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At what point is it division?

Posted by Chance on April 24, 2008

Several verses in the Bible speak of the importance of unity of all believers. The reality is that there are many different denominations and multiple points of debate within the body of Christ. But does this necessarily mean the body of Christ has to be divided? God wants us to be one, but I do not think he expects us all to believe the same in every area.

Concerning debate among Christians, for instance, in the blogosphere, at what point does that become division? I think it is important to have discussions with believers with some different opinions, but does it only stir up contention? Is it when friendly discussion is no longer so?

Just a few thoughts on my mind.

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12 Responses to “At what point is it division?”

  1. Neil said

    Good question. I discussed that briefly yesterday over lunch with the Associate pastor of our church. We agreed that for starters we’d cite what the martyrs died (and still die) for: Jesus is Lord (i.e., God). There is no other way to salvation.

  2. Randy Barnett said

    There are some things that you & I can disagree about and still not have “division”. A good friend of mine is from the Church of the Nazarene. He explained once that he believed you could lose your faith. As a Baptist, I believe “once saved, always saved” and I was shocked by his revelation. I tried to pursue the issue and he just waved it off.

    The real issue was salvation by grace and then what do we do with that salvation. In his mind, missions was most important. He took all his vacation every year (he was up to 5 weeks) and went on trips whereever he could (Central & South America, Africa, etc). He also took days off (within company policy) to help a widow neighbor install a hot water heater and other “local missions”.

    This man made a good salary, but lived like a lower-middle class citizen. He believed if God sent him some money, God had a purpose and it wasn’t always a new car.

    I eventually learned that in spite of his one error (belief in losing salvation), he was a good model for a Christian.

  3. Dan Trabue said

    I can disagree with quite a bit and still not have a problem with it. The early church found itself divided often.

    What is problematic, it seems to me, is the tendency to demonize or twist the words of the Other. To make claims that they haven’t made and tear down that strawman argument, rather than what they actually believe.

    Once someone is doing that, it becomes difficult to have conversations because they’re not discussing what you believe but rather, a distorted view of what you believe.

    Once that happens, it’s often not too long that we begin tearing down the Other. “Well, if he doesn’t believe in ‘once saved always saved,’ then he obviously rejects the grace of Christ and is ANTIchristian, in fact!”

    And that is sad.

    In other words, I am entirely at peace discussing why I believe (to use randy’s example) that we can fall from grace and I understand that others believe “once saved…” (as I once did) and we can have a reasonable discussion and Bible study as Christians and it’s a marvelous thing EVEN IF we disagree… up until such time as I or they start twisting words and demonizing and at that point, it has left the realm of Christian discussion and become petty divisiveness.

    Seems to me.

    The problem is that this is a pretty human tendency to do this, in my experience.

  4. Randy Barnett said

    Dan’s points are good. But it caused me to think that the real question is not just “at what point is it division”, but you should add “and what are the implications”.

    Dan & I can be divided over once saved always saved (as I was with my Nazarene friend), but still work together on issues we agreed on. We could even worship together and I wouldn’t have a problem if one of my kids wanted to marry into that church. I’d tell them they were wrong, but I wouldn’t have a problem with it…

  5. Josh said

    Great post and good question.

    Unity doesn’t mean Uniformity.

    When I look over the few years of my life, I’ve come to find that it’s the people who disagree with me who cause me to question my own faith, which in turn, makes it stronger.

    I think it’s mostly the unimportant things that break up churches (like whether it’s okay to have a kitchen in the church… really it was only a few years ago).

    I like what Donald Miller said, “The thing that scares me about religion is the people actually believe that God is who they think He is.”

    What drives me particularly crazy, though, is when a church or denomination claims a monopoly on God.

  6. Chance said

    Thanks for the comments guys. I’m wondering in the context of debate, especially on these blogs, how we can remain unified. Do you think as long as conversation remains civil then it is not divisive? Hmmm.

  7. Josh said

    I think that respect for the person we are discussing with should come before the content of what we are discussing.

    I can’t help but wonder what some Christians (myself included sometimes) sound like to unbelievers when they argue disrespectfully. Like a bunch of spoiled step-children, I guess

  8. Dan Trabue said

    Define “civil.”

    I have no problems with disagreements being rowdy and vociferously pursued. My definition of civil would be as I described earlier (not twisting words or misrepresenting their positions, not assuming you know what they think better than they do, etc).

    If that’s what you mean by civil, I would agree.

  9. Josh said

    Civil, as in the American Civil Liberties Union.

    Joking.

  10. Randy said

    Doesn’t it also matter when we disagree? By that, I mean who else is listening in?

    Dan & I can disagree all we want. I probably won’t change his mind and he won’t change mine.

    But if an unbeliever or new believer sees our disagreement, they may become confused and miss the Grace that God intended.

    That’s when it becomes division.

  11. Chance said

    Usually when the “Yo Momma” jokes come out, that seems to cause division.

  12. Josh said

    “Yo Momma” Chance! Lol!

    I’ve learned something about myself when it comes to debating a topic, which I rarely ever do anymore.

    Many times, my debates have become about how much I KNOW, how educated I AM, and how quickly I CAN COMEBACK with facts. It has been rarely about God, and commonly about MY BEING RIGHT.

    Good post, Chance!

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