Thursday, July 23, 2009

Unity Amidst Diversity

It is quite possible to ascribe to different ideas and yet not be adversely related to those with different ideas. For instance, within the sphere of Christianity there exists a plethora of denominations, streams, movements, and cultures.

Historically, Christians have often aligned with others who share the same theological doctrines while being separated intentionally or unintentionally from others with different doctrines. This began to transpire early in the Protestant Reformation. As several grassroots movements began to sweep through Europe with the idea that Christians could read and interpret the Bible for themselves without having papal authority set forth the accepted interpretation a huge shift began in the Church that birthed what we now call Protestantism.

However, the freedom for each person to study and interpret the Bible created a door for diversity of interpretation. Christians began to align together based on their common agreements of doctrine. While the Church as a whole, both Catholic and Protestant, still shared many common theological positions there were some things that set them apart from each other. This is because they began to align on their differences instead of their similarities.

Then with the difference illuminated, those differences began to be construed to cause divisions between believers. To illustrate, if one group believed in baptism by sprinkling and the other by immersion their group would become known by that difference rather than the 85% of things they agreed upon.

In modern times, there is another shift happening in Christianity where believers are choosing to unite not based on commonly held interpretations of Scripture, but around Christ Himself. The Church is rapidly coming into unity around the knowledge that we are a family regardless of intellectual differences and that is where we unite. We don’t have to have unity of ideas to have unity between us.

I can disagree with something a pastor teaches and it not cause division or opposition. My husband pastors a church we started a couple years ago. One of the important things we want to get across to people when asked what denomination we belong to is that we are neither denominational nor non-denominational nor independent. We don’t ascribe to one particular denomination, nor do we consider ourselves separated from other denominations nor independent from the rest of the Body. We see the Church as a family and us amongst the family not choosing a side or a flavor separate from the rest of the good flavors out there. We have come under an international ministry for accountability purposes, but we value the entire body of Christ and see wonderful good things in each and every part of the Church regardless of where we may do something differently or disagree.

I say all this to explain that whenever I talk about difference of interpretation or opinion between me and other streams of Christianity, I am not setting myself out to be opposed to them. My disagreement is not adversarial nor does it set those I disagree with out to be somehow less Christian than I. I simply do not see disagreement that way. I think no less of those I disagree with then those with which I agree.

The same mentality extends to those who are not of the Christian faith. My disagreement with atheists or even Buddhist doesn’t in my mind set me apart from them or cause me to be adversarial to them. I think we can engage with ideas without being opposing on the personal level and I think we all have shown that here by living it out when we engage in discussions where we obviously disagree and yet can be friends at the end of the day.

I read recently that C.S. Lewis enjoyed surrounding himself with people who thought very differently from himself so that he could always have his thinking challenged and also so that his friendships weren’t so superficial to be based merely on agreement but could withstand disagreement. I hope to follow his example in this.


GCT said...

I'm glad you are so open minded to allow Fred Phelps and his ilk to be part of the Xian family. You do accept them, don't you?

Karla said...

I am not familiar with Fred Phelps. I'd have to google that name.

Karla said...

Okay, googled it. Yikes. Wasn't aware of this guy. I think you'll see of my post I was talking about streams, movements, and denominations of Christendom, I wasn't embracing a religious hatred. You should know that of me by now.

GCT said...

Somehow I knew that you were full of it.