Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A quick thought

I am grateful for Andrew's comments on my previous posting, and hope everyone realised that my heading was somewhat tongue in cheek! I think that debate and disagreement is a good thing, and i know that much of my thinking has been inspired, and many of my attitudes challenged, by those with whom i thought I disagreed. That doesn't mean, I hope, that I am blown about by every wind of doctrine (!) (cf Ephesians 4.14) that pops up, but that i listen, and hopefully am in the process of discernment of where God wants me to be.

So, thank you to Andrew, and to Nick, and to Tom for comments, and for the opportunity to think a bit more about what we believe. I'm not sure it is a theological hair-splitting, but perhaps says something more about our approach to God - though obviously when it comes down to it God is unknowable, unsearchable and beyond definition! Fortunate that God has been good enough to share something of himself through Scripture, really, and made manifest for us in the person of Jesus Christ!


Nick said...

Actually Alastair, I try not to let theological disagreement get in the way of Christian fellowship.

I believe I could guarantee you, that if you put 20 Christians from the same church under the spotlight and made a definitive list of all their beliefs... you would still find many minor differences.

Of course, there are the really "big" things, which we cannot disagree with and still call ourselves Christians... but there are many minor things that we can agree to disagree on.

I have a little saying "Doctrine divides, faith unites."

There are many hardliners in the church who would object to even being seen in a pub, believing it to be seen to be a bad witness.

There are others who believe that there is a form of ministry in going to pubs and bars and reaching out to people through friendship.

I do not believe in these instances, either view is absolutely right or wrong for everybody. I believe that it is about discernment. If you know that going to the pub brings about personal weakness... and leads you into a sinful situation, then I personally do not feel you should go.

However if you can go without being compromised (irrespective of whether you drink alcohol), then I do not see there is a problem.

I think it is nonsense for a fundamentalist to tell me not to go to a pub, when actually I don't drink (aside from having a glass of wine at a special meal, usually at home).

I don't think it's nonsense that they choose themselves not to go, I respect that... even if I disagree with it for myself.

I believe that is at the heart of what Paul was teaching in Romans 14. I do not believe what he wrote about, just has to be limited to eating meat or maintaining holy days. I think if a lot more christians lived by that scripture as a guiding principle of their own walk... a lot of the barriers to ecumenism would evaporate. I think it's only fitting to end my comment with that passage:

"1Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

5One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. 11It is written:
" 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
'every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.' "[a] 12So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

13Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. 14As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food[b] is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

19Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

22So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin."

Phew... that one was a longy - sorry bout that.

God bless


Nick said...

PS there's also that other good one:

"Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."



Andrew said...

As Nick said, as long as we agree on the core biblical fundamentals of the Christian faith then everything else is open for debate.

It is about time that true followers of Christ stopped bickering over who's particular services are more biblical than others etc... and joined together united to present the Gospel to a world so desperate for it.

I am encouraged by our town annual week of service and outreach to the community where 18 local churches are working together this year. (http://www.letsgoweek.org.uk/)

It has a great impact on the world when we break the preconceptions of people and work together.

I am what most would call a fundamental Christian but I also hope I am gracious enough to accept there are other views as long as they can be supported biblically. Like you said I hope that as I debate with others the sharp edges are knocked of as God shapes and molds my thinking and attitudes to be more like those of the Lord Jesus.