There’s a Bible verse I appreciate, from a letter Paul wrote to his friend Titus on Crete. Paul left Titus in charge of a bunch of new churches, and he wrote to instruct Titus in his work. Paul’s instructions included this:
“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” Titus 3:6
Paul told his friend Timothy roughly the same thing in 2 Timothy 2:23. I appreciate this permission not to get sucked in to pointless arguments about religion. Coupled with Paul’s teaching on spiritual unity, I conclude that there are very few things worth breaking fellowship over. As a result, I have learned the distinction between discussing religion and arguing religion: the former is vital, the latter is lethal. I may discuss most anything with practically anyone; I can present the truth as I see it and as I believe it, and listen carefully and openly to any divergent view — but there’s no cause to descend to argument. Within the Church, of course, there is orthodox doctrine that we all hold to, but if you can hang with “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself”, then we have most of the essentials in common. I have no need to fuss over things like how much water to employ in baptism, whether my hair is too long, how I feel about your new tatoo, whether Jesus was crucified on a Thursday or a Friday, how often to take communion, and how, and with whom, etc etc. I believe we are allowed to believe differently, and remain in fellowship.
This policy has served my particular church well. Our congregation consists of persons from a wide variety of backgrounds and viewpoints. Paul seems to tell us, “You can talk about anything, but there’s not much worth arguing about.” By practicing this, we seem to maintain a relatively peaceful and productive community.
What do you think? Do you fear such accommodation can lead to dangerous watering down of essential truths? Or do you feel that holding anything to be specifically true is uncomfortably dogmatic? How does this play out in your faith community? Feel free to comment.