Division in the Church over non-primary issues is something that must be addressed.
Division. It is a word we hear often in media, discussed in class, spoken in sermons. “We are a divided nation” they all say. Divisions are caused by a variety of issues. Differences in opinions, differences in morals, and famously, differences in politics. I am of course speaking of society as a whole, but we cannot ignore the reality that division exists in the church as well, and it is not new.
I often hear fierce debates on campus at Lancaster Bible College. I hear people putting down specific church congregations due to differences in secondary and tertiary theological differences, such as baptism, worship style, preaching style etc. One of the fierces debates that exists in the church however right now, is the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism. These are treated as through they are primary issues, even though they are not.
Divisions in the church over who’s belief systems are followed is something that dates all the way back to the early church. In addressing the church of Corinth, Paul calls out division in the church, in which people come to blows because they follow Jesus, or Apollos, or Paul etc. Christ is not divided he says.
One thing that Machen says “we are not presuming to say whether such and such an individual man is a Christian or not.” (Machen 246). He further goes onto discuss that only God can decide such a question. This is how things should be, but it does not accurately reflect the reality of our current situation. I have witnessed individuals trying to answer that question themselves in regards to their opponents. “This person can’t be a true Christian, they believe (or don’t believe) in predestination.” While I myself would lean toward more Calvinistic views, I find such a viewpoint that one is not a Christian because they are Arminian to be abhorrent.
We can debate issues like infant baptism, predestination, and stewardship, but we should not treat these issues as if our faith depends on them. The very center of our faith should be Jesus. Jesus is the reason for our hope. It was Jesus, who was fully God and fully man that bore our sin and shame, and suffered an absolutely horrific execution, so that the world may be saved. And yet, because he was without sin, and without blame, defeated death, and rose again. This should be our primary issue. Whether Jesus is at the center of everything or not. If the answer is not, then we’ve got some major theological issues.
If we allow the most important issues to slip through the cracks so that we can satisfy our own personal preferences regarding our understanding of salvation, what is the purpose then of salvation? Jesus isn’t at the forefront of anything, therefore we have nothing. Only Jesus should be seen as the center of our faith. It is through HIM that we are able to have a relationship with God at all.