Have you ever read the book entitled God Work by ACU professor and popular speaker, Randy Harris? It is an easy read, very informational and practical. His first chapter is “Doctrinal Disagreement. Must It Be War?” Below is an article I wrote based on this chapter.
Most of us are familiar with doctrinal minefields- churches loaded with bombs right under the surface ready to explode if pressured enough. They are located in the foyer, classroom and sanctuary. We work to identify them and learn to walk gingerly around them lest they discharge in heated disagreement. But there is an easier way.
Most everyone agrees that doctrine matters. It is “the rudder that steers the ship.” The challenge is to approach it in a healthy manner. If we can, the threat posed by doctrinal minefields can be disarmed.
We begin by simply talking to one another and not past one another. Listen and ask the kind of questions designed to encourage mutual dialogue.
Next, we conduct this dialogue with mutual respect. Just because someone disagrees with my biblical conclusion does not mean they are dishonest or not committed to the integrity of Scripture.
To accomplish this takes humility. Humility means we remain teachable. If we come to the table convinced we have nothing to learn it will likely result in an arms race- not disarmament! Humility just gives God room to work.
Key to relieving pressures is an understanding that some doctrines are more important than others. Jesus recognized this (‘The Greatest Command”) and so must we. It is possible that we have planted mines in fields for no reason.
Because of this prayer has to be central to our discussions. Theology must grow out of spirituality. Unless it does it becomes cold, harsh and explosive. This is the very thing we should avoid. Prayer makes a huge difference here.
It does so because prayer helps to create a healthy atmosphere for discussion. If disarmament is to be accomplished questions must be allowed to be asked and thoughts allowed to be processed. This is the way spiritual growth is nurtured.
This approach frees us from the urge to just defend doctrinal positions and to focus faithfully on the context of scripture. By letting the word speak in its own context we might discover our bombs are totally unnecessary. Especially we when engage the text with our own life. It is not just about what a doctrine says, it is also about how it gets worked out in our life. When we keep this connection, doctrine becomes less formal and more personal. At that level things tend to look differently and our disagreements seem less acute.
Because in the end- it will be God who works it all out. The final judgment on the matter is his. It is not up to me to judge the other person’s motive. I can relax and trust God. After all, he does know a little about peace.