The gauntlet was thrown, Pseudo-Polymath: Needed: A Defense of Our Division.
And by some coincidence I was thinking of writing a few words, not on division per se, but the related matter of what we consider so important along the way of working out our core beliefs. The basis for that thought diversion is probably the same that inspired the challenge: the constant Christian bickering.
So. Short defence for needed division:
(1) the need for true definition. There is the basic definition of ‘Christian” based upon the core reality that separates “Christian” from not-Christian or “something else”. Fundamental etymology: the word has to mean something.
(2) Paul states that division within the Christian body would show who really belonged to Christ: 1 Corinthians 11:18-20
18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.
(3) Differing focus: Paul when he parts ways with Barnabas. Neither were wrong in their intent, but had two conflicting goals. Acts 15
(4) Again, Paul and Barnabas, this time hammering out correct doctrine. Acts 15:2
Short list for a short defence, now I can address some things that bothered me.
There are important things and there are insignificant things in living our lives, and making the difference between the two is what causes the rub. Anything from irritating friction to outright wildfire.
For Christians there is the primary matter of knowing Christ Jesus and obeying Him…. the Bible scriptures being the definitive source of information on this. This is easy to say, but the spiralling off of related matters begins the grounds for dispute: baptism, confession, communion. When the words “excommunication” or anathema are used you have a basic division between accepted and unaccepted at the basic level. Can we know the right side of argument in these things? We can, but there will much struggle… as the history of Reformation has shown.
You might just sit down in total frustration and throw up your hands when the conversation turns to Sponge Bob ( the smurfs and telletubbies before him), music, or belabored subject of “What to wear?”. Some of these are related to parenting, some to sexual roles, but all get couched in categories that somehow are tagged with heaven or hell implications.
To all this I have to apply Christ’s admonition ” Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” and “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod”.
We get convinced of things and then want to extrapolate it to all of Christendom. Yet, many things are needful for our souls alone, and for those like us. Take child raising. The Bible has plenty of guidance, but no strict method. You wouldn’t know it from the books and seminars that insist on their method being the one with the only truth and valid imprimatur.
It just isn’t so. The one rule is love, and our problems with working out that rule are going to differ according to our weaknesses, sometimes too permissive and sometimes too rigid. None of which lead directly to either heaven or hell, and this is true of more than our mode of parenting.
This isn’t relativity, but individuality in response to the standard of Christ. He didn’t leave us with a list of rules, but with Himself; His own Holy Spirit to lead us in the body of teachings which men and women of God gave their lives to live out and pass on. This is sufficient. Although only if you don’t substitute something else for Christ, and His teachings.
Not everyone is willing to hold to the simplicity of Christ, and those teachings are the ones Jesus warned us about. The leaven of Pharisees is hypocrisy, and that of Herod seems to be covetousness, the Sadducees? worldly pragmatism. It is the truth of Who Jesus is and what He has done that is the core of our basic definition as Christian, and of importance in the question of gaining heaven and escaping hell. Whether or not you believe in those concepts. God did not hinge salvation on those, but on belief in Jesus Christ, and subsequent following after Him. I take that literally, and maybe you do not, but it leads to life, and that is what matters.
For much of the rest I think common sense that God gives, particularly if the habit of studying scripture is followed, will win the day. In the light of day a year from now, the brouhaha over SpongeBob is not going to make much sense, while the concern over the deterioration of moral values will. That could guide our conversations if we allow.
Well meaning people take the hypocritical trappings of doing “all the right things” only to find that these not only were a waste of time, but even damaging. I was one of those -it seemed good at the time. Yet, if attention were paid to the essentials, which are plainly found in the Gospel and writings of the apostles, then “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ….. for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall”
And my guess is that it would be with a lot less bickering and dissension. If I look at the famous case of Mary and Martha, I see that while both were trying their best to please the Lord. The frantic service of Martha, with all the layers of society’s expectations apparent, was less than the simpler choice of Mary. She got up to serve her guests and help her sister, but she centered on the peace and truth in Christ, first.
This is the only answer I can think of in the great dispute of Christian division. I have had many a debate with those with hardcore beliefs, and found that it tends to be a waste of time and a source of frustration. For the larger matters of the Christian faith, the core that has been outlined from the beginning and is articulated in the Nicene Creed, we stand stalwart and without apology, but for the lesser matters?
For the lesser matters, we ought to accept one anothers conscience. If we are making rules, to either side of leniency or strictness, that stands in the way of another’s access to Christ, we are like the scribes and lawyers. This might seem to favor those who are permissive, but I don’t believe it does as actually practiced. All things are permitted, but not all things are beneficial, and we are constantly encouraged to the higher calling in Christ. Better than modest dress codes would be a deeper walk of communion in Christ. That will lead to a heart that dresses the body appropriately, chooses activities that are wholesome.
I think the greatest barrier to having that purity of heart is a lack of communication with one another and with God. When we fill our conversations with meaningless vanities instead of sharing our love of God, we have missed the target. Sometimes our sharing results in conflict, but we have to risk it – we have to desire the real relating that the body grows upon.
I do not fear division, I fear ossification. I fear missing out on God because I was so sure of myself in some little safe room of my own making. I fear chewing out little bits of life in unimportant concerns that waste and trivialize the greatness of the Way, The Truth, and The Life that has been so graciously given.
So if I seem rude when there is unending talk of cartoon characters and making inconsequential points of semantical fineness or the supposed rightness of a specific way to parent….excuse me, please. I just think we have better things to do.