Monday, 4 April 2011

Should we agree to disagree?

Do you ever wonder why there are so many denominations and factions in the church? I couldn’t give you an exact figure, but I should imagine the number of separate Christian groupings around the world  must run into many hundreds, if not thousands. The reasons for these divisions are manifold, and not merely down to geography. I wouldn’t even attempt to list them, but probably the most common one is a difference in interpretation of the Bible and how it should be applied in our lives. Issues such as the use of spiritual gifts, the mission of the church, spiritual authority and the role of women in ministry, have caused disagreement and division for many years, and have led to people leaving their church, quite often to start one of their own.

Most Christians are resigned to these differences, and console themselves with such statements as “time will tell who is right and who is wrong,” and “we’ll leave the Lord to sort it out.” There are even some people that believe God is going to have separate territories in heaven for different denominational groups, where they can carry on with their disagreements throughout eternity.

A number of years ago I heard a man of God make this statement concerning issues over doctrine in the church. He said “If you don’t believe what I believe, then you must believe something else. Let us open up the word of God together and you can show me what you believe, and I can show you what I believe.”   

If people followed this wise advice, and combined it with a humility of heart that was at least prepared to entertain the remote possibility that they could (heaven forbid) be wrong, then I believe that in every town, city and congregation across the world we would begin to see a unified body of believers taking ground for the kingdom of God, rather than entrenched in their own denominational bunkers.God does not want His church in confusion or discord, for he is a God, not of disorder, but of peace. (1 Corinthians 14:33)

Paul instructed Timothy, his young disciple, to “study” the word of God, and to learn to “correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). There is a correct and an incorrect way to approach God’s word, and for the next few posts I want to lay out some practical principles for interpreting the Bible. I believe if we learn how to understand and correctly apply the word of God to our lives then many of the issues that have divided the church could be seen for what they are and overcome.

I hope you will stay with me as we go through this study.

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