Friday, November 09, 2007

Piper on long-held doctrinal differences

Doug has been posting some great thoughts on doctrinal differences and how friends should handle them. My discussions with Doug have been incredibly rich, and while I don't think either of us have been completely persuaded by the other, we have been blessed in the conversation (at least I have been. I shouldn't presume to talk for Doug. It was great to see the difference between Wesleyanism and typical American Arminianism so influenced by Finney. Wesley had a much greater understanding of depravity and man's need for Gods initial grace. I had forgotten about this strand of evangelicalism, partly because it's so rare here).

Anyway, it is tempting to steer away from these kind of conversations on hard doctrinal issues, issues that have remained unsettled for centuries. However, tonight, I was encouraged by Piper not to shy away from these conversations. Here's what he writes,

What if someone had said to Athanasius, "Athanasius, people have disagreed on this issue of Christ's deity for three hundred years, and there has never been an official position taken in the church to establish one side as orthodox and the other side as heresy. So who do you think you are? Half the bishops in the world [an understatement] disagree with you, and they read the same Bible you do. So stop fighting this battle and let different views exist side by side."

We may thank God that Athanasius did not think that way. He did not regard the amount of time that has elapsed or the number of Christians who disagree to determine which doctrines are important and which we should strive to teach and spread and make normative in the church.

And so today we should not conclude that the absence of consensus in the church means doctrinal stalemate or doctrinal insignificance. God may be pleased to give the blessing of unity on some crucial areas of doctrine that are not yet resolved in the Christian church. I think, for example of the issues of manhood and womanhood, the issue of justification by faith, the issue of how the death of Christ saves sinners, and the issue of the sovereignty of God's grace in converting the soul. I don't think we should assume that, because much time has gone by and many people disagree, it must always be this way. Who knows but that, by God's amazing grace, wrong views on these things could become as marginal as the Arianism of the Jehovah's Witness is today. I don't mean that all these issues are as essential as the deity of Christ, but only that a much greater consensus may be reached on the true interpretation of Scripture that is often thought. I think that would be a good thing for the church and the world and the glory of Christ.
- Contending for Our All, pg. 66-67

So, lets continue engaging in persausive dialogue, humbly and prayerfully. Maybe someday ...

1 comment:

Lane said...

I don't know where to start... I'm half-way through "Dynamics of Spiritual Life" by Richard Lovelace and it's so encouraging... and disheartening at the same time! He's right on with church unity, and not too liberal with doctrine. We'll talk more on Wednesday. Got a few hours?