now. I’m talking about those that believe that Jesus is the Messiah. That by His death we who believe in Him have forgiveness of sins, and through His resurrection we have the hope of eternal life with Him. Those that believe we are saved by grace through faith and not a result of works, but that works flow out of our faith. I could go on, but I think that will suffice for now.
I’ll jump right to the point. You have Pentacostals and Methodists, Lutherans and Calvinists. There’s Presbyterians and Anglicans, Armenians and Non-Denoms. People follow John Piper, John MacArthur, N.T. Wright, Karl Barth, C.S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Francis Chan, Matt Chandler, Tim Keller, R.C. Sproul, blah, blah, blah… There’s an overflowing amount of pastor’s and theologians out there today, and for most of them, we have their teaching right at our fingertips. On one hand it is incredible that knowledge like that is so accessible, but on the other, divisive.
My first thought is the names we give our Churches and ourselves. Yes, it does give other believers the quick and easy reference as to what I or you or a church believe. But if you really think about it, why would that matter? (Remember I’m talking about those who fall under my description of a Christian from paragraph 2). If you were moving to a different city and wanted to do a little research on the churches in town, I get why you would want to scout out their doctrine and align yourselves with a church that believes like you. But let’s stop right there. I think that is a major problem, aligning ourselves with people like… ourselves. Why couldn’t we be amongst other believers, like those I described in paragraph 2, and challenge each other. I know that through a careful study of Scripture of the years some of my dogmatic beliefs have changed a bit. And I hope I can have the humility to say I have yet more to grow, and possibly grow some areas of thinking that line up more with my view and less with the Lord’s. I believe we all have room to grow, but how can we if we stay in our own little box or bubble. Joining forces, living in community with, and sharing the gospel with other’s that we may not exactly see eye to eye on regarding issues, may help to pop that bubble we live in.
Secondly, most of you know that we are approaching the 500th Anniversary of the 16th Century Reformation. An amazing time in our Christian history where brave followers of Christ helped rid the notion of justification by works and made it easier for the lay person like you and me to dig into the Word for ourselves. What seems to have sprout hundreds of years later though is this “I side with him” talk. Not to say you can’t. I mean I do the same thing often. My thought here is this, what if when we think we are following Christ, we are really following Christ through so-in-so, the exact thing the Reformers tried to abolish in time past, yet we are now doing it to ourselves. I know what your saying, we need those who have poured their life into the Scriptures to help us interpret. Correct! However, be careful in how you follow and how much emphasis you place on the person or movement. A good test would be to see how well you handle conversations with others who don’t think like you. Is there anger or arrogance?
Let’s take Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 1:10-15 “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgement. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.”
My aim is not to encourage you out of studying theology or growing in knowledge. My hope is that we all do this, but with a careful eye. That we don’t lose sight of our own study of Scripture, the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts, and ultimately our own relationship as God’s son or daughter. That our pride won’t hinder relationships or frightfully our ministry.
I will leave you with this. A great friend shared this with me recently when talking about this subject. It’s from Deitrich Boenhoeffer’s book “The Cost of Discipleship.” It’s a page from the introduction. I’ve highlighted a few things but I think the full read within the blue is needed!