Friday, January 25, 2008

Practicing Theology: When Believers Disagree

I first posted this last summer--our situations and/or issues may change, but the reminder is always timely.

When I first posted last week on limited/definite atonement I did so knowing that it is a difficult and unpopular position in many Xian circles--remember I didn't come to this position easily or quickly either! I posted (and will continue to post) because I remember how I labored over the matter and how it fit, or didn't fit, with the view of God I'd held for many years (as a believer and an unbeliever). So I was delighted to read the following statement by Gary Long in the Preface of his book "Definite Atonement" (emphasis mine),
"It is also the earnest desire of the writer that the reader should understand that the author's opposition to the doctrine of indefinite atonement is a doctrinal issue and not a personal attack upon those who espouse indefinite atonement. Every born again believer should be ready to have his theological views judged by Scripture without taking personal affront. Therefore, a distinction must be made between the errors propounded by Christians and the Christians themselves. All that are within the circle of Christ's love must be within the circle of the Christian's love. To contend for doctrine in a manner which ignores this truth is a rending of the unity of the true Church, which is Christ's body, the elect of God."
So, how do/should we respond to fellow-believers whose views differ from ours?

Well, as long as the matter/issue is not an essential point of the gospel, we should "be ready" to have our "theological views judged by Scripture without taking personal affront". The absolute key point in this is that we let Scripture do the "talking", the convicting, AND the convincing for us--we also let Scripture do the "arguing" for us.

Hopefully, if you and I differ on some point of theology we both will be challenged to search and consider Scripture with the individual desire and goal of better knowing God as He has revealed Himself there. This assumes humility on both our parts, knowing that we both can't be right, therefore one or both of us must be wrong.

We can however rest assured that God is able to mold and conform us--in His time, according to His purposes as we "...contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints..." Jude 1:3


Diane said...

"This assumes humility on both our parts, knowing that we both can't be right, therefore one or both of us must be wrong."

When I first came online in the late 90's, I heard about Calvinism for the first time. It was in a chat room, and one of the ladies there frequently said to me that we both couldn't be right. So, I always had those nagging doubts that I was right. At the time, we were in an Assemblies of God church.

Good post.

Marcian said...

I've been gone from blogging all week to study for a national board exam. Looks like I've missed a prolific week for you! This is a timely post for me, as my mother and I disagree on many (what I believe to be) important doctrinal points. But scripture interprets scripture. The whole thing must be considered, not just one chunk, removed from its surroundings, examined in a vacuum, and made to appear harmless and unoffensive. If there is anything offensive in scripture, I've found that the problem rests with me, and the sin I'm harboring.

Dana said...

Hi Connie, I really enjoyed this. This past year has been difficult for me as I have had to reexamine all my beliefs and realizing that I'm in a different theological place (leaning more towards Calvinism) than most people around me. I have had a hard time keeping the doctrinal stance and personal stance seperated.

I went through the same thing you described about limited atonement. I had never been taught on that before (of course I would not have in a seeker church).

Although I enjoy the challenge which may be why I am moving on and learning and not staying in my seeker positive mode :)

Thank you!

Shawn Abigail said...

"Every born again believer should be ready to have his theological views judged by Scripture without taking personal affront."

Very true. We must also examine doctrines without impugning the motives of the other believer. I'm not suggesting that you would do this, but too often I've heard zealous Calvinists say "You only believe that because you don't believe in the sovereignty of God", or "You don't want to believe God is sovereign" or some such other thing. Not only does this imply that one knows the other person's motives, but it also implies that if my motives are wrong then my understanding of Scripture must also inevitably be wrong.