Controversial Issues

<<disagreement>>

We must be in agreement on the essentials or absolutes of the Christian faith, yet allow liberty and diversity of viewpoint in the non-essential areas of personal preference while ensuring God’s love is paramount (Mk 12:31; Rom 13:8, 14:1,5). Pride, hatred, dissatisfaction, promoting false doctrine and myths together with unending pointless debate are some of the possible causes of divisive discussion (Prov 10:12, 13:10; 1 Tim 1:4,6,7, 6:3-5; Tit 3:9). With doctrine we are to accurately interpret the Word of God, while being humble enough to accept correction and true insights as Apollos was (Act 18:24-28; 2 Tim 2:15).

Rather than allowing a difference of opinion to bring division and weakening your combined effect, it is better to focus on what unites and builds up – this is blessed by God (Ps 133:1-3). Defending one side of a controversy in irrelevant disputes is distracting your time and effort from the mandate of reaching the world with the gospel. In minor issues agree to disagree, yet still exercise love. While we all have defects in our theology, the most important thing is to ensure we make it to heaven and take many others with us rather than having endless discussions about inconsequential issues.

There is a time and place to confront heresy, false doctrine and incorrect conduct – when it strikes
at the foundation of Christianity and there are efforts to introduce "another gospel" that teaches salvation is other than what the Bible states (2 Cor 11:4; Gal 1:7-9). When the early church encountered a new impasse the matter was handled by the spiritually mature leaders, who sought

Know and defend the truth             – but always lovingly

God and made a ruling (Acts 15:1-29). Paul clarifies later how he confronted Peter publicly, “because he was in the wrong…not acting in line with the truth of the gospel…by this hypocrisy even Barnabas was lead astray” (Gal 2:11-21). The direct approach is better than a smear campaign of backstabbing.

When there are a variety of options, don’t be afraid to ask questions, explore the alternative viewpoints and endeavour to find the true facts while being aware of the motives of those promoting their own interests. To most things in life, there are many plausible right ways, yet whatever happens there will be those who think it should be done differently. It is important to support and assist your leaders, instead of grumbling when the situation or method appears to have floundered (Num 14:1-4).

There are numerous beliefs of the Christian faith that dedicated, Christ-loving believers have differing views on, such as the timing of the rapture, charismatic versus non-charismatic, drinking versus non-drinking, remarriage, etc. In matters such as these where values are not critical there is room for other viewpoints with tolerance and respect being shown, with the focus on what there is in common, not the conflicting viewpoint over non-essential issues, which do not alter the validity of their salvation. As

      In essentials unity,                          in non-essentials liberty                  and in all things love

we are all fallen and sin-infected humans, even with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit our biases, traditions, presuppositions and inherent sin often prevents us from getting the proper interpretation of the Word of God, and so we have a somewhat distorted understanding of many things. It is spiritually healthy to explore and consider the alternative viewpoints, and understand why you believe what you do. Remember we are to base our beliefs on God's Word which we should diligently study for ourselves, not just relying on the opinion of others. Even the early believers did not blindly accept what Paul said, but "They examined the Scriptures to see if what he spoke was true" (Act 17:11). 

With many Christian beliefs there is a tension between two Scripturally valid viewpoints which each hold aspects of the overall truth. So while there should be unity in the core beliefs, those stated in the Bible and taught by Jesus and the apostles, we must accept there will not be uniformity in all matters of the Christian faith. In disputable matters, through prayer and seeking the Lord, we should be fully convinced in our own minds about what God would have us do, and allow others the same freedom to have a diversity of views. Sometimes we must respectfully 'agree to disagree' on these secondary issues as we model the love, acceptance and unity that Jesus said should characterize His followers (Jn 13:34,35; 1 Jn 4:12).

See also: agreement, apostle's creed, correction, debate, division, doctrine, judging, heresy, non-negotiable, opinions, tension (2), tolerate, truth, viewpoint.  

 


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