Where to divide, and where to Unite
A Semi-confessional Essay
This post has its genesis months ago, when Phil Johnson was talking about the fundamentals of the faith, and it resurfaced this weekend in our men's group, when I asked our pastor "Where was the true church during the Middle Ages?" I'm still reeling from his answer.
He said that there was remnant there, one that was faithful despite imperfect doctrine. We aren't saved by perfect doctrine--we're saved by our relationship with our Savior. The point of doctrine isn't to save us, it's to help us understand more fully all that's been revealed to us.
He's right. If perfect doctrine was the entrance exam into heaven, it would be a lonely place indeed. I couldn't make it. . .and neither could you.
The flip-side of this is even more perilous. Consider the demons, says James. They know Christ, and shudder. They have a pretty solid understanding of doctrine, but it does them no good. Know anyone like that?
Being doctrinally right is a zero-sum game. That is, if I'm right, then someone else is wrong. And lets face it, we all think we're right, because if we didn't, we would change. But if I'm right, that means that you Charismatic Arminian Purpose-Driven Paedobaptists are wrong (and, well, vice-versa).
But incorrect doctrine is not an automatic indicator that one is not saved. Has your theology changed since you were saved? Mine sure has. It has changed dramatically just in the last three years or so. So theology isn't a static thing--it grows and develops. How much theology do we really need to be saved? Well, if little children can be saved, perhaps not as much as we might think.
None of this is to discount good and right theology, but merely to acknowledge that theology is never an end to itself, but a means to the end of knowing God better.
So back to the main point: I know there are times when we need to distance ourselves from others. And I'm fine with dividing--when I know where the line is. But at some point, as I'm crawling along the path, I've got to quit kicking the guy who's crawling next to me--we've got to agree to disagree about certain points of theology and help one another to our feet--so we can take the good news of the Gospel out to the world. You and I need to look at that brother or sister who has an immature faith and say,"God loves you, and so do I." I don't want cheap unity. But I sure would like to know where that line is, so I don't spend all my time dividing from anyone who doesn't believe just like me.
One final thought. Blogs by their very nature traffic in ideas. But it's hard to love through a blog. Our blog relationships tend to be intellectual, but our love can be expressed best in the local body. (Thanks to Bryan for pointing this out.)
Cent stopped by on Thursday to leave this message:
... Gumm's gone soft. Must alert JIBBS and Pyro before he gets to them ...
What he may not know about is his own culpability in this alleged "softness." Or has he forgotten about this little blurb, which I copied DI-rectly from his website? (which belongs up there in the first paragraph on the "genesis of this post"...):
* Doug Wilson - some people will find me mad for taking Pastor Wilson out of the nether-depths of Joshua 12:1, but so be it. The differences I have with his theological positions do not blind me to the fact that this fellow has a great apologetic against post-modernism, pride, jealousy, wonkery, prudishness, glummery and frowny-faced "Christian" soldiers. I don't agree with him about everything, but I agree with him about our precious savior, Jesus Christ. After that, we can work out the details.