Sunday, 19 February 2017

Diversity in truth

Christians often say that differences are good, and diversity is to be celebrated. This is all very good when it comes to evangelising all the nations, and recognising that we have different personalities, and God gives various gifts. Not everyone in the church needs to have the same favourite meal, or drive the same car.

But there is a problem with applauding differences in our post modern age. Not all differences are good. Some differences are bad. They may be useful, but still best avoided.

An obvious example: it is not good that some Christians oppose murder and others think it a good idea. It is not good that some Christians think that Jesus literally rose from the dead and other read this figuratively. Or try: it is not good that some Christians oppose fornication and others don't have a problem with it.

God is a God of truth. And in as much as a value has a truth component then all men are better off believing this truth; especially in the church.

Now this is not going to be the case. God takes us where we are are makes us like Christ. It can be difficult to jettison cultural values we have accrued but are in opposition to kingdom values. This is okay, and we grow in Christ and the strong are gracious with the weak. Nevertheless, this is not saying that it is good that Christians have different views on truth. We may have different perspectives on complicated issues. But in as much as we resolve these perspectives, our beliefs will increasingly align with Jesus. Paul says
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2)
There are a range of things we need to do as Christians, not the least works of obedience. Paul says that we are also to renew our minds. We are to modify our thinking to conform it to God's. By this we understand God's will. By this we know what is good, what is acceptable, what is perfect.

Likewise to the Philippians he writes
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, (Phi 1:9-10)
then,
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, (Phi 1:27)
It is the case that we will (initially) differ in our thoughts about some things. But this is not a good thing, it merely is. We are to strive for like-mindedness. This suggests—at least in part—a common cause. But extends to knowledge and discernment.

Elsewhere Paul notes disagreement among the Corinthians.
I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. (1Co 11:18-19)
Does this suggest that at times disagreements over truth and doctrine are good? Not at all. Such disagreements may be useful, but it is certainly problematic if you are the example of error by which others are commended. Just before this Paul writes,
But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. (1Co 11:17)
Disagreements are not to be commended. It is the case the Paul was rebuking behaviour that led to people being left out. Even so, he rebukes their behaviour saying this is how they are to act. This is the truth of the matter and your behaviour is to align with this. Their factions may have been useful in demonstrating those who were in the right; still, best not be in the errant faction.

Now it is possible to be correct and be churlish about it. No one should want to be that guy. We are to speak the truth in love. But be wary of those who celebrate diversity of opinion in matters of truth. They may happen to be right on a particular point. But they may also wish to hold false views while refusing to accept correction. And let not a cheerful disposition deceive you. Falsehood with a veneer of niceness is diabolical all the way down.

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