"IN ESSENTIALS UNITY, IN NON-ESSENTIALS LIBERTY, IN ALL THINGS CHARITY.
No, not a quote from the Bible, but this is the topic that’s been on my mind. Just what is essential to our theology? The message, as John Eldridge has put it, is really a story, one that we are very much a part of. God created a perfect universe and put man in the Garden of Eden. We messed it up, Jesus came to set things straight, and He is coming again to rule and reign “with a rod of iron”. Certainly most evangelicals would accept that narrative. What then do we do with the hot-button issues that divide us? I will list a few.
- The age of the Earth. The core problem here is the authority of Scripture. If science says we’re four billion years old, and the Bible says it’s 6000 years, there’s a problem. But is is in a correct understanding of science, or of the Scripture?
- Homosexual behavior. If the LGBT crowd really is “born that way”, it seems cruel to tell them they must repent. But the Bible no where affirms it, and where it is mentioned, it is always condemned. How do we answer?
- Women. In the larger context, no religion has ever done for women what the gospel has done. In the time of Christ, women were simply a possession of their husbands. The gospel changed all that. Today, women have achieved much, and the Christian movement is largely responsible. Yet at the same time, the Scripture has called the husband the head of the wife, even as Christ is head of the man. And when Paul is writing to Timothy that she is not to have authority in the church, he goes back to Genesis 3, pointing out that Eve was deceived, thus she should not have a chance to lead the church. But what do you do with Kay Arthur and other women who so obviously have a teaching gift?
- The prosperity message. Certainly the Scripture does say that if we give, we will get much more back than we put in. But it also cautions us about proper motives. Not only that, “if ye then with Christ be risen, seek the things that are above”. Is this simply a matter of perspective?
So we don’t want to disfellowship over something that is trivial. On the other hand, we can scarcely ignore an assault on something essential. Is it any of my business what “Pastor X” is teaching? Or is it our duty to call out those who are corrupting the message, as Paul had to do so many times?