Monday, June 14, 2010

Agree On The Important Stuff, Or Not

But at least we agree on the important stuff,” an online acquaintance responded to me the other day. Do we really? She had said something about the church beginning at Pentecost. I quipped that I didn’t agree with that. She asked me to explain why, which I did. She made it clear that she still didn’t agree and then came the comment about agreeing on the important stuff.

The Christian writing world is made up of many different authors who attend many different churches. On the surface, we’re a pretty amiable lot, attending conferences together, discussing writing online and whatever else, but there are major differences in doctrine. Let’s face it, there’s a reason why there are so many denominations. The people who began those denominations felt that the differences in doctrine were significant enough to justify splitting. You recall that the reformation was started with Luther nailing his 95 theses on the door of a church. Even before that there were other churches in existence other than the Catholic church. The Baptist churches were in existence at that time, along with the Ana-baptists and the Waldenses. Before Luther’s time there were groups like the Albigenses and the Paulicians, to name a few. It isn’t clear what some of these groups believed, but these groups disagreed enough to be separate. Even in the Bible we see various factions that formed as the gospel spread. If we truly agree on the important stuff then it makes no sense that there would be so many factions.

But just what is the important stuff? Certainly there is room for disagreement among Christians. If there weren’t none of us could go to church. Where do we draw the line and say that we must be in agreement on these issues?

That’s a hard question to answer in a general way, but consider some of the issue that divide us. Is God a trinity or not? Some say yes, some say no. What is required for salvation, when does it take place and how do we keep it? Some believe salvation comes to those who turn their lives around and do good works. Some believe that complete salvation comes to those who put their faith in Jesus Christ. Some believe it is necessary to trust Jesus for salvation, but if we stray into sin then we’ll lose our salvation. And there are a number of other beliefs. Whatever you believe about salvation, if someone else believes otherwise and puts his faith in another method, it makes him a non-Christian in your eyes. Is that enough reason to disassociate from him?

We don’t really agree on the important stuff. At best (or worst) we’ve agreed to not discuss the important stuff because we want to get along well enough to discuss the less important stuff, the stuff about writing. I fear that the result is that our writing suffers. In the interest of pleasing those who disagree with us, we don’t write about the most important issues.