Christians are a diverse lot. Even self-confessed ‘Reformed’ Christians are a diverse lot. There’s lots of doctrines, practices and issues we’ll hang our hat on when we’re forced to. Others will hang their hat whether they’re forced to or not. (I’m more in the latter category.) Even here at Hills, we’re a diverse bunch. Complementarian and Egalitarian, Premillenial and Amillenial, Baptistic and “not really fussed”, teetotaler and drinker, Calvinist and Arminian, bourbon and scotch, Cats and Hawks, and so on. But I digress.
R. C. Sproul Jr. (UPDATED: thank you Nathan!) has written a great little piece on unity and truth, and the tension between them. There have been a few recent squabbles in Reformed circles in the US (one of which was related to James’s post about John MacArthur). Nothing too major, but enough to prompt Sproul to reflect on the ongoing battle between two great Christian principles.
Both truth and unity matter. Unfortunately, one will always get in the way of the other. The cause of this imbalance is human sin. We can’t get it right. So what can we do? Sproul asks:
We need to not only learn to distinguish between primary and secondary doctrines/practices, we need to learn to value them accurately. Can we both agree that being wrong on baptism is not a damnable heresy, and also affirm that it is an issue that matters? Can I seek to correct my Baptist brothers in a way that speaks to them as brothers who are wrong on an important issue? And can I in turn hear with grace my Baptist brothers as they lovingly seek to correct my error on the issue? Can I be concerned that my charismatic brother is leaving open the door for false prophecy and at the same time understand that he is concerned that I am boxing in the Holy Spirit?
Secondary issues are important. They do matter. Our stance at HBC on Believer Baptism matters. How the Reformed Presbyterian Church conduct their Lord’s Day worship matters. What our brothers and sisters believe at Grace Community Bible Church about the ‘Last Things’ matters. These issues only matter to a certain extent, though. (Unfortunately we can’t even unite on what extent that might be.)
I think it would be wise, though, to heed the words of Sproul:
I know that whatever the Bible teaches, that is what’s right and true. And I know the Bible teaches that I am often wrong. It is not Rodney King that asks if we can all get along. It is Jesus asking, in His high priestly prayer (John 17). He is the Truth, and He calls us to unity. That comes in reflecting His character. He, even when He corrects us, is for us. He, even when we are wrong, loves us perfectly. He is lowly in spirit and will not break a bruised reed.
Christians of all sorts of denominations and doctrinal positions should gather around one thing – our Lord Jesus Christ. We will spend eternity worshiping the “Lamb who was slain” (see Revelation 5:11-12). We won’t be worshiping our doctrinal stances, or our ability to discern biblical truth. We’ll be worshiping Jesus. As Sproul says, He is the Truth. In John 17 Jesus prays that his church would be united. I think we should all be comfortable disagreeing, so long as we reflect Christ’s character in doing so. I also think that we should, no matter what disagreements we maintain with our brothers, give clarity and primacy to the biblical gospel.
Truth is vitally important. So is unity. We must look to Jesus for both.